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A DECADE’S WORTH OF BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARIES WRONGLY authorised the intelligence agencies to collect as much telecommunications as they liked, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal has found after a lot of bugging (pardon the pun) by Privacy International.

Essentially, the foreign secretaries had been delegating the bulk collection powers to GCHQ when they shouldn’t have been. And the IPT has decided to do… nothing about it. What’s more, it’s given the all-clear to the agencies’ intelligence-sharing with foreign agencies, law enforcement agencies and industry partners.

Here’s PI’s solicitor, Millie Graham Wood: “It is proof positive of the inadequacy of the historic oversight system; the complicity of telecommunications companies who instead of checking if requests were lawful, just handed over customers’ personal data as long as their cooperation was kept secret; and the scale of the task facing the new Investigatory Powers Commissioner, Sir Adrian Fulford.”

THE US JUSTICE DEPARTMENT IS STILL CONSIDERING AN ANTI-ENCRYPTION PUSH that would involve legislation forcing service providers to give law enforcement access to encrypted devices and software.

A DOJ-commissioned “cyber task force” report “recommends essentially the exact same strategy the FBI has been pursuing since Going Dark began,” Matthew Green told the Washington Post. Given that the problem has been shown to be overstated, and the technical capabilities of investigators understated, “it makes you wonder whether there’s any set of circumstances that might cause the DOJ and the FBI to reconsider their strategy,” the cryptographer said.

SOME OF THE BIGGEST TECH FIRMS HAVE ANNOUNCED the Data Transfer Project, a new standards initiative designed to let people easily move data between the various platforms – Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter.

If it works out, this data portability play should make life a lot easier for users around the world. And what brought on this sudden desire to have the various platforms play nicely with one another? Blog posts from Google and Microsoft are pretty clear that it’s down to the GDPR, which demand this sort of data portability as part of giving people more control over their own information.

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3D-PRINTED GUNS ARE NOW ACCEPTABLE IN THE US, per a settlement between gun rights activists and the government. The deal means Defense Distributed and outfits like it can now legally publish the files needed to 3D-print guns without violating export restrictions.

Of course, banning the distribution of the files never worked anyway, because once something is out there on the interwebs, it’s out there. So, in theory, the only thing stopping people from printing guns is their lack of access to high-quality 3D-printing machines that can make this stuff without the product blowing up in the owner’s hand. Given that well-funded terrorists and organised criminals can probably access such equipment, that’s not terribly comforting.

FACEBOOK HAS SUSPENDED YET ANOTHER COMPANY from sucking up its user data, on the suspicion that the firm – the widely-used “social media analytics” outfit Crimson Hexagon – broke the social network’s ban on using data access for “surveillance” purposes. And what does Facebook mean by “surveillance”? Er, it can’t say. Or won’t.

IF YOU’RE NOT YET TOO EXHAUSTED TO READ MORE about how people use social media to be dreadful, here, have a Wired piece about trolls using closed Facebook groups for sexual assault survivors to torment those who join the groups.

OH, AND HERE’S A BUZZFEED PIECE ABOUT MARK ZUCKERBERG secretly calling president-elect Trump after his election, to congratulate him after his millions of dollars in ad-spend with the social network paid off bigtime.

From the article: “In addition to interviews with Trump campaign staffers and former Facebook employees, BuzzFeed News obtained company presentations and memos that show the social media giant viewed Trump’s campaign as an ‘innovator’ of a fast-moving, test-oriented approach to marketing on Facebook.”

THE REGULATION OF BIG TECH FIRMS IS INCREASINGLY being sucked into the vortex of Trump’s trade war, I wrote in a Fortune piece. Essentially, if an American firm is being hit, Trump sees it as anti-American aggression, which complicates matters, even if he’s wrong.

We can see this happening in the US, too – witness Trump’s mania for hitting Amazon with antitrust enforcement, not because it’s a good regulatory move (as it may be), but because it would hurt Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, which reports critically about the president. So if Amazon is hit with an antitrust probe, Trump’s demonstrable antipathy towards the company might taint the investigation.


Why? As the Irish Examiner explains: “In the four weeks before the introduction of GDPR, [Irish] firms sent around 4 million mail items connected to the law’s introduction, which was worth around €2.6m to An Post. The contrast between the Republic and Britain is believed to be attributed to a significant difference in how direct mail is delivered. So-called ‘cold mailing’, where businesses send mail to people they have not previously dealt with in order to attract new customers, is less common in the Republic, and is likely to cause potential legal obstacles because of GDPR… [The UK’s] Royal Mail had already warned in May that GDPR may reduce marketing mails. It said it was working with customers to find solutions for their marketing mail needs. Letter volumes fell 6% in the quarter ended in June.”

If you’d like me to speak about digital rights at your event or provide advice for your business, drop me an email at david@dmeyer.eu.

DARPA IS INVESTING IN THE IDEA OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE THAT CAN explain its own decisions. This “third wave AI” can’t come soon enough, if people’s rights are to be put at the mercy of automated decision-making. Once the decision-making process becomes too complicated for the AI’s designers to parse, it has to become explainable somehow.

ONE ADVANTAGE FOR BEIJING OF ITS “BELT AND ROAD” INITIATIVE is that it may improve Chinese AI. How so? Check out this Foreign Policy piece on Zimbabwe’s government signing up for a Chinese company’s facial recognition system.

Apart from the distinct possibility of the Zim government using its facial recognition program to repress people’s rights, the deal will help train the CloudWalk AI system on black faces – something that’s sadly rare with AI anywhere in the world, but particularly difficult to do in China.

From the article: “The Zimbabwe deal is unique in that as part of the agreement – the value of which CloudWalk declined to share – Harare will send data on millions of black faces to the Chinese company to help train the technology toward darker skin tones… the accuracy of AI depends on the data it is fed, and, worldwide, facial recognition AI has been trained on predominantly white and male faces, even inside China.”