TWO WEEKS AGO, Facebook locked me out of my profile. My photos and friends are gone, my profile vanished without a trace.
Cory Doctorow – science fiction author, journalist and co-editor of the blog Boing Boing – joins New America’s Peter Singer and Passcode’s Sara Sorcher to talk about society’s “peak indifference” to the Surveillance State, what policies could stand in the way of a future Internet utopia, whether young people actually care about their privacy online, and what a future world war might look like in the 2020s.
Dan Kaufman, director of DARPA’s Information Innovation Office, chats about funding “moonshot” projects to help the military beef up its digital defenses, the risks that come with the burgeoning Internet of Things, and what it’s like to work in an office with robots in the lobby.
On 5 June 2013, whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the first shocking evidence of global mass surveillance programmes.
We’ve since learned that the USA’s National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have been monitoring the internet and phone activity of hundreds of millions of people across the world. Two years on, we take a look at how the landscape has changed thanks to the documents Snowden released.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has made no secret of his disdain for online services that ask you to trade highly personal data for convenience — a trade that describes most big advertising-supported technology companies. But last night, in some of his strongest comments to date, Cook said the erosion of privacy represents a threat to the American way of life. Cook spoke at a dinner in Washington, DC, hosted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which honored him as a “champion of freedom” for his leadership at Apple.
“Our privacy is being attacked on multiple fronts,” Cook said in a speech that he delivered remotely, according to EPIC. “I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information. They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”
Apple chief Tim Cook has made a thinly veiled attack on Facebook and Google for “gobbling up” users’ personal data.
In a speech, he said people should not have to “make trade-offs between privacy and security”.
While not naming Facebook and Google explicitly, he attacked companies that “built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency”.
Rights activists Privacy International told the BBC it had some scepticism about Mr Cook’s comments.
“It is encouraging to see Apple making the claim that they collect less information on us than their competitors,” Privacy International’s technologist Dr Richard Tynan said.
“However, we have yet to see verifiable evidence of the implementation of these claims with regard to their hardware, firmware, software or online services.
“It is crucial that our devices do not betray us.”
Today the Senate passed a version of the USA Freedom Act, a bill touted by its authors as surveillance reform that will end the NSA’s mass, suspicionless collection of Americans’ personal data. Given that parts of the Patriot Act expired on June 1st, and that the government is pretending the expiration is a “crisis” rather than an opportunity, President Obama is expected to sign the bill as soon as possible.
While the bill has many significant flaws, the USA Freedom Act vote is also historic: it’s the first time since the 1970s that Congress has indicated its intention to restrict the vast powers of intelligence agencies like the NSA, rather than exponentially expand them. It also shows the power that investigative journalism and brave whistleblowing can have on even the most entrenched government interests. Two years ago, debating these modest changes would’ve been unthinkable, and it is absolutely a vindication for Edward Snowden.
The ride-hailing service revises its privacy policies to be “easier to understand,” but it also mentions it can access passengers’ location data even when they’re not actively using the app.
Should consumers be able to control how companies collect and use their personal data?
At a dinner honoring privacy advocates this week in Washington, Timothy D. Cook, the chief executive of Apple, gave a speech in which he endorsed this simple idea. Yet his argument leveled a direct challenge to the premise behind much of the Internet industry — the proposition that people blithely cede their digital bread crumbs to companies in exchange for free or reduced-priced services subsidized by advertising.
“You might like these so-called free services,” Mr. Cook said during the event held by EPIC, a nonprofit research center. “But we don’t think they’re worth having your email or your search history or now even your family photos data-mined and sold off for God knows what advertising purpose.”
Facebook. Instagram. Google. Twitter. All services we rely on — and all services we believe we don’t have to pay for. Not with cash, anyway. But ad-financed Internet platforms aren’t free, and the price they extract in terms of privacy and control is getting only costlier.
A recent Pew Research Center poll shows that 93 percent of the public believes that “being in control of who can get information about them is important,” and yet the amount of information we generate online has exploded and we seldom know where it all goes.