Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryData Privacy

Symbol of law and justice with China Flag on laptop. Studio shot.

Chinese Communist Party Called Out For Cyber Attacks

The DOJ has indicted members of state-backed hacker group APT40 for cyber crimes dating back to 2009

On the same day that several countries formally accused the Chinese government of malicious cyber behavior, the U.S. Department of Justice made public its indictment of four Chinese hackers who are part of the hacker group, APT40.* Deng Xiaoyang, Chen Qingmin, and Zhu Yunmin are associated with the Hainan providential arm of China’s Ministry of State Security, and Wu Shurong is a private contractor in Hainan. They are charged with Conspiracy to Damage Protected Computers, Conspiracy to Commit Economic Espionage, and Criminal Forfeiture. The unsealed grand jury indictment outlines cybercrimes dating back to July 2009 and continuing through September 2018.  From the indictment: The object of the conspiracy was to install malware and hacking tools on protected computers and to leverage such…

Chinese hacker. Laptop with binary computer code and china flag on the screen. Internet and network security.

U.S. and Allies Formally Accuse China of Exchange Server Hack

This isn’t the first time the Chinese-backed hacker group has infiltrated organizations

On Monday, July 19, three cybersecurity announcements were made: In response to the massive Microsoft Exchange Server hack, the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Japan, the E.U., and NATO formally accused the Chinese government of engaging in harmful cyberactivity. The U.S. Department of Justice published its indictment of four Chinese hackers associated with the Chinese government, known as APT40. The FBI, CSIS, and the NSA published a cybersecurity advisory cataloging the fifty tactics, techniques, and procedures used by Chinese state-sponsored hackers. Then, on Tuesday, the CSIA and the FBI published a report on state-sponsored international hacking groups that included accusations that the Chinese state-backed hackers infiltrated thirteen oil and natural gas pipeline operators between 2011 and 2013. In…

dna-test-in-the-lab-a-laboratory-technician-with-a-dispenser-in-his-hands-is-conducting-dna-analysis-in-a-sterile-laboratory-behind-glass-stockpack-adobe-stock
Dna test in the lab. a laboratory technician with a dispenser in his hands is conducting dna analysis in a sterile laboratory behind glass

China Is Building the World’s Largest Global DNA Database

The government violates the country’s own privacy laws in the name of security and stability

A January 2021 study by a U.K. cybersecurity and privacy watchdog, Comparitech, found that China was the world’s worst offender for “widespread and invasive biometric data collection” out of ninety-six countries studied. The Chinese government aspires to build the world’s largest police-run DNA database. Its Made in China 2025 plan places a priority on building its biotechnology industry, which involves collecting a large number of DNA samples. The way Chinese authorities obtain DNA is often intrusive and without consent. In a previous article, we looked at how U.S. companies’ DNA sequencing and identification technologies end up in Xinjiang despite U.S. sanctions. In this article, we will look at how China is using DNA collection to further its national goals. China’s…

apps-globe
Young man using modern mobile phone

Does the Company Selling You Tech Have the Same Worldview As You?

A worldview is how we view the world and our place in it.

Much of the technology we interact with today is part of a larger group of ecosystems maintained by major tech companies. If you have an iPhone, for example, you’re often more likely to use a Macbook, watch AppleTV, or subscribe to Apple Music. If you shop on Amazon, you might also have their Echo digital assistant or a Ring video doorbell. And if you Chromebook, you’re likely to use Gmail and maybe have a Pixel. Fueled by brand loyalty, tech ecosystems are part of the workings of a healthy free market. But if you’re going to commit to a tech company by being part of their ecosystem, it’s important to compare the worldview of that company to your own and…

divided-young-couple-busy-with-their-smartphones-each-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Divided young couple busy with their smartphones each

The (Magnetic) Force Is Strong With Apple — Here’s How to Resist

To keep the magnetic force in check between Big Tech and us, we must first establish who is boss over our technology

With the iPhone 12, Apple has introduced a new line of accessories that use magnetism to quickly attach and charge the phone. The company has used magnets for years to connect charging adapters and cases. Now they’re adding it to more products with the bet that iPhone users will find the lure of magnetic connection irresistible. As a natural phenomenon, magnetism is as old as dirt and yet it still amazes us when we see it in action. There’s another kind of magnetism at work here, too. It’s the pull of attraction between Apple’s devices and the people who use them. Like many longtime Apple customers, I have felt this attraction since 2008 when I purchased my first iPhone, the 3G.…

black triangle colors.jpg
Couleur

How Google’s Chromebook Erodes Your Digital Freedom

A Chromebook is designed to serve up Google services, allowing Google outsized control of your computing experience and your digital identity.

This month, Chromebook turns ten years old. It’s a good time to take a look at Google’s latest Chromebook offering and show you why you can do better. Much better. Although the Pixelbook Go has a hefty price tag and is lighter, thinner, and faster than ever, it’s still just a Chromebook. Here’s why using a Chromebook weakens your computing power, erodes your digital freedom, and reduces your ability to learn and think. “I’ve got the power,” goes the famous 90’s song by Snap!, but you wouldn’t be able to sing that with confidence holding a Chromebook. Somewhere between netbook and notebook, the Chromebook is a physical manifestation of the Google ecosystem, giving customers who already use Google services a…

social-media-concept-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Social media concept.

Fallout From Facebook’s Huge Privacy Hack: A Serious Unfriending

The Big Hack in April, in which even Mark Zuckerberg’s data got scraped, was hardly the first one Facebook faced

We’ll let engineering prof Karl Stephan start the story, comparing Facebook to God: For purposes of discussion, we will compare Facebook to the traditional Judeo-Christian God of the Old and New Testaments. And we will restrict the comparison primarily to two matters: communication and trust (or faith). Users of Facebook communicate with that entity by entering personal information into Facebook’s system. That act of communication is accompanied by a certain level of trust, or faith. Facebook promises to safeguard one’s information and not to reveal it to anyone else without your permission… Karl D. Stephan, “In Facebook we trust” at MercatorNet Safeguard the information? As recent news reports revealed, a month ago today, a hacker released roughly 533 million users’…

Businessman hand holding tablet and Yuan currency sign on digital map backgroung.Chinese Yuan digital currency and circuit background.Technology digital Financial and china cryptocurrency concept.
Businessman hand holding tablet and Yuan currency sign on digital map backgroung.Chinese Yuan digital currency and circuit background.Technology digital Financial and china cryptocurrency concept.

Why China Is Making a Bold Gamble With Digital Currency

“Controllable anonymity” means that all transactions between individuals are visible to the People’s Bank and trackable by the Chinese government

Last week, China announced the national rollout of the electronic yuan, a plan in the works since 2014. The e-CNY* or Digital Currency Electronics Payment (DCEP) was piloted last year in four major Chinese cities: The digital yuan resides in cyberspace, available on the owner’s mobile phone — or on a card for the less tech-savvy — and spending it doesn’t strictly require an online connection. It appears on a screen with a silhouette of Mao Zedong, looking just like the paper money. In tests in recent months, more than 100,000 people in China have downloaded a mobile-phone app from the central bank enabling them to spend small government handouts of digital cash with merchants, including Chinese outlets of Starbucks…

electronics-engineer-works-with-robot-checking-voltage-and-program-response-time-computer-science-research-laboratory-with-specialists-working-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Electronics Engineer Works with Robot Checking Voltage and Program Response time. Computer Science Research Laboratory with Specialists Working.

Has the United States Lost Silicon Valley?

Once on friendly terms with the U,S, Department of Defense, Silicon Valley must consider the views of its friends in China

Recently, we learned that China had, for the first time, surpassed the United States in AI patent filings: The development was revealed by Li Yuxiao, Deputy Head of the Chinese Academy of Cyberspace Studies at the 7th World Internet Conference (WIC), reports SCMP. With this, China is now bolstering its position of being a leader in AI. As per the report, China had filed more than 110,000 artificial intelligence patents last year, more than the patents filed by the United States but the number of patents filed by the country has not been disclosed. “China surpasses US for the first time in artificial intelligence patent filings” at TECHregister (November 27, 2020) Now, people have been claiming that innovative competitiveness is…

young-man-identified-by-biometric-facial-recognition-scanning-process-from-his-smartphone-futuristic-concept-projector-identifies-individual-by-illuminating-face-by-dots-and-scanning-with-laser-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Young Man Identified by Biometric Facial Recognition Scanning Process from His Smartphone. Futuristic Concept: Projector Identifies Individual by Illuminating Face by Dots and Scanning with Laser

The New Retail: Cash or Face Scan? Is This Safe?

Retailers, anxious to speed up checkout lineups tend to brush off privacy and security concerns about payment by face recognition

The new face of retail is yours, according to a latest trend — paying with your face via biometric scanning. Russia’s largest food retailer, X5 Retail Group, in partnership with VISA and Sber (a bank), is introducing payment via facial recognition (face scanning) at the checkout counters of supermarkets and convenience stores. The trial at 52 stores succeeded well enough that the firm hopes to institute “facepay” (?) at 3000 stores. It works, at least technically, because we are more unique than we think: With the huge rise in digital wallets, biometrics – face or hand recognition – has started to become more popular as the safest means of protecting customers from identity fraud. Because nobody can replicate or guess…

cell-phone-addiction-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Cell phone addiction.

Getting Used to Liquid Modernity

The only constant of liquid modernity is change, chiefly of the self, but also of the self's surroundings

(Reprinted with permission from the Engineering Ethics Blog of Karl Stephan (pictured) of the Ingram School of Engineering at Texas State University) I do not own a conventional smart phone.  Instead, I intentionally use a style of flip phone whose rugged case and physical numeric keypad buttons won’t be injured by a drop of three or four feet to a concrete surface.  It can receive some texts on its small screen, and I can even send texts after a fashion with the twelve numeric keys, tapping them rapidly one to four times to select the correct letter or punctuation mark.  It won’t do capitals, but you can read texts from me without capitals and still get the message.  It took me a while to…

a-man-using-digital-tablet-with-building-hologram-and-internet-media-icons-smart-city-5g-internet-and-networking-technology-concept-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
a man using digital tablet with building hologram and internet media icons. Smart city, 5g, internet and networking technology concept

Nevada Announces New Cities in State To Be Run By Big Tech

The zones promise technological freedom, but what are the dangers to handing so much political power to big corporations?

Nevada is courting technological business by offering them the opportunity to develop cities independent of government regulation. In his State of the State address on January 19th, Nevada Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak announced proposed legislation to create “Innovation Zones” in order “to jumpstart the state’s economy by attracting technology firms.” The long-term vision for these Innovation Zones is a county independent of local government, run solely by a technological corporation for the purpose of pursuing advanced technology without the red tape of bureaucracy. The proposed legislation draft calls “traditional forms of local government” “inadequate” in their ability “to provide the flexibility and resources conducive to making the State a leader in attracting and retaining new forms and types of businesses…”…

thumbs-up-on-bricks-wall-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Thumbs up on bricks wall

Facebook Exec Admits the Company Has Too Much Power

He worries, talking with an undercover reporter, that Zuckerberg is 36 and is “the ruler” of two billion people

In a video titled “KING ZUCK: Facebook Global Planning Lead Reveals Dire Need For Government Intervention In Facebook” (March 15, 2021), we hear an insider’s view from Benny Thomas, Facebook’s Global Planning Lead— who told what he knew to a Project Veritas undercover reporter. From the undercover interview: Benny Thomas: I’ll make less money but it will be a better thing for the world. Facebook and Google are too powerful and they need to be made less powerful … It needs to be broken up the way the telecom companies were broken up and the oil companies were broken up.” No king in the history of the world has been the ruler of two billion people. And he’s 36. [a…

finger-touching-phone-with-social-media-concept-and-dark-background-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Finger touching phone with social media concept and dark background

Why Do Some People Try To Poison Big Tech’s Data Well?

Some social media users confuse Big Tech about their interests so as to preserve privacy and rein in relentless marketing campaigns

Here’s an article on a theme you probably didn’t expect to read about in a top tier tech magazine: How to poison the data Big Tech collects about you. It’s certainly evidence of the growing discontent with Monopoly Power and Big Surveillance: Now researchers at Northwestern University are suggesting new ways to redress this power imbalance by treating our collective data as a bargaining chip. Tech giants may have fancy algorithms at their disposal, but they are meaningless without enough of the right data to train on. Karen Hao, “How to poison the data that Big Tech uses to surveil you” at Technology Review (March 5, 2021) Researchers Nicholas Vincent and Hanlin Li presented a paper at the recent Association…

fast-food-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
fast food

What If Government Knows You Ate a Big Mac — and Doesn’t Approve?

One spur to the development of cryptocurrencies is a desire for privacy. And a growing number of citizens of societies dominated by Big Tech feel the need for privacy

That title question is not a crazy notion. It’s already happening in mostly cashless China. The Constitution and the law may not be the barrier that many suppose in America if your personal choices make it possible. We need to talk about the unpublicized implications of a cashless society. Bernard Fickser, whose work we profiled yesterday, thinks that surveillance creep is one of the factors driving the growing interest in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Yesterday we talked about the increasing popularity of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) — government should just print money to satisfy social demands and then raise taxes to pay for the choices made. A triumph of MMT would intensify the competition between government-issued currencies and cryptocurrencies…

hacker-virus-malware-attack-during-coronavirus-pandemic-concept-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
hacker virus malware attack during coronavirus pandemic concept

Computer Hacks of Governments, Hospitals, Firms Increase

Even the ones we depend on are vulnerable. They’re not always anxious to talk about it

It’s not just companies, it’s countries that get hacked these days. Here are some examples from the United States: ➤ The big story was the Solar Winds case last month. One version is that an intern thought that SolarWinds123 was a safe password: At this point though, it’s still uncertain whether the password leak played a role in the SolarWinds hack, CNN noted, which is believed to be the largest foreign intrusion campaign in U.S. history. This month, White House national security adviser Anne Neuberger stated that approximately 100 different companies and nine federal agencies, including the one that oversees the country’s nuclear weapons, had been compromised by foreign hackers. Jody Serrano, “SolarWinds Officials Throw Intern Under the Bus for…

like-facebook-3d-box-with-white-background-3d-rendering-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Like facebook 3d box with white background. 3d rendering

Who’s Afraid of Facebook? Maybe We Should All Be More Wary

A whistleblower showed that rules are enforced very unevenly. Facebook allows extremist language to flourish in some venues and censors mainstream speech in others

Facebook is, according to Fortune Magazine, the “dominant social media app,” with $84.2 billion in revenue in 2019, especially after acquiring Instagram. So dominant that government hearings into questionable activities offer mere slaps on the wrist. There is a reason for that, as we shall soon see. Facebook is, of course, a censor but at best a clumsy one. It removed a page by international disease experts critical of the COVID lockdowns, as if they were mere health cranks. Recently, Facebook announced that it plans to continue to take down posts whose claims its fact checkers “deem false” (February 8, 2021). To get some sense of what that means, Facebook censored an article at UnHerd that was critical of the…

kashgar-china-with-more-than-80-of-the-population-made-by-uyghurs-kashgar-displays-a-lot-of-islamic-landmarks-here-in-particular-the-id-kah-mosque-the-biggest-mosque-in-china-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Kashgar, China - with more than 80% of the population made by Uyghurs, Kashgar displays a lot of Islamic landmarks. Here in particular the Id Kah Mosque, the biggest mosque in China

Leaked Police Database: Total Surveillance of China’s Uyghurs

Human Rights Watch notes that many countries engage in human rights abuses, but “more than any other government, Beijing has made technology central to its repression.”

Human Rights Watch has released its 2021 annual report of global human rights abuses in 2020. In his keynote article, Executive Director Kenneth Roth said “this has been the darkest period for human rights in China since the 1989 massacre that ended the Tiananmen Square democracy movement.” The report outlines several ways that the Chinese Communist Party has repressed Chinese citizens. Among those are the Uyghurs, an ethnically Turkish majority Muslim people living in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in western China. The CCP continues to use every means, including massive technological surveillance, to control the Uyghur population. This is the second year that China has been one of the biggest offenders of human rights. Last year’s keynote article pointed out…

hands-hold-a-paper-sheet-with-the-message-your-vote-matters-over-a-crowded-street-background-people-legal-and-democratic-rights-every-voice-counts-election-campaign-and-electoral-agitation-concept-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Hands hold a paper sheet with the message your vote matters over a crowded street background. People legal and democratic rights, every voice counts. Election campaign and electoral agitation concept

How Crypto Can Help Secure Fair Elections

Here’s what we need for a cryptosecure election protocol (CEP)

(Recently, we’ve been asking readers to think about Alice and Bob, the famous pair in physics used to demonstrate propositions in a variety of contexts but we began to focus on what happens if Alice and Bob are competing for a political office. Bernard Fickser, whose argument for reform we have been following, offers a look at how a crypto secure election system might work.) We now come to the most interesting part of this article, namely, a cryptographically based protocol for securing elections. If such a protocol can be made to fly, it will do much to secure free and fair elections as well as to boost voter confidence that votes are being accurately counted and not mixed with…

vote

How Can Ballots Be Both Secret and Fair?

The secrecy of ballots would not be compromised if voters used some markers of their identity known only to themselves

In these times, that’s an important question. Last time, we asked readers to think about Alice and Bob, the famous pair in physics (used to demonstrate propositions) as if they were running for office. Bernard Fickser continues to think about that question at Expensivity: To the question “How did you vote?” a friend of mine used to quip “By secret ballot.” My friend’s quip underscores the fundamental difference between the financial and the electoral context. Money in a financial ledger always has an explicit provenance. There’s a source for the money and a tracking history of how it ended in, say, the ledger of financial Alice. This is not to say that Alice’s ledger is an open book for everyone…