Maine, Location, North Carolina, Schools, Oracle, and iOS

Surveillance news for the week of April 26, 2021

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#142: The Defund Police Movement Takes Aim at Fusion Centers and Mass Surveillance

April 21, 2021 | The Intercept by Alice Speri | ~2816 words

Speri highlights a bill that would defund Maine’s fusion center used to gather and disseminate police intelligence across the region. For a refresher on fusion centers, check out surveil-links #16 and #23.

The bill comes not only in the wake of cries to defund local police departments across the country, but also at a time when more about Maine’s fusion center has been known than ever before. Documents released in the BlueLeaks dump — also discussed in surveil-link #23 — show the ineptitude within the center. Analysts apparently basing much of their intelligence off right wing social media posts and even satirical websites.

If passed, the law would be the first of its kind in the United States.

#143: ‘Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act’ Would Ban Clearview and Warrantless Location Data Purchases

April 21, 2021 | Motherboard by Joseph Cox | ~1097 words

It’s here. The bill that Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has teased that would stop U.S. law enforcement from obtaining location data from third-party data brokers is called the Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act has been proposed in the senate. This is a problem as discussed in surveil-links #3, #6, #18, #49, #55, #112, #113, and #127. The bill would also ban the use of Clearview AI, the controversial facial recognition startup discussed in surveil-links #19, #27, and #115 by law enforcement as well.

In a statement to Motherboard, Wyden said the following:

“There’s no reason information scavenged by data brokers should be treated differently than the same data held by your phone company or email provider. This bill closes that legal loophole and ensures that the government can’t use its credit card to end-run the Fourth Amendment.”

#144: NC lawmakers want to give police even more power to track your phone without a warrant

April 21, 2021 | The News & Observer by Will Doran and Danielle Battaglia | ~700 words

A bill proposed in the North Carolina House of Representiatives would give police the ability to obtain location data from cellular providers without a warrant in order to track a suspect in real time. It is the latest in a list of many “Kelsey Smith Acts” named for a Kansas teenager who was kidnapped and murdered in 2007. The North Carolina chapter of the ACLU worries the bill in its current form could be abused. It does not presently state what would happen if the provision should be mishandled by a police officer.

The bill apparently flies in the face of a 2018 United States Supreme Court ruling, Carpenter v. United States, which stated that police could not obtain cellular location data without a warrant. I’m not an attorney and am not entirely sure if this bill, if passed, could be challenged on basis of Carpenter. I am seeking clarification myself.

#145: ‘High-Surveillance’ Schools Lead to More Suspensions, Lower Achievement

April 21, 2021 | Education Week by Sarah D. Sparks | ~1108 words

Sparks discusses the findings of a study presented at the American Educational Research Association conference in early April. The study analyzed surveillance and its effects on more than 16,000 students attending 750 high schools across the U.S. I for one was extremely curious to see the results of the study.

The study split the schools into three tiers based on the level of surveillance deployed at the school. They found that students who are subjected to more surveillance are more likely to be suspended and perform poorer than their peers subject to less surveillance. The study also found that Black students more likely to attend a school with a heavy surveillance apparatus.

This study is particularly timely given students are currently returning to school after the pandemic. Surveillance equipment is likely to have increased in effort to curb the spread of COVID by monitoring social distancing and symptoms of the virus.

#146: How a Chinese Surveillance Broker Became Oracle’s “Partner of the Year”

April 22, 2021 | The Intercept by Mara Hvistendahl | ~4099 words

Remember surveil-link #37 that showed Oracle actively advertising its technology to enable government and police surveillance in China? Well now the same journalist, Mara Hvistendahl, has “unraveled a network of resellers,” or official partners authorized to sell Oracle’s tech in China, further enabling said surveillance. One of them Oracle even named “Partner of the Year.”

The massive report — both in length and in impact — reveals the activities of five resellers. One is subsidiary of a state-owned company with ties to the Chinese military which claims ability to enable “anti-terrorism” tech, a phrase that Hvistendahl says generally denotes the government’s treatment of its Uyghur population. Another works closely the company running the internment camps used to hold the Uyghur population.

Despite Oracle’s commitment to human rights and its requirement for partners to uphold the same commitment, a company spokesperson insisted their influence over their partners is “arms-length.”

The report also documents Oracle’s history of business dealings in China and “illustrates the role that Western companies play in driving surveillance in China.”

#147: The New iOS Update Lets You Stop Ads From Tracking You—So Do It

April 27, 2021 | Wired by Lily Hay Newman | ~923 words

Today is the day: iOS users can finally opt out of apps tracking their activity across other apps. The feature has prompted a feud between the CEOs of Apple and Facebook, leading both companies to run ads promoting their best interests. Facebook claims the move will affect small businesses, but as Jesse Lehrich, co-founder of Accountable Tech told us in surveil-link #135, Facebook isn’t “quite the champion of small businesses that it presents itself as.”

So when you start getting those new prompts after updating your phone today, just say no.

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