Privacy SOS

Technology news you can use

SENATE VOTES TO REINSTATE NEUTRALITY // From The Hill: Senate votes to save net neutrality rules

Thanks to Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey’s leadership, last week the US Senate voted 52-47 to overturn the FCC’s decision to end net neutrality. The bill now moves on to the House, where it needs the support of 22 Republicans in addition to every Democrat member. If the bill manages to get enough support in the House, it would still need Trump’s approval before becoming law. If that fails, net neutrality protections will officially end on June 11th, and internet service providers will be able to prioritize, throttle, and block content. No matter what happens in the House, the fight for a free and open internet will continue.

SECURUS MUST BE FEELING PRETTY INSECURE RIGHT NOW // From Motherboard: Hacker Breaches Securus, the Company That Helps Cops Track Phones Across the US

Securus, a company that provides phone services to prisons in the United States, was hacked again. A report last week revealed that in addition to offering call services, Securus also purchases phone location data from telecom companies and sells the records to law enforcement officers, enabling unwarranted surveillance on a potentially vast and troubling scale. The breach reveals just how massive is the problem: the hacker found a spreadsheet from a database marked “police” containing almost 3,000 usernames, email addresses, phone numbers, hashed passwords, and security questions. According to Motherboard, the hacker’s method to access the server was “relatively simple.” This isn’t the first time Securus has been in the news for its bad security. In 2015, the Intercept published a damning report about the company, finding that not only were 70 million prisoner phone calls hacked, but that the company was allegedly violating attorney-client privilege by recording calls that should have been private. In 2016, the company settled a lawsuit related to the recordings of attorney-client privileged conversations.

THE DIGITAL MUSLIM BAN IS DEAD // From the Washington Post: ICE just abandoned its dream of ‘extreme vetting’ software that could predict whether a foreign visitor would become a terrorist.

As part of its “Extreme Vetting Initiative,” last summer ICE announced plans to develop an artificial intelligence system that could automate the analysis of visitors’ and immigrants’ social media accounts to determine whether they are “positively contributing member[s] of society,” would “contribute to the national interests,” or whether they would be likely to commit a future crime. The news was met with outcry from civil liberties advocates who determined that given the travel ban’s focus on Muslims, this initiative would constitute a Digital Muslim Ban. Civil rights groups condemned the plan, arguing that it would chill free speech and yield biased, inaccurate results. They had support from dozens of machine-learning experts, who wrote a public letter calling on DHS to drop the plans. Last week, ICE announced that the agency will hire people to do the job, instead of automating the analysis. While this is good news, it’s not good enough. ICE should drop the plan entirely. As Rachel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, asks, “Have they realized only that [the technology] doesn’t exist now, which is important in its own right, or have they also recognized that this really was an idea that was built on a complete fantasy? That you can somehow take these hugely disparate sources of information, in lots of different languages, and make a prediction about what somebody’s value and worth is?” No Muslim Ban Ever—no matter how it’s repurposed.

TAKE A PEEK INTO A GOOGLE RUN FUTURE// From the Verge: Google’s Selfish Ledger is an Unsettling Vision of Silicon Valley Social Engineering

The Verge recently obtained The Selfish Ledger, an internal Google video which imagines the future with complete data collection. And it’s creepy. Google is intertwined with every aspect of people’s lives, and stores all of its information in a ledger. As it the ledger grows, it continuously recommends the user to buy products or take part in activities that will allow it to collect even more information. In this way, the ledger can offer a user constant recommendations and advice whether the user is at a grocery store or about to catch a cab. These suggestions may also be pushing a user towards a pre-selected life goal, like getting healthier. While this just an old, internal company video, it’s alarming to see what the data giant thinks of its own products, and the people whose data drive them. Privacy seems to be an afterthought, if it’s a thought at all

CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA IS UNDER SCRUTINY// From the New York Times: Justice Department and F.B.I. Are Investigation Cambridge Analytica

The Justice Department and the FBI have launched an investigation into Cambridge Analytica. News broke in March that the political consulting firm accessed information from more than 50 million Facebook users’ profiles. The investigation is still in its preliminary stages, but over the past few weeks, prosecutors have begun questioning witnesses and looking into the firm’s finances, business practices, and acquisition of data. Meanwhile, a group of progressive advocacy organizations is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to break up Facebook, and to implement strong privacy rules.

This blog post was written by ACLU of Massachusetts intern Iqra Asghar.

© 2018 ACLU of Massachusetts.