Privacy

  • Minnesota wants to limit law-enforcement use of wireless tracking devices

    The Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s acquisition of Kingfish and Stingray II wireless surveillance devices has come under scrutiny as the department’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension(BCA) has used the devices in investigations. Some legislators are considering placing limits on law enforcement’s use of the data captured by the devices because of concerns over who has access to the data and how long it is being kept.

  • Expert calls for “surveillance minimization” to restore public trust

    Surveillance minimization — where surveillance is the exception, not the rule — could help rebuild public trust following revelations about the collection of personal data, according to an expert on privacy and surveillance. “Surveillance minimization requires surveillance to be targeted rather than universal, controlled and warranted at the point of data gathering rather than of data access, and performed for the minimum necessary time on the minimum necessary people,” he says.

  • California bill would restrict selling, access to LPR-collected data

    A bill before the California State Senate would to prohibit law enforcement agencies and private firms in California from selling data collected by automatic license plate readers. (LPRs). The proposed Senate Bill 893 would prohibit LPR operators from selling data to non-law enforcement agencies or to non-law enforcement officials. Law enforcement access to LPR data retained for more than five years would require a court order.

  • For oppressive regimes, the Internet is another tool of repression

    Claims that the Internet will “democratize” the global village are not supported by just-published research. Instead, non-democratic governments simply exploit the networks to spy on and control their citizens more effectively and efficiently than they did before. A study of Internet use – and misuse – around the world found that the Internet, rather than being the great democratizing “carrot,” it is yet another stick with which authoritarian, and supposedly non-authoritarian, governments can beat their citizens into submission.

  • Telephony metadata: Matching numbers to names

    Explaining why American should not be worried about the NSA collection of telephony metadata, President Obama, in a PBS interview, said: “You have my telephone number connecting with your telephone number…. [T]here are no names … in that database.” Two Stanford graduate students set out to discover just how much effort it would take to identify the names of phone number owners. Their answer: a trivial amount of effort. themselves the task out to find out. Querying the Yelp, Google Places, and Facebook directories, and running their sample numbers with Intelius, a cheap consumer-oriented service, they matched 91 percent of the sample numbers with the number owners. “If a few academic researchers can get this far this quickly, it’s difficult to believe the NSA would have any trouble identifying the overwhelming majority of American phone numbers,” they write.

  • Social network spying may backfire, lead to low returns

    Organizations looking to hire new staff should rethink their clandestine use of social networking Web sites, such as Facebook, to screen new recruits. Researchers found that this practice could be seen as a breach of privacy and create a negative impression of the company for potential employees. This spying could even lead to law suits.

  • Review panel calls for prohibiting NSA bulk collection of phone metadata

    A 300-page report prepared for President Barack Obama made forty-six recommendations for better management of, and different guiding rules for, U.S. surveillance programs. Among the report’s recommendations: The NSA should be banned from attempting to undermine the security of the Internet and prohibited from collecting telephone records in bulk; spying on foreign leaders should require an authorization from a higher level then is currently the case; the government should be banned from undermining encryption. The president will announce by 28 January which of the forty-six recommendations he would accept.

  • Lawmaker wants to know how cyber-safe vehicles are

    Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) has asked twenty automobile manufacturers to submit details of their plans to prevent vehicles from wireless hacking attempts, as well as plans to prevent violations of driver privacy. Markey wants automobile manufacturers to apply computer-industry security processes and technology — including anti-virus software, incident logging, incident-response planning, software vulnerability patching, and third-party penetrating testing — to mass produced vehicles.

  • Police cell-phone tracking raises privacy concerns

    Law enforcement agencies around the country are using the International Mobile Subscriber Identity locator (IMSI catcher), known as Stingray, to track cellphone users for the purpose of assisting criminal investigations. Stingray masquerades as a cellphone tower, tricking phones into sending it a signal that law enforcement can later use to identify the serial number of the phone and track the subscriber or cellphone user. Privacy advocates are worried about widespread police tracking of cellphones and violations of privacy.

  • New Silicon Valley focus on cybersecurity

    The last time Silicon Valley focused on cybersecurity was in the 1990s. That focus saw the emergence of two giants: McAfee and Symantec. The two companies remain the most recognizable household names, thanks to their traditional firewall and anti-virus products. Now they find the arena which they thought was their own encroached from two sides. On one side there are tech giants like Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems, which see new revenue opportunity in cybersecurity. On the other side there is a rush of start-ups backed by large investments of venture capital.

  • Surveillance programs prompt start-up entry into privacy protection market

    Revelations of the surveillance programs of the National Security Agency(NSA) and the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters(GCHQ) have sparked technical innovations, legal challenges, and pursuits of political reforms in the United States and Britain. While some established providers of secure e-mails have bowed out, new companies are moving in to offer consumers protection from prying.

  • More states move to limit LPR use

    Law-enforcement units across the United States have been using license plate readers (LPRs) to monitor vehicles on public roads in order to locate missing individuals, investigate murderers, or track hit-and-run drivers. Privacy advocates are concerned with the wholesale storage of license plate information, and the fact that some municipalities have no limits on how long plate numbers can be stored. LPRs proponents are worried that the recent revelations about the NSA surveillance programs make it difficult for LPRs and other law-enforcement technology to get a fair hearing.

  • Wisconsin legislature considering restriction on LPRs

    State legislators in Wisconsin have proposed a law to limit the use of license plate readers, drawing criticism from local law enforcement. Republican state Representative David Craig, the sponsor of the proposed legislation, said: “The vast majority of [the LPR] images are becoming nothing more than a database of the whereabouts of average citizens. The time has come to ensure the civil rights of citizens are not being violated, while also ensuring law enforcement has the tools needed to effectively enforce our state’s laws.”

  • New search tool finds you, even in untagged photos

    A new algorithm designed at the University of Toronto has the power profoundly to change the way we find photos among the billions on social media sites such as Facebook and Flickr. The search tool uses tag locations to quantify relationships between individuals, even those not tagged in any given photo.

  • Exploring “culture of surveillance” in the United States

    Recent revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been analyzing the communication records of all U.S. citizens have many talking about the topic of “mass surveillance” by the government. A University of Kansas sociologist who has been documenting what he calls our “culture of surveillance” for nearly twenty years argues, however, that these developments are part of deeper social and cultural changes going on for quite some time. Professor William Staples focuses his attention on the relatively mundane techniques of keeping a close watch of people — what he has dubbed the “Tiny Brothers” — which are increasingly present in the workplace, school, home, and community.