Refugees Who Helped Snowden Landed in Canada

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Edward Snowden did a very brave thing of exposing how the American government spies on its citizens, foreigners, and allied nations. Thanks to his efforts the web is now a safer place from spying by large corporations and governments.

When Snowden needed help fleeing from the long spying arm of the American military he turned to refugees. While in Hong Kong Snowden stayed with people who also fled to the city for protection. It’s a story of people fleeing prosecution from overbearing governments helping one another.

Last week some of those kind and brave refugees landed in Canada and granted asylum.

There are a few more refugees who helped Snowden in Hong Kong, you can support them over at For the Refugees.

Canada granted asylum to four people who hid former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in their tiny Hong Kong apartments when he was on the run after stealing a trove of classified documents.

The four – Supun Thilina Kellapatha, Nadeeka Dilrukshi Nonis and their children Sethumdi and Dinath – landed in Toronto on Tuesday and were due to go on to Montreal to “start their new lives”, non-profit For the Refugees said in a statement.

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Digital Violence Exposes NSO’s Tools Targetting Activists

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NSO made the news again due to their tools being used to spy on Bahraini and Hungarian activists, which obviously isn’t good. NSO is a cyber security organization that focuses on offensive rather than defence; they sell hacking tools and exploits to target individuals. Anyone with enough money can buy their attack tools, including rich individuals or companies. In Mexico their spying tool was used to intimidate campaigners asking the government to regulate sugar content in sofas.

We know spying on human rights activists is not good for anyone, and three organizations teamed up to expose how NSO supports such spying (and thus abuse). Forensic Architecture, Amnesty International, and Citizen Lab all worked together to create a neat website called Digital Violence which explores the complexity and reach of NSO’s tools.

First detected in 2015, the NSO Group’s Pegasus malware has reportedly been used in at least 45 countries worldwide to infect the phones of activists, journalists and human rights defenders. Having learnt that our former collaborators and close associates were hacked by Pegasus, Forensic Architecture undertook 15 months of extensive open-source research, interviews assisted by Laura Poitras, and developed bespoke software to present this data as an interactive 3D platform, along with video investigations narrated by Edward Snowden to tell the stories of the individuals targeted and the web of corporate affiliations within which NSO is nested. Supported by Amnesty International and the Citizen Lab, our analysis reveals relations and patterns between separate incidents in the physical and digital sphere, demonstrating how infections are entangled with real world violence, and extend within the professional and personal networks of civil society actors worldwide.

Check out digital violence.

One way to defend yourself from NSO group and other malicious agents is to keep your software up to date. Apple released a patch this week, so update your Apple devices.

Mental Health Workers are Better than Cops

Sending mental health workers as first responders to mental health issues is way better than sending workers with other specialities. This may sound obvious, but for decades in the USA and Canada we’ve been sending police (armed with guns) to help people in distress. Some cities in the USA have reallocated police funding to social workers with great success, and thanks to the efforts of movements like BLM more cities are following suit. New York City is one such city and unsurprisingly their results are similar to other cities where police have been defunded.

The movement to defund the police, then put those funds into social services is clearly working.

In 95% of cases, people accepted care from the B-HEARD team, data from the city shows. That’s compared with 82% for traditional 911 response teams, which include police. 

Additionally, 50% of people treated by B-HEARD were transported to the hospital for more care, a far lower number than the 82% who are transported to the hospital with traditional 911 response.

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Shorter Work Weeks Work

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Working less is better for everyone involved, including the employer. Iceland just ran a multi year experiment from 2015-19 to find out if a four day work week would damage productivity or improve it. Unsurprisingly, productivity didn’t go down and in some jobs it even went up. Tell your boss you should only work four days a week!

The trials led unions to renegotiate working patterns, and now 86% of Iceland’s workforce have either moved to shorter hours for the same pay, or will gain the right to, the researchers said.

Workers reported feeling less stressed and at risk of burnout, and said their health and work-life balance had improved. They also reported having more time to spend with their families, do hobbies and complete household chores. 

Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, said: “This study shows that the world’s largest ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was by all measures an overwhelming success.

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Three Years of Privacy Thanks to the GDPR

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Three years ago today the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was enacted in the EU to protect you from morally questionable digital surveillance, and trust me, we’re all better off for it. Essentially the GDPR stops large companies from tracking you across the web and using that information to change your behaviour. When companies are collecting data they must disclose what they are collecting and why, plus they need to ensure that the data is well protected.

The immediate success of the GDPR led other jurisdictions to follow with similar policies to protect people, including in Japan, Chilie, Kenya, and more.

Over the BBC they cheekily posted a list of the biggest offenders of the GDPR (which shows why the legislation is needed).

4. H&M (35.3m euros)

H&M was fined by German regulators in 2020 after it was found to have been secretly monitoring hundreds of its employees.

If workers took holiday or sick leave, they were required to attend a meeting with senior staff at the retail giant on their return.

These meetings were recorded, and made accessible to H&M managers without the knowledge of staff.

The data collected from the interviews was used to make a “detailed profile” of workers, which then influenced decisions concerning their employment.

Read more.

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