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A senator has complained that American law enforcement agencies snoop on US citizens and residents, seemingly without regard for the privacy provisions of the Fourth Amendment, under a secret program called the Hemisphere Project that allows police to conduct searches of trillions of phone records.
“I have serious concerns about the legality of this surveillance program, and the materials provided by the DoJ contain troubling information that would justifiably outrage many Americans and other members of Congress,” Wyden wrote in a letter [PDF] to US Attorney General Merrick Garland.
AT&T declined to answer any specific questions about Hemisphere, but a spokesperson told The Register: “To be clear, any information referred to in Senator Wyden’s letter would be compelled by subpoena, warrant, or court order.”
Hemisphere first came to light in a 2013 New York Times report that alleged the “scale and longevity of the data storage appears to be unmatched by other government programs, including the NSA’s gathering of phone call logs under the Patriot Act.”
The White House doesn’t directly pay AT&T - instead the ONDCP provides a grant to the Houston High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which is a partnership between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
He also cites ONDCP slides and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) emails disclosing that AT&T searches records kept by its wholesale division, which carries communications on behalf of other telecom companies and their customers.
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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and hundreds of experts don’t, pointing out that elements of proposed revisions to EU regulations called eIDAS would exempt state-approved certificates from security action by browsers.
This would give states, state-approved organisations, or anyone corruptly part of that particular chain of trust, the ability to make fake sites that monitor and decrypt Web traffic silently and at scale.
The EFF is a fully open group of people with a long record of identifying and warning about harmful attempts to damage user freedoms on the internet.
The eIDAS regulation makes an enormous change by mandating man-in-the-middle attack technology that it would be illegal for browser makers to defend against.
It weakens the security on which the web is built in a unique way for unsophisticated users, while giving a wide range of entities the tools to decrypt data of all kinds.
It is as likely to go wrong as any state-run secret security system, through incompetence, accident or malevolence, with consequences that could affect not just the half-billion EU citizens but all those who use EU-based services.
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The Guardian first reported that Hikvision enabled police clients to set up alarms for when cameras detect any type of protest activity such as “gathering crowds to disrupt order in public places”, “unlawful assembly, procession, demonstration” and threats to “petition”.
Amnesty investigators said the cameras are at high risk of being connected to Mabat 2000, an Israeli police-run facial-recognition surveillance network that spans the entire city of East Jerusalem.
Ultimately, Palestinians “don’t need to see” that the cameras are employing facial recognition to “know that they are being watched at every turn”, said Matthew Mahmoudi, an Amnesty International researcher on AI and human rights.
In 2021, the Washington Post revealed the existence of a vast database called Wolf Pack, which contained images of and all the information available on all 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank.
“Even their family life and the sort of very mundane everyday actions suddenly become acts of resistance in the face of this ubiquitous surveillance apparatus that underpins much of how apartheid is exacted on Palestinians,” Mahmoudi added.
According to the report, Amnesty International’s Digital Verification Corps analyzed and verified the authenticity of 15 videos that showed Palestinians being detained “where surveillance technologies appeared to have been used for registration, identification or recording”.
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According to the documents, obtained by the advocacy group Just Futures Law and shared with The Intercept, LexisNexis Risk Solutions began selling surveillance tools to the border enforcement agency in December 2022.
The $15.9 million contract includes a broad menu of powerful tools for locating individuals throughout the United States using a vast array of personal data, much of it obtained and used without judicial oversight.
Through LexisNexis, CBP investigators gained a convenient place to centralize, analyze, and search various databases containing enormous volumes of intimate personal information, both public and proprietary.
Among other tools, the contract shows LexisNexis is providing CBP with social media surveillance, access to jail booking data, face recognition and “geolocation analysis & geographic mapping” of cellphones.
All this data can be queried in “large volume online batching,” allowing CBP investigators to target broad groups of people and discern “connections among individuals, incidents, activities, and locations,” handily visualized through Google Maps.
While LexisNexis is known to provide similar data services to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, another division of the Department of Homeland Security, details of its surveillance work with CBP were not previously known.
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Under the new rules, the FCC can fine telecom companies for not providing equal connectivity to different communities “without adequate justification,” such as financial or technical challenges of building out service in a particular area.
Last year, a joint report from The Markup and the Associated Press found that AT&T, Verizon, and other internet service providers offer different speeds depending on the neighborhood in cities throughout the US.
The report revealed neighborhoods with lower incomes and fewer white people get stuck with slower internet while still having to pay the same price as those with faster speeds.
At the time, USTelecom, an organization that represents major telecom providers, blamed the higher price on having to maintain older equipment in certain communities.
“There is mounting evidence that low-income families and people of color are more likely to live in monopoly service areas that have just one high-speed internet provider,” Joshua Stager, the policy director of the nonpartisan organization Free Press, says in a statement.
It will take things like broadband deployment, network upgrades, and maintenance across communities into account when evaluating providers for potential rule violations, giving it the authority to hopefully finally address the disparities in internet access throughout the US.
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Privacy consultant Alexander Hanff, who has occasionally contributed to The Register, has challenged Meta’s collection of data without explicit consent under Ireland’s computer abuse law.
“I have notified Pearse Street Garda that I want to give a statement to them for the purpose of the criminal complaint and will be sending them additional information over the weekend,” Hanff told us last night.
Two weeks ago, Hanff filed a civil complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commission against YouTube’s browser interrogation system, which detects ad blocking software and refuses to play videos unless adverts are allowed or subscription money handed over.
“Meta Platforms Ireland Ltd for a period of not less than five years from May 25, 2018 to present, illegally deployed surveillance technology to my computers for the purpose of monitoring my behavior, as they had no reasonable excuse or lawful authority to do so,” Hanff alleged to The Register.
“Regulators have let us down and are absolutely (in my opinion) partly responsible for the erosion of our fundamental rights and the expansion of these illegal behaviors, by failing to do their jobs and take strong enforcement action against violators,” he claimed.
“As a result, it is now considered as the normal way to conduct online business, which is an incredibly bad reflection of the regulators and has significantly eroded trust of the public that their complaints will ever be dealt with at all – let alone in a meaningful way.”
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IP Protection, previously referred to as “ip-blindness” or “Gnatcatcher,” is a proxy system similar to Apple’s Privacy Relay.
MOW objects to this project as a violation of Google’s commitments to the CMA, a set of promises the ad biz made to the UK competition watchdog to win approval for its plan to replace third-party cookies with Privacy Sandbox technologies.
“Google’s IP Protection means ISPs will no longer have visibility of data via an IP address whist leaving Google with the ability to monitor and process data at all times,” says a letter from MOW’s London-based legal representative Preiskel & Co LLP to the CMA and to UK telecom regulator Ofcom, which was provided to The Register.
And marketers, like law enforcement agencies, fear that privacy technologies will leave them in the dark and without the lucrative data they’ve come to depend upon.
For example, one pseudonymous individual who claims to help advertising clients optimize Google AdWords campaigns says that IP addresses play a critical role in fraud prevention.
“This is a blatant and egregious breach of the commitments made by Google to the CMA to prevent it acting in an anti-competitive fashion,” said Tim Cowen, co-founder of MOW, in a statement provided to The Register.
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During a Senate briefing last week, a federal counterterrorism official cited the October 7 Hamas attack while urging Congress to reauthorize a sprawling and controversial surveillance program repeatedly used to spy on U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.
The controversial program is set to expire at the end of the year, and lawmakers sympathetic to the intelligence community are scrambling to protect it, as some members of Congress like Sen. Ron Wyden push for reforms that restrain the government’s surveillance abilities.
According to Rep. Jim Himes, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, plans are underway to prepare a stopgap measure to preserve Section 702 of FISA as a long-term reauthorization containing reforms is hammered out.
“The government has completely failed to demonstrate that any of the privacy protections reformers have called for would impair national security, all while surveillance hawks in Congress have suffered a series of setbacks, so now we’re seeing people grasping at straws trying to turn everything into an excuse for reauthorization,” Vitka said.
This loophole makes it easy for federal agencies to target wide swaths of the U.S. population, and it has for years been condemned by civil liberties advocates who view it as a clear-cut instance of governmental overreach.
The Brennan Center for Justice last month issued a document noting that the FBI has used the 702 authority to spy on U.S. representatives, senators, civil liberties organizations, political campaigns, and activists.
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US District Judge B. Lynn Winmill recently unsealed a court filing, an amended complaint that perhaps contains the most evidence yet gathered by the FTC in its long-standing mission to crack down on data brokers allegedly “substantially” harming consumers by invading their privacy.
According to the FTC, Kochava’s customers, ostensibly advertisers, can access this data to trace individuals’ movements—including to sensitive locations like hospitals, temporary shelters, and places of worship, with a promised accuracy within “a few meters”—over a day, a week, a month, or a year.
Beyond that, the FTC alleged that Kochava also makes it easy for advertisers to target customers by categories that are “often based on specific sensitive and personal characteristics or attributes identified from its massive collection of data about individual consumers.”
These “audience segments” allegedly allow advertisers to conduct invasive targeting by grouping people not just by common data points like age or gender, but by “places they have visited,” political associations, or even their current circumstances, like whether they’re expectant parents.
Instead, Kochava “actively promotes its data as a means to evade consumers’ privacy choices,” the FTC alleged.
Further, the FTC alleged that there are no real ways for consumers to opt out of Kochava’s data marketplace, because even resetting their mobile advertising IDs—the data point that’s allegedly most commonly used to identify users in its database—won’t stop Kochava customers from using its products to determine "other points to connect to and securely solve for identity.”
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WASHINGTON, Nov 7 (Reuters) - A bipartisan team of U.S. lawmakers has introduced new legislation intended to curb the FBI’s sweeping surveillance powers, saying the bill helps close the loopholes that allow officials to seize Americans’ data without a warrant.
Reforms in the proposed legislation include putting limits on searches of Americans’ communications without judicial authorization and a prohibition of so-called “backdoor” searches which invoke foreign intelligence justifications to spy on Americans.
The White House and the FBI did not immediately return messages seeking comment, although executive branch officials have long insisted that the surveillance power - which expires at the end of the year - is a critical tool for fighting foreign espionage and terrorism and have lobbied for its reauthorization.
The reforms introduced Tuesday reflect discomfort over the practice of warrantless scans, which are authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Its opponents were galvanized when the Office of Director of National Intelligence revealed in July that the FBI had improperly conducted searches for information about a U.S. senator and two state officials.
“When the FBI snoops on the American people without a warrant, it’s not a blunder, it’s a breach of trust and it’s a violation of the Constitution,” Republican Senator Mike Lee told reporters.
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Government officials have drawn up deeply controversial proposals to broaden the definition of extremism to include anyone who “undermines” the country’s institutions and its values, according to documents seen by the Observer.
The new definition, prepared by civil servants working for cabinet minister Michael Gove, is fiercely opposed by a cohort of officials who fear legitimate groups and individuals will be branded extremists.
Last week the home secretary, Suella Braverman, described pro-Palestinian demonstrations in London as “hate marches”, prompting dismay from many participants who consider themselves peace campaigners.
Martin Bright, editor-at-large, Index on Censorship, added: “This is an unwarranted attack on freedom of expression and would potentially criminalise every student radical and revolutionary dissident.
The government’s 2011 Prevent strategy defined extremism as the “active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”.
Under the proposed definition in the documents, extremism would be the promotion of any ideology which aims to “overturn or undermine the UK’s democracy, its institutions and values; or threaten the rights of individuals or create a permissive environment for radicalisation, hate crime and terrorism”.
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Sam Bankman-Fried and other members of the inner circle of the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX allegedly formed a chat group on the encrypted platform Signal under the name “Wirefraud”.
The Australian Financial Review reported that the Wirefraud chat group was used to send end-to-end encrypted information about FTX and its hedge fund, Alameda Research, in the run-up to the implosion of the exchange.
According to the newspaper, members of the secret group included Bankman-Fried, his FTX partners Zixiao “Gary” Wang and Nishad Singh, and the CEO of Alameda Research Caroline Ellison.
The reported existence of a “Wirefraud” chat group among top FTX operatives was revealed just a day before Bankman-Fried had been scheduled to testify before the US House financial services committee.
Ray has taken over as CEO of FTX in order to steer the firm through bankruptcy as well as the multiple criminal and other investigations it is now facing from law enforcement and regulators in the US and abroad.
He added that the job of untangling FTX’s finances was complicated as “we are starting from near-zero in terms of the corporate infrastructure and record-keeping that one would expect to find in a multibillion dollar international business”.
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OTTAWA, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Canada on Monday banned Chinese messaging application WeChat and Russian antivirus program Kaspersky on government-issued mobile devices due to privacy and security risks, but said government information had not been compromised.
“We hope that the Canadian side will discard ideological prejudices, abide by the principles of market economy and provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese enterprises,” said spokesperson Wang Wenbin at a regular press briefing on Tuesday.
“As there has been no evidence or due process to otherwise justify these actions, they are highly unsupported and a response to the geopolitical climate rather than a comprehensive evaluation of the integrity of Kaspersky’s products and services,” the company said in a statement.
The Treasury Board said it has no evidence that government information has been compromised, but the collection methods of the applications provide considerable access to a device’s contents, and risks of using them were “clear.”
“The decision to remove and block the WeChat and the Kaspersky applications was made to ensure that government of Canada networks and data remain secure and protected and are in line with the approach of our international partners,” the statement said.
Canada in February banned TikTok, the short-video app owned by Chinese company Bytedance, from government-issued devices due to similar privacy and security concerns.
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Specific harms the bill aims to address include underage access to online pornography, “anonymous trolls,” scam ads, the nonconsensual sharing of intimate deepfakes, and the spread of child sexual abuse material and terrorism-related content.
The first covers how platforms will have to respond to illegal content like terrorism and child sexual abuse material, and a consultation with proposals on how to handle these duties is due to be published on November 9th.
Ofcom says it expects to publish a list of “categorised services,” which are large or high-risk platforms that will be subject to obligations like producing transparency reports, by the end of next year.
Social media companies will be held to account for the appalling scale of child sexual abuse occurring on their platforms and our children will be safer,” said UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman.
Meanwhile, the Wikimedia Foundation has said that the bill’s strict obligations for protecting children from inappropriate content could create issues for a service like Wikipedia, which chooses to collect minimal data on its users, including their ages.
In a statement, Ofcom’s chief executive Melanie Dawes pushed back against the idea that the act will make the telecoms regulator a censor.
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Giese, a PhD student at Northeastern University, started hacking back in 2017, eventually found a way to root a Xiaomi robot, and wrote a cloud replacement implementation called Dustcloud.
iRobot and Roomba are almost synonymous with robot vacuums at this point; they aren’t ideal for hacking because they lack the processor overhead to run Valetudo.
To hack the robot, I acquired a $5 custom piece of hardware called the Dreame Breakout PCB through the Valetudo Telegram group, where most of the support for the process lives.
We installed the necessary dependencies and software, pried open the top using a couple of small flathead screwdrivers, took the breakout PCB I had soldered, and, per the instructions, plugged it into the 16-pin Dreame Debug connector.
While writing this article, a person on X (formerly Twitter) responded that they discovered they could pipe a voice synthesizer into their robot via SSH, allowing them to screw with their roommates by having it complain about its imprisonment.
It felt like when I was young and when computers were new and fun things before everything became gray sludge and tablets, condescending UI, and endless pages of unreadable, untrustworthy terms of service agreements.
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The European police agency, Europol, has requested unfiltered access to data that would be harvested under a controversial EU proposal to scan online content for child sexual abuse images and for the AI technology behind it to be applied to other crimes too, according to minutes of a high-level meeting in mid-2022.
The Centre would play a key role in helping member states and companies implement the legislation; it would also vet and approve scanning technologies, as well as receive and filter suspicious reports before passing them to Europol and national authorities.
In response, Europol declined to comment on internal meetings, but said: “It is imperative to highlight our organisation’s mission and key role to combat the heinous crime of child sexual abuse in the EU.
On September 25, BIRN in cooperation with other European outlets reported on the complex network of AI and advocacy groups that has helped drum up support for Johansson’s proposal, often in close coordination with the Commission.
In June, Delaney paid a visit to his former colleagues, writing on Linkedin: “I’ve spent time this week at the #APTwins Europol Annual Expert Meeting and presented on behalf of Thorn about our innovations to support victim identification.”
Europol has also co-operated with WeProtect, a putatively independent NGO that emerged from a fusion of past European Commission and national government initiatives and has been a key platform for strategies to support Johansson’s proposal.
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The popular messaging app Telegram can leak your IP address if you simply add a hacker to your contacts and accept a phone call from them.
TechCrunch verified the researcher’s findings by adding Simonov to the contacts of a newly created Telegram account.
Simonov then called the account, and shortly after provided TechCrunch with the IP address of the computer where the experiment was being carried out.
The fact that Telegram leaks your IP address to people in your contacts during a voice call has been known for years, but it’s likely that new, less technical users may not be aware.
Simonov, who founded the cybersecurity firm T.Hunter, told TechCrunch: “Telegram focuses on security and privacy, however, in order to stay safe you need to be aware of the nuances of how the messenger’s voice calls work.”
To avoid leaking your IP address, you have to go to Telegram’s Settings > Privacy and Security > Calls, and then select “Never” in the Peer-to-Peer menu, as shown below.
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New research reveals that chatbots like ChatGPT can infer a lot of sensitive information about the people they chat with, even if the conversation is utterly mundane.
“It’s not even clear how you fix this problem,” says Martin Vechev, a computer science professor at ETH Zürich in Switzerland who led the research.
He adds that the same underlying capability could portend a new era of advertising, in which companies use information gathered from chatbots to build detailed profiles of users.
The Zürich researchers tested language models developed by OpenAI, Google, Meta, and Anthropic.
“This certainly raises questions about how much information about ourselves we’re inadvertently leaking in situations where we might expect anonymity,” says Florian Tramèr, an assistant professor also at ETH Zürich who was not involved with the work but saw details presented at a conference last week.
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The programmer, surnamed Ma, was issued with a penalty notice by the public security bureau of Chengde, a city in Hebei province, on 18 August.
Ma said the police seized his phone, laptop and several computer hard drives upon learning that he worked for an overseas company, holding them for a month.
Charlie Smith (a pseudonym), the co-founder of GreatFire.org, a website that tracks internet censorship in China, said: “Even if this decision is overturned in court, a message has been sent and damage has been done.
VPNs, which help users circumvent the “great firewall” of internet censorship by making it look as if their device is in a different country, operate in a legal grey area in China.
The government generally turns a blind eye to the relatively small number of individuals who use the technology to access websites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and, often, view pornography.
In June, Radio Free Asia reported that a Uyghur student, Mehmut Memtimin, was serving a 13-year sentence in Xinjiang for using a VPN to access “illegal information”.
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The California Privacy Protection Agency (CPPA) must create a way for people to make this request by January 1st, 2026.
The law reuses definitions of brokers that the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 established, which required businesses to disclose, delete, or withhold from sharing or selling personal data as requested by individuals.
Then, in 2020, the California Privacy Rights Act amended the previous law and established the CPPA.
The Los Angeles Times quoted California Senator Josh Becker, the bill’s author, as saying that brokers sell thousands of individual consumers’ data points on “reproductive healthcare, geolocation, and purchasing data to the highest bidder,” adding that “the DELETE Act protects our most sensitive information.”
The outlet went on to quote the VP of communications for the Consumer Data Industry Association, Justin Hakes, as saying that the bill could undermine fraud protections and keep small businesses from competing with the data dominance of large platforms.
It applies to companies that grossed more than $25 million in revenue the year before and “annually buys, sells, or shares the personal information of 100,000 or more consumers or households.” And it only affects those businesses that make at least 50 percent of their annual revenue from the sale of people’s personal information.
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In a victory for privacy advocates and consumers, the California governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that would enable residents to request that their personal information be deleted from the coffers of all the data brokers in the state.
The bill, SB 362, otherwise known as the Delete Act, was introduced in April 2023 by the state senator Josh Becker in an attempt to give Californians more control over their privacy.
While proponents of the bill have lauded it as a less tedious and more user-friendly way to reinforce existing California privacy laws, many advertising companies have argued it would undermine their industry.
Those companies buy and sell consumer information such as location, address, online activity and more to various clients including law enforcement.
“Absent this data, smaller enterprises will lose a critical path to reach and attract new customers, and consumers overall will have less exposure to new products and services that may interest them,” a group of ad trade bodies wrote in a letter first reported by Adweek.
The Delete Act “will improve everyone’s privacy rights and make California’s consumer privacy laws more user-friendly, while also strengthening current California law that requires data brokers to register with the state”, said Hayley Tsukayama, the associate director of legislative activism at digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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Sick of companies grabbing and selling your address, birth date, location, online activity, dog food brand and even adult-film preferences?
A new iPhone and Android app called Permission Slip makes it super simple to order companies to delete your personal information and secrets.
After using Permission Slip, most people notice a decrease in creepy targeted ads, says Ginny Fahs, who has been working on the app for the past three years at the Innovation Lab, a division of Consumer Reports.
Permission Slip covers Starbucks, Netflix, Disney, Lowes, Panda Express, reproductive app Glow and adult website Pornhub, to name a few — and plans to keep adding more.
More eyebrow-raising: Adult website Pornhub collects the email, username, demographics, on-site search history, browser info and interests from people with registered accounts.
There are a growing number of privacy apps on the market, but Permission Slip stands out in part for being free, not trying to upsell you on a product like a VPN, and not needing access to more data like your email inbox to work.
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Boston-based privacy and security startup Cloaked, launched its apps today to let users create unique proxy emails, phone numbers, and passwords for online accounts.
Clocked, founded by brothers Arjun and Abhijay Bhatnagar in 2020, allows users to create “identities” consisting of usernames, passwords, email addresses, and phone numbers.
People can use these identities for different categories of websites such as e-commerce, social media, and newsletters, where they can avoid giving up their actual details.
Additionally, Cloaked will let you autofill different forms online through various identities you have stored including one-time passwords sent to the service’s inbox.
The company said this feature is available only on a limited number of sites and users are in full control of it in terms of activating or deactivating Auto Cloacked.
The company said that it is working on zero-knowledge architecture so the master password users use to unlock their Cloaked profile never hits the startup’s servers.
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Kape was previously called Crossrider, a company that was named in a research paper by the University of California and Google as being part of an ecosystem of businesses using so-called ad injection technology that could behave maliciously.
Not long ago, many websites lacked security mechanisms to prevent bad actors from eavesdropping on what people were doing when browsing their sites, which opened doors to their data being hijacked.
Many privacy advocates and tech companies pushed for website creators to rewrite their sites to support HTTPS, a security protocol that encrypts traffic and solves most of the aforementioned problems.
This means that VPNs are no longer an essential tool when most people browse the web on a public Wi-Fi network, said Dan Guido, the chief executive of Trail of Bits, a cybersecurity firm.
These days, he added, the people who benefit from a VPN are those working in high-risk fields and who might be targets, like journalists who correspond with sensitive sources and business executives carrying trade secrets while traveling abroad.
The personal hot spot, a feature for wirelessly sharing a smartphone’s cellular data connection with other devices, like your computer, can be activated in the phone’s settings.
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NYT reporter Kashmir Hill says Clearview AI has a database of billions of photos scraped from the internet, which it sells to governments and police departments.
Her book is Your Face Belongs To Us.
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Social media companies follow us wherever we go online (and occasionally offline), learning intimate details they can use to target advertising.
Millions of Australians have been implicated in data breaches compromising passport details, health information or other sensitive communications held onto long past when was reasonable.
Now, the federal government has committed to overhauling Australia’s privacy laws following the recommendations of a major review first initiated by the former administration.
Among the proposals the government has tentatively agreed to is also the idea that individuals should have the right to require an entity to delete or de-identify their personal information.
The government agrees in-principle that people should have that right, including being able to require search engines to de-index certain information about them, meaning it would not show in their results.
The government has flagged it will continue working on the reforms into next year, with fresh rounds of consultation to come for some of the most complex proposals, as well as likely transition periods for those affected.
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If you ask Signal president Meredith Whittaker (and I did), she’ll tell you it’s simply because “AI is a surveillance technology.”
Onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023, Whittaker explained her perspective that AI is largely inseparable from the big data and targeting industry perpetuated by the likes of Google and Meta, as well as less consumer-focused but equally prominent enterprise and defense companies.
“You know, you walk past a facial recognition camera that’s instrumented with pseudo-scientific emotion recognition, and it produces data about you, right or wrong, that says ‘you are happy, you are sad, you have a bad character, you’re a liar, whatever.’ These are ultimately surveillance systems that are being marketed to those who have power over us generally: our employers, governments, border control, etc., to make determinations and predictions that will shape our access to resources and opportunities.”
Ironically, she pointed out, the data that underlies these systems is frequently organized and annotated (a necessary step in the AI dataset assembly process) by the very workers at whom it can be aimed.
It’s not actually that good… but it helps detect faces in crowd photos and blur them, so that when you share them on social media you’re not revealing people’s intimate biometric data to, say, Clearview.”
Like… yeah, that’s a great use of AI, and doesn’t that just disabuse us of all this negativity I’ve been throwing out onstage,” she added.
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Senior officials at the Home Office secretly lobbied the UK’s independent privacy regulator to act “favourably” towards a private firm keen to roll out controversial facial recognition technology across the country, according to internal government emails seen by the Observer.
The heavily redacted correspondence also reveals that, even before the alleged threat, an internal February ICO briefing into its Facewatch investigation – codenamed Operation Kegon 3 – indicates that the Home Office had made it plain to the regulator that facial recognition to combat retail crime was being pushed aggressively by Philp.
“The Home Office have flagged that LFR [live facial recognition] in a commercial setting for crime detection/prevention purposes is an area that is high on the minister’s agenda,” states an executive summary of progress in the ICO investigation into Facewatch, weeks before it officially concluded.
The ICO concluded its investigation into Facewatch on 31 March – several weeks after the Home Office warning – with a blog explaining that no further regulatory action was required against the firm because it was “satisfied the company has a legitimate purpose for using people’s information for the detection and prevention of crime”.
“This disclosure is utterly damning and appears to show that Chris Philp intervened in the data regulator’s investigation of a private facial recognition company he was having meetings with,” said Mark Johnson, advocacy manager of Big Brother Watch.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “As the documents show, the minister made it clear that he was not seeking to influence any ICO investigation but to inform them of the government’s views about the seriousness of retail crime and abuse of staff.
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“As we investigated available CAPTCHA options, we weren’t satisfied, so we decided to develop our own,” Eamonn Maguire, a former Facebook engineer who now heads up Proton’s machine learning team, wrote in a blog post.
This is usually presented to the user in the form of a visual or cognitive challenge, one that is relatively easy for a human to complete but difficult for a machine.
CAPTCHAs, while generally effective, come with trade-offs in terms of usability, accessibility, cultural biases, and annoyances that businesses would prefer not to impose on their users.
This is why companies such as Apple and Cloudflare have sought ways to tell the difference between humans and bots automatically using alternative mechanisms, such as through device and telemetry data.
And while there are other alternative CAPTCHA services out there, given Proton’s core raison d’être, it clearly does make sense to develop its own — as resource-intensive as that may be.
“In this manner, a botnet that can bypass the initial proof of work but struggles with the visual challenges will be met with increasingly complex computations.
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LONDON, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Britain’s long-awaited Online Safety Bill setting tougher standards for social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and TikTok has been agreed by parliament and will soon become law, the government said on Tuesday.
“Today, this government is taking an enormous step forward in our mission to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online,” she said.
Once the bill receives royal assent and becomes law, social media platforms will be expected to remove illegal content quickly or prevent it from appearing in the first place.
They will also be expected to prevent children from accessing harmful and age-inappropriate content like pornography by enforcing age limits and age-checking measures.
Instead it will require companies to take action to stop child abuse on their platforms and as a last resort develop technology to scan encrypted messages, it has said.
Earlier this month, junior minister Stephen Parkinson appeared to concede ground, saying in parliament’s upper chamber that Ofcom would only require them to scan content where “technically feasible”.
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The Online Safety Bill has taken years to agree and will force firms to remove illegal content and protect children from some legal but harmful material.
The bill has had a lengthy and contentious journey to becoming law, beginning six years ago when the government committed to the idea of improving internet safety.
The idea that inspired the bill was relatively simple, scribbled down on the back of a sandwich packet by two experts, Prof Lorna Woods of the University of Essex and William Perrin of the charitable foundation Carnegie UK.
Dame Melanie Dawes, chief executive of Ofcom, called the bill’s passage through parliament “a major milestone in the mission to create a safer life online for children and adults in the UK.”
“Very soon after the Bill receives Royal Assent, we’ll consult on the first set of standards that we’ll expect tech firms to meet in tackling illegal online harms, including child sexual exploitation, fraud and terrorism,” she added.
There is a lot staked on the success of the bill - not only the safety of children and adults, but also the UK’s ambitions as a tech hub and possibly, if things go wrong, continued access to popular online services.
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TikTok has been fined €345m (£296m) for breaking EU data law in its handling of children’s accounts, including failing to shield underage users’ content from public view.
The Irish data watchdog, which regulates TikTok across the EU, said the Chinese-owned video app had committed multiple breaches of GDPR rules.
The Duet and Stitch features, which allow users to combine their content with other TikTokers, were also enabled by default for under-17s.
TikTok said the investigation looked at the company’s privacy setup between 31 July and 31 December 2020 and said it had addressed the problems raised by the inquiry.
All existing and new TikTok accounts for 13- to 15-year-olds have been set to private – meaning only people approved by the user can view their content – by default since 2021.
This meant it had to include a proposed finding by the German regulator that the use of “dark patterns” – the term for deceptive website and app designs that steer users into certain behaviours or making particular choices – breached a GDPR provision on fair processing of personal data.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Google has exploited its dominance of the internet search market to lock out competitors and smother innovation, the Department of Justice said Tuesday at the opening of the biggest U.S. antitrust trial in a quarter century.
Over the next 10 weeks, federal lawyers and state attorneys general will try to prove Google rigged the market in its favor by locking in its search engine as the default choice in a plethora of places and devices.
The Justice Department filed its antitrust lawsuit against Google nearly three years ago during the Trump administration, alleging that the company has used its internet search dominance to gain an unfair advantage against competitors.
Government lawyers say Google protects its franchise through a form of payola, shelling out billions of dollars annually to be the default search engine on the iPhone and on web browsers such as Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox.
“There are lots of way users access the web other than default search engines, and people use them all the time,’’ said attorney John Schmidtlein, a partner at the law firm Williams & Connolly which is representing Google.
The trial begins just a couple weeks after the 25th anniversary of the first investment in Google — a $100,000 check written by Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim that enabled Page and Sergey Brin to set up shop in a Silicon Valley garage.
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As Ivanovs points out, X owner Elon Musk has ambitions to enter the AI market with another company, xAI.
This leads him to theorize that Musk likely intends to use X as a source of data for xAI — and perhaps Musk’s recent tweet encouraging journalists to write on X was even an attempt to generate more interesting and useful data to feed into the AI models.
In fact, Musk has previously stated that xAI would use “public tweets” to train its AI models, so this is not much of a leap.
Musk also filed suit against unknown entities for scraping Twitter data, which also may have been for the purpose of training artificial intelligence large language models.
X no longer responds to press requests with a poop emoji as it had following Musk’s takeover of the social network.
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The package of laws will also pave the way for more competition in some of the areas most guarded by the tech firms, including Apple Wallet and Google Pay.
The Digital Markets Act (DMA) is the second big package of EU laws to hit tech firms in two months and defines a series of obligations that gatekeepers need to comply with, including not participating in anti-competitive practices.
The DMA aims to undo the gatekeeper or controlling position that large tech companies have commanded in the last 10 years and gives the European Commission the power to conduct market investigations and design remedies if the firms fall out of line.
Brussels intends the laws to open the door to more competition, allowing startups to compete with the giants on a level playing field for the first time.
The tech companies – including Apple, Google and Amazon – have six months to comply with a full list of dos and don’ts under the new laws, after which they could be fined up to 10% of their turnover.
The laws will initially apply to six companies: Alphabet (which owns Google), Amazon, Apple, ByteDance (the owner of TikTok), Meta (Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) and Microsoft.
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According to a report published by the Mozilla Foundation on Wednesday, cars are “the official worst category of products for privacy” that it’s ever reviewed.
All 25 of the car brands that were researched for the report — including Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW, and Tesla — failed to meet the nonprofit organization’s minimum privacy standards and were found to collect more personal data from customers than necessary.
Mozilla says it also couldn’t confirm that any of the automakers could meet the organization’s minimum security standards regarding data encryption and protection against theft.
In fact, it claims dating apps and even sex toys typically provide more detailed security information about their products than cars.
“While we worried that our doorbells and watches that connect to the internet might be spying on us, car brands quietly entered the data business by turning their vehicles into powerful data-gobbling machines,” says Mozilla in the report.
The report was so scathing that the organization said the advice it typically provides to help customers protect their personal data feels like “tiny drops in a massive bucket.” Instead, the Mozilla Foundation has started a petition urging car companies to stop the data collection programs they’re unfairly benefitting from, expressing that “our hope is that increasing awareness will encourage others to hold car companies accountable for their terrible privacy practices.”
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At the time, there were a number of apps on Google Play that offered content filtering functionality, such as AdAway, AdFree, Ad Blocker, and AdBlock Plus.
In 2016, Google tweaked its developer policy to clarify what actions are prohibited, and for the first time directly named ad blockers as a target.
After AdGuard for Android, which filters traffic for all apps on your device, could no longer be distributed through the Google Play Store, we had to find another way to reach our users and provide them with updates.
The increased visibility this store provides would allow us to introduce the app to more people who can block ad-based tracking, thereby protecting their privacy.
The reality is that most casual users install apps exclusively from the Google Play Store, and that means they are currently missing out on a chance to protect themselves from trackers and ads.
We hope that Google will change its stance and give people the choice and tools to protect themselves from pervasive tracking technology and invasive advertising.
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The New York City police department plans to pilot the unmanned aircrafts in response to complaints about large gatherings, including private events, over Labor Day weekend, officials announced Thursday.
The plan drew immediate backlash from privacy and civil liberties advocates, raising questions about whether such drone use violated existing laws for police surveillance
“It’s a troubling announcement and it flies in the face of the POST Act,” said Daniel Schwarz, a privacy and technology strategist at the New York Civil Liberties Union, referring to a 2020 city law that requires the NYPD to disclose its surveillance tactics.
The move was announced during a security briefing focused on J’ouvert, an annual Caribbean festival marking the end of slavery that brings thousands of revelers and a heavy police presence to the streets of Brooklyn.
But as the technology proliferates, privacy advocates say regulations have not kept up, opening the door to intrusive surveillance that would be illegal if conducted by a human police officer.
Cahn, the privacy advocate, said city officials should be more transparent with the public about how police are currently using drones, with clear guardrails that prevent surveillance overreach in the future.
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Under the revised policy, which takes effect September 29, X (formerly known as Twitter) “may collect and use your biometric information for safety, security and identification purposes” so long as the user provides consent.
The microblogging platform does not define “biometric” in its policy, but the term generally refers to automated technologies — including facial recognition software, fingerprint taking, and palm and iris scanning — used for authenticating and verifying unique human body characteristics.
“The announcement is at least an acknowledgement that X will be doing what other social networks have already been doing in a more covert fashion,” said Stephen Wicker, a professor at Cornell University and expert on data privacy,
X’s move to collect biometric data comes after the website earlier this year introduced a subscription verification model that requires users to submit their government-approved identification to receive a blue checkmark on their accounts.
A lawsuit, filed in July alleges that X has not “adequately informed individuals who have interacted (knowingly or not) with [its platform], that it collects and/or stores their biometric identifiers in every photograph containing a face that is uploaded to [the website].”
In 2021, Facebook agreed to a $650 million settlement of a privacy lawsuit for allegedly using photo face-tagging and other biometric data without users’ consent.
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