The Chinese military has begun equipping its soldiers with handheld laser guns, in direct contravention of international treaties banning the use of blinding laser weapons. The PY132A laser gun, revealed during the Chinese Police Expo in December, is designed to blind enemy sensors and cameras and intended for use against enemy vehicles and drones, Popular Science reports.
In 1998, China signed a United Nations Convention that prevented the development of Certain Conventional Weapons [CCW], which included blinding laser weapons that could be used against humans. While the Chinese military claims that its PY132A laser are for use against mechanised combatants, it remains possible for the weapons to be used against humans, intentionally or not. The scattering effect of laser beams means people are at risk of being struck in the eye, risking blindness.
“China has been updating its home-made blinding laser weapons in recent years to meet the needs of different combat operations,” the official military newspaper PLA Daily reported on 9th December, via The Washington Free Beacon. “Blinding laser weapons are primarily used to blind … targets with laser[s] in [the] short distance, or interfere [with] and damage … laser and night vision equipment.”
“The United States is committed to the CCW and expects all parties to uphold the convention and its protocols,” a State Department official warned.
The US is also worried that these weapons could make their way on to the global arms market, with Chinese weapons systems expert Rick Fisher saying, “There is a strong possibility these new dazzlers are being marketed for foreign sale.”
“What we’re talking about here is the context, and the context is completely different. When those laws were put into place there was no internet or the internet was not used in the way it is today,” Cannataci said. “It is the golden age of surveillance, they’ve never had so much data. I am just talking about metadata, I haven’t got down to content.”
“Mass surveillance is alive and well but governments are finding ways of making that the law of the land,” he added. “It can be necessary and proportionate to have targeted surveillance and what I am saying is that there’s not yet any evidence which convinces me that it is necessary and proportionate to have mass surveillance.”
When the bill was announced, Home Secretary Theresa May MP, the brains bedind the bill, said, “We are setting out a modern legal framework which brings together current powers in a clear and comprehensible way.”
The current draft of the Investigatory Powers Bill is due to be scrutinised by a committee of MPs before being put to Parliament to vote in as law.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is calling on the United Nations to make universal internet access a reality by 2020. Zuckerberg, who is working with the One organisation, formed by U2 singer and post-Geldof pseudo-Messiah Bono, made the proposal in a speech at the UN as part of its Global Goals initiative, explaining that “connecting the world is one of the fundamental challenges of our generation.”
“Today over half the people on this planet don’t have access,” Zuckerberg later said in a New York Times op-ed he wrote with Bono. “That is not good for anyone — not for the disempowered and disconnected, and not for the other half, whose commerce and security depend on having stable societies.”
Zuckerberg used the examples of African farmers tracking inventory and prices of crops and livestock via mobile internet and refugees that use smartphones to stay in touch with loved ones after fleeing their countries to illustrate that the internet improves the lives of everyone. According to a UN report, 57% of the world – a massive 4 billion people – do not have internet connections.
“It’s one thing to say we should connect the world. The real trick is how,” Zuckerberg said. “There’s no simple solution or silicon bullet.”
With the advent of mobile internet, the biggest remaining obstacle to bring internet to new areas is access to electricity. “Nine out of 10 rural Africans don’t have electricity,” said Zuckerberg. “Governments can make the difference. This is why we support initiatives like President Obama’s Power Africa plan and the bipartisan Electrify Africa Act in Congress, as well as the African Development Bank’s investments in renewable energy.”
Thank you PC Magazine for providing us with this information.
The new Special Rapporteur on Privacy for the United Nations, Joseph Cannataci, has branded the UK surveillance state “a rather bad joke at its citizen’s expense” that is “worse” than the dystopian vision of the future from George Orwell’s 1984. An obvious point of reference, to the point of cliché, but still sadly apposite.
“At least Winston [from Orwell’s 1984] was able to go out in the countryside and go under a tree and expect there wouldn’t be any screen, as it was called,” Cannataci lamented. “Whereas today there are many parts of the English countryside where there are more cameras than George Orwell could ever have imagined. So the situation in some cases is far worse already.”
Cannataci’s fear extends beyond an invasion of privacy, complaining that the commercialisation of user data is just as insidious as state surveillance. “They just went out and created a model where people’s data has become the new currency,” he said. “And unfortunately, the vast bulk of people sign their rights away without knowing or thinking too much about it,” Cannataci told The Guardian.
The UN’s new privacy chief believes the only way to tackle flagrant invasion of privacy is with a Geneva convention-style law to protect against unwarranted digital surveillance, and keep both governments and corporations in line.
“We have a number of corporations that have set up a business model that is bringing in hundreds of thousands of millions of euros and dollars every year and they didn’t ask anybody’s permission. They didn’t go out and say: ‘Oh, we’d like to have a licensing law.’ No, they just went out and created a model where people’s data has become the new currency. And unfortunately, the vast bulk of people sign their rights away without knowing or thinking too much about it,” he said.
Thank you The Guardian for providing us with this information.
A new 38-page report, written by a partnership of Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, is warning the United Nations to “ban killer robots”.
The report, entitled Mind the Gap: The Lack of Accountability for Killer Robots, expresses the fear that “Fully autonomous weapons, also known as ‘killer robots,’ raise serious moral and legal concerns because they would possess the ability to select and engage their targets without meaningful human control.”
In the report, Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School deal with the concern that fully autonomous weapons will lack the sophistication to always be able to differentiate between hostile and friendly targets, or military and civilian targets, on the battlefield.
The issue is further compounded by the lack of accountability for “unlawful harm caused by fully autonomous weapons,” which, under current laws, absolves operators, commanders, programmers, manufacturers from any responsibility for the actions of such a robot.
The only solution that the report suggests is for a global ban on fully autonomous weapons, similar to the pre-emptive ban on blinding laser weapons in 1995 and the forced removal of unexploded cluster bombs initiated in 2006.
There are close to 3 billion people on the Internet.
This number is up from the 2.7 billion at the end of last year, according to the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) Measuring the Information Society Report. This report noted that Internet usage is expected to swell by around 6.6% this year, with 3.3% growth in developed countries as we approach “saturation levels” and by 8.7% in developing nations.
Out of the entire world, 66% of today’s Internet users live in the developed world.
The ITU is estimating that mobile phone subscriptions will edge close to 7 billion before the end of the year, adding that the high number doesn’t necessarily mean every single person on Earth is using a phone, but multi-SIM devices are helping kick this along, as well as people owning more than one phone. Close to 450 million people across the world live in places where mobile service isn’t blasted into.
4.3 billion people are still not online, with around 90% of those 4.3 billion living in the developing world. The ITU expects that over the next five years, there will be an injection of 1.5 billion new Internet users, mostly thanks to a new spectrum that is about to be opened up.
Given all the recent revelations about the NSA you’d be surprised if you found out that there was something they weren’t spying on. The latest revelation by Der Spiegel indicates that the United Nations isn’t one of those things. The German newspaper reports that the NSA, as well as China, were both actively involved in spying on the United Nations’ internal video conferencing system.
This means that the NSA has now been recognised as spying on EU diplomats, foreign embassies and the United Nations. The NSA reportedly cracked the encryption code protecting the UN’s video conferencing system. After gaining access to the system the NSA increased the number decrypted communications from 12 to 458 so that monitoring of all communications became easier. However, the NSA weren’t the only ones up to some dubious business at the UN. China was also involved in a number of data breaches since 2004, from a Shanghai military unit. So far the UN has not commented on this incident but will probably launch an investigation into the incident later on this year.