"To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhor(s) is sinful and trrannical." - Thomas Jefferson
In this issue:
* Welcome To Freedumbville USSA! * Bend Over! * Food for thought * The District of Criminals * Police State * Red Hot Product! * Advisory * Over 70% of Swedes Don't Want Cashless Society * Shamrock's Missive * Letters To The Editor * Quote of the month!
*** Welcome To Freedumbville USSA!
Buyer beware: Google is tracking your purchases via Gmail - Brooke Crothers
Rack it up as one more way Google tracks your personal data.
Any purchase you make that uses your Gmail account will be logged by Google, according to a discovery recently made recently by a Reddit user. The user uncovered that Google is keeping tabs on any purchase that uses your Gmail account. Google also tracks purchases made via Google Pay or via the Google Play store.
For its part, Google says the purchase information lives in your Google Account and is only accessible by you. "To help you easily view and keep track of your purchases, bookings and subscriptions in one place, we've created a private destination that can only be seen by you. You can delete this information at any time," a Google spokesperson told Fox News in a statement.
"We don't use any information from your Gmail messages to serve you ads, and that includes the email receipts and confirmations shown on the Purchase page," the spokesperson added.
But it's not clear what else Google may be using the information for, as pointed out by BleepingComputer, a publication that covers information security and technology.
And it's not clear how to prevent Google from extracting this data from Gmail.
"I have no problems with features like this. Just give us the control to disable them," Lawrence Abrams, the creator and owner of BleepingComputer, told Fox News. Abrams added that he viewed it as an invasion of privacy.
Like Facebook, Google's business model is based on knowing a lot about you. Data collection is done for advertising and to improve Google services. And while not intentionally nefarious, a lot of this is done in the background unbeknownst to the average user.
Google's Eric Schmidt: Breaking Up Big Tech Would Be 'Illegal'
Ostensibly, there should be a way to control purchase tracking via a setting such as "Privacy & Personalization" or "Data and Personalization" – both accessible on your Google account home page – but that doesn't appear to be the case. This issue was addressed in other reports too, which found no way to completely turn off tracking.
It's easy to check what Google has tracked so far by going to your Google "Purchases" page. A check of my page revealed everything I had purchased going back to 2013, including reloads on a Starbucks card, iTunes purchases and flight reservations.
If you don't want to store this data, you can remove purchases one at a time. When you do this, you're sent to your Gmail and you delete the purchase there. There is no single setting that will do this en masse for all your purchases.
Google is looking into simplifying the settings further to make it easier for people to control, the company added. = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
*** Bend Over!
Police facial recognition cameras should be banned because they pose 'one of the greatest threats to freedom', a human rights group has claimed.
Lawyer Martha Spurrier, and director of organisation Liberty, warned that the technology takes private information and hands it to the state without its owner's consent.
It comes as a pedestrian was fined £90 for disorderly behaviour after he tried to cover his face when walking past a facial recognition camera in London.
Police facial recognition cameras should be banned as they pose 'one of the greatest threats to freedom', a human rights group has claimed
'I don't think these cameras should ever be used,' Spurrier told The Guardian.
'It takes us into uncharted invasive state-surveillance territory where everyone is under surveillance.'
Earlier this year a man was fined when he covered his face with his hat and jacket while walking past a camera in Romford, East London.
Lawyer Martha Spurrier, and director of campaign group Liberty, warned that the technology takes private information and hands it to the state without the owner's consent. A campaigner challenges officers after police stop a man for covering his face when passing a facial recognition camera
San Francisco has already banned the technology saying that it 'endangers' civil rights and liberties. At least four police forces in the UK have trialled the technology so far including the Met police, South Wales, Leicester and Greater Manchester police forces
San Francisco has already banned the technology saying that it 'endangers' civil rights and liberties. At least four police forces in the UK have trialled the technology so far including the Met police, South Wales, Leicester and Greater Manchester police forces
When police pulled him to the side, he said: 'If I want to cover me face, I'll cover me face. Don't push me over when I'm walking down the street.'
At the scene an officer said: 'The fact that he's walked past clearly masking his face from recognition and covered his face. It gives us grounds to stop him and verify.'
Six steps behind facial recognition technology
The Metropolitan Police uses facial recognition technology called NeoFace, developed by Japanese IT firm NEC, which matches faces up to a so-called watch list of offenders wanted by the police and courts for existing offences. Cameras scan faces in its view measuring the structure of each face, creating a digital version that is searched up against the watch list. If a match is detected, an officer on the scene is alerted, who will be able to see the camera image and the watch list image, before deciding whether to stop the individual.
Eight people were arrested during the Met police trial, on January 31 this year, but only three were stopped as a result of the technology.
Liberty brought a landmark legal case against South Wales police last month, which has used the technology, after Cardiff resident Ed Bridges claimed it invaded his privacy.
He was filmed when he went out for a sandwich in December 2017, and again when he attended a protest against the arms trade.
At least four UK police forces have used the technology. Officers working at the Leicester and Greater Manchester forces are known to have used facial recognition cameras.
Its first deployment in the UK was by officers at the South Wales force ahead of the Champions League final in Cardiff in 2007.
This led to more than 2,000 people being wrongly identified as possible criminals.
Technology-city San Francisco banned facial recognition cameras on its streets in May this year, after finding that it 'endangered' civil liberties.
'The propensity for facial recognition technology to endanger civil rights and civil liberties substantially outweighs its purported benefits, and the technology will exacerbate racial injustice and threaten our ability to live free of continuous government monitoring,' read the legislation.
'It shall be unlawful for any department to obtain, retain, access, or use any Face Recognition Technology or any information obtained from Face Recognition Technology.'
Worries about the technology, including the dangers of innocent people being misidentified as criminals, have also spurred on moves to ban it.
Figures revealed that the new technology incorrectly identified members of the public in 96 per cent of matches made between 2016 and 2018.
How Does Facial Recognition Technology Work?
Facial recognition software works by matching real time images to a previous photograph of a person.
Each face has approximately 80 unique nodal points across the eyes, nose, cheeky and mouth which distinguish one person from another.
A digital video camera measures the distance between various points on the human face, such as the width of the nose, depth of the eye sockets, distance between the eyes and shape of the jawline.
A different smart surveillance system (pictured) can scan 2 billion faces within seconds has been revealed in China. The system connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to pick out targets. The military is working on applying a similar version of this with AI to track people across the country
A different smart surveillance system can scan 2 billion faces within seconds has been revealed in China. The system connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to pick out targets. The military is working on applying a similar version of this with AI to track people across the country
This produces a unique numerical code that can then be linked with a matching code gleaned from a previous photograph.
A facial recognition system used by officials in China connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to pick out targets.
Cashless economy can be a double-edged sword for any nation - Global Look Press
Many nations, particularly Scandinavian countries, are currently trying to embrace a cashless future where physical money is replaced with digital. RT talked to experts about the upsides and downsides of such a move.
While some see a cashless society as the future, it will take years or maybe decades to get rid of paper money, according to Nafis Alam, director of Postgraduate Research Studies and Associate Professor of finance at Henley Business School, University of Reading Malaysia.
"Definitely, the world is moving away from physical cash due to increase usage of E-wallet, Apple/Samsung pay," he said, adding that the upside of cashless payments is "the unparalleled convenience it offers in the form of time, efficiency and security."
However, he noted that "the biggest upside is for the regulators, who can have records for each and every transaction which makes law-breaking more difficult for tax evaders, money launderers, and black marketers."
Being a cashless economy can be a double-edged sword for any nation, according to Alam. "While it does control the illegal activities surrounding money, such as money laundering and fraud, at the same time it reduces the privacy of individual usage."
"Every single transaction can be recorded and monitored by the government which will become like a communist setup rather than a libertarian society," he said.
Meanwhile, Steve Worthington, adjunct professor at Swinburne University of Technology has argued that the world is moving towards a less-cash society. "We will never get to a cashless society in my lifetime because cash has its own triple 'A'. It is accepted nearly everywhere, it is anonymous and it is authentic," he said.
Talking about the downsides of a cash-free push, Worthington said that "we will then live in an even more 'controlled' and 'observed' society."
The crime-fighting characteristics of cashless societies have been largely overestimated, according to another expert.
"Currently most money transactions happen through banks and are controlled but this has not stopped criminality from flourishing," said Sergio Focardi, a professor and researcher in finance at ESILV and EMLV at the Pole Universitaire De Vinci in Paris.
Talking about the cash-free push as an anti-crime measure, he explained that it depends on the situation of each state on the willingness of governments to really fight criminality.
"It's difficult to believe that a technology will change the crime situation. I think it is the government willingness to fight crime that makes the difference."
Bernardo Batiz-Lazo, professor of business history and bank management at Bangor University, says he prefers "to think of the downsides" of a cash-free future "such as the number of vulnerable people (poor, young, elderly, single mothers, non-urban) that can be left out."
"Then, there is the fact that digital systems are binary: they work or they don't," he added. "A small problem with electricity (such as a hurricane in NY), internet supply or even in the IT systems of a bank (such as TSB or NatWest in the UK) bring the whole system to a halt."
Going cashless does little to eliminate corruption or the "black economy," but it does help governments increase their tax base, according to Batiz-Lazo.
But ultimately there are independence issues, according to the expert, as "people are entitled to a level of privacy and choice in payments." = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
*** The District of Criminals
'Oops, we did it again!' NSA caught illegally collecting Americans' phone data - RT
The NSA has been caught improperly collecting Americans' phone data yet again, just months after a similar incident forced them to (supposedly) purge hundreds of millions of records captured without FISA authorization.
The agency unlawfully slurped up a "larger than expected" volume of call and text records from one US telecom provider under the metadata-collection program known as Section 215, according to a document obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union as part of its ongoing lawsuit against the agency. The heavily redacted file does not reveal which company was affected, or how many of its "call detail records" were illegally collected between October 3 and 12, 2018.
Also on rt.com NSA 'unmasking' of American surveillance targets peaked in 2018, new report says "These documents further confirm that this surveillance program is beyond redemption and a privacy and civil liberties disaster," ACLU National Security Project staff attorney Patrick Toomey told the AP. "There is no justification for leaving this surveillance power in the NSA's hands."
Revealingly, the NSA in its own internal documents assesses the blunder's "impact on national security or international relations" to be "none." Critics of the program, formerly known as StellarWind, have pointed to its acknowledged failure to stop a single terror event – the agency's official rationale for eavesdropping on 3 billion phone calls every day – as one of many reasons it should be scrapped.
The agency "will assess the scope of the civil liberties and privacy impact of this incident upon completion of the investigation," the report promises, though an "initial assessment is that the impact was limited given the quick identification, purge processes, and lack of reporting."
"Why is there no penalty? Why is there no consequence for doing this? This is illegal behavior - if it is illegal, what is the accountability for those who are collecting it?" journalist Ben Swann asked, referring to both the telecoms providing excess information and the government agency that has made at least three such "mistakes" in the last year.
"The NSA never outs themselves and admits 'We made a mistake' - it only comes to light when the ACLU or some group sues," Swann told RT.
"If there is no accountability for those who continue to break the law - because that's what they're doing – then why would they ever stop doing that?"
The NSA is reportedly in favor of discontinuing Section 215 altogether, allowing congressional authorization to lapse when it expires at the end of 2019, though President Donald Trump has declared he wants to keep it running indefinitely.
While the documents received by the ACLU suggest previous rumors about the agency's use of the program – a security adviser to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy claimed the NSA hadn't used it since June, the last time it was forced to purge millions of improperly-collected records – were false, former NSA chief William Binney confirms the agency is only letting it go because they have something much more sinister going on.
"There is no oversight of the upstream program," Binney told RT, referring to an NSA program that collects not only phone records but emails, "chatter," and "everything on the fiber optic network." Upstream is "the major program that's copying the collection of bulk data on everybody, not just in the United States but on the planet."
The Ending Mass Collection of Americans' Phone Records Act, a bipartisan bill to end NSA bulk collection of US phone data and prevent the agency from restarting it which was introduced in the Senate earlier this year, appears to have come a bit too late. = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
*** Police State
Internet Privacy in the Age of Surveillance - Tom Bradbury
Pew Research Center reports that "91% of adults agree or strongly agree that consumers have lost control of how personal information is collected."
That incredibly-high statistic must describe victims under authoritarian governments like China, Russia, or North Korea, right?
That study was about US citizens. You know, the land of the free.
91% - That's the percentage of adults living in the US who agree that consumers have lost control of how personal information is collected and used by companies.
The sad truth is that governments of every shape and size are ramping up mass surveillance with little-to-no objection.
We live on the internet. But does that interconnection work in their favor, providing more opportunities to pierce our online privacy?
The simplest way to settle that score is to compare how the espionage efforts of the United States and their allies compare to other oppressive regimes.
How do we measure up to our closest friends and worst enemies? Let's find out.
State Surveillance and the Right to Privacy in Foreign Countries
The Chinese government has an annual domestic security budget of more than $197 billion.
That's 13% higher than their allocated budget for external defense.
What does this mean?
China is more concerned with threats coming from inside its borders than with those coming from external forces.
The Chinese government is notorious for limiting what websites its people can access through the use of what has come to be known as the Great Firewall of China. (Which also sounds like a new Michael Bay film.)
The Great Firewall blocks a large number of foreign websites, including everyday Western platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. China also routinely blocks any content that contradicts the stance of its communist government.
Communists have thin skin, apparently.
You heard it here first.
China ups-the-spying ante by actively encouraging civilian-to-civilian surveillance. They utilize government-controlled whistleblower phone applications that allow citizens to report on any violations that they see. Buzzkill.
The state is also developing a social credit system which assigns a grade to each citizen based on the government's assessment of their trustworthiness. No, this is not a joke.
It creates this ranking based on social behaviors, government data, and financial information. At the moment, this program is not nation-wide, but enrollment will be mandatory by 2020 for all of China's 1.379 billion people.
This is nothing, though.
The Chinese government will also impose strict control over entire geographic areas. For example, in the region of Tibet, mobile phone and internet users must identify themselves by name.
The Chinese government cites an attempt to "curb the spread of detrimental information" as the primary catalyst behind this decision.
One group of Chinese citizens have security cameras installed within their homes.
In response to this mandate, more than 100 Tibetans have chosen to self-immolate themselves (a fancy way for saying ??), while others opt to live completely "unplugged" to avoid government oversight.
These dissidents continue to demand more freedom, more rights, and the return of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who has been living in permanent exile since 1959.
In Xinjiang, the Chinese government forces the Uyghurs, a Muslim Turkic ethnic group, to install an application on their phone that monitors all of its content. The government is well known for its poor treatment of this group, going so far as to install security cameras in the homes of these citizens.
When the government feels that it has gathered sufficient evidence of wrongdoing on the part of an Uhgyur, they take them to re-education camps that work to change their political and religious beliefs, effectively erasing their identities.
Nope. Still not making this up.
Throughout the rest of the country, the Chinese government employs the use of more than 20 million security cameras to keep an eye on its citizens. It is the government's goal to build a massive surveillance network spanning the entirety of China by 2020.
This network would use both public cameras and private ones to accomplish its goals.
The Chinese government proudly touts its success at using mass surveillance techniques to curb the spread of crime throughout the country.
While critics of the government have decried these practices, claiming that it is nothing more than a heavy-handed way to snuff out political foes.
You be the judge.
Can you believe that Russia spies on their own people?
Said no one ever.
The System of Operational-Investigatory Measures (SORM) is a division of the Russian government created, for the most part, to literally just spy on their own people.
Telecom companies throughout the country have been forced by SORM to install hardware designed by the Federal Security Service throughout its systems. This is done to monitor all metadata and content pertaining to communication throughout Russia.
ISPs who refuse to install SORM spying software can be poisoned get in serious legal trouble with the Russian government.
The government collects everything from email correspondence to web browsing activities, and telephone calls.
Take this as a friendly reminder to wipe that browser history from last night real quick.
The Federal Security Service, also known as the FSB, requires a post-collection court warrant to access the records of ordinary citizens, but they can begin surveillance efforts before they request the warrant.
It's also important to note that the agency does not need a court order to comb through metadata. It is only necessary to access the collected communications information.
SORM has been a regular target of the European Court for Human Rights. This group has declared the Russian agency to be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, but this has not halted domestic espionage in the least. They heard the case in 2015 before the European Convention in Zakharov v. Russia.
The international court unanimously agreed that Russia's surveillance legislation was in stark violation of the convention. However, on that same day, the Russian government passed a law which allows them to overrule any rulings set down by an international court. They cited a need to "protect the interests of Russia" in the event that such orders contradicted the Russian constitution.
They're nothing if not crafty.
The Russian government can access citizens' communication records at any time without a court order.
The FSB saw to the upgrading of SORM equipment within Sochi before the start of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. This upgrade ensured that the government could capture all internet traffic within that location throughout the event when many foreign visitors and dignitaries were in attendance.
Another problematic surveillance law within Russia is what has come to be known as "Bloggers Law." This 2014 law states that all bloggers who have more than 3,000 daily readers cannot be anonymous.
The government must confirm their identities. Any organization that provides a platform to these bloggers has to maintain six months of computer records. These platforms include Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Skype, among other heavy hitters.
As it turns out, 2014 was a rough year for internet surveillance, as that was the year in which the government also decreed that anyone connecting to a public wi-fi network had to do so using their official government ID. They then stored that information for up to six months.
There are no signs of things slowing down either.
In 2016 Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the Yarovaya Law into existence. This law requires telecom companies and ISPs throughout Russia to keep a record of all user communications for up to three years.
At any time, the government can demand access to these records without a court order.
And as recently as July 2018, the government demanded that all messaging, social media, and email services that use encryption to protect its data must give the government access on demand without a court order.
If you like having any fun online, you should definitely not vacation in North Korea anytime soon.
That's because every aspect of a North Korean's existence is monitored by the oppressive government of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
For starters, outdoor microphones are used to monitor conversations on the street. Someone is always listening when you're out in public.
Computers, for those lucky enough to have them, must be registered with the government and are subject to random monitoring by the authorities.
Most North Korean computers are only able to access a national intranet called the Kwangmyong. They restrict external sources of the internet to government officials, elite students, and military leaders.
Internet surveillance in North Korea extends beyond the country's borders. Officials that are stationed abroad have their internet access monitored by staff members.
North Korea is another country that encourages its people to spy on other citizens. The country has even incentivized the process, rewarding informants with gifts.
Freedom is not one of them.
All telephone conversations in North Korea are subject to monitoring by the Ministry of Public Service, one of three major surveillance organizations within the government. The other two are the State Security Department and the Military Security Command.
Ah, the UK.
Home of good football and terrible food.
It turns out, your late night run to that awful kebab shop down the street wasn't quite as secretive as you thought.
Because despite being a relatively small area, they have over 1.5 million CCTV cameras that watch your every move.
That's not even the worst part, though.
Many different legislations outline the legal framework for what the UK considers ‘lawful interception of communications data' and how they store it.
This is all spelled out in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act of 2000, and then crystallized in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act of 2014, which allows security services to access phone and internet records of private citizens.
The act swept through parliament at breakneck speed, drawing criticism from some. It cleared the lower chamber in just one day, which was described as "entirely improper" by Conservative MP David Davis.
The UK is a part of the Five Eyes Surveillance Alliance, which is an agreement between the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to pool their collective intelligence information.
These five nations agree to share espionage data collected, so if one government has information on you, it is accessible to the other four (and possibly ten more).
The UK government has the ability to intercept targeted communications. It can collect this data in bulk and store it. A judge is required to review any warrants signed by a minister as it pertains to the interception of information.
In 2016, the government passed the Investigatory Powers Act of 2016, which shone some light on the mass surveillance techniques it once kept secret. It also created an Investigatory Powers Commission that oversees the use of all investigations which utilize mass surveillance tactics.
This commission is made up of serving and former senior judges.
The 2016 act also gave police and intelligence agencies the right to engage in targeted equipment interference, which boils down to hacking into devices remotely to collect data.
When it's a matter of a ‘foreign investigation,' police can use bulk equipment interference.
The UK maintains a long list of authorities that are allowed to access internet connection records without first obtaining a warrant. These records show what websites a person visited, but not the particular pages they saw or the full browsing history.
The 2016 act mandated that all communication service providers keep this information for one year.
Mass Surveillance in the United States
The September 11th terrorist attacks unfortunately opened the floodgates of mass surveillance in the US.
After that horrific event, the federal government began tracking the calls of hundreds of millions of Americans, spying on international calls, text messages, email correspondence, and web browsing activity.
All of this was made possible thanks to a number of key laws, including the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, the Patriot Act, and Executive Order 12,333.
FISA passed through the US House of Representatives in 2008 with a vote of 293 to 129. It was momentarily delayed in the Senate thanks to a filibuster by Senators Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd.
Feingold stated that the bill threatened civil liberties, while Dodd argued against a provision that granted retroactive immunity, stating that it would undermine the rule of law.
Dodd requested that they strike the immunity provision, but the Senate soundly rejected him. The bill cleared the Senate with a vote of 69 to 28. It was subsequently signed into law by President George W. Bush on July 10, 2008.
Originally, FISA was set to expire in 2012, but the House and Senate voted to extend the law for another five years. That passed approval from President Barack Obama on December 30, 2012.
In January of 2018, the Senate approved another six-year extension from FISA Section 702, which gives intelligence organizations the right to monitor the communications of non-US citizens abroad.
This decision has come under fire as it can also be used to eavesdrop on the private communications of American citizens.
The phrase "warrantless wiretapping" became a household term in 2005, thanks to an article published by the New York Times. The piece shed light on the government's actions, including the unwarranted spying on phone communications of American citizens. They supposedly discontinued the practice in 2007.
Following the Times article, more than 40 Americans attempted to fight back against telecom companies, claiming that the Bush administration was illegally monitoring their calls and emails.
The largest single revelation regarding mass surveillance by the US government came from former CIA employee Edward Snowden who leaked classified information detailing the surveillance programs run by the NSA in 2013.
Snowden released over 1.7 million US intelligence files, and thousands from Australian and British agencies as well, which he obtained through the Five Eyes Surveillance Alliance.
Snowden's revelation detailed an advanced spying program undertaken by the NSA that monitors internet and telephone conversations from over a billion people throughout the world.
We also learned that an automated program for suspicious keywords scans just about every email that is sent from the US overseas.
""They (the NSA) can use the system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you've ever made, every friend you've ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer. I cannot imagine a more indiscriminate and arbitrary invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval. Surely such a program infringes on that degree of privacy that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment. Indeed I have little doubt that the author of our Constitution, James Madison, who cautioned us to beware ‘the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power,' would be aghast." Edward Snowden
You'd think after the Snowden leak that US intelligence agencies would lie low for a while.
Unfortunately, you couldn't be further from the truth.
Since then, the US has lightened the intensity of its data collection efforts. In 2015, the USA Freedom Act ended the bulk collection of phone metadata by the NSA but called for the retention of data by phone companies, which the government could obtain on a case by case basis if need be.
The frightening thing about US mass surveillance is how incredibly advanced it is.
I bet you laughed earlier at North Korea, rolling old school with a bunch of microphones everywhere.
Well, you'll wish a junky Radio Shack mic was the worst thing to watch out for.
Speech to text programs allow computers to monitor phone correspondence instead of human beings, which allows for a far higher volume.
Facial recognition software can identify an individual through their facial features and their walking gait.
Magic Lantern and CIPV systems can be used to remotely monitor a person's computer activity.
Like, real James Bond crap.
They even use social networks in their espionage efforts. Facebook alone has turned over the private information of almost 19,000 users to law enforcement.
This doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon. By 2020, it is expected that there will be 300,000 unmanned drones deployed throughout the US for the purposes of surveillance.
Mass Surveillance on a City Level
Not all mass surveillance comes from large, shadowy government organizations.
The birth of "smart cities" throughout the world opens us up to more threats against our right to privacy.
In a smart city, governments can monitor citizens using a series of sensors. Data gathered there can then be transmitted and analyzed by law enforcement of government agencies. This leads to a rise in what's known as predictive policing, wherein crime prevention information is analyzed to make a police force more effective.
Also, the cheesy plot to Minority Report.
Data collected within a smart city can have other uses as well, such as management of traffic issues, use of energy, and the reduction of waste products.
But all of this data transmission has people worried that "big brother" is getting a lot bigger.
City governments are continuing to use advanced technology to gather intel on citizens. Take an instance in Memphis TN, for example. The Memphis Police Department was creating fictitious social media accounts to spy on the whereabouts and private posts of noted Black Lives Matter activists.
The California DMV, without a doubt the least likely place for any tech innovation, is unveiling digital Driver's Licenses and digital license plates. You couldn't think of a better GPS to track your whereabouts.
And this is not a uniquely American issue, either.
Smart city advances in Amsterdam compile vast amounts of data. With more than 70 smart city projects collecting information throughout the city, the local government has a massive collection of data stored on its common IP infrastructure.
While this data is being used to improve city life, many are worried that it could also be a threat to their personal privacy. That's why many Canadian citizens are opposing Google plans to build a smart city in Toronto.
But this question ultimately boils down to the trade-off.
The Big Question Do the benefits of such advanced technology outweigh the potential for privacy invasion? One example on US soil dates back to 1996 in Montgomery County, Maryland. At that time, they were looking to integrate their health and human services departments by sharing data between them. This would make the departments far more efficient, as patients would no longer have to waste time writing out the same information from scratch.
Despite privacy laws initially preventing them from sharing this data, they were eventually able to find a solution by basing their goals on four criteria to preserve the privacy of citizens. 1.The use of shared data was for the purposes of treatment only. 2.The use of data was limited to only what is necessary for treatment. 3.Only specific people could access shared data. 4.No one involved could be asked to violate their rules of professional ethics.
Whether or not that happens on a large scale is up for debate. And unfortunately, the signs aren't encouraging.
Our interconnected world is both good and bad.
It only takes a few keystrokes to holler at ‘Ye.
But those same tweets are being gathered and compiled by just about every big corporation and government, every single day.
The only thing we do know about mass surveillance, based on where the last few years have been trending, is that it's only going to get worse.
A lot worse.
When governments and corporations are actively working against you, doing everything in their power to steal your private data, you can only trust yourself.
And that starts by locking down your internet connection before they ever get a chance. Get a good VPN service now! = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Red Hot Product!
Want To Be Financially Invisible? Then this product and service might be for you. Email for full particulars by placing 'Financially Invisible' in your subject heading.
This Is What Americans Consider a Life-Changing Amount of Money - Maurie Backman, The Motley Fool
Many people dream of winning the lottery and taking home millions. But in reality, it takes a lot less money than that to change the typical U.S. adult's life. In fact, the average American considers $19,800 a life-changing sum, according to a survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Self Lender.
Not only that, but most Americans would use that sort of money wisely if they were to magically receive it. A good 51% claim they'd stick that cash directly into savings. Meanwhile 31% say they'd use it to pay off credit card debt, 30% would start a business, and 27% would use the funds for retirement.
If you're of the opinion that $19,800 would change your life for the better, here's some good news: You don't need to win the lottery to attain that sum. If you make lifestyle changes and save consistently, you can amass close to $20,000 and use that money to meet whatever financial goals you choose to set for yourself.
It's all about choices
Chances are, nobody's going to knock on your door in the coming days and offer you nearly $20,000. But that doesn't mean you can't carve out that money on your own. If you're willing to make an effort to lower your spending and boost your earnings, you can eke out that sum yourself over time and use it toward whatever objectives you have in mind.
First, let's talk about spending less. There are plenty of things you can do to free up a substantial amount of money in your budget, so think about the things you currently spend money on and consider how important they really are to you. Maybe you love going out and exploring new restaurants, and so the idea of never dining out seems downright terrible. If that's the case, you might consider downsizing to a less expensive home, or giving up a car you enjoy having but can technically do without.
Or, the opposite might be true -- you hate living in cramped quarters and love the convenience of a car. In that case, you might cut back on dining out, leisure, clothing, cable, and other luxuries that don't have quite the same impact on your quality of life.
Imagine you're able to reduce your spending to the point where you free up $500 a month. If you currently buy lunch every day, order takeout several times a week, pay for a gym membership you rarely use, and have the priciest cell and data plan out there, then that's doable if you agree to cut back. It's also doable if you move to a cheaper home or unload the mega-expense that is owning a car. Either way, in less than 3.5 years, you'll have saved up $19,800.
But wait -- if you're able to boost your income, you might hit that goal in half that amount of time or less. And while you can't just march into your boss's office and insist on a raise, you can increase your earnings by getting yourself a side hustle. Millions of Americans are doing it these days, and an estimated 36% of folks with a second gig bring home over $500 a month as a result. Therefore, if you're willing to take on a side hustle and cut back on expenses to the tune of $500 a month, you might actually bank $1,000 a month or more -- in which case you could hit the $19,800 mark in roughly a year and a half.
Of course, the speed at which you save money will depend on how many sacrifices you're willing to make and how much extra time you're willing to spend working. It'll also depend on how many hiccups you encounter along the way -- think unexpected expenses that force you to take a step backward. But know this: If $19,800 is a life-changing sum, you don't need to sit back and pray for a winning lottery ticket to get it. You just need to work hard, make smart choices, and perhaps exercise a bit of patience as you push toward that goal. = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
*** Over 70% of Swedes Don't Want Cashless Society Country potentially cash-free by 2023 - Sputnik
Both young and old alike want to keep cash circulating, despite predictions that Sweden could go completely cashless as early as 2023. Only a fifth of the Swedish population is ready to embrace the change, a survey shows.
Amid the Swedish government's ambitions to become the world's first cashless society, more and more Swedes would like to retain the traditional way of payment in the future.
A total of 72 percent of Swedes are in favor of keeping traditional crisp banknotes, a new survey conducted by pollster Sifo on behalf of Bankomat AB, a chain of ATMs run in collaboration between a number of banks, has indicated. This marks a 4 percent increase compared with the previous year, when 68 percent of Swedes exhibited nostalgia for traditional bills in an increasingly digitized society.
At the same time, the proportion of Swedes who want a completely cashless society has fallen from 25 percent a year ago to 21 percent today.
Senior citizens over 65 appeared to be the most cash-positive group. There, as many as 85% opted for keeping cash. At about two million out of Sweden's 10 million-strong population, they are a force to be reckoned with.
Owen Shroyer breaks down how society will soon become cashless and dependent on your smart phone.
Among the younger populace aged between 18 and 29, that is the group that is most used to digital payment, a solid 62 percent wanted to keep their cash, while 29 percent chose a completely cashless society.
In 2017, Niklas Arvidsson, associate professor of industrial dynamics at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) predicted that Sweden will go cashfree in 2023 and was specific enough to name a date, March 24. His study has unleashed a debate about the future of payments.
"I believe that the recent debate on the issue has made more people aware of the risks that come with a completely cashless society", Bankomat AB manager Johan Nilsson explained. "Despite the fact that more and more people are choosing to pay digitally, support for retaining cash as a way of paying also increases. As long as there is a need for cash, we at Bankomat will do all in our power to keep it available", Nilsson pledged.
Nilsson stressed that over 1 million Swedes currently live in digital exclusion. For them to be able to handle their payments in an increasingly digitized society, the state must shoulder greater responsibility for maintaining the cash infrastructure, Nilsson said, calling it "socially important."
As of today, four out of five purchases in Sweden (around 80 percent) are made electronically, and Sweden's Central Bank, Riksbanken estimates that in the years 2012 to 2020, cash in circulation will have declined by up to 50 percent. Swedes mainly use debit cards and payment apps, such as Swish. In a study by KTH, the popular app has already been credited with reducing the amount of cash in circulation. = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Who's making money from your DNA?
If you've sent off your DNA to an ancestry or health-screening company, do you know how the data is being used – and should you worry?
This story is from Who's monetising your DNA?, an episode of Business Daily on BBC World Service. It was presented by Manuela Saragosa and produced by Laurence Knight. To listen to more episodes of Business Daily, please click here. Adapted by Philippa Fogarty.
If you've ever sent off your DNA to an ancestry or health-screening company for analysis, chances are your DNA data will be shared with third parties for medical research or even for solving crime, unless you've specifically asked the company not to do so.
The point was brought home in late January when it emerged that genetic genealogy company FamilyTreeDNA was working with the FBI to test DNA samples provided by law enforcement to help identify perpetrators of violent crime. Another DNA testing company, 23andMe, has signed a $300m deal with pharmaceuticals giant GSK to help it develop new drugs.
But are customers aware that third parties may have access to their DNA data for medical research? And do these kinds of tie-ups bring benefits – or should we be concerned?
23andMe is a California-based company that analyses customers' DNA and provides them with reports on ancestry and health. It says it has more than five million customers, more than 80% of whom have agreed to participate in its research, creating a huge store of genetic data.
In a blog post when the deal with GSK was announced last year, CEO Anne Wojcicki said she believed combining 23andMe's genetic research with GSK's drug development expertise would accelerate the development of scientific breakthroughs.
So with this deal, has the company changed its focus to monetising its genetic database?
"I would really say not," says Kathy Hibbs, 23andMe's chief legal and regulatory officer. "The way we look at our business is as a virtuous circle. We have consumers who are interested and motivated around their own health – how our genetics might influence our risks for certain conditions."
The concept, she says, is to make discoveries that give customers more information they can use to inform their health decisions.
She rejects the idea that customers don't understand whether they are agreeing to share their data, pointing to a "very explicit" three-part consent document that asks whether customers want to consent to research, and whether they consent to this research being shared with third parties. The key thing, she says, is that their research relies on people answering survey questions. "Their genetic information, if they don't provide the survey information… is really not interesting to us. So not only do they knowingly consent, they have to affirmatively participate in these studies."
Hibbs says the partnership with GSK will allow a far wider pool of researchers to study the data they have. Her company can also work with academics and public institutions if there is no conflict of interest with GSK, she adds.
Of course, there are plenty of countries that are developing public DNA databases as opposed to the private ones owned by companies like 23andMe. In the UK it's being done by Genomics England, established by the government's Department of Health and Social Care.
It runs the 100,000 Genomes Project, which aims to sequence genomes from patients with a rare disease and their families, as well as patients with cancer. All the patients are with the NHS public health service and the focus is on improving treatment rather than developing profitable new drugs.
Mark Caulfield, chief scientist for Genomics England, says the project has multiple benefits, citing the example of a 10-year-old girl with severe recurrent chicken pox.
"This is not only a transformation for the individual but it's also a huge saver of funds for the NHS" - Mark Caulfield
"We found a change in her DNA which altered her immune system. This allowed us to select the bone marrow transplant which has cured her of her condition," he says. "This is not only a transformation for the individual but it's also a huge saver of funds for the NHS, because she was recurrently being admitted and having intensive care."
He says that genomics can help build up a much more detailed picture of a person's life course – something which may help scientists begin to identify who is at risk of disease.
Governments around the world are developing their own DNA databases – but can struggle to keep up with the scale of those provided by the private sector (Credit: Getty Images)
Everyone in the database joins under the basis of informed consent, involving written materials and a consultation with a healthcare professional, and the organisation does work with other nations and private companies, something Caulfield points out has benefits.
Where patients are suffering from very rare diseases, getting an answer may hinge on sharing data with other nations, he says. Interacting with private firms who are developing drugs, meanwhile, can help make a hugely expensive process cheaper.
"Many of us possess the risk of an adverse reaction because of our genetic make-up. And because 80% of medicines fail in development, actually using the genome to try to get safer medicines first time could reduce the cost of those medicines when they come forward into the health system."
"The kinds of people who can afford to buy these private diagnostic tests look similar in lot of ways" - Kayte Spector-Bagdady
He highlights the key role identifying the gene behind familial high cholesterol, a condition causing heart disease at an early age, played in developing the drug to treat it.
"[Drug company] Amgen estimate that the work in genomics shortened the development of that medicine and its entry to patient-benefiting trials by three years. If I could bring something live that would avoid death or harm to somebody much faster through this public-industry partnership, then I think that is a greater good for society."
Why diversity is needed
It's worth noting that the 100,000 Genomes Project has sequenced exactly that – 100,000 genomes. It's a fraction of the information held by 23andMe's database. The fact that private companies dominate DNA databases worries Kayte Spector-Bagdady, assistant professor at the University of Michigan's medical school.
"There's potential for data monopolies and also private industry acting in ways that might exclude public data banks," she says. She cites the example of Myriad Genomics, which obtained a patent on two genes associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. That meant it could monopolise testing, something opponents argued stifled research and blocked development of cheaper tests.
In 2013, the US Supreme Court declared the patent invalid. But because they'd had a monopoly for so long, Myriad still had the best data set. Now, says Spector-Bagdady, third parties are working together to "compete with the gigantic Myriad data set".
She says profit considerations can skew research. "If you think about these companies like 23andMe, their valuation isn't based on the ability to sell $200 test kits; their valuation is based on their ability to collect and sell data. That data becomes one of their greatest business assets and that asset is protected as any other asset would be."
Consent issues aside, her biggest worry is that the way the data is collected means segments of society are not represented.
"The kinds of people who can afford to buy these private diagnostic tests look similar in lot of ways – they're often very well educated, they're often Caucasian, they're often wealthy," she says. "So when we populate private data sets with those kind of people, even if we're doing good research that makes excellent advances in medicine, the kinds of communities that those advances are going to be applicable to are the kinds of people that are in the data sets to begin with."
She believes creating more diverse public databases accessible to researchers, like the All of Us research programme initiated by the Obama administration, would serve society better.
"The challenge is that they only have about 150,000 people so far and they have been doing it for years," she says. Part of the problem is that public programmes have to meet stringent federal requirements around consent, making it costlier and more time-consuming to recruit participants.
23andMe says that although percentage-wise its customer base tends to be more European, on a pure numbers basis it has some of the largest cohorts of traditionally under-represented research populations including African-Americans, Latinos and others. It also participates, it says, in projects targeting gaps in the genetic records.
The direct-to-consumer genetic testing market is flourishing, KPMG noted in a report last year. That being the case, the debate around issues of privacy, consent, diversity and benefit can only deepen as more of us choose to find out our deepest biological secrets.
The above article first appeared at BBC.
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"The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." - Edmund Burke, 1784