• SurveillanceFacial Recognition: Ten Reasons You Should Be Worried About the Technology

    By Birgit Schippers

    Facial recognition technology is spreading fast. Already widespread in China, software that identifies people by comparing images of their faces against a database of records is now being adopted across much of the rest of the world. It’s common among police forces but has also been used at airports, railway stations and shopping centers. The rapid growth of this technology has triggered a much-needed debate. Activists, politicians, academics and even police forces are expressing serious concerns over the impact facial recognition could have on a political culture based on rights and democracy.

  • SurveillanceFacial Recognition “Epidemic” in the U.K.

    An investigation by the London-based Big Brother Watch has uncovered what the organization describes as a facial recognition “epidemic” across privately owned sites in the United Kingdom. The civil liberties campaign group has found major property developers, shopping centers, museums, conference centers and casinos using the technology in the United Kingdom.

  • Perspective: China syndromeData Leviathan: China’s Burgeoning Surveillance State

    Classical totalitarianism, in which the state controls all institutions and most aspects of public life, largely died with the Soviet Union, apart from a few holdouts such as North Korea. The Chinese Communist Party retained a state monopoly in the political realm but allowed a significant private economy to flourish. Yet today, in Xinjiang, a region in China’s northwest, a new totalitarianism is emerging—one built not on state ownership of enterprises or property but on the state’s intrusive collection and analysis of information about the people there. Xinjiang shows us what a surveillance state looks like under a government that brooks no dissent and seeks to preclude the ability to fight back. And it demonstrates the power of personal information as a tool of social control.

  • Perspective: PrivacyShoppers Targeted by Face‑Recognition Cameras in “Epidemic” of Surveillance

    There is an “epidemic” of facial recognition surveillance technology at privately owned sites in Britain, campaigners say. Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties group, found shopping centers, museums, conference centers and casinos had all used the software that compares faces captured by CCTV to those of people on watch lists, such as suspected terrorists or shoplifters. Privacy campaigners have criticized trials of the technology by police in London and Wales, questioning their legal basis.

  • PerspectiveSilicon Valley Wants to Read Your Mind – Here’s Why You Should Be Worried

    Not content with monitoring almost everything you do online, Facebook now wants to read your mind as well. The social media giant recently announced a breakthrough in its plan to create a device that reads people’s brainwaves to allow them to type just by thinking. These mind-reading systems could affect our privacy, security, identity, equality and personal safety. Do we really want all that left to companies with philosophies such as that of Facebook’s former mantra, “move fast and break things”?

  • Perspective: PrivacyMilitary-Style Surveillance Technology Is Being Tested in American Cities

    What if you fly a helicopter over the city at 1,000 feet. Now, with your telescopic camera, you can even make out distinctive features of the people in your frame. Surely this isn’t legal, you might say. Surely a bright line exists between snapping a photo with your phone from an airplane window and focusing a telescopic lens a few hundred feet over someone’s backyard. But it doesn’t. This is because airspace over America falls into the same legal category as other public spaces, such as sidewalks, roads, parks, and beaches—and it isn’t illegal to take photographs of private property, or private citizens, from public space. As a result, we have no expectation of privacy from above.

  • PerspectiveInsurance Black Boxes and the Surveillance State – How Free Are You, Really?

    Over the last few years there’s been a noticeable rise in the number of drivers opting to fit a “black box” to their cars in order to obtain cheaper insurance. The idea is that the boxes send location data to nearby satellites, allowing insurance companies to monitor how people are driving, offering discounts and even refunds to those deemed to be driving more safely. Certainly, the driver wouldn’t know any different, as they’d still drive with the same acute awareness of the rules of the road.

  • PrivacyAnonymizing Personal Data “Not Enough to Protect Privacy”: Study

    Current methods for anonymizing data leave individuals at risk of being re-identified, according to new research. Researchers demonstrated that allowing data to be used — to train AI algorithms, for example — while preserving people’s privacy, requires much more than simply adding noise, sampling datasets, and other de-identification techniques.

  • PerspectiveWhy the Ghost Keys ‘Solution’ to Encryption is No Solution

    The use of applications such as Signal, WhatsApp, iMessage, and Facebook Messenger for communications secured by end-to-end encryption has exploded over the past few years. Today, regular users of these and similar services number in the billions around the world. The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI have claimed repeatedly that the extensive use of such services hampers their ability to conduct investigations, because they cannot access encrypted communications. Officials in other countries have put forward a proposal they say would provide the needed access. But due to the fundamentals of public key encryption, this regime would end up raising most of the same concerns as other encryption back-door proposals floated in recent years.

  • Perspective: SurveillancePrivate Surveillance Is a Lethal Weapon Anybody Can Buy

    High-tech surveillance technology, once the purview of sophisticated spy services in wealthy countries, is now being offered by private contractors around the world as part of a highly secretive multibillion-dollar industry. While other kinds of weapons are subjected to stringent international regimes and norms — even if these are often broken — the trade in spy technology is barely regulated.

  • Visas & social mediaNew U.S. visa rules may push foreigners to censor their social-media posts

    By Todd Prince

    Foreigners who decry American imperialism while seeking to relax on Miami’s sandy beaches or play poker at Las Vegas’s casinos may seek to soften their tone on Twitter. The reason? The U.S. State Department is now demanding visa applicants provide their social-media profiles on nearly two dozen platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

  • PerspectiveMass surveillance is coming to a city near you

    The tech entrepreneur Ross McNutt wants to spend three years recording outdoor human movements in a major U.S. city, KMOX news radio reports. Conor Friedersdorf writes in The Atlantic that if that sounds too dystopian to be real, you’re behind the times. McNutt, who runs Persistent Surveillance Systems, was inspired by his stint in the Air Force tracking Iraqi insurgents. He tested mass-surveillance technology over Compton, California, in 2012. In 2016, the company flew over Baltimore, feeding information to police for months (without telling city leaders or residents) while demonstrating how the technology works to the FBI and Secret Service.

  • SurveillanceLawmakers raise alarm over CBP’s use of facial recognition tech on American citizens

    Lawmakers last week sent a letter to acting DHS secretary, sounding the alarm over reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is using facial recognition technology to scan American citizens — raising concerns over privacy and potential misuse of the American people’s biometric data.

  • PerspectiveDystopian Future Watch: Is San Francisco’s facial recognition ban too little, too late?

    Life just keeps creeping along, leading us step-by-step closer to living in a Philip K. Dick dystopian future—in real-time. And often, in our surveillance culture, we are willing participants to work alongside Big Brother. Harmon Leon writes in the Observer that Remember how fun it used to be to see facial recognition and retina scanning in sci-fi movies? We loved it in RoboCop and Blade Runner, right? Now, many of these biometrictechnologies have become a nightmarish reality.

  • SurveillanceBig tech surveillance could damage democracy

    By Chase Johnson

    Data is often called the oil of the 21st century. The more tech companies know about their users, the more effectively they can direct them to goods and services that they are likely to buy. The more companies know about their users, the more competitive they are in the market. But this business model – what I consider spying machines – has enormous potential to violate civil liberties. Big tech is already being used abroad to enhance the power of repressive regimes, as my work and others’ has shown.