Digital vaccine passports pave way for unprecedented surveillance capitalism

The death by starvation of Etwariya Devi, a 67-year-old widow from the rural Indian state of Jharkhand, might have passed without notice had it not been part of a more widespread trend.

Like 1.3 billion of her fellow Indians, Devi had been pushed to enroll in a biometric digital ID system called Aadhaar in order to access public services, including her monthly allotment of 25kg of rice. When her fingerprint failed to register with the shoddy system, Devi was denied her food ration. Throughout the course of the following three months in 2017, she was repeatedly refused food until she succumbed to hunger, alone in her home.

Premani Kumar, a 64-year-old woman also from Jharkhand, met the same demise as Devi, dying of hunger and exhaustion the same year after the Aadhaar system transferred her pension payments to another person without her permission, while cutting off her monthly food rations.

— source | Jeremy Loffredo, Max Blumenthal | Oct 19, 2021

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Have your say on the future of money

What is the Bank of England consulting on?

Our money and banking system could soon be transformed by two new forms of digital money: private sector digital money, such as ‘stablecoins’, and a publicly provided alternative in the form of a central bank digital currency (CBDC).

The Bank of England has published a discussion paper outlining its thinking on these new forms of money, and invited the public to have their say. Big finance and tech firms will no doubt be trying to shape Bank of England policy to serve their interests. It is vital that we as the public also make our voices heard to ensure the future of money is fair, democratic and sustainable.

This blog explains some of the key issues being discussed, and puts forward some of Positive Money’s thinking on them.

You can have your say by responding to the Bank of England’s survey here by 7th September 2021. If you only have a few minutes, you can see Positive Money’s instructions here to answer just the main question (question 6). Or if you want more background information and to answer more of the survey questions, read on…

What is a CBDC?

— source | Simon Youel, Zack Livingstone | Sep 2, 2021

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Digital colonialism – The evolution of US empire

In 2020, billionaires made out like bandits. Jeff Bezos’s personal holdings surged from $113 to $184 billion. Elon Musk briefly eclipsed Bezos, with a net worth rise from $27 billion to over $185 billion.

For the bourgeoisie presiding over “Big Tech” corporations, life is grand.

Yet, while the expanded dominance of these corporations in their domestic markets is the subject of numerous critical analyses, their global reach is a fact seldom discussed, especially by dominant intellectuals in the American empire.

In fact, once we investigate the mechanics and numbers, it becomes apparent that Big Tech is not only global in scope, it is fundamentally colonial in character and dominated by the United States. This phenomenon is called “digital colonialism.”

We live in a world where digital colonialism now risks becoming as significant and far-reaching a threat to the Global South as classic colonialism was in previous centuries. Sharp increases in inequality, the rise of state-corporate surveillance, and sophisticated police and military technologies are just a few of the consequences of this new world

— source | Michael Kwet | 04 Mar 2021

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The new digital push in agriculture raises serious concerns

On April 13, 2021, the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Microsoft Corporation to start a pilot project in 100 villages of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. The MoU requires Microsoft to create a ‘Unified Farmer Service Interface’ through its cloud computing services.

This sets in motion the ministry’s plan of creating ‘AgriStack’ (a collection of technology-based interventions in agriculture), on which everything else will be built.

The government, through this MoU, aims to provide ‘required data sets’ of farmers’ personal information to Microsoft to develop a farmer interface for ‘smart and well-organised agriculture’.

Thereafter, the ministry signed four other MoUs — with Star Agribazaar, Patanjali Organic Research Institute for agricultural management and services, Amazon Internet Services, and Esri India on June 1 for different operations under AgriStack.

— source | Shagun Kapil | 23 Jun 2021

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UK moves one step closer to digital cash

On April 19th, the UK government and the Bank of England announced they are setting up a Central Bank Digital Currency Taskforce. This an important opportunity — if the Bank of England chose to launch a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), it could be a massive step towards a fairer money and banking system that serves ordinary people and the real economy.

In this blog, we give an introduction to what CBDC is, why it’s different to the money we use already, and what would change if the Bank of England chose to issue a CBDC.

What is “CBDC”?

A CBDC would be money in bank accounts provided by the Bank of England, instead of the high street banks (like Lloyds or Barclays). This means CBDC would be digital cash. Like banknotes, it would be issued by the Bank of England as a public currency, but could be used to make payments with cards and for shopping online. Digital cash is one of Positive Money’s core proposals, and we’re excited to see the Bank of England and the government exploring implementing it.

— source | Zack Livingstone | May 7, 2021

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Google is making another attempt at personal health records

Google is making another attempt at personal health records

Google is recruiting people to give feedback for a new consumer-facing medical records tool, Stat News reported on Friday. The company wants to know how people want to interact with information pulled from their medical records.

This is Google’s second attempt at creating a way for people to access their medical records. In 2008, it launched Google Health, which aimed to give people a way to see their health information online. It didn’t take off, and Google shut it down in 2012.

A decade later, we’re in a very different digital health landscape. Apple launched a health records section in its Health app in 2018, which lets people pull their records from hospitals and clinics directly onto their iPhone. Health apps have proliferated, wearables are adopting wellness features, and people are more and more accustomed to handling their health information through smartphones and other devices.

Google is also working on the doctor-facing side of health records; its Care Studio program gives clinicians a way to search through patient records more easily. Other health efforts include a research app that lets Android users participate in medical studies and a Nest Hub feature that tracks sleep.

— source | Apr 12, 2021

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This will be remembered as a turning point in the battle for control over digital speech

NSA whistleblower and internet freedom advocate Edward Snowden has cautioned the public against celebrating President Trump’s recent social media ban. “I know a lot of folks in the comments [who] read this are like ‘YAAAAS,’ which, like — I get it. But imagine for a moment a world that exists for more than the next 13 days, and this becomes a milestone that will endure,” he wrote on Twitter.

Facebook officially silences the President of the United States. For better or worse, this will be remembered as a turning point in the battle for control over digital speech.

— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 7, 2021

Both Facebook and Twitter announced they would prevent the president from using their services in the light of his incitement of the storming of the Capitol Building on Wednesday. Twitter has since reversed its decision. However, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was adamant that Trump would not be allowed to use his platform. “The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power,” he announced, adding that his company,

Believe[s] the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”

Many were elated at the news of the decision, while still others urged big tech companies to go further. “Ban Donald Trump’s Twitter account – for good,” wrote Sarah Manavis in The New Statesman.

— source | Alan MacLeod | Jan 08, 2021

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Inside India’s booming dark data economy

Ayushi Sahu was ambushed. One evening in 2018, five months after her wedding, the 21-year-old college student was visiting her parents in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, when her husband showed up unannounced, his father and uncle in tow.

As the men settled in the living room, her husband said he had something he wanted them to hear. He took out his mobile phone and pressed “play.” The audio was loud and clear: private conversations between Sahu and her friends and family, which had been recorded without her permission. And it wasn’t only audio: “call logs, SMS, and WhatsApp messages, each photo and video, recordings of my video calls — he claimed to have accessed everything,” Sahu said. That was when she realized that her husband had, for months, been spying on her.

This was also how Sahu learned of certain things he had been holding against her. (Her name has been changed to protect against retaliation.) He had been offended to hear her complaining to her mother about problems with her in-laws. And he objected to her talking to a male friend. “He made a scene as if he was ‘exposing’ me,” Sahu recalled. “I was just sharing my concerns. That’s normal.”

Her husband played several more recordings, until his father eventually intervened. “I don’t want to

— source | Snigdha Poonam, Samarth Bansal | 22 Dec 2020

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Kindle Collects a Large Amount of Data

The Kindle sends device information, usage metadata, and details about every interaction with the device (or app) while it’s being used. All of this is linked directly to the reader account.

Opening the app, reading a book, flipping through a few pages, then closing the book sends over 100 requests to Amazon servers.

The Invasive Behavioral Information

Essentially, the Kindle tracks every tap and interaction someone makes while reading.

— source | Charlie Belmer

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