Trump administration using Facebook for anti-immigrant witch-hunt


This ABC TV video from the USA says about itself:

ICE accused of using Facebook to track undocumented immigrants

26 March 2018

The headline is eye-catching. “ICE uses Facebook Data to find and track immigrants, internal emails show.”

By Meenakshi Jagadeesan in the USA:

ICE uses Facebook data to locate and track suspects

29 March 2018

In an article published this week, the Intercept has revealed yet another troubling trend in the anti-immigrant measures that are being institutionalized by the US government. Based on a public records request made by reporters, it was found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) not only has access to the vast trove of data available on Facebook, but has actually used backend Facebook data to locate and track suspects.

The story details one instance in February-March 2017, when ICE agents were in contact with a detective based in Las Cruces, New Mexico about a particular suspect. The email chain between various agents reveal that ICE could access Facebook data showing the log of when the account was accessed and the IP address corresponding to each login. Responding to the story, a Facebook spokesperson denied that ICE had any unique access to data and that its request for information was “checked for legal sufficiency.” In this particular case, “ICE sent valid legal process … in an investigation said to involve an active child predator.” Facebook “responded to ICE’s valid request with data consistent with our publicly available data disclosure standards.”

While the initial version of the Intercept story mentioned that the target was an immigrant, this has been denied by both ICE and Facebook. The story was later amended to state that the documents “reported in the story do not establish the target of the investigation was an immigrant or that the individual was being pursued for immigration violations.”

It is possible that the particular instance exposed in this report did not concern an immigrant, though that makes the involvement of ICE questionable. Even if one were to take that seemingly far-fetched claim at face value, it is a matter of record that ICE requested private Facebook data last year to obtain a cellphone number for an unauthorized immigrant in Detroit. The number associated with the immigrant being pursued by ICE was then tracked through a cell site simulator, a powerful surveillance tool used to vacuum up cellphone calls and user location data.

Law enforcement agencies have a broad reach under the “Stored Communications Act” to ask communication service providers, including Facebook, to release information pertinent to ongoing cases. The kind of data that can be accessed by agencies such as ICE is quite extensive and much of it can be obtained without court orders.

Facebook, now under additional scrutiny and pressure to reveal how and with whom it shares information because of the Cambridge Analytica exposé, has released semi-annual transparency reports in the past detailing the number of government requests for user data. While there is no breakdown of which particular law agency has made the requests, the report from last year is quite telling. It reveals that from January 2017 through June 2017, Facebook received 32,716 requests for data from 52,280 users. Facebook notes in its report that it complied with 85 percent of the requests and “approximately 57 percent of legal process we received from authorities in the U.S. was accompanied by a non-disclosure order legally prohibiting us from notifying the affected users.”

As Nathan Wessler, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, told the Intercept, the subpoenas used by ICE and other agencies are in fact nothing but “a piece of paper that they’ve prepared ahead of time, a form, and they fill in a couple of pieces of information about what they’re looking for and they self-certify what they’re looking for is relevant to an ongoing investigation.” Most companies tend to comply with these requests.

Facebook is just one part of the vast array of the spyware apparatus used by immigration enforcement officials. As even the story of the “non-immigrant” suspect shows, ICE did not stop with getting the backend data from Facebook. This data, one agent claimed, could be combined with “IP address information back from T-Mobile”, and that the agency had “sent the phone company an expedited summons for information.” Jen Miller, another agent on the same email chain, is quoted as saying: “I am going to see if our Palantir guy is here to dump the Western Union info in there since I know there is a way to triangulate the area he’s sending money from and narrow down time of day etc.”

Palantir is the $20 billion data-mining firm founded by billionaire Trump campaign supporter Peter Thiel. As reported by Spencer Woodman in the Intercept last year, Palantir received a $41 million ICE contract in 2014, to build and administer Investigative Case Management (ICM), an intelligence system that was considered to be “mission critical” to the agency. The article points out that this system allows ICE agents to access a vast “ecosystem” of data to facilitate both the discovering of targets and then the creation and administering of cases against them.

The system provides its users access to intelligence platforms maintained by numerous agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It can provide ICE agents access to information on a subject’s schooling, family relationships, employment information, phone records, immigration history, foreign exchange program status, personal connections, biometric traits, criminal records, and home and work addresses. As young people and teachers throughout the US and the world are increasingly organizing on social media, the use of these platforms by the state spying apparatus will continue to grow.

It is worth noting that this system as well as the general trend to upgrade the federal government’s push to deport immigrants took place not under the current administration, but during the Obama era. The Obama presidency not only oversaw the maximum number of deportations in US history, but also the very conscious and systematic expansion of the surveillance and intelligence gathering network directed at immigrants.

Now, this surveillance network is in the hands of the Trump administration that has made no bones about its rabid anti-immigrant stance and its willingness to continue the abrogation of constitutional rights as well as international humanitarian law.

By Meenakshi Jagadeesan in the USA:

Trump administration to add citizenship question to US census

29 March 2018

The US Department of Commerce announced late Monday that the 2020 Census will include a question for respondents asking whether or not they are US citizens. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the action was taken in response to a request made by the Justice Department, which claimed it needed data on that question in order to better enforce the Voting Rights Act.

The pretext insults the intelligence, given that the Trump Justice Department and the Republican Party generally have sought to undermine and abolish the Voting Rights Act, rather than enforce it. But identifying the Justice Department as the source of the request is significant, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions is one of the leading advocates of stepped-up persecution of immigrants.

Asking about citizenship status serves the anti-immigrant witch-hunt in two ways: just posing the question will intimidate millions of immigrant families, whatever their own immigration status, if they have undocumented family members; and to the extent that any immigrants do respond, the information will be used as a blueprint for future enforcement actions, highlighting the neighborhoods and communities to be targeted for raids by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S RATIONALE FOR ADDING A CENSUS QUESTION ABOUT CITIZENSHIP SEEMS SHAKY Experts are skeptical, and civil rights groups and Democrats are filing lawsuits challenging the decision. [HuffPost]

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New Facebook privacy scandal


This video says about itself:

Snowden’s Message on Facebook’s data leak scandal with Cambridge Analytica

23 March 2018

Whistleblower Edward Snowden speaks on Facebook’s data leak scandal with Cambridge Analytica within his recent interview on March 11, 2018. Snowden gives realistic understanding on the format of using user’s data by social networks, such as Facebook. So Snowden technically joined the #DELETEFACEBOOK movement.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

United States Facebook accused of harvesting Android users’ data

FACEBOOK faced new questions today about collecting phone numbers and text messages from Android devices.

The revelations are embarrassing following the US-based internet giant’s apologies in US and British newspapers for exposing users’ data to Cambridge Analytica, a consultancy firm which worked with the Donald Trump campaign in the US …

The website Ars Technica reports that Android users who checked data gathered by Facebook on them found that it had years of contact names, numbers, call lengths and text recipients.

Messages were left on Sunday seeking comment about security from Google officials, who make the Android operating system.

Reports of the data collection came as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took out ads in multiple US and British Sunday newspapers to apologise for the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The ads say the social media platform doesn’t deserve to hold personal information if it can’t protect it.

According to the ads, a quiz app built by a Cambridge University researcher leaked Facebook data of millions of people four years ago.

Cambridge Analytica got the data from a researcher who paid 270,000 Facebook users to complete a psychological profile quiz in 2014. But the quiz gathered information on their friends as well, bringing the total number of people affected to about 50 million.

The Trump campaign paid the firm $6 million (£4.2m) during the 2016 election.

Why Facebook’s scandals won’t go away.

Why people are staying on Facebook despite it’s obvious awfulness.

Britain: Police ‘hoovering up’ personal data from innocent’s mobile phones: here.

Black Lives Matter smeared as ‘tools of Russia’


This video about Wisconsin in the USA says about itself:

16 August 2016

The family of Sylville Smith [killed by police] wanted to set the record straight. They revealed Sylville won a lawsuit against the police. After his courtroom victory the police started to harass him daily. They also revealed he wasn’t a felon and he called his mother during the police chase.

By Will Morrow in the USA:

The Russians are tweeting! The Russians are tweeting!

22 March 2018

Did you recently take part in a demonstration against police violence in the United States? If so, you may be the latest dupe of Russian president Vladimir Putin and his army of tweeters.

This is the implication of a March 15 report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which claims that Russian-linked Twitter accounts were “stoking the flames of racial division” in August 2016 as hundreds of youth in Milwaukee, Wisconsin engaged in angry protests against the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Sylville Smith by a police officer.

The article has been trumpeted by Democratic and Republican politicians alike as the latest evidence that Russian “hacking” was responsible for the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Based on their hysterical statements, all taken from the same CIA talking points, one would think that the otherwise placid state of Wisconsin had fallen under virtual Russian control.

Former US attorney general under the Obama administration, Eric Holder, while on a campaign visit in the state capital Madison on March 16, claimed that the discovery of less than three dozen tweets by accounts linked to Russia posted in August 2016 “really shows the sophistication” of Russian efforts to “influence racial tension in a state in our nation to have an electoral effect.”

Holder ominously suggested “looking into people in the country who might have possibly helped” the Russians, and called for Congressional hearings and an investigation by the FBI.

A spokeswoman for Republican governor Scott Walker stated that it was “outrageous that any foreign interests would try to cause disruption in our communities and [we] hope the federal government will spend time looking into this interference.”

Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin declared that Putin “directed an attack on our democracy” and called for federal legislation to provide states with cybersecurity grants. Democratic State Senator for Milwaukee LaTonya Johnson tweeted that “we were trying to help keep peace in the community…while these fools [Russia] were sowing seeds of racism and hatred.” She claimed that “we’re still vulnerable to these tactics.”

“These are enemies of the United States who are trying to sow dissension in our country and on the streets of Milwaukee”, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett exclaimed.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel utilized a database of thousands of tweets, collected by NBC News, originally published by accounts identified by Twitter in January as being somehow connected to Russia.

The Journal Sentinel report claims that on August 14, 2016, in the midst of three days of protests in Milwaukee, fake Russian Twitter accounts published 32 tweets using the hashtag #Milwaukee. The most prominently cited offender is a fake account intended to impersonate the Republican Party in the state of Tennessee named “Tennessee_GOP.”

The report does not indicate why a supposedly “sophisticated” plot to sow tensions “on the streets of Milwaukee” would use as its vehicle a Twitter account impersonating the branch of a major party in another state, nor provide any proof that anyone in Wisconsin actually read any of the automated tweets. Instead, it simply reports that the tweets were retweeted more than 5,000 times.

According to the report itself, though contradicting its premise that the tweets were intended to promote the election of Donald Trump, the Russian-linked accounts “presented themselves as grassroots opponents or supporters of movements like Black Lives Matter”, both “defending police and criticizing them.”

More than 100 mainly young people took part in spontaneous demonstrations on the evening of August 13 in the neighborhood of Sherman Park, following the killing of Smith by 24-year-old police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown. Both the officer and the victim were African American. While Smith had been carrying a gun, he had already thrown it away when Heaggan-Brown fired a fatal shot through the young man’s heart. In the ensuing unrest triggered by the killing, a handful of businesses were looted and several cop cars were set on fire.

Governor Walker responded by mobilizing the National Guard, a section of the military, and placing them on standby in case the police were unable to put down the protests, which continued for a further two days. Heaggan-Brown was charged but later acquitted in the killing.

The residents of Milwaukee did not need Russian bots to “sow dissension.” The real roots of the eruption of social anger on the streets of Milwaukee are to be found in the catastrophic social crisis which wracks the city and the systematic violence and abuse committed by police against workers and youth.

Milwaukee, once known as the “Machine Shop of the World” because of its high concentration of manufacturing jobs, is today the second poorest big city in America after Detroit, littered with abandoned lots and disused factory buildings. The city’s poverty rate in 2014 was 29 percent, and 42 percent for those aged 18 or under. The neighbourhood of Sherman Park where the killing took place has a poverty rate of 43 percent.

The attempt to present the Milwaukee protests as a product of Russian interference should be taken as a serious political warning about the authoritarian character of the Democrats’ anti-Russia campaign.

The Journal Sentinel report is part of a broader campaign to present every manifestation of social and political opposition in the United States, including mass demonstrations against police violence, as the product of Russian interference, rather than stemming from the untenable levels of social inequality, in which three Americans hold the same amount of wealth as half the American population, more than 25 years of unending war, and the brutality and violence of American society, where more than 1,000 people are killed every year by police.

With this bogus anti-Russia campaign the media, Democratic Party and intelligence agencies are attempting to create the conditions for the censorship of social media and the labelling of all forms of political opposition and dissent as the work of “foreign agents”, thereby justifying their immediate suppression by the state.

PROTESTS OVER STEPHON CLARK’S DEATH SHUT DOWN SACRAMENTO KINGS GAME, FREEWAYS “Black Lives Matter activists linked arms and blocked the Golden 1 Center while chanting: ‘Stephon Clark!'” [HuffPost]

The release of footage showing the brutal police murder of 22-year-old Stephon Clark has sparked two days of protests in Sacramento, the capital of California, once again revealing the immense social tensions latent within American society: here.

THE grandmother of an unarmed black man shot dead by police in Sacramento, California, last week has called for change in the way police confront suspects. Sequita Thompson gave a press conference on Monday night and recounted the events of March 18, when Stephon Clark was shot 20 times in the back garden of her house, where he lived: here.

Facebook-Cambridge Analytica anti-privacy scandal


This video from the USA says about itself:

Cambridge Analytica 2.0 Coming Soon

The Mercer family was behind Cambridge Analytica. Now they’re at it again. Cenk Uygur and Brett Erlich, the hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.

“Rebekah and Jennifer Mercer, daughters of hedge fund tycoon Robert Mercer, have just joined the board of a mysterious new company set up by executives at scandal-hit political research firm Cambridge Analytica. According to public filings at Britain’s Companies House, Emerdata was incorporated in August 2017 and the Mercers were appointed to its board on March 16 this year.

Cambridge Analytica’s now-suspended chief executive, Alexander Nix, is also listed as a director, as is Julian Wheatland, chairman of Cambridge Analytica parent firm SCL Group. The filings show Wheatland set up Emerdata along with Cambridge Analytica’s chief data officer, Alexander Tayler. Nix’s role in Emerdata is unclear given he has been suspended from Cambridge Analytica. A spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. It isn’t clear what Emerdata does, though the company is listed under “data processing, hosting, and related activities.” It shares an address in Canary Wharf with Cambridge Analytica’s parent, SCL Group.”

Read more here.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Orwell’s 1984 is small fry compared to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica in 2018

AN ACADEMIC who created an app which ‘harvested’ data from 50 million people now says he has been made ‘a scapegoat’ for the scandal of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.

The academic, Dr Aleksandr Kogan, completed work for Cambridge Analytica in 2014, but said he had no idea the data would be used for Donald Trump’s election campaign. He only wanted the data of 50 million people because he was interested in human behaviour in the abstract, without any political or financial motive.

Facebook says that Kogan violated the site’s policies by developing a personality survey called This is Your Digital Life where 270,000 users’ data was collected without their permission to do so, as well as data from the 270,000 users’ 53 million friends.

This makes George Orwell’s 1984 ‘Big Brother’ state seem like child’s play, compared to the modern spy agencies that want to ‘own people,’ to know all about them, all the better to develop policies to control them economically and politically, putting an end to human freedom, leaving only one way for the people to really express themselves, and their rage at modern capitalist society – through socialist revolutions!

Dr Kogan’s defence, as told to BBC’s Radio Four, is that he was ‘stunned’ by the allegations made against him as he was advised the app was entirely legal. He said: ‘The events of the past week have been a total shell shock, and my view is that I’m being basically used as a scapegoat by both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica when … we thought we were doing something that was really normal.’

In fact, what he was doing, laying the basis for making profits out of people, is entirely normal under capitalism! The mass spying activity was carried out with a slimy cynicism when in 2014 a Facebook quiz invited users to find out their personality type.

This app harvested not only the user data of the person taking part in the quiz, but also the data of their friends. The data of some 50 million users, mainly in the US, was harvested without their consent via their friend networks and then used in the battle for the US presidency.

It is being claimed that the data were then sold to Cambridge Analytica. The firm’s chief executive Alexander Nix – who was suspended on Tuesday – was secretly recorded in a Channel 4 investigation saying the company ran Donald Trump’s digital campaign during the 2016 US election. On Tuesday, a parliamentary committee called for Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg to give evidence about the use of personal data by Cambridge Analytica.

Damian Collins, the chairman of the House of Commons inquiry into fake news, has accused Facebook of previously ‘misleading’ the committee about this ‘catastrophic failure of process’. Of course, there was no catastrophic failure of process; the process worked perfectly. Information was harvested from 50 or so million people, and was then sold, as a commodity, to be used for both commercial and political purposes – all without their permission.

US senators have called on Zuckerberg, the proprietor of Facebook, to testify before Congress about how Facebook will protect users. The consumer watchdog the US Federal Trade Commission has also reportedly opened an investigation into Facebook. Zuckerberg may well be fined, but this will not resolve the issue.

We are living in a capitalist society, based on the exploitation of the working class through commodity production, where all use values are sold to realise their exchange value. As Marx explains in Capital, commodities can satisfy not just physical needs but can be to satisfy ‘fancy’.

Facebook treats information as a commodity. It takes the details of countless people, to be harvested and sold in order to elect political parties that act to keep the capitalist system and its superexploitation going.

This Trump administration appointee formerly worked at Cambridge Analytica.

“Mark Zuckerberg tried to censor me when I published his Harvard application. Here it is again.”

Behind the Facebook data scandal: The drive to censor the Internet: here.

Google announced Wednesday that it is partnering with the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Financial Times and other major news outlets to reinforce their monopoly over news coverage by blocking independent news organizations: here.

Real Neat Blog Award, congratulations, all 18 nominees!


Real Neat Blog Award

Late in 2014, I made this new award: the Real Neat Blog Award. There are so many bloggers whose blogs deserve more attention. So, I will try to do something about that 🙂

It is the first award that I ever made. I did some computer graphics years ago, before I started blogging; but my computer drawing had become rusty 🙂

The ‘rules’ of the Real Neat Blog Award are: (feel free not to act upon them if you don’t have time; or don’t accept awards; etc.):

1. Put the award logo on your blog.

2. Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.

3. Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.

4. Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.

5. Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog etc.)

My seven questions are:

1. Where do most visits to your blog come from?

2. What is your favourite sport?

3. What has been a special moment for you so far in 2018?

4. What is your favourite quote?

5. What was your favourite class when still at school?

6. Anything you had wished to have learned earlier?

7. What musical instrument have you tried to play?

My nominees are:

1. G. E. Gallas

2. Saying Hello

3. iscriblr

4. Poetry diary

5. Interest In Me

6. munyoli mwende

7. Smart Veg Recipes

8. optimisticlifeat30

9. InkBlots and IceBergs

10. Indian Celebrity

11. whitestephotography

12. NotJustAMum

13. archipelagal

14. Hello SaRitzy

15. Tammy’s Reading/Writing Life

16. The Philosopher`s Stone

17. Thoughts! Pen! Words!

18. Story Of My Life

Dutch bird nest webcams video


This 19 March 2018 video is about Dutch bird nest webcams; peregrine falcons, tawny owls, etc.

These webcams are here.