Political News Datacide 17

Endless War

Chelsea Manning, US army intelligence officer and whistleblower, received a commutation by President Barack Obama in January 2017 of her prison sentence after she served seven of the 35 years for convictions of espionage and related offenses. Manning leaked 750,000 classified military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks, known as the Reykjavik 13, the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War Diary, the Baghdad airstrike collateral murder video, Cablegate, the Guantanamo Bay files, the Grainai airstrike, and others. In May 2017, Manning, a trans-woman, who suffered torture and a myriad of other abuses while in US prison custody, was released, and she presently lives in New York City. She is involved with various protests and social justice actions, and maintains a presence in the media by writing columns in newspapers, as well as personal Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts. On September 13, 2017, Harvard University Kennedy School Institute of Politics named Manning a visiting fellow, however, in protest, former CIA deputy director Michael J. Morell resigned from his position as Senior Fellow at the Kennedy School. Harvard’s close ties to the CIA became even more apparent when CIA director Mike Pompeo cancelled his speaking visit to Harvard also in protest, leading the Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf on September 15 to cancel Manning’s appointment as visiting fellow (although she is invited to campus for a day to talk to students). Harvard’s actions can be seen within the larger context of fights over ‘free speech’ at American university campuses, and institutional support for CIA war criminals and tortures. Manning tweeted “honored to be the 1st disinvited trans woman visiting @harvard fellow. they chill marginalized voices under @cia pressure #WeGotThis”. On September 25, Manning took to Twitter, detailing that she had been barred from entry into Canada on September 22. Manning was unauthorized to enter Canada because of her felony conviction in the US. The Canadian immigration document states that “if committed in Canada, this offence would equate to an indictable offence, namely Treason…for which a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment may be imposed.” Manning stated she will formally challenge Canada’s refusal, and The Guardian reports that Manning was detailed by Canadian officials overnight before being sent back into the US. [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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