• Facebook: Governments’ demanding more user data, content restrictions

    Facebook says that governments’ requests for information and for the removal of content have increased in the first half of 2015. Such requests have substantially increased in the last two years, since the company began releasing such information. The number of accounts for which governments around the world have requested account data jumped 18 percent in the first half of 2015, to 41,214 accounts, up from 35,051 requests in the second half of 2014.

  • Lawmakers want to know scope of federal agencies’ use of cellphone tracking technology

    Members of the House Oversight Committee on Monday sent letters to the heads of twenty-four federal agencies asking them whether or not their agencies employ the StingRay cell phone tracking technology. The technology simulates a cell phone tower so it can collect information on mobile phones and their users. The letters are indicative of a growing unease with the unregulated use of the technology by federal agencies.

  • German spy agency spied on FBI, UN bodies, and German citizens: Report

    BND, Germany’s intelligence service, spied on the FBI, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, UNICEF — the UN Children’s Fund, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and the World Health Organization, among many other targets. What may upset many Germans is the fact that the list of BND surveillance targets also included German citizens. Germany has strict privacy laws and German citizens are not allowed to be spied on without a thorough review by the courts.

  • NSA phone metadata collection program “likely violates constitution”: Judge

    Washington, D.C. district court judge Richard Leon, ruling on Monday against the National Security Agency (NSA), said that the agency’s bulk phone metadata collection “likely violates the constitution.” Judge Leon, ruling in a case brought by conservative activist attorney Larry Klayman, said that the NSA must immediately end collecting the defendants’ information. Leon said he believed it was “substantially likely” that “the program is unlawful,” and that in that event, “the plaintiffs have suffered concrete harm traceable to the challenged program.”

  • Iranian global cyber espionage campaign exposed

    Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. on Monday published a 38-page report identifying specific details and broad analysis on cyber-espionage activity conducted by the group “Rocket Kitten,” with possible ties to Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The new report also reveals details of the group’s global operations and insight into more than 1,600 of their targets.

  • U.K. substantially to increase the number of U.K. spies

    George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, said the government spending review, due out on 25 November, will substantially increase the number of intelligence officers in the three U.K. intelligence agencies who are responsible for investigating, analyzing, and helping thwart terrorist plots. The chancellor said: “The changing nature of war, espionage and terrorism meant government itself had to change in its response.”

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  • Berkeley modifies Suspicious Activity Reports guidelines

    The Berkeley City Council members said in a meeting last week that Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), an initiative of the DHS which, through regional and national agencies, disseminates to local law enforcement information on possible terrorist threats, has the potential of criminalizing innocent people. Members of the council agreed that in order to prevent hurting innocent people, the council should adopt a Police Review Commission recommendation to modify Berkeley Police Department orders on Suspicious Activity Reporting. The modification aims to make sure that SARs can be filed “only if there is reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in criminal conduct.”

  • DoD awards $7.6 million to Pitt to develop therapies against biowarfare

    The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has awarded a $7.6 million grant to a collaborative group of scientists in the University of Pittsburgh Center for Vaccine Research (CVR) for work which could lead to countermeasures against bioterrorism attacks. The contract is the latest in a successful run of federal funding for this group of investigators within Pitt’s CVR, which the DOD acknowledges has performed well.

  • Assad government profits from a policy of enforced disappearances – 65,000 disappeared so far

    A new report by Amnesty International reveals the vast scale and chillingly orchestrated nature of tens of thousands of enforced disappearances by the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad over the past four years. The report reveals that the state is profiting from widespread and systematic enforced disappearances amounting to crimes against humanity, through an insidious black market in which family members desperate to find out the fates of their disappeared relatives are ruthlessly exploited for cash. The scale of the disappearances is harrowing. The report documents at least 65,000 disappearances since 2011 — 58,000 of them civilians. Those taken are usually held in overcrowded detention cells in appalling conditions and cut off from the outside world. Many die as a result of rampant disease, torture, and extrajudicial execution.

  • Update issued for southeast Florida regional sea level rise projections

    The four-county Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact (Compact) has prepared an update to the regional sea level rise projections used for important planning purposes. Overall, the update includes minor changes to the short-term curves, but a more significant increase in the mid-and long-term projections. The 2015 update estimates sea level rise of 6 to 10 inches by 2030, or 3 to 5 inches above average sea level in 2015. Predictions for the mid-term are between 11 and 22 inches of additional sea level rise by 2060, and longer-term between 28 and 57 inches by 2100.

  • New York proposes new sea-level rise projection regulations

    New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced last week that to better prepare New York State coastal communities and business owners for extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy three years ago, DEC is proposing new state sea-level rise projections which will help state agencies and project planners develop more resilient structures. “The sea-level rise projections DEC is proposing today reflect the best science available,” said DEC acting commissioner. “Sea level projections will help state agencies, developers, planners and engineers to reduce risks posed by rising seas and coastal storms over the next several decades.”

  • Finnish security services: Increase in number of asylum seekers raised terrorism threat

    The Finnish Security Intelligence Service (FSIS) on Tuesday said that the rise in the number of asylum seekers had increased the threat of terrorism in Finland. Finland uses a national terrorism warning system, and the FSIS yesterday raised the warning level from “very low” to “low.” Finland expects 30,000-35,000 asylum seekers to arrive this year, compared with 3,600 in 2014.

  • FBI delays release of interactive tool to identify violent extremists

    Facing criticism, the FBI has decided to delay the release of “Don’t Be a Puppet,” an interactive program aiming to help teachers and students identify young people who show signs of flirting with radicalism and violent extremism. The program was scheduled for release Monday (yesterday). Civil rights advocates and American Muslim leaders, invited by the agency to preview the program, harshly criticized it for focusing almost exclusively on Islamic extremism. They noted that practically all the mass school shootings – and most of the violence perpetrated by extremists — in the United States had nothing to do with Islamic militants.

  • West Coast lawmakers ask Obama for $16.1 million to complete earthquake early warning system

    Last Wednesday thirty-six Members of Congress from western states urged President Barack Obama and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget to increase the funding level for earthquake hazards programs in their 2017 budget request — more specifically, to provide $16.1 million dollars in funding for an on-shore Earthquake Early Warning System (EEW) being developed by scientists in Southern California and along the West Coast. The lawmakers say that such an early warning system would be helpful in providing residents and first responders with advance notice that could help save lives, avoid injuries, and avert major infrastructure damage by slowing trains to prevent derailment, stopping elevators, pausing surgeries, and taking other actions in the event of a major earthquake.

  • Leading tech companies get failing grade for their privacy policies

    The Ranking Digital Rights’ report, 2015 Corporate Accountability Index, find that the world’s leading technology companies deserve a failing grade for their privacy policies and the level of protection they offer their users. Some of the companies have also been found lacking for their freedom of expression practices. “Even the companies that ranked highest are missing the mark in some ways, and improvements are needed across the board to demonstrate a greater commitment to users’ freedom of expression and privacy,” the report says.