Paranoid delusions about black helicopters hovering over an area will soon be out of date: The latest scary spy apparatus lives 20,000 feet up, turning 30 or more square miles into live video sharp enough to spot individual people walking around.

The system is called ARGUS, after the 100-eyed god of Greek myth, and fittingly, it works by hooking together hundreds of inexpensive image sensors like those found in mobile phones. The non-classified parts were featured last week in an episode of the PBS show "Nova" all about drones and surveillance (the ARGUS segment starts at the half-hour mark).

ARGUS has appeared in earlier reports, but in a much less detailed fashion. The "Nova" program shows how it might actually appear in action.

The current version uses 368 five-megapixel sensors, for a total of 1.8 gigapixels. But unlike other gigapixel camera systems, this one doesn't record still images — it produces video. That means that from four miles up, it can watch a roughly circular area up to six miles wide, tracking every car and person in real time.

The amount of data produced by the system is, naturally, immense, around 6 petabytes per day according to earlier reports.

ARGUS has yet to be deployed, although there were plans to send three to Afghanistan onboard a helicopter-like hovering unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) called the Hummingbird, now defunct. The future of the system is, for now, classified...
The new Facebook Graph Search, currently in beta and only available to some, is a powerful search engine capable of revealing and uncovering incredibly detailed information about you, your friends and total strangers. It allows you to search for fun facts like "Former actors who are currently employed as waiters," "Which games do Dutch Defense Ministry employees like to play?" (Battlefield and Call of Duty) and "People who like Lance Armstrong, who like steroids and who like fairy tales."

But the new search engine goes beyond the level of providing "funny" lists or surprising your friends with intimate knowledge about them.

Facebook Graph will provide unprecedented detailed personal information as soon as we take our queries one level further and combine details with details: "CEOs that like porn" or "Men who like Selena Gomez and FBI and are interested in men who like the bible." Your privacy at stake

The success of Facebook Graph Search lies in our own love for Facebook. We, the public, are the ones who published this wealth of information on Facebook. Graph Search is merely using everything we already, and voluntarily, made public ourselves.

On the other hand -- how many of you think about the consequences when liking and linking a page or when writing down your interests or telling your activities? And who in the world looks at what he wrote a year ago?..
They seem right out of a Hollywood fantasy, and they are: Cars that drive themselves have appeared in movies like “I, Robot” and the television show “Knight Rider.”

Now, three years after Google invented one, automated cars could be on their way to a freeway near you. In the U.S., California and other states are rewriting the rules of the road to make way for driverless cars. Just one problem: What happens to the millions of people who make a living driving cars and trucks — jobs that always have seemed sheltered from the onslaught of technology?

“All those jobs are going to disappear in the next 25 years,” predicts Moshe Vardi, a computer scientist at Rice University in Houston. “Driving by people will look quaint; it will look like a horse and buggy.”

If automation can unseat bus drivers, urban deliverymen, long-haul truckers, even cabbies, is any job safe?
Vardi poses an equally scary question: “Are we prepared for an economy in which 50 percent of people aren’t working?”
An Associated Press analysis of employment data from 20 countries found that millions of midskill, midpay jobs already have disappeared over the past five years, and they are the jobs that form the backbone of the middle class in developed countries.

That experience has left a growing number of technologists and economists wondering what lies ahead. Will middle-class jobs return when the global economy recovers, or are they lost forever because of the advance of technology? The answer may not be known for years, perhaps decades. Experts argue among themselves whether the job market will recover, muddle along or get much worse...
From the legal rationale for lethal drone strikes to the when and how of perusing library records to the basis for warrantless wiretapping, the federal government's increasingly obvious stance ranges somewhere between "trust us" and "catch us if you can." That's all the more apparent now that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has responded to an American Civil Liberties Union freedom of information request for two memos on the bureau's (supposedly) revised tracking and surveillance policies with 111 pages of almost solid black ink.

The ACLU asked for the two memos after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in U.S. v. Jones that Fourth Amendment protections apply when law-enforcement agents want to use GPS trackers to monitor people's movements by automobile, and FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann was subsequently recorded discussing the bureau's ponderings upon the various and sundry ways the ruling might apply to surveillance efforts. Logically enough, the ACLU was curious as to how these ponderings manifested themselves in terms of actual snooping. As the ACLU's Catherine Crump put it:

"Courts are often slow to extend constitutional protections to new technologies. The telephone was invented in the 1870s, but not until 1967 did the Supreme Court hold that the government needs a warrant to wiretap a telephone conversation. While we wait for courts to weigh in, how much privacy do Americans have in their movements? Exactly as much as law enforcement agents believe they must give us..."
Researchers have found a way of using special spectacles to prevent facial recognition systems from working, albeit in a way that would draw significant attention to the user.

Associate Professor, Isao Echizen, at the National Institute of Informatics (NII) in Tokyo developed the new technology in conjunction with Professor Seiichi Gohshi of Kogakuin University to protect photographed subjects from the invasion of privacy caused by photographs taken in secret.

The pair of glasses dubbed a "privacy visor" was developed to thwart hidden cameras using facial-recognition software. The glasses feature an integrated series of circular lights inside that emit near infrared light, which is invisible to our eyes.

The infrared light distorts the features of the wearer when viewed by cameras. When the near-infrared LED in the privacy visor is not lit, people's faces can be seen in regular goggles and so facial detection is not affected. When the near-infrared LED in the privacy visor is lit, near-infrared rays are recorded as noise in the camera's imaging device. Because this noise appended to the facial image causes a considerable change in the amount of features that are referenced at facial detection, facial detection is misjudged and recognition of people's faces is prevented.

According to Prof Isao Echizen, "As a result of developments in facial recognition technology in Google images, Facebook et cetera and the popularisation of portable terminals that append photos with photographic information [geotags]… essential measures for preventing the invasion of privacy caused by photographs taken in secret and unintentional capture in camera images is now required."

Echizen has also stated that there have been offers received from companies which have plans to commercialize the glasses in the future.
Facial recognition technology has been around for years. But only recently has it been incorporated into TV sets by smart TV manufacturers like LG, Samsung and Panasonic.

The idea is to provide viewers with menus of their favorite shows, apps or social networks once the set is turned on and recognize who’s watching.

Now marketers would like to see the technology applied to ratings so they can get a more precise tally of who is actually watching the set when their ads appear.

Nielsen, which has explored facial recognition technology on and off for more than a decade, is again actively exploring how to apply the technique to its TV ratings panel. “It’s an intriguing opportunity for the whole industry,” said Brian Fuhrer, senior vice president, national and cross-platform television audience measurement.

Given that many devices today have facial recognition capability, from phones to TVs to gaming consoles, “it’s so logical” for the ratings company to adapt the technology as well.

Fuhrer stressed that there’s nothing imminent; the effort currently is “a lab discussion.” The company still has to determine conclusively that the existing ratings panel would not be negatively impacted. That said, if the industry agrees that the technology should be used for TV ratings, the company could implement the technology “fairly quickly,” he said.

Privacy issues remain, acknowledged Fuhrer. But given the ubiquity of facial recognition-equipped devices, he adds: “There’s a tremendous amount of acceptance” compared to just a few years ago. And there’s also a “layer of anonymity” that can be applied to any facial analysis system deployed by Nielsen, Fuhrer said...
Go ahead, guzzle beer. Yell for beads. But be careful.

Someone may be watching.

For the first time, Tampa police will monitor the annual Gasparilla Pirate Fest parade with security cameras — the $2 million system installed downtown for the Republican National Convention.

But officers monitoring the cameras won't be looking for people with open containers of alcohol, police Chief Jane Castor said Wednesday. That will be an issue for other officers posted along the parade route's perimeter.

Instead, officers will monitor the stationary cameras downtown — as well as five mobile camera units set up along Bayshore Boulevard — for fights, disturbances and other crimes.

"We will also be on the lookout if a child gets separated," Castor said. "Or if anyone gets injured, we'll be able to alert fire-rescue to that."

The festival, which is Jan. 26 this year, draws an estimated 300,000 people to South Tampa for a brunch at the Tampa Convention Center, a flotilla in the bay and the pirate parade along Bayshore Boulevard and into downtown.

After the Republican convention in August, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn decided to keep the 58 surveillance cameras up, despite the concerns of some City Council members. The cameras have since been used to help solve a rape downtown.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has said for months that it does not want police to monitor the cameras at all — and that includes during Gasparilla, state president Mike Pheneger said Wednesday.

"People go to Gasparilla to have a good time, not to be monitored by police," said Pheneger, a retired Army colonel...
Sixteen new eyes are watching for crime in the west San Fernando Valley in the form of mobile cameras.

The 16 wireless cameras with the ability to be redeployed depending on crime trends will help identify criminals, said Jessica Tarman Nassour, spokeswoman for Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine.

The cameras can provide facial recognition at distances of up to 600 feet and are currently up and running. They were expected to be unveiled at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

“Councilman Zine partnered with the business community to give the LAPD another tool to deter illegal behavior and help identify vandals, burglars and other criminals,” Tarman Nassour said in a statement. “While the system will be monitored routinely, it can also help detectives identify criminals after a crime has been committed.”

The cameras cost $680,000. The money was reallocated for the project in March 2010, Tarman Nassour said.

The LAPD’s West Valley and Topanga divisions each received eight cameras. Each station will be able to view live feeds and can keep footage for five years.

Of the LAPD surveillance camera systems that are located throughout Los Angeles, this is the only system in which the video signal is transmitted wirelessly through 3G and 4G technology...
A Canadian human rights monitoring group has documented the use of American-made Internet surveillance and censorship technology by more than a dozen governments, some with harsh human rights policies like Syria, China and Saudi Arabia.

The Citizen Lab Internet research group, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, used computer servers to scan for the distinctive signature of gear made by Blue Coat Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif.

It determined that Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Republic employed a Blue Coat system that could be used for digital censorship. The group also determined that Bahrain, China, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and Venezuela used equipment that could be used for surveillance and tracking.

The authors said they wanted to alert the public that there was a growing amount of surveillance and content-filtering technology distributed throughout the Internet. The technology is not restricted from export by the State Department, except to countries that are on embargo lists, like Syria, Iran and North Korea.

“Our findings support the need for national and international scrutiny of the country Blue Coat implementations we have identified, and a closer look at the global proliferation of dual-use information and communications technology,” the group noted. “We hope Blue Coat will take this as an opportunity to explain their due diligence process to ensure that their devices are not used in ways that violate human rights.”

A spokesman for Blue Coat Systems said the firm had not seen the final report and was not prepared to comment...
Rare though they are, horrific events like the Newtown shooting inevitably provoke a variety of responses. The intent is to head off a recurrence of the sort of crime that, truth be told, very likely can't be completely prevented, if for no other reason than that so many of the perpetrators seemingly have little interest in surviving their deeds. But some of the responses, like encouraging people to take responsibility for defending themselves and those around them, offer the possibility of reducing the damage done by rampage killers. Some responses, like gun restrictions and video-game censorship, put widespread civil liberties at the mercy of opportunistic control freaks. And some responses seem designed to turn public schools into replica prisons. On that last point, I'm talking about Albuquerque's scheme for multi-school surveillance, centrally monitored at the Albuquerque Public Schools Police headquarters dispatch center.

That Albuquerque actually has something called "Public Schools Police" is a strong clue that the local educational establishment has been wandering down the road to Sing Sing for quite some time, now. So the network of surveillance cameras isn't a new thing — but it's growing and probably not likely to face any budgetary pressure or policy challenges in the near future. As KRQE Reports:

The digital cameras are motion activated, grabbing onto people as they move. They're in hallways, libraries, cafeterias, playgrounds and parking lots.

"Someone watching the camera can see if a person comes on campus who doesn't belong there, and they can immediately call help if they need to or go to the door and see who the person is," explained Lt. Rider. "They can address them before they even enter the campus."

So far they've helped solve vandalism and even keep an eye on teachers, but they're also tracking students...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Service with a smile has turned sci-fi at this restaurant as diners are waited on and cooked for by robots.

At Robot Restaurant 20 robots deliver food to the table, cook dumplings and noodles, usher diners and entertain them in Harbin, Heilongjiang province in China.

When a diner walks in, an usher robot extends their mechanic arm to the side and says 'Earth person hello. Welcome to the Robot Restaurant.'

After diners have ordered, robots in the kitchen set to work cooking their meals.

Once the dish is prepared, a robot waiter, which runs along tracks on the floor, carries it from kitchen to table.

Prepared dishes are placed on a suspended conveyor belt and when the plate reaches the right table the mechanical arms lift it off and set it down.

As they eat, a singing robot entertains diners...
As many as 150 bogus/fictitious ration cards issued under the biometrics system have been unearthed in Chikkaballapur district, leaving the department of Food and Civil Supplies flummoxed.

The cards were created by none other than the department’s deputy director in collusion with three fair price shop owners and the biometric franchisee.

Even as a debate concerning the security of introducing biometrics into social welfare schemes ensues, the department is now faced with the reality that the system, which it had vouched for, is anything but foolproof.

Addressing reporters in Bangalore on Wednesday, Food and Civil Supplies minister D N Jeevaraj said that the “shocking” revelation came about when department officials stumbled upon a ration card showing a couple as 70 years old with children aged six and eight. Inquiry proved that it was a fictitious card created by the authorities, and many more cards had been introduced into the system.

He said that the department has booked a cheating case against the deputy director, owners of the fair price shops and the biometric franchisee. “We never imagined that the biometric system could be manipulated,” said Jeevaraj...
Facebook may pay a €20,000 ($26,000) fine unless it allows German citizens to create anonymous accounts on the social network. A state data protection agency said that Facebook’s refusal to allow pseudonyms on the site is a violation of German law.

“It is unacceptable that a US portal like Facebook violates German data protection law, unopposed and with no prospect of an end,” data protection commissioner for the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, Thilo Weicher, said in letters addressed to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Dublin-based Facebook Ireland Ltd.

German law states that all media services must offer users the ability to use a pseudonym wherever such an option is possible and reasonable.

An initial injunction was placed against Facebook in mid-December giving the company two weeks to change its policy.

Although the threat prompted Facebook to seek legal protection at an administrative court in Schleswig-Holstein, the site will likely not meet the agency's demand any time soon.

A Facebook spokesperson said the orders were without merit and a waste of German taxpayers’ money. He added that the company would fight the charges vigorously, the Guardian reported.

The company said in a statement that the pseudonym law is “not applicable to Facebook” and “infringes on higher ranking of European law.”

The site went on to say that it would still alter its privacy plan even if the law was applicable, because Facebook’s “real name culture” is part of its “mission of trust and security...”
When Chinese dissident Hu Jia found that the rear tires of his car had been slashed, his disappointment gave way to hope because one of eight police surveillance cameras watching his apartment was pointed at his car.

"I thought, 'Great, no one else has such advantages, I can ask the police for evidence,'" Hu, 39, says.

But the neighborhood police station in Hu's Freedom City apartment complex saw nothing.

"Those infrared cameras feed directly to the public security bureau," Hu said he was told. "That camera is to watch a person called Hu Jia."

Video surveillance is a booming, multibillion-dollar industry in China, bankrolled by an authoritarian Communist Party that has overseen more spending on domestic security in recent years than national defense.

Among the examples, according to the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and others:

- 20 million-30 million surveillance cameras are used in China; 13 million were installed in 2011, and installations will jump 20% a year for the next five years.
- 800,000 surveillance cameras (half for government use) have been installed in Beijing, exceeding London, one of the West's most watched cities.
- The Chinese government spent $16 billion from 2009-2011 to build video surveillance networks nationwide.

Authorities justify the expansion and upgrading of network security cameras as a way to improve public safety, crime-fighting, traffic management and "social stability," an obsession of the Communist Party rulers.

Human rights groups say the cameras are increasingly relied on to monitor and intimidate political dissidents, and China's two most restive ethnic groups: the Tibetans in the southwest and Uighurs in the northwest. China's video surveillance technology has grown more sophisticated, focusing on biometrics research...
Robots that look more like ping pong balls could one day help to colonize Mars, so thinks their developer. The robots would work together in swarms of thousands to construct habitats for humans and perform gardening tasks.

The ping pong bots, or, “droplets” as they are known by their creator Nikolaus Correll, an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, are still in the prime of their development. The 20 that have been built so far have RGB color and infrared sensing, get around with vibrating motors and communicate via wireless. Down the road Correll hopes to have a completely autonomous swarm robot platform through distributed sensing, actuation, computation and communication that can be used for just about any kind of remote sensing or even construction tasks.

He views the swarm as a “liquid that thinks” with virtually no limit to what the robots could potentially accomplish, and likens them to the “swarm” of cells that make up our bodies that can serve a bewildering array of diverse functions. The robots could be deployed to contain an oil spill, says Correll, or assemble into useful bits of hardware after being launched individually into space. They could even assemble to construct a habitat on an alien planet, if humans were to explore Mars, for example.

But the droplets are still in the early developmental stages and are far away from becoming the intelligent, multi-faceted swarm that Correll foresees. The software that allows their sensors and processors to communicate is still being written and the only swarming the robots have done so far has been through computer simulations (in which hundreds were shown to coordinate). For now Correll plans to use the droplets to demonstrate self-assembly and emergent swarm behavior to carry out pattern recognition, sensor-based motion and adaptive shape change. These behaviors could eventually be scaled up to perform the same tasks in the 3D space of air or underwater...
You are being watched — especially when you go to the airport. But now you might be recognized, too. A company called Flight Display Systems has been demonstrating a $9,275 facial recognition device (pictured here) that can be installed inside airplane doors to check the identity of every person entering the plane, and alert staff if there is an "unauthorized" person. Basically it's just a souped-up CCTV camera, and it can be installed anywhere fairly unobtrusively.

The biggest problem? It's only 75-90% accurate. Get ready for some serious civil liberties violations...