WASHINGTON: Google says the FBI is monitoring the Web for potential terrorist activity. But it can’t say how extensive the surveillance is.
As part of the Google Transparency Report, the Internet giant this week released data on so-called National Security Letters — official requests for data under the Patriot Act passed after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
But Google said it was only allowed to provide broad ranges of numbers: in the years from 2009 to 2012, for example, it received between zero and 999 requests. The requests affected between 1,000 and 1,999 accounts, except in 2010 when the range was 2,000 to 2,999 accounts, Google said.
“You’ll notice that we’re reporting numerical ranges rather than exact numbers. This is to address concerns raised Read more…
Matt Lease, a computer scientist at the University of Texas, is working on ways to literally record all human conversations no matter where they take place. But his research is being funded by the Department of Defense, raising the question of how such a technology might be used in the hands of the government.
Lease’s plan is to utilize crowdsourcing, voice recognition software and everyday devices like smartphones to gather human speech, whether in a business meeting or on the street, and store it somewhere so people could access what they said anytime.
He told Wired’s Danger Room that he saw the work as both a “need and opportunity to really make conversational speech more accessible, more part of our permanent record instead of being so ephemeral, and really trying to imagine what this world would look like if we really could capture all these conversations and make use of them effectively going forward.”
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) liked Lease’s idea so much it gave him a $300,000 grant to support his efforts.
If successful, this new system could raise “some thorny legal and social questions about privacy,” wrote Robert Beckhusen at Wired.
One example cited by Lease involves “respecting the privacy rights of multiple people involved,” and how to gain permission of everyone talking before capturing and storing a conversation. In the hands of spy agencies, this is not expected to be an issue.
As decreed by the Orwellianly-named DHS office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Wired reports:
The Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights watchdog of has concluded that travelers along the nation’s borders may have their electronics seized and the contents of those devices examined for any reason whatsoever — all in the name of national security.
“We conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful,” the two-page memo said.
The President George W. Bush administration first announced the suspicionless, electronics search rules in 2008. The Obama administration followed up with virtually the same rules a year later.
According to legal precedent, the Fourth Amendment — freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures — does not apply along the border. The government contends the Fourth-Amendment-Free Zone stretches 100 miles inland from the nation’s actual border.
ABOUT 15,000 people have had images of their faces captured on an Australian Federal Police database in its first year of operation, igniting fears that the rise of facial recognition systems will lead to CCTV cameras being installed on every street corner.
The database includes pictures of alleged criminals who may not know their images are on file.
The AFP say facial recognition may eventually be considered as credible as fingerprints, but images on their database are not being shared with state police forces. Sharing images on a national database could be possible by 2015.
The president of Australian Councils for Civil Liberties, Terry O’Gorman, said it was troubling that technologies such as facial and number plate recognition had become so widespread and there appeared to be no independent monitoring of the impacts on privacy.
The justification for widespread CCTV has also been questioned, with a report by police in London, the most spied-upon city in the world, showing that only one crime was solved per 1000 cameras.
An AFP forensic and data centres biometrics co-ordinator, Simon Walsh, said international agencies were Read more…
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is using an anti-terrorism device that indiscriminately sweeps up cellphone communications of innocent bystanders during burglary, drug and murder investigations.
LA Weekly wrote back in September that the police agency purchased Stingray technology in 2006 using Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funds, and is deploying the portable equipment for routine police operations. DHS grant documents said the device was intended for “regional terrorism investigations.”
Stingray pretends that it is a cell tower and fools wireless phones into establishing a connection. Once connected, it can establish cell location and download information of people who are not suspects in an investigation, raising all sorts of privacy issues.
Information obtained by the First Amendment Coalition under the California Public Records Act indicates that LAPD used Stingray 21 times in a four-month period last year. While carriers like AT&T and Sprint typically require a court order before granting law enforcement access to cellphone data, it is not clear that LAPD is asking the courts for a warrant.
Privacy advocates argue that accessing phones with Stingray constitutes a “search and seizure” under the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, and requires a warrant. The FBI has argued it doesn’t need a warrant because cellphone users have no reasonable expectation of privacy. The U.S.Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the issue.
The records viewed by LA Weekly seemed to indicate that judges were not fully apprised of Stingray’s scope; that it was sweeping a range of cellphones rather than a specific suspect’s phone.
LAPD refuses to comment on Stingray, which is reportedly also being used by local law enforcement in Fort Worth, Texas, Gilbert, Arizona, and Miami.
A new poll has uncovered a “shocking willingness” on the part of Americans to give up their privacy and freedoms for the sake of “safety,” just at a time when the Obama administration is launching an assault on the self-defense rights guarded by the Second Amendment.
“As leaders in Washington prepare an assault on the Second Amendment, a majority of Americans – 61 percent – said they believe that domestic use of drones by government and law enforcement agencies represents a violation of people’s right to privacy,” said Fritz Wenzel, president of Wenzel Strategies.
It was his public-opinion research and media consulting company, Wenzel Strategies, that released the results of a telephone poll conducted for WND. It was taken Jan. 9-12 and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3.22 percentage points.
Wenzel said the federal government “has announced plans to use drones domestically in certain circumstances, and the survey finding that 20 percent are Read more…
While travelling overseas at Christmas we naturally turned off mobile data on our phones to avoid being ripped off by the phone companies’ rapacious data roaming charges.
Instead, everywhere I went I asked for the Wi-Fi password and sometimes didn’t even need one. No problem, although using Google maps to get around in the street was impossible.
In fact with all three phone networks in Australia whacking up their data prices, I’m thinking of turning off mobile data at home as well. There’s more and more public Wi-Fi around and although the domestic Read more…
Disney wants to show you a whole new world, but not everyone is feeling the love.
On Monday, the Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) announced an ambitious plan to transform the visitor experience at its Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla. The MyMagic+ program, which will roll out this spring, combines an interactive website and mobile app with an all-purpose electronic bracelet that acts as a guest’s room key, theme-park ticket and payment account all rolled into one. The bracelets, dubbed MagicBands, will also track which rides visitors use, which characters they interact with, where they go and what they buy within the park.
The bracelets monitor behavior with radio-frequency identification technology, or RFID, a wireless tracking system that transfers data from tiny tags attached to objects. RFID has long been used to track product inventory in various industries, but it has become increasingly invasive over the last decade, with tags being implanted in I.D. badges, transit cards and even passports.