#AceNewsReport – Oct.08: Despite the challenges of protecting a vast and geographically diverse region like the Pacific Northwest during the COVID-19 pandemic, the commitment of U.S. and Canadian partners to the continued safety and security of the public, our natural resources, and the economic prosperity of both nations remain resolute,” said Capt. Patrick Hilbert, commander of Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound. “These joint operations are a testament to the strength of our shared resolve as we continue to engage and collaborate on important issues moving forward.”
#AceDailyNews reports on U.S., Canadian partner agencies complete joint maritime law enforcement, security operations throughout Puget Sound, PNW
News Release: U.S. Coast Guard 13th District Pacific Northwest Contact: 13th District Public Affairs Office: (206) 220-7237 After Hours: (206) 251-3237 13th District online newsroom
Joint maritime operations focused on enhanced maritime border security to deter and interdict illicit activity; improved awareness of vessel movements; traffic patterns; and fishing activity; strengthening interagency partnerships, communications, and interoperability; and leveraging resources and partnerships to achieve multi-mission success.
At the conclusion of operations, U.S. and Canadian partner agency personnel conducted more than 1,000 vessel checks resulting in issuance of 35 violations for safety, illegal fishing, and boating under the influence.
Additionally, more than 60 maritime border crossings were vetted by participating agency personnel, and nine investigative leads were discovered including vessels and persons under investigation for money crimes, narcotic trafficking, Southern Resident Killer Whale endangerment, and crab poaching.
Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version.
“CBSA is proud to work with its partners to safeguard our borders and keep our communities safe from illegal activity. By collaborating and cooperating, we are stronger and smarter in addressing risks and threats to public safety,” said John Linde, CBSA Director of Intelligence and Enforcement Operations Division in the Pacific Region.
Participating U.S. federal and Canadian partners are part of the Pacific Northwest Regional Coordinating Mechanism. The PNW ReCoM coordinates multi-mission interagency law enforcement operations and security initiatives throughout Puget Sound and the Pacific Northwest, and actively works to strengthen partner communication and collaboration through information sharing and active working groups. PNW ReCoM leadership positions rotate on an annual basis, and is currently co-chaired by Canada Border Services Agency and Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations.
“The RCMP Shiprider program is dedicated to working with our partners to achieve our common goals, such as border security and disruption of cross-border crime,” said Superintendent Bert Ferreira, Officer in Charge of the Federal RCMP Border Integrity Program in British Columbia. “Joint operations, such as this one, provide an opportunity to showcase the positive results that come from the collaboration and interoperability between our agencies. We look forward to continuing our excellent relationship with our partners and the results of future joint operations.”
The commander of CBP AMO in the Pacific Northwest, Director Jeremy Thompson, said, “AMO brings dedicated airborne and seaborne law enforcement assets to our region, and we’re honored to serve alongside our U.S. and Canadian partners. PNW ReCoM partnerships are crucial to safeguard the people of the United States.”
“Our PNW ReCoM highlights the great work the Department of Homeland Security accomplishes in the maritime environment with our U.S. and Canadian law enforcement partners,” said Chief Patrol Agent David S. BeMiller. The U.S. Border Patrol, Blaine Sector, is committed to supporting our partners, protecting our communities, achieving border security, and enhancing national security.”
Kenneth Williams, CBP Office of Field Operations Area Port Director said, “This operation illustrates the strong network of law enforcement partners in the Pacific Northwest and their commitment in keeping our communities safe. We value being part of this great partnership and look forward to future collaborations.”
The following agencies participated in the operations:
– Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound
– Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team 91101
– Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team West
– Coast Guard Investigative Service
– Customs and Border Protection Patrol Office of Field Operations
– Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations
– Customs and Border Protection U.S. Border Patrol
– Customs and Border Protection Office of Intelligence
#AceNewsReport – Sept.18: New Zealand’s Henry Nicholls and Tom Latham during a practice session in Rawalpindi on Thursday: The Black Caps were due to play Pakistan in the first of three one-day internationals in Rawalpindi on Friday before moving to Lahore for a five-match Twenty20 series.
#AceNewsDesk says New Zealand men abandon Pakistan tour over ‘security alert’ after N.Z decision to abandon their tour came after “an escalation in the N.Z government threat levels for Pakistan”.
England’s men’s and women’s teams are due to play in Rawalpindi next month and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said it will decide “in the next 24-48 hours” whether the matches will go ahead.
The men and women are scheduled to play double-header T20 internationals on 13 and 14 October before the women’s side play three ODIs on 17, 19 and 21 October.
New Zealand Cricket (NZC) has said it will not comment on the details of the security threat with plans being put in place for the team to return home.
“I understand this will be a blow for the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board), who have been wonderful hosts, but player safety is paramount and we believe this is the only responsible option,” said NZC chief executive David White.
With international teams opting not to tour because of security fears, Pakistan have played the majority of their ‘home’ matches since 2009 in the United Arab Emirates, often in front of sparse crowds.
Pakistan assured New Zealand Cricket of ‘fool-proof security arrangements’
In a statement, the PCB said that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan – a former Pakistan cricket captain – had spoken to his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern and told her that “no security threat of any kind exists for the visiting team”.
“Earlier today, New Zealand Cricket informed us they had been alerted to some security alert and have unilaterally decided to postpone the series,” the statement said.
“Pakistan Cricket Board and the Pakistan government made fool-proof security arrangements for all visiting teams. We have assured New Zealand Cricket of the same.
“The Pakistan Prime Minister spoke personally to the Prime Minister of New Zealand and informed her that we have one of the best intelligence systems in the world and that no security threat of any kind exists for the visiting team.
“The security officials with the New Zealand team have been satisfied with security arrangements made by the Pakistan government throughout their stay here.
“PCB is willing to continue the scheduled matches. However, cricket lovers in Pakistan and around the world will be disappointed by this last-minute withdrawal.”
An ECB statement said: “We’re aware of New Zealand’s decision to pull out of the Pakistan tour due to a security alert: “ We are liaising with our security team who are on the ground in Pakistan to fully understand the situation. The ECB board will then decide in the next 24-48 hours whether our planned tour should proceed.”………Last week, the final Test between England and India at Old Trafford was called off at the last minute after the tourists reported a number of Covid-19 cases within their camp, while England have postponed their own planned tour of Bangladesh to 2023.
#AceNewsReport – Sept.07: A picture of a tunnel entrance purportedly used by the prisoners to escape has been widely shared on Palestinian social media.
#AceDailyNews says Six Palestinians Escape from High-Security Israeli Occupation police and the military had started a search after the escape from Gilboa prison in the Zionist entity’s north.
Media outlets reported that the inmates had apparently escaped through a tunnel early on Monday.
A picture of a tunnel entrance purportedly used by the prisoners to escape has been widely shared on Palestinian social media, and Israeli media are reporting the men used a tunnel to get out, but police have not yet confirmed it.
Five of the Palestinians reportedly belong to the Islamic Jihad Resistance movement and one is a former commander of an armed group affiliated with the mainstream Fatah party, the Prisons Service said.
The facility, about 4 km (2 miles) from the boundary with the occupied West Bank, is one of the highest-security jails in the occupation regime.
Four of the men were serving life sentences. One of them s was identified by the Prisons Service as Zakaria Zubeidi, a former commander of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank city of Jenin.
Palestinian Resistance factions hailed the jailbreak, with Hamas considering it a “great victory.”
“This great victory proves again that the will and determination of our brave soldiers inside the prisons of the enemy cannot be defeated,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas.
For its part, Islamic Jihad Resistance movement hailed the jailbreak as a victory, stressing that “the struggle the Israeli enemy is long and open.”
The six escaped from Gilboa Prison, near the Sea of Galilee in what is being billed as the country’s worst prison-break. Authorities deployed drones and helicopters to the areas and the army set up checkpoints.
Five of the six are members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, and four are serving life sentences for planning deadly attacks against Israelis. Another, Zakaria Zubeidi, is a commander in the terror wing of the Palestinian political party Fatah, and was awaiting trial for more than two dozen crimes including multiple terror attacks during the Second Intifada.
The Times of Israel reports:
Evoking scenes from the iconic prison film The Shawshank Redemption, upon searching the men’s cell, investigators found the opening — just large enough for a grown man to pass through — dug into in the floor under the sink of their bathroom. It was not immediately known how the man dug through the concrete and metal rebar floor, when even metal spoons are not allowed into the cells, though the prison service has long dealt with extensive and at time even elaborate smuggling operations into its facilities.
Prison officials said the men had not tunneled their way out of the prison but had instead dug their way into an existing gap and used that to escape. The men exited through another tunnel into a road on the south side of the prison.
The Israel Prison Service believes the men had outside help, communicating with allies outside through a cellphone they smuggled into their cell.
The military also put checkpoints in place throughout the Jenin area.
The men were spotted walking along the road near the prison at around 3 a.m., prompting at least one man to call the police.
“I just passed by the prison and I saw some suspicious people walking around. Maybe you should tell them to do a patrol or something,” the man told police, according to a recording of the call that was shared on social media.
The man said the suspicious men appeared to be walking east from the prison, toward Beit She’an and the Jordanian border.
Islamic Jihad officials said the escape marked “an utter failure for the occupation army” and was a “strong slap to the Israeli military and the whole Israeli system.”
The Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group hailed the escape as “a brave and heroic act,” the Times reported.
“[This is] a victory for the will and determination of our heroic prisoners, and a real challenge to the Zionist security system, which the occupation boasts as being the best in the world,” Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhum said in a statement.
#AceNewsReport – Aug.30: Moreover, the Defense Department’s Automated Biometric Identification System has flagged up to 100 of the 7,000 Afghans evacuated as prospective recipients of Special Immigration Visas as potential matches to intelligence agency watch lists, a second official said.
#AceDailyNews says that a Kabul Evacuee With Potential ISIS Ties Detained at Qatar Base,” by Tara Copp, Defense One, August 24, 2021: Security screeners at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar have detected that at least one of the Afghans who was evacuated from Kabul Airport has potential ties to ISIS, a U.S. official confirmed to Defense One.
At least 6,000 fleeing Afghans have been evacuated to Al Udeid and thousands more have been flown to other temporary staging bases throughout the Middle East and Europe by U.S. military aircraft. At those bases, Customs and Border Patrol screeners are checking evacuees’ IDs and biometric data against law enforcement databases, the first official said.
Ultimately, thousands of those Afghans will come to the United States, where they will be initially housed at several military bases, such as Fort Bliss in Texas, Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and Fort Lee in Virginia.
“There’s certainly been a number of them” who triggered alerts, requiring agents to pull those evacuees aside for further screening, the first official said. In most cases, those Afghans—many of whom have already been vetted through the special immigrant visa process—were cleared by follow-on screening.
But in at least one case, the evacuee “looks like a potential member of ISIS,” the first official said. “They’re still working that through.”
On a Tuesday call with reporters, a senior administration official said that Afghans evacuated to third-party countries are going through “robust security processing” before coming to the United States.
“That process involves biometric and biographic security screenings conducted by our intelligence, law enforcement and counterterrorism professionals who are working quite literally around the clock to vet all these Afghans before they’re allowed into the United States,” the senior administration official said….
While most of the security alerts have occurred at Al Udeid, the massive airlift operation has expanded to the extent that it’s possible there are Afghans with potential terror ties getting flagged at other bases.
#AceNewsReport – Aug.04: U.S. Coast Guard addresses threats to National Security in updated Cyber Strategic Outlook….
#AceDailyNews reports that the U.S. Coast Guard addresses threats to National security in updated Cyber Strategic Outlook on Tuesday: The Coast Guard’s 2021 Cyber Strategic Outlook charts a path to meet the challenges of a rapidly evolving cyber domain where threats to information and operational technology systems outpace those from the traditional physical domains of air, sea, land and space.
U.S. Coast Guard sent this bulletin at 08/03/2021 09:18 AM EDT News Release
Cyber-attacks against the United States are one of the most significant threats to economic and military power since World War II. The events of the last five years, including the exploitation of Coast Guard networks and information, the attacks on maritime critical infrastructure, and adversarial efforts to undermine democratic processes reinforce that cyberspace is a contested domain.
“The Coast Guard is taking important and necessary steps to increase safety and security where physical and cyber threats converge,” saidAdm. Karl L. Schultz, commandant of the Coast Guard. “We maintain strong relationships with our U.S. port partners; we hold leadership roles on Area Maritime Security and Harbor Safety Committees; and we have the technological expertise to integrate cyber awareness and resilience within the Marine Transportation System.”
The 2021 Cyber Strategic Outlook is organized into three lines of effort that ensure the Coast Guard: (1) is mission ready in cyberspace, (2) protects the Marine Transportation System in cyberspace, (3) and identifies and combats adversaries throughout cyberspace.
These efforts will be underpinned by the development and sustainment of a skilled workforce, intelligence driven operations, and domestic and international partnerships to achieve unity of effort. Together, these ensure the Nation’s continued security and economic stability.
Working with partners in the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, other government agencies, foreign allies, and the maritime industry, the Coast Guard will defend our networks, protect the Marine Transportation System from threats delivered in and through cyberspace, and work to ensure those who would do our nation harm are held accountable.
The 2021 Cyber Strategic Outlook reaffirms the foundation that established cyberspace as an operational domain for the Coast Guard and brings the same ethos, proven doctrine and operational concepts, and over 230 years of experience to bear as we expand our operations in and through cyberspace. Click here to access the full Cyber Strategic Outlook
Additional information on the U.S. Coast Guard’s Cyber Strategic Outlook can be found at – www.uscg.mil/cyber
#AceNewsReport – July.05: China’s internet regulator ordered app stores to stop offering Didi’s app on Sunday: It says the firm illegally collected users’ personal data.
CHINA: Didi says removal of app will affect business company after it was removed for illegally collecting ‘personal data’ will strive to rectify any problems, improve its risk prevention awareness and technological capabilities, protect users’ privacy and data security, and continue to provide secure and convenient services to its users,” Didi said in a statement.
It comes just days after the tech giant began selling shares on the New York Stock Exchange: The removal does not affect existing users, but will prevent new users registering on the country’s biggest ride hailing platform.
That came after the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said: “After checks and verification, the Didi Chuxing app was found to be in serious violation of regulations in its collection and use of personal information.”
Two days earlier, the CAC announced it was investigating the firm to protect “national security and the public interest”, prompting Didi’s shares to drop by 5.3%.
Didi gathers vast amounts of real-time data every day. It uses some of the data for autonomous driving technologies and traffic analysis.
Last week, China’s answer to Uber made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange and at the end of Friday’s trading had a market valuation of almost $74.5bn (£53.9bn).
The company raised $4.4bn in the Initial Public Offering (IPO), in what was the biggest listing in the US by a Chinese company since Alibaba’s debut in 2014.
Karishma Vaswani, Asia Presenter: Didi’s troubles are just the start I spoke to Didi Chuxing’s founder Cheng Wei in 2018, the one thing that was apparent was that this was a man on a mission.He wanted to take the Chinese firm global, and to offer a new vision of what a company driven by data could make possible.”We were born in China,” he told me at his offices in Beijing during an interview for the BBC series, Asia’s Tech Titans.”But we hope to be a global company. We hope to be able to solve traffic and transportation problems for the world.”
The huge ambition Cheng Wei displayed to me on the rooftop of his sprawling Beijing campus manifested itself in Didi’s much-anticipated US IPO last week. But the environment in China today is very different from when I spoke to the Didi founder just a few years ago. There’s tighter scrutiny now both inside and outside of China on Chinese tech firms. And Didi’s troubles come against the backdrop of a broader crackdown on Chinese tech by regulators in the country – a crackdown, that some analysts have said, could be politically motivated as Beijing attempts to impose more control on the dynamic sector.
What this means for both Didi and other Chinese tech firms is that this is likely to be just the start of their troubles. For those looking to list in the US – there will be more questions from investors on the regulatory outlook – which could mean a difficult and uncertain time going forward.Didi Chuxing, a platform similar to Uber or Lyft, arranges more than 20 million rides in China every day, on average.
Founded in 2012, it is particularly popular in China’s crowded cities. But it has expanded beyond China into 15 other markets.In June, the company reported revenue of about 42.2bn yuan ($6.52bn)for the three months to the end of March, with the vast majority of that coming from its China mobility business.China has recently moved to tighten up regulation of the country’s large tech firms.
The investigation follows regulatory crackdowns on other tech firms, from Alibaba to food delivery service Meituan.On Monday, the CAC also said that it plans to investigate the Chinese truck-hailing firm Full Truck Alliance (FTA). Like Didi, FTA recently made its New York Stock Exchange debut, raising $1.6bn. It had a market valuation of more than $20bn at the end of trading on Friday.You may also be interested in:How a little Ant became a financial giant
#AceNewsReport – June.24: Editor says decisions are being made by leaders daily and l follow many and agree that some are control of the publics ‘ Freedom of Rights ‘ but as with everything laws exist to control and must not become all controlling as protesting should not become an alienable right for violence for not getting their own way …..as peaceful agreement works and any impasse for self fails at every turn …NEWS & VIEWS welcome in comments thanks for reading and thanks for your understanding
#AceDailyNews – EFF.Org/ says ……Now is the Time To Tell Congress to Ban Federal Use of Face Recognition: And many U.S. cities have done so, including San Francisco and Boston. Now is our chance to end the federal government’s use of this spying technology but in the end will their have to be a trade-off for protecting citizens security
Tell your Senators and Representatives they must pass Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act, HR 3907/S.2052. It was recently introduced by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and by Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13).
This important bill would be a critical step to ensuring that mass surveillance systems don’t use your face to track, identify, or harm you. The bill would ban the use of face surveillance by the federal government, as well as withhold certain federal funds for local and state governments that use the technology:
#AceNewsReport – June.23: Sometimes, it can be a bit confusing figuring out whether an item is ok to bring on a plane or whether it needs to be put in a checked bag. According to the TSA, some travelers in Boston attempted to bring a variety of sharp weapons on a plane, including at least one throwing star.
The TSA New England Twitter account shared images of the confiscated items, which also includes a variety of knives. The tweet doesn’t mention whether or not these items all came from one group of travelers or not.
The tweet states, “Let’s get straight to the point…these items are not allowed in your carry-on bag. Some passengers found that out this weekend when TSA officers at Boston Logan Airport detected these sharp objects. Sheathe these items and put them in your checked bag please!”
These are not the only unusual weapons recently discovered by TSA officers.
Authorities arrested a man at Newark Liberty International Airport when he was caught attempting to sneak a gun past security, NJ.com reports. According to the news outlet, the small weapon was packed in a case within the man’s suitcase and was reportedly designed to look like a belt buckle.
Unfortunately, it was discovered that the gun was functional. The man reportedly claimed that he had forgotten that he had packed the item in his luggage.
In a statement obtained by NJ.com, TSA Federal Security Director for New Jersey Thomas Carter said, “Claiming to forget that you have a gun with you is inexcusable. If you own a gun you need to know where it is at all times. Each of these individuals now faces a stiff federal financial penalty that could cost them thousands of dollars.”
#AceNewsReport – June.15: Gardaí will also be required to make a written record of a stop and search: This will enable data to be collected so the effectiveness and use of the powers can be assessed.
BELFAST: Irish police to be given powers over passwords: The change is part of the Garda Síochána Bill published by Irish Justice Minister Heather Humphreys on Monday.
20 hours ago
Special measures will be introduced for suspects who are children and suspects who may have impaired capacity.
The bill will bring in longer detention periods for the investigation of multiple offences being investigated together, for a maximum of up to 48 hours.
It will also allow for a week’s detention for suspects in human trafficking offences, which are currently subject to a maximum of 24 hours detention.
‘Powers and safeguards’
“The law in this area is currently very complex, spread across the common law, hundreds of pieces of legislation, constitutional and EU law,” the minister said.
“Bringing it together will make the use of police powers by gardaí clear, transparent and accessible.
“The aim is to create a system that is both clear and straightforward for gardaí to use and easy for people to understand what powers gardaí can use and what their rights are in those circumstances.
“At the same time, where we are proposing to extend additional powers to gardaí, we are also strengthening safeguards. The bill will have a strong focus on the fundamental rights and procedural rights of the accused.
“I believe this will maintain the crucial balance which is key to our criminal justice system, while ensuring greater clarity and streamlining of Garda powers.”
#AceNewsReport – June.12: Hong Kong’s thriving film industry had previously enjoyed freedoms not seen on the mainland:
HONG KONG: Chinese officials to censor films that ‘endanger national security’ The order also instructs censors to prevent and suppress acts that do not uphold the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China.
The Film Censorship Authority should stay “vigilant to the portrayal, depiction or treatment of any act or activity which may amount to an offence endangering national security”, the government said in a statement as protest singers fear for their future
“Any content of a film which is objectively and reasonably capable of being perceived as endorsing, supporting, promoting, such act or activity” will be censored, according to the guidelines.
It also cites “the common responsibility of the people of Hong Kong to safeguard the sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China.”
Films go through strict censors on the Chinese mainland and only a select few Western films or documentaries are released commercially each year. Historically Hong Kong has taken a far more liberal approach.
The order has been met with anger and sadness by many on social media who say it will curtail artistic expression.
What’s the background? ……….The former British colony was handed back to China in 1997 under a model called “one country, two systems”.Under the deal, which gave the territory freedoms not available in mainland China, Hong Kong also had its own mini-constitution and an elected parliament.
These freedoms are enshrined in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which was meant to last until 2047.From protests to ‘patriots’: Why China is bent on crushing Hong Kong dissentBut fears that this model was being eroded led to huge pro-democracy protests in 2019.
Some protests turned violent and in 2020, China introduced the national security law in the territory: Beijing said the law would target “sedition” and bring stability. Since the law was enacted in June last year, around 100 people have been arrested:
#AceNewsReport – Mar.09: The third-party cookie is dying, and Google is trying to create its replacement: No one should mourn the death of the cookie as we know it:
Google’s FLoC Is a Terrible Idea: ‘For more than two decades, the third-party cookie has been the lynchpin in a shadowy, seedy, multi-billion dollar advertising-surveillance industry on the Web; phasing out tracking cookies and other persistent third-party identifiers is long overdue. However, as the foundations shift beneath the advertising industry, its biggest players are determined to land on their feet & Google is leading the charge to replace third-party cookies with a new suite of technologies to target ads on the Web. And some of its proposals show that it hasn’t learned the right lessons from the ongoing backlash to the surveillance business model. This post will focus on one of those proposals, Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), which is perhaps the most ambitious—and potentially the most harmful’
FLoC is meant to be a new way to make your browser do the profiling that third-party trackers used to do themselves: in this case, boiling down your recent browsing activity into a behavioral label, and then sharing it with websites and advertisers. The technology will avoid the privacy risks of third-party cookies, but it will create new ones in the process. It may also exacerbate many of the worst non-privacy problems with behavioral ads, including discrimination and predatory targeting:
Google’s pitch to privacy advocates is that a world with FLoC (and other elements of the “privacy sandbox”) will be better than the world we have today, where data brokers and ad-tech giants track and profile with impunity. But that framing is based on a false premise that we have to choose between “old tracking” and “new tracking.” It’s not either-or. Instead of re-inventing the tracking wheel, we should imagine a better world without the myriad problems of targeted ads.
We stand at a fork in the road. Behind us is the era of the third-party cookie, perhaps the Web’s biggest mistake. Ahead of us are two possible futures.
In one, users get to decide what information to share with each site they choose to interact with. No one needs to worry that their past browsing will be held against them—or leveraged to manipulate them—when they next open a tab.
In the other, each user’s behavior follows them from site to site as a label, inscrutable at a glance but rich with meaning to those in the know. Their recent history, distilled into a few bits, is “democratized” and shared with dozens of nameless actors that take part in the service of each web page. Users begin every interaction with a confession: here’s what I’ve been up to this week, please treat me accordingly.
Users and advocates must reject FLoC and other misguided attempts to reinvent behavioral targeting. We implore Google to abandon FLoC and redirect its effort towards building a truly user-friendly Web.
What is FLoC?
In 2019, Google presented the Privacy Sandbox, its vision for the future of privacy on the Web. At the center of the project is a suite of cookieless protocols designed to satisfy the myriad use cases that third-party cookies currently provide to advertisers. Google took its proposals to the W3C, the standards-making body for the Web, where they have primarily been discussed in the Web Advertising Business Group, a body made up primarily of ad-tech vendors. In the intervening months, Google and other advertisers have proposed dozens of bird-themed technical standards: PIGIN, TURTLEDOVE, SPARROW, SWAN, SPURFOWL, PELICAN, PARROT… the list goes on. Seriously. Each of the “bird” proposals is designed to perform one of the functions in the targeted advertising ecosystem that is currently done by cookies.
FLoC is designed to help advertisers perform behavioral targeting without third-party cookies. A browser with FLoC enabled would collect information about its user’s browsing habits, then use that information to assign its user to a “cohort” or group. Users with similar browsing habits—for some definition of “similar”—would be grouped into the same cohort. Each user’s browser will share a cohort ID, indicating which group they belong to, with websites and advertisers. According to the proposal, at least a few thousand users should belong to each cohort (though that’s not a guarantee).
If that sounds dense, think of it this way: your FLoC ID will be like a succinct summary of your recent activity on the Web.
Google’s proof of concept used the domains of the sites that each user visited as the basis for grouping people together. It then used an algorithm called SimHash to create the groups. SimHash can be computed locally on each user’s machine, so there’s no need for a central server to collect behavioral data. However, a central administrator could have a role in enforcing privacy guarantees. In order to prevent any cohort from being too small (i.e. too identifying), Google proposes that a central actor could count the number of users assigned each cohort. If any are too small, they can be combined with other, similar cohorts until enough users are represented in each one.
For FLoC to be useful to advertisers, a user’s cohort will necessarily reveal information about their behavior.
One thing that is specified is duration. FLoC cohorts will be re-calculated on a weekly basis, each time using data from the previous week’s browsing. This makes FLoC cohorts less useful as long-term identifiers, but it also makes them more potent measures of how users behave over time.
New privacy problems
FLoC is part of a suite intended to bring targeted ads into a privacy-preserving future. But the core design involves sharing new information with advertisers. Unsurprisingly, this also creates new privacy risks.
The first issue is fingerprinting. Browser fingerprinting is the practice of gathering many discrete pieces of information from a user’s browser to create a unique, stable identifier for that browser. EFF’s Cover Your Tracks project demonstrates how the process works: in a nutshell, the more ways your browser looks or acts different from others’, the easier it is to fingerprint.
Google has promised that the vast majority of FLoC cohorts will comprise thousands of users each, so a cohort ID alone shouldn’t distinguish you from a few thousand other people like you. However, that still gives fingerprinters a massive head start. If a tracker starts with your FLoC cohort, it only has to distinguish your browser from a few thousand others (rather than a few hundred million). In information theoretic terms, FLoC cohorts will contain several bits of entropy—up to 8 bits, in Google’s proof of concept trial. This information is even more potent given that it is unlikely to be correlated with other information that the browser exposes. This will make it much easier for trackers to put together a unique fingerprint for FLoC users.
Google has acknowledged this as a challenge, but has pledged to solve it as part of the broader “Privacy Budget” plan it has to deal with fingerprinting long-term. Solving fingerprinting is an admirable goal, and its proposal is a promising avenue to pursue. But according to the FAQ, that plan is “an early stage proposal and does not yet have a browser implementation.” Meanwhile, Google is set to begin testing FLoC as early as this month.
Fingerprinting is notoriously difficult to stop. Browsers like Safari and Tor have engaged in years-long wars of attrition against trackers, sacrificing large swaths of their own feature sets in order to reduce fingerprinting attack surfaces. Fingerprinting mitigation generally involves trimming away or restricting unnecessary sources of entropy—which is what FLoC is. Google should not create new fingerprinting risks until it’s figured out how to deal with existing ones.
The second problem is less easily explained away: the technology will share new personal data with trackers who can already identify users. For FLoC to be useful to advertisers, a user’s cohort will necessarily reveal information about their behavior.
The project’s Github page addresses this up front:
This API democratizes access to some information about an individual’s general browsing history (and thus, general interests) to any site that opts into it. … Sites that know a person’s PII (e.g., when people sign in using their email address) could record and reveal their cohort. This means that information about an individual’s interests may eventually become public.
As described above, FLoC cohorts shouldn’t work as identifiers by themselves. However, any company able to identify a user in other ways—say, by offering “log in with Google” services to sites around the Internet—will be able to tie the information it learns from FLoC to the user’s profile.
Two categories of information may be exposed in this way:
Specific information about browsing history. Trackers may be able to reverse-engineer the cohort-assignment algorithm to determine that any user who belongs to a specific cohort probably or definitely visited specific sites.
General information about demographics or interests. Observers may learn that in general, members of a specific cohort are substantially likely to be a specific type of person. For example, a particular cohort may over-represent users who are young, female, and Black; another cohort, middle-aged Republican voters; a third, LGBTQ+ youth.
This means every site you visit will have a good idea about what kind of person you are on first contact, without having to do the work of tracking you across the web. Moreover, as your FLoC cohort will update over time, sites that can identify you in other ways will also be able to track how your browsing changes. Remember, a FLoC cohort is nothing more, and nothing less, than a summary of your recent browsing activity.
You should have a right to present different aspects of your identity in different contexts. If you visit a site for medical information, you might trust it with information about your health, but there’s no reason it needs to know what your politics are. Likewise, if you visit a retail website, it shouldn’t need to know whether you’ve recently read up on treatment for depression. FLoC erodes this separation of contexts, and instead presents the same behavioral summary to everyone you interact with.
FLoC is designed to prevent a very specific threat: the kind of individualized profiling that is enabled by cross-context identifiers today. The goal of FLoC and other proposals is to avoid letting trackers access specific pieces of information that they can tie to specific people. As we’ve shown, FLoC may actually help trackers in many contexts. But even if Google is able to iterate on its design and prevent these risks, the harms of targeted advertising are not limited to violations of privacy. FLoC’s core objective is at odds with other civil liberties.
The power to target is the power to discriminate. By definition, targeted ads allow advertisers to reach some kinds of people while excluding others. A targeting system may be used to decide who gets to see job postings or loan offers just as easily as it is to advertise shoes.
Over the years, the machinery of targeted advertising has frequently been used for exploitation, discrimination, and harm. The ability to target people based on ethnicity, religion, gender, age, or ability allows discriminatory ads for jobs, housing, and credit. Targeting based on credit history—or characteristics systematically associated with it— enables predatory ads for high-interest loans. Targeting based on demographics, location, and political affiliation helps purveyors of politically motivated disinformation and voter suppression. All kinds of behavioral targeting increase the risk of convincing scams.
Instead of re-inventing the tracking wheel, we should imagine a better world without the myriad problems of targeted ads.
Google, Facebook, and many other ad platforms already try to rein in certain uses of their targeting platforms. Google, for example, limits advertisers’ ability to target people in “sensitive interest categories.” However, these efforts frequently fall short; determined actors can usually find workarounds to platform-wide restrictions on certain kinds of targeting or certain kinds of ads.
Even with absolute power over what information can be used to target whom, platforms are too often unable to prevent abuse of their technology. But FLoC will use an unsupervised algorithm to create its clusters. That means that nobody will have direct control over how people are grouped together. Ideally (for advertisers), FLoC will create groups that have meaningful behaviors and interests in common. But online behavior is linked to all kinds of sensitive characteristics—demographicslike gender, ethnicity, age, and income; “big 5” personality traits; even mental health. It is highly likely that FLoC will group users along some of these axes as well. FLoC groupings may also directly reflect visits to websites related to substance abuse, financial hardship, or support for survivors of trauma.
Google has proposed that it can monitor the outputs of the system to check for any correlations with its sensitive categories. If it finds that a particular cohort is too closely related to a particular protected group, the administrative server can choose new parameters for the algorithm and tell users’ browsers to group themselves again.
This solution sounds both orwellian and sisyphean. In order to monitor how FLoC groups correlate with sensitive categories, Google will need to run massive audits using data about users’ race, gender, religion, age, health, and financial status. Whenever it finds a cohort that correlates too strongly along any of those axes, it will have to reconfigure the whole algorithm and try again, hoping that no other “sensitive categories” are implicated in the new version. This is a much more difficult version of the problem it is already trying, and frequently failing, to solve.
In a world with FLoC, it may be more difficult to target users directlybased on age, gender, or income. But it won’t be impossible. Trackers with access to auxiliary information about users will be able to learn what FLoC groupings “mean”—what kinds of people they contain—through observation and experiment. Those who are determined to do so will still be able to discriminate. Moreover, this kind of behavior will be harder for platforms to police than it already is. Advertisers with bad intentions will have plausible deniability—after all, they aren’t directly targeting protected categories, they’re just reaching people based on behavior. And the whole system will be more opaque to users and regulators.
Google, please don’t do this
We wrote about FLoC and the other initial batch of proposals when they were first introduced, calling FLoC “the opposite of privacy-preserving technology.” We hoped that the standards process would shed light on FLoC’s fundamental flaws, causing Google to reconsider pushing it forward. Indeed, several issues on the official Github page raise the exactsameconcerns that we highlight here. However, Google has continued developing the system, leaving the fundamentals nearly unchanged. It has started pitching FLoC to advertisers, boasting that FLoC is a “95% effective” replacement for cookie-based targeting. And starting with Chrome 89, released on March 2, it’s deploying the technology for a trial run. A small portion of Chrome users—still likely millions of people—will be (or have been) assigned to test the new technology.
Make no mistake, if Google does through on its plan to implement FLoC in Chrome, it will likely give everyone involved “options.” The system will probably be opt-in for the advertisers that will benefit from it, and opt-out for the users who stand to be hurt. Google will surely tout this as a step forward for “transparency and user control,” knowing full well that the vast majority of its users will not understand how FLoC works, and that very few will go out of their way to turn it off. It will pat itself on the back for ushering in a new, private era on the Web, free of the evil third-party cookie—the technology that Google helped extend well past its shelf life, making billions of dollars in the process.
It doesn’t have to be that way. The most important parts of the privacy sandbox, like dropping third-party identifiers and fighting fingerprinting, will genuinely change the Web for the better. Google can choose to dismantle the old scaffolding for surveillance without replacing it with something new and uniquely harmful.
We emphatically reject the future of FLoC. That is not the world we want, nor the one users deserve. Google needs to learn the correct lessons from the era of third-party tracking and design its browser to work for users, not for advertisers.
Note: We reached out to Google to verify certain facts presented in this post, as well as to request more information about the upcoming Origin Trial. We have not received a response at the time of posting.
#AceNewsReport – Jan.04: Snowden: “We Can Fix a Broken System: “Below is a message from whistleblower Edward Snowden. His revelations about secret surveillance programs opened the world’s eyes to a new level of government misconduct, and reinvigorated EFF’s continuing work in the courts and with lawmakers to end unlawful mass spying.
EFF is grateful to Ed for his support in our court cases, and to people like you for sustaining EFF during our Year-End Challenge membership drive. Your help is essential to pushing back the tide of unchecked surveillance.___________________________ Seven years ago I did something that would change my life and alter the world’s relationship to surveillance forever. When journalists revealed the truth about state deception and illegal conduct against citizens, it was human rights and civil liberties groups like EFF—backed by people around the world just like you—that seized the opportunity to hold authority to account
Surveillance quiets resistance and takes away our choices. It robs us of private space, eroding our dignity and the things that make us human. When you’re secure from the spectre of judgement, you have room to think, to feel, and to make mistakes as your authentic self. That’s where you test your notions of what’s right. That’s when you question the things that are wrong. By sounding the alarm and shining a light on mass surveillance, we force governments around the world to confront their wrongdoing.
Slowly, but surely, grassroots work is changing the future. Laws like the USA Freedom Act have just begun to rein in excesses of government surveillance. Network operators and engineers are triumphantly “encrypting all the things” to harden the Internet against spying. Policymakers began holding digital privacy up to the light of human rights law. And we’re all beginning to understand the power of our voices online. This is how we can fix a broken system. But it only works with your help. For 30 years, EFF members have joined forces to ensure that technology supports freedom, justice, and innovation for all people. It takes unique expertise in the courts, with policymakers, and on technology to fight digital authoritarianism, and thankfully EFF brings all of those skills to the fight. EFF relies on participation from you to keep pushing the digital rights movement forward. Each of us plays a crucial role in advancing democracy for ourselves, our neighbors, and our children. I hope you’ll answer the call by joining EFF to build a better digital future together.
#AceNewsReport – Nov.25: In a report disclosing its involvement in the investigation, security firm Group-IB said the three suspects are members of a cybercrime group they have been tracking since 2019 and which they have been tracking under the codename of TMT. Group-IB said the group primarily operated by sending out mass email spam campaigns containing files laced with malware:
To send their email spam, the group used the Gammadyne Mailer and Turbo-Mailer email automation tools and then relied on MailChimp to track if a recipient victim opened their messages:
The file attachments were laced with various strains of malware that granted hackers access to infected computers from where they focused on stealing credentials from browsers, email, and FTP clients:
#AceNewsDesk report …………………Published on November 25, 2020 at 06:45PM
#AceNewsReport – May.04: During the face of a global pandemic, there is an urgent need for reporting relating to the spread of the #coronavirus and how governments are responding. But it is in times of crisis that the civil liberties we value most are put to the test—and that is exactly what is happening now as governments around the world clamp down on journalism and stifle the free flow of critical information:
With so little currently known about the novel coronavirus, governments around the world have seized the opportunity to control the narrative around the virus and their responses to it. In countries including Algeria, Azerbaijan, China, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Palestine, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, and more, authorities have banned individuals and journalists from sharing false or misleading information about the coronavirus.
Criminalizing “false information,” however, gives the party in control of law enforcement the power to define what information is “true” or “correct.” And such laws also give the government and the power to censor, detain, arrest, and prosecute those who share information that doesn’t align with the official state narrative.
This is already happening. In Cambodia, police have arrested at least 17 people for spreading “false information” about coronavirus—including four members of the opposition political party, all of whom remain in detention, and a teenage girl expressing fears on social media about the rumored spread of the virus at her school.
In Turkey, authorities have detained people for making “unfounded” postings on social media criticizing the Turkish government’s response to the pandemic and suggesting that the coronavirus was spreading widely in the country—even though, according to independent reporting, this is exactly the case.
Police in Indian-administered Kashmir have detained journalists and threatened them with prosecution. The detained journalists had posted on social media about coronavirus, and about government censorship and militancy in Kashmir.
Even Puerto Rico, a United States territory that—like the fifty states—is bound by the free speech protections enshrined in the Constitution, has enacted a plainly unconstitutional law prohibiting, in certain circumstances, the spread of some types of “false information” related to the government’s response to the virus.
But as the world battles a novel and little-understood virus threatening lives and livelihoods around the globe, ensuring the free flow of information is more important now than ever. Who knows how the course of the virus could have been different if China had not silenced Wuhan Doctor Li Wenliang when he sought to sound the alarm about the new coronavirus during its earliest days, instead of silencing him with accusations of spreading false rumors?
By embracing China’s approach, governments are choosing to censor, instead of foster, reporting about how the crisis is unfolding. The threat of interrogation, detention, and arrest chills journalists, political activists, and individuals from sharing their experiences, investigating official actions, or challenging the government’s narrative.
To be sure, governments play a critical role in battling the global pandemic—and that includes by acting as sources of important information. But that does not mean that governments should anoint themselves the sole arbiters of truth and falsity, and strip individuals’ rights to investigate the government’s claims, question the official narrative, and share their research, observations, or experiences.
After all, the very premise of “false news” laws—that there always exists an identifiable, objective “truth”—is often hollow. Particularly in this quickly evolving crisis, even the most well-intentioned parties’ understandings of the virus are changing rapidly. Only two months ago, the U.S. government was stating that face masks were not effective and instructing people not to wear them—but today, the opposite guidance is in effect (and has been in some other countries for some time now).
General prohibitions on the dissemination of information based on vague and ambiguous ideas, including “false news” or “non-objective information,” are incompatible with international standards for restrictions on freedom of expression . . . and should be abolished.
And in a new report on COVID-19 and freedom of expression, David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, acknowledged the harms that mis- and disinformation poses in a pandemic, noted the elusiveness of any singular definition of disinformation, and re-emphasized the importance of countering untruths. But the Special Rapporteur warned against laws aimed at punishing false information, cautioning:
Measures to combat disinformation must never prevent journalists and media actors from carrying out their work or lead to content being unduly blocked on the Internet. . . . Vague prohibitions of disinformation effectively empower government officials with the ability to determine the truthfulness or falsity of content in the public and political domain.
As we observe World Press Freedom Day and celebrate the work of the press to hold governments accountable, we must also protect the ability of journalists, activists, and citizens to speak out without fear that they will be arrested or imprisoned for the information they share.
#AceNewsServices – Update: CHINA – Dec.06 – Zhou Yongkang, China’s former security chief and Politburo member, has been stripped of his Communist Party membership and will face prosecution, Xinhua reported early on Saturday, citing the Politburo of the party’s Central Committee.
Zhou, 72, was accused of a series of serious violations of “party and organisational discipline and secrecy”, ranging from taking bribes to leaking party and state secrets and “exchanging power and money for sex”.
The report said he took bribes and abused his post for the benefit of others, including mistresses, relatives and friends.
He was also accused of causing heavy losses of state-owned assets.
The announcement was the first time that allegations that Zhou leaked state secrets had been reported.
The decision on Friday to expel Zhou and hand his case over to prosecutors came after the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection carried out an investigation into Zhou earlier this year, Xinhua reported.
The parliament of Afghanistan approved an agreement that allows troops of the NATO-led coalition to say in the country beyond 2014. The agreement was suspended in mid-air for months, as former President Hamid Karzai refused to sign it during his term.
The new agreement, ratified Sunday, allows the ISAF to maintain a total of 12,000 troops in Afghanistan next year. After a 152-5 vote, Nazifullah Salarzai, spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, said the foreign troops will “train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.”
“Afghan forces are responsible for the security and defense of the Afghan people, and in the fight against international terrorism and training of our national security forces we count on the support and assistance of our international partners,” he said, AP reported.
U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered an overhaul of the U.S. nuclear program due to systematic problems.
At the height of the cold war between the United States and Soviet Union, the U.S. nuclear weapons program was routinely on high alert, and drew a great deal of attention, both in terms of manpower and military budget.
But once the Berlin Wall fell, the U.S. began focusing its assets elsewhere and the nuclear program was hit by security lapses, a lack of discipline, and lousy morale.
Hagel said he ordered an audit of the United States Nuclear program, and a lack of “investment and support” over “far too many years” has led to a myriad of problems that should be addressed immediately.
“The Review found evidence of systematic problems if not addressed could undermine the safety, security and effectiveness of elements of the force in the future,” Hagel said.
Hagel said the nuclear program is safe for now, but without attention he could not guarantee the weapons program would remain secure and effective.
He is asking for billions in funding, a 10 percent increase for the nuclear weapons programs over each of the next five years.
#AceNewsServices NORTH AMERICA: On October 02 a new CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force report, North America: Time for a New Focus, asserts that elevating and prioritizing the Canada-Mexico-U.S. relationship offers the best opportunity for strengthening the United States and its place in the world.
“It is time to put North America at the forefront of U.S. policy,” the report says. “The development and implementation of a strategy for U.S. economic, energy, security, environmental, and societal cooperation with its two neighbours can strengthen the United States at home and enhance its influence abroad.”
The Task Force proposes a comprehensive set of recommendations for deepening North American integration, concentrating on four pivotal areas—energy, economic competitiveness, security, and community. These include:
Capitalizing on North America’s promising energy outlook. The North American countries need a regional energy strategy to strengthen the continent’s energy infrastructure, expand energy exports, support Mexico’s historic reforms, improve safety, and encourage harmonized policies to promote energy conservation and reduce carbon emissions.
“For economic, environmental, and diplomatic reasons, the Task Force recommends that the U.S. government encourage increased energy connections with Canada and Mexico. The U.S. government should approve additional pipeline capacity, including the Keystone XL pipeline,” the report says. “The Task Force also proposes that the United States end restrictions on energy exports, including oil and LNG (liquefied natural gas).”
Bolstering economic competitiveness through the freer movement of goods and services across borders. Upgrading infrastructure and policies across borders would interconnect national economies securely and efficiently. Recognizing trilateral economic interests, the United States should also include Canada and Mexico in its negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and other free trade agreements.
“The United States’ ability to compete in a dynamic and competitive world economy would be strengthened by enhanced economic ties with Canada and Mexico,” the report explains. “The Task Force recommends working toward the free and unimpeded movement of goods and services across North America’s common borders.”
Strengthening security through a unified continental strategy and “continuous border innovation.” While working toward the goal of a unified security strategy for North America, the United States and Canada should support Mexican efforts to strengthen the democratic rule of law, dismantle criminal networks, contribute to the development of resilient and cohesive communities, and reduce arms smuggling and drug consumption.
“The United States should shift from border-centric security toward a strategy of combining perimeter protection with security in depth through the use of intelligence, risk assessment, shared capabilities, and joint actions throughout the region,” the report says.
Fostering a North American community through comprehensive immigration reform, workforce development, and the creation of a mobility accord to facilitate the movement of workers. The U.S. Congress should pass comprehensive immigration reforms. To better aid the movement of North American workers, the three countries should also create a North American Mobility Accord, expand visas for skilled workers, streamline recognition of professional credentials, and develop a regional educational innovation strategy.
“The Task Force strongly recommends the passage of comprehensive federal immigration reform that secures U.S. borders, prevents illegal entry, provides visas on the basis of economic need, invites talented and skilled people to settle in the United States, and offers a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants now in the United States,” the report says.
Chaired by David H. Petraeus, retired U.S. Army general and chairman of the KKR Global Institute, and Robert B. Zoellick, former president of the World Bank Group and chairman of Goldman Sachs’s International Advisors, the Task Force is composed of a diverse and distinguished group of experts that includes former government officials, scholars, and others. The project is directed by CFR Senior Fellow for Latin America StudiesShannon K. O’Neil.