Hard Brexit could force Dutch electronics firm Philips to quit UK

2048.jpg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&f

Philips CEO says cost of exported products could increase if UK leaves single customs union

Dutch electronics firm Philips has warned it may shift production out of Britain in the event of a “hard” Brexit, saying it was “deeply concerned about competitiveness” of its operations there.

The Amsterdam-based group employs about 1,500 people in Britain, most notably at its factory at Glemsford in Suffolk making baby care products for export.

Continue reading…

BOMBSHELL: Trump admin ran ‘pilot program’ for zero tolerance at border in 2017 [and over 4,100 children have been separated from parents, more than previously reported]

BOMBSHELL: Trump admin ran ‘pilot program’ for zero tolerance at border in 2017 [and over 4,100 children have been separated from parents, more than previously reported]:

seandotpolitics:

The government was separating migrant parents from their kids for months prior to the official introduction of zero tolerance [in May], running what a U.S. official called a “pilot program” for widespread prosecutions in Texas, but apparently did not create a clear system for parents to track or reunite with their kids

[A] DHS official also confirmed to NBC that, from July 2017 to October 2017, the Trump administration ran what the official called a “pilot program” for zero tolerance in El Paso.

Court records and interviews with migrants show that during that period federal prosecutors began to criminally charge any adult who crossed the border unlawfully in the El Paso sector, which spans from New Mexico to West Texas. Parents arriving with young children were not exempt.

“This was happening in El Paso before it was news,” said Linda Rivas, executive director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. “People didn’t believe it…”

Even those families who crossed the border hoping for asylum were caught up in the El Paso experiment. A mother named Jocelyn, whom Rivas represents, was apprehended crossing with her son last August near El Paso. Although Jocelyn said she sought asylum, she was prosecuted for illegal entry, court documents show. Her son was taken from her 

After Strava, Polar is Revealing the Homes of Soldiers and Spies

Polar, a fitness app, is revealing the homes and lives of people exercising in secretive locations, such as intelligence agencies, military bases and airfields, nuclear weapons storage sites, and embassies around the world, a joint investigation of Bellingcat and Dutch journalism platform De Correspondent reveals. 

In January Nathan Ruser discovered that the fitness app Strava revealed sensitive locations throughout the world as it tracked and published the exercises of individuals, including soldiers at secret (or, “secret”) military outposts. The discovery of those military sites made headlines globally, but Polar, which can feed into the Strava app, is revealing even more.

The manufacturing company known for making the world’s first wireless heart-rate monitor uses its site ‘Polar Flow’ as a social platform where users can share their runs. Compared to the similar services of Garmin and Strava, Polar publicizes more data per user in a more accessible way, with potentially disastrous results. 

Exercises tracked at a military base in the Middle East. Red squares with white dots are clusters of many more sessions which started at that location.

Home is where the heart is

By showing all the sessions of an individual combined onto a single map, Polar is not only revealing the heart rates, routes, dates, time, duration, and pace of exercises carried out by individuals at military sites, but also revealing the same information from what are likely their homes as well. Tracing all of this information is very simple through the site: find a military base, select an exercise published there to identify the attached profile, and see where else this person has exercised. As people tend to turn their fitness trackers on/off when leaving or entering their homes, they unwittingly mark their houses on the map. Users often use their full names in their profiles, accompanied by a profile picture — even if they did not connect their Facebook profile to their Polar account.

Secretive locations are blurred by Google on satellite imagery, but Polar reveals the invidiuals exercising there.

Polar is not the only app doing this, but the difference between it and other popular fitness platforms, such as Strava or Garmin, is that these other sites require you to navigate to a specific person to view separate instances of his or her sessions, each exercise having its own small map. Moreover, they often limit the number of exercises that can be viewed. Polar makes it far worse by showing all the exercises of an individual done since 2014, all over the world on a single map.  

As a result, you only need to navigate to an interesting site, select one of the profiles exercising there, and you can get a full history of that individual. 

Polar’s map based on individualized data, showing exercises done by one person in the Middle East, and the United States.

Recorded activities globally from the past 6 months. Left to right: Global, North Korea and South Korea, French Polynesia, Antarctica.

Know by heart

With only a few clicks, a high-ranking officer of an airbase known to host nuclear weapons can be found jogging across the compound in the morning. From a house not too far from that base, he started and finished many more runs on early Sunday mornings. His favorite path is through a forest, but sometimes he starts and ends at a car park further away. The profile shows his full name.

Activities normally shrouded in secrecy are laid bare with incredible detail. At a U.S. Air Force base where armed drones are stationed, an intelligence officer can be found exercising. Again, his name and profile picture openly available.

We can find Western military personnel in Afghanistan through the Polar site. Cross-checking one name and profile picture with social media confirmed one soldier or officer’s identity. Polar showed his runs in several military bases spread throughout the Middle East, as well as the start and finish of dozens of exercises from a house in New York state. In early 2017, as the Polar app freely tells us, he made a trip to the west-side of the US and used a bike there. He also logged exercise from a hotel during a stay in Thailand. All this activity was accompanied with a time-stamp, his exact route, his heart-rate, and the amount of calories he burned.

Exercises tracked at a military base in Africa.

We can go through other military bases in the Middle East, Southern Asia, and Africa to find Western military servicemen and women and cross-reference their full names with social network profiles, including LinkedIn. A selection of individuals that we found on the Polar site who were identifiable from their public information, and whos homes we where able to locate includes:

  • Military personnel exercising at bases known, or strongly suspected, to host nuclear weapons.
  • Individuals exercising at intelligence agencies, as well as embassies, their homes, and other locations.
  • Persons working at the FBI and NSA.
  • Military personnel specialised in Cyber Security, IT, Missile Defence, Intelligence and other sensitive domains.
  • Persons serving on submarines, exercising at a submarine bases.
  • Individuals both from management and security working at nuclear power plants.
  • A CEO of a manufacturing company, exercising in locations all over the world.
  • Americans in the Green Zone in Baghdad.
  • Russian soldiers in Crimea.
  • Military personnel at Guantanamo Bay.
  • Troops stationed near the North Korean border.  
  • Airmen involved in the battle against the Islamic State. 

This list is not exhaustive. We were able to scrape Polar’s site (another security flaw) for individuals exercising at 200+ of such senstive sites, and we gathered a list of nearly 6,500 unique users. Together, these users had made over 650.000 exercises, marking the places they work, live, and go on vacation.

The security implications are obviously grave. In countries where soldiers were banned from wearing their uniforms on the street in the off-chance that they would run into a potential terrorist, addresses and living patterns can now be found easily by anyone with internet access and the wits to use Polar’s site. In its current form, it is not difficult to find the time of deployment, home, photograph, and the function of a soldier in a conflict zone. It does not take much imagination to see how this information could be used in dangerous ways by extremists or state intelligence services. This is especially concerning considering the data we managed to gather on personnel at multiple nuclear weapons storage sites.

The risk from Polar’s open data set also poses a risk to civilians, as those with ill intentions could use Polar to see when, and for how long, users in an area tend to be away from their homes, as well as when they are abroad if they bring the heart rate sensors with them.

Runners in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Open Season

On registering your account, Polar asks you to provide a name, location, height, weight, date of birth, gender and the amount of training per week. Though you can obviously fill in fake information, the majority of users we surveyed provided what seems to be reliable information. Along with the ability to connect your account to Facebook, Polar also offers integration with five other apps (including Strava) to share “all your sessions automatically”. 

Even with turning up the privacy settings, plenty of data will still be available. Here are some examples:  

  • Changing the privacy from ‘Public’ to ‘Followers’ will still let profiles show a name, photo and the location they wrote in during registering to anyone. Users would also need to turn off the option that allows others to become a ‘Follower’ automatically if they want to.
  • Changing the privacy of sessions, even to the most strict, only affects new sessions. Older sessions will remain visible.
  • Other fitness sites, such as Strava, provide the option to automatically prevent your home or work-location from being published. Polar doesn’t.
  • It is possible to remove individual sessions, but many accounts appear to have hundreds of sessions logged, making it a very cumbersome process.
  • There are sessions on the map which are completely private, not linked to anything else. However, once several of these private exercises starting and ending at the same home are located, it is still possible to gather information about when and where a person living there is going.
  • User ID’s connected to “private” runs are easily retrievable, meaning it is still possible to connect exercises at different locations to one person.

The privacy policy has been updated in August 2017, and new accounts do have their default settings set to the most private options available, meaning users have to opt-in to share. In response to our research, Polar stated it recognized the sensitive nature of the data that was being revealed, and decided to temporarily suspend the ‘explore’ function. Polar is also now working on other solutions to these issues, such as adding the ability to remove the exercise history in one go. 

Drawbacks

As with most open sources, Polar’s platform has its limitations. The Polar data relies on GPS, which can be inaccurate and spoofed, as Bellingcat described in an article on how to use Strava data. Moreover, users can (and probably should) turn their sensors on/off some distance from their homes. However, this is mostly negated by the fact that after multiple exercises, start- and end-points usually do average out to one particular residence.

The data tends to be accurate enough to tell when users are on the street, or on the property of a particular house. It becomes more difficult when dealing with dense cities and apartment buildings, though most fitness trackers seem to track elevation fairly accurately. In one instance, we tracked an individual working at a senstive location back to an appartment building. This person often started running in front of the building on the ground, but also had occasionally started an exercise at a much higher altitude. The difference between those two heights, combined with the coordinates, matched an exact floor within the apartment building. 

The Heart of the Matter

Finding the names and even addresses of soldiers online is in itself not new. The amount of data people are (unknowingly) putting online has long raised concerns with both the public and with governments. Separate social media accounts, posts, and information can be pieced together to provide a fairly complete picture about an individual. As seen in hundreds of articles on Bellingcat and other open source-focused sites, images and videos reveal a lot of information and can be used in geolocation to provide additional context. What is new is how easy it has become to track individuals using fitness apps such as Strava, and especially with the scale and speed of Polar.

The U.S. military has already reviewed its rules for fitness trackers, and it is likely other countries will have done so too. However, it was still possible to identify plenty of American users at many military locations. It is also worth noting that this is only data from Polar heart rate monitors, while there is a whole world of tracking devices and apps out there. Chinese fitness apps, for example, are already used by hundreds of millions and are sponsored by the government, which aims to develop ”a variety of fitness activities and special sports items”.

Clusters of individual exercises. Left: Hong Kong, Right: Moscow

Fitness devices and apps are just one more area where people need to be aware of what kind of data they are sharing, particularly as they strongly rely on sensitive data such as location and health-metrics. As always, check your app-permissions, try to anonymize your online presence, and, if you still insist on tracking your activities, start and end sessions in a public space, not at your front door. Finally, if you want absolute assurance that you are not running into data-pitfalls during future exercises, you could leave your device at home, so you can jog around anonymously to your heart’s content.

 

Foeke Postma (@FoekePostma) is a researcher on peace and security. He works at PAX, where he specializes in humanitarian disarmament. 

The author would like to thank Aric Toler (@AricToler) for editing and feedback, as well as Wim Zwijnenburg (@wammezz) for his help.

The articles on De Correspondent:
Main story
Methodology
How we dealt with this sensitive data
Tips for fitness-tracker users

The post After Strava, Polar is Revealing the Homes of Soldiers and Spies appeared first on bellingcat.

Israel bars Swedish activist who walked 4,800 km in solidarity with Palestinians 

By Yu Chun Huang- PNN/ Bethlehem/  

After his trip to Palestine in April 2017, where he witnessed systematic discrimination and heard real-life stories about arbitrary violence conducted by the Israeli occupation, 25-year-old activist  Benjamin Ladraa decided to raise awareness about human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories by walking from Sweden to Palestine.

Bearing a Palestinian flag and a keffiyeh on his neck, Ladraa set off his journey on the 8th of August 2017, which marked the 100th anniversary of Balfour Declaration, crossing 15 countries through European countries, then Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. He spent 11 months to walk the distance of 4800 km, where he finally arrived at the Israeli border to enter Palestine.

As his inspiring journey finally comes to an end reaching the Israeli border on Friday with several other activist finishing the last kilometers together, Ladraa found himself interrogated by Israeli guards for six hours and eventually being denied entry, claiming that he was lying during the interrogation and that he would join the demonstration at Nabi Saleh.

Throughout his journey, Ladraa was interviewed by the press. He held speeches and lectures to talk about his causes and goals, visited refugee camps and invited the displaced Palestinians to share their stories.

“I believe in order for progress to be made we need to put pressure on Israel to stop their crimes against the Palestinian people,” he says “The way to put pressure is have many people wanting it and taking action, and the way to make people take action is by informing them about the situation, because most people don’t know.”

He documented his journey through social media using #walktopalestine, currently having over twenty thousand followers on Facebook.

“All I hope for with this is that one day the needless suffering of the people living in the holy land will stop,” he said.

Apart from receiving all the supports from citizens and officials whenever  Ladraa arrives a new country, there were still some hardships that he had encountered. In Prague, he was detained by the Israeli embassy because of the Palestinian flag, and was once stopped six times in a day during the transit in Greece. The Bulgarian police held him for three hours when he was trying to cross the border.

Ladraa also expressed his feelings, “you get kind of lonely on the road … it’s really quite unbalanced because when I’m in big cities I meet so many people and make tons of new friends and then as soon as I’m leaving I’m completely alone again, just on the road.”

“Now ask yourself why the Israeli state fears one Swedish man so much that they didn’t allow him to enter the country they are occupying. This is the power of activism,” he wrote on Facebook.

Later on 7th of July, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas granted Palestinian citizenship to Ladraa as an appreciation for his solidarity with the Palestinian people, and bestowed the Medal of Merit.

“On behalf of the Palestinian leadership and people of Palestine, we extend our deep gratitude to Ladraa who has demonstrated exceptional courage and integrity by advocating on behalf of the Palestinian people and educating the international community about Israel’s persistent violations and acts of aggression against Palestinian lives, lands and resources; we will remain indebted to Mr. Ladraa,” PLO official mentioned in a statement. 

 

Revealed: Leave.EU campaign met Russian officials as many as 11 times

Don’t Tories or Labour care they’ve been sold out?!?

4362.jpg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&f

Founder Arron Banks was offered lucrative deals in talks with the ambassador

Arron Banks’ Leave.EU campaign team met with Russian embassy officials as many as 11 times in the run-up to the EU referendum and in the two months beyond, documents seen by the Observer suggest – seven more times than Banks has admitted. The same documents suggest the Russian embassy extended a further four invitations to Brexit’s biggest funder, but it is not known if they were accepted.

It is the third time the number of such meetings has been revised upwards. For two years, Banks insisted his only contact with the Russian government consisted of one “boozy lunch” with the Russian ambassador.

Continue reading…