Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers worry as 'deepfakes' spread | New intel strategy sees threats from emerging tech | Google fined $57M under EU data rules | WhatsApp moves to curb misinformation

Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers worry as 'deepfakes' spread | New intel strategy sees threats from emerging tech | Google fined $57M under EU data rules | WhatsApp moves to curb misinformation
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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Jacqueline Thomsen (@jacq_thomsen), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig).

 

A DEEP DIVE ON DEEPFAKES: Lawmakers and experts are sounding the alarm about "deepfakes," forged videos that look remarkably real, warning they will be the next phase in disinformation campaigns.

The manipulated videos make it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction, as artificial intelligence technology produces fake content that looks increasingly real.

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The issue has the attention of lawmakers from both parties on Capitol Hill.

"It is almost too late to sound the alarm before this technology is released -- it has been unleashed ... and now we are playing a bit of defense," Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLawmakers sound alarm on China's disinformation campaign in Hong Kong Facebook users in lawsuit say company failed to warn them of known risks before 2018 breach New intel chief inherits host of challenges MORE (D-Va.) told The Hill.

Asked whether this is the next phase of disinformation campaigns, Warner replied "Absolutely."

Experts say it is only a matter of time before advances in artificial intelligence technology and the proliferation of those tools allow any online user to create deepfakes.

"It is regarded by political and technology experts as the next weapon in the disinformation warfare," Fabrice Pothier, senior advisor with the Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity, told The Hill.

Pothier worries that technological advances will make it harder to detect false or doctored videos.

"I think it is probably going to be very hard to just use the human eye to distinguish something that is fake from something that is real," he said.

 

Intelligence experts and lawmakers say the threat from deepfakes is immense and warn of potentially dangerous scenarios if the technology to create them is not reined in.

"This technology should be considered criminal, counterterrorism or even counterespionage behavior," said Bob Anderson, principal at The Chertoff Group.

For example, experts posed hypotheticals such as terrorist groups ISIS or al Qaeda manufacturing videos of American soldiers creating atrocities on the battlefield as propaganda; videos falsely showing political candidates making controversial remarks before an election; or CEOs announcing incorrect financial projections.

The fallout from such scenarios could be disastrous.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads What the gun safety debate says about Washington Trump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China MORE (R-Fla.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned that the threat needs to be taken seriously.

"America's enemies are already using fake images to sow discontent and divide us. Now imagine the power of a video that appears to show stolen ballots, salacious comments from a political leader, or innocent civilians killed in conflict abroad," Rubio told The Hill in a statement.

Click here for more on our in-depth look into deep fakes.

 

BEWARE THE TECH: Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray Coats10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall 11 Essential reads you missed this week Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move MORE on Tuesday released the strategy meant to guide the U.S. intelligence community over the next four years, placing an emphasis on threats posed by new and emerging technologies.

The 2019 National Intelligence Strategy released by the Trump administration sets forth objectives for the intelligence community in a rapidly changing strategic environment where the United States faces both more traditional threats from nation states and extremist groups as well as burgeoning challenges posed by artificial intelligence, automation and other technologies.

"The strategic environment is changing rapidly and the United States faces an increasingly complex and uncertain world in which threats are becoming ever more diverse and interconnected," the document states.

The document places significant emphasis on threats posed by technological advancements.

"Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, automation, and high performance computing are advancing computational capabilities that can be economically beneficial, however these advances also enable new and improved military and intelligence capabilities for our adversaries," the strategy states. 

Read more on the intel strategy here.

 

CASUAL: A French watchdog organization has slapped Google with a $57 million fine under European privacy laws implemented last year.

The penalty is the first time a U.S. tech behemoth has been fined under the new regulations, according to the Associated Press.

The National Data Protection Commission said it was fining Google for a "lack of transparency, inadequate information and lack of valid consent" on ad personalization, arguing that users were "not sufficiently informed" about the details in the agreement.

"The amount decided, and the publicity of the fine, are justified by the severity of the infringements observed regarding the essential principles of the GDPR: transparency, information and consent," the group said in a statement, referring to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The sweeping new rules, which were implemented in May, forced large tech companies like Google to overhaul their user privacy policies. The European Union-based rules require companies to give full disclosure about what they do with the digital data they collect and offer their users more control over their information.

The watchdog group argued that Google violated the new privacy rules in two key areas.

"Users are not able to fully understand the extent of the processing operations carried out by GOOGLE. But the processing operations are particularly massive and intrusive because of the number of services offered (about twenty), the amount and the nature of the data processed and combined," the group said.

Google's response: The company, in a statement to the AP, said it is "deeply committed" to transparency and is deciding "next steps" in the wake of the fine.

Read more on the record fine here.

 

MORE JOBS: Facebook is planning to add 1,000 new jobs in Ireland by the end of the year, primarily to help crack down on abuse on the website.

Reuters reported that Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, while speaking in Dublin on Monday, said the jobs were an outgrowth of the company having "ramped up investment in safety and security."

"We're not the same company we were, even a few years ago, and that is something we have to prove. We have massively ramped up investment in safety and security. This means jobs. We do a lot of that in Ireland and today we're going to be hiring an additional 1,000 people in Ireland in the next year alone," Sandberg said, according to the news service.

Sandberg added that the social media platform had "a hard time these last few years" and needs "to do a better job keeping people safe on our platform."

More on Facebook's plans here.

 

WHATS UP WHATSAPP: The Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp this week rolled out changes to curb the spread of misinformation, a move that comes months after conspiracy theories circulated by users on the app allegedly fueled more than 20 murders in India.

WhatsApp in a blog post wrote that starting on Monday, users will be able to forward messages to only five people at a time rather than hundreds, a limit intended to clamp down on the unabated dissemination of false information.

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The messaging limit, which was piloted in India starting six months ago, will now expand to the more than 1 billion WhatsApp users around the world, the company wrote.

"WhatsApp carefully evaluated this test and listened to user feedback over a six-month period," WhatsApp wrote in the post, referring to the five-contact messaging limit piloted in India. "The forward limit significantly reduced forwarded messages around the world."

Read more here.

 

ICYMI:

DNC says in new court filings it was targeted by Russian hackers after fall 2018 midterms.

Uber raising minimum age for drivers in the Netherlands from 18 to 21 years old following a series of fatal accidents.

Google opens new Berlin office, plans to expand.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Unintended consequence: Federal cybersecurity workforce a potential casualty of the shutdown

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Who says you can't find new hobbies?

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

I tried to block Amazon from my life. It was impossible. (Gizmodo)

The unbelievable story of the plot against George Soros. (Buzzfeed)

DHS releases emergency order to prevent DNS hijacking. (CyberScoop)

How companies secretly boost their Glassdoor ratings. (The Wall Street Journal)