This article is part of a series on corporate surveillance highlighting civil liberty, privacy, cybersecurity, safety, and tech-product user exploitation threats associated with connected products that are supported by the Android (Google) OS, Apple iOS, and Microsoft Windows OS.
Over the past two years, numerous news stories have emerged that centered on the harmful use of personal and professional information (“digital DNA”) by tech and telecom giants.
When reported individually, each story doesn’t look like there’s a systemic problem.
However, when aggregated, the collective news reports paint a huge picture that clearly shows there are systemic civil liberty, privacy, cybersecurity, and safety threats posed by predatory surveillance and data-mining business practices rooted in surveillance capitalism.
The biggest news story of 2018 was the revelation that Facebook allowed an academic named Aleksandr Kogan to use a survey app he created to data mine more than 80 million Facebook users. Kogan sold the data to political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, who used the information to profit for political purposes.
Like Cambridge Analytica, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and other tech giants, use product users’ collective digital DNA to understand users’ personal preferences in order to micro-target them with ads customized to manipulate (similar to subliminal advertising) the user into taking an action.
Artificial intelligence (AI), predictive analytics, and suggestive technology supported by addictive, intrusive, and harmful apps give the app developer the ability to encourage a user to act in a particular way, such as by clicking on a link, buying a product, or voting for a presidential candidate, which is basically a form of mind control.
The use of AI and associated technology is more dangerous than subliminal advertising, which was banned in the 20th century.
Manipulating a person into buying a product based on the person’s personal preferences may not be so harmful in a consumer world, but when this terrifying technology is applied to politics, the results can be devastating.
What is even more horrifying is that teens and children use smartphones, tablet PCs, and connected technology supported by addictive, intrusive, exploitative, and harmful technology, yet governments turn a blind eye when it comes to these types of harmful business practices that need to be stopped.
After reviewing in Part 1 everything that is wrong with smartphones, tablet PCs, and connected technology supported by predatory surveillance and data-mining technology, what is the solution?
The solution resides in legislation that is centered on an Electronic Bill of Rights. I hate to resort to government to fix these issues, but tech and telecom giants refuse to abandon their harmful business practices, which I believe are illegal.
I identified more than 15 multinational companies—including a nation-state company from China (Baidu)—that were enabled by Google to simultaneously surveil and data mine all my activities, including content, associated with the use of the Galaxy Note as soon as the device was activated by T-Mobile.
I authored a report based on my findings, and in 2015, using that report to back up my claims regarding violations of the law and civil liberty, privacy, cybersecurity, and safety threats, I decided to file formal customer complaints with my service providers to force them to provide me detailed information about their surveillance and data-mining business practices.
I filed complaints with AT&T, T-Mobile, Samsung, Google, and Apple, as well as all relevant affiliates such as Facebook and Amazon.
When my service providers refused to address my customer complaints, concerns, and requests for information, I filed numerous consumer complaints against my service providers with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and state attorneys general.
To date, only the FCC has taken any meaningful action, which resulted in T-Mobile having to admit that smartphones, tablet PCs, and connected products supported by the Android operating system (OS) and Apple iOS are not private, secure, or safe forms of telecommunications and computing.
Policy Change Proposal
After filing formal customer and consumer complaints throughout a two-plus-year period, I had no other alternative but to file constituent complaints with my state representatives, which included Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).
As a result, a staffer for Cruz’s office asked me to submit a policy change proposal centered on an Electronic Bill of Rights.
The policy change proposal would include a framework for legislation that would protect citizens, teens, children, and business professionals from data-driven companies that employ harmful and deceptive trade practices associated with surveillance and data mining.
In late 2017, I wrote the initial framework for a policy change proposal and submitted it to Cruz’s office on April 13, 2018. I also submitted copies to other lawmakers, including Sen. Cornyn.
Below is the framework for the legislation.
The Electronic Bill of Rights
The following is a list of only the major violations of law and threats that need to be addressed. An explanation of each threat or violation is given and why it matters to consumers, followed by a proposed solution.
Threat/Violation 1: Protected (Due Process/Fourth Amendment) Telecommunications, Data, and Information
- Protected Telecommunications: Protected telecommunications, data, and information is collected by telecom and tech giants by way of telecom products, tablet PCs, PCs, and computer networks that are supported by protected telecom infrastructure governed by the FCC. This poses huge civil liberty, privacy, cybersecurity, and safety threats to telecom and tech-product users.
- Protected Personal and Professional Telecom Information (Digital DNA): Telecom-related products such as smartphones, tablet PCs, and PCs that use protected telecom infrastructure are no less significant than home or office phones and PCs, which are protected by laws that shield telecommunications subscribers (individuals or businesses) and authorized device users (spouse, children, employees) from unwarranted and unauthorized surveillance and data-mining conducted by state actors, corporations, and individuals. People need to realize that their telecom-related personal and professional digital DNA is worth a lot of money, but more importantly, that a person’s collective digital DNA reveals every aspect of his or her personal and professional life.
- Circumventing Existing Telecom-Related Privacy Laws: Data-driven technology providers such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Samsung, and Baidu employ predatory business practices as a means to circumvent existing telecommunication privacy laws so they can lawfully surveil and data mine telecom and tech-product users. To put this into perspective, if Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Samsung were state actors, each company would need to get a warrant from a domestic judge or the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC/FISA) in order to conduct surveillance while data-mining U.S. telecom-product users by way of telecom products.
- Civil Liberty Violation: Baidu is a Chinese company, which means that the FCC, FTC, Department of Justice (DOJ), Google, and telecom providers are enabling a state actor from China to lawfully surveil and data mine U.S. citizens, teens, children, and business professionals by way of protected telecom products.
Solution: Ban Telecom-Related Surveillance and Data-Mining Business Practices
It should be illegal to surveil and data mine any citizen without proper consent or a warrant provided by a domestic judge or a FISA court.
It should be illegal for any corporation (foreign or domestic) to surveil and data mine U.S. citizens by way of telecom-related products, computers, or electronics that are supported by protected telecom infrastructure governed by the FCC.
Threat/Violation 2: Oppressive and Intrusive Telecom and Tech Products that Require Payment to Participate
- Monetizing the Telecom and Tech-Product User—Cyber Oppression: Telecom and data-driven technology providers have monetized their paying customers, which include consumers of smartphones, tablet PCs, video games, smart TVs, voice-automated assistants, connected vehicles, toys, PCs, and other products that require payment to participate. This means that a consumer becomes a commodity for sale by the telecom and data-driven technology provider.
- Google, Apple, and Microsoft Dominate the Operating System Market—Antitrust: According to T-Mobile and Verizon, private, secure, and safe smartphones, tablet PCs, and connected products are not for sale due to the predatory business practices employed by operating system (OS) developers and affiliates.
- Weaponizing Products of Necessity: Everyday telecom and tech products of necessity that cost money to purchase have been intentionally designed to enable the OS developer (e.g. Google) and their affiliates (e.g. Facebook) with the ability surveil and data mine the product user. This means that consumers of telecom and tech products pay money to be surveilled for financial gain at the expense of their civil liberties, privacy, cybersecurity, and safety.
- Affiliates and Trusted Partners—Selling Access to the Telecom and Tech Product User: Telecom and tech giants will claim that each company does not sell identifiable personal information associated with their product users. However, these companies are not transparent in that each company sells access to their paying customers and product users to companies that employ predatory business practices, which in turn are enabled to surveil and data mine the product user.
Solution: Protect Telecom-Related Personal and Professional Digital DNA
Laws need to be passed to protect telecommunications, information, and data produced by the use of telecom-related products, PCs, and connected products supported by protected telecom infrastructure governed by the FCC.
It should be illegal for any company to collect, use, share, sell, purchase, or aggregate protected telecom-related information, such as personal and professional surveillance data (e.g. location data) and sensitive user data.
It should be illegal to for any company to sell access to their product users to companies that employ surveillance and data-mining business practices rooted in surveillance capitalism.
It should be illegal to advertise such products without mentioning that products such as smartphones are intentionally designed to enable the OS developer and pre-installed content developers with the ability to monitor, track, and data mine the product user for financial gain.
- Addictive, Intrusive, Harmful Technology: Former senior executives and a product designer for Google and Facebook publicly admit that each company intentionally develops addictive, intrusive, and harmful technology in order to exploit their product users for financial gain at the expense of the users’ privacy and safety.
- Malware in the Form of Apps: Apps are intentionally designed to enable the app developer with the ability to monitor, track, and data mine the product user for financial gain. Many pre-installed and third-party apps, widgets, and content are simply a legal form of malware.
- No Compensation: Data-driven technology providers are exploiting people’s telecom-related data for financial gain at the expense of the users’ privacy without compensating them for the use of their collective digital DNA. Companies such as Google and Apple view their product users as “uncompensated information producers.”
It should be illegal to hide any application legalese and application product warnings from consumers within the OS of a smartphone, tablet PC, or connected product.
All application legalese and application product warnings should be published online with terms and conditions, privacy policies, and end-user licensing agreements.
Total control over the OS and pre-installed surveillance and data-mining technology such as apps, widgets, and emojis should be given to the product owner or user.
Threat/Violation 4: Harmful Use of Digital DNA and Civil Liberty Threats
- Harmful Use of Personal and Professional Information (Digital DNA): Telecom and tech-product users have no idea how telecom and data-driven technology providers are using, sharing, selling, purchasing, and aggregating their personal and professional digital DNA. They have no idea if their collective digital DNA is being used in a manner that can bring harm to them or is ending up in the hands of data brokers, employers, state actors (foreign or domestic), bank and insurance underwriters, law enforcement agencies, business competitors, or other entities that can bring harm to them.
- Manipulating the Product User: Telecom and data-driven technology providers coupled with data brokers use AI, predictive analytics, and suggestive technology as a means to manipulate telecom and tech product users into taking action, such as clicking on a link, conversing with a virtual human, or voting for a political candidate. AI, predictive analytics, and suggestive technology has been used by data brokers plus other tech giants without challenge by the FTC, FCC, DOJ, state attorneys general, and lawmakers.
Solution: Ban the Use of Personal and Professional Digital DNA Without Proper Consent
Telecom and tech-product users should have 100-percent control over all of their personal and professional digital DNA produced by the use of any product (free or otherwise) that employs surveillance and data-mining business practices.
Telecom and tech-product users should be able to have their digital DNA deleted by simply filing a request for deletion with their telecom and data-driven technology providers.
Once a deletion request is received, all telecom and tech providers concerned would have two weeks to comply by deleting all personal and professional digital DNA concerned, retroactive back to 1980 if necessary.
It should be illegal for any company to use a person’s collective digital DNA in a harmful manner.
Threat/Violation 5: Privacy and Cybersecurity Threats
- Confidential and Protected Environments: Business professionals, government officials, doctors, attorneys, members of the military and law enforcement, judges, journalists, and lawmakers work within a confidential and protected environment. Confidential and protected environments are governed by confidentiality agreements, non-disclosure agreements, industry and federal cybersecurity standards, federal information processing standards, and confidentiality laws that govern medical information, client–attorney privilege, and classified information. My research concludes that it is illegal for a person to use a smartphone supported by surveillance and data-mining technology within a confidential and protected environment. It is also illegal for any telecom or tech giant to collect, use, share, sell, purchase, or aggregate confidential and protected telecommunications, information, and data.
- Conflict of Interest—Antitrust and Unfair Business Competition: Companies such as Alphabet, Inc. (Google) compete in multiple industries worldwide, yet the FCC, FTC, DOJ, and telecom providers enable Google to surveil and data mine telecom-product users that include business professionals, which is a conflict of interest that needs to be addressed. This means that Google and their affiliates such as Baidu are enabled to lawfully surveil and data mine telecom-product users that may work for existing or future business competitors.
Solution: Ban the Use of Intrusive Telecom Products Within a Confidential and Protected Environment
It should be illegal for anyone to use a smartphone, tablet PC, voice-automated product, PC, or connected product supported by surveillance and data-mining business practices within a confidential and protected environment.
It should be illegal for any company that competes in multiple industries to be enabled to monitor, track, and data mine any telecom or tech-product user for financial gain or otherwise.
Threat/Violation 6: Teen and Child Privacy, Safety, and Exploitation
Aside from adults and business professionals, companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Baidu also exploit teens and children for financial gain at the expense of the teen or child’s civil liberty, privacy, cybersecurity, and safety.
Solution: Ban Companies and State Actors from Surveilling and Data-Mining Teens and Children
It should be illegal to surveil and data mine anyone under the age of 18 without the consent of the parent/carer or a warrant from a domestic judge or a FISA court.
There are many other violations of law and threats that need to be addressed by all government agencies and lawmakers concerned in addition to the ones listed in this article.
Hopefully, lawmakers will address predatory surveillance and data-mining business practices by passing meaningful legislation that will protect citizens, teens, children, and business professionals.
Rex M. Lee is a privacy and data security consultant and Blackops Partners senior analyst and researcher. Visit him at MySmartPrivacy.com
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.