The Surveillance Industry Is Killing Democracy

India is rapidly digitising. There are good things and bad, speed-bumps on the way and caveats to be mindful of. The weekly column Terminal focuses on all that is connected and is not – on digital issues, policy, ideas and themes dominating the conversation in India and the world.

Last week, the Financial Times disclosed that the Indian government is making fresh efforts to procure spyware that has a lower footprint than NSO Group’s Pegasus to continue its surveillance of dissenters, opposition leaders and human rights activists. The report claimed that the ability of human rights actors and tech companies to identify and notify users about nation-state surveillance activities has become a point of concern for Indian authorities. The defence department is expected to soon issue a tender and is willing to spend as high as Rs 1,000 crore on acquiring surveillance technologies.

The entities that are expected to lead the bidding process include Quadream, Intellexa and Cognyte. Of these three companies, Cognyte has already been engaging with several law enforcement officials. One such instance was at DIGIPOL 2023, a law enforcement-only conference, in which the National Cyber Security Coordinator, the director of DRDO and

— source | Srinivas Kodali | 03/Apr/2023

Nullius in verba


On Copyright Scams, Surveillance Capitalism and the Lies of Big Tech

In their new book, Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets and How We’ll Win Them Back (Beacon, 2022), Rebecca Giblin and Cory Doctorow explain how big market players squeeze creators and consumers through monopoly and monopsony — and outline a way to break free from their grasp.

Coauthor Cory Doctorow recently spoke to David Moscrop for Jacobin and discussed Chokepoint Capitalism, Doctorow’s anti-capitalist oeuvre, what chokepoint capitalism means for creators and consumers, its prevalence in the cultural industries, and how to fight against it.

The inescapable tollbooth
David Moscrop: I want to start with your book Chokepoint Capitalism and the concept behind it. What is “chokepoint capitalism,” and what distinguishes it from market monopoly or oligopoly?

Cory Doctorow: Well, chokepoint capitalism is about the other side of monopoly — it’s about monopsony. The corporate doctrine for the last forty years, and the state doctrine for

— source | David Moscrop | 10/Nov/2022

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Is Revised Data Protection Bill a Charter of Surveillance Capitalism?

The new avatar of the Indian Data Protection Bill 2022 is not simply a rebirth of its 2019 version. Its earlier objective was to provide a legal framework to the Supreme Court’s Puttaswamy judgement that privacy is a fundamental right. The purpose of the 2022 bill is different. It proclaims the citizen’s right to privacy but allows the government to override it. Its other objective is to enable Big Businesses—Indian or foreign—to use our data for their benefit. In other words, the 2022 bill intends to do the opposite of what it claims: not protect privacy but create the architecture of a surveillance state and build surveillance capitalism.

I don’t argue the 2019 bill was perfect. It was not. The Joint Parliamentary Committee suggested 92 amendments in it. But after extensive reviews in Parliament, public discussions and deliberations in the JPC, the government suddenly withdrew the bill and released a new one without explanation. The answer materialises when we examine the

— source | Prabir Purkayastha | 10 Dec 2022

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Pegasus spyware was used to hack reporters’ phones

I was warned in August 2020. A source told me to meet him at six o’clock at night in an empty parking lot in San Salvador. He had my number, but he contacted me through a mutual acquaintance instead; he didn’t want to leave a trace. When I arrived, he told me to leave my phone in the car. As we walked, he warned me that my colleagues at El Faro, the Salvadoran news organization, were being followed because of a story they were pursuing about negotiations between the president of El Salvador and the notorious MS-13 gang.

This may read like an eerie movie scene, but there are many Central American journalists who have lived it for real. The suspicion you’re being followed, ditching your phone before meetings, using encrypted messaging and email apps, speaking in code, never publishing your live location – these are ordinary routines for many in my profession.

I wouldn’t know until more than a year later what my source really meant. My colleagues weren’t just being trailed as they investigated that story. They, and at least 18 other

— source | Nelson Rauda Zablah | 5 Dec 2022

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Facebook Gave Nebraska Police Data to Prosecute Teenager in Abortion Case

Facebook has turned over to Nebraska police the private messages between a mother and daughter as part of criminal abortion investigation. The case involves 41-year-old Jessica Burgess, who allegedly helped her 17-year-old daughter Celeste carry out an abortion, which is illegal in Nebraska 20 weeks after the egg is fertilized. Police in Norfolk, Nebraska, launched an investigation in April on a tip that Celeste had miscarried, and that her mother had buried the fetus, according(Opens in a new window) to the Lincoln Journal Star. Court documents filed(Opens in a new window) last month show that police used a search warrant in June to subpoena Facebook’s parent Meta for private messages between the mother and daughter — and that the social media company complied.

— source | Aug 9, 2022

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Data Broker LexisNexis Helping ICE Target Immigrant Communities

A coalition of immigrant justice groups have sued the data broker LexisNexis for collecting detailed personal information on millions of people, then selling it to governmental entities, including ICE — that’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The lawsuit alleges LexisNexis has created a massive surveillance state with files on almost every adult U.S. consumer, and describes how law enforcement officers can surveil and track people based on information these officers would not, in many cases, otherwise be able to obtain without a subpoena, court order or other legal process. The groups also accuse ICE of using information collected by LexisNexis to circumvent local policies in sanctuary cities. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Organized Communities Against Deportations, Just Futures Law and Mijente.

So, Mijente joins this lawsuit filed by Just Futures Law, by Legal Action Chicago, alongside our friends at OCAD and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, because, as you shared, LexisNexis is collecting and selling the data of more than 276 million people across the country, particularly using their Accurint product. And here in Illinois, we want to bring light to how this violates privacy and consumer rights, how it’s at odds with Illinois consumer protection and common law, because what we’re really

— source | Aug 19, 2022

Nullius in verba