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Marseille’s fight against AI surveillance
"Marseille is a city charged with contradictions. At the Old Port, yachts float in neat lines on the Mediterranean’s still white water and tourists wheel their suitcases past a Ferris wheel. But just ten minutes inland is the city’s 3rd arrondissement, once labelled Europe’s poorest neighborhood. Over the past year, residents here have watched as surveillance cameras have been installed over cafes, at busy intersections, on quiet residential roads and in front of apartment blocks...These fears [about the impact of these surveillance systems] are compounded by the involvement of controversial Chinese technology company ZTE in Marseille’s safe city apparatus....While federal or national programs attract a great deal of scrutiny, he added that local contracts escape that same level of attention, creating a backdoor into Europe for Chinese surveillance tech." - Morgan Meaker, Coda Story
otf  ai  surveillance  china  zte  europe  france  export 
7 days ago by dmcdev
Russia postpones sovereign internet test over coronavirus
ICYMI: "Russia due to coronavirus has postponed a test designed to improve the ability of its domestic internet infrastructure to cope with being cut off from the global network, the Communications Ministry said on Friday, TASS reported. The test, planned for March 20, had been aimed at developing ways to block certain types of encrypted web traffic, the TASS news agency said. 'Planned exercises were postponed due to the strengthening of measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus infection,' the ministry was quoted as saying. A revised schedule for the drills would be approved soon, it said." - Reuters

+ Reuters: Russia to use mobile phones to track people at risk of coronavirus
otf  russia  coronavirus  shutdown  internetsovereignty  surveillance 
14 days ago by dmcdev
Huawei's surveillance tech in Africa worries activists
"In Europe and the US, tense debates have broken out over the national security ramifications of allowing Huawei to be involved in the construction of new 5G networks...Across Africa, however, Huawei faces controversy of a different nature. The Chinese telecoms equipment giant, which reportedly built up to 70% of the continent’s 4G infrastructure, stands accused of selling technologies to potentially repressive governments as part of its 'Safe City' initiative and in so doing helping to undermine human rights in these countries...In its latest ‘Safe City’ brochure, the company promotes its 'automated, intelligent policing information systems' and boasts of its 'omnipresent sensing' and 'intelligent surveillance' capabilities. There are currently 12 ‘Safe City’ programs in sub-Saharan Africa, including in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think tank based in Washington DC." - Samuel Woodhams, Quartz
otf  huawei  africa  surveillance  safecities  kenya  uganda  SouthAfrica  china  export 
14 days ago by dmcdev
How Singapore waged war on coronavirus
"But while government measures to contain the first wave of infections were effective, they also raised questions about the invasiveness of the state. Surveillance cameras, police officers and contact-tracing teams have helped the government find 7,957 close contacts of confirmed cases, who have all been quarantined. The government on Friday launched TraceTogether, an app that uses bluetooth to record distance between users and the duration of their encounters. People consent to give the information, which is encrypted and deleted after 21 days, to the health ministry. The department can contact users in case of “probable contact” with an infected individual…The government has also used a tough new online falsehoods law to correct misinformation in posts about the coronavirus, which critics have argued gave authorities too much latitude to censor." - Stefania Palma, FInancial Times

+ "Health officials and scientists in Britain hope to soon begin testing the first smartphone app that would alert people who had come in contact with someone infected with the coronavirus. The project is an urgent effort by the British authorities to translate a surveillance tool deployed to fight China’s outbreak into something more palatable in Western democracies. The app is being developed for use in Britain, but could be adapted for other countries, particularly those with similarly centralized health systems, officials said." via New York Times: Translating a Surveillance Tool into a Virus Tracker for Democracies

+ "As countries around the world race to contain the pandemic, many are deploying digital surveillance tools as a means to exert social control, even turning security agency technologies on their own civilians. Health and law enforcement authorities are understandably eager to employ every tool at their disposal to try to hinder the virus — even as the surveillance efforts threaten to alter the precarious balance between public safety and personal privacy on a global scale.

Yet ratcheting up surveillance to combat the pandemic now could permanently open the doors to more invasive forms of snooping later. It is a lesson Americans learned after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, civil liberties experts say." via Natasha Singer and Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times: As Coronavirus Surveillance Escalates, Personal Privacy Plummets

+ Lawfare: Government Surveillance in an Age of Pandemics

+ Axios: The pandemic's coming health surveillance state

+ Privacy International: Tracking the Global Response to COVID-19

+ Not just another remote/WFH guide: Tor shares tips on how to work remotely "retaining your rights to privacy and freedom of expression": Remote Work and Personal Safety
otf  coronavirus  singapore  asia  SoutheastAsia  seasia  surveillance  censorship 
14 days ago by dmcdev
Phones Could Track the Spread of Covid-19. Is It a Good Idea? 
"As the deadly Covid-19 respiratory virus stalks the US, some techies suggest using smartphones to track and report transmissions. The idea raises many questions, including how well such a system would actually work, whether it might sow unnecessary alarm or confusion, and whether such tools might enable unwanted corporate or government surveillance...Inspired by the way China and South Korea apparently used smartphones to slow the spread of Covid-19, some US technologists have begun working on tracking apps...

"Government use of coronavirus-related apps in China and South Korea have not been entirely positive. In South Korea, the authorities have sent out texts detailing the movements of specific people infected with Covid-19, stirring up public shaming and rumor-mongering. The government is also using a smartphone app to ensure people stay home when they have been ordered to quarantine themselves. The ubiquitous Chinese apps WeChat and AliPay have been used to assign people 'color codes' to determine whether they should quarantine themselves or may move around freely. But some citizens say the codes appear to be applied arbitrarily or based on which province they are in. There is also evidence the apps feed data back to the authorities." - Will Knight, WIRED

+ WIRED: Researchers Will Deploy AI to Better Understand Coronavirus

+ "For malicious people, preying on collective fear and misinformation is nothing new. Mentioning national headlines can lend a veneer of credibility to scams. We've seen this tactic time and again, so it's no surprise that COVID-19 themed social media and email campaigns have been popping up online. This blogpost provides an overview to help you fight against phishing attacks and malware, examples of phishing messages we’ve seen in the wild related to coronavirus and COVID-19, and specific scenarios to look out for (such as if you work in a hospital, are examining maps of the spread of the virus, or are using your phone to stay informed)." via EFF: Phishing in the Time of COVID-19: How to Recognize Malicious Coronavirus Phishing Scams
otf  coronavirus  surveillance  china  SouthKorea  ai  phishing 
19 days ago by dmcdev
U.S. Diplomacy Is a Necessary Part of Countering China’s Digital Authoritarianism
"Digital diplomacy is important for trade; it’s important for national security; and it’s important for collaborating with other liberal democracies to establish and reinforce clear, democratic regulations and behavior around artificial intelligence and emerging surveillance issues. On this last point of norm-setting, investing in digital diplomacy is particularly critical for countering the rise and spread of digital authoritarianism. Notably, Washington’s shrinking investment in digital diplomacy stands in stark contrast to that of Beijing...

"China’s investment in digital diplomacy matters because of how it’s coupled with, in [the case of a deal between Chinese AI firm CloudWalk and the Zimbabwean government] and many others, exports of facial recognition software, internet traffic interception technologies, and other surveillance tools to despots. It matters because the Chinese government has even conducted training exercises for foreign governments on how to 'manage' new information media—undoubtedly a coded word for spreading censorship. It matters because digital diplomatic efforts have enabled Chinese firms to expand their market reach globally, enabling practices such as information censorship at Beijing’s behest." - Justin Sherman for Lawfare
otf  china  asia  gfw  zimbabwe  censorship  surveillance  export 
21 days ago by dmcdev
Iran Launched an App That Claimed to Diagnose Coronavirus. Instead, It Collected Location Data on Millions of People.
"On Tuesday, March 3, the smartphones of tens of millions of Iranian citizens beeped in unison. 'Dear compatriots, before going to the hospital or health center, install and use this software to determine if you or your loved ones have been infected with the coronavirus,' said the message, which claimed to come from the Ministry of Health...Of course, the app couldn't tell citizens if they had coronavirus. But what it could do is hoover up huge amounts of data on citizens, including names, addresses, dates of birth, and even track people's location in real time. The government has already boasted that millions of citizens have shared this information with them at a time when most Iranians are completely in the dark about the threat from coronavirus. The government is being accused of covering up the real infection and death rates with experts claiming the real figures are exponentially higher. With confusion and fear gripping many parts of Iran, this app is looking to take advantage of that to boost Tehran's surveillance capabilities." - David Gilbert, VICE
otf  iran  mena  coronavirus  surveillance  privacy 
21 days ago by dmcdev
Targeted Surveillance Attacks in Uzbekistan: An Old Threat with New Techniques
ICYMI: This Amnesty International report released last week documents targeted "phishing and spyware attacks targeting Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) from Uzbekistan," documenting what Amnesty calls "a worrying evolution in the surveillance threat facing HRDs in Uzbekistan, which now appear more sophisticated than previously documented, and able to bypass some security tools HRDs use to protect themselves against surveillance." Amnesty's investigation follows on a May 2019 report published by eQualitie analyzing phishing attacks targeting Uzbek human rights actors.
otf  uzbekistan  CentralAsia  phishing  surveillance  soviet  hrd  security  digisec  DigitalSecurity 
21 days ago by dmcdev
Coronavirus: China's netizens get creative to share censored article on whistleblower
"Online users in China have adopted a range of creative measures - including screenshots, deliberate typos, PDF files and Morse code - to share a censored article on a whistleblowing doctor. The report features an interview with a doctor in Wuhan, the epicentre of the new coronavirus outbreak, who sounded an early alarm only to face disciplinary action...But the interview with Dr Ai Fen, in the March edition of China's People magazine, has been removed from the popular social media platform WeChat and netizens have complained that it cannot be shared in chat groups.

"In the censored feature, Dr Ai said she was given an 'unprecedented and severe rebuke' after trying to warn other doctors in December when test results from a patient came up with the results 'Sars coronavirus'. Dr Ai circled the words in the report on Dec 30 and shared it, urging doctors to take precautions against the virus - and earning a reprimand from her hospital's disciplinary department. The warning was also shared by eight physicians, who were later punished by Wuhan police for 'rumour-mongering'. Wuhan was placed under lockdown in late January. Various adaptations of the article have since been circulating online in an apparent pushback against online censorship." - AFP

Among the creative dissemination methods: What one might call 'the Star Wars method.'

+ CPJ: Q&A: Citizen Lab documents Chinese censorship of coronavirus keywords

+ "A potentially disturbing development: Amid the coronavirus outbreak, a Chinese facial recognition software company now claims to be able to detect faces even through masks—one of the ways protesters in Hong Kong and elsewhere had avoided being identified. It’s only one firm, but with the revelation that the camera giant Hikvision has been training at a paramilitary base in Xinjiang that bans Uighurs from participating, the future is beginning to look darker." via Foreign Policy: China’s New Normal

+ ZDNet: Spying concerns raised over Iran's official COVID-19 detection app
otf  coronavirus  china  asia  iran  app  privacy  surveillance 
25 days ago by dmcdev
South Korea is watching quarantined citizens with a smartphone app
"With almost 6,300 cases and more than 40 reported deaths, South Korea has become home to the world’s largest coronavirus outbreak outside China. As a result, the government in Seoul has taken what it calls 'maximum' action to contain the spread of the disease—including sending thousands of people into mandatory home quarantine. Now it is launching its latest attempt to keep things from escalating further: a smartphone app that can monitor citizens on lockdown. The app, developed by the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, allows those who have been ordered not to leave home to stay in contact with case workers and report on their progress. It will also use GPS to keep track of their location to make sure they are not breaking their quarantine. Named 'self-quarantine safety protection,' the sparsely designed service is being launched today for Android smartphones, while an iPhone version is expected to be released on March 20. Officials said it is intended to help manage the increasing case load and prevent cases of 'super spreaders,' who have been blamed for significant numbers of infections." - Max S. Kim, MIT Technology Review

+ Stanford University's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies: How Taiwan Used Big Data, Transparency and a Central Command to Protect Its People from Coronavirus
otf  korea  SouthKorea  coronavirus  app  surveillance  privacy  asia 
29 days ago by dmcdev
The U.S. Fears Live Facial Recognition. In Buenos Aires, It’s a Fact of Life
"Last April, the government of Buenos Aires announced that the city’s subway cameras would be connected to a system called the Fugitive Facial Recognition System. Three weeks later, the system was operational. For almost a year, the residents of this city of 3 million have lived under the surveillance of live facial recognition, with some individuals put on a watchlist even for minor crimes like theft...

"The video surveillance system is developed by a Buenos Aires-based company called Danaide S.A., which sells its surveillance technology through a product called Ultra IP. The facial recognition component of Danaide’s product is developed by Russian company NTechLab, which confirmed its partnership with the Argentinian firm to OneZero, but did not provide more information due to a nondisclosure agreement. NTechLab’s software is also being used to conduct live facial recognition in Moscow using 3,000 CCTV cameras, according to a 2018 company presentation. The company claims an accuracy rate of 80%, though that has/has not been independently verified." - Dave Gershgorn, OneZero
otf  argentina  surveillance  russia  ntechlab  facialrecognition  Southamerica 
4 weeks ago by dmcdev
Coronavirus controls increase surveillance 'danger'
"he coronavirus outbreak has enabled authorities from China to Russia to increase surveillance and clamp down on free speech, with the risk that these measures will persist even after the situation eases, digital rights experts said. COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus which emerged from China late last year, has killed more than 3,000 people worldwide and made about 91,000 unwell. In response, many countries have tightened border controls and imposed travel bans. Some have stepped up surveillance using artificial intelligence (AI) and big data, alarming human rights activists and data privacy experts.

'Governments are legitimising tools of oppression as tools of public health,' said Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia policy director at Access Now, a digital rights non-profit. 'The danger is that these measures stay in place and that data continues to be collected and used. We have seen this happen in the past after major events in China and after 9/11 in the United States[.]'" - Rina Chandran, Reuters
otf  coronavirus  censorship  surveillance  china  russia 
4 weeks ago by dmcdev
In Coronavirus Fight, China Gives Citizens a Color Code, With Red Flags
"As China encourages people to return to work despite the coronavirus outbreak, it has begun a bold mass experiment in using data to regulate citizens’ lives — by requiring them to use software on their smartphones that dictates whether they should be quarantined or allowed into subways, malls and other public spaces. But a New York Times analysis of the software’s code found that the system does more than decide in real time whether someone poses a contagion risk. It also appears to share information with the police, setting a template for new forms of automated social control that could persist long after the epidemic subsides...The Times’s analysis found that as soon as a user grants the software access to personal data, a piece of the program labeled 'reportInfoAndLocationToPolice' sends the person’s location, city name and an identifying code number to a server. The software does not make clear to users its connection to the police. But according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency and an official police social media account, law enforcement authorities were a crucial partner in the system’s development." - Paul Mozur, Raymond Zhong and Aaron Krolik, New York Times

+ Vox: China has censored the Archive of Our Own, one of the internet’s largest fanfiction websites
otf  china  coronavirus  surveillance  asia  censorship  fanfic 
5 weeks ago by dmcdev
China’s Digital Wall Around Tibet
"The border’s near impenetrable nature was also a lifeline: from 1959 until 2008, thousands of Tibetans a year made the arduous trek across the mountain range to safety. Today, there are an estimated 150,000 Tibetans living abroad, in India, Nepal, or western countries including the U.S. and Canada. Nearly all can trace their freedom to a perilous Himalayan journey that was difficult for Chinese occupying forces to patrol effectively. Until now. In recent years, the flow of refugees from Tibet has almost completely stopped. In 2007, about 3,000 Tibetans entered India; that number dwindled to only 80 by 2017. The reason is not, as China wants the world to believe, an improving situation in Tibet – in fact, nearly every human rights group believes repression there is at its highest level in decades...

"The 97% drop in refugee numbers escaping Tibet is due to new technology which has allowed China to build a nearly impassable digital and securitized border wall along its southern and western borders. In Tibet, and also in Xinjiang, the homeland of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims which has become a widely reported technological dystopia, the border is patrolled by drones, cameras and an interconnected system that allows soldiers to rapidly monitor – and apprehend – any Tibetan, Uyghur, or Kazakh attempting to flee. The digital wall also prevents the vast majority from even trying." - Nithin Coca, Coda Story
otf  tibet  china  surveillance  asia 
6 weeks ago by dmcdev
How Saudi Arabia Infiltrated Twitter
"[Ali] Alzabarah and Ahmad Abouammo, a colleague on Twitter’s global media team, regularly accessed and delivered information that could’ve led Saudi intelligence to identify anonymous dissidents. While news of the allegations against them has been public since November 2019, the extent of their roles and abilities inside the company have never previously been reported. Alzabarah, Abouammo, and al-Asaker did not respond to requests for comment. Though Azabarah fled, he and Abouammo, who remained in the US, are currently indicted in United States federal court on charges of acting as undeclared agents of the Saudi government. No matter the verdict, the case has exposed tech companies’ vulnerability to attempted foreign infiltration. One well-placed employee can potentially do extensive damage." - Alex Kantrowitz, BuzzFeed News
otf  saudi  saudiarabia  mena  twitter  social  surveillance  awareness  security 
6 weeks ago by dmcdev
Egypt and China’s Telecoms: A Concerning Courtship
"Since Beijing announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—its plan to create strategic infrastructure connecting Africa, Europe, and Asia to China—in 2013, Egypt has become a key area of investment. By 2012, China had already surpassed the United States as the primary exporter of goods to Egypt, and in 2014 Egypt and China signed a 'comprehensive strategic partnership' agreement. This blooming relationship comes at an opportune moment for Cairo, which hopes to woo foreign investors into an economy that in 2016 reached the brink of crisis...

"...continuing Egyptian demand and Chinese firms’ growing exports make the possibility of deeper Sino-Egyptian cooperation worrisome. Privacy rights watchdogs have criticized Egypt for its surveillance of activists, dissidents, and other citizens, and legislative changes have weakened protections for privacy and free expression. Were they introduced to Egypt, China’s advances in areas like facial recognition would likely accelerate these trends and could give China access to sensitive data (as they have in countries like Zimbabwe)." - Allison McManus, non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for for Middle East Policy, writing for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) Power 3.0 blog
otf  china  egypt  surveillance  export  mena 
6 weeks ago by dmcdev
U.S. accuses Huawei of stealing trade secrets, assisting Iran
"U.S. prosecutors on Thursday accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets and helping Iran track protesters in its latest indictment against the Chinese company, escalating the U.S. battle with the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker. In the indictment, which supersedes one unsealed last year in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, Huawei Technologies Co was charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from six U.S. technology companies and to violate a racketeering law typically used to combat organized crime.

It also contains new allegations about the company’s involvement in countries subject to sanctions. Among other accusations, it says Huawei installed surveillance equipment in Iran that was used to monitor, identify, and detain protesters during the 2009 anti-government demonstrations in Tehran." - Karen Freifeld, Reuters

You can read the full indictment here (pdf)

+ "...All three men said that simply by carrying a phone, they felt that they were still in the grip of the Chinese state — that the government was always watching them, able to listen in, demand that they become informers or threaten their loved ones." via Coda Story, How China spies on Uyghurs in Turkey
otf  china  huawei  iran  surveillance  export  uyghur 
7 weeks ago by dmcdev
Russia's security service tells internet firms to hand over user data: The Bell
"Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) has ordered some of the country's major internet companies to give it continuous access to their systems, The Bell investigative website reported late on Tuesday, citing three sources at the firms. It said the measure would affect a string of Russian internet services that have been added to a list of entities obliged to hand over user data and messages to Russian law enforcement agencies on request. The list, drawn up by Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor, contains more than 200 entities such as popular messenger service Telegram, some Yandex services, social network VK and classified advertisement website

"Reuters was unable to immediately confirm the report. The Bell said the orders, which the companies received last year, demanded they install equipment allowing FSB employees to have continuous access to their information systems and the keys to decode users' communications. Companies that fail to comply can be blocked." - Reuters
otf  russia  fsb  access  surveillance  Roskomnadzor  vk  privacy  data 
7 weeks ago by dmcdev
The internet has no room for tyrants
"Today, enemies of a free internet invest more than ever in censorship and surveillance technology," writes Open Technology Fund (OTF) CEO Libby Liu in an op-ed for the Tampa Bay Times ahead of next week's St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs. "To date, China and Russia have provided state-of-the-art technology to more than 108 countries, including advanced surveillance technologies and training on 'online information management.' Online censorship and surveillance have become global problems."

In response, "[f]ighting this threat requires a focused and fresh approach -- one that is user-focused and powered by a multidisciplinary mission-driven community," Liu says. "...This year, having proven we can successfully fight back, OTF has emerged as a new independent corporation to enable the US Agency for Global Media -- the agency that oversees RFA, Voice of America and RFERL, Alhurra and Radio/TV Marti -- to expand its internet freedom work and maximize its impact. With 90 percent of USAGM media networks’ audiences relying on the internet for news and information, they need the tools to access objective news safe from censorship and surveillance, as do our journalists, stringers, and sources, who are constantly exposed to threat.

"Tyrants and their enablers have made it clear that they will do and spend whatever it takes to distort the internet in their own image of control, power, profit and repression. The United States and its allies must act together to protect the internet as a democratic space for free expression and human dignity. The new Open Technology Fund is just one way to defend the world-wide web and empower people everywhere to join the fight."

Read the full op-ed here.
otf  usagm  netfreedom  censorship  surveillance  access  awareness 
7 weeks ago by dmcdev
How Nigeria’s police used telecom surveillance to lure and arrest journalists
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports on how journalists Samuel Ogundipe and Azeezat Adedigba of Nigeria's Premium Times had their communications surveilled by authorities following critical reporting, with police then using that access and information to detain the reporters' sources. The sources were then coerced into helping the police arrest the journalists:

"On August 9, 2018, Ogundipe published an article about a communication between Nigeria’s police chief and vice president. Days later, police investigating his source issued a written summons, CPJ reported at the time. It was not addressed to Ogundipe and made no mention of his article or the charges he would later face of theft and possession of police documents. Instead, as Ogundipe recounted, police called Adedigba for questioning in connection with a slew of serious crimes, allegations that evaporated after police used her phone to summon her friend to the station. Ogundipe’s experience is one of at least three cases since 2017 where police from across Nigeria used phone records to lure and then arrest journalists currently facing criminal charges for their work. In each case, police used the records to identify people with a relationship to a targeted journalist, detained those people, and then forced them to facilitate the arrest. The police methods reinforce the value of internet-based, encrypted communications at a time when authorities have also targeted journalists’ phones and computers to reveal their sources. Those prosecuted in all three cases are free on bail." - Jonathan Rozen, CPJ
otf  nigeria  surveillance  press  media  cpj  journalism  africa  encryption 
7 weeks ago by dmcdev
U.S. Officials Say Huawei Can Covertly Access Telecom Networks
"U.S. officials say Huawei Technologies Co. can covertly access mobile-phone networks around the world through 'back doors' designed for use by law enforcement, as Washington tries to persuade allies to exclude the Chinese company from their networks. Intelligence shows Huawei has had this secret capability for more than a decade, U.S. officials said. Huawei rejected the allegations. The U.S. kept the intelligence highly classified until late last year, when U.S. officials provided details to allies including the U.K. and Germany, according to officials from the three countries. That was a tactical turnabout by the U.S., which in the past had argued that it didn’t need to produce hard evidence of the threat it says Huawei poses to nations’ security." - Bojan Pancevski, Wall Street Journal

+ "China’s biggest military technology company has set up a national laboratory to research advanced policing technologies such as crime prediction and emotion recognition, giving its first wave of grants to academics across China — as well as one lab in the UK. The flagship lab, which does not have a physical presence but is a network of researchers, is owned by China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, a state-owned defence company that has longstanding partnerships with the Chinese police and military...The new lab has partnerships with China’s central police training academy in Beijing, as well as with local police in Xinjiang. Its only physical locations appear to be the Urumqi research centre and another facility in Beijing." via Financial Times: China sets up national laboratory for advanced policing
otf  china  asia  huawei  security  privacy  surveillance  police  xinjiang  uyghur 
7 weeks ago by dmcdev
China's censors tried to control the narrative on a hero doctor's death. It backfired terribly
"The reaction on the Chinese internet as news of Li's death spread was immediate -- and almost unprecedented...As the grief and rage poured out, those in charge of China's vast censorship apparatus, the Great Firewall, seemed at a loss over what to do. Topics relating to censorship itself, usually absolutely verboten, trended for several hours before being deleted, rare evidence of indecision and confusion. On Weibo, a Twitter-like platform, two hashtags -- 'The Wuhan government owes Dr. Li Wenliang an apology' and 'We want freedom of speech' -- attracted tens of thousands of views, before being deleted. Another hashtag, 'I want freedom of speech,' drew more than 1.8 million views in the early hours of Friday morning, before it too was censored...

"The fury and the pushback against the censorship apparatus itself has not been seen to this extent since the Wenzhou train crash in 2011, when authorities rushed to cover up the causes of a high-speed rail collision, even abandoning the search for survivors while many were still alive. That incident became a lightning rod for frustrations about poor safety standards in China and the uncaring attitudes of the authorities, just as it appears Li's death will be a conduit for anger over a host of issues beyond the virus." - James Griffiths, CNN

+ Reuters: Coronavirus brings China's surveillance state out of the shadows

+ BuzzFeed News: As Chinese Internet Users Try To Track The Coronavirus, Their Government Is Tracking Them

+ NPR: Critics Say China Has Suppressed And Censored Information In Coronavirus Outbreak
otf  china  coronavirus  asia  gfw  censorship  weibo  surveillance  publichealth 
8 weeks ago by dmcdev
USCIRF Chair speaks on how Chinese surveillance threatens religious freedom
Speaking at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Chair Tony Perkins said the following regarding the threat to religious freedom posted by the Chinese government's extensive use of surveillance technology:

"...[T]he Chinese government’s high-tech surveillance state presents a significant escalation in its war on religion. The government is reportedly using artificial intelligence systems that can combine information from video surveillance, facial and voice recognition, GPS tracking, and other data to track religious communities. During the past decade, it has installed hundreds of millions of surveillance cameras across the country, particularly in Xinjiang and Tibet, where facial recognition systems are used distinguish Uighurs and Tibetans from other ethnic groups. According to experts, this is the first time a government has intentionally used artificial intelligence for racial profiling. USCIRF has received reports that Chinese authorities even installed cameras on the pulpits of some churches, allowing authorities to identify and monitor anyone who attends services.

"Last September, USCIRF published a brief report about the Chinese government’s use of surveillance technology to target religious minorities. Our goal was to raise awareness of this issue within the United States government, and also to help start a discussion about how we can collectively respond to this unique threat to religious freedom. Because of the transnational nature of 21st century technology and trade, the United States cannot avoid this issue. Indeed, we have received reports that key components of the technology driving China’s surveillance state come from American businesses and researchers. This should concern us all. The information revolution is one of our country’s greatest contributions to human civilization, but we also have a responsibility to ensure that the fruits of American innovation are not distorted into an Orwellian dystopia."
otf  china  religion  ReligiousFreedom  USCIRF  asia  gfw  surveillance 
8 weeks ago by dmcdev
Stopping the Press: New York Times Journalist Targeted by Saudi-linked Pegasus Spyware Operator
New Citizen Lab research reveals how New York Times Beirut Bureau Chief Ben Hubbard "was targeted with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware via a June 2018 SMS message promising details about 'Ben Hubbard and the story of the Saudi Royal Family.' The SMS contained a hyperlink to a website used by a Pegasus operator that we call KINGDOM. We have linked KINGDOM to Saudi Arabia. In 2018, KINGDOM also targeted Saudi dissidents including Omar Abdulaziz, Ghanem al-Masarir1, and Yahya Assiri, as well as a staff member at Amnesty International. Hubbard is among a growing group of journalists targeted with Pegasus spyware."

+ In Hubbard's own words: "On June 21, 2018, I received an Arabic text message on my cellphone that read: 'Ben Hubbard and the story of the Saudi royal family,' with a link for a website, I had been writing extensively about Saudi Arabia, including its royal family, and at first glance the link appeared to be a Saudi news story about my coverage — a subject that would normally grab my attention. But it also struck me as fishy, so I refrained from clicking and decided to investigate. That led me to the booming market among governments for hacking technologies and a lesson in how easily the most intimate information on our phones — chats, contacts, passwords and photos — could become a target." via New York Times: Someone Tried to Hack My Phone. Technology Researchers Accused Saudi Arabia.
otf  saudi  saudiarabia  pegasus  nsogroup  spyware  surveillance  mena  meda  journalism 
9 weeks ago by dmcdev
Coming soon - the smartphone that promotes 'Russian values'
"Smartphones and other devices sold in Russia must be pre-installed with software that is morally sound and espouses traditional Russian values, according to new draft rules. President Vladimir Putin signed legislation last year requiring all smartphones, computers and smart TV sets sold in the country to come pre-installed with Russian software. The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service has now drafted guidelines outlining what kinds of software could be made mandatory. A draft government resolution seen by Reuters said such software should help with the 'formation of the priority of traditional Russian spiritual and moral values'. It must be both popular and secure. The text did not explicitly define these values, and the monopoly office did not immediately respond to a request for comment." -Tom Balmforth, Nadezhda Tsydenova, Reuters

+ Reuters: Russia blocks encrypted email service ProtonMail
otf  russia  security  awareness  digisec  surveillance  censorship 
9 weeks ago by dmcdev
Censorship shackles China's battle against Wuhan virus
"People are panicking. When a new disease is discovered, it’s undeniably hard to identify and inform the public about it quickly. Yet China is making the problem harder to solve, even though it should have learned from the SARS outbreak in 2003, when the government admitted to underreporting cases in the initial stages. Nearly 800 people died in that epidemic, which saw desperate people emptying shops for Chinese herbal medicines and vinegar that would turn out to be ineffective. That frenzy was driven by the lack of accurate information and rumors because of a vacuum in top-down communication. The idea of wei wen, or maintaining stability in China’s political system made 'conceal as many as possible and keep it at the local level' a natural immediate response to a crisis like this. That approach to information might work on other kinds of issues, but not when it comes to a potential epidemic. Trying to control information in that case becomes a kind of shackle in the face of something that can progress and change swiftly beyond one’s control." - Echo Huang, Quartz

+ Quartz: China’s coronavirus outbreak is unfolding in a new age of information—and surveillance

+ "As we speak, the Communist Party of China is using artificial intelligence to repress Muslin minority communities and pro-democracy demonstrators...In fact, the party has constructed a 21st century surveillance state with unprecedented abilities to censor speech and infringe upon basic human rights...George Orwell would be proud." - U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaking on Friday at the CSIS Global Security Forum on "Emerging Technologies Governance." Read more here via Reuters: China a '21st century surveillance state,' U.S. defense chief says

+ Abacus: Apple removed 805 apps in China from 2018 to 2019
otf  china  asia  wuhan  censorship  access  coronavirus  surveillance  esper  pentagon 
9 weeks ago by dmcdev
Inside the Feds’ Battle Against Huawei
"For the US, China represents both a critical trading partner and a leading foreign adversary. US companies see China as a market with a billion consumers and as home to the factories that make everything from Apple iPhones to children’s books. It’s also an authoritarian superpower that exerts an ambiguous level of control over its private sector. As tech firms like Huawei become ever more indispensable across the globe, American leaders have, not unreasonably, become possessed by the fear that Chinese technology will offer a ruthless Beijing many 'backdoors' into Western affairs of state, security, and commerce. And in the past two years, the US has, at least in the case of Huawei, begun to toy with a policy of complete technological quarantine. The stakes are enormous. Huawei itself is a huge player in the global telecommunications industry—so large that as Huawei goes, so goes the interconnected world. A full US ban on Huawei products could mark the beginning of the end of a one-world internet. It could calve the world into two separate tech ecosystems, one in North America and parts of Europe and the other across Asia and the Southern Hemisphere. The former would be dominated by Nokia, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple, and the latter by Huawei, Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu. The Trump administration’s escalating fight has left US companies that supply Huawei reeling and left Huawei wondering if it can ever count on access to US supply chains again. About the only thing that is clear is that the Trump administration’s fight isn’t really about Huawei at all." - Garrett Graff, Wired
otf  china  huawei  surveillance  access  asia  gfw 
10 weeks ago by dmcdev
Israel: Court decides to hear case against NSO behind closed doors
"On Thursday, a judge at Tel Aviv’s District Court begin hearing arguments as to why Israel’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) should revoke the export licence of NSO Group. The firm’s Pegasus software has been used to target journalists and activists across the globe – including in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates. At the start of Thursday’s hearing the judge granted a request from the Ministry of Defence for a gag order on national security grounds."

Responding to the decision, Danna Ingleton, Deputy Director of Amnesty Tech, said the following: "Israel’s Ministry of Defence has once again sought to avoid the full glare of public scrutiny. NSO Group’s chilling spyware has put the lives of human rights activists around the world in danger. There remains a clear public interest for this case to be heard in open court and we remain hopeful that information about the hearing will be shared with the public. The cosy complicity between governments and the shadowy surveillance industry has to end. We will continue to make every effort to ensure NSO Group’s invasive products can no longer be used to commit human rights abuses around the world." - Amnesty International
otf  israel  nsogroup  surveillance  mena 
10 weeks ago by dmcdev
State Duma committee recommends against new online censorship bill
"The state-building and legislation committee of Russia’s State Duma has recommended against the adoption of a bill that would allow the Russian government to identify email users and block them if they use email to send banned online content. The bill was proposed by Andrey Klishas, the lawmaker behind a number of other draconian Internet regulation proposals, and a group of three other deputies. Lyudmila Bokova, one of those deputies, worked with Klishas to create Russia’s Internet isolation law. The Duma committee concluded that the terms of the bill were too broad — vague enough to apply to any messaging service, including social media and online chats. The committee also noted that the bill would likely be ineffective because similar measures intended to block messengers like Telegram have not been enforceable, and blocked users have the ability to open new accounts." - Meduza
otf  russia  duma  bill  legislation  surveillance  awareness 
11 weeks ago by dmcdev
Bangladesh: Online Surveillance, Control
" Bangladesh authorities are blocking access to online news sites in violation of the right to free speech and access to information, Human Rights Watch said today. The government has also adopted advanced methods to block or conduct surveillance on internet traffic and regulate online news sites without a sufficient legal framework to protect rights to privacy, expression, and access to information. On December 29, 2019, access to the Sweden-based investigative journalism website Netra News was blocked within Bangladesh after it published a report alleging corruption by Obaidul Quader, an influential party leader and a minister in the Awami League government. Bangladesh authorities have previously blocked access to international news sites like Al Jazeera and The Wire for publishing articles that criticized the government. They have also arbitrarily blocked Bangladeshi news websites. 'The Sheikh Hasina government in Bangladesh continues its march toward authoritarianism, willing only to allow praise, and shutting down criticism,' said Brad Adams, Asia director. 'These restrictions disregard the basic principles of free expression and suggest that the government has plenty to hide.'" - Human Rights Watch
otf  bangladesh  hrw  asia  southasia  news  access  block  censorship  surveillance  privacy 
12 weeks ago by dmcdev
Alleged Spy App ToTok Puts Apple in a Bind
"Last month, both Google and Apple removed a popular social messaging app called ToTok from their official app stores. The decisions came after United States intelligence officials told The New York Times that the United Arab Emirates likely uses the app for state surveillance. The report and subsequent research also asserted ties between ToTok developer Breej Holding Ltd. and the Emirati government. But by Saturday, Google had quietly reinstated ToTok in its Play Store for Android. Apple does not seem to have settled on its next steps. The ToTok imbroglio that both companies find themselves in speaks to the difficulties app stores have in policing their offerings. If an app hides an ad fraud scam behind a puzzle game, Apple and Google can, and do, detect the behavior and remove the listing. But if an app like ToTok calls itself a VoIP calling and messaging app, and does exactly that, there isn't necessarily anything sinister to detect. ToTok’s corporate servers could pipe user data to the government, but that activity would lie beyond Apple or Google’s visibility." - Lily Hay Newman, Wired
otf  uae  totok  google  apple  android  ios  appstore  app  surveillance  privacy 
january 2020 by dmcdev
China targets tech giants in app privacy crackdown
"Chinese tech companies including social media giant Tencent were ordered by regulators on Thursday to clean up how their apps handle user information or face possible penalties. The order is the latest in a series of crackdowns by Communist authorities who encourage internet use but are steadily tightening censorship and other controls on operators. Violators in earlier crackdowns have lost licenses or suffered other penalties that cut into revenue or depressed their company’s share price. The industry ministry said 41 apps failed an examination following orders in July to ensure they comply with user data rules...The government requires operators of websites and social media services to enforce increasingly pervasive censorship rules. Details are secret but discussion of politically sensitive topics often disappears from websites. Regulators have stepped up control over the past decade by eliminating anonymous use of the internet, requiring website operators to keep copies of anything the public posts on them and tightening censorship." - AP

+ Thread by New York Times journalist Paul Mozur on how surveillance works in China - from a zoomed in, local perspective, including WiFi sniffers, facial recognition technology, and how some local residents push back on these intrusions:
otf  china  asia  gfw  censorship  app  privacy  surveillance 
december 2019 by dmcdev
China wants economic boost from surveillance tech used on Uighurs
"It is important to understand what's happening in Xinjiang, the far-flung province where the Chinese Communist Party has interned over 1 million Muslim Uighurs and morphed the region into a dystopia of surveillance and terror. Because to fulfill its economic promises, China must export its methods of repression in Xinjiang to us, the rest of the world. This is part and parcel of the Chinese government's plan to grow its economy out of debt while evolving it from the world's manufacturing hub to a leader in technological development, a plan called 'Made in China 2025.' 'To go up the value chain, China has to own the tech that is the tech of the future, so AI, surveillance,' Philip Thai, a historian of modern China at Northeastern University, said. 'China believes fields like this could help it climb the value chain so it can reap the benefit from exporting these technologies instead of making the lower end and having foreign companies captures most of the gains.'" - Linette Lopez, Business Insider
otf  china  xinjiang  uyghur  asia  surveillance  export 
december 2019 by dmcdev
China tried to get World Bank to fund surveillance in Xinjiang
"Chinese recipients of World Bank loans tried to secure funding for the purchase of facial recognition technology for use in China’s northwest region of Xinjiang, according to documents obtained by Axios...The World Bank's loan program in Xinjiang demonstrates the extreme moral hazard that is now facing any organization with operations in the region, where China has constructed a surveillance state and detained more than a million ethnic minorities. In more than 8,000 pages of official World Bank Chinese-language procurement documents dated June 2017 and reviewed by Axios, Chinese recipients of the loan program requested tens of thousands of dollars for the purchase of facial recognition cameras and software, night-vision cameras, and other surveillance technology for use in Xinjiang schools. The World Bank told Axios those funds were not disbursed." - Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, Axios
otf  china  xinjiang  asia  worldbank  surveillance  uyghur 
december 2019 by dmcdev
Made in America: White House Veterans Helped Gulf Monarchy Build Secret Surveillance Unit
"In the years after 9/11, former U.S. counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke warned Congress that the country needed more expansive spying powers to prevent another catastrophe. Five years after leaving government, he shopped the same idea to an enthusiastic partner: an Arab monarchy with deep pockets. In 2008, Clarke went to work as a consultant guiding the United Arab Emirates as it created a cyber surveillance capability that would utilize top American intelligence contractors to help monitor threats against the tiny nation. The secret unit Clarke helped create had an ominous acronym: DREAD, short for Development Research Exploitation and Analysis Department. In the years that followed, the UAE unit expanded its hunt far beyond suspected extremists to include a Saudi women’s rights activist, diplomats at the United Nations and personnel at FIFA, the world soccer body. By 2012, the program would be known among its American operatives by a codename: Project Raven. Reuters reports this year revealed how a group of former National Security Agency operatives and other elite American intelligence veterans helped the UAE spy on a wide range of targets through the previously undisclosed program — from terrorists to human rights activists, journalists and dissidents. Now, an examination of the origins of DREAD, reported here for the first time, shows how a pair of former senior White House leaders, working with ex-NSA spies and Beltway contractors, played pivotal roles in building a program whose actions are now under scrutiny by federal authorities." - Joel Schectman and Christopher Bing, Reuters
otf  uae  surveillance  us 
december 2019 by dmcdev
China rolling out facial recognition for all new mobile phone numbers
"Facial recognition checks are about to become even more ubiquitous in China, as rules come into force requiring anyone registering a new mobile phone number to submit to facial scans. While the government says the implementation of biometric data "effectively [protects] citizens' legitimate rights and interests in cyberspace" and helps fight fraud, the move brings with it considerable privacy and security concerns in one of the most tightly controlled online environments in the world. The country already enforces 'real-name registration' policies which require people to link online accounts with their official government ID. But the latest move, which was formally adopted Sunday, further removes any sense of anonymity in using the Chinese internet...The new rules only apply to mobile phone numbers registered from December 1, and not to those already registered." - James Griffiths, CNN

+ "Pro-democracy candidates won a landslide victory in Hong Kong yesterday, but many Chinese Americans have been unable to express their approval online. WeChat, a popular social media messaging app, has been censoring political messages and disabling people’s accounts if they voice their support for the movement — even if they’re in the United States." via The Verge: WeChat keeps banning Chinese Americans for talking about Hong Kong
otf  china  facialrecognition  privacy  surveillance 
december 2019 by dmcdev
The True Depth of Iran’s Online Repression
"During the recent internet shutdown, the Iranian regime accelerated its efforts to limit the use of VPNs and other proxy tools. Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with circumvention were blocked, and data centers were pressured to avoid running the programs. The Supreme Council of Cyberspace, which creates most of Iran’s internet policies, is preparing to implement new VPN regulations. Under the rules, select individuals will be able to purchase VPNs, but the privilege would come with government surveillance.

Even if internet connectivity is fully restored in the wake of the shutdown, the continued development of [Iran’s National Information Network] SHOMA, the promotion of local platforms, and the new VPN regulations will further restrict internet freedom in Iran and deepen Iranians’ isolation from the rest of the world." - Amy Slipowitz, Freedom House

+ PBS: At least 200 killed in Iran protests and government crackdown, Amnesty says

+ BBC: Iran letter raises prospect of 'white list' internet clampdown
otf  iran  mena  censorship  access  blackout  shutdown  surveillance 
december 2019 by dmcdev
Zimbabwe Is Trying to Build a China Style Surveillance State
"Zimbabwe’s Parliament is weighing legislation that would authorize the use of surveillance technologies, grant sweeping powers to crack down on social media users, and allow the government to snoop on citizens’ private communications. The latest version of the bill — known as the Cyber Crime, Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill of 2019 — was passed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Cabinet last month and is currently being drafted for publication and approval by Parliament, where it’s expected to easily pass under Mnangagwa’s Zanu-PF party majority. Activists warn things could get ugly soon after that. 'It is a terrifying piece of legislation,' Bekezela Gumbo, a researcher at the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, told VICE News. 'It has everything it needs to give the ruling Zanu-PF party and its agents in government the legal basis to imprison opponents using the internet.'" - David Gilbert, VICE
otf  zimbabwe  china  export  surveillance  africa 
december 2019 by dmcdev
China’s Internet Freedom Hit a New Low in 2019, and the World Could Follow – The Diplomat
"Late last month, public security agencies and a school in Hebei Province “seriously criticized” a 15-year-old student for accessing blocked websites and browsing information that was deemed 'antagonistic toward China.' A few days earlier, another Chinese netizen had reported that his account on Tencent’s social media platform WeChat had been suspended for “spreading malicious rumors” after he posted a comment about Winnie the Pooh, whose likeness is often used to mock President Xi Jinping. It will soon be even easier for authorities to track down such individuals: as of December 1, all telecommunications companies will be required to obtain facial scans of new internet or mobile phone users as part of the real-name registration process. These are just a few recent examples of the daunting growth in restrictions on expression, privacy, and access to information in China. Indeed, the newly released edition of Freedom House’s annual global assessment of internet freedom, Freedom on the Net, identified the Chinese government as the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom for the fourth consecutive year. But even by China’s own poor track record, the past year stood out, as the country’s score reached its lowest point since the inception of the report a decade ago." - Sarah Cook and Mai Truong for The Diplomat
otf  china  netfreedom  censorship  surveillance  asia 
november 2019 by dmcdev
China's Surveillance State Spreads Into Central Asia
China’s advanced surveillance regime is taking root along the length of the Belt and Road—especially the Belt, the overland Eurasian routes that were the origin of the government’s ambitious investment project. Recently, Kyrgyzstan opened a new police command center in its capital, Bishkek, putting its new facial recognition cameras to work. The equipment was supplied—reportedly free of charge—by the China National Electronics Import and Export Corporation, a defense company currently sanctioned by the United States.

The initiative is part of Bishkek’s emerging effort to become a so-called smart city—a catchall term for cities with advanced data-processing capabilities. Such projects are being implemented across the region with help from China. This April, Huawei closed a $1 billion deal with Uzbekistan to build a traffic-monitoring system involving some 883 cameras. Meanwhile Hikvision—another Chinese company under U.S. sanctions that advertises its ability to spot the faces of members of the Uighur minority in crowds—supplies major urban centers across Kazakhstan, including Almaty and Shymkent. Kazakhstan has been experimenting with developing smart cities since 2017.

For Central Asia’s fragile states, the technology is a welcome boost in monitoring th
otf  china  Kyrgyzstan  centralasia  beltandroad  surveillance  export 
november 2019 by dmcdev
WhatsApp is suing the world’s top hacking company
"WhatsApp is suing the Israeli hacking company NSO Group in US federal court, the head of WhatsApp, Will Cathcart, announced in the Washington Post today. WhatsApp accuses NSO Group of exploiting a vulnerability to target approximately 1,400 phones and devices with 'malware designed to infect with the purpose of conducting surveillance on specific WhatsApp users.' You can read the complaint here from WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook. The hack allowed NSO Group and its customers to spy on messages, emails, and phone calls, as well as the cameras and microphones of the devices in question. 'There was another disturbing pattern to the attack, as our lawsuit explains,' Cathcart wrote. 'It targeted at least 100 human-rights defenders, journalists and other members of civil society across the world.'" - Patrick Howell O'Neill, MIT Technology Review

+ Read Cathcart's Washington Post op-ed here: Why WhatsApp is pushing back on NSO Group hacking

+ Citizen Lab helped WhatsApp identify the cases in which human rights defenders were targeted: NSO Group / Q Cyber Technologies: Over One Hundred New Abuse Cases
otf  whatsapp  nsogroup  hack  surveillance  humanrights  citizenlab 
october 2019 by dmcdev
Pakistan moves to install nationwide 'web monitoring system'
"Pakistan has acquired the services of a controversial Canada-based company to help build a nationwide 'web monitoring system,' Coda Story can reveal. Sandvine is expected to provide equipment for monitoring and analyzing all incoming and outgoing internet traffic from Pakistan. The agreement raises serious concerns about privacy and civil liberties in Pakistan, where government critics have sometimes seen digital retribution from officials and other powerful groups. According to the agreement — a copy of which was exclusively shared with Coda — the contract is worth $18.5 million and dated December 12, 2018. The 'web monitoring system' will use Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to monitor communications, measure and record traffic and call data on behalf of the country’s national telecommunications regulator, Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA)." - Umer Ali and Ramsha Jahangir, Coda Story
otf  pakistan  censorship  surveillance  asia  southasia  DPI 
october 2019 by dmcdev
Chinese propaganda app doubles as new spying tool for authorities, report says
"The Chinese Communist Party appears to have 'superuser' access to all the data on more than 100 million cellphones, owing to a back door in a propaganda app that the government has been promoting aggressively this year. An examination of the code in the app shows it enables authorities to retrieve every message and photo from a user’s phone, browse their contacts and Internet history, and activate an audio recorder inside the device, according to a U.S.-funded analysis. 'The [Chinese Communist Party] essentially has access to over 100 million users’ data,' said Sarah Aoun, director of technology at the Open Technology Fund, an initiative funded by the U.S. government under Radio Free Asia. 'That’s coming from the top of a government that is expanding its surveillance into citizens’ day-to-day lives.'" - The Washington Post
otf  china  asia  gfw  audit  cure53  surveillance  stgn 
october 2019 by dmcdev
China’s Global Reach: Surveillance and Censorship Beyond the Great Firewall
"Those outside the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are accustomed to thinking of the Internet censorship practices of the Chinese state as primarily domestic, enacted through the so-called 'Great Firewall'—a system of surveillance and blocking technology that prevents Chinese citizens from viewing websites outside the country. The Chinese government’s justification for that firewall is based on the concept of 'Internet sovereignty.' The PRC has long declared that 'within Chinese territory, the internet is under the jurisdiction of Chinese sovereignty.' Hong Kong, as part of the 'one country, two systems' agreement, has largely lived outside that firewall: foreign services like Twitter, Google, and Facebook are available there, and local ISPs have made clear that they will oppose direct state censorship of its open Internet. But the ongoing Hong Kong protests, and mainland China's pervasive attempts to disrupt and discredit the movement globally, have highlighted that China is not above trying to extend its reach beyond the Great Firewall, and beyond its own borders. In attempting to silence protests that lie outside the Firewall, in full view of the rest of the world, China is showing its hand, and revealing the tools it can use to silence dissent or criticism worldwide." - Electronic Frontier Foundation

+ "Apple has pulled business website Quartz's app from its store in China over content concerns. Quartz said the tech company explained its app was being removed 'because it includes content that is illegal in China.' It didn't provide the publisher with any additional details. The website, like others, has been aggressively covering the ongoing protests in Hong Kong and the NBA controversy in China." via CNN: Apple removes Quartz app in China

+ "Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook defended the company’s decision to remove a mapping app in Hong Kong, saying on Thursday that the company received 'credible information' from authorities indicating the software was being used 'maliciously' to attack police. Apple pulled from its App Store on Wednesday after flip-flopping between rejecting it and approving it earlier this month." via Bloomberg: Tim Cook defends pulling Hong Kong app, echoing police view

+ The Verge: TikTok should be investigated for censorship, Marco Rubio says
otf  apple  china  asia  censorship  surveillance  tiktok  gfw 
october 2019 by dmcdev
Uzbek spies attacked dissidents with off-the-shelf hacking tools - Reuters
"Uzbek intelligence officers have used commercially-available computer spying tools to launch a series of cyber attacks against activists and dissidents, researchers at Moscow-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky said [last week]. The findings show how governments around the world are able to buy sophisticated hacking tools and expertise from outside vendors to spy on activists, journalists and political rivals. Kaspersky researcher Brian Bartholomew named Unit 02616 of Uzbekistan’s National Security Service as the team behind the attacks. The service, also sometimes referred to by acronyms in Russian or Uzbek, changed its name to State Security Service last year but is still often referred to abroad as NSS. According to two people with knowledge of the attacks, the targets of the NSS have included regional news outlets Fergana News, Eltuz, Centre1 and the Palestine Chronicle, all of which report on the Uzbek government. The publishers did not immediately respond to requests for comment." - Jack Stubbs and Christopher Bing, Reuters
otf  Uzbekistan  surveillance  centralasia 
october 2019 by dmcdev
Egypt Is Using Apps to Track and Target Its Citizens, Report Says
"A series of sophisticated cyberattacks targeting Egyptian journalists, academics, lawyers, opposition politicians and human rights activists has been traced to Egyptian government offices, a cybersecurity firm has found. The attackers installed software on the targets’ phones that enabled them to read the victims’ files and emails, track their locations, identify who they contacted and when, according to a report published Thursday by Check Point Software Technologies, one of the biggest cybersecurity companies in the world, with headquarters just south of San Francisco and in Tel Aviv. Two activists who were targeted by the cyberattack were arrested in a roundup of prominent opposition figures last month as part of Egypt’s crackdown on antigovernment protests. Check Point found that the central server used in the attacks was registered in the name of the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and that geographic coordinates embedded in one of the applications used to track the activists corresponded to the headquarters of Egypt’s main spy agency, the General Intelligence Service. The cyberattack began in 2016, according to the Check Point report. The number of victims is unknown but Check Point identified 33 people, mostly well-known civil society and opposition figures, who had been targeted in one part of the operation." - Ronen Bergman and Declan Walsh, New York Times
otf  egypt  surveillance  checkpoint  mena 
october 2019 by dmcdev
Apple Angers China by Approving Cop-Tracking Map App for Hong Kong
"Apple Inc. has joined the list of American companies under fire in China over the Hong Kong protests. The iPhone maker triggered an angry response from Chinese state media and consumers when it approved a map app that allows protesters to track police movements...Critics say—which denotes the presence of police with an emoji of a dog, a widely used insult for police officers during the protests—will help protesters commit crimes and evade arrest. Late Tuesday, the Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily strongly condemned Apple, writing that “such toxic software” betrays the feelings of Chinese people. 'Apple, like other companies, should be able to distinguish between right and wrong and understand that its market would only be more promising and substantial if China and Hong Kong are doing well,' the commentary said. The app is available in Hong Kong, the U.S. and elsewhere. It isn’t available in mainland China, where Apple has deleted hundreds of apps in recent years to meet local laws." - Yoko Kubota and Yang Jie, Wall Street Journal

+ Foreign Policy: China Could Be the Big Winner of Saudi Arabia’s Race to Become a Tech Hub

+ Politico: Trump administration blacklists Chinese firms linked to surveillance of Uighur minority
otf  china  asia  gfw  censorship  apple  surveillance  hongkong  uyghur 
october 2019 by dmcdev
Russia and China to sign treaty on combating illegal online content
"Russia and China will sign a cooperation treaty aimed at combating illegal content on the Internet this month, Russia’s state communications watchdog said on Tuesday, an example of deepening cooperation between the powers. Critics have accused Russia’s authorities of trying to implement Chinese-style curbs on the internet. Cooperation in this area between the two regulators could alarm proponents of internet freedom. Roskomnadzor, the Russian watchdog, said it would sign the agreement with its Chinese counterpart at an international internet conference on Oct. 20. It said in a statement the agreement would have the status of an international treaty." - Nadezhda Tsydenova and Tom Balmforth, Reuters

+ Last month, OTF Information Controls fellow Valentin Weber released a report documenting the diffusion of information controls technologies and techniques from both China and Russia to over 100 countries worldwide. You can read more and access the full report on the OTF blog here: Examining The Expanding Web of Chinese and Russian Information Controls
otf  russia  china  censorship  surveillance  Roskomnadzor 
october 2019 by dmcdev
I researched Uighur society in China for 8 years and watched how technology opened new opportunities – then became a trap - Chicago Tribune
"I did ethnographic research with Han and Uighur migrants for more than 24 months between 2011 and 2018 in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, in northwest China. During this period, I was affiliated with the Xinjiang Arts Institute. My position allowed me to interview hundreds of Han and Uighur people. I read and speak both Uighur and Chinese so I was able to communicate with people in their own language. When I first began my research in the region, smartphone use was not that tightly controlled by the police. But by 2018 it had became common knowledge among my Uighur interviewees that if they did not carry their phone with them or failed to produce it they could be detained." - Darren Byler for AP     

When I first began my research in the region, smartphone use was not that tightly controlled by the police. But by 2018 it had became common knowledge among my Uighur interviewees that if they did not carry their phone with them or failed to produce it they could be detained.
otf  uyghur  china  surveillance  censorship  Xinjiang  asia 
september 2019 by dmcdev
The information nation A Kremlin-managed research center is selling services that can deanonymize anyone in Russia — Meduza
The Russian Presidential Affairs Department’s Scientific Research Computing Center develops systems to monitor and deanonymize social-media users, and it sells these systems to government and private clients alike. Using the services “PSKOV” and “Sherlock,” for example, insurance companies can root out dishonest employees, and security-guard companies can recruit new staff. “Poseidon,” meanwhile, allows the police to hunt down “extremists” online. Meduza has learned that these computing systems collect information on Russians not just from open sources, but also from leaked databases that are sold illegally on the black market. Many of those using these systems, moreover, are the same law-enforcement officials who leaked the private data in the first place. It turns out that it’s easier to conduct searches this way, outside the confines of formal police work.
otf  russia  surveillance  anonymity  social 
september 2019 by dmcdev
India Is Planning a Huge China-Style Facial Recognition Program
"India is planning to set up one of the world’s largest facial recognition systems, potentially a lucrative opportunity for surveillance companies and a nightmare for privacy advocates who fear it will lead to a Chinese-style Orwellian state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government will open bids next month to build a system to centralize facial recognition data captured through surveillance cameras across India. It would link up with databases containing records for everything from passports to fingerprints to help India’s depleted police force identify criminals, missing persons and dead bodies. The government says the move is designed to help one of the world’s most understaffed police forces, which has one officer for every 724 citizens -- well below global norms. It also could be a boon for companies: TechSci Research estimates India’s facial recognition market will grow sixfold by 2024 to $4.3 billion, nearly on par with China. But the project is also ringing alarm bells in a nation with no data privacy laws and a government that just shut down the internet for the last seven weeks in the key state of Kashmir to prevent unrest. While India is still far from implementing a system that matches China’s ability to use technology to control the population, the lack of proper safeguards opens the door for abuses." - Archana Chaudhary, Bloomberg  
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government will open bids next month to build a system to centralize facial recognition data captured through surveillance cameras across India. It would link up with databases containing records for everything from passports to fingerprints to help India’s depleted police force identify criminals, missing persons and dead bodies.

The government says the move is designed to help one of the world’s most understaffed police forces, which has one officer for every 724 citizens -- well below global norms. It also could be a boon for companies: TechSci Research estimates India’s facial recognition market will grow sixfold by 2024 to $4.3 billion, nearly on par with China.

But the project is also ringing alarm bells in a nation with no data privacy laws and a government that just shut down the internet for the last seven weeks in the key state of Kashmir to prevent unrest. While India is still far from implementing a system that matches China’s ability to use technology to control the population, the lack
otf  india  china  surveillance  AI  facialrecognition  asia 
september 2019 by dmcdev
China hacked iPhones and Android devices to target Uyghur Muslims
"Hackers associated with the Chinese government compromised websites frequented by ethnic minority Uyghurs earlier this year, programming them to install monitoring implants to spy on the phones of users that visited them, according to researchers. Some of the sites had the capability to infect both Android phones and iPhones, a source familiar with multiple companies' research on the sites, some of which is not public, confirmed to CNN. It wasn't clear, however, that the sites were capable of hacking both types of phones at the same time...Researchers at the cybersecurity company Volexity, whose specialties include tracking how the Chinese government spies on Uyghurs, released a report Monday showing how certain websites tailored for a Uyghur audience would automatically hack the Android phones of some people who visit them. Called a 'watering hole' attack, the tactic allows a hacker to compromise sites their targets are likely to go to rather than seek them out directly." - Kevin Collier, CNN

The full report from security research firm Volexity can be found here: Digital Crackdown: Large-Scale Surveillance and Exploitation of Uyghurs

+ Reuters: China hacked Asian telcos to spy on Uighur travelers: sources
otf  china  uyghur  surveillance  privacy  security  asia  isp 
september 2019 by dmcdev
Apple, Google and Mozilla block Kazakhstan’s browser spying tactics
"Apple, Google and Mozilla have taken the rare step of blocking an untrusted certificate issued by the Kazakhstan government, which critics say it forced its citizens to install as part of an effort to monitor their internet traffic. The browser makers said in a joint statement Wednesday it deployed 'technical solutions' to block the government-issued certificate. Citizens had been told to install the government-issued certificate on their computers and devices as part of a domestic surveillance program. In doing so it gave the government 'root' access to the network traffic on those devices, allowing the government to intercept and snoop on citizens’ internet browsing activities. Researchers found that only a few [] sites were being monitored, like Facebook, Twitter and Google." - Zack Whittaker, TechCrunch

+ Read Google and Mozilla's joint statement here: Mozilla takes action to protect users in Kazakhstan
otf  Kazakhstan  censorship  surveillance  awareness  centralasia  google  mozilla 
august 2019 by dmcdev
Hong Kong protesters warn of Telegram feature that can disclose their identities
"Hong Kong software engineers have published warnings today against using Telegram to coordinate protests due to an issue in the instant messaging app. They say the discovered issue can allow a threat actor, such as Chinese law enforcement or intelligence services, to obtain the phone numbers users utilized to register a Telegram account, which authorities can then track down to protesters' real-world identities. The issue is especially dangerous for protesters who have been very active in public Telegram groups, either arranging or urging other users to attend protests." - Catalin Cimpanu, ZDNet
otf  hongkong  asia  china  telegram  app  messaging  opsec  protest  surveillance  privacy 
august 2019 by dmcdev
Uganda's cash-strapped cops spend $126 million on CCTV from Huawei
"A forest of slender white poles topped with dark, unblinking eyes is quietly sprouting on the rubbish-strewn, potholed street corners of the Ugandan capital. Police say the new $126 million closed-circuit television camera (CCTV) system, supplied by Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, will slash spiraling violent crime. Opposition leaders say law enforcement agencies are too corrupt and overburdened to use the footage to identify criminals. They worry police may use the cameras, which have facial recognition technology, to target demonstrators in violent clampdowns as an election approaches in 2021. 'The CCTV project is just a tool to track us, hunt us and persecute us,' said Ingrid Turinawe, a leader in the Forum for Democratic Change, Uganda’s largest opposition party." - Reuters

+ The Cybersecurity 202 (Washington Post): How Huawei helped extend China's repressive view of Internet freedom to African nations
otf  china  export  huawei  uganda  africa  surveillance  facialrecognition  AI 
august 2019 by dmcdev
Chinese people are pushing back on Beijing's digital surveillance
"In the face of mounting pressure on personal freedom, Chinese internet users appear to be trying more actively to push back against tightening digital surveillance from Beijing. On both Chinese and foreign websites, discussions, tips and software hacks to combat the government’s grip over cyberspace have picked up in recent months. The advice represents a rare wave of resistance to the government’s use of intrusive surveillance tools to gather data on its citizens, and comes as a number of recent media reports have reignited the fears of many that they could face repercussions for seeking out content deemed 'sensitive' by the ruling Communist party. People in China are already aware that their online communications, even messages sent in private chats, are subject to monitoring and censorship. But recently, there has been a string of events that have left many worried that surveillance is becoming even more intrusive. There’s been coverage about phone-monitoring apps being installed on citizens’ devices, along with widely shared reports of police in Beijing conducting checks on people’s mobile phones, as well as accounts from some Chinese Twitter users on being questioned (link in Chinese) by the police for accessing the banned social network in China." - Jane Li, Quartz
otf  china  asia  security  awareness  circumvention  censorship  gfw  surveillance 
august 2019 by dmcdev
Kazakhstan halts introduction of internet surveillance system
"Kazakhstan has halted the implementation of an internet surveillance system criticized by lawyers as illegal, with the government describing its initial rollout as a test. Mobile phone operators in the oil-rich Central Asian nation’s capital, Nur-Sultan, had asked customers to install an encryption certificate on their devices or risk losing internet access...Several Kazakh lawyers said this week they had sued the country’s three mobile operators, arguing that restricting internet access to those who refused to install the certificate would be illegal. But late on Tuesday, Kazakhstan’s State Security Committee said in a statement that the certificate rollout was simply a test which has now been completed. Users can remove the certificate and use internet as usual, it said." - Reuters
otf  Kazakhstan  https  security  centralasia  surveillance  privacy 
august 2019 by dmcdev
Russian lawmakers want to restrict email access by telephone verification, and force providers to block banned information
"Russian senators have drafted legislation that would require Internet users to verify their identity using their phone numbers, before gaining access to email. The State Duma previously adopted a law that imposes the same restrictions on the use of instant messengers. Led by senators Andrey Klishas and Alexander Bashkin, the lawmakers have also proposed requiring email services to block messages containing information banned in Russia within 24 hours of being notified by the state authorities." - Meduza

+ BBC: Russian intelligence 'targets Tor anonymous browser': "Hackers who breached a Russian intelligence contractor found that it had been trying to crack the Tor browser and been working on other secret projects, the BBC has learned. Tor is an anonymous web browser, used by those wishing to access the dark web and avoid government surveillance. It is very popular in Russia. The hackers stole some 7.5 terabytes of data from SyTech, a contractor for Russia's Federal Security Service FSB, and included details of its projects. It is not clear how successful the attempt to crack the anonymous browser was, as the method relied heavily on luck to match Tor users to their activity. Hackers from a group known as 0v1ru$ gained access to the company on 13 July, and replaced its internet homepage with a smug smiley face often used by internet trolls."
otf  tor  russia  censorship  surveillance  circumvention  legislation  law  policy 
july 2019 by dmcdev
Kazakhstan government is now intercepting all HTTPS traffic
"Starting Wednesday, July 17, 2019, the Kazakhstan government has started intercepting all HTTPS internet traffic inside its borders. Local internet service providers (ISPs) have been instructed by the local government to force their respective users into installing a government-issued certificate on all devices, and in every browser. The certificate, once installed, will allow local government agencies to decrypt users' HTTPS traffic, look at its content, encrypt it again with their certificate, and send it to its destination...In a statement posted on its website, the Kazakh Ministry of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace said only internet users in Kazakhstan's capital of Nur-Sultan will have to install the certificate; however, users from all across the country reported being blocked from accessing the internet until they installed the government's certificate. Some users also received SMS messages on their smartphones about having to install the certificates, according to local media." - Catalin Cimpanu, ZDNet

+ In a statement, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said that the " security measure looks much more like an attempt to increase the government's censorship and surveillance capabilities": Kazakhstan government-backed security certificate raises censorship, surveillance concerns
otf  Kazakhstan  centralasia  security  mitm  https  encryption  surveillance 
july 2019 by dmcdev
How WeChat Conquered Tibet
"WeChat, the world’s largest standalone messaging app, is constantly refining their technology to monitor — and censor — content from its more than 963 million monthly active users. But still, 70 percent of Tibetans in the diaspora use the application. Overseas Tibetans or anyone with family or relationships associated with Tibet tend to download the messaging app to stay in contact, since other global social media applications are banned in the region. Tibetans who want to communicate with their relatives have no other choice but to use this means of contact...Through my research, I found that some of the key factors behind growing paranoia and possible divisions in the Tibetan movement are lies and unverified rumors created by many fake accounts on popular social media outlets like WeChat and Facebook. These platforms raise concerns surrounding the dissemination of false or misleading information, as they lack the gatekeeping and verification processes that traditional media have. The convergence of traditional and new media as a means of information dissemination has raised questions regarding where to draw the line between regulation and censorship, and how to balance freedom of expression with inflammatory and provocative speech. While enjoying the benefits of WeChat, we should be wary of the negative effects. In short, while WeChat has become and continues to be a popular medium for social interaction and bridging private and public lives, the safety of the application and security of shared content remains a legitimate concern for everyone." - Tenzin Dalha for The Diplomat
otf  tibet  china  asia  wechat  censorship  awareness  surveillance 
july 2019 by dmcdev
The spyware used by Arab dictators has now shown up in Myanmar
"One of the oldest private hacking companies around found itself in the spotlight again this week. Gamma Group, a German company that sells spyware to the highest bidder, was discovered within the last year to be spying on dozens of mobile devices in different parts of the world by the Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky. Last month, Kaspersky found Gamma Group’s FinSpy malware in Myanmar. The hacking tool known as FinSpy, if successful, steals everything from text messages to emails, photos, and GPS data. It also targets secure and encrypted messengers like Signal, WhatsApp, and Telegram. Those apps, often used for their exceptional security against hackers at a distance, offer little protection against malware that’s successfully executed on a target’s phone." - Patrick Howell O'Neill, MIT Technology Review
otf  myanmar  burma  surveillance  gammagroup  finspy  asia  seasia  SoutheastAsia 
july 2019 by dmcdev
Gotta Catch 'Em All: Understanding How IMSI-Catchers Exploit Cell Networks
The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Threat Lab published this backgrounder on IMSI-catchers, or Cell-Site Simulators (CSSs), as a way to make information about these devices, their capabilities, and use in surveillance operations by authorities more accessible to mainstream audiences. "While there’s increasingly more highly technical research into the cell network attack techniques that CSSs rely on, very little exists for the average reader," EFF notes. The white paper "is meant to make accessible the technical details of the kind of attacks CSSs might rely on...The paper also addresses many common technical questions that come up when discussing the capabilities of CSSs, such as: what are the different kinds of location tracking attacks, what are the known limits around cell network communication interception, and how does all this actually work?"

Read more in the blog post, or access the full white paper (pdf) here:
otf  imsi  surveillance  css  stingray  awareness 
july 2019 by dmcdev
How U.S. Tech Giants Are Helping to Build China’s Surveillance State
"The OpenPower Foundation — a nonprofit led by Google and IBM executives with the aim of trying to 'drive innovation' — has set up a collaboration between IBM, Chinese company Semptian, and U.S. chip manufacturer Xilinx. Together, they have worked to advance a breed of microprocessors that enable computers to analyze vast amounts of data more efficiently. Shenzhen-based Semptian is using the devices to enhance the capabilities of internet surveillance and censorship technology it provides to human rights-abusing security agencies in China, according to sources and documents. A company employee said that its technology is being used to covertly monitor the internet activity of 200 million people." - Ryan Gallagher, The Intercept

+ Semptian is also being purchased by "authoritarian governments in the Middle East and North Africa," The Intercept's Ryan Gallagher reports: Middle East Dictators Buy Spy Tech From Company Linked to IBM and Google
otf  china  surveillance  semptian  xilinx  asia  ibm  google  privacy  export 
july 2019 by dmcdev
'Safe like China': In Argentina, ZTE finds eager buyer for surveillance tech
"In Argentina’s remote northern province of Jujuy, Chinese telecoms giant ZTE is installing a little slice of the Asian nation’s vast surveillance state - security cameras that the local government says will help to curb street crime. Even this relatively small, little-reported deal is raising concerns in Washington, which is increasingly warning allies not to buy Chinese technology that it says could be used by Beijing to spy on its customers. ZTE Corp sealed a nearly $30 million surveillance contract with Jujuy in March to provide cameras, monitoring centers, emergency services, and telecommunications infrastructure. ZTE first made its sales pitch three years ago. The deal is an example of the tech inroads China is making in Latin America even as the United States warns about the dangers of using Chinese technology, especially related to surveillance. A Chinese official in Buenos Aires told Reuters the Jujuy project could help China expand its tech footprint in the country, by encouraging other cities to adopt similar technology." - Cassandra Garrison, Reuters
otf  china  export  argentina  Southamerica  zte  surveillance 
july 2019 by dmcdev
Chinese police use app to spy on citizens’ smartphones
"Chinese police are installing intrusive data-harvesting software on ordinary citizens’ smartphones during routine security interactions with people even when they are not suspected of any crime, new research shows. The move suggests Chinese police are using highly invasive surveillance techniques, similar to those deployed in the restive western region of Xinjiang, in the rest of China. The software, a smartphone application called MFSocket, provides access to image and audio files, location data, call logs, messages and the phone’s calendar and contacts, including those used in the messaging app Telegram, French security researcher Baptiste Robert said.  The MFSocket application is installed on the phone by connecting it to a computer with the necessary software. The application then opens a port that allows the device’s data to be extracted, he said.  The move underlines how China is stepping up investment in its so-called “surveillance state” as the Communist party under President Xi Jinping tightens its grip on dissent." - Christian Shepherd and Yuan Yang, Financial Times

Read Baptiste Robert's MFSocket research in this blog post: MFSocket: A Chinese surveillance tool
otf  china  mfsocket  asia  surveillance  privacy 
july 2019 by dmcdev
The Dangerous Effects of Unregulated Commercial Spyware
"In recent days, United Nations Special Rapporteurs have released two revelatory reports that demonstrate the dangerous effects of unchecked technology in the hands of autocrats: one relating to the proliferation and abuse of surveillance software and one that investigates the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Both reports highlight the danger of unaccountable and unregulated surveillance technology sold to countries with egregious human rights records." - Siena Anstis, Ron Deibert, Miles Kenyon, and John Scott-Railton, Citizen Lab
otf  spyware  surveillance  journalism  press  foe 
june 2019 by dmcdev
The Long View of Digital Authoritarianism
"Rulers looking to consolidate power are using digital technologies more than ever before to surveil, censor, and suppress their people. Just last month, it was reported that Moscow is weaving artificial intelligence (AI) into its city surveillance system. Much has been made about the spread of this 'digital authoritarianism' and what to do about it, especially as AI plays a greater role in enhancing and enabling authoritarian governance.

Yet digital authoritarianism has existed for decades—not in the physical space that AI is emerging in now, but online, through the internet; it’s not new in principle. What analysts today call 'digital authoritarianism' is 'networked authoritarianism' and other terms by other names. For those wringing their hands over what to do about dictators spying on and repressing their citizens via AI, looking at the spread of digital authoritarianism on the far-less-flashy internet is a good place to start." - Justin Sherman, New America
otf  export  censorship  surveillance  china  russia 
june 2019 by dmcdev
Big Brother Comes to Belgrade
Serbia is among the countries importing Chinese surveillance technology manufactured by telecom giant Huawei, Foreign Policy reports. In 2014, Serbian officials were impressed after Chinese police arrested a man wanted in Serbia in connection with a hit-and-run accident just three days after he fled to China. Huawei touted the incident " a case study for the Safe City project that the firm is implementing in Serbia," which "includes installing 1,000 high-definition cameras, which use facial and license plate recognition software, in 800 locations across the Serbian capital over the next two years. At the beginning of the year, Serbia’s minister of internal affairs, Nebojsa Stefanovic, announced that the project would soon begin and that it would cover every significant street and passageway in Belgrade. However, Huawei’s case study, published five months before Stefanovic’s comments, noted that in the first phase its project team had already deployed more than 100 cameras and video management systems at 60 key sites in the city...In the now-deleted Belgrade case study, the company boasted that it had already deployed its Safe City system in 230 cities around the world, for more than 90 national or regional governments. There are projects in Malta, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan, to name a few." - Bojan Stojkovski, Foreign Policy

+ Gizmodo: Huawei CEO Dodges Question About Chinese Internet Censorship During Awkward Press Event
otf  serbia  belgrade  china  huawei  export  surveillance  europe  privacy 
june 2019 by dmcdev
United Arab Emirates Says It Doesn't Hack Dissidents or Journalists
"A top official in the United Arab Emirates told Motherboard his government doesn’t spy on its own citizens, and that he doesn’t know how much the country spends on cyberweaponry. The comments come despite several reports alleging that the wealthy Gulf state is employing ex-NSA hackers in its surveillance operations. 'I have no idea about spending, but we do have cyber capabilities,' said Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for the U.A.E. 'And we understand that these challenges towards any more modern sophisticated society will become greater challenges as we move forward.'" - Ben Makuch, Motherboard

+ The Intercept: Team of American Hackers and Emirati Spies Discussed Attacking The Intercept
otf  uae  hack  access  surveillance  privacy  journalists  media  press  PressFreedom  mena  gulf 
june 2019 by dmcdev
Inside a (censored) North Korean tablet, from karaoke apps to "Samurai Hunter"
"People all around the world enjoy watching Netflix and playing games on their tablets, but how are North Koreans using their very own (reportedly-domestically-made) devices?

NK News has obtained the Taeyang-brand tablet PC, produced by the Mangyongdae Marine (Haeyang) Technology Exchange Company in 2017. The company has received attention in local media recently, having also produced Mirae WiFi and tablet PCs with wireless internet access.

This analysis of the portable device, equipped with pre-installed applications, clearly shows that North Koreans are using their tablets under strict government surveillance — for example, users have to go through a complicated procedure to use the intranet.

On the other hand, the existence of an online application market and other new technology clearly shows that North Korea’s tech sector is making rapid progress." - Dagyum Ji, NK News
otf  northkorea  asia  censorship  access  mirae  surveillance 
june 2019 by dmcdev
Russia and Iran Plan to Fundamentally Isolate the Internet
"Russia and Iran, however, are pursuing something different—a much deeper kind of internet fragmentation, one that may be less reversible and more attractive to countries who want rigid control over information.

When Vladimir Putin signed a bill in early May to create a domestic Russian internet, the law encompassed not just increased government authority over internet exchange points (IXPs) that route global traffic in and out of Russian borders, but policies like the build-out of a national domain name system, which is overseen by Roskomnadzor, Russia’s internet regulator. It’s aiming at a whole new level of Russian cyber sovereignty. Further, because the RUnet is meant to operate independently from the global net, this and other measures will likely involve physically cutting or moving cables and/or altering internet routing protocols to limit the traffic that comes into or out of the country.

Iran, meanwhile, has reached 80 percent completion of its so-called national information network. Tehran, like Moscow, hopes to reduce its country’s reliance on the global network through one that can be domestically operated. Censorship pervasive on the Iranian internet is already coupled with measures that double the cost of accessing foreign news sites, to incentivize citizens to use the domestic network—incentives that will only grow stronger should more domestic isolation take hold. As with Russia, claims about better defending Iran from foreign cyber threats have also been cited here as justification. Others argue that sanctions have played a role as well.

These two countries’ decisions to build isolated domestic internets represent a new form of internet fragmentation—one poised to be far more physical than what we’ve seen before. While today citizens in net-censored countries can often use virtual private networks and other tools to circumvent filters, that could become impossible if their domestic internets are disconnected from the global one. In turn, this will only accelerate global crackdowns on internet freedom and allow authoritarian regimes to consolidate power. But there are also significant geopolitical implications far beyond the borders of Russia or Iran." - Justin Sherman, Wired
otf  russia  iran  censorship  isolation  access  surveillance 
june 2019 by dmcdev
A world divided by 5G: Russia's Huawei deal is the latest sign of an emerging internet iron curtain
"The United States used to look down on the Russian and Chinese internets.

Seen as lagging behind technologically, they were lousy with copycat services, unable to compete with Silicon Valley due to censorship and government interference.

The success of China's own technology giants has done much to put this attitude to bed, but a true line was drawn this week. Russia and China are now moving forward with the next generation of internet technology, and this time it is the US that is at risk of being left behind...On Wednesday, Huawei signed a deal with Russia's largest telecoms operator MTS to develop 5G technologies and launch a fifth-generation network in Russia within the next year.

It comes as China approved its first batch of 5G licensing for commercial use, unveiling, in the words of state media, "a new era for the telecom industry." Huawei will be deeply involved in that effort, adding to the more than 45 commercial 5G contracts the firm has signed in 30 countries around the world.

That isn't as many as it should have, however. Finland's Nokia signed 12 new 5G contracts in the last two months, compared to just three for Huawei. That's despite Huawei being considered by many in the industry to be the world leader when it comes to 5G, and able to undercut its rivals considerably on pricing." - James Griffiths, CNN

+ Xinhua: Huawei obtains 46 commercial 5G contracts in 30 countries
otf  china  russia  5g  huawei  censorship  surveillance  export 
june 2019 by dmcdev
Inside China's Massive Surveillance Operation - @isocockerell
"For Uyghurs in Xinjiang, any kind of contact from a non-Chinese phone number, though not officially illegal, can result in instant arrest. Most Uyghurs in Turkey have been deleted by their families on social media. And many wouldn’t dare try to make contact, for fear Chinese authorities would punish their relatives. It’s just one of the ways President Xi Jinping’s government maintains a tightly controlled net of surveillance over the Uyghurs in China, and it has a ripple effect on Uyghurs living all over the world...To transform Xinjiang into one of the most tightly controlled surveillance states in the world, a vast, gridlike security network had to be created. Over 160,000 cameras were installed in the city of Urumqi by 2016, according to China security and surveillance experts Adrian Zenz and James Leibold. In the year following Chen Quanguo’s 2016 appointment as regional party secretary, more than 100,000 security-related positions were advertised, while security spending leapt by 92 percent—a staggering $8.6 billion increase." - Isobel Cockerell, Wired
otf  china  asia  uyghur  surveillance  gfw  censorship  access 
may 2019 by dmcdev
"Beijing currently uses AI to enforce digital authoritarianism domestically and may take action to encourage the spread of digital authoritarianism abroad." - @jshermcyber
U.S. Tech Needs Hard Lines on China

"Companies incorporated in democratic countries need to take a stand somewhere—and while it might not always be possible to know what research to publish or not publish, companies and researchers can and should draw lines when it comes to direct collaborations with foreign military entities, or organizations known to have ties with the Chinese defense industry or domestic security system...With China in particular, the challenge will be identifying these military and defense links, as, by one estimation, security-related AI firms account for the highest share of the top 100 AI companies in China. These include facial-recognition startups and companies that sell security and safety-monitoring platforms. It has been reported that several of these firms have assisted the government’s mass surveillance in repression in Xinjiang increases, and as Beijing further boosts AI-enabled digital authoritarianism, there is a need for the U.S. and broader business community to do more than simply be passive or neutral. They must make it clear to the Chinese government that the international community will not stand by on issues of human rights and privacy." - Justin Sherman for Foreign Policy

+ Washington Post Editorial Board: China’s high-tech repression threatens human freedom everywhere
otf  china  asia  gfw  ai  censorship  surveillance  export  xinjiang 
may 2019 by dmcdev
"...the case against the journalists laid bare the potential risks of making deals with governments that could use the foreign forensic and surveillance technology in hard-line crackdowns and prosecutions." - @TMclaughlin3
Security-tech companies once flocked to Myanmar. One firm’s tools were used against two journalists.

After Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in Myanmar for their reporting on atrocities committed against the country's ethnic minority Rohingya Muslims, police relied upon foreign-made surveillance tech to access the reporters' phones in building their prosecution case, Timothy McLaughlin writes for the Washington Post:

"The journalists’ detention was quickly condemned by media-freedom groups and rights activists around the world. Myanmar authorities, meanwhile, were not swayed by international pressure. As a next step, they wanted to comb the reporters’ cellphones, according to court documents and an attorney for the journalists. Authorities turned to a cellphone-breaching technology from an Israeli company, Cellebrite, according to the documents and a defense lawyer’s account. Cellebrite — which has since left the Myanmar market — was one of numerous technology companies that rushed into Myanmar as the country opened to greater foreign investment in recent years. The deals made at the time did not bring any complaints of violations of international laws. But the case against the journalists laid bare the potential risks of making deals with governments that could use the foreign forensic and surveillance technology in hard-line crackdowns and prosecutions. In the case of the journalists, the files pulled from the phones later became a core element of Myanmar’s accusations." - Timothy McLaughlin for the Washington Post
otf  myanmar  burma  asia  surveillance  press  privacy  media  seasia  SoutheastAsia 
may 2019 by dmcdev
"Even innocuous-seeming technology, when paired with China’s authoritarian impulses and state-led development model, may challenge liberal values in unexpected ways."
We Should Worry About How China Uses Apps Like TikTok

"Between the Communist Party’s repressive impulses, its influence over China’s vast and innovative tech ecosystem, and new technology’s general propensity to disrupt and surprise, it is naïve to expect that we can fully anticipate and mitigate the impact of illiberal innovations exported abroad. Even innocuous-seeming technology, when paired with China’s authoritarian impulses and state-led development model, may challenge liberal values in unexpected ways." - Nick Frisch for the New York Times
otf  china  asia  export  tiktok  censorship  surveillance  gfw 
may 2019 by dmcdev
Reverse Engineering a Xinjiang Police Mass Surveillance App | @HRW
A new Human Rights Watch investigation "provides a detailed description and analysis of a mobile app that police and other officials use to communicate with the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP, 一体化联合作战平台), one of the main systems Chinese authorities use for mass surveillance in 'reverse engineering' this mobile app, we now know specifically the kinds of behaviors and people this mass surveillance system targets. The findings have broader significance, providing an unprecedented window into how mass surveillance actually works in Xinjiang, because the IJOP system is central to a larger ecosystem of social monitoring and control in the region. They also shed light on how mass surveillance functions in China. While Xinjiang’s systems are particularly intrusive, their basic designs are similar to those the police are planning and implementing throughout China...

"Human Rights Watch finds that officials use the IJOP app to fulfill three broad functions: collecting personal information, reporting on activities or circumstances deemed suspicious, and prompting investigations of people the system flags as problematic. Analysis of the IJOP app reveals that authorities are collecting massive amounts of personal information—from the color of a person’s car to their height down to the precise centimeter—and feeding it into the IJOP central system, linking that data to the person’s national identification card number."

The full IJOP app analysis, conducted by Cure53, can be found here (pdf):
otf  xinjiang  ijop  app  surveillance  privacy  china  asia  censorship  police  uyghur 
may 2019 by dmcdev
The Messy Truth About Social Credit
"Almost every day, I receive an email from Google Alerts about a new article on China’s 'social credit system.' It is rare that I encounter an article that does not contain several factual errors and gross mischaracterizations. The social credit system is routinely described as issuing 'citizen scores' to create a 'digital dictatorship' where 'big data meets Big Brother.' These descriptions are wildly off-base. Foreign media has distorted the social credit system into a technological dystopia far removed from what is actually happening in China...In reality, social credit is a broad policy project for encouraging individuals, business, legal institutions, and government itself to be more 'trustworthy' (守信, shouxin) through a mix of measures. These measures include the blacklisting of lawbreakers, the 'red-listing' of those with exemplary records, and a range of rewards and punishments...The current state of the social credit system is far less sophisticated than its portrayal in the foreign press. But if the scope of what can count as blacklist data widens, and if the tech sector takes an even more pervasive 'searchlight' approach to seamlessly melding these data into their core offerings, the system could move much closer to the dystopian picture that appears in the media. In particular, if China embraces the marketization of blacklist data—so that data is bought and sold, like in the US—information about individuals would become even harder to track and contest." - Shazeda Ahmed for Logic
china  asia  socialcredit  surveillance  gfw  AI  artificialintelligence 
april 2019 by dmcdev
Made in China, Exported to the World: The Surveillance State
"Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has vastly expanded domestic surveillance, fueling a new generation of companies that make sophisticated technology at ever lower prices. A global infrastructure initiative is spreading that technology even further. Ecuador shows how technology built for China’s political system is now being applied — and sometimes abused — by other governments. Today, 18 countries — including Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates and Germany — are using Chinese-made intelligent monitoring systems, and 36 have received training in topics like “public opinion guidance,” which is typically a euphemism for censorship, according to an October report from Freedom House...With China’s surveillance know-how and equipment now flowing to the world, critics warn that it could help underpin a future of tech-driven authoritarianism, potentially leading to a loss of privacy on an industrial scale...Ecuador’s system, called ECU-911, was largely made by two Chinese companies, the state-controlled C.E.I.E.C. and Huawei. Replicas of the network have been sold to Venezuela, Bolivia and Angola, according to government announcements and Chinese state media." - Paul Mozur, Jonah M. Kessel and Melissa Chan, New York Times
otf  china  ecuador  Southamerica  surveillance  privacy  export  gfw 
april 2019 by dmcdev
One Month, 500,000 Face Scans: How China Is Using A.I. to Profile a Minority
"...[D]ocuments and interviews show that the authorities are also using a vast, secret system of advanced facial recognition technology to track and control the Uighurs, a largely Muslim minority. It is the first known example of a government intentionally using artificial intelligence for racial profiling, experts said. The facial recognition technology, which is integrated into China’s rapidly expanding networks of surveillance cameras, looks exclusively for Uighurs based on their appearance and keeps records of their comings and goings for search and review. The practice makes China a pioneer in applying next-generation technology to watch its people, potentially ushering in a new era of automated racism...The police are now using facial recognition technology to target Uighurs in wealthy eastern cities like Hangzhou and Wenzhou and across the coastal province of Fujian, said two of the people...Police documents show demand for such capabilities is spreading. Almost two dozen police departments in 16 different provinces and regions across China sought such technology beginning in 2018, according to procurement documents. Law enforcement from the central province of Shaanxi, for example, aimed to acquire a smart camera system last year that 'should support facial recognition to identify Uighur/non-Uighur attributes.'" - Paul Mozur, New York Times

+ New York Times: Being Tracked While Reporting in China, Where ‘There Are No Whys’
otf  china  asia  uyghur  ai  surveillance  privacy 
april 2019 by dmcdev
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