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Australia plans to be a big green hydrogen exporter to Asian markets – but they don’t need it

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 01/05/2022 - 1:05pm in

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Technology

In its latest budget, the federal government has promised hundreds of millions of dollars to expand Australia’s green hydrogen capabilities. Green hydrogen is made by electrolysis…

The post Australia plans to be a big green hydrogen exporter to Asian markets – but they don’t need it first appeared on Economic Reform Australia.

Tech Advice for a New Philosophy Grad Student

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/04/2022 - 10:55pm in

A student who will be entering a philosophy PhD program in the fall is seeking advice about hardware and software for his studies.

He writes:

I am entering a PhD program this fall. I am starting to plan and organize for this challenge. This includes considering buying a tablet (Ipad or Surface Pro). I currently write all my notes on paper. I hope to change to electronic note taking because of the organizational benefits and environmental impact… What do professors and/or PhD students use to organize their research? Is it possible to go through a doctoral program with just a tablet? Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, what apps do people use to annotate papers and write/store their notes? 

Readers, please share what has worked well for you (and perhaps what hasn’t). Thank you!

Russia Is Losing a War Against Hackers Stealing Huge Amounts of Data

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/04/2022 - 6:40am in

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Technology, World

Russia is known for its army of hackers, but since the start of its invasion of Ukraine, dozens of Russian organizations — including government agencies, oil and gas companies, and financial institutions — have been hacked, with terabytes of stolen data leaked onto the internet.

Distributed Denial of Secrets, the transparency collective that’s best known for its 2020 release of 270 gigabytes of U.S. law enforcement data (in the midst of racial justice protests following the murder of George Floyd), has become the de facto home of the hacked datasets from Russia. The datasets are submitted to DDoSecrets mostly by anonymous hackers, and those datasets are then made available to the public on the collective’s website and distributed using BitTorrent. (I am an adviser to DDoSecrets).

“The flood of Russian data has meant a lot of sleepless nights, and it’s truly overwhelming,” Emma Best, co-founder of DDoSecrets, told The Intercept via an encrypted messaging app. “In its first 10 years, WikiLeaks claimed to publish 10 million documents. In the less than two months since the invasion began, we’ve published over 6 million Russian documents — and it absolutely feels like it.”

After receiving a dataset, DDoSecrets organizes and compresses the data; it then starts distributing the data using BitTorrent for public consumption, publicizes it, and helps journalists at a wide range of newsrooms access and report on it. DDoSecrets has published about 30 hacked datasets from Russia since its invasion of Ukraine began in late February.

The vast majority of sources who provided the hacked Russian data appear to be anonymous individuals, many self-identifying as part of the Anonymous hacktivist movement. Some sources provide email addresses or other contact information as part of the dumped data, and some, like Network Battalion 65, have their own social media presence.

Still, with so many datasets submitted by anonymous hackers, it’s impossible to be certain about their motives or if they’re even truly hacktivists. For instance, in 2016 hackers compromised the network of the Democratic National Committee and leaked stolen emails to WikiLeaks in an attempt to hurt Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Guccifer 2.0, the hacker persona responsible, claimed to be a lone actor but was later revealed to be an invention of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency.

For this reason, the recent Russian datasets published by DDoSecrets include a disclaimer: “This dataset was released in the buildup to, in the midst of, or in the aftermath of a cyberwar or hybrid war. Therefore, there is an increased chance of malware, ulterior motives and altered or implanted data, or false flags/fake personas. As a result, we encourage readers, researchers and journalists to take additional care with the data.”

Hacks Begin in February

On February 26, two days after Russia’s invasion started, DDoSecrets published 200 gigabytes of emails from the Belarus weapons manufacturer Tetraedr, submitted by the hacktivist persona Anonymous Liberland and the Pwn-Bär Hack Team. Belarus is a close ally to Russia in its war against Ukraine. A message published with the dataset announced “#OpCyberBullyPutin.”

On February 25, the notorious Russian ransomware gang known as Conti publicly expressed its support for Russia’s war, and two days later, on February 27, an anonymous Ukrainian security researcher who had hacked Conti’s internal infrastructure leaked two years of Conti chat logs, along with training documentation, hacking tools, and source code from the criminal hackers. “I cannot shoot anything, but I can fight with a keyboard and mouse,” the anonymous researcher told CNN on March 30 before he safely slipped out of Ukraine.

In early March, DDoSecrets published 817 gigabytes of hacked data from Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal agency responsible for monitoring, controlling, and censoring Russian mass media. This data specifically came from the regional branch of the agency in the Republic of Bashkortostan. The Intercept made this dataset searchable and shared access with independent Russian journalists from Meduza who reported that Roskomnadzor had been monitoring the internet for “antimilitarism” since at least 2020. In early March, Roskomnadzor began censoring access to Meduza from inside Russia “due to systematic spread of fakes about the special operation in Ukraine,” a spokesperson for the agency told the Russian news site RIA Novosti.

The hacks continued. In mid-March, DDoSecrets published 79 gigabytes of emails from the Omega Co., the research and development wing of the world’s largest oil pipeline company, Transneft, which is state-controlled in Russia. In the second half of March, hacktivism against Russia began to heat up. DDoSecrets published an additional five datasets:

  • 5.9 gigabytes of emails from Thozis Corp., a Russian investment firm owned by billionaire oligarch Zakhar Smushkin.
  • 110 gigabytes of emails from MashOil, a Russian firm that designs and manufactures equipment for the drilling, mining, and fracking industries.
  • 22.5 gigabytes of data allegedly from the central bank of Russia. The source for this data is the persona The Black Rabbit World on Twitter.
  • 2.5 gigabytes of emails from RostProekt, a Russian construction firm. The source for this data is the persona @DepaixPorteur on Twitter.
  • 15.3 gigabytes of data from Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corp., Russia’s state-run company that specializes in nuclear energy and makes up 20 percent of the country’s domestic electricity production. It’s also one of the world’s largest exporters of nuclear technology products. The source for this data included an email address hosted at the free encrypted email provider ProtonMail.

On the last day of March, the transparency collective also published 51.9 gigabytes of emails from the Marathon Group, an investment firm owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Alexander Vinokurov.

April Is Cruel to Orthodox Church

On the first day of April, DDoSecrets published 15 gigabytes of emails from the charity wing of the Russian Orthodox Church. Because the emails might include sensitive and private information from individuals, DDoSecrets isn’t distributing this data to the public. Instead, journalists and researchers can contact DDoSecrets to request a copy of it.

On April 3, DDoSecrets published 483 gigabytes of emails and documents from Mosekspertiza, a state-owned corporation that provides expert services to the business community in Russia. On April 4, DDoSecrets published 786 gigabytes of documents and emails from the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Co., referred to with the English acronym VGTRK. VGTRK is Russia’s state-owned broadcaster; it operates dozens of television and radio stations across Russia, including regional, national, and international stations in several languages. Former employees of VGTRK told the digital publication Colta.ru that the Kremlin frequently dictated how the news should be covered. Network Battalion 65 is the source for both the VGTRK and Mosekspertiza hacks.

Russia’s legal sector also got hacked. On April 8, DDoSecrets published 65 gigabytes of emails from the law firm Capital Legal Services. The persona wh1t3sh4d0w submitted the data to the transparency collective.

In the following days, DDoSecrets published three more datasets:

By April 11, DDoSecrets had published another three datasets:

  • 446 gigabytes of emails from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. This government agency is responsible for state policy regarding art, film, copyright, cultural heritage, and in some cases censorship.
  • 150 gigabytes of emails from the city administration of Blagoveshchensk. This is in the same region of Russia that the Roskomnadzor dataset was hacked from.
  • 116 gigabytes of emails from the governor’s office of Tver Oblast, a region of Russia northwest of Moscow.

In mid-April, DDoSecrets published several datasets from the oil and gas industries:

  • 440 gigabytes of emails from Technotec, a group of companies that develops chemical reagents for and provides services to oil and gas companies.
  • 728 gigabytes of emails from Gazprom Linde Engineering, a firm that designs gas and petrochemical processing facilities and oil refineries. This company was a joint venture between the state-owned Russian gas company Gazprom — the largest corporation in Russia — and the German company Linde. In late March, in response to economic sanctions against Russia, Linde announced that it was suspending its Russian business ventures.
  • 222 gigabytes of data from Gazregion, a construction company that specializes in building gas pipelines and facilities. Three different sources — Network Battalion 65, @DepaixPorteur, and another anonymous hacker — hacked this company at roughly the same time and submitted data to DDoSecrets, which published all three overlapping datasets to “provide as complete a picture as possible, and to provide an opportunity for comparison and cross-checking.”

On April 16, DDoSecrets published two more datasets:

Just during the last week, DDoSecrets published these datasets:

  • 107 gigabytes of emails from Neocom Geoservice, an engineering company that focuses on oil, gas, and drilling.
  • 1.2 gigabytes of data from the Belarusian firm Synesis, which develops surveillance systems.
  • 9.5 gigabytes of emails from the General Department of Troops and Civil Construction, a construction company owned by the Russian Ministry of Defense. This was hacked by @DepaixPorteur.
  • 160 gigabytes of emails from Tendertech, a firm that processes financial and banking documents on behalf of businesses.
  • 130 gigabytes of emails from Worldwide Invest, a Russian investment firm.
  • 432 gigabytes of emails from the Russian property management firm Sawatzky. Its clients include major brands like Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and Johnson & Johnson
  • 221 gigabytes of emails from Accent Capital, a Russian commercial real estate investment firm.

Earlier today, DDoSecrets published 342 gigabytes of emails from Enerpred, the largest producer of hydraulic tools in Russia that works in the energy, petrochemical, coal, gas and construction industries.

Researching the Hacked Data

Despite the massive scale of these Russian data leaks, very few journalists have reported on them so far. Since the war began, Russia has severely clamped down on its domestic media, introducing penalties of years in prison for journalists who use the wrong words when describing the war in Ukraine — like calling it a “war” instead of a “special military operation.” Russia has also ramped up its censorship efforts, blocking Twitter and Facebook and censoring access to international news sites, leaving the Russian public largely in the dark when it comes to views that aren’t sanctioned by the state.

One of the barriers for non-Russian news organizations is language: The hacked data is principally in Russian. Additionally, hacked datasets always come with considerable technical challenges. The Intercept, which was founded in part to report on the archive of National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward Snowden, has been using our technical resources to build out tools to make these Russian datasets searchable and then sharing access to these tools with other journalists. Russian-speaking journalists from Meduza — which is forced to operate in Latvia to avoid the Kremlin’s reach — have already published a story based on one of the datasets indexed by The Intercept.

The post Russia Is Losing a War Against Hackers Stealing Huge Amounts of Data appeared first on The Intercept.

American Phone-Tracking Firm Demo'd Surveillance Powers by Spying on CIA and NSA

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/04/2022 - 9:00pm in

In the months leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, two obscure American startups met to discuss a potential surveillance partnership that would merge the ability to track the movements of billions of people via their phones with a constant stream of data purchased directly from Twitter. According to Brendon Clark of Anomaly Six — or “A6” — the combination of its cellphone location-tracking technology with the social media surveillance provided by Zignal Labs would permit the U.S. government to effortlessly spy on Russian forces as they amassed along the Ukrainian border, or similarly track Chinese nuclear submarines. To prove that the technology worked, Clark pointed A6’s powers inward, spying on the National Security Agency and CIA, using their own cellphones against them.

Virginia-based Anomaly Six was founded in 2018 by two ex-military intelligence officers and maintains a public presence that is scant to the point of mysterious, its website disclosing nothing about what the firm actually does. But there’s a good chance that A6 knows an immense amount about you. The company is one of many that purchases vast reams of location data, tracking hundreds of millions of people around the world by exploiting a poorly understood fact: Countless common smartphone apps are constantly harvesting your location and relaying it to advertisers, typically without your knowledge or informed consent, relying on disclosures buried in the legalese of the sprawling terms of service that the companies involved count on you never reading. Once your location is beamed to an advertiser, there is currently no law in the United States prohibiting the further sale and resale of that information to firms like Anomaly Six, which are free to sell it to their private sector and governmental clientele. For anyone interested in tracking the daily lives of others, the digital advertising industry is taking care of the grunt work day in and day out — all a third party need do is buy access.

Company materials obtained by The Intercept and Tech Inquiry provide new details of just how powerful Anomaly Six’s globe-spanning surveillance powers are, capable of providing any paying customer with abilities previously reserved for spy bureaus and militaries.

According to audiovisual recordings of an A6 presentation reviewed by The Intercept and Tech Inquiry, the firm claims that it can track roughly 3 billion devices in real time, equivalent to a fifth of the world’s population. The staggering surveillance capacity was cited during a pitch to provide A6’s phone-tracking capabilities to Zignal Labs, a social media monitoring firm that leverages its access to Twitter’s rarely granted “firehose” data stream to sift through hundreds of millions of tweets per day without restriction. With their powers combined, A6 proposed, Zignal’s corporate and governmental clients could not only surveil global social media activity, but also determine who exactly sent certain tweets, where they sent them from, who they were with, where they’d been previously, and where they went next. This enormously augmented capability would be an obvious boon to both regimes keeping tabs on their global adversaries and companies keeping tabs on their employees.

The source of the materials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their livelihood, expressed grave concern about the legality of government contractors such as Anomaly Six and Zignal Labs “revealing social posts, usernames, and locations of Americans” to “Defense Department” users. The source also asserted that Zignal Labs had willfully deceived Twitter by withholding the broader military and corporate surveillance use cases of its firehose access. Twitter’s terms of service technically prohibit a third party from “conducting or providing surveillance or gathering intelligence” using its access to the platform, though the practice is common and enforcement of this ban is rare. Asked about these concerns, spokesperson Tom Korolsyshun told The Intercept “Zignal abides by privacy laws and guidelines set forth by our data partners.”

A6 claims that its GPS dragnet yields between 30 to 60 location pings per device per day and 2.5 trillion locational data points annually worldwide, adding up to 280 terabytes of location data per year and many petabytes in total, suggesting that the company surveils roughly 230 million devices on an average day. A6’s salesperson added that while many rival firms gather personal location data via a phone’s Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections that provide general whereabouts, Anomaly 6 harvests only GPS pinpoints, potentially accurate to within several feet. In addition to location, A6 claimed that it has built a library of over 2 billion email addresses and other personal details that people share when signing up for smartphone apps that can be used to identify who the GPS ping belongs to. All of this is powered, A6’s Clark noted during the pitch, by general ignorance of the ubiquity and invasiveness of smartphone software development kits, known as SDKs: “Everything is agreed to and sent by the user even though they probably don’t read the 60 pages in the [end user license agreement].”

The Intercept was not able to corroborate Anomaly Six’s claims about its data or capabilities, which were made in the context of a sales pitch. Privacy researcher Zach Edwards told The Intercept that he believed the claims were plausible but cautioned that firms can be prone to exaggerating the quality of their data. Mobile security researcher Will Strafach agreed, noting that A6’s data sourcing boasts “sound alarming but aren’t terribly far off from ambitious claims by others.” According to Wolfie Christl, a researcher specializing in the surveillance and privacy implications of the app data industry, even if Anomaly Six’s capabilities are exaggerated or based partly on inaccurate data, a company possessing even a fraction of these spy powers would be deeply concerning from a personal privacy standpoint.

Reached for comment, Zignal’s spokesperson provided the following statement: “While Anomaly 6 has in the past demonstrated its capabilities to Zignal Labs, Zignal Labs does not have a relationship with Anomaly 6. We have never integrated Anomaly 6’s capabilities into our platform, nor have we ever delivered Anomaly 6 to any of our customers.”

When asked about the company’s presentation and its surveillance capabilities, Anomaly Six co-founder Brendan Huff responded in an email that “Anomaly Six is a veteran-owned small business that cares about American interests, natural security, and understands the law.”

Companies like A6 are fueled by the ubiquity of SDKs, which are turnkey packages of code that software-makers can slip in their apps to easily add functionality and quickly monetize their offerings with ads. According to Clark, A6 can siphon exact GPS measurements gathered through covert partnerships with “thousands” of smartphone apps, an approach he described in his presentation as a “farm-to-table approach to data acquisition.” This data isn’t just useful for people hoping to sell you things: The largely unregulated global trade in personal data is increasingly finding customers not only at marketing agencies, but also federal agencies tracking immigrants and drone targets as well as sanctions and tax evasion. According to public records first reported by Motherboard, U.S. Special Operations Command paid Anomaly Six $590,000 in September 2020 for a year of access to the firm’s “commercial telemetry feed.”

Anomaly Six software lets its customers browse all of this data in a convenient and intuitive Google Maps-style satellite view of Earth. Users need only find a location of interest and draw a box around it, and A6 fills that boundary with dots denoting smartphones that passed through that area. Clicking a dot will provide you with lines representing the device’s — and its owner’s — movements around a neighborhood, city, or indeed the entire world.

As the Russian military continued its buildup along the country’s border with Ukraine, the A6 sales rep detailed how GPS surveillance could help turn Zignal into a sort of private spy agency capable of assisting state clientele in monitoring troop movements. Imagine, Clark explained, if the crisis zone tweets Zignal rapidly surfaces through the firehose were only a starting point. Using satellite imagery tweeted by accounts conducting increasingly popular “open-source intelligence,” or OSINT, investigations, Clark showed how A6’s GPS tracking would let Zignal clients determine not simply that the military buildup was taking place, but track the phones of Russian soldiers as they mobilized to determine exactly where they’d trained, where they were stationed, and which units they belonged to. In one case, Clark showed A6 software tracing Russian troop phones backward through time, away from the border and back to a military installation outside Yurga, and suggested that they could be traced further, all the way back to their individual homes. Previous reporting by the Wall Street Journal indicates that this phone-tracking method is already used to monitor Russian military maneuvers and that American troops are just as vulnerable.

In another A6 map demonstration, Clark zoomed in closely on the town of Molkino, in southern Russia, where the Wagner Group, an infamous Russian mercenary outfit, is reportedly headquartered. The map showed dozens of dots indicating devices at the Wagner base, along with scattered lines showing their recent movements. “So you can just start watching these devices,” Clark explained. “Any time they start leaving the area, I’m looking at potential Russian predeployment activity for their nonstandard actors, their nonuniform people. So if you see them go into Libya or Democratic Republic of the Congo or things like that, that can help you better understand potential soft power actions the Russians are doing.”

To fully impress upon its audience the immense power of this software, Anomaly Six did what few in the world can claim to do: spied on American spies.

The pitch noted that this kind of mass phone surveillance could be used by Zignal to aid unspecified clients with “counter-messaging,” debunking Russian claims that such military buildups were mere training exercises and not the runup to an invasion. “When you’re looking at counter-messaging, where you guys have a huge part of the value you provide your client in the counter-messaging piece is — [Russia is] saying, ‘Oh, it’s just local, regional, um, exercises.’ Like, no. We can see from the data that they’re coming from all over Russia.”

To fully impress upon its audience the immense power of this software, Anomaly Six did what few in the world can claim to do: spied on American spies. “I like making fun of our own people,” Clark began. Pulling up a Google Maps-like satellite view, the sales rep showed the NSA’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, and the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia. With virtual boundary boxes drawn around both, a technique known as geofencing, A6’s software revealed an incredible intelligence bounty: 183 dots representing phones that had visited both agencies potentially belonging to American intelligence personnel, with hundreds of lines streaking outward revealing their movements, ready to track throughout the world. “So, if I’m a foreign intel officer, that’s 183 start points for me now,” Clark noted.

The NSA and CIA both declined to comment.

jordan-base-google-maps

Anomaly Six tracked a device that had visited the NSA and CIA headquarters to an air base outside of Zarqa, Jordan.

Screenshot: The Intercept / Google Maps

Clicking on one of dots from the NSA allowed Clark to follow that individual’s exact movements, virtually every moment of their life, from that previous year until the present. “I mean, just think of fun things like sourcing,” Clark said. “If I’m a foreign intel officer, I don’t have access to things like the agency or the fort, I can find where those people live, I can find where they travel, I can see when they leave the country.” The demonstration then tracked the individual around the United States and abroad to a training center and airfield roughly an hour’s drive northwest of Muwaffaq Salti Air Base in Zarqa, Jordan, where the U.S. reportedly maintains a fleet of drones.

“It doesn’t take a lot of creativity to see how foreign spies can use this information for espionage, blackmail, all kinds of, as they used to say, dastardly deeds.”

“There is sure as hell a serious national security threat if a data broker can track a couple hundred intelligence officials to their homes and around the world,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a vocal critic of the personal data industry, told The Intercept in an interview. “It doesn’t take a lot of creativity to see how foreign spies can use this information for espionage, blackmail, all kinds of, as they used to say, dastardly deeds.”

Back stateside, the person was tracked to their own home. A6’s software includes a function called “Regularity,” a button clients can press that automatically analyzes frequently visited locations to deduce where a target lives and works, even though the GPS pinpoints sourced by A6 omit the phone owner’s name. Privacy researchers have long shown that even “anonymized” location data is trivially easy to attach to an individual based on where they frequent most, a fact borne out by A6’s own demonstration. After hitting the “Regularity” button, Clark zoomed in on a Google Street View image of their home.

“Industry has repeatedly claimed that collecting and selling this cellphone location data won’t violate privacy because it is tied to device ID numbers instead of people’s names. This feature proves just how facile those claims are,” said Nate Wessler, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “Of course, following a person’s movements 24 hours a day, day after day, will tell you where they live, where they work, who they spend time with, and who they are. The privacy violation is immense.”

The demo continued with a surveillance exercise tagging U.S. naval movements, using a tweeted satellite photo of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Mediterranean Sea snapped by the commercial firm Maxar Technologies. Clark broke down how a single satellite snapshot could be turned into surveillance that he claimed was even more powerful than that executed from space. Using the latitude and longitude coordinates appended to the Maxar photo along with its time stamp, A6 was able to pick up a single phone signal from the ship’s position at that moment, south of Crete. “But it only takes one,” Clark noted. “So when I look back where that one device goes: Oh, it goes back to Norfolk. And actually, on the carrier in the satellite picture — what else is on the carrier? When you look, here are all the other devices.” His screen revealed a view of the carrier docked in Virginia, teeming with thousands of colorful dots representing phone location pings gathered by A6. “Well, now I can see every time that that ship is deploying. I don’t need satellites right now. I can use this.”

Though Clark conceded that the company has far less data available on Chinese phone owners, the demo concluded with a GPS ping picked up aboard an alleged Chinese nuclear submarine. Using only unclassified satellite imagery and commercial advertising data, Anomaly Six was able to track the precise movements of the world’s most sophisticated military and intelligence forces. With tools like those sold by A6 and Zignal, even an OSINT hobbyist would have global surveillance powers previously held only by nations. “People put way too much on social media,” Clark added with a laugh.

As location data has proliferated largely unchecked by government oversight in the United States, one hand washes another, creating a private sector capable of state-level surveillance powers that can also fuel the state’s own growing appetite for surveillance without the usual judicial scrutiny. Critics say the loose trade in advertising data constitutes a loophole in the Fourth Amendment, which requires the government to make its case to a judge before obtaining location coordinates from a cellular provider. But the total commodification of phone data has made it possible for the government to skip the court order and simply buy data that’s often even more accurate than what could be provided by the likes of Verizon. Civil libertarians say this leaves a dangerous gap between the protections intended by the Constitution and the law’s grasp on the modern data trade.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that cellphone location information is protected under the Fourth Amendment because of the detailed picture of a person’s life it can reveal,” explained Wessler. “Government agencies’ purchases of access to Americans’ sensitive location data raise serious questions about whether they are engaged in an illegal end run around the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement. It is time for Congress to end the legal uncertainty enabling this surveillance once and for all by moving toward passage of the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act.”

Though such legislation could restrict the government’s ability to piggyback off commercial surveillance, app-makers and data brokers would remain free to surveil phone owners. Still, Wyden, a co-sponsor of that bill, told The Intercept that he believes “this legislation sends a very strong message” to the “Wild West” of ad-based surveillance but that clamping down on the location data supply chain would be “certainly a question for the future.” Wyden suggested that protecting a device’s location trail from snooping apps and advertisers might be best handled by the Federal Trade Commission. Separate legislation previously introduced by Wyden would empower the FTC to crack down on promiscuous data sharing and broaden consumers’ ability to opt out of ad tracking.

A6 is far from the only firm engaged in privatized device-tracking surveillance. Three of Anomaly Six’s key employees previously worked at competing firm Babel Street, which named all three of them in a 2018 lawsuit first reported by the Wall Street Journal. According to the legal filing, Brendan Huff and Jeffrey Heinz co-founded Anomaly Six (and lesser-known Datalus 5) months after ending their employment at Babel Street in April 2018, with the intent of replicating Babel’s cellphone location surveillance product, “Locate X,” in a partnership with major Babel competitor Semantic AI. In July 2018, Clark followed Huff and Heinz by resigning from his position as Babel’s “primary interface to … intelligence community clients” and becoming an employee of both Anomaly Six and Semantic.

Like its rival Dataminr, Zignal touts its mundane partnerships with the likes of Levi’s and the Sacramento Kings, marketing itself publicly in vague terms that carry little indication that it uses Twitter for intelligence-gathering purposes, ostensibly in clear violation of Twitter’s anti-surveillance policy. Zignal’s ties to government run deep: Zignal’s advisory board includes a former head of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Charles Cleveland, as well as the CEO of the Rendon Group, John Rendon, whose bio notes that he “pioneered the use of strategic communications and real-time information management as an element of national power, serving as a consultant to the White House, U.S. National Security community, including the U.S. Department of Defense.” Further, public records state that Zignal was paid roughly $4 million to subcontract under defense staffing firm ECS Federal on Project Maven for “Publicly Available Information … Data Aggregation” and a related “Publicly Available Information enclave” in the U.S. Army’s Secure Unclassified Network.

The remarkable world-spanning capabilities of Anomaly Six are representative of the quantum leap occurring in the field of OSINT. While the term is often used to describe the internet-enabled detective work that draws on public records to, say, pinpoint the location of a war crime from a grainy video clip, “automated OSINT” systems now use software to combine enormous datasets that far outpace what a human could do on their own. Automated OSINT has also become something of a misnomer, using information that is by no means “open source” or in the public domain, like commercial GPS data that must be bought from a private broker.

While OSINT techniques are powerful, they are generally shielded from accusations of privacy violation because the “open source” nature of the underlying information means that it was already to some extent public. This is a defense that Anomaly Six, with its trove of billions of purchased data points, can’t muster. In February, the Dutch Review Committee on the Intelligence and Security Services issued a report on automated OSINT techniques and the threat to personal privacy they may represent: “The volume, nature and range of personal data in these automated OSINT tools may lead to a more serious violation of fundamental rights, in particular the right to privacy, than consulting data from publicly accessible online information sources, such as publicly accessible social media data or data retrieved using a generic search engine.” This fusion of publicly available data, privately procured personal records, and computerized analysis isn’t the future of governmental surveillance, but the present. Last year, the New York Times reported that the Defense Intelligence Agency “buys commercially available databases containing location data from smartphone apps and searches it for Americans’ past movements without a warrant,” a surveillance method now regularly practiced throughout the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, the IRS, and beyond.

The post American Phone-Tracking Firm Demo’d Surveillance Powers by Spying on CIA and NSA appeared first on The Intercept.

Icebreakers in the Arctic: An Overlooked Environmental Concern

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/04/2022 - 12:17am in
by Johanna Cohn

Global heating has a greater impact on the Arctic than the rest of the planet. In fact, the Arctic is warming at a rate almost twice the global average. This is due to Arctic ice’s high albedo, meaning the ice reflects a tremendous amount of sunlight into the atmosphere. As the ice melts, the sea water absorbs more sunlight than it reflects. The resulting water subsequently warms and evaporates, becoming a powerful greenhouse gas. A positive feedback loop ensues as warmer waters melt more ice, and more water vapor adds to Earth’s greenhouse effect.

Arctic nations—the USA, Russia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland—view the thawing Arctic as an asset for tourism, fishing, and trade. Never mind the risks that come with shipping across waters that may contain icebergs, thanks to large ships called “icebreakers.”

The USA has two icebreakers in its fleet, and at least three more on the way. Russia, on the other hand, has at least 50. These nations recognize the value of holding power in the Arctic, and having icebreakers is a means to power. Nations that effectively use icebreakers in their Arctic fleets can grow their economies faster, improve the safety and efficacy of Arctic travel, and conduct scientific exploration. But at what cost?

Why Are Icebreakers So Loved?

image of a researcher exploring an Arctic pool, with an icebreaker ship in the background, cutting through Arctic ice.

Icebreakers allow researchers to explore areas once considered unreachable, but at what cost? (CC BY 2.0, NOAA Photo Library)

The USCGC Healy, one of the USA’s two icebreakers, is primarily used for scientific research and is famous for its advanced technology. In recent years, scientists aboard the Healy have accomplished two notable feats. The first was the identification of a species previously unknown to science called ctenophores—organisms similar to jellyfish—distinguished by the groups of cilia they use for swimming (commonly known as “combs”). The second was the discovery of Chukchi pockmarks during the exploration of the Chukchi Plateau. Despite encountering treacherous winds and waters, the size and stability of the Healy allowed researchers to continue mapping and studying the pockmarked area.

Another important asset of the Arctic is the Northern Sea Route, which lies east of Novaya Zemlya, Russia, and runs along the Russian Arctic coast by Siberia to the Bering Strait. As Arctic ice continues to melt, this route becomes more alluring for transporting goods across the North Pole. With the help of icebreakers cutting through remaining ice that could impede travel, the route reduces transportation time and costs, making it the most efficient route.

Icebreakers are also invaluable in Arctic search and rescue missions. The Arctic Council (an intergovernmental forum that addresses issues faced by Arctic governments and indigenous Arctic people) has taken action to allocate search and rescue resources on an international level. All eight Arctic nations signed the Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement in May 2011, making it the first legally binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council.

Cold War Races in the Arctic

During the Cold War, the USA and the Soviet Union raced to pioneer new technology and discoveries, while competing for the greatest GDP. The Arctic was one arena for Cold War competition; whichever nation had the greatest presence in the Arctic would be better positioned to exploit Arctic resources and gain a significant advantage in climbing the GDP ladder.

Between the 1960s and the early 1980s, the Soviet Union launched Project 97, which added 32 new icebreakers into the Soviet fleet. These were a series of diesel-electric icebreakers, several of which are still operated by Russia today. The Soviets had plans to revive military bases on islands in the Arctic Sea, a move that would prevent the U.S. Navy from deploying into the Arctic.

During this time the USA also introduced a new class of icebreakers into its fleet, known as the Polar class. These two Polar class ships were designed to support science and research, provide resupply to remote stations, launch search and rescue missions, escort ships, protect the environment, and enforce laws and treaties in places other ships cannot reach.

In 2020, President Trump released a memo calling for a new fleet of icebreakers in the Arctic. This, in part, reveals the Trump administration’s concern about Russian and Chinese presence in the Arctic, a concern reflected throughout the U.S. population. When Americans were asked to rate their feelings toward Russia on a zero-to-100 scale, Americans averaged at 29, the lowest reading since 1982. The USA’s attitude towards China in 2020 was similarly negative, with 73 percent of people surveyed claiming an unfavorable view of China.

Since national sentiments towards Russia and China were overwhelmingly negative, President Trump produced a memo to address concerns. Trump announced his administration would create a plan within 60 days of the memo release to construct at least three heavy icebreakers by 2029 to compete with the growing Russian and Chinese presence in the Arctic. The Biden Administration has yet to retract this plan, so these icebreakers are still under construction.

What’s Missing from the Conversation?

Little information is available about the environmental concerns that icebreakers pose. Literature highlights the perceived “positives”—scientific exploration, search and rescue, trade and shipping, and competition amongst nations—as being more important than considering environmental degradation. However, here’s what we know.

Icebreakers break ice. As the broken ice melts, sunlight is absorbed, leading to increased temperatures, and thus more ice melting. An icebreaker cruising through the ice for 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), leaving an ice-free wake of ten meters (33 feet), would open an area of water ten square kilometers (3.9 square miles) over the entire cruise. Although the Arctic Sea covers about 4,000 kilometers (2500 miles), any amount of ice breaking harms the environment. With the continual use of icebreaker ships, the Arctic will continue to look more like ice cubes melting in a glass of water.

Birds-eye shot of an icebreaker ship in the Arctic, with patches of cracked ice floating atop the sea.

The Arctic: melting ice cubes bobbing in a glass of water.

As melting endures, we will continue to see environmental effects around the world. Changes in the Arctic Sea ice pattern leads to a rise in sea levels globally. Low-lying developed areas in the Gulf Coast and the mid-Atlantic regions are especially at risk from sea-level rise. The recent growth of coastal areas has resulted in larger populations and more valuable coastal property being at risk from sea-level rise. Major physical impacts of a rise in sea level include erosion of beaches, inundation of deltas as well as flooding and loss of many marshes and wetlands. Increased salinity will likely become a problem in coastal aquifers and estuarine systems because of saltwater intrusion.

Changes in Arctic ice patterns are also leading to more frequent extreme weather. In the past few years, such extreme weather has been seen particularly across the east coast of the USA, western Europe, and central Asia. These regions will continue to experience more extreme weather because of Arctic amplification, the enhanced sensitivity of high latitudes to global heating. Arctic ice melt has also been shown to distort the flow of and weaken the jet stream, resulting in more frequent periods of intense heat and ferocious cold.

There’s also evidence that the sound emitted from icebreakers is detrimental to marine animals, particularly whales and other large mammals. The sound interferes with their ability to communicate with their pods. Additionally, sound pollution likely has long-term effects that are difficult to predict.

Most of the Russian icebreaker fleet is nuclear-based due to the fuel costs of running an icebreaker. On average, an icebreaker working in regions with three-meter-thick ice uses more than 100 tons of fuel per day. However, nuclear icebreakers have obvious concerns as well. In fact, should an accident occur, the consequence would be as severe as the Chernobyl disaster and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill combined: devastating.

What Should Be Done?


Russian nuclear-powered icebreakers save on fuel costs, but flirt with disaster. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, GRIDArendal)

There is indeed much more research in support of the use of icebreakers than documented concern for the ships’ environmental impacts. Beneath the bias of growth, it’s clear that icebreakers are largely detrimental. By continuing to add more icebreakers into the Arctic and simultaneously ignoring the environmental consequences, we are making yet another mistake that could be avoided.

The best way to limit the use of icebreakers is by having Arctic nations sign a treaty. One of the main reasons for such large numbers of icebreakers is competition amongst the nations for control over the Arctic. This can be addressed in a treaty eliminating or significantly reducing the use of icebreakers. We’ve seen successful use of treaties in the Arctic through the Search and Rescue Agreement, so there’s no reason to suggest another one can’t be instated.

A potential treaty could manifest in many ways. One option is to divide the Arctic Sea into zones and designate certain zones as “no break zones,” where icebreaking would be illegal. This would allow nations to continue using icebreakers to a lesser extent while the international community monitors the environmental effects. With this option, zones could shift and change depending on weather and ice patterns.

An alternative could be a plan to phase out icebreaker ships over many years. This would allow nations to find other ways to accomplish important tasks that icebreakers achieve in the Arctic, such as search and rescue missions and scientific research.

However, before an anti-icebreaker treaty can be successful, there needs to be an international agreement on environmental protection in the Arctic. A common goal amongst Arctic nations must be concern for the environment, or we risk edging closer to a world in which the Arctic Sea looks like the Atlantic Ocean. Arctic nations must understand the impending doom that comes with breaking and melting Arctic ice. Once these nations take responsibility for protecting the Arctic environment, then an anti-icebreaker treaty can be developed and signed, and we can take one crucial step towards protecting the Arctic.

portrait of Johanna Cohn, environmental studies intern during spring 2022 at CASSE.Johanna Cohn is a spring 2022 environmental studies intern at CASSE, and a junior at American University majoring in environmental studies and political science.

The post Icebreakers in the Arctic: An Overlooked Environmental Concern appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

Facebook's Ukraine-Russia Moderation Rules Prompt Cries of Double Standard

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/04/2022 - 2:06am in

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Technology, World

An unprecedented spree of policy changes and carveouts aimed at protecting Ukrainian civilians from Facebook’s censorship systems has earned praise from human rights groups and free expression advocates. But a new open letter addressed to Facebook and its social media rivals questions why these companies seem to care far more about some attempts to resist foreign invasion than others.

In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Meta Platforms, which owns Facebook and Instagram, rapidly changed its typically strict speech rules in order to exempt a variety of posts that would have otherwise been deleted for violating the company’s prohibition against hate speech and violent incitement.

Internal Meta materials reviewed by The Intercept show that in early March the company temporarily enacted an exception to its hate speech policy permitting Facebook and Instagram users in Ukraine to call for the “explicit removal [of] Russians from Ukraine and Belarus,” posts that would have otherwise been deleted for violating the company’s ban on calling for the “exclusion or segregation” of people based on their national origin. The rule change, previously reported by the New York Times, was part of a broader package of carveouts that included a rare dispensation to call for the death of Russian President Vladimir Putin, use dehumanizing language against Russian soldiers, and praise the notorious Azov Battalion of the Ukrainian National Guard, previously banned from the platform due to its neo-Nazi ideology.

While Meta has argued that these unusual steps are necessary to ensure that Ukrainian civilians can speak in their own defense online, critics say the changes highlight the extent to which non-Western civilian populations are neglected by the platform and illustrate the pitfalls of a California tech company equitably dictating what’s permissible in a foreign war zone.

In a statement signed by 31 civil society and human rights groups, this criticism is directed squarely at American internet titans like Facebook. “While we recognize the efforts of tech companies to uphold democracy and human rights in Ukraine, we call for long term investment in human rights, accountability, and a transparent, equal and consistent application of policies to uphold the rights of users worldwide,” reads the letter, which was shared with The Intercept ahead of publication. “Once platforms began to take action in Ukraine, they took extraordinary steps that they have been unwilling to take elsewhere. From the Syrian conflict to the genocide of the Rohingya in Myanmar, other crisis situations have not received the same amount of support even when lives are at stake.”

The open letter calls on Facebook and other American social media platforms to increase the scope and transparency of their human rights due diligence and to apply it equitably. “Currently, platforms are devoting greater time, attention, and resources to their users in the United States and Western Europe,” the letter says. “This happens both because of the potential for greater regulation by the United States and the European Union and because media based in the United States plays a significant role in influencing public discourse about companies, prompting greater attention to issues of public interest for the United States.”

Dia Kayyali, a researcher who studies the offline effects of content moderation at the nonprofit Mnemonic and organized the open letter, said, “While initially it seemed like platforms were responding rapidly and forcefully, it became clear that the reality was more complicated.” Kayyali noted that “like activists from so many other conflict zones, Ukrainian civil society tried to get platforms to take their concerns seriously after Russia’s initial invasion in 2014. It wasn’t until media pressure and interest from the U.S. and Western European countries that platforms really started taking action.” As a result, civilians suffering in conflict zones that draw comparably little attention from Western media are still waiting for hands-on treatment from the American companies that dominate so much of the internet.

 David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Signage in front of Meta Platforms headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on Jan. 31, 2022.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The fact that Meta finds itself in the difficult position of policing the speech of a country defending itself against a foreign invader is a sign of its own incredible success and the extent to which it has consolidated control over global communications, with more than 2 billion users worldwide all subject to the company’s definitions of permitted speech. But the frequency of closed-door reversals and carveouts suggests that these rules are not rules at all, but buoys floated by the currents of popular opinion and American foreign policy. Critics say it’s no coincidence that Facebook’s decisions about global good guys and bad guys almost always match the official determinations of the United States, a national political bias that keeps the rules intact when an American ally (or the U.S. itself) is the invader, not the invaded.

After Meta’s hate speech and incitement exemptions expired last month, a new internal policy memo distributed to Meta content moderators outlined the company’s current approach. Headlined “Removing ambiguity — Not permitting hate towards Russian citizens & allowing Ukrainians to call for self-defense from invasion,” the memo, reviewed by The Intercept, explained that the company is “allowing Ukrainians to call for national self defense in the context of the invasion. It applies only within Ukraine and only in the context of speech regarding the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.” Like the hate speech exemptions, the policy is a clear loosening of company rules to spare Ukrainians from running afoul of the company’s own twitchy censorship apparatus: “Our standard rules would limit our users ability to make their voices heard at a critical time in Ukrainian history,” as the company put it to moderators. It’s unclear how exactly Meta is defining a “call for self-defense from invasion,” and the only examples of the sort of speech the company is seeking to protect are very broad: “To call for national defense, discuss Ukraine’s military actions, and react to Ukrainian President Zelensky’s calls for civilians to take up arms in defense of their homes.”

“They pretty consistently create policies that line up with Western goals.”

“The entire guidance and language reeks of double standards,” said Marwa Fatafta, head of Middle East and North Africa digital rights policy at Access Now, a signatory to the new statement. Fatafta noted that the new language was encouraging because it suggested that Meta is “listening carefully, attuning, and adjusting their policies as the situation evolves,” but that enshrining expressions of “national self-defense” in Ukraine should mean enshrining resistance to military aggression outside Europe too. “Meta agrees that they should respect national calls for self-defense for Ukrainians, but they have never granted that to Syrians or Palestinians,” Fatafta said, noting that Facebook was quick to exempt the Azov Battalion from its Dangerous Organizations policy but not other similarly designated groups. “Imagine Facebook making an exception for Hamas calling for resistance or self-defense against the Israeli occupation. It is unthinkable.”

Protecting the ability of Ukrainians suffering at the hands of an invading army to freely express their pain and hope against defeat is uncontroversial. But this license to openly root against the opposing team is not doled out to all civilians equally: “Are Yemenis allowed to call for Saudis to leave their country? Are Palestinians allowed to call for Israelis to leave their country?” asked Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Meta did not respond when asked by The Intercept if it provides similar latitude to other populations to call for self-defense in the face of a foreign invasion or occupation. “We know they have done the exact opposite in Palestine,” York said, citing deletions of content protesting the Israeli occupation. “They pretty consistently create policies that line up with Western goals.”

“There are other wars. Why can’t someone say similar things about U.S. soldiers?”

Meta’s lopsided notions of whose “national self-defense” is worth protecting has spurred strife inside the company too. A Meta source familiar with the company’s content policy discussions told The Intercept that the changes “sparked heated and emotional debate on Meta’s internal Workplace,” a communication tool used at the company. “Voices of Russian employees were joined by the rest of Meta’s internal community, citing divergence from core principles and double standards in relation to other military conflicts.”

Another Meta source, who also spoke to The Intercept on the condition of anonymity to protect their livelihood, noted that internally “there have been a lot of questions about why it is OK to do this to Russians but no one else” since “there are other wars. Why can’t someone say similar things about U.S. soldiers?”

Internal attempts to get any answers out of Meta’s policymaking black box have been as futile as those outside the company. “There is no actual transparency here as to why specifically this is OK for Ukraine but [nowhere] else,” this source said, explaining that Meta’s explanations to corporate staff haven’t gone beyond CEO Mark Zuckerberg tapping Facebook policy chief Monika Bickert “to repeat the talking points” that are provided to the media. The source said that the company response to the war in Ukraine struck them as a reaction to outside pressure — “‘Meta Censors Ukrainian Freedom Fighters’ is a bad look,” they remarked — rather than a reflection of any consistent principles. “We twist ourselves into knots creating incoherent carveouts about ‘public interest’ and ‘right to know,’ but it’s just to save our own asses. There isn’t rhyme or reason otherwise. And that is really, really bad for a company that controls a significant portion of the internet.”

“We twist ourselves into knots creating incoherent carveouts about ‘public interest’ and ‘right to know,’ but it’s just to save our own asses.”

Facebook’s swift tailoring of its speech rules to help the Ukrainian resistance has drawn particularly pointed comparisons to Palestine, where Meta users appear to enjoy no such protections for civilians who have long resisted a foreign military force.

In Palestine, where the ongoing Israeli occupation has seen decades of violence against civilians and international human rights condemnations, Facebook and Instagram users who voice opposition to that unwanted foreign military presence often have their posts deleted without explanation or recourse. “Never, never, ever was there any carveout or exception for Palestinian speech on Facebook,” said Fatafta of Access Now. “I can say that with full confidence.”

The open letter notes how “in May 2021, in anticipation of forcible evictions in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem, Palestinians engaged in protests that Israeli security forces violently suppressed. Social media platforms removed massive amounts of content posted by Palestinians and their supporters, who were trying to document and share these human rights violations, as well as political discussions about Palestine around the world.” The Palestinian digital rights group 7amleh “documented more than 500 violations against Palestinian content on these platforms between May 6 and May 19, 2021. … Speech was removed in this context that may have been left up had it received the kind of contextual analysis platforms are claiming to do in Ukraine now.”

Far from loosening its rules to help Palestinians speak out against their occupation, Facebook has in fact implemented rule changes to aid the occupier: Last year The Intercept reported that the company had created stricter hate speech rules around using the term “Zionist,” a move experts said would make it even more difficult for Palestinians to protest their treatment by Israel.

Just as longtime observers of Meta’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy say the blacklist of terrorists and criminals is an avatar of American foreign policy values, content moderation experts told The Intercept that exceptions to the rule are fundamentally political choices. Civil society groups, including those that have discussed these issues with Meta, say there is no indication that the company similarly fine-tunes its policies to ensure the speech of other civilian populations under occupation and bombardment. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s York argued that in other Facebook-entangled conflicts, unlike Ukraine, “the U.S. has an interest in supporting the occupier. Facebook staff, especially their policy staff, are American and not immune to bias.”

The post Facebook’s Ukraine-Russia Moderation Rules Prompt Cries of Double Standard appeared first on The Intercept.

Redundant. Typical architectural

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 13/04/2022 - 8:24am in

Redundant. Typical architectural adornments on 100+ year old Federation style houses, with colour TV antenna. But wait. There’s more. Solar panels are creeping in. Hurlstone Park.

Book Review: Technology Is Not Neutral: A Short Guide to Technology Ethics by Stephanie Hare

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/04/2022 - 7:00pm in

In Technology Is Not Neutral, Stephanie Hare provides a practical overview of the complex topic of technology ethics. This is an accessible introduction that guides the reader through common questions, including whether technology can be neutral, where we draw the line when it comes to technology ethics and how we can apply these ideas to real-world examples, writes Sophie … Continued

Leaked: New Amazon Worker Chat App Would Ban Words Like “Union,” “Restrooms,” “Pay Raise,” and “Plantation”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/04/2022 - 5:27am in

Amazon will block and flag employee posts on a planned internal messaging app that contain keywords pertaining to labor unions, according to internal company documents reviewed by The Intercept. An automatic word monitor would also block a variety of terms that could represent potential critiques of Amazon’s working conditions, like “slave labor,” “prison,” and “plantation,” as well as “restrooms” — presumably related to reports of Amazon employees relieving themselves in bottles to meet punishing quotas.

“Our teams are always thinking about new ways to help employees engage with each other,” said Amazon spokesperson Barbara M. Agrait. “This particular program has not been approved yet and may change significantly or even never launch at all.”

In November 2021, Amazon convened a high-level meeting in which top executives discussed plans to create an internal social media program that would let employees recognize co-workers’ performance with posts called “Shout-Outs,” according to a source with direct knowledge.

The major goal of the program, Amazon’s head of worldwide consumer business, Dave Clark, said, was to reduce employee attrition by fostering happiness among workers — and also productivity. Shout-Outs would be part of a gamified rewards system in which employees are awarded virtual stars and badges for activities that “add direct business value,” documents state. At the meeting, Clark remarked that “some people are insane star collectors.”

But company officials also warned of what they called “the dark side of social media” and decided to actively monitor posts in order to ensure a “positive community.” At the meeting, Clark suggested that the program should resemble an online dating app like Bumble, which allows individuals to engage one on one, rather than a more forum-like platform like Facebook.

Following the meeting, an “auto bad word monitor” was devised, constituting a blacklist that would flag and automatically block employees from sending a message that contains any profane or inappropriate keywords. In addition to profanities, however, the terms include many relevant to organized labor, including “union,” “grievance,” “pay raise,” and “compensation.” Other banned keywords include terms like “ethics,” “unfair,” “slave,” “master,” “freedom,” “diversity,” “injustice,” and “fairness.” Even some phrases like “This is concerning” will be banned.

Do you work for Amazon? Text tips to Ken Klippenstein via Signal at 202-510-1268.

“With free text, we risk people writing Shout-Outs that generate negative sentiments among the viewers and the receivers,” a document summarizing the program states. “We want to lean towards being restrictive on the content that can be posted to prevent a negative associate experience.”

In addition to the automated system, managers will have the authority to flag or suppress any Shout-Outs that they find inappropriate, the documents show.

A pilot program is slated to launch later this month. In addition to slurs and swear words, the planned list includes the following words:

I hate
Union
Fire
Terminated
Compensation
Pay Raise
Bullying
Harassment
I don’t care
Rude
This is concerning
Stupid
This is dumb
Prison
Threat
Petition
Grievance
Injustice
Diversity
Ethics
Fairness

Accessibility
Vaccine
Senior Ops
Living Wage
Representation
Unfair
Favoritism
Rate
TOT
Unite/unity
Plantation
Slave
Slave labor
Master
Concerned
Freedom
Restrooms
Robots
Trash
Committee
Coalition

“If it does launch at some point down the road,” said the Amazon spokesperson, “there are no plans for many of the words you’re calling out to be screened. The only kinds of words that may be screened are ones that are offensive or harassing, which is intended to protect our team.”

Amazon has experimented with social media programs in the past. In 2018, the company launched a pilot program in which employees were handpicked to form a Twitter army advocating for the company, as The Intercept reported. The workers were selected for their “great sense of humor,” leaked documents showed.

On Friday, Amazon workers at a fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, stunned the nation by becoming the first Amazon location to successfully unionize. This came as a shock to many because it was achieved by an independent union not affiliated with an established union and that operated on a shoestring budget. With a budget of $120,000, the Amazon Labor Union managed to defeat the $1.5 trillion behemoth, which spent $4.3 million on anti-union consultants in 2021 alone.

Adding to the David-and-Goliath overtones, the Amazon Labor Union’s president, Christian Smalls, a 33-year old former rapper, had been fired by the company after leading a small walkout calling for better workplace protections against the coronavirus in 2020. Amazon executives denigrated Smalls, who is Black, as “not smart or articulate” during a meeting with then-CEO Jeff Bezos, according to leaked memo reported by Vice News.

Safety issues have been a perennial concern for Amazon workers. In December, a tornado killed six Amazon employees in a warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois. Many employees said that they had received virtually no emergency training, as The Intercept reported. (The House Oversight Committee recently launched an investigation into Amazon’s workplace safety policies.)

In 2020, workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, tried to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The attempt became unusually high-profile, attracting the attention of President Joe Biden, who released a statement saying, “Every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union … without intimidation or threats by employers.”

The Bessemer vote failed, but the National Labor Relations Board ordered a new election, citing undue interference by Amazon. The Bessemer warehouse held a second vote that was also counted last week, and while the initial tally favored Amazon, the vote was much closer than the previous one and will ultimately depend on the results of challenged ballots.

Amazon released a statement Friday saying that it is considering filing an objection to the Staten Island union vote, alleging interference by the NLRB.

Update: April 4, 2022, 5:17 p.m. ET
The headline and article have been updated to emphasize that the app is still in the planning phase and has not yet launched. It has also been updated to include comment from Amazon denying that “many” of the words obtained by The Intercept would be screened out.

The post Leaked: New Amazon Worker Chat App Would Ban Words Like “Union,” “Restrooms,” “Pay Raise,” and “Plantation” appeared first on The Intercept.

Cryogenic Freezers: Their Benefits and Buying Guide

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/04/2022 - 10:48pm in

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Technology

Cryogenic freezers hold value due to their versatility, as they have multiple uses in biology, chemistry, medicine, food engineering, and medical research. A cryogenic freezer benefits the health sector, enabling scientists to preserve important biological specimens at low temperatures for scientific research and inventions. Cryogenic freezers are also used to preserve food products.  As a result, cryogenic…

The post Cryogenic Freezers: Their Benefits and Buying Guide appeared first on Peak Oil.

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