• SurveillanceTech firms urge Congress to enact surveillance reforms

    More than thirty leading internet companies have sent a letter to the chair of the House Judiciary Committee asking for reforms to the law used for carrying out mass surveillance. The letter concerns Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The act must be renewed by Congress before the end of the year. Over the years, the U.S. security agencies have creatively interpreted the law to allow them to store information on potentially millions of U.S. citizens – even though the law specifically requires the opposite.

  • DronesService Academies Swarm Challenge: Expanding the capabilities UAV swarms

    More than forty Cadets and Midshipmen from the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the U.S. Air Force Academy helped expand the capabilities of swarms of highly autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) last month in the Service Academies Swarm Challenge. In the skies over Camp Roberts, an Army National Guard post north of Paso Robles, Calif., each academy demonstrated the innovative offensive and defensive tactics they had developed over the school year. The three-day experiment concluded with an exciting aerial battle in which the Naval Academy took home the win, a trophy, and bragging rights over its rival academies.

  • DronesService Academies Swarm Challenge: Controlling drone swarms

    UAVs and other robots have become increasingly affordable, capable, and available to both the U.S. military and adversaries alike. Enabling UAVs and similar assets to perform useful tasks under human supervision — that is, carrying out swarm tactics in concert with human teammates — holds tremendous promise to extend the advantages U.S. soldiers have in field operations. A persistent challenge in achieving this capability, however, has been scalability: enabling one operator to oversee multiple robotic platforms and have them perform highly autonomous behaviors without direct teleoperation. To help make effective swarm tactics a reality, DARPA created the Service Academies Swarm Challenge, a collaboration between the Agency and the three U.S. military Service academies.

  • Muslim surveillanceSecond judge approves settlement on NYPD Muslim surveillance

    The second of two federal judges has approved a settlement with the New York City Police Department that protects New York Muslims and others from discriminatory and unjustified surveillance. The new rules govern when and how investigations are conducted, and provide for an independent civilian representative inside the NYPD who will act as a check against surveillance abuses.

  • PrivacyYouTube users beware: Your viewing habits can be tracked

    Despite YouTube’s attempts to safeguard user anonymity, intelligence agencies, hackers, and online advertising companies can still determine which videos a user is watching. Researchers developed an algorithm to determine if someone had watched a specific video from a set of suspicious, terror-related videos. Intelligence agencies could access this technology for tracking terrorists or other suspicious individuals. Internet marketing companies could track the number and make-up of viewers watching an ad.

  • PrivacyVibrator maker to pay out $3 million for tracking users' sexual activity

    We-Vibe, the sex toy maker, has agreed to pay customers up to $7,600 each selling them a “smart vibrator” which tracked the customers’ sexual habits without their knowledge. A class-action lawsuit was filed against in an Illinois federal court against We-Vibe’s parent company, Standard Innovation. Standard Innovation has been ordered to pay a total of $3 million to owners of the vibrator who had also used the app associated with the vibrators (the tracking of customers was done by the app).

  • WiretappingNo wiretapping at Trump Tower: Senate, House intelligence leaders

    Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top two lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Thursday issued a statement to confirm that there is no evidence to back President Donald Trump’s assertion that Trump Tower was under surveillance. On Wednesday, Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, said there was no proof Trump was wiretapped during the administration of Barack Obama.

  • WiretappingU.K. intel agency dismisses claim it helped wiretap Trump as “utterly ridiculous”

    High-level British intelligence officials have angrily rejected an allegation that the U.K. intelligence service helped former president Barack Obama “wiretap” Donald Trump during the 2016 election. White House press secretary Sean Spicer repeated the claim in his Thursday press briefing. A spokesperson for the U.K. intelligence service dismissed Spicer’s claim as “utterly ridiculous.” A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday: “We’ve made clear to the administration that these claims are ridiculous and should be ignored.”

  • SurveillanceIf surveillance cameras are to be kept in line, the rules will have to keep pace with technology

    By William Webster

    The growing prevalence of cameras and greater understanding of the many ways in which we are surveilled has led many – including the current commissioner, Tony Porter, to voice concern that Britain is “sleepwalking into a surveillance state”. This raises critical questions about whether we can be confident that all these cameras are being used in a way the public would approve of – and if not, whether regulation can force CCTV operators into line. In the future, surveillance camera processes will become more opaque, more sophisticated, and potentially integrated with data from a variety of sources, including social media, meaning decisions about who to survey and who determines intensive surveillance will be determined by big data and algorithms. Any regulatory framework that does not or cannot keep up with the pace of change will soon become worthless.

  • LeaksThe WikiLeaks CIA release: When will we learn?

    By Richard Forno and Anupam Joshi

    This week’s WikiLeaks release of what is apparently a trove of Central Intelligence Agency information related to its computer hacking should surprise no one: Despite its complaints of being targeted by cyberattackers from other countries, the U.S. does a fair amount of its own hacking. Multiple federal agencies are involved, including the CIA and the National Security Agency, and even friendly nations. These latest disclosures also remind us of the cybersecurity truism that any electronic device connected to a network can be hacked. If the United States is going to be successful at securing its crucial government information, it must do a better job managing the volume of information generated and controlling access to it, both authorized and otherwise. Granted, neither is an easy task. However, absent fundamental changes that fix the proverbial cult of classification, there likely will be many more WikiLeaks-type disclosures in the future.

  • DronesFuzzy logic to help drones land themselves on moving platforms

    The buzzword in drone research is autonomous — having the unmanned aerial vehicle do most or all of its own flying. Researchers are using artificial intelligence, called fuzzy logic, to get drones to navigate and land themselves on moving platforms. This holds promise for commercial uses such as delivering packages.

  • PrivacyTech coalition fights DHS proposal to collect social media passwords

    Earlier this week, the Center for Democracy & Technology announced the creation of a coalition of tech companies, NGOs, and privacy advocates to oppose efforts by DHS to collect social media passwords from individuals entering the United States. The coalition focuses on visa applicants who might be compelled to share their passwords under new DHS policies.

  • The Russian connectionRussia, Trump and the 2016 election: What’s the best way for Congress to investigate?

    By Jordan Tama

    Exactly how will the U.S. conduct a fair and accurate investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and links with President Donald Trump’s campaign? U.S. congressional leaders are discussing options. At a time when Congress is sharply polarized along partisan lines, congressional investigations tend to become microcosms of that polarization. This is all the more true when an investigation involves an issue about which the president is vulnerable to political embarrassment or attack. If the intelligence committee proves unable to conduct a thorough and bipartisan investigation of Russian meddling and Trump’s campaign, pressure will build on America’s leaders to establish a more independent probe. Hanging in the balance could be whether the United States can forge consensus about what happened and how to prevent it from happening again.

  • The Russian connectionU.S. intelligence: a “truth-devoted” culture

    Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, now a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, was director of intelligence and counterintelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy and was a decorated CIA intelligence officer. He discusses the nature of intelligence work, the belief structure that drives those who do it, the probe of Russian interference in the election, and the friction between the Trump administration and the intelligence agencies.

  • National securityMichael Flynn's top aide fired from NSC after security clearance is denied

    A top aide to Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, was on Friday fired from his position as senior director for Africa at the National Security Council (NSC) after the CIA rejected his application for a high-level security clearance. Flynn himself is in hot water for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about discussions he — Flynn — had with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak on 29 December, in which he told the Russian ambassador not to worry about the sanctions the Obama administration had imposed on Russia that same day for its cyber-meddling in the presidential election, because Trump, after being sworn in, would lift these sanctions – as well as the sanctions imposed on Russia for annexing Crimea and invading Ukraine.