European Union Suspends ACTA Ratification

RussiaToday
February 22, 2012

The EU has suspended the ratification of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and referred the text to the European Court of Justice to investigate possible rights breaches.

The European Commission decided on Wednesday to ask the EU’s top court “to clarify that the ACTA agreement and its implementation must be fully compatible with freedom of expression and freedom of the internet.”

The ACTA debate “must be based upon facts and not upon the misinformation or rumor that has dominated social media sites and blogs,” says EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Guch. The EU will not ratify the international treaty until the court delivers its ruling, he added.

De Guch insists the treaty will change nothing in the bloc, but help protect the creative economy.

European countries were quick to sign US- and Japan-lobbied ACTA agreement in Tokyo just a month ago. Ratification of the controversial agreement, however, is not going so smoothly.

ACTA faced fierce opposition by the Europeans, who saw it as an anti-democratic move. People took their anger to the streets in a synchronized protest, saying it violates their rights. About 200 cities participated in an anti-ACTA march on February 11.

The initial goal authorities pursued was to protect intellectual property and copyright, but human rights activists fought to prove its bias in favor of those in power. They argue it violates freedom of expression on the internet and allows unprecedented control of people’s personal information and privacy.

Some critics have been saying ACTA is a somewhat-disguised SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act).

ACTA has so far been signed by the EU as a bloc, 22 EU members as individual states, and also by the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, South Korea and some other countries. The total number of signatories to the treaty is 31.

The European Parliament is set to vote on ACTA in June. In parallel, the accord has to be ratified by all the 27 EU member states. Germany, the Netherlands, Cyprus, Estonia and Slovakia have not put individual signatures under the treaty as such and, in the wake of the mass anti-ACTA protests in Europe, are not eager to proceed with it. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Latvia suspended the ratification process, while Poland on the second thought refused to ratify the accord all together.

Wednesday’s decision means ACTA’s ratification in the EU could be delayed for months.

U.S. Feds get warrants to mine Facebook accounts

As if Facebook wasn’t already enough of a data mining operation, judges are allowing Feds to access account information such as addresses, telephone numbers, friends’ lists in order to… you guessed it: ‘fight crime’.

By Robert Snell
The Detroit News
April 25, 2011

Federal investigators in Detroit have taken the rare step of obtaining search warrants that give them access to Facebook accounts of suspected criminals.

The warrants let investigators view photographs, email addresses, cell phone numbers, lists of friends who might double as partners in crime, and see GPS locations that could help disprove alibis.

There have been a few dozen search warrants for Facebook accounts nationwide since May 2009, including three approved recently by a federal magistrate judge in Detroit, according to a Detroit News analysis of publicly available federal court records.

The trend raises privacy and evidentiary concerns in a rapidly evolving digital age and illustrates the potential law-enforcement value of social media, experts said.

Locally, Facebook accounts have been seized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and FBI to investigate more than a dozen gang members and accused bank robber Anthony Wilson of Detroit.

“To be honest with you, it bothers me,” said Wilson, 25, who was indicted Tuesday on bank robbery charges after the FBI compared Facebook photos with images taken from a bank surveillance video. “Facebook could have let me know what was going on. Instead, I got my door kicked down, and all of a sudden I’m in handcuffs.”

Federal investigators defend the practice. “With technology today, we would be crazy not to look at every avenue,” said Special Agent Donald Dawkins, spokesman with the ATF in Detroit.

The FBI suspected Wilson was behind a string of bank robberies across Metro Detroit that netted more than $6,300. Special Agent Juan Herrera said an informant told the FBI about Wilson’s Facebook account. It was registered under the name “Anthony Mrshowoff Wilson.”

In several photos on Facebook, Wilson was wearing a blue baseball hat and blue hooded sweatshirt, both featuring a Polo emblem. That’s the same outfit the FBI said the suspect wore when he stole $390 from a Bank of America Branch in Grosse Pointe Woods on Nov. 26, according to federal court records.

His Facebook photos also included one in which Wilson wore a red Philadelphia Phillies baseball hat, which the FBI said Wilson donned while robbing $1,363 from a PNC Bank branch in St. Clair Shores on Dec. 21, according to court records.

On Jan. 26, U.S. Magistrate Judge Virginia Morgan gave approval for the FBI to seize information from Wilson’s Facebook account. The warrant was executed within four hours.

Facebook gave the FBI Wilson’s contact information, including birth date, cell phone number, friends, incoming and outgoing messages, and photos.

Wilson was charged in a criminal complaint Feb. 7 and indicted Tuesday on five bank robbery charges. He is free on a $10,000 unsecured bond.

“I’m innocent until proven guilty,” Wilson told The Detroit News. “They’re basically going off my clothes. Ralph Lauren is a popular clothing line.”

He’s since updated his Facebook photo. Wilson swapped the blue Polo hat and blue Polo sweatshirt for white ones featuring the iconic Polo horse.

Despite the search warrants, his Facebook information page was still public Thursday.

Technology challenging

Morgan, the federal magistrate judge, also approved two search warrant requests from the ATF late last year and in February to search the accounts of at least 16 people suspected of belonging to a Detroit area gang. The affidavit justifying the search remains sealed in federal court.

Even with the access, investigators are having a hard time keeping up with high-tech crooks. In February, an FBI official testified before a House subcommittee about the difficulty accessing electronic communications on social media sites and email even with court approval.

“The FBI and other government agencies are facing a potentially widening gap between our legal authority to intercept electronic communications pursuant to court order and our practical ability to actually intercept those communications,” FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni testified.

Monitoring real-time Web-based conversations is particularly difficult, she said.

The FBI uses the term “Going Dark” to label the gap between having the authority to access electronic communications and the Internet service providers’ capability to gather the information. “This gap poses a growing threat to public safety,” Caproni testified.

Concerns over privacy

Information gleaned from the Internet raises constitutional and evidentiary issues that must be considered, including privacy and the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, said Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen, who also is an evidence professor at Wayne State University. Evidence obtained from the Internet and social media sites also raises issues about whether the information can be authenticated, he said.

“The Internet is the next frontier for the development of Fourth Amendment law,” Rosen said, referring to the amendment protecting against unreasonable searches and seizures.

A Facebook spokesman said the company receives a “significant volume of third-party data requests” that are reviewed individually for “legal sufficiency.”

“We do not comment publicly on data requests, even when we disclose the request to the user. We have this policy to respect privacy and avoid the risk that even acknowledging the existence of a request could wrongly harm the reputation of an individual,” said Andrew Noyes, Facebook manager of public policy communications. “We never turn over ’content’ records in response to U.S. legal process unless that process is a search warrant reviewed by a judge. We are required to regularly push back against overboard requests for user records, but in most cases we are able to convince the party issuing legal process to withdraw the overboard request, but if they do not, we fight the matter in court (and have a history of success in those cases.)”

Spokeswomen for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI declined to discuss techniques used by investigators.

It is unclear exactly how many search warrants have been executed for Facebook accounts. But requests – in Maryland , New York , North Carolina , Virginia , California , Pennsylvania , Montana and Alabama – come amid a backlash from users who complained too much of their personal information was being disclosed .

The San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation , a digital civil liberties organization based in San Francisco, launched a campaign recently to encourage Facebook and others to disclose when and how often law-enforcement agencies request user account information.

Invasive Cyber Technologies and Internet Privacy

By Tom Burghardt

What do Google, the CIA and a host of so-called “predictive behavior” start-ups have in common?

They’re interested in you, or more specifically, whether your online interests–from Facebook to Twitter posts, and from Flickr photos to YouTube and blog entries–can be exploited by powerful computer algorithms and subsequently transformed into “actionable intelligence.”

And whether the knowledge gleaned from an IP address is geared towards selling useless junk or entering a name into a law enforcement database matters not a whit. It’s all “just data” and “buzz” goes the mantra, along what little is left of our privacy and our rights.

Increasingly, secret state agencies ranging from the CIA to the National Security Agency are pouring millions of dollars into data-mining firms which claim they have a handle on who you are or what you might do in the future.

And to top it off, the latest trend in weeding-out dissenters and nonconformists from the social landscape will soon be invading a workplace near you; in fact, it already has.

Welcome to the sinister world of “Precrime” where capitalist grifters, drug- and torture-tainted spy shops are all laboring mightily to stamp out every last vestige of free thought here in the heimat.

The CIA Enters the Frame

In July, security journalist Noah Shachtman revealed in Wired that “the investment arms of the CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time–and says it uses that information to predict the future.”

Shachtman reported that the CIA’s semi-private investment company, In-Q-Tel, and Google Ventures, the search giant’s business division had partnered-up with a dodgy outfit called Recorded Future pouring, according to some estimates, $20 million dollars into the fledgling firm.

blurb on In-Q-Tel’s web site informs us that “Recorded Future extracts time and event information from the web. The company offers users new ways to analyze the past, present, and the predicted future.”

Who those ubiquitous though nameless “users” are or what they might do with that information once they “extract” it from the web is left unsaid. However, judging from the interest that a CIA-connected entity has expressed in funding the company, privacy will not figure prominently in the “new ways” such tools will be used.

Wired reported that the company, founded by former Swedish Army Ranger Christopher Ahlberg, “scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents–both present and still-to-come.”

“The cool thing is” Ahlberg said, “you can actually predict the curve, in many cases.”

And as for the search giant’s interest in “predicting the future” for the secret state, it wouldn’t be the first time that Google Ventures sold equipment and expertise to America’s shadow warriors.

While the firm may pride itself on the corporate slogan, “don’t be evil,” data is a valuable commodity. And where’s there value, there’s money to be made. Whether it comes in the form of “increasing share value” through the sale of private information to marketeers or state intelligence agencies eager to increase “situational awareness” of the “battlespace” is a matter of complete indifference to corporate bean counters.

After all, as Google CEO Eric Schmidt told CNBC last year, “if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

But that standard, “only bad people have something to hide,” is infinitely mutable and can be stretched–or manipulated as has so often been the case in the United States–to encompass everything from “Papist” conspiracies, “illegal” migrants, homosexuality, communism, drug use, or America’s latest bête noire: the “Muslim threat.”

Schmidt went on to say that “the reality is that search engines, including Google, do retain this information for some time. And we’re all subject, in the U.S., to the Patriot Act, and it is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities.”

In February, The Washington Post reported that “the world’s largest Internet search company and the world’s most powerful electronic surveillance organization are teaming up in the name of cybersecurity.”

“The alliance” between Google and NSA “is being designed to allow the two organizations to share critical information without violating Google’s policies or laws that protect the privacy of Americans’ online communications,” the Post alleged.

An anonymous source told the Post that “the deal does not mean the NSA will be viewing users’ searches or e-mail accounts or that Google will be sharing proprietary data.”

Really?

Last spring it was revealed that Google’s Street View cars had been secretly vacuuming up terabytes of private wi-fi data for more than three years across Europe and the United States.

The Sunday Times reported that the firm had “been scooping up snippets of people’s online activities broadcast over unprotected home and business wi-fi networks.”

In July, The Washington Post’s “Top Secret America” investigation disclosed that Google supplies mapping and search products to the U.S. secret state and that their employees, outsourced intelligence contractors for the Defense Department, may have filched their customers’ wi-fi data as part of an NSA surveillance project.

And what about email and web searches? Last year, The New York Times revealed that NSA intercepts of “private telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans are broader than previously acknowledged.” In fact, a former NSA analyst described how he was trained-up fierce in 2005 “for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans’ e-mail messages without court warrants.”

That program, code-named PINWALE, and the NSA’s meta-data-mining spy op STELLAR WIND, continue under Obama. Indeed, The Atlantic told us at the time that PINWALE “is actually an unclassified proprietary term used to refer to advanced data-mining software that the government uses.”

But the seamless relationships amongst communications’ giants such as Google and the secret state doesn’t stop there.

Even before Google sought an assist from the National Security Agency to secure its networks after an alleged breech by China last year, in 2004 the firm had acquired Keyhole, Inc., an In-Q-Tel funded start-up that developed 3-D-spy-in-the-sky images; Keyhole became the backbone for what later evolved into Google Earth.

At the time of their initial investment, In-Q-Tel said that Keyhole’s “strategic relationship … means that the Intelligence Community can now benefit from the massive scalability and high performance of the Keyhole enterprise solution.”

In-Q-Tel’s then-CEO, Gilman Louie, said that spy shop venture capitalists invested in the firm “because it offers government and commercial users a new capability to radically enhance critical decision making. Through its ability to stream very large geospatial datasets over the Internet and private networks, Keyhole has created an entirely new way to interact with earth imagery and feature data.”

Or, as seen on a daily basis in the AfPak “theatre” deliver exciting new ways to kill people. Now that’s innovation!

That was then, now the search giant and the CIA’s investment arm are banking on products that will take privacy intrusions to a whole new level.

A promotional offering by the up-and-comers in the predictive behavior marketplace, Recorded Future–A White Paper on Temporal Analytics asserts that “unlike traditional search engines which focus on text retrieval and leaves the analysis to the user, we strive to provide tools which assist in identifying and understanding historical developments, and which can also help formulate hypotheses about and give clues to likely future events. We have decided on the term ‘temporal analytics’ to describe the time oriented analysis tasks supported by our systems.”

Big in the hyperbole department, Recorded Future claims to have developed an “analytics engine, which goes beyond search, explicit link analysis and adds implicit link analysis, by looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events. We do this by separating the documents and their content from what they talk about.”

According to the would-be Big Brother enablers, “Recorded Future also analyzes the ‘time and space dimension’ of documents–references to when and where an event has taken place, or even when and where it will take place–since many documents actually refer to events expected to take place in the future.”

Adding to the unadulterated creep factor, the technocratic grifters aver they’re “adding more components, e.g. sentiment analyses, which determine what attitude an author has towards his/her topic, and how strong that attitude is–the affective state of the author.”

Strongly oppose America’s imperial project to steal other people’s resources in Afghanistan and Iraq, or, crime of crimes, have the temerity to write or organize against it? Step right this way, Recorded Future has their eye on you and will sell that information to the highest bidder!

After all, as Mike Van Winkle, a California Anti-Terrorism Information Center shill infamously told the Oakland Tribune back in 2003 after Oakland cops wounded scores of peacenik longshoremen at an antiwar rally at the port: “You can make an easy kind of a link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that’s being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that (protest). You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act.”

And with Recorded Future’s “sentiment analyses” such “links” will be even easier to fabricate.

Never mind that the prestigious National Academy of Science’s National Research Council issued a scathing 2008 report, Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists: A Framework for Assessment, that debunked the utility of data-ming and link analysis as effective counterterrorism tools.

“Far more problematic,” the NRC informs us, “are automated data-mining techniques that search databases for unusual patterns of activity not already known to be associated with terrorists.” Since “so little is known about what patterns indicate terrorist activity” the report avers, dodgy techniques such as link analysis “are likely to generate huge numbers of false leads.”

As for Recorded Future’s over-hyped “sentiment analyses,” the NRC debunked, one might even say preemptively, the dodgy claims of our would-be precrime mavens. “The committee also examined behavioral surveillance techniques, which try to identify terrorists by observing behavior or measuring physiological states.”

Their conclusion? “There is no scientific consensus on whether these techniques are ready for use at all in counterterrorism.” Damningly, the NRC asserted that such techniques “have enormous potential for privacy violations because they will inevitably force targeted individuals to explain and justify their mental and emotional states.”

Not that such inconvenient facts matter to Recorded Future or their paymasters in the so-called intelligence community who after all, are in the driver’s seat when the firm’s knowledge products “make predictions about the future.”

After all, as Ahlberg and his merry band of privacy invaders inform us: “Our mission is not to help our customers find documents, but to enable them to understand what is happening in the world.”

The better to get a leg up on the competition or know who to target.

The “Real You”

Not to be outdone by black world spy agencies, their outsourced corporate partners or the futurist gurus who do their bidding, the high-tech publication Datamation, told us last month that the precrime concept “is coming very soon to the world of Human Resources (HR) and employee management.”

Reporter Mike Elgan revealed that a “Santa Barbara, Calif., startup called Social Intelligence data-mines the social networks to help companies decide if they really want to hire you.”

Elgan averred that while background checks have historically searched for evidence of criminal behavior on the part of prospective employees, “Social Intelligence is the first company that I’m aware of that systematically trolls social networks for evidence of bad character.”

Similar to Recorded Future and dozens of other “predictive behavior” companies such as Attensity and Visible Technologies, Social Intelligence deploys “automation software that slogs through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs, and ‘thousands of other sources,’ the company develops a report on the ‘real you’–not the carefully crafted you in your resume.”

According to Datamation, “the company also offers a separate Social Intelligence Monitoring service to watch the personal activity of existing employees on an ongoing basis.” Such intrusive monitoring transforms the “workplace” into a 24/7 Orwellian panopticon from which there is no hope of escape.

The service is sold as an exemplary means to “enforce company social media policies.” However, since “criteria are company-defined, it’s not clear whether it’s possible to monitor personal activity.” Fear not, it is.

Social Intelligence, according to Elgan, “provides reporting that deemphasizes specific actions and emphasizes character. It’s less about ‘what did the employee do’ and more about ‘what kind of person is this employee?'”

In other words, it’s all about the future; specifically, the grim world order that fear-mongering corporations are rapidly bringing to fruition.

Datamation reports that “following the current trend lines,” rooted in the flawed logic of information derived from data-mining and link analysis, “social networking spiders and predictive analytics engines will be working night and day scanning the Internet and using that data to predict what every employee is likely to do in the future. This capability will simply be baked right in to HR software suites.”

As with other aspects of daily life in post-constitutional America, executive decisions, ranging from whether or not to hire or fire someone, cast them into a lawless gulag without trial, or even kill them solely on the say-so of our War-Criminal-in-Chief, are the new house rules.

Like our faux progressive president, some HR bureaucrat will act as judge, jury and executioner, making decisions that can–and have–wrecked lives.

Elgan tells us that unlike a criminal proceeding where you stand before the law accused of wrongdoing and get to face your accuser, “you can’t legally be thrown in jail for bad character, poor judgment, or expectations of what you might do in the future. You have to actually break the law, and they have to prove it.”

“Personnel actions aren’t anything like this.” You aren’t afforded the means to “face your accuser.” In fact, based on whether or not you sucked-up to the boss, pissed-off some corporate toady, or moved into the “suspect” category based on an algorithm, you don’t have to actually violate comapny rules in order to be fired “and they don’t have to prove it.”

Datamation tells us, “if the social network scanning, predictive analytics software of the future decides that you are going to do something in future that’s inconsistent with the company’s interests, you’re fired.”

And, Elgan avers, now that “the tools are becoming monstrously sophisticated, efficient, powerful, far-reaching and invasive,” the precrime “concept is coming to HR.”

Big Brother is only a “ping” or mouse click away…

Facebook & Social Media: A Convenient Cover For Spying

By Ralph Forbes
October 6, 2011

Longtime AMERICAN FREE PRESS readers may recall that DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has some creepy tentacles: the Information Awareness Office (IAO); TIA (Total Information Awareness, renamed Terrorism Information Program); and TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System). By 2003, an irate American people forced the government to drop these spooky command-and-control police state operations—or did they?

The “vampire coven” was seemingly dead and buried—but was the stake actually driven through its evil heart?

In 2002, Divya Narendra had an idea for a social network site. By the fall of 2003, she and twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss were looking for a web developer who could bring their idea to life. On Nov. 30, 2003 they hired Mark Zuckerberg to finish their program’s codes. Little did they know what a monster Zuckerberg would hatch.

Zuckerberg bragged about taking their money so he could make his own social networking site. He boasted that his creation, which became the popular “Facebook” online social network, would naturally succeed. While pretending to work on college projects, he was sabotaging his clients by stalling. He claimed he was backed by the “Brazilian Mafia”—but AFP’s revelations will show, it is dangerous to believe anything Zuckerberg says.

Notably, The Social Network, is a new movie based on Zuckerberg and the pre-CIA founding years of Facebook, starring Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg. Check upcoming issues of AFP to see how closely the script depicts the shocking facts.

But as bad as the beginning of Facebook is, the parallels between the CIA’s backing of Google’s dream of becoming “the mind of God,” and the CIA’s funding of Facebook’s goal of knowing everything about everybody are spookier.

Congress stopped the IAO from gathering as much information as possible about everyone in a centralized nexus for easy spying by the United States government, including internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver’s licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and all other available data. The government’s plan was to emulate Communist East Germany’s STASI police state by getting mailmen, boy scouts, teachers, students and others to spy on everyone else. Children would be urged to spy on parents.

Facebook, however, does what no dictator ever dreamed of—it has a half billion people willingly doing a form of spy work on all their friends, family, neighbors, etc.—while enthusiastically revealing information on themselves.

The huge database on these half a billion members (and non-members who are written about) is too much power for any private entity—but what if it is part of, or is accessed by, the military-industrial-national security-police state complex?

We all know that “he who pays the piper, calls the tune,” therefore, whoever controls the purse strings controls the whole project. When it had less than a million or so participants, Facebook demonstrated the potential to do even more than IAO, TIA and TIPS combined. Facebook really exploded after its second round of funding—$12.7 million from the venture capital firm Accel Partners. Its manager, James Breyer, was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital front established by the CIA in 1999. In-Q-Tel is the same outfit that funds Google and other technological powerhouses. One of its specialties is “data mining technologies.”

Dr. Anita Jones, who joined the firm, also came from Gilman Louie and served on In-Q-Tel’s board. She had been director of Defense Research and Engineering for the U.S. Department of Defense. This link goes full circle because she was also an adviser to the secretary of defense, overseeing DARPA, which is responsible for high-tech, high-end development.

Furthermore, the CIA uses a Facebook group to recruit staff for its National Clandestine Service.