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The surveillance society is here, and what you can do to protect yourself

We live in a far less private world than we ever have. Want to know who is watching all your steps? Everyone.

Seraphim Hanisch

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George Orwell’s 1984 featured a dystopian England, and indeed, a world, of three superstates that all ran according to the same principles.  Eternal war, eternal ignorance, and eternal subservience, whether realized or not.  BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU was this book’s addition to the American lexicon for many, many people.

The means of surveillance were certainly in keeping with the author’s current knowledge of technology, for the television had just been developed, through wireless radio and microphone / recording systems were well developed.  It was easy for Orwell in 1948 to envision a surveillance society based on the media of his time, alone.

What he did not bet on was that it would not take an expressly socialist government, nor even a Communist one to create this sort of surveillance state.

How about using social media instead?  How about using the apps that are mainly toys for the smartphone user?  How about using a globally popular platform and asking for the permissions to be surveilled in plain sight, and in plain English?

Couldn’t possibly be true, could it?  We are a free people, and the right to privacy is ours, isn’t it?

Sure it is.  But have you ever seen these before?

  

These are the permissions screens for Google Play when one installs a new app on their Android device.  If you read carefully, you can see that these apps are asking for access to various functions on your phone.  But think:

  • Does it make sense for Spotify to have access to your Device ID, and your phone call information?
  • Does it make sense for Move to iOS to have access to your Short Messages (SMS) – I mean the texts that reside on your phone, itself?
  • Does it make sense for Facebook to have access to your contacts?
  • And the information about the permission READ_PHONE_STATE: Look at the details.  Did you know that some apps can do what this says – to access the phone features on your device, to determine phone number and device ID and to know who you are calling when you call them?

“I have a funny feeling that I am being watched.”

It looks like this saying has a lot of truth behind it in our smartphone and device-filled world.  While some permissions listed here DO make sense, there are rather significant questions about others.

Usually we do not consider these permission screens when we download an app, because we want to play the game or listen to the music.  Google Play offers an astounding array of services for no monetary cost, but they do get something out of the transaction.  Information.  Personal information. And we have seen and heard evidence that this ability to silently monitor what we do gives companies, individuals and maybe even governments – the ability to watch and listen, and maybe even influence our actions.

One story was that someone was in a meeting with friends, talking about travel destinations, and the person talked a lot about interest in visiting Thailand.  They did not remember ever using their device to investigate the possibility of going there, but within a couple days of the conversation, a message popped up on their device with a travel offer to Thailand.  Coincidence?  Maybe.

Or, maybe not. A similar story was reported by an Instagram user, shown at this link.

According to Andrey Meshkov, CTO and Founder of AdGuard, in his blog piece here, many apps available through Google Play have very poor compliance with what is also itself a very poorly defined security and privacy structure that is presently characteristic of Android.  (iOS is far better on privacy matters currently, due to comparatively limited capabilities within iOS – Android is far more sophisticated)

Now, to be sure, in legalese, Google does insist that privacy and security requirements exist and are strict, and on their page they specifically do say what apps are not allowed to do:

Your in-app disclosure:

  • Must be within the app itself, not only in the Play listing or a website;
  • Must be displayed in the normal usage of the app and not require the user to navigate into a menu or settings;
  • Must describe the type of data being collected;
  • Must explain how the data will be used;
  • Cannot only be placed in a privacy policy or terms of service; and
  • Cannot be included with other disclosures unrelated to personal or sensitive data collection.

Your app’s request for consent:

  • Must present the consent dialog in a clear and unambiguous way;
  • Must require affirmative user action (e.g. tap to accept, tick a check-box, a verbal command, etc.) in order to accept;
  • Must not begin personal or sensitive data collection prior to obtaining affirmative consent;
  • Must not consider navigation away from the disclosure (including tapping away or pressing the back or home button) as consent; and
  • Must not utilize auto-dismissing or expiring messages.

However, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that this is not well-enforced, and that in fact, a great deal of personal information collection does take place, including actual SMS messages, phone call records, photo and video collecting, even audio recording, as well as IMSI, and IMEI information, and device location.

A deeper look at IMSI and IMEI – what are these?

The IMSI and IMEI are of great importance because these numbers are unique identifiers.  The IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) is the unique identification of every SIM card in existence.  It is generally 15 digits long, and contains two prefix headers and a subscriber ID.  It looks like this:

For an AT&T Subscriber,

IMSI: 310150123456789

MCC (Mobile Country Code) 310 USA

MNC (Mobile Network Code) 150  AT&T Mobility

MSIN (Mobile Subscription Identifcation Number) 123456789

This differs from the MSISDN, which is what we commonly refer to as the Phone Number.  MSISDN’s can be changed easily, and in fact this is offered as a service to end-users by any and all cellular carriers.  But IMSI numbers are unique and difficult to change without access to the core network of a given cellular provider.

The IMEI is the International Mobile Equipment Identity, and this number is unique to the phone or device itself.  It is also possible to change, but special tools are required, and it is designed with the intent to not be changed.

Together the IMSI and IMEI equal… you!  As cell and satellite networks constantly track any mobile device with these numbers, this means that unless you are in a place with no cell or satellite coverage, you are being tracked.  And that little “location” tag in the permissions can be exploited by anyone who wants to read that information.  The fact that the cell network keeps track of your location is basically good, especially if you are in an emergency.  However, badly or maliciously written apps can take advantage of this in very unwanted ways.

Adguard conducted a test.  They devised a test app for Android that basically didn’t do anything.  However, that app was easily able to silently acquire:

  • Email addresses
  • IMEI
  • All your contacts
  • All your SMS messages
  • and the app was capable of gathering more information if programmed to do so.

And, it could send all that data wherever desired.

Andrey Meshkov admits that this is not necessarily or constantly used for illegal or hostile intent.  But he does point out that both Google Play and Android privacy protections are extremely poorly handled, and this could lead to unsavory folks getting access to your personal life, including text messages and knowledge of who you call.

This incidentally provides some background into the American investigation into the alleged collusion of Russian agencies with the Trump campaign.  While no evidence of such collusion exists, there have been quite astounding revelations about the internal collusion of the FBI and other intelligence agencies and “deep state” activity within the American Federal government, all purposed to take down Donald Trump or block him at every turn.

The recent news pieces regarding the 50,000 text messages sent between two romantically involved FBI agents that probably denigrated Trump in their pillow talk are examples of this sort of technology being used to track and observe what people say and do and think.

Meshkov advises anyone wanting to preserve their privacy to do these actions:

  1. Do not install apps from developers you don’t trust.
  2. Examine the apps’ permissions very carefully. After all, why would a wallpaper app or a selfies editor need to get access to your accounts information?

And of course, their own product, Adguard offers some control over this activity.  While this is not an advertisement for their company, discovering and dealing with these situations is what they do.  So, they further advise that if you are one of their users, use their filtering log to examine the apps’ network activity.

It is very interesting when Life imitates Art.

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Why did Trump recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory?

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the reasons behind US President Trump’s sudden recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

Following Trump’s statements as US President, acting Israeli Foreign Minister is saying that Trump will make it official and sign an executive order to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian border territory on Monday.

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Via DW

Israel says White House officials are preparing an official document to codify support for Israel’s sovereignty of the Golan Heights, which will be signed by US President Donald Trump on Monday.

The signing of the decree will be witnessed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during talks with Trump at the White House, Israel’s acting foreign minister, Israel Katz (pictured), said in a Tweet.

“Tomorrow, President Trump, in the presence of PM Netanyahu, will sign a decree recognizing Israel’s sovereignty on the Golan. Israel-US ties are closer than ever,” Katz said.

Israel seized the strategic plateau from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war, subsequently annexing it in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community.

Trump’s tweet annoys allies

Trump broke with decades of US Middle East policy when he posted a Tweet on Thursday that said it was time to accept Israel’s widely-contested claim to the border territory.

The decision has been criticized by many US allies — Germany, Britain, France and the EU have all said they still consider the Golan Heights to be “occupied” by Israel.

Syria and other states in the region said the recognition, if confirmed, would violate international law.

Netanyahu has long pushed for Washington’s endorsement, and many analysts see Trump’s comments as a campaign gift ahead of Israel’s April 9 election.

In 2017, Trump drew condemnation throughout the Middle East when he recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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Russia Gives US Red Line On Venezuela

Political force is out. Military force is out. Respect international law and Venezuela’s sovereignty. That’s Russia’s eminently reasonable ultimatum to Washington.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


At a high-level meeting in Rome this week, it seems that Russia reiterated a grave warning to the US – Moscow will not tolerate American military intervention to topple the Venezuelan government with whom it is allied.

Meanwhile, back in Washington DC, President Donald Trump was again bragging that the military option was still on the table, in his press conference with Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro. Trump is bluffing or not yet up to speed with being apprised of Russia’s red line.

The meeting in the Italian capital between US “special envoy” on Venezuelan affairs Elliot Abrams and Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov had an air of urgency in its arrangement. The US State Department announced the tête-à-tête only three days beforehand. The two officials also reportedly held their two-hour discussions in a Rome hotel, a venue indicating ad hoc arrangement.

Abrams is no ordinary diplomat. He is a regime-change specialist with a criminal record for sponsoring terrorist operations, specifically the infamous Iran-Contra affair to destabilize Nicaragua during the 1980s. His appointment by President Trump to the “Venezuela file” only underscores the serious intent in Washington for regime change in Caracas. Whether it gets away with that intent is another matter.

Moscow’s interlocutor, Sergei Ryabkov, is known to not mince his words, having earlier castigated Washington for seeking global military domination. He calls a spade a spade, and presumably a criminal a criminal.

The encounter in Rome this week was described as “frank” and “serious” – which is diplomatic code for a blazing exchange. The timing comes at a high-stakes moment, after Venezuela having been thrown into chaos last week from civilian power blackouts that many observers, including the Kremlin, blame on American cyber sabotage. The power grid outage followed a failed attempt by Washington to stage a provocation with the Venezuelan military over humanitarian aid deliveries last month from neighboring Colombia.

The fact that Washington’s efforts to overthrow the elected President Nicolas Maduro have so far floundered, might suggest that the Americans are intensifying their campaign to destabilize the country, with the objective of installing US-backed opposition figure Juan Guaido. He declared himself “acting president” in January with Washington’s imprimatur.

Given that the nationwide power blackouts seem to have failed in fomenting a revolt by the civilian population or the military against Maduro, the next option tempting Washington could be the military one.

It seems significant that Washington has recently evacuated its last remaining diplomats from the South American country. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented on the evacuation by saying that having US personnel on the ground “was limiting” Washington’s scope for action. Also, American Airlines reportedly cancelled all its services to Venezuela in the past week. Again, suggesting that the US was considering a military intervention, either directly with its troops or covertly by weaponizing local proxies. The latter certainly falls under Abrams’ purview.

After the Rome meeting, Ryabkov said bluntly: “We assume that Washington treats our priorities seriously, our approach and warnings.”

One of those warnings delivered by Ryabkov is understood to have been that no American military intervention in Venezuela will be tolerated by Moscow.

For his part, Abrams sounded as if he had emerged from the meeting after having been given a severe reprimand. “No, we did not come to a meeting of minds, but I think the talks were positive in the sense that both sides emerged with a better understanding of the other’s views,” he told reporters.

“A better understanding of the other’s views,” means that the American side was given a red line to back off.

The arrogance of the Americans is staggering. Abrams seems, according to US reporting, to have flown to Rome with the expectation of working out with Ryabkov a “transition” or “compromise” on who gets the “title of president” of Venezuela.

That’s what he no doubt meant when he said after the meeting “there was not a meeting of minds”, but rather he got “a better understanding” of Russia’s position.

Washington’s gambit is a replay of Syria. During the eight-year war in that country, the US continually proffered the demand of a “political transition” which at the end would see President Bashar al Assad standing down. By contrast, Russia’s unflinching position on Syria has always been that it’s not up to any external power to decide Syria’s politics. It is a sovereign matter for the Syrian people to determine independently.

Nearly three years after Russia intervened militarily in Syria to salvage the Arab country from a US-backed covert war for regime change, the American side has manifestly given up on its erstwhile imperious demands for “political transition”. The principle of Syrian sovereignty has prevailed, in large part because of Russia’s trenchant defense of its Arab ally.

Likewise, Washington, in its incorrigible arrogance, is getting another lesson from Russia – this time in its own presumed “back yard” of Latin America.

It’s not a question of Russia being inveigled by Washington’s regime-change schemers about who should be president of Venezuela and “how we can manage a transition”. Moscow has reiterated countless times that the legitimate president of Venezuela is Nicolas Maduro whom the people voted for last year by an overwhelming majority in a free and fair election – albeit boycotted by the US-orchestrated opposition.

The framework Washington is attempting to set up of choosing between their desired “interim president” and incumbent Maduro is an entirely spurious one. It is not even worthy to be discussed because it is a gross violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty. Who is Washington to even dare try to impose its false choice?

On Venezuela, Russia is having to remind the criminal American rulers – again – about international law and respect for national sovereignty, as Moscow earlier did with regard to Syria.

And in case Washington gets into a huff and tries the military option, Moscow this week told regime-change henchman Abrams that that’s a red line. If Washington has any sense of rationale left, it will know from its Syria fiasco that Russia has Venezuela’s back covered.

Political force is out. Military force is out. Respect international law and Venezuela’s sovereignty. That’s Russia’s eminently reasonable ultimatum to Washington.

Now, the desperate Americans could still try more sabotage, cyber or financial. But their options are limited, contrary to what Trump thinks.

How the days of American imperialist swagger are numbered. There was a time when it could rampage all over Latin America. Not any more, evidently. Thanks in part to Russia’s global standing and military power.

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With RussiaGate Over Where’s Hillary?

Hillary is the epitome of envy. Envy is the destructive sin of coveting someone else’s life so much they are obsessed with destroying it. It’s the sin of Cain. She envies what Trump has, the Presidency.

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


During most of the RussiaGate investigation against Donald Trump I kept saying that all roads lead to Hillary Clinton.

Anyone with three working brain cells knew this, including ‘Miss’ Maddow, whose tears of disappointment are particularly delicious.

Robert Mueller’s investigation was designed from the beginning to create something out of nothing. It did this admirably.

It was so effective it paralyzed the country for more than two years, just like Europe has been held hostage by Brexit. And all of this because, in the end, the elites I call The Davos Crowd refused to accept that the people no longer believed their lies about the benefits of their neoliberal, globalist agenda.

Hillary Clinton’s ascension to the Presidency was to be their apotheosis along with the Brexit vote. These were meant to lay to rest, once and for all time, the vaguely libertarian notion that people should rule themselves and not be ruled by philosopher kings in some distant land.

Hillary’s failure was enormous. And the RussiaGate gambit to destroy Trump served a laundry list of purposes to cover it:

  1. Undermine his legitimacy before he even takes office.
  2. Accuse him of what Hillary actually did: collude with Russians and Ukrainians to effect the outcome of the election
  3. Paralyze Trump on his foreign policy desires to scale back the Empire
  4. Give aid and comfort to hurting progressives and radicalize them further undermining our political system
  5. Polarize the electorate over the false choice of Trump’s guilt.
  6. Paralyze the Dept. of Justice and Congress so that they would not uncover the massive corruption in the intelligence agencies in the U.S. and the U.K.
  7. Isolate Trump and take away every ally or potential ally he could have by turning them against him through prosecutor overreach.

Hillary should have been thrown to the wolves after she failed. When you fail the people she failed and cost them the money she cost them, you lose more than just your funding. What this tells you is that she has so much dirt on everyone involved, once this thing started everyone went along with it lest she burn them down as well.

Burnin’ Down da House

Hillary is the epitome of envy. Envy is the destructive sin of coveting someone else’s life so much they are obsessed with destroying it. It’s the sin of Cain

She envies what Trump has, the Presidency.

And she was willing to tear it down to keep him from having it no matter how much damage it would do. She’s worse than the Joker from The Dark Knight.

Because while the Joker is unfathomable to someone with a conscience there’s little stopping us from excising him from the community completely., even though Batman refuses.

Hillary hates us for who we are and what we won’t give her. And that animus drove her to blackmail the world while putting on the face of its savior.

And that’s what makes what comes next so obvious to me. RussiaGate was never a sustainable narrative. It was ludicrous from the beginning. And now that it has ended with a whimper there are a lot of angry, confused and scared people out there.

Mueller thought all he had to do was lean on corrupt people and threaten them with everything. They would turn on Trump. He would resign in disgrace from the public outcry.

It didn’t work. In the end Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and Roger Stone all held their ground or perjured themselves into the whole thing falling apart.

Andrew Weissman’s resignation last month was your tell there was nothing. Mueller would pursue this to the limit of his personal reputation and no further.

Just like so many other politicians.

Vote Your Pocketbook

With respect to Brexit I’ve been convinced that it would come down to reputations.

Would the British MP’s vote against their own personal best interests to do the bidding of the EU?

Would Theresa May eventually realize her historical reputation would be destroyed if she caves to Brussels and betrays Brexit in the end?

Always bet on the fecklessness of politicians. They will always act selfishly when put to the test. While leading RussiaGate, Mueller was always headed here if he couldn’t get someone to betray Trump.

And now his report is in. There are no new indictments. And by doing so he is saving his reputation for the future. And that is your biggest tell that HIllary’s blackmail is now worthless.

They don’t fear her anymore because RussiaGate outed her as the architect. Anything else she has is irrelevant in the face of trying to oust a sitting president from power.

The progressives that were convinced of Trump’s treason are bereft; their false hope stripped away like standing in front of a sandblaster. They will be raw, angry and looking for blood after they get over their denial.

Everyone else who was blackmailed into going along with this lunacy will begin cutting deals to save their skins. The outrage over this will not end. Trump will be President when he stands for re-election.

The Wolves Beckon

The Democrats do not have a chance against him as of right now. When he was caving on everything back in December it looked like he was done. That there was enough meat on the RussiaGate bones to make Nancy Pelosi brave.

Then she backed off on impeachment talk. Oops.

But the Democrats have a sincere problem. Their candidates have no solutions other than to embrace the crazy and go full Bolshevik. That is not a winning position.

Trump will kill them on ‘socialism.’

The Deep State and The Davos Crowd stand revealed and reviled.

If they don’t do something dramatic then the anger from the rest of the country will also be palpable come election time. Justice is not done simply by saying, “No evidence of collusion.”

It’s clear that RussiaGate is a failure of monumental proportions. Heads will have to roll. But who will be willing to fall on their sword at this point?

Comey? No. McCabe? No.

There is only one answer. And Obama’s people are still in place to protect him. I said last fall that “Hillary would indict herself.” And I meant it. Eventually her blackmail and drive to burn it all down led to this moment.

The circumstances are different than I expected back then, Trump didn’t win the mid-terms. But the end result was always the same. If there is no collusion, if RussiaGate is a scam, then all roads lead back to Hillary as the sacrificial lamb.

Because the bigger project, the erection of a transnational superstate, is bigger than any one person. Hillary is expendable.

Lies are expensive to maintain. The truth is cheap to defend. Think of the billions in opportunity costs associated with this. Once the costs rise above the benefits, change happens fast.

If there is any hope of salvaging the center of this country for the Democrats, the ones that voted against Hillary in 2016, then there is no reason anymore not to indict Hillary as the architect of RussiaGate.

We all know it’s the truth. So, the cheapest way out of this mess for them is to give the MAGApedes what they want, Hillary.

And hope that is enough bread and circuses to distract from the real storm ahead of us.

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