Peru decrees warrantless geolocation tracking

Most businesses are closed the day before Peru’s Independence Day so it’s a good time to issue a decree that you’d rather people not scrutinize. Except what’s becoming known as “The Stalker Law” is getting plenty of attention.

Taking advantage of special powers conferred on his government by Congress, President Ollanta Humala decreed on July 27 that police can track people’s location in real time using their cell phone signals. No warrant necessary. Telecoms need to hold onto the data for three years. Crime is getting bad, after all.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Katitza Rodriguez wrote that it provides the cops with “detailed footprints of our daily lives.” Most people don’t realize how much data their cellphones collect about them minute by minute _ or that they can turn location tracking off.

Rodriguez says the surprise decree follows a global pattern of governments encroaching on their citizens’ digital privacy with limited debate.

The government, observed Miguel Morachimo, director of the Peruvian digital rights NGO Hiperderecho, tried to accomplish something similar three years ago in legislation that failed. Now it has achieved what it could not democratically: “To bypass all Peruvians’ right to privacy.”

He’s thrown down the gauntlet in this post (Sp.).

Another digital rights legal expert, Erick Iriarte, considered the decree not very well thought out (Sp.). It lets judges retroactively declare inadmissible the geotracking information, which includes who you talked to, where you were, physically, the time and duration of the call. But what happens to the information collected. Can Peru’s police be trusted with it?

Four men signed the decree: President Humala, his Cabinet chief and the ministers of interior and justice.  No debate in Congress. Not exactly government by consensus. Humala enters his last year in office as very much the lame duck. His approval rating in last weekend’s GfK poll was 15 percent.

Markoff interview with @edge on tech future – Silicon Valley Zeitgeist

This interview with John Markoff, the dean of technology journalism along with Steven Levy and Bruce Sterling, is long-winded but well worth a read. I like, especially, his skepticism on robotics and automation decimating the workforce.

“We’re at that stage, where our expectations have outrun the reality of the technology.”

I agree with him that augmented reality will likely be the next killer app. I think it will be driven by the military-industrial complex. Markoff says it The Next Big Thing may not come from Silicon Valley, which he thinks may have plateaued.

He also bemoans what the current tech bubble has done to northern California. Rents at $3,000 for a one-bedroom apartment. Foreigners buying up luxury condos as investments and leaving them empty. People commuting to work in Wi-Fi equipped buses owned by private companies while the public transportation system crumbles.

 

Secure Messaging Scorecard – From EFF

Prying/preying eyes and ears a problem?

I had a source tell me today that he uses Hushmail to communicate with people who are under surveillance in a hostile digital environment. Not advisable. I sent him this link to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s terrific Secure Messaging Scorecard (via Wickr encrypted chat).

Below is a a screenshot of a portion of the scorecard. Thumbs up to Jitsi (My preference for secure audio chats)! Thumbs down to Hushmail.

And while we’re promoting the organization _ EFF senior attorney Hanni Fakhoury, a Californian of Egyptian descent, told me it has doubled its staff in the past four years _ I will link to its handy Surveillance Self-Defense guide, available in English, Spanish and Arabic and coming soon, says Hanni, Portuguese.

 

eff secure messaging

The Greenpeace / Nazca lines saga and press freedom

I have occupied myself with little else since we learned on Jan. 7  that a provincial prosecutor planned to ask a judge in Nazca to throw our photographer Rodrigo Abd in jail at the request Peru’s Ministry of Culture because he had covered Greenpeace’s Dec. 8 stunt at the Nazca lines.

Peru GreenpeaceThe court hearing has twice been postponed. It is now set for Jan. 27. We have made our case publicly that Rodrigo and the Reuters videojournalist who also covered the action on assignment should not be jailed during the preliminary investigation. The Foreign Press Association of Peru and the Inter-American Press Association asked that all criminal proceedings be halted against the two journalists.

Now, Greenpeace has weighed in.

In a note delivered yesterday to the prosecutor , executive director Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International stressed that the journalists “were not involved in the planning, preparations, or  execution” of the action, according to spokesman Mike Townsley.

In the note, Townsley told me via email, Naidoo explains Greenpeace’s press strategy/policy a bit.

“A large part of Greenpeace’s force for positive change comes from generating debate about public interest issues. As such, journalists are contacted to independently cover campaign activities. These journalists are always and necessarily independent from these activities. Their  independence is derived from journalistic ethics and standards that demand, among other things, telling the story from an objective perspective. It is their independence that gives them their professional credibility. A clear distinction should be drawn between the people organising events and the  journalists covering them. The rights of journalists to gather and report on news must be respected and protected.”

The note may sound self-serving, and indeed Greenpeace does cultivate the news media like any organization that seeks publicity. But do consider that Rodrigo’s visual documentation of the Nazca lines action provided people with independent information that helped them assess it and form their own opinions. That’s our role in a free society.

My speech at the Cabot awards ceremony

My speech, as delivered on Oct. 15, 2014 in Low Library at 
Columbia University. I was one of four recipients of the 
2014 Maria Moors Cabot award for excellence in coverage 
of Latin America.
---

I want to express my deep gratitude to Columbia University, to the Cabot
jury, to my editors and colleagues at the AP, to Claude Erbsen, who got
me to Bogota in 1996, and to my wife, Ceci. How she puts up with me and
my crazy work schedule is a mystery.

When I moved back to Bogota in 2006, some of my colleagues in New York
had an idea why I might be leaving the AP technology news department,
which I had pretty much built from scratch. A crack, loyal staff, they
knew, awaited me in Bogota, people who called me "jefe." I'll be honest.
I loved the trappings. I loved, most of all, that we had a large,
talented staff. We could be ambitious, comprehensive.
 
Then came the industry carnage.

Where once we were nine full-time AP English-language staffers in five
Andean countries, now we are three. And that's just English. We try to
adjust, but we cannot pretend to be pleased. Too much goes uncovered.

For all the noise on Twitter, for all the glut of information, U.S.
consumers of international news are simply less informed these days,
particularly from our beloved Americas. Every day, we front-line
journalists must make painful decisions about what we can't cover. Too
often, they are important stories that challenge powerful interests. In
Lima, my home since 2011, local established media tend to ignore such
stories.

So how do we ensure that such stories are told?

I'm pleased to report that I have come to know a group of talented,
tenacious and mostly young journalists who give me hope. They are my
colleagues in Peru's fledgling Hacks/Hackers group. They are serious,
idealistic. They are embracing data journalism. They are demanding that
Peru's freedom-of-information law be honored. They are scraping what
little public information is available to coax out news that matters.
And they are getting results.

Recently, some teamed with programmers and scoured the biographies of
the more than 100,000 candidates for the state and local elections that
Peru held this month. They cross-referenced the bios with public
databases. They found convicted embezzlers, deadbeat dads, rapists and
more than a dozen candidates convicted of drug-related crimes.

It was Peru's first big data journalism story. Authorities had no choice
but to react. Some candidates were disqualified. Peru's interior
minister compiled a list of 124 so-called "narco-candidates" under
investigation tried or sentenced for drug-related crimes. But it’s just
a start. Three of those candidates are now governors-elect.

I have great hopes for the young Latin American journalists doing such work.
They deserve our esteem, our attention _ and they deserve some serious
foundation money. It is an honor to shill for them.    

And now to my pet peeve.

I am an insufferable geek, and a terrible nag when it comes to digital
security. Just ask my co-workers. If we journalists don't protect our
data we can lose sources in the worst ways. They can lose their jobs.
They can be killed. Not enough news organizations are taking this
seriously enough. We need to invest in solutions and educate staff.
Anyone covering a beat that is even remotely sensitive needs to be using
encrypted communications. And they need to lock down their data.
Editors, too.  We must also equip our sources, and the provincial
journalists with whom we often deal. They can face the greatest dangers.

If we are to remain credible _ if we want people to trust us with
delicate data_ we must know how to protect its integrity. Otherwise, the
information war will be ours to lose.

Latin America ranks lowest in security / Venezuela most dangerous (Bolivia & Peru not much better)

Gallup published a study last month that found residents of Latin America/Caribbean, among global regions, the least likely to feel secure. Gallup’s Law and Order Index is based on confidence in local police, feelings of personal safety and self-reported incidence of theft. The region’s most insecure countries after Venezuela were Bolivia then Peru, whose score of 48 was the same as Syria’s.

Gallup image - Venezuela worst

Maria Moors Cabot awardee

It was a great week. Columbia U. announced this year’s recipients of the oldest award for international journalism given in the United States. It’s for excellence in coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean. There’s an Oct. 15 awards dinner in New York.

The last winner from The Associated Press (in 2000) was Eloy Aguilar, the late, great Mexico and Central America bureau chief (past winners). I’m in very distinguished company.  And we’ve certainly come a long way from 1965, when the men’s club lineup included AP’s LatAm editor. 1965 Maria Moors Cabot

 

 

 

 

The week’s tweets included this circa 1997 photo ,posted by daughter Luna, in my Bogota office. It had bullet-proof glass surrounded by a thin wooden frame. The Cali cartel was coming apart in those days but FARC rebels were overrunning military bases right and left and parents of my kids’ school chums were getting extorted by the guerrillas.

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