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Hacker Jacob Appelbaum's new tool in the fight for digital freedom? Photography - CBC 20150910

Hacker Jacob Appelbaum's new tool in the fight for digital freedom Photography - CBC 20150910

Jacob Appelbaum is an American hacker, a privacy activist and an artist with a new show, his first solo photography exhibition in his chosen city of Berlin. Had things gone differently, he could even have been a Communications Security Establishment (CSE) agent.

According to Appelbaum, he was invited to talk to students about privacy online a few years ago in, if he remembers correctly, Ottawa. It's something he often does as a member of the Tor project, a free software network providing online anonymity.

He later found out it was a military college, and that the audience at the bar where the talk took place wasn't just students but also various government agents.

"There was a guy in the audience who came up to me afterwards and said, 'Why don't you come work for us?'"

Appelbaum says people would be surprised by how many offers he's received from various federal agencies.

"I consciously wanted to display a proud person."
- Jacob Appelbaum on his approach to photographing Julian Assange.

Instead, the 32-year-old built an international reputation as a privacy advocate and security expert, a winner of the respected Henri Nannen prize for journalism for helping reveal surveillance by the U.S.' National Security Agency (NSA) in Germany, and an ally of both Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

"I kind of regret it. You know? If I can go back in time I think it would have been a really good thing to do that, if only because then we would have had another Edward Snowden, this time from Canada. Hindsight is always 20/20," he says from the Nome Gallery in Berlin.

An exhibit of Appelbaum's work on the topic of surveillance opens this week (one day shy of September 11) in the city he now calls home. Appelbaum describes himself as "living in exile in Germany" because he says he's faced repeated harassment by the U.S. government.

Appelbaum's 'SAMIZDATA: Evidence of Conspiracy' is a series of works that includes one of several panda bears stuffed with Snowden's shredded documents, a collaboration with Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

But the central item of the exhibit is a collection of portraits Appelbaum took over the years of his colleagues and friends, like Ai Weiwei, Citizenfour documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

That they were taken using infrared film once used for aerial surveillance seems quite the meta statement, but Appelbaum says it's a happy accident. He was introduced to the film about a decade ago by Toronto photographer Kate Young.

One of the goals of the exhibit is to illustrate what Appelbaum calls "a kind of emergent network" that has sprung up, an informal team of anti-surveillance dissidents.

American security expert and privacy activist Jacob Appelbaum. (Kate Young)
American security expert and privacy activist Jacob Appelbaum. (Kate Young)

But it's also to show how he views these similarly polarizing, controversial figures.

"You're not going to see Laura lying on her couch normally," he says.

And with the Assange photo, taken in 2012, "I consciously wanted to display a proud person when we were still on the edge of understanding how far this was going to go."

For Appelbaum, the idea of anonymity online isn't something to fear.

"Anonymity online is to be at liberty," he says, adding that the internet is a place where one should be able to freely associate and form your own thoughts and opinions.

"There will always be bad actors, but sometimes those bad actors wear good cop badges."

Jacob Appelbaum. SAMIZDATA: Evidence of Conspiracy, presented in collaboration with SAMIZDATA: Tactics and Strategies for Resistance by Disruption Network Lab, curated by Tatiana Bazzichelli. NOME Gallery, 31 Dolziger St., Berlin. Fri., Sept. 11 to Sat., Oct. 31. Tue-Sat, 3pm-7pm. Free.

Jacob Appelbaum

Jacob Appelbaum is a post national independent computer security researcher, journalist and photographer. He is a core member of the Tor project, a free software network designed to provide online anonymity. He also trains interested parties globally on how to effectively use and contribute to the Tor network, enabling people to have agency, informing, researching and writing about surveillance and privacy.

P2P (Panda-to-Panda) (Bejing), 2015. Mixed media including shredded classified documents, 45cm, 25cm and 20cm. Project commissioned by Rhizome and the New Museum in New York. (Jacob Appelbaum and Ai Weiwei)
P2P (Panda-to-Panda) (Bejing), 2015. Mixed media including shredded classified documents, 45cm, 25cm and 20cm. Project commissioned by Rhizome and the New Museum in New York. (Jacob Appelbaum and Ai Weiwei)
Ai Weiwei (Bejing), 2015. Cibachrome print, 101.6 cm x 76.2 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum)
Ai Weiwei (Bejing), 2015. Cibachrome print, 101.6 cm x 76.2 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum)

Laura Poitras (Berlin), 2013. Cibachrome print, 76.2 cm x 101.6 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum)

Laura Poitras (Berlin), 2013. Cibachrome print, 76.2 cm x 101.6 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum)

Laura Poitras (Berlin), 2013. Cibachrome print, 76.2 cm x 101.6 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum) - detail
Laura Poitras (Berlin), 2013. Cibachrome print, 76.2 cm x 101.6 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum) - detail
Glenn Greenwald & David Miranda (São Paulo), 2012. Cibachrome print, 76.2 cm x 101.6 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum)
Glenn Greenwald & David Miranda (São Paulo), 2012. Cibachrome print, 76.2 cm x 101.6 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum)
Glenn Greenwald & David Miranda (São Paulo), 2012. Cibachrome print, 76.2 cm x 101.6 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum)- detail
Glenn Greenwald & David Miranda (São Paulo), 2012. Cibachrome print, 76.2 cm x 101.6 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum)- detail
Sarah Harrison (Berlin), 2015. Cibachrome print, 76.2 cm x 101.6 cm (Jacob Appelbaum)
Sarah Harrison (Berlin), 2015. Cibachrome print, 76.2 cm x 101.6 cm (Jacob Appelbaum)
Sarah Harrison (Berlin), 2015. Cibachrome print, 76.2 cm x 101.6 cm (Jacob Appelbaum) - detail
Sarah Harrison (Berlin), 2015. Cibachrome print, 76.2 cm x 101.6 cm (Jacob Appelbaum) - detail
Julian Assange, (Undisclosed location near Bail Mansion outside of London), 2012. Cibachrome print, 101.6 cm x 76.2 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum)
Julian Assange, (Undisclosed location near Bail Mansion outside of London), 2012. Cibachrome print, 101.6 cm x 76.2 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum)
Julian Assange, (Undisclosed location near Bail Mansion outside of London), 2012. Cibachrome print, 101.6 cm x 76.2 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum) - detail
Julian Assange, (Undisclosed location near Bail Mansion outside of London), 2012. Cibachrome print, 101.6 cm x 76.2 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum) - detail
William Binney (Berlin), 2014. Cibachrome print, 76.2 cm x 101.6 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum)
William Binney (Berlin), 2014. Cibachrome print, 76.2 cm x 101.6 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum)
William Binney (Berlin), 2014. Cibachrome print, 76.2 cm x 101.6 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum)
William Binney (Berlin), 2014. Cibachrome print, 76.2 cm x 101.6 cm. (Jacob Appelbaum) - detail

TD Bank is watching, but we lack rules on Big Data - The Globe and Mail 20151204

Users beware: The banks are spying on you! It recently emerged that deep inside a TD Canada Trust Visa cardholders agreement are embedded a couple of troubling lines giving the bank the legal right to collect data on everything a person does online.

The scope of these provisions, revealed last week by the CBC, is expansive. They basically give the bank the right to view the content of Google searches, the sort of online videos a cardholder watches, their social media activity and much, much more.

The bank can learn a lot from this information. Are you searching for legal advice on defaulting from a loan? Are you thinking of moving or getting married? Are you straight or gay? Do you prefer cats or dogs?

TD might have overreached in wanting to gain access to all this information, because maybe the bank doesn’t really need to know that much about its customers.

At the margin, more information is probably going to give the bank a business edge – for example, knowing which people are having financial troubles could be useful. But these advantages probably aren’t enough to justify violating customers’ privacy.

At the end of the day, though, TD is not the problem. It’s just one cog in a much larger data-driven market.

And even the bank’s own legal language paints the wrong picture.

Despite wording to the effect that the bank is “collecting” information on our online activity, it’s probably not “collecting” anything in the strictest sense of the term. It’s most likely buying information from data brokers and private companies that aggregate information gleaned from mobile applications, Google Inc., Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc., Instagram and other online platforms.

This practice is hugely common and hugely problematic. As Frank Pasquale notes in his book The Black Box Society, insurers in the United States routinely try to buy records of people’s pharmaceutical visits in order to gain an edge.

Target, the retail giant, famously sent individually tailored advertising to a teenaged girl near Minneapolis because its data aggregation and analytics had correctly predicted that she was pregnant – a fact she hadn’t yet told her family.

Other cases include a data broker selling information on 500,000 gamblers to criminals and the sale of information on people with severe diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer’s to those who sought to profit from those with poor health.

The real problem with the cases mentioned above, including the one involving TD, is the lack of clear rules in an era of Big Data.

We don’t yet really know who can collect what, and even fewer restrictions exist on how data that have already been collected can actually be used.

But the onus here is not on the private sector alone. We, the individual users of Twitter, Facebook and Gmail, share a lot of the responsibility. We have all struck a Faustian bargain that encourages us to use free online applications and services.

But, as the old saying goes, nothing in life is actually free. It’s the digital age, but the dusty old rule from the analog era still applies. Facebook, Gmail, Twitter and all the rest are not providing you with a free service. They are selling data on your voluntarily turned-over habits and behaviours to marketers and data-aggregation services. As the new saying goes, if you’re not paying for it, you are the product.

In short, we should be worried about what TD was reportedly doing, but we shouldn’t view it as an isolated event. It’s part and parcel of the new normal.

What we need now is a new approach that clarifies both who can collect specific types of information and how user-generated data can be utilized once it does exist. All this can only start if people realize that nothing is free. We pay for our free e-mail somehow.

If we really care about privacy, we need to start from the source and work our way out – rather than merely trying to roll back the edges of the Big Data tide.

and ...

TD Visa customers' browsing activities open to 'surveillance' by bank - CBC 20151130

Bank denies collecting general information about what customers do online

A B.C. man decided to Go Public after discovering Canada's second-biggest bank can access and collect information on all of its customers' online activities, even those that aren't banking-related.

Colin Laughlan is one of thousands of Canadians who had his Visa cards switched from CIBC to TD in 2014 after the Aeroplan rewards program changed banks.

"When I saw this — I really had to read it two or three times to make myself believe I was reading what I was reading," he said.

He points to two lines in the 66-page Visa cardholder agreement that allows TD to collect details about anything — and everything — customers do online.

Under the privacy section of the cardholder agreement:

"COLLECTING AND USING YOUR INFORMATION — At the time you request to begin a relationship with us and during the course of our relationship, we may collect information including:

  • Details about your browsing activity on your browser or mobile device.
  • Your preferences and activities.

Laughlan, from Vancouver, has a background in privacy issues as a former journalist and communications specialist. He said his radar was up when his new TD Visa card and cardholder agreement arrived in the mail.

"I couldn't see any reason they had to do that sort of surveillance on Canadians and they weren't being particularly forthright about it. This was slipped into the fine print of the policy and I'm well aware that the vast majority of people don't read these things," he said.

Laughlan said it took almost a year before his complaint finally reached TD's privacy office.

Initialled copy of Colin Laughlan's agreement

TD's privacy office crossed out the lines that Colin Laughlan found problematic in his cardholder agreement and an official signed them. (CBC)

The bank eventually apologized, according to Laughlan, and said it was in the process of removing the "browsing activity" line from the agreement. In the meantime, it sent him what it called a "personalized policy" with the browsing activity line crossed out by hand and initialled by a senior officer in the bank's privacy office.

Questionable clause remains

Six months later, Laughlan received another user agreement for a different TD Visa and realized nothing had changed. He complained again and said he was told the agreement was sent by mistake and again assured the problem would be fixed.

Then it happened a third time. That's when he contacted Go Public.

"This is now going on to 18 months. They hadn't changed it as they had promised ... I'm really upset … I thought this is something Canadians should know about," he said.

Go Public put the issue to TD Bank Group, which responded with an email saying the intention was to allow the bank to collect information only when customers use TD websites and TD mobile apps.

"TD has never, at any time, collected general information regarding details about customers' browsing activity, their browser or mobile device," the statement said.

The bank did remove the browsing clause from its online cardholder agreement, but it remains  part of the printed version mailed out to customers. The bank tells Go Public that will change when the paper agreements need to be reprinted.

It will keep, however, the line that allows it to monitor customers' "preferences and activities." The bank said it uses that information for banking purposes, including managing products and services and assessing risk.

It has a 'creepy factor,' says tech expert

Sharon Polsky, the president of the Privacy and Access Council of Canada, believes that kind of general wording in user agreements opens Canadians up to sharing far more than they intended, and not just with banks.

Sharon Polsky

Sharon Polsky, a technology and security expert, says TD seemed to be keeping its options open when it put the access to browsing information clauses in its Visa cardholder agreements. (CBC)

"The waters are very murky. People do not realize very often that their information is being disclosed," Polsky said.

Under Canadian law, consent is needed in order to allow anyone to access your online activity. But Polsky said the problem is most people don't realize that by signing up for a credit card or downloading an app they are granting that permission.

'I've heard it said that Google and Facebook know more about you and me than we do.'- Sharon Polsky, privacy expert

"It has a creepy factor.... They can create a very, very detailed profile of each of us … what we do, where we go, what we think," she said.

What businesses do with the information they collect is concerning to Polsky, because it is unclear how it will be used.

"A lot of people don't realize just how invasive organizations are already with our personal information," said Polsky. "So, when you see a clause that says the organization will gather whatever it wishes about you and use it however it wishes — that's when you start wondering why? For whose benefit? Certainly not the consumer," she said.

Are banks going too far?

Polsky said all banks need to collect some information about their customers' online habits in order to meet legal and governmental obligations, but she believes often the amount of information being collected goes too far.

She points to several online articles that say some banks and other businesses are beginning to look at using information taken from monitoring online activity to assess risk and sometimes gauge a customer's credit worthiness.

"They figure out what are the likely behaviours. If you shop at a certain store where other people who shop have declared bankruptcy you became a higher risk. If you go to certain neighbourhoods, if you live in a certain postal code," she said.

"If you say certain keywords on your social media page — innocent words that you wouldn't think twice about using. The word 'wasted' for example. If that's used on your social media profile, that's a trigger, because it apparently indicates certain risky behaviors."

83% of certain apps can mine online info

Polsky said it's not just banking apps that collect information. She points to a recent study that found 83% of Android apps available in the Google Play store can include "full network-access" permission which allows an app to access whatever network a user's device is connected to.

The amount of information that can be collected differs based on how the app is designed.

"Apps can gather basically anything that's on your phone or any device your phone is attached to. They can tie into your contact list, the content of your tweets, your email, your texts, your camera, the microphone," Polsky said.

Global internet surveillance, censorship rising, report finds - CBC News 20151028

Global internet surveillance, censorship rising, report finds - CBC News 20151028

China, Syria and Iran curtail internet freedom the most

Nearly half of 65 countries examined have seen online freedom weaken since June 2014, Freedom House said in an annual survey released on Wednesday.

Nearly half of 65 countries examined have seen online freedom weaken since June 2014, Freedom House said in an annual survey released on Wednesday. (Ints Kalnins/Reuters).

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Governments around the world are expanding censorship and surveillance of the Internet as overall online freedom declined for the fifth consecutive year, according to a report from a group that tracks democracy and human rights.

Nearly half of 65 countries examined have seen online freedom weaken since June 2014, Freedom House said in an annual survey released on Wednesday.

One of the steepest declines occurred in France, which passed a law that many observers likened to the U.S. Patriot Act in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks earlier this year, according to the report.

Ukraine, mired in a territorial conflict with Russia, and Libya also experienced sharp drops.

The report highlighted China as the country with the most severe restrictions on internet freedom, followed by Syria and Iran. Sri Lanka and Zambia, both of which recently underwent changes in government leadership, were credited with making the biggest improvements in overall online freedom.

New laws expand surveillance

Overall, 14 countries adopted laws in the past year to expand government surveillance, the report found.

Bucking that trend, the United States passed legislation in June thateffectively terminates the National Security Agency's controversial bulk collection of U.S. phone metadata, a program exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The new law was an "incremental step" toward digital surveillance reform, according to the report's authors.

The report also found that critical comments about government authorities were most likely to prompt censorship, and that private companies in 42 of the 65 countries were forced to delete or restrict online content.

In addition, many governments took more aggressive stances against encryption and online anonymity technologies this year.

Edward Snowden joins Twitter, immediately starts following the NSA - CBC 20150929

Edward Snowden joins Twitter, immediately starts following the NSA - CBC 20150929

George Pataki calls on Twitter to ban Snowden from site

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is only following one other account on Twitter, and that is @NSAGov

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is only following one other account on Twitter, and that is @NSAGov (Twitter/@Snowden/CBC News screenshot)

If the NSA ever wants to get in touch with famed whistleblower Edward Snowden, it can do so via direct message on Twitter — a privilege that is theirs and theirs alone.

Snowden officially joined Twitter early Tuesday afternoon as a verified user with the handle @Snowden.

His first tweet, sent at 12 p.m. ET, reads, "Can you hear me now?" His Twitter bio states simply "I used to work for the government. Now I work for the public. Director at @FreedomofPress."

The account's location is unspecified.

To date, Snowden is following only one other Twitter account: The U.S. National Security Agency's @NSAGov.

His follower count, on the other hand, has been exploding since @Snowden went live. Just one hour after the former NSA contractor issued his first tweet, more than 170,000 people were following him on Twitter.

However, @NSAGov is not one of those followers.

Snowden's presence drew the ire of former New York Gov. George Pataki, who is running a campaign for president that has failed to gain much traction. Pataki called on Twitter co-founder and interim CEO Jack Dorsey to remove the controversial Snowden.

According to the Intercept, Snowden may have been inspired to join Twitter by another public figure and social media rock star in his own right — Neil deGrasse Tyson.

"You kind of need a Twitter handle. So like @Snowden, maybe? Is this something you might do?" Tyson asked Snowden during an interviewpublished by StarTalk Radio Friday evening.

"That sounds good, I think we've got to make it it happen," Snowden said, to which Tyson replied, "You and I will be Twitter buddies. Your followers will be: the internet, me, and the NSA."

Snowden's second and third tweets, both public replies to Tyson, show that the astrophysicist wasn't kidding about the Twitter buddy thing.

Snowden has been living in Russia since 2013, when he leaked classified documents revealing that the U.S. government had top-secret mass surveillance programs in place to spy on almost everything that hundreds of millions of people do online.

The whistleblower is wanted by the U.S. government on espionage charges, but continues to make press appearances using video links from Russia, where he has been granted asylum.

Snowden's lawyer, Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Intercept that Snowden himself will be controlling his Twitter account.

The @Snowden handle, while already registered to another user, hadn't been in use for three years when Snowden decided to join the social network. Twitter helped him obtain the handle, and verified it right away.

Canada criticizes Russian asylum for leaker Snowden - CBC News 20130802

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said granting asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden is 'not something that Canada would have considered to do.'

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said granting asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden is 'not something that Canada would have considered to do.' (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

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Canada has added its voice to those criticizing Russia for granting asylum to U.S. National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

"This is not something that Canada would have considered to do," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told The Canadian Press in an exclusive interview.

"It is an example where it does show Russia is a bit of an outlier in the G8."

Baird's comments were the first from the Canadian government following the Kremlin's decision to allow Snowden to leave the transit zone in the Moscow airport where he has been living since late June.

Russian President Vladimir Putin granted Snowden asylum for one year on the condition that he stop leaking information about the U.S. The White House said it was "extremely disappointed" by the decision not to turn him over to U.S., which wants to prosecute him for espionage.

Baird's remarks also echoed the criticism that Prime Minister Stephen Harper levelled at Putin prior to the most recent G8 summit in June in Northern Ireland.

Harper characterized the Russian leader as the outlier of the G8.

"This is G7 plus one. OK, let's be blunt. That's what this is, G7 plus one," the prime minister said at the time.

inside-snowden-04589880

Leaker Edward Snowden claimed, in his request for temporary asylum, that he could face torture or death if returned to the U.S. (The Guardian/Associated Press)

Harper was referring to Putin's continuing support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, a position that the rest of the G8 does not endorse.

Putin's apparent defiance of the U.S. in the Snowden case comes after his support of Syria has become a serious irritant in Russia's relations with the West.

Baird declined to elaborate further on the Snowden matter.

He has blasted Russia for its controversial new anti-gay law, calling it hateful and saying it could incite violence.

Baird also revealed that Russia once again found itself standing alone in the G8 when the issue of sexual minorities was raised at the previous summit in May 2012. Russia said it wouldn't agree to a statement that expressed support for the group.

"All G7 countries supported and that included centre-right governments in Germany, in France, in Canada, the United Kingdom," Baird said.

The Snowden affair and Russia's controversial law, which imposes heavy fines for spreading information about gay choices to minors, as well as banning gay pride rallies, appears to be casting a pall over next month's G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The White House said it was reassessing whether President Barack Obama would go through with plans for a pre-G20 tete-a-tete with Putin.

A spokeswoman for Harper says Canada does not shy away from raising human-rights issues in its dealings with Russia.