Ultrasound Tracking Could Be Used to Deanonymize Tor Users

Bleeping Computer, 1/3/2017

Cybersecurity researchers recently discovered that ultrasound cross-device tracking (uXDT), in which a web page plays an ultrasound signal that prompts nearby devices to identify themselves via ultrasound, could be effective even when users are using the anonymization proxy Tor. This provides an example of the continual arms race between privacy-enhancing technologies and privacy-invading technologies.

Big Data Analytics — Nostradamus of the 21st Century

Griffith University, 11/30/2016

Researchers at Griffith University successfully predicted the winner of the 2016 presidential election, including the outcomes in 49 out of 50 states, using data collected from social media interactions. The prediction ran contrary to general expectations based on polling, suggesting that more accurate election predictions can be obtained by analyzing social media interactions — which requires large-scale data analytics.

UK Surveillance Law Marks a “Worse Than Scary” Shift

CNET, 11/29/2016

The Investigatory Powers Act, recently passed in the UK, will require telecom companies to store records of phone calls and websites visited for up to a year, and give authorities access to the latter without a warrant. It also legalizes bulk data collection by the British government. Groups like the Open Rights Group and Privacy International are openly critical of this law, calling it draconian.

Big Data Help CIA Predict Social Unrest 5 Days Before It Begins

Tech Times, 10/7/2016

The CIA and their new Directorate of Digital Innovation are working on “anticipatory intelligence” to predict future events. The Deputy Director says that they can sometimes forecast outbreaks of unrest up to five days ahead. These predictions are made by using classified information as well as open source data; commentators speculate that much of the data comes from massive social media surveillance.

Google Weakens Allo Privacy Promises

Naked Security, 9/21/2016

Google’s new messaging app, Allo, has been criticized because the default settings provide substantially less privacy than Google had previously announced they would. In part, this is to provide more training data for a “smart reply” feature that generates suggested responses. When messages are stored, law enforcement agencies will be able to access them with warrants.

Inferring Urban Travel Patterns From Cellphone Data

MIT News, 8/29/2016

Researchers are using data on the locations people make calls from to model the movement patterns of Boston commuters; the system may replace or supplement surveys of residents. The article discusses the benefits of gathering and processing more data more quickly and cheaply, though students may be able to identify some disadvantages of using call data.

How an Algorithm Learned to Identify Depressed Individuals by Studying Their Instagram Photos

MIT Technology Review, 8/19/2016

Researchers have developed a machine-learning algorithm that achieves 70% recall in identifying depressed individuals by characteristics of their (pre-diagnosis) Instagram photo posts. This is a great example of a medical development with great potential for benefit (early diagnosis and treatment) that also raises serious concerns (privacy, misuse of the information, misprediction). It’s also an example of Mechanical Turk being used as a research platform.

How the NSA Snooped on Encrypted Internet Traffic for a Decade

Ars Technica, 8/19/2016

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has been using an exploit in Cisco firewall software to break encryption and spy on traffic in Virtual Privacy Networks (VPNs). In the Internet age, government surveillance is more about collecting torrents of data to sift through than about focused operations, which affects businesses’ standards about when they protect communications and how.