Mar 20

* Charleston man surprised when he found one while camping with daughter

Last month, Herman Jacob took his daughter and her friend camping in the Francis Marion National Forest. While poking around for some firewood, Jacob noticed a wire. He pulled on it and followed it to a video camera and antenna.

The camera didn’t have any markings identifying its owner, so Jacob took it home and called law enforcement agencies to find out if it was theirs, all the while wondering why someone would station a video camera in an isolated clearing in the woods.

He eventually received a call from Mark Heitzman of the U.S. Forest Service.

In a stiff voice, Heitzman ordered Jacob to turn it back over to his agency, explaining that it had been set up to monitor “illicit activities.” Jacob returned the camera but felt uneasy.

Why, he wondered, would the Forest Service have secret cameras in a relatively remote camping area? What do they do with photos of bystanders? Continue reading »

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Aug 21

Another must read article by former CIA field officer Philip Giraldi.

Philip Giraldi was the foreign policy advisor to Ron Paul during his last presidential run.

Philip Giraldi

If the seemingly unending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ever do come to a close and a new war with Iran, Somalia, or Sudan can somehow be avoided, the most serious long term damage from the conflicts will be to the fundamental freedoms that Americans have cherished for more than two hundred years. The erosion of America’s liberties has been driven by fear of terrorism but it is enabled by leaps in technology coupled with new legislation and a police state mentality that have made every citizen a target. Hate crimes and laws targeting the internet provide a framework that relies on advanced monitoring technology to criminalize behavior that would have been considered off limits for privacy reasons ten years ago.

The National Security Agency can monitor every phone call made in the United States and quite likely every e-mail. European security agencies have the same capabilities and have gone far down the road of legitimizing state intrusion into private activities, limiting free speech and free association. In Britain, most cities and highways are now monitored by CCTV cameras and the police have begun to use aerial drones to observe and record demonstrations of groups considered to be extreme including the right wing British National Party. New legislation in Germany will require all internet users to be licensed with a backtracking feature that will enable the government to determine where any internet transmission originated. The new regulations will require all users to have a tamper proof internet ID and will be enforced by special police. All telecommunications data, to include both internet and telephone, is already retained by the German service providers for six months, a law that has been in effect since 2008. The government can obtain the stored information by court order. It is particularly interesting to note what German politicians and officials said in support of the new legislation. One commented that it is necessary to stop the internet from becoming a “lawless chaos room.” Another described the internet as a “source of criminality, terrorism, and much similar filth.” Yet another said “What is illegal offline is also illegal online.”

Countries like China and Iran already control the servers for internet as well as the cell phone centers in their country and have not been shy about shutting down communications. In many places in Europe internet services are often screened by software that blocks certain websites and the use of words or phrases that are considered objectionable. This screening is also becoming common in hotels and other public places that offer internet services in the United States. But what is really dangerous is the combination of technologies that make it possible to control the internet with legislation that gives the authorities the ability to go after users who are deemed to be breaking the law, such as is happening in Germany.

Can there be any doubt that the monitoring of the internet to control “terrorism” and “filth” will in fairly short order also be used to repress the viewpoints of individuals and groups that are considered to be politically unacceptable? And what better weapon to use against dissidents than the criminal justice system, most particularly the hate crime legislation that is becoming both increasingly more common and more draconian in both the United States and in Europe? Hate crimes are the antithesis of the old principles that there is “equal justice under law” and that “justice is blind.” They essentially create specially protected classes of people within the criminal justice system, permitting selective enforcement of the law. Normally when there is an crime, the police investigate and make an arrest and the judiciary prosecutes. The perpetrator is punished in a manner proportionate to the seriousness of the offense. But if an incident is deemed a hate crime, i.e. that it may have been motivated by prejudice or bigotry, the penalties are harsher and the federal government has the option of trying the suspect if the state court for some reason fails to convict. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid justified the dismantling of two thousand years of jurisprudence recently, saying “”There is a difference between assaulting someone to steal his money or doing so because he is gay, or disabled, or Latino or Muslim.” Reid’s interesting interpretation notwithstanding, many would argue that hate crimes create an unconstitutional special tier of justice while the ability to try someone twice constitutes double jeopardy.

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Aug 03

State to spy on parents, make sure kids go to bed on time, attend school


The UK government is about to spend $700 million dollars installing surveillance cameras inside the private homes of citizens to ensure that children go to bed on time, attend school and eat proper meals.

No you aren’t reading a passage from George Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, this is Britain in 2009, a country which already has more surveillance cameras watching its population than the whole of Europe put together.

Now the government is embarking on a scheme called “Family Intervention Projects” which will literally create a nanny state on steroids, with social services goons and private security guards given the authority to make regular “home checks” to ensure parents are raising their children correctly.

Telescreens will also be installed so government spies can keep an eye on whether parents are mistreating kids and whether the kids are fulfilling their obligations under a pre-signed contract.

Around 2,000 families have been targeted by this program so far and the government wants to snare 20,000 more within the next two years. The tab will be picked up by the taxpayer, with the “interventions” being funded through local council authorities.

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Mar 07

Police are storing details of innocent people who attend political demonstrations for more than seven years, it has emerged.

The ­Metropolitan Police last night confirmed it uses a criminal database to hold private information about protesters, including those who have not been convicted or accused of any crime.

The records are said to contain photos obtained by video surveillance of rallies and meetings as well as details of the demonstrators’ political affiliations.

Activists who attended anti-war marches, climate change campaigns and protests against the proposed third Heathrow runway are among those whose personal data is stored on the Crimint database, which also contains intelligence on suspected criminals.

Last night civil liberty campaigners said that the police could be breaking the law by keeping information on innocent people. The Met Police’s video surveillance techniques are well known but it was previously unclear whether and for how long they kept the data.

Corinna Ferguson, Liberty’s legal officer, said: “A searchable database containing photographs of people who are not even suspected of criminal activity may well violate privacy rights under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. It is particularly worrying if peaceful protesters are being singled out for surveillance.”

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Mar 05

CCTV cameras and microphones are being installed in schools to monitor children’s behaviour and teachers’ performance in what union leaders described as ‘Big Brother’ tactics.

CCTV installed to monitor classrooms
Although taking part in the monitoring sessions is voluntary, headteachers say they expect the majority of their staff to participate Photo: GETTY

Four schools in Salford, Greater Manchester, have installed cameras and microphones in special training classrooms.

The 360-degree cameras are so powerful that observers can see what children are writing.

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Mar 02

Visitors from around the world come to marvel at Westminster CCTV system

How the control centre of one of the country’s most extensive CCTV systems works

Millions of people walk beneath the unblinking gaze of central London’s surveillance cameras. Most are oblivious that deep under the pavements along which they are walking, beneath restaurant kitchens and sewage drains, their digital image is gliding across a wall of plasma screens.

Westminster council’s CCTV control room, where a click and swivel of a joystick delivers panoramic views of any central London street, is seen by civil liberty campaigners as a symbol of the UK’s surveillance society.

Related articles:
Liberty groups unite to defend UK rights (Observer)
Government plans to keep DNA samples of innocent (Guardian)
Information Commissioner Richard Thomas warns of surveillance culture (Times)
Spy chief: We risk a police state (Telegraph):

Using the latest remote technology, the cameras rotate 360 degrees, 365 days a year, providing a hi-tech version of what the 18th century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham conceived as the “Panopticon” – a space where people can be constantly monitored but never know when they are being watched.

The Home Office, which funded the creation of the £1.25m facility seven years ago, believes it to be a “best-practice example” on which the future of the UK’s public surveillance system should be modelled.

So famed has central London’s surveillance network become that figures released yesterday revealed that more than 6,000 officials from 30 countries have come to learn lessons from the centre.

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Dec 29

    Tim Loughton
    Shadow Children’s Minister Tim Loughton is chairman of Classwatch

    Schools have installed CCTV cameras and microphones in classrooms to watch and listen to pupils as young as four.

    The Big Brother-style surveillance is being marketed as a way to identify pupils disrupting lessons when teachers’ backs are turned.

    Classwatch, the firm behind the system, says its devices can be set up to record everything that goes on in a classroom 24 hours a day and used to compile ‘evidence’ of wrongdoing.

    The equipment is sold with Crown Prosecution Service-approved evidence bags to store material to be used in court cases.

    The microphones and cameras can be used during lessons and when a classroom is unattended, such as during lunch breaks.

    But data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner has warned the surveillance may be illegal and demanded to know why primary and secondary schools are using this kind of sophisticated equipment to watch children.

    Continue reading »

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    Nov 23

    As many as 4 million people are expected to attend Obama’s inauguration at the Mall.

    WASHINGTON (AP) – Law enforcement officials bracing for the largest crowds in inaugural history are preparing far-reaching security – thousands of video cameras, sharpshooters, air patrols – to safeguard President-elect Barack Obama’s swearing-in.

    People attending the ceremony and parade on Jan. 20 can expect to be searched by machines, security personnel or both. Precautions will range from the routine – magnetometers like those used at airports – to countersnipers trained to hit a target the size of a teacup saucer from 1,000 yards away. Plus undercover officers, bomb sniffing dogs and air patrols.

    The Secret Service – the agency coordinating the security – also has assigned trained officials to identify and prevent cyber security risks. And, as it does at every inauguration, the service has mapped out escape routes for the 44th president.

    In addition Washington’s 5,265 surveillance cameras, spread around the city, are expected to be fed into a multi-agency command center.

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    Nov 09

    CHINA: Clampdown on activists who expose surveillance through new technology

    “WE HAVEN’T seen you before. Which media are you from?” a middle-aged woman asked a tall man operating a video camera outside a Beijing court.

    “I’m from an independent newspaper,” the videographer replied with a slight smile on his face. The woman and her friend, who were queueing to take documents into the court, chuckled after hearing a statement that they all knew was false. “He’s police,” one of the women said a few minutes later.

    The exchange outside the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People’s Court was a rare moment of levity in the normally serious, sometimes violent business of monitoring and controlling rights activists, dissidents, independent religious leaders, separatists and others deemed a threat to China’s state security.

    Related article: China: Police State 2.0 is Ready for Export

    The plain-clothes police officer was taking footage of petitioners, journalists, lawyers and supporters of dissident Hu Jia, who was sentenced that day in April to three and a half years in prison for subversion. “Surveillance is both overt and insidious,” said Phelim Kine, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch. Overt surveillance in China is used “both to intimidate, and as a lesson to the neighbours”, Kine said.

    Hu won the EU’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought last month. He and fellow activist Gao Zhisheng were also nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Hu, 35, is the most prominent of a growing number of activists who have tried to reflect the intense glare of state surveillance back at those trying to monitor and control them.

    The activists’ photographs, video, transcripts and diaries, usually distributed via the internet, have given outsiders rare glimpses into surveillance and abuses of power by China’s vast public security network. China tolerates some local activism but it confronts those who begin to operate at a national or international level. The relatively few national-level activists who have mastered the use of the internet and digital technology like Hu and his wife, Zeng Jinyan, are “desperately outnumbered” by the people watching them, Kine said.

    “It tells you that those people like Hu Jia, who do master the technology and get the message out, are prey to retribution,” Kine. “What you see in China is that anyone who reaches a certain level of prominence, those people face serious consequences,” he said.

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    Oct 21

    Centuries of British civil liberties risk being broken by the relentless pressure from the ‘security state’, the country’s top prosecutor has warned.

    Outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald warned that the expansion of technology by the state into everyday life could create a world future generations “can’t bear”.

    In his wide-ranging speech, Sir Ken appeared to condemn a series of key Government policies, attacking terrorism proposals – including 42 day detention – identity card plans and the “paraphernalia of paranoia”.

    Instead, he said, the Government should insist that “our rights are priceless” and that: “The best way to face down those threats is to strengthen our institutions rather than to degrade them.”

    The intervention will be seen as a significant setback to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith who last week saw her plans to lock up terror suspects for 42 days before being charged thrown out by the House of Lords.

    It is also a blow to Miss Smith’s plans for a super-database to record the details of millions of people’s online presence, including emails, SMS messages and Facebook profiles as well as the controversial identity card programme.

    Sir Ken chose to issue his tough warning about the perils of the “Big Brother” state in his final speech as DPP, days before he leaves his post at the end of this month.

    He warned that MPs should “take very great care to imagine the world we are creating before we build it. We might end up living with something we can’t bear”.

    Sir Ken, who has held the post for the past five years, said: “We need to take very great care not to fall into a way of life in which freedom’s back is broken by the relentless pressure of a security State.

    “Technology gives the State enormous powers of access to knowledge and information about each of us, and the ability to collect and store it at will.”

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    Oct 20

    Paris will quadruple the number of closed-circuit police cameras in its streets by the end of next year, after President Nicolas Sarkozy’s promise to emulate London in an attempt to track crime and terrorism threats.

    While the Paris metro and rail networks already operate around 9,500 CCTV devices, police have only 330 at their disposal to survey outside public areas. The new plan, dubbed “A Thousand Cameras for Paris”, will raise that number to more than 1,200 – with most installed in high-risk areas and outside railway and underground stations.

    The figure is still small compared with London, where each citizen is caught on average several hundred times a day. Britain has about four million closed-circuit security cameras compared with France’s 340,000.

    The CCTV drive follows Mr Sarkozy’s pledge last autumn to follow London’s surveillance lead. “I am very impressed by the efficiency of the British police thanks to this network of cameras,” the French president said. “In my mind, there is no contradiction between respecting individual freedoms and the installation of cameras to protect everyone’s security.”

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    Oct 20

    Live CCTV launched on buses

    A six-month trial of live CCTV on a London bus route has begun.

    London Mayor Boris Johnson announced that the technology had been installed on 21 double-decker buses on a north London route.

    The real-time images will be beamed to a control room manned by Transport for London (TfL) and police.

    The trial will be monitored to determine whether live images can help transport staff deal with disorder more effectively.

    Mr Johnson said: “I am determined to banish the sad minority of hoodlums and trouble makers that have blighted our buses.

    “Having the facility to access live pictures from buses travelling around the capital will mean our bus controllers can play a far more effective role in sending police officers to sort out troublemakers.

    “If this trial is successful then we will consider rolling out the system on other routes as part of our campaign to stamp out the casual disorder that led to a culture of fear on public transport.”

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    Sep 25

    Baggage searches are SOOOOOO early-21st century. Homeland Security is now testing the next generation of security screening – a body scanner that can read your mind.

    Most preventive screening looks for explosives or metals that pose a threat. But a new system called MALINTENT turns the old school approach on its head. This Orwellian-sounding machine detects the person – not the device – set to wreak havoc and terror.

    MALINTENT, the brainchild of the cutting-edge Human Factors division in Homeland Security’s directorate for Science and Technology, searches your body for non-verbal cues that predict whether you mean harm to your fellow passengers.

    It has a series of sensors and imagers that read your body temperature, heart rate and respiration for unconscious tells invisible to the naked eye – signals terrorists and criminals may display in advance of an attack.

    But this is no polygraph test. Subjects do not get hooked up or strapped down for a careful reading; those sensors do all the work without any actual physical contact. It’s like an X-ray for bad intentions.

    Continue reading »

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    Sep 15

    CCTV cameras, converted to read ANPR data, capturing people’s movement. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Reuters

    The police are to expand a car surveillance operation that will allow them to record and store details of millions of daily journeys for up to five years, the Guardian has learned.

    Paul Lewis on police plans to store car surveillance records Link to this audio

    A national network of roadside cameras will be able to “read” 50m licence plates a day, enabling officers to reconstruct the journeys of motorists.

    Police have been encouraged to “fully and strategically exploit” the database, which is already recording the whereabouts of 10 million drivers a day, during investigations ranging from counter-terrorism to low-level crime.

    But it has raised concerns from civil rights campaigners, who question whether the details should be kept for so long, and want clearer guidance on who might have access to the material.

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    Aug 28

    In the Queen’s speech this autumn Gordon Brown’s government will announce a scheme to institute a database of every telephone call, email, and act of online usage by every resident of the UK. It will propose that this information will be gathered, stored, and “made accessible” to the security and law enforcement agencies, local councils, and “other public bodies”.

    This fact should be in equal parts incredible and nauseating. It is certainly enraging and despicable. Not even George Orwell in his most febrile moments could have envisaged a world in which every citizen could be so thoroughly monitored every moment of the day, spied upon, eavesdropped, watched, tracked, followed by CCTV cameras, recorded and scrutinised. Our words and web searches, our messages and intimacies, are to be stored and made available to the police, the spooks, the local council – the local council! – and “other public bodies”.

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    Aug 21

    CCTV monitors classrooms at one in 14 schools, according to a survey.

    The poll of teachers also found that almost a quarter feared there might be more cameras hidden around the campus that they did not know about.

    Most said their schools were fitted with surveillance cameras. Almost 80 per cent said there were cameras at the entrance and more than 7 per cent said there were some in classrooms.

    Nearly 10 per cent of teachers polled by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said there were cameras in the lavatories.

    Big brother is watching you: One in 14 schools is monitored by CCTV

    Continue reading »

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    Aug 07

    Don’t miss the “Key Points” at the end of the article.

    · Closer links needed to beat terrorism and crime

    · Blueprint wants new force to patrol world flashpoints

    A German and an Italian officer with the joint EU force Frontex check a lorry for illegal immigrants on the Polish border. The agency, which is seen as one model of future integration, patrols the EU’s frontiers. Photograph: Sven Kaestner/AP

    Europe should consider sharing vast amounts of intelligence and information on its citizens with the US to establish a “Euro-Atlantic area of cooperation” to combat terrorism, according to a high-level confidential report on future security.

    The 27 members of the EU should also pool intelligence on terrorism, develop joint video-surveillance and unmanned drone aircraft, start networks of anti-terrorism centres, and boost the role and powers of an intelligence-coordinating body in Brussels, said senior officials. Continue reading »

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    Jun 05

    Wolfgang Schauble, Minister of the Interior for Germany, at the First International Security Forum of Ministers of Interior and Public Security in Jerusalem on May 29. (Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse)

    BERLIN: Despite strong criticism from the opposition and even its own coalition partners, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government agreed Wednesday to give Germany’s police forces greater powers to monitor homes, telephones and private computers, maintaining that an enhanced reach would protect citizens from terrorist attacks.

    But opposition parties and some Social Democrats who share power with Merkel’s conservative bloc criticized the measures in the draft legislation, saying they would further erode privacy rights that they contend have already been undermined, after revelations of recent snooping operations conducted by Deutsche Telekom, one of the country’s biggest companies.

    Deutsche Telekom had for some time been monitoring calls of its employers, despite federal regulations on strict data protection.

    The proposed legislation would for the first time give federal police officers the right to take preventive measures in cases of suspected terrorism.

    The bill, for example, calls for video surveillance of private apartments, online computer searches and phone monitoring.

    But the nature of the surveillance, which would require the approval of the Bundestag, the lower house of Parliament, has worried many Germans, with some commentators recalling the Nazi past and its vast machinery of spying. They also point to the more recent role of the Stasi, the hated secret police in the once Communist-ruled East Germany, which established a pervasive system of keeping tabs on almost everyone in the country.

    The draft law was fashioned after months of intense debate led by Wolfgang Schäuble, the conservative interior minister, who has long wanted the security forces to be given more leeway for surveillance. Continue reading »

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    Jun 02

    Tacoma runaway arrested again boarding flight

    Runaway gets through airport security again

    SEATTLE – A Tacoma, Wash.10-year-old who made national headlines last year by stealing a car, getting caught, then hopping a flight from Seattle to Phoenix and then San Antonio without a ticket was arrested again Tuesday after trying to hop another flight, apparently to trying again to get to Texas.

    The Transportation Security Administration confirms to KING 5 News that Semaj Booker was captured at Concourse B at Sea-Tac Airport. A Southwest Airlines flight attendant called police around 6:30 a.m. to say Booker tried to follow a man onto a Sacramento, Calif.-bound flight.

    “An employee reported a minor was trying to board an aircraft without a ticket,” said Sea-Tac Airport spokesman Perry Cooper, who says Booker was trying to get to Dallas.

    However, the TSA says there was no breach of security. Surveillance video shows Booker passed through the central checkpoint security area without any problems, but it’s still not clear how he managed to get through without a boarding pass.

    After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, it became a requirement to have a ticket when passing through security.

    Booker is back in his mother’s custody, but neither he nor his family would comment at their Tacoma home.

    A Tacoma Police spokesperson says Booker’s mother initially reported him missing at 3 a.m. It’s not clear how he got to the airport.

    Booker could face trespassing charges. Continue reading »

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    May 31

    CCTV cameras are bringing more and more public places under surveillance – and passenger aircraft could be next.

    A prototype European system uses multiple cameras and “Big Brother” software to try and automatically detect terrorists or other dangers caused by passengers.

    The European Union’s Security of Aircraft in the Future European Environment (SAFEE) project uses a camera in every passenger’s seat, with six wide-angle cameras to survey the aisles. Software then analyses the footage to detect developing terrorist activity or “air-rage” incidents, by tracking passengers’ facial expressions.

    The system performed well in tests this January that simulated terrorist and unruly passenger behaviour scenarios in a fake Airbus A380 fuselage, say the researchers that built it.

    Systems to analyse CCTV footage – for example, to detect violence (with video) or alert CCTV operators to unusual events – have been designed before. But the SAFEE software must cope with the particularly challenging environment of a full aircraft cabin.

    Threat indicators

    As crew and passengers move around they often obscure one another, causing a risk the computer will lose track of some of the hundreds of people it must monitor. To get around this, the software constantly matches views of people from different cameras to track their movements.

    “It looks for running in the cabin, standing near the cockpit for long periods of time, and other predetermined indicators that suggest a developing threat,” says James Ferryman of the University of Reading, UK, one of the system’s developers.

    Other behaviours could include a person nervously touching their face, or sweating excessively. One such behaviour won’t trigger the system to alert the crew, only certain combinations of them.

    Ferryman is not ready to reveal specifically which behaviours were most likely to trigger the system. Much of the computer’s ability to detect threats relies on sensitive information gleaned from security analysts in the intelligence community, he tells New Scientist.

    Losing track

    But Mohan Trivedi of the University of California, San Diego, US, is sceptical. He has built systems that he says can track and recognise individual people as they appear and disappear on different floors of his laboratory building.

    It correctly identifies people about 70% of the time, and then only under “optimal conditions” that do not exist inside an airplane cabin, he says.

    “[Ferryman’s] research shows that a system detects threats in a very limited way. But it’s a very different thing using it day in and day out.” Trivedi says. “Lighting and reflections change in the cabin every time someone turns on a light or closes a window shade. They haven’t shown that they have overcome these challenges.”

    Ferryman admits that his system will require thousands of tests on everyday passengers before it can be declared reliable at detecting threats.

    The team’s work is being presented this week at the International Conference on Computer Vision Systems in Greece. Continue reading »

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    May 26

    Former telecoms monopoly Deutsche Telekom over the weekend became the latest German firm to be rocked by revelations of spying on its employees.

    Deutsche Telekom, Europe’s biggest phone company, confirmed on Saturday allegations in Spiegel magazine that it hired an outside firm to track hundreds of thousands of phone calls by senior executives and journalists in 2005-6.

    It denied that the Berlin consultancy firm listened to the conversations, instead merely logging details on who phoned whom as well as the time and duration of the calls.

    Spiegel said that “Operation Clipper” and “Operation Rheingold” were set up in order to identify the source of leaks of sensitive financial information to financial journalists.

    Chief executive Rene Obermann, who was not in charge when the spying took place, said that state prosecutors and a law firm in Cologne were investigating the affair.

    Less than 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Stasi secret police in communist East Germany, Germans are particularly sensitive about infringements into their privacy.

    Other firms have also been accused of spying on their own workers.

    The biggest such scandal involved Lidl, one of German’s biggest budget supermarket chains, which reportedly violated labour laws by by installing hidden cameras in its stores to systematically keep tabs on staff.

    Lidl even recorded employees when they used the toilet, their conversations while on break, and kept track on who their friends outside work were, reports said in March.

    Anti-terrorism surveillance measures introduced by the government such as installing secret cameras in terror suspects’ homes and including biometric data on passports have also riled civil liberties groups.

    May 25 08:04 PM US/Eastern

    Source: AFP

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    May 20

    Excerpts from the long but excellent article:

    “Over the past two years, some 200,000 surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the city. Many are in public spaces, disguised as lampposts.”

    “The security cameras are just one part of a much broader high-tech surveillance and censorship program known in China as “Golden Shield.” The end goal is to use the latest people-tracking technology — thoughtfully supplied by American giants like IBM, Honeywell and General Electric — to create an airtight consumer cocoon:”

    “Like everything else assembled in China with American parts, Police State 2.0 is ready for export to a neighborhood near you.”

    “This is how this Golden Shield will work: Chinese citizens will be watched around the clock through networked CCTV cameras and remote monitoring of computers. They will be listened to on their phone calls, monitored by digital voice-recognition technologies. Their Internet access will be aggressively limited through the country’s notorious system of online controls known as the “Great Firewall.” Their movements will be tracked through national ID cards with scannable computer chips and photos that are instantly uploaded to police databases and linked to their holder’s personal data. This is the most important element of all: linking all these tools together in a massive, searchable database of names, photos, residency information, work history and biometric data. When Golden Shield is finished, there will be a photo in those databases for every person in China: 1.3 billion faces.”

    “Here is a small sample of what the company (L-1) does: produces passports and passport cards for American citizens; takes finger scans of visitors to the U.S. under the Department of Homeland Security’s massive U.S.-Visit program; equips U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan with “mobile iris and multimodal devices” so they can collect biometric data in the field; maintains the State Department’s “largest facial-recognition database system”; and produces driver’s licenses in Illinois, Montana and North Carolina. In addition, L-1 has an even more secretive intelligence unit called SpecTal. Asked by a Wall Street analyst to discuss, in “extremely general” terms, what the division was doing with contracts worth roughly $100 million, the company’s CEO would only say, “Stay tuned.””

    “It is L-1’s deep integration with multiple U.S. government agencies that makes its dealings in China so interesting: It isn’t just L-1 that is potentially helping the Chinese police to nab political dissidents, it’s U.S. taxpayers. The technology that Yao purchased for just a few thousand dollars is the result of Defense Department research grants and contracts going as far back as 1994, when a young academic named Joseph Atick (the research director Fordyce consulted on L-1’s China dealings) taught a computer at Rockefeller University to recognize his face.”

    Thirty years ago, the city of Shenzhen didn’t exist. Back in those days, it was a string of small fishing villages and collectively run rice paddies, a place of rutted dirt roads and traditional temples. That was before the Communist Party chose it – thanks to its location close to Hong Kong’s port – to be China’s first “special economic zone,” one of only four areas where capitalism would be permitted on a trial basis.

    The theory behind the experiment was that the “real” China would keep its socialist soul intact while profiting from the private-sector jobs and industrial development created in Shenzhen. The result was a city of pure commerce, undiluted by history or rooted culture – the crack cocaine of capitalism. It was a force so addictive to investors that the Shenzhen experiment quickly expanded, swallowing not just the surrounding Pearl River Delta, which now houses roughly 100,000 factories, but much of the rest of the country as well. Continue reading »

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    May 06
    Massive investment in CCTV cameras to prevent crime in the UK has failed to have a significant impact, despite billions of pounds spent on the new technology, a senior police officer piloting a new database has warned. Only 3% of street robberies in London were solved using CCTV images, despite the fact that Britain has more security cameras than any other country in Europe.

    The warning comes from the head of the Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office (Viido) at New Scotland Yard as the force launches a series of initiatives to try to boost conviction rates using CCTV evidence. They include:

    · A new database of images which is expected to use technology developed by the sports advertising industry to track and identify offenders.

    · Putting images of suspects in muggings, rape and robbery cases out on the internet from next month.

    · Building a national CCTV database, incorporating pictures of convicted offenders as well as unidentified suspects. The plans for this have been drawn up, but are on hold while the technology required to carry out automated searches is refined.

    Use of CCTV images for court evidence has so far been very poor, according to Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville, the officer in charge of the Metropolitan police unit. “CCTV was originally seen as a preventative measure,” Neville told the Security Document World Conference in London. “Billions of pounds has been spent on kit, but no thought has gone into how the police are going to use the images and how they will be used in court. It’s been an utter fiasco: only 3% of crimes were solved by CCTV. There’s no fear of CCTV. Why don’t people fear it? [They think] the cameras are not working.” Continue reading »

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    Apr 27

    The Wrong Way To Carry Out Video Surveillance in D.C.

    For more than five years, security experts and privacy advocates have praised the public video surveillance network operated by the D.C. police department as the model of a well-balanced system. The department has adopted a set of common-sense regulations for its 91 cameras that give police access to footage when they need it while protecting the privacy rights of the millions who live or work in Washington.

    We were greatly disappointed, then, to hear Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Darrell Darnell, director of the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, announce plans this month [front page, April 10] to centralize monitoring of more than 5,000 cameras, including those in and around our schools, public housing and residential neighborhoods. Even worse, it appears that Darnell’s office has no plans to apply the D.C. police department’s best-in-the-nation safeguards.

    In February, the D.C. police released a report evaluating the successes and failures of the video surveillance system. The report concluded that since the network was expanded into residential areas, some types of crime have declined in those neighborhoods. The department was applauded for undertaking an examination of its own system: A public account of how a video surveillance system affects the lives of a city’s residents promotes accountability. Sadly, the reporting requirement is one that may be scrapped as the D.C. police department loses control of the network.

    Unchecked video surveillance invades individual privacy rights. People in public spaces routinely engage in activities that they expect and desire to keep private. For example, consider attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting or seeking treatment at a fertility clinic — legal and private activities — while faceless individuals track your movements. This is an area in which the law has not kept pace with rapidly changing technology. We need well-reasoned guidelines to protect the privacy rights of individuals in the face of emerging surveillance tools. Continue reading »

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    Apr 21

    It’s like something dreamed up by East Germany’s Stasi.

    In Florida, Sheriff Sgt. Ken Sonier “watches those who don’t want to be seen,” according to News-Press. Of course, in a healthy, non-brainwashed society most us would not take kindly to being watched, no matter the reason, but in the post-9/11 world far too many of us have bought into the idea we are somehow obliged to surrender our privacy in order to combat the terrorists, never mind we don’t have a good idea who the terrorists are. Fox News now tells us they have blond hair and blue eyes.

    Sonier and the Lee County cops are busy installing “custom-made cameras” in fire hydrants, on exit signs in apartment buildings, and metal underneath cars. “Citizens don’t know what we do,” bragged Lee County Sheriff Lt. Gary Desrosiers of the Technical Investigations Unit. “And that’s a good thing.” It was presumably a good thing in East Germany, too, or so the fascist control freaks who once ran that country no doubt believed.

    “The annual budget for the TIU is about $10 million, but that includes salaries and maintenance on all the department’s cell phones, laptops and equipment. Most of the equipment purchased is with federal grants.” More specifically, Department of Homeland Security grants.

    “In Cape Coral, police accepted a $50,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to purchase a Video Detective. It is capable of recording audio, video and stills from blocks away and can clean up images and sound recordings turned in as evidence. Now grainy footage of a bank robbery suspect becomes as clear as a yearbook photo.” Continue reading »

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    Apr 19

    Not even the home will be safe from surveillance

    Changes proposed to the law governing Germany’s federal criminal police operations would allow investigators to use wire taps and surveillance cameras in homes of innocent citizens to keep tabs on terror suspects.

    Under the government proposals, federal police would be permitted to install “hidden technical equipment, that is to say bugs or cameras inside or outside apartments … if there is a pressing danger for state security,” interior ministry spokesman Stefan Paris said at a news conference on Friday, April 18.

    “I would urgently like to stress that there are very, very strict conditions … and it is not the case that everywhere in this country secret cameras or listening devices will be installed in living spaces,” he said. “It is about terrorist threats that would be averted through preventative measures by the federal police.”

    Be careful what you — and your friends — say at home

    He added that such methods were already allowed in several German states. Continue reading »

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    Apr 14

    Imagine a world of streets lined with video cameras that alert authorities to any suspicious activity. A world where police officers can read the minds of potential criminals and arrest them before they commit any crimes. A world in which a suspect who lies under questioning gets nabbed immediately because his brain has given him away.

    Though that may sound a lot like the plot of the 2002 movie “Minority Report,” starring Tom Cruise and based on a Philip K. Dick novel, I’m not talking about science fiction here; it turns out we’re not so far away from that world. But does it sound like a very safe place, or a very scary one?

    It’s a question I think we should be asking as the federal government invests millions of dollars in emerging technology aimed at detecting and decoding brain activity. And though government funding focuses on military uses for these new gizmos, they can and do end up in the hands of civilian law enforcement and in commercial applications. As spending continues and neurotechnology advances, that imagined world is no longer the stuff of science fiction or futuristic movies, and we postpone at our peril confronting the ethical and legal dilemmas it poses for a society that values not just personal safety but civil liberty as well.

    Consider Cernium Corp.’s “Perceptrak” video surveillance and monitoring system, recently installed by Johns Hopkins University, among others. This technology grew out of a project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense — to develop intelligent video analytics systems. Unlike simple video cameras monitored by security guards, Perceptrak integrates video cameras with an intelligent computer video. It uses algorithms to analyze streaming video and detect suspicious activities, such as people loitering in a secure area, a group converging or someone leaving a package unattended. Since installing Perceptrak, Johns Hopkins has reported a 25 percent reduction in crime.

    But that’s only the beginning. Police may soon be able to monitor suspicious brain activity from a distance as well. New neurotechnology soon may be able to detect a person who is particularly nervous, in possession of guilty knowledge or, in the more distant future, to detect a person thinking, “Only one hour until the bomb explodes.” Today, the science of detecting and decoding brain activity is in its infancy. But various government agencies are funding the development of technology to detect brain activity remotely and are hoping to eventually decode what someone is thinking. Scientists, however, wildly disagree about the accuracy of brain imaging technology, what brain activity may mean and especially whether brain activity can be detected from afar.

    Yet as the experts argue about the scientific limitations of remote brain detection, this chilling science fiction may already be a reality. In 2002, the Electronic Privacy Information Center reported that NASA was developing brain monitoring devices for airports and was seeking to use noninvasive sensors in passenger gates to collect the electronic signals emitted by passengers’ brains. Scientists scoffed at the reports, arguing that to do what NASA was proposing required that an electroencephalogram (EEG) be physically attached to the scalp. Continue reading »

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