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How Google is Helping the US Government Violate Your Privacy With Warrantless Searches

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Google Helping Government Violate Privacy
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A new court filing argues that Google is helping the U.S. government circumvent Fourth Amendment protections in order to conduct warrantless searches.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has formally accused Google of scanning billions of personal files of users at the request of the U.S. government. EPIC recently filed a “friend of the court” brief alleging that Google is helping the U.S. government conduct warrantless searches by scanning user files in search of potentially illegal content or evidence of crimes.

The brief came in response to United States v. Wilson, a case where Google scanned images of billions of users files in an attempt to track images of missing children reported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). After scanning the images contained within users files, Google contacts law enforcement to share information on individuals who may have images of missing children. However, this entire process happens without permission from users or a warrant issued by a court. EPIC’s brief argues that “because neither Google nor the government explained how the image matching technique actually works or presented evidence establishing accuracy and reliability, the government’s search was unreasonable.”

EPIC says this situation is allowing law enforcement to ignore Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure of property and conduct warrantless searches with help from Google.

If, for example, police officials would like to examine the digital files of certain suspects, they can simply turn to Google, which will do all the searching for them – and without the time, expense or hassle of getting a warrant for this search,” CPO Magazine reports. “For police departments, warrantless searches of digital material would be one way to make their criminal investigations much easier.”

The crux of this particular case revolves around a new Google algorithm that actively scans files to find a specific image using image matching. Previously, the NCMEC was supposed to provide Google with image hashes that are used to identify a unique image without showing the actual image. However, Google’s new algorithm uses image matching instead of image hashing. EPIC said the “lower court made a key mistake” by confusing file hashing with the more personal method of image matching.

EPIC’s concern centers around the ways such a technology could be used to target users for their religious views, political affiliations, or even for possessing banned content. For example, after the shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, officials threatened jail time to any New Zealand citizen in possession of the shooter’s livestream video. With Google’s current policy, what’s to stop New Zealand’s law enforcement from asking Google to search user files for a copy of the banned “hate content”?

This type of arrangement allows the U.S. government to avoid going to a court to request a warrant and also sets a dangerous precedent for future invasions of privacy. The world’s largest search engine company is facing increasing scrutiny as news of their failures to protect user information makes headlines around the world. For example, Google recently came under fire for choosing to build a censored version of their search engine for the Chinese government under the Dragonfly program.

If Google continues to make it clear to the world that they do not care about privacy or respecting users’ rights, why are so many people still using the tool? The reality is that corporations will continue to work with governments to erode privacy—and thus, freedom—as long as they know billions of people around the world will still use their services.

The answer? Seek alternatives to Google’s search engine and other services. Vote with your time and dollar by supporting companies that actually care about privacy—and say “goodbye” to Google.

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Animals

Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida

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A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.

In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.

“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.

Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.

Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.

Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.

Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.

However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.

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Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son

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A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.

The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.

The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.

“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.

“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.

The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.

The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.

“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.

The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.

The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.

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Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter

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The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.

However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.

In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.

It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.

The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.

Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.

The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.

Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.

The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.

The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.

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