• HART: Homeland Security’s massive new database will include face recognition, DNA, and peoples’ “non-obvious relationships”

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is quietly building what will likely become the largest database of biometric and biographic data on citizens and foreigners in the United States. The agency’s new Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) database will include multiple forms of biometrics—from face recognition to DNA, data from questionable sources, and highly personal data on innocent people. It will be shared with federal agencies outside of DHS as well as state and local law enforcement and foreign governments. And yet, we still know very little about it.

  • Corporate data collection and U.S. national security: Expanding the conversation in an era of nation state cyber aggression

    What has the Russia investigation revealed about risks inherent in mass private data collection? Carrie Cordero writes that one thing we learned from the Russia investigation is that we may be framing the conversation about corporate data collection too narrowly. “Based on what we have learned publicly so far about the Russian election interference, it is worth pausing to reflect on the national security implications of corporate data collection and aggregation as it relates to the collection of individual, private citizens’ data,” she says. “Although the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and special counsel investigations are not yet complete, we know enough already about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election to understand that data collected from private companies and organizations can be accessed, exposed and potentially misused in a way that is harmful to the country’s institutional stability. At the very least, its misuse sows distrust and confusion. At worst, it shreds the institutional and societal fabric that holds the country together.”

  • Civil liberties organizations urge transparency on NSA domestic phone record surveillance

    Last week, twenty-four civil liberties organizations sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, urging him to report—as required by law—statistics that could help clear up just how many individuals are subject to broad NSA surveillance of domestic telephone records. According to the most recent transparency report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the NSA collected more than 530 million call records in 2017, an increase of more than 300 percent from the year prior.

  • “The day that we can't protect human sources”: The president and the House Intelligence Committee burn an informant

    It wasn’t that long ago that both the executive branch and the legislature considered the protection of intelligence sources a matter of surpassing national importance. In 1982 Congress passed the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which criminalized the knowing and intentional outing of U.S. covert operatives and intelligence sources whom the government is taking active steps to protect. So what happens, Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes write in Lawfare , “when the intentional outing of U.S. intelligence assets is the province not of rogue insiders, not of foreign hackers or foreign agents, not of people who end up spending the rest of their lives as fugitives, but of senior officials in two branches of this country’s government who are most responsible for protecting those assets” — and “when they do so for frankly political reasons?”

  • Testing and demonstrating drones -- and showing what they can do

    “Drones” have proven useful both for the military and the public. They can be relatively inexpensive gadgets with a variety of capabilities such as taking aerial photos and video, surveilling, and carrying objects. However, until now, DHS could not evaluate and demonstrate drones in a timely manner because of the lack of a common testing site and high costs. DHS S&T is preparing to integrate drones in DHS’ and other federal agencies’ missions by providing accessible demonstration sites for land- and maritime-based operations.

  • Truly autonomous systems to learn “on the fly”

    Almost all artificial intelligence, or AI, technology is reliant on the availability of massive amounts of data, but engineers are now trying to develop machines that can learn “on the fly” in situations where there is little data to inform them. The engineers hope their efforts will assist the Department of Defense in the development of truly autonomous systems that can not only operate in challenging environments but also survive disruptions or recognize when they are fatal.

  • How are drones changing warfare, threatening security?

    The Trump administration recently announced a new policy that could vastly expand the sale of armed aerial drones, a specialty of Professor Nicholas Grossman, the author of the new book Drones and Terrorism: Asymmetric Warfare and the Threat to Global Security. “Most people focus on governments deploying drones, but terrorists, insurgents and other nonstate actors are using them as well,” he said. “The growing commercial drone market also creates concerns that terrorists will deploy them in the United States and other developed countries.”

  • Britain’s mass surveillance regime is directly opposing human rights

    In light of the Facebook data scandal more people are beginning to challenge the web’s pervasive surveillance culture. But few British citizens seem to be aware of the government’s own online surveillance regime – significant parts of which have been deemed unlawful.

  • Securing U.S. skies

    Extended stretches of U.S. land borders invite illegal entry on the ground, and U.S. coastlines are often used for unauthorized seaborne entry. New, creative attempts at illegal activity in these domains are a daily occurrence. Aerial threats pose a different challenge as they have no natural barriers restricting them — land or coastal. Commercialization of drone technology, for all the beneficial opportunities it provides, also enables a new medium for criminal activity and other homeland security threats.

  • Cambridge Analytica: the data analytics industry is already in full swing

    Revelations about Cambridge Analytica have laid bare the seeming lack of control that we have over our own data. Suddenly, with all the talk of “psychographics” and voter manipulation, the power of data analytics has become the source of some concern. But the risk is that if we look at the case of Cambridge Analytica in isolation, we might prevent a much wider debate about the use and control of our data. By focusing on the reports of extreme practices, we might miss the many everyday ways that data analytics are now shaping our lives.

  • Use of face recognition systems threatens civil liberties: EFF report

    Face recognition—fast becoming law enforcement’s surveillance tool of choice—is being implemented with little oversight or privacy protections, leading to faulty systems that will disproportionately impact people of color and may implicate innocent people for crimes they didn’t commit, says an Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) report. Independent oversight, privacy protections are needed.

  • Seeking clarity: Making gray-zone activity more black and white

    An emergent type of conflict in recent years has been coined “gray zone,” because it sits in a nebulous area between peace and conventional warfare. Gray-zone action is not openly declared or defined, it’s slower, and is prosecuted more subtly—using social, psychological, religious, information, cyber and other means to achieve physical or cognitive objectives with or without violence. The lack of clarity of intent—the grayness—makes it challenging to detect, characterize, and counter an enemy fighting this way. DARPA launches a new program called COMPASS, to develop software that would help clarify enemy intent by gauging an adversary’s responses to various stimuli.

  • Germany’s highest court reviewing country’s permissive new surveillance laws

    German journalists, press groups, and civil rights advocates have asked Germany’s Constitutional Court to review the legality of the government’s surveillance capabilities. The plaintiffs contend that the law allows for the “virtually unrestricted” monitoring of foreign reporters.

  • Drones learn to navigate autonomously by imitating cars, bicycles

    Researchers have developed an algorithm called DroNet which allows drones to fly completely by themselves through the streets of a city and in indoor environments. The algorithm had to learn traffic rules and adapt training examples from cyclists and car drivers.

  • Detect illicit drone video filming

    Researchers have demonstrated the first technique to detect a drone camera illicitly capturing video. Their study addresses increasing concerns about the proliferation of drone use for personal and business applications and how it is impinging on privacy and safety.