• 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.

  • DronesAerial Threat: Why Drone Hacking Could Be Bad News for the Military

    By Mohiuddin Ahmed and Paul Haskell-Dowland

    Unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly called drones, are now a fundamental part of defense force capability, from intelligence gathering to unmanned engagement in military operations. But what happens if our own technology is turned against us? As with all IT technology, manufacturers and users may leave the digital doors unlocked. This potentially leaves opportunities for cyber-criminals and perhaps even cyber-warfare.

  • Perspective: SurveillanceThe FISA Oversight Hearing Confirmed That Things Need to Change

    Section 215, the controversial law at the heart of the NSA’s massive telephone records surveillance program, is set to expire in December. Last week the House Committee on the Judiciary held an oversight hearing to investigate how the NSA, FBI, and the rest of the intelligence community are using and interpreting 215 and other expiring national security authorities. If last week’s hearing made anything clear, it’s this: there is no good reason for Congress to renew the CDR authority,” McKinney writes, adding: “Despite repeated requests from the members of the panel to describe some way of measuring how effective these surveillance laws are, none of the witnesses could provide a framework. Congress must be able to determine whether any of the programs have real value and if the agencies are respecting the foundational rights to privacy and civil liberties that protect Americans from government overreach.”

  • Perspective: DystopiaScience Fiction Has Become Dystopian Fact

    So which dystopia are we living in? Most educated people have read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. So influential have these books been that we are inclined to view all disconcerting new phenomena as either “Orwellian” or “Huxleyan”. If you suspect we shall lose our freedom to a brutally repressive state, grinding its boot into our faces, you think of George. If you think we shall lose it to a hedonistic consumer culture, complete with test-tube designer babies, you quote Aldous. “My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power,” Huxley wrote in a letter to Orwell in 1949. Niall Ferguson agrees: “As I reflect on the world in 2019, I am struck by the wisdom of [Huxley’s] words. In Xi Jinping’s China, we see Totalitarianism 2.0. The boot on the face remains a possibility, of course, but it is needed less and less as the system of social credit expands, aggregating and analyzing all the digital data that Chinese citizens generate.”

  • SurveillanceBorder Communities Inundated with Surveillance Technologies

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) the other day published The Atlas of Surveillance: Southwestern Border Communities. The Atlas consists of profiles of six counties along the U.S.-Mexico border, outlining the types of surveillance technologies deployed by local law enforcement—including drones, body-worn cameras, automated license plate readers, and face recognition. The report also includes a set of 225 data points marking surveillance by local, state, and federal agencies in the border region.

  • Surveillance stateAI and the Coming of the Surveillance State

    Artificial Intelligence (AI) used to be the stuff of science fiction, but is now making its presence felt in both the private and the public domains. In an important new study — The Global Expansion of AI Surveillance – Steve Feldstein of the Carnegie Endowment writes: “Unsurprisingly, AI’s impact extends well beyond individual consumer choices. It is starting to transform basic patterns of governance, not only by providing governments with unprecedented capabilities to monitor their citizens and shape their choices but also by giving them new capacity to disrupt elections, elevate false information, and delegitimize democratic discourse across borders.”

  • Surveillance stateI Researched Uighur Society in China for 8 Years and Watched How Technology Opened New Opportunities – Then Became a Trap

    By Darren Byler

    The Uighurs, a Muslim minority ethnic group of around 12 million in northwest China, are required by the police to carry their smartphones and IDs listing their ethnicity. As they pass through one of the thousands of newly built digital media and face surveillance checkpoints located at jurisdictional boundaries, entrances to religious spaces and transportation hubs, the image on their ID is matched to their face. If they try to pass without these items, a digital device scanner alerts the police. The Chinese state authorities described the intrusive surveillance as a necessary tool against the “extremification” of the Uighur population. Through this surveillance process, around 1.5 million Uighurs and other Muslims were determined “untrustworthy” and have forcibly been sent to detention and reeducation in a massive internment camp system. Since more than 10 percent of the adult population has been removed to these camps, hundreds of thousands of children have been separated from their parents. Many children throughout the region are now held in boarding schools or orphanages which are run by non-Muslim state workers.

  • Perspective: China syndromeHuawei's Dominance of Africa's Mobile Networks Mean More Spying on African Citizens

    Chinese tech firm Huawei has been increasing its footprint across Africa, providing countries with new technology and telecommunications equipment, including most notably 4G and 5G mobile networks. Some of this expansion has involved Huawei technicians helping governments in Africa to spy on their political opponents.

  • Perspective: China syndromeChina May Have Used a Recent Massive iPhone Hack to Target Uighur Muslims

    A recent massive iPhone hack discovered by Google researchers may have been a campaign to target Uighur Muslims, an oppressed ethnic minority living in China, TechCrunch and Forbes report. The hack came to light last week, when researchers at Google’s cybersecurity wing Project Zero reported they had found a handful of websites which had been secretly injecting spyware into iPhones over the course of two years.

  • Perspective: Emerging technologiesWe Need to Ban More Emerging Technologies

    With more and more innovation, there is less and less time to reflect on the consequences. To tame this onrushing tide, society needs dams and dikes. Just as has begun to happen with facial recognition, it’s time to consider legal bans and moratoriums on other emerging technologies. These need not be permanent or absolute, but innovation is not an unmitigated good. The more powerful a technology is, the more care it requires to safely operate.

  • 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.