U.S., UK and other countries warn tech firms that encryption creates ‘severe risks’ to public safety

  • Lawmakers from countries within the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance have urged tech firms to develop backdoors that allows them to access encrypted messages.
  • In an open statement, seven nations said that unbreakable encryption technology “creates severe risks to public safety.”
  • While citizens benefit from additional privacy, law enforcement agencies see end-to-end encryption as a barrier to their investigations.

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LONDON — Lawmakers from countries within the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance have warned tech firms that unbreakable encryption technology “creates severe risks to public safety.”


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Ministers from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand published a statement Sunday calling on the tech industry to develop a solution that enabled law enforcement to access tightly encrypted messages.

“We urge industry to address our serious concerns where encryption is applied in a way that wholly precludes any legal access to content,” the statement, which was signed by U.S. Attorney General William Barr and U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel, said.

The statement, published on the website of the U.S. Department of Justice, was also signed by India and Japan, which are not part of the Five Eyes alliance.

Technology companies like Apple and Facebook encrypt user’s communications “end-to-end,” meaning that only users can access their own messages. It applies to written messages, as well as audio and video communications.

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While citizens benefit from additional privacy, law enforcement agencies see end-to-end encryption as a barrier to their investigations and have been calling on tech companies to introduce backdoors that would give law enforcement agencies access.

“We call on technology companies to work with governments … on reasonable, technically feasible solutions,”

Yelp rolls out new tactic to warn consumers about businesses accused of ‘overtly racist actions’

Yelp has a zero tolerance policy for racism.

The company, which publishes and aggregates crowd-sourced business reviews, announced Thursday it will be placing a new “Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert” on Yelp pages to warn users about businesses that have been said to display “overtly racist actions.” They will also include a direct link to a news article for consumers to learn more about the reported incident.

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“We know these values are important to our users and now more than ever, consumers are increasingly conscious of the types of businesses they patronize and support,” Noorie Malik, vice president of user operations, wrote in a blog post. “In fact, we’ve seen that reviews mentioning Black-owned businesses were up more than 617% this summer compared to last summer. Support for women-owned businesses has also increased, with review mentions up 114% for the same time period.”

Malik said that as the nation continues to be affected by systemic racism, Yelp feels an obligation to help consumers make better decisions before spending their hard-earned dollars with businesses associated with egregious, racially-charged actions.

“So far in 2020, we’ve seen a 133% increase in the number of media-fueled incidences on Yelp compared to the same time last year,” said Malik.

Malik wrote that between May 26, a day after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, and September 30, a week after the Breonna Taylor verdict was announced, Yelp has placed more than 450 alerts on business pages that were either accused of or the target of racist behavior related to the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Yelp’s new labels will warn you if a business has been accused of racism

When it first notices a person associated with a business has been a target or accused of racism, Yelp will add a Public Attention Alert to that company’s page “to warn consumers that the business may be receiving an influx of reviews as a result of increased attention.” If a business has been accused of “overtly racist actions, where we can link to a news article,” Yelp will use its “Business Accused of Racist Behavior” label instead.

Yelp is relying on news and social media reports in this process partly to warn people about the possible influx of fake reviews affecting a business’ ratings in these situations. “It’s always been Yelp’s policy that all reviews must be based on actual first-hand consumer experiences with the business,” the company said in its news release. “This policy is critical to mitigating fake reviews and maintaining the integrity of content on our platform. We don’t allow people to leave reviews based on media reports because it can artificially inflate or deflate a business’s star rating.”

According to Yelp, up till this point in 2020, it’s already seen a 133 percent increase in “media-fueled incidences” compared to the same time last year. “Increasingly, consumers across the U.S. are voting with their dollars by supporting businesses that align with their values,” the company said. “As always, we continue to evaluate how we can best use our platform to build a better, more equitable and inclusive environment.”

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UK lawmakers warn Huawei 5G may need to be banned earlier

LONDON (AP) — A committee of British lawmakers is urging the government to consider banning Chinese technology giant Huawei from next-generation mobile phone networks two years earlier than planned.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government in July blocked Huawei from having any role in building the country’s new 5G networks, amid security concerns fueled by rising tensions between Beijing and Western powers. British wireless carriers are prohibited from buying Huawei network equipment but have until 2027 to remove Huawei gear they’ve already installed in the new networks.

Parliament’s defense committee said in its report released Thursday on 5G security that while the 2027 deadline was sensible to avoid signal blackouts, delays and extra costs, it warned that the government might have to act faster.

“Should pressure from allies for a speedier removal continue or should China’s threats and global position change so significantly to warrant it, the Government should consider whether a removal by 2025 is feasible and economically viable,” the report said. “Clearly these restrictions will delay the 5G rollout and economically damage the U.K. and mobile network operators.”

The report also accused Huawei of colluding with China’s “Communist Party apparatus” though it didn’t go into details. The company denied the accusations, which were based on expert testimony about its ownership, state subsidies and China’s national intelligence law compelling companies to help with spying.

“This report lacks credibility, as it is built on opinion rather than fact,” Huawei said in a statement. The company noted that Huawei played a key role in building previous generations of British mobile networks and it should continue to be part of 5G’s rollout. “Restricting Huawei will put Britain in the slow lane, deepen the digital divide and likely push up bills.”

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Trump’s targeting of Black voters on Facebook in 2016 shows microtargeting is a threat to democracy, experts warn

  • Channel 4 on Monday revealed a leaked cache of data from the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.
  • The data showed how the campaign microtargeted people on Facebook, and labelled a particular group of users as targets for “deterrence” from voting. This group was disproportionately made up of Black users.
  • Experts told Business Insider the report highlights the threat that microtargeting on a vast platform like Facebook’s poses towards democratic elections.
  • “Facebook talks a lot about bad actors misusing its platform, but the truth is that the biggest bad actor on Facebook is Facebook,” one said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The now-defunct Cambridge Analytica entered the news cycle once again on Monday, four years after its name became synonymous with the huge data scandal that changed the tech landscape forever.

UK broadcaster Channel 4 obtained a leaked data cache from the Trump 2016 presidential campaign which contained the data of 200 million Americans’ Facebook accounts.

The data demonstrated the Trump campaign’s strategy for categorizing different types of users to target them with content and ads on Facebook, a process known as microtargeting. Microtargeting is broadly not regulated in the US.

In one instance, Trump’s campaign labeled a group of users “deterrence”, who the campaign tried to dissuade from voting.

This group was overwhelmingly comprised of Black people. While Black users made up only 13% of the total dataset, they comprised nearly a third of users in the “deterrence” group — 3.5 million in total.

Included in the data obtained by Channel 4 was an ad made by Cambridge Analytica targeted at Black Americans and which attacked Hillary Clinton for remarks she made in 1996 about “superpredators.” 

The Trump campaign has dismissed the Channel 4 report as “fake news.”

While the efficacy of Cambridge Analytica’s tactics back in 2016 remain