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The White House wants to know if you’ve been ‘censored or silenced’ by social media

Posted by on May 15, 2019 in Facebook, Policy, president trump, Social Media, trump, Twitter | 0 comments

It’s no secret that the Trump administration has been at war with social media. In the past year, the President has accused several online giants of censoring conservative voices, in particular giants like Twitter, Google and Facebook.

Today, the White House launched a Typeform site aimed at collecting personal reports of social media censorship relating to political bias.

“SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS should advance FREEDOM OF SPEECH,” the minimalistic site reads. “Yet too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear ‘violations’ of user policies.”

For those who feel they’ve been wronged in some way by one of the major platforms, the 16 part questionnaire lets you chose from a list including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, while inquiring about specific tweets that were censored or accounts that were targeted. Users can submit screenshots and other supporting evidence and opt in for “President Trump’s fight for free speech” after entering a name, email address, phone number and proving they’re not real by answering a trivia question about the Declaration of Independence (take that, robots).

Trump has made a “shadow banning” and other perceived slights against conservatives voices a key cause in recent months. Last summer, he took to Twitter to address issues with the platform, writing, “Twitter ‘SHADOW BANNING’ prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints.”

Late last month, the President met with Jack Dorsey for 30 minutes in the Oval Office, to discuss making Twitter “healthier and more civil,” according to the tech exec. No word on what the White House plans to do with the evidence it compiles.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Mueller says use of encrypted messaging stalled some lines of inquiry

Posted by on Apr 18, 2019 in Donald Trump, encryption, Government, law enforcement, Mueller report, operating systems, president, Security, Software, trump | 0 comments

A single paragraph in the Mueller report out Thursday offers an interesting look into how the Special Counsel’s investigation came head-to-head with associates of President Trump who used encrypted and ephemeral messaging to hide their activities.

From the report:

Further, the Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated-including some associated with the Trump Campaign — deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records. In such cases, the Office was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.

The report didn’t spell out specifics of whom or why, but clearly Mueller wasn’t happy. He was talking about encrypted messaging apps that also delete conversation histories over a period of time. Apps like Signal and WhatsApp are popular for this exact reason — you can communicate securely and wipe any trace after the fact.

Clearly, some of Trump’s associates knew better.

But where prosecutors who have faced similar setbacks with individuals using encrypted messaging apps to hide their tracks have often attacked tech companies for building the secure apps, Mueller did not. He just stated a fact and left it at that.

For years, police and law enforcement have lobbied against encryption because they say it hinders investigations. More and more, apps are using end-to-end encryption — where the data is scrambled from one device to another — so that even the tech companies can’t read their users’ messages. But just as criminals use encrypted messaging for bad, ordinary people use encrypted messaging to keep their conversations private.

According to the report, it wasn’t just those on the campaign trail. The hackers associated with the Russian government and WikiLeaks, both of which were in contact following the breaches on Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, took efforts to “hide their communications.”

Not all of Trump’s associates have fared so well over the years.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, learned the hard way that encrypted messaging apps are all good and well — unless someone has your phone. Federal agents seized Cohen’s BlackBerry, allowing prosecutors to recover streams of WhatsApp and Telegram chats with Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort.

Manafort, the only person jailed as part of the Mueller investigation, also tripped up after his “opsec fail” after prosecutors obtained a warrant to access his backed-up messages stored in iCloud.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Huawei: “The US security accusation of our 5G has no evidence. Nothing.”

Posted by on Feb 26, 2019 in 4G, 5g, 5g security, Asia, cellular networks, China, Edward Snowden, Europe, European Commission, European Union, geopolitics, Huawei, Mariya Gabriel, Mobile, mwc 2019, Network Security, Security, telecommunications, trump, United States | 0 comments

Huawei’s rotating chairman Guo Ping kicked off a keynote speech this morning at the world’s biggest mobile industry tradeshow with a wry joke. “There has never been more interest in Huawei,” he told delegates at Mobile World Congress. “We must be doing something right!”

The Chinese company is seeking to dispel suspicion around the security of its 5G network equipment which has been accelerated by U.S. president Trump who has been urging U.S. allies not to buy kit or services from Huawei. (And some, including Australia, have banned carriers from using Huawei kit.)

Last week Trump also tweet-shamed U.S. companies — saying they needed to step up their efforts to rollout 5G networks or “get left behind”.

In an MWC keynote speech yesterday the European Commission’s digital commissioner Mariya Gabriel signalled the executive is prepared to step in and regulate to ensure a “common approach” on the issue of network security — to avoid the risk of EU member states taking individual actions that could delay 5G rollouts across Europe.

Huawei appeared to welcome the prospect today.

“Government and the mobile operators should work together to agree what this assurance testing and certification rating for Europe will be,” said Guo, suggesting that’s Huawei’s hope for any Commission action on 5G security.

“Let experts decide whether networks are safe or not,” he added, implying Trump is the opposite of an expert. “Huawei has a strong track record in security for three decades. Serving three billion people around the world. The U.S. security accusation of our 5G has no evidence. Nothing.”

Geopolitical tensions about network security have translated into the biggest headache for Huawei which has positioned itself as a key vendor for 5G kit right as carriers are preparing to upgrade their existing cellular networks to the next-gen flavor.

Guo claimed today that Huawei is “the first company who can deploy 5G networks at scale”, giving a pitch for what he described as “powerful, simple and intelligent” next-gen network kit, while clearly enjoying the opportunity of being able to agree with U.S. president Trump in public — that “the U.S. needs powerful, faster and smarter 5G”. 🔥

But any competitive lead in next-gen network tech also puts the company in prime position for political blowback linked to espionage concerns related to the Chinese state’s access to data held or accessed by commercial companies.

Huawei’s strategy to counter this threat has been to come out fighting for its commercial business — and it had plenty more of that spirit on show this morning. As well as a bunch of in-jokes. Most notably a reference to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden which drew a knowing ripple of laughter from the audience.

“We understand innovation is nothing without security,” said Guo, segwaying from making a sales pitch for Huawei’s 5G network solutions straight into the giant geopolitical security question looming over the conference.

“Prism, prism on the wall who is the most trustworthy of them all?” he said, throwing up a colorful slide to illustrate the joke. “It’s a very important question. And if you don’t ask them that you can go ask Edward Snowden.”

You can’t use “a crystal ball to manage cybersecurity”, Guo went on, dubbing it “a challenge we all share” and arguing that every player in the mobile industry has responsibility to defuse the network security issue — from kit vendors to carriers and standards bodies, as well as regulators.

“With 5G we have made a lot of progress over 4G and we can proudly say that 5G is safer than 4G. As a vendor we don’t operate carriers network, and we don’t all carry data. Our responsibility — what we promise — is that we don’t do anything bad,” he said. “We don’t do bad things.”

“Let me says this as clear as possible,” he went on, putting up another slide that literally underlined the point. “Huawei has not and will never plant backdoors. And we will never allow anyone to do so in our equipment.

“We take this responsibility very seriously.”

Guo’s pitch on network trust and security was to argue that where 5G networks are concerned security is a collective industry responsibility — which in turn means every player in the chain plays a monitoring role that allows for networks to be collectively trusted.

“Carriers are responsible for secure operations of their own networks. 5G networks are private networks. The boundary between different networks are clear. Carriers can prevent outside attacks with firewalls and security gateways. For internal threats carriers can manage, monitor and audit all vendors and partners to make sure their network elements are secure,” he said, going on to urge the industry to work together on standards which he described as “our shared responsibility”.

“To build safer networks we need to standardize cybersecurity requirements and these standards must be verifiable for all vendors and all carriers,” he said, adding that Huawei “fully supports” the work of industry standards and certification bodies the GSMA and 3GPP who he also claimed have “strong capabilities to verify 5G’s security”.

Huawei’s strategy to defuse geopolitical risk by appealing to the industry as a whole to get behind tackling the network trust issue is a smart one given the uncertainty generated by Trump’s attacks is hardly being welcomed by anyone in the mobile business.

Huawei’s headache might lead to the industry as a whole catching a cold — and no one at MWC wants that.

Later in the keynote Guo also pointed to the awkward “irony” of the U.S Cloud Act — given the legislation allows U.S. entities to “access data across borders”.

U.S. overreach on accessing the personal data of foreign citizens continues to cause major legal headaches in Europe as a result of the clash between its national security interest and EU citizens fundamental privacy rights. So Guo’s point there won’t have been lost on an MWC audience packed with European delegates attending the annual tradeshow.

“So for best technology and greater security choose Huawei. Please choose Huawei!” Guo finished, ending his keynote with a line that could very well make it as an upbeat marketing slogan writ large on one of the myriad tech-packed booths here at Fira Gran Via, Barcelona.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Space Force will be a Marines-like branch under Air Force authority

Posted by on Feb 19, 2019 in Air Force, america, army, department of defense, Donald Trump, military, pentagon, Space, Space Force, star wars, TC, trump, Trump administration, United States | 0 comments

President Trump is expected to sign into creation the Space Force today, as a special branch of the military overseen by the Air Force Department, according to a report in The Washington Post.

The president’s decision is considered a win for the Air Force and Defense Department broadly, which had argued against setting up an independent military department based on their concerns that it would add new layers of bureaucracy, according to the Pentagon .

Speaking at an event at The Brookings Institute, Air Force chief of staff Gen. David L. Goldfein discussed the decision-making process around the creation of the Space Force — saying that Defense Department officials had discussed a range of options, from creating an entire department to establishing a smaller, professional core of personnel, like the Army’s Medical Corps.

With the decision, the Trump Administration is likely to establish a service that looks more like the Marine Corps, which is part of the Navy but unique within it, than an entirely new branch of the military. The Space Force will be led by a four-star general who will have a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but it will not have a secretary-level post, according to the Post report.

Perhaps more significantly, the Trump administration is reviving the U.S. Space Command, which will be headed by a four-star officer and will coordinate military operations in space.

These days, those operations consist of communications, surveillance and satellite defense, but as plans continue to set up more permanent bases on the Moon and eventually Mars, these efforts could expand to protect personnel as well.

The U.S. disestablished the Space Command in 2002 under the George W. Bush administration. Created in 1985 during the Reagan administration’s second term, when the “Star Wars” missile defense program was in full swing, the Space Command was tasked with defining strategic objectives for the U.S. in space, and executing them.

When President Trump announced the new Space Command in December, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said that the surge in threats to America’s space program warranted the resurrection of the program.

“We are shifting to a war fighting culture at the explicit recognition that it is a war fighting domain,” Wilson was quoted by Space News as saying at the time. “Adversaries are developing capabilities to deny us the use of space in crisis or war. The creation of a unified command puts focus on the ability to protect our assets on orbit and prevail if called upon.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Foxconn says Wisconsin factory plans are back on after talk with Trump

Posted by on Feb 1, 2019 in Foxconn, Hardware, manufacturing, TC, trump, Wisconsin | 0 comments

It seems Foxconn’s plans for a $10 billion Wisconsin plant are back on. After a couple of years of back and forths, the manufacturing giant says it’s recommitting to plans for a plant in the upper Midwest. A statement today cited a phone call between chairman/founder Terry Gou and Donald Trump.

“After productive discussions between the White House and the company, and after a personal conversation between President Donald J. Trump and Chairman Terry Gou, Foxconn is moving forward with our planned construction of a Gen 6 fab facility, which will be at the heart of the Wisconsin Valley Science and Technology Park,” the statement reads. “This campus will serve both as an advanced manufacturing facility as well as a hub of high technology innovation for the region.”

Earlier this week, the company noted that it was reconsidering its plans for the TV plant, noting that it was more interested in hiring researchers and engineers than the manufacturing jobs that were initially noted. “In terms of TV, we have no place in the U.S.,” Gou said at the time. “We can’t compete.”

An influx of manufacturing jobs would be a win for Trump at a vital time, as support has eroded over the country’s longest government shutdown and tariffs have made for icy relations with China. As CNBC notes, state government has sweetened the deal considerably with $4 billion in tax breaks.

Initial plans for the 20 million-square-foot campus, unveiled at a White House event in 2017, noted that it would bring 13,000 jobs — a nice bump as the U.S. has struggled to maintain manufacturing facilities.

Details, however, are still pretty thin.

“Our decision is also based on a recent comprehensive and systematic evaluation to help determine the best fit for our Wisconsin project among TFT technologies,” the statement continues. “We have undertaken the evaluation while simultaneously seeking to broaden our investment across Wisconsin far beyond our original plans to ensure the company, our workforce, the local community, and the state of Wisconsin will be positioned for long-term success.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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How have tariffs impacted robotics?

Posted by on Jan 26, 2019 in Policy, Robotics, Tariffs, trump | 0 comments

In July, Tim Cook met Donald Trump in the Oval Office to deliver a simple message. “Our view on tariffs is that they show up as a tax on the consumer and end up resulting in lower economic growth,” the executive told the President. ”And sometimes can bring about significant risk of unintended consequences.”

Cook ultimately got his way, with Trump giving some of the company’s products a last minute tariff reprieve. Even so, when time came for the company’s latest earnings report, Cook placed much of the company’s relatively weak showing on two-way tariffs and the looming trade war they represent.

The impact of tariffs has been been profoundly wide ranging, impacting everything from solar panels to soy beans. Harley Davidson famously projected costs in excess of $40 million last year. Yesterday, The New York Times noted tumbling sales and stock prices in the washing machine industry, thanks in part to tariffs starting at 20 percent on imported products.

Consumer electronics, which are so often the product of components from wide ranging sources, have been hit with an outsized impact.

“The cost of the current tariffs remains an issue, and the uncertainty of potentially more tariffs combined with export controls is a real threat to our global leadership 5G, artificial intelligence and robotics,” CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro told TechCrunch. “The tech industry – responsible for 10 percent of U.S. GDP and more than 15 million American jobs – has already been dealt an enormous blow by tariffs this year. Our industry can’t continue to pay $1 billion dollars extra in tariffs every month — tariffs are taxes.”

Over the past several months, manufacturers have been faced with the choice of raising prices or absorbing costs — neither a particularly great option in a volatile economy. This has left Massachusetts-based iRobot, which has been a key driver in consumer robotics, in a difficult position.

CEO Colin Angle told TechCrunch that, while the company has less price sensitivity with its premium priced Roomba devices, the company is still feeling a major crunch.

“The tariffs suck,” said Angle. “In Q4, we absorbed the cost of the tariffs. We did not adjust pricing, and I think we estimated the impact to our profitability for the year at $5 million. In 2019, we, like all of the other manufacturers of robots and most of the manufacturers of consumer goods, have raised the price, because our business model doesn’t allow us to take that hit. What that means is the growth rate of the industry is going to be negatively impacted.”

On the more industrial side, the robotics industry has been hit hard by the rising price of steel imports. “With the tariffs that have recently been placed on a lot of the steel in particular that’s getting imported from China, it puts a lot of pressure not just on Eckhart, but a lot of the companies that we compete against in addition to our customers,” Andrew Storm, the CEO of collaborative robotics maker Eckhart said in a recent interview with Fox Business.

Things have been less pronounced for China-based drone giant, DJI. “We’ve seen some impacts from tariffs on components and miscellaneous gear, but not on our drone business,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We always have to take into account tariffs, currency fluctuations and other factors like that in setting prices for countries around the world, so I don’t want to overstate the impact here. We are monitoring the situation closely, and since we can’t directly affect these trade issues, we’re staying focused on trying to make the best drones people can buy.”

For now, at least, it seems that even a looming trade war with China can’t stop the inevitable rise of robotics and automation — it could, however, serve to hamper its growth.

“The tariffs that we are seeing are having an impact on the manufacturing industries, such as automotive manufacturing, which are the traditional buyers of industrial robotics and automation technology,” IDC’s Research Director covering commercial service robotics John Santagate said in a statement offered to TechCrunch. “There was a bit of a slip in 2018 in terms of orders of robots to automotive manufacturing, but we also saw a significant increase in orders of robots in other industries. The growth of robotics in other industries is showing strong growth, that will likely continue regardless.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Facebook’s got 99 problems but Trump’s latest “bias” tweet ain’t one

Posted by on Dec 19, 2018 in Artificial Intelligence, Congress, Facebook, fake news, Google, president, security flaws, Social, Social Media, Sundar Pichai, trump, Twitter | 0 comments

By any measure Facebook hasn’t had the best of years in 2018.

But while toxic problems keep piling up and, well, raining acidly down on the social networking giant — from election interference, to fake accounts, faulty metrics, security flaws, ethics failuresprivacy outrages and much more besides — the silver lining of having a core business now widely perceived as hostile to democratic processes and civilized sentiment, and the tool of choice for shitposters agitating for hate and societal division, well, everywhere in the world, is that Facebook has frankly far more important things to worry about than the latest anti-tech-industry salvo from President Trump.

In an early morning tweet today, Trump (again) attacked what he dubbed anti-conservative “bias” in the digital social sphere — hitting out at not just Facebook but tech’s holy trinity of social giants, with a claim that “Facebook, Twitter and Google are so biased towards the Dems it is ridiculous!”

Time was when Facebook was so sensitive to accusations of internal anti-conservative bias that it fired a bunch of journalists it had contracted and replaced them with algorithms — which almost immediately pumped up a bunch of fake news. RIP irony.

Not today, though.

When asked if it had a response to Trump’s accusation of bias a Facebook spokesperson told us: “We don’t have anything to add here.”

The brevity and alacrity of the response suggested the spokesperson had a really cheerful expression on their face when they typed it.

The relief of Facebook not having to give a shit this time was kinda palpable, even in pixel form.

It was also a far cry from the screeds the company routinely dispenses these days to try to muffle journalistic — and indeed political — enquiry.

Trump evidently doesn’t factor ‘bigly’ on Facebook’s oversubscribed risk-list.

Even though Facebook was the first name on the president’s (non-alphabetical) tech giant hit-list.

Still, Twitter appeared to have irked Trump more, as his tweet singled out the short-form platform — with an accusation that Twitter has made it “much more difficult for people to join [sic] @realDonaldTrump”. (We think by “join” he means follow. But we’re speculating wildly.)

This is perhaps why Twitter felt moved to provide a response to the claim of bias, albeit also without wasting a lot of words.

Here’s its statement:

Our focus is on the health of the service, and that includes work to remove fake accounts to prevent malicious behavior. Many prominent accounts have seen follower counts drop, but the result is higher confidence that the followers they have are real, engaged people.

Presumably the president failed to read our report, from July, when we trailed Twitter’s forthcoming spam purge, warning it would result in users with lots of followers taking a noticeable hit in the coming days. In a word: Sad.

Of course we also asked Google for a response to Trump’s bias claim. But just got radio silence.

In similar “bias” tweets from August the company got a bigger Trump-lashing. And in a response statement then it told us: “We never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has also just had to sit through some three hours of questions from Republicans in Congress on this very theme.

So the company probably feels it’s exhausted the political bias canard.

Even while, as the claims drone on and on, it might truly come to understand what it feels like to be stuck inside a filter bubble.

In any case there are far more pressing things to accuse Google’s algorithms of than being ‘anti-Trump’.

So it’s just as well it didn’t waste time on another presidential sideshow intended to distract from problems of Trump’s own making.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Khashoggi’s fate shows the flip side of the surveillance state

Posted by on Oct 20, 2018 in Edward Snowden, Government, Jamal Khashoggi, law enforcement, mass surveillance, Mohammed Bin Salman, national security, Privacy, russia, Saudi Arabia, Security, Softbank, Storage, surveillance, TC, trump, Turkey, Venture Capital, Vision Fund, Visual Computing | 0 comments

It’s been over five years since NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden lifted the lid on government mass surveillance programs, revealing, in unprecedented detail, quite how deep the rabbit hole goes thanks to the spread of commercial software and connectivity enabling a bottomless intelligence-gathering philosophy of ‘bag it all’.

Yet technology’s onward march has hardly broken its stride.

Government spying practices are perhaps more scrutinized, as a result of awkward questions about out-of-date legal oversight regimes. Though whether the resulting legislative updates, putting an official stamp of approval on bulk and/or warrantless collection as a state spying tool, have put Snowden’s ethical concerns to bed seems doubtful — albeit, it depends on who you ask.

The UK’s post-Snowden Investigatory Powers Act continues to face legal challenges. And the government has been forced by the courts to unpick some of the powers it helped itself to vis-à-vis people’s data. But bulk collection, as an official modus operandi, has been both avowed and embraced by the state.

In the US, too, lawmakers elected to push aside controversy over a legal loophole that provides intelligence agencies with a means for the warrantless surveillance of American citizens — re-stamping Section 702 of FISA for another six years. So of course they haven’t cared a fig for non-US citizens’ privacy either.

Increasingly powerful state surveillance is seemingly here to stay, with or without adequately robust oversight. And commercial use of strong encryption remains under attack from governments.

But there’s another end to the surveillance telescope. As I wrote five years ago, those who watch us can expect to be — and indeed are being — increasingly closely watched themselves as the lens gets turned on them:

“Just as our digital interactions and online behaviour can be tracked, parsed and analysed for problematic patterns, pertinent keywords and suspicious connections, so too can the behaviour of governments. Technology is a double-edged sword – which means it’s also capable of lifting the lid on the machinery of power-holding institutions like never before.”

We’re now seeing some of the impacts of this surveillance technology cutting both ways.

With attention to detail, good connections (in all senses) and the application of digital forensics all sorts of discrete data dots can be linked — enabling official narratives to be interrogated and unpicked with technology-fuelled speed.

Witness, for example, how quickly the Kremlin’s official line on the Skripal poisonings unravelled.

After the UK released CCTV of two Russian suspects of the Novichok attack in Salisbury, last month, the speedy counter-claim from Russia, presented most obviously via an ‘interview’ with the two ‘citizens’ conducted by state mouthpiece broadcaster RT, was that the men were just tourists with a special interest in the cultural heritage of the small English town.

Nothing to see here, claimed the Russian state, even though the two unlikely tourists didn’t appear to have done much actual sightseeing on their flying visit to the UK during the tail end of a British winter (unless you count vicarious viewing of Salisbury’s wikipedia page).

But digital forensics outfit Bellingcat, partnering with investigative journalists at The Insider Russia, quickly found plenty to dig up online, and with the help of data-providing tips. (We can only speculate who those whistleblowers might be.)

Their investigation made use of a leaked database of Russian passport documents; passport scans provided by sources; publicly available online videos and selfies of the suspects; and even visual computing expertise to academically cross-match photos taken 15 years apart — to, within a few weeks, credibly unmask the ‘tourists’ as two decorated GRU agents: Anatoliy Chepiga and Dr Alexander Yevgeniyevich Mishkin.

When public opinion is faced with an official narrative already lacking credibility that’s soon set against external investigation able to closely show workings and sources (where possible), and thus demonstrate how reasonably constructed and plausible is the counter narrative, there’s little doubt where the real authority is being shown to lie.

And who the real liars are.

That the Kremlin lies is hardly news, of course. But when its lies are so painstakingly and publicly unpicked, and its veneer of untruth ripped away, there is undoubtedly reputational damage to the authority of Vladimir Putin.

The sheer depth and availability of data in the digital era supports faster-than-ever evidence-based debunking of official fictions, threatening to erode rogue regimes built on lies by pulling away the curtain that invests their leaders with power in the first place — by implying the scope and range of their capacity and competency is unknowable, and letting other players on the world stage accept such a ‘leader’ at face value.

The truth about power is often far more stupid and sordid than the fiction. So a powerful abuser, with their workings revealed, can be reduced to their baser parts — and shown for the thuggish and brutal operator they really are, as well as proved a liar.

On the stupidity front, in another recent and impressive bit of cross-referencing, Bellingcat was able to turn passport data pertaining to another four GRU agents — whose identities had been made public by Dutch and UK intelligence agencies (after they had been caught trying to hack into the network of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) — into a long list of 305 suggestively linked individuals also affiliated with the same GRU military unit, and whose personal data had been sitting in a publicly available automobile registration database… Oops.

There’s no doubt certain governments have wised up to the power of public data and are actively releasing key info into the public domain where it can be poured over by journalists and interested citizen investigators — be that CCTV imagery of suspects or actual passport scans of known agents.

A cynic might call this selective leaking. But while the choice of what to release may well be self-serving, the veracity of the data itself is far harder to dispute. Exactly because it can be cross-referenced with so many other publicly available sources and so made to speak for itself.

Right now, we’re in the midst of another fast-unfolding example of surveillance apparatus and public data standing in the way of dubious state claims — in the case of the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who went into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 for a pre-arranged appointment to collect papers for his wedding and never came out.

Saudi authorities first tried to claim Khashoggi left the consulate the same day, though did not provide any evidence to back up their claim. And CCTV clearly showed him going in.

Yesterday they finally admitted he was dead — but are now trying to claim he died quarrelling in a fistfight, attempting to spin another after-the-fact narrative to cover up and blame-shift the targeted slaying of a journalist who had written critically about the Saudi regime.

Since Khashoggi went missing, CCTV and publicly available data has also been pulled and compared to identify a group of Saudi men who flew into Istanbul just prior to his appointment at the consulate; were caught on camera outside it; and left Turkey immediately after he had vanished.

Including naming a leading Saudi forensics doctor, Dr Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy, as being among the party that Turkish government sources also told journalists had been carrying a bone saw in their luggage.

Men in the group have also been linked to Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, via cross-referencing travel records and social media data.

“In a 2017 video published by the Saudi-owned Al Ekhbariya on YouTube, a man wearing a uniform name tag bearing the same name can be seen standing next to the crown prince. A user with the same name on the Saudi app Menom3ay is listed as a member of the royal guard,” writes the Guardian, joining the dots on another suspected henchman.

A marked element of the Khashoggi case has been the explicit descriptions of his fate leaked to journalists by Turkish government sources, who have said they have recordings of his interrogation, torture and killing inside the building — presumably via bugs either installed in the consulate itself or via intercepts placed on devices held by the individuals inside.

This surveillance material has reportedly been shared with US officials, where it must be shaping the geopolitical response — making it harder for President Trump to do what he really wants to do, and stick like glue to a regional US ally with which he has his own personal financial ties, because the arms of that state have been recorded in the literal act of cutting off the fingers and head of a critical journalist, and then sawing up and disposing of the rest of his body.

Attempts by the Saudis to construct a plausible narrative to explain what happened to Khashoggi when he stepped over its consulate threshold to pick up papers for his forthcoming wedding have failed in the face of all the contrary data.

Meanwhile, the search for a body goes on.

And attempts by the Saudis to shift blame for the heinous act away from the crown prince himself are also being discredited by the weight of data…

And while it remains to be seen what sanctions, if any, the Saudis will face from Trump’s conflicted administration, the crown prince is already being hit where it hurts by the global business community withdrawing in horror from the prospect of being tainted by bloody association.

The idea that a company as reputation-sensitive as Apple would be just fine investing billions more alongside the Saudi regime, in SoftBank’s massive Vision Fund vehicle, seems unlikely, to say the least.

Thanks to technology’s surveillance creep the world has been given a close-up view of how horrifyingly brutal the Saudi regime can be — and through the lens of an individual it can empathize with and understand.

Safe to say, supporting second acts for regimes that cut off fingers and sever heads isn’t something any CEO would want to become famous for.

The power of technology to erode privacy is clearer than ever. Down to the very teeth of the bone saw. But what’s also increasingly clear is that powerful and at times terrible capability can be turned around to debase power itself — when authorities themselves become abusers.

So the flip-side of the surveillance state can be seen in the public airing of the bloody colors of abusive regimes.

Turns out, microscopic details can make all the difference to geopolitics.

RIP Jamal Khashoggi


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Privacy groups ask senators to confirm US surveillance oversight nominees

Posted by on Aug 29, 2018 in Edward Snowden, Government, mass surveillance, Privacy, Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, Security, trump | 0 comments

A coalition of privacy groups are calling on lawmakers to fill the vacant positions on the government’s surveillance oversight board, which hasn’t fully functioned in almost two years.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, known as PCLOB, is a little-known but important group that helps to ensure that intelligence agencies and executive branch policies are falling within the law. The board’s work allows them to have access to classified programs run by the dozen-plus intelligence agencies and determine if they’re legal and effective, while balancing Americans’ privacy and civil liberties rights.

In its most recent unclassified major report in 2015, PCLOB called for an end of the NSA’s collection of Americans’ phone records.

But the board fell out of quorum when four members left the board last year, leaving just the chairperson. President Obama did not fill the vacancies before he left office, putting PCLOB’s work largely on ice.

A report by The Intercept said, citing obtained emails, that the board was “basically dead,” but things were looking up when President Trump earlier this year picked a bipartisan range of five nominees for the board, including a computer science and policy professor and a former senior Justice Department lawyer named in March. If confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the newly appointed members would put the board back into full swing.

Except the committee has dragged its feet. Hearings have only been heard on three nominees, but a vote has yet to be scheduled.

A total of 31 privacy organizations and rights groups, including the ACLU, Open Technology Institute and the Center for Democracy & Technology signed on to the letter calling on the senate panel to push forward with the hearings and vote on the nominees.

“During the eleven years since Congress created the PCLOB as an independent agency, it has only operated with a quorum for four and one-half years,” the letter said. “Without a quorum, the PCLOB cannot issue oversight reports, provide the agency’s advice, or build upon the agency foundations laid by the original members. It is also critical that the PCLOB operate with a full bipartisan slate of qualified individuals.”

The coalition called the lack of quorum a “lost opportunity to better inform the public and facilitate Congressional action.”

Given the continuing aftermath of the massive leak of classified documents by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the board’s work is more important than ever, the letter said.

Spokespeople for the Senate Judiciary Committee did not respond to a request for comment.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Department of Justice indicts 12 Russian intelligence officers for Clinton email hacks

Posted by on Jul 13, 2018 in democratic national committee, department of justice, email hacking, Guccifer 2.0, Hack, Hillary Clinton, Jeff Sessions, russia, Russian election interference, TC, trump, United States | 0 comments

Just days before President Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Department of Justice has leveled new charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers who allegedly hacked the Democratic National Committee and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton .

The charges were released by Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who’s leading the investigation into Russian election tampering because of the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions from the investigation.

In January of last year, the intelligence community issued a joint statement affirming that Russia had indeed tampered with the U.S. presidential elections in 2016.

Russian Election Interference

Now the investigation is beginning to release indictments. Three former campaign aides for the president’s campaign have already pleaded guilty, and the president himself is under investigation by Special Investigator Robert Mueller for potential obstruction of justice.

According to the indictment, the Russians used spearphishing attacks to gain access to the network of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Rosenstein also said that Russia’s military intelligence service was behind the leaks that distributed the information online under the aliases Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks.

Read the full indictment below.

 


Source: The Tech Crunch

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