Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #774 The Adventures of Eddie the Friendly Spook, Part 14: The Corporate Connections and the Public vs. Private Dynamic

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained here. (The flash dri­ve includes the anti-fas­cist books avail­able on this site.)

Lis­ten: MP3

Side 1   Side 2

Intro­duc­tion: Ben­i­to Mus­soli­ni, the world’s first fas­cist, defined fas­cism as “cor­po­ratism.” Ronald Rea­gan’s sig­na­ture polit­i­cal apho­rism was: “Gov­ern­ment isn’t the solu­tion to your prob­lems. Gov­ern­ment IS the prob­lem.”

Loom­ing very large in the con­text of “L’Af­faire Snow­den” are the cor­po­rate con­nec­tions to this polit­i­cal phe­nom­e­non and what we call the “pub­lic ver­sus pri­vate dynam­ic.”

The keynote ele­ment of this dis­cus­sion is a reveal­ing analy­sis of James Madis­on’s views on the intru­sion into cit­i­zens pri­va­cy. As not­ed in this analy­sis, Madi­son was defi­cient in his pre­scrip­tion for pro­tect­ing pri­va­cy. Madi­son was aware of the need to pro­tect cit­i­zens’ pri­va­cy against gov­ern­men­tal intru­sion, but failed sub­stan­tive­ly to take into account the need to pro­tect cit­i­zens against cor­po­rate intru­sion into pri­va­cy. In the inter­net and cell phone age, that is of para­mount sig­nif­i­cance.

The pub­lic vesus pri­vate dynam­ic and the cor­po­rate con­nec­tions are par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant in light of the deci­sion to turn meta­da­ta over to a “third par­ty” for safe­keep­ing.

What we are seeing–to an extent–is pri­va­ti­za­tion of the NSA.

In this ongo­ing series about L’Affaire Snow­den, we have dis­cussed the fact that the col­lec­tion of meta­data is rou­tine by Inter­net and cell­phone com­pa­nies, as well as retail out­lets that offer dis­count cards. (The har­vest­ing of meta­data is the focal point of what the NSA does and what lies at the cen­ter of the “con­tro­ver­sy.”)

A recent post by PR Watch notes that Grover Norquist has been among the recip­i­ents of Google mon­ey.

Hav­ing opined that he want­ed to “drown” gov­ern­ment in the “bath­tub,” Norquist is a lynch­pin of the “Shut­down GOP” and the founder of the Islam­ic Free Mar­ket Insti­tute. A syn­the­sis of the GOP and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, the Insti­tute is inex­tri­ca­bly linked with the Oper­a­tion Green Quest inves­ti­ga­tion into ter­ror­ist financ­ing.

Against the back­ground of Google’s financ­ing of Norquist’s cru­sades and oth­er right-wing caus­es, one can but won­der what Google may be doing with the vast amounts of meta­data they har­vest. Why aren’t more peo­ple alarmed about what Google may be doing with their infor­ma­tion?

In addi­tion to an accu­rate obser­va­tion by Wik­iLeaks hack­er Jacob Apple­baum about Google hav­ing the infor­ma­tion to top­ple gov­ern­ments, we note that Google, Apple, EBay and oth­er key Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­nies have engaged in heavy-hand­ed monop­o­lis­tic prac­tices that have been the focal point of inves­ti­ga­tions by the Depart­ment of Jus­tice.

A cen­tral point of analy­sis con­cerns just WHO autho­rized Edward Snow­den, Bradley Man­ning, Wik­iLeaks and Cit­i­zen Green­wald to access the vast amounts of data that they have? What judi­cial or gov­ern­men­tal author­i­ty over­sees THEIR activ­i­ties? Why is it OK for them to access vast amounts of data that might adverse­ly affect the lives of mil­lions?

Pro­gram High­lights Include:

  • For­mer NSA head Michael Hay­den’s cor­rect obser­va­tion that cit­i­zens’ data is more secure when held by the NSA than it would be with a “third par­ty.”
  • Hay­den’s obser­va­tion that the fourth amend­ment does­n’t apply to for­eign citizens–it isn’t an inter­na­tion­al treaty.
  • Apple’s Iphone has an “app” that per­mits retail out­lets to rig­or­ous­ly sur­veil cus­tomers shop­ping in their stores.
  • Spec­u­la­tion that Palan­tir might become the “third par­ty” repos­i­to­ry of meta­da­ta cur­rent­ly stored by NSA.
  • Edward Snow­den and Bradley Man­ning’s use of web-crawl­ing tech­nol­o­gy to vac­u­um-up hun­dreds of thou­sands of files–files that they could not pos­si­bly have read.
  • Wik­iLeaks’ pro­found asso­ci­a­tion with the Russ­ian phish­ing mafia–sophis­ti­cat­ed inter­net crim­i­nals who steal peo­ple’s online infor­ma­tion for the pur­pose of loot­ing their assets.
  • Wik­iLeaks’ co-founder John Young’s obser­va­tion that the group is act­ing like ” . . . a bunch of spies.” Young broke with the group over their behav­ior.

1. The keynote ele­ment of this dis­cus­sion is a reveal­ing analy­sis of James Madis­on’s views on the intru­sion into cit­i­zens pri­va­cy. As not­ed in this analy­sis, Madi­son was defi­cient in his pre­scrip­tion for pro­tect­ing pri­va­cy. Madi­son was aware of the need to pro­tect cit­i­zens’ pri­va­cy against gov­ern­men­tal intru­sion, but failed sub­stan­tive­ly to take into account the need to pro­tect cit­i­zens against cor­po­rate intru­sion into pri­va­cy. In the inter­net and cell phone age, that is of para­mount sig­nif­i­cance.

The need to fac­tor cor­po­rate intru­sion into peo­ple’s lives is par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant with the deci­sion to have a “third par­ty” store meta­da­ta instead of the NSA.

“Madis­on’s Pri­va­cy Blind Spot” by James Rosen; The New York Times; 1/18/2014.

. . . Expect to hear a lot more about Madi­son in the com­ing year, as the issues sur­round­ing the N.S.A. move toward what Jus­tice Scalia has said will be a like­ly review by the Supreme Court. For that rea­son, it is impor­tant to explore what Madi­son does and doesn’t offer to this debate.

The apoth­e­o­sis of Madi­son as an emblem for oppo­si­tion to mass sur­veil­lance is wel­come. But the rea­son­ing behind his beliefs has been mis­un­der­stood. He believed that the preser­va­tion of people’s “dif­fer­ent and unequal fac­ul­ties of acquir­ing prop­er­ty” was “the first object of gov­ern­ment,” but that a too-pow­er­ful gov­ern­ment could under­mine that goal. He was, there­fore, more con­cerned with abus­es of leg­isla­tive and exec­u­tive pow­er than of unreg­u­lat­ed com­mer­cial pow­er.

As a result, the Bill of Rights, which he came to cham­pi­on, con­strains only gov­ern­ment actors, not pri­vate ones. It applies to the gov­ern­ment, not Google. Now that Google and AT&T can track us more close­ly than any N.S.A. agent, it appears that the Madis­on­ian Con­sti­tu­tion may be inad­e­quate to defend our pri­va­cy and dig­ni­ty in the 21st cen­tu­ry. . . .

. . . . There is, there­fore, a ten­sion in mod­ern lib­er­tar­i­an appre­ci­a­tions of Madi­son. They exag­ger­ate his oppo­si­tion to abuse of fed­er­al pow­er and ignore his fail­ure to antic­i­pate abuse of cor­po­rate pow­er. . . .

. . . . But on the right, the Madis­on­ian devo­tion to prop­er­ty rights, and Jef­fer­son­ian sus­pi­cion of reg­u­la­tion, are so strong that the same prin­ci­pled lib­er­tar­i­ans who oppose N.S.A. data col­lec­tion shrink from efforts to reg­u­late Google or AT&T.

In his speech on intel­li­gence reform on Fri­day, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma called on Attor­ney Gen­er­al Eric H. Hold­er Jr. to devel­op options for how the bulk tele­phone data col­lec­tion pro­gram could con­tin­ue with­out the meta­da­ta being held by the gov­ern­ment itself. But tele­com com­pa­nies have resist­ed being the repos­i­to­ry for the data, and an anti-reg­u­la­to­ry Con­gress is unlike­ly to require them to do so or to impose mean­ing­ful lim­its on what they can do with the data they hold.

As a result, Inter­net ser­vice providers and tele­coms are con­strained nei­ther by the Con­sti­tu­tion nor, in mean­ing­ful ways, by fed­er­al pri­va­cy statutes. And they are free to engage in just the kind of intru­sive sur­veil­lance that Judge Leon insist­ed was an unrea­son­able search and seizure when con­duct­ed by the N.S.A.

In prac­tice, the neo-Madis­on­ian dis­tinc­tion between sur­veil­lance by the gov­ern­ment and sur­veil­lance by Google makes lit­tle sense. It is true that, as Judge Pauley con­clud­ed, “Peo­ple vol­un­tar­i­ly sur­ren­der per­son­al and seem­ing­ly pri­vate infor­ma­tion to trans-nation­al cor­po­ra­tions which exploit that data for prof­it. Few think twice about it.”

But why? Why is it O.K. for AT&T to know about our polit­i­cal, reli­gious and sex­u­al asso­ci­a­tions, but not the gov­ern­ment? . . .

. . . . That dis­tinc­tion is uncon­vinc­ing. Once data is col­lect­ed by pri­vate par­ties, the gov­ern­ment will inevitably demand access.

More fun­da­men­tal­ly, con­tin­u­ous­ly track­ing my loca­tion, whether by the gov­ern­ment or AT&T, is an affront to my dig­ni­ty. When every step I take on- and off-line is record­ed, so an algo­rithm can pre­dict if I am a poten­tial ter­ror­ist or a poten­tial cus­tomer, I am being objec­ti­fied and stereo­typed, rather than treat­ed as an indi­vid­ual, wor­thy of equal con­cern and respect. . . .

. . . . . . . What Amer­i­cans may now need is a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment to pro­hib­it unrea­son­able search­es and seizures of our per­sons and elec­tron­ic effects, whether by the gov­ern­ment or by pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions like Google and AT&T.

Per­haps even Madi­son, who unsuc­cess­ful­ly pro­posed a pre­am­ble to the Con­sti­tu­tion declar­ing “that all pow­er is orig­i­nal­ly rest­ed in, and con­se­quent­ly derived from the peo­ple,” and that all peo­ple have basic nat­ur­al rights, includ­ing “the enjoy­ment of life and lib­er­ty” and the right of “pur­su­ing and obtain­ing hap­pi­ness and safe­ty,” might have real­ized that our rights to enjoy lib­er­ty, and to obtain hap­pi­ness and safe­ty at the same time, are threat­ened as much by cor­po­rate as gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance.

2. In that same con­text, it is worth not­ing that the qua­si-pop­ulist ide­o­log­i­cal rhetoric sur­round­ing the Pirate Bay embraces a con­flict between two right-wing views. (Pirate Bay and Wik­iLeaks are close­ly linked.)

“The Pirate Bay tri­al Is the Col­li­sion of ‘Can I?’ and ‘Should I?’ Cul­tures” by Andrew Brown; The Guardian; 2/26/2009.

. . . . Their atti­tude of sneer­ing enti­tle­ment towards the gov­ern­ment is all of a piece with their atti­tude towards the big con­tent com­pa­nies. . . .

. . . I know that a lit­tle bit of the rhetoric around The Pirate Bay sounds left­wing – the idea that it is wrong for “inter­na­tional cap­i­tal” to push Swe­den around – but that’s just pop­ulist, and could be found in the rhetoric of the kind of par­ties that Carl Lund­ström has sup­ported too.

The over­whelm­ing impres­sion is of a clash between two rightwing views, one that says it is all right to steal from the state, and one which says it is sin­ful to steal from cor­po­ra­tions. . . .

3a. Wik­iLeaks hack­er Jacob Apple­baum not­ed Google’s capa­bil­i­ties:

“The Amer­i­can Wik­ileaks Hack­er” by Nathaniel Rich; Rolling Stone; 12/01/2010.

. . . . “It’s not just the state,” says Appel­baum. “If it want­ed to, Google could over­throw any coun­try in the world. Google has enough dirt to destroy every mar­riage in Amer­i­ca.”

But doesn’t Google pro­vide fund­ing for Tor?

“I love Google,” he says. “And I love the peo­ple there. Sergey Brin and Lar­ry Page are cool. But I’m ter­ri­fied of the next gen­er­a­tion that takes over. A benev­o­lent dic­ta­tor­ship is still a dic­ta­tor­ship. At some point peo­ple are going to real­ize that Google has every­thing on every­one. Most of all, they can see what ques­tions you’re ask­ing, in real time. Quite lit­er­ally, they can read your mind.” . . . .

3b. In this ongo­ing series about L’Affaire Snow­den, we have dis­cussed the fact that the col­lec­tion of meta­data is rou­tine by Inter­net and cell­phone com­pa­nies, as well as retail out­lets that offer dis­count cards. (The har­vest­ing of meta­data is the focal point of what the NSA does and what lies at the cen­ter of the “con­tro­ver­sy.”)

A recent post by PR Watch notes that Grover Norquist has been among the recip­i­ents of Google mon­ey.

Hav­ing opined that he want­ed to “drown” gov­ern­ment in the “bath­tub,” Norquist is a lynch­pin of the “Shut­down GOP” and the founder of the Islam­ic Free Mar­ket Insti­tute. A syn­the­sis of the GOP and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, the Insti­tute is inex­tri­ca­bly linked with the Oper­a­tion Green Quest inves­ti­ga­tion into ter­ror­ist financ­ing.

Against the back­ground of Google’s financ­ing of Norquist’s cru­sades and oth­er right-wing caus­es, one can but won­der what Google may be doing with the vast amounts of meta­data they har­vest.

“The Googliza­tion of the Far Right: Why is Google Fund­ing Grover Norquist, Her­itage Action and ALEC?” by Nick Surgey; prwatch.org; 11/27/2013.

Google, the tech giant sup­pos­edly guid­ed by its “don’t be evil” mot­to, has been fund­ing a grow­ing list of groups advanc­ing the agen­da of the Koch broth­ers.

Orga­ni­za­tions that received “sub­stan­tial” fund­ing from Google for the first time over the past year include Grover Norquist’s Amer­i­cans for Tax Reform, the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety, the Amer­i­can Con­ser­v­a­tive Union (best known for its CPAC con­fer­ence), and the polit­i­cal arm of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion that led the charge to shut down the gov­ern­ment over the Afford­able Care Act: Her­itage Action . . . .

. . . . More than any oth­er group work­ing to repeal the Afford­able Care Act, Her­itage Action pushed for a sus­tained gov­ern­ment shut­down in the fall of 2013, tak­ing the coun­try to the brink of a poten­tially cat­a­strophic debt default.

Lay­ing the ground for that strat­egy, Her­itage Action held a nine-city “Defund Oba­macare Town Hall Tour” in August 2013, pro­vid­ing a plat­form for Texas Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz to address crowds of cheer­ing tea par­ty sup­port­ers.

For Cruz, increas­ingly spo­ken of as a 2016 Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, the gov­ern­ment shut­down helped raise his pro­file and build his sup­porter — and donor — base.

Notably, Her­itage Action received $500,000 from the Koch-fund­ed and Koch-oper­a­tive staffed Free­dom Part­ners in 2012. It is not yet known how much Her­itage Action received in 2013 from sources oth­er than Google.

Per­haps sur­pris­ingly, Google has a his­tory of sup­port­ing Cruz. Via its Polit­i­cal Action Com­mit­tee – Google Inc. Net PAC – the PAC pro­vided the “Ted Cruz for Sen­ate” cam­paign with a $10,000 con­tri­bu­tion in 2012. Addi­tion­ally, despite being five years out from the fresh­man Senator’s next elec­tion, Google’s PAC has already made a $2,500 con­tri­bu­tion to the Cruz reelec­tion cam­paign for 2018, the largest amount that the PAC has giv­en so far to any Sen­ate can­di­date run­ning that elec­tion year accord­ing to dis­clo­sures made by Google.

Amer­i­cans for Tax Reform (ATR), the anti-gov­ern­ment group run by Repub­li­can oper­a­tive Grover Norquist, was anoth­er new recip­i­ent of fund­ing from Google in 2013. ATR is best known for its “Tax­payer Pro­tec­tion Pledge,” and for its fun­da­men­tal­ist attacks on any Repub­li­can who might dare to vote for any increase in tax­es. Accord­ing to the Cen­ter for Respon­sive Pol­i­tics, ATR received 85% of its fund­ing in 2012 ($26.4 mil­lion) from the ultra-par­ti­san Karl Rove-run Cross­roads GPS, anoth­er dark mon­ey group.

ATR Pres­i­dent Grover Norquist infa­mously said that he wants to shrink gov­ern­ment “down to the size where we can drown it in the bath­tub.” Google’s posi­tion on the rel­a­tive size of gov­ern­ment ver­sus bath­tubs is not known, but accord­ing to a Bloomberg analy­sis of Google’s U.S. cor­po­rate fil­ings, it avoids approx­i­mately $2 bil­lion dol­lars glob­ally in tax pay­ments each year through the use of cre­ative tax shel­ters. . . .

4. A new “app” for Apple’s Iphone per­mits retail out­lets to mon­i­tor customers–effectively tak­ing those peo­ple under sur­veil­lance.

“Pri­va­cy Advo­cates Wor­ry over New Apple iPhone Track­ing Fea­ture” by Aaron Press­man [The Exchange]; Yahoo News; 1/10/2014. 

Bare­ly noticed by most con­sumers, Apple’s (AAPL) lat­est soft­ware upgrade for iPhones, iOS 7, includ­ed a capa­bil­i­ty for malls, muse­ums or sta­di­ums to iden­ti­fy vis­i­tors and track their move­ments indoors with a star­tling degree of accu­ra­cy.

Known as iBea­cons, the fea­ture allows a store to pop up, say, a coupon offer for Coca Cola on a customer’s phone just as they pass by the soda aisle. It also allows the store to track and record a customer’s move­ments for lat­er analy­sis.

The rapid growth of smart­phone use has opened a huge new oppor­tu­ni­ty for mar­keters to col­lect detailed loca­tion data on con­sumers, so far most­ly out­doors. But the sen­si­tiv­i­ty of the infor­ma­tion has already sparked numer­ous con­tro­ver­sies, includ­ing in 2011 when iPhone users dis­cov­ered their phones were keep­ing a list of their move­ments in an unen­crypt­ed text file.

And Nord­strom (JWN) cre­at­ed a stir when it was caught last year secret­ly track­ing shop­pers’ mobile phones via Wifi in 17 stores. The depart­ment store chain quick­ly end­ed the prac­tice, which did not include iden­ti­fy­ing the phones’ own­ers, after the con­tro­ver­sy erupt­ed.

With iBea­cons, unlike some more-sur­rep­ti­tious retail loca­tion track­ing sys­tems that have come to light, how­ev­er, iPhone users have to give their con­sent to be tracked by installing an app. So far, just Apple’s own Apple Store app on the iPhone, and coupon and rewards apps from a com­pa­ny called inMar­ket have dis­closed they will use iBea­cons for track­ing cus­tomers.

The scope of risks

But some pri­va­cy advo­cates are con­cerned the sim­ple expla­na­tions offered by the apps when they seek a consumer’s con­sent don’t come close to reveal­ing just how much data could be col­lect­ed or how it will be used.

“The scope and the risks and the shar­ing that takes place now is so far beyond the dis­clo­sures con­sumers typ­i­cal­ly see,” warns Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty law pro­fes­sor Joel Rei­den­berg. “They’re not in a posi­tion to real­ly know.” . . . .

5. As we con­tem­plate the integri­ty of high-tech cor­po­ra­tions, note this arti­cle about monop­o­lis­tic prac­tices by Sil­i­con Val­ley high-tech com­pa­nies. Are these enti­ties trust­wor­thy? Do you trust them with your per­son­al infor­ma­tion?

“The Tech­to­pus: How Sil­i­con Valley’s Most Cel­e­brated CEOs Con­spired to Dri­ve Down 100,000 Tech Engi­neers’ Wages” by Mark Ames; Pan­do­Daily; 1/23/2014.

In ear­ly 2005, as demand for Sil­i­con Val­ley engi­neers began boom­ingApple’s Steve Jobs sealed a secret and ille­gal pact with Google’s Eric Schmidt to arti­fi­cially push their work­ers wages low­er by agree­ing not to recruit each other’s employ­ees, shar­ing wage scale infor­ma­tion, and pun­ish­ing vio­la­tors. On Feb­ru­ary 27, 2005, Bill Camp­bell, a mem­ber of Apple’s board of direc­tors and senior advi­sor to Google, emailed Jobs to con­firm that Eric Schmidt “got direct­ly involved and firm­ly stopped all efforts to recruit any­one from Apple.”

Lat­er that year, Schmidt instruct­ed his Sr VP for Busi­ness Oper­a­tion Shona Brown to keep the pact a secret and only share infor­ma­tion “ver­bally, since I don’t want to cre­ate a paper trail over which we can be sued lat­er?”

These secret con­ver­sa­tions and agree­ments between some of the biggest names in Sil­i­con Val­ley were first exposed in a Depart­ment of Jus­tice antitrust inves­ti­ga­tion launched by the Oba­ma Admin­is­tra­tion in 2010. That DOJ suit became the basis of a class action law­suit filed on behalf of over 100,000 tech employ­ees whose wages were arti­fi­cially low­ered — an esti­mated $9 bil­lion effec­tively stolen by the high-fly­ing com­pa­nies from their work­ers to pad com­pany earn­ings — in the sec­ond half of the 2000s. Last week, the 9th Cir­cuit Court of Appeals denied attempts by Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe to have the law­suit tossed, and gave final approval for the class action suit to go for­ward. A jury tri­al date has been set for May 27 in San Jose, before US Dis­trict Court judge Lucy Koh, who presided over the Sam­sung-Apple patent suit.

In a relat­ed but sep­a­rate inves­ti­ga­tion and ongo­ing suit, eBay and its for­mer CEO Meg Whit­man, now CEO of HP, are being sued by both the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and the state of Cal­i­for­nia for arrang­ing a sim­i­lar, secret wage-theft agree­ment with Intu­it (and pos­si­bly Google as well) dur­ing the same peri­od.

The secret wage-theft agree­ments between Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Intu­it, and Pixar (now owned by Dis­ney) are described in court papers obtained by Pan­do­Daily as “an over­ar­ch­ing con­spir­acy” in vio­la­tion of the Sher­man Antitrust Act and the Clay­ton Antitrust Act, and at times it reads like some­thing lift­ed straight out of the rob­ber baron era that pro­duced those laws. Today’s inequal­ity cri­sis is America’sworst on record since sta­tis­tics were first record­ed a hun­dred years ago — the only com­par­i­son would be to the era of the rail­road tycoons in the late 19th cen­tu­ry.

Short­ly after seal­ing the pact with Google, Jobs strong-armed Adobe into join­ing after he com­plained to CEO Bruce Chizen that Adobe was recruit­ing Apple’s employ­ees. . . .

6. Bill Moy­ers has not­ed the sort of oppres­sive behav­ior that cor­proa­t­ions are capa­ble of man­i­fest­ing.

“You Won’t Believe How One Chem­i­cal Com­pany Tried to Dis­credit a Scientist’s Research”; BillMoyers.com; 2/10/2014.

Rachel Aviv has a report­ed piece in The New York­er that reads like pulp fic­tion. She tells the tale of a sci­en­tist who dis­cov­ered that a pop­u­lar her­bi­cide may have harm­ful effects on the endocrine sys­tem. As he con­tin­ued to inves­ti­gate the mat­ter, he came to believe that the chemical’s man­u­fac­turer was out to get him. He thought they were fol­low­ing him to con­fer­ences, tap­ping his phones and sys­tem­at­i­cally try­ing to dri­ve a wedge between him and the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity. Many of his col­leagues believed that he was para­noid until a law­suit yield­ed a slew of inter­nal cor­po­rate doc­u­ments show­ing that every­thing he imag­ined the com­pany had been doing to dis­credit his work had in fact been true.

As Kath­leen Geier put it for the Wash­ing­ton Month­ly, “This sto­ry reads like your most para­noid, far-out con­spir­a­to­r­ial left-wing night­mare come true.” . . .

7. In an inter­view with USA Today, for­mer NSA chief Michael Hay­den urged the rejec­tion of an advi­sory panel’s sug­ges­tions con­cern­ing the NSA.

He not­ed that meta­data would be far more secure with NSA than with inter­net and/or telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies and/or “third par­ties.” (Such stor­age was among the rec­om­men­da­tions of the pan­el.)

Hayden’s point is very well tak­en. In a future episode of “The Adven­tures of Eddie the Friend­ly Spook,” we will dis­cuss the “pub­lic ver­sus pri­vate” dynam­ic at play here.

Hay­den also notes that the Fourth Amend­ment is not an inter­na­tional treaty. It does not, and nev­er has, applied to U.S. cit­i­zens.

“For­mer NSA Chief: Reject Pro­pos­als” by Susan Page; USA Today; 12/31/2013; p. 4A.

In the inter­view with USA Today’s week­ly video news­maker series. Hay­den:

  • Said the vast data on Amer­i­cans phone records are “far safer and pri­vacy is far more secured with NSA hold­ing the data than some third par­ty.” The com­mis­sion rec­om­mended that the phone com­pa­nies or a third par­ty take over stor­ing the data.” . . . .
  • . . . . Ridiculed a pro­posal to increase pro­tec­tions for per­sonal data about non-cit­i­zens abroad. “The Fourth Amend­ment to our Con­sti­tu­tion is not an inter­na­tional treaty,” he said. For those who aren’t cov­ered by its pro­tec­tions, he said, “if your com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­tain infor­ma­tion that make Amer­i­cans more safe and more free, game on.”

8. Michael del Castil­lo takes stock of the pos­si­biltiy that Palan­tir might become the repos­i­to­ry for the meta­da­ta. We ana­lyzed Palan­tir in FTR #757. Palan­tir’s largest stock hold­er is Peter Thiel, whom we ana­lyzed in FTR #718–In Your Face­book: A Vir­tu­al Panop­ti­con?

“Who will be Obama’s ‘Third Par­ty?’” by Michael del Castil­lo; Upstart Busi­ness Jour­nal; 1/21/2014.

The UpTake: Cit­i­zens of the world who were tired of how much of their per­sonal data the U.S. gov­ern­ment con­trolled may soon have to get used to a dif­fer­ent dilem­ma: That same infor­ma­tion being con­trolled by a pri­vate com­pa­ny.

There’s a start­up in the rafters that’s just been wait­ing for this moment.

Last Fri­day, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma announcedsweep­ing changes to the way the gov­ern­ment stores and ana­lyzes infor­ma­tion about tele­phone calls both in the Unit­ed States and around the world.

Though he [Oba­ma] made it very clear that the Nation­al Secu­rity Agency will soon cease keep­ing a store of all those ones and zeros, he left his options open as to whether the new gate­keep­ers will be the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies them­selves, or some mys­te­ri­ous “third par­ty.”

From the moment he said those two words I couldn’t get one word out of my head: Palan­tir.

Cofound­ed in 2004 by Pay­Pal cofounder Peter Thiel, who is also an investor through his Founders Fund ven­ture cap­i­tal firm, the Palo Alto, Cal­i­for­nia-based com­pany that raised $605 mil­lion in ven­ture cap­i­tal accord­ingto Crunch­base, took its seed round of fund­ing from In-Q-Tel, the ven­ture cap­i­tal branch of the U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty.


Since then, Palantir’s tech­nol­ogy, which the Times called “the most effec­tive tool to date to inves­ti­gate ter­ror­ist net­works,” has been used to “detect and elim­i­nate sophis­ti­cated crim­i­nal activ­ity,” to “har­ness mas­sive-scale cyber data to under­stand net­work activ­ity, lim­it expo­sure and hard­en secu­rity against cyber secu­rity threats,” and to “effi­ciently, effec­tively, and secure­ly exploit and ana­lyze data to dri­ve more informed oper­a­tion of plan­ning and strate­gic deci­sion mak­ing,” accord­ing to the company’s own site.

With employ­ees like for­mer CIA and FBI “coun­tert­er­ror­ist” Nada Nadim Prouty, who served the gov­ern­ment until it was dis­cov­eredshe wasn’t in the coun­try legal­ly, for­mer U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Glenn Nye, and for­mer U.S. ambas­sador to Greece and Belarus Daniel Speck­hard all list­ed as cur­rent employ­ees of Palan­tir on LinkedIn, the com­pany would like­ly have few prob­lems serv­ing as a bridge between the pri­vate sec­tor and the pub­lic.

But what per­haps makes Palan­tir most inter­est­ing as a poten­tial “third par­ty” to hold the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions industry’s meta­data is the company’s founders’ stat­ed lib­er­tar­ian lean­ings.


Palantir’s biggest rival, I2, was acquired by IBM in 2011, leav­ing pri­vate defense con­trac­tors and a hand­ful of oth­er In-Q-Tel-fund­ed big data star­tups as what we con­sider top con­tenders for the “third par­ty” posi­tion.

Unless of course, the gov­ern­ment (and those who elect­ed the gov­ern­ment) don’t mind hav­ing IBM or anoth­er mas­sive con­glom­er­ate hold­ing onto their pri­vate data.

Either way, some com­pany, or group of com­pa­nies, is about to take cen­ter stage in the pri­vacy debate in a pret­ty big way.

Per­haps the sin­gle most impor­tant ques­tion in the entire debate is this: Who would we real­ly pre­fer holds onto all that meta­data that paints a per­sonal pic­ture of our lives, but can also be used to pro­tect us? The gov­ern­ment, the phone com­pa­nies, old-school big data firms, or a new­by to the game with some seri­ous start­up cred?

We reached out to Palan­tir for com­ment and will keep you post­ed as we learn more.

9. With regard to due legal process and judi­cial over­sight, WHAT court of judi­cial body autho­rized Edward Snow­den or Bradley Man­ning to do what they did? They are NOT whistle­blow­ers! They used web-crawl­ing tech­nol­o­gy to vac­u­um a num­ber of files far too volu­mi­nous for them to have read. Who autho­rized THEM to do what they did?

What judi­cial author­i­ty over­sees who gets that infor­ma­tion or what is done with that!

“Snow­den Used Low-Cost Tool to Best N.S.A.” by David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt; The New York Times; 2/8/2014.

Intel­li­gence offi­cials inves­ti­gat­ing how Edward J. Snow­den gained access to a huge trove of the country’s most high­ly clas­si­fied doc­u­ments say they have deter­mined that he used inex­pen­sive and wide­ly avail­able soft­ware to “scrape” the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency’s net­works, and kept at it even after he was briefly chal­lenged by agency offi­cials.

Using “web crawler” soft­ware designed to search, index and back up a web­site, Mr. Snow­den “scraped data out of our sys­tems” while he went about his day job, accord­ing to a senior intel­li­gence offi­cial. “We do not believe this was an indi­vid­ual sit­ting at a machine and down­load­ing this much mate­r­i­al in sequence,” the offi­cial said. The process, he added, was “quite auto­mat­ed.” . . . .

. . . . Sim­i­lar tech­niques were used by Chelsea Man­ning, then known as Pfc. Bradley Man­ning, who was con­vict­ed of turn­ing doc­u­ments and videos over to Wik­iLeaks in 2010. . . .

10. John Young, an orig­i­nal Wik­iLeaks founder, on why he broke with the group:

Again, what judi­cial or governmental/civic author­i­ty has sanc­tioned Wik­iLeaks’ activ­i­ties?

“Wik­ileaks’ Estranged Co-Founder Becomes a Crit­ic (Q&A)” by Declan McCul­lagh; C/Net; 7/20/2010.

“. . . they’re act­ing like a cult. They’re act­ing like a reli­gion. They’re act­ing like a gov­ern­ment. They’re act­ing like a bunch of spies. They’re hid­ing their iden­tity. They don’t account for the mon­ey. They promise all sorts of good things. They sel­dom let you know what they’re real­ly up to. . . There was sus­pi­cion from day one that this was entrap­ment run by some­one unknown to suck a num­ber of peo­ple into a trap. So we actu­ally don’t know. But it’s cer­tainly a stan­dard coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence tech­nique. . . .” 

11. Wik­iLeaks is part­nered with the Russ­ian “phish­ing mafia”–sophisticated inter­net crim­i­nals who dat­a­mine for crim­i­nal pur­pos­es.

Note, also, the enor­mous body of infor­ma­tion that Assange claims he has amassed. What judi­cial or gov­ern­men­tal author­i­ty has sanc­tioned Wik­iLeaks to uti­lize this infor­ma­tion?

Notice in the fol­low­ing pas­sage how much data Wik­iLeaks seems to have. Do YOU trust them with that infor­ma­tion? What court autho­riza­tion do they have to amass so much data about so many peo­ple?


To: John Young
From: Wik­ileaks
Sub­ject: martha stu­art pgp
Date: Sun, 7 Jan 2007 12:20:25 –0500

J. We are going to fuck them all. Chi­nese most­ly, but not entire­ly a feint. Inven­tion abounds. Lies, twists and dis­torts every­where need­ed for pro­tec­tion. Hack­ers mon­i­tor Chi­nese and oth­er intel as they bur­row into their tar­gets, when they pull, so do we.

Inex­haustible sup­ply of mate­r­ial. Near 100,000 documents/emails a day. [Ital­ics are mine–D.E.] We’re going to crack the world open and let it flower into some­thing new. If fleec­ing the CIA will assist us, then fleece we will. We have pull­backs from NED, CFR, Free­dom­house and oth­er CIA teats. We have all of pre 2005 Afghanistan. Almost all of India fed. Half a dozen for­eign min­istries. Dozens of polit­i­cal par­ties and con­sulates, World­bank, apec, UN sec­tions, trade groups, Tibet and Fulan Dafa asso­ci­a­tions and… Russ­ian phish­ing mafia who pull data every­where. We’re drown­ing. We don’t even know a tenth of what we have or who it belongs to. We stopped stor­ing it at 1Tb.” . . . .

12. More about the ele­ment of Russ­ian orga­nized crime involved with WikiLeaks–what Assange in an inter­view called “Russ­ian phish­ing mafia.” In what may be a log­i­cal devel­op­ment from Wik­iLeaks’ part­ner­ship with the “phish­ers,” a Russ­ian mafia data theft con­sor­tium is host­ing their OWN wik­iLeaks! And Assange and co are appar­ently not com­ment­ing on it or doing any­thing to redi­rect those look­ing for the “Real” Wik­iLeaks to the right sites.

“Wik­iLeaks Mir­ror Mal­ware Warn­ing” by Quentin Jenk­ins; Spamhaus; 12/14/2010.

...Spamhaus has for over a year regard­ed Hei­hachi as an out­fit run ‘by crim­i­nals for crim­i­nals’ in the same mould as the crim­i­nal Est­do­mains. The Pana­ma-reg­is­tered but Russ­ian-run heihachi.net is high­ly involved in bot­net com­mand and con­trol and the host­ing of Russ­ian cyber­crime. We also note that the con­tent at mirror.wikileaks.info is rather unlike what’s at the real Wik­ileaks mir­rors which sug­gests that the wikileaks.info site may not be under the con­trol of Wik­ileaks itself, but rather some oth­er group. You can find the real site at wikileaks.ch, wikileaks.is, wikileaks.nl, and many oth­er mir­ror sites around the world.

...Cur­rently wikileaks.info is serv­ing leaked doc­u­ments to the world, from a serv­er con­trolled by Russ­ian cyber­crim­i­nals, to an audi­ence that faith­fully believes any­thing with a ‘Wik­ileaks’ logo on it. That has got to send shiv­ers down the spines of ratio­nal minds.

...In a state­ment released today on wikileaks.info enti­tled “Spamhaus’ False Alle­ga­tions Against wikileaks.info”, the per­son run­ning the wikileaks.info site (which is not con­nected with Julian Assange or the real Wik­ileaks orga­ni­za­tion) called Spamhaus’s infor­ma­tion on his cyber­crime host “false” and “none of our busi­ness” and called on peo­ple to con­tact Spamhaus and “voice your opin­ion”. Con­se­quently Spamhaus has now received a num­ber of emails some ask­ing if we “want to be next”, some telling us to stop black­list­ing Wik­ileaks (obvi­ously they don’t under­stand that we nev­er did) and oth­ers claim­ing we are “a pawn of US Gov­ern­ment Agen­cies”.

...Few of the peo­ple who con­tacted us realised that the ‘press release’ they had read was not writ­ten by Wik­ileaks and not issued by Wik­ileaks — but by the wikileaks.info site only — the very site we are warn­ing about (which by no coin­ci­dence is host­ed on the same Russ­ian based cyber­crime-run heihachi.net serv­er as irc.anonops.net). Many peo­ple thought that the “press release” was issued “by Wik­ileaks”. In fact there has been no press release about this by Wik­ileaks and none of the offi­cial Wik­ileaks mir­rors sites even recog­nise the wikileaks.info mir­ror. We won­der how long it will be before Wik­ileaks sup­port­ers wake up and start to ques­tion why wikileaks.info is not on the list of real Wik­ileaks mir­rors at wikileaks.ch.

... Spamhaus con­tin­ues to warn Wik­ileaks read­ers to make sure they are view­ing and down­load­ing doc­u­ments only from an offi­cial Wik­ileaks mir­ror site. Mean­while, despite many attempts to con­tact the real Wik­ileaks, there has been no word from Wik­ileaks itself. . . .



10 comments for “FTR #774 The Adventures of Eddie the Friendly Spook, Part 14: The Corporate Connections and the Public vs. Private Dynamic”

  1. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss but with addi­tion­al NSA-like capa­bil­i­ties:

    Feb­ru­ary 17, 2014 6:18 pm
    Data pio­neers watch­ing us work

    By Han­nah Kuch­ler

    In a back street in San Francisco’s start-up dom­i­nat­ed SoMa dis­trict, a rapid­ly grow­ing busi­ness is busy study­ing how mil­lions of employ­ees behave each day. Its com­put­ers know in real time why a work­er was hired, how pro­duc­tive they are and can even fol­low them as they move to a new job.

    Evolv is a leader in the nascent Quan­ti­fied Work­place move­ment, where big data ana­lyt­ics com­pa­nies are spring­ing up to mea­sure how we work. “Every week we fig­ure out more things to track,” says Max Simkoff, Evolv’s co-founder and chief exec­u­tive, who claims it can help improve pro­duc­tiv­i­ty by at least 5 per cent in two-thirds of jobs.

    More than half of human resources depart­ments around the world report an increase in the use of data ana­lyt­ics com­pared with three years ago, accord­ing to a recent sur­vey by the Econ­o­mist Intel­li­gence Unit. But many employ­ees are still bliss­ful­ly unaware of how infor­ma­tion they may deem pri­vate is being analysed by their man­agers.

    For its part, Evolv analy­ses more than half a bil­lion “employ­ee data points” from across 13 coun­tries, seek­ing to iden­ti­fy pat­terns across com­pa­nies and indus­tries. These data points range from how often employ­ees inter­act with their super­vi­sor to how long it takes a work­er to get to the office.

    Evolv’s clients use them to help guide their hir­ing deci­sions, as well as to eval­u­ate an employee’s per­for­mance through­out his or her career.

    The com­pa­ny has so far focused on cus­tomer-fac­ing indus­tries such as retail­ers and call cen­tres. One client is Kel­ly, an employ­ment agency. It says it has seen a 7 per cent improve­ment in employ­ee effi­cien­cy across the board by incor­po­rat­ing Evolv’s insights into its hir­ing pol­i­cy.

    Novo1, a US com­pa­ny that runs cus­tomer call cen­tres and has more than 2,000 employ­ees, iden­ti­fied the char­ac­ter­is­tics of its most suc­cess­ful call oper­a­tors and hired more peo­ple like them. This cut job inter­views down to 12 min­utes from an hour, reduced aver­age call time by a minute and slashed attri­tion by 39 per cent.

    Anoth­er pio­neer­ing out­fit is Socio­met­ric Solu­tions, which puts sen­sors in name badges to dis­cov­er social dynam­ics at work. The badges mon­i­tor how employ­ees move around the work­place, who they talk to and in what tone of voice.

    One client, Bank of Amer­i­ca, dis­cov­ered that its more pro­duc­tive work­ers were those allowed to take their breaks togeth­er, in which they let off steam and shared tips about deal­ing with frus­trat­ed cus­tomers.

    The bank took heed and switched to col­lec­tive breaks, after which per­for­mance improved 23 per cent and the amount of stress in work­ers’ voic­es fell 19 per cent.

    Ben Waber, Socio­met­ric Solu­tions co-founder and chief exec­u­tive, thinks the badges can be deployed far beyond sales and cus­tomer ser­vice. He sees big oppor­tu­ni­ties in phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, for instance, where pro­duc­tiv­i­ty is hard to mea­sure because new drugs might emerge only once in a decade: “The rest of the time, they have no idea.”

    Anoth­er com­pa­ny, Steel­case, which puts sen­sors in office fur­ni­ture and build­ings to see how work­ers inter­act, thinks the real oppor­tu­ni­ty for work­place mon­i­tor­ing is far from the call-cen­tre floor – in opaque cre­ative depart­ments and even board­rooms, where time is espe­cial­ly pre­cious.

    David Lath­rop, its direc­tor of research and strat­e­gy, says the sen­sors are now so cheap they can be put “prac­ti­cal­ly every­where”, argu­ing that employ­ees could ben­e­fit by track­ing their own per­for­mance.

    Improv­ing the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of top exec­u­tives “has a dis­pro­por­tion­ate effect on the com­pa­ny”, he adds.


    Lew Malt­by, pres­i­dent of the US Nation­al Workrights Insti­tute, says elec­tron­ic mon­i­tor­ing could be a “very valu­able tool” for employ­ers, by pro­vid­ing evi­dence for sex­u­al harass­ment suits or assess­ing pro­duc­tiv­i­ty in data entry jobs, for exam­ple.

    But he says most employ­ees “haven’t got a clue” about the extent to which their emails are already mon­i­tored, or about the infor­ma­tion their employ­er can access from their work com­put­er and smart­phone.

    Employ­ees may have lit­tle in the way of legal grounds for chal­leng­ing an exten­sion of this data gath­er­ing. He says there was a spate of legal cas­es in the US a few years ago about the mon­i­tor­ing of work com­put­ers and employ­ees lost every one of them.

    “No employ­ee has ever won an in­vasion of pri­va­cy case based on an employ­er mon­i­tor­ing their com­put­er,” he says.

    Even those who are involved in the grow­ing indus­try believe there needs to be more dis­cus­sion about when and how the data are used. Pro­fes­sor Andrew Knight from Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty in St Louis works with data from both Evolv and Socio­met­ric Solu­tions to study work­place behav­iour.

    But he thinks con­stant mon­i­tor­ing is a “scary image for the future” that could “remove some of the authen­tic­i­ty of those [work­place] rela­tion­ships”.


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 18, 2014, 2:36 pm
  2. Who is more like­ly to cause you harm? The NSA or any­body or every­body else?

    “Crowd­pi­lot’ app lets strangers LISTEN to your PHONE CALLS”


    “The NSA isn’t the only ones capa­ble of tap­ping phone calls any­more thanks to a new smart­phone app called ‘Crowd­pi­lot,’ which could poten­tial­ly let any­one lis­ten in on your calls with­out your knowl­edge.”

    Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2014/02/20/crowdpilot-app-lets-strangers-listen-to-your-phone-calls/#ixzz2txy0tnPN

    Posted by GK | February 21, 2014, 6:22 am
  3. Pri­va­cy advo­cates should prob­a­bly take note of this: We’re learn­ing more about why the Koch broth­ers recent­ly bought Molex for $7.2 bil­lion. They want to be key play­ers in the ‘inter­net of every­thing’:

    Feb 28, 2014, 5:00am CST
    Charles Koch: busi­ness giant, bogey­man, bene­fac­tor and elu­sive (until now) — exclu­sive inter­view
    Daniel McCoy
    Reporter- Wichi­ta Busi­ness Jour­nal

    Charles Koch.

    To the Amer­i­can busi­ness world, he’s a giant — head of the nation’s sec­ond largest pri­vate com­pa­ny.

    To the polit­i­cal world, he is, by turns, the country’s No. 1 bogey­man and bene­fac­tor.

    To Wichi­ta, he is the Wiz­ard of Oz — ever-present yet rarely seen, influ­en­tial but invis­i­ble.

    To the media, and by exten­sion the pub­lic, Charles Koch is elu­sive and inscrutable.

    Until now.

    In a rare extend­ed inter­view with the Wichi­ta Busi­ness Jour­nal, Koch spoke expan­sive­ly with Edi­tor in Chief Bill Roy and Reporter Daniel McCoy, explain­ing in detail his polit­i­cal con­vic­tions, his involve­ment in Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty and his dis­dain for what he calls ram­pant crony­ism.

    He crit­i­cizes busi­ness lead­ers who say they believe in a free-mar­ket sys­tem, but do their best to manip­u­late that sys­tem by work­ing to impose reg­u­la­tions on their com­peti­tors or going for “smash and grab, short-term prof­its.”

    Koch says he’s used to being on the receiv­ing end of crit­i­cism and name call­ing, but he’s hop­ing that the coun­try can get to a point of civ­il dis­course.

    Koch also dis­cussed his com­mit­ment to Wichi­ta, his expand­ing inter­est in elec­tron­ics and biotech­nol­o­gy and where those inter­ests may take his beloved Koch Indus­tries, where he became CEO 47 years ago.

    We met with Charles Koch in his office Feb. 18, 2014.

    (Koch Indus­tries is adding a new 210,000-square-foot build­ing on its cam­pus.) What does the local expan­sion mean for your oper­a­tions here in Wichi­ta?

    It main­ly keeps all our peo­ple in Wichi­ta on the same cam­pus, so it improves com­mu­ni­ca­tions, col­lab­o­ra­tion, coop­er­a­tion. We’re full now, so this will give us capac­i­ty for about 750 peo­ple. That should hold us for anoth­er cou­ple of years.


    What is the short-term and long-term val­ue of the Molex pur­chase for Koch Indus­tries?

    Short term, they are way ahead of us in trans­form­ing their busi­ness process­es to ful­ly incor­po­rate infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy. For exam­ple, know­ing where there prod­ucts are, being tied in to their cus­tomers on their inven­to­ry — what their needs are, how they’re chang­ing — and we try very hard to do that on a per­son­al lev­el. But we’re not up to where they are in hav­ing infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy real­ly guide all aspects of our busi­ness. So that’s the first thing we’re doing. We’re bring­ing peo­ple in from there over to lead that effort in get­ting us caught up through­out Koch Indus­tries. We have some busi­ness­es that are pret­ty far along, some are quite behind. So they’ve got a big job here to do that. That’s the short-term how they can help us. Then how we can help them, as a pub­lic com­pa­ny with lim­it­ed cap­i­tal they did very lit­tle in acqui­si­tions. So they need help in busi­ness devel­op­ment. We’re sup­ply­ing that capa­bil­i­ty to them to inte­grate that with their busi­ness­es. Then, real­ly broad­en­ing their vision. I would say they have (some) par­tic­u­lar­ly out­stand­ing capa­bil­i­ties. One is in con­nec­tors, anoth­er is in cables, and anoth­er is in microtech­nol­o­gy. And anoth­er is inno­va­tion. The life­cy­cle in their prod­ucts is typ­i­cal­ly two to sev­en or eight years. They can’t fool around with inno­va­tion. They’ve got to get an idea built and com­mer­cial­ized imme­di­ate­ly. And some of our stuff takes too long. We have a lot of great inno­va­tion, but we don’t have the sense of urgency through our orga­ni­za­tion or the sys­tems to dri­ve it as quick­ly as they do. That’s anoth­er thing we can learn from them. And then anoth­er thing, they make so many parts. If we’re mak­ing cas­es of toi­let paper we may make a few mil­lion. But they make bil­lions (of parts). So high-speed pro­duc­tion is anoth­er capa­bil­i­ty. Then anoth­er one that we’re adding for them is eco­nom­ic think­ing. All the dif­fer­ent busi­ness­es and dif­fer­ent options we’ve had, that’s been one of my cen­tral inter­ests going back 50 years and some­thing that we’ve real­ly devel­oped. So that’s one they’re look­ing for­ward to. How to do Mar­shall Analy­sis bet­ter, how to under­stand the prof­itabil­i­ty, under­stand oppor­tu­ni­ty costs, under­stand those things much bet­ter.

    Then longer term, and this is what I think if we can pull it off is the home run, and that’s the Inter­net of every­thing. And this is part of broad­en­ing their vision, which they real­ly couldn’t do as a rel­a­tive­ly small, pub­lic com­pa­ny with their lim­it­ed resources. That’s to take their base capa­bil­i­ties, find oth­ers, either through acqui­si­tions, or a com­bi­na­tion of acqui­si­tions and inter­nal devel­op­ment, and be able to cre­ate sys­tems that will bring prod­ucts and process­es alive. The Inter­net of things is cre­at­ing things that learn. One of the things we’ll be doing is hav­ing their peo­ple that are best at these kinds of sys­tems vis­it our plants — here’s how to have your equip­ment tell you when it needs main­te­nance bet­ter, and tell you when it’s not being ful­ly opti­mized and re-opti­mize itself. Guardian is doing this with glass. You tell it what tem­per­a­ture you want, how much light you want to come through, and it will auto­mat­i­cal­ly change. Or how do you build a com­put­er right into your mir­ror so that you just touch it and get ... what­ev­er? There is a lot of this out there, and there is so much more that can be done. We think the future is smart every­thing. We believe the com­bi­na­tion of their capa­bil­i­ties and what we’re try­ing to do, I mean, the sky is the lim­it. It’s real­ly excit­ing. And what that will do for peo­ples’ lives, what it will do for the stan­dard of liv­ing for every­body ... And then as you learn, the learn­ing curve is so steep, it gets cheap­er and cheap­er so vir­tu­al­ly every­body can afford it.


    Yep, con­sumer prod­ucts giant Koch Indus­tries wants to invest heav­i­ly in smart prod­ucts that learn that will also, pre­sum­ably, be con­nect­ed to the inter­net. Smart prod­ucts like com­put­ers in our mir­rors. Sounds ide­al!

    Actu­al­ly, upon reflec­tion, smart mir­rors hooked up to the inter­net may not be very ide­al.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 1, 2014, 7:15 pm
  4. License plate scan­ning: it’s real world meta-data float­ing around in the pub­lic sphere that’s not in any way encrypt­ed:

    Beta Boston
    A vast hid­den sur­veil­lance net­work runs across Amer­i­ca, pow­ered by the repo indus­try
    Shawn Mus­grave
    Big Data is Watch­ing
    Shawn Mus­grave 3/5/2014

    Few notice the “spot­ter car” from Man­ny Sousa’s repo com­pa­ny as it scours Mass­a­chu­setts park­ing lots, look­ing for vehi­cles whose own­ers have default­ed on their loans. Sousa’s unmarked car is part of a tech­no­log­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion that goes well beyond the repos­ses­sion busi­ness, trans­form­ing any ­indus­try that wants to check on the where­abouts of ordi­nary peo­ple.

    An auto­mat­ed read­er attached to the spot­ter car takes a pic­ture of every ­license plate it pass­es and sends it to a com­pa­ny in Texas that already has more than 1.8 bil­lion plate scans from vehi­cles across the coun­try.

    These scans mean big mon­ey for Sousa — typ­i­cal­ly $200 to $400 every time the spot­ter finds a vehi­cle that’s stolen or in default — so he runs his spot­ter around the clock, typ­i­cal­ly adding 8,000 plate scans to the data­base in Texas each day.

    “Hon­est­ly, we’ve found ran­dom apart­ment com­plex­es and shop­ping ­plazas that are sweet spots” where the com­pa­ny can impound mul­ti­ple vehi­cles, explains Sousa, the pres­i­dent of New Eng­land Asso­ciates Inc. in Bridge­wa­ter.

    But the most sig­nif­i­cant impact of Sousa’s busi­ness is far big­ger than locat­ing cars whose own­ers have default­ed on loans: It is the grow­ing data­base of snap­shots show­ing where Amer­i­cans were at spe­cif­ic times, infor­ma­tion that every­one from pri­vate detec­tives to ­insur­ers are will­ing to pay for.

    While pub­lic debate about the license read­ing tech­nol­o­gy has cen­tered on how police should use it, busi­ness has eager­ly adopt­ed the $10,000 to $17,000 scan­ners with remark­ably few lim­its.

    At least 10 repos­ses­sion com­pa­nies in Mass­a­chu­setts say they mount the scan­ners on spot­ter cars or tow trucks, and Dig­i­tal Recog­ni­tion Net­work of Fort Worth, Texas, claims to col­lect plate scans of 40 per­cent of all US vehi­cles annu­al­ly.

    Today, a leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee in Boston is sched­uled to hold a hear­ing on a bill that would ban most uses of license plate read­ers, includ­ing the vehi­cle repos­ses­sion busi­ness, mak­ing excep­tions only for law enforce­ment, toll col­lec­tion, and park­ing reg­u­la­tion.

    “We have tech­nol­o­gy rapid­ly mov­ing ahead in terms of its abil­i­ty to gath­er infor­ma­tion about peo­ple,” said state Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jonathan Hecht, a Water­town Demo­c­rat who filed the bill, “We need to have a con­ver­sa­tion about how to bal­ance ­legit­i­mate uses of this tech­nol­o­gy with pro­tect­ing people’s ­legit­i­mate expec­ta­tion of pri­va­cy.”

    But Dig­i­tal Recog­ni­tion and oth­er so-called “data bro­kers” who col­lect plate scans are fight­ing Hecht’s bill, argu­ing that repo agents are not invad­ing pri­va­cy when they scan a ­license plate, which is avail­able for all to see. The data bro­kers do not dis­close the own­er of the plates, they point out, though cus­tomers such as banks, insur­ers, and pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tors have ready access to that infor­ma­tion.

    Bri­an Shock­ley — vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing at Vig­i­lant, cor­po­rate par­ent of Dig­i­tal Recog­ni­tion — plans to warn leg­is­la­tors that Mass­a­chu­setts risks get­ting left behind in the use of a new tool that helps fight crime.

    “I fear that the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion would essen­tial­ly cre­ate a safe haven in the Com­mon­wealth for cer­tain types of crim­i­nals, it would reduce the safe­ty of our offi­cers, and it could ulti­mate­ly result in lives lost,” Shock­ley is sched­uled to say in tes­ti­mo­ny pre­pared for the hear­ing before the Joint Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee.

    License plate scan­ning tech­nol­o­gy has been around for ­decades — the British police orig­i­nal­ly adopt­ed it in the 1970s to track the Irish Repub­li­can Army mem­bers — but it only came into wide use in the last decade as cheap­er but high­ly effec­tive mod­els became avail­able. These scan­ners use high-speed cam­eras and opti­cal char­ac­ter recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy to cap­ture up to 1,800 plates per minute, even at high rates of speed and in dif­fi­cult dri­ving con­di­tions. The scan­ner also ­records the date, time, and GPS loca­tion of each scan.

    Since 2008, more than 60 Mass­a­chu­setts police depart­ments have start­ed using scan­ners to track down dri­vers with unpaid tick­ets, no insur­ance, or dri­ving stolen vehi­cles, but the trend has raised con­cern about poten­tial pri­va­cy inva­sions. In Decem­ber, Boston police sus­pend­ed their use of plate scan­ners alto­geth­er after a Globe inves­ti­ga­tion report­ed ques­tion­able data man­age­ment, includ­ing the acci­den­tal pub­lic release of more than 69,000 ­license plate num­bers that had been scanned over six months.

    Mean­while, pri­vate com­pa­nies were qui­et­ly and rapid­ly find­ing ways to prof­it from much larg­er data­bas­es with lit­tle pub­lic dis­cus­sion. Dig­i­tal Recog­ni­tion Net­work, with the help of about 400 repos­ses­sion com­pa­nies across the Unit­ed States, has increased the num­ber of ­license scans in its data­base ten­fold since Sep­tem­ber 2010, and the firm con­tin­ues to add anoth­er 70 mil­lion scans per month, accord­ing to com­pa­ny dis­clo­sures. Dig­i­tal Recognition’s top rival, Illi­nois-based MVTRAC, has not dis­closed the size of its data­base, but claimed in a 2012 Wall Street Jour­nal inter­view to have scans of “a large major­i­ty” of vehi­cles reg­is­tered in the Unit­ed States.

    Unlike law enforce­ment agen­cies, which often have poli­cies to purge their com­put­ers of license records after a cer­tain peri­od of time, the data bro­kers are under no such oblig­a­tion, mean­ing their data­bas­es grow and gain val­ue over time as a way to track indi­vid­u­als’ move­ments and where­abouts.

    Mass­a­chu­setts pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tor Jay Groob said he uses the license plate data­base kept by a third data bro­ker, TLOxp, pay­ing $25 for a com­pre­hen­sive report from the Flori­da-based company’s “very impres­sive” data­base of a bil­lion-plus scans.

    “It helps gen­er­ate oth­er leads,” said Groob, pres­i­dent of Amer­i­can Inves­tiga­tive Ser­vices in Brook­line. “If a vehi­cle has been miss­ing, or you need to ­locate a per­son, this gives us ­anoth­er locus to inves­ti­gate.”

    Groob said he would use the data­base to track a miss­ing per­son or con­duct back­ground inves­ti­ga­tions for child cus­tody or mar­i­tal infi­deli­ty lit­i­ga­tion. Groob said he “absolute­ly” fore­sees vehi­cle loca­tion data becom­ing part of pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tors’ stan­dard toolk­it.

    Chris Metaxas, chief exec­u­tive of Dig­i­tal Recog­ni­tion, has pro­mot­ed his data­base as a use­ful tool for any­one else who has to con­firm a person’s real address “because most of the time peo­ple are near where their cars are.” He told the Globe that his data­base is already help­ing the auto insur­ance indus­try cut down on fraud in which where appli­cants false­ly claim to live in a place where insur­ance rates are low­er.

    “Some peo­ple have a con­do in Flori­da but actu­al­ly live in New York ten months out of year,” said Metaxas. “Insur­ers need help to keep this kind of fraud under con­trol.”

    But the main com­mer­cial use of license plate scan­ners ­remains the auto finance and auto repos­ses­sion indus­tries, two pro­fes­sions that work close­ly togeth­er to track down peo­ple who default on their loans. Dig­i­tal Recog­ni­tion lists Bank of Amer­i­ca Corp., JPMor­gan Chase & Co., HSBC Hold­ings, and Citibank among its clients, while MVTRAC boasts that it serves 70 per­cent of the auto finance indus­try.

    Liran Cohen — own­er of Massa­chusetts Recov­ery ­Bureau, a repos­ses­sion com­pa­ny in Lynn — said most banks he works with now require repos­ses­sion con­trac­tors to use ­license plate read­ers because it is so much eas­i­er to find vehi­cles eli­gi­ble for repos­ses­sion.

    “The banks want it,” said ­Cohen, who mount­ed his ­license scan­ner on an unmarked tow truck. “All of them make a big deal out of it, since it gives them so much val­ue.”

    But the use of scan­ners has grown so fast that there has been lit­tle dis­cus­sion of what lim­its, if any, to place on repos­ses­sion agents as they trawl for vehi­cles to impound. A num­ber of such com­pa­nies con­tact­ed by the Globe con­firmed that they often send their spot­ter cars to com­mer­cial lots, such as shop­ping mall park­ing lots, because those tend to be hotspots for ­vehi­cles to repos­sess.

    In fact, on its web­site Dig­i­tal Recog­ni­tion described what it calls good “tar­get envi­ron­ments” for repos­ses­sion agents, includ­ing “malls, movie ­the­aters, sport­ing events, and numer­ous oth­er loca­tions.” In mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als, the firm has indi­cat­ed that it sug­gests routes for repos­ses­sion com­pa­nies that focus on work­places and com­mer­cial lots dur­ing the day and apart­ment com­plex­es and res­i­den­tial areas at night.


    The bur­geon­ing pri­vate data­bases of license plates may ulti­mate­ly be a boon to law, as well, giv­ing them access to a trove of license plates that many are not ­allowed to keep them­selves, ­because of data-purg­ing require­ments. Hecht’s bill would require law enforce­ment statewide to purge its license plate data after 48 hours.

    Dig­i­tal Recog­ni­tion already pro­vides its entire data pool to more than 3,000 law enforce­ment agen­cies nation­wide, free of charge for most search­es. The Mass­a­chu­setts State Police is a reg­is­tered sub­scriber, as are the Boston, Cam­bridge, Somerville, Brook­line, and Quin­cy ­police depart­ments. Even ­Boston Col­lege and Bran­deis police have access to the firm’s entire scan data­base.

    License plate read­er com­pa­nies have defeat­ed pro­pos­als sim­i­lar to the one before the Legislature’s Joint Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee, and they sued the state of Utah after it enact­ed a ban on com­mer­cial use of license plate scan­ning. In its fil­ing, Dig­i­tal Recog­ni­tion asserts that its field agents have a First Amend­ment right to col­lect pic­tures of license plates in pub­lic places.

    But pri­va­cy advo­cates say the data­bas­es are far more intru­sive than the data bro­kers admit, argu­ing that pri­vate busi­ness­es can eas­i­ly trans­late anony­mous-sound­ing license plate num­bers into own­ers’ names just by obtain­ing infor­ma­tion from states’ motor vehi­cle reg­istries. In Mass­a­chu­setts, for exam­ple, pri­vate inves­tigators can get access to the Reg­istry of Motor Vehi­cles direct­ly, and insur­ance com­pa­nies and banks may already know the plate num­ber for a giv­en indi­vid­ual.

    “Right now, it’s the wild West in terms of how com­pa­nies can col­lect, process, and sell this kind of data,” says Kade Crock­ford of the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union of Mass­a­chu­setts. “The best legal minds, best pub­lic pol­i­cy thinkers, and ordi­nary peo­ple whose lives are affect­ed need to sit down and think of mean­ing­ful ways we can reg­u­late it.”

    This sto­ry reminds us of one more rea­son why the bal­ance between pri­va­cy and secu­ri­ty can’t rely on bet­ter encryp­tion alone: you can’t encrypt real­i­ty very eas­i­ly. But would­n’t it be kind of neat if we could encrypt real­i­ty? No?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 5, 2014, 9:20 am
  5. Here’s a sto­ry folks in the US should prob­a­bly keep an eye on in order to under­stand why so many fly­ing eyes might be on us in the future: Accord­ing to a fed­er­al judge’s rul­ing, as long as a drone is tiny enough it can’t be reg­u­lat­ed by the FAA:

    FAA has no juris­dic­tion over small com­mer­cial drones, judge rules

    BY Joan Lowy, Asso­ci­at­ed Press March 7, 2014 at 10:32 AM EST

    WASHINGTON — A fed­er­al judge has dis­missed the Fed­er­al Avi­a­tion Administration’s only fine against a com­mer­cial drone user on the grounds that the small drone was no dif­fer­ent than a mod­el air­craft, a deci­sion that appears to under­mine the agency’s pow­er to keep a bur­geon­ing civil­ian drone indus­try out of the skies.

    Patrick Ger­aghty, a Nation­al Trans­porta­tion Safe­ty Board admin­is­tra­tive law judge, said in his order dis­miss­ing the $10,000 fine that the FAA has no reg­u­la­tions gov­ern­ing mod­el air­craft flights or for clas­si­fy­ing mod­el air­craft as an unmanned air­craft.

    FAA offi­cials said they were review­ing the deci­sion and had no fur­ther com­ment. The agency can appeal the deci­sion to the full five-mem­ber safe­ty board.

    The FAA levied the fine against aer­i­al pho­tog­ra­ph­er Raphael Pirk­er for fly­ing the small drone near the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vir­ginia to make a com­mer­cial video in Octo­ber 2011. Pirk­er appealed the fine to the safe­ty board, which hears chal­lenges to FAA deci­sions.

    FAA offi­cials have long tak­en the posi­tion that the agency reg­u­lates access to the nation­al air­space, and there­fore it has the pow­er to bar drone flights, even when the drone weighs no more than a few pounds.

    “There are no shades of gray in FAA reg­u­la­tions,” the agency says on its web­site. “Any­one who wants to fly an air­craft —manned or unmanned —in U.S. air­space needs some lev­el of FAA approval.”


    There is increas­ing demand to use small drones for a wide array of com­mer­cial pur­pos­es. The FAA has iden­ti­fied the divid­ing line between a mod­el air­craft and a small drone as more one of intent, rather than of tech­nol­o­gy. If it is used for com­mer­cial pur­pos­es, it’s a drone. If it’s used pure­ly for recre­ation­al pur­pos­es, it’s a mod­el air­craft.

    The agency has issued guide­lines for mod­el air­craft oper­a­tors, but they are vol­un­tary and there­fore can­not be enforced, Ger­aghty said.


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 7, 2014, 3:22 pm
  6. Here’s an arti­cle about the prob­lems the Pen­ta­gon is run­ning into in its hack­er-hir­ing attempts. the arti­cle con­tains a pret­ty big admis­sion at the end. One of the key prob­lems the Pen­ta­gon runs into is the low­er pay scale rel­a­tive to the pri­vate sec­tor. Anoth­er prob­lem? The pri­vate sec­tor’s pay is also too low to incen­tivize enough peo­ple to go into IT secu­ri­ty careers in the first place:

    The U.S. Gov­ern­ment Wants 6,000 New ‘Cyber War­riors’ by 2016
    By Dune Lawrence April 15, 2014

    The Pen­ta­gon plans to triple its cyber­se­cu­ri­ty staff by 2016, U.S. Sec­re­tary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced recent­ly.

    A few days lat­er, FBI Super­vi­so­ry Spe­cial Agent Charles Gilgen said at a con­fer­ence on cyber­crime that his agency’s cyber divi­sion plans to hire 1,000 agents and 1,000 ana­lysts in the com­ing year.

    Just those two agen­cies are look­ing for 6,000 peo­ple with cyber­se­cu­ri­ty skills in the next two years. That’s a very tall order. A look at one way the gov­ern­ment has tried to build and recruit such talent—offering uni­ver­si­ty scholarships—shows why.

    The biggest such pro­gram, called Cyber­Corps, or Schol­ar­ship for Ser­vice, start­ed in 2000. The schol­ar­ship cov­ers tuition, books, and pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment and includes a cash stipend of $20,000 to $30,000 a year, depend­ing on whether the stu­dent is pur­su­ing a bachelor’s, a master’s, or a doc­tor­ate. After school, recip­i­ents serve in gov­ern­ment for the same length of time as they received fund­ing, two to three years, usu­al­ly. Unlike many gov­ern­ment pro­grams, it has seen its bud­get triple to $45 mil­lion a year in the past three fis­cal years, says Vic­tor Piotrows­ki, lead pro­gram direc­tor for Cyber­Corps at the Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion. As of Jan­u­ary, Cyber­Corps had pro­duced 1,554 grad­u­ates, with 463 more cur­rent­ly in school.

    “You would think, with all those ben­e­fits and a hot area, cyber­se­cu­ri­ty, that peo­ple would just be pour­ing into the pro­gram,” says Piotrows­ki. “We have a very, very tiny pipeline.”

    One hur­dle is that par­tic­i­pants must be U.S. cit­i­zens. Right off the bat, that elim­i­nates more than 70 per­cent of those receiv­ing master’s degrees in com­put­er engi­neer­ing at U.S. schools, he says.

    Anoth­er fac­tor: The gov­ern­ment can’t offer as much pay as the pri­vate sec­tor. An online post­ing for a cyber-ana­lyst job at the Fed­er­al Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion in ear­ly 2013—there aren’t any more cur­rent list­ings on the fed­er­al government’s job site—advertised a salary of $33,979 to $54,028.

    A list­ing this month for an infor­ma­tion secu­ri­ty spe­cial­ist in the U.S. Marine Corps’s cyber­se­cu­ri­ty divi­sion gave a range of $89,924 to $116,901 a year.

    That’s just not com­pet­i­tive, par­tic­u­lar­ly for peo­ple with in-demand tech­ni­cal skills in mali­cious soft­ware analy­sis and reverse engi­neer­ing, accord­ing to Gold­en Richard, a pro­fes­sor with the Uni­ver­si­ty of New Orleans Infor­ma­tion Assur­ance Pro­gram.

    “If you couldn’t break $100,000 as a start­ing salary, I think you’d have trou­ble attract­ing those guys,” he says. Richard said one of his stu­dents got a gov­ern­ment schol­ar­ship to fund his master’s degree but was quick­ly lured away from his gov­ern­ment job by a pri­vate com­pa­ny offer­ing him about $150,000 a year.

    The gov­ern­ment also hurts its chances by allow­ing con­trac­tors who do cyber­se­cu­ri­ty work for fed­er­al agen­cies to offer high­er salaries than the gov­ern­ment does for sim­i­lar jobs, says Sey­mour Good­man, co-direc­tor of the Geor­gia Tech Infor­ma­tion Secu­ri­ty Cen­ter at the Geor­gia Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy.


    It’s not just gov­ern­ment agen­cies that are des­per­ate for cyber­se­cu­ri­ty spe­cial­ists. Almost four in 10 IT secu­ri­ty posi­tions went unfilled in 2013, accord­ing to a sur­vey of more than 500 orga­ni­za­tions by the Ponemon Insti­tute, which stud­ies pri­va­cy, data pro­tec­tion, and infor­ma­tion-secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy. The fig­ure was almost six in 10 for senior secu­ri­ty jobs.

    “Mar­ket forces aren’t hap­pen­ing fast enough in secu­ri­ty,” says Art Gilliland, gen­er­al man­ag­er of enter­prise secu­ri­ty prod­ucts at Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), which fund­ed the Ponemon research. “The typ­i­cal secu­ri­ty per­son is paid the same as a typ­i­cal IT per­son, and yet the demand is way high­er. The salaries are not increas­ing fast enough to attract more peo­ple.”

    So there’s an ever grow­ing demand for IT secu­ri­ty exper­tise and yet “mar­ket forces” aren’t cre­at­ing the kind of salaries that would lead to growth in the num­bers of peo­ple inter­est­ed in going into IT secu­ri­ty. Espe­cial­ly in the “senior” secu­ri­ty jobs, where 6 in 10 posi­tions aren’t get­ting filed. Could the ‘Tech­to­pus’, with its “I thought we agreed not to recruit any senior lev­el employ­ees…. I would pro­pose we keep it that way” phi­los­o­phy, be wrap­ping its ten­ta­cles around this sec­tor of the job mar­ket and dis­tort­ing the whole IT secu­ri­ty mar­ket?

    That’s one of the fun things about some­thing like the Tech­to­pus: It’s not just a many-ten­ta­cled giant beast. It’s an invis­i­ble many-ten­ta­cled giant beast so we’d don’t real­ly get to know how far its reach goes. We just know those ten­ta­cle aren’t help­ing. That would require a dif­fer­ent invis­i­ble giant ten­ta­cled beast.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 15, 2014, 2:21 pm
  7. You know how when you call a com­pa­ny you often hear “this call will be record­ed for train­ing pur­pos­es”. You have to won­der if that’s all they’re going to be using it for:

    Voice­prints being har­vest­ed by the mil­lions
    Oct. 13, 2014 3:10 PM EDT

    LONDON (AP) — Over the tele­phone, in jail and online, a new dig­i­tal boun­ty is being har­vest­ed: the human voice.

    Busi­ness­es and gov­ern­ments around the world increas­ing­ly are turn­ing to voice bio­met­rics, or voice­prints, to pay pen­sions, col­lect tax­es, track crim­i­nals and replace pass­words.

    “We some­times call it the invis­i­ble bio­met­ric,” said Mike Gold­gof, an exec­u­tive at Madrid-based AGNI­TiO, one of about 10 lead­ing com­pa­nies in the field.

    Those com­pa­nies have helped enter more than 65 mil­lion voice­prints into cor­po­rate and gov­ern­ment data­bas­es, accord­ing to Asso­ci­at­ed Press inter­views with dozens of indus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives and records requests in the Unit­ed States, Europe and else­where.

    “There’s a mis­con­cep­tion that the tech­nol­o­gy we have today is only in the domain of the intel­li­gence ser­vices, or the domain of ‘Star Trek,’ ” said Paul Burmester, of Lon­don-based Valid­Soft, a voice bio­met­ric ven­dor. “The tech­nol­o­gy is here today, well-proven and com­mon­ly avail­able.”

    And in high demand.

    Dan Miller, an ana­lyst with Opus Research in San Fran­cis­co, esti­mates that the indus­try’s rev­enue will rough­ly dou­ble from just under $400 mil­lion last year to between $730 mil­lion and $900 mil­lion next year.

    Bar­clays PLC recent­ly exper­i­ment­ed with voice­print­ing as an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion for its wealth­i­est clients. It was so suc­cess­ful that Bar­clays is rolling it out to the rest of its 12 mil­lion retail bank­ing cus­tomers.

    “The gen­er­al feel­ing is that voice bio­met­rics will be the de fac­to stan­dard in the next two or three years,” said Iain Han­lon, a Bar­clays exec­u­tive.

    Ven­dors say the tim­bre of a per­son­’s voice is unique in a way sim­i­lar to the loops and whorls at the tips of some­one’s fin­gers.

    Their tech­nol­o­gy mea­sures the char­ac­ter­is­tics of a per­son­’s speech as air is expelled from the lungs, across the vocal folds of the lar­ynx, up the phar­ynx, over the tongue, and out through the lips, nose, and teeth. Typ­i­cal speak­er recog­ni­tion soft­ware com­pares those char­ac­ter­is­tics with data held on a serv­er. If two voice­prints are sim­i­lar enough, the sys­tem declares them a match.

    The Van­guard Group Inc., a Penn­syl­va­nia-based mutu­al fund man­ag­er, is among the tech­nol­o­gy’s many finan­cial users. Tens of thou­sands of cus­tomers log in to their accounts by speak­ing the phrase: “At Van­guard, my voice is my pass­word” into the phone.

    “We’ve done a lot of test­ing, and looked at sib­lings, even twins,” said exec­u­tive John Buhl, whose voice was a bit hoarse dur­ing a tele­phone inter­view. “Even peo­ple with colds, like I have today, we looked at that.”

    The sin­gle largest imple­men­ta­tion iden­ti­fied by the AP is in Turkey, where mobile phone com­pa­ny Turk­cell has tak­en the voice bio­met­ric data of some 10 mil­lion cus­tomers using tech­nol­o­gy pro­vid­ed by mar­ket leader Nuance Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Inc. But gov­ern­ment agen­cies are catch­ing up.

    In the U.S., law enforce­ment offi­cials use the tech­nol­o­gy to mon­i­tor inmates and track offend­ers who have been paroled.


    Activists wor­ry that the pop­u­lar­i­ty of voice­print­ing has a down­side.

    “It’s more mass sur­veil­lance,” said Sad­hbh McCarthy, an Irish pri­va­cy researcher. “The next thing you know, that will be giv­en to bor­der guards, and you’ll need to speak into a micro­phone when you get back from vaca­tion.”

    Uh oh.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 21, 2015, 6:20 pm
  8. Imag­ine a world where per­son­al­ized ads based on your browsing/purchasing his­to­ry don’t sim­ply show up on the web pages you’re read­ing but actu­al­ly show up on a bill­board with facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy so every­one in town can see the ads deemed most appro­pri­ate for you. Sounds like some­thing you would like you see? Hope­ful­ly it is because Microsoft has already patent­ed the idea. And in terms of har­ness­ing the incred­i­ble poten­tial com­mer­cial val­ue of facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy, Microsoft has a lot of catch­ing up to do, although it prob­a­bly does­n’t want to catch up with Face­book’s facial recog­ni­tion law­suit:

    Wash­ing­ton Post
    Facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy is every­where. It may not be legal.

    By Ben Sobel June 11 at 1:12 PM

    Ben Sobel is a researcher and incom­ing Google Pol­i­cy Fel­low at the Cen­ter on Pri­va­cy & Tech­nol­o­gy at George­town Law.

    Being anony­mous in pub­lic might be a thing of the past. Facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy is already being deployed to let brick-and-mor­tar stores scan the face of every shop­per, iden­ti­fy return­ing cus­tomers and offer them indi­vid­u­al­ized pric­ing — or find “pre-iden­ti­fied shoplifters” and “known liti­gious indi­vid­u­als.” Microsoft has patent­ed a bill­board that iden­ti­fies you as you walk by and serves ads per­son­al­ized to your pur­chase his­to­ry. An app called NameTag claims it can iden­ti­fy peo­ple on the street just by look­ing at them through Google Glass.

    Pri­va­cy advo­cates and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from com­pa­nies like Face­book and Google are meet­ing in Wash­ing­ton on Thurs­day to try to set rules for how com­pa­nies should use this pow­er­ful tech­nol­o­gy. They may be for­get­ting that a good deal of it could already be ille­gal.

    There are no fed­er­al laws that specif­i­cal­ly gov­ern the use of facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy. But while few peo­ple know it, and even few­er are talk­ing about it, both Illi­nois and Texas have laws against using such tech­nol­o­gy to iden­ti­fy peo­ple with­out their informed con­sent. That means that one out of every eight Amer­i­cans cur­rent­ly has a legal right to bio­met­ric pri­va­cy.

    The Illi­nois law is fac­ing the most pub­lic test to date of what its pro­tec­tions mean for facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy. A law­suit filed in Illi­nois tri­al court in April alleges Face­book vio­lates the state’s Bio­met­ric Infor­ma­tion Pri­va­cy Act by tak­ing users’ faceprints “with­out even inform­ing its users — let alone obtain­ing their informed writ­ten con­sent.” This suit, Lica­ta v. Face­book, could reshape Facebook’s prac­tices for get­ting user con­sent, and may even influ­ence the expan­sion of facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy.

    How common—and how accurate—is facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy?

    You may not be walk­ing by ads that address you by name, but odds are that your facial geom­e­try is already being ana­lyzed reg­u­lar­ly. Law enforce­ment agen­cies deploy facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy in pub­lic and can iden­ti­fy some­one by search­ing a bio­met­ric data­base that con­tains infor­ma­tion on as many as one-third of Amer­i­cans..

    Com­pa­nies like Face­book and Google rou­tine­ly col­lect facial recog­ni­tion data from their users, too. (Facebook’s sys­tem is on by default; Google’s only works if you opt in to it.) Their tech­nol­o­gy may be even more accu­rate than the government’s. Google’s FaceNet algo­rithm can iden­ti­fy faces with 99.63 per­cent accu­ra­cy. Facebook’s algo­rithm, Deep­Face, gets a 97.25 per­cent rat­ing. The FBI, on the oth­er hand, has rough­ly 85 per­cent accu­ra­cy in iden­ti­fy­ing poten­tial match­es—though, admit­ted­ly, the pho­tographs it han­dles may be hard­er to ana­lyze than those used by the social net­works.

    Face­book and Google use facial recog­ni­tion to detect when a user appears in a pho­to­graph and to sug­gest that he or she be tagged. Face­book calls this “Tag Sug­ges­tions” and explains it as fol­lows: “We cur­rent­ly use facial recog­ni­tion soft­ware that uses an algo­rithm to cal­cu­late a unique num­ber (“tem­plate”) based on someone’s facial features…This tem­plate is based on your pro­file pic­tures and pho­tos you’ve been tagged in on Face­book.” Once it has built this tem­plate, Tag Sug­ges­tions ana­lyzes pho­tos uploaded by your friends to see if your face appears in them. If its algo­rithm detects your face, Face­book can encour­age the uploader to tag you.

    With the boom in per­son­al­ized adver­tis­ing tech­nol­o­gy, a facial recog­ni­tion data­base of its users is like­ly very, very valu­able to Face­book. The com­pa­ny hasn’t dis­closed the size of its faceprint repos­i­to­ry, but it does acknowl­edge that it has more than 250 bil­lion user-uploaded pho­tos — with 350 mil­lion more uploaded every day. The direc­tor of engi­neer­ing at Facebook’s AI research lab recent­ly sug­gest­ed that this infor­ma­tion was “the biggest human dataset in the world.”

    Eager to extract that val­ue, Face­book signed users up by default when it intro­duced Tag Sug­ges­tions in 2011. This meant that Face­book cal­cu­lat­ed faceprints for every user who didn’t take the steps to opt out. The Tag Sug­ges­tions roll­out prompt­ed Sen. Al Franken (D‑Minn.) to wor­ry that “Face­book may have cre­at­ed the world’s largest pri­vate­ly held data base of faceprints— with­out the explic­it con­sent of its users.” Tag Sug­ges­tions was more con­tro­ver­sial in Europe, where Face­book com­mit­ted to stop using facial iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tech­nol­o­gy after Euro­pean reg­u­la­tors com­plained.

    The intro­duc­tion of Tag Sug­ges­tions is what’s at issue in the Illi­nois law­suit. In Illi­nois, com­pa­nies have to inform users when­ev­er bio­met­ric infor­ma­tion is being col­lect­ed, explain the pur­pose of the col­lec­tion and dis­close how long they’ll keep the data. Once informed, users must pro­vide “writ­ten release” that they con­sent to the data col­lec­tion. Only after receiv­ing this writ­ten con­sent may com­pa­nies obtain bio­met­ric infor­ma­tion, includ­ing scans of facial geom­e­try.

    Face­book declined to com­ment on the law­suit and has not filed a writ­ten response in court.

    It’s unclear whether today’s par­a­digm for con­sent — click­ing a “Sign Up” but­ton that attests you’ve read and agreed to a lengthy pri­va­cy pol­i­cy — ful­fills the require­ments writ­ten into the Illi­nois law. It’s also unclear whether the statute will cov­er the Tag Sug­ges­tions data that Face­book derives from pho­tographs. If the law does apply, Face­book could be on the hook for sig­nif­i­cant finan­cial penal­ties. This case is one of the first appli­ca­tions of the Illi­nois law to facial recog­ni­tion, and it will set a huge­ly impor­tant prece­dent for con­sumer pri­va­cy.

    Why bio­met­ric pri­va­cy laws?

    Bio­met­ric infor­ma­tion like face geom­e­try is high-stakes data because it encodes phys­i­cal prop­er­ties that are immutable, or at least very hard to con­ceal. More­over, unlike oth­er bio­met­rics, faceprints are easy to col­lect remote­ly and sur­rep­ti­tious­ly by stak­ing out a pub­lic place with a decent cam­era.


    On the oth­er hand, the Illi­nois law was gal­va­nized by a few high-pro­file inci­dents of in-state col­lec­tion of fin­ger­print data. Most notably, a com­pa­ny called Pay By Touch had installed machines in super­mar­kets across Illi­nois that allowed cus­tomers to pay by a fin­ger­print scan, which was linked to their bank and cred­it card infor­ma­tion. Pay By Touch sub­se­quent­ly went bank­rupt, and its liq­ui­da­tion prompt­ed con­cerns about what might hap­pen to its data­base of bio­met­ric infor­ma­tion. James Ferg-Cadi­ma, a for­mer attor­ney with the ACLU of Illi­nois who worked on draft­ing and lob­by­ing for the BIPA, told me that “the orig­i­nal vision of the bill was tied to the spe­cif­ic issue that was pre­sent­ing itself across Illi­nois, and that was the deploy­ing of thumbprint tech­nolo­gies…”

    “Odd­ly enough,” Ferg-Cadi­ma added, “this was a bill where there was lit­tle voice from the pri­vate busi­ness sec­tor.” This cor­po­rate indif­fer­ence might be a thing of the past. Tech com­pa­nies of all stripes have grown more and more inter­est­ed in bio­met­rics. They’ve become more polit­i­cal­ly pow­er­ful, too: For instance, Facebook’s fed­er­al lob­by­ing expen­di­tures grew from $207,878 in 2009 to $9,340,000 in 2014.

    Test­ing the Illi­nois law

    The cru­cial ques­tion here is whether the Illi­nois and Texas laws can be applied to today’s most com­mon uses of bio­met­ric iden­ti­fiers. What real-world busi­ness prac­tices would meet the stan­dard of informed con­sent that Illi­nois law requires for bio­met­ric data col­lec­tion?

    When asked about the pri­va­cy law cit­ed in the Lica­ta case, Jay Edel­son, the man­ag­ing part­ner of the firm rep­re­sent­ing the plain­tiff, said, “The key thing to under­stand is that almost all pri­va­cy statutes are real­ly con­sent statutes.” The law­suit stands to deter­mine pre­cise­ly what kind of con­sent the Illi­nois law demands.

    If the court finds that Face­book can be sued for vio­lat­ing the Illi­nois bio­met­rics law, and that its opt-out con­sent frame­work for Tag Sug­ges­tions vio­lat­ed the law, it may upend the prac­tices of one of the world’s largest Inter­net com­pa­nies, one that is pos­si­bly the sin­gle largest user of com­mer­cial facial recog­ni­tion tech­nology. And if the law­suit fails for one rea­son or anoth­er, it would empha­size that reg­u­la­tion of facial recog­ni­tion needs to take place on a fed­er­al lev­el if it is to hap­pen at all. Either way, there’s a chance this law­suit will end up shap­ing the future of facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy.

    So Lica­ta v. Face­book is going to be a case to watch. Fash­ion­istas, in par­tic­u­lar, should be fol­low­ing this case close­ly.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 12, 2015, 7:03 pm
  9. Pew recent­ly con­duct­ed a poll ask­ing Amer­i­cans who they trust more to pro­tect their per­son­al data: The gov­ern­ment or your [cell­phone provider/email ser­vice provider/Search engine provider, etc]? Only 31% said they trust the gov­ern­ment to pro­tect their data, a slight­ly high­er lev­el of trust than respon­dents put in var­i­ous tech sec­tors.

    So that was­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly great news for Sil­i­con Val­ley’s pub­lic image. Sto­ries like this prob­a­bly aren’t going to help with that lack of trust:

    Pan­do Dai­ly
    Sil­i­con Val­ley and the Ingestible Bilder­berg ID Chips

    By Mark Ames
    On June 12, 2015

    Peter Thiel (Bilder­berg mem­ber) gave Ron Paul 2.5 mil­lion! Red Flag any­one?

    DailyPaul.com, June 11, 2012

    If some­one says “Bilder­berg Group” with a straight face, most respectable folks reach for their can­is­ter of Bear Mace spray—only to check them­selves because odds are, if some­one is talk­ing “Bilder­berg” they’re prob­a­bly pack­ing some­thing far more lethal than pep­per fog.

    And yet—our para­noid reac­tions to para­noiacs’ obses­sions with Bilder­berg are so unnec­es­sary. There is, of course, a real Bilder­berg Group—it’s not like Bilder­berg is some delu­sion­al fan­ta­sy, like the chu­pacabra or amazon.com prof­its. Bilder­berg is basi­cal­ly like a Davos or Jack­son Hole—only a bit whiter, crusti­er, and evil-er. But the idea is essen­tial­ly the same: An annu­al pow-wow bring­ing togeth­er a cross-sec­tion of west­ern pow­er-elites from bank­ing, pol­i­tics, defense, ener­gy, and indus­try.

    What made Bilder­berg an obses­sion with the Bircher/Ron Paul crowd was the key role David Rock­e­feller played over the years in hand­ing out Bilder­berg invi­ta­tions. Which is an irra­tional hatred even by irra­tional hate stan­dards, giv­en the fact that David Rock­e­feller was trained in eco­nom­ics by the Yoda of the Bircher/libertarian crowd, Friedrich von Hayek—but then again, peo­ple have hat­ed for far dumb­er rea­sons.

    This week, the Bilder­berg Group is gath­er­ing in Aus­tria for their annu­al bull ses­sion, and in the benev­o­lent spir­it of trans­paren­cy (or to rub it in our unin­vit­ed faces), they’ve released their “final list of par­tic­i­pants.” The expect­ed vil­lains’ names are there: Hen­ry Kissinger, David Petraeus, Robert Rubin, NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Jens Stoltenberg, Richard “Prince of Dark­ness” Per­le. . . . But for our pur­pos­es at Pan­do, it’s the select few Bilder­berg­ers from Sil­i­con Val­ley whose names cry out for our atten­tion.

    A scan through the list of Bilder­berg­ers over the years shows that Sil­i­con Val­ley has only recent­ly estab­lished a clique with­in the clique. This year’s list fea­tures three Google par­tic­i­pants: Eric Schmidt; Demis Has­s­abis, the AI whiz behind Google Deep­Mind; and Regi­na Dugan, the for­mer head of DARPA turned Google exec­u­tive whom Alex Jones warns invent­ed “ingestible ID chips” that the Bilder­berg­ers will want to force us all to swal­low, because Hen­ry Kissinger wants noth­ing more than to keep tabs on our drea­ry, monot­o­nous lives.

    More seri­ous and sig­nif­i­cant here is the fact that Google is so well-rep­re­sent­ed, with three par­tic­i­pants. Three names from one com­pa­ny is a rar­i­ty, some­thing you might’ve seen in the past from a Gold­man Sachs or Lazard—but not Sil­i­con Val­ley. It shows not just Big Tech’s con­tin­ued takeover of old­er estab­lished insti­tu­tions of pow­er, but specif­i­cal­ly, Google’s—and it tracks with Google’s new role as the biggest lob­by­ist spender in Wash­ing­ton.

    Next to Google’s three par­tic­i­pants, there’s Palan­tir with two big names on the Bilder­berg list: Peter Thiel [Dis­clo­sure: A Pan­do investor via Founders Fund], and Alex Karp. This is where things get a lit­tle com­pli­cat­ed for the Ron/Rand Paul lib­er­tar­i­an cultists and NWO con­spir­acists. Peter Thiel, as we’ve report­ed, was the main fun­der of Ron Paul’s 2012 pres­i­den­tial Super­PAC; Thiel has also been a rain­mak­er for Rand Paul’s cam­paign financ­ing efforts, and Thiel has donat­ed lav­ish­ly to a num­ber of lib­er­tar­i­an out­fits, includ­ing Stu­dents For Lib­er­ty, which hon­ored both Thiel and Edward Snow­den (and Snow­den hon­ored SFL in kind). Thiel and Palan­tir also set up the Seast­eading Insti­tute, which co-orga­nized a lib­er­tar­i­an cruise a few years ago with the lib­er­tar­i­an Rea­son mag­a­zine.

    And yet, even as Thiel serves on the Bilder­berg Group’s elite steer­ing com­mit­tee, Ron Paul, who took mil­lions from Thiel, believes that Thiel’s friends con­trol the world:

    “They prob­a­bly get togeth­er and talk about how they’re going to con­trol the bank­ing sys­tems of the world and nat­ur­al resources.”

    There’s more: Napster/Facebook bil­lion­aire Sean Park­er — who co-spon­sored Rand Paul’s recent “Dis­rupt Democ­ra­cy” shindig in SOMA and “invest­ed heav­i­ly in Rand Paul’s polit­i­cal oper­a­tion” accord­ing to Politi­co — is list­ed as a Bilder­berg “par­tic­i­pant” at the group’s 2010 meet­ing in Spain.

    Anoth­er Face­book bil­lion­aire, New Repub­lic pub­lish­er Chris Hugh­es, went Bilder­berg in 2011.

    But of all the Face­book bilder­bergillion­aires, Peter Thiel has been at it the longest—a “par­tic­i­pant” every year since at least 2007. That’s one year longer than Eric Schmidt, who got his Bilder­berg on in 2008. While Palan­tir CEO and co-founder Alex Karp is a rel­a­tive new­bie, Bilder­berg­er­ing since 2012.


    Anoth­er sur­prise is the unusu­al­ly low Bill Gates Fac­tor. Microsoft long ago proud­ly staked its claim to Big Tech Cor­po­rate Evil—and yet Gates’ name only shows up on the Bilder­berg list once, in 2010. Instead, his spurned Microsoft suc­ces­sor, Craig Mundie, makes reg­u­lar Bilder­berg appear­ances going back to at least 2006.

    Who else? Jeff Bezos made an appear­ance in 2013, along with that gold­en retriev­er of Big Tech opti­mism, Lar­ry Lessig. Going back fur­ther, before Thiel and Schmidt tech­nofied the Bilder­berg Group, one of the few stand­out Sil­i­con Val­ley names who par­tic­i­pat­ed was Esther Dyson, for­mer chair of the Elec­tron­ic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion, whose name appears on the Bilder­berg list in 2007 and 2000.


    Jeez, what’s next for Sil­i­con Val­ley’s descent into the upper ech­e­lons of the glob­al pow­er?

    Well, what­ev­er it is, it prob­a­bly isn’t going to close Sil­i­con Val­ley’s pub­lic trust gap. Espe­cial­ly if all these Bilder­berg­ers get caught doing some­thing as crazy as, say, donat­ing large checks to ter­ri­fy­ing anti-sci­ence dem­a­gogues like Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz. That prob­a­bly won’t help.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 13, 2015, 12:58 pm
  10. Cour­tesy of com­menters at Lit­tle Green Foot­balls, here are a cou­ple of inter­est­ing links:

    1. This one is about role Snow­den docs may have played in hack of Fed­er­al Employ­ees data by Chi­na:


    2. This one is sto­ry about Rus­sia and Chi­na hack­ing Snow­den docs and its effects on British intel­li­gence:



    3. This one is John Schindler’s rebut­tal to the Snowald cult:


    Posted by Kathleen | June 13, 2015, 5:25 pm

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