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IT’S FINALLY BOILING OVER DOWN UNDER: the government of Malcolm “The Laws of Mathematics Are Very Commendable” Turnbull has unveiled its Assistance and Access Bill 2018, to combat the terrible threat posed by encrypted communications.
The bill would allow new types of warrants allowing law enforcement agencies to access devices, fiddle with what’s on them, and bug them. There would be jail terms of up to five years for those who don’t comply with unlocking requests. And tech companies would have to remove the protections that shield their users from such intrusions.
The idea here is to let the authorities bypass encryption by “accessing communications at points where it is not encrypted”, rather than installing backdoors – technical capability notices can’t force companies to “implement or build a systemic weakness or systemic vulnerability.” Except, as this Register article highlights, what the bill is asking for amounts to systemic weakness, or backdooring, or whatever you want to call it: providers building in law enforcement “access to devices or services”, providers having to modify or substitute their services in order to provide such access, and so on.
Here begins a month in which people can comment on the proposals. You’ll want to send your thoughts to AssistanceBill.Consultation@homeaffairs.gov.au.
THE NEWS SITE GIZMODO BUILT A TOOL called the PYMK Inspector to “keep track of the people Facebook thinks you know”. It used the tool for its own investigations, and released the code on Github so other people could gain more insight into Facebook’s friend recommendations.
Facebook was not pleased, and cracked down on the basis that the tool asked users to give their login details, so the tool could log into Facebook on their behalf. When the Gizmodo team altered the code so the tool used Facebook’s login page, Facebook still wasn’t happy, arguing that “we don’t allow accessing or collecting data from Facebook using automated means”.
Funnily enough, Facebook stopped bugging Gizmodo about the tool after the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. Gizmodo is now trying to get Facebook to alter its terms of service, so “journalists and researchers using automated means or fictitious accounts to gather data about Facebook and how it works for stories that serve the public interest won’t be threatened with breach of contract or violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which has been interpreted in the past as prohibiting violations of a site’s TOS.”
INDIA’S AADHAAR IDENTITY SYSTEM IS the focus of a Washington Post piece by development economist Reetika Khera, who writes:
“Until recently, India’s national identification system, Aadhaar, was heralded both nationally and internationally as a game changer… But as my colleagues and I discovered, much of Aadhaar’s branding as a transformational solution to India’s welfare problems relied on incorrect data. Gradually, beginning in 2016, even those who helped build consensus for the project among India’s elite reportedly began to recognize its dangers…
“India’s inefficient, unsecured centralized data system offers a cautionary tale for the rest of the world. Electronic records for citizens can, in theory, improve public services and reduce administrative costs. But centralized electronic records do so at the cost of its citizens’ basic rights.”
THE SHADOWY WORLD OF DATA BROKERS BECOMES less shadowy from time to time, as is the case with the £140,000 fine issued to “Emma’s Diary” in the UK. Emma’s Diary is also known as Lifecycle Marketing and, according to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), it illegally collected and sold more than a million people’s personal data, which ended being used for political targeting.
According to the ICO: “The data broking company, which provides advice on pregnancy and childcare, sold the information to Experian Marketing Services, a branch of the credit reference agency, specifically for use by the Labour Party. Experian then created a database which the party used to profile the new mums in the run up to the 2017 General Election.
YOU KNOW WHO DOESN’T BELIEVE FACIAL RECOGNITION TECH is ready for policing decisions? The US’s biggest supplier of body cameras, Axon. “This is one where we think you don’t want to be premature and end up either where you have technical failures with disastrous outcomes or… there’s some unintended use-case where it ends up being unacceptable publicly in terms of long-term use of the technology,” CEO Rick Smith warned in a recent investor call.