Tag Archives: mass surveillance

UNESCO Members Adopt First Global AI Ethics Agreement ‘To Benefit Humanity’

“We’re at a critical juncture in history,” said Ethics in Tech founder Vahid Razavi. “We need as humans to come together and decide what is the best course of action to take with these technologies before they surpass us in their abilities.”

By Brett Wilkins.  Published 11-26-2021 by Common Dreams

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay speaks during a November 25, 2021 press conference announcing the adoption of a global artificial intelligence framework agreement by all 193 member states. (Photo: Christelle Alix/UNESCO/Flickr/cc)

Tech ethicists on Friday applauded after all 193 member states of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization adopted the first global framework agreement on the ethics of artificial intelligence, which acknowledges that “AI technologies can be of great service to humanity” and that “all countries can benefit from them,” while warning that “they also raise fundamental ethical concerns.”

“AI is pervasive, and enables many of our daily routines—booking flights, steering driverless cars, and personalizing our morning news feeds,” UNESCO said in a statement Thursday. “AI also supports the decision-making of governments and the private sector. AI technologies are delivering remarkable results in highly specialized fields such as cancer screening and building inclusive environments for people with disabilities. They also help combat global problems like climate change and world hunger, and help reduce poverty by optimizing economic aid.” Continue reading

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‘Historic Moment’: EU Approves Call for Sweeping Ban on Facial Recognition Surveillance

“This is a huge win for all European citizens.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams.  Published 10-6-2021

The European Parliament has overwhelmingly approved a call to ban facial recognition surveillance—a development heralded by the technology’s foes as a “big win for human rights.”

The vote on the resolution was 377-248. While the measure is nonbinding, the EUObserver reported Wednesday that its passsage means “Parliament now has for the first time an official position advocating for a ban on biometric mass surveillance, which sends a strong signal for negotiations of the first-ever EU rules on AI systems.”

“Fundamental rights are unconditional,” MEP Petar Vitanov, a member of the Bulgarian Socialist Party who backed the resolution, said in a statement. Continue reading

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‘What Is Going On Here?’ Alarm as Document Reveals USPS Is Monitoring Social Media Posts

“What possible justification could there be for USPS running this kind of social-media surveillance program?”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-23-2021

Photo: SidewaysSarah/flickr/CC

An internal government bulletin obtained by Yahoo News this week revealed that the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service is monitoring social media posts as part of a surveillance operation known as iCOP, a secretive program that sparked alarm among rights groups and civil liberties advocates.

The sensitive bulletin concerns the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s (USPIS) recent surveillance of Facebook, Parler, and Telegram posts related to the March 20 World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy, anti-coronavirus lockdown and anti-vaccine demonstrations organized by far-right groups. Continue reading

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‘We Need Answers’: House Dems Demand Probe Into US Military Purchases of Location Data From Muslim-Focused Apps

“We cannot pick and choose who the Constitution applies to,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib. “Our government cannot continue to violate the privacy of Americans.”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-18-2021

More than a dozen Democratic lawmakers concerned about possible violations of civil liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Bill of Rights asked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on Thursday for more information about how and why the U.S. military is buying “access to large quantities of personal data” collected from cellphone applications targeted toward Muslim users.

The letter (pdf) requesting an investigation into U.S. military purchases of private location data was led by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Continue reading

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Espionage and repression in the Middle East courtesy of the West

Western companies are providing surveillance tools to authoritarian regimes in the Middle East.

By Jon Hoffman.  Published 5-13-2020 by openDemocracy

Cellphone tower | Picture by Peter Bjorndal / pixabay.com. Public Domain

Regime-directed surveillance has taken new forms within the Middle East as governments have been forced to adapt to new technological and social environments. While government surveillance of its citizens is not new to the region, this old authoritarian impulse has been revamped in the attempt to subvert opposition and monitor dissidence amid widespread use of social media and access to smartphones within the region.

New forms of targeted hackings and espionage have therefore become commonplace throughout the region, and often extend across borders into the international arena. Western companies, governments, and individuals have provided extensive assistance to the surveillance efforts of these governments, often by supplying them with the necessary technology and expertise needed to conduct such sweeping operations. However, regional countries – particularly Israel – have increasingly constructed and exported their own indigenous operations and platforms designed to surveil their publics. Conducted on a mass scale and bolstered by western technological support, these new and sophisticated forms of surveillance have supplied these governments with the tools necessary to go on the offensive against all who seek to challenge the status quo. Continue reading

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If This ‘Doesn’t Give You Chills I Don’t Know What Will’: McConnell Patriot Act Expansion Would Hand AG Barr Unprecedented Spy Powers

“These amendments would pretty much guarantee the ability of an incumbent administration to spy on its political opponents without consequence.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-13-2020

Graphic by Claudio Cabrera

Sen. Ron Wyden was joined by privacy advocates Wednesday in forcefully condemning a new proposed amendment to the PATRIOT Act put forward by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that would greatly expand the U.S. attorney general’s surveillance powers under FISA.

McConnell’s amendment, which the Senate began debating Wednesday as lawmakers took up the reauthorization of the 2001 PATRIOT Act, would explicitly permit the FBI to collect records of Americans’ internet search and browsing histories without a warrant. It would also mandate that Attorney General William Barr, and his successors, conduct an annual review of the FBI’s submissions into the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court. Continue reading

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A Secret CBP Team is Targeting and Detaining Innocent Travelers. We’re Suing.

For too long, the government has acted as if it has carte blanche at the border. No more.

By Tarek Ismail  and Scarlet Kim. Published 12-18-2019 by ACLU

In fiscal year 2017 alone, these teams denied entry to over 1,400 individuals with valid travel documents. (Photo: CBP/flickr)

 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is deploying secret teams that target, detain, and interrogate innocent travelers. We’re suing to expose their activities.

In November 2018, three CBP officers detained Andreas Gal, a former chief technology officer at Mozilla Corporation and current Apple employee, at San Francisco International Airport after he landed from a business trip to Sweden. Andreas was offered no reason for the detention, except a receipt from a Global Entry kiosk that was marked with the letters “TTRT.” Continue reading

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Unprecedented ‘Architecture of Surveillance’ Created by Facebook and Google Poses Grave Human Rights Threat: Report

“Their insidious control of our digital lives undermines the very essence of privacy and is one of the defining human rights challenges of our era.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-22-2019

A new report from Amnesty International says Facebook and Google have a “surveillance-based business model.” (Photo: flickr/GostGo/cc)

A new report from Amnesty International accuses Facebook and Google of having a “surveillance-based business model” that threatens users’ right to privacy and other human rights.

The tech giants, said Kumi Naidoo, secretary general of Amnesty International, have amassed “unparalleled power over the digital world by harvesting and monetizing the personal data of billions of people. Their insidious control of our digital lives undermines the very essence of privacy and is one of the defining human rights challenges of our era.” Continue reading

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With Little Fanfare, William Barr Formally Announces Orwellian Pre-Crime Program

A recent memorandum authored by Attorney General William Barr announced a new “pre-crime” program inspired by “War on Terror” tactics and is set to be implemented next year.

By Whitney Webb. Published 10-25-2019 by MintPress News

Graphic by Claudio Cabrera

Last Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr issued a memorandum to all U.S. attorneys, law enforcement agencies and top ranking Justice Department officials announcing the imminent implementation of a new “national disruption and early engagement program” aimed at detecting potential mass shooters before they commit any crime.

Per the memorandum, Barr has “directed the Department [of Justice] and the FBI to lead an effort to refine our ability to identify, assess and engage potential mass shooters before they strike.” The Attorney General further described the coming initiative, slated to be implemented early next year, as “an efficient, effective and programmatic strategy to disrupt individuals who are mobilizing towards violence, by all lawful means.” More specific information about the program is set to follow the recent memorandum, according to Barr, though it is unclear if that forthcoming document will be made public. Continue reading

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Not Even Orwell or Huxley Could Have Imagined ‘Totalitarian’ Threat Posed by Facebook and Google, Warns Soros

Billionaire investor says there is serious threat of tech giants and authoritarian states teaming up to “bring together nascent systems of corporate surveillance with an already developed system of state-sponsored surveillance.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-26-2018

“The power to shape people’s attention is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies,” Soros said. (Photo: Wikimotive)

In addition to warning that U.S. President Donald Trump represents an immense “danger” to civilization, billionaire George Soros used the spotlight of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday to urge the international community to take seriously the threats posed by Facebook and Google, which he said could ultimately spawn “a web of totalitarian control” if they are not reined in.

Particularly alarming, Soros said, is the prospect of Facebook and Google—which he scathingly deemed a “menace” to society—teaming up with “authoritarian states” to “bring together nascent systems of corporate surveillance with an already developed system of state-sponsored surveillance.” Continue reading

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