Digital Democracy 18–21 January


DNC: Target of Russia cyberattack after 2018 midterms– POLITICO

The Democratic National Committee filed a legal complaint Thursday night alleging that it was the target of a cyberattack by Russia one week after the 2018 midterm elections.

Security News This Week: Did Russia Take Another Shot at Hacking the DNC?- WIRED

Trump dominated security headlines this week, but there’s plenty of other news to catch up on.

Welp, The DNC Believe They Were The Target Of Yet Another Hacking Attempt By Russia- BuzzFeed

A court filing says the attack appeared to come from the group known as Cozy Bear.

Can State’s New Cyber Bureau Hack It?– Foreign Policy

The U.S. State Department is working to stand up a new cybersecurity bureau, but it’s hobbled by debates with lawmakers on its purpose and mandate.

Alleged Russian Hacker Pleads Not Guilty After Extradition to United States — The Hackers News

A Russian hacker indicted by a United States court for his involvement in online ad fraud schemes that defrauded multiple American companies out of tens of millions of dollars pleaded not guilty on Friday in a courtroom in Brooklyn, New York.

Cyberattack forces Health Sciences North to place systems on downtime at 24 hospitals- SC Media

A cyberattack on Health Sciences North in Sudbury, Ontario, yesterday has reportedly disrupted multiple systems at 24 of the Canadian health provider’s hospital facilities in the northeastern part of the province.

Europe’s most hackable election- Politico

The EU faces hackers, trolls and foreign agents as it gears up for a vote in May.

French defense chief touts offensive tack in new cyber strategy– Fifth Domain

The French military plans to develop and deploy offensive cyber weapons and improve the protection of its networks from “security events,” Defense Minister Florence Parly announced here this morning.

Council of Europe reports attack on The Shift News– The Shift News

The Council of Europe yesterday published an alert on the cyber attack experienced by The Shift News following revelations of corruption on the public hospitals deal negotiated by Minister Konrad Mizzi. The alert notes that the Maltese government has not responded, even after the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) demanded the Maltese government investigate the attack.

The Myth of the Cyber Offense: The Case for Restraint- Cato Institute

Great-power competition in the 21st century increasingly involves the use of cyber operations between rival states. But do cyber operations achieve their stated objectives? What are the escalation risks? Under what conditions could increasingly frequent and sophisticated cyber operations result in inadvertent escalation and the use of military force? The answers to these questions should inform U.S. cyber­security policy and strategy

Five Things- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Debora Plunkett, the former Director of Information Assurance at the National Security Agency (NSA), walks viewers through five key steps campaign staff can take to better secure their campaign organizations.

If 5G Is So Important, Why Isn’t It Secure?- The New York Times

The network must be secure enough for the innovations it promises.

Beware of Tech Companies Playing Government- Bloomberg

Microsoft, Alibaba and others are setting norms online, but that’s not automatically a good thing.

The Week in Tech: How Google and Facebook Spawned Surveillance Capitalism- The New York Times

For the last few years, the World Economic Forum has been heralding the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” That’s the idea that today’s digital innovations are generating entire new industries — in much the way electricity enabled the mass production of the Model T Ford in the early 20th century. But a provocative new book, “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” by Shoshana Zuboff, a professor emerita at the Harvard Business School, offers a more sobering counternarrative.

‘The goal is to automate us’: welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism- The Guardian

Shoshana Zuboff’s new book is a chilling exposé of the business model that underpins the digital world. Observer tech columnist John Naughton explains the importance of Zuboff’s work and asks the author 10 key questions

How leaders can use ‘agile governance’ to drive tech and win trust- World Economic Forum

Technologies are disrupting markets all over the world. The way people use transportation, leisure and entertainment have changed with Uber, Airbnb and Netflix, and more is to come with the wider adoption of autonomous vehicles, the internet of things, artificial intelligence and biotechnology. The question is how governments can respond to protect the public interest while stimulating innovation to drive economic prosperity.

Technology’s dark forest — Tech Crunch

We used to be such optimists. Technology would bring us a world of wealth in harmony with the environment, and even bring us new worlds. The Internet would erase national boundaries, replace gatekeepers with a universal opportunity for free expression, and bring us all closer together.

Davos: Will 2019 bring Big Tech to heel or lead to ‘splinternet’?- Financial Times

Lobbyists fight regulation but privacy and antitrust are ripe for reform

New Android Malware Apps Use Motion Sensor to Evade Detection — The Hackers News

Even after so many efforts by Google for preventing its Play Store from malware, shady apps somehow managed to fool its anti-malware protections and get into its service to infect Android users with malware.

Cryptocurrency is radical but who does the radicalism benefit?– The Age

“Free speech” is one of the battle cries of far-right activists who target democratic consensus and seek to divide the public. So it is somewhat alarming to see a similar dynamic — the cry of “freedom” — play out in another sphere, that of currency and payments.

We’re getting closer to being able to track stolen bitcoins– MIT Technology Review

Cybersecurity experts have never been able to trace individual bitcoins, which is why it is so easy for cryptocurrency criminals to cover their tracks. A new algorithm could change that by revealing hidden patterns of Bitcoin money-laundering.

Global Taxation for the Digital Age by Gillian Tans- Project Syndicate

The question of how to tax increasingly globalized and digitized businesses is vital to the future health of cross-border trade and investment. Sadly, the current debate is mired in confusion and complexity, and is not helped by populist political responses that demonize digital businesses.

Apple CEO Tim Cook Calls For A New Privacy Law That Would Let You Delete Your Data- BuzzFeed

Apple CEO Tim Cook on Thursday called on US Congress to pass a new, comprehensive federal privacy law — one that would give every American access to the personal data being collected about them by technology companies, and the ability to delete it.

The Cybersecurity 202: How does a country spy on its citizens? A cybersecurity company got an inside look– The Washington Post

A cybersecurity company will reveal this weekend the secretive details of how one government spies on its citizens and adversaries

Data laws could harm EU citizens’ attempts to stay in UK, court told- The Guardian

Judge grants hearing of judicial review request after being told millions cannot access records

The Internet is Facing a Catastrophe For Free Expression and Competition: You Could Tip The Balance- Electronic Frontier Foundation

The new EU Copyright Directive is progressing at an alarming rate. This week, the EU is asking its member-states to approve new negotiating positions for the final language. Once they get it, they’re planning to hold a final vote before pushing this drastic, radical new law into 28 countries and 500,000,000 people.

GDPR complaints say Amazon, Spotify, and other streaming companies are breaking EU law- The Verge

A series of complaints brought under Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), filed by an Austrian privacy activist, accuse eight major streaming companies of failing to comply with European Union law.

Netflix, YouTube, Amazon and Apple accused of GDPR breach- Financial Times

Austrian campaign group files complaint with regulator over tech giants

You Should Have the Right to Sue Companies That Violate Your Privacy- Electronic Frontier Foundation

It is not enough for government to pass laws that protect consumers from corporations that harvest and monetize their personal data. It is also necessary for these laws to have bite, to ensure companies do not ignore them. The best way to do so is to empower ordinary consumers to bring their own lawsuits against the companies that violate their privacy rights. Such “private rights of action” are among EFF’s highest priorities in any data privacy legislation.

Clicks for kicks: how we came to trade our private data for joy- Prospect Magazine

The problem is not that people are giving up personal information because they do not understand privacy. Rather, there are complex trade-offs being made to make life more bearable

Google fined record £44m by French data protection watchdog- The Guardian

CNIL found that company failed to offer users transparent information on data use

France fines Google nearly $57 million for first major violation of new European privacy regime- The Washington Post

Google has been fined nearly $57 million by French regulators for violating Europe’s tough new data-privacy rules, marking the first major penalty brought against a U.S. technology giant since the region-wide regulations took effect last year.

Google fined €50 million for GDPR violation in France — The Verge

France’s data protection regulator, CNIL, has issued Google a €50 million fine (around $56.8 million USD) for failing to comply with its GDPR obligations.

French data protection watchdog fines Google $57 million under the GDPR — Tech Crunch

The CNIL, the French data protection watchdog, has issued its first GDPR fine of $57 million (€50 million).

France Uses New EU Privacy Law to Fine Google $56.8 Million- Bloomberg

Alphabet Inc.’s Google was at the receiving end of a hefty fine of 50 million euros ($56.8 million) by France’s privacy regulator, which used its new powers to levy much higher penalties for the first time under European Union data protection rules.

France fines Google €50m in test for Europe’s new data laws- Financial Times

Watchdog finds US search engine guilty of breaking EU privacy regulations

Dutch surgeon wins landmark ‘right to be forgotten’ case- The Guardian

Ruling will ensure doctors no longer judged by Google on fitness to practise, lawyer says

This is what Google says search will look like under EU copyright laws- The Verge

Last September, the European Parliament voted in favor of the Copyright Directive: a sweeping piece of legislation intended to update copyright for the internet age, but critics said it would fundamentally break the internet. Now, as negotiations over the directive’s final wording draw to a close, Google has issued a warning about the damage the directive might do in an unusual format: an empty search results page.

Looming EU copyright rules — tackling Google news article scraping, installing upload filters — under fire from all sides- The Register

The question now is: Will it move forward or not?

Google Faces Renewed Protests and Criticism Over China Search Project– The Intercept

Google designed the Chinese search engine, code-named Dragonfly, to blacklist information about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest, in accordance with strict rules on censorship in China that are enforced by the country’s authoritarian Communist Party government.

New malware found using Google Drive as its command-and-control server — The Hackers News

Since most security tools also keep an eye on the network traffic to detect malicious IP addresses, attackers are increasingly adopting infrastructure of legitimate services in their attacks to hide their malicious activities.

O.K., Google: How Much Money Have I Made for You Today?- The New York Times

A friend of mine says that whenever he walks into someone’s home he’s tempted to yell out, “Hey, Alexa,” or “O.K., Google,” and order 50 pizzas, just to see if there’s a device listening in on whatever gossip he planned to dish out next. Shoshana Zuboff would undoubtedly get the joke, but she probably wouldn’t laugh. In “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” she warns against mistaking the soothing voice of a personal digital assistant for “anything other than the exploitation of your needs.”

Google Play boots fake apps that spy on devices’ motion sensor data before dropping Anubis malware- SC Media

A fake currency converter and a phony battery utility program are among the latest fraudulent apps to be expunged from Google Play, according to researchers who discovered they were infecting users with a version of the Anubis banking malware family. Both fraudulent apps employ a crafty technique to determine whether it is safe for them to run their malicious code upon download, Trend Micro reports in a Jan. 18 company blog post. They seek out an infected device’s motion sensor data to determine if the device was being moved around.

Angry Nerd: Smart Replies Make Us All Dumber- WIRED

AI has its uses, of course. But Google’s multiple-choice attempt at linguistic outsourcing in our inboxes? That’s a real horror.

Facebook and Google Are the New Data Brokers- Chris Hoofnagle, University of California, Berkeley

They claim not to sell data, but Facebook and Google have paid developers with data. This selling of your personal data is central to platform economics. Could quality signals change the terms of the bargain?

Facebook’s Sputnik Takedown — In Depth– DFRLab

Inauthentic pages linked to Sputnik promoted its content

Facebook’s Sputnik Takedown — Top Takeaways– DFRLab

Inauthentic pages linked to Sputnik promoted its content

Simonyan Urges Facebook to Explain Crusade Against Sputnik on Social Media- Sputnik International

Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of the RT broadcaster and the Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency suggested that the IT giant’s actions were similar to censorship.

Sputnik Falsely Claims ‘Censorship’ After Facebook Removed Hundreds of Accounts– Polygraph

On Thursday, January 17, Facebook announced it had removed 364 Facebook Pages and accounts “for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a network that originated in Russia and operated in the Baltics, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Central and Eastern European countries.”

Russia Accuses Facebook, Twitter of Failing to Comply With Data Laws- WSJ

Social-media giants’ servers for storing Russian’s personal data must be located in Russia, says watchdog

U.S. regulators have met to discuss imposing a record-setting fine against Facebook for privacy violations- The Washington Post

U.S. regulators have met to discuss imposing a record-setting fine against Facebook for violating a legally binding agreement with the government to protect the privacy of its users’ personal data, according to three people familiar with the deliberationsbut not authorized to speak on the record.

Facebook could be fined millions by US regulators for privacy violations — The Verge

Federal Trade Commission officials have discussed imposing a record-setting fine on Facebook after a year of major data breaches and revelations of improper data sharing, according to the Washington Post.

Facebook Faces Potential Record U.S. Fine on Privacy Violations- Bloomberg

A U.S. privacy investigation of Facebook Inc., begun after a major data breach was exposed in March, is likely to result in a record fine against the company, according to a person familiar with the matter.

U.S. Close to Ending Its Facebook Privacy Probe- WSJ

The social-media giant is facing the prospect of a large fine

Facebook fears no FTC fine– TechCrunch

Reports emerged today that the FTC is considering a fine against Facebook that would be the largest ever from the agency. Even if it were 10 times the size of the largest, a $22.5 million bill sent to Google in 2012, the company would basically laugh it off. Facebook is made of money. But the FTC may make it provide something it has precious little of these days: accountability.

Facebook launches petition feature, its next battlefield- TechCrunch

Gather a mob and Facebook will now let you make political demands. Tomorrow Facebook will encounter a slew of fresh complexities with the launch of Community Actions, its News Feed petition feature. Community Actions could unite neighbors to request change from their local and national elected officials and government agencies. But it could also provide vocal interest groups a bully pulpit from which to pressure politicians and bureaucrats with their fringe agendas.

Facebook is launching a petitions feature — The Verge

Tomorrow, Facebook will launch a petitions feature called Community Actions, reports TechCrunch, which will allow users to notify their local officials of actions that they’d like to see happen.

How Secrecy Fuels Facebook Paranoia- The New York Times

In December of last year, the Senate Intelligence Committee released two reports it had commissioned concerning Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election. The outline of the interference effort has always been easy to make out, but key questions about its significance — Could Russia really affect voter sentiment by posting? Did trolls really lower voter turnout in key states? — are still, in large part, matters for speculation. And the committee’s findings did little to change that.

Facebook’s ’10 Year Challenge’ Is Just a Harmless Meme — Right?- WIRED

Imagine that you wanted to train a facial recognition algorithm on age-related characteristics and, more specifically, on age progression (e.g., how people are likely to look as they get older). Ideally, you’d want a broad and rigorous dataset with lots of people’s pictures. It would help if you knew they were taken a fixed number of years apart — say, 10 years.

People Are Renting Out Their Facebook Accounts In Exchange For Cash And Free Laptops- BuzzFeed

Shady internet marketers who’ve been banned from advertising on Facebook have come up with a way to keep running campaigns on the platform: paying people to “rent” their Facebook accounts.

Facebook’s internal documents about how it made money off children to be released– Reveal

A trove of hidden documents detailing how Facebook made money off children will be made public, a federal judge ruled late Monday in response to requests from Reveal.

Bullied Syrian schoolboy to sue Facebook over Tommy Robinson claims- The Guardian

Social network gave ‘special status’ to English Defence League founder, say solicitors

Trump is trying to make himself look thinner with altered Facebook photos: report — Raw Story

A new report from tech news website Gizmodo claims that President Donald Trump has been posting altered photos of himself to Facebook that make him look thinner than he actually is.

Stung by criticism, Facebook’s Sandberg outlines new plans to tackle misinformation — Tech Crunch

Stung by criticism of its widely reported role as a platform capable of spreading disinformation and being used by state actors to skew democratic elections, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg unveiled five new ways the company would be addressing these issues at the annual DLD conference in Munich.

GLASNOST! Nine ways Facebook can make itself a better forum for free speech and democracy– Reuters Institute

A platform with more than 2.2 billion users, Facebook has found itself at the epicentre of many of the ongoing conversations about digital media, technology policy, and democracy. Following multiple controversies in the past two years, Facebook is seeking to implement much needed processes for self-regulation and governance to help regain the trust of the public, politicians, and regulatory authorities.

The Sexts of Jeff Bezos and the Death of Privacy- The New York Times

It turns out that internet zillionaires are just as awkward as the rest of us when it comes to romantic text messages. Last week The National Enquirer — of course, it had to be the Trump-water-boy publication that did the dirty deed — unveiled the leaked texts, and the particulars of a new relationship Mr. Bezos was having in the wake of the end of his 25-year marriage to MacKenzie Bezos.

Hacked Instagram Influencers Rely on White-Hat Hackers to Get Their Accounts Back- Motherboard

Leaked internal documents and stories from influencers show that Instagram has an influencer-hacking problem.

WhatsApp to push back against Indian crackdown on encryption- Financial Times

Facebook-owned messaging app has more than 210m users in India, its largest market

WhatsApp puts limit on message forwarding to fight fake news- The Guardian

Users will be blocked from forwarding messages to more than five individuals or groups

WhatsApp Limits Message Forwards in Attempt to Fight Fake News- Bloomberg

Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp messaging service has begun to globally restrict the number of people a message can be forwarded to, in an attempt to fight fake and misleading information from going viral on its platform.

WhatsApp limits message forwarding in fight against misinformation — The Verge

WhatsApp will now limit users to forwarding a message only five times, in an attempt to cut down on the spread of misinformation.

Digital license plates are now allowed in Michigan — The Verge

Digital license plates are now allowed in Michigan thanks to a new state law. It will join California and Arizona as one of the few states in the US that allow digital license plates, allowing drivers to register their cars electronically and eschew old-school metal plates.

National security expert explains how Russian operatives compromise people like Trump — Raw Story

On Sunday, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani admitted that talks about the construction of Trump Tower in Moscow continued up to November of 2016.

BuzzFeed News in Limbo Land- The New York Times

BuzzFeed News, based in New York, has been as aggressive as any other news outlet in trying to break the Big One. Its latest attempt, published Thursday night, reported that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, had evidence that President Trump had instructed his former lawyer Michael D. Cohen to lie to Congress.

The Unbelievable Story Of The Plot Against George Soros– BuzzFeed

How two Jewish American political consultants helped create the world’s largest anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

From Democracy Defenders to Foreign Agents?- Disinfo Portal

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) constitute an important and integral part of our societies. However, while trying to pursue their missions, aims and goals NGOs often encounter obstacles that have a significant impact on their activities. These are created by both external and internal factors, with the former usually heavily affecting the latter. This is especially the case for organisations dedicated to fighting against or raising awareness about disinformation. GLOBSEC’s Countering Disinformation in the V4 and the Balkan Region: Mapping Needs, Building Capacity, and Generating Civic Activism — a project supported by the US Department of State — mapped the communication needs and deficiencies of civil society organisations in eight countries to determine those gaps and obstacles which have the greatest impact on their activities.

From Exile to Dirtbag: Edgelord geopolitics and the rise of “National Bolshevism” in the U.S.- Alexander Reid Ross

“What’s wrong?” I asked my friend Mikhail* as he stumbled into the dorm room. “You seem shaken up.” “It’s nothing,” he said, sitting next to me on the bed. “A gang tried to beat me up on my way from the Metro.”

India wants social media platforms to remove content it deems ‘unlawful’ — The Verge

The Indian government has proposed new rules aiming to stop the spread of fake news and misinformation in the country on social media — and local civil liberties groups aren’t happy.

India’s Plan to Curb Hate Speech Could Mean More Censorship- WIRED

The Indian government proposes rules requiring encrypted message services like WhatsApp to decrypt data, threatening the security of users globally.

Zimbabwe Imposes ‘Internet Shutdown’ Amid Fuel Protests- Time

Zimbabwe’s government has again forced a “total internet shutdown,” a media group says, after a days-long violent crackdown on people protesting dramatic fuel price increases.

Decrying Fake News, Governments Jail Journalists– Coda Story

President Trump turned “fake news” into a rhetorical cudgel. The world’s authoritarians have turned it into a crackdown on free speech. Last November, Mimi Mefo Takambou, a journalist in Cameroon, was handcuffed and taken to jail. Her apparent crime? A social media post attributing the killing of an American missionary, Charles Wesco, to the Cameroonian military.

Thanks to technical assistance by Priit Talv