App Privacy ExposureThe Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) reportedly purchased unlimited access to a national Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) tracking database managed by a company called Vigilant for vehicles located anywhere in the US. Are we beginning to take notice of all of these new companies specializing in tracking cars, people, and activity popping all over? If not, you should be. It should be a cause for alarm. As the ACLU senior staff attorney Nate Wessler put it, “An agency tasked with stamping passports and searching for contraband at the border has no business buying unfettered access to the location data of hundreds of millions of Americans.” This should be raising red flags and alarm bells all over the place with lawmakers in Washington DC but so far it is just crickets because Donald Trump continually creates drama to distract from all of the illegal shit he is allowing these agencies to get away with. Trump could care less about your Constitutional rights. He has repeatedly made fascist, autocrat-like comments to the effect that the media is the enemy of the state. He has encouraged protestors at his political rallies to be roughed up, and he has even said he won’t concede defeat if he loses the election for a peaceful transition of power. This is an extremely dangerous time to be alive as an American and it is only exacerbated by global climate change and prolific cases like the George Floyd killing by police that the current Trump administration is using to justify all of these illegal tactics and programs. Some of these affronts to personal freedom like the First Amendment right to say whatever you want are being stripped away from Americans by the exploiting apps for their privacy exposures. You mention that you hate Trump and wish he’d be charged with treason and sent to prison for the rest of his life on Facebook or Twitter. That post could potentially instantly be added to a watch list monitored by the US Secret Service and the FBI. Maybe that turns out to sync up with the no-fly list also? Who knows how the USG uses that data? What I do know is that it is an example of how metadata is tracked and monitored by authorities and how it can be used against citizens of the US. The apps are helping to make this a reality, the very apps we love to use to keep in touch with friends and family, for entertainment, for news, for expressing ourselves. Be careful about what you say online.
Exam Proctoring Apps Are a Privacy and Security NightmareStudents from numerous colleges and universities are voicing concerns over exam proctoring apps that they are forced to use by their higher education institutions. However, little action is being taken by schools to reduce the privacy and security risks or bias that several exam proctoring apps contain or that they introduce to students’ devices. Several student bodies at universities around the nation have created petitions with signatures numbering in the thousands (e.g., the University of Texas at Dallas has 6,300 to stop using the Honorlock app) because the apps record their faces, driver licenses, network, and device information. There have been numerous reports of the exam proctoring app technology being flawed because anytime a student looks away from the screen with their eyes, the app assumes the student is cheating.Once again, we have a newer digital technology being used to monitor human behavior that is potentially flawed. Sound familiar? Oh yeah, AI-powered facial recognition systems too, huh? Not only are these exam proctoring apps “blatant violations of our privacy as students” students at the University of Texas stated but some of them are reportedly highly inaccurate in their behavior analysis algorithms. The Procotorio app which records students in their rooms/homes while they take exams was cited by over 4,500 students at California State University Fullerton as being “creepy and unacceptable.” In July 2020, the ProctorU exam proctoring app suffered a data breach that resulted in 444,000 users having their Personally Identifiable Information (PII) leaked.Students at the Florida International University stated that the Honorlock app required a webcam and microphone which makes it difficult for students living in dorms or elsewhere with limited access to quite places for which to test. While Miami University students said that the Proctorio app tracks a student’s eyeball activity which “discriminates against neurodivergent students, as it tracks a student’s gaze, and flags students who look away from the screen as ‘suspicious.’ This, too, “negatively impacts people who have ADHD-like symptoms.” Students have had some success with signed petitions but the underlying theme with privacy invasions, like these proctoring apps represent, is that we have to stand up and protest against them or nothing will be done about it. Just as all it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing, all it takes for your privacy to disappear completely is for us to say and do nothing when authorities attempt to take it away from us. If we don’t defend our rights, who will? Organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the ACLU are only so big. They can’t stand up to every injustice. We have to do some things for ourselves. One very effective way to do that is to vote with our wallets which means when we find out that a particular company, university, government agency, or organization is doing something wrong, we stop giving any of our money to that entity so that they get the message really quick. That is the quickest way to show these corrupt business executives and authorities that it won’t be tolerated. Much, much faster than waiting for corrupt politicians or government watchdog agencies to do anything about it.
The FBI is Concerned Ring Doorbell Cams Warn Residents of Police RaidsIn more fallout from the BlueLeaks cache of information that resulted from the DDoSecrets hack, the FBI expressed concern in a technical analysis bulletin published in November 2019 that Amazon’s Ring doorbell cameras are alerting residents before they are about to be raided by police but that there are also opportunities that can be exploited with such devices. How ironic and predictable that law enforcement agencies would express concern over the use of home security cameras by private citizens. LEOs are concerned that their officers/agents could be targeted by sniper fire or that occupants can have flush evidence down the toilet before LEOs can get inside to stop them from doing so. These are valid concerns but do they rise to the level of being more important than Fourth Amendment privacy rights? I would predictably argue that they don’t and what is more, the police could ask Amazon to cooperate or compel them with a search warrant to hand over Ring camera video footage for particular addresses.
As if we are supposed to care about the fact that they can’t execute a SWAT raid without occupants inside a residence being tipped off first. Oh well, that is the way it goes sometimes. Do you think that when I was in the Marines we always were able to achieve the element of surprise during attacks? Of course not. Sometimes you just have to use overwhelming force in the cover of darkness during operations and do your best to surprise the enemy by showing up to bust in doors at like 3 am when most people are sleeping. Additionally, there is already technology that exists that LEOs will end up adopting that can jam signals in the vicinity of a particular operation. The use of signal jamming technology would be highly controversial but we should not expect to see some police departments try to get away with using it. I have read about instances in which police hacked into a home’s WiFi camera system to monitor what was going on inside the home. That is beyond creepy and should not be legal without probable cause and a warrant. But cops don’t need to hack your live camera feed if they can get a warrant to access your Cloud-stored video camera footage. Nothing new… Our privacy rights in the US mean very little at present time. All it takes is loosely-defined “probable cause” and a search warrant signed by a judge for your privacy rights to disappear entirely.
Amazon is Trying to Worm its Way Into Apartments With Alexa for ResidentialHow would you like to rent an apartment where an Alexa home assistant has been pre-installed inside the unit to enable audible tours of the apartment to new tenants but that is capable of listening and recording audio which Amazon says will be deleted daily? That is exactly what they are proposing landlords do with this latest privacy-invasive technology use called ‘Alexa for Residential.’
“And it’s through this mass adoption of Alexa devices that consumers (and the army of human beings Amazon hires to listen to consumers) can collectively train Amazon’s voice recognition system, which is then monetized through Amazon’s primary source of profits: Amazon Web Services.”Not only is this is a terribly bad idea for home privacy but what happens when the landlord remotely shuts off your air conditioning or turns off the lights to comply with some state-encouraged energy-saving appeal to consumers? Late on rent money this month? Oh, sorry. You’re locked out of your apartment until you pay up. I can easily see this blatant misuse of technology being challenged in court soon. Internet of Things (IoT) security and privacy is a hot mess of a nightmare currently.Amazon, despite their online shopping convenience, has become another one of those quintessential evil corps within the last few years. They are trying to monopolize several industries and are hurting smaller businesses as well as underpaying and outright legally pursuing any employee that dares to speak out against its corrupt business practices. Employees have tried to unionize but Amazon has illegally pursued and fired employees for it. This just goes to show you that Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, is a plutocrat who cares nothing about his employees. He could easily afford to make Amazon the best-paying employer in the world but instead, he chooses to be greedy and pocket most of the Amazon earnings in his tax-sheltered, offshore bank accounts.
I’m Not an International Drug Dealer
Google Formally Bans Stalkerware Apps From the Play Store, Whoa!While it may seem like a positive step in the right direction for digital privacy, Google’s recent ban on stalkerware apps was done for sake of appearances only. The Tech giant firm left a gaping hole in their ‘formal’ ban on stalkerware for app developers that goes into effect on 1 October 2020. The only change app developers have to make is to re-brand their app as a child-tracking app and Google will allow it in their Play Store. I fail to see how that is going to protect children from being tracked by smartphone apps. This should be vigorously enforced as a COPPA violation but once again our esteemed USG has enacted more laws than it could ever hope to enforce unilaterally. We can’t rely on Tech companies to self-police. It doesn’t work, they will interpret laws in such a way that allows them to continue making profits and misses the intent of the law altogether. COPPA is a law that is supposed to protect against the collection of personal data of minors under 13 years of age. Guess what Sherlock? A kids’ physical location is personal information. We call those ‘token gestures’ on the account of government. Laws don’t mean anything if they’re not enforced. Why even bother?
Facebook Performing Privacy-Invasive Tech ExperimentsProject Aria is a Facebook initiative that involves sending one hundred employees into society equipped with “smart” glasses that are equipped with microphones and video cameras that will record everything they come into contact with to determine potential ethical and privacy issues that could result from using this technology in Augmented Reality (AR) technology.
“We built Project Aria with privacy in mind and we’ve put provisions in place around where and how we’ll collect data a well as how it will be processed, used, and stored,” Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president of augmented and virtual reality, tweeted that day.Sure, we’ll take Facebook for their word on that right? Facebook has by far the worst privacy track record as a result of numerous high-profile scandals like the Cambridge Analytica debacle. Why are they even be allowed to test this type of technology on the public? I think AR technology is fascinating and could be very useful but I don’t agree with allowing tech companies to run around filming and recording everything they can to be uploaded to their servers for analysis. That is wrong, it is a direct violation of every recorded person’s privacy. They do not have consent to do so in private spaces and recording people without their consent is illegal in certain US states.
California happens to be a two-party consent state when it comes to the legal recording of conversations but once again there is a legal loophole that Facebook is exploiting here. If the conversation takes place within a public area where the conversation could be easily overheard then it is ok.