Tag Archives: Surveillance

The Surveillance Threat Is Not What Orwell Imagined

By Shoshana Zuboff – George Orwell repeatedly delayed crucial medical care to complete 1984, the book still synonymous with our worst fears of a totalitarian future — published 70 years ago this month.

Since 1984’s publication, we have assumed with Orwell that the dangers of mass surveillance and social control could only originate in the state. We were wrong. This error has left us unprotected from an equally pernicious but profoundly different threat to freedom and democracy.

For 19 years, private companies practicing an unprecedented economic logic that I call surveillance capitalism have hijacked the Internet and its digital technologies. Invented at Google beginning in 2000, this new economics covertly claims private human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioral data. Some data are used to improve services, but the rest are turned into computational products that predict your behavior.

These predictions are traded in a new futures market, where surveillance capitalists sell certainty to businesses determined to know what we will do next. This logic was first applied to finding which ads online will attract our interest, but similar practices now reside in nearly every sector — insurance, retail, health, education, finance and more — where personal experience is secretly captured and computed for behavioral predictions. By now it is no exaggeration to say that the Internet is owned and operated by private surveillance capital.

In the competition for certainty, surveillance capitalists learned that the most predictive data come not just from monitoring but also from modifying and directing behavior. more>

How European telcos are monitoring our online activity

The security and privacy of personal data are being jeopardized as Deep Packet Inspection is deployed by internet service providers.
By Katherine Barnett – Europe has not escaped the global move towards ‘surveillance capitalism’. Numerous pieces of legislation are under consideration which put online freedoms and privacy at risk—the UK’s Online Harms white paper is just one example.

The European Digital Rights (EDRi) organization recently discovered that European telcos were monitoring internet connections and traffic through a technique known as Deep Packet Inspection (DPI).

European telcos have so far escaped penalization for their use of DPI, on the grounds that it counts as ‘traffic management’. Under current net-neutrality law, it is technically allowed for purposes of network optimization—but its use for commercial or surveillance purposes is banned.

In January, however, the EDRi produced a report, outlining how as many as 186 European ISPs had been violating this constraint, using DPI to affect the pricing of certain data packages and to slow down internet services running over-capacity. Alongside 45 other NGOs and academics, it is pushing for the use of DPI to be terminated, having sent an open letter to EU authorities warning of the dangers.

Deep Packet Inspection is a method of inspecting traffic sent across a user’s network. It allows an ISP to see the contents of unencrypted data packets and grants it the ability to reroute or block traffic.

Data packets sent over a network are conventionally filtered by examining the ‘header’ of each packet, meaning the content of data traveling over the network remains private. They work like letters, with simple packet filtering allowing ISPs to see only the ‘address’ on the envelope but not the contents.

DPI however gives ISPs the ability to ‘open the envelope’ and view the contents of data packets. It can also be used to block or completely reroute data.

Regulators have so far turned a blind eye to this blatant disregard for net-neutrality law and telcos are pushing for DPI to be fully legalized.

This sparks major concerns about user privacy and security, as DPI renders visible all unencrypted data sent across a user’s connection, allowing ISPs to see browsing activity. more>

The philosophy of privacy: why surveillance reduces us to objects

By Michael P. Lynch – Philosophers have traditionally distinguished freedom of choice or action from what is sometimes called autonomy.

To see the difference, think about impulse buying. You may “freely” click on the “buy” button in the heat of the moment – indeed, corporations count on it – without that decision reflecting what really matters to you in the long run. Decisions like that might be “free” but they are not fully autonomous.

Someone who makes a fully autonomous decision, in contrast, is committed to that decision; she owns it. Were she to reflect on the matter, she would endorse those decisions as reflecting her deepest values.

Systematic invasions of privacy are undermining our autonomy in precisely the same way in which the mind-meld case does. The government is not forcing us to make a decision. But it is undermining our autonomy nonetheless. more> http://tinyurl.com/mrd2obb

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The Anti-Surveillance Strategies That Could Ruin the Internet

By Tim Maurer, Robert Morgus, Isabel Skierka – Here’s what many of these proposals are getting wrong:

they’re focused too heavily on the physical location of data as a security mechanism, when, in fact, data privacy and security depends primarily on how it is stored and transmitted.

In reality, few of the proposed measures actually protect data from surveillance.

Moreover, governments outside of Europe, namely authoritarian regimes with poor human rights records, could rhetorically use these proposals to justify their own actions, weakening Europe’s human rights foreign policy. more> http://tinyurl.com/mhxut9r

A Principled Fight Against Surveillance

By Katitza Rodriguez – Years before Edward Snowden leaked his first document, human rights lawyers and activists have been concerned about a dramatic expansion in law enforcement and foreign intelligence agencies’ efforts to spy on the digital world.

It had become evident that legal protections had not kept pace with technological – that the state’s practical ability to spy on the world had developed in a way that permitted it to bypass the functional limits that have historically checked its ability to spy.

  • It’s time to move beyond the fallacy that information about communications (metadata) does not pose as serious a threat to privacy as the content of communications
  • In a world of highly integrated digital networks, where individual interactions and data routes defy any semblance of territorial correspondence, such distinctions are meaningless
  • “Law” implies certain minimum qualitative requirements of clarity, accessibility, and predictability. Laws limiting human rights cannot be secret or vague enough to permit arbitrary interference
  • Laws should only permit communications surveillance by specified State authorities to achieve a Legitimate Aim that corresponds to a predominantly important legal interest that is necessary in a democratic society
  • Any restrictive measure which undermines the essence or core of a right is inherently disproportionate and a violation of that right
  • No law should impose security holes in our technology in order to facilitate surveillance
  • Notification must be the norm, not the exception. Individuals should be notified that access to their communications has been authorized with enough time and information to enable them to appeal the decision, except when doing so would endanger the investigation at issue
  • Governments should not bypass national privacy protections by relying on secretive informal data sharing agreements with foreign states or private international companies. Individuals should not be denied privacy rights simply because they live in another country from the one that is surveilling them. Where data is flowing across borders, the law of the jurisdiction with the greatest privacy protections should apply

It’s clear that under the cloak of secrecy, malfunctioning oversight and the limited reach of outdated laws, the practice of digital surveillance in countries from the far north to the far south, have overrun the bounds of human rights standards. more> http://tinyurl.com/l7qj7td

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Better police surveillance technologies come with a cost

Surveillance cameras in Singapore

Surveillance cameras in Singapore
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Phil Ciciora – The widespread use of advanced surveillance technologies such as automatic license plate readers, surveillance cameras, red light cameras and facial recognition software by state and local police departments combined with a lack of oversight and regulation have the potential to develop into a form of widespread community surveillance, which ought to pose significant privacy concerns to law-abiding citizens, warns Stephen Rushin, a professor of law at Illinois.

In the absence of regulation, police departments across the country have developed dramatically different policies on the use of public surveillance technologies. more> http://tinyurl.com/ns3o7pm

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The NSA-Reform Paradox: Stop Domestic Spying, Get More Security

By Bruce Schneier – There are two basic schools of thought about how this came to pass. The first focuses on the agency’s power. Like J. Edgar Hoover, NSA Director Keith Alexander has become so powerful as to be above the law. He is able to get away with what he does because neither political party — and nowhere near enough individual lawmakers — dare cross him.

The second school of thought is that it’s the administrations’ fault — not just the present one, but the most recent several. According to this theory, the NSA is simply doing its job. If there’s a problem with the NSA’s actions, it’s because the rules it’s operating under are bad. Like the military, the NSA is merely an instrument of national policy. more> http://tinyurl.com/q7sfw75

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Internet companies in new effort to disclose more on NSA requests

By Joseph Menn – Google’s new court filing adds to its earlier petition. It complains that its reputation and business have been damaged by what it says were misleading reports that the NSA had “direct access” to its internal servers. The companies have denied those reports, and most now publish summaries that give the number of all the government requests they receive.

“The government has identified no statute or regulation that prohibits such disclosure and it is not appropriate for this court to undertake the essentially legislative function of creating such a prohibition,” Google wrote in its filing with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. more> http://tinyurl.com/qbfsrxd

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The Only Way to Restore Trust in the NSA

By Bruce Schneier – All of this denying and lying results in us not trusting anything the NSA says, anything the president says about the NSA, or anything companies say about their involvement with the NSA. We know secrecy corrupts, and we see that corruption. There’s simply no credibility, and — the real problem — no way for us to verify anything these people might say.

Trust is essential for society to function. Without it, conspiracy theories naturally take hold. Even worse, without it we fail as a country and as a culture. It’s time to reinstitute the ideals of democracy: The government works for the people, open government is the best way to protect against government abuse, and a government keeping secrets from is people is a rare exception, not the norm. more> http://tinyurl.com/luuvnd4

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Surveillance is not the office management tool of the future

By Barry Schwartz – New York Times reporter Steve Lohr recently reported on a new surveillance technology that was tested in almost 400 restaurants throughout the US.

If your workforce is committed to finding meaning and engagement in their work, and your entire organization has a mission to solve problems and improve lives, surveillance will surely be counterproductive. Not only will it inhibit flexibility and creativity, but it will suggest a lack of trust that will surely erode the spirit of the organization.

We don’t want complete autonomy in our organizations. And we also don’t want NSA-style surveillance. What we want is empathetic, mentoring supervision. more> http://tinyurl.com/ozbsloq

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