Media Articles from 2021
GrayKey iPhone unlocker poses serious security concerns
by Thomas Reed
Posted April 10, 2021
Ever since the case of the San Bernadino shooter pitted Apple against the FBI over the unlocking of an iPhone, opinions have been split on providing backdoor access to the iPhone for law enforcement. Some felt that Apple was aiding and abetting a felony by refusing to create a special version of iOS with a backdoor for accessing the phone’s data. Others believed that it’s impossible to give backdoor access to law enforcement without threatening the security of law-abiding citizens.
In an interesting twist, the battle ended with the FBI dropping the case after finding a third party who could help. At the time, it was theorized that the third party was Cellebrite. Since then it has become known that Cellebrite— an Israeli company—does provide iPhone unlocking services to law enforcement agencies.
It’s also entirely possible, based on the history of the IP-Box, that Grayshift devices will end up being available to anyone who wants them and can find a way to purchase them, perhaps by being reverse-engineered and reproduced by an enterprising hacker, then sold for a couple hundred bucks on eBay. More…
Here’s How Easy It Is for Cops to Get Your Facebook Data
by Ella Fassler
Posted April 8, 2021
Police can access everything from “pokes” to private Messenger data — and increasingly do. Although this sort of collaboration between Facebook and law enforcement is not common knowledge, the practice isn’t rare in the United States.
Over the last five years, U.S. government requests for Facebook data have more than tripled. In 2015, American police requested data from 56,620 separate accounts; 80,443 in 2016; 105,905 in 2017; 134,150 in 2018; and 164,782 in 2019. (Facebook provided law enforcement with data in 88% of cases in 2019, a 9% increase from 2013.)
By contrast, Canadian law enforcement requested data from just 4,901 accounts last year, and the practice is uncommon in Europe.
Since Facebook is oftentimes barred from informing users of law enforcement data requests because of the Stored Communications Act, a 1986 law that addresses disclosure of electronic communications, the full scope of activist targeting is impossible to know. More…
Pipeline Company Issues Broad Subpoena to News Site That Covered Protests Against It
by Alleen Brown and Sam Richards
Posted April 6, 2021
Last week, members of the nonprofit news organization Unicorn Riot received a subpoena from the pipeline giant Energy Transfer seeking a wide range of documents, including newsgathering materials that would identify sources. The subpoena is part of an aggressive, yearslong legal effort launched by Energy Transfer in the wake of the Standing Rock movement, when thousands of opponents of the corporation’s Dakota Access pipeline came to camps at the border of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in an attempt to stop pipeline construction and protect the tribe’s drinking water from contamination.
Through a series of expensive conspiracy lawsuits against a disparate range of actors, the pipeline company has sought to paint the Standing Rock movement as the product of a vast misinformation-driven conspiracy to damage Energy Transfer.
Now, as part of that effort, Energy Transfer is demanding Unicorn Riot turn over virtually any documents, video footage, audio, article drafts, and communications related to the firm and its pipeline. The subpoena also sought information about the nonprofit’s organizational structure, social media accounts, and names of employees, volunteers, and supporters. Niko Georgiades, who was among the Unicorn Riot reporters covering Standing Rock, was separately subpoenaed. More…
[Social] [Political] [Media]
We Mapped How the Coronavirus Is Driving New Surveillance Programs Around the World
by Dave Gershgorn
Posted April 5, 2021
It’s a complex trade-off: Governments need information to create containment strategies and know where to focus resources. At the same time, governments have a way of holding onto tools that undermine citizens’ privacy long after the moment of crisis has passed. Take, for example, the United States’ 2001 Patriot Act, which was passed in response to the 9/11 attacks. The Patriot Act gave the government broad surveillance powers with little oversight, including demanding customer data from telecoms without court approval. Twenty years later, it’s still around.
To document global surveillance measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic, OneZero compiled press reports from more than 30 countries where potential privacy issues are occurring.
The most common form of surveillance implemented to battle the pandemic is the use of smartphone location data, which can track population-level movement down to enforcing individual quarantines. Some governments are making apps that offer coronavirus health information, while also sharing location information with authorities for a period of time. More…
Deepfake detectors can be defeated, computer scientists show for the first time
by University of California – San Diego
Posted April 4, 2021
Systems designed to detect deepfakes –videos that manipulate real-life footage via artificial intelligence–can be deceived, computer scientists showed for the first time at the WACV 2021 conference which took place online Jan. 5 to 9, 2021.
Researchers showed detectors can be defeated by inserting inputs called adversarial examples into every video frame. The adversarial examples are slightly manipulated inputs which cause artificial intelligence systems such as machine learning models to make a mistake. In addition, the team showed that the attack still works after videos are compressed.
The extensive spread of fake videos through social media platforms has raised significant concerns worldwide, particularly hampering the credibility of digital media, the researchers point out. “”If the attackers have some knowledge of the detection system, they can design inputs to target the blind spots of the detector and bypass it,” ” said Paarth Neekhara, the paper’s other first coauthor and a UC San Diego computer science student. More…
The Journalistic Tattletale and Censorship Industry Suffers Several Well-Deserved Blows
by Glenn Greenwald
Posted April 3, 2021
A new and rapidly growing journalistic “beat” has arisen over the last several years that can best be described as an unholy mix of junior high hall-monitor tattling and Stasi-like citizen surveillance. It is half adolescent and half malevolent. Its primary objectives are control, censorship, and the destruction of reputations for fun and power. Though its epicenter is the largest corporate media outlets, it is the very antithesis of journalism.
Just as the NSA is obsessed with ensuring there be no place on earth where humans can communicate free of their spying eyes and ears, these journalistic hall monitors cannot abide the idea that there can be any place on the internet where people are free to speak in ways they do not approve. Like some creepy informant for a state security apparatus, they spend their days trolling the depths of chat rooms and 4Chan bulletin boards and sub-Reddit threads and private communications apps to find anyone — influential or obscure — who is saying something they believe should be forbidden, and then use the corporate megaphones they did not build and could not have built but have been handed in order to silence and destroy anyone who dissents from the orthodoxies of their corporate managers or challenges their information hegemony. More…
YouTube Financially Deplatforms Swath of Indie Media
by Caitlin Johnstone
Posted March 30, 2021
The Google-owned video sharing platform YouTube has demonetized numerous independent media accounts, a jarring escalation in the steadily intensifying campaign against alternative news outlets online.
Financial de-platforming is censorship. People were given an opportunity to devote themselves to the vocation of creating media outside the gatekeeping apparatus of billionaire news institutions, which is arguably the single most important vocation anyone can give themselves to in our world right now, and they built their lives around their ability to do this. Now it’s being ripped away from them; their literal jobs are being taken away. They were offered a reason to think they’d be able to make a living doing very important work, and then they were sucker punched with what amounts to political censorship.
This has been a continually escalating trend for years. The general population is herded onto huge monopolistic social media platforms offering democratization of information where your voice can be heard, and then those platforms proceed to censor an increasing amount of political speech in increasing coordination with the U.S. government. More…
How to Communicate Privately in the Age of Digital Policing
by David Koff
Posted March 29, 2021
For some eye-opening statistics, check out the transparency disclosures — all linked below — from Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Microsoft, Apple, and Google. You’ll notice three trends if you parse these data: first, the number of requests from government and law enforcement for your personal data grows every year; second, technology companies comply with these requests most of the time; third, The United States — that beacon of freedom! — issues more requests for user data than every other country. By a huge amount.
Sigh. Digital tools to the rescue
Fear not, citizen! There are always tools available to help us achieve our legal goals, and this situation is no different. In our case, to lessen or eliminate The Three Canaries, we should only use secure messaging solutions that offer end-to-end encryption (or “E2EE” if you like sounding fancy). More…
[Justice] [Media] [Political]
The Deep State’s Stealthy, Subversive, Silent Coup To Ensure Nothing Changes
by John W. Whitehead
Posted March 25, 2021
The police have been transformed into extensions of the military while the nation itself has been transformed into a battlefield. This is what a state of undeclared martial law looks like, when you can be arrested, tasered, shot, brutalized and in some cases killed merely for not complying with a government agent’s order or not complying fast enough. This hasn’t just been happening in crime-ridden inner cities. It’s been happening all across the country.
And then you’ve got the government, which has been steadily amassing an arsenal of military weapons for use domestically and equipping and training their “troops” for war. Even government agencies with largely administrative functions such as the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Smithsonian have been acquiring body armor, riot helmets and shields, cannon launchers and police firearms and ammunition. In fact, there are now at least 120,000 armed federal agents carrying such weapons who possess the power to arrest.
Rounding out this profit-driven campaign to turn American citizens into enemy combatants (and America into a battlefield) is a technology sector that has been colluding with the government to create a Big Brother that is all-knowing, all-seeing and inescapable. It’s not just the drones, fusion centers, license plate readers, stingray devices and the NSA that you have to worry about. You’re also being tracked by the black boxes in your cars, your cell phone, smart devices in your home, grocery loyalty cards, social media accounts, credit cards, streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and e-book reader accounts. More…
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