Favorite Quotes

"Once you walk into a courtroom, you've already lost. The best way to win is to avoid it at all costs, because the justice system is anything but" Sydney Carton, Attorney. "There is no one in the criminal justice system who believes that system works well. Or if they are, they are for courts that are an embarrassment to the ideals of justice. The law of real people doesn't work" Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law Professor.



Friday, April 18, 2014

Postal Service is spying on your mail & selling data to private companies


The United States Postal Service is looking to get in on the big-data-for-profit game played by tech giants like Facebook and Google, and begin mining and selling private data gathered from personal mail sent from and received by Americans everywhere.

Nagisa Manabe the chief marketing and sales officer with the USPS, offered a preview of an array of initiatives that the agency is working on to improve and expand its services through the use of technology, tapping into unused infrastructure and by forging new partnerships. (The common denominator is MONEY, screw your privacy!)

The U.S. Postal Service has been storing images of every single piece of mail that is sent within the United States, recording who is sending letters and packages to who, and entering that information into a gigantic database that can be accessed by law enforcement agents, who can read through lists of who any American is corresponding with – all without a search warrant as required by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The program was put in place by George W. Bush, and Barack Obama has continued the program, despite Obama’s promise to end Bush’s attacks against Americans’ constitutional rights. They call it Mail Isolation Control and Tracking.

Appropriately, Manabe was speaking in future tense in a presentation here at PostalVision 2020, a conference focused on imagining how the Postal Service can reinvent itself in the face of dramatic shifts in consumer behavior.

At the moment, Manabe said that the agency is actively looking for ways to build new business lines around what not long ago might have been considered science fiction.

"We are not that far from the point where the refrigerator will simply be able to reorder for you," she said. "You will see us looking to collaborate with grocery chains across the country. We'd like to experiment with grocery delivery, so that's one of the areas where we're looking in earnest."

Similarly, the Postal Service sees enormous opportunities in the increasingly connected world to bolster its advertising offerings. Manabe is looking to tap what in tech circles has become known as big data - the accumulation of massive stores of individual data points that, when mined and analyzed, can yield valuable new insights.

Ask yourself when is enough, enough? Which alphabet soup agency isn't spying on Americans?

In the case of the Postal Service, it's looking to tap into datasets mapping consumer behavior that retailers could use to hone their marketing strategies. She described the scenario of a woman in the market for a new car, but on the fence about whether to go with the responsible sedan or the sporty coupe. She visits two dealerships and takes both cars for a test drive, but still can't make up her mind.
And there is the marketing opportunity.

"We're at the point where, all too soon ... we're going to know exactly that she was shopping at two different car dealers looking at cars, and both of those car dealers should be mailing her communication about that vehicle, right? And we're there now, folks. I mean, you all know this.

There are dozens of folks out there who are supplying that kind of information. If we're not testing and exploring some of that together, we should," Manabe said.

"As we know more and more about how consumers are traveling around and making their decisions, it behooves us to get involved and actually send them information to actually close the deal," she added. "For me, it's all about speed and accuracy of the mail."

Manabe described the agency's vision for "forward distribution centers," a plan to offer retailers access to unused areas within USPS distribution facilities, making it easier to deliver merchandise in short windows, not unlike Amazon's strategy of opening up new outbound hubs all around the country.

Taken one at a time, the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, PRISM, FBI spy drones, and the NSA domestic telephone and Internet surveillance programs each constitute a serious threat to the democratic institutions of the United States of America. Taken together, they show a purposeful plan to replace a free and open society with a totalitarian surveillance state.
http://www.ecommercebytes.com/cab/cab/abn/y14/m04/i15/s02
http://irregulartimes.com/2013/07/04/post-office-spies-on-all-american-mail-nsa-style/
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/us/monitoring-of-snail-mail.html?_r=0

Your smart meter is spying on you in your home:

Utility companies across the U.S. are installing smart meters in customers’ homes, touting the technology’s energy-saving ways, but opponents argue that the meters are opening a Pandora’s box of privacy concerns.

The smart energy meters read electric or gas usage, and enable a power company to collect detailed usage data on a particular home or building. But the readings also gather personal information that some critics argue is too intrusive.
 
The information gathered from smart meters includes unencrypted data that can, among other details, reveal when a homeowner is away from their residence for long periods of time. The electric wattage readings can even decipher what type of activities a customer is engaged in, such as watching TV, using a computer or even how long someone spends cooking.

“It’s in the nature of technology to be neutral in the benefits and the risks; it’s how the info is used,” Allen Gilbert, executive director of the Vermont branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, tells FoxNews.com. “Look at smartphones. No one can argue the benefits of having one. But on the other hand, it’s the best tracking device.”

The Vermont ACLU has, in the past few years, participated in the privacy debate over smart energy meters. The group says that one major issue with data collected from the meters is the same with cellphone data. The agency has filed lawsuits against law enforcement agencies in the state over cellphone data being harvested through secret inquests and used to track an individual’s whereabouts.

The group has suggested a proposal to the state government so the same won’t happen with smart-meter data.

“We have put up quite a strong argument for user utility data,” Gilbert said. “This is why we presented a proposition in which we said that police departments should not get customer information from a utility.

“Instead, any subpoena should be issued directly to the customer.”

The U.S. Department of Energy has even admitted that privacy and data access is a concern as far back as 2010 in a report on the smart meter technology.

“Advances in Smart Grid technology could significantly increase the amount of potentially available information about personal energy consumption,” reads a statement from the report, titled “Data Access and Privacy Issues Related to Smart Grid Technologies.”

The report states, “Such information could reveal personal details about the lives of consumers, such as their daily schedules (including times when they are at or away from home or asleep), whether their homes are equipped with alarm systems, whether they own expensive electronic equipment such as plasma TVs, and whether they use certain types of medical equipment.”

The report recommended that states should consider a condition in which customers can authorize third parties access and that there should be a prohibition on disclosure of customer data to said third parties.
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/04/17/is-your-home-energy-meter-spying-on/

Los Angeles law enforcement is asking citizens to openly spy on one another:

The LAPD wants you, Joe Citizen, to help it out with its surveillance. It has enlisted the help of a crowdsourcing tool called LEEDIR to collect photos and recordings from everyday people who may have additional footage of natural disasters or civil unrest that could help out both emergency responders and cops looking to put a few more demonstrators in jail.
In today's announcement, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, and the Boston Marathon bombings were mentioned as scenarios in which LEEDIR could help law enforcement respond to disasters or large-scale public security threats. One might also imagine large citizen protests like Occupy Wall Street being the focus of such crowdsourced surveillance.
It's unarguable that the addition of crowdsourced photos and video helped authorities track down the Boston Bombing suspects, which shows that there is some value to this service. But, as is pointed out by Xeni Jardin, it could also be used to build a database of people enjoying First Amendment-protected activities. Currently, the site is soliciting input for any info related to last week's party-turned-riot in Isla Vista, CA, where over 100 arrests were made and 44 people injured, including five police officers. The notice clearly states the police are "seeking to identify several subjects wanted for violent felonies that occurred during the evening."

There are also other questions left unanswered about the handling of the data submitted.
According to today's announcement, agencies might typically retain uploaded content for a month or two, then delete it. But there's no requirement to delete it…
And the way the system is accessed and used seems to lend itself to abuse.
It's up to law enforcement to provide analysts or investigators to sort through all of the content uploaded to LEEDIR and find potential evidence…

Once the content is uploaded, it belongs to law enforcement, [Co-Global CEO Nick] Namikas said. It's up to each agency to decide how long they want to store the content in the cloud – a service being provided by Amazon.
An unfiltered influx of photos and videos curated by law enforcement officers. What could possibly go wrong? The tool may be aimed at natural disasters (which provides free access to police and emergency responders in the affected area), but paid subscriptions are available which would keep LEEDIR live at all times for any law enforcement agency willing to foot the bill.

As if the potential negatives of this sort of crowdsourcing weren't apparent enough, there's also the very large problem of who's behind this new system.

Under the leadership of disgraced former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, the department is said to have conceptualized the web service and smartphone app, which was built by Citizen Global with Amazon

Baca's administration was plagued by corruption and scandal, and he resigned amid ongoing investigation into possible criminal activity. Certainly no such imperfect leader would misuse LEEDIR.


http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140414/11391726904/los-angeles-law-enforcement-looking-to-crowdsource-surveillance.shtml

Sacramento Sheriff’s Department is using social media to spy on citizens:

CA - The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department announced that it is partnering with Nextdoor, a private social network for neighborhoods, to help create stronger and safer communities.

The common theme for our loss of privacy, creating safer neighborhoods, because your neighbor could be a terrorist! Why is the public still buying this B/S?

Through Nextdoor, the Sheriff’s Department will be able to communicate online with neighborhoods in the county. Residents and law enforcement officers will be able to work together to improve safety and strengthen neighborhood watch efforts, according to a department news release. Officials said more than 221 Sacramento County neighborhoods already have started Nextdoor websites.

Through the network, residents can join private neighborhood websites to share information, including public safety issues, local services and community events and activities. The Sheriff’s Department also will be able to post information such as safety tips and crime alerts to Nextdoor websites within the county.

Nextdoor is free for residents and the Sheriff’s Department. Each Sacramento County neighborhood has its own private Nextdoor neighborhood website, accessible only to residents who verify that they live in the neighborhood. Neighborhoods can establish and manage their own Nextdoor websites, and the Sheriff’s Department will not be able to access residents’ websites, contact information or content. Information shared on Nextdoor is protected by a password and cannot be accessed by search engines, officials said. (Does anyone believe the police can't access websites etc. or ask a judge to find out who sent a tip?)
http://www.sacbee.com/2014/04/15/6327828/sacramento-sheriffs-department.html

Thursday, April 17, 2014

America's original patriots would’ve revolted against the surveillance state

 
Let’s just imagine we could transport an Internet-connected laptop back to the 1790s, when the United States was in its infancy. The technology would no doubt knock the founders out of their buckle-top boots, but once the original patriots got over the initial shock and novelty (and clearing up Wikipedia controversies, hosting an AMA and boggling over Dogecoin), the sense of marvel would give way to alarm as they realized how electronic communications could be exploited by a tyrant, such as the one from which they just freed themselves.
 
As America’s first unofficial chief technologist, Benjamin Franklin would be the first to recognize the danger and take to trolling the message boards with his famous sentiment: Those who would trade liberty for safety deserve neither. (And he’d probably troll under a fake handle, using Tor, since the patriots understood that some truths are best told with anonymity.)
 
Mass surveillance was not part of the original social contract—the terms of service, if you will—between Americans and their government. Untargeted surveillance is one reason we have an independent country today.
 
Under the Crown’s rule, English officials used writs of assistance to indiscriminately “enter and go into any house, shop cellar, warehouse, or room or other place and, in case of resistance, to break open doors, chests, trunks, and other package there” in order to find tax evaders. Early patriot writers, such as James Otis Jr. and John Dickinson, railed against these general warrants, and it was this issue, among other oppressive conditions, that inspired the Declaration of Independence and the Fourth Amendment.
 
James Madison drafted clear language guaranteeing the rights of Americans, and it bears reading again in full:
 
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
 
Centuries later, the principle still applies, whether we’re talking about emails or your mobile phone.

The Fourth Amendment does not stop at technology’s door.

(For a more in-depth historical review, check out former EFF legal intern David Snyder's essay, "The NSA's 'General Warrants': How the Founding Fathers Fought an 18th Century Version of the President's Illegal Domestic Spying.")

Reason magazine has an excellent essay about IRS and privacy, outlining how the IRS obtains, scours and fails to secure personal data collected from taxpayers, while tax-reform advocate Grover Norquist wrote a worthwhile op-ed in The Daily Caller today about how the IRS exploits the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act.  But it’s also important to consider that the taxes the government collects ultimately fund the surveillance state. “No taxation without representation” was the rallying cry of the American revolution, and yet here we are today, with the NSA conducting surveillance without adequate checks and balances. Members of Congress complain that they haven’t been properly briefed on the NSA’s programs and judicial approval of these programs is conducted by a secret court that only hears the government’s side of the story. On the local level, law enforcement agencies are adopting new surveillance technologies such as automatic license plate readers, facial recognition and Stingrays with little public input or other oversight.  
 
On the whole, maintaining the mass surveillance state is expensive. There are 17 (that’s right, 17) different federal agencies that are part of the “intelligence community,” each of them involved in various, interconnected forms of surveillance. Some would say there is little concrete evidence of how it has made us safer, but there’s plenty of concrete evidence of how much it has cost. The bottom line? We’re paying the government to unreasonably intrude on our lives. The budget for intelligence in 2013 was $52.6 billion. Of that, $10.8 billion went to the NSA. That’s approximately $167 per person in the United States
 
For a prime example of the wasteful spending, one only need to read  Sen. Tom Coburn’s report, “Safety at Any Price” that outlined the inappropriate spending done under the Department of Homeland Security’s grant program (such as paying for “first responders to attend a HALO Counterterrorism Summit at a California island spa resort featuring a simulated zombie apocalypse.”)
 
This followed on the heels of a harsh bipartisan Senate report criticizing the extreme waste at fusion centers around the country. Federal funds were used to purchase big screen TVs, decked out SUVS, and miniature cameras. To make matters worse, the report found that fusion centers violated civil liberties and produced little information of any use.
 
Mass surveillance is a symptom of uncontrolled government overreach. The question is what’s the cure?
 
While every single person has cause to be alarmed by surveillance, those who criticize government policies have particular reason to be concerned. Those who have new, or not yet popular ideas (or, in the case of the Tea Party, old and popular ideas in resurgence) are often targets of overreaching surveillance. It’s not a partisan issue; it’s a constitutional issue.
 
Activism is most effective when is happens at the personal, local and national levels and the Tea Party has proven it knows how make a ruckus, whether it’s on a personal blog or outside the White House. America needs the Tea Party to keep applying that patriotic passion to NSA reform.
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/04/tea-party-taxes-and-why-patriots-wouldve-revolted-against-surveillance-state

The SEC wants to read your emails without a warrant:

It appears that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the civil agency in charge of protecting investors and ensuring orderly markets, may be doing the same exact thing: it is trying to use ECPA to force service providers to hand over emails without a warrant, in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment.

EFF and the Digital Due Process Coalition, a diverse coalition of privacy advocates and major companies, are fighting hard to push a common sense reform to ECPA. The law, passed in the 1980s before the existence of webmail, has been used to argue that emails older than 180 days may be accessed without a warrant based on probable cause. Instead, the agencies send a mere subpoena, which means that the agency does not have to involve a judge or show that the emails will provide evidence of a crime.

Contrary to the position taken by the DOJ, the courts, the public at-large, and EFF, the SEC asserted last week that it can obtain emails with simple subpoenas, issued under ECPA. The Chair of the SEC, Mary Jo White, tried to reassure Rep. Kevin Yoder that the SEC's "built-in privacy protections" make it ok. Unfortunately, Chair White wouldn't explain what are the exact "privacy protections." Rep. Yoder, the sponsor of HR 1852, The Email Privacy Act—a bill with over 200 cosponsors that updates ECPA—was rightfully dubious and tried to no avail to get the Chair to explain why the SEC thinks it can use ECPA to get around the Fourth Amendment.

Just because your emails are on your computer, must not mean they have any less protection than if they were printed on your desk. Many other agencies disagree with the SEC's approach and recognize the Fourth Amendment covers all private communications—whether paper or electronic. It's time for the SEC to update its practices so that it's inline with the courts, public opinion, and with other agencies.
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/04/sec-obtaining-emails-without-warrant-or-not
 
Google's updated terms of service: We do scan (spy on) your emails:
 
Google has officially changed its Terms of Service to make it quite clear that users are consenting to the search giant scanning the content of their emails in order to allow the company deliver more targeted ads and better search results.
 
Google has been scanning users' messages for many years, and the company had believed users "explicitly consented" to the practice by agreeing to various versions of the company's terms of service since 2008.
 
In a ruling last month, Judge Lucy Koh decided against giving class action status to a lawsuit brought by a number of claimants who believed Google had violated state and federal laws regarding the privacy of millions of its users.
 
Judge Koh said last month that Google's terms of service and privacy polices did not explicitly notify the plaintiffs "that Google would intercept users' emails for the purposes of creating user profiles or providing targeted advertising."

Probably as a result of those comments, Google has now decided to update its terms of service to make its actions very clear. It has added the following paragraph to the new terms which came into effect on Monday:

"Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored."
http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/google-updates-terms-service-officially-allow-it-scan-your-emails-1444914
 
DHS donates another $793K MRAP vehicle to a police department:
 
Indiana -  The Michigan City Police Department recently added a new piece of equipment to its fleet – a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle.

Valued at $793,000, the MRAP was donated to the MCPD from the United States military through the 1033 Federal Surplus Program, which has distributed hundreds of surplus military vehicles to law enforcement agencies across the country.

Receiving this vehicle at no cost to the city, the department was only responsible for retrieving the MRAP from Sealy, Texas. Six spare tires for the MRAP, valued at $5,000 each, were included in the contribution from the U.S. military.

As for the vehicle maintenance and upkeep, MCPD Chief of Services Royce Williams said it is no different from the other city-owned vehicles, indicating it only requires basic check-ups.
 
“The body of the MRAP was built in 2012, but the engine, chassis and tires are all brand new so there should be very minimal upkeep for this vehicle,” he said.

Built to withstand heavy gunfire and blasts from explosive devices, the bullet-proof and fire-proof vehicle may seem over-the-top for a city such as Michigan City. But the MCPD is happy to have access to such a heavy-duty piece of equipment.

IRS official Lois Lerner contacted DOJ about prosecuting tax exempt groups


Judicial Watch today released a new batch of internal IRS documents revealing that former IRS official Lois Lerner communicated with the Department of Justice (DOJ) about whether it was possible to criminally prosecute certain tax-exempt entities. The documents were obtained as a result of an October 2013 Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) after the agency refused to respond to four FOIA requests dating back to May 2013.

“These new emails show that the day before she broke the news of the IRS scandal, Lois Lerner was talking to a top Obama Justice Department official about whether the DOJ could prosecute the very same organizations that the IRS had already improperly targeted,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The IRS emails show Eric Holder’s Department of Justice is now implicated and conflicted in the IRS scandal.  No wonder we had to sue in federal court to get these documents.”

The newly released IRS documents contain an email exchange between Lerner and Nikole C. Flax, then-Chief of Staff to then-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller discussing plans to work with the DOJ  to prosecute nonprofit groups that “lied” (Lerner’s quotation marks) about political activities. The exchange includes the following:
I got a call today from Richard Pilger Director Elections Crimes Branch at DOJ … He wanted to know who at IRS the DOJ folk s [sic] could talk to about Sen. Whitehouse idea at the hearing that DOJ could piece together false statement cases about applicants who “lied” on their 1024s –saying they weren’t planning on doing political activity, and then turning around and making large visible political expenditures. DOJ is feeling like it needs to respond, but want to talk to the right folks at IRS to see whether there are impediments from our side and what, if any damage this might do to IRS programs.
I told him that sounded like we might need several folks from IRS…
I think we should do it – also need to include CI [Criminal Investigation Division], which we can help coordinate. Also, we need to reach out to FEC. Does it make sense to consider including them in this or keep it separate?
 
Lerner then “handed off” scheduling the issue to Senior Technical Adviser, Attorney Nancy Marks, who was then supposed to set up the meeting with the DOJ.  Lerner also decided that it would be DOJ’s decision as to whether representatives from the Federal Election Commission would attend.
Democratic Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse had held a hearing on April 9during which, “in questioning the witnesses from DOJ and IRS, Whitehouse asked why they have not prosecuted 501(c)(4) groups that have seemingly made false statements about their political activities.”  Lerner described the impetus for this hearing in a March 27, 2013, email to top IRS staff:

As I mentioned yesterday — there are several groups of folks from the FEC world that are pushing tax fraud prosecution for c4s who report they are not conducting political activity when they are (or these folks think they are). One is my ex-boss Larry Noble (former General Counsel at the FEC), who is now president of Americans for Campaign Reform. This is their latest push to shut these down. One IRS prosecution would make an impact and they wouldn’t feel so comfortable doing the stuff.
 
So, don’t be fooled about how this is being articulated – it is ALL about 501(c)(4) orgs and political activity
 
But in an email sent a few minutes earlier, Lerner acknowledged prosecutions would evidently be at odds with the law:

Whether there was a false statement or fraud regarding an [sic] description of an alleged political expenditure that doesn’t say vote for or vote against is not realistic under current law. Everyone is looking for a magic bullet or scapegoat — there isn’t one. The law in this area is just hard.
 
The documents also include email exchanges showing that before Lerner’s May 10, 2013, speech to the American Bar Association blaming “low-level” employees in Cincinnati for targeting tax-exempt organizations, the IRS Exempt Organizations division was scrambling to defuse the emerging targeting scandal:
  • May 1, 2013: After receiving an email from an assistant showing that 501(c)(4) applications had increased from 1591 in 2010 to 3398 in 2012 , Lerner wrote back, “Looks to me like 2010-2012 doubled too. Oh well – thanks.”
  • May 2, 2013: Discussing an upcoming conference call with approximately 100 congressional staffers on May 22, Lerner cautions aides, “Need to be careful not to mention sequester/furlough unless asked although can allude to budget and resources restraints.”
  • May 2, 2013: In response to an email reminding her about the upcoming conference call with congressional staffers, Lerner responded, “Arrgh – I just saw it. Sharon [White] could skate, but Cindy [Thomas] is the person who could answer that stuff. We need to give them some type of language in the event that type of question comes up” [apparently in reference to earlier email referencing “sensitive issues”].
The new documents obtained by Judicial Watch also include emails exchanged after Lerner’s May 10 ABA speech:
  • May 10, 2013: In an email to an aide responding to a request for information from a Washington Post reporter, Lerner admits that she “can’t confirm that there was anyone on the other side of the political spectrum” who had been targeted by the IRS. She then adds that “The one with the names used were only know [sic] because they have been very loud in the press.”
  • May 15, 2013: In an email from an aide to Lerner, the aide specifically mentions “Tea Party Organizations, the “Tea Party movement,” and “Tea Party Patriots” as organizations targeted by the IRS.
The Judicial Watch FOIA requests came on the heels of an explosive May 14, 2013, Treasury Inspector General report revealing that the IRS had singled out groups with conservative-sounding terms such as “patriot” and “Tea Party” in their titles when applying for tax-exempt status. The IG probe determined that “Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status to (e.g., lists of past and future donors).” According to the report, the illegal IRS reviews continued for more than 18 months and “delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications” preparing for the 2012 presidential election.

Lerner, who headed the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, refused to testify at a May 2013 hearing before Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) House Oversight Committee, demanding immunity concerning her role in the targeting scandal. Lerner retired from the IRS with full benefits on September 23 after an internal investigation found she was guilty of “neglect of duties” and was going to call for her ouster, according to news reports. On April 9, 2014, the Ways and Means Committee referred Lois Lerner to the DOJ for criminal prosecution. On April 10, 2014, the House Oversight Committee voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress.
http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/jw-obtains-irs-documents-showing-lerner-contact-doj-potential-prosecution-tax-exempt-groups/

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The surveillance state is making us less safe


Restaurants begin Googling (spying) on customers claim its to improve customer service:

If you apply for a job, you can rest assured that someone will Google your name or look you up on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and elsewhere before hiring you. If you meet someone via an online dating service, he or she has probably (and wisely) made repeated efforts to look you up on publicly available social media sources in order to make sure you’re not a suspected serial killer. But when you make a reservation at a restaurant, you probably don’t expect anyone there to do any research (spying) about you.

But the maitre d’ at Manhattan’s swanky Eleven Madison Park tells Grub Street he does his due diligence about every guest who makes a reservation. But he says this research isn’t about e-stalking or scoping out good-looking/wealthy customers. Instead, he claims he’s trying to learn about the guests in order to improve customer service.

For instance, if he sees that it’s a particular visitor’s birthday, he’ll greet them with a “Happy Birthday” when they arrive. The same goes for anniversaries.

He also will pair diners with servers and sommeliers who may have similar or shared interests and backgrounds.

“If I find out a guest is from Montana, and I know we have a server from there, we’ll put them together,” he explains.

http://www.grubstreet.com/2014/04/eleven-madison-park-foh-staff-detailed-look.html

Washington high school district sets up ‘Homeland Security Class’

DHS is partnering with a Washington state school district to recruit future employees through a new high school curriculum. The course will be overseen and shaped by the Homeland Security Advisory Committee, a group consisting of government, academia and private sector employees who provide information and security-related recommendations to the DHS secretary. Of the many requirements, applicants are informed of their duty to meet with the committee on a regular basis.

An employment application posted by Evergreen Public Schools this weekend requests a certified “Homeland Security Instructor” to steer young students into a career with the agency.

“Instruct high school juniors and seniors in skills and knowledge leading to entry-level employment or further education in Homeland Security occupations,” the job description reads. “In-depth instruction will include theory, application and work based learning activities.



The instructor will work closely with the Skills Center and administrative staff and the program advisory committee to continually upgrade the program curriculum and skills competencies (outcomes) needed by students for employment.”

“Attend all Homeland Security Advisory Committee meetings. Actively seek consultation and advice from the advisory committee about prevailing practices, equipment, and facilities necessary for maintaining up-to-date competencies (outcomes) and up-to-date instructional program,” the application states.

The instructor will also be required to actively evaluate all students, maintaining “appropriate student records” that will be provided to “appropriate personnel.”

Specific course content is completely unavailable in the job application as well as on the Evergreen Public Schools website, which also fails to make any mention whatsoever of the upcoming class.

While there are no facts to suggest that the program is purposely being kept under wraps, the most concerning questions surround not only the lesson plan, but the district’s stance toward the agency’s many controversies.

One must ask whether the district will inform parents and students alike of the agency’s $2 million purchase of paper shooting targets depicting young children, pregnant woman, and the elderly last year. Although the target producer was forced to publicly apologize to outraged Americans, the DHS has yet to even acknowledge the outrageous acquisition.

Given the fact that former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano labeled returning military veterans as the number one terror threat in 2009, will students be shown the New York Times report where the agency trained Boy Scout Explorers to kill “disgruntled Iraq war veterans?”

Multiple DHS-funded drills throughout the country have also portrayed children and parents outside of the public school system as terrorists. In 2004, Michigan police apologized to families after carrying out a drill that consisted of homeschoolers carrying out a terrorist attack on a public school bus.

Despite the fact that Americans are far more likely to die from bee stings than terrorism, the DHS appears eager to instill baseless fear into the minds of the next generation.
http://www.storyleak.com/wash-state-school-district-sets-homeland-security-class/
 



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Police begin spying on every citizen in real-time


CA - A retired Air Force veteran named Ross McNutt and his Ohio-based company, Persistent Surveillance Systems, persuaded the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to use his surveillance technology to monitor Compton’s streets from the air and track suspects from the moment the snatching occurred.

The system, known as wide-area surveillance, is something of a time machine – the entire city is filmed and recorded in real time. Imagine Google Earth with a rewind button and the ability to play back the movement of cars and people as they scurry about the city.

“We literally watched all of Compton during the time that we were flying, so we could zoom in anywhere within the city of Compton and follow cars and see people,” McNutt said. “Our goal was to basically jump to where reported crimes occurred and see what information we could generate that would help investigators solve the crimes.”

An electronic surveillance system that can locate you within a matter of minutes is disturbing. 

McNutt describes his product as "a live version of Google Earth, only with TiVo capabilities," which is intriguing but vague (and also sounds a lot like the plot of this terrible Denzel movie). More specifically, PSS outfits planes with an array of super high-resolution cameras that allow a pilot to record a 25-square-mile patch of Earth constantly—for up to six hours.
  
The PSS system has been tested in cities including Baltimore and Dayton, and, last year, police officers in Compton used it to track crimes, including a necklace snatching. In one case, they could track a criminal as he approached a woman, grabbed her jewelry, and then ran to a getaway car. They eventually drove out of frame, which meant they weren't caught—but, as the Compton police explain in this video, the system told them that this particular car was involved, at the very least.
 
The common denominator of everything being done in our B/S war against terrorism is money! Civil rights be damned.

Police (DHS) spying on everyone without probable cause, where does it end?

Police in Virginia are constantly photographing random motorists license plates, click here to read more.

It's easy to imagine such capabilities being abused.  The speed and power of electronic surveillance turn old-fashioned analog concepts into disturbing invasions of privacy.  Police officers enforcing speed limits with helicopters and airplanes are one thing, but doing it with a swarm of robot drones is another; people get nervous when the eye in the sky never blinks.

This is an ominous invasion of privacy: Our government shouldn't be allowed to track everyone and everything that moves.
http://gizmodo.com/police-are-testing-a-live-google-earth-to-watch-crime-1563010340?utm_campaign=socialflow_gizmodo_twitter&utm_source=gizmodo_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

FBI's massive national facial recogntion database contains pictures of 1/3 of Americans


The FBI's Next Generation Identification (NGI) biometric database may hold records on as much as one third of the U.S. population.

The face recognition component of NGI may include as many as 52 million face images by 2015.
 
By 2012, NGI already contained 13.6 million images representing between 7 and 8 million individuals, and by the middle of 2013, the size of the database increased to 16 million images. The new records reveal that the database will be capable of processing 55,000 direct photo enrollments daily and of conducting tens of thousands of searches every day.

EFF received the records in response to their Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

One of their biggest concerns about NGI has been the fact that it will include non-criminal as well as criminal face images. The FBI projects that by 2015, the database will include 4.3 million images taken for non-criminal purposes.

NGI will allow law enforcement at all levels to search non-criminal and criminal face records at the same time. This means you could become a suspect in a criminal case merely because you applied for a job that required you to submit a photo with your background check.

The FBI and Congress have thus far failed to enact meaningful restrictions on what types of data can be submitted to the system, who can access the data, and how the data can be used. For example, although the FBI has said in these documents that it will not allow non-mug shot photos such as images from social networking sites to be saved to the system, there are no legal or even written FBI policy restrictions in place to prevent this from occurring. As we have stated before, the Privacy Impact Assessment for NGI’s face recognition component hasn’t been updated since 2008, well before the current database was even in development. It cannot therefore address all the privacy issues impacted by NGI.

Even though FBI claims that its ranked candidate list prevents the problem of false positives (someone being falsely identified), this is not the case. A system that only purports to provide the true candidate in the top 50 candidates 85 percent of the time will return a lot of images of the wrong people. We know from researchers that the risk of false positives increases as the size of the dataset increases—and, at 52 million images, the FBI’s face recognition is a very large dataset.

This means that many people will be presented as suspects for crimes they didn’t commit. This is not how our system of justice was designed and should not be a system that Americans tacitly consent to move towards.

The facial recognition component of this database poses real threats to privacy for all Americans.

NGI builds on the FBI’s legacy fingerprint database—which already contains well over 100 million individual records—and has been designed to include multiple forms of biometric data, including palm prints and iris scans in addition to fingerprints and face recognition data. NGI combines all these forms of data in each individual’s file, linking them to personal and biographic data like name, home address, ID number, immigration status, age, race, etc. This immense database is shared with other federal agencies and with the approximately 18,000 tribal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the United States.

Currently, if you apply for any type of job that requires fingerprinting or a background check, your prints are sent to and stored by the FBI in its civil print database. However, the FBI has never before collected a photograph along with those prints. This is changing with NGI. Now an employer could require you to provide a “mug shot” photo along with your fingerprints. If that’s the case, then the FBI will store both your face print and your fingerprints along with your biographic data.

In the past, the FBI has never linked the criminal and non-criminal fingerprint databases. This has meant that any search of the criminal print database (such as to identify a suspect or a latent print at a crime scene) would not touch the non-criminal database.  This will also change with NGI. Now every record—whether criminal or non—will have a “Universal Control Number” (UCN), and every search will be run against all records in the database. This means that even if you have never been arrested for a crime, if your employer requires you to submit a photo as part of your background check, your face image could be searched—and you could be implicated as a criminal suspect—just by virtue of having that image in the non-criminal file.

The records detail the many states and law enforcement agencies the FBI has already been working with to build out its database of images (see map above). By 2012, nearly half of U.S. states had at least expressed an interest in participating in the NGI pilot program, and several of those states had already shared their entire criminal mug shot database with the FBI. The FBI hopes to bring all states online with NGI by this year.

The FBI worked particularly closely with Oregon through a special project called “Face Report Card.” The goal of the project was to determine and provide feedback on the quality of the images that states already have in their databases. Through Face Report Card, examiners reviewed 14,408 of Oregon’s face images and found significant problems with image resolution, lighting, background and interference. Examiners also found that the median resolution of images was “well-below” the recommended resolution of .75 megapixels (in comparison, newer iPhone cameras are capable of 8 megapixel resolution).

At such a low resolution, it is hard to imagine that identification will be accurate.1 However, the FBI has disclaimed responsibility for accuracy, stating that “[t]he candidate list is an investigative lead not an identification.”

Because the system is designed to provide a ranked list of candidates, the FBI states NGI never actually makes a “positive identification,” and “therefore, there is no false positive rate.” In fact, the FBI only ensures that “the candidate will be returned in the top 50 candidates” 85 percent of the time “when the true candidate exists in the gallery.”

It is unclear what happens when the “true candidate” does not exist in the gallery—does NGI still return possible matches? Could those people then be subject to criminal investigation for no other reason than that a computer thought their face was mathematically similar to a suspect’s? This doesn’t seem to matter much to the FBI—the Bureau notes that because “this is an investigative search and caveats will be prevalent on the return detailing that the [non-FBI] agency is responsible for determining the identity of the subject, there should be NO legal issues.”

One of the most curious things to come out of these records is the fact that NGI may include up to 1 million face images in two categories that are not explained anywhere in the documents. According to the FBI, by 2015, NGI may include:
  • 46 million criminal images
  • 4.3 million civil images
  • 215,000 images from the Repository for Individuals of Special Concern (RISC)
  • 750,000 images from a "Special Population Cognizant" (SPC) category
  • 215,000 images from "New Repositories"
The FBI does not define either the “Special Population Cognizant” database or the "new repositories" category. This is a problem because we do not know what rules govern these categories, where the data comes from, how the images are gathered, who has access to them, and whose privacy is impacted.

A 2007 FBI document available on the web describes SPC as “a service provided to Other Federal Organizations (OFOs), or other agencies with special needs by agreement with the FBI” and notes that “[t]hese SPC Files can be specific to a particular case or subject set (e.g., gang or terrorist related), or can be generic agency files consisting of employee records.” If these SPC files and the images in the "new repositories" category are assigned a Universal Control Number along with the rest of the NGI records, then these likely non-criminal records would also be subject to invasive criminal searches.

Here are the documents:

FBI NGI Description of Face Recognition Program
FBI NGI Report Card on Oregon Face Recognition Program
FBI NGI Sample Memorandum of Understanding with States
FBI NGI Face Recognition Goals & Objectives
FBI NGI Information on Implementation
FBI Emails re. NGI Face Recognition Program
FBI Emails from Contractors re. NGI
FBI NGI 2011 Face Recognition Operational Prototype Plan
FBI NGI Document Discussing Technical Characteristics of Face Recognition Component
FBI NGI 2010 Face Recognition Trade Study Plan
FBI NGI Document on L-1's Commercial Face Recognition Product

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/04/fbi-plans-have-52-million-photos-its-ngi-face-recognition-database-next-year

Monday, April 14, 2014

DHS's newest citizen spying app: 'See Something, Send Something'


Creating a nation of spies, Ohio DHS officials are asking smartphone users to “See Something, Send Something” with the release of an app to forward reports and photos of suspicious activity. 

The “A Safer Ohio” app for both Apple and Android devices is being released shortly before the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. 

Click here to watch the video.

DHS has expanded its citizen spying to other states, click here to see Virginia's and here to see Pennsylvania's citizen spying program.

The app now avaiable for free online allows Ohioans to relay both tips and photos of questionable activity to Homeland Security analysts for examination and potential investigation.

Officials hope Ohioans might use “Safer Ohio” to point out anything suspicious they spot at spring and summer events that attract large crowds.

“The public’s reporting of suspicious activity is one of our best defenses against terrorist threats …,” Ohio Department of Public Safety Director John Born said in a statement.

The app uses privacy-protection software that permits users to remain anonymous and does not track a smartphone user’s location or record other personal information. However, security analysts still would be able to contact anyone reporting suspicious activity.

Our government & the mass media are creating a nation of spies.

Here's an example of citizen/terrorist paranoia and our complicit police: A North Carolina woman called police after seeing a statue of a homeless Jesus she said she was concerned for the safety of the neighborhood!

Click here to read the story in its entirety.
http://dispatchpolitics.dispatch.com/content/blogs/the-daily-briefing/2014/04/4-11-14-safer-ohio-app.html
http://fox8.com/2014/04/12/homeland-security-releases-see-something-send-something-app/

Out of touch TSA/DHS to expand 'behavior screening' program that doesn't work:

The TSA was urged by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) to scale back or even eliminate its "behavior screening" program, in which TSA officers try to strike up conversations with passengers and airport employees as a means of discovering would-be terrorists. The study showed little evidence the program worked.

The GAO study claimed that the TSA program was a waste of money. The TSA is an agency within DHS tasked with ensuring the security of the traveling public. The head of the program, John Pistole, even admitted at the time of the report that the program had never caught a single terrorist. However, recent reports suggest that not only has the TSA not cut back on the program, it is expanding it.

Here are the general findings of the original GAO report:

In November 2013, GAO reported that (1) peer-reviewed, published research we reviewed did not support whether nonverbal behavioral indicators can be used to reliably identify deception, (2) methodological issues limited the usefulness of DHS's April 2011 SPOT validation study, and (3) variation in referral rates raised questions about the use of indicators. GAO reported that its review of meta-analyses (studies that analyze other studies and synthesize their findings) that included findings from over 400 studies related to detecting deception conducted over the past 60 years, other academic and government studies, and interviews with experts in the field, called into question the use of behavior observation techniques, that is, human observation unaided by technology, as a means for reliably detecting deception. The meta-analyses GAO reviewed collectively found that the ability of human observers to accurately identify deceptive behavior based on behavioral cues or indicators is the same as or slightly better than chance (54 percent). GAO also reported on other studies that do not support the use of behavioral indicators to identify mal-intent or threats to aviation.

The TSA has simply ignored the GAO study and has expanded the behavioral observation program on passengers at Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport. A test extension of the program began on March 5 and is to continue through April 28.

Republican Bennie Thompson claims that the program is an intrusion into the privacy of travelers and has no scientific evidence showing that it is efficient. The TSA did not respond to his criticisms.
http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/16873783-tsa-to-expand-behavior-screening-program-even-though-it-doesnt-work