As the reports on TrapWire have demonstrated, it is very likely that the video feed from many of the traffic cameras, stoplight cameras, and similar devices may be monitored by agents of the federal government. If the ability of those agents to locate and follow a target increases, the ability of that target to evade detection logically decreases proportionally.
Recent doomsday reports alluding to an extensive government spying network and a fictional scenario in which domestic insurrection was crushed by the military have created a wealth of media hype and speculation, but they also raise valid questions of how to address these civil liberties issues before they become a reality.
Experts are saying the advanced surveillance systems revealed recently by Wikileaks isn’t quite as pervasive as reports might have you believe — yet. And an extremist uprising scenario posed by the Small Wars Journal is merely a work of fiction — for now.
Still, both are possibilities that these experts say should be taken seriously and evaluated in terms of the philosophical and legal challenges that technological advances will present for the government and law enforcement.
The debate was stoked recently by the Small Wars Journal with a report on July 25 assessing how the U.S. may need to prepare for domestic challenges such as “extremist militia motivated by the goals of the ‘tea party’ movement” taking over a South Carolina town, requiring military intervention to quash the uprising.
The scaremongering continued last week with a report by Wikileaks, claiming to have the scoop on “Trapwire” – an extensive system of surveillance software — complete with allegedly leaked emails that could lead one to believe the government had access to a host of spying cameras across the nation.
But just how concerned should you be about TrapWire’s facial recognition technology and the potential for Big Brother recording your every move? TheBlaze spoke with technology and military experts about TrapWire and the feasibility of surveillance technology such as this monitoring to the extent that has been speculated.
As a bit of background, Friday afternoon, TheBlaze reported Wikileaks had unleashed news of a surveillance program that used equipment “more accurate than modern facial recognition technology.”
This technology by the Virginia-based company TrapWire is meant to track suspicious activity at high-profile locations, which range from military bases to the White House to casinos and hotels in Las Vegas. The emails and several media reports allege that through this technology the “U.S. government is secretly spying on everyone,” as the Daily Mail put it.
A screenshot of the Virginia-based company TrapWire’s website.
Scot MacTaggart, the regional director of PSX, Inc., who heads up security engineering for the property surveillance company, said he considers the emails regarding TrapWire’s technology overhyped “marketing-speak.”
MacTaggart said facial recognition technology is still largely a failure that is only 60-7o percent accurate. This lack of accuracy, he said, is not good enough for serious applications of the technology.
“I find it hard to believe they could radically improve the facial recognition technology,” MacTaggart said, citing the fact that the idea has been around for decades and still isn’t being used in many applications.
He also noted the extreme bandwidth that would be needed to transfer the large amount of data picked up by the cameras and the need for a “tremendous” data center to store it. Ray Cavanagh, a vice president for the firm Crescent Guardian, Inc., expressed similar thoughts and said managing the amount of data would be “unfathomable.”
“Where would a respository of data like this sit?” Cavanagh said, also noting that he too considered facial recognition software still in its infancy. “Even if there were one, it would have to be updated continually.”
Dan Stynchula, a consultant for AEgis Technology Group, also said that he realizes the facial recognition technology isn’t perfect, but he believes the data center to house this information could very well be one owned by the government.
A data center large enough to store all this, Stynchula speculates is the one under construction by the National Security Agency in Utah. Although he acknowledges this is assumptive, he calls it an “informed hypothetical.”
Where does Stynchula think storage of this information could lead?
“A system like this could generate a large stream of revenue,” he said, pointing out that constant surveillance could record a variety of offenses, identify the person via facial recognition and send them a fine in the mail.
But looking down the road, the infrastructure set up to monitor people becomes more disconcerting, Stynchula said, when you think of changing views toward protection of civil liberties. He noted that with centers storing this data, it could open the door for retrospective prosecution.
On the other hand, Cavanagh said for those who are concerned about privacy from surveillance technology, “I would ask them if they’ve ever shopped online.” He points out that people were concerned about privacy with regard to online shopping as well but now many use it.
“People need to recognize that technology is not the evil here,” Cavanagh said. “Can technology be used for evil purposes? Of course. Technology is not inherently evil though. We need to look at how we can harness it to make the world a better place.”
Overall, Stynchula said these reports at least serve the purpose of starting the conversation in society.
“Where do we as a society want to draw the line?” Stynchula questioned. “What will we allow these agencies to do outside the Constitution?”
With regard to the fictional scenario of extremists taking over in South Carolina, this was presented in an article published in the well-respected Small Wars Journal titled “Full Spectrum Operations in the Homeland: A ‘Vision’ of the Future.”
The authors are retired Army Col. Kevin Benson of the Army’s University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and Jennifer Weber, a Civil War expert at the University of Kansas.
The article imagines a extreme members of the Tea Party taking control of Darlington, S.C. in May 2016, “occupying City Hall, disbanding the city council and placing the mayor under house arrest.” The rebels also set up checkpoints on Interstate 95 and Interstate 20 patrolling for people in the United States illegally.
The article has been criticized by many. The Washington Times, for example, called it a “cartoonish and needlessly provocative scenario“ that ”is a choppy patchwork of doctrinal jargon and liberal nightmare.”
Sill, combining this fictional scenario with the recent leak regarding TrapWire, the government having a network in place to sense civil unrest before a situation like this were to take place seems to go hand-in-hand.
Brandon Webb who operates the website SOFREP (the Special Operations Forces Report) and is a former Navy SEAL told TheBlaze setting up systems like this to thwart terrorist attacks are a valid necessity, provided “strict privacy laws that prohibit the unauthorized spying on American citizens” are followed.
In terms of a civil uprising, here’s what Webb wrote:
I think that there is a legitimate concern that an “Occupy” type of movement could gain serious traction and there are some in government who worry that it will not be quite as peaceful. The article in the Small Wars Journal titled “Full Spectrum Operations in the Homeland: A ‘Vision’ of the Future.” talks about civilian insurrection and a military response.
This is very troubling to hear as a citizen and veteran who has served in combat to protect civil liberties. Especially concerning is that SOFREP has received and confirmed anonymous reports that the U.S. Military and Private Military Companies (PMC’s) were used offensively during the Katrina disaster and riots. This is unacceptable in my view.
He continued saying that while the government “needs to wake up and smell the unrest,” it needs to look at why people are unhappy and start taking care of people’s concerns.” He said, if “we ignore this too long … we’ll have our own version of the Arab Spring, albeit a more peaceful “Tea Party version, I imagine.”
Moss Bluff Elementary School in Lake Charles, La., wanted to speed up the cafeteria line and reduce errors in lunch accounting. So the school bought a Fujitsu PalmSecure biometric ID system, which has a scanner that reads the unique patterns of blood vessels in a human palm, enabling a positive ID, much like a fingerprint would.
When school officials sent out a letter announcing the program, some parents freaked out.
The parents had concerns centering around the belief that all forms of biometric ID constitute what the Christian Bible calls “the mark of the beast.”
Here’s what it says in Revelation 13:15-18: “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, OR the name of the beast, or the number of his name … and his number is six hundred threescore and six.”
I was surprised to learn while researching this column that opposition to any sort of biometric ID systems for payment might be widespread among some Christian groups.
A Christian blogger named Elwood Sanders summed up the biblical case for rejection of biometric ID like this: “Let me state my position clear: NO BIOMETRIC ID CARD! PERIOD! Every evangelical Christian needs to say NO to this kind of thing.”
The case of Moss Bluff Elementary highlights our current reality with biometric ID technology: It’s becoming so mainstream that schools are using it in their cafeterias. But some people are rejecting it based on religious grounds.
So will pervasive biometric ID be adopted? Or rejected? The answer is less clear than you might think.
How evil is biometric ID?
Opposition to biometric ID is pretty widespread, and most of that opposition is based not on prophecy, but on concerns about privacy.
A Senate hearing last month revealed the U.S. government’s own concerns about the use of facial-recognition technology, both by government law enforcement agencies and private companies like Facebook.
Europe is broadly resisting Facebook’s facial recognition initiative, especially Germany.
A professor from Spain’s Universidad Autonoma de Madrid told the Black Hat conference recently that researchers there have come up with a way to hack iris recognition systems that fools the systems into identifying one person as another, raising fears that the main benefit of biometrics — certainty — may not be as reliable as promised.
There are many privacy organizations and advocates with serious reservations about the use of biometric identification technology of any kind.
Moreover, many people associate fingerprinting with criminality, and they just don’t like the idea of it.
In general, privacy advocates view biometric tools — especially those that can operate from a distance, such as facial recognition systems — as grease on the slippery slope toward an Orwellian future in which the government can track everyone at all times with perfect accuracy.
So we find ourselves in a strange position in which some religious conservatives and some secular liberal privacy advocates both agree that biometric identification is evil.
Both groups can be vocal and influential. I predict that general opposition to biometrics will grow strong over the next few years.
But so will support for the technology.
Your body is the credit card
The cashless society is coming. The first step is the use of smartphones to make wireless payments.
Google, Apple and others are pushing hard to move money out of your wallet and into your phone.
The idea is that you’ll walk into a store, transfer money from your account to the store, then walk out. No wallet necessary.
But without your wallet, how do they know it’s really you?
Android phones are expected to increasingly offer fingerprint ID systems and other biometric tools.
It’s just a matter of time before a majority of Americans are carrying biometric ID scanners in their own pockets.
Florida schools are talking about using biometric ID technology not only in the cafeteria, but also in the library and on the bus.
Japan is looking at using facial-recognition systems and other tools to speed up immigration procedures at two major airports.
A day care center in Minnesota is using fingerprint ID to make sure people picking up children are authorized to do so.
Biometric technology is even being proposed as the solution for cloud-computing security.
The people who accept and approve of biometric ID technology do so because it adds security and convenience to our everyday lives.
So it appears we’re headed for a clash. On the one hand, you have a huge push for biometrics to replace signatures, passwords and photo IDs.
On the other, you have a large number of people who consider biometrics an unparalleled evil, and they will refuse to participate.
Who’s right and who’s wrong? Is biometric technology the answer to our security problems? Or is it just plain evil?
Published on Jul 20, 2012 by HowStuffWorks
Drones, Part 2: Drones Go Domestic
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have changed the nature of war. But where are they flying, and what are they doing? The answers might surprise you. Tune in to learn the Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know about drones in the second part of this series.
Posted by truther on July 19, 2012
Spy agency has Google-style capability to search all communications
The National Security Agency is storing all electronic communications and analyzing them in real time, according to former NSA employee turned whistleblower William Binney, who warns that the federal agency has a Google-style capability to search all conversations for keywords.
Since 2008, the NSA has had the legal power to intercept all phone calls, emails and text messages sent byAmerican citizens without probable cause. However, although long suspected, the agency has never admitted that it is analyzing the content of such messages, conceding only that persons, dates and locations are part of the snooping process.
However, in a recent sworn declaration to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Binney, a former NSA employee with the signals intelligence agency within the DoD, divulges that the federal agency, “has the capability to do individualized searches, similar to Google, for particular electronic communications in real time through such criteria as target addresses, locations, countries and phone numbers, as well as watch-listed names, keywords, and phrases in email.”
Using as many as twenty data intercept centers throughout the United States which can each store an almost unimaginable quantity of information, Binney notes that, “The sheer size of that capacity indicates that the NSA is not filtering personal electronic communications such as email before storage but is, in fact, storing all that they are collecting.”
Binney also points to FBI Director Robert Mueller’s 2011 admission that the FBI, with the aid of the NSA and DoD, had “put in place technological improvements relating to the capabilities of a database to pull together past emails as well as … and future ones as they come in so that it does not require an individualized search.”
Binney said he quit the NSA in 2001 because “the individual liberties preserved in the U.S. Constitution were no longer a consideration,” after 9/11.
Binney’s revelations coalesce with the fact that, according to many privacy experts, the NSA has been intercepting and recording all electronic communications across the entire world since at least the early 1990′s.
In 1999, the Australian government admitted that they were part of an NSA-led global intercept and surveillance program called Echelon in alliance with the US and Britain that could listen to “every international telephone call, fax, e-mail, or radio transmission,” on the planet.
In addition, a 2001 European Parliament report stated that “within Europe all e-mail, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted” by the NSA.
Under the Clinton Administration Echelon certainly turned its attention to citizens of countries around the globe and monitored millions of calls and other communications.
Echelon expert Mike Frost, who spent 20 years as a spy for the Canadian equivalent of the National Security Agency, told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that the agency was monitoring “everything from data transfers to cell phones to portable phones to baby monitors to ATMs.”
When Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall of the intelligence oversight committee asked that the NSA provide a rough estimate as to how many U.S. citizens have had their communications monitored under the expanded Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the federal agency refused to provide the figure because it would “further violate the privacy of U.S. persons.”
Photo from http://www.dunbarmechanical.com
Millions of machines and devices over the Internet are managed through Niagara Framework. Now, the Department of Homeland Security is alerting organizations around the world that the software is vulnerable to hacker attacks.
Whether you are a business, a military organization or healthcare provider using Niagara to remotely control or monitor your medical devices, elevators, video cameras and security systems, you should immediately prohibit guest users, bolster passwords and cut off direct access to the Internet. These steps may prevent hackers from exploiting your configuration and software flaws, cybersecurity officials warned on Friday, according to the Washington Post.
The alert comes hot on the heels of Thursday’s report by the same newspaper describing the vulnerabilities of the Niagara software that were discovered by two security specialists, Billy Rios and Terry McCorkle. According to the report, potential intruders could access files containing user names and passwords using a common hacker technique known as “directory traversal attack.”
In a private alert, Niagara’s maker, the Richmond-based company Tridium, warned its customers last week about these potential security issues. It was only last Thursday that it first came up with a public alert – months after it was first notified of the potential problem.
Tridium’s parent company, Honeywell, issued its own statement on Friday in response to the alert.
“We’ve released a security alert guiding our customers how to verify that their system is properly configured to protect against directory traversal. In addition, we will soon be providing a software update that hardens those settings against inadvertent user changes,” says the statement.
In a blog post cited in the department’s cyberalert, Rios praised the DHS for its efforts but criticized Tridium for the delay. DHS officials explained, however, that they had delayed the warning to allow Tridium to work on fixing the problems.
Drones have dominated the headlines lately, with investigations by the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation into domestic drone use giving headaches to law enforcement all over.
What we found was that law enforcement groups from huge city departments to county sheriffs were all enchanted by the idea of drones.
The market potential is already considered huge. It’s expected to grow by a billion dollars between now and 2016.
Here’s a look at the latest in drone tech over American skies, and where they’re seeing testing or active use.
The Skyseer was one of the first drones designed for police use
The Skyseer was developed to be an extremely lightweight drone with imaging capabilities. It entered police use way back in 2006.
One of the huge advantages and initial selling points of the Skyseer was that it had a low price tag compared to police helicopter use, which ran around $1,000 per hour.
The Skyseer cost around $30,000 for a single unit, but that paid off rather quickly if it was used instead of helicopters.
The Skyseer is also nearly completely collapsible, and beaks down and rolls up to fit in essentially a tube.
California grounded the program, leaving the LA Country Sheriff’s office in a bind
The main user of the Skyseer was the LA County Sheriff’s Office, who used it to experiment with full integration of drones into their police force.
The thing is, when they adopted the drone there weren’t any significant regulations from the federal government on use.
Now, the FAA has said that drones for police use — for the time being — cannot go higher than 300 feet, and must stick to other constraints on their abilities.
The innovation in police drones has expanded in an entirely different direction since then.
The Honeywell T-Hawk is military-grade but street legal
The gas-powered T-Hawk is one of the strangest looking drones we’ve seen, but it’s remarkably good at surveillance.
Designed by Honeywell, the 18 pound drone can is vertically launched, so it doesn’t need any kind of runway. It can fly for 50 minutes and navigate during even 23 mph winds and rain.
Like most of the drones in domestic use, the T-Hawk beams video down to a ground station. It’s got ten flight plans pre-programmed in for quick use.
Next time you’re in Miami, the T-Hawk may be watching you
So far one of the police departments to publicly announce their use of drones for surveillance and reconnaissance has been the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD).
The Miami-Dade Police currently testing two of the small drones.
They’re not allowed within the city limits of Miami, and the MDPD has said they aren’t using the drones to record incidents.
The MDPD has also gone further than any other department in working with privacy activists, releasing the draft of their drone operator protocols and policies.
The DraganFlyer X-class is lightweight and highly maneuverable
Draganfly Innovations has developed a number of drones designed for law enforcement use, the most popular being the X6 and the most recent being the X8.
Draganfly is selling the drones for use in accident investigations, traffic patrol assistance — remember those “Speed Limit Enforced By Aircraft” signs? — crime scene evidence gathering, and even crowd control.
The X-8 has a foldable design, eight rotors, and a manual remote control system. It’s battery powered and can fly 30 mph.
Draganfly drones are used from Arizona to Saskatchewan
Right now, several police departments are experimenting with the Draganflyer drones.
The Saskatoon Police Service even used their X6 to investigate an accident.
The Qube is the first try at a police drone from a major military drone contractor
AeroVironment, the manufacturer behind the military’s Raven and Wasp drones, recently came out with a helicopter-style drone for police reconnaissance.
The drone is eay to pack up and has a 40 minute flight endurance. It comes with two cameras, one thermal and the other high resolution color. It’s got four rotors.
It flies between 100 and 500 feet, placing it squarely in the category of domestic use. It weighs only five pounds.
AeroVironment is actively trying to gain law enforcement clients
As of yet, neither AeroVironment nor any local news sources lists any current user of the drone.
Still, AeroVironment is pretty well poised to enter that market. Right now, they’re the largest seller of small drones to the military, and their Raven and Wasp drones were developed alongside DARPA research.
In the meantime, AeroVironment has produced a number of promotional videos pitching the Qube to law enforcement. With the performance specifications that the Qube has, it’s really only a matter of pricing and time until they start seeing active use.
The Vanguard Shadowhawk is seeing use all over the country
Right now, the ShadowHawk is one of the most powerful available drones for civilian police use.
The helicopter drone comes with a Sony camera with 20x optical zoom. It’s got a built in GPS system with incredible accuracy, and it’s already so powerful that the military versions comes with space for a grenade launcher.
It weighs fifty pounds and can carry 22 lbs. The ShadowHawk has a max speed of 55 mph and a cruising speed of 35 mph, and it’s got enough gas in the tank to fly fifteen miles.
The Shadowhawk is becoming one of the more popular drones for law enforcement
The drone has even been mentioned on the Tonight Show.
Vanguard Defense is also hoping that the ShadowHawk sees use in commercial endeavors, such as pipeline monitoring and commercial surveillance.
Given its speed and range, the ShadowHawk is likely great to use for border control operations.
Police Departments have called in the big guns: Homeland Security’s MQ-9 Reaper
The MQ-9 has seen service all over the world with the United States Air Force. It’s one of the most important drones in combat at the moment. It’s an upgraded version of the famous MQ-1 Predator drone.
It’s 36 feet long and can carry a payload of nearly two tons. Its maximum speed is 555 mph, and has a range of more than 1000 miles.
This drone is not street-legal, so to speak, but it has seen use in law enforcement on U.S. soil.
The Department of Homeland Security wants to deploy the drones to help law enforcement often
A MQ9 Reaper drone
One of the missions of the Homeland Security drone program is to help local police departments in law enforcement. Because of that, the Predator and Reaper have seen civilian law enforcement use near the U.S borders.
One instance of Predator use by civilian police occurred in 2011 when a drone was called in by a SWAT team near Lakota, North Dakota to help gather intelligence on a standoff.
Rodney Brossart threatened officers with death threats and a 16-hour standoff resulted. Eventually, Brossart was taken down with tasers using intelligence from a Homeland Security predator drone.
Even more, Homeland Security wants to accelerate the acquisition of drones by police forces, so this use of DHS drones as the cavalry could become more common.
There are probably more drones in law enforcement use than that, but nobody’s talking
Posted by truther
Most of us don’t think much about it, but the truth is that people are being watched, tracked and monitored more today than at any other time in human history. The explosive growth of technology in recent years has given governments, spy agencies and big corporations monitoring tools that the despots and dictators of the past could only dream of. Previous generations never had to deal with “pre-crime” surveillance cameras that use body language to spot criminals or unmanned drones watching them from far above. Previous generations would have never even dreamed that street lights and refrigerators might be spying on them. Many of the incredibly creepy surveillance technologies that you are about to read about are likely to absolutely astound you. We are rapidly heading toward a world where there will be no such thing as privacy anymore. Big Brother is becoming all-pervasive, and thousands of new technologies are currently being developed that will make it even easier to spy on you. The world is changing at a breathtaking pace, and a lot of the changes are definitely not for the better.
The following are 14 incredibly creepy surveillance technologies that Big Brother will be using to watch you….
A company known as BRS Labs has developed “pre-crime” surveillance cameras that can supposedly determine if you are a terrorist or a criminal even before you commit a crime.
Does that sound insane?
In its latest project BRS Labs is to install its devices on the transport system in San Francisco, which includes buses, trams and subways.
The company says will put them in 12 stations with up to 22 cameras in each, bringing the total number to 288.
The cameras will be able to track up to 150 people at a time in real time and will gradually build up a ‘memory’ of suspicious behaviour to work out what is suspicious.
#2 Capturing Fingerprints From 20 Feet Away
Can you imagine someone reading your fingerprints from 20 feet away without you ever knowing it?
This kind of technology is actually already here according to POPSCI….
Gaining access to your gym or office building could soon be as simple as waving a hand at the front door. A Hunsville, Ala.-based company called IDair is developing a system that can scan and identify a fingerprint from nearly 20 feet away. Coupled with other biometrics, it could soon allow security systems to grant or deny access from a distance, without requiring users to stop and scan a fingerprint, swipe an ID card, or otherwise lose a moment dealing with technology.
Currently IDair’s primary customer is the military, but the startup wants to open up commercially to any business or enterprise that wants to put a layer of security between its facilities and the larger world. A gym chain is already beta testing the system (no more using your roommate’s gym ID to get in a free workout), and IDair’s founder says that at some point his technology could enable purchases to be made biometrically, using fingerprints and irises as unique identifiers rather than credit card numbers and data embedded in magnetic strips or RFID chips.
#3 Mobile Backscatter Vans
Police all over America will soon be driving around in unmarked vans looking inside your cars and even under your clothes using the same “pornoscanner” technology currently being utilized by the TSA at U.S. airports….
American cops are set to join the US military in deploying American Science & Engineering’s Z Backscatter Vans, or mobile backscatter radiation x-rays. These are what TSA officials call “the amazing radioactive genital viewer,” now seen in airports around America, ionizing the private parts of children, the elderly, and you (yes you).
These pornoscannerwagons will look like regular anonymous vans, and will cruise America’s streets, indiscriminately peering through the cars (and clothes) of anyone in range of its mighty isotope-cannon. But don’t worry, it’s not a violation of privacy. As AS&E’s vice president of marketing Joe Reiss sez, “From a privacy standpoint, I’m hard-pressed to see what the concern or objection could be.”
You can see a YouTube video presentation about this new technology right here.
#4 Hijacking Your Mind
The U.S. military literally wants to be able to hijack your mind. The theory is that this would enable U.S. forces to non-violently convince terrorists not to be terrorists anymore. But obviously the potential for abuse with this kind of technology is extraordinary. The following is from a recent article by Dick Pelletier….
The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to understand the science behind what makes people violent, and then find ways to hijack their minds by implanting false, but believable stories in their brains, with hopes of evoking peaceful thoughts: We’re friends, not enemies.
Critics say this raises ethical issues such as those addressed in the 1971 sci-fi movie, A Clockwork Orange, which attempted to change people’s minds so that they didn’t want to kill anymore.
Advocates, however, believe that placing new plausible narratives directly into the minds of radicals, insurgents, and terrorists, could transform enemies into kinder, gentler citizens, craving friendship.
Scientists have known for some time that narratives; an account of a sequence of events that are usually in chronological order; hold powerful sway over the human mind, shaping a person’s notion of groups and identities; even inspiring them to commit violence. See DARPA proposal request HERE.
#5 Unmanned Drones In U.S. Airspace
Law enforcement agencies all over the United States are starting to use unmanned drones to spy on us, and the Department of Homeland Security is aggressively seeking to expand the use of such drones by local authorities….
The Department of Homeland Security has launched a program to “facilitate and accelerate the adoption” of small, unmanned drones by police and other public safety agencies, an effort that an agency official admitted faces “a very big hurdle having to do with privacy.”
The $4 million Air-based Technologies Program, which will test and evaluate small, unmanned aircraft systems, is designed to be a “middleman” between drone manufacturers and first-responder agencies “before they jump into the pool,” said John Appleby, a manager in the DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s division of borders and maritime security.
The fact that very few Americans seem concerned about this development says a lot about where we are as a nation. The EPA is already using drones to spy on cattle ranchers in Nebraska and Iowa. Will we eventually get to a point where we all just consider it to be “normal” to have surveillance drones flying above our heads constantly?
Mobile carriers responded to a staggering 1.3 million law enforcement requests last year for subscriber information, including text messages and phone location data, according to data provided to Congress.
A single “request” can involve information about hundreds of customers. So ultimately the number of Americans affected by this could reach into “the tens of millions” each year….
The number of Americans affected each year by the growing use of mobile phone data by law enforcement could reach into the tens of millions, as a single request could ensnare dozens or even hundreds of people. Law enforcement has been asking for so-called “cell tower dumps” in which carriers disclose all phone numbers that connected to a given tower during a certain period of time.
So, for instance, if police wanted to try to find a person who broke a store window at an Occupy protest, it could get the phone numbers and identifying data of all protestors with mobile phones in the vicinity at the time — and use that data for other purposes.
#7 Biometric Databases
All over the globe, governments are developing massive biometric databases of their citizens. Just check out what is going on in India….
In the last two years, over 200 million Indian nationals have had their fingerprints and photographs taken and irises scanned, and given a unique 12-digit number that should identify them everywhere and to everyone.
This is only the beginning, and the goal is to do the same with the entire population (1.2 billion), so that poorer Indians can finally prove their existence and identity when needed for getting documents, getting help from the government, and opening bank and other accounts.
This immense task needs a database that can contain over 12 billion fingerprints, 1.2 billion photographs, and 2.4 billion iris scans, can be queried from diverse devices connected to the Internet, and can return accurate results in an extremely short time.
#8 RFID Microchips
In a previous article, I detailed how the U.S. military is seeking to develop technology that would enable it to monitor the health of our soldiers and improve their performance in battle using RFID microchips.
Most Americans don’t realize this, but RFID microchips are steadily becoming part of the very fabric of our lives. Many of your credit cards and debit cards contain them. Many Americans use security cards that contain RFID microchips at work. In some parts of the country it is now mandatory to inject an RFID microchip into your pet.
Now, one school system down in Texas actually plans to start using RFID microchips to track the movements of their students….
Northside Independent School District plans to track students next year on two of its campuses using technology implanted in their student identification cards in a trial that could eventually include all 112 of its schools and all of its nearly 100,000 students.
District officials said the Radio Frequency Identification System (RFID) tags would improve safety by allowing them to locate students — and count them more accurately at the beginning of the school day to help offset cuts in state funding, which is partly based on attendance.
#9 Automated License Plate Readers
In a previous article, I quoted a Washington Post piece that talked about how automated license plate readers are being used to track the movements of a vehicle from the time that it enters Washington D.C. to the time that it leaves….
More than 250 cameras in the District and its suburbs scan license plates in real time, helping police pinpoint stolen cars and fleeing killers. But the program quietly has expanded beyond what anyone had imagined even a few years ago.
With virtually no public debate, police agencies have begun storing the information from the cameras, building databases that document the travels of millions of vehicles.
Nowhere is that more prevalent than in the District, which has more than one plate-reader per square mile, the highest concentration in the nation. Police in the Washington suburbs have dozens of them as well, and local agencies plan to add many more in coming months, creating a comprehensive dragnet that will include all the approaches into the District.
#10 Face Reading Software
Can computers tell what you are thinking just by looking at your face?
Such technology is actually being actively developed. The following is from a recent NewScientist article….
IF THE computers we stare at all day could read our faces, they would probably know us better than anyone.
That vision may not be so far off. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab are developing software that can read the feelings behind facial expressions. In some cases, the computers outperform people. The software could lead to empathetic devices and is being used to evaluate and develop better adverts.
#11 Data Mining
The government is not the only one that is spying on you. The truth is that a whole host of very large corporations are gathering every shred of information about you that they possibly can and selling that information for profit. It is called “data mining“, and it is an industry that has absolutely exploded in recent years.
One very large corporation known as Acxiom actually compiles information on more than 190 million people in the U.S. alone….
The company fits into a category called database marketing. It started in 1969 as an outfit called Demographics Inc., using phone books and other notably low-tech tools, as well as one computer, to amass information on voters and consumers for direct marketing. Almost 40 years later, Acxiom has detailed entries for more than 190 million people and 126 million households in the U.S., and about 500 million active consumers worldwide. More than 23,000 servers in Conway, just north of Little Rock, collect and analyze more than 50 trillion data ‘transactions’ a year.
#12 Street Lights Spying On Us?
Did you ever consider that street lights could be spying on you?
Well, it is actually happening. New high tech street lights that can actually watch what you do and listen to what you are saying are being installed in some major U.S. cities. The following is from a recent article by Paul Joseph Watson for Infowars.com….
Federally-funded high-tech street lights now being installed in American cities are not only set to aid the DHS in making “security announcements” and acting as talking surveillance cameras, they are also capable of “recording conversations,” bringing the potential privacy threat posed by ‘Intellistreets’ to a whole new level.
#13 Automated ISP Monitoring Of Your Internet Activity
If you download potentially copyrighted software, videos or music, your Internet service provider (ISP) has been watching, and they’re coming for you.
Specifically, they’re coming for you on Thursday, July 12.
That’s the date when the nation’s largest ISPs will all voluntarily implement a new anti-piracy plan that will engage network operators in the largest digital spying scheme in history, and see some users’ bandwidth completely cut off until they sign an agreement saying they will not download copyrighted materials.
Word of the start date has been largely kept secret since ISPs announced their plans last June. The deal was brokered by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and coordinated by the Obama Administration.
Spying On Us Through Our Appliances
Could the government one day use your refrigerator to spy on you?
That is exactly what CIA Director David Petraeus says is coming….
Petraeus says that web-connected gadgets will ‘transform’ the art of spying – allowing spies to monitor people automatically without planting bugs, breaking and entering or even donning a tuxedo to infiltrate a dinner party.
‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,’ said Petraeus.
‘Particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft. Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters - all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing.’
Petraeus was speaking to a venture capital firm about new technologies which aim to add processors and web connections to previously ‘dumb’ home appliances such as fridges, ovens and lighting systems.
For many more ways that Big Brother is spying on you, please see these articles….
The things that I have written about above are just the things that they admit to.
There are also many “black box technologies” being developed out there that the public does not even know about yet.
So how far will all of this go?
Has Big Brother already gone way too far?
Please feel free to post a comment with your opinion below….
Left your cell phone at home again? A solution is at hand: Make sure it’s with you at all times by having it implanted in your arm.
But given the opportunity, would you want your gadget to be a permanent part of you? The question may need answering sooner than you think.
Researchers at Autodesk, a software company in Toronto, Canada, checked to see whether the methods we currently use to interface with our gadgets work when the device is implanted in human tissue. The answer was a resounding “yes.”
A button, an LED and a touch sensor all functioned appropriately when embedded under the skin of a cadaver’s arm. The team was even able to communicate transcutaneously using a Bluetooth connection and charge the electronics wirelessly.
“That’s the bottom line,” says Christian Holz of the Autodesk team, who presented the work in May at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Austin, Texas. “Traditional user interfaces work through the skin.”
Would anyone want a piece of consumer electronics inside their body? There is something intrinsically creepy about the idea. Plus there’s a risk that the device could malfunction and need to be removed, or that it could infect the surrounding tissue, not to mention the dystopian vision of a society in which our phones become tracking devices that we can never be free of.
Yet there are reasons for thinking that the cyborg future will come to be. The research team, who worked with University of Toronto anatomist Anne Agur, says that medical risks, such as infection, need to be better understood before a device can be implanted into a living person. But it’s a problem that manufacturers of existing implants, such as stents and replacement hips, have successfully tackled.
There are also clear benefits to implanted electronics.
“The device is always there,” says Holz. “You cannot lose it.” And implants provide new interface methods. A gadget similar to a smartphone could provide a calendar alert by means of a gentle sub-skin vibration, for example.
And that creepy feeling? It is a common reaction now, but may lessen as people become familiar with the technology. The idea of using a machine to assist a human heart was once deemed unnatural, for example, but the insertion of a pacemaker is now a routine procedure.
“In general, the trend has been that people are more and more willing to incorporate bits of the machine world into themselves,” says Sherry Turkle, a sociologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“The perception (of this technology) 10 years ago would differ from today and from what we would get in 10 years’ time,” agrees Holz.
Turkle wants society to think seriously about the potential downsides of implanted electronics, including tracking. But she has also studied how people relate to their cellphones and notes that some talk about them as if they were cyborgs.
“People literally cannot be without this device,” Turkle says. “They don’t feel the same when they are not connected. We live with our phones as if they are part of our body.”
If we feel that way, perhaps having a phone implanted isn’t unnatural at all. It may just be the obvious thing to do with a device that we already feel highly attached to.