Count on it…
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, watching the evil and the good…
II Chronicles 16:9
For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His…
Internet firms co-opted for surveillance: experts
By Georgina Prodhan
NAIROBI | Fri Sep 30, 2011 11:12am EDT
(Reuters) – Internet companies such as Google, Twitter and Facebook are increasingly co-opted for surveillance work as the information they gather proves irresistible to law enforcement agencies, Web experts said this week.
Although such companies try to keep their users’ information private, their business models depend on exploiting it to sell targeted advertising, and when governments demand they hand it over, they have little choice but to comply.
Suggestions that BlackBerry maker RIM might give user data to British police after its messenger service was used to coordinate riots this summer caused outrage — as has the spying on social media users by more oppressive governments.
But the vast amount of personal information that companies like Google collect to run their businesses has become simply too valuable for police and governments to ignore, delegates to the Internet Governance Forum in Nairobi said.
“When the possibility exists for information to be obtained that wasn’t possible before, it’s entirely understandable that law enforcement is interested,” Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf told Reuters in an interview.
“Then the issue would be, what’s the right policy? And that, or course, engenders a lot of debate,” said Cerf, who is recognized as one of the “fathers of the Internet” for his early work in areas including communications protocols and email.
Demands from governments for Internet companies to hand over user information have become routine, according to online privacy researcher and activist Christopher Soghoian, who makes extensive use of freedom-of-information requests in his work.
“Every decent-sized U.S. telecoms and Internet company has a team that does nothing but respond to requests for information,” Soghoian told Reuters in an interview.
Soghoian estimates that U.S. Internet and telecoms companies may receive about 300,000 such requests in connection with law enforcement each year — but public information is scarce.
While U.S. courts are obliged to publish reports on wire-tapping of telephone lines, no similar information is required to be made public with respect to the Internet — which grew up after the laws on electronic communications were passed.
Google does voluntarily publish a transparency report every six months in which it details the number of requests it receives from governments around the world to remove content from its services or hand over user data.
But the numbers do not reveal how many users are affected by each request — only trends country by country (www.google.com/transparencyreport).
Some governments are requiring Internet companies to collect more data and keep it for longer, said Katarzyna Szymielewicz, executive director of Poland’s Panoptykon Foundation, which campaigns for human rights in light of modern surveillance.
“Government agencies throughout the world are pushing companies to collect even more data than is needed for their business purposes,” she told the conference.
“For example, we have a very controversial data retention regime which is currently under review. This requires people to store data for a period up to two years so it can easily be accessed by law enforcement agencies.”
The ease and cost of surveillance are at an all-time low, Soghoian said, with Google charging an administrative fee of $25 to hand over data, Yahoo charging $20, and Microsoft and Facebook providing data for free.
“Now, one police officer from the comfort of their desk can track 20, 30, 50 people all through Web interfaces provided by mobile companies and cloud computing companies,” he said.
“The marginal cost of surveilling one more person is now essentially approaching zero.”
(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Will Waterman)
Related update… the next generation in street lighting…
New Street Lights To Have “Homeland Security” Applications
New street lights that include “Homeland Security” applications including speaker systems, motion sensors and video surveillance are now being rolled out with the aid of government funding.
The Intellistreets system comprises of a wireless digital infrastructure that allows street lights to be controlled remotely by means of a ubiquitous wi-fi link and a miniature computer housed inside each street light, allowing for “security, energy management, data harvesting and digital media,” according to the Illuminating Concepts website.
According to the company’s You Tube video of the concept, the primary capabilities of the devices include “energy conservation, homeland security, public safety, traffic control, advertising, video surveillance.”
In terms of Homeland Security applications, each of the light poles contains a speaker system that can be used to broadcast emergency alerts, as well as a display that transmits “security levels” (presumably a similar system to the DHS’ much maligned color-coded terror alert designation), in addition to showing instructions by way of its LED video screen.
The lights also include proximity sensors that can record both pedestrian and road traffic. The video display and speaker system will also be used to transmit Minority Report-style advertising, as well as Amber Alerts and other “civic announcements”.
With the aid of grant money from the federal government, the company is about to launch the first concept installation of the system in the city of Farmington Hills, Michigan.
Using street lights as surveillance tools has already been advanced by several European countries. In 2007, leaked documents out of the UK Home Office revealed that British authorities were working on proposals to fit lamp posts with CCTV cameras that would X-ray scan passers-by and “undress them” in order to “trap terror suspects”.
Dutch police also announced last year that they are developing a mobile scanner that will “see through people’s clothing and look for concealed weapons”.
So-called ‘talking surveillance cameras’ that use a speaker system similar to the Intellistreets model are already being used in UK cities like Middlesborough to bark orders and reprimand people for dropping litter and other minor offenses. According to reports, one of the most common phrases used to shame people into obeying instructions is to broadcast the message, “We are watching you.”
The transformation of street lights into surveillance tools for Homeland Security purposes will only serve to heighten concerns that the United States is fast on the way to becoming a high-tech police state, with TSA agents being empowered to oversee that control grid, most recently with the announcement that TSA screeners would be manning highway checkpoints, a further indication that security measures we currently see in airports are rapidly spilling out onto the streets.
The ability of the government to use street lights to transmit “emergency alerts” also dovetails with the ongoing efforts to hijack radio and television broadcasts for the same purpose, via FEMA’s Emergency Alert System.
The federal government is keen to implement a centralized system of control over all communications, with the recent announcement that all new cell phones will be required to comply with the PLAN program (Personal Localized Alerting Network), which will broadcast emergency alert messages directly to Americans’ cell phones using a special chip embedded in the receiver. The system will be operational by the end of the year in New York and Washington, with the rest of the country set to follow in 2012.
The notion of using the street lights as communication tools to broadcast “alerts” directly from the federal government is also consistent with Homeland Security’s program to install Orwellian ‘telescreens’ that play messages by Janet Napolitano and other DHS officials in Wal-Mart stores across the country.
The fact that the federal government is funding the implementation of ‘Intellistreets’ comes as no surprise given that the nation’s expanding networks of surveillance cameras are also being paid for with Department of Homeland Security grants.
Update… law enforcement determined not to let the law get in the way…
Homeland Security reviews social media guidelines
By P. SOLOMON BANDA, Associated Press – 3 days ago
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The wave of uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East that have overturned three governments in the past year have prompted the U.S. government to begin developing guidelines for culling intelligence from social media networks, a top Homeland Security official said Monday.
Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Caryn Wagner said the use of such technology in uprisings that started in December in Tunisia shocked some officials into attention and prompted questions of whether the U.S. needs to do a better job of monitoring domestic social networking activity.
“We’re still trying to figure out how you use things like Twitter as a source,” she said. “How do you establish trends and how do you then capture that in an intelligence product?”
Wagner said the department is establishing guidelines on gleaning information from sites such as Twitter and Facebook for law enforcement purposes. Wagner says those protocols are being developed under strict laws meant to prevent spying on U.S. citizens and protect privacy, including rules dictating the length of time the information can be stored and differences between domestic and international surveillance.
Wagner said the Homeland Security department, established after the 9/11 attacks, is not actively monitoring any social networks. But when the department receives information about a potential threat, contractors are then asked to look for certain references within “open source” information, which is available to anyone on the Internet.
The challenge, she said, is to develop guidelines for collecting and analyzing information so that it provides law enforcement officials with meaningful intelligence.
“I can post anything on Facebook, is that valid? If 20 people are tweeting the same thing, then maybe that is valid,” she said. “There are just a lot of questions that we are sort of struggling with because it’s a newly emerging (issue).”
Wagner was in Colorado Springs to deliver a speech at the National Symposium on Homeland Security and Defense, a conference that included defense contractors and the military.
Aside from discussing the use of technology in unrest that has led to regime changes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, she delivered a speech that addressed the way the department operates, saying that its crucial elements include a nationwide network of 72 fusion centers that gather and analyze reports of suspicious activity, a new National Terrorism Advisory System that replaces the color coded alert system with one that provides more information about a threat, and a “See Something, Say Something” campaign that encourages citizens to report suspicious activity.
She also said another key program involves training hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers across the country in filling out suspicious activity reports.
Update… FBI’s NGI system to be fully operational by 2014
Smile, the Government Is Watching: Next Generation Identification
By John W. Whitehead
September 17, 2012
Brace yourselves for the next wave in the surveillance state’s steady incursions into our lives. It’s coming at us with a lethal one-two punch.
To start with, there’s the government’s integration of facial recognition software and other biometric markers into its identification data programs. The FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system is a $1 billion boondoggle that is aimed at dramatically expanding the government’s current ID database from a fingerprint system to a facial recognition system. NGI will use a variety of biometric data, cross-referenced against the nation’s growing network of surveillance cameras to not only track your every move but create a permanent “recognition” file on you within the government’s massive databases.
By the time it’s fully operational in 2014, NGI will serve as a vast data storehouse of “iris scans, photos searchable with face recognition technology, palm prints, and measures of gait and voice recordings alongside records of fingerprints, scars, and tattoos.” One component of NGI, the Universal Face Workstation, already contains some 13 million facial images, gleaned from “criminal mug shot photos” taken during the booking process. However, with major search engines having “accumulated face image databases that in their size dwarf the earth’s population,” it’s only a matter of time before the government taps into the trove of images stored on social media and photo sharing websites such as Facebook.
Also aiding and abetting police in their efforts to track our every movement in real time is Trapwire, which allows for quick analysis of live feeds from CCTV surveillance cameras. Some of Trapwire’s confirmed users are the DC police, and police and casinos in Las Vegas. Police in New York, Los Angeles, Canada, and London are also thought to be using Trapwire.
Using Trapwire in conjunction with NGI, police and other government agents will be able to pinpoint anyone by checking the personal characteristics stored in the database against images on social media websites, feeds from the thousands of CCTV surveillance cameras installed throughout American cities (there are 3,700 CCTV cameras tracking the public in the New York subway system alone), as well as data being beamed down from the more than 30,000 surveillance drones taking to the skies within the next eight years.
Going far beyond the scope of those with criminal backgrounds, the NGI data includes criminals and non-criminals alike—in other words, innocent American citizens. The information is being amassed through a variety of routine procedures, with the police leading the way as prime collectors of biometrics for something as non-threatening as a simple moving violation. For example, the New York Police Department began photographing irises of suspects and arrestees in 2010, routinely telling suspects that the scans were mandatory, despite there being no law requiring defendants to have their irises scanned. Police departments across the country are now being equipped with the Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System, or MORIS, a physical iPhone add-on that allows officers patrolling the streets to scan the irises and faces of individuals and match them against government databases.
The nation’s courts are also doing their part to “build” the database, requiring biometric information as a precursor to more lenient sentences. In March 2012, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law allowing DNA evidence to be collected from anyone convicted of a crime, even if it’s a non-violent misdemeanor. New York judges have also begun demanding mandatory iris scans before putting defendants on trial.
Then there are the nation’s public schools. With the advent of biometrics, school officials have gone to ever more creative lengths to monitor and track students’ activities and whereabouts, even for the most mundane things. For example, students in Pinellas County, Fla., are actually subjected to vein recognition scans when purchasing lunch at school.
Of course, the government is not the only looming threat to our privacy and bodily integrity. As with most invasive technologies, the groundwork to accustom the American people to the so-called benefits or conveniences of facial recognition is being laid quite effectively by corporations. For example, a new Facebook application, Facedeals, is being tested in Nashville, Tenn., which enables businesses to target potential customers with specialized offers. Yet another page borrowed from Stephen Spielberg’s 2002 Minority Report, the app works like this: businesses install cameras at their front doors which, using facial recognition technology, identify the faces of Facebook users and then send coupons to their smartphones based upon things they’ve “liked” in the past.
Making this noxious mix even more troubling is the significant margin for error and abuse that goes hand in hand with just about every government-instigated program, only more so when it comes to biometrics and identification databases. Take, for example, the Secure Communities initiative. Touted by the Department of Homeland Security as a way to crack down on illegal immigration, the program attempted to match the inmates in local jails against the federal immigration database. Unfortunately, it resulted in Americans being arrested for reporting domestic abuse and occasionally flagged US citizens for deportation. More recently, in July 2012, security researcher Javier Galbally demonstrated that iris scans can be spoofed, allowing a hacker to use synthetic images of an iris to trick an iris-scanning device into thinking it had received a positive match for a real iris over 50 percent of the time.
The writing is on the wall. With technology moving so fast and assaults on our freedoms, privacy and otherwise, occurring with increasing frequency, there is little hope of turning back this technological, corporate and governmental juggernaut.
Consider this, however: while the general public, largely law-abiding, continues to be pried on, spied on and treated like suspects by a government that spends an exorbitant amount of money on the security-intelligence complex, the government’s attention and resources are effectively being diverted from the true threats that remain at large—namely, those terrorists abroad who seek, through overt action and implied threat, to continue the reign of terror in America begun in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
II Samuel 22:28
“And You save an afflicted people; but Your eyes are on the haughty whom You abase…