• SurveillanceMore powers, tighter monitoring: Germany reforms its intelligence service

    The Bundestag has passed a comprehensive reform of the BND, Germany’s main intelligence service. The legislation strengthens government monitoring of intelligence powers, and allows the BND to carry out certain types of surveillance activities. The reform is a response to two recent developments: the 2013 Snowden revelations that the BND had spied on German citizens on behalf of the NSA, and the growing concerns about terrorism in Europe. The new legislation thus gives the BND more powers – but subjects it to tighter judiciary monitoring.

  • SurveillanceHalf of American adults are in a little regulated police face recognition database

    Half of American adults — more than 117 million people — are in a law enforcement face recognition network, according to a report. Of the fifty-two government agencies that acknowledged using face recognition, only one obtained legislative approval for its use and only one agency provided evidence that it audited officers’ face recognition searches for misuse. Not one agency required warrants, and many agencies did not even require an officer to suspect someone of committing a crime before using face recognition to identify her.

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  • Domestic terrorismDefining – and monitoring -- domestic terrorism in the U.S.

    Domestic terrorism in the United States “is not just a function of a couple of militia related guys taking over something out West. It’s not just a bunch of white supremacist in white hoods,” says Thomas Brzozowski was appointed to lead the Justice Department’s new domestic terrorism office a year ago. In the past, a host of groups such as anarchists and the Ku Klux Klan have been under surveillance by the federal government. When the FBI was formed in the early twentieth century, communists and later anti-war activists, women’s rights organizations, and civil rights groups came to be viewed as domestic threats. Brzozowski says that today’s Justice Department is more sensitive to the free exercise of civil liberties.

  • DronesUser-centric control software improves drone pilot performance, safety

    A new study into the safety of drone control interfaces suggests that an overhaul of remote control methods ranging from joysticks to smartphone apps could reduce the number of drone accidents. The findings suggest that current user interfaces used in some drones makes it difficult for pilots to perceive hazards and react appropriately.

  • SurveillanceYahoo stealthily scanned customer e-mails on behalf of U.S. intelligence agencies

    A report on Tuesday accuses Yahoo of secretly building a customized software program to search all of its customers’ incoming e-mails for specific information provided by the U.S. intelligence company. The company, complying with classified NSA and FBI directives, scanned hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts. Yahoo is the first U.S. Internet company to agree to such a blanket request.

  • SurveillanceFrom 2012 to 2014, FBI submitted 561 Section215 applications: DOJ OIG

    The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) last week released a June 2016 report examining the FBI’s use of the investigative authority granted by Section 215 of the Patriot Act between 2012 and 2014. The report notes that from 2012 through 2014 the DOJ, on behalf of the FBI, submitted 561 Section 215 applications to the FISA Court, all of which were approved.

  • SurveillanceFeds: We can read all your e-mail, and you’ll never know

    By Clark D. Cunningham

    Fear of hackers reading private e-mails in cloud-based systems like Microsoft Outlook, Gmail, or Yahoo has recently sent regular people and public officials scrambling to delete entire accounts full of messages dating back years. What we don’t expect is our own government to hack our e-mail — but it’s happening. Federal court cases going on right now are revealing that federal officials can read all your e-mail without your knowledge. For example, in the case of U.S. v. Ravelo, pending in Newark, New Jersey, the government used a search warrant to download the entire contents of a lawyer’s personal cellphone – more than 90,000 items including text messages, e-mails, contact lists, and photos. When the phone’s owner complained to a judge, the government argued it could look at everything (except for privileged lawyer-client communications) before the court even issued a ruling. The judge in Ravelo is expected to issue a preliminary ruling on the feds’ arguments sometime in October. All Americans should be watching carefully to what happens next in these cases – the government may be already watching you without your knowledge.

  • SurveillanceSwiss approve broader surveillance powers for the government

    A majority of 65.5 percent of Swiss voters have on Sunday approved a new surveillance law, agreeing with the government’s argument that that the country’s security services needed more powers in an increasingly dangerous world. Relative to other European countries, the Swiss police and intelligence agencies have had limited investigative powers. For example, the law which was updated on Sunday had banned phone tapping and e-mail surveillance under any circumstances.

  • Border securityCBP MVSS border surveillance system: Another border program mired in delays

    By Robert Lee Maril

    Political parties debate crucial immigration issues, including a call for a new border wall, but an essential component — frequently neglected in the run up to the November elections — is the efficacy of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) contract acquisition and management process. What is frequently overlooked is the “business side” of CBP – but the business side of CBP is crucial to any immigration policy. CBP agents and officers finally are benefiting from the much-delayed delivery of the Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT) surveillance technology program, but the status of the Remote Video Surveillance Systems (RVSS) and Ultra-Light Aircraft Detection (ULAD) surveillance technology programs has not been ascertained. After many needless Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition (OTIA) delays and problematic contract management decisions, both the MVSS program, along with the Mobile Surveillance Capabilities (MSC) program, now appear to be dead in the water. 

  • DronesTracking low-flying unmanned aerial systems in cities

    Airspace for the flying public today is perpetually congested yet remarkably safe, thanks in no small part to a well-established air traffic control system that tracks, guides, and continuously monitors thousands of flights a day. When it comes to small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) such as commercial quadcopters, however, no such comprehensive tracking system exists. And as off-the-shelf UAS become less expensive, easier to fly, and more adaptable for terrorist or military purposes, U.S. forces will increasingly be challenged by the need to quickly detect and identify such craft — especially in urban areas, where sight lines are limited and many objects may be moving at similar speeds.

  • DronesRules governing targeted killing by U.S. drones need clarifying

    Since the beginning of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has dramatically increased use of unmanned drones, developing technology to target and kill those identified as being terrorist leaders. Current U.S. policies on using drones for targeted killing are characterized by ambiguities in interpretations of international law and too many generalities, despite recent efforts by the Obama administration to clarify the policies, a new report finds.

  • iOS vulnerabilityIsraeli tech company’s spyware turns UAE activist’s iPhone into a self-tracking device

    Two University of Toronto researchers have uncovered an iPhone-based attack on Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent United Arab Emirates human rights defender. The attack employed spyware produced by NSO Group — an Israeli technology company founded by former members of Unit 8200, the Israeli military’s electronic surveillance branch – which is sold to government for the purpose of spying on their citizens.

  • SurveillanceMany sections of Baltimore are under secret, constant aerial video surveillance by BPD

    The Baltimore Police Department has secretly deployed a surveillance system using planes and powerful cameras that can continuously record 30-square-mile sections of the city at once. The technology, which is run by a private company, was originally developed for the Defense Department for use in Iraq. It stores the video footage for an undetermined amount of time, and police can use it to retroactively track any pedestrian or vehicle within the surveillance area.

  • DronesTechnical problems rather than operator errors cause most drone accidents

    Research has found that technical problems rather than operator errors are behind the majority of drone accidents, leading to a call for further safeguards for the industry. One of the researchers said the findings illustrated the need for further airworthiness requirements for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), as well as the mandatory reporting of all accidents or incidents. “Understanding what happens to drones, even those that don’t cause damage to people or property, is essential to improve safety,” he said.

  • DronesPolice seized drones trying to smuggle contraband into London prison

    The police have seized two drones carrying drugs and mobile phones as they were making their way toward the all-male Pentonville jail in Islington, north London. Drones were increasingly being used to smuggle items into prisons in England and Wales. Figures showed there were thirty-three incidents involving devices in 2015, compared to two in 2014 and none in 2013.bDrugs, phones, mobile chargers, and USB cards were among the items discovered.