• 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.

  • PerspectiveWhat Can Drones Do to Protect Civilians in Armed Conflict?

    Drones are usually in the news for bad reasons, like controversial killings of suspected terrorists in the Middle East, bombings of Saudi oil facilities or an assassination attempt on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Michael Yekple writes that what many people may not know is that United Nations peacekeepers use drones to protect civilians from violence. These drones are different: They don’t carry weapons.

  • 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.”

  • DronesShould Santa Use a Drone to Deliver Gifts to Well-Behaved Children?

    Santa has always run a one-sleigh operation, but a new analysis could help him speed deliveries and save energy, if he ever decided to add a drone to his route. The new routing algorithm anticipates the day trucks and drones cooperate to drop packages at your doorstep quickly and efficiently.

  • 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.

  • PerspectiveThe Intelligence Fallout from Trump’s Withdrawal in Syria

    The chaotic nature of the U.S. withdrawal from Syria—following an impulsive, snap decision by President Donald Trump during a phone call with the Turkish president earlier this month—is unnerving those who have been involved in all levels of the fight against ISIS. This is because “forever war” in Iraq and Syria was built around the work done by local U.S. allies. The fight against ISIS was America’s, but it was also being fought by Syrians, Kurds, and Iraqis—a U.S. strategy known as “by, with and through.” These partnerships have proved invaluable to the war against ISIS – but at the same time, they have also opened a small hole in the secrecy which typically shrouds the U.S. special operations community—by giving the local partners who work with those forces a rare and up-close view of who they are and how they do their jobs. Experts worry that any potential deal between the Kurds and Assad will include “not just speaking with Syrian intelligence officers but Russians and Iranians,” one expert said. “It’s going to turn out that all of a sudden the ways that elite American counterterrorism forces operate are known to the opposition.” Another expert said: “None of these issues were thought through or prepared, no consequences considered. It’s a disaster.”

  • Big DataConverting Big Data into Real-Time, Actionable Intelligence

    Social media, cameras, sensors and more generate huge amounts of data that can overwhelm analysts sifting through it all for meaningful, actionable information to provide decision-makers such as political leaders and field commanders responding to security threats. Researchers are working to lessen that burden by developing the science to gather insights from data in nearly real time.

  • Perspective: AIAI Could Be a Force for Positive Social Change – but We’re Currently Heading for a Darker Future

    Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already re-configuring the world in conspicuous ways. Data drives our global digital ecosystem, and AI technologies reveal patterns in data. Smartphones, smart homes, and smart cities influence how we live and interact, and AI systems are increasingly involved in recruitment decisions, medical diagnoses, and judicial verdicts. Whether this scenario is utopian or dystopian depends on your perspective.