Technology

For Owners of Amazon’s Ring Security Cameras, Strangers May Have Been Watching Too

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/01/2019 - 4:34am in

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The “smart home” of the 21st century isn’t just supposed to be a monument to convenience, we’re told, but also to protection, a Tony Stark-like bubble of vigilant algorithms and internet-connected sensors working ceaselessly to watch over us. But for some who’ve welcomed in Amazon’s Ring security cameras, there have been more than just algorithms watching through the lens, according to sources alarmed by Ring’s dismal privacy practices.

Ring has a history of lax, sloppy oversight when it comes to deciding who has access to some of the most precious, intimate data belonging to any person: a live, high-definition feed from around — and perhaps inside — their house. The company has marketed its line of miniature cameras, designed to be mounted as doorbells, in garages, and on bookshelves, not only as a means of keeping tabs on your home while you’re away, but of creating a sort of privatized neighborhood watch, a constellation of overlapping camera feeds that will help police detect and apprehend burglars (and worse) as they approach. “Our mission to reduce crime in neighborhoods has been at the core of everything we do at Ring,” founder and CEO Jamie Siminoff wrote last spring to commemorate the company’s reported $1 billion acquisition payday from Amazon, a company with its own recent history of troubling facial recognition practices. The marketing is working; Ring is a consumer hit and a press darling.

Despite its mission to keep people and their property secure, the company’s treatment of customer video feeds has been anything but, people familiar with the company’s practices told The Intercept. Beginning in 2016, according to one source, Ring provided its Ukraine-based research and development team virtually unfettered access to a folder on Amazon’s S3 cloud storage service that contained every video created by every Ring camera around the world. This would amount to an enormous list of highly sensitive files that could be easily browsed and viewed. Downloading and sharing these customer video files would have required little more than a click. The Information, which has aggressively covered Ring’s security lapses, reported on these practices last month.

At the time the Ukrainian access was provided, the video files were left unencrypted, the source said, because of Ring leadership’s “sense that encryption would make the company less valuable,” owing to the expense of implementing encryption and lost revenue opportunities due to restricted access. The Ukraine team was also provided with a corresponding database that linked each specific video file to corresponding specific Ring customers.

“If [someone] knew a reporter or competitor’s email address, [they] could view all their cameras.””

At the same time, the source said, Ring unnecessarily provided executives and engineers in the U.S. with highly privileged access to the company’s technical support video portal, allowing unfiltered, round-the-clock live feeds from some customer cameras, regardless of whether they needed access to this extremely sensitive data to do their jobs. For someone who’d been given this top-level access — comparable to Uber’s infamous “God mode” map that revealed the movements of all passengers — only a Ring customer’s email address was required to watch cameras from that person’s home. Although the source said they never personally witnessed any egregious abuses, they told The Intercept “if [someone] knew a reporter or competitor’s email address, [they] could view all their cameras.” The source also recounted instances of Ring engineers “teasing each other about who they brought home” after romantic dates. Although the engineers in question were aware that they were being surveilled by their co-workers in real time, the source questioned whether their companions were similarly informed.

Ring’s decision to grant this access to its Ukraine team was spurred in part by the weaknesses of its in-house facial and object recognition software. Neighbors, the company’s disarming name for its distributed residential surveillance platform, is now a marquee feature for Ring’s cameras, billed as a “proactive” neighborhood watch. This real-time crime-fighting requires more than raw video — it requires the ability to make sense, quickly and at a vast scale, of what’s actually happening in these household video streams. Is that a dog or your husband? Is that a burglar or a tree? Ring’s software has for years struggled with these fundamentals of object recognition. According to the most recent Information report, “Users routinely complained to customer support about receiving alerts when nothing noteworthy was happening at their front door; instead, the system seemed to be detecting a car driving by on the street or a leaf falling from a tree in the front yard.”

Computer vision has made incredible strides in recent years, but creating software that can categorize objects from scratch is often expensive and time-consuming. To jump-start the process, Ring used its Ukrainian “data operators” as a crutch for its lackluster artificial intelligence efforts, manually tagging and labeling objects in a given video as part of a “training” process to teach software with the hope that it might be able to detect such things on its own in the near future. This process is still apparently underway years later: Ring Labs, the name of the Ukrainian operation, is still employing people as data operators, according to LinkedIn, and posting job listings for vacant video-tagging gigs: “You must be able to recognize and tag all moving objects in the video correctly with high accuracy,” reads one job ad. “Be ready for rapid changes in tasks in the same way as be ready for long monotonous work.”

ring-redacted-1547070465

Image: Ring

A never-before-published image from an internal Ring document pulls back the veil of the company’s lofty security ambitions: Behind all the computer sophistication was a team of people drawing boxes around strangers, day in and day out, as they struggled to grant some semblance of human judgment to an algorithm. (The Intercept redacted a face from the image.)

A second source, with direct knowledge of Ring’s video-tagging efforts, said that the video annotation team watches footage not only from the popular outdoor and doorbell camera models, but from household interiors. The source said that Ring employees at times showed each other videos they were annotating and described some of the things they had witnessed, including people kissing, firing guns, and stealing.

Ring spokesperson Yassi Shahmiri would not answer any questions about the company’s past data policies and how they might be different today, electing instead to provide the following statement:

We take the privacy and security of our customers’ personal information extremely seriously. In order to improve our service, we view and annotate certain Ring videos. These videos are sourced exclusively from publicly shared Ring videos from the Neighbors app (in accordance with our terms of service), and from a small fraction of Ring users who have provided their explicit written consent to allow us to access and utilize their videos for such purposes.

We have strict policies in place for all our team members. We implement systems to restrict and audit access to information. We hold our team members to a high ethical standard and anyone in violation of our policies faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties. In addition, we have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behavior, we will take swift action against them.

It’s not clear that the current standards for which Ring videos are accessed in Ukraine, as described in Ring’s statement, have always been in place, nor is there any indication of how (or if) they’re enforced. The Information quoted former employees saying the standards have not always been in place, and indicated that efforts to more tightly control video were put in place by Amazon only this past May after Amazon visited the Ukraine office. Even then, The Information added, staffers in Ukraine worked around the controls.

Furthermore, Ring’s overview of its Neighbors system provides zero mention of image or facial recognition, and no warning that those who use the feature are opting in to have their homes watched by individuals in a Ukrainian R&D lab. Mentions of Ring’s facial recognition practices are buried in its privacy policy, which said merely that “you may choose to use additional functionality in your Ring product that, through video data from your device, can recognize facial characteristics of familiar visitors.” Neither Ring’s terms of service nor its privacy policy mention any manual video annotation being conducted by humans, nor does either document mention of the possibility that Ring staffers could access this video at all. Even with suitably strong policies in place, the question of whether Ring owners should trust a company that ever considered the above permissible will remain an open one.

Update: January 11th, 2019

After initial publication, Ring spokesperson Yassi Shahmiri told The Intercept that “Ring employees never have and never did provide employees with access to livestreams of their Ring devices,” a claim contradicted by multiple sources.

The post For Owners of Amazon’s Ring Security Cameras, Strangers May Have Been Watching Too appeared first on The Intercept.

YA Fiction, Disrupted

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/01/2019 - 7:00pm in


It’s Sweet Silicon Valley High!

Regenerating the High Street through National Workshops

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/01/2019 - 6:19am in

Last week Tweezer announced her plan to revitalize Britain’s failing high streets. Many of our shops are closing as customers and retailers move onto the internet. City centres are being hit hard as shop fronts are left vacant, inviting further vandalism, and further economic decline as shoppers are put off by empty stores and smashed shop windows. In America, it’s been forecast that half of the country’s malls are due to close in the next few years. Tweezer announced that she was going to try reverse this trend in Britain by allocating government money to local authorities, for which they would have to bid.

I’m suspicious of this scheme, partly because of the way it’s being managed. In my experience, the Conservatives’ policy of forcing local authorities to bid for needed funding is simply another way of stopping some places from getting the money they need under the guise of business practice or democracy or however they want to present it. It’s the same way Thatcher would always delay the date when she’d give local authorities they funding they needed for the next year. It’s a way of disguising the fact that they’re making cuts, or simply not giving the money that’s really needed.

As for how local authorities could regenerate their town centres, I wonder if it could be done through a form of the national workshops suggested by the 19th century French socialist, Louis Blanc. During the Revolution of 1848, Blanc proposed a scheme to provide jobs for France’s unemployed by setting up a series of state-owned workshops. These would be run as co-operatives. The workers would share the profits, a certain proportion of which would be set aside to purchase other businesses. This would eventually lead to the socialization of French industry.

Needless to say, the scheme failed through official hostility. The scheme was adopted, by the state undermined it through giving the unemployed on it pointless and demeaning jobs to do. Like digging ditches for no particular reason. It thus petered out as unemployed workers did their best to avoid the scheme. There’s a kind of parallel there to the way the Conservatives and New Labour tried to stop people going on Jobseeker’s Allowance by making it as degrading and unpleasant as possible, and by the workfare industry. This last provides absolutely no benefit whatsoever to workers on it, but gives cheap labour to the firms participating in the scheme, like the big supermarkets.

The national workshops, on the other hand, were at least intended to provide work and empower France’s working people.

In his Fabian Essay, ‘The Transition to Social Democracy’, George Bernard Shaw suggested that Britain could painlessly become a truly socialized economy and society through the gradual extension of municipalization. Town councils would gradually take over more and more parts of the local economy and industry. He pointed to the way the local authorities were already providing lighting, hospitals and other services.

I therefore wonder if it would be better to try to create new businesses in Britain’s town centres by renting the empty shops to groups of workers to run them as cooperatives. They’d share the profits, part of which would be put aside to buy up more businesses, which would also be turned into co-ops.
Already local businesses in many cities have benefited by some radical socialist ideas. In this case, it’s the local currencies, which are based on the number of hours of labour required to produce an article or provide a service, an idea that goes all the way back to anarchist thinkers like Proudhon and Lysander Spooner in the 19th century. These schemes serve to put money back into the local community and businesses.

I realise that this is actually extremely utopian. Local governments are perfectly willing to provide some funding to local co-ops, if they provide an important service. I’ve heard that in Bristol there’s a co-op in Stokes Croft that has been funded by the council because it employs former convicts and drug addicts. However, you can imagine the Tories’ sheer rage, and that of private business and the right-wing press, if a local council tried to put a system of locally owned co-operatives into practice. It would be attacked as ‘loony left’ madness and a threat to proper, privately owned business and jobs.

But it could be what is needed, if only partly, to regenerate our streets: by creating businesses that create jobs and genuinely empower their workers and provide services uniquely tailored to their communities.

Shirley Williams on the Industrial Democracy

Before she left with other members of the Labour right to form the SDP, it seems that Shirley Williams did have some genuinely interesting views on socialist issues some would associated more with the Labour left. Like industrial democracy.

The ’70s were the decade of the Bullock Report, which recommended putting workers on the management boards of Britain’s major industries, and this was still an issue a couple of years later. In her 1981 book, Politics Is For People, Williams discusses some of the problems of industrial democracy. She acknowledges that the trade unions were divided on the issue and management positively feared it. She also recognized that there were problems about how it could be achieved, given the complexities of the representation of the different trade unions in British workplaces on management boards. But she supported its introduction in Britain’s businesses, and suggested that it would be made easier through the information and computer technology that was then also appearing. She wrote

Through the need for participation in the introduction of new technologies, management and unions are having to establish consultative machinery where none exists. Those firms who want to move ahead quickly will achieve trade union cooperation if they offer participation in exchange; otherwise they will face resistance and obstruction. The new technologies offer an opportunity to widen industrial democracy at the plant and office level, where it matters most. Whether joint consultation at that level leads on to participation in the boardroom is a matter that can be left to each company and its unions to decide.

More difficult is the question of how the workforce in each firm should be represented. In the Cabinet committee which drew up the 1979 White Paper on industrial democracy, there were differing views on whether workers should elect their representatives to plant and company committees or whether they should be nominated by the trade unions (the ‘single channel’). The issue is far from simple. In Sweden and the Federal Republic of Germany most firms have only one trade union,, so there is no need to secure agreement among them before candidates for election can be put forward. In Britain, as many as twenty unions may represent the employees of large firms, and four or five unions in a firm are commonplace. In these circumstances, a straightforward election would be likely to lead all the representatives coming from the biggest unions, the rest being unrepresented.

But the nomination of a single list by agreement between the unions in a plant or firm offends the principle of democratic choice. The workers may object to one or more of the people selected to represent them, yet they would have no power to reject him or her other than by the rejecting the whole slate and jeopardizing participation itself. One way out of this dilemma would be for the unions in a multi-union plant to agree on constituencies representing each union on a weighted basis, with an election based on a secret ballot between candidates who were members of the appropriate union, some of whom might carry official endorsement.

Industrial democracy has not attracted consistent support from most trade unions, and the trade unions themselves are profoundly divided on the form it should take, many preferring a consultative structure to one statutory participation on the lines proposed in the Bullock Report. If the unions are divided, however, much of management feels threatened by the idea of industrial democracy. So for years there has been a stalemate on the subject, and government intervenes at their peril. Yet, if only beca8use there has to be effective consultation on technological change, the position cannot be left where it is. Indeed, in my view industrial democracy could usher in much better relations in industry, greater cooperation in improving the productivity of all factors of production and a better understanding of the need for voluntary incomes and prices policies to combat inflation. Many of Britain’s economic problems are rooted in institutional rigidities or, as in this case, institution conservatism. This one reform could bring in its wake a long-delayed rejuvenation. We should not be daunted by the difficulties, but rather invigorated by the possibilities.

Shirley Williams, Politics Is For People (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1981) 139-40.

Some of the issues Williams talks about here are very dated. Inflation is no longer the critical issue it was in the ’70s. It’s now very low, and this has caused problems in its turn. Profits and management pay have risen immensely, but this is not reflected in the salaries of ordinary workers. Quite the opposite. Their pay is still below inflation, and the result is that many of the quarter of a million people using food banks are actually in work. Mike has also today posted up a piece about how parents are starving themselves in the week because there isn’t enough to feed both them and their children on their wages. And this is not a recent development. Mike has published a number of articles about this over the past few years since the Tories took power under Cameron.

And the new technology to which Williams looked forward also hasn’t been an entirely liberating force. Some businesses instead are using to restrict and spy on their workers. Private Eye in their ‘Street of Shame’ column printed a story about how the weirdo Barclay Twins, who own the Torygraph, tried to fit the motion detectors used in call centres to monitor the movements of staff there to check to see if there hacks were leaving the desks. Other firms are fitting devices to their workers ankles to monitor their movements. And the spectre of Big Brother-style surveillance loomed even larger a month or so ago, when the I reported that a Swedish firm had developed an implantable chip that could be inserted into a firm’s staff.

British workers also don’t have the strong unions they enjoyed in the 1970s, which have left British workers vulnerable to low pay, the removal of employment rights and job insecurity.

However, Williams is right in that industrial democracy offers a genuine opportunity to empower working people, and benefit industry through proper cooperation between workers and management. It’s proper implementation won’t come from Williams and her fellows, who are now part of the Lib Dems, and who seem to have thoroughly forgotten it. It will only from Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party.

Two Books By Tony Benn

I hope everyone’s had a great Christmas and their New Year is off to a good start. May the shadow of Theresa May and her wretched Brexit be very far from you!

Yesterday I got through the post two secondhand books I’d ordered from Amazon by that redoubtable warrior for socialism and working people, Tony Benn. These were Arguments for Socialism, edited by Chris Mullin (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1979) and Fighting Back: Speaking Out For Socialism in the Eighties (London: Hutchinson 1988).

The two books differ slightly in that one is written from Benn’s perspective at the end of the ’70s, while the other was written nine years later at the end of the 1980s. In both Benn tackles the problems of the day, and lays out his radical, democratic socialist plans to revitalise the British economy and industry, strengthen and broaden democracy, and empower working people.

The blurb of Arguments for Socialism simply runs

Tony Benn, the most controversial figure in British politics, outlines a strong democratic-socialist approach to the most crucial issues in our political life over the next decade.

It has an introduction, and the following chapters, subdivided into smaller sections on particularly topics. These are

Section 1., ‘The Inheritance’, is composed of the following
The Inheritance of the Labour Movement
Christianity and Socialism
The Bridge between Christianity and Socialism
The Levellers and the English Democratic Tradition
Marxism and the Labour Party
Clause IV
The Labour Movement.

Section 2. ‘Issues of the 1970s’
Labour’s Industrial Programme
The Case for Change
Opening the Books
Planning Agreements and the NEB
Public Ownership
Industrial Democracy
The Upper Clyde Work-In
The Worker’s Co-ops
The Lessons of the Workers’ Co-ops
Democracy in the Public Sector

3. ‘Energy’
North Sea Oil
The Debate over Nuclear Energy
Windscale
The Fast Breeder
A Future for Coal
Alternative Sources of Energy
Conclusion

4 ‘The EEC’
Loss of Political Self-Determination
Loss of Control over the United Kingdom’s Industry and Trade
Unemployment and the EEC
After the Referendum

5. ‘Democracy’
Technology and Democracy
The Case for Open Government
How Secrecy Is Maintained at Present
Leaks and How They Occur
Conclusion

6. ‘Issues for the 1980s’
The Arguments
The Argument in Outline
The Present Crisis of Unemployment
Adam Smith and the Birth Capitalism
Lessons from the Pre-War Slump
Three Remedies on Offer
1. Monetarism
2. Corporatism
3. Democratic Socialism

7. ‘Jobs’
The Pension Funds
New Technology
Growth
The Trade Union Role in Planning
Workers’ Co-ops
A New Relationship between Labour and Capital

8. ‘The Common Market’
Three Criticisms of the EEC

9. Democracy
Open Government
The Unions
The Armed Forces
The Media
A New Role for Political Leaders.

Fighting Back’s blurb runs

With crisis after crisis rocking the country throughout the Eighties, the formation of new parties, divisions with in the old, mergers, reconciliations – British political life is at a watershed.

Tony Benn, in speeches on picket lines, at Conferences at home and abroad, in broadcasts, in the House of Commons, has been a consistently radical campaigning voice: for equal rights, for democracy and for peace against the increasingly brutal politics of monetarism, militarism and self-interest.

Fighting Back brings together for the first time in one volume the best of Tony Benn’s speeches from 1980 to 1988. Few poeple will have heard more than brief snippets of proceedings in the House of Commons given by television, radio and the press, so the most important debates are included here – the Falklands War, Westland helicopters, Fortress Wapping, Zircon and Spycatcher – as well as some lesser known concerns, from the ordination of women, to the politics of singer Paul Robeson.

Throughout the difficult years in Opposition, Tony Benn has played a leading role in defending and regenerating the socialist tradition. But Fighting Back is more than simply a personal testament: it is also an exciting and accessible handbook to the turbulent Eighties, whatever one’s political convictions.

After the introduction, it has the following chapters and subsections:

1. The Stalemate in British Politics
-Fifty Years of Consensus Rule
-The Party and the Government
-From Defeat to Victory
-Parliamentary Democracy and the Labour Movement

2. Prophetic Voices
-Positive Dissent
-Thomas Paine
-Karl Marx
-Paul Robeson
-R.H. Tawney
In Defence of British Dissidents

3. Fighting Back
-The Falklands War (April 1982)
-The Falklands War (April 1982)
-The Falklands War (May 1982)
-The Falklands War (December 1982)
-The Miners’ Strike (June 1984)
-The Miners’ Strike (September 1984)
-The Miners’ Strike (February 1985)
-Gay Rights
-Fortress Wapping (May 1986)
-Fortress Wapping (January 1987)
-The Irish Struggle for Freedom
-After Eniskillen
-Privatisation of Gas
-Legal Reform

4. British Foreign and Defence Policy
-The Case for Non-Alignment
-Who is Our Enemy?
-A New Agenda for the International Labour and Socialist Movements
-Some Facts about Defence
-Towards a Permanent New Forum
-Paying for Apartheid

5. Work and Health in a Green and Pleasant Land
-The Unemployment Tragedy
-Trade Unionism in the Eighties
-Full Employment: the Priority
-The Common Ownership of Land
-The Case Against Nuclear Power
-Nuclear Accidents
-The Nuclear Lobby
-Evidence Against Sizewell B

6. The Arrogance of Power
-The Case of Sir Anthony Blunt
-The Belgrano-Ponting Debate
-Westland Helicopters
-Surcharge and Disqualification of Councillors
-The Ordination of Women
-The Zircon Affair
-Spycatcher
-Protection of Official Information

7. Disestablishing the Establishment
-Power, Parliament and the People
-The Civil Service
-The Crown, the Church and Democratic Politics
-A Moral Crisis
-The Disestablishment of the Church of England
-Television in a Democracy
-Televising the House

8. Light at the End of the Tunnel
-The Radical Tradition: Past, Present and Future
-Staying True to the Workers
-Aims and Objectives of the Labour Party.

The Books and their Times

Arguments for Socialism comes from a time when this country had nationalised industries, strong trade unions and an efficient and effective planning apparatus. It was also when unemployment and discontent were rising, and the country was facing the threat of Thatcher and her monetarist agenda. The speeches and articles in Fighting Back come from when Thatcher had seized power, was busy privatising everything not nailed down, smashing the unions and trying to silence any dissent. This included attempts to prosecute civil servant Clive Ponting for leaking documents showing that the Argentinian warship, the General Belgrano, was actually leaving the Falklands warzone when it was attacked and sunk. Thatcher also banned the publication of Peter Wright’s Spycatcher over here, because of the embarrassing things it had to say about MI5. This turned into a massive farce as the book was widely published elsewhere, like New Zealand, meaning that foreign readers had a better understanding of the British secret state than we Brits did. It was such a ridiculous situation that Private Eye’s Willie Rushton sent it up in a book, Spythatcher.

Benn’s Beliefs on Socialism and Democracy

Benn was genuinely radical. He believed that British socialism was in danger not because it had been too radical, but because it had not been radical enough. He wished to extend nationalisation beyond the utilities that had been taken into public ownership by Attlee, and give working people a real voice in their management through the trade unions. He also fully supported the workers of three firms, who had taken over the running of their companies when management wanted to close them down, and run them as co-ops. On matters of the constitution, he wished to expand democracy by bringing in a Freedom of Information Act, strip the Crown of its remaining constitutional powers and have them invested in parliament instead, and disestablish the Church of England. He also wanted to strip the office of Prime Minister of its powers of patronage and give more to MPs. He was also firmly against the EEC and for CND. Socially, he was on the side of grassroots movements outside parliament, fully embraced gay rights and the ordination of women within the Anglican Church.

Not the Maniac He was Portrayed by the Press

He was and still is vilified for these radical views. The press, including Ian Hislop’s mighty organ, Private Eye, presented him as a ‘swivel-eyed loon’, at best a mad visionary of hopelessly unrealistic ideals. At worst he was a Communist agent of Moscow ready to destroy this country’s ability to defend itself and hand it over to rule by the Soviets.

He was, it won’t surprise you to learn, anything like that.

He was very well respected by his constituents in my part of Bristol as a very good MP and brilliant orator, and was respected even by his opponents in the city. One of the leaders of Bristol’s chamber of commerce said that he was always rational and his opinions clearly thought out. I’m a monarchist and a member of the Anglican church, and so don’t share his views on the disestablishment of the Church of England. But his arguments there are interesting.

Disestablishment of the Anglican Church

Recent calls for disestablishment have come from atheists and secularists, and Benn does use the secularist argument that privileged position of various Anglican bishops to sit in the House of Lords is unfair to those of other faiths, Roman Catholics, Protestant Nonconformists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists. But this argument actually comes at the end of the main body of his pieces. His main points are that the bishops shouldn’t be there, because they’re unelected, and that parliament and the prime minister, who may not be Anglicans or even Christians, have no business appointing the denomination’s clergy or deciding doctrine. It’s an argument primarily from within the Anglican church, not from someone outside, jealous of its position.

The Prime Minister against the Church and Its Members

One example of how the Prime Minister abused their position to override or impose their views against the wishes of the Church itself was when Thatcher got stroppy with the-then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Runcie. After the Falklands War, Runcie had preached a sermon saying that we should now meet the Argentinians in a spirit of reconciliation. This is what a Christian leader should say. It comes from the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the peacemakers, and all that. We’ve heard it several times since by great leaders like Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But Thatcher didn’t like it because she wanted something a bit more triumphalist. This section is also interesting because it has an interesting snippet you and I south of the Border have never heard of, except if you’re a member of the Church of Scotland. That august body at its synod overwhelmingly voted in favour of nuclear disarmament. I hadn’t heard anything about that before, and I doubt many other people outside Scotland had. And it obviously wasn’t an accident. The Tory media really didn’t want anyone else in Britain to know about it, in case they thought it might be a good idea.

It wasn’t just the Church of Scotland that were against nuclear weapons. So was a leading Roman Catholic prelate, Monsigner Bruce Kent, now, I believe, no longer a member of the priesthood. One of my aunts was a very Roman Catholic lady, who was also a member of CND. She found herself on one march next to a group of Franciscan friars. So kudos and respect to all the churches for their Christian witness on this issue.

CND, the Unions and Media Bias

On the subject of CND, Benn talks about the blatant bias of the press. All kinds of people were members of the Campaign, but when it was covered on television, what you got were a few shots of clergy like Monsignor Kent, before the camera zoomed in on the banner of the Revolutionary Communist party. CND were part of Russkie commie subversion! Except as I remember, they weren’t. The Russians didn’t like them either after they criticised their maneoevres in eastern Europe.

Benn states that the media’s bias is peculiar – its somewhere to the right of the Guardian, but slightly to the left of Thatcher. This was the attitude of the establishment generally. And it was extremely biased against the trade unions. He cites the work of Glasgow Media Studies unit, who looked at the language they used to describe industrial disputes. The language used of the trade unions always presented them as the aggressor. They ‘demanded’ and ‘threatened’, while management ‘offered’ and ‘pleaded’. He then asked hsi readers to turn the rhetoric around, so that a union asking for a pay rise of 8 per cent when inflation in 10 per cent is ‘pleading’.

The Ordination of Women

His stance on the ordination of women is equally interesting. He was obviously for it, but his arguments as you might expect were very well informed. He pointed out that women had been campaigning to be ordained in the Church since the 1920s, and that other Christian denominations, like the Congregationalists, already had women ministers. As did other Anglican churches abroad, like the Episcopalians in America. It was blocked here by the Anglo-Catholics, who fear it would stop re-union with Rome. But even here, he noted, this may not be an obstacle, citing movements for the ordination of women within Catholicism. Again, it’s an argument from within the Church, or from someone genuinely sympathetic to it, than from an outsider frustrated with the Church’s stubborn refusal to abide by secular social values, although that is also in there.

Government Secrecy

And back on the subject of government secrecy, the Zircon Affair was when Thatcher banned the transmission of an edition of the documentary programme, Secret State. I’ve put up that documentary series a few years ago on this blog, because it showed the extent to which Thatcher and others had been using the Official Secrets Act to suppress information that was embarrassing or uncomfortable. Like the fact that in a nuclear war, this country would suffer massive casualties and the obliteration of its major population centres.

The book actually contains any number of interesting snippets that definitely weren’t reported, or else were only given very tiny coverage, in the mainstream press. Like details of various incidents at nuclear plants that could have led to serious accidents. He also talks about the ‘Atoms for Peace’ programme. In this international project, we sent our nuclear material over to America, where, we were told, it would be used for peaceful purposes generating power in American reactors. Well, it was used in American reactors. They refined it into the plutonium, that was then put in American nuclear warheads and sent back over here to the US nuclear bases on British soil. He also pointed out that the agreements covering the use of Britain as a base by US forces in the event of a nuclear war also contravened our sovereignty.

Ted Heath and the EU

Loss of sovereignty was also a major part of his opposition to the EU. But he also makes the point that our entry into the Common Market was also undemocratic. Ted Heath simply decided the country was going in. Parliament was not consulted and did not vote on the issue. I do remember that there was a referendum afterwards, however.

Intelligence Agencies Smearing Labour MPs

The intelligence agencies are another threat to British democracy. He cites Peter Wright’s Spycatcher memoir on how MI5 was spreading rumours smearing the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, as a KGB spy. This, like much of the rest of the material in the books, has not dated. The problem of the security services smearing left-wing politicians is still very much with us, as we’ve seen from the Integrity Initiative. They’ve smeared Jeremy Corbyn as a Russian spy.

Books Still Relevant in 21st Century

I’ve only really skimmed the books so far, just reading the odd chapter, but so much of it is directly relevant now. I think if he were alive today, Benn probably would have voted ‘Leave’, but his arrangements for leaving the EU would have been far more sensible and beneficial to this country’s ordinary folk than that of Tweezer and her band of profiteers. And he is absolutely right when he writes about expanding democracy in industry. He states that the workers’ co-ops on the Clydeside and elsewhere were attacked in the press, because suddenly the British capitalist establishment were terrified because it showed that there was a genuine alternative to capitalism, and that workers could run companies.

The individual sections in these books chapters are short, and the arguments clear. He also gives point by point party programmes on particular issues, such as making this country more democratic.

Benn Democrat, Not Authoritarian Communist

And it’s this concern for democracy that most definitely marks Benn out as being a democratic socialist, not a Trotskyite or Communist. Those parties and their various sects were run according to Lenin’s principle of ‘democratic centralism’. Put simply, this meant that the party would hold some kind of open debate on issues until a decision was made. After that, the issue was closed. Anybody still holding or promoting their own opinions faced official censure or expulsion. And the Communist parties of eastern Europe would have been as frightened of Benn’s championing of democracy as the British establishment.

Conclusion

As I said, I take issue with Benn on certain issues. But his reasoning is always clear and rational, his points well argued and based in fact. Furthermore, he is impressed with the British radical tradition and how much British socialism is squarely based within it. We lost one of our greatest parliamentarians with his death.

His ideas, however, are still very relevant, and have been vindicated with time. He was right about monetarism and corporatism, about unemployment, about the need for unions, about media bias. His support of women priests and gay rights were ahead of their time, and have now become almost a commonplace, accepted by all except a few die-hard reactionaries. And he’s right about nationalisation and worker empowerment.

These are books I intend to use for my blog and its attack on Tweezer and the Tories. And I won’t be short of useful material.

Censored in 2018: Protest videos, court verdicts, real news — and Peppa Pig

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/01/2019 - 5:51am in


Image via Pixabay by user dimitrisvetsikas1969 | CC0

As 2018 draws to a close, we’re going back to our roots here at Advox. While our story topics run the gamut from controversial cybercrime laws to journalist arrests to fake news on Facebook, there is one issue that underlies all our work — the protection of online speech in the public interest.

When it affects people’s fundamental right to access information about their political, cultural or economic realities, censorship matters to us. Here are just a few examples of censorship stories covered by Advox in 2018.


Photos of protesters killed in Nicaragua, confirmed by independent news site Confidencial. Photo compilation by Confidencial. Individual photos via various social media channels.

NICARAGUA: La Prensa and Confidencial
censored by DDoS attacks

When protests mounted in a public outcry against the administration of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, multiple TV networks were taken off the air. One radio station was set on fire.

Online, two independent local news sites, La Prensa and Confidencial, suffered what appeared to be distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Both had been reporting the most up-to-date accounts from the ground, including dispatches on violent confrontations between civilians, police and security forces in which dozens of protesters were killed.


Maria Ressa, editor-in-chief of Rappler. Photo by Joshua Lim via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0 Philippines)

PHILIPPINES: Rappler
censored by Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission

The Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked the business license of Rappler, one of the country's leading independent news sites in January 2018 on baseless allegations that the company accepted illegal foreign funding.  Rappler has aggressively covered extrajudicial drug killings in the Philippines and has been a frequent target of attacks by president Rodrigo Duterte, who accused Rappler of being a “fake news outlet” the day after the SEC ruling.

In December 2018, Rappler co-owner and editor-in-chief Maria Ressa was charged with tax fraud and a warrant was issued for her arrest, but she was released after posting bail. The Philippine National Union of Journalists said her arrest signaled that the Duterte administration “will go to ridiculous lengths to muzzle all those it does not agree with.”


Screen capture from CCTV.

CHINA: Rolling eyes
censored by Sina Weibo, at behest of Cyberspace Administration

Reporter Liang Xiangyi became the talk of the Chinese internet after she rolled her eyes at another reporter, Zhang Huijun, who had posed a long-winded and deferential question about China’s One Belt One Road project at a congressional press conference. After it aired on China’s Central Television, video of Liang's skeptical expression spread like wildfire — until internet censorship authorities banned all discussions of the eye roll.

Among many “pro-eye roll” phrases censored on Weibo was this gem: “Deprived of free speech, ancient people blink their eyes as secret codes. In the new era, we have the freedom to roll our eyes.”

IRAN, RUSSIA: Telegram
censored by judiciary

A Moscow court announced a ban on Telegram, the privacy-friendly mobile messaging service, after Telegram’s CEO repeatedly refused to comply with demands to give law enforcement agents access to the app’s encryption keys.

But instituting the ban was easier said than done. In an effort to carry out the order, the country’s federal media regulator began banning millions of IP addresses in the attempt to shut down the service, which runs on through decentralized network. This led to the blocking of countless other business sites and communications platforms including Viber, Slack, and Evernote.

Later that month, the Iranian judiciary issued an order to block Telegram, citing national security reasons. Telegram also was temporarily censored during anti-government protests in December 2017 and January 2018.


Jamii Forum founder Maxence Melo. Photo via Facebook.

TANZANIA: Jamii Forums (‘Tanzanian Reddit’ or ‘Swahili Wikileaks’)
censored by itself

Tanzania's most popular independent news and user comment site, Jamii Forum, shut itself down in June, in anticipation of the country's “blogger tax.” The law requires Tanzanian bloggers to register and pay over $900 USD per year to publish online. Blogs and other types of online content operating without a license can be punished by a fine “not less than five million Tanzanian shillings” (around $2,500 USD), or imprisonment for “not less than 12 months or both.” Jamii has since resumed operations online.

AUSTRALIA: Guilty verdict in priest sex abuse trial
censored by Victoria County Court

Australian Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican's third-highest ranking official, was convicted of sexual assault by a Victoria court on December 12, 2018. But Australian media didn't report on the trial or its outcome thanks to a blanket suppression order imposed by the court, on grounds that it might prejudice a subsequent trial being held in March.

Catholic and international media outlets nevertheless ran with the story, risking censorship and prosecution in Australia, and fueling a firestorm of commentary and criticism of the gag order on social media. If anything, the suppression order elevated public knowledge about the case online.


Friendship between Peppa and Suzy has been interpreted as plastic or ingenuine by some Chinese netizens. Screen capture from Peppa Pig's derivative video.

CHINA: Peppa Pig
censored by Douyin video platform, at behest of Chinese Communist Party

In May, the Chinese video platform Douyin removed more than 30,000 videos of the British cartoon sensation Peppa Pig — many of which had been re-dubbed with adult language and themes. In tandem, the popular porker was denounced by Chinese Communist Party media mouthpieces, in response to an internet subculture connecting Peppa Pig with “Shehuiren”, a term that refers to organized crime syndicates and is more generally used to describe “immoral” behavior.

A commenter on Sina Tech explained that Peppa has become a symbol of “a person who follows their heart regardless of social norms.”

CUBA: El Estornudo (‘The Sneeze’)
censored by ETECSA, state-owned ISP

The fledgling independent online magazine El Estornudo (“The Sneeze”), which includes critical essays and feature articles on social issues and cultural change, joined the ranks of media outlets in the country that are or have been temporarily censored by state authorities. In a response to the blockage, the site’s editors wrote a letter to state authorities in which they said:

In a country where print publications cannot circulate outside the margins of the state, where internet is very limited, and where they block the URL to your outlet so people cannot even read you through that very limited access, we should remember that this magazine exists also for Cubans to find out tomorrow what was happening to them today.


Raila Odinga being “sworn in” as Kenya's People's President [Screen shot taken on February 1, 2018].

KENYA: The symbolic swearing-in of Raila Odinga
censored by President Uhuru Kenyatta

When Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga was symbolically — if not legally — sworn in as the “people's president” on January 30, three major broadcasting networks were unplugged by the government of Kenya. Although incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta officially won the controversial October 2017 re-run election (after the country's Supreme Court annulled the results of the initial August 2017 vote, having found “irregularities and illegalities”), supporters of Raila Odinga remained committed to his campaign and cause. Three journalists at NTV media house, which aired the ceremony, were threatened with arrest.

In a critique of the move for Al Jazeera, Nanjala Nyabola wrote: “Switching off three media houses, just because you can, is the definition of swatting a fly on your head with a hammer – painful, self-destructive and counterproductive.”

RUSSIA: YouTube video of pension reform protest
censored by Google, at behest of Moscow court

One day before a major rally against an unpopular pension reform was planned in Russia, Google informed rally organizers of its plans to take down YouTube videos promoting the rally, citing legal requirements for a “day of silence” on the day before an election. The rally was organized by the Anti-Corruption Foundation, which is led by prominent opposition figure Alexey Navalny. Leonid Volkov, an ally of Navalny and fellow organizer, took Google to task in a Facebook post:

The corporations — including Google — should face the reality. In authoritarian regimes these are the governments who most frequently abuse the law. Not every request signed by a government authority should be automatically considered as a lawful one. A good portion of criticism is necessary to protect the users and their rights.

Alongside these and other blocks on internet content, sites and services, Access Now counted 188 internet shutdowns documented by activists and researchers around the world. The Software Freedom Law Centre counted 133 regional internet shutdowns in India, 64 of which took place in the northeastern state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Here’s hoping that 2019 brings greater protections for independent voices around the world!

 

This roundup includes research, writing and editing by Afef Abrougui, Mahsa Alimardani, Nwachukwu Egbunike, Janine Mendes Franco, Alexey Kovalev, Oiwan Lam, Amanda Lichtenstein, Karlo Mongaya, Diphus N'geny, Melissa Vida, Laura Vidal and Njeri Wangari Wanjohi.

Private Eye on the Integrity Initiative and Its Links to American Intelligence

I’ve just put up a piece by left-wing British vlogger Gordon Dimmack on the Integrity Initiative and its parent organization, the Institute for Statecraft, which have been revealed as British intelligence operations running smears against Jeremy Corbyn, claiming that he’s supported by the Russians. It’s pretty standard British establishment disinformation. In the 1970s MI5 ran a similar campaign against Harold Wilson, claiming that he was a KGB spy. The Sunday Times smeared the former Labour leader, Michael Foot, the same way in the 1990s, and have repeated the same libels recently. And then there are all the absurd attacks on Jeremy Corbyn in the press that he’s a Communist, Trotskyite or Stalinist.

Private Eye also ran a piece about the Integrity Initiative in this fortnight’s Christmas issue, for 22nd December 2018-10th January 2019. The article, entitled ‘Hot News, Cold War’, runs

The Integrity Initiative, ostensibly a campaign against “Russian disinformation”, faced Labour Party anger and a Foreign Office (FCO) inquiry when it emerged recently that the supposedly “independent” initiative was backed by 2m pounds of government money and had been circulating anti-Jeremy Corbyn articles.

Private Eye can now reveal that the project to “defend democracy against disinformation” has also relied on help from one John Rendon, the US political PR supremo dubbed “the man who sold the Iraq war” after his company, Rendon Group, was paid millions by the US government to build the Iraqi National Congress, the supposed “dissident” group behind fake tales about weapons of mass destruction that helped launch the Iraq war.

The Integrity Initiative was launched in 2016 by the Institute for Statecraft, a charity that claims to be “totally independent and impartial, not dependent on funding from political or government agencies”. However, documents released by hacktivist group Anonymous in November revealed that it got nearly 2m pounds from the Foreign Office in 2017/18 specifically to run the Integrity Initiative-figures subsequently confirmed by an embarrassed Sir Alan Duncan, Foreign Office minister, in a written parliamentary answer.

The Anonymous documents included detailed FCO plans to build up secretive “clusters” of friendly journalists and academics to spread their messages, with monthly reports back to government.

Integrity Initiative staff have intelligence links. The documents name as part of the team one Harold Elletson, a former Tory MP identified by the Observer in 1996 to have been an MI6 agent (see Eye 916). Another team member, Chris Donnelly, is a reserve officer in the British Army Intelligence Corps.

Integrity Initiative “clusters” across Europe push articles “written by independent journalists in newspapers” which were “based on material provided anonymously by the cluster”. The documents show the FCO-funded “clusters” were not just aiming at “Russian disinformation”. Instead the attacked European politicians they believed were too “pro-Putin”.

The papers show how John Rendon helped shape this FCO-funded campaign. He was a top speaker at a 45,000 pound programme of Integrity Initiative seminars to “educate core team and clusters”, and his firm helped write Integrity Initiative dossiers.

The Rendon Group works extensively for the CIA, Pentagon and other US agencies. Famously, it was paid nearly $100m to help shape the Iraqi National Congress (INC) from the 1990s onwards. The INC built its western media contacts to pump out fake stories about WMDs. After Saddam’s fall, the INC proved to have little support in Iraq itself. Rendon’s experience shows the danger of secretive government PR supposedly aimed at foreign opponents distorting domestic politics.

The FCO says the Integrity Initiative documents were exposed by a Kremlin hack and “amplified” by “Russian disinformation”. Russian media are certainly delighted by the news, and Russia may well have hacked the press, but they are real. (p. 11).

The people thus smearing Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left as Russian stooges are aided by an outfit that the helped to cause the illegal invasion of Iraq, an outfit that works for the American intelligence establishment. This makes sense. The Boston-based alternative news network, The Real News, have also put up a video about Initiative revealing that it doesn’t just smear British politicians and activists, but also American. This is a real scandal, and there needs to be a proper exposure of this organization and inquiry. And especially of the hacks, who are putting the organization’s lies into print to undermine real democracy across Europe and America.

Gordon Dimmack on Government Funded Disinformation House, the Integrity Initiative

A week or so I ago I put up an article looking at a piece by Mike about the Integrity Initiative. This is a government-funded disinformation programme run by the Institute for Statecraft, a private company whose funding also comes from the government and various right-wing think tanks, and whose staff appears to be drawn from the British military intelligence establishment.

The Integrity Initiative has caused a scandal because it claims that it was set up to combat Russian propaganda on the Net. It has expanded this, however, to include running smears against Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit. The company was first exposed when Labour MP Chris Williamson asked a question about it in parliament. The revelations about the organization’s political interference, both here and abroad, were truly shocking, but Duncan refused to say anything more about it, pleading that further information would reduce its effectiveness. One of those outraged at the Integrity Initiative and its malign activities was left-wing vlogger Gordon Dimmack, who states that this story is bigger than Brexit.

Dimmack has run a series of video about Integrity Initiative and its parent body, the Institute for Statecraft. In this one, he reveals the identities of three British journalists, who have worked for the organization in spreading disinformation and fake news. They are Ben Nimmo, and the Guardian’s Nick Cohen and Carole Cadwalladr.

Dimmack begins his discussion by running with Labour MP Chris Williamson’s own video about how his question about the government’s funding for the Institute revealed its dirty tricks campaign. It was revealed that last year it received 2.2 million pounds of government money, and was responsible for running political campaigns against various politicians and public figures across Europe. It and its pet journos put out disinformation to stop the attempts to by the Spanish Socialist party to get one of their country’s senior army officer, Pedro Banos, made its security leader. This was even before the Institute’s Spanish cluster got involved. One of the Initiative’s hacks is Ben Nimmo of DFR Labs, the DFR standing for ‘Digital, Foreign and Research’. Nimmo and his employers are funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Atlantic Council. Nimmo wrote a piece in the Scum claiming that Russia supported Corbyn, and then used his own piece as evidence to argue that Russia was not only promoting Corbyn as part of a disinformation campaign to sow division across the UK. Alan Duncan, the minister who answered Williams’ questions, then refused to reveal any more information. Dimmack comments on his excuse that it would damage the programme’s effectiveness, stating this means they’re frightened because they’ve been caught out. Williamson states that this is a threat democracy, and wants a public inquiry.

Dimmack himself notes that there have been four Labour MPs in parliament calling for an official investigation into the Initiative and its shady activities, including Jeremy Corbyn. But the media’s response has been to give it no coverage at all. The BBC wrote one article about it, which could have come from the Foreign Office. He states that the Guardian, or as he calls it, GCHQ’s propaganda rag, is very heavily implicated. Two of its journos, Carol Cadwalladr and James Ball, have attended Integrity Initiative sponsored events. They’ve also defended the Institute in the media and helped to cover this scandal up. They show that the media is not the ‘fourth estate’ holding government to account, but, in Dimmack’s phrase, ‘a fifth column’. Another Groaniad hack, Nick Cohen, has also attended events sponsored by the Initiative. Dimmack states that 90 per cent of Cohen’s articles are either attacks on Corbyn or Brexit.

He then moves on to an article by Craig Murray revealing the true location of the Institute for Statecraft’s headquarters. The lamestream media tracked it down to a disused timber mill in Auchtermuchtie, Fife, Scotland, owned by Daniel Lafeedney. Lafeedney, born with the more prosaic surname Daniel Edney, was formerly of D Squadron in the SAS and Military Intelligence. But Murray said that a quick search through relevant documents and a few phone calls revealed that the Institute’s real headquarters is in the basement of 2 Temple Place, London. This is definitely not a barn – it’s truly palatial, and was the London mansion of the millionaire William Waldorf Astor. The building has a website advertising itself as available for special functions, and showing off its opulent construction and decoration. It also invites people to donate to its maintenance. The Institute claims that it has no permanent staff, and shows nothing for rent, utilities or office expenses. In fact, the rent is paid by the Ministry of Defence. All of this is funded through MOD and the Foreign Office. Dimmack is naturally outraged, as the Ministry of Defence, as its name states, should be defending us rather than interfering in domestic politics or the affairs of foreign, allied states.

Lobster have also run a piece on the Initiative and its wretched parent, discussing government funding and its links to British intelligence, including MI6 and the cyberwarfare section of the SAS. It was set up apparently by Gordon Brown after he read a book on CIA’s sponsorship of the arts during the Cold War by an American academic. The book was actually a condemnation of the agency, but Brown missed the point and thought getting the intelligence services to launch propaganda campaign through the arts and media was a good idea.

As for the attacks on Corbyn, this seems very much like a return to hackneyed form by the British secret state. During the Cold War the IRD, the intelligence services’ propaganda department, ran fake stories attacking the Nationalists in Ireland and the British left. One of the most infamous examples of this was the smears made by MI5 against ’70’s Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson as a KGB spy. The media’s silence on this issue is easily explained: very many newspapers were complicit in running government disinformation. According to Lobster, the Sunday Times under Andrew Neil ran stories for MI5 in the 1970s, while Tony Greenstein did a piece a little while ago about Cohen and the fake news the Guardian was printing to smear Julian Assange of Wikileaks.

Chris Williamson is right. We need a genuine investigation into the Institute for Statecraft and the Integrity Initiative. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Lobster has been arguing for years that the British intelligence establishment is corrupt and out of control. And New Labour when they were in power aided this by showing a complete lack of interest in investigating or controlling it and its surveillance and smears of decent people to support the Tory establishment. There not only needs to be an investigation into the Integrity Initiative and the Institute for Statecraft, but tough questions need to be asked of the British intelligence esta

Silicon Noir and the End of Techno-Optimism: The Intercept’s 2018 Tech Coverage

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/12/2018 - 2:00am in

Tags 

Technology

This will likely go down as the year in which technology, once envisioned as an empowering and equalizing force, finally went headlong down the path toward dystopia and oppression. Our story this summer about Google planning to return to China with censored search at first shocked Silicon Valley, but it was the dark nature of what followed — internal dissent squelched, executives dissembling, Chinese users to be closely tracked — that proved most surprising.

Other depressing developments seemed right out of an ominous sci-fi film like “Blade Runner,” whether it was reporting that revealed the National Security Agency’s prowess at voice recognition, Facebook’s plans to use artificial intelligence to predict users’ future behavior, or just how badly ultrawealthy Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was exploiting underlings. As tech enters 2019, its brightest days seem to be well behind it.

Google Plans to Launch Censored Search Engine in China, Leaked Documents Reveal

INT01_google.china_.2-1532632324-1545410431

Illustration: Other Means

Search app that will “blacklist sensitive queries” could be launched in six to nine months, according to documents and people familiar with the plans.
By Ryan Gallagher

The Government Wants Airlines to Delay Your Flight So They Can Scan Your Face

Photo: Bill O’Leary/Getty Images

The feds are mad that, in a pilot program, airlines are keeping flights on time by letting passengers skip a facial recognition procedure at boarding.
By Sam Biddle

Forget About Siri and Alexa — When It Comes to Voice Identification, the “NSA Reigns Supreme”

Illustration: Brandon Blommaert

Classified documents from the Snowden archive reveal the NSA has been developing technology to automatically identify a speaker from the sound of their voice.
By Ava Kofman

Amazon Gets Tax Breaks While Its Employees Rely on Food Stamps

Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP

In Arizona, new data suggests that 1 in 3 of the company’s own employees depend on SNAP to put food on the table.
By H. Claire Brown

As Twitter Suspends Alex Jones, Should We Worry About Silicon Valley Regulating Speech?

Still: The Intercept

Sam Biddle, Glenn Greenwald, and Briahna Gray debate how the left should consider free speech issues in the context of powerful online platforms.
By Briahna Gray

Amazon’s Accent Recognition Technology Could Tell the Government Where You’re From

Intercept_Echo_v2-3.5MB-2-1542062294-1545410729

Illustration: Erik Blad

A new patent shows how Alexa could derive ethnic origin and emotion by analyzing speech. Experts think the government could come after the resulting data.
By Belle Lin

Leaked Files Show How the NSA Tracks Other Countries’ Hackers

Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

The Shadow Brokers leak showed the NSA was tracking at least 45 nation-state hacking operations. Experts explain how the agency stepped up its monitoring.
By Kim Zetter

Facebook Uses Artificial Intelligence to Predict Your Future Actions for Advertisers, Says Confidential Document

Illustration: Erik Blad

Facebook can identify people “at risk” of jumping ship from one brand to a competitor. The technology raises ethical alarms among experts.
By Sam Biddle

Google’s “Smart City of Surveillance” Faces New Resistance in Toronto

Illustration: Soohee Cho

Local organizers in Toronto have united to push Google out of their government.
By Ava Kofman

One Little-Watched Race Has Huge Implications for Election Hacking and Voter Suppression in Georgia

AP_18311138498671-1542085883-e1542086014242-1545410964

Photo: David Goldman/AP

A December 4 runoff for secretary of state will help determine how Georgia handles decisions around securing voting machines and purging voter rolls.
By Kim Zetter

State Election Officials Didn’t Know About Russian Hacking Threat Until They Read It in the News, Emails Show

Photo: Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

The officials were unaware that Russia was trying to infiltrate their voting systems until months after the elections took place.
By Sam Biddle

Can #MeToo Change the Toxic Culture of Sexism and Harassment at Cybersecurity Conferences?

Illustration: Angie Wang

Gatherings like Def Con and RSA are notorious for sexist behavior and alienating women — problems that plague the tech industry as a whole.
By Ava Kofman

Here’s the Email Russian Hackers Used to Try to Break Into State Voting Systems

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The simplicity of the email, which included a malicious election software manual, is part of the playbook of an advanced attacker, an expert said.
By Sam Biddle

You Can’t Handle the Truth About Facebook Ads, New Harvard Study Says

ZuckEyeCleaned-1525823448-1545411180

Illustration: Scott Gelber

When you tell people you’ve been tracking them across the internet, they freak out and avoid buying your product, research at the Harvard Business School found.
By Sam Biddle

 

 

The post Silicon Noir and the End of Techno-Optimism: The Intercept’s 2018 Tech Coverage appeared first on The Intercept.

PHOTOS: Drone delivers vaccines to a remote island in Vanuatu

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 22/12/2018 - 8:11am in


The community gathers around for vaccinations after the drone arrives at Cook’s Bay with the vaccines. Picture supplied by Swoop Aero to UNICEF, used with permission.

“Today’s small flight by drone is a big leap for global health,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore after a drone successfully delivered a box of vaccines in a remote island in Vanuatu on December 18.

Vanuatu, a Pacific archipelago nation of 83 islands spread along 12,189 square kilometers, became the first country in the world to use drones for transporting vaccines to its remote communities.

Aside from the geographical challenge, only about one-third of its inhabited islands have airfields or asphalt roads.

One in five children in Vanuatu is not fully immunized.

The drone operated by Australia's Swoop Aero took almost half an hour to cross the 40-kilometer distance from Dillon’s Bay on the west side of Erromango Island to the eastern coast on Cook’s Bay. Drone trials took place between December 5 and 7.

The remote communities along Cook’s Bay have no health center or electricity and are only reachable by foot or small boats.


Drone trial on December 5, 2018. Photo by UNICEF, used with permission.

Since vaccines need to be stored under a cool temperature, they were placed in styrofoam boxes with ice packs before being mounted on a drone.


An aerial view of a remote community at Cook's Bay where a drone successfully delivered vaccines. Photo by Jason Chute/UNICEF, used with permission.

Nurse Miriam Nampil received the drone-delivered vaccines and administered them to 13 children and five pregnant women. One-month-old Joy Nowai, who was given hepatitis and tuberculosis shots, became the first child in the world to be injected with a vaccine that was commercially-transported by a drone.


Local health workers led by nurse Miriam Nampil (right) received the first vaccine delivery from Swoop Aero drone in Cook’s Bay. Photo by Jason Chute/UNICEF, used with permission.

Nampil celebrated:

As the journey is often long and difficult, I can only go there once a month to vaccinate children. But now, with these drones, we can hope to reach many more children in the remotest areas of the island.


The community gathers around for vaccinations after the drone arrives into Cook’s Bay with the vaccines. Photo by Jason Chute/UNICEF, used with permission.

Vanuatu and UNICEF first proposed the use of drones to improve vaccination coverage in the country in 2017. At least 13 companies submitted their intent to participate in the self-funded drone trials, but logistical and financial challenges caused many to withdraw. In the end, Vanuatu awarded three contracts to two operators which led the trials on December 5.

Andrew Parker, chief of UNICEF Vanuatu, allayed fears that the deployment of drones will displace health workers:

We are not seeking to replace jobs, we are seeking to complement instead. Think of the nurse at the aid post level, who doesn’t have the medicines and therefore cannot treat a sick child. She or he will be frustrated, knowing what’s needed but can’t do anything about it.

The government of Vanuatu is now studying the possibility of officially integrating the use of drones into its health system.

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