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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Big Brother Rising: Extreme Spying and Social Censorship

The UK Investigatory Powers Bill (IPBill), also known as the Snoopers' Charter, has been granted royal assent, officially giving police departments and intelligence agencies enhanced bulk surveillance and hacking powers.
The Investigatory Powers Act, passed on Thursday, legalises a whole range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services unmatched by any other country in western Europe or even the US.
The security agencies and police began the year braced for at least some opposition, rehearsing arguments for the debate. In the end, faced with public apathy and an opposition in disarray, the government did not have to make a single substantial concession to the privacy lobby.
US whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted: “The UK has just legalised the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.”
Snowden in 2013 revealed the scale of mass surveillance – or bulk data collection as the security agencies prefer to describe it – by the US National Security Agency and the UK’s GCHQ, which work in tandem.
But, against a backdrop of fears of Islamist attacks, the privacy lobby has failed to make much headway. Even in Germany, with East Germany’s history of mass surveillance by the Stasi and where Snowden’s revelations produced the most outcry, the Bundestag recently passed legislation giving the intelligence agencies more surveillance powers.
The US passed a modest bill last year curtailing bulk phone data collection but the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election is potentially a major reverse for privacy advocates. On the campaign trail, Trump made comments that implied he would like to use the powers of the surveillance agencies against political opponents.
The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Strasburger, one of the leading voices against the investigatory powers bill, said: “We do have to worry about a UK Donald Trump. If we do end up with one, and that is not impossible, we have created the tools for repression. If Labour had backed us up, we could have made the bill better. We have ended up with a bad bill because they were all over the place.
The real Donald Trump has access to all the data that the British spooks are gathering and we should be worried about that.”
The Investigatory Powers Act legalises powers that the security agencies and police had been using for years without making this clear to either the public or parliament. In October, the investigatory powers tribunal, the only court that hears complaints against MI6, MI5 and GCHQ, ruled that they had been unlawfully collecting massive volumes of confidential personal data without proper oversight for 17 years.
One of the negative aspects of the legislation is that it fails to provide adequate protection for journalists’ sources, which could discourage whistleblowing.
One of the few positives in the legislation is that it sets out clearly for the first time the surveillance powers available to the intelligence services and the police. It legalises hacking by the security agencies into computers and mobile phones and allows them access to masses of stored personal data, even if the person under scrutiny is not suspected of any wrongdoing.
Privacy groups are challenging the surveillance powers in the European court of human rights and elsewhere.
Jim Killock, the executive director of Open Rights Group, said: “The UK now has a surveillance law that is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy. The state has unprecedented powers to monitor and analyse UK citizens’ communications regardless of whether we are suspected of any criminal activity.”
Renate Samson, the chief executive of Big Brother Watch, said: “The passing of the investigatory powers bill has fundamentally changed the face of surveillance in this country. None of us online are now guaranteed the right to communicate privately and, most importantly, securely.”
Trump’s victory started speculation that, given his warm words for Vladimir Putin, he might do a deal with the Russian president to have Snowden sent back to the US where he faces a long jail sentence. Snowden has lived in Russia since leaking tens of thousands of documents to journalists in 2013.

UK Becomes Surveillance State, Passes New Spying Law on All Citizen Web Activity 
Nadia Prupis 
November 18, 2016

UK green-lights mass spying, hacking and bulk collection of your internet records Jason Murdock November 29, 2016

UK's new Snoopers' Charter just passed an encryption backdoor law by the backdoor 30 Nov 2016 Kieren McCarthy

Petition against ‘most extreme’ new spying laws receives enough signatures to force parliament to consider debate  Andrew Griffin  28 11 2016


Hangzhou’s local government is piloting “social credit” system the Communist Party has said it wants to roll out nationwide by 2020, a digital reboot of the methods of social control the regime uses to avert threats to its legitimacy.
More than three dozen local governments across China are beginning to compile digital records of social and financial behavior to rate creditworthiness. A person can incur black marks for infractions such as fare cheating, jaywalking and violating family-planning rules. The effort echoes the dang’an, a system of dossiers the Communist party keeps on urban workers’ behavior.
In time, Beijing expects to draw on bigger, combined data pools, including a person’s internet activity, according to interviews with some architects of the system and a review of government documents. Algorithms would use a range of data to calculate a citizen’s rating, which would then be used to determine all manner of activities, such as who gets loans, or faster treatment at government offices or access to luxury hotels.
The endeavor reinforces President Xi Jinping’s campaign to tighten his grip on the country and dictate morality at a time of economic uncertainty that threatens to undermine the party. Mr. Xi in October called for innovation in “social governance that would “heighten the capacity to forecast and prevent all manner of risks.”
The national social-credit system’s aim, according to a slogan repeated in planning documents, is to “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.”
Thus far, the pilot data-collecting systems aren’t yet tied together into what Beijing envisions as a sweeping system, which would assign each citizen a rating. It isn’t clear that Ms. Chen’s ticket infraction made it into any central system, although the notice warned that fare-dodgers risked being marked down starting Jan. 1; a station agent said only repeat offenders are reported.
Zan Aizong, a Hangzhou human-rights activist, sees the system, once it’s fully operational, as an Orwellian exercise to keep closer tabs on a populace already lacking basic liberties such as freedom of speech. “Tracking everyone that way,” Mr. Zan said, “it’s just like ‘1984.’ 
China’s judiciary has already created a blacklisting system that would tie into the national social-credit operation. Zhuang Daohe, a Hangzhou legal scholar, cites the example of a client, part-owner of a travel company, who now can’t buy tickets for planes or high-speed trains because a Hangzhou court put him on a blacklist after he lost a dispute with a landlord.
“This has had a huge impact on the business,” said the client’s wife. “He can’t travel with clients anymore.” Added Mr. Zhuang: “What happens when it punishes the wrong person?”
Hangzhou officials didn’t respond to inquiries.
Another government system blacklists badly behaved tourists.
Driving the social-credit system are the State Council—China’s cabinet—and the central national-planning agency. A blueprint the cabinet published in 2014 stated it aimed to “build sincerity” in economic, social and political activity. It stressed the need for fair and clean government and for punishing polluting factories and bribe-takers.
Blacklists will expose offenders and restrict them from certain activities, while well-behaved citizens will earn access to “green lanes” that provide faster government services, the blueprint said. Citizens in jobs deemed sensitive—lawyers, accountants, teachers, journalists—will be subject to enhanced scrutiny, it said.
The State Council and national-planning agency didn’t respond to requests for comment.
China’s government must overcome technological and bureaucratic obstacles to build a system that can monitor 1.4 billion people. Government departments often guard their information, undermining efforts to build a unified database, and their systems often aren’t compatible, said Meng Tianguang, a political scientist at Beijing’s Tsinghua University who advises the government on applying “big data” to governance issues but isn’t directly involved in the social-credit system.
The Shanghai government on an official website has identified scores of violations that can incur credit penalties in its pilot system, including falling behind on bills and breaking traffic rules. State-media reports list penalties for not being filial to one’s parents. (Under Chinese law, parents over 60 may sue children for not visiting regularly or not ensuring they have enough food.)
Penalties for low scorers will include higher barriers to obtaining loans and bans on indulgences such as luxury hotels, according to state-media reports.
The Shanghai system appears to still be in an early phase. Residents can check their social-credit records, but records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal didn’t show any nonfinancial data. Shanghai city officials didn’t respond to inquiries.
Despite official-media warnings and propaganda promoting sincerity, dozens of people interviewed in Shanghai weren’t aware of the social-credit plan. Many agreed more should be done to enforce higher moral standards, bemoaning habits such as spitting, cutting in line and being cold to strangers in need.
Research by Yang Wang, a Syracuse University expert on internet behavior, has shown Chinese internet users, accustomed to the idea of government snooping, are less concerned with online privacy than Americans. The most common word for privacyyinsi, didn’t appear in popular Chinese dictionaries until the mid-1990s, he notes.
Behavior reports
In the tree-lined Yangjing neighborhood, subdistrict authorities maintain a database that gives a hint as to what elements of a broader social-credit system might look like. The database collects reports on locals’ behavior from residential committees, said Yuan Jianming, the head of the Yangjing Sincerity Construction Office.
Since mid-2015, the office has published a monthly “red list” of exemplary residents. Zhu Shengjun, 28, a high-school teacher, was named on a September red list. He said he didn’t know why. While he supported efforts to encourage better behavior, he hesitated at the idea of linking that with financial consequences, saying “it seems like too much of a stretch.”
The office also maintains a “gray list” of people behaving badly—throwing garbage out of windows, say—but the office hasn’t decided whether to publicize it, Mr. Yuan said.
In an area with a population of roughly 170,000, only around 120 have made Yangjing’s red list. Officials there complained to Chinese media this year that limited data sharing between departments was hampering efforts to rate people.
Businesses, too, get surveillance in pilot cities, where anyone can look up records on registered companies, though the records are sometimes incomplete. One objective: turning around what leaders see as a crippling lack of trust among citizens from decades of corruption and bare-knuckle competition.
So the social-credit system aims not just to collect data on individuals for official use, it seeks data on the behavior of businesses to analyze and show the results to consumers.
One example is food safety, a major issue since anger erupted over melamine-tainted milk powder that killed six infants in 2008. Subsequent scandals, including the sale of waste oil scooped up from gutters for reuse in restaurants, have continued to fuel mistrust.
Yangjing officials offer a solution: touch-screen displays they installed this summer in some restaurants. The screens, part of a local social-credit pilot system, offer an unusual level of transparency for China. Lit up with slogans—“Join heart to hand, be a model of sincerity” reads one—they display information about where ingredients came from and when waste oil was last picked up. Customers can watch videos on a mobile app showing chefs working, and the system displays the eatery’s health-department rating.
One recent Monday at Jujube Tree, a vegetarian restaurant, the food-safety console was partially obscured by poster board. Manager Wang Dacheng said it was because the system had erroneously downgraded the restaurant’s health rating, and local officials couldn’t fix it. “We have a lot of return customers. What if they come in and see that?” Mr. Wang said. He said he supported the system but was wary of its being applied without better controls.
Yangjing officials didn't respond to inquiries.
For initial social-credit efforts, local officials are relying on information collected by government departments, such as court records and loan and tax data. More-extensive logging of everyday habits, such as social-media use and online shopping, lies with China’s internet companies, including e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.
A credit-scoring service by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial Services—one of eight companies approved to pilot commercial experiments with social-credit scoring—assigns ratings based on information such as when customers shop online, what they buy and what phone they use. If users opt in, the score can also consider education levels and legal records. Perks in the past for getting high marks have included express security screening at the Beijing airport, part of an Ant agreement with the airport.
“Especially for young people, your online behavior goes towards building up your online credit profile,” said Joe Tsai, Alibaba’s executive vice chairman, “and we want people to be aware of that so they know to behave themselves better.”
Alibaba shares aggregate data about online sales with China’s statistics bureau but doesn’t divulge personal data unless required to by law, for example in criminal investigations, Mr. Tsai said.
In the U.S., private concerns such as credit-reporting agencies and ride-sharing services compile certain ratings based on consumer data or reviews.
The local-government trials aren’t known to be tapping private-sector data, although the social-credit system blueprint designates internet data as a “strategic national resource” and calls for internet companies to contribute data, without getting into specifics.
Whether private and public data systems will be combined is still being hammered out, said Zhu Wei, a China University of Politics and Law scholar who has advised the government on social-credit efforts.
In an October speech screened to 1.5 million officials, Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma urged law-enforcement agencies to use internet data as a tool to identify criminals, according to posts on a Communist Party social-media feed. He didn’t mention sharing Alibaba’s user data. His comments raised eyebrows for broaching the notion that internet companies might share data with government agencies. Alibaba declined to make Mr. Ma available for comment. “We believe the application of machine learning and data analytics for the purpose of crime prevention is consistent with our core values: solving society’s problems,” the company said
In an interview Nov. 1 with state media, a deputy head of China’s central-planning agency, Lian Weiliang, noted that much of the government’s credit-related data were stuck on “isolated islands” and said a central data platform had been established to encourage information sharing. He said the platform had collected 640 million pieces of credit information from 37 central-government departments and various local governments.
The agency said the government has stopped untrustworthy people, identified by the court system, from buying airline tickets 4.9 million times.
Some advisers to the government, such as Mr. Zhu and Mr. Meng, said they were skeptical the system would meet the 2020 deadline because of the immense task of integrating data and keeping information secure.
In Hangzhou, where Ms. Chen used her son’s pass, residents can check their social-credit records at a government-services center. Records the Journal viewed showed only whether people had kept up with health-insurance and social-security payments—a far cry from the central government’s goals.

"The feature was created to help Facebook get into China, a market where the social network has been blocked."

"As China’s online live-streaming platforms have seen record levels of engagement in the past year, beauty brands have been quick to adopt them in order to reach Chinese consumers—especially millennials."

"Brushing, is an unwanted growth industry in China and a practice that companies such as Alibaba are trying to stamp out. With online sellers under tremendous pressure to rack up sales, especially on Singles Day, many resort to the time honoured practice of placing fake orders."
Facebook, which recently faced criticism for censoring certain content on its platform, may soon have a free reign to censor any content it deems objectionable, as per a secret trade proposal which is in its draft stage.

Under the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), one of several internet-related proposals being pushed is to grant an online service platform like Facebook the power to censor content without needing to accept any legal liability or public accountability. The proposal will also protect companies from having to declare their source code to government regulators.

Recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced public ire after the social network removed a post containing the "Napalm Girl" photo. If these proposals go through, digital rights advocates warn "privatised censorship", will come into effect further giving companies legal immunity over content that is removed from their platforms.

"The proposals on privatised censorship are particularly worrying," said Joe McNamee, Executive Director of the European digital rights group EDRi. "Creating a power to undermine our free speech with no accountability is reckless and contrary to literally all relevant provisions of international law."

German digital rights blog Netzpolitikthat leaked some of the proposals in association with Greenpeace, says there could be significant impact on the EU's net politics as the proposed measures could have negative effects on data protection, net neutrality, freedom of speech and IT security.

It goes on to say that activists will be able to do little about the situation as the public is banned from the TiSA negotiations as any changes made are only broadcast through official statements of the negotiating parties. Even then these do not mention some of TiSA's critical aspects.

Microsoft’s  MSFT 0.13%  Chinese-language AI chat bot filters certain topics, the company confirmed Monday, although it did not clarify whether that included interactions deemed politically sensitive.
Last week, CNNMoney and China Digital Times reported that Xiaoice would not directly respond to questions surrounding topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese state. References to the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 or “Steamed Bun Xi,” a nickname of Chinese President Xi Jinping, would draw evasive answers or non sequiturs from the chat bot, according to the report.
“Am I stupid? Once I answer you’d take a screengrab,” read one answer to a question that contained the words “topple the Communist Party.”
Even the mention of Donald Trump, the American President-elect, drew an evasive response from the chat bot, according to reports. “I don’t want to talk about it,” Xiaoice said, reports CNN Money.
In response to inquiries from Fortune, Microsoft confirmed that there was some filtering around Xiaoice’s interaction.
“We are committed to creating the best experience for everyone chatting with Xiaoice,” a Microsoft spokesperson tells Fortune. “With this in mind, we have implemented filtering on a range of topics.” The tech giant did not further elaborate to which specific topics the filtering applied.
China’s scored dead last in a Freedom House survey on Internet freedoms last year. Content deemed politically sensitive by the state would be censored, and websites like Google and Wikipedia were routinely blocked.
Get Data Sheet, Fortune’s technology newsletter.
Microsoft says that Xiaoice engages in conversations with over 40 million Chinese users on social media platform like Weibo and WeChat, reports CNNMoney — a runaway success compared with Tay, Xiaoice’s ill-fated counterpart which was essentially pranked into sending hateful messages while it was briefly active on Twitter. Fortune was unable put Xiaoice to the test.
Last week, reports emerged that Facebook  FB 0.03%  might be developing censorship tools in a bid to return to China, which has blocked the service alongside other platforms like Twitter since 2009.
Facebook told Fortune in a statement that it had “not made any decision on our approach to China,” stressing that its “focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform.”

Microsoft Confirms Its Chinese-Language Chatbot Filters Certain Topics  

Zo is Microsoft’s latest AI chatbot Mehedi Hassan Dec 04 2016

China using AI to censor sensitive topics in online group chats NATHAN VANDERKLIPPE The Globe and Mail 

BANGKOK — Citing urgent cyberthreats, a junta-appointed body Monday considered a proposal to create a temporary authority to police online content before supporting legislation is passed.
report prepared by members of the National Reform Steering Assembly indicated that computer and internet systems were in such peril that a proposed body, the National Cybersecurity Committee, must be urgently empaneled by the authority of Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who heads the ruling junta and serves as prime minister.
“Waiting until the cybersecurity draft is approved by the National Legislative Assembly and goes into effect may cause damage to national security and the government’s digital policy,” said the report prepared by the steering assembly’s mass communications committee.
The Cybersecurity Act is among eight laws being drafted as part of what the government brands a “digital economy” policy but thus far seems preoccupied with expanding online censorship. Also in the package of supporting laws is amending the controversial Computer Crime Act, which digital rights activists say looks set to give more power to the authorities.
The military government launched its new Ministry of Digital Economy and Society in September, which it has presented as supporting economic innovation by creating soft infrastructure. Critics say it’s opening the door wider for suppression of speech online.
Thailand is in the midst of a delicate transition time following the passing of His Majesty the Late King Bhumibol, whose Oct. 13 death precipitated and explosion in online censorship.
Insulting the monarchy is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in jail, and the junta has made defending the institution a matter of national security.
The Thursday report suggested Prayuth or one of his deputies should lead the temporary committee, with the heads of the digital and defense ministries serving as vice presidents.
It also offered many suggestions for the final Cybersecurity Act, which is expected to enter into effect by March.
One was to order the National Cybersecurity Committee step aside and grant full authority to the military in cases of severe threat.
The latest draft authorized officials to access any information in any system for the sake of cybersecurity with court approval. The steering committee suggested that, in cases which could result in damages, officials could get approval from the cybersecurity committee and notify the court later.
The report also suggested penalties for private sector actors such as hosts and ISPs who do not comply with the authorities. There was none in the current draft.


NEW CYBERCRIME REGS WOULD OPEN BACK DOOR TO CENSORSHIP Sasiwan Mokkhasen, Staff Reporter - November 21, 2016 

Kazakhstan jails activists, plans a Great Firewall to stifle online dissent  11/30/2016

Gambia election: Government shuts down internet as President Yahya Jammeh faces threat to 22-year rule Adam Withnall  01 12 16

DARPA is on track to unveil a working prototype of its "Tern" drone system in 2018 that could eventually give the Navy and Marines persistent surveillance and strike targeting "virtually anywhere in the world."
If it's implemented, the Tern program would see fully-autonomous drones on small-deck ships throughout the world that can take off and land vertically. Once in flight, they transition to wing-borne flight at medium altitude and become the eyes and ears for its ship for long periods of time.
Among the things the Navy wants is a drone that can provide surveillance capability and strike targets, but with greater range than a traditional helicopter. It also would likely be used to gather signals intelligence from foreign adversaries — one of the main missions for US submarine forces. 
Tern, short for Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node, is a joint program between the Office of Naval Research and DARPA, the Pentagon's research and development arm. The agency just funded a second Tern test vehicle for the next year that's being built by Northrup Grumman.
If all goes to plan, Tern will move to ground-based testing in early 2018, before being tested at sea later in the year.
"We’re making substantial progress toward our scheduled flight tests, with much of the hardware already fabricated and software development and integration in full swing,” Brad Tousley, director of DARPA's Tactical Technology Officesaid in a statement.
"As we keep pressing into uncharted territory—no one has flown a large unmanned tailsitter before—we remain excited about the future capabilities a successful Tern demonstration could enable: organic, persistent, long-range reconnaissance, targeting, and strike support from most Navy ships."
Tern isn't the only drone program DARPA is working on. The agency has also been working on something called "upward falling payloads," a program that would station drones in water-tight containers around the world's oceans until they are called to the surface.

Donald Trump has tapped two telecommunications lobbyists to head his FCC transition team. That’s bad news for net neutrality, the policy that says internet service providers must treat all data equally.
Last Monday, Trump named Jeffrey Eisenach and Mark Jamison to oversee the transition of Federal Communications Commission. Eisenach and Jamison, both are on staff at the conservative at the American Enterprise Institute, and both former lobbyists for major telecommunications companies. Both are vocal opponents of net neutrality.
Neither is a lock for the next FCC chair. But Trump, whose only public stance on net neutrality came in a confused 2014 tweet, is unlikely to champion equal internet access in his administration.

Net neutrality policies prevent internet service providers from imposing blocks on certain websites or activities. Without these protections, an internet company like Time Warner Cable could decide to charge different rates for different kinds of data access, or provide faster or slower internet connections to their preferred sites, as was the case in 2007 when Comcast was discovered to have deliberately slowed access to torrenting sites. In February 2015, the FCC ruled to reclassify internet service providers, barring them from deliberately slowing access to specific sites.
Trump’s public stance on net neutrality is vague. His only public statement is a 2014 tweet against President Obama’s push for net neutrality protections, which Trump said would “target conservative media.”
“Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab,” Trump tweeted. “Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media.”
The tweet suggested that, as of November 2014, Trump did not know what “net neutrality” meant. The Fairness Doctrine, eliminated in 1987, was an FCC regulation that required television broadcasters to air multiple perspectives on controversial topics. The now-defunct doctrine has nothing to do with net neutrality, which requires internet service providers to treat all internet traffic equally, and does not regulate a website’s content, conservative or otherwise.
Trump may be murky on the details of net neutrality, but his new FCC transition team is not. Despite Trump’s campaign promises to “drain the swamp” of lobbyist influence in politics, both Eisenach and Jamison lobbying against net neutrality measures when they worked for Verizon and Sprint, respectively.
An August installment of the New York Times’s “Think Tank Inc.” series highlighted Eisenach’s dueling interests as a lobbyist. Under his mantle as policy director at the conservative American Enterprise Institute’s technology center, Eisenach spoke before Congress and lobbied FCC lawyers on the dangers of net neutrality. But Eisenach was also a paid consultant for Verizon, a major telecoms company opposed new net neutrality regulations. “Don’t Make the Internet a Public Utility,” he argued in a 2015 op-ed in the Times in which he argued against net neutrality, without disclosing his work as a paid Verizon consultant.
Jamison, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has his own ties to the telecoms industry. A former manager of regulatory policy at Sprint, Jamison has been a vocal critic of net neutrality and of the FCC, itself. “It’s time to move beyond net neutrality,” he argued in a July blog post, arguing that “net neutrality in the US is backfiring.”
Jamison weighed disbanding the FCC in an October article titled “Do we need the FCC?” (Conclusion: “The answer is ‘no, but yes.’”) In the article, he condemned accused the “cottage industries formed in support of net neutrality” of benefitting from Obama-era net neutrality regulations “at the expense of customers, who ultimately bear the brunt of regulatory rent-seeking.”
“Telecommunications network providers and ISPs are rarely, if ever, monopolies,” he wrote, although the recently announced merger of Time Warner and AT&T to create the country’s largest entertainment company has already been criticized as a monopoly-in-waiting.
As members of Trump’s FCC transition team, Eisenach and Jamison will be responsible for setting the agency’s course in the coming months. That means crafting policy for the Trump administration, which currently has no public stance on net neutrality, other than a broad pledge to repeal regulations.
It’s unclear whether those doomed regulations will include the 2015 FCC rules, which require internet providers to protect equal internet access. But under the helm of two former telecommunications insiders who already oppose net neutrality, the policy’s future looks grim.

Donald Trump’s Transition Team Wants to End Net Neutrality KELLY WEILL 11.29.16 

“Google on Steroids" The Hemispere Program

Although the government still hides too much information about a secret telephone records surveillance program known as Hemisphere, we have learned through EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits that police tout the massive database of private calls as “Google on Steroids" [pdf].
Hemisphere, which AT&T operates on behalf of federal, state, and local law enforcement, contains trillions of domestic and international phone call records dating back to 1987. AT&T adds roughly four billion phone records to Hemisphere each day [.pptx], including calls from non-AT&T customers that pass through the company’s switches.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and other federal, state and local police use Hemisphere to not only track when and who someone is calling, but to perform complicated traffic analysis that can dynamically map people’s social networks and physical locations. This even includes knowing when someone changes their phone number.
And federal officials often do it without first getting permission from a judge.
Indeed, Hemisphere was designed to be extremely secret, with police instructed to do everything possible to make sure the program never appeared in the public record. After using Hemisphere to obtain private information about someone, police usually cover up their use of Hemisphere by later obtaining targeted data about suspects from phone providers through traditional subpoenas, a process the police call “parallel construction” and that EFF calls “evidence laundering.”

Government secrecy about Hemisphere has extended to refusing to disclose basic records about the program, and EFF has had to sue federal and California law enforcement to win access to this critical information. EFF filed another round of briefing in federal court in November calling on the government to provide records as soon as possible, given that we made our FOIA request almost two years ago. The delayed resolution in federal court has stalled a related lawsuit EFF brought against California law enforcement agencies for access to their records about Hemisphere.

We aren’t the only ones suing: the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed similar litigation, which has allowed us to learn even more about Hemisphere, including how the federal government has used inconsistent arguments to avoid public scrutiny of the program.

From the records that have been disclosed in EFF’s lawsuits, we’ve learned that police view the astonishing size and scope of the database as an asset, referring to it as the “Super Search Engine” and “Google on Steroids.” Such descriptions confirm EFF’s worst fears that Hemisphere is a mass surveillance program that threatens core civil liberties.
The program poses severe Fourth Amendment concerns because police are obtaining detailed private information from the call records and learning even more about people’s social connections and physical movements based on pattern analysis. Federal officials do all of this without a warrant or any judicial oversight.
But beyond the Fourth Amendment problems, Hemisphere also poses acute risks to the First Amendment rights of callers caught in the program’s dragnet. Specifically, Hemisphere allows police to see a person’s associations, shedding light on their personal connections and political and social networks. It’s not hard to see such a tool being trained on activists and others critical of law enforcement, or being used by the government to identify entire organizations. We know that law enforcement officials have subjected Black Lives Matter activists to automated social media monitoring, and subjected attendees at gun shows to surveillance by automated license plate readers. Government officials can easily use Hemisphere in similar ways.
The Hemisphere program could not operate without AT&T’s full cooperation. It’s time for AT&T to reconsider its responsibility not only to its customers, but to all Americans who pick up the phone.

Law Enforcement’s Secret “Super Search Engine” Amasses Trillions of Phone Records for Decades NOVEMBER 29, 2016 DAVE MAASS AARON MACKEY

Report: AT&T Being Paid by U.S. Government to Spy on Users LUCAS NOLAN25 Oct 2016

'Google search on steroids' brings dark Web into the light InfoWorld | 

FBI and NSA Poised to Gain New Surveillance Powers Under Trump  
Chris Strohm 
November 29, 2016

The FBI Just Got Disturbing New Hacking Powers Hudson Hongo

Government hacking goes on steroids Alfred Ng Ben Fox Rubin December 1, 2016

The FBI Now Possesses Expanded Hacking Powers Despite Last-Minute Efforts By Congress 12.01.16 

Snowden: Hacking rule changes threaten Americans' rights DANIEL CHAITIN 11/30/16

The Surveillance City That's Always Watching You MARK WILSON 11.29.16

The Rise of Predictive AI 25 NOVEMBRE 2016

Index on Censorship: journalists under 'unprecedented' attack NOVEMBER 29, 2016 


Internet Governance: U.S. government give control to ICANN OCTOBER 3, 2016


Cyberwar SEPTEMBER 28, 2012


Julian Assange: 'CIA created ISIS' NOVEMBER 29, 2016

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