Daily Digest (8/4)

DHS Had Access to Messages From Portland Protesters, Document Shows; Iran Cover-Up of Coronavirus Deaths Revealed by Data Leak; Microsoft Talks to Buy TikTok’s US Operations Spark Ire in China; Google to Pay $450M for ADT Stake in Home-Security Push. Click “Continue reading” below.

DHS Had Access to Messages From Portland Protesters, Document Shows

A senior Homeland Security Department official told a Senate committee last month that the department had not collected, exploited or analyzed information from the electronic devices or accounts of protesters in Portland, Ore.

But an internal DHS document obtained last week by The Washington Post showed that the department had access to protesters’ electronic messages and that their conversations were written up in an “intelligence report” that was disseminated to federal law-enforcement agencies, including the FBI, as well as state and local governments.

However, Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday asked Brian Murphy, acting DHS undersecretary, about statements he made to committee staff on July 23 regarding the department’s intelligence activities in Portland.

“You stated that I&A (the intelligence and analysis office) had neither collected nor exploited or analyzed information obtained from the devices or accounts of protesters or detainees,” the senators wrote in a letter sent Friday. “Please confirm.”

A DHS Open Source Intelligence Report dated six days before Murphy’s briefing shows that the I&A office analyzed messages that protesters exchanged on the Telegram app.

They discussed which routes to take during marches and how to avoid police.

It was not clear how DHS obtained the messages and whether an informant or undercover officer had access to the Telegram group, the Post reports.

“DHS does not comment on congressional correspondence,” the agency said. “We respond as appropriate.”

Sources (all external links):

Iran Cover-Up of Coronavirus Deaths Revealed by Data Leak

The number of deaths from coronavirus in Iran is nearly triple what the government claims, a BBC News investigation has found.

The government’s records appear to show almost 42,000 people died with COVID-19 symptoms up to July 20, versus 14,405 reported by its health ministry.

The number of people known to be infected is also almost double official figures: 451,024 versus 278,827.

Official numbers still make Iran the worst-hit nation in the Middle East.

The first COVID death in Iran was recorded on Jan. 22, according to lists and medical records provided to the BBC. This was nearly a month before the first official case of coronavirus was reported.

The data was sent to the BBC by an anonymous source and included details of daily admissions to hospitals across Iran — including names, age, gender, symptoms, date and length of periods spent in hospital, and underlying conditions patients might have.

The source told the BBC that it shared the data to “shed light on truth” and to end “political games” over the epidemic.


Microsoft Talks to Buy TikTok’s US Operations Spark Ire in China

A potential shotgun wedding between Microsoft and TikTok’s U.S. operations provoked an outcry Monday on Chinese social media as well as criticism from a prominent Chinese investor in TikTok’s owner, ByteDance.

The U.S. tech giant formally declared its interest Sunday after President Donald Trump, who has cited national-security risks posed by short-video app, reversed course on a planned ban and gave the companies 45 days to reach a deal, Reuters reports.

The proposed acquisition of parts of the Chinese-owned TikTok, which boasts 100 million U.S. users, would give Microsoft a rare opportunity to become a major competitor to such social-media giants as Facebook and Snapchat.

ByteDance has not publicly confirmed the sale talks, but in an internal letter seen Monday by Reuters, CEO Zhang Yiming said the firm had started talks with a tech company it did not identify to clear the way “for us to continue offering the TikTok app in the U.S.”


Google to Pay $450M for ADT Stake in Home-Security Push

Google is buying as much as 6.6% in ADT for $450 million, betting on the home-security company’s strong customer base and an army of technicians to drive sales of its services.

The investment would give ADT the backing of a high-profile technology partner and broadens its services business, Reuters reports.

In return, Google gets access to about 6.5 million customers, strengthening its presence as it competes with Amazon’s Ring and Boston-based SimpliSafe, among others.

According to ADT, the companies would work on ways to package popular Google products like Home Mini, Nest Thermostat and Nest Wifi with ADT’s strength in installation and maintenance.

“Later this year, we will begin integrating Google devices and make them available for installations to our customers,” ADT CEO Jim DeVries told Reuters.

“We will exclusively support Nest products,” he said, adding that the companies will build products together and introduce them next year.


— By DPN Staff