At schools in Pinellas County, Fla., students aren’t paying for lunch with cash or a card, but with a wave of their hand over a palm scanner.

“It’s so quick that a child could be standing in line, call mom and say, ‘I forgot my lunch money today.’ She’s by her computer, runs her card, and by the time the child is at the front of the line, it’s already recorded,” says Art Dunham, director of food services for Pinellas County Schools.

Students take about four seconds to swipe and pay for lunch, Dunham says, and they’re doing it with 99% accuracy.

“We just love it. No one wants to go back,” Dunham says.

Palm-scanning technology is popping up nationwide as a bona fide biometric tracker of identities, and it appears poised to make the jump from schools and hospitals to other sectors of the economy including ATM usage and retail. It also has applications as a secure identifier for cloud computing...
It's a future far from Ponch and Jon, the Los Angeles-based motorcycle officers of "CHiPs," a TV series that rose to popularity in the 1970s. In this take on the California Highway Patrol of 2025, patrol cars and motorcycles would be replaced by computerized drones; chips take over CHiPs.

Here, the highway patrol vehicles of the future will be mostly self-driving, if you accept the solutions offered by the entries in this year's Design Challenge, an annual competition organized in conjunction with the Los Angeles auto show. For the last nine years, the Design Challenge has invited automakers' advanced design studios to dream up proposals for sci-fi automotive futures tied to specific themes, including cars that weighed less than 1,000 pounds or that were destined for Hollywood roles. This year's competition asked designers to envision the highway patrol car of 2025.

By coincidence or destiny, designers at several companies came up with concepts for robotic, autonomously driven vehicles on ground, water and air. These future police cruisers -- usually presented as story boards rather than actual vehicles -- recall today's Predator and Global Hawk drones, stars of the anti-insurgency efforts. They may give new meaning to those signs that read "Speed limit enforced by aircraft."

In the future, as the organizers outlined it, "the vehicle should empower highway patrol officers to meet new demands and effectively both 'protect and serve' the public while considering not just enforcement needs but emission concerns, population growth and transportation infrastructure." The world of 2025, the participants seem to agree, will be a place where traffic has grown exponentially, infrastructure has deteriorated, environmental constraints have increased -- and highway patrol budgets have been reduced.

As envisioned by Honda R&D Americas' advanced design studio in Pasadena, Calif., the future Honda CHP Drone Squad includes four-wheel Auto-Drones, like cars, and two-wheel Moto-Drones, like motorcycles. The proposal offers a future where the Auto-Drone functions as something of a command vehicle -- manned or unmanned -- that deploys Moto-Drones, even while on the move. The Moto-Drones could be rigged for a variety of different response or rescue tasks. While such vehicles might be decades from reality, the flexibility of this strategy could offer companies that built both types of vehicles an advantage in securing government contracts.

At the BMW DesignworksUSA studio in Newbury Park, Calif., designers dreamed up the E-Patrol (Human-Drone Pursuit Vehicle). In this arrangement, the officer and drone would work in harmony, like today's officers and their K-9 partners. The BMW drone team would be able to deploy a flying drone, which resembles a high-tech Jet Ski cruise missile, or one of a pair of unicyclelike robotic vehicles to chase lawbreakers. And if the suspect doesn't pull over? In the E-Patrol vision, the BMW designers say, their drone would disable the vehicle with an electromagnetic impulse...
Store mannequins are meant to catch your eye. Soon, you may catch theirs.

Benetton is among the fashion brands deploying mannequins equipped with technology used to identify criminals at airports to watch over shoppers in their stores.

Retailers are introducing the EyeSee, sold by Italian mannequin maker Almax SpA, to glean data on customers much as online merchants are able to do. The $5,072 device has spurred shops to adjust window displays, store layouts and promotions to keep consumers walking in the door and spending.

“It’s spooky,” said Luca Solca, head of luxury goods research at Exane BNP Paribas in London. “You wouldn’t expect a mannequin to be observing you.”

The EyeSee looks ordinary on the outside, with its slender polystyrene frame, blank face and improbable pose. Inside, it’s no dummy. A camera embedded in one eye feeds data into facial-recognition software like the kind used by police. It logs the age, gender and race of passers-by.

Demand for the device shows how retailers are turning to technology to help personalize their offers as growth slows in the $245 billion luxury goods industry. Bain & Co. predicts the luxury market will expand 5 percent in 2012, less than half of last year’s rate.

“Any software that can help profile people while keeping their identities anonymous is fantastic,” said Uche Okonkwo, executive director of consultant Luxe Corp. It “could really enhance the shopping experience, the product assortment, and help brands better understand their customers.”

While some stores deploy similar technology to watch shoppers from overhead security cameras, the EyeSee provides better data because it stands at eye level and invites customer attention, Almax says...
A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans' e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law.

CNET has learned that Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans' e-mail, is scheduled for next week.

Leahy's rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies -- including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission -- to access Americans' e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge.

It's an abrupt departure from Leahy's earlier approach, which required police to obtain a search warrant backed by probable cause before they could read the contents of e-mail or other communications. The Vermont Democrat boasted last year that his bill "provides enhanced privacy protections for American consumers by... requiring that the government obtain a search warrant."

Leahy had planned a vote on an earlier version of his bill, designed to update a pair of 1980s-vintage surveillance laws, in late September. But after law enforcement groups including the National District Attorneys' Association and the National Sheriffs' Association organizations objected to the legislation and asked him to "reconsider acting" on it, Leahy pushed back the vote and reworked the bill as a package of amendments to be offered next Thursday. The package is a substitute for H.R. 2471, which the House of Representatives already has approved...
In a single second, law enforcement agents can match a suspect against millions upon millions of profiles in vast detailed databases stored on the cloud. It’s all done using facial recognition, and in Southern California it’s already occurring.

Imagine the police taking a picture: any picture of a person, anywhere, and matching it on the spot in less than a second to a personalized profile, scanning millions upon millions of entries from within vast, intricate databases stored on the cloud.

It’s done with state of the art facial recognition technology, and in Southern California it’s already happening.

At least one law enforcement agency in San Diego is currently using software developed by FaceFirst, a division of nearby Camarillo, California’s Airborne Biometrics Group. It can positively identify anyone, as long as physical data about a person’s facial features is stored somewhere the police can access. Though that pool of potential matches could include millions, the company says that by using the “best available facial recognition algorithms” they can scour that data set in a fraction of a second in order to send authorities all known intelligence about anyone who enters a camera’s field of vision.

“Live high definition video enables FaceFirst to track and isolate the face of every person on every camera simultaneously,” the company claims on their website.

“Up to 4 million comparisons per second, per clustered server” — that’s how many matches a single computer wired to the FaceFirst system can consider in a single breath as images captured by cameras, cell phones and surveillance devices from as far as 100 feet away are fed into algorithms designed to pick out terrorists and persons of interest. In a single setting, an unlimited amount of cameras can record the movements of a crowd at 30-frames-per-second, pick out each and every face and then feed it into an equation that, ideally, finds the bad guys.

"I realized that with the right technology, we could have saved lives,” Joseph Rosenkrantz, president and CEO of FaceFirst, tells the Los Angeles Times. He says he dreamed up the project after the attacks of September 11, 2001 and has since invested years into perfecting it. Not yet mastered, however, is how to make sure innocent bystanders and anyone who wishes to stay anonymous is left alone as he expands an Orwellian infrastructure that allows anyone with the right credentials to comb through a crowd and learn facts and figures of any individual within the scope of a surveillance cam.

Speaking to reporters with Find Biometrics in August, Rosenkrantz said that the system is already in place in Panama, where computers there process nearly 20 million comparisons per second “using a FaceFirst matching cluster with a large number of live surveillance cameras on a scale beyond any other system ever implemented.”

“Within just a couple of seconds whoever needs to know receives an email containing all the evidence and stats about the person identified along with the video clip of them passing the camera so they may be approached then and there,” he says...
Coming soon to a St. Petersburg neighborhood near you: an armored truck that you cannot miss and that cannot miss you, at least not with the four cameras mounted behind bullet-resistant glass, pointed in all four directions.

The exterior is wrapped in an industrial design featuring very large eyeballs and the words "St. Petersburg Police," all in the department's green and gold colors.

"This is exactly what I wanted," city council member Karl Nurse declared, after watching Major Jorges Sotolongo pull up the cameras images on an iPad, "It's high profile enough you put it in a drug location or a prostitution location and it will discourage the customers from coming, they'll just keep moving."

"That is what the police department has in mind," Chief Chuck Harmon told a city council committee Thursday, assuring council members the privacy of law-abiding citizens has been considered.

"The real positive for me is the visibility of the thing...This is meant to be a broad, right in your face: Don't do what you're doing," Harmon said. "We didn't want this thing parked in somebody's front yard thinking that we're shooting into someone's bedroom window...It's really meant look to the exterior activity going on around buildings, not into buildings..."
Hacker collective Anonymous is planning worldwide protests against government surveillance systems.

Monday’s targets include TrapWire and INDECT, which the shadowy group says track and profile citizens.

Protesters in Canada may get into trouble for wearing the Guy Fawkes masks they’re known for if a protest escalates to a riot. That’s because Canada's House of Commons last week approved a bill that bans people from hiding their faces during riots.

The bill was championed by a lawmaker who said it was a response to last year's Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver, during which often-masked vandals smashed and lit fire to the city after their professional hockey team lost to the Boston Bruins, reports the security firm Sophos .

While the bill doesn’t apply to peaceful demonstrations, anyone convicted of covering his or her face during a riot or unlawful assembly could get up to 10 years in prison...
The connected world we live in has established a new deal when it comes to our privacy – when it comes to the boundaries of the public and private spaces – and, for the most part, we’re living with it.

Everyone understands, for example, that Facebook is worth billions for one reason: because it is a vast engine for the creation of data about our lifestyles, preferences and relationships, and advertisers are paying to access that data. Every now and then Facebook endures a rough week or two over a change in privacy policy, but people (now one billion of them) keep using it. It turns out that we’re happy to share a lot of information about ourselves online. Especially if it means we get a product or service that we like for free.

Now, the coming together of Big Data and new technologies in face recognition are set to push the privacy argument a step further and into the real, offline world. How would you feel about a world that can identify you, tap data on your likes and dislikes and adjust itself accordingly?

Earlier this year, the US advertising agency Redpepper (www.redpepperland.com) caused controversy when it pointed the ways towards this new world with its Facedeals scheme. Currently in beta testing, Facedeals works by setting up special face-recognition cameras in restaurants and shops. These cameras then see consumers who walk on to the premises, analyse their face and match it, where possible, with a Facebook profile. The consumer can then be offered special deals based on data about their preferences and past behaviour. Walk into a coffee shop and the barista might say: “Oh hi, Jane. I hear you like caramel lattes. How about one half-price?”
The ACLU's Privacy SOS presented a great article about why "it's time to pull the plug on fusion centers!" While it's well-known that Microsoft has a great and long-standing relationship with government, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies, Privacy SOS pointed out the interesting tidbit that Microsoft helps pay for fusions centers. Fusion Centers, in turn, give out grants to police departments for new surveillance technologies.

A bipartisan Senate investigation and report previously found that fusion centers are basically 'useless' in countering terrorism, but 'troubling' when it came to violating the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. citizens. DHS did not want to share a 2010 assessment of fusion centers with the Senate Subcommittee, reported Privacy SOS, but "did so after the DHS obtained the 'consent' of a 'private, non-governmental organization, the National Fusion Center Association (NFCA), which supposedly had the authority to represent the 68 centers subject to review'."

When the Domain Awareness System launched in August, you may recall that Microsoft helped the NYPD launch the crime and terrorism prevention system that was compared to being like Minority Report and an all-seeing Big Brother. In fact, at that time, it was revealed that Microsoft has been quietly becoming one of the world's largest intelligence solution providers. In light of the Privacy SOS revelations about Microsoft providing funds to fusion centers, which don't provide actionable intelligence to combat terrorism, but do violate civil liberties, Microsoft's favorite quote to me, "your privacy is very important to us," seems especially hard to swallow. That is unless you buy into the theory that America is overrun with potential terrorists or believe all the ridiculous you-might-be-a-terrorist-if lists of innocent behaviors actually being so dangerous? It's very aggravating that pro-surveillance people claim that anyone complaining about it is basically against stopping terrorists or other criminals. That's a bunch of BS...
Google Inc.'s quest to guess what we want before we want it has produced an unusual side effect: a disparity in the results the company presents about the presidential candidates.

A Wall Street Journal examination found that the search engine often customizes the results of people who have recently searched for "Obama"—but not those who have recently searched for "Romney."

Here's how it works: When a user searches for the name Obama, Google includes links about President Barack Obama in subsequent searches on terms such as "Iran," "Medicare" and "gay marriage." The altered results are labeled in gray type: "you recently searched for Obama."

Testers searching for "Romney," however, didn't see customized links containing Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney's name in their subsequent search results.

The search links are altered only for a short period, and there is no indication that Google is intentionally biasing its results. Nor does the pattern affect only political topics: Searches for words such as "iPhone," "sports," "health," "social security" and "twilight" also can trigger customized results in subsequent searches.

In September, Gabriel Weinberg, founder and chief executive of tiny Duck Duck Go Inc., which markets itself as a privacy-protecting search engine, stumbled across the "you recently searched for" phenomenon in a study he conducted of Google's personalization efforts. Mr. Weinberg, whose site is based in Paoli, Pa., asked 131 of its users to search Google for several keywords at 2 p.m. Eastern time on Sept. 2: "Obama," "abortion" and "gun control." His testers received a wide variety of different results that appeared to be personalized by location and other factors.

Mr. Weinberg also noticed that some testers received results labeled "you recently searched for Obama," and discovered that he couldn't replicate the same label when searching for Romney. Mr. Weinberg brought the discrepancy to the Journal's attention.

To determine the impact of Google's new personalization approach, the Journal analyzed searches conducted by 62 testers who were using Amazon's Mechanical Turk service. Mechanical Turk is an electronic marketplace where workers can sign up to perform small tasks for a small fee. The Journal used a company called Houdini Inc. that provides tools for managing crowdsourcing projects.

Testers searched for "Iran," "Medicare" and "Gay marriage" after searching for "Obama," "Romney" or for the keyword "election."

After searching for Obama, about 80% of the testers subsequent search results were altered to contain links containing the words "Obama." Searchers for "election," saw about 25% of their subsequent search results customized to contain links containing the word "election." Testers searching for "Romney" didn't see customized links containing the word Romney in their subsequent search results...
A northeast Kansas newspaper has been ordered to identify a person who posted a comment on its website about a story on a murder trial for which that commenter was serving as a juror.

Shawnee County District Judge Steven Ebberts last week denied a request by The Topeka Capital-Journal to quash a district attorney’s subpoena seeking the name, address and Internet Protocol address of a poster who goes by the pseudonym “BePrepared.”

That person is believed to have been a juror in the first-degree murder trial of Anceo D. Stovall, 27, who was being tried on 11 charges that included the shooting death of Natalie Gibson and the wounding of her partner, Lori Allison, on July 21, 2011, during a robbery.

The Capital-Journal reported that court records indicate BePrepared accessed a news story posted July 19 while the person and other jurors were deliberating Stovall’s fate two days later.

After a four-week trial and three days of deliberations, the jury convicted Stovall on July 24 of aggravated robbery, found him not guilty of the burglary of a Jeep, and was unable to reach verdicts on nine other charges, including murder.

District Attorney Chad Taylor said Stovall would be tried again on those other charges.

Stovall’s attorney, Jonathan Phelps, said BePrepared posted at 1:45 p.m. July 21: “Trust me that’s all they got in their little world, as you know, I have been there. Remember the pukes names they will do it for ever.” Phelps filed a motion seeking a new trial, saying the online posting constitutes juror misconduct and hindered Stovall’s right to a fair trial.

At a hearing Sept. 6, a man believed to be BePrepared asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked whether he was a juror in Stovall’s trial, whether he made posts on CJOnline, and whether he posted under the name BePrepared.

While the man’s name was reported by the newspaper in coverage of the Sept. 6 hearing, The Associated Press isn’t naming him because he has not been charged with a crime. Ebberts’ decision noted that interference with the judicial process is a felony.

The judge said the poster’s identity was relevant to an investigation of criminal misconduct during the trial. He wrote that the prosecutor’s office has claimed that without the information “a miscarriage of justice” would result.

He also agreed that the prosecutor’s office couldn’t reasonably obtain the poster’s identity through any means other than CJOnline.