Further Reading (8 November)

  • I Accidentally Uncovered a Nationwide Scam on Airbnb” – Vice. A writer discovered through experience about a scam many on the short-term rental site, Airbnb, have experienced: a last-minute cancellation leading to a much inferior property and an interminable process for lodging complaints and obtaining a refund. Airbnb seems lax about enforcing its own policies against deceptive properties, and the incentive structure is weighted against renters leaving candid reviews.
  • An Unidentified Government Spied On Dissidents In India Using A WhatsApp Exploit” – BuzzFeed News. Israel’s NSO Group’s spyware may have been used by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to surveil judges, activists, academics, journalists, and politicians by exploiting a weakness in WhatsApp, a messaging application used by more than 400 million Indians. This is, of course, not the first time the NSO Group has been linked to spyware, and in this case, the spyware, Pegasus, was inserted on phones through a call made using WhatApp to the victim’s phone they did not even need to answer. India’s Home Ministry has denied any connection and calls the reports “attempts to malign the government of India,” and the NSO Group seemed to claim that any such uses of its technology are contrary to their intended uses.
  • Police want faster data from the US, but Australia’s encryption laws could scuttle the deal” – ABC (Australia). As the U.S. and Australia negotiate a CLOUD Act agreement that would provide each country with a legal process to obtain information on citizens from technology companies as part of a law enforcement investigation, concerns and reservations are being raised in both countries about the powers of the Australian government under the “Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018” that allows it to direct technology companies to provide assistance in decrypting user information without any judicial review.
  • Missouri Official Admits to Tracking Women’s Periods” – The Cut. Health & Senior Services Director Dr. Randall Williams admitted during a hearing that his office maintained a spreadsheet with women’s menstrual cycles drawn from medical information the state had access to. He further admitted the database was used to track “failed abortions” as a means of investigating abortion and reproductive services clinics.
  • Russia Tests New Disinformation Tactics in Africa to Expand Influence” – The New York Times. Facebook and Stanford’s Internet Observatory revealed vast, new evolved Russian disinformation efforts being deployed in Africa with the goal of bringing successful tactics to the U.S. for next year’s election. For now, these tactics seem to boost Russian interests in the region and call into question American and French actions. The volume of both disinformation creation and distribution have increased several times compared to the 2016 U.S. election. These efforts have been tied to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian oligarch who runs the Internet Research Agency and is a close ally of Vladimir Putin.
  • Gaggle Knows Everything About Teens And Kids In School” – BuzzFeed News and “School apps track students from classroom to bathroom, and parents are struggling to keep up” – The Washington Post. Two articles on the technology that many public schools are employing to track kids in the physical and digital worlds, begging many questions about the long term effect on children, their privacy, their rights, and their lives.
  • A Chinese hacking group breached a telecom to monitor targets’ texts, phone metadata” – cyberscoop. APT41 compromised a telecommunications company in a strategic competitor of China’s and surveilled a range of people. The Chinese hackers infected devices using SMS.
  • Banks are using their Washington clout to stomp on the tech industry” – Politico. As if the tech industry isn’t having enough trouble in Washington, the lobbies representing the banks and other financial services entities have worked to block cryptocurrencies and tech’s entry into any sector of banking and finance and found willing allies on Capitol Hill.

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