At a glance.
- The Pandora Papers and privacy.
- Conti's criminal NDA.
- The geolocation data market.
Inside the secret pockets of the rich and powerful.
In one of the largest global financial leaks in history, a collaboration of over one hundred forty media outlets called the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has shared the contents of the Pandora Papers, a cache of files exposing the private financial dealings of over three hundred world leaders and public officials. BBC News reports the Papers consist of nearly 12 million files and 2.94TB of data revealing how powerful public figures allegedly hid their wealth in offshore accounts, committed tax evasion, and even engaged in money laundering. As NPR.org explains, the Pandora Papers shed light on a shady financial underworld inhabited by some of the most influential individuals in the world. Senior ICIJ reporter Will Fitzgibbon summarized, "These are secretive, confidential documents from offshore tax havens and offshore specialists who work to help rich, powerful and sometimes criminal individuals create shell companies or trusts in a way that often helps either obscure assets or in some cases even help avoid paying taxes.”
Bloomberg details some of the biggest revelations, including how King Abdullah II of Jordan secretly purchased fourteen luxury homes totaling $106 million, and how Azerbaijan’s ruling family traded $540 million worth of UK property, including a deal with Queen Elizabeth II’s Crown Estate. The Papers shed light on financial secrecy laws in US states like South Dakota and Nevada that are comparable to offshore jurisdictions, with a former Dominican Republican vice president conducting several covert trusts in South Dakota. According to ICIJ partner the Guardian, incriminating details about major donors to Britain’s Conservative party have left Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a difficult position.
In the wake of the revelations, the Guardian says nine countries including India, Pakistan, Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Sri Lanka, and Australia have vowed to launch investigations. On the other hand, the Kremlin’s Vladimir Putin, whose friends and financial associates make appearances in the files, called the findings “unsubstantiated claims.”
Conti issues gag orders.
The usually tight-lipped Conti ransomware group issued a public statement warning victims that if details of their attacks are shared with the media, the gang will publish their stolen private data, the Record by Recorded Future reports. Cybersecurity journalists often work with security researchers to learn about ransomware negotiations, and sometimes screenshots of these conversations end up on social media, exposing vital details about the attackers’ methods. As Conti explained, this is what compelled the gang to end negotiations with one recent target, Japanese electronics maker JVCKenwood, and spill their data. The statement is a clear move by Conti to keep their movements out of the press.
Location, location, location.
The Markup offers an in-depth look at the $12 billion market resting on the trading of mobile phone location histories. A massive network of firms like Near, which boasts data representing “1.6B people across 44 countries,” collect, sell, or trade cell phone location data, with software developers helping app makers monetize the data, and others even supplying data analysis support. Many companies promise not to share any data that would reveal the device owner’s identity, but with so much secrecy surrounding this industry and a lack of government regulation, it’s hard to determine if that promise is being kept. Though both Google and Apple recently prohibited the use of location reporting software development toolkits (SDKs) by app developers, researchers discovered toolkits still on offer in Google’s app store. Justin Sherman of the Duke Tech Policy Lab explained, “There isn’t a lot of transparency and there is a really, really complex shadowy web of interactions between these companies that’s hard to untangle.”