In the military and police worlds, achieving situational awareness is a key to a successful mission.
Strongwatch Corporation, a young Tucson-based technology company, designs and builds surveillance systems that provide situational awareness for law enforcement and military forces.
The company calls the system “Freedom on-the-Move,” and it’s designed to give police and military covert and mobile surveillance capabilities in an easy-to-use modular system.
“A lot of what we do is being a very good incorporator of technologies,” said William “Drew” Dodds, director of sales for Strongwatch.
Much of Freedom-on-the-Move is made from components acquired from various manufacturers, including parts like optical sensors, cameras, laser range finders, gyro stabilizers and a mast that sends the mailbox-sized sensor head that houses all that acquired technology 25 feet in the air.
The system can be installed in the bed of a pickup truck or rear of other heavy-duty vehicles. When fully deployed, the mast looks like that on a television news truck.
Another borrowed technology Strongwatch employs makes controlling the system as simple as playing a video game. The company integrated Xbox home gaming system controllers to operate the system, which Dodds said sets the Freedom-on-the-Move system apart from other similar mobile surveillance.
In addition to the familiarity of the Xbox controller, it provides a low-cost option for replacements.
“If it breaks, you can send someone to Walmart and get one for $60,” Dodds said. Repairs on other surveillance systems with proprietary interfaces can cost $1,000 and more to replace and take weeks to get done, he said...
Viewers, beware: while you’re watching TV, your TV might be watching you back. A security firm discovered that Samsung’s Smart TV can give hackers access to the device’s built-in camera and microphones, allowing them to watch everything you do.
The Malta-based firm ReVuln posted a video showing its team of researchers hacking into one of the Samsung TVs and accessing its settings, channel lists, widgets, USB drives, and remote control configurations. The security flaw allows hackers to access any and all personal data stored on the TV.
“We can install malicious software to gain complete root access to the TV,” the video writes.
With this access, hackers can use the Smart TVs built-in camera and microphones to see and hear everything in front of it. Instead of just watching TV, viewers could themselves be watched without knowing it.
But this flaw isn’t present in just one specific model. The vulnerability affects all 11 Samsung televisions of the latest generation. The Smart TVs have many of the same features as a computer, but lack the same kind of protection. The devices do not have security features such as firewalls.
Fortunately for concerned viewers, the problem has a silver lining: hackers must first breach the network that the television is connected to, as well as know the IP address of the device. As a result, security breaches would likely only occur as a targeted attack against an individual, rather than randomly. Unlike an Internet virus, a hacker would have to exploit the network manually...
When a former senior White House official describes a nationwide surveillance effort as “breathtaking,” you know civil liberties activists are preparing for a fight.
The Wall Street Journal reported today that the little-known National Counterterrorism Center, based in an unmarked building in McLean, Va., has been granted sweeping new authority to store and monitor massive datasets about innocent Americans.
After internal wrangling over privacy and civil liberties issues, the Justice Department reportedly signed off on controversial new guidelines earlier this year. The guidelines allow the NCTC, for the first time, to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, using “predictive pattern-matching,” to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. The data the counterterrorism center has access to, according to the Journal, includes “entire government databases—flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others.”
Notably, the Journal reports that these changes also allow databases about U.S. civilians to be handed over to foreign governments for analysis, presumably so that they too can attempt to determine future criminal actions. The Department of Homeland Security’s former chief privacy officer said that it represents a “sea change in the way that the government interacts with the general public.”
The snooping effort, which officials say is subject to “rigorous oversight,” is reminiscent of the so-called Total Information Awareness initiative, dreamt up in the aftermath of 9/11 by the Pentagon’s research unit DARPA. The aim of the TIA initiative was essentially to create a kind of ubiquitous pre-crime surveillance regime monitoring public and private databases. It was largely defunded in 2003, after civil liberties concerns. However, other similar efforts have continued, such as through the work of the Department of Homeland Security’s intelligence-gathering “Fusion Centers.” Most recently, Fusion Centers were subjected to scathing criticism from congressional investigators, who found that they were accumulating masses of data about “suspicious” activity that was not of any use. The intelligence being swept up, the investigators found, was “oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties and Privacy Act protections...”
Transit authorities in cities across the country are quietly installing microphone-enabled surveillance systems on public buses that would give them the ability to record and store private conversations, according to documents obtained by a news outlet.
The systems are being installed in San Francisco, Baltimore, and other cities with funding from the Department of Homeland Security in some cases, according to the Daily, which obtained copies of contracts, procurement requests, specs and other documents.
The use of the equipment raises serious questions about eavesdropping without a warrant, particularly since recordings of passengers could be obtained and used by law enforcement agencies.
It also raises questions about security, since the IP audio-video systems can be accessed remotely via a built-in web server, and can be combined with GPS data to track the movement of buses and passengers throughout the city.
According to the product pamphlet for the RoadRecorder 7000 system made by SafetyVision, “Remote connectivity to the RoadRecorder 7000 NVR can be established via the Gigabit Ethernet port or the built-in 3G modem. A robust software ecosystem including LiveTrax vehicle tracking and video streaming service combined with SafetyNet central management system allows authorized users to check health status, create custom alerts, track vehicles, automate event downloads and much more.”
The systems use cables or WiFi to pair audio conversations with camera images in order to produce synchronous recordings. Audio and video can be monitored in real-time, but are also stored onboard in blackbox-like devices, generally for 30 days, for later retrieval. Four to six cameras with mics are generally installed throughout a bus, including one near the driver and one on the exterior of the bus.
Cities that have installed the systems or have taken steps to procure them include San Francisco, California; Eugene, Oregon; Traverse City, Michigan; Columbus, Ohio; Baltimore Maryland; Hartford, Connecticut; and Athens, Georgia...
Biometric facial scans taken for passports, driver's licences or nightclub entry can now be stored in police and spy agency databases, under changes to Australia's privacy laws.
The Gillard Government's new privacy legislation has removed the ban on biometric data being handed to crime-fighting agencies.
Officials say the move could be of immense benefit in fighting crime, but privacy lobbyists liken it to a "Big Brother" development.
The Attorney-General's Department yesterday revealed police would be able to ask private companies - including shops, pubs and clubs - to hand over patrons' facial scans.
"These changes will allow, for example, a pub to pass on to police a face scan of someone involved in a glassing attack," a spokeswoman said.
"Or, police could ask a government agency to help them identify an alleged murderer through matching an image obtained via CCTV (closed circuit television) with client photos."
The spokeswoman said the Privacy Act would not compel any company or government agency to hand over biometric data to law enforcement bodies.
Biometric data has now been reclassified as "sensitive data", meaning government agencies must apply stronger privacy safeguards.
"Information can only be shared with law enforcement agencies in strictly limited circumstances with increased privacy protections," the spokeswoman said.
The power for police to store biometric data that was originally provided for a passport or driver's licence is buried within 290 pages of explanatory memoranda for the legislative amendments, passed during the Parliament's final sitting week this year...
The petition argues that the UIDAI is ‘unconstitutional’ because the collection of biometric data is an invasion of a citizen’s right to privacy which is guaranteed by the Constitution under the Fundamental Right to Life, and therefore requires Parliament’s sanction and is beyond the scope of executive power.
The petition, therefore, argues that the executive decision by an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) and a notification by the Planning Commission on 28 January 2009, constituting the UIDAI under the Planning Commission, is unconstitutional.
Says Ankit Goel, one of the Supreme Court advocates for the petitioners, “The state is asking for biometrics of an individual. The mere asking of biometric data is encroaching into someone’s privacy. It is tantamount to phone tapping. Whereas in phone tapping there is legislation, there is no legislation here… In the absence of a law passed by Parliament there can’t be any collection of private information. This is against the law laid down by the Supreme Court.”
Flagging a very serious cause of concern, which is shared by many, about the confidentiality and security of the demographic and biometric data collected, he adds: “There is no regulatory mechanism to ensure that the data collected is not tampered with or remains secure. When there is no legislation, there is no offence in parting with this information. And when there is no offence, there can be security issues...”
Advertisements that use eye tracking and facial recognition to target ads toward consumers appear to be an inevitable part of the future of public spaces. But if one major cable and wireless provider has its way, this innovation could eventually make it into your living room.
It was recently revealed that Verizon has filed a patent for a system it describes as "Methods and Systems for Presenting an Advertisement Associated with an Ambient Action of a User." The system would use cameras, microphones, and thermal sensors to detect whether a person is engaged in activities such as eating, exercising, laughing, reading, sleeping, cuddling, or fighting, and then serve them the most appropriate advertisements.
Beyond detecting just simple actions and ambient sounds, Verizon's system would also be designed to detect when certain key words are spoken, as well as when specific objects associated with an advertisement are in the system's detection zone. The patent description even delves into a bit of sci-fi by providing this slightly Orwellian scenario:
"For example, the user may be singing or humming a generally 'happy' song. In response, detection facility 104 may determine that the user is in a cheerful mood. Accordingly, one or more advertisements may be selected for presentation to the user that are configured to target happy people."
"NSA Whistleblower: Everyone in US under virtual surveillance, all info stored, no matter the post," reported RT after interviewing William Binney. RT said this is being done under the "Terrorist Surveillance Program" which is probably better known as NSA warrantless wiretapping. But Binney also named and blamed the FBI this time:
The FBI has access to the data collected, which is basically the emails of virtually everybody in the country. And the FBI has access to it. All the congressional members are on the surveillance too, no one is excluded. They are all included. So, yes, this can happen to anyone. If they become a target for whatever reason - they are targeted by the government, the government can go in, or the FBI, or other agencies of the government, they can go into their database, pull all that data collected on them over the years, and we analyze it all. So, we have to actively analyze everything they've done for the last 10 years at least.
Yes, we've heard versions of these claims before. At Def Con, Dark Tangent, aka Jeff Moss now with the Homeland Security Advisory Council, flat-out asked NSA Chief General Keith Alexander, "So does the NSA really keep a file on everyone, and if so, how can I see mine?" Alexander replied, "No, we don't. Absolutely not. Anybody who tells you we're keeping files or dossiers on the American people knows that's not true."
Binney then claimed the NSA Chief was being deceptive by playing word games. "Although Alexander was 'technically' accurate, Binney said, 'This thing about not keeping track of every American is absolutely true. They missed a few. That's the kind of word game they play. I've been in that business for a long time'."
But according to the newest interview transcript, when asked about people who say they don't care about this surveillance or collection because they are not doing anything wrong and have nothing to hide, Binney said:
The problem is if they think they are not doing anything that's wrong, they don't get to define that. The central government does, the central government defines what is right and wrong and whether or not they target you. So, it's not up to the individuals. Even if they think they aren't doing something wrong, if their position on something is against what the administration has, then they could easily become a target... (more)
Amsterdam is to create "Scum villages" where nuisance neighbours and anti-social tenants will be exiled from the city and rehoused in caravans or containers with "minimal services" under constant police supervision.
Holland's capital already has a special hit squad of municipal officials to identify the worst offenders for a compulsory six month course in how to behave.
Social housing problem families or tenants who do not show an improvement or refuse to go to the special units face eviction and homelessness.
Eberhard van der Laan, Amsterdam's Labour mayor, has tabled the £810,000 plan to tackle 13,000 complaints of anti-social behaviour every year. He complained that long-term harassment often leads to law abiding tenants, rather than their nuisance neighbours, being driven out.
"This is the world turned upside down," the mayor said at the weekend.
The project also involves setting up a special hotline and system for victims to report their problems to the authorities.
The new punishment housing camps have been dubbed "scum villages" because the plan echoes a proposal from Geert Wilders, the leader of a populist Dutch Right-wing party, for special units to deal with persistent troublemakers.
"Repeat offenders should be forcibly removed from their neighbourhood and sent to a village for scum," he suggested last year. "Put all the trash together."
Whilst denying that the new projects would be punishment camps for "scum", a spokesman for the city mayor stressed that the special residential units would aim to enforce good behaviour.
"The aim is not to reward people who behave badly with a new five-room home with a south-facing garden. This is supposed to be a deterrent," he said.
The tough approach taken by Mr van der Laan appears to jar with Amsterdam's famous tolerance for prostitution and soft drugs but reflects hardening attitudes to routine anti-social behaviour that falls short of criminality.
There are already several small-scale trial projects in the Netherlands, including in Amsterdam, where 10 shipping container homes have been set aside for persistent offenders, living under 24-hour supervision from social workers and police.
Under the new policy, from January next year, victims will no longer have to move to escape their tormentors, who will be moved to the new units.
A team of district "harassment directors" have already been appointed to spot signals of problems and to gather reports of nuisance tenants...
AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and other wireless providers would be required to record and store information about Americans' private text messages for at least two years, according to a proposal that police have submitted to the U.S. Congress.
CNET has learned a constellation of law enforcement groups has asked the U.S. Senate to require that wireless companies retain that information, warning that the lack of a current federal requirement "can hinder law enforcement investigations."
They want an SMS retention requirement to be "considered" during congressional discussions over updating a 1986 privacy law for the cloud computing era -- a move that could complicate debate over the measure and erode support for it among civil libertarians.
As the popularity of text messages has exploded in recent years, so has their use in criminal investigations and civil lawsuits. They have been introduced as evidence in armed robbery, cocaine distribution, and wire fraud prosecutions. In one 2009 case in Michigan, wireless provider SkyTel turned over the contents of 626,638 SMS messages, a figure described by a federal judge as "staggering."
Chuck DeWitt, a spokesman for the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, which represents the 63 largest U.S. police forces including New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago, said "all such records should be retained for two years." Some providers, like Verizon, retain the contents of SMS messages for a brief period of time, while others like T-Mobile do not store them at all...
A vast network of surveillance cameras, armored trucks with weapons mounting capabilities, and state-of-the-art bulletproof vests strong enough to withstand high-caliber rounds.
Those are just a few of the spoils enjoyed by the Tampa Police Department during the highly anticipated Republican National Convention, which occupied the city from Aug. 27-30 and hosted close to 45,000 delegates, guests, and members of the media.
But while most of the convention-goers have long since left Tampa Bay, the millions of dollars in security costs awarded to local police departments have stayed put, engendering a new kind of technological surveillance state never before seen by Florida residents.
The money in question was allocated by Congress in early 2012, designating $50 million each to the RNC in Tampa and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in order to cover “security costs” expected by host cities.
Initial documents released by the city showed that just over half of the $50 million was spent on bringing in 3,000 police officers for the event, paying for overtime, food, and equipment costs.
“We released a semi-final report because there were still invoices coming in,” said Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis, noting that more than $2.7 million has yet to be reported. She told Florida Watchdog that “several purchases” have yet to be budgeted and they will be released to the public as soon as possible.
After personnel costs, the next greatest expenditures were “technology and cameras,” according to the Tampa Police Department, totaling nearly $11.6 million as of the last review.
This includes $2 million for 60 or more surveillance cameras dispatched throughout the city during the RNC. But according to officials, they will now become a prime tool of the department in deterring crime.
“ATMs take your picture. Buildings have cameras,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told the Tampa Bay Times while trying to downplay privacy concerns. “Those cameras are vital for us to keep this environment safe and to attract people to come here...”
Access to private data has increased by 20 per cent by Australia’s law enforcement and government agencies – and with no warrant. Australians are 26 times more prone to be placed under surveillance than people in other countries, local media report.
In such a way, state structures accessed private information over 300,000 times last year – or 5,800 times every week, figures from the federal Attorney General’s Department showcase.
The data includes phone and internet account information, the details of out and inbound calls, telephone and internet access location data, as well as everything related to the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses visited, the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reports.
Australian media report that every government agency and organization use the gathered telecommunications data, and those include the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Australian Tax Office, Medicare and Australia Post.
New South Wales (NSW) Police became the biggest users of the private data, with 103,824 access authorizations during the last year – a third of all information accessed by the security forces.
The news triggered massive public outrage, with Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam telling SMH, ‘‘This is the personal data of hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of Australians, and it seems that just about anyone in government can get it.”
He said the move demonstrated the current data access regime was “out of control” and amounted to the framework for a “surveillance state”...
“I would say there is a school-to-prison pipeline, but there is also a prison-to-school pipeline. [The use of security hardware (cameras, metal detectors and retina detectors) and the practice of treating students as suspects are strategies of the criminal justice system, and they have been flowing into the schools.] It’s like a two-way street, a two-way system that mixes the educational and criminal justice systems. The end result is that we have schools in which the learning environment has been degraded and undermined because we are teaching kids to fear and feel that they are suspects at any particular time. Educators talk about the teachable moments. Unfortunately, public fear of kids, public hysteria around another Columbine, has prevented people from remembering that the mission of public schools is to educate.”—Annette Fuentes, author of Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jail House
The battle playing out in San Antonio, Texas, over one student’s refusal to comply with a public school campaign to microchip students has nothing to do with security concerns and even less to do with academic priorities. What is driving this particular program, which requires students to carry “smart” identification cards embedded with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking devices, is money, pure and simple—or to put it more bluntly, this program is yet another example of the nefarious collusion between government bureaucracy and corporate America, a way for government officials to dance to the tune of the corporate state, while unhesitatingly selling students to the highest bidder.
Oblivious to the impact on students’ fundamental rights, school officials with the Northside Independent School District (NISD) in San Antonio, Texas, have embarked upon a crusade to foist ID badges embedded with RFID tags on about 4,200 students at Jay High School and Jones Middle School. These tags produce a radio signal that is tied to the students’ Social Security numbers, allowing the wearer’s precise movements to be constantly monitored. Although the school district already boasts 290 surveillance cameras, the cards which the students are required to wear will make it possible for school officials to track students’ whereabouts at all times. Teachers are even requiring students to wear the IDs when they want to use the bathroom. NISD officials plan to eventually expand the $500,000 program to the district’s 112 schools, with a student population of 100,000.
Hoping to achieve full student compliance with the profit-driven Student Locator Project, school officials have actually gone so far as to offer gift cards, pizza parties and raffle prizes to classes with the highest ID badge participation rates. By any other name, you would call this bribery. No such rewards, however, await the students like 15-year-old Andrea Hernandez who resist the program on principle. Since voicing her objection to the program on religious grounds, Andrea has been stigmatized, penalized and discriminated against. Those who, like Andrea Hernandez, refuse to wear the SmartID badge will also be forced to stand in separate lunch lines, denied participation in student government and activities, and prohibited from making certain commercial exchanges at school.
School officials at Jay High School reportedly offered to quietly remove the tracking chip from Andrea Hernandez’s card if the sophomore would agree to wear the new ID, stop criticizing the program and publicly support the initiative. Andrea refused on principle, because she believes wearing the chipless Student Locator ID badge would signal that she endorses a program that not only violates her conscience but also runs afoul of her constitutional rights. As a result, Andrea now faces expulsion for refusing to participate in the school’s money-making scheme. (The parallels to another so-called “necessary” taxpayer-funded program, full-body x-ray scanners in airports, are evident. Of course, those scanners, which are now being relegated to a moldering Texas warehouse, turned out to be little more than a pointless yet costly means of enriching the security industrial complex.)