Police officers across the country misuse confidential law enforcement databases to get information on romantic partners, business associates, neighbors, journalists and others for reasons that have nothing to do with daily police work, an Associated Press investigation has found.
[...]
In the most egregious cases, officers have used information to stalk or harass, or have tampered with or sold records they obtained.
[...]
Unspecified discipline was imposed in more than 90 instances reviewed by AP. In many other cases, it wasn’t clear from the records if punishment was given at all. The number of violations was surely far higher since records provided were spotty at best, and many cases go unnoticed.

Among those punished: an Ohio officer who pleaded guilty to stalking an ex-girlfriend and who looked up information on her; a Michigan officer who looked up home addresses of women he found attractive; and two Miami-Dade officers who ran checks on a journalist after he aired unflattering stories about the department.

”It’s personal. It’s your address. It’s all your information, it’s your Social Security number, it’s everything about you,” said Alexis Dekany, the Ohio woman whose ex-boyfriend, a former Akron officer, pleaded guilty last year to stalking her. “And when they use it for ill purposes to commit crimes against you — to stalk you, to follow you, to harass you ... it just becomes so dangerous.”

The misuse represents only a tiny fraction of the millions of daily database queries run legitimately during traffic stops, criminal investigations and routine police encounters. But the worst violations profoundly abuses systems that supply vital information on criminal suspects and law-abiding citizens alike. The unauthorized searches demonstrate how even old-fashioned policing tools are ripe for abuse, at a time when privacy concerns about law enforcement have focused mostly on more modern electronic technologies.
Source: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/699236946e3...

"Now that communication can be as quick as thought, why hasn’t our ability to organize politically—to establish gains and beyond that, to maintain them—kept pace? The web has given us both capacity and speed: but progressive change seems to be something perpetually in the air, rarely manifesting, even more rarely staying with us.

Micah L. Sifry, a longtime analyst of democracy and its role on the net, examines what he calls “The Big Disconnect.” In his usual pithy, to-the-point style, he explores why data-driven politics and our digital overlords have failed or misled us, and how they can be made to serve us instead, in a real balance between citizens and state, independent of corporations.

The web and social media have enabled an explosive increase in participation in the public arena—but not much else has changed. For the next step beyond connectivity, writes Sifry, “we need a real digital public square, not one hosted by Facebook, shaped by Google and snooped on by the National Security Agency. If we don’t build one, then any notion of democracy as ‘rule by the people’ will no longer be meaningful. We will be a nation of Big Data, by Big Email, for the powers that be.”

Source: http://www.orbooks.com/catalog/big-disconn...
Posted
AuthorJordan Brown
Social media app Snapchat is introducing video-recording sunglasses called Spectacles and is changing its company name to incorporate the new product.

The glasses can record video 10 seconds at a time by tapping a button on the device. The video is then uploaded automatically to the popular image-messaging app via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. The glasses are the first hardware from the Los Angeles-based company.
Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/snapchat-snap-...
Posted
AuthorJordan Brown

Emphasis added:

"Researchers at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed a device that uses radio waves to detect whether someone is happy, sad, angry or excited.

The breakthrough makes it easier to accomplish what scientists have tried to do for years with machines: sense human emotions. The researchers believe tracking a person's feelings is a step toward improving their overall emotional well-being.

The technology isn't invasive [?]; it works in the background without a person having to do anything, like wearing a device. The device called EQ-Radio, which was detailed in a paper published online Tuesday, resembles a shoebox, as of now. In the future, it may shrink down and integrate with an existing computing gadget in your home.

It works by bouncing wireless signals off a person. These signals are impacted by motion, such as breathing and heartbeats. When the heart pumps blood, a force is exerted onto our bodies, and the skin vibrates ever so slightly.

After the radio waves are impacted by these vibrations, they return to the device. A computer then analyzes the signals to identify changes in heartbeat and breathing.

The researchers demonstrated their system detects emotions on par with an electrocardiogram (EKG), a common wearable device medical professionals use to monitor the human heart.

Source: http://money.cnn.com/2016/09/20/technology...
Forty percent of all U.S. electronics recyclers testers included in [a study that used GPS trackers to follow e-waste over the course of two years] proved to be complete shams, with e-waste getting shipped wholesale to landfills in Hong Kong, China, and developing nations in Africa and Asia.

Rather than recycle them domestically, the recycling companies sell them to junkyards in developing nations, either through middlemen or directly. These foreign junkyards hire low-wage employees to pick through the few valuable components of often toxic old machines. The toxic machines are then left in the scrapyards or dumped nearby. Using GPS trackers, industry watchdog Basel Action Network found that 40 percent of electronics recyclers it tested in the United States fall into this “scam recycling” category.
Source: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/much-of-a...
Microsoft says it is going to “solve” cancer in the next 10 years.

The company is working at treating the disease like a computer virus, that invades and corrupts the body’s cells. Once it is able to do so, it will be able to monitor for them and even potentially reprogramme them to be healthy again, experts working for Microsoft have said.

The company has built a “biological computation” unit that says its ultimate aim is to make cells into living computers. As such, they could be programmed and reprogrammed to treat any diseases, such as cancer.
Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/ga...
Posted
AuthorJordan Brown

Newly published documents have shed more light on the dubious surveillance operations of the United States operating in the UK. The documents detail how the NSA and GCHQ used information gathered by Menwith Hill Station---a massive but tightly sealed facility that intercepts satellite data transmissions worldwide---for targeted killings with drones:

The files reveal for the first time how the NSA has used the British base to aid “a significant number of capture-kill operations” across the Middle East and North Africa, fueled by powerful eavesdropping technology that can harvest data from more than 300 million emails and phone calls a day.

The NSA has pioneered groundbreaking new spying programs at Menwith Hill to pinpoint the locations of suspected terrorists accessing the internet in remote parts of the world. The programs — with names such as GHOSTHUNTER and GHOSTWOLF — have provided support for conventional British and American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But they have also aided covert missions in countries where the U.S. has not declared war. NSA employees at Menwith Hill have collaborated on a project to help “eliminate” terrorism targets in Yemen, for example, where the U.S. has waged a controversial drone bombing campaign that has resulted in dozens of civilian deaths.

The disclosures about Menwith Hill raise new questions about the extent of British complicity in U.S. drone strikes and other so-called targeted killing missions, which may in some cases have violated international laws or constituted war crimes.

Successive U.K. governments have publicly stated that all activities at the base are carried out with the “full knowledge and consent” of British officials.
Source: https://theintercept.com/2016/09/06/nsa-me...
A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence - information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.
Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-dea-sod-...
Posted
AuthorJordan Brown

Just like how the United States and Britain arms the rest of the world, so too is it the same with advanced surveillance technologies:

Since early 2015, over a dozen UK companies have been granted licenses to export powerful telecommunications interception technology to countries around the world, Motherboard has learned. Many of these exports include IMSI-catchers, devices which can monitor large numbers of mobile phones over broad areas.

Some of the UK companies were given permission to export their products to authoritarian states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Egypt; countries with poor human rights records that have been well-documented to abuse surveillance technology.

"As we learn time and time again, countries with bad human rights records often keep utilizing interception technology to perpetrate even more abuses and suppress dissent."

Source: https://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-uk-c...
Over a four-year period, the FBI authorized informants to break the law more than 22,800 times, according to newly reviewed documents.

Official records obtained by the Daily Dot under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show the Federal Bureau of Investigation gave informants permission at least 5,649 times in 2013 to engage in activity that would otherwise be considered a crime. In 2014, authorization was given 5,577 times, the records show.

Those crimes can have serious and unintended consequences. For example, a Daily Dot investigation found that an FBI informant was responsible for facilitating the 2011 breach of Stratfor in one of the most high-profile cyberattacks of the last decade. While a handful of informants ultimately brought down the principal hacker responsible, the sting also caused Stratfor, an American intelligence firm, millions of dollars in damages and left an estimated 700,000 credit card holders vulnerable to fraud.
Source: http://www.dailydot.com/layer8/fbi-informa...
Posted
AuthorJordan Brown

""...I've gotten these with Happy Meals for my kids and they are pretty much useless. One supposedly blinks slow or fast depending on the level of activity or motion. It merely blinks at  any motion, but not always and not necessarily faster with more intense activity. Battery lasts about two hours at best. The step counter just does the same thing as the blinking version but increments a number display. Unfortunately, a single "step" is often counted as a dozen or more and other times movements/step are not counted at all. Battery lasted an hour before the device stopped working completely. Most don't work at all, having dead batteries from the start.Perhaps it's the gesture that counts but these items are essentially garbage. My five year old just pretends that they are wrist-based computers/communicators."

Read more - https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/16/mcdonalds-activity-trackers-happy-meal/

Posted
Authoralexanderhayes
Categoriesnormalising

It never ceases to amaze me just how stupid screen culture is.

But now it's even parodying itself---in the way only the online spectacle can: by folding back into itself to keep us watching.

The problems and concerns, long since established, are all now just a big joke. Short attention spans. Superficial engagement with information. Advertising masquerading as content. The convergence of extremely powerful corporate empires that influence what we think, feel, and do, in a way never before possible. Distraction from the real world, while the real world burns.

The story of this first short is about the end of the world, and nobody even cares.  Could that be any more close to home?

There's also a short about an "Uber for people," invoking the themes of exploitation, surveillance, and the enslavement-addiction to technological solutions that parodies the screen culture of today---especially the mindset of "apps fix all."

Can we see this as one thing in terms of another?

Likewise with, "Enter the Hive Mind."

What will you do, when it's time you're asked to put your whole self into the global computer even more completely than now? What is your personal threshold? Will you continue to "breathe life" into the machine?

Source: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLuK...

Computer security expert and privacy specialist Bruce Schneier writes:

The Internet of Things is the name given to the computerization of everything in our lives. Already you can buy Internet-enabled thermostats, light bulbs, refrigerators, and cars. Soon everything will be on the Internet: the things we own, the things we interact with in public, autonomous things that interact with each other.

These “things” will have two separate parts. One part will be sensors that collect data about us and our environment. Already our smartphones know our location and, with their onboard accelerometers, track our movements. Things like our thermostats and light bulbs will know who is in the room. Internet-enabled street and highway sensors will know how many people are out and about­ — and eventually who they are. Sensors will collect environmental data from all over the world.

The other part will be actuators. They’ll affect our environment. Our smart thermostats aren’t collecting information about ambient temperature and who’s in the room for nothing; they set the temperature accordingly. Phones already know our location, and send that information back to Google Maps and Waze to determine where traffic congestion is; when they’re linked to driverless cars, they’ll automatically route us around that congestion. Amazon already wants autonomous drones to deliver packages. The Internet of Things will increasingly perform actions for us and in our name.

Increasingly, human intervention will be unnecessary. The sensors will collect data. The system’s smarts will interpret the data and figure out what to do. And the actuators will do things in our world. You can think of the sensors as the eyes and ears of the Internet, the actuators as the hands and feet of the Internet, and the stuff in the middle as the brain. This makes the future clearer. The Internet now senses, thinks, and acts.

We’re building a world-sized robot, and we don’t even realize it.
Source: https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/201...

"With widespread adoption among law enforcement, advertisers, and even churches, face recognition has undoubtedly become one of the biggest threats to privacy out there.

By itself, the ability to instantly identify anyone just by seeing their face already creates massive power imbalances, with serious implications for free speech and political protest."

Microsoft pitches technology that can read facial expressions at political rallies

Microsoft pitches technology that can read facial expressions at political rallies

"But more recently, researchers have demonstrated that even when faces are blurred or otherwise obscured, algorithms can be trained to identify people by matching previously-observed patterns around their head and body.

In a new paper uploaded to the ArXiv pre-print server, researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Saarbrücken, Germany demonstrate a method of identifying individuals even when most of their photos are un-tagged or obscured. The researchers' system, which they call the “Faceless Recognition System,” trains a neural network on a set of photos containing both obscured and visible faces, then uses that knowledge to predict the identity of obscured faces by looking for similarities in the area around a person's head and body."

[...]

"In the past, Facebook has shown its face recognition algorithms can predict the identity of users when they obscure their face with 83% accuracy, using cues such as their stance and body type. But the researchers say their system is the first to do so using a trainable system that uses a full range of body cues surrounding blurred and blacked-out faces."

 

Source: https://motherboard.vice.com/read/faceless...

In a very COINTELPRO-esque context, the ACLU has received more than 18 hours of video from surveillance cameras installed on FBI aircraft that flew over Baltimore in the days after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in 2015. The footage offers a rare insight into the workings of a government surveillance operation targeting protests.

The cache is likely the most comprehensive collection of aerial surveillance footage ever released by a US law enforcement agency... The footage shows the crowds of protesters captured in a combination of visible light and infrared spectrum video taken by the planes’ wing-mounted FLIR Talon cameras. While individual faces are not clearly visible in the videos, it’s frighteningly easy to imagine how cameras with a slightly improved zoom resolution and face recognition technology could be used to identify protesters in the future.

The collection of aerial surveillance footage of Baltimore protests from April 29, 2015 to May 3, 2015, from FBI archives is available on their website, or better yet, the Internet Archive.

"Records from the Federal Aviation Administration showed that the FBI’s aircraft, which were registered to front companies to conceal their ownership, carried sophisticated camera systems on board, complete with night-vision capabilities."

The FBI says they're only using the planes to track specific suspects in "serious crime investigations," and that "the FBI flew their spy planes more than 3,500 times in the last six months of 2015, according to an analysis of data collected by the aircraft-tracking site FlightRadar24."

"The FBI has been criticized in the recent past for its actions regarding domestic advocacy groups. A 2010 report by the Department of Justice Inspector General found the FBI opened investigations connected to organizations such as Greenpeace and the Catholic Worker movement that classified possible “trespassing or vandalism” as domestic terrorism cases. The report also found the FBI’s National Press Office “made false and misleading statements” when questioned by the media about documents obtained by public records requests."

This pompously narrated documentary nevertheless provides an overview of the television series Mr. Robot, exploring how the show echoes and has even predicted events in real life of today's technology-gripped culture. It is an interesting interplay of pop-culture and hacker happening, the blurring of the line between the real world and storytelling and visa versa. Using interviews with cast and crew members, as well as the opinions of experts and journalists in the fields of hacking and cyber security, Mr. Robot Decoded examines the technical accuracy of the Mr. Robot series, while also discussing the show's cultural impact.

Contrasted with The Hacker Wars, a film which explores the strange duality of the modern-day computer-hacker as a mischievous provocateur, but also in some cases, societal activists with underlying political fervour, serious or not. This documentary explores this by profiling some of the renowned characters that have tickled the secretive inner workings of corporations and government agencies, IRL, for various reasons—ranging from the nefarious and narcissistic, to the political and scandalous. Some do it for the lulz, others do it to prove a point, and others still do it to speak truth to corrupt power. In any event, many have faced severe punishments as a result. Weaving through this, The Hacker Wars touches on issues of whistleblowing, social justice and power relations, in a time where computer technologies represent extreme power and control. But for whom? And what? This poses the question in deciphering the personalities of the hackers themselves. Are they troublemakers driven solely by a need to instigate havoc and chaos? Or are they in part activists with good intentions?

In 2013, Privacy International announced the Surveillance Industry Index, a comprehensive publicly available database about the capabilities, technologies and mindset of the private surveillance sector.

Also relevant is BuggedPlanet.info, a wiki in the public domain about "Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), Communication Intelligence (COMINT), Tactical and Strategical Measures used to intercept Communications and the Vendors and Governmental and Private Operators of this Technology."

Likewise with Project PM, a wiki of a "centralized, actionable data set regarding the intelligence contracting industry, the PR industry's interface with totalitarian regimes, the mushrooming infosec/"cybersecurity" industry, and other issues constituting threats to human rights, civic transparency, individual privacy, and the health of democratic institutions." Entities of particular interest are PRISM, Trapwire, In-Q-Tel, and Stratfor.

Posted
AuthorJordan Brown
The BBC is to spy on internet users in their homes by deploying a new generation of Wi-Fi detection vans to identify those illicitly watching its programmes online.

The BBC vans will fan out across the country capturing information from private Wi-Fi networks in homes to “sniff out” those who have not paid the licence fee.

The corporation has been given legal dispensation to use the new technology, which is typically only available to crime-fighting agencies, to enforce the new requirement that people watching BBC programmes via the iPlayer must have a TV licence.
Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/05...
Posted
AuthorJordan Brown

Mark Serrels writes in The Age about how he knows he's addicted to his phone. He says "he's too far gone," "living inside your own head can be terrifying," and that he's addicted to the escapism over confronting the real world.

"Yes, social media is a poisoned chalice of pure narcissism," but, "if you have someone who depends on you, particularly children, it's probably a good idea to have a functioning mobile phone on you at all times. And that's precisely why I decided to stop being silly and get a mobile phone again."

"Nah, just kidding. It was totally social media. I gotta get those Facebook likes. I need that validation. And the podcasts. I really missed the podcasts."

Emphasis added.

Source: http://www.theage.com.au/technology/techno...