ThinkProgress: Steve Bannon knows how often you go to church

Steve Bannon and the conservative group CatholicVote used cell-phone location data for people who had been inside Roman Catholic churches in Dubuque, Iowa, in 2018 to target them with get-out-the-vote ads, ThinkProgress has learned.

…“If your phone’s ever been in a Catholic church, it’s amazing, they got this data,” Bannon told director Alison Klayman as they sat in his Washington, D.C., home on the eve of the 2018 midterm elections.

“Literally, they can tell who’s been in a Catholic church and how frequently,” Bannon added. “And they got it triaged.”

…CatholicVote planned to use the data to send targeted get-out-the-vote ads on election day telling Catholics that it was their duty “to support President Trump,” according to Bannon.

…CatholicVote would not say more about how the group collected and used data in 2018.

The technology Bannon was alluding to is called “geofencing” or “ring-fencing.” It’s become popular over the last several years with advertisers, campaigns, and advocacy groups that want to find people who may be receptive to their message.

When Klayman asked Bannon, on-camera, where he got his data from, he answered, simply, “the phone companies.”

“And the data guys sell it,” Bannon added.

…Geofencing creates a virtual fence around a geographic location, allowing data brokers and digital marketing firms to either serve ads to people while they are inside the fence or capture their phones’ unique IDs for later use. The ads themselves appear in apps or on websites as the person uses their phone, whether they’re served up while the user is in the geofenced area or at a later date.

…Here’s how geofencing information is collected: Our phones constantly give up our locations. Experts who spoke with ThinkProgress said there are several ways that brokers can collect that data. One method estimates the location of a phone based on the cell towers it pings as it looks for a signal. In other methods, some of a smart phone’s apps collect location data from its GPS chip or the wifi networks it connects to. Many of the biggest app makers then monetize that data, selling it to brokers and digital ad firms.

…In 2017, Copley Advertising settled with the Massachusetts attorney general’s office after it used geofencing to help anti-abortion groups target ads to women who visited Planned Parenthood clinics.

…The New York Times reviewed some of the location data that app makers sold to a broker, the paper was able to identify individual users and track them to a Planned Parenthood clinic, a middle school, an emergency room, and to their homes and offices.

The technology news site Motherboard went a step further, paying a bounty hunter to locate a specific phone in Queens, New York, after T-Mobile sold the user’s location data, gleaned from cell towers, to a broker who then re-sold it to third-party dealers.

Exclusive: Steve Bannon knows how often you go to church



Facebook’s privacy agreement with the FTC does little to constrain it

The $5 billion penalty is all-but-inconsequential to a company as profitable as Facebook. The new oversight structure has some major flaws and weaknesses. The settlement does little to limit Zuckerberg’s power and doesn’t hold him personally accountable for the actions of a company that he alone controls. And the agreement does almost nothing to stop the collection and sharing of data — or the use of it for targeted advertising — that was at the heart of the company’s privacy violations.

Facebook’s privacy agreement with the FTC does little to constrain it – Business Insider


FBI, TSA use of facial recognition tech needs cleaning up, say lawmakers

At a Tuesday hearing on facial recognition by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, lawmakers questioned how government agencies like the FBI and the Transportation Security Administration have been using the technology. The FBI faced heavy criticism for failing to meet the Government Accountability Office’s recommendations on accuracy, transparency and privacy issues.

“They still haven’t fixed the five things they were supposed to do when they started,” Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio and the ranking member of the oversight committee, said at the hearing. “But we’re supposed to believe ‘don’t worry, everything’s just fine.'”

Those five recommendations about the use of facial recognition systems include publishing privacy documents, conducting privacy impact assessments, improving sample sizes in accuracy tests, testing accuracy of partners, and conducting annual reviews of accuracy.

…The TSA uses facial recognition at airports, saying the technology speeds the check-in process, but critics have said the tech is being utilized without proper vetting or regulatory safeguards

…Researchers have pointed out that facial recognition tech can be flawed and can show race and gender bias, and civil rights advocates have argued that facial recognition threatens privacy and free speech.

FBI, TSA use of facial recognition tech needs cleaning up, say lawmakers – CNET


House Dems authorize subpoenas for senior White House aides’ official communications – POLITICO

The House Oversight and Reform Committee voted on Thursday to authorize subpoenas for senior White House officials’ communications via private email accounts and messaging applications, a significant escalation in a years-long, bipartisan effort to learn more about potential violations of federal record-keeping laws.

Thursday’s vote by the Democrat-led panel came after the White House refused to turn over the messages voluntarily earlier this month — including senior adviser Jared Kushner’s WhatsApp communications with foreign officials, senior adviser Ivanka Trump’s use of a private email account to conduct official business, and former chief strategist Stephen Bannon’s use of a personal mobile device for White House business.

…On a party-line vote, the committee authorized Cummings to subpoena all communications sent or received since President Donald Trump took office that were not forwarded to official email accounts within 20 days, as required by law. Cummings can also subpoena information about whether those messages contained classified information.

House Dems authorize subpoenas for senior White House aides’ official communications – POLITICO

But their emails!

Monitor and ACLU sue Concord over ‘covert’ police equipment

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire and the Concord Monitor are suing the city of Concord to court over a secret type of technology used by police.

A $5,100 line item in this year’s police department budget was set aside for “covert communications equipment.” City officials have argued that they can’t say what the equipment is and what it does – or even which company offers it – because of a nondisclosure agreement with the vendor.

“Using taxpayer money to fund secret police equipment is deeply troubling. The public has a right to know what the City of Concord and its police department spend their money on, and why the city wants to keep this secret equipment hidden from public view,” ACLU attorney Henry Klementowicz. “This right-to-know request is at the very heart of what the law was designed to do: promote transparency.” 

…“Concord’s effort to keep secret its contract for services and the vendor’s privacy and refund policies should be rejected,” the suit states. “While the nature of equipment the city has purchased is not clear, what is clear is that the city has entered into a non-disclosure agreement with an unnamed vendor that requi  res the city to take steps to prevent disclosure of important information to courts, grand juries, and defense counsel.”  

Monitor and ACLU sue Concord over ‘covert’ police equipment