Drones are not like the atomic bomb. There won't be a day when suddenly we realize that a horrible new weapon has changed the world forever. Instead, one day we'll wake up and there'll have been a terrorist attack by a swarm of drones launched by hand from a park across the Potomac from Washington, DC, and no one will know where they came from or who sent them. We'll wake up one day to a drone peering in our window as preparation for a common burglary.
The price of these unmanned aerial vehicles is plummeting from two sides. On the one hand, you've got the toys like the $70 iHelicopter you control with an iPhone. This little guy even has two plastic missiles you can fire!
We're guessing something got lost in translation, because Samsung's first television ad for its new Galaxy S III smartphone is rather creepy: according to the video, the phone first "recognizes who you are," then "follows your every move," and finally, "waits till you're asleep." The minute-long segment ends before letting us know what, precisely, the phone might do to your sleeping family after you let your guard down, but we're starting to wonder if the Samsung tagline "Designed for Humans" is modeled after the famous short story "To Serve Man." Otherwise, it's your typical inspirational ad that shows very, very little of the actual phone...
You are being watched. The control freaks that hold power in the United States have become absolutely obsessed with surveillance. They are constantly attempting to convince the American people that we are all "safer" when virtually everything that we do is watched, monitored, tracked and recorded. Our country is being systematically transformed into a giant surveillance grid far more comprehensive than anything George Orwell ever dreamed of.If you still believe that there is such a thing as "privacy" in this day and age, you are being delusional.
Every single piece of electronic communication is monitored and stored. In fact, they know that you are reading this article right now. But even if you got rid of all of your electronic devices, you would still be constantly monitored. As you will read about below, a rapidly growing nationwide network of facial recognition cameras, "pre-crime" surveillance devices, voice recorders, mobile backscatter vans, aerial drones and automated license plate readers are constantly feeding data about us back to the government. In addition, private companies involved in "data mining" are gathering literally trillions upon trillions of data points about individual Americans each year. So there is no escape from this surveillance grid. In fact, it has become just about impossible to keep it from growing.
The surveillance grid is expanding in thousands of different ways, so even if you stopped one form of surveillance you would hardly make a dent in the astounding growth of this system. What we desperately need is a fundamental cultural awakening to the importance of liberty, freedom and privacy. Without such an awakening, the United States (along with the rest of the planet) is going to head into a world that will make "1984" by George Orwell look like a cheery story.
The following are 19 signs that America is being systematically transformed into a giant surveillance grid...
In George Orwell’s classic novel 1984, the government of Oceania maintained total surveillance of its citizens via the telescreen, a television installed in virtually every room and on every street corner that could be turned down, but never turned off.
It offered round-the-clock programming aimed at instilling patriotism in the masses, but it also included a camera that gave no clue whether it was active or not.
You watched the TV, but it was also watching you.
The City of New York, in partnership with Microsoft, has rolled out a surveillance system some critics are calling similarly Orwellian and oppressive.
The NYPD Domain Awareness System
The Domain Awareness System (DAS) integrates the output from 3,000 video surveillance cameras installed in public areas, 100 automated license plate readers, 600 radiation monitors carried by some law enforcement officers, and information obtained from conventional intelligence sources to alert the police department to threats of the public safety. It was developed by the NYPD and Microsoft at an estimated cost of $30 to $40 million.
Most surveillance systems are intended to work in real time, finding crime and hazards as they appear. An integrated system like the DAS can do some of that, but is more useful as an analytical tool, backtracking suspicious people, vehicles and incidents to their origins for follow-up. A truck that pings a radiation detector on a busy street can be traced to where and when it entered the city, and even where it came from before that.
Microsoft and NYPD are quick to emphasize that DAS does not employ facial recognition technology to track and identify people. Some critics are branding this as disingenuous. Facial recognition makes it possible to literally find someone in a crowd, even if they have taken measures to hide their appearance.
Privacy advocates usually condemn facial recognition as a tool to enable excessive prying in personal affairs, and it’s certainly capable of being used that way. But the NYPD has a genuine and defensible interest in knowing when certain “persons of interest” enter high-risk areas, particularly when there are other data points indicating they may be up to no good.
There is a very fine line between legitimate monitoring of suspected terrorists and infringement on civil liberties...
Not such a fine line, really. They are scanning entire crowds. That's an invasion of privacy - period.
Facebook has shuttered its facial recognition feature in Europe, following last year's report from the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.
As well as turning off the feature, the company will delete the template images it stores of its EU users by 15 October. It has previously stored images of all its users to power the 'Tag Suggest' tool.
Facebook's European headquarters is in Ireland, prompting the investigation, which resulted in a series of recommendations late last year.
"I am particularly encouraged in relation to the approach it has decided to adopt on the tag suggest/facial recognition feature by in fact agreeing to go beyond our initial recommendations, in light of developments since then, in order to achieve best practice," says data commissioner Billy Hawkes.
"This feature has already been turned off for new users in the EU and templates for existing users will be deleted by 15 October, pending agreement with my Office on the most appropriate means of collecting user consent."
However, deputy commissioner Gary Davis, who led the both the audit and the review, says that there's more work to be done. " There were a number of items on which progress was not as fully forward as we had hoped and we have set a deadline of four weeks for these matters to be brought to a satisfactory conclusion," he says...
The Government Accountability Office is warning Congress that its push for drones to become commonplace in U.S. airspace fails to take into account concerns surrounding privacy, security and even GPS jamming and spoofing.
The GAO, Congress’ research arm, was responding to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, signed by President Barack Obama in February, which among other things requires the Federal Aviation Administration to accelerate drone flights in U.S. airspace.
Drones, known in the report as “unmanned aerial systems,” are currently limited in the United States to law enforcement activities, search and rescue, forensic photography, monitoring or fighting forest fires, border security, weather research, and, among other things, scientific data collection and for hobby.
But there’s a concerted push to expand the commercial use of drones for pipeline, utility, and farm fence inspections; vehicular traffic monitoring; real-estate and construction-site photography; relaying telecommunication signals; fishery protection and monitoring; and crop dusting, according to the report, which was distributed to lawmakers earlier this month.
That’s despite the fact that many drones don’t have “elaborate on-board detection systems to help them avoid crashes in the air,” which could cause complications when and if drones share airspace with private aircraft.
Among other things, the report urged the Transportation Security Administration to come up with a plan to secure operation centers for unmanned drones, recommended the government formulate privacy protections to head off “abuses” and also pointed out safety concerns that need to be addressed regarding GPS spoofing and jamming.
Don't look now, but Big Brother is one step closer to watching you all of the time, no matter where you are.
The FBI has begun introducing its brand new $1 billion biometric Next Generation Identification (NGI) system which is, in essence, a nationwide database of mug shots, iris scans, DNA records, voice samples and other biometrics.
The nation's foremost law enforcement agency says the system will help agents identify and catch criminals (the "it's for your own good" excuse, in case you've not heard it before), but as usual, the devil is in the details. It's how this biometric data will be captured that has privacy advocates wailing at the top of their lungs: It will be collected via a nationwide network of cameras and photography databases.
Before this monstrosity was developed, the FBI relied on another, less capable system, IAFIS, which is a national fingerprint database that has long needed an overhaul.
Over the past few months, the agency has been testing a pilot facial recognition system. Soon, agents will also be able to search the system for other biometrics such as iris scans and DNA, says ExtremeTech.com.
"In theory, this should result in much faster positive identifications of criminals and fewer unsolved cases," the site says.
The technology for such a monster system already exists. Alessandro Acquisti of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh said during congressional testimony in July that "face recognition is now," according to New Scientist magazine.
A few states began uploading suspect and criminal photos into the system as part of the early pilot program in February; the system is expected to be rolled out nationwide in 2014.
"In addition to scanning mug shots for a match, FBI officials have indicated that they are keen to track a suspect by picking out their face in a crowd," says the magazine.
Another of the program's uses would be the reverse: Images of a person of interest captured by security cameras or public photos uploaded onto the Internet, which could then be compared against a litany of images held in a national repository which is maintained, of course, by the FBI. An algorithm would instantaneously perform a search and return a list of potential matches for agents to sift through during investigations...
Surveillance is coming at us from all angles. Chips, drones, TSA checkpoints, smart meters, back-doored electronic products, video cameras, spying home appliances; our phone calls and emails and keystrokes and product purchases are recorded.
The government and its allied corporations will know whatever they want to know about us.
What then? What happens when all nations are blanketed from stem to stern with surveillance?
Smart meters give us one clue. Public utilities, acting on government orders, will be able to allot electricity in amounts and at times it wishes to. This is leading to an overarching plan for energy distribution to the entire population.
Claiming shortages and limited options, governments will essentially be redistributing wealth, in the form of energy, under a collectivist model.
National health insurance plans (such as Obamacare) offer another clue. Such plans have no logistical chance of operating unless every citizen is assigned a medical ID package, which is a de facto identity card. In the medical arena, this means cradle-to-grave tracking.
Surveillance inevitably leads to: placing every individual under systems of control. It isn’t just “we’re watching you” or “we’re stamping out dissent.” It’s “we’re directing your participation in life.”
As a security analyst in the private sector once told me, “When you can see what every employee is doing, when you have it all at your fingertips, you naturally move on to thinking about how you can control those patterns and flows of movement and activity. It’s irresistible. You look at your employees as pieces on a board. The only question is, what game do you want to play with them?”
This morning, the nation awoke to the revelation that the Duchess of Cambridge had been photographed topless with a man. That man was her husband. This is how the grinning perverts who bought the pictures described the circumstances in which they were taken:
"A little more than a year after their marriage, the royal couple was offered a romantic getaway, far from the protocol and etiquette in their very own garden of Eden.
Almost alone in the world… because Closer was there! After the Olé Olé holidays of Prince Harry in Las Vegas, discover the very sensual shots of Kate Middleton and her husband Prince William.
Discover the incredible pictures of the future Queen of England as you've never seen her before… and as you will never see her again!"
Read it again in a French accent and see if you can get to the end without feeling your gorge rising. I know I can't. It's a revolting description of a couple doing something perfectly normal in a private house. I think it's a repellent thing to do. Given French privacy laws (especially recent decisions on individuals being able to control their own image) the publication of the photos will be legally interesting wherever it happens.
However, I think the statement from Closer is wrong in one key area — that we will never see the future queen in such a position ever again. Every day, cameras are getting smaller, lighter and much higher quality. Only the other day, Apple unveiled an 8 megapixel camera that comes as standard on the iPhone 5.
To get that kind of picture quality before, a pap would need a huge, bulky piece of kit. Now, it's the size of a thumbnail and the weight of an anorexic wasp. This not only creates a profusion of cameras, one on every bystander — the bane of Prince Harry's nights out in Las Vegas — but also means cameras are much more easily mounted on radio-controlled flying drones...
The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly renewed a surveillance law that allows the government to monitor conversations of foreign spies and terrorist suspects abroad, while requiring approval from a secret court when Americans are targeted anywhere in the world.
Supporters emphasized that the bill is aimed at foreigners overseas, not Americans. The vote was 301-118 to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act monitoring provisions for five years.
Opponents said the legislation does not adequately protect Americans from unintentional interception of their communications. Several opponents said they would support a three-year extension of the law, which expires at year’s end, while more information is gathered about threats to Americans’ civil liberties.
The may run into problems in the Senate where Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has used a procedural tactic to prevent a vote. He is one of several senators who have unsuccessfully tried to learn how many Americans were caught up in the surveillance.
House supporters, however, assured Americans that their rights are protected.
‘‘This is about foreigners on foreign soil. It’s not a dragnet,’’ said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
He said Americans’ rights ‘‘are alive and well here. This is one of those programs that has an inordinate amount of oversight to make sure we are not targeting Americans. In the odd case where an American is intercepted, there are very strict procedures on how to destroy that information and correct that problem. And it has not happened hardly, frequently, at all....’’
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said the law would help stop terrorists ‘‘before they disable our defenses, carry out a plot against our country or kill innocent Americans.’’
Opponents argued they’re not convinced that Americans would be protected.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. said, ‘‘While it’s certainly appropriate for our government to gather foreign intelligence and while some degree of secrecy is necessary, it’s also vital in a free society that we limit government, protect the constitutional rights of Americans here and abroad, and limit warrantless spying to genuine foreign intelligence.
‘‘Unfortunately we have seen repeatedly how even the very minimal restraints Congress put on FISA have been violated,’’ Nadler said. ‘‘We should address those abuses. Congress has an obligation to exert more control over spy agencies than simply to give them a blank check for another five years...’’
Based on data covering more than 2,000 secondary schools and academies, Big Brother Watch warns that there are more than 100,000 CCTV cameras in secondary schools and academies across England, Wales and Scotland.
With some schools seeing a ratio of one camera for every five pupils, more than two hundred schools using CCTV in bathrooms and changing rooms and more cameras inside school buildings as outside, the picture across the country will undoubtedly shock and surprise many.
To put into context the number of cameras, our research earlier this year found there are currently at least 51,600 CCTV cameras controlled by 428 local authorities.
The report, which you can download here, warns that the Home Office’s proposed system of regulation for CCTV cameras is not fit for purpose, with the newly created position of Surveillance Camera Commissioner having no enforcement or inspection powers.
This report highlights an issue that has not been subject to any real public debate and we hope by highlighting the scale of the situation a proper debate can now take place about not only how to regulate CCTV, but also why surveillance continues to increase unchecked when there is still no academic research that suggests it is having a positive impact...
Killer drones just keep getting smaller. The Army wants to know how prepared its defense-industry partners are to build what it calls a “Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System.” It’s for when the Army needs someone dead from up to six miles away in 30 minutes or less.
How small will the new mini-drone be? The Army’s less concerned about size than it is about the drone’s weight, according to a recent pre-solicitation for businesses potentially interested in building the thing. The whole system — drone, warhead and launch device — has to weigh under five pounds. An operator should be able to carry the future Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System, already given the acronym LMAMS in a backpack and be able to set it up to fly within two minutes.
The envisioned LMAMS, a “loitering precision guided munition” is designed for quick missions to take out specific targets, and the Army’s had its eye on something like it for years. Its small size means it can’t carry a lot of fuel. As first reported by (subscription only) InsideDefense, the Army needs it to stay aloft for a half hour at most. But during that half hour, the Army expects it to fly up to six miles to smash into a target, either directed by a human controller or pre-programmed through GPS. Whether it speeds to a target fairly distant from where an Army unit is set up or loiters over one until it gets a clear shot, it’s another step toward making drone strikes inconspicuous.
The Army wants it ready for use by 2016 at the latest. But it may not take that long — since the Army’s already got something similar to LMAMS.
There are basically three models for shrinking the drone war. One is to build a tiny munition, so as to weaponize existing small spy drones, like the Raven or the Puma. Raytheon’s doing that with its Small Tactical Munition, a two-foot bomb that weighs about 10 to 15 pounds. A second is to take the existing functionality and physical specs of existing killer drones and scale it down, as with California company Arcturus’ eponymous 17-foot armed spy plane. The third is to mash up drones and missiles, so a controller remotely pilots a tiny missile and guides it on a one-way mission to a target. That’s what AeroVironment’s much-hyped Switchblade does.
LMAMS is more like the Switchblade than the other two. It’s not designed for more than one use. “Once a target is selected by the operator in the terminal phase of an engagement,” the pre-solicitation reads, “no further operator input shall be required.” Accordingly, its spy tools are minimal: The Army just needs the soldier operating it from a distance to receive real-time video of the LMAMS’ flight path. And like the Switchblade, since the drone/missile hybrid is small, it ought to cause minimal collateral damage: The Army needs LMAMS to have an “extremely low probability” of killing someone 10 meters from its bomb’s impact...
The FBI has begun installing state-of-the-art facial recognition technology across the country as part of an update to the national fingerprint database, Sara Reardon of the New Scientist reports.
The agency's $1 billion Next Generation Identification (NGI) program will also include iris scans, DNA analysis and voice identification by 2014.
RT reports that as of July 18, 2012, the FBI said the NGI program “is on scope, on schedule, on cost, and 60 percent deployed.”
Reardon notes that the best commercial algorithms can identify someone in a pool of 1.6 million mugshots about 92 percent of the time, even if they aren't looking at the camera. (There are ways to fool them.)
According to a FBI "Facial Recognition Initiatives Presentation" at the 2010 Biometrics Conference, the technology will be used for identifying fugitives, missing persons and unknown persons of interest; tracking subject movements to/from critical events; conducting automated surveillance at lookout locations (like Occupy Wall St. congregations); identifying subjects in public datasets (e.g. Facebook); and verifying mug shots against National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) records.
The system has privacy advocates very concerned about the "faces in the crowd" because anyone in public could be placed in a federal database or subjected to warrantless real-time surveillance...
Though the first one hasn’t even come off the production line yet, the makers of a new “telepresence” robot called the “Double” attracted more than $1 million worth of preorders within three weeks.
“It’s a Segway for your iPad,” quipped David Cann, founder and chief executive of Miami-based Double Robotics, at Y Combinator’s Demo Day in August, where he showed off the robot’s capabilities to investors.
Connecting an iPad to the Double turns it into a roving telepresence device. The first edition Double features an aluminum base, urethane and plastic wheels, custom control systems and iOS software that lets a user remotely drive the robot, video chat with those who it encounters, and peer into the spaces where it roams.
Cann found inspiration for the product and company name in the idea of sending a “body double” to inspect a factory, or attend a meeting when travel wasn’t possible, he said.
It works as long as Wi-Fi is available where the Double is stationed, along with a person willing to switch it on and allow the robot through the door to roam around.
One unit costs at least $1,999, not including the cost of the iPad required to sit on top of it remotely and the iPad needed for the user who is “driving” it from elsewhere.
At the time the product idea struck Cann, he was running a small toy company, Taptic Toys, and wanted to get a close look at the facilities owned by a prospective manufacturing partner in China, but didn’t have time to travel there.
Will the enthusiasm shown by Double’s eager early adopters prove short-lived? Is there a sustainable need for a “FaceTime on wheels”–as Double Robotics’ fans have called the company’s invention, alluding to Apple’s mobile video-chat application?
Welcome to the dark side of 3D printing.
The hobby is best known for creating colorful toys and trinkets, but some enthusiasts are working on design files that would allow anyone to print a working gun. These don't exist yet, but some believe it's only a matter of time.
Why would a 3D-printed gun be appealing? For one, it could potentially be cheap. You can buy a preassembled 3D printer for about $500. A spool of ABS plastic to print with goes for $50. Depending on where you shop, you can buy .38 Special ammunition for 30 cents a round. The plans will undoubted be distributed free like so many MP3s.
In fact, plans for working gun parts already exist. They can be found on a site called Thingiverse and on similar sites, alongside thousands of free plans for toys, jewelry, tools, and design equipment.
Thingiverse is a creation of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based MakerBot and its CEO, Bre Pettis. Pettis and his company have become the de facto faces of 3D printing thanks to regular appearances in mainstream and tech media talking about how 3D printers democratize manufacturing. Pettis usually demonstrates this idea with brightly colored remote-control cars, robots, and other toys made with MakerBot printers. MakerBot and Pettis don't really talk about files related to gun parts.
That doesn't mean the issue has gone unnoticed, with the intersection of 3D printing and firearms having made the news a few times this year. In June, Michael "HaveBlue" Guslick reported on his blog about successfully test-firing a homemade gun whose key component, the lower receiver, he made from ABS plastic on a '90s-era Stratasys FDM 1600 3D printer.
And in August, Forbes' Andy Greenberg wrote about a group called Defense Distributed, which has some lofty goals. In practical terms, their immediate aim is to create a design file for what they call a Wiki Weapon, a functional, 3D-printed firearm...
Researchers working at MIT have successfully manipulated the content of a rat's dream by replaying an audio cue that was associated with the previous day's events, namely running through a maze (what else). The breakthrough furthers our understanding of how memory gets consolidated during sleep — but it also holds potential for the prospect of "dream engineering."
Working at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, neuroscientist Matt Wilson was able to accomplish this feat by exploiting the way the brain's hippocampus encodes self-experienced events into memory. Scientists know that our hippocampus is busy at work replaying a number of the day's events while we sleep — a process that's crucial for memory consolidation. But what they did not know was whether or not these "replays" could be influenced by environmental cues.
To see if this could be done, Wilson and his team trained a group of rats to run through a maze using two distinct audio cues. The rats quickly learned that the tones were helpful; one sound indicated that food could be found by going left, while the other sound indicated that a food reward awaited them on the right. And while the rats were doing this, the neuroscientists were recording their neural activity.
Later, while the rats were sleeping, the researchers once again recorded the neural activity of their brains. Using correlative analysis, Wilson confirmed that the rats were dreaming of their maze navigating exploits from the day before.
But when the researchers played the audio cues from the experiment, they noticed a very interesting thing: the rats would dream about the section of the maze previously associated with the audio cue. The experiment demonstrated that the content of a rat's dream can be biased by re-activating certain memories while they're asleep.
Looking ahead, the researchers believe that this simple example of dream engineering could open up the possibility of more extensive control of memory processing during sleep — and even the notion that selected memories could be either enhanced, blocked, or modified. Wilson is also aiming to develop new approaches to learning and behavioral therapy through similar kinds of cognitive manipulation.
In May, Utah lawmakers were surprised to learn that the US Drug Enforcement Agency had worked out a plan with local sheriffs to pack the state's main interstate highway, I-15, with Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) that could track any vehicle passing through. At a hearing of the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee, the ACLU of Utah and committee members aired their concerns, asking such questions as: Why store the travel histories of law-abiding Utah residents in a federal database in Virginia? What about residents who don't want anyone to know they drive to Nevada to gamble? Wouldn't drug traffickers catch on and just start taking a different highway? (That's the case, according to local reports.)
The plan ended up getting shelved, but that did not present a huge problem for the DEA because as it turns out, large stretches of highway in Texas and California already use the readers.
So do towns all over America. Last week Ars Technica reported that the tiny town of Tiburon in Northern California is using tag reader cameras to monitor the comings and goings of everyone that visits. Despite the Utah legislature's stand against the DEA, local law enforcement uses them all over the place anyway, according to the Salt Lake City Tribune . Big cities, like Washington, DC and New York, are riddled with ALPRs. According to the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, ALPRs have become so pervasive in America that they constitute a "covert national surveillance grid." The civil liberties group has mapped the spread of ALPRs, and contends on its Web site that, "Silently, but constantly, the government is now watching, recording your everyday travels and storing years of your activities in massive data warehouses that can be quickly 'mined' to find out when and where you have been, whom you’ve visited, meetings you’ve attended, and activities you’ve taken part in."
The group not only tracks the spread of the cameras but gives people the tools to contest their installation, or at least bring it up with their representatives. They're also pushing Congress to initiate hearings "to determine just how vast and intrusive the network has become..."