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Posts Tagged ‘Big Brother

Soon, your Privacy is Privatized: To be purchased

In the 1960s, mainframe computers posed a significant technological challenge to common notions of privacy. That’s when the federal government started putting tax returns into those giant machines, and consumer credit bureaus began building databases containing the personal financial information of millions of Americans.

Many people feared that the new computerized databanks would be put in the service of an intrusive corporate or government Big Brother.

 published in NYT this March 23, 2013 under “Big Data Is Opening Doors, but Maybe Too Many”

“It really freaked people out,” says Daniel J. Weitzner, a former senior Internet policy official in the Obama administration. “The people who cared about privacy were every bit as worried as we are now.”

Along with fueling privacy concerns, the mainframes helped prompt the growth and innovation that we have come to associate with the computer age.

Today, many experts predict that the next wave will be driven by technologies that fly under the banner of Big Data — data including Web pages, browsing habits, sensor signals, smartphone location trails and genomic information, combined with clever software to make sense of it all.

Proponents of this new technology say it is allowing us to see and measure things as never before — much as the microscope allowed scientists to examine the mysteries of life at the cellular level.

Big Data, they say, will open the door to making smarter decisions in every field from business and biology to public health and energy conservation.

“This data is a new asset,” says Alex Pentland, a computational social scientist and director of the Human Dynamics Lab at the M.I.T. “You want it to be liquid and to be used.”

But the latest leaps in data collection are raising new concern about infringements on privacy — an issue so crucial that it could trump all others and upset the Big Data bandwagon.

Dr. Pentland is a champion of the Big Data vision and believes the future will be a data-driven society. Yet the surveillance possibilities of the technology, he acknowledges, could leave George Orwell in the dust.

The World Economic Forum published a report late last month that offered one path — one that leans heavily on technology to protect privacy.

The report grew out of a series of workshops on privacy held over the last year, sponsored by the forum and attended by government officials and privacy advocates, as well as business executives.

The corporate members, more than others, shaped the final document.

The report, “Unlocking the Value of Personal Data: From Collection to Usage,” recommends a major shift in the focus of regulation toward restricting the use of data.

Curbs on the use of personal data, combined with new technological options, can give individuals control of their own information, according to the report, while permitting important data assets to flow relatively freely.

“There’s no bad data, only bad uses of data,” (even if false and erroneous?) says Craig Mundie, a senior adviser at Microsoft, who worked on the position paper.

The report contains echoes of earlier times. The Fair Credit Reporting Act, passed in 1970, was the main response to the mainframe privacy challenge. The law permitted the collection of personal financial information by the credit bureaus, but restricted its use mainly to three areas: credit, insurance and employment.

The forum report suggests a future in which all collected data would be tagged with software code that included an individual’s preferences for how his or her data is used.

All uses of data would have to be registered, and there would be penalties for violators.

For example, one violation might be a smartphone application that stored more data than is necessary for a registered service like a smartphone game or a restaurant finder.

The corporate members of the forum say they recognize the need to address privacy concerns if useful data is going to keep flowing.

George C. Halvorson, chief executive of Kaiser Permanente, the large health care provider, extols the benefits of its growing database on 9 million patients, tracking treatments and outcomes to improve care, especially in managing costly chronic and debilitating conditions like heart disease, diabetes and depression.

New smartphone applications, he says, promise further gains — for example, a person with a history of depression whose movement patterns slowed sharply would get a check-in call.

“We’re on the cusp of a golden age of medical science and care delivery,” Mr. Halvorson says. “But a privacy backlash could cripple progress.”

Corporate executives and privacy experts agree that the best way forward combines new rules and technology tools. But some privacy professionals say the approach in the recent forum report puts way too much faith in the tools and too little emphasis on strong rules, particularly in moving away from curbs on data collection.

“We do need use restrictions, but there is a real problem with getting rid of data collection restrictions,” says David C. Vladeck, a professor of law at Georgetown University. “And that’s where they are headed.”

“I don’t buy the argument that all data is innocuous until it’s used improperly,” adds Mr. Vladeck, former director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission.

Vladeck offers this example: Imagine spending a few hours looking online for information on deep fat fryers. You could be looking for a gift for a friend or researching a report for cooking school. But to a data miner, tracking your click stream, this hunt could be read as a telltale signal of an unhealthy habit — a data-based prediction that could make its way to a health insurer or potential employer.

Dr. Pentland, an academic adviser to the World Economic Forum’s initiatives on Big Data and personal data, agrees that limitations on data collection still make sense, as long as they are flexible and not a “sledgehammer that risks damaging the public good.”

He is leading a group at the M.I.T. Media Lab that is at the forefront of a number of personal data and privacy programs and real-world experiments. He espouses what he calls “a new deal on data” with three basic tenets: you have the right to possess your data, to control how it is used, and to destroy or distribute it as you see fit.

Personal data, Dr. Pentland says, is like modern money — digital packets that move around the planet, traveling rapidly but needing to be controlled. “You give it to a bank, but there’s only so many things the bank can do with it,” he says.

His M.I.T. group is developing tools for controlling, storing and auditing flows of personal data. Its data store is an open-source version, called openPDS.

In theory, this kind of technology would undermine the role of data brokers and, perhaps, mitigate privacy risks. In the search for a deep fat fryer, for example, an audit trail should detect unauthorized use.

Dr. Pentland’s group is also collaborating with law experts, like Scott L. David of the University of Washington, to develop innovative contract rules for handling and exchanging data that insures privacy and security and minimizes risk.

The M.I.T. team is also working on living lab projects. One that began recently is in the region around Trento, Italy, in cooperation with Telecom Italia and Telefónica, the Spanish mobile carrier.

About 100 young families with young children are participating. The goal is to study how much and what kind of information they share on smartphones with one another, and with social and medical services — and their privacy concerns.

“Like anything new,” Dr. Pentland says, “people make up just-so stories about Big Data, privacy and data sharing,” often based on their existing beliefs and personal bias. “We’re trying to test and learn,” he says.

A version of this article appeared in print on March 24, 2013, on page BU3 of the New York edition with the headline: Big Data Is Opening Doors, But Maybe Too Many.

Computer programmer John Matherly’s search engine Shodan indexes thousands of completely unsecured web-connected devices.

Domestically, “homegrown extremists” are the greatest terrorist threat, rather than Islamic State or al-Qaida attacks planned from overseas

 Goldmine for Big Brother, New generation of smart household devices Admits Top US Spy

DNI James Clappers acknowledges “intelligence services might use the [web-connected home devices] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment.”

dni.jpg 

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper listens at center to testimony given by Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, far right, during the House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Sept. 10, 2015.

In a piece at The Register—titled “We’re going to use your toothbrush to snoop on you, says US spy bosstech-security journalist Kieran McCarthy reports Clapper’s acknowledgement that the Internet of Things (IoT) is a “potential goldmine for surveillance” echoes “a similar conclusion reached by academics last week.”

The testimony on Tuesday, McCarthy adds,  follows “repeated warnings over the poor security standards included in smart-home products, even the most well-resourced and well-known. Recently, the Ring doorbell and the Nest thermostat were discovered to have security vulnerabilities that could provide an attacker with your Wi-Fi password – and so access to your home network.

The US intelligence chief has acknowledged for the first time that agencies might use a new generation of smart household devices to increase their surveillance capabilities.

As increasing numbers of devices connect to the internet and to one another, the so-called internet of things promises consumers increased convenience – the remotely operated thermostat from Google-owned Nest is a leading example.

But as home computing migrates away from the laptop, the tablet and the smartphone, experts warn that the security features on the coming wave of automobiles, dishwashers and alarm systems lag far behind

In an appearance at a Washington thinktank last month, the director of the National Security Agency, Adm Michael Rogers, said that it was time to consider making the home devices “more defensible”, but did not address the opportunities that increased numbers and even categories of connected devices provide to his surveillance agency.

However, James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, was more direct in testimony submitted to the Senate on Tuesday as part of an assessment of threats facing the United States.

“In the future, intelligence services might use the [internet of things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials,” Clapper said.

Clapper did not specifically name any intelligence agency as involved in household-device surveillance. But security experts examining the internet of things take as a given that the US and other surveillance services will intercept the signals the newly networked devices emit, much as they do with those from cellphones.

Amateurs are already interested in easily compromised hardware; computer programmer John Matherly’s search engine Shodan indexes thousands of completely unsecured web-connected devices.

Online threats again topped the intelligence chief’s list of “worldwide threats” the US faces, with the mutating threat of low-intensity terrorism quickly following.

While Clapper has for years used the equivocal term “evolving” when asked about the scope of the threat, he said Tuesday that Sunni violent extremism “has more groups, members, and safe havens than at any other point in history”.

The Islamic State topped the threat index, but Clapper also warned that the US-backed Saudi war in Yemen was redounding to the benefit of al-Qaida’s local affiliate.

Domestically, “homegrown extremists” are the greatest terrorist threat, rather than Islamic State or al-Qaida attacks planned from overseas.

Clapper cited the San Bernardino and Chattanooga shootings as examples of lethal operations emanating from self-starting extremists “without direct guidance from [Isis] leadership”.

US intelligence officials did not foresee Isis suffering significant setbacks in 2016 despite a war in Syria and Iraq that the Pentagon has pledged to escalate.

The chief of defense intelligence, Marine Lt Gen Vincent Stewart, said the jihadist army would “probably retain Sunni Arab urban centers” in 2016, even as military leaders pledged to wrest the key cities of Raqqa and Mosul from it.

Contradicting the US defense secretary, Ashton Carter, Stewart said he was “less optimistic in the near term about Mosul”, saying the US and Iraqi government would “certainly not” retake it in 2016.

The negative outlook comes as Carter traveled on Tuesday to meet with his fellow defense chiefs in Brussels for a discussion on increasing their contributions against Isis.

On the Iran nuclear deal, Clapper said intelligence agencies were in a “distrust and verify mode”, but added: “We have no evidence thus far that they’re moving toward violation.”

Clapper’s admission about the surveillance potential for networked home devices is rare for a US official. But in an overlooked 2012 speech, the then CIA director David Petraeus called the surveillance implications of the internet of things “transformational … particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft”.

During testimony to both the Senate armed services committee and the intelligence panel, Clapper cited Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and the Islamic State as bolstering their online espionage, disinformation, theft, propaganda and data-destruction capabilities.

He warned that the US’s ability to correctly attribute the culprits of those actions would probably diminish with “improving offensive tradecraft, the use of proxies, and the creation of cover organizations”.

Clapper suggested that US adversaries had overtaken its online capabilities: “Russia and China continue to have the most sophisticated cyber programs.”

The White House’s new cyber-security initiative, unveiled on Tuesday, pledged increased security for nontraditional networked home devices. It tasked the Department of Homeland Security to “test and certify networked devices within the ‘Internet of Things’.” It did not discuss any tension between the US’s twin cybersecurity and surveillance priorities.

Connected household devices are a potential treasure trove to intelligence agencies seeking unobtrusive ways to listen and watch a target, according to a study that Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society released last week.

The study found that the signals explosion represented by the internet of things would overwhelm any privacy benefits by users of commercial encryption – even as Clapper in his testimony again alleged that the growth of encryption was having a “negative effect on intelligence gathering”.

The report’s authors cited a 2001 case in which the FBI had sought to compel a company that makes emergency communications hardware for automobiles – similar by description to OnStar, though the company was not named – to assist agents in Nevada in listening in on conversations in a client’s car.

In February 2015, news reports revealed that microphones on Samsung “smart” televisions were “always on” so as to receive any audio that it could interpret as an instruction.

“Law enforcement or intelligence agencies may start to seek orders compelling Samsung, Google, Mattel, Nest or vendors of other networked devices to push an update or flip a digital switch to intercept the ambient communications of a target,” the authors wrote.

 

‘Internet of Things’ an Absolute Goldmine for Big Brother, Admits Top US Spy

DNI James Clappers acknowledges “intelligence services might use the [web-connected home devices] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment or to gain access to networks or user credentials,” Clapper said in his submitted testimony (pdf)..”

by Jon Queally, staff writer. February 09, 2016

Sworn testimony delivered to the U.S. Congress by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper raised eyebrows on Tuesday as he acknowledged publicly for the first time that surveillance agencies are almost certain to exploit (if they aren’t already) the increasing number of web-connected devices—also known as the “Internet of Things”—as a way to keep tabs on the population in the coming years.

dni.jpg 

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper listens at center to testimony given by Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, far right, during the House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Sept. 10, 2015.

In a piece at The Register—titled “We’re going to use your toothbrush to snoop on you, says US spy bosstech-security journalist Kieran McCarthy reports Clapper’s acknowledgement that the Internet of Things (IoT) is a “potential goldmine for surveillance” echoes “a similar conclusion reached by academics last week.”

The testimony on Tuesday, McCarthy adds,  follows “repeated warnings over the poor security standards included in smart-home products, even the most well-resourced and well-known.

Recently, the Ring doorbell and the Nest thermostat were discovered to have security vulnerabilities that could provide an attacker with your Wi-Fi password – and so access to your home network.

According to Guardian journalist Spencer Ackerman, Clapper’s admission about the surveillance potential of networked home devices—which also include wi-fi enabled smoke detectors, larger appliances, and entertainment systems—”is rare for a US official.”

Not commonly discussed in public, Ackerman points to a 2012 speech by then CIA director David Petraeus who described the surveillance implications of such devices as “transformational … particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft.”

Though Clapper did “not specifically name any intelligence agency as involved in household-device surveillance”, reports Ackerman, “security experts examining the internet of things take as a given that the US and other surveillance services will intercept the signals the newly networked devices emit, much as they do with those from cellphones.

Amateurs are already interested in easily compromised hardware; computer programmer John Matherly’s search engine Shodan indexes thousands of completely unsecured web-connected devices.”

As McCarthy adds:

The data from IoT products can potentially be hugely valuable. Many include microphones and motion sensors, for example, such as new smart TVs, kids’ toys and voice-controlled products like Amazon’s Echo.

It wasn’t just the internet of things that Clapper is worried/excited about. He also references that artificial intelligence is provided a similar risk/opportunity. By meddling with or anticipating the results of algorithms, a huge number of AI systems “are susceptible to a range of disruptive and deceptive tactics that might be difficult to anticipate or quickly understand.”

On the flipside, however, they also “might create or enable further opportunities to disrupt or damage critical infrastructure or national security networks.”

And it’s not just the government spies that people worry about.

In a post at ZDNet last year, Steve Ranger explores the many pitfalls and concerns presented by IoT, including the way in which private corporations will exploit the connectedness of new technologies.

“The IoT could be one of the purest outgrowths of late capitalism imaginable,” explained Ranger, “one that can packages your every waking minute into a product (and the sleeping ones too, of course — there’s many a way of making money out of the data you generate in your slumber).

“There’s a real danger that it could form part of the ongoing erosion and corporatisation of private spaces in the quest for profit. In a surveillance economy, privacy represents an opportunity for profit forgone.”

Most probably you are not aware or you are not taking seriously the fact that everything you write, say, or move on social platforms (Tweeter, Facebook…) or on your portable phone is recorded and coded, second by second, somewhere in Big Brothers intelligence agencies on the superpower supercomputer intelligence gathering centers.  If you are connected and manages to secure clearances then, you may have access to your big file and write your diary and autobiography.  Big Brother can know you far better than you know yourself and his analysis is far more accurate and precise than your well-intentioned introspection work.  Big Brother is able to analyse your desires, your preferences, your best friends, and your potential enemies better than you can:  You are leaving behind you a numeric trace anytime you write, talk, or move.

Social scientists no longer have to run complex experiments on live subjects or handing out questionnaires and then collecting data.  Social scientists and research psychologists with access to valuable pieces of intelligence (research usually instigated by government and private enterprises linked to government) have located an inestimable trove of zillion of data.  Social scientists can now predict individual behavior and social behavior mathematically.  They can predict accurately the product and services that will enjoy great success within a week of its launching on the market.  They can predict election outcomes with great accuracy.  Social scientists discovered that with all our unpredictability we end up behaving in mathematical trends.  There is a breaking point in any trends when qualitative shift sets in instantaneously.  Movements start with individual liking and preferences and then peer pressures and mass communication decide on the outcome of a product, a service, or a candidate.  Social scientists track number of “buzz” generated by social platform users to comprehend social trends.

Before this outbreak of fast communication, social scientists felt the heat of being labelled as quasi-scientists; which means dealing in soft sciences that offer suggestions and options rather than accurate answers.  Since mankind has hundreds of variables to be controlled in order for any experiment to be valid and not ending up to have confounding results (results that hide the effects of pertinent variables that were not controlled) then, social scientists and psychologists had to run difficult and time-consuming experiments on hundreds of willing subjects and still feeling not satisfied with the results.

Now, social scientists can selected and stratify millions of data and still deal with enough cases that reduce hazard errors to the bare minimum.  Data is no longer the beast; the problem is how to access data without antagonizing Big Brother.

The only dilemma is: “How can we prevent the restauration of a police State?”  The police State has been around since antiquity and didn’t need so much data to institute efficient ideological political systems.  This new trend in instant communication is playing to the advantage of the common people in making a difference and preventing further exacerbation of policing mentality and trends.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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