• China syndromeThe Ominous Metaphors of China’s Uighur Concentration Camps

    By Aidan Forth

    The recent leak of Chinese Communist Party documents to the New York Times offers a chilling glimpse into the twenty-first century’s largest system of concentration camps. A million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are now detained in a Chinese operation that combines the forced labor and re-education of Mao-era laogai with the post-9/11 rhetoric of the “war on terror.” Retina scans, DNA databanks and facial recognition technology are now ubiquitous across China’s Xinjiang province. More than anything, however, Chinese statements about Uighur concentration are saturated with the language of disease. Likening Islam to a contagion, an official Communist Party document suggests Uighers have “been infected by unhealthy thoughts.” The biological metaphors revealed by the Chinese government’s recent document leak find their most sinister analogies with Nazi Germany. The language of disease justified some of the twentieth century’s worst crimes. If left unchecked by the international community, China is poised to continue that tradition in the twenty-first century. And where China leads, others are likely to follow.

  • SurveillanceIsraeli Court to Hear Case against Spy-Software Company NSO Behind Closed Doors

    On Thursday, a judge at Tel Aviv’s District Court begin hearing arguments as to why Israel’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) should revoke the export license of NSO Group. The firm’s Pegasus software has been used to target journalists and activists in several countries – including in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates.

  • China syndromeGOP Senators: Chinese Drones Pose National Security Threat

    A group of GOP senators called on the administration to restrict the use of Chinese drones by U.S. government agencies. “American taxpayer dollars should not fund state-controlled or state-owned firms that seek to undermine American national security and economic competitiveness,” they write.

  • ExtremismGermany Restructures Police, Intelligence to Fight Far-Right Violent Extremists

    German government statistics show that in 2018 there were more than 24,000 active right-wing extremists in Germany, with about 12,500 of them considered capable of carrying out violent acts. The total number of these extremists is expected to increase in 2019 by as much as a third, to 32,200, according to government documents obtained by the newspaperTagesspiegel. On Tuesday, The German government unveiled broad new measures to restructure domestic intelligence and law enforcement agencies in 2020 in order to make the German intelligence and law enforcement services more capable to fight the rising threat of right-wing extremism.

  • ArgumentThe FBI Needs to Be Reformed

    Bob Bauer and Jack Glodsmith write that “the FBI has taken a large hit in its credibility over the last four years, due in large part to Trump’s unprecedented, reckless, and routinely baseless attacks on it. But the Bureau has also hurt itself by its conduct of the investigation of Trump campaign officials and of Hillary Clinton’s emails when she was a presidential candidate.” There are many destructive pressures today on the legitimacy of the American electoral process, and “Our democracy cannot afford the added delegitimating burden of botched investigations related to elections that inevitably give rise to suspicions or charges of political manipulation,” they write.

  • PrivacyUnlawful Metadata Access Is Easy When We’re Flogging a Dead Law

    By Genna Churches and Monika Zalnieriute

    After watching this year’s media raids and the prosecution of lawyers and whistleblowers, it’s not hard to see why Australians wonder about excessive police power and dwindling journalistic freedom. But these problems are compounded by another, less known issue: police, and other bodies not even involved in law enforcement, have broad powers to access metadata. Each year, police alone access metadata in excess of 300,000 times.

  • Argument: Social media vettingSocial Media Vetting of Visa Applicants Violates the First Amendment

    Beginning in May, the State Department has required almost every applicant for a U.S. visa—more than fourteen million people each year—to register every social media handle they’ve used over the past five years on any of twenty platforms. “There is no evidence that the social media registration requirement serves the government’s professed goals” of “strengthen” the processes for “vetting applicants and confirming their identity,” Carrie DeCell and Harsha Panduranga write, adding: “The registration requirement chills the free speech of millions of prospective visitors to the United States, to their detriment and to ours,” they write.

  • ArgumentCrack Down on Genomic Surveillance

    Across the world, DNA databases that could be used for state-level surveillance are steadily growing. Yves Moreau writes that “Now the stakes are higher for two reasons. First, as technology gets cheaper, many countries might want to build massive DNA databases. Second, DNA-profiling technology can be used in conjunction with other tools for biometric identification — and alongside the analysis of many other types of personal data, including an individual’s posting behavior on social networks.”

  • Argument: Facial recognition techFacial-Recognition Technology: Closer to Utopia Than Dystopia

    Is facial recognition technology ushering in the age of Big Brother, allowing the government to monitor what we do everywhere we do it? “This is the image that the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), and a host of other alarmists are attempting to conjure in the minds of the media, elected officials, and the American public,” Robert Atkinson writes. But with the right regulations, “Americans can be safer and have more convenience with little or no reduction of our precious civil liberties.”

  • Social mediaSocial Media: Growing Conduit for Electoral Manipulation, Mass Surveillance

    Governments around the world are increasingly using social media to manipulate elections and monitor their citizens, tilting the technology toward digital authoritarianism. As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year, according to Freedom on the Net 2019, the latest edition of the annual country-by-country assessment of internet freedom, released today by Freedom House.

  • Perspective: BackdoorsWhy Adding Client-Side Scanning Breaks End-To-End Encryption

    Recent attacks on encryption have diverged. On the one hand, we’ve seen Attorney General William Barr call for “lawful access” to encrypted communications, using arguments that have barely changed since the 1990’s. Erica Portnoy writes that we’ve also seen suggestions from a different set of actors for more purportedly “reasonable” interventions, particularly the use of client-side scanning to stop the transmission of contraband files, most often child exploitation imagery (CEI).

  • PerspectiveWhy Did Microsoft Fund an Israeli Firm that Surveils West Bank Palestinians?

    Microsoft has invested in AnyVision, an Israeli startup which has developed a facial recognition technology used by Israel’s military and intelligence services to surveil Palestinians throughout the West Bank, in spite of the tech giant’s public pledge to avoid using the technology if it encroaches on democratic freedoms. The surveillance technology lets customers identify individuals and objects in any live camera feed, such as a security camera or a smartphone, and then track targets as they move between different feeds. The Israeli surveillance project is similar to China’s surveillance of its Uighur minority population. China is using artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology for a pervasive, intrusive monitoring of the Uighurs, a Muslim group living in western China.

  • Space securityAutonomous Protection System to Defend Satellites against Attacks

    Satellites do a lot of things — they help people navigate from one place to another, they deliver television programming, they search for new stars and exo-planets and they enable the U.S. nuclear deterrence strategy. But until recently, one thing they haven’t done — or needed to do — is defend themselves. Sandia launches campaign to develop autonomous satellite protection systems.

  • PerspectiveGerman Domestic Intelligence Chief on the New Wave of Hate

    In an interview with Der Spiegel, Thomas Haldenwang, the director of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, discusses the new threat of extremism in the wake of the Halle attack and his agency’s need for greater authority in the monitoring of such threats. “What’s new is the international dimension,” Haldenwang said. “Right-wing extremism as we know it was long a particularly German phenomenon. But now, we see Anders Breivik in Oslo, Brenton Tarrant in Christchurch, Patrick Crusius in El Paso, the perpetrator in Halle. It’s like links in a chain, almost an international competition. Another insight is that it appears that no deep ideology is needed to radicalize and develop plans for attacks. All that’s needed is this emotion, hate, incitement, the web-based instigation and this convergence of people who, on the basis of simplistic messages often rooted in fake news, arrive at this world view and think they have to strike immediately.”

  • China syndromeChina’s Global Reach: Surveillance and Censorship Beyond the Great Firewall

    By Danny O'Brien

    Those outside the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are accustomed to thinking of the Internet censorship practices of the Chinese state as primarily domestic, enacted through the so-called “Great Firewall”—a system of surveillance and blocking technology that prevents Chinese citizens from viewing websites outside the country. But the ongoing Hong Kong protests, and mainland China’s pervasive attempts to disrupt and discredit the movement globally, have highlighted that China is not above trying to extend its reach beyond the Great Firewall, and beyond its own borders. In attempting to silence protests that lie outside the Firewall, in full view of the rest of the world, China is showing its hand, and revealing the tools it can use to silence dissent or criticism worldwide.