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Enjoy this newsletter? Forward it to a friend or get them to sign up. I’m David Meyer, aka @superglaze on Twitter and @davidmeyerwrites on Facebook. Don’t forget to check out the Connected Rights website. Kaixo!
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN ACCUSED OF SUPPLYING surveillance equipment to the brutal regime of Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines. The accusation comes from Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who says the UK is “complicit in the deaths of thousands of Filipinos”: http://bit.ly/2ESmgZh
The equipment in question includes internet-spying gear as well as IMSI catchers, also known as Stingrays. IMSI catchers are essentially fake cellular towers that are deployed at protests and in other concentrations of people, in order to register the details of people’s mobile phones and even to mess with their functionality.
Duterte is behind a vicious “war on drugs” that has seen thousands of people killed in the Philippines – not just those accused of dealers, but regular users too.
The UK department for international trade reportedly said that the British government “takes its export responsibilities very seriously”. With other spyware clients including the delightful governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Bahrain, it’s certainly serious about the money – human rights, maybe not so much.
WIKIPEDIA ZERO IS SHUTTING DOWN AFTER five years of serving people free information, with the data paid for by their mobile operators. The reasons, apparently, are that people aren’t using it so much anymore, and data is cheaper these days: http://bit.ly/2Fi3PLp
That second reason is of course heartening. But, that said, Wikipedia Zero remained somewhat fuzzy on the ethics front, as it represented a violation of net neutrality. Is it priggishly absolutist to criticise the fact that such a useful service was accessible for free, because that very fact could theoretically disadvantage some competitor that doesn’t exist? Yes, perhaps. But it was problematic nonetheless, at least at the level of principles.
FACEBOOK-OWNED INSTAGRAM HAS BOWED TO A DEMAND BY THE RUSSIAN state censor to remove evidence of the deputy prime minister, Sergei Prikhodko, enjoying the hospitality of oligarch Oleg Deripaska: http://bit.ly/2Evr4Ep
Said evidence was part of an investigation orchestrated by opposition leader Alexei Navalny. It was recorded and uploaded by an escort who had been paid to be on Deripaska’s yacht.
Navalny’s take: “@instagram decided to comply with Russian illegal censorship requests and deleted some content about oligarch Deripaska. Shame on you, @instagram! This content was spotlighted by our corruption investigation.”
The censor, Roskomnadzor, has also managed to block Navalny’s website over the video. Google’s YouTube, however, has not complied with an order to remove the video from its platform. But Roskomnadzor says it won’t block YouTube: http://bit.ly/2BEurpS
Navalny’s team said Google threatened him with account blockage if he didn’t remove the material, though: http://bit.ly/2onAdnw
FACEBOOK FACES A FINE OF UP TO €100 MILLION if it does not stop tracking Belgians across third-party websites, and if it does not delete the data it has already amassed on people in this way – including those who aren’t even Facebook users: http://bit.ly/2o8TGcj
This is a long-running case. The gist of it is that Facebook insists its cookie-and-pixel-based tracking is “industry standard” and necessary for security purposes. The Belgian courts first told it to cut this out at the end of 2015. Facebook then successfully appealed, but that verdict has been overturned – and now Facebook is going to appeal again.
GERMAN NGOS ARE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW the country’s widely-used Schufa credit rating works. AlgorithmWatch and the Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland are fed up with the system’s lack of transparency, which is a result of the fact that Schufa is a private company trying to protect its trade secrets: http://bit.ly/2Gnl8cY
They want to achieve that transparency through a spot of reverse engineering, and are calling on people to request their free Schufa score and donate it to the project. “If we gather enough data donations, we might be able to prove whether and how the SCHUFA score discriminates,” they write. “What effects does a person’s gender or place of residence have on the score? Is the algorithm even reliable? Does it reinforce injustice?”
If you’d like me to write articles for you about digital rights issues, speak at your event or provide privacy advice for your business, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FACIAL RECOGNITION TOOLS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT are being implemented with insufficient oversight, according to a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which warns of a disproportionate impact on people of color: http://bit.ly/2Fi8P2D
The activist group points out that such systems tend to unfairly and inaccurately identify minorities, young people and women more than others.
EFF senior staff attorney Jennifer Lynch, who wrote the report, said: “The FBI, which has access to at least 400 million images and is the central source for facial recognition identification for federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, has failed to address the problem of false positives and inaccurate results.”
WE WANT SECURITY RESEARCHERS TO FIND AND FLAG UP the serious flaws in companies’ products and services, because those vulnerabilities endanger us and our data. So why is it that “white hat hackers” have to be fearful of being sued for performing this valuable function? http://zd.net/2Cxzc1v
AMID THE FURORE OVER THE RUSSIANS’ SUBVERSIVE ONLINE activities, it’s worth rereading the Adrian Chen article that first exposed the “Internet Research Agency” a few years back: http://nyti.ms/2rbKM0v
… And watching Chen tell everyone to calm down about the severity of the situation: http://bit.ly/2EIvaJD
… And laughing at far-rightists get their knickers in a twist after Twitter performed a mass purge of Russian bots, thereby depriving them of thousands of their “followers”: http://bit.ly/2EGRtzc
OH LOOK IT’S ANOTHER MASSIVE DATA BREACH, this time courtesy of logistics giant FedEx, which stored customers’ passports, driving licenses and other sensitive goodies in a publicly-accessible cloud facility: http://bit.ly/2CsrTbq