Authoritarian Tech

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Today’s most innovative police states owe more to Mark Zuckerberg than to Joseph Stalin.

Social Media

On social media, millions of regular citizens have a voice. So do paid trolls and government propagandists.

News Briefs
17 May, 2019
Trump executive order targets Chinese tech giants over espionage worries

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday banning the import of technology “posing an unacceptable risk” to U.S. security. It marks the latest step in a uniquely bipartisan push to evict Chinese tech giants like Huawei from American networks. Though the order does not name specific companies, it is expected that Huawei and

16 May, 2019
Fearing more communal violence, Sri Lanka reinstates a block on social media

For the third time in less than a month and the fourth time in about a year, Sri Lanka has blocked major social media platforms in the wake of communal violence which authorities worry has been inspired by hate speech and fake news posts. The latest blocks saw the government order a temporary ban on

13 May, 2019
San Francisco poised to reject police facial recognition

San Francisco’s City Council is set to vote on an ordinance restricting the use of surveillance tech by law enforcement. The May 14 vote would also outright ban the use of facial recognition to identify people in surveillance camera footage, noting that “it shall be unlawful for any Department to obtain, retain, access, or use…any

7 May, 2019
India leads the world in Internet shutdowns

As India enters the fifth stage of its marathon election cycle, the multi-phase ballot presents a good opportunity to look at how digital repression isn’t a phenomenon unique to authoritarian states, but also a feature of the world’s largest democracy. A detailed report in New American Weekly explains how India now leads the world in

2 May, 2019
US reconsiders intelligence partnership with UK over Huawei row

The US and UK are in a confrontation about Chinese technology, and it got worse this week. The US is so categorically opposed to Chinese tech giant Huawei being part of Britain’s upcoming 5G network that a senior State Department official earlier this week said the US would “have to reassess” its ability to share

1 May, 2019
In a challenge to privacy, new facial recognition systems are rolling out across the world

Anyone who has recently passed through an airport will have noticed how new facial recognition systems have begun to assert themselves on all walks of travel. Earlier this week, Heathrow Airport announced passengers will be able to use facial recognition technology as of this summer. The airport, which has around 80 million annual passengers, is

25 April, 2019
Cybersecurity chiefs gather in UK amidst Huawei controversy

On Wednesday, representatives of the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance took the stage at Glasgow’s CyberUK conference. Though the event was meant to showcase unity in the face of global cyber-threats, it was partly overshadowed by a fresh controversy that shone light on a rift within the alliance. Earlier this week, report indicated that the UK

24 April, 2019
In the aftermath of Easter Sunday’s attacks, researchers criticize Sri Lanka’s block on social media

In the four days since more than 320 people died in a series of coordinated Easter attacks which targeted churches and luxury hotels in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa, the response of authorities in Sri Lanka has been characterized by initial wariness, blame and then control. Initial reports suggested national intelligence agencies had been warned about

17 April, 2019
Google’s sharing of personal data with law enforcement prompts concerns

Law enforcement officials in the United States seem to have readily obtained information from a Google owned database which stores the location records of hundreds of millions of devices, according to a new investigation. The New York Times reports that police officials have, for years, sent Google warrants seeking location data on user accounts in

15 April, 2019
Microsoft’s AI research project in China prompts criticism

A collaboration between Microsoft researchers and academics linked to a military-backed university in China has raised concerns about the extent of U.S. participation in helping build China’s surveillance and censorship infrastructure. For the past year, researchers working at Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing have co-authored at least three papers with academics linked to China’s National

9 April, 2019
Britain plans a social media regulator to combat harmful content

A week after Australia introduced unprecedentedly broad social media legislation, the UK is considering something similar. A new UK government white paper, released on Monday, seeks to address online content that “threatens our way of life in the UK, either by undermining national security, or by reducing trust and undermining our shared rights.” The white

5 April, 2019
What the EU’s new road safety laws could mean for civil liberties

In a bid to overhaul road safety, the European Union has introduced sweeping new car regulations which could pave the way for wholesale data collection and the potential for 24/7 surveillance. The European parliament has approved regulations that will make speed limiters and data loggers a mandatory feature of all new cars. The technology uses

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