News Datacide 17, Pt. 3: Surveillance, Control and Repression

An unnamed person who previously worked for a secret UK Metropolitan police intelligence unit alleged in a letter sent to Green party official Jenny Jones that the police were regularly reading the emails of activists, including four from Greenpeace UK, and journalists, including two from The Guardian, as part of surveillance operations. The Met’s access to the email accounts was acquired by using hacked passwords obtained by hackers employed by Indian police.

After the Westminster and London Bridge terrorist attacks in London, Prime Minister Theresa May in June 2017 proposed new anti-terrorism measures: amending human rights laws; increasing the length of time police can hold suspects without charges; further restricting the freedom and movement of suspects through house arrest, curfew, forced relocation, and creating ‘exclusion zones’ of public spaces where the suspects are not allowed to go or enter; further reducing access to communications (phone, internet, etc.); increasing the ease and number of forcible deportations; and increasing prison sentences for terrorism-related offenses. The Investigatory Powers Act was enacted into law in December 2016, which requires web and phone companies to retain everyone’s web browsing histories and communication data records for phones and texts for up to two years, as well as forcing companies to bypass or alter encryption services like Whatsapp and Signal used by named and targeted ‘terrorism’ suspects. [Read more →]

News Datacide 15, pt.3: Surveillance, Control and Repression

Surveillance, Control and Repression
GPS enabled smartphone apps are being used by private companies to track and surveil employees during business hours and also during off times. A sales executive employee at the international wire-transfer service Intermex has sued because she was being tracked via the Xora StreetSmart app on the company issued phone which she was not allowed to turn off even while not at work. After complaining about the privacy intrusions and spying by the company, she was fired.

Bank of America is one company using ‘smart badges’ to biosurveil the voice and behavior patterns of call-center workers. Monitoring includes how employees talk to customers, who talks to whom within the office, when employees send emails and respond, make phone calls, go on breaks, leave their desk to go somewhere else in the office, etc. The technology and data analysis is done by Humanyze, a spin off from the MIT Media Lab, which works with over 20 companies in banking, technology, pharmaceutical and health care industries monitoring thousands of employees. The analyzed data shows how each monitored employee performs compared to others, which amongst other things can be correlated to sales data and analyzed to assess individual and collective job performance.

In the UK, a Cambridge neuroscientist and former Golden Sachs trader, John Coates, is working with companies to use biosurveillance to create ‘human optimization’ in business performance. This researcher focuses on using technology that measures hormones that increase confidence and other ‘positive’ emotions and those that produce negative, stressful behavior that would impact a trader’s performance. The idea is to monitor employees and alert supervisors with an ‘early warning system’ if traders are getting close to a ‘hormonal danger zone’ where they won’t produce the desired trading results. Such biosurveillance is used on employees at hedge funds, banks, call centers, consultant firms, and many others.
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Political News (Datacide 13): Infiltration and Agents Provocateurs; Vision Tech; Endless War; Surveillance, Control and Repression

Infiltration and Agents Provocateurs
From 2007-09, John Towery, a criminal intelligence army analyst in the Force Protection Service fusion center at the Fort Lewis military base spied on anarchists and peace activists in Tacoma and Olympia, WA who were part of SDS and the Port Militarization Resistance, which protested international war shipments. Under the name ‘John Jacob’, Towery became close friends with the activists, surveilled them, and shared data with local, state, federal and military agencies. A public records request uncovered the surveillance operation of Towery against the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace, IWW, Iraq Veterans Against the War, an anarchist bookshop, amongst others. The 9th circuit court of appeals has ruled in December 2012 that the subsequent lawsuit against Towery can proceed in the narrow terms of intentionally enabling arrest without probable cause in order to repress free speech, but apparently not on the Posse Comitatus law that bars the use of armed forces for law enforcement activities inside the US.

The Earth Island Journal published documents obtained through FOIA requests that show how the Bryan County, Oklahoma Sheriff’s department was spying on the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance and other direct action groups against the proposed tar sands pipeline to run from Canada to Texas. Some activists were arrested earlier, the action camp infiltrated and a protest preempted. The targets are described as eco-activists; Native American resisters; Occupy members; Anarchists; and locals from the community. Documents also show how the corporation TransCanada who will build the pipeline works closely with the multi-government agency Fusion Center in Oklahoma advising on policy, changing laws, sharing intel, ensnaring activists, and generally protecting their own interests and facilitating the increase of their profits.

The agent provocateur “Anna” performed extensive FBI surveillance and entrapment of three other activists (see the Life During Wartime book review) used to convict Eric McDavid for 19 years and 7 months, the second longest sentence for recent environmental prisoners. During McDavid’s trial, his lawyer attempted to argue government misconduct because of “Anna’s” intimate relationship with him, however this was dismissed in light of the 1991 9th Circuit ruling in US v Simpson that the government can exploit intimate and sexual relations between the infiltrator and anyone under a surveillance investigation.

Back in January 2011, The Guardian newspaper journalists Paul Lewis and Rob Evans broke the huge story of how Mark Kennedy, a London Metropolitan Police officer, infiltrated numerous European left and direct action networks under the name “Mark Stone” and “Flash”. 22 countries including Germany used Kennedy as an agent provocateur in order to ensnare activists in illegal activities, gather information, maps networks, etc. (The website “Mark Kennedy: A chronology of his activities” gives more details and corrections to the initial news reports, although not on his Berlin spying.) Various British police and government agencies cut Kennedy loose, avoided responsibility, attempted to stop or curtail “reform” of undercover agents’ behavior, and denied their support of his spying, especially concerning how Kennedy had sexual relations with numerous women over the years in order to gather intel and ensnare them. 8 of those women have sued Scotland Yard for sexual misconduct by five agent provocateurs Bob Lambert, John Dines, Jim Boyling, Mark Cassidy and Mark Kennedy. The reporters have in 2013 published a book on the wider use of infiltration and surveillance called Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police.

The Associated Press reporters Matt Abuzzo and Adam Goldmann, who won two Pulitzer Prizes for their series of investigations of the NYPD’s surveillance operations against Muslim Americans (in and outside NYC and the state), have published a new book Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Spying Unit that gives much greater detail through meticulous research on these operations. NYPD’s Demographics Unit spent six years using a huge network of informants to surveil every aspect of life, actions which did not lead to a single arrest, criminal cases or thwarting of so-called ‘terrorism’ plots. (Ray Kelly, the NYPD Commissioner, has been floated to be nominated to run the Department of Homeland Security.) Various lawsuits brought against the NYPD by Muslim Americans affect by the spying are pending in court.
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Datacide 12 – News Pt.1 – Surveillance, Control and Repression

Surveillance, Control and Repression
The UK based surveillance technology manufacturing company, Gamma Group, was uncovered in July 2012 to have created spyware called FinSpy Moblie that monitors and retains all mobile phone data of a particular target. (They also produced FinSpy for other e-devices.) Gamma Group sells the surveillance spyware to governments, including repressive regimes from Turkmenistan to Bahrain, which in turn monitor activists.  The spyware is a Trojan, which thus requires the target to unknowingly download the program, disguised as some innocuous file, onto a phone. The spyware has many capabilities including documenting an address book, intercepting, recording and storing all voice calls, phone call logs, SMS and GPS locations. There are many stories of anti-government activists in Bahrain, UAE, and elsewhere having been violently attacked and detained after the governments uncovered information about the individuals through FinSpy, Remote Control System developed by Milan Based HackingTeam, and other spyware programs.
Security and privacy researcher Christopher Soghoian and others have gathered more information demonstrating that Skype misleads its customers by not countering the general erroneous public perception that the platform is impenetrable to government, police, and judicial spying and monitoring.  Skype is proven to have given upon request by government agencies online chats, user information (billing, IP address, email address, account info), private encryption keys, and phone call numbers of individuals. Skype’s management of passwords and encryption keys demonstrates that Skype or government agencies have the ability to impersonate customers or individuals through man in the middle attacks (also with assistance from telecom companies), thus demonstrating that the service is an unsafe and insecure method of communication. [Read more →]

More Than Just a Night Out:

Rave as Confrontation –
Marching Against the CJB in 1994

I read a review of a club night recently in my local free paper, The Islington Tribune. To capture just what a great place this club is they wrote that it is “filled with the kind of happy campers you could imagine filled a field in the ‘90s – but less crusty – it specialises in delivering the kind of electro disco beats that send buttoned-up city types into an air-punching frenzy.”

The funny thing about the above sentence is that it perfectly captures the shift from rave as a force to be reckoned with (the crusties who actually LIVE in the field – Yuk!) to a pleasant night’s entertainment for ‘buttoned-up city types’. It is not misty-eyed nostalgia to recall that rave music – as a bottom up musical and social revolution – really did disturb the status quo for a bit back there. They even brought in laws to deal with this menace!
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