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      Google to destroy billions of private browsing records to settle lawsuit

      news.movim.eu / TheGuardian · Monday, 1 April - 20:54

    Suit claimed tech giant tracked activity of people who thought they were privately using its Chrome browser’s incognito mode

    Google agreed to destroy billions of records to settle a lawsuit claiming it secretly tracked the internet use of people who thought they were browsing privately in its Chrome browser’s incognito mode.

    Users alleged that Google’s analytics, cookies and apps let the Alphabet unit improperly track people who set Google’s Chrome browser to “incognito” mode and other browsers to “private” browsing mode.

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      Facebook let Netflix see user DMs, quit streaming to keep Netflix happy: Lawsuit

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 28 March - 20:40 · 1 minute

    A promotional image for Sorry for Your Loss, with Elizabeth Olsen

    Enlarge / A promotional image for Sorry for Your Loss , which was a Facebook Watch original scripted series. (credit: Facebook )

    Last April, Meta revealed that it would no longer support original shows, like Jada Pinkett Smith's Red Table Talk talk show, on Facebook Watch. Meta's streaming business that was once viewed as competition for the likes of YouTube and Netflix is effectively dead now; Facebook doesn't produce original series, and Facebook Watch is no longer available as a video-streaming app.

    The streaming business' demise has seemed related to cost cuts at Meta that have also included layoffs. However, recently unsealed court documents in an antitrust suit against Meta [ PDF ] claim that Meta has squashed its streaming dreams in order to appease one of its biggest ad customers: Netflix.

    Facebook allegedly gave Netflix creepy privileges

    As spotted via Gizmodo , a letter was filed on April 14 in relation to a class-action antitrust suit that was filed by Meta customers, accusing Meta of anti-competitive practices that harm social media competition and consumers. The letter, made public Saturday, asks a court to have Reed Hastings, Netflix's founder and former CEO, respond to a subpoena for documents that plaintiffs claim are relevant to the case. The original complaint filed in December 2020 [ PDF ] doesn’t mention Netflix beyond stating that Facebook “secretly signed Whitelist and Data sharing agreements” with Netflix, along with “dozens” of other third-party app developers. The case is still ongoing.

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      Surveillance through Push Notifications

      news.movim.eu / Schneier · Monday, 4 March - 22:38 · 1 minute

    The Washington Post is reporting on the FBI’s increasing use of push notification data—”push tokens”—to identify people. The police can request this data from companies like Apple and Google without a warrant.

    The investigative technique goes back years. Court orders that were issued in 2019 to Apple and Google demanded that the companies hand over information on accounts identified by push tokens linked to alleged supporters of the Islamic State terrorist group.

    But the practice was not widely understood until December, when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, said an investigation had revealed that the Justice Department had prohibited Apple and Google from discussing the technique.

    […]

    Unlike normal app notifications, push alerts, as their name suggests, have the power to jolt a phone awake—a feature that makes them useful for the urgent pings of everyday use. Many apps offer push-alert functionality because it gives users a fast, battery-saving way to stay updated, and few users think twice before turning them on.

    But to send that notification, Apple and Google require the apps to first create a token that tells the company how to find a user’s device. Those tokens are then saved on Apple’s and Google’s servers, out of the users’ reach.

    The article discusses their use by the FBI, primarily in child sexual abuse cases. But we all know how the story goes:

    “This is how any new surveillance method starts out: The government says we’re only going to use this in the most extreme cases, to stop terrorists and child predators, and everyone can get behind that,” said Cooper Quintin, a technologist at the advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation.

    “But these things always end up rolling downhill. Maybe a state attorney general one day decides, hey, maybe I can use this to catch people having an abortion,” Quintin added. “Even if you trust the U.S. right now to use this, you might not trust a new administration to use it in a way you deem ethical.”

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      The Internet Enabled Mass Surveillance. AI Will Enable Mass Spying.

      news.movim.eu / Schneier · Tuesday, 5 December - 05:51 · 4 minutes

    Spying and surveillance are different but related things. If I hired a private detective to spy on you, that detective could hide a bug in your home or car, tap your phone, and listen to what you said. At the end, I would get a report of all the conversations you had and the contents of those conversations. If I hired that same private detective to put you under surveillance, I would get a different report: where you went, whom you talked to, what you purchased, what you did.

    Before the internet, putting someone under surveillance was expensive and time-consuming. You had to manually follow someone around, noting where they went, whom they talked to, what they purchased, what they did, and what they read. That world is forever gone. Our phones track our locations. Credit cards track our purchases. Apps track whom we talk to, and e-readers know what we read. Computers collect data about what we’re doing on them, and as both storage and processing have become cheaper, that data is increasingly saved and used. What was manual and individual has become bulk and mass. Surveillance has become the business model of the internet, and there’s no reasonable way for us to opt out of it.

    Spying is another matter. It has long been possible to tap someone’s phone or put a bug in their home and/or car, but those things still require someone to listen to and make sense of the conversations. Yes, spyware companies like NSO Group help the government hack into people’s phones , but someone still has to sort through all the conversations. And governments like China could censor social media posts based on particular words or phrases, but that was coarse and easy to bypass . Spying is limited by the need for human labor.

    AI is about to change that. Summarization is something a modern generative AI system does well. Give it an hourlong meeting, and it will return a one-page summary of what was said. Ask it to search through millions of conversations and organize them by topic, and it’ll do that. Want to know who is talking about what? It’ll tell you.

    The technologies aren’t perfect; some of them are pretty primitive. They miss things that are important. They get other things wrong. But so do humans. And, unlike humans, AI tools can be replicated by the millions and are improving at astonishing rates. They’ll get better next year, and even better the year after that. We are about to enter the era of mass spying.

    Mass surveillance fundamentally changed the nature of surveillance. Because all the data is saved, mass surveillance allows people to conduct surveillance backward in time, and without even knowing whom specifically you want to target. Tell me where this person was last year. List all the red sedans that drove down this road in the past month. List all of the people who purchased all the ingredients for a pressure cooker bomb in the past year. Find me all the pairs of phones that were moving toward each other, turned themselves off, then turned themselves on again an hour later while moving away from each other (a sign of a secret meeting).

    Similarly, mass spying will change the nature of spying. All the data will be saved. It will all be searchable, and understandable, in bulk. Tell me who has talked about a particular topic in the past month, and how discussions about that topic have evolved. Person A did something; check if someone told them to do it. Find everyone who is plotting a crime, or spreading a rumor, or planning to attend a political protest.

    There’s so much more. To uncover an organizational structure, look for someone who gives similar instructions to a group of people, then all the people they have relayed those instructions to. To find people’s confidants, look at whom they tell secrets to. You can track friendships and alliances as they form and break, in minute detail. In short, you can know everything about what everybody is talking about.

    This spying is not limited to conversations on our phones or computers. Just as cameras everywhere fueled mass surveillance, microphones everywhere will fuel mass spying. Siri and Alexa and “Hey Google” are already always listening; the conversations just aren’t being saved yet.

    Knowing that they are under constant surveillance changes how people behave. They conform. They self-censor, with the chilling effects that brings . Surveillance facilitates social control, and spying will only make this worse. Governments around the world already use mass surveillance; they will engage in mass spying as well.

    Corporations will spy on people. Mass surveillance ushered in the era of personalized advertisements; mass spying will supercharge that industry. Information about what people are talking about, their moods, their secrets—it’s all catnip for marketers looking for an edge. The tech monopolies that are currently keeping us all under constant surveillance won’t be able to resist collecting and using all of that data.

    In the early days of Gmail, Google talked about using people’s Gmail content to serve them personalized ads. The company stopped doing it , almost certainly because the keyword data it collected was so poor—and therefore not useful for marketing purposes. That will soon change. Maybe Google won’t be the first to spy on its users’ conversations, but once others start, they won’t be able to resist. Their true customers—their advertisers—will demand it.

    We could limit this capability. We could prohibit mass spying. We could pass strong data-privacy rules. But we haven’t done anything to limit mass surveillance. Why would spying be any different?

    This essay originally appeared in Slate .

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      Judge: Amazon “cannot claim shock” that bathroom spycams were used as advertised

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 4 December - 20:16

    Judge: Amazon “cannot claim shock” that bathroom spycams were used as advertised

    Enlarge (credit: zhihao | Moment )

    After a spy camera designed to look like a towel hook was purchased on Amazon and illegally used for months to capture photos of a minor in her private bathroom, Amazon was sued.

    The plaintiff—a former Brazilian foreign exchange student then living in West Virginia—argued that Amazon had inspected the camera three times and its safety team had failed to prevent allegedly severe, foreseeable harms still affecting her today.

    Amazon hoped the court would dismiss the suit, arguing that the platform wasn't responsible for the alleged criminal conduct harming the minor. But after nearly eight months deliberating, a judge recently largely denied the tech giant's motion to dismiss.

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      Secret White House Warrantless Surveillance Program

      news.movim.eu / Schneier · Thursday, 23 November, 2023 - 02:03

    There seems to be no end to warrantless surveillance :

    According to the letter, a surveillance program now known as Data Analytical Services (DAS) has for more than a decade allowed federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to mine the details of Americans’ calls, analyzing the phone records of countless people who are not suspected of any crime, including victims. Using a technique known as chain analysis, the program targets not only those in direct phone contact with a criminal suspect but anyone with whom those individuals have been in contact as well.

    The DAS program, formerly known as Hemisphere, is run in coordination with the telecom giant AT&T, which captures and conducts analysis of US call records for law enforcement agencies, from local police and sheriffs’ departments to US customs offices and postal inspectors across the country, according to a White House memo reviewed by WIRED. Records show that the White House has, for the past decade, provided more than $6 million to the program, which allows the targeting of the records of any calls that use AT&T’s infrastructure—­a maze of routers and switches that crisscross the United States.

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      Applying AI to License Plate Surveillance

      news.movim.eu / Schneier · Tuesday, 15 August, 2023 - 16:55

    License plate scanners aren’t new. Neither is using them for bulk surveillance. What’s new is that AI is being used on the data, identifying “suspicious” vehicle behavior:

    Typically, Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology is used to search for plates linked to specific crimes. But in this case it was used to examine the driving patterns of anyone passing one of Westchester County’s 480 cameras over a two-year period. Zayas’ lawyer Ben Gold contested the AI-gathered evidence against his client, decrying it as “dragnet surveillance.”

    And he had the data to back it up. A FOIA he filed with the Westchester police revealed that the ALPR system was scanning over 16 million license plates a week, across 480 ALPR cameras. Of those systems, 434 were stationary, attached to poles and signs, while the remaining 46 were mobile, attached to police vehicles. The AI was not just looking at license plates either. It had also been taking notes on vehicles’ make, model and color—useful when a plate number for a suspect vehicle isn’t visible or is unknown.

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      Apple will require app devs to explain exactly why they use certain APIs

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Friday, 28 July, 2023 - 21:58

    A blue smartphone with two cameras.

    Enlarge / The back of the iPhone 13. (credit: Samuel Axon)

    Apple has announced an additional hoop developers must jump through to get their apps approved on its App Store. Soon, developers of apps that use certain APIs will have to clarify their reasons for using them when submitting those apps.

    Apple is trying to close some fingerprinting loopholes here. The term "fingerprinting" in this context refers to various techniques for learning information about a device or its user and tracking them across multiple unrelated apps or websites.

    It's something that Apple has been saying is not allowed in iPhone apps for a while, and the company introduced the controversial App Tracking Transparency initiative in 2021 to give users a choice in whether things like mobile ad networks (for example) could track them in this way.

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