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Category Archives for "Surveillance"

How an ICE Contractor Tracks Phones Around the World

Venntel, a government contractor that sells location data of smartphones to U.S. law enforcement agencies including ICE, CBP, and the FBI, gathers information through a highly complex supply chain of advertising firms, data resellers, and ultimately innocuous-looking apps installed on peoples’ phones around the world.

Although it’s not clear if Venntel ultimately provides all data generated from this specific supply chain to agencies such as ICE, the documents provide much deeper and previously unreported insight into how data moves from apps, middlemen companies, and through to data brokers. In this case, Venntel.

Source: How an ICE Contractor Tracks Phones Around the World

Feds logged website visitors in 2019, citing Patriot Act authority

The federal government gathered up visitor logs for some websites in 2019, the Office of Director of National Intelligence disclosed in letters made public this week. And the feds cited authority derived from a provision of the Patriot Act to do it.

The exchange begins with a May 20 letter from Wyden to the ODNI asking then-director Richard Grenell to explain if and how the federal government uses section 215 of the Patriot Act to obtain IP addresses and other Web browsing information.

As it turns out, one of those 61 orders did indeed result in the FBI gaining access to “information that could be characterized as information regarding ‘Web browsing.'” Specifically, federal investigators collected log entries for “a single, identified US Web page” showing IP addresses that accessed it from “a specified foreign country.”

Source: Feds logged website visitors in 2019, citing Patriot Act authority | Ars Technica

San Diego Plans for Military-Grade Drone to Catch Speeding Drivers

San Diego was supposed to be the site this year of a major drone project intended to show off the civilian capabilities of military-grade technology for monitoring things like wildfires and infrastructure. The players involved in the test flight obscured its other purpose: catching drivers who speed.

Office of Homeland Security had been supportive of General Atomics, a local defense contractor, in its attempt to open the skies above San Diego to new forms of surveillance.

Source: San Diego Kept Quiet on Plans for Military-Grade Drone to Catch Speeding Drivers — Voice of San Diego

Privacy Rights Groups Say EU Aid Funds Pay for Government Surveillance in Developing Countries

Privacy groups are raising alarms about some EU aid programs. Funds, equipment and training are reportedly going to repressive governments and being used explicitly for domestic surveillance.

Examples include training seminars that taught participants how to perform “man in the middle” WiFi attacks and monitor dissidents on social media.

The training included subjects such as techniques for cracking mobile devices, methods for investigating charities, and how to monitor social media users and map out their connections using open source tools.

Source: Privacy Rights Groups Criticize EU Aid in Developing Countries, Claiming Funds Pay for Government Surveillance – CPO Magazine

Secret Amazon Reports Expose Company Spying on Labor, Environmental Groups

Leaked documents reveal Amazon’s reliance on Pinkerton operatives to spy on workers and its extensive monitoring of labor unions and social movements.

The documents show Amazon analysts closely monitor the labor and union-organizing activity of their workers throughout Europe, as well as environmentalist and social justice groups on Facebook and Instagram. They also indicate, and an Amazon spokesperson confirmed, that Amazon has hired Pinkerton operatives—from the notorious spy agency known for its union-busting activities—to gather intelligence on warehouse workers.

Source: Secret Amazon Reports Expose Company Spying on Labor, Environmental Groups

Law enforcement is using location tracking on mobile devices to identify suspects, but is it unconstitutional?

As the use of geofence warrants has grown, so have controversies surrounding them. Defense attorneys argue they’re unconstitutional, and prosecutors say their use is a valid and valuable crime-solving technique. Litigation questioning the constitutionality of geofence warrants is now surfacing.

Privacy and civil rights advocates also say the geographic scope of these warrants gives police information about people in private locales, such as their homes or doctors’ offices. But prosecutors say these warrants help authorities catch criminals.

Full article: Law enforcement is using location tracking on mobile devices to identify suspects, but is it unconstitutional?

Homeland Security Watchdog to Probe Department’s Use of Phone Location Data

The Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog said it would open an investigation into the use of mobile-phone surveillance technologies to track Americans without a warrant.

The department’s inspector general told five Democratic senators that his office would initiate an audit “to determine if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its components have developed, updated, and adhered to policies related to cell-phone surveillance devices,” according to a letter sent last week to Capitol Hill and shared with The Wall Street Journal.

Source: Homeland Security Watchdog to Probe Department’s Use of Phone Location Data – WSJ

CBP proposes to require mug shots of all non-US citizen travelers

CBP issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that wouldn’t apply to US citizens, but would require all non-US citizens, including permanent US residents (green-card holders) to be photographed whenever they enter or leave the US by any means: air, land, or sea.

This proposed rule is for collection of biometrics from international travelers at airports, cruise ports, and land borders. There’s a separate pending proposal for collection of biometrics including fingerprints and DNA samples, in advance of travel, from visa applicants, other would-be US visitors, and their US sponsors.

Source: CBP proposes to require mug shots of all non-US citizen travelers – Papers, Please!

Microsoft Developing Workplace Surveillance System to ‘Score’ Meeting Productivity

A recent patent application reveals Microsoft is developing a “meeting insight computing system” that would monitor body language, facial expressions, and other features of participants in order to assign a “quality score” to workplace meetings.

According to the filing, the system could be applied both to in-person and remote meetings. Microsoft also introduced a “Productivity Score” last month which would have allowed organizations to monitor employees’ use of Microsoft products.

Source: EPIC – Microsoft Developing Workplace Surveillance System to ‘Score’ Meeting Productivity

Amazon faces backlash over using Sidewalk for neighborhood networks

Amazon customers are being automatically opted in to Sidewalk, a feature set to launch later this year that the company says will connect Alexa devices to nearby WiFi networks, even those owned by someone else.

Sidewalk uses Alexa devices, including Echo and Ring video doorbells, to create a “shared network” meant to help “devices work better,” Amazon said in an email to device owners. It allows nearby devices to use a portion of a neighbor’s WiFi bandwidth so devices can have more range.

Source: Amazon faces backlash over using Sidewalk for neighborhood networks – Business Insider

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