Thursday, May 31, 2012
Police drones flying over Virginia would be “great” and “the right thing to do” for the same reasons they are so effective in a battlefield environment, the state’s chief executive said Tuesday.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, says he is open to any technology that makes law enforcement more productive. The use of drones, which was recently endorsed by the police chiefs of Fairfax County and D.C., would make better use of valuable police resources.

Increased safety and reduced manpower are among the reasons the U.S. military and intelligence community use drones on the battlefield, which is why it should be considered in Virginia, he says.

The endorsement follows new drone use in Texas, where civil liberties advocates are already clashing with local police. “Local,” of course, is beginning to lose its meaning. The state’s Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, for instance, acquired one drone from Vanguard Defense Industries for a cool $300,000 in federal homeland security grant funds. No wonder Washington loves the idea. The federal government has a host of incentives to gradually nationalize police forces, and drones are the perfect vehicle. That’s unsettling enough, but activists with a liberty agenda worry primarily that drones will technologically outstrip constitutional safeguards against unreasonable search and seizure.

Perhaps most disconcerting, however, is that the most valuable purpose of drones is to inflict harm on targets without putting the human who’s operating them at any risk whatsoever. That’s the crucial point that Bob McDonnell’s comfortable claims obscure by casually conflating safety and efficiency. Here’s the logical breakdown: nobody wants to see more police officers getting hurt or killed in the line of duty; yet that doesn’t mean we all ought to do whatever can make police safer. The legitimacy of policing hinges on the moral authority of our shared humanity. If locals can’t meet and interact with their police on a face-to-face level — whether peaceably or in the midst of crimes — then citizens are put into a relationship with the law and the citizens who uphold it that’s too unequal to sustain in a free society...
A privacy group is calling on the California Assembly to keep Google's self-driving cars off the road.

Consumer Watchdog, a non-profit privacy group, sent an open letter to the Assembly today urging members to defeat a bill, SB 1289, that would allow Google's self-driving cars on California's roads unless the bill is amended to provide "adequate" privacy protection for the cars' users.

The letter asks legislators to ban all data collection from Google's autonomous cars.

"While we don't propose to limit the ability of the cars to function by communicating as necessary with satellites and other devices, the collection and retention of data for marketing and other purposes should be banned," wrote Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, and John Simpson, privacy project director. "Unless the bill is amended, once again society will be forced to play catch-up in dealing with the impact of the privacy invading aspects of a new technology."

Google has been pushing ahead with its research into developing autonomous automobiles that can be sold commercially.

Earlier this month, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles gave Google the state's first license for driverless cars. It was also the first autonomous vehicle license ever issued in the United States, according to the Nevada DMV website.

"The cars have a number of sensors, such as cameras, lasers and radar, to monitor road conditions and improve the technology," said Chris Gaither, a Google spokesman in an email to Computerworld. "For our testing purposes, the cars log data about their performance -- how fast they're going, where they are, where they detect obstacles, etc. -- as well as data from the equipment on the car."

Gaither noted that he could not say what, if any, data would continue to be collected from the cars once testing is over and they are being sold commercially. "It would be premature to speculate," he added...
These days, our artificial ears and eyes are better than ever—and more ubiquitous than ever. A business recently profiled by the New York Times seems to embody both what’s most promising about such pervasive surveillance and also what’s potentially disturbing.

ShotSpotter sells and helps run an automated gunshot-reporting system to police departments, for a cost of $40,000 to $60,000 per square mile. Recording equipment is installed in neighborhoods and linked software that records sounds that could be gunfire, analyzes them to identify which are actually shots, and then submits its findings for review by a trained employee in the company’s Mountain View office. If a human verifies that the sounds are indeed gunfire, the police are notified with the location of the shots, pinpointed to within 40-50 feet. All this can happen in well under five minutes, meaning police can be there right away.

Police officials who spoke to the New York Times were generally impressed with the system’s sensitivity, especially if they were from high-crime towns like Richmond, CA. It certainly ups the number of shots police get word of:

If nothing else, ShotSpotter has made it clear how much unreported gunfire takes place on city streets. In many high-crime urban neighborhoods, gunshots are a counterpoint to daily life, “as common as the birds chirping,” as Cmdr. Mikail Ali of the San Francisco Police Department put it. But whether out of apathy, fear or uncertainty, people call the police in only a fraction of cases. In the Bayview-Hunter’s Point neighborhood of San Francisco, for example, where one square mile is covered by ShotSpotter sensors, only 10 percent of the verified incidents of gunfire detected by the system were accompanied by 911 calls, Commander Ali said. In Oakland, Sergeant Bolton said, only 22 percent of the verified gunfire the system detected over a three-month period was also reported by residents.

But the cost of the system, and the question of whether it records things it shouldn’t, are causing some controversy.

ShotSpotter has, in at least one case, recorded voices along with gunfire (though it only starts recording once a shot has been fired, or at least once a shot-like sound is heard, according to a vice president of the company). Two men who are accused of murdering another in New Bedford, Massachusetts, last year can be heard on the ShotSpotter recording of the events. Whether what they say on the recording can be used as evidence in the case has yet to be decided. It hinges on whether you have a reasonable expectation of privacy after you’ve fired a gun in a public place.
In the sci-fi flick Colossus: The Forbin Project, the all-knowing computer was asked if it understood privacy.

“Privacy: Being apart from company or observation,” Colossus intoned.

Colossus didn’t really think much of respecting privacy; nor, it seems, do many legislators.

Today’s convergence of privacy-invading technologies and Washington‘s appetite for surveillance could send civil liberties packing if we’re not careful.

The historical accident of the Internet age arising alongside the post-9/11 “war on terror” and the derivative modern “cybersecurity” mania complicates matters profoundly.

OK, so it’s true that long ago Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy advised, “You have zero privacy anyway….Get over it.”

But new developments are particularly provocative.

One is the House-passed cybersecurity legislation called CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act), now wrapped into the Senate’s noxious Cybersecurity Act of 2012. It’ll be considered in June, to the consternation of many on both the left and right who see it as a conduit for inappropriate information sharing between business and government.

The designation of unmanned surveillance drones flying overhead as “great” by Republican Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia is another tidbit of note. The FCC has been exploring drones’ use for emergency communications restoration, and I reckon they’ll somehow decide it’s A-OK.

It’s possible for drone usage to be OK; but not in the environment created by Washington‘s broader disregard for individual privacy.

These are just the latest privacy flareups. Others include certain biometrics deployments, public cameras, wiretap enhancements, RFID tags, invasive computer-assisted airline passenger screening and escalated e-mail monitoring fostered by the Patriot Act...
A bipartisan group of Capitol Hill lawmakers is pressing EPA Director Lisa Jackson to answer questions about privacy issues and other concerns after the agency used aerial surveillance to monitor livestock operations over their home state of Nebraska.

“Farmers and ranchers in Nebraska pride themselves in the stewardship of our state’s natural resources. As you might imagine, this practice has resulted in privacy concerns among our constituents and raises several questions,” says the letter signed by Republican Reps. Adrian Smith, Jeff Fortenberry and Lee Terry, as well as Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson and GOP Sen. Mike Johanns.

Smith, co-chairman of the Modern Agriculture Caucus and the Congressional Rural Caucus, said Tuesday the operations in many cases are near homes so “landowners deserve legitimate justification given the sensitivity of the information gathered by the flyovers.”

The letter asks nearly two-dozen questions including why the inspections are being conducted, how many flights have occurred and whether they have resulted in any enforcement activities.

“Nebraskans are rightfully skeptical of an agency which continues to unilaterally insert itself into the affairs of rural America,” Smith added.
Fourteen suspected members of a Crown Heights gang dubbed the “Brower Boys” have been indicted in connection with a year-long crime spree after talking about their alleged exploits on Facebook, authorities said Wednesday.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said an officer from the 77th Precinct was able to track the suspects on social networking sites.

“He was able to get up on Facebook and ‘friend’ the members of the Brower gang to such an extent that he was able to track their next move,” Kelly said.

Officer Michael Rodriguez said the suspects would get bolder in what they wrote, like the videotaped crime.

“In that instance, they were boasting about making money,” Officer Rodriguez said.

Investigators also made video recordings of some of the suspects climbing in and out of apartment windows, up and down fire escapes and running across rooftops, authorities said. The suspects are charged in connection with more than 20 break-ins...
More than a decade after George W Bush launched it, the "war on terror" was supposed to be winding down. US military occupation of Iraq has ended and Nato is looking for a way out of Afghanistan, even as the carnage continues. But another war – the undeclared drone war that has already killed thousands – is now being relentlessly escalated.

From Pakistan to Somalia, CIA-controlled pilotless aircraft rain down Hellfire missiles on an ever-expanding hit list of terrorist suspects – they have already killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of civilians in the process.

At least 15 drone strikes have been launched in Yemen this month, as many as in the whole of the past decade, killing dozens; while in Pakistan, a string of US attacks has been launched against supposed "militant" targets in the past week, incinerating up to 35 people and hitting a mosque and a bakery.

The US's decision to step up the drone war again in Pakistan, opposed by both government and parliament in Islamabad as illegal and a violation of sovereignty, reflects its fury at the jailing of a CIA agent involved in the Bin Laden hunt and Pakistan's refusal to reopen supply routes for Nato forces in Afghanistan. Those routes were closed in protest at the US killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers last November, for which Washington still refuses to apologise.

Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan's high commissioner in London, describes the latest US escalation as "punitive". But then Predators and Reapers are Barack Obama's weapons of choice and coercion, deployed only on the territory of troublesome US allies, such as Pakistan and Yemen – and the drone war is Obama's war.

In his first two years in office, the US president more than tripled the number of attacks in Pakistan alone. For their US champions, drones have the advantage of involving no American casualties, while targeting the "bad guys" Bush lost sight of in his enthusiasm to subjugate Iraq. Enthusiasts boast of their surgical accuracy and exhaustive surveillance, operated by all-seeing technicians from thousands of miles away in Nevada.

But that's a computer-game fantasy of clinical war. Since 2004, between 2,464 and 3,145 people are reported to have been killed by US drone attacks in Pakistan, of whom up to 828 were civilians (535 under Obama) and 175 children. Some Pakistani estimates put the civilian death toll much higher – plausibly, given the tendency to claim as "militants" victims later demonstrated to be nothing of the sort.

The US president insisted recently that the civilian death toll was not a "huge number". Not on the scale of Iraq, perhaps, where hundreds of thousands were killed; or Afghanistan, where tens of thousands have died. But they gruesomely include dozens killed in follow-up attacks after they had gone to help victims of earlier strikes – as well as teenagers like Tariq Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani boy decapitated in a strike last November after he had travelled to Islamabad to protest against drones.

These killings are, in reality, summary executions and widely regarded as potential war crimes by international lawyers – including the UN's special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Philip Alston. The CIA's now retired counsel, John Rizzo, who authorised drone attacks, himself talked about having been involved in "murder"...
(related: who has drones?)
The Obama administration has been secretive about its use of targeted drone strikes, boasted about the program's success, and fended off critics who say the strikes are killing and injuring too many civilians. A New York Times story published Tuesday has the administration's human rights critics buzzing again. A key revelation comes near the end of the article, written by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, under the heading, "'They Must All Be Militants.'"

Obama, Becker and Shane write, was angry when informed that the first drone strike after he took office had killed innocent Pakistanis. But one of the measures the administration embraced to prevent future innocent casualties was to embrace a method of counting combatants that would rope in more innocents.

"It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent," the Times reports. "Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good."

Earlier Tuesday, Jake Tapper of ABC News pressed White House spokesman Jay Carney on the reported policy, which one former CIA official called "guilt by association." But Carney didn't directly answer the question, instead ticking off other policies he says the administration has implemented to avoid killing innocents. "[O]ur military and our broader national security team is able to pursue al-Qaida in a way that significantly reduces the potential for and the fact of civilian casualties," Carney said.

Tapper pressed again. "[T]his is the question -- with the assumption that if you are with a terrorist when a terrorist gets killed, the presumption is that you are a terrorist as well and -- even if we don’t even know who you are, right? Isn’t that part of the reason you’re able to make these assertions?"

And Carney again ducked the question: "I am not going to get into the specifics of the process by which, you know, these decisions are made..."
(related: Obama's 'Kill List')
Eduardo Saverin, who co-founded the world’s largest social network with CEO Mark Zuckerberg, keeps a low profile on Facebook these days. Why? Even he’s concerned about online privacy.

“I don’t like showing my privacy,” Saverin said in a rare interview with the magazine Veja.

As Facebook nears a billion unique users, the question of privacy has dogged the social network -- and not just users worried about who will see their private photos or have access to the personal information, it seems.

Ironically, Saverin touted the interview on Facebook, describing Veja as “the top magazine in Brazil -- which I used to read when I was young.”

Saverin, who made billions off the world’s most popular social network, made headlines in mid May with his decision to renounce his U.S. citizenship for residence in Singapore, where there is no capital gains tax.

Had he remained a citizen, Saverin would have been hit with about $600 million in capital gains taxes whenever he sold the Facebook shares.

Veja nevertheless described him as “An American Hero.”

In the interview, Saverin denies fleeing the country in order to avoid the tax penalty. “The decision was only based on my interest in working and living in Singapore,” he said. “I have and will pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to the U.S. government.”
Whether or not Facebook acquires facial recognition services provider, as rumors say it will, the persistence of the speculation calls attention to the expanding use of the technology in social applications.'s first app, Photo Finder, allowed Facebook users to search for photos of themselves that others had uploaded. Photo Tagger, which suggests names for people pictured, launched in November 2009. Just over a year later, Facebook licensed's technology to begin suggesting friends for users to tag.

If Facebook acquires, it could be motivated by a desire to own, rather than license's technology or to "acqui-hire" the app maker's team, industry watchers said. Either way, a purchase would seem to point to increased interest in facial recognition.

The technology is now in a "sweet spot," benefitting from better computer visualization algorithms and expanding numbers of people sharing photographs, according to Brian Blau, an analyst at Gartner.

"That has to do with the capabilities of the devices and the critical mass of people putting their faces online," Blau said.

The so-called "computer vision" technology that empowers computers to recognize faces has only recently gotten good enough that consumer-facing companies like Facebook, Apple and Google can support it, according to Apu Kapadia, a computer scientist at the University of Illinois, whose research includes digital privacy issues...
The Department of Homeland Security has been forced to release a list of keywords and phrases it uses to monitor social networking sites and online media for signs of terrorist or other threats against the U.S.

The intriguing list includes obvious choices such as 'attack', 'Al Qaeda', 'terrorism' and 'dirty bomb' alongside dozens of seemingly innocent words like 'pork', 'cloud', 'team' and 'Mexico'.

Released under a freedom of information request, the information sheds new light on how government analysts are instructed to patrol the internet searching for domestic and external threats.

The words are included in the department's 2011 'Analyst's Desktop Binder' used by workers at their National Operations Center which instructs workers to identify 'media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activities'.

Department chiefs were forced to release the manual following a House hearing over documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit which revealed how analysts monitor social networks and media organisations for comments that 'reflect adversely' on the government.

However they insisted the practice was aimed not at policing the internet for disparaging remarks about the government and signs of general dissent, but to provide awareness of any potential threats...
Google is facing an inquiry into claims that it deliberately harvested information from millions of UK home computers.

The Information Commissioner data protection watchdog is expected to examine the work of the internet giant’s Street View cars.

They downloaded emails, text messages, photographs and documents from wi-fi networks as they photographed virtually every British road.

It is two years since Google first admitted stealing fragments of personal data, but claimed it was a ‘mistake’.

Now the full scale of its activities has emerged amid accusations of a cover-up after US regulators found a senior manager was warned as early as 2007 that the information was being captured as its cars trawled the country but did nothing.

Around one in four home networks in the UK is thought to be unsecured – lacking password protection – allowing personal data to be collected. Technology websites and bloggers have suggested that Google harvested the information simply because it was able to do so and would later work out a way to use it to make money...

They do it all for the money. These pricks don't care about your privacy. This Street View bullshit should be banned.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
A team of engineers at Sandia National Laboratories, in Albuquerque, is ­completing a testable prototype of the world’s first laser-guided ­bullet. Like a “mini-me” of smart bombs, this patented technology has some of the same computerized control and guidance features found on proven Gulf War weaponry, such as the Paveway series of laser-guided bombs. 

An infrared laser illuminates a target, which the bullet’s optical sensors follow. An onboard tracking chip calculates the course corrections, carried out by four actuator-controlled fins on the bullet’s body. The end result, says Larry Shipers, manager of system technologies at Sandia, is a bullet that could improve its shooter’s marksmanship by 98 percent, at distances between 1 and 2 kilometers. 

Shipers says the technology has already cleared a hurdle that experts had said couldn’t be overcome: the survival of the battery and chip, despite their being fired out of a .50-caliber rifle. Launch tests found that the munition’s innards did indeed stand up to the crushing 120 000 g-force acceleration and 344.7 megapascals (50 000 pounds per square inch) of pressure as the bullet comes hurtling out of the barrel. The next step is to find a commercial partner that can turn the ideas now being bench-tested into a field-ready bullet. 

“We believe we can get to a full-up prototype using primarily existing technology,” says Shipers.

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.

Northside, the largest school district in Bexar County, plans to modify the ID cards next year for all students attending John Jay High School, Anson Jones Middle School and all special education students who ride district buses. That will add up to about 6,290 students.

The school board unanimously approved the program late Tuesday but, in a rarity for Northside trustees, they hotly debated it first, with some questioning it on privacy grounds.

State officials and national school safety experts said the technology was introduced in the past decade but has not been widely adopted. Northside's deputy superintendent of administration, Brian Woods, who will take over as superintendent in July, defended the use of RFID chips at Tuesday's meeting, comparing it to security cameras. He stressed that the program is only a pilot and not permanent.

“We want to harness the power of (the) technology to make schools safer, know where our students are all the time in a school, and increase revenues,” district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said. “Parents expect that we always know where their children are, and this technology will help us do that.”

Chip readers on campuses and on school buses can detect a student's location but can't track them once they leave school property. Only authorized administrative officials will have access to the information, Gonzalez said.

“This way we can see if a student is at the nurse's office or elsewhere on campus, when they normally are counted for attendance in first period,” he said...
Australia’s Northern Territory Department of Justice has installed biometric readers in 14 police watch houses to understand how often problem drinkers habitually get taken into custody, reports IT News.

The department contracted with Unisys to design and install its Integrated Justice Identification Module, which has been rolled out in stages since last July. Police officers use the system to capture fingerprints and photographs of repeat offenders.

The system stores the data and helps police identify when offenders have prior incidences of drunken misconduct that could land them on the Territory’s banned drinking registry...
The government's growing database of DNA and other identifying information is raising concerns from privacy and immigration advocates who want greater accountability about law enforcement's collection of biometric data, according to a new report.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Immigration Policy Center on Wednesday released their 23-page report, "From Fingerprints to DNA: Biometric Data Collection in U.S. Immigrant Communities."

The report, written by Electronic Frontier staff attorney Jennifer Lynch, raises concerns about the growing government database of biometric data collected from immigrants and other groups.

Homeland Security takes 300,000 fingerprints from noncitizens who cross the border every day, and regularly collects fingerprints and other data from people who are applying for immigration benefits, the report says.

Besides fingerprints, biometrics are typically collected through DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans, and photographs.

State and local law enforcement also collect this information, and the FBI has started working with several states to collect face-recognition-ready photos of suspects who have been arrested and booked, the report says.

"Once these federal biometrics systems are fully deployed, and once each of their approximately 100+ million records also includes photographs, it may become trivially easy to find and track people within the United States," the report states.

The groups are also concerned that collection tools "are getting smaller, more advanced, and less obtrusive, increasing their use for non-invasive though known, as well as unobtrusive, collection purposes."

"Increasingly, devices are portable, transmit data wirelessly, and are designed to allow collection, verification, and identification 'in the field,'" the report says.

Problems with biometrics collection are not limited to government agencies, the groups say, pointing to Facebook's face-recognition service that allows users to find friends online.

"It is likely the government will try to find a way to take advantage of Facebook's face recognition service for each of these purposes soon," according to the report...
Identifying people by scanning the irises of their eyes may not be as reliable as some governments and the public might think. That’s according to new research suggesting that irises, rather than being stable over a lifetime, are susceptible to ageing effects that steadily change their appearance over time.

With iris recognition now being used at border control in countries such as the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, this has huge implications, says Kevin Bowyer, a professor of computer science at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. At the very least, it could cause delays if people have to be scanned again. At worst, it implies that people might increasingly be able to evade detection when moving between countries.

Bowyer and his colleague Samuel Fenker, also at Notre Dame, used state-of-the-art, commercial iris-matching software to measure differences in the software's performance when comparing more than 20,000 different images of 644 irises, taken between 2008 and 2011. The authors compared the quality of a match between two images of the same iris that were recorded roughly a month apart, to pairs of images taken one, two or three years apart. They found that the rate at which the system failed to match two images of the same iris — known as the false non-match rate — increased by 153% over the three years...
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga says the country has received funding from China to install surveillance cameras in an effort to fight terrorism in Kenyan cities. East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow spoke to the citizens of Nairobi to hear their views on the matter.

Odinga told Kenya's parliament Wednesday the government will soon be installing the closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras across the country, starting with the capital Nairobi.

"We are going to start the installation almost immediately," said Odinga. "And this is going to spread to other cities, Mombasa is next, then Kisumu, and other cities, Mr. Speaker."

He said Kenya received a $100-million grant from China for the project, and that the goal is to stop terrorism and improve security.

On the streets of Nairobi, Kenyan citizens had mixed reactions about the project...
Science fiction writer Elizabeth Moon argues that everyone should be given a barcode at birth.

“If I were empress of the Universe I would insist on every individual having a unique ID permanently attached - a barcode if you will; an implanted chip to provide an easy, fast inexpensive way to identify individuals.

It would be imprinted on everyone at birth. Point the scanner at someone and there it is.

Having such a unique barcode would have many advantages. In war soldiers could easily differentiate legitimate targets in a population from non combatants.

This could prevent mistakes in identity, mistakes that result in the deaths of innocent bystanders. Weapons systems would record the code of the use, identifying how fired which shot and leading to more accountability in the field.

Anonymity would be impossible as would mistaken identity making it easier to place responsibility accurately, not only in war but also in non-combat situations far from the war.”
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to predict how a cashless financial system would work on a large scale. Consumers may expose themselves to unnecessary inconvenience and complications, which are more likely in the early stages of any new technology.

1. Hackers
Google swears that the Google Wallet system is more secure than cash and credit cards, but it did recently have to do a temporary shutdown of a feature that allows users to load prepaid card information onto smartphones for spending. The reason for the shutdown was due to a security vulnerability that was exposed by a Zvelo Labs researcher at a technology convention.

To demonstrate, the researcher showed how easy it is to use software to crack someone’s PIN and access their virtual wallet once you have their phone in your possession. This means that if you want the convenience of Google Wallet, you’d better not lose your phone. Forget about questioning the security of the network Google Wallet is using – the phones themselves don’t appear to have reliable encryption capabilities.

This is only one example. Unfortunately, it is likely that there are other would-be thieves who are working on similar hacks in anticipation of a cashless, cardless future.

2. Failure Rates
Another potential problem is the failure rate of biometric ID systems. These systems may be convenient, but they are far from perfect. In fact, if you research “failure rate of biometric data systems” via a search engine or academic database, you will find some disheartening information.

For example, according to a test by the National Physical Laboratory’s Centre for Mathematics and Scientific Computing in the UK, the failure to enroll rate of the fingerprint biometric system is 1%. This means some people might not even be able to enroll in a biometric system using their fingerprints. Glitches such as this cast a doubt on whether biometrics are as reliable as their sales and marketing pitches make them out to be.

To many, 1% seems like a small number and not worth worrying about. However, let’s imagine that there are 100 million people wanting to use a biometric system to safeguard their digital wallets. If the failure to enroll rate is 1%, 1 million people would not be able to even use the system – that’s pretty significant...
The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.

A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an “online persona management service” that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world.

The project has been likened by web experts to China’s attempts to control and restrict free speech on the internet. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.

The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as “sock puppets” – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same...
First we were bombarded with the news that 30,000 drones would be spying on us domestically and within weeks the agenda has already moved on to arming the drones with non-lethal weapons.

CBS DC reports that the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas “is considering using rubber bullets and tear gas on its drone.”

“It’s simply not appropriate to use any of force, lethal or non-lethal, on a drone,” responded Catherine Crump, staff attorney for the ACLU.

As we reported last year, although the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office initially claimed the drone would be used for surveillance only, the ShadowHawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle had previously been used against suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and East Africa, and has the ability to tase suspects from above as well as carrying 12-gauge shotguns and grenade launchers.

This is a frightening new advance in the government’s war on the American people and a shocking indication of how the apparatus of the war on terror has been focused internally.
The FBI has recently formed a secretive surveillance unit with an ambitious goal: to invent technology that will let police more readily eavesdrop on Internet and wireless communications.

The establishment of the Quantico, Va.-based unit, which is also staffed by agents from the U.S. Marshals Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency, is a response to technological developments that FBI officials believe outpace law enforcement's ability to listen in on private communications.

While the FBI has been tight-lipped about the creation of its Domestic Communications Assistance Center, or DCAC -- it declined to respond to requests made two days ago about who's running it, for instance -- CNET has pieced together information about its operations through interviews and a review of internal government documents.

DCAC's mandate is broad, covering everything from trying to intercept and decode Skype conversations to building custom wiretap hardware or analyzing the gigabytes of data that a wireless provider or social network might turn over in response to a court order. It's also designed to serve as a kind of surveillance help desk for state, local, and other federal police...
Clubbers in San Francisco are staying away from bars using a new app that scans faces of patrons and reveal their age and genders.

The app, SceneTap, provides real-time updates on the crowd-size, average age and male-to-female mix ratio to users so they can decide if it is to their liking.

The app's relies on biometrics to identify genders and age, said The Herald Sun. A camera at the door takes the patron's picture and the software will map features to a grid. By measuring distances between features such as eyes, nose, and ears, then matching the results with a database of averages, it can guess the patron's age and gender.

App makers say they do not identify individuals or save personal information and, so, do not infringe on patron's privacy rights.

However civil rights experts say facial recognition technology has advanced to the point that having your picture taken potentially offers the same information as giving someone your fingerprints.

Computer programs can break down high resolution images with detail to identify distinctive features on individual faces. Those patterns, not so much the image themselves, can expose individuals to people who do not even know them. In theory, the program could match the photo to identifiable online images such as those found on Facebook, said a staff attorney with free-rights advocate Electronic Frontier Foundation Lee Tien.
Amid the buzz over the Facebook IPO, the ever-evolving theories about how Twitter is reshaping our communications and speculation about where the next social media-enabled protest or revolution will occur, there is an important question we've largely ignored. What are the real effects of all this on the huge segment of the population most affected by social media themselves: our children and our teens?

The explosive growth of social media, smartphones and digital devices is transforming our kids' lives, in school and at home. Research tells us that even the youngest of our children are migrating online, using tablets and smartphones, downloading apps. Consumer Reports reported last year that more than 7.5 million American kids under the age of 13 have joined Facebook, which technically requires users to be 13 years old to open an account. No one has any idea of what all of this media and technology use will mean for our kids as they grow up.

By the time they're 2 years old, more than 90% of all American children have an online history. At 5, more than 50% regularly interact with a computer or tablet device, and by 7 or 8, many kids regularly play video games. Teenagers text an average of 3,400 times a month. The fact is, by middle school, our kids today are spending more time with media than with their parents or teachers, and the challenges are vast: from the millions of young people who regret by high school what they've already posted about themselves online to the widely documented rise in cyberbullying to the hypersexualization of female characters in video games.

These challenges also include traditional media and the phenomenon of "ratings creep" in the movies that our kids consume. Movies today -- even G-rated ones -- contain significantly more sex and violence, on average, than movies with the same rating 10 or 20 years ago.

The impact of heavy media and technology use on kids' social, emotional and cognitive development is only beginning to be studied, and the emergent results are serious. While the research is still in its early stages, it suggests that the Internet may actually be changing how our brains work. Too much hypertext and multimedia content has been linked in some kids to limited attention span, lower comprehension, poor focus, greater risk for depression and diminished long-term memory.

Our new world of digital immersion and multitasking has affected virtually everything from our thought processes and work habits to our capacity for linear thinking and how we feel about ourselves, our friends and even strangers. And it has all happened virtually overnight...
As the Oakland A’s were set to take on the Giants in the adjacent baseball stadium, few in the Polo Grounds bar seemed aware that another event was taking place—the launch party of the controversial social geo-location app, SceneTap.

The Chicago-based startup debuted in the city by the Bay Friday evening after it caused a bit of a stir locally during the week. This is despite the fact that SceneTap has operated previously in several other cities around the country largely without a hitch. Several San Francisco bars that originally agreed to partner with SceneTap said that they have pulled out, largely due to negative media attention and potential privacy concerns.

The app, using facial detection and video cameras, plots bar activity on a Google Map, with pushpins revealing data like: “Crowd: >70% full | Women: 52% | Men: 48%.”

SceneTap representatives have stressed to multiple media outlets (including Ars) that the company is not storing images. The only stored data are historical trends of male and female ratios and estimates of customer ages. The company says that once it has accumulated such data over time, it will make it available to bars as an analytical tool to evaluate bar traffic.

However, CEO Cole Harper spoke with two reporters from Ars at the launch (Cyrus Farivar and Matt Braga). Ars pointed out that not storing images was not the same as agreeing not to retain any of the facial data, and that’s what many privacy advocates were concerned about. Harper said he would consider making a change to the company’s privacy policy.

By the following day, Saturday, Ars received an e-mail alerting us to this modification: “No facial mapping metrics, measurements, or other data used to predict demographics are stored...”
CADD Emirates has announced it is to start to replace its key card systems with new biometric scanners, which will scan guests’ fingerprints.

The new system will be ready to be rolled out within around two months, said Jimmy Joseph, business manager for hospitality in MENA and India for CADD Emirates.

Joseph said: “Hotels want something different to stand out, and this will be perfect. We are just finishing testing the new technology – we already have the systems in place, this will just be an update of the technology.”

He said that the system will be able to remember guest preferences from hotel-to-hotel in locations across the globe, with information saved against their fingerprints.

“The new technology probably won’t be used hotel-wide, but it will mainly be used for exclusive club members,” he added.
Law-breakers in South Korea beware. Citizens trained to videotape illegal activity are on the loose and making extra income by selling the tapes to the police.

Ji Soo-hyun leads a double life. Three-months ago, the housewife began a career catching lawbreakers red handed. Ji, 54, says her specialty is going undercover at private tutoring schools.

"I pretend that I am going to enroll my kids in the school. I ask the faculty about extra services. There are a lot of illegal activities in these schools, like staying open too late and charging additional fees. These are the types of things I record," Ji noted.

When Ji is on her mission, she uses a small, concealed camera to record video.

A cameraman is among the students of the Seoul paparazzi school - the same place that taught Ji how to secretly film illegal activity.

Academy director Moon Seong-ok also helps students find buyers for their secret footage.

"The students want to make money. I contact them with police agencies, local governments, health agencies and education authorities who pay them," Moon explained.

Moon claims citizen paparazzi can earn between $20 and $30,000 a year. But some observers say the government should not be paying neighbors to spy on neighbors.

"When it comes to citizen paparazzi, the government is outsourcing responsibility to civilians and everyone knows it is a big problem. However, people don't really see it as an important issue," said Chun Sang-chin, a sociologist at Seoul's Sogang University.

Chun says that is because people worry that if they complain, it will seem like they have something to hide...
Total surveillance is just another nail in the coffin of civil society.

TWO years ago, the London Olympic Committee to smiles all round, unveiled the 2012 Games official mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville - cartoonish aliens, each with one eye in the middle of the head.

The committee couldn't have been more chuffed, but pride turned to dismay once the public had a chance to react, pointing out en masse that the duo did indeed symbolise London, but only because the creature resembled the city's most ubiquitous presence, the street CCTV, the beige, rectangular cameras bolted to every street corner, every wall.

The committee had got it right, of course. For most Londoners, the Olympics will be experienced as little more than a series of security crackdowns and prohibitions - on assembly, on free movement, even on public transport use. Advertisement: Story continues below

The enormous security presence will include licensing of foreign security agencies to deploy operatives and force during the Games fortnight, the promulgation of a host of new laws banning protests anywhere near the stadiums and, most recently, the attempt to introduce legislation to allow GCHQ - the real British spy agency, hidden behind the more visible MI5 and MI6 - to monitor the sender, receiver, date and time of all phonecalls and emails made in Britain, without a warrant.

Supporters of this measure insisted that it was essential for the Olympics. Yet even though protest has now delayed the introduction of the measures until well after the Games, incredibly, they are still going ahead. The crackdown rolls on automatically.

Nor is the process confined to Britain. In the US, a new comprehensive security bill, the NDAA Act, authorises a whole new range of powers beyond the Patriot Act, including the imprisonment without trial of US citizens. There's random drug-testing of civil servants (Florida), making it illegal to debate whether Armenia suffered a genocide (France), a two-month jail term for some offensive remarks on Twitter (Britain), and on and on.

These initiatives have become so many, self-generating and interconnected that anyone wanting to oppose them has to recognise that some stage of resisting them is over, lost. Something has gone, and it is worth trying to work out what it was and what has replaced it.

What has departed is usually known as liberal society, but it goes deeper than the principles of one political ideology. What has gone is what one might call ''citizen-society'', a society based on a set of beliefs about public life - that speech should be free unless it contains direct menace, for example. But it also involved a host of more particular practices. That of reciprocal recognition, for example - that if a police officer can see you as you go about your law-abiding life, you should be able to see her/him, rather than being spied on. For nearly 200 years in the West, we have in general been on a trajectory towards a more comprehensive citizen-society. Why has it started to reverse with such energy?

The short answer is what for any other matter would be called a long answer - the long answer would take the whole newspaper.

Left and liberal movements in the modern era made it impossible for the state to clamp down for long. But these faltered in the 1970s, and a new type of liberalism, so-called neoliberalism, took over, in which liberty resided in the exchange of goods rather than ideas. Citizens became consumers.

Society became the market. Collective dissent atomised and was treated as criminal, and the most cost-effective solution was to apply technologies of surveillance and control. Sections of the left contributed the idea of behavioural reshaping, from ''offensive speech'' to ''nudge'' theory, dealing a further blow to social citizenship.

Then came 9/11, and it became possible to connect social control to national defence. Real terrorist threats mingled with wildly exaggerated ones.

Total surveillance was offered not merely as the means but the symbol of social wellbeing. An event such as the Olympics becomes little more than a ritual of security and population management, with sport as a pretext. Believing, with Mrs Thatcher, that there is ''no such thing'' as society, we have nowhere to go but technology.

Wenlock, the cute CCTV mascot, becomes a mordant symbol of love, as stern a guarantor of safety as was, in time past, a trade union banner or a crucifix...
A class action lawsuit has been filed against Facebook seeking $15 billion in damages, or $10,000 per member, for violating the privacy of its members, according to the complaint.

The action filed in federal district court in California combines 21 cases filed across the United States and alleges the social network violated its members' privacy rights by tracking them even after they logged out of their Facebook accounts.

Facebook's Andrew Noyes, manager of public policy communications told PCWorld in a short statement: "We believe this complaint is without merit and we will fight it vigorously."

The lawsuit was filed as Facebook launched an Initial Public Offering (IPO) of stock expected to raise some $16 billion for the company, which has a market capitalization of some $100 billion.

“This is not just a damages action, but a groundbreaking digital-privacy rights case that could have wide and significant legal and business implications," Bloomberg news was told in an email statement by one of the attorneys in the case, David Straite, a partner with the U.S. branch of Stewarts Law. Stewarts is the largest litigator in the United Kindgom and just opened offices in the United States last month.

According to the lawsuit, Facebook violated the U.S. Wiretap Act by tracking its members movement on the Web through "like" buttons embedded on millions of web pages throughout the Internet.

The law bars “interception and disclosure of wire, oral or electronic communications" and provides fines of $100 a day, up to $10,000, for every day the law is violated. If the maximum fine were imposed on Facebook members could receive $10,000 - which is highly unlikely...
British officials have given their word: "We won't read your emails."

But experts say the government's proposed new surveillance program will gather so much data that spooks won't have to read your messages to guess what you're up to.

The U.K. Home Office stresses it won't be reading the content of every Britons' communications, saying the data it seeks "is NOT the content of any communication." It is, however, looking for information about who's sending the message and to whom, where it's sent from and other details, including a message's length and its format.

The proposal, unveiled last week as part of the government's annual legislative program, is just a draft bill, so it could be modified or scrapped. But if passed in its current form, it would put a huge amount of personal data at the government's disposal, which it could use to deduce a startling amount about Britons' private lives — from sleep patterns to driving habits or even infidelity.

"We're really entering a whole new phase of analysis based on the data that we can collect," said Gerald Kane, an information systems expert at Boston College. "There is quite a lot you can learn."

The ocean of information is hard to fathom. Britons generate 4 billion hours of voice calls and 130 billion text messages annually, according to industry figures. In 2008, the BBC put the annual number of U.K.-linked emails at around 1 trillion.

Then there are instant messaging services run by companies such as BlackBerry, Internet telephone services such as Skype, chat rooms, and in-game services like those used by World of Warcraft.

Communications service providers, who would log all that back-and-forth, believe the government's program would force them to process petabytes (1 quadrillion bytes) of information every day. It's a mind-boggling amount of data, on the scale of every book, movie and piece of music ever released.

So even without opening emails, how much can British spooks learn about who's sending them?
Olympic mascots are often controversial. Usually this is because they are weird blobby cartoon characters with goofy names that seem to have been dreamed up by creators who mainlined Mountain Dew Code Red while watching 24 straight hours of Pokemon. The official mascot for the 2012 Olympics, set in London, has that going for it but is also controversial for an entirely different reason. London, the premiere panoptic city was one of the first to blanket itself with CCTV cameras; its heavy security and surveillance cordon is nicknamed the Ring of Steel. London decided to make its surveillance yen a dominant feature of its otherwise goofy mascots. “Wenlock” and “Mandeville” both have a huge single eye made out of a camera lens so that they can “record everything.”
Next week the U.S. Supreme Court will be meeting to decide whether to hear an appeal from three Seattle police officers on the future of "a useful pain technique," commonly known as the use of a Taser.

You may recall the case of Malaika Brooks, a woman in the third trimester of her pregnancy, who had Seattle police use a stun gun on her while she was driving her 11-year-old son to school. Brooks was stopped for a moving violation and agreed to accept a ticket but refused to sign it, thinking that it would be an admission of guilt.

Failure to sign a ticket for a moving violation is a crime in Washington, so the police officers placed Brooks under arrest. Brooks refused to get out of the car, telling police officers that she was pregnant and had to use the restroom. Because Brooks posed no immediate threat, the officers actually had time to discuss how to handle the situation.

These three geniuses came up with the idea of applying a Taser to Brooks' leg, arm and finally her neck, at which point she collapsed.

Brooks, who was convicted of refusing to sign the ticket, sued the officers whose use of the stun gun left her with intense pain and permanent scars. The officers won a split decision in October in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The majority believed that the officers used excessive force but could not be sued because the law was unclear at the time of the incident.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski said that Brooks had been "defiant" and "deaf to reason," which caused the incident to occur, and that the officers deserved praise and commendations for their actions. Although the officers won the case, the court informed them that "some future use of Tasers would cross a constitutional line and amount to excessive force." The officers appealed the case to the Supreme Court to "clear their names" and preserve their right to "a useful pain technique."

So these police officers, who basically got away with using a Taser on a pregnant woman, now want the Supreme Court to tell them they were right after a circuit court already has? I don't know about you, but I would feel pretty ashamed and embarrassed if I had used a stun gun on a seven-months-pregnant woman over a refusal to sign a ticket.

Instead of hiding their heads in shame, they want to push this case to the Supreme Court, even after the city of Seattle has said there is no reason for the appeal and accepted liablility for injuries incurred during the Brooks incident. So who is being "defiant" and "deaf to reason"?
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
The surveillance state expands. The Patriot Act allows our phones to be wiretapped. Our email and Internet transactions leave a trail for some to follow. The police can access our GPS location data through our smartphones without a warrant. Retailers record our purchasing habits with painstaking detail. Apparently, Target studies those purchases to determine when customers are pregnant — in the second trimester, no less — for specialized marketing purposes.

And now, there will be surveillance drones. Congress recently passed a bill ("The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012") that opens the gates to widespread use of surveillance drones on U.S. soil. They will be used for law enforcement and border protection but also commercially — for real estate, entertainment and journalism, for example. One prominent drone showcased on the Web is a hummingbird drone. As the name suggests, it's tiny, quick and highly mobile. A popular video shows the hummingbird drone entering a building and flying down a corridor, transmitting everything it sees. It's chilling to imagine the possibilities — and the future.

The political problem with all this surveillance is obvious if we'd care to admit it. Authorities have so much more access to the details of our lives, information which, in the wrong hands, could do real harm. The only thing protecting us is the character of those in power who collect all this information — and swear they will do nothing objectionable with it.

Regarding the new National Defense Authorization Act, which sanctions the president's power to detain indefinitely or even assassinate U.S. citizens suspected of involvement in terrorist organizations, President Barack Obama tried to allay fears by saying that this administration will use discretion and judgment in exercising this power. What about subsequent administrations? The Founding Fathers were highly concerned to design a government impervious to corruption by character flaws of individual officeholders. The "war on terror" has steadily rendered us vulnerable to just that.

Perhaps most remarkable about the growing surveillance state is how we are largely unperturbed by it. Indeed, we jump headlong into the new technologies that allow us to be watched. The ACLU cries like a voice in the wilderness about civil rights threats, but we're too busy shopping online, sharing intimate personal details on Facebook, Tweeting our most mundane revelations...
A judge on Wednesday struck down a portion of a law giving the government wide powers to regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists, saying it left journalists, scholars and political activists facing the prospect of indefinite detention for exercising First Amendment rights.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan said in a written ruling that a single page of the law has a “chilling impact on First Amendment rights.” She cited testimony by journalists that they feared their association with certain individuals overseas could result in their arrest because a provision of the law subjects to indefinite detention anyone who “substantially” or “directly” provides “support” to forces such as Al Qaeda or the Taliban. She said the wording was too vague and encouraged Congress to change it.

“An individual could run the risk of substantially supporting or directly supporting an associated force without even being aware that he or she was doing so,” the judge said.

She said the law also gave the government authority to move against individuals who engage in political speech with views that “may be extreme and unpopular as measured against views of an average individual.

“That, however, is precisely what the First Amendment protects,” Forrest wrote.

She called the fears of journalists in particular real and reasonable, citing testimony at a March hearing by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Christopher Hedges, who has interviewed Al Qaeda members, conversed with members of the Taliban during speaking engagements overseas and reported on 17 groups named on a list prepared by the State Department of known terrorist organizations. He testified that the law has led him to consider altering speeches where members of Al Qaeda or the Taliban might be present.

Hedges called Forrest’s ruling “a tremendous step forward for the restoration of due process and the rule of law.”

He said: “Ever since the law has come out, and because the law is so amorphous, the problem is you’re not sure what you can say, what you can do and what context you can have.”

Hedges was among seven individuals and one organization that challenged the law with a January lawsuit. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was signed into law in December, allowing for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism. Wednesday’s ruling does not affect another part of the law that enables the United States to indefinitely detain members of terrorist organizations, and the judge said the government has other legal authority it can use to detain those who support terrorists.

A message left Wednesday with a spokeswoman for government lawyers was not immediately returned.

Bruce Afran, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, called the ruling a “great victory for free speech.”

“She’s held that the government cannot subject people to indefinite imprisonment for engaging in speech, journalism or advocacy, regardless of how unpopular those ideas might be to some people,” he said.
UmeNow announced today that it wants the U.S. Senate to hold public hearings so the FBI can explain to the American public why CALEA should be amended to force social networks and other Internet-based companies to build side doors for the FBI to track people's private communication.

CNET has reported that the FBI is asking Internet-based companies not to oppose a proposal to require firms like Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google to build in backdoors for government surveillance. Currently, CALEA only applies to telecommunications providers, not Web companies. The Federal Communications Commission extended CALEA in 2004 to apply to broadband networks. If CALEA is amended per FBI request, it would require social-networking Web sites and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail to alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly.

"The FBI has an obligation to honor and uphold our constitution. Law-enforcement by surveillance and tracking is technologically easy to do. Therein lies the great danger. Where does it stop? Should we track people inside their homes too with cameras and microphones? Undoubtedly many secrets reside behind residential closed doors," stated Evelyn Castillo-Bach, founder and CEO of UmeNow, a private social network that has banned all tracking.

The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) passed in 1994 mandated that phone companies install remote wiretapping ports so federal agents could monitor court-ordered wiretaps from their offices without attaching alligator clips to phone lines. A year after the CALEA passed, the FBI disclosed plans to require the phone companies to build into their infrastructure the capacity to simultaneously wiretap one percent of all phone calls in all major U.S. cities.

Philip Zimmerman, the creator of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), has stated, " It's hard to see how the government could even employ enough judges to sign enough wiretap orders to wiretap one percent of all our phone calls, much less hire enough federal agents to sit and listen to all that traffic in real time. The only plausible way of processing that amount of traffic is a massive Orwellian application of automated voice recognition technology to sift through it all, searching for interesting keywords or searching for a particular speaker's voice.... This plan sparked such outrage that it was defeated in Congress. But the mere fact that the FBI even asked for these broad powers is revealing of their agenda..."
In a world where security cameras are nearly as ubiquitous as light fixtures, someone is always watching you.

But the watcher might not always be who you think it is.

Three of the most popular brands of closed-circuit surveillance cameras are sold with remote internet access enabled by default, and with weak password security — a classic recipe for security failure that could allow hackers to remotely tap into the video feeds, according to new research.

The cameras, used by banks, retailers, hotels, hospitals and corporations, are often configured insecurely — thanks to these manufacturer default settings, according to researcher Justin Cacak, senior security engineer at Gotham Digital Science. As a result, he says, attackers can seize control of the systems to view live footage, archived footage or control the direction and zoom of cameras that are adjustable.

“You can essentially view these devices from anywhere in the world,” Cacak said, noting that he and his security team were able to remotely view footage showing security guards making rounds in facilities, “exceptionally interesting and explicit footage” from cameras placed in public elevators, as well as footage captured by one high-powered camera installed at a college campus, which had the ability to zoom directly into the windows of college dorm rooms...
Biometrics is not the only problem, the enrolment process and authentication systems are also emerging as serious issues with the UID or Aadhaar identification project. This is also forcing banks to search for other alternatives for payment authentication

Lost cards, fake and frivolous enrolments and difficulty in reading biometrics of the really poor on whose name the expensive project was started, are just a few of the issues plaguing Aadhaar, the Unique Identification (UID) number project, the brainchild of Nandan Nilekani. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) appears to be happy to enrol more people who already have some identification rather than those who do not have any.

This has evoked strong criticism from a top official from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Dr KC Chakrabarty, deputy governor, RBI, in a report said, “Aadhaar was to give ID to people without cards, but it is giving to those who don’t need one. Even if it signs up 500 million people in the next five to six years, and they are all people like you and me, it will not serve any purpose.”

Several poor people, who do not have any ID, are also finding it difficult to enrol for Aadhaar. Many of them, like housemaids and construction labourers, are finding it difficult to provide a clean fingerprint sample. Some could not even submit sample of their iris due to cataract. After failing to provide clean samples for registrations, these people may be deprived the Aadhaar number or enrolled in physically-disabled category. People also have been complaining about the long time taken for registering for the Aadhaar...
Talking surveillance cameras that bark orders at passers-by and can also record conversations are heading for U.S. streets, with manufacturer Illuminating Concepts announcing the progress of its ‘Intellistreets’ system.

As we first reported last year, high tech street lights with “homeland security applications” are now being installed in major U.S. cities.

The street lights also have loudspeakers that can give audible warnings to individuals, mimicking the talking surveillance cameras in the UK that shout out orders through microphones telling people to pick up litter or leave the area.

A recent press release put out by Amerlux announces the company’s partnership with Illuminating Concepts to further advance the rollout of ‘Intellistreets’. The announcement confirms that the street lights will have a number of “homeland security features” including a loudspeaker system that will be used to “engage captive audiences”.

“The built-in speaker can broadcast emergency information,” states the press release, adding, “SmartSite luminaires can be equipped with a variety of cameras and sensors to ensure real-time 24/7-security coverage. The sensors detect a variety of threats that enable rapid response from emergency personnel or help prevent crime and gain control of the streets.”

The press release adds that the SmartSite system developed to operate the ‘Intellistreets’ surveillance hubs is intended not only for street lighting but also for “retail malls, sports venues, on college campuses, and in new construction,” and “might well become commonplace” in the near future.
As many as 48,000 security forces. Thirteen thousand five hundred troops. Surface-to-air missiles stationed on top of residential apartment buildings. A sonic weapon that disperses crowds by creating “head splitting pain.” Unmanned drones peering down from the skies. A safe zone, cordoned off by an eleven-mile electrified fence, ringed with trained agents and fifty-five teams of attack dogs.

One would be forgiven for thinking that these were the counterinsurgency tactics used by US army bases in Iraq and Afghanistan or perhaps the military methods taught to third-world despots at the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia. But instead of being used in a war zone or the theater of occupation, they in fact make up the very visible security apparatus in London for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

London, which has the most street cameras per capita of any city on earth, has, for the seven years since the terror attacks of July 7, 2005, been a city whose political leaders would spare no expense to monitor its own citizens. But the Olympic operation goes above and beyond anything we’ve ever seen when a Western democracy hosts the games. Not even China in 2008 used drone planes or ringed the proceedings with a massive, high-voltage fence. But here is London, preparing a counterinsurgency, and parking an aircraft carrier right in the Thames. Here is London adding “scanners, biometric ID cards, number-plate and facial-recognition CCTV systems, disease tracking systems, new police control centres and checkpoints.”

Stephen Graham at the Guardian refers to the entire state of affairs as “Lockdown London” as well as “the UK’s biggest mobilisation of military and security forces since the second world war.” He is not exaggerating in the slightest. The number of troops will exceed the forces the UK has had in Afghanistan.

It’s not just the costs or the incredible invasion into people’s privacy. It’s the powers being given to police under the 2006 “London Olympic Games Act,” which empowers not only the army and police but also private security forces to deal with “security issues” using physical force. These “security issues” have been broadly defined to include everything from “terrorism” to peaceful protesters, to labor unions, to people selling bootleg Olympic products on the streets, to taking down any corporate presence that doesn’t have the Olympic seal of approval. To help them with the last part, there will be “brand protection teams” set loose around the city. These “teams” will also operate inside Olympic venues to make sure no one “wears clothes or accessories with commercial messages other than the manufacturers” who are official sponsors.

The security operation also means the kind of street harassment of working class youth that will sound familiar here in the United States. As the Guardian reported, “Officers have powers to move on anyone considered to be engaged in antisocial behaviour, whether they are hanging around the train station, begging, soliciting, loitering in hoodies or deemed in any way to be causing a nuisance.”