• Data analyticsCambridge Analytica: the data analytics industry is already in full swing

    By David Beer

    Revelations about Cambridge Analytica have laid bare the seeming lack of control that we have over our own data. Suddenly, with all the talk of “psychographics” and voter manipulation, the power of data analytics has become the source of some concern. But the risk is that if we look at the case of Cambridge Analytica in isolation, we might prevent a much wider debate about the use and control of our data. By focusing on the reports of extreme practices, we might miss the many everyday ways that data analytics are now shaping our lives.

  • PrivacyUse of face recognition systems threatens civil liberties: EFF report

    Face recognition—fast becoming law enforcement’s surveillance tool of choice—is being implemented with little oversight or privacy protections, leading to faulty systems that will disproportionately impact people of color and may implicate innocent people for crimes they didn’t commit, says an Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) report. Independent oversight, privacy protections are needed.

  • ConflictSeeking clarity: Making gray-zone activity more black and white

    An emergent type of conflict in recent years has been coined “gray zone,” because it sits in a nebulous area between peace and conventional warfare. Gray-zone action is not openly declared or defined, it’s slower, and is prosecuted more subtly—using social, psychological, religious, information, cyber and other means to achieve physical or cognitive objectives with or without violence. The lack of clarity of intent—the grayness—makes it challenging to detect, characterize, and counter an enemy fighting this way. DARPA launches a new program called COMPASS, to develop software that would help clarify enemy intent by gauging an adversary’s responses to various stimuli.

  • SurveillanceGermany’s highest court reviewing country’s permissive new surveillance laws

    German journalists, press groups, and civil rights advocates have asked Germany’s Constitutional Court to review the legality of the government’s surveillance capabilities. The plaintiffs contend that the law allows for the “virtually unrestricted” monitoring of foreign reporters.

  • Drones & privacyDetect illicit drone video filming

    Researchers have demonstrated the first technique to detect a drone camera illicitly capturing video. Their study addresses increasing concerns about the proliferation of drone use for personal and business applications and how it is impinging on privacy and safety.

  • SurveillanceGermany considering requiring home, car alarm systems to be equipped with back doors

    The German government will next week discuss sweeping new surveillance powers aimed to improve public safety. The proposal to be discussed would require operators of car and house alarm systems to help police and security services in their efforts to spy on potential terrorists or criminals.

  • Digital privacyAn armed robber’s Supreme Court case could affect all Americans’ digital privacy for decades to come

    By H. V. Jagadish

    A man named Timothy Carpenter planned and participated in several armed robberies at Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in Michigan and Ohio between 2010 and 2012. He was caught, convicted and sentenced to 116 years in federal prison. His appeal, which was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on 29 November, will shape the life of every American for years to come – no matter which way it’s decided. The FBI found Timothy Carpenter because one of his accomplices told them about him. I believe the FBI could have obtained a search warrant to track Carpenter, if agents had applied for one. Instead, federal agents got cellphone location data not just for Carpenter, but for fifteen other people, most of whom were not charged with any crime. One of them could be you, and you’d likely never know it. The more people rely on external devices whose basic functions record and transmit important data about their lives, the more critical it becomes for everyone to have real protection for their private data stored on and communicated by these devices.

  • BiometricsDNA techniques could transform facial recognition technology

    By Jean-Christophe Nebel

    Camera-based visual surveillance systems were supposed to deliver a safer and more secure society. But despite decades of development, they are generally not able to handle real-life situations. During the 2011 London riots, for example, facial recognition software contributed to just one arrest out of the 4,962 that took place. The failure of this technology means visual surveillance still relies mainly on people sitting in dark rooms watching hours of camera footage, which is totally inadequate to protect people in a city. But recent research suggests video analysis software could be dramatically improved thanks to software advances made in a completely different field: DNA sequence analysis. By treating video as a scene that evolves in the same way DNA does, these software tools and techniques could transform automated visual surveillance.

  • SurveillanceFor $1000, anyone can purchase mobile advertising to track your location, app use

    Privacy concerns have long swirled around how much information online advertising networks collect about people’s browsing, buying and social media habits — typically to sell you something. But could someone use mobile advertising to learn where you go for coffee? Could a burglar establish a sham company and send ads to your phone to learn when you leave the house? Could a suspicious employer see whether you’re using shopping apps on work time? The answer is yes, at least in theory.

  • SurveillanceFISA Section 702 reform bill a good Start, but improvements still needed: Critics

    Last Wednesday, the draft of the House Judiciary Committee’s bill to reauthorize and reform Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was made public. Section 702 permits the government to collect the content of communications of targets who are non-Americans located abroad, including communications they may have with Americans. Critics urge Congress to pass significant and meaningful reforms to Section 702 which address the serious constitutional concerns it raises, or allow that surveillance authority to expire.

  • TerrorismIsraeli intelligence helped foil dozens of terror attacks worldwide

    Israel’s intelligence agencies have stepped up cooperation with their foreign counterparts leading to the prevention of dozens of terror attacks around the world. Following the coordinated terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people in November 2015, the intelligence branch of Israel’s General Staff made a decision to concentrate more on collecting information from foreign terrorists who had ties to Middle Eastern terror organizations.

  • SurveillanceBig data amplify existing police surveillance practices: Study

    The big data landscape is changing quickly, and researchers wonder whether our political and social systems and regulations can keep up. With access to more personal data than ever before, police have the power to solve crimes more quickly, but in practice, the influx of information tends to amplify existing practices.

  • SurveillanceCalifornia’s police can't keep license plate data secret: Court

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the ACLU won a decision by the California Supreme Court that the license plate data of millions of law-abiding drivers, collected indiscriminately by police across the state, are not “investigative records” that law enforcement can keep secret. California’s highest court ruled that the collection of license plate data isn’t targeted at any particular crime, so the records couldn’t be considered part of a police investigation.

  • Privacy & the internetOn internet privacy, be very afraid

    In the internet era, consumers seem increasingly resigned to giving up fundamental aspects of their privacy for convenience in using their phones and computers, and have grudgingly accepted that being monitored by corporations and even governments is just a fact of modern life. In fact, internet users in the United States have fewer privacy protections than those in other countries. In April, Congress voted to allow internet service providers to collect and sell their customers’ browsing data. Cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier talked about government and corporate surveillance, and about what concerned users can do to protect their privacy. “Surveillance is the business model of the internet,” he says.

  • Quick takes // By Ben FrankelGoogle’s assault on privacy: a reminder

    On its best day, with every ounce of technology the U.S. government could muster, it could not know a fraction as much about any of us as Google does now” (Shelly Palmer, technology analyst).