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Google & Apple set some lucky programmers up for lucrative monopoly with new rules for contact-tracing app

RT | May 4, 2020

Google and Apple have set out ground rules for public health authorities looking to develop contact-tracing apps on their platform, and the guaranteed monopolies they enable could make some lucky developers very rich.

The tech behemoths unveiled a library of reference code on Monday, along with a list of rules that public-sector partners will have to follow in order to use their proprietary contact-tracing platform, which uses anonymized Bluetooth IDs to alert the user if they’ve come into contact with anyone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. As befits a platform whose privacy safeguards have been hyped to the heavens despite the checkered privacy histories of its creators, the contact-tracing interface will ban apps from using targeted advertising and accessing Location Services, theoretically preventing the tracking of users through space.

Google and Apple will also limit access to their platform to a single app per country – creating a guaranteed (and potentially lucrative) monopoly for whichever lucky developer gets the nod to develop a given country’s app. Their stated aim of picking one app per country (or state – the platform has made allowance for state-by-state differences in policy) is avoiding “fragmentation,” a seemingly logical reason. If hundreds of developers unleash their products on the market at the same time, vetting them for compliance would be all but impossible and delay the roll-out, while governments are clamoring for a standalone version of the platform ready in weeks, not months. Guaranteeing a monopoly on the product may also be a way to soften the blow of banning targeted advertising, typically a huge moneymaker for app developers.

However, the tech giants have already vowed to allow only those apps released by public health authorities to use their platform, and public health authorities aren’t required to turn a profit for shareholders. While the developers those authorities partner with will no doubt be cashing in, they’re unlikely to expect the same level of profits per download as a blockbuster private-sector app. Their payday would come based on the sheer volume of downloads, not high profit margins per user. Google and Apple have pledged to discontinue the platform once the virus has been sufficiently contained – a disturbingly vague endpoint, to be sure, but an endpoint nonetheless, indicating the gravy-train won’t be running forever.

Restricting access to a single app per country also opens the door to the kind of abuse (alleged) monopolies like Apple and Google are intimately familiar with – absent competition, an app developer has no reason to listen to users’ complaints.

While apps using the joint platform are prevented under the new rules from accessing location services, there are loopholes to be exploited – the US has already been using location data from mobile ads to track its citizens for weeks, for example.

Preexisting apps that use targeted advertising or access location services must turn those systems off to access Google and Apple’s platform, but it’s unclear how the tech giants expect to monitor those apps to make sure the offending snoop-ware isn’t switched back on.

Apps are also required to secure “opt-in” consent before accessing the platform or sharing a positive Covid-19 diagnosis. However, what’s good for the goose is apparently not good for the gander – an eagle-eyed coder perusing Apple’s code found that its “Exposure Notification” service was enabled by default, requiring no opt-in consent from the user.

Apple and Google hope to have the contact-tracing function integrated into their own operating systems within the next few months, meaning users won’t have a choice of whether or not they want the app – it will be integrated into the software that runs their phones by default. If Apple’s sneaky ‘always-on’ notification is any indication, smartphones are about to get a lot more intrusive.

May 4, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , | Leave a comment

Israeli Spyware Can Steal Private Data From Apple, Google, Facebook – Reports

Sputnik – July 20, 2019

Israel-based NSO Group became the focus of public attention this spring, when the media reported that its software products are being used to hack WhatsApp messenger, as well as spy on the owners of Android and iOS smartphones.

Spyware from NSO Group can obtain user data from Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft servers, according to an article in The Financial Times.

While NSO has consistently rejected any espionage or hacking allegations, the company has never denied the development of such technology, prompting many questions among experts.

According to the Financial Times, the infected smartphone provides NSO’s Pegasus software with authentication keys for Google Drive, Facebook Messenger and iCloud cloud services. With this technology, Pegasus manages to bypass two-step authentication and email notification.

Users are not notified of suspicious activity.

Some information security experts doubt the effectiveness of Pegasus, but representatives of Amazon and Facebook have already promised to investigate and strengthen the security measures of their cloud services, if necessary.

It was revealed in May that WhatsApp had been targeted by NSO, according to Forbes.

July 20, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How NeoCon Billionaire Paul Singer Is Driving the Outsourcing of US Tech Jobs to Israel

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | June 11, 2019

WASHINGTON — With nearly 6 million Americans unemployed and regular bouts of layoffs in the U.S. tech industry, major American tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Intel Corporation are nonetheless moving key operations, billions in investments, and thousands of jobs to Israel — a trend that has largely escaped media attention or concern from even “America first” politicians. The fact that this massive transfer of investment and jobs has been so overlooked is particularly striking given that it is largely the work of a single leading neoconservative Republican donor who has given millions of dollars to President Donald Trump.

To make matters worse, many of these top tech companies shifting investment and jobs to Israel at record rates continue to collect sizable U.S. government subsidies for their operations while they move critical aspects of their business abroad, continue to layoff thousands of American workers, and struggle to house their growing company branches in Israel. This is particularly troubling in light of the importance of the tech sector to the overall U.S. economy, as it accounts for 7.1 percent of total GDP and 11.6 percent of total private-sector payroll.

Furthermore, many of these companies are hiring members of controversial Israeli companies — known to have spied on Americans, American companies, and U.S. federal agencies — as well as numerous members of Israeli military intelligence as top managers and executives. 

This massive transfer of the American tech industry has largely been the work of one leading Republican donor — billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer, who also funds the neoconservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Islamophobic and hawkish think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), and also funded the now-defunct Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI).

Singer’s project to bolster Israel’s tech economy at the U.S.’ expense is known as Start-Up Nation Central, which he founded in response to the global Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to use nonviolent means to pressure Israel to comply with international law in relation to its treatment of Palestinians.

This project is directly linked to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in recent years has publicly mentioned that it has been his “deliberate policy” to have former members of Israel’s “military and intelligence units … merge into companies with local partners and foreign partners” in order to make it all but impossible for major corporations and foreign governments to boycott Israel.

In this report, MintPress identifies dozens of former members of an elite Israeli military intelligence unit who now hold top positions at Microsoft, Google and Facebook.

Singer’s nonprofit organization has acted as the vehicle through which Netanyahu’s policy has been realized, via the group’s close connections to the Israeli PM and Singer’s long-time support for Netanyahu and the Likud Party. With deep ties to Netanyahu, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and controversial tech companies — like Amdocs — that spied on the American government, this Singer-funded organization has formed a nexus of connections between the public and private sectors of both the American and Israeli economies with the single goal of making Israel the new technology superpower, largely at the expense of the American economy and government, which currently gives $3.2 billion in aid to Israel annually.

Researched and developed in Israel

In recent years, the top U.S. tech companies have been shifting many of their most critical operations, particularly research and development, to one country: Israel. A 2016 report in Business Insider noted that Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple had all opened up research and development (R&D) centers in recent years, with some of them having as many as three such centers in Israel, a country roughly the size of New Jersey. Other major tech companies that have also opened key operation and research centers in Israel include Sandisk, Nvidia, PayPal, Palantir and Dell. Forbes noted last year that the world’s top 10 tech companies were now “doing mission-critical work in Israel that’s core to their businesses back at HQ.”

Yet, some of these tech giants, particularly those based in the U.S., are heavily investing in their Israeli branches while laying off thousands of American employees, all while receiving millions of dollars in U.S. government subsidies funded by American taxpayers.

For example, Intel Corporation, which is the world’s second largest manufacturer of semiconductor computer chips and is headquartered in California, has long been a major employer in Israel, with over 10,000 employees in the Jewish state. However, earlier this year, Intel announced that it would be investing $11 billion in a new factory in Israel and would receive around $1 billion in an Israeli government grant for that investment. Just a matter of months after Intel announced its major new investment in Israel, it announced a new round of layoffs in the United States.

Yet this is just one recent example of what has become a trend for Intel. In 2018, Intel made public its plan to invest $5 billion in one of its Israeli factories and had invested an additional $15 billion in Israeli-created autonomous driving technology a year prior, creating thousands of Intel jobs in Israel. Notably, over that same time frame, Intel has cut nearly 12,000 jobs in the United States. While this great transfer of investment and jobs was undermining the U.S. economy and hurting American workers, particularly in the tech sector, Intel received over $25 million dollars in subsidies from the U.S. federal government.

A similar phenomenon has been occurring at another U.S.-based tech giant, Microsoft. Beginning in 2014 and continuing into 2018, Microsoft has laid off well over 20,000 employees, most of them Americans, in several different rounds of staff cuts. Over that same time period, Microsoft has been on a hiring spree in Israel, building new campuses and investing billions of dollars annually in its Israel-based research and development center and in other Israeli start-up companies, creating thousands of jobs abroad. In addition, Microsoft has been pumping millions of dollars into technology programs at Israeli universities and institutes, such as the Technion Institute. Over this same time frame, Microsoft has received nearly $197 million in subsidies from the state governments of Washington, Iowa and Virginia.

Though Israeli politicians and tech company executives have praised this dramatic shift as the result of Israel’s tech prowess and growing reputation as a technological innovation hub, much of this dramatic shift has been the work of the Netanyahu-tied Singer’s effort to counter a global movement aimed at boycotting Israel and to make Israel a global “cyber power.”

Start-Up Nation Central and the Neocons

In 2009, a book titled Start Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, written by American neoconservative Dan Senor and Jerusalem Post journalist Saul Singer (unrelated to Paul), quickly rose to the New York Times bestseller list for its depiction of Israel as the tech start-up capital of the world. The book — published by the Council on Foreign Relations, where Senor was then serving as Adjunct Senior Fellow — asserts that Israel’s success in producing so many start-up companies resulted from the combination of its liberal immigration laws and its “leverage of the business talents of young people with military experience.”

“The West needs innovation; Israel’s got it,” wrote Senor and Singer. In a post-publication interview with the blog Freakonomics, Senor asserted that service in the Israeli military was crucial to Israel’s tech sector success, stating that:

“Certain units have become technology boot camps, where 18- to 22-year-olds get thrown projects and missions that would make the heads spin of their counterparts in universities or the private sector anywhere else in the world. The Israelis come out of the military not just with hands-on exposure to next-gen technology, but with training in teamwork, mission orientation, leadership, and a desire to continue serving their country by contributing to its tech sector — a source of pride for just about every Israeli.”

The book, in addition to the many accolades it received from the mainstream press, left a lasting impact on top Republican donor Paul Singer, known for funding the most influential neoconservative think tanks in America, as noted above. Paul Singer was so inspired by Senor and Singer’s book that he decided to spend $20 million to fund and create an organization with a similar name. He created the Start-Up Nation Central (SUNC) just three years after the book’s release in 2012.

To achieve his vision, Singer – who is also a top donor to the Republican Party and Trump – tapped Israeli economist Eugene Kandel, who served as Netanyahu’s national economic adviser and chaired the Israeli National Economic Council from 2009 to 2015.

Senor was likely directly involved in the creation of SUNC, as he was then employed by Paul Singer and, with neoconservatives Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, co-founded the FPI, which Singer had long funded before it closed in 2017. In addition, Dan Senor’s sister, Wendy Singer (unrelated to either Paul or Saul), long-time director of Israel’s AIPAC office, became the organization’s executive director.

SUNC’s management team, in addition to Eugene Kandel and Wendy Singer, includes Guy Hilton as the organization’s general manager. Hilton is a long-time marketing executive at Israeli telecommunications company Amdocs, where he “transformed” the company’s marketing organization. Amdocs was once highly controversial in the United States after it was revealed by a 2001 Fox News investigation that numerous federal agencies had investigated the company, which then had contracts with the 25 largest telephone companies in the country, for its alleged role in an aggressive espionage operation that targeted the U.S. government. Hilton worked at Microsoft prior to joining Amdocs.

Beyond the management team, SUNC’s board of directors includes Paul Singer, Dan Senor and Terry Kassel — who work for Singer at his hedge fund, Elliott Management — and Rapheal Ouzan. Ouzan was an officer in the elite foreign military intelligence unit of Israel, Unit 8200, who co-founded BillGuard the day after he left that unit, which is often compared to the U.S.’ National Security Agency (NSA). Within five months of its founding, BillGuard was backed by funding from PayPal founder Peter Thiel and former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt. Ouzan is also connected to U.S. tech companies that have greatly expanded their Israeli branches since SUNC’s founding — such as Microsoft, Google, PayPal and Intel, all of which support Ouzan’s non-profit Israel Tech Challenge.

According to reports from the time published in Haaretz and Bloomberg, SUNC was explicitly founded to serve as “a foreign ministry for Israel’s tech industry” and “to strength Israel’s economy” while also aiming to counter the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to use a nonviolent boycott to end the illegal military occupation of the West Bank and Israeli apartheid, as well as the growth of illegal Jewish-only settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.

Since its founding, SUNC has sought to transfer tech jobs from foreign companies to Israel by developing connections and influence with foreign governments and companies so that they “deepen their relationship with Israel’s tech industry.” Though SUNC has since expanded to include other sectors of the Israeli “start-up” economy, its focus has long remained on Israel’s tech, specifically its cybersecurity industry. Foreign investment in this single Israeli industry has grown from $227 million in 2014 to $815 million in 2018.

In addition to its own activities, SUNC appears to be closely linked to a similar organization, sponsored by Coca Cola and Daimler Mercedes Benz, called The Bridge, which also seeks to connect Israeli start-up companies with large international corporations. Indeed, SUNC, according to its website, was actually responsible for Daimler Mercedes Benz’s decision to join The Bridge, thanks to a delegation from the company that SUNC hosted in Israel and the connections made during that visit.

Teaming up with Israel’s Unit 8200

Members of Israel’s signals intelligence Unit 8200 work under a Saudi flag. Photo | Moti Milrod

Notably, SUNC has deep ties to Israel’s military intelligence unit known as Unit 8200 and, true to Start Up Nation’s praise of IDF service as key to Israel’s success, has been instrumental in connecting Unit 8200 alumni with key roles in foreign companies, particularly American tech companies. For instance, Maty Zwaig, a former lieutenant colonel in Unit 8200, is SUNC’s current director of human capital programs, and SUNC’s current manager of strategic programs, Tamar Weiss, is also a former member of the unit.

One particularly glaring connection between SUNC and Unit 8200 can be seen in Inbal Arieli, who served as SUNC’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships from 2014 to 2017 and continues to serve as a senior adviser to the organization. Arieli, a former lieutenant in Unit 8200, is the founder and head of the 8200 Entrepreneurship and Innovation Support Program (EISP), which was the first start-up accelerator in Israel aimed at harnessing “the vast network and entrepreneurial DNA of [Unit] 8200 alumni” and is currently one of the top company accelerators in Israel. Arieli was the top executive at 8200 EISP while working at SUNC.

Another key connection between SUNC and Unit 8200 is SUNC’s promotion of Team8, a company-creation platform whose CEO and co-founder is Nadav Zafrir, former commander of Unit 8200. In addition to prominently featuring Team8 and Zafrir on the cybersecurity section of its website, SUNC also sponsored a talk by Zafrir and an Israeli government economist at the World Economic Forum, often referred to as “Davos,” that was attended personally by Paul Singer.

Team8’s investors include Google’s Eric Schmidt, Microsoft, and Walmart — and it recently hired former head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, retired Admiral Mike Rogers. Team8 described the decision to hire Rogers as being “instrumental in helping strategize” Team8’s expansion in the United States. However, Jake Williams, a veteran of NSA’s Tailored Access Operations hacking unit, told CyberScoop:

“Rogers is not being brought into this role because of his technical experience. … It’s purely because of his knowledge of classified operations and his ability to influence many in the U.S. government and private-sector contractors.”

In addition to connections to Unit 8200-linked groups like Team8 and 8200 EISP, SUNC also directly collaborates with the IDF in an initiative aimed at preparing young Israeli women to serve in Unit 8200. That initiative, called the CyberGirlz Club, is jointly funded by Israel’s Defense Ministry, SUNC and the Rashi Foundation, the philanthropic organization set up by the Leven family of Perrier-brand water, which has close ties to the Israeli government and IDF.

“Our aim is to bring the girls to this process already skilled, with the knowledge needed to pass the exams for Unit 8200 and serve in the military as programmers,” Zwaig told Israel National News.

Seeding American tech

The connections between SUNC and Unit 8200 are troubling for more than a few reasons, one of which being that Unit 8200, often likened to the U.S.’ NSA, closely coordinates with Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, and is responsible for 90 percent of the intelligence material obtained by the Israeli government, according to its former commander Yair Cohen. Cohen told Forbes in 2016, that “there isn’t a major operation, from the Mossad or any intelligence security agency, that 8200 is not involved in.” For obvious reasons, the fact that an organization founded by an American billionaire is actively promoting the presence of former military intelligence officers in foreign companies, specifically American companies, while also promoting the transfer of jobs and investment to that same country, is very troubling indeed.

Particularly troubling is the fact that, since SUNC’s founding, the number of former Unit 8200 members in top positions in American tech companies has skyrocketed. Based on a non-exhaustive analysis conducted by Mintpress of over 200 LinkedIn accounts of former Israeli military intelligence and intelligence officers in three major tech companies, numerous former Unit 8200 alumni were found to currently hold top managerial or executive positions in Microsoft, Google and Facebook.

At Microsoft, managers for at least 15 of the company’s products and programs — including Microsoft’s lead managers for engineering, product strategy, threat analytics and cloud business intelligence — publicly listed their affiliation with Unit 8200 on their LinkedIn accounts. In addition, the general manager of Microsoft’s Israeli Research and Development Center is also a former member of Unit 8200. In total, of the 200 accounts analyzed, 50 of them currently worked for Microsoft.

Similarly, at Google, 28 former Unit 8200 members at the company were identified from their LinkedIn accounts. Among them are Google’s Engineering Director, its strategic partner manager, two growth marketing leads, its lead technical manager, and six product and program managers, including Google’s manager for trust and safety search.

Facebook also has several Unit 8200 members in prominent positions, though fewer than Google and Microsoft. MintPress identified at least 13 Unit 8200 alumni working for Facebook, including its director of engineering, lead manager for express wi-fi, and technical program manager. Notably, Facebook has spent the last several years collaborating with Israel’s government to censor Israel’s critics.

Of course, there is likely much more influence of Unit 8200 on these companies than this non-exhaustive analysis revealed, given that many of these companies acquired several Israeli start-ups run by and staffed by many Unit 8200 alumni who subsequently went on to found new companies and start-ups a few years or shortly after acquisition. Furthermore, due to the limitations of LinkedIn’s set-up, MintPress was not able to access the complete list of Unit 8200 alumni at these three tech companies, meaning that the eye-opening numbers found were generated by a relatively small sample.

This jump in Unit 8200 members in top positions in tech companies of global importance is actually a policy long promoted by Netanyahu, whose long-time economic adviser is the chief executive at SUNC. During an interview with Fox News last year, Netanyahu was asked by Fox News host Mark Levin if the large growth seen in recent years in Israel’s technology sector was part of Netanyahu’s plan. Netanyahu responded, “That’s very much my plan … It’s a very deliberate policy.” He later added that “Israel had technology because the military, especially military intelligence, produced a lot of capabilities. These incredibly gifted young men and women who come out of the military or the Mossad, they want to start their start-ups.”

Netanyahu further outlined this policy at the 2019 Cybertech conference in Tel Aviv, where he stated that Israel’s emergence as one of the top five “cyber powers” had “required allowing this combination of military intelligence, academia and industry to converge in one place” and that this further required allowing “our graduates of our military and intelligence units to merge into companies with local partners and foreign partners.” The direct tie-ins of SUNC to Netanyahu and the fact that Paul Singer has also been a long-time political donor and backer of Netanyahu suggest that SUNC is a key part of Netanyahu’s policy of placing former military intelligence and intelligence operatives in strategic positions in major technology companies.

Notably, just as SUNC was founded to counter the BDS movement, Netanyahu has asserted that this policy of ensuring Israel’s role as a “cyber power” is aimed at increasing its diplomatic power and specifically undermining BDS as well as the United Nations, which has repeatedly condemned Israel’s government for war crimes and violations of international law in relation to the Palestinians.

Building the bi-national surveillance state

Top U.S. tech companies have filled top positions with former members of Israeli military intelligence and moved strategic and critical operations to Israel, boosting Israel’s economy at the expense of America’s, and SUNC’s role in this marked shift merits scrutiny.

A powerful American billionaire has built an influential organization with deep connections to the U.S.-Israel lobby (AIPAC), an Israeli company that has been repeatedly investigated for spying on the U.S. government (Amdocs), and the elite Israeli military intelligence unit (Unit 8200) that has used its influential connections to the U.S. government and the U.S. private sector to dramatically shift the operations and make-up of major companies in a critical sector of the U.S. economy.

Further consider that U.S. government documents leaked by Edward Snowden have flagged Israel as “leading threat” to the infrastructure of U.S. financial and banking institutions, which use much of the software produced by these top tech companies, and have also flagged Israel as a top espionage threat. One U.S. government document cited Israel as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the U.S. behind Russia and China. Thus, Paul Singer’s pet project in Start-Up Nation Central has undermined not only the U.S. economy but arguably U.S. national security as well.

This concern is further exacerbated by the deep ties connecting top tech companies like Microsoft and Google to the U.S. military. Microsoft and Google are both key military contractors — Microsoft in particular, given that it is set to win a lucrative contract for the Pentagon’s cloud management and has partnered with the Department of Defense to produce a “secure” election system known as ElectionGuard that is set to be implemented in some U.S. states for the 2020 general election.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

June 11, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sniper-killing journalist game pulled after outcry over ‘Breaking News’ mission

RT | May 19, 2019

A popular sniper-mission video game encouraging players to assassinate a journalist has been pulled by its developer after media reports exposed the controversial shooting scene.

‘Sniper 3D Assassin’ was a free game on Apple devices as well as gaming platform Steam, and was available on Amazon, Google and Microsoft app stores.

New York Times journalist Jamal Jordan tweeted about the journalist killing mission after his nephew showed him the game.

The ‘Breaking News’ mission tells players to make a journalist “famous in a different way,” by shooting them after they receive documents from a police officer. When the mission ends, the screen reads, “That’s a cover story.”

Revelations about the journalist murder mission game were received with horror on Twitter, especially by media workers.

Developers from TFG Co. pulled the game after it was contacted by the HuffPost, insisting it had been “fictional” and intended for “mature audiences.”

“At TFG, we work to create games that bring fun and entertainment to users all around the world,” CTO Mac-Vicar said. “As such, we take feedback from our players very seriously. After listening to our community today, we have decided to remove the mission ‘Breaking News’ from the game.”

The game was released in 2014 and had 10 million downloads in its first month. At one stage in 2016 it was the most downloaded game on Apple’s App Store.

May 19, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

Francis Fukuyama and the End of Social Media Freedoms

By Robert BRIDGE | Strategic Culture Foundation | 09.11.2018

The American political scientist known for promoting the “end of history” fish tale following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the spread of Liberal-capitalist values around the world now appears to be angling for ways – wittingly or unwittingly – to curtail the freedom of speech.

Writing in The American Interest as the virtual crackdown on Alex Jones was underway, Fukuyama argued that the usual suspects of the social media universe – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Apple, and all of their vast subterranean holdings – need to come clean by entering a two-step rehabilitation program where they must: (1.) “accept the fact that they are media companies with an obligation to curate information on their platforms,” and (2.) “accept the fact that they need to get smaller.”

I think we can safely skip the “need to get smaller” suggestion with a hearty chuckle and focus our attention instead on the question of social media being held to the same rules as those that regulate America’s squeaky clean media divas, like The Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC.

The social media monsters argue that since they do not create original content, but rather mindlessly provide the clean slate, as it were, for third-party developers to post their own thoughts, opinions, news and of course wild-eyed ‘conspiracy theories,’ they cannot be bound by the same rules and regulations as the mainstream media, which must bear ultimate responsibility for its increasingly damaged goods.

“We’re not a media company,” the late Steve Jobs of Apple fame told Esquire in a rough and tumble interview. “We don’t own media. We don’t own music. We don’t own films or television. We’re not a media company. We’re just Apple.” On that note, Jobs reached over and switched off the interviewer’s tape recorder, bringing an abrupt end to the strained conversation.

Thanks to the provisions laid out in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, the social media platforms are granted immunity from liability for users of an “interactive computer service” who publish information provided by third-party users.

The act was overwhelmingly supported by Congress following the verdict in the 1995 court case, Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co., which suggested that internet service providers that assumed an editorial role with regards to client content thus became publishers and legally vulnerable for any wrongdoing (libel and slander, for example) committed by their customers. At the time, when alternative voices on the social media frontier had not turned into actual competition for the legacy media, legislators deemed it more important to protect service providers from criminal proceedings than to nip freedom of speech in the bud. Honorable? Yes. But I wonder if they’d have made the same decision knowing the powerful forces they had unleashed.

At this point, Fukuyama summarizes the plight regarding the social media platforms with relation to their independent creators, who wish to express their freedom of speech.

“Section 230 was put in place both to protect freedom of speech and to promote growth and innovation in the tech sector. Both users and general publics were happy with this outcome for the next couple of decades, as social media appeared and masses of people gravitated to platforms like Facebook and Twitter for information and communication. But these views began to change dramatically following the 2016 elections in the United States and Britain, and subsequent revelations both of Russian meddling in the United States and other countries, and of the weaponization of social media by far-Right actors like Alex Jones.”

Despite being a learned and intelligent man, Fukuyama jumps headfirst into the shallow end of a pool known as ‘Blame Russia’, while, at the same time, blames the far-Right for the “weaponization” of social media, as though the Left isn’t equally up to the challenge of waging dirty tricks, in a crucial election year, no less.

Next, he genuflects before the Almighty Algorythm, the godhead of Silicon Valley’s Valhalla, which, as the argument goes, was responsible for attracting huge audiences to particular channels and their messages, instead of the other way around.

“Their business model was built on clicks and virality, which led them to tune their algorithms in ways that actively encouraged conspiracy theories, personal abuse, and other content that was most likely to generate user interaction,” Fukuyama surmises. “This was the opposite of the public broadcasting ideal, which (as defined, for example, by the Council of Europe) privileged material deemed in the broad public interest.”

In other words, had Mark Zuckerberg and friends not toggled their algorithmic settings to ‘conspiracy theories,’ then the easily manipulated masses would never have given a second thought to well-known catastrophes based on pure and unadulterated evil, like the Invasion of Iraq in 2003, which, as the tin-foil-hat crowd constantly crows, was made possible by the fake news of weapons of mass destruction.

Here, Fukuyama lays on thick his extra-nutty academic drivel: “This is the most important sense in which the big internet platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have become media companies: They craft algorithms that determine what their users’ limited attention will focus on, driven (at least up to now) not by any broad vision of public responsibility but rather by profit maximization, which leads them to privilege virality.”

In other words, internet users are not inquisitive creatures by nature with fully functioning frontal lobe regions like the honorable Francis Fukuyama. They do not actively search out subjects of interest with critical reasoning skills and ponder cause and effect. And let’s not even mention the mainstream media’s disastrous coverage of current events, which led to the alienation of mainstream audiences in the first place. In Fukuyama’s matrix, otherwise normal people subscribe to ‘alternative facts’ or conspiracy theories because those damn algorithms kept popping up!

This ‘more righteous than thou’ attitude on the part of left-leaning Silicon Valley prompted hundreds of independent channels – the overwhelming majority from the right – to be swept away by a force known as ‘private ownership’ where brutal censorship has become the latest fad. Fukuyama, serving as the mouthpiece for both corporate and political interests, shrugs off this noxious phenomenon by arguing: “Private actors can and do censor material all the time, and the platforms in question are not acting on behalf of the U.S. government.”

Let’s give Fukuyama the benefit of the doubt. Maybe there really is no cooperation between the most powerful and influential industries for manipulating public opinion and the U.S. government. Yet we would do well to keep in mind some key facts that strongly suggest otherwise. During the two-term presidency of Barack Obama (2009-2016), Google executives met on average once a week in the White House with government officials. According to the Campaign for Accountability, 169 Google employees met with 182 government officials at least 427 times, a Beltway record for such chumminess. What is so potentially disastrous about such meetings is that Google, the chokepoint on news and information, which has the power to actually rewrite history, is fiercely Liberal in its political outlook as per some whistleblowers who escaped the well-manicured campus known for employee neck massages and free lunches. What was discussed in the White House? Nobody really knows. However, there is already a treasure trove of publicly available information detailing the intimate relationship between US intelligence and Google (as well as the other usual suspects).

Fukuyama tries to conclude with an upbeat, happy message by saying “private sector actors… have a responsibility to help maintain the health of [America’s democratic] political system.” However, judging by everything in the article that preceded that remark, I would have to guess Francis Fukuyama would fully support yet more intolerance in the world of social media as a means of preserving America’s freedom-squashing status quo.

November 9, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Russia working on ways to protect its internet due to US online dominance – Com. Minister to RT

RT | March 2, 2016

The US government and a handful of corporations working under US jurisdiction have a disproportionately strong influence on the internet. So other countries are mulling ways to protect their web sectors, the Russian communications minister told RT.

“Today, if you have a look at the whole IT global system, you will see that the whole world… is actually totally dominated by a single country and literally by several companies, which have practically monopolized the entire IT system,” Nikolay Nikiforov said.

The issue is not only about market shares of tech giants such as Google and Facebook, but also about the US government’s control of critical elements of the internet’s infrastructure, he said.

One small example is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which assigns internet domain names. In 2014, the US pledged to hand over control over it from the US Department of Communications to a multi-stakeholder collective, which would include governments, companies, international organizations and individual users. The transition was scheduled to happen in September last year, but was postponed for at least a year.

“This didn’t happen for some reason, and many reasons were voiced. I believe them to be pretty far-fetched,” Nikiforov said.

“With this prolonged monopolization, many countries in the world are working on technical solutions that would protect national segments of the internet from a possible external destructive action. They are creating backup infrastructures, which respond to a disruption – intentional or accidental – and prevent national segments from being blocked,” he added.

The minister said Russia is among the countries heavily investing in the internet and naturally wants to protect this investment.

The issue is not theoretical for Russia. As part of the US-imposed sanctions, several American companies suspended their services in Crimea, which seceded from Ukraine in response to an armed coup in Kiev and rejoined with Russia. Washington called the move illegal and targeted individuals and some sectors of the Russian economy with sanctions.

Google, Apple, PayPal and others cut Crimea from their services. This affected tens of thousands of people, who could no longer properly update the software for their phones, buy apps, use electronic payments for online products and do other basic things.

The minister was speaking in Egypt, which he is visiting to foster business ties. He said Russia and Egypt have agreed to have mobile operators to cut down roaming tariffs, which would benefit Russian tourists visiting the North-African country.

“It’s no secret that overpriced roaming is the reason why many travelers simply don’t use their phones abroad. We are trying to make this problem go away for Egypt and Russia,” he said.

The agreement indicates that Russia may soon lift restrictions on flights to Egypt, which were imposed after a terrorist bomb last October destroyed a plane carrying Russian tourists home from Egyptian resorts.

March 2, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is my iPhone listening to me?

PrivacySOS – 12/11/2015

applecreepyThe other night I was getting ready to leave my partner’s house to go home. I know how to get from their place to mine without any assistance, so I didn’t look up directions on my phone. I didn’t text anyone to say I was about to go home. Some nights I stay over at my partner’s place and some nights I don’t. In other words, it seemed like there was no way my phone could have known that I was about to get into my car and drive back to my place. And yet, as I walked out the door, I looked at my iPhone and found a push notification alerting me that traffic to my home address was looking normal.

I did not like that. How the hell did my phone know I was about to drive home? Did it listen to me?

Even though I work full time as a privacy advocate, there are lots of things on my mind, so I sort of forgot about this incident—that is, until this morning, when it happened again.

I normally take public transit or bike to work. This morning I was running a little late and my roommate suggested we drive to get coffee together. I said aloud, “If the bus is on time, I can take it. Otherwise could you drop me off downtown?” She agreed.

As I walked toward the door to leave I looked down at my phone. Again, there was a push notification from Apple Maps (an app I have never once used). It read: “16 minutes to Congress St.; Traffic is normal right now.” This time I took a screenshot, posted at right.

How on earth could my iPhone have known that I wasn’t going to take the bus this morning, and that I was going to drive downtown instead?

Apple’s website includes a page on location tracking and privacy. On that page, it says:

Frequent Locations: To learn places that are significant to you, your iOS device will keep track of places you have recently been, as well as how often and when you visited them. This data is kept solely on your device and won’t be sent to Apple without your consent. It will be used to provide you with personalized services, such as predictive traffic routing.

But in both cases, these alerts appeared only after I had verbally announced my intention to drive somewhere, either home or to work. In neither case was this a routine event; I often sleep over at my partner’s place, and I usually take public transit or ride my bike to work. Therefore the only possibility that makes any sense to me is that my phone is listening, heard me tell my partner I was going home and ask if my roommate could drop me off at work, and then provided me with up to date traffic reports to those two destinations.

In neither case was it desirable. I don’t appreciate it; if I want to know what traffic looks like, I’ll check it out myself. I don’t want my phone listening to me. I’ve never once used Siri in part because of that preference.

Of course, it could be a (two-time) fluke, so I’m curious to hear from others with iPhones. If you’ve had a similar experience, let me know. Also please get in touch if you know how my phone might be deducing these intensely personal things about me, if it’s not actually listening.

Location information is extremely sensitive. That’s made chillingly clear when your phone, practically an extra limb for many of us, starts giving you information about not just where you are or in response to commands you’ve given it, but about where you’re about to go, without having been asked.

Update: CNET explains how you can turn off predictive traffic alerts. That’s great, but the predictive traffic alert feature doesn’t fully explain these two incidents. After all, there’s nothing routine about the trips I was making. And I gave the phone no indication that I was about to drive somewhere, besides talking about driving in the vicinity of the phone.

December 13, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

‘Taken under control’: GPS sites in Russia can’t be used now for ‘military purposes’

RT | June 1, 2014

Russia has “taken under control” the operation of 11 American GPS sites and ensured they cannot be used for military purposes, as Washington and Moscow show no progress in negotiations on setting up Russian GLONASS stations on US territory.

May 31 was the last day when Russia and the US could have reached a deal on the issue.

“In compliance with the Russian government’s instruction, Roscosmos and the Federal Agency for Scientific Organizations implemented measures on June 1, 2014, which excluded the use of information from global seismographic network stations working on signals from the GPS system and located on the territory of the Russian Federation for purposes not stipulated by the existing agreements, including for military purposes,” Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) said on Sunday morning.

The statement referring to agreements between Russia and the US, which date back to 1993 and 2001, stirred up some confusion in the media with some outlets reporting GPS stations work has been suspended, while others said they continued to work. Russia’s deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, the official behind the move elaborated: “We have worked out and implemented measures that exclude the use of these [GPS] stations for military purposes. Now they are under our full control,” Rogozin, who is in charge of space and defense industries, wrote in his Twitter micro blog.

The Differential GPS ground stations located on Russia’s soil will continue to operate under existing agreements to fulfill civil purposes. The so-called DGPS provides differential corrections to a GPS receiver in order to improve position accuracy.

The correction is received by the roving GPS receiver via either a radio signal or a satellite signal, depending on whether a source is land-based or satellite-based, and applied to the position it is calculating.

According to Rogozin, Moscow has initiated talks with the United States on GLONASS deployment on the US territory.

If agreement is reached by the August-31 deadline, “new decisions will be taken.”

“We hope that by the end of summer, these talks will bring a solution that will allow our cooperation to be restored on the basis of parity and proportionality,” Rogozin said back on May 13, the day when he first announced plans to shut down 11 American correctional GPS stations.

The development of the GLONASS global navigation system began in the Soviet Union, which put the very first satellite of the system into orbit on October 12, 1982. The system was officially commissioned on September 24, 1993.

Today GLONASS is supported on products from world-leading handheld device producers, such as Samsung, Nokia, Apple, Motorola and others, simultaneously with GPS.

So far there are 14 monitor stations in Russia, one in Brazil and one in Antarctica at Russia’s Bellingshausen station.

More GLONASS stations are expected to be built in the near future: eight in Russia, two in Brazil, one in Australia, Cuba, Indonesia, Spain, Vietnam and an additional station in the Antarctic.

June 1, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Apple Makes Questionable Copyright Claim To Pull Down iTunes Contract

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | October 14, 2013

There had been some buzz a while back when Digital Music News published an entire iTunes Radio contract, which was targeted at smaller indie labels, showing how Apple got to throw its weight around, presenting terms that were very much in Apple’s favor over the labels if they wanted to participate in iTunes Radio. However, while it took a few months, Apple’s lawyers finally spotted this and they have apparently made a copyright claim to get the contract taken down. I wonder how the small group of indie musicians who always fight for stronger copyrights feel about Apple using copyright to take down rather important information that they should know concerning the sort of deal Apple offers them….

While this may be possibly legal under the law, it demonstrates how the law can be used in ways that really have absolutely nothing to do with copyright’s purpose. Apple didn’t need copyright’s incentives to create this contract. There is no market for the contract itself. The purpose in flexing the copyright claim here is one thing and one thing only: censorship. As law professor Eric Goldman explained:

“It’s not out of legal bounds to do this. It’s just kind of a jerk move. We all know what’s happening here. Apple doesn’t care about protecting the copyright of contracts. It’s using copyright to try and suppress information that it doesn’t want made public.”

That said, I question whether or not this really is a legit takedown. While Apple can claim a copyright on the contract, it seems that DMN has a really strong fair use claim. The purpose was for reporting (a key purpose that supports fair use). The publication was in the public interest. The type of work is a “contract” for which copyright tends to mean very little. Finally, there’s no “market” for the contract itself, and thus the impact on the market or the value of the copyright in the item is nothing. The only factor that weighs against it is the fact that the entire contract was used — but as we’ve pointed out many times in the past, plenty of cases have been deemed fair use where the “entire work” has been used. This seems like a perfectly strong fair use case, though it might not be worth the legal cost to fight Apple over this, given the company’s historical willingness to go absolutely bonkers against publications it doesn’t like.

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Comments Off on Apple Makes Questionable Copyright Claim To Pull Down iTunes Contract

EXPOSED: The iPhone and The Government Biometric Database

RINF Alternative News | October 2, 2013

A recent video released by hacktivist group Anonymous presents compelling evidence which claims that Apple’s TouchID technology is linked to the FBI and NSA and is involved in the provision of information on users for a large-scale biometric database under construction by the US Government for use “both domestically and on the battlefield”.

This biometric database is due to be populated by any personal information retrieved by government agencies, leading to fears that Big Brother’s eye is following us wherever we go and whatever we do, even in the privacy of our own homes.

Anonymous alleges that they have uncovered proof of a corrupt alliance of Department of Defense contractors, NSA and CIA-related venture capital which led to the development of technologies subsequently purchased by Apple.

These findings were the result of investigation by Barrett Brown, the jailed and gagged journalist and links to further enlightening material have been posted on the Pastebin website and were largely based on documents obtained by the US defense contractor ManTech in 2010.

So what exactly are these revelations? Firstly, Anonymous claim that there are links between AuthenTec (the company bought by Apple to enable them to develop the TouchID technology) and the “most powerful and corrupt” Defense Department and intelligence community contractors and officials. Anonymous concentrate largely on one individual – Robert E Grady, a prominent figure and political speechwriter under both Bush administrations – when delineating and highlighting the opaque relationships between big business and the US government.

During his time sitting on the board of AuthenTec, Grady was a formerly leading partner in The Carlyle Group, an investment firm which previously owned not only Authentec, but also was the main shareholder of Booz Allen Hamilton, the NSA contractor and erstwhile employer of whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Anonymous presents further claims that the Authentec board of directors ensured that the company would be sold exclusively to Apple, due to the company’s position as market-leader, as this in turn would encourage rival companies to adopt the same technology in order to compete. They state that the launch of the Apple iPhone 5S has meant that secret surveillance and biometric collection has heightened into a full-scale assault on personal data and privacy.

However, other commentators suggest that Apple’s fingerprint security feature may be the thin end of the wedge in terms of biometric collection and consumer devices. Internationally, increasing numbers of countries are deploying biometric technology within organs of the state and rumours abound that biometrics – such as fingerprinting and facial recognition – will soon be a standard feature on game consoles and other electronic leisure products and household gadgets.

Apple’s lack of transparency regarding their usage of data obtained secretly from their customers is not restricted to their newest innovations, either. As far back as 2011 technological researchers were warning that the company could face law suits for breaches of privacy in relation to the storing of users’ locations and other personal information in secret files, which stores location coordinates with a timestamp to effectively map and record the precise movements of individuals.

The implication of this would be the danger this data could fall into the wrong hands if someone was able to hack the system. It is unclear why Apple is storing this data, but it is clearly intentional as such information on the database is being restored across backups and even device migrations. In 2010 Apple was once again the target of claims of privacy violation when a class-action suit was filed against them in a US Federal Court. The claim was that earlier models of the iPhone and iPad contained unique identifying elements, known as Unique Device Identifiers, which allowed advertising agencies track which applications were being downloaded by users, how frequently they were being used and for what period of time.

Users are unable to block the transmission of the UDID, a 40-character string that uniquely identifies each device. The lawsuit alleged: “Some apps are also selling additional information to ad networks, including users’ location, age, gender, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political views.” Apple has continuously denied that it transmits user-data without consent, but this has done little to ease fears that the company’s actions constitute an intrusive tracking scheme which aids and abets serious invasions of privacy.

October 3, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Comments Off on EXPOSED: The iPhone and The Government Biometric Database

Pavlov’s Degeneration X

Penny for your thoughts | October 2, 2013

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

Think of your smart phone as being equal to or the same as, an ankle monitoring bracelet forced on an alleged criminal.

“An ankle monitor (also known as a tether, or ankle bracelet) is a device that individuals under house arrest or parole are often required to wear. At timed intervals, the ankle monitor sends a radio frequency signal containing location and other information to a receiver.”

That sounds exactly like your smart phone?

The one thing that makes it different is that a criminal is forced to wear such a device and you are choosing to use and pay for own tracking! You are wearing, carrying, accessorizing your own electronic monitoring device. What a gift to the powers that shouldn’t be!

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

Undeleted Evidence

Let’s peruse a checklist of personal data collected from you by Apple technology shall we?

  • Voiceprints (SIRI/phone) ✓
  • Fingerprint(s) ✓
  • Your exact geo-location via GPS ✓
  • Up-to-date pictures of you, your friends and family ✓
  • Email contents ✓
  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of all your contacts ✓
  • Every detail of the items stored in your Calendar ✓
  • Surveillance audio taken from the built-in microphone ✓
  • Your browsing history and bookmarks ✓

October 3, 2013 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Oh, And One More Thing: NSA Directly Accessing Information From Google, Facebook, Skype, Apple And More

By Mike Masnick | TechDirt | June 6th 2013

Obviously, the Verizon/NSA situation was merely a small view into just how much spying the NSA is doing on everyone. And it seems to be spurring further leaks and disclosures. The latest, from the Washington Post, is that the NSA has direct data mining capabilities into the data held by nine of the biggest internet/tech companies:

The technology companies, which participate knowingly in PRISM operations, include most of the dominant global players of Silicon Valley. They are listed on a roster that bears their logos in order of entry into the program: “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” PalTalk, although much smaller, has hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

Dropbox , the cloud storage and synchronization service, is described as “coming soon.”

This program, like the constant surveillance of phone records, began in 2007, though other programs predated it. They claim that they’re not collecting all data, but it’s not clear that makes a real difference:

The PRISM program is not a dragnet, exactly. From inside a company’s data stream the NSA is capable of pulling out anything it likes, but under current rules the agency does not try to collect it all.

Analysts who use the system from a Web portal at Fort Meade key in “selectors,” or search terms, that are designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target’s “foreignness.” That is not a very stringent test. Training materials obtained by the Post instruct new analysts to submit accidentally collected U.S. content for a quarterly report, “but it’s nothing to worry about.”

Even when the system works just as advertised, with no American singled out for targeting, the NSA routinely collects a great deal of American content.

I expect we’ll be seeing more such revelations before long.

June 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments