Category Archives: Police State/Big Brother USA

TSA Trained Disney, SeaWorld to SPOT Terrorists

Jana Winter reports for The Intercept:

Going to Disney World this summer? Don’t laugh excessively with widely open staring eyes — because those behavior indicators could identify you as a potential terrorist. Packing a Mickey Mouse costume? Wearing a disguise is another indicator.

Yes, the Transportation Security Administration’s embattled $900 million behavior detection program, called Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT, is not just used at airports. It’s also used at theme parks.

TSA has trained security teams from SeaWorld, Disney World and Busch Gardens to use the same checklist of behavior indicators, which includes “wearing a disguise,” “whistling,” “exaggerated yawning” and “excessive laughter,” according to interviews and documents obtained by The Intercept.’

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Body cameras could transform policing – for the worse

Shakeer Rahman writes for Al Jazeera America:

The day after video surfaced of a North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer shooting Walter Scott in the back, the town’s mayor announced plans to outfit all its police officers with body cameras. The New York Police Department has started to put cameras on officers, and the White House has announced a $263 million program to supply 50,000 body cameras to local police.

Advocates for these cameras hope that they will hold police accountable for their behavior. Skeptics point out that unobstructed video footage did nothing to win an indictment in the police killing of Eric Garner. But this debate has overlooked another possibility. Even if cameras reduce police violence, they could transform how citizens interact with police once facial recognition technology allows officers automatically to identify each individual they lay eyes on.’

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Troops referred to Ferguson protesters as “enemy forces” – emails show

Joanna Walters reports for The Guardian:

Missouri national guardAs the Missouri national guard prepared to deploy to the streets of Ferguson last year during protests sparked by the shooting death of Michael Brown, the troops used highly militarised language such as “enemy forces” and “adversaries” to refer to citizen demonstrators.

Documents detailing the military mission divided the crowds that national guards would be likely to encounter into “friendly forces” and “enemy forces” – the latter apparently including “general protesters”.

A briefing for commanders included details of the troops’ intelligence capabilities so that they could “deny adversaries the ability to identify Missouri national guard vulnerabilities”, which the “adversaries” might exploit, “causing embarrassment or harm” to the military force, according to documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request by CNN.’

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TSA Agents Fired After Conspiracy To Grope Attractive Male Passengers

Blueprint for Post-9/11 Surveillance: U.S. Began Bulk Collection of Phone Call Data in 1992: Interview with Brad Heath

‘An explosive new report reveals the federal government secretly tracked billions of U.S. phone calls years before the 9/11 attacks. According to USA Today, the Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration collected bulk data for phone calls in as many as 116 countries deemed to have a connection with drug trafficking. The program began in 1992 under President George H.W. Bush, nine years before his son, George W. Bush, authorized the National Security Agency to gather logs of Americans’ phone calls in 2001. This program served as a blueprint for NSA mass surveillance. We speak with Brad Heath, the USA Today investigative reporter who broke the story.’ (Democracy Now!)

U.S. Congress must end mass NSA surveillance with next Patriot Act vote

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

Will Congress put an end to the era of unfettered mass surveillance?In less than 60 days, Congress – whether they like it or not – will be forced to decide if the NSA’s most notorious mass surveillance program lives or dies. And today, over 30 civil liberties organizations launched a nationwide call-in campaign urging them to kill it.

Despite doing almost everything in their power to avoid voting for substantive NSA reform, Congress now has no choice: On 1 June, one of the most controversial parts of the Patriot Act – known as Section 215 – will expire unless both houses of Congress affirmatively vote for it to be reauthorized.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act was the subject of the very first Snowden story, when the Guardian reported that the US government had reinterpreted the law in complete secrecy, allowing the NSA to vacuum up every single American’s telephone records – who they called, who called them, when, and for how long – regardless of whether they had been accused of a crime or not. (The NSA’s warped interpretation of Section 215 was also the subject of John Oliver’s entire show on Sunday night. It is a must-watch.)’

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TSA ‘Behavior Detection’ Program Targeting Undocumented Immigrants, Not Terrorists

Jana Winter reports for The Intercept:

A controversial Transportation Security Administration program that uses “behavior indicators” to identify potential terrorists is instead primarily targeting undocumented immigrants, according to a document obtained by The Intercept and interviews with current and former government officials.

The $900 million program, Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT, employs behavior detection officers trained to identify passengers who exhibit behaviors that TSA believes could be linked to would-be terrorists. But in one five-week period at a major international airport in the United States in 2007, the year the program started, only about 4 percent of the passengers who were referred to secondary screening or law enforcement by behavior detection officers were arrested, and nearly 90 percent of those arrests were for being in the country illegally, according to a TSA document obtained by The Intercept.

Nothing in the SPOT records suggests that any of those arrested were associated with terrorist activity.’

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You’re 55 Times More Likely to be Killed by a Police Officer than a Terrorist in America

From Washington’s Blog:

We previously reported that Americans are 9 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist.

But it turns out that our numbers were incorrect …

This isn’t surprising, given that:

Reliable estimates of the number of justifiable homicides committed by police officers in the United States do not exist.” A study of killings by police from 1999 to 2002 in the Central Florida region found that the national databases included (in Florida) only one-fourth of the number of persons killed by police as reported in the local news media.

The Guardian reports today:

An average of 545 people killed by local and state law enforcement officers in the US went uncounted in the country’s most authoritative crime statistics every year for almost a decade, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The first-ever attempt by US record-keepers to estimate the number of uncounted “law enforcement homicides” exposed previous official tallies as capturing less than half of the real picture. The new estimate – an average of 928 people killed by police annuallyover eight recent years, compared to 383 in published FBI data – amounted to a more glaring admission than ever before of the government’s failure to track how many people police kill.

The revelation called into particular question the FBI practice of publishing annual totals of “justifiable homicides by law enforcement” – tallies that are widely cited in the media and elsewhere as the most accurate official count of police homicides.

As shown below, that means that you’re 55 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist.’

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What if There Was No Video? White South Carolina Officer Charged With Murder of Fleeing African-American Man

Interview with South Carolina civil rights activist Kevin Alexander Gray, editor of the book: “Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence.” (Democracy Now!)

Interview with Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. Stanley wrote the 2013 report: “Police Body-Mounted Cameras: With Right Policies in Place, a Win For All.” (Democracy Now!)

Video of Shooting Caught Police Propaganda Machine in Action

Andrew Jerell Jones reports for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Video of Shooting Caught Police Propaganda Machine in ActionA video supplied to The New York Times, showing the shooting death of 50-year-old Walter Scott at the hands of a South Carolina police officer, appears on first viewing to be the latest example of an unarmed black person killed unnecessarily by a white cop.

But it’s so much more than that. Because three days elapsed between the shooting and the publication of the video of the shooting, the Scott incident became an illuminating case study in the routinized process through which police officers, departments and attorneys frame the use of deadly force by American cops in the most sympathetic possible terms, often claiming fear of the very people they killed. In the days after the shooting, the police version of events — an utterly typical example of the form — was trotted out, only to be sharply contradicted when the video surfaced. In most cases like this, there is no video, no definitive, undisputed record of much of what happened, and thus no way to rebut inaccurate statements by the police.’

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U.S. secretly tracked billions of calls for decades

Brad Heath reports for USA Today:

The U.S. government started keeping secret records of Americans’ international telephone calls nearly a decade before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, harvesting billions of calls in a program that provided a blueprint for the far broader National Security Agency surveillance that followed.

For more than two decades, the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as 116 countries linked to drug trafficking, current and former officials involved with the operation said. The targeted countries changed over time but included Canada, Mexico and most of Central and South America.

Federal investigators used the call records to track drug cartels’ distribution networks in the USA, allowing agents to detect previously unknown trafficking rings and money handlers. They also used the records to help rule out foreign ties to the bombing in 1995 of a federal building in Oklahoma City and to identify U.S. suspects in a wide range of other investigations.’

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Report: US police killed more people in March than UK did in 20th century

‘A new report by ThinkProgress.com unearthed disturbing figures when it came to the number of police-related deaths that occurred in America in the month of March alone. Manila Chan takes a look at the statistics and how they compare to other countries.’ (RT America)

How Big Business Is Helping Expand NSA Surveillance, Snowden Be Damned

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

Since November 11, 2011, with the introduction of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, American spy agencies have been pushing laws to encourage corporations to share more customer information. They repeatedly failed, thanks in part to NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations of mass government surveillance. Then came Republican victories in last year’s midterm Congressional elections and a major push by corporate interests in favor of the legislation.

Today, the bill is back, largely unchanged, and if congressional insiders and the bill’s sponsors are to believed, the legislation could end up on President Obama’s desk as soon as this month. In another boon to the legislation, Obama is expected to reverse his past opposition and sign it, albeit in an amended and renamed form (CISPA is now CISA, the “Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act”). The reversal comes in the wake of high-profile hacks on JPMorgan Chase and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The bill has also benefitted greatly from lobbying by big business, which sees it as a way to cut costs and to shift some anti-hacking defenses onto the government.’

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TSA Checklist Exposed: “Suspicious Signs” Include Throat Clearing, Whistling and “Exaggerated Yawning”

‘Next time you are at an airport, you may not want to gaze down at your feet. But also be careful not to stare at anyone with your eyes wide open. Both of these behaviors are listed on a “suspicious signs” checklist used by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. The Intercept obtained the confidential document from a source concerned about the quality of the program. The document shows how the TSA identifies potential terrorists based on behaviors that it thinks indicate stress or deception, including “fidgeting,” “whistling” and “throat clearing.” The checklist is part of the TSA’s controversial program known as the “Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques.” It employs specially trained officers, known as behavior detection officers, to watch and interact with passengers going through screening. The TSA has trained and deployed thousands of these officers, spending more than $900 million on this program since its inception in 2007. However, the Government Accountability Office has found there is no evidence to back up the claim that “behavioral indicators … can be used to identify persons who may pose a risk to aviation security.” We are joined by Cora Currier, staff reporter for The Intercept, whose new article co-written with Jana Winter, is “TSA’s Secret Behavior Checklist To Spot Terrorists.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

U.S. Army Special Operations Command pushes back against martial law claims regarding upcoming Jade Helm 15 exercise

Jon Harper reports for Stars & Stripes:

Jade Helm 15 area of operations. Image Source: Department of DefenseU.S. Army Special Operations Command is pushing back against alarmist claims that an upcoming U.S. military exercise is a preparation for imposing martial law or subduing right-leaning groups and individuals.

Conspiracy theories about the exercise, known as JADE HELM 15, appeared online this week. Some commentators railing against the event referred to an online slide show allegedly created by USASOC, which outlined a special operations exercise slated to take place across multiple states, outside the confines of U.S. military bases. In the slide show, a map of the southwest region of the United States labels Texas and other territory as “hostile” or “insurgent pocket.” The document also refers to coordination with law enforcement agencies.

[…] Army Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria, a USASOC spokesman, confirmed that there is an upcoming exercise called Jade Helm 15 which is scheduled to take place this summer at locations in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, California and Nevada. But he denied the event is preparation for some sort of military takeover.’

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Is using encryption suspicious? Half of Americans say yes, according to Pew

Andrea Peterson reports for The Washington Post:

Surveillance Programs Prompt Some to Change the Way They Use TechnologyNearly two years after former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed details of extensive government surveillance programs, a Pew Research report suggests that the news has prompted some Americans to change their approach to online privacy.

The group surveyed about 500 adult Americans, finding that nearly 90 percent of them had heard about government surveillance programs and more than a third of those aware of the programs “have taken at least one step to hide or shield their information from the government,” the report said.

Though the report found that a majority of Americans are skeptical of government surveillance programs, it also found very few are taking the extra step of encrypting the content of their e-mails. In fact, half of those surveyed said using encryption software gives the government enough suspicion to monitor a U.S. citizen’s communications.’

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The psychology of mass government surveillance: How do the public respond and is it changing our behaviour?

Chris Chambers reports for The Guardian:

Amnesty International has today reported the outcome of a Yougov survey in 15,000 people across 13 countries, studying for the first time international views of mass surveillance and whether the public believe it is changing their own behaviour.

[…] Just how accepting are people of surveillance in the first place? In short, not very. Across all 13 countries, there was no majority support for surveillance – only 26% of people, overall, agreed that the government should monitor the communications and Internet activity of its own citizens, while a similar number (29%) felt their government should monitor overseas citizens. Only 17% of respondents believed their government should monitor everybody – citizens, foreign nationals, and foreign countries – while twice as many (34%) believed their government should never monitor any of these groups.’

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The Wolf Is Guarding the Hen House: The Government’s War on Cyberterrorism

John W. Whitehead writes:

The game is rigged, the network is bugged, the government talks double-speak, the courts are complicit and there’s nothing you can do about it.”—David Kravets, reporting for Wired

Nothing you write, say, text, tweet or share via phone or computer is private anymore. As constitutional law professor Garrett Epps points out, “Big Brother is watching…. Big Brother may be watching you right now, and you may never know. Since 9/11, our national life has changed forever. Surveillance is the new normal.”

This is the reality of the internet-dependent, plugged-in life of most Americans today.

A process which started shortly after 9/11 with programs such as Total Information Awareness (the predecessor to the government’s present surveillance programs) has grown into a full-fledged campaign of warrantless surveillance, electronic tracking and data mining, thanks to federal agents who have been given carte blanche access to the vast majority of electronic communications in America. Their methods completely undermine constitution safeguards, and yet no federal agency, president, court or legislature has stepped up to halt this assault on our rights.’

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Judge to U.S. Government: ‘National Security’ Isn’t a ‘Magic Word’ That Allows Constitutional Rights Violations

Lindsay Nash writes for the American Civil Liberties Union:

‘[…] In the past, DHS generally did not detain families who arrived in the United States seeking asylum. Most eligible individuals were released if they could show that they were not a flight risk or a danger to the community. However, beginning in the summer of 2014, DHS started detaining families in large numbers as part of an “aggressive deterrence strategy” intended to send a message to other Central Americans that if they sought refuge in the United States, they would be similarly punished. Under this policy, even if families demonstrated that they had a credible fear of persecution and were neither flight risks nor dangerous, DHS refused to consider them for release and kept them locked up.

Sound cruel? It is. It’s also unnecessary and illegal.’

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Data and Goliath: Bruce Schneier on the Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World

‘Leading security and privacy researcher Bruce Schneier talks about about the golden age of surveillance and his new book, “Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World.” The book chronicles how governments and corporation have built an unprecedented surveillance state. While the leaks of Edward Snowden have shed light on the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices, less attention has been paid to other forms of everyday surveillance — license plate readers, facial recognition software, GPS tracking, cellphone metadata and data mining.’ (Democracy Now!)

ECHELON – CBS 60 Minutes report from February 27, 2000

‘Patriot Act 2.0’? Senate Cybersecurity Bill Seen as Trojan Horse for More Spying

Nadia Prupis reports for Common Dreams:

cisa.jpgThe U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee approved a cybersecurity bill during a secret session on Thursday, marking the next step in a process that critics warn will nefariously expand the government’s already substantial surveillance powers.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), which passed by 14-1 vote, would ostensibly protect against large-scale data thefts of private consumer information, exemplified by recent hacks of Target, Sony, and Home Depot. But critics—including the lone dissenting voice on the committee Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Or.)—say it would open the door for continued invasive and unlawful government spying operations.

Although Wyden denounced the measure as “a surveillance bill by another name,” his opposition was unable to stop the proposal from being approved by the committee. The bill, which reportedly underwent a dozen changes during the meeting, will next go to the full Senate for debate. Its passage in committee, however, means it has already succeeded where other recent cybersecurity proposals have failed.’

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The Orwellian Re-Branding of “Mass Surveillance” as Merely “Bulk Collection”

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

‘Just as the Bush administration and the U.S. media re-labelled “torture” with the Orwellian euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques” to make it more palatable, the governments and media of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance are now attempting to re-brand “mass surveillance” as “bulk collection” in order to make it less menacing (and less illegal). In the past several weeks, this is the clearly coordinated theme that has arisen in the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as the last defense against the Snowden revelations, as those governments seek to further enhance their surveillance and detention powers under the guise of terrorism.

This manipulative language distortion can be seen perfectly in yesterday’s white-washing report of GCHQ mass surveillance from the servile rubber-stamp calling itself “The Intelligence and Security Committee of the UK Parliament (ISC)”(see this great Guardian Editorial this morning on what a “slumbering” joke that “oversight” body is). As Committee Member MP Hazel Blears explained yesterday (photo above), the Parliamentary Committee officially invoked this euphemism to justify the collection of billions of electronic communications events every day.

The Committee actually acknowledged for the first time (which Snowden documents log ago proved) that GCHQ maintains what it calls “Bulk Personal Datasets” that contain “millions of records,” and even said about pro-privacy witnesses who testified before it: “we recognise their concerns as to the intrusive nature of bulk collection.” That is the very definition of “mass surveillance,” yet the Committee simply re-labelled it “bulk collection,” purported to distinguish it from “mass surveillance,” and thus insist that it was all perfectly legal.’

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Wikipedia Sues NSA Over Dragnet Internet Surveillance

Cora Currier reports for The Intercept:

‘Wikipedia is suing the NSA over surveillance programs that involve tapping internet traffic en masse from communications infrastructure in the U.S. in order to search it for intelligence purposes.

The lawsuit argues that this broad surveillance, revealed in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, violates the First Amendment by chilling speech and the open exchange of information, and that it also runs up against Fourth Amendment privacy protections.

“The surveillance that we’re challenging gives the government virtually unfettered access to U.S. communications and the content of those communications,” said Patrick Toomey, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is bringing the litigation on behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia, and a group of human rights and media organizations including The Nation magazine and Amnesty International, who say that their sensitive overseas communications are imperiled by the NSA’s snooping.’

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Police killed more than twice as many people as reported by US government

Tom McCarthy reports for The Guardian:

Eric Garner Mike Brown mural‘An average of 545 people killed by local and state law enforcement officers in the US went uncounted in the country’s most authoritative crime statistics every year for almost a decade, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The first-ever attempt by US record-keepers to estimate the number of uncounted “law enforcement homicides” exposed previous official tallies as capturing less than half of the real picture. The new estimate – an average of 928 people killed by police annually over eight recent years, compared to 383 in published FBI data – amounted to a more glaring admission than ever before of the government’s failure to track how many people police kill.

The revelation called into particular question the FBI practice of publishing annual totals of “justifiable homicides by law enforcement” – tallies that are widely cited in the media and elsewhere as the most accurate official count of police homicides.’

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Why Does the FBI Have to Manufacture its Own Plots if Terrorism and ISIS Are Such Grave Threats?

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

‘[…] We’re constantly bombarded with dire warnings about the grave threat of home-grown terrorists, “lone wolf” extremists and ISIS. So intensified are these official warnings that The New York Times earlier this monthcited anonymous U.S. intelligence officials to warn of the growing ISIS threat and announce “the prospect of a new global war on terror.”

But how serious of a threat can all of this be, at least domestically, if the FBI continually has to resort to manufacturing its own plots by trolling the Internet in search of young drifters and/or the mentally ill whom they target, recruit and then manipulate into joining? Does that not, by itself, demonstrate how over-hyped and insubstantial this “threat” actually is? Shouldn’t there be actual plots, ones that are created and fueled without the help of the FBI, that the agency should devote its massive resources to stopping?’

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Why shutting down the Department of Homeland Security would be a good idea

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

[…] While Republicans are again holding a federal agency hostage for a ridiculous reason, they’ve managed to stumble across a good idea in the process: Congress should not just threaten to pull DHS funding, they should abolish it entirely.

DHS is a behemoth and a bureaucratic nightmare that is projected to cost Americans $38.2bn this year. This conglomeration of over 20 government agencies, under one umbrella of dysfunction and secrecy, was mashed together by George W. Bush after 9/11 to form a largely incompetent and corrupt spy machine. Examples of its awfulness abound.’

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American police brutality, exported from Chicago to Guantánamo

Spencer Ackerman reports for The Guardian:

Police brutality updatedWhen the Chicago detective Richard Zuley arrived at Guantánamo Bay late in 2002, US military commanders touted him as the hero they had been looking for.

Here was a Navy reserve lieutenant who had spent the last 25 years as a distinguished detective on the mean streets of Chicago, closing case after case – often due to his knack for getting confessions.

But while Zuley’s brutal interrogation techniques – prolonged shackling, family threats, demands on suspects to implicate themselves and others – would get supercharged at Guantánamo for the war on terrorism, a Guardian investigation has uncovered that Zuley used similar tactics for years, behind closed police-station doors, on Chicago’s poor and non-white citizens. Multiple people in prison in Illinois insist they have been wrongly convicted on the basis of coerced confessions extracted by Zuley and his colleagues.’

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The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’

Spencer Ackerman reports for The Guardian:

‘The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.’

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Major Video Game Companies Agree to Share Customer Data with the US Government

Jason Koebler reports for VICE Motherboard:

With or without controversial new legislation such as the ​Cybersecurity Information Sharing and Protection Act, President Obama is doing his best to make sure companies share the information they know about you with the federal government.

On Friday, the president issued a cybersecurity executive order that creates a new framework for “expanded information sharing designed to help companies work together, and work with the federal government, to quickly identify and protect against cyber threats,” according to an emailed fact sheet from the White House.

The ​Sony hack of late last year made the idea of “cyberwar” all too real for many politicians, including Obama, who has spent much of the last two months talking about the need for ​expanded cooperation between the government and private companies. Considering all that rhetoric, Friday’s move doesn’t come as any real surprise.’

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