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.

A Real Smart City Lacks Smart Technology

Intersection

A few years ago Silicon Valley mega corps thought all cities should be made “smart” by tracking all citizen data. There was a concentrated effort by Google to violate privacy rights in Toronto and bullying the city into a finance deal which only benefit the advertising giant. Torontonians protested and the company backed out.

In Columbus, they ran a well funded research project into the smart city only to discover that the “smart” aspects showed mediocre results. We already have solutions to most problems cities face like mass transit and better funded health services. It’s time to fund the boring, old, not “smart” solutions in our cities.

Now it’s clear that private firms can’t predict the future of cities and may not have their best interests in mind. Davis says Columbus’ selection led to a flood of proposals from companies that ultimately proved difficult to manage, and “at times distracting.” Meanwhile, Uber (and Lyft) have pulled out of autonomous vehicles, notably after an Uber testing vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. Google sibling Sidewalk Labs promised in 2017 to construct a sensored-up neighborhood of the future in Toronto. But it killed the project last year amid the pandemic and a bitter political battle with privacy advocates and local groups and developers.

Read more.

These 100 Debates Could Decide the Canadian Election

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Canadians are about to vote in the country’s 44th election and this election may finally be the moment when the nation votes thinking about a green future. From coast to coast to coast in the country there will be local debates about the environment and what the candidates will do to protect their ridings. These 100 debates are back after the very successful first run of the format last election. The debates are run by GreenPAC which is an organization that wants people to care about having a sustainable and healthy future.

Providing a forum for voters to make informed decisions and for candidates to clearly communicate their policy plans are key, he added.

Laurel Collins, another returning debate participant and the NDP’s environment and climate change critic, said hundreds of people attended the 2019 debate in Victoria, B.C.

“It was such an important conversation for community members to hear from candidates about this critically important issue,” said Collins. “It’s so critical that candidates hear from community members about the issues that are most important to them.”

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Exposing Exxon’s Elaborate Escapades in Eluding the Electorate

Exxon (and other oil companies) knew all about the harm their products cause to the environment 40 years ago, yet they kept making profits despite threatening all life on Earth. This is some real-life cartoon villain stuff that sounds made up, but it’s real and it happened. In fact, it’s still happening. Without a doubt it’s bad that oil companies are profiting off of the death of the planet. The good news is that people are exposing the evil behaviour of these massive corporations then using this information to fight the corporations. Remember protesting works.

Unearthed reporters posed as recruitment consultants looking to hire a Washington DC lobbyist for a major client and approached McCoy and Easley for meetings over Zoom. During the meetings, the undercover reporter asked about Exxon’s current and historical lobbying on environmental issues.

It is important to note that neither McCoy nor Easley were necessarily seeking a new job, but each was willing to talk and provide information to the purported recruiters.

Over the coming days, Unearthed, will also reveal:

  • Claims that Exxon covertly fought to prevent a ban on toxic chemicals
  • How Exxon is using its playbook on climate change to head-off regulations on plastic

California Congressman, Rep. Ro Khanna, told Unearthed: “For decades, fossil fuel companies have lied to the public, to regulators, and to Congress about the true danger posed by their products. Today’s tape only proves our knowledge that the industry’s disinformation campaign is alive and well. In the coming months, I plan to ask the CEOs of Exxon, Chevron, and other fossil fuel companies to come testify before my Environment subcommittee. We can no longer allow Exxon, or any other companies, to prevent our collective action on the climate crisis.”

Read more.

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.

Read more.

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