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TOPIC: surveillance


Unnerved By Protests, Tehran Is Now Hounding Foreign Embassies And Iranian Ex-Pats

Amid increasing tensions prompted by ongoing anti-government protests, reports from Tehran show increased surveillance of some foreign embassies. Iranian agents are said to be particularly curious about visas to get out of the country.

As anti-government protests in Iran persist, well-informed sources in Tehran say state authorities have begun tracking and intimidating more targets it deems suspicious, which now includes intensified surveillance of foreign embassies.

One source told Kayhan London this week that Iranian employees of the British and German embassies have received threatening calls from unidentified private numbers, thought to be Iranian security officials, summoning them for questioning The practice of sinister invitations to undocumented interrogations has become standard in the 40-year regime of Iran's Islamic Republic.

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Inside China's Surveillance State, Built On High Tech And A Billion Spies

Twenty-five years in the making, China has developed a mass surveillance state, from Beijing alleyways to rural villages. And citizens don't object because they've been co-opted into it.

BEIJING — In 2021, a local police bureau in Beijing published an initiative on the Sharp Eyes project. Its description offers a chilling taste of how China's future of mass surveillance will be.

“Security cameras automatically capture the people’s faces, and match with house rental information, records in hospitals, hotels, and school, and summarize an activity log of different groups of people. With all information and data collected, an alarm model would be created to automatically identify abnormal activities."

Just exactly how the model will be implemented is not yet known. But combined with China's existing surveillance system, the Sharp Eyes project could allow community workers to proactively go to individuals' doors to investigate a crime that has not even been committed yet.

Its goal is to create a system that is literally meant to "prevent crime before it happens."

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The Digital Tracking Of India's Sanitation Workers Is An Extra Dirty Deal

Lower-caste cleaners must wear GPS-enabled smartwatches, raising questions about their privacy and data protection.

Munesh sits by the roadside near a crowded market in Chandigarh, a city in India’s north, on a January day. She is flanked by several other women, all of them sweepers hired by the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation. She shows the smartwatch she is wearing and says, “See, I didn't even touch it, but the camera has turned on."

Munesh, who estimates she is in her 40s and, like many Indians, goes by just one name, is one of around 4,000 such sanitation workers. The corporation makes it mandatory for them to wear smartwatches — called Human Efficiency Tracking Systems — fitted with GPS trackers. Each one has a microphone, a SIM embedded for calling workers, and a camera, so that the workers can send photos to their supervisors as proof of attendance.

In Chandigarh, this project is run by Imtac India, an IT services company, at a cost of an estimated $278,000 per year. Meanwhile, sanitation workers say that the government has not invested in personal protective gear throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and that they have long worked without medical care and other vital social services.

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From Snowden To Pegasus: What Is Espionage In The Digital Age?

It was Jane Austen, back in 1816, who wrote that "every man is surrounded by a neighborhood of voluntary spies." That neighborhood is getting quite a bit bigger these days as our digitized lives and economies extract ever-deepening rivers of private data from the daily lives of citizens.

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N.C. Asthana

Witness From The Inside: Finding The Source Of India's Police Violence

The Indian police force is built on a macho culture that promotes those who commit violence. Only the victims know the truth, and no one ever dares challenge the system.

Most Indians are familiar with heavy-handed police behavior in the form of the cops slapping people or, if they are pretending to manage law and order, beating them mercilessly with their sticks (lathis). However, the real face of police brutality often remains hidden, their notions about police torture derived largely from what they have seen in films. Only the victims know the truth.

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Marie Charrel

Crypto Tipping Point: Is Digital Currency Too Big To Fail?

Now that central banks are opening to the idea of digital currencies, there may no turning back. But it comes with real risks, especially with regards to China's ambitions.


PARIS — The Germans may be fiercely attached to good old-fashioned banknotes, but their finance minister, Olaf Scholz, is looking to the future: "A sovereign Europe needs innovative and competitive payment solutions." As such, it must be at the "forefront of the issue of digital central bank currencies and must actively push it forward," he said on April 16.

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Paul Tavignot

In Azerbaijan, The 'Sextape' Is An Instrument Of Repression

Critics of Ilham Aliev's regime accuse the government of using sexually explicit material — including images of wives and daughters — to strong-arm its opponents.

For some of Azerbaijani's opposition figures, Big Brother has moved into the bedroom, with the result being the distribution of "sex tapes' on social networks.

Often the videos are filmed by cameras hidden in the victims' homes without their knowledge. Once recorded, the intimate images are "shared" — along with nude photographs and/or personal correspondence — onto a Telegram channel or Facebook accounts.

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Frédéric Schaeffer

In China, How People Are Pushing Back On Surveillance State

Facial recognition cameras have imposed themselves in every nook and cranny of Chinese life — to the point where a concern is growing within the population and certain cities are reacting.

BEIJING — On Xingfu Street, in central Beijing, a dozen people dressed in reflective vests compose a single file line — but they are not merely standing. Hunched to the ground or cautiously walking sideways, they advance as if they were simulating a hostage evacuation or avoiding a sniper. Watched by bewildered passersby, these citizens are participating in a performance by the artist Deng Yufeng, aiming to depict exactly how difficult it is to escape the video surveillance cameras infesting the Chinese capital.

Occasionally zigzagging and walking backwards to hide their faces from the eyes of Big Brother, these volunteers, recruited online, took more than two hours to traverse the 1 kilometer section on Xingfu (or "Happiness') Street. "I found there was something ironic and tragic in the idea of disappearing on Happiness Street," explains the artist from his studio in a Beijing suburb.

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Wu Chen

Biometric Risk: Why China Should Say No To 'Face Swiping'

Registering facial recognition data with a biometric authentication application is all the rage in China, but it comes with major privacy concerns.


BEIJING — A friend of mine recently made a business trip to China's southeastern city of Shenzhen. Arriving at an office building, he was not allowed into the elevator until he had registered his facial recognition data with a biometric authentication application. This action is called "face swiping" in China.

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Is Facebook A Threat To Democracy, Or Just A Platform?

The questions continue to pile up around the U.S. social media giant's role in undermining public discourse and the proper functioning of society.

Facebook announced this week it would be banning all pages, groups, and Instagram accounts linked to the conspiracy theory movement "QAnon." After months of criticism for delayed content moderation and removal, QAnon was labeled as a "militarized social movement," which is prohibited under its current rules, according to a Facebook spokesperson. It's just the latest attempt for the social media giant to walk the fine line of curbing the spread of violence and misinformation across the platform, while being careful not to slow down the constant flow of interactions that drives its billion-dollar business.

While it's a step in the right direction, Facebook has allowed to many of these fringe movement pages and groups to multiply, with many expanding exponentially during the pandemic. Indeed, like COVID-19 itself, controlling the ill effects of the social media is an always morphing global plague. And most agree that Facebook, estimated to have been used by 28% of the global population, still hasn't had a true reckoning with the ways in which it is becoming a tool to undermine democratic systems — both by opponents and governments themselves.

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Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Beijing Sends Spy 'Cousins' To Infiltrate Uyghur Families

It has the makings of another TV spy drama with a family plot line. But the disturbing revelations of a Le Monde investigation come as a shocking reality for thousands of Uyghur families in China, who may have been infiltrated by agents sent by Beijing to monitor how members of the Muslim minority group lived.

These Chinese "cousins' were trained to lower their hosts' guard while investigating their religious practices, according to revelations by Harold Thibault and Brice Pedroletti, two journalists for the French daily with extensive experience in China.

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eyes on the U.S.
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Surveillance Tech Eyes COVID-19 And Black Lives Matter

PARIS — It's been a tumultuous few months for so-called "surveillance tech."

Most recently, following pushback from Black Lives Matter activists, Amazon has suspended police use of its facial recognition software for one year. IBM followed suit, announcing it will stop offering its similar software for "mass surveillance or racial profiling." The moves from the tech giants is a step, small as it may be, in the right direction. Yet this also comes amid calls during the pandemic to turn to such technology to ensure public cooperation to stem the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

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