As teased in the lead up to E3 2019, one of Ubisoft’s big reveals at the show this year was Watch Dogs Legion.In the third game in the series, we’ll still play as a member of DedSec, only this time, the setting shifts to a near-future London that has been swallowed by authoritarianism.It’ll be DedSec’s job to fight back against mass surveillance and oppression through hacking the world around you, but this time, there’s an interesting little twist that separates Watch Dogs Legion from the games that came before it.Ubisoft says that each of the people you see in this virtual London have been created specifically for the game.None of them are randomly generated, with each having their own set schedules and abilities that could make them a worthy addition to DedSec’s ranks.You’ll be able to play as any of the characters you meet around London, assuming you can recruit them to DeadSec first.
But here’s the thing: 2019 looks a lot like 1984.And we’re remarkably comfortable with it.Orwell published one of the great English-language novels on June 8, 1949, 70 years ago today.When Steve Jobs and his upstart rebels at Apple used the framework of Orwell’s book to tell a dark story about conformity in the computing world, it seemed distant.1984 wasn’t like 1984, with its goofy suits and Alf and Talking Heads videos on MTV.For starters, it’s hard to ignore the similarities between Big Brother and Donald Trump, whose cult of personality commands, for some, a similar unwavering fealty, even if his attention span is hopefully not as constant.
A legal challenge to the EU-US Privacy Shield, a mechanism used by thousands of companies to authorize data transfers from the European Union to the US, will be heard by Europe’s top court this summer.The General Court of the EU has set a date of July 1 and 2 to hear the complaint brought by French digital rights group, La Quadrature du Net, against the European Commission’s renegotiated data transfer agreement which argues the arrangement is still incompatible with EU law on account of US government mass surveillance practices.Privacy Shield was only adopted three years ago after its forerunner, Safe Harbor, was struck down by the European Court of Justice in 2015 following the 2013 exposé of US intelligence agencies’ access to personal data, revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.But even before it was adopted it faced fierce criticism — with data protection and privacy experts couching it as an attempt to put lipstick on the same old EU-law breaching pig.In one particularly embarrassing moment for the mechanism it emerged that disgraced political data company, Cambridge Analytica, had been signed up to self-certify its ‘compliance’ with EU privacy law…La Quadrature du Net is a long time critic of Privacy Shield, filing its complaint back in October 2016 — immediately after Privacy Shield got up and running.
Campaigners have branded facial recognition technology as invasive and inaccurate.They say it is a tool for mass surveillance and disastrous policing and are calling for an overhaul of the technology.However, police say it is an invaluable tool for criminal investigations.HuffPost is part of Oath.Oath and our partners need your consent to access your device and use your data (including location) to understand your interests, and provide and measure personalised ads.Oath will also provide you with personalised ads on partner products.
I mean them, I mean private firmsOpposition MPs have debated whether automated facial recognition technology should be used at all in the UK, after a pressure group mounted legal challenges against police use of face-scanning equipment.Such technology can be used without individuals really knowing it is happening,” said Darren Jones, Labour MP for Bristol North West, warning: “It is not just police forces that are interested in the technology; some councils are using it to enforce certain rules, as is the private sector.”Jones’ comments in Parliament follows pro-privacy groups Liberty and Big Brother Watch’s campaigns against police forces using creepy face-scanners.Liberty has filed a court challenge to be heard in Wales this month, while Big Brother Watch uncovered that deployments by London’s Met Police in the Westfield Stratford shopping centre resulted in a 100 per cent false positive rate.“Biometric photos of members of the public wrongly identified as potential criminals are taken without their knowledge and stored on police databases for 30 days,” said Big Brother Watch in a statement.
Members of Congress are criticizing Apple for censoring its music to comply with the Chinese government.Apple Music’s China service recently removed several Hong Kong singers from its platform, as reported by the Hong Kong Free Press.“It’s disgraceful to see one of America’s most innovative, influential tech companies support the Communist Chinese government’s aggressive censorship efforts within China as we near the Tiananmen Square Massacre’s 30th anniversary,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) tells The Verge.Rubio describes the Chinese government as a regime that had “constructed a totalitarian state through truly Orwellian levels of mass surveillance, thought censorship, and human rights abuses.” He points to how Apple had turned “a blind eye to [its] complicity” in exchange for market access.The other singer, Jacky Cheung, released a song written by James Wong, who had confirmed that the lyrics referred to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.Cheung’s song “The Path of Man” contained the lyrics, “The youth are angry, heaven and earth are weeping / How did our land become a sea of blood?
Cameras linked to Chinese government stir alarm in UK parliament – The InterceptWhat happened: Security firm Hikvision has provided its cameras to parliament, as well as police, hospitals, and schools around the United Kingdom, raising concerns from politicians.The company is selling its equipment through a network of corporate partners, according to The Intercept.Hikvision says its cameras can be used with facial recognition software and linked to a database of identity data, allowing them to distinguish between known and unknown individuals.Why it’s important: Hikvision has been accused of profiting from China’s mass surveillance system, which UK politicians say makes procurement problematic.The cameras also pose national security risks when placed in parliament, they said.
And last week avowed Moderates its support for the proposal.Behind the bill there is an investigation, whose mission was to find a loophole in the EUROPEAN union-the court's clear condemnation of mass surveillance by Swedish and european data storage meant.It is based on the EU directive 2002/58, which gives EU member states the right to violate the privacy of citizens under certain specific circumstances.What to say when the EUROPEAN court of justice on this directive?The says first and foremost that the directive shall be construed to prevent laws that provides for the general storage of all traffic data and location data”.They also say that the limitations of surveillance ”must clearly delineate the scale and [...] the interested group of people.”
Earlier this month, Dutch cybersecurity researcher Victor Gevers happened upon a trove of Chinese social media records—364 million of them, to be precise.The data had been siphoned off popular messaging platforms WeChat and QQ, as well as e-commerce giant Taobao’s merchant-customer communications system Wangwang, among others.Once collected, the information was sent to multiple servers around the country for processing and investigation by police, according to Gevers.In the wrong hands, data can be used for a whole host of nefarious activities.“If you have a lot of people’s data leaked there is an increased probability of there being identity theft, financial fraud, and if it becomes large enough, it could even become a financial stability issue,” explained Martin Chorzempa, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, based in Washington, D.C.As part of China’s mass surveillance program, the Chinese government outsources supervision of online services and monitoring mechanisms to private companies, many of which pay scant attention to netizens’ data privacy.
Newly released documents reveal Immigration and Customs Enforcement is tracking and targeting immigrants through a massive license plate reader database supplied with data from local police departments — in some cases violating sanctuary laws.The documents, obtained by a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and released Tuesday, reveal the vehicle surveillance system collects over a hundred million license plates a month from some of the largest cities in the U.S., including New York and Los Angeles, both of which are covered under laws limiting police cooperation with immigration agencies.“The public has a right to know when a government agency — especially an immoral and rogue agency such as ICE — is exploiting a mass surveillance database that is a threat to the privacy and safety of drivers across the United States,” said Vasudha Talla, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, in an email to TechCrunch.The ACLU previously called it one of the new and emerging forms of mass surveillance in the United States.Plates on the hot list trigger an alert to ICE agent that the vehicle has been spotted, including where and when.A spokesperson for ICE did not comment by our deadline on how many hot list detections led to deportations or removals from the U.S. Spokespeople for Thomson Reuters and Vigilant Solutions also did not comment.
The National Security Agency has “quietly shut down” the mass surveillance programme it implemented after the September 11th, 2001 terror attacks to analyse metadata on domestic US calls and text messages, the New York Times reported on Monday, citing an episode of the Lawfare podcast with “senior Republican congressional aide” Luke Murry.The Wall Street Journal separately reported that Murry stated the programme has not been used in at least six months, with both papers writing that it is unclear whether Donald Trump’s administration will ask Congress to renew its legal authority when relevant portions of the Patriot Act expire at the end of 2019.A prior iteration of the programme, which was first publicly revealed by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden in 2013, collected bulk metadata directly from service providers until 2015.That year, the USA Freedom Act revised the Patriot Act so that providers would only hand over data on specific suspects (as well as data from anyone they contacted) without it being piped directly into NSA servers, and limited its collection to require the approval of a judge.While the NSA collected call and text records in the “billions per day” before the revision, it still collected 534 million records in 2017 from just 40 targets, the Times wrote.Metadata does not contain the actual content of a text message or the words spoken in a phone conversation, but it does include tags stating who contacted who, when, and for how long.
But really it's just the start of the latest surveillance chess gameSpecial report The NSA may kill off a controversial mass surveillance program of Americans that was exposed by Edward Snowden, according to a Congressional staffer.Luke Murry is national security advisor to House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and over the weekend told the Lawfare podcast (5 minutes in) that the US spying agency hasn't been using its system for blanket collection of US citizens' telephone metadata for the past six months "because of problems with the way in which that information was collected, and possibly collecting on US citizens."Murry then suggested the White House may simply drop the program, especially since it requires Congress to reauthorize it this December.That comment was picked up by reporters, and has led to lots of speculation that the NSA may be ending one of its most disliked spying programs: one that has been repeatedly criticized as unconstitutional by the law courts, privacy advocates, and legislators, because it indiscriminately snoops on America's own citizens.Section 215 expired at the end of May 2015, and was, in a rather roundabout and messy way, reenabled through to the end of 2019 via the USA Freedom Act that passed the following month.
Editor’s note: A version of this originally appeared on Radii, a new media platform covering culture, innovation, and life in today’s China.Amid all the headlines about dystopian doomsday scenarios and mass surveillance of the populace, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that in some instances AI and facial recognition can be put to positive uses.A cuddly case in point: Chinese internet powerhouse Baidu has created an AI cat shelter.The shelter, which comes complete with toys, regular dispatches of food and water, and warm spaces to sleep, features feline facial recognition to grant access.It can also check its guests for various diseases and assess whether or not they’ve been neutered.If it identifies a sick cat, a message is sent to a nearby volunteer organization that looks after stray animals to come and administer the required help.
Founded in 2001, Hikvision has morphed from a former Chinese government research institute into a US$39 billion business specializing in professional video surveillance cameras.Headquartered in Hangzhou in eastern China and listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, Hikvision has been a supplier to hundreds of government-led surveillance projects in major cities including Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Urumqi, where its cameras can take clear shots of vehicles and passengers even in poor visibility conditions.Hikvision expanded into the consumer space in 2013 with Ezviz, a brand that makes surveillance equipment for the home and office.Around 42 percent of the company is controlled by state-owned enterprises, with China Electronics Technology HIK Group owning 39.6 percent of the company as the biggest shareholder.Along with two alumni from Huazhong University of Science & Technology, Hikvision chairman Chen Zongnian, 54, started the company while he was working in a research division of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation.The global video surveillance equipment market was expected to grow 10.2 percent to US$18.5 billion in 2018, thanks to increasing demand for security cameras, according to a report by London-based market research firm IHS Markit last July.
Case referred up to the Grand ChamberThe UK's mass surveillance regime is to be ruled upon by Europe's highest human rights court after civil liberties groups pushed back against a previous decision.A panel of five judges in the European Court of Human Rights' Grand Chamber announced today (PDF) that they had decided to hear a legal referral of a September 2018 ruling by a lower chamber of the ECtHR.That ruling said that safeguards within the government's system for bulk interception of communication were not robust enough to provide guarantees against abuse.However, the court did not say that carrying out bulk interception was unlawful in and of itself – but rather that oversight of it was insufficient.Neither did it rule that the sharing of information with foreign governments was in breach of the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.
These cameras are dotted across the U.S., and are controlled mostly by police departments and government agencies to track license plates — and people — from place to place.Considered a massive invasion of privacy by many and legally questionable by some, there are tens of thousands of ALPR readers across the U.S. collectively reading and recording thousand of license plates — and locations — every minute, the ACLU says, becoming one of the new and emerging forms of mass surveillance in the U.S.But some cameras are connected to the internet, and are easily identifiable.Worse, some are leaking sensitive data about vehicles and their drivers — and many have weak security protections that make them easily accessible.The Electronic Frontier Foundation found in 2015 dozens of exposed devices in its own investigation not long after Boston’s entire ALPR network was found exposed, thanks to a server security lapse.In the course of a week, TechCrunch found more than 150 ALPR devices from several manufacturers connected to and searchable on the internet.
This very out of place, unmarked, bright green, coned-off van bang in the middle of London's tourist and shopping district is rightly arousing suspicions, not because people think it might be packed with terrorists psyching themselves up enough to leap out and make everyone spill their festive lattes in shock, but because we know it's the Met Police testing mass surveillance/facial recognition technology on the ruddy-cheeked festive passers-by.Pressure group Liberty is leading the protest against the mass scanning, with its polite human shields handing out leaflets and shouting sensible things about human rights at the van's besieged occupants.What's particularly enraging activists is that the van is unmarked, and the only notice given about what's going on is via a few small posters in front of it -- and by the time you've approached it to read what's going on, your frowning London face has been scanned in and added to the Met's list of potentially disruptive inquisitive people who like to know what's going on.The Met Police says it's part of an ongoing trial of the tech -- which has been outed as literally useless in the past -- and that it is being used "overtly with a clear uniformed presence" despite the many on-site photos out there showing nothing more than a suspicious van parked up.
Liberty and pals seek to prove intrusive spy powers can never be justifiedA band of human rights organisations have appealed against a top European court's ruling on bulk surveillance, arguing that any form of mass spying breaches rights to privacy and free expression.The group, which includes Liberty, Privacy International and the American Civil Liberties Union, has taken issue with parts of a September judgment from the European Court of Human Rights.That ruling said oversight of the UK government's historic regime for bulk interception of communication was insufficient and violated privacy rights under the European convention.However, it did not say that bulk interception was unlawful in and of itself; neither did it rule that sharing information with foreign governments breached the rules.It is these elements of the ruling that the groups disagree with, arguing that bulk surveillance can never be lawful, and that the sharing intelligence with other governments is just another form of bulk surveillance and also unlawful.
Over the summer, Microsoft President Brad Smith called for governments to take a closer look at how facial detection technology is being implemented across the globe.This week, he returned with a similar message — only this time the executive is calling out fellow technology purveyors to help address myriad issues around the technology before it becomes too pervasive.It’s easy enough to suggest that the ship has sailed.After all, facial recognition is already fairly ubiquitous on everything from Facebook to Apple Animojis.But if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that the governments of the world can’t wait to implement the tech in a broader way — and plenty of tech firms are more than happy to help.Smith points to a trio of potential pitfalls for the tech: biased outcomes, invasion of privacy and mass surveillance.
Starting with that first article published by the Guardian that revealed a National Security Agency program gathering millions of phone records from Verizon—which gave the agency access to metadata about phone calls placed by or received by everyone in America—the Snowden leaks exposed the inner workings of the NSA's biggest signals intelligence programs."Thanks to Snowden's disclosures, people worldwide were able to engage in an extraordinary and unprecedented debate about government surveillance," the American Civil Liberties Union declared on the fifth anniversary of the Guardian article.While his efforts to create a dialogue about privacy reached many ears and had a direct and tangible impact on areas of Internet technology that had long been vulnerable to mass surveillance, the tangible changes that followed have been more evolutionary than revolutionary."His biggest fear was that the revelations would be ignored or cynically dismissed, and instead we have a global debate."They were doing it entirely in secret, with some limited oversight from the FISC.So there was something about the time when the Snowden documents came out that the public had a greater appetite, or maybe just a bigger awareness, of the privacy problems that were going on."