Surveillance

  • DoD sound protection standards for secret spaces are insufficient

    What is the best place to conduct a conversation about a confidential or even classified matter? Surprisingly, probably not a conference room designed in accordance with acoustical criteria approved by the Department of Defense (DOD). While such “secret” rooms — intended to keep sensitive information out of the earshot of unauthorized listeners — might meet DOD standards, they offer less protection against snooping than is found in a luxury condo.

  • Virginia Tech to get $2.6 million to test unmanned aircraft systems

    The Commonwealth of Virginia announced it will award more than $2.6 million over three years in Federal Action Contingency Trust (FACT) funds to Virginia Tech to operate an unmanned aircraft systems test site in the state, officials from the governor’s office said. The test range is operated by the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, which is led by Virginia Tech and Rutgers University and represents an effort safely to develop unmanned aircraft systems. The University of Maryland has also agreed to partner with Virginia Tech and Rutgers on unmanned aircraft system integration.

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  • U.S., U.K. intelligence worried about Snowden’s “insurance policy” cache

    Edward Snowden has so far released about 500 of the classified documents he secretly downloaded while working for an NSA contractor. Source familiar with the case say he had downloaded between 50,000 and 200,000 classified NSA and British government documents. Those close to him suggest that in addition to continuing a steady release of secret documents over the next two to three years, the potentially most damaging information he obtained, information which includes the names of thousands of intelligence agents and informers employed by the United States and its allies, is kept in a secret cache as an insurance policy against arrest or physical harm.

  • 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.

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  • U.S. Navy demonstrates UAV launch from submerged submarine

    The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) demonstrated the launch of an all-electric, fuel cell-powered, unmanned aerial system (UAS) from a submerged submarine. The successful submerged launch of a remotely deployed UAS offers a pathway to providing mission critical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to the U.S. Navy’s submarine force.

  • 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.

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  • 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.”

  • Digital privacy services enjoying a surge in demand

    Digital privacy services such as encrypted e-mail, secure instant messaging, and services that provide hard-to-track IP addresses are enjoying a surge in demand as individuals and businesses seek to protect information from spies and hackers in the wake of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance program revelations. These services promise security, but may also slow down computer performance. Moreover, they are not likely to deter those who are determined to hack into a particular computer network.

  • 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.

  • NSA surveillance leads to San Diego conviction of al-Shabaab supporters

    Three Somali men residing in San Diego were sentenced to prison on Monday for aiding al-Shabaab, a Somali terrorist organization. The sentencing hearing in a San Diego federal court came four days after the men lost their bid for a new trial, requested after discovering that the charges were supported by evidence from theNational Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance program.U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller denied the defense’s request to dismiss the NSA surveillance-generated evidence, saying the collection of the evidence did not amount to a warrantless search, and that while the agency’s surveillance programs were controversial, the protocol that was followed aligns with the law.

  • TCOM’s aerostat systems help U.S. Border Patrol

    Several TCOM aerostat systems are being evaluated by Border Patrol agents in operational environments along U.S.-Mexico border. TCOM’s aerostat systems enable operators to view activity along the border. The system can typically remain aloft for two weeks to one month at a time. With operational altitudes of up to 5,000ft, the aerostats provide monitoring of thousands of square miles.

  • A civilian may be appointed to head the NSA

    The Obama administration is considering appointing a civilian to lead the National Security Agency (NSA). If carried out, the move would install a civilian to lead the agency for the first time since its founding in 1952. Keith Alexander, the current director of the NSA, is a four-star Army general. He plans to retire next spring.

  • Ohio lawmakers want to limit use of drones by law enforcement

    State lawmakers in Ohio want to limit the use of drones by law enforcement agencies in the state.A proposed bill would require law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before using drones. It would prohibit law enforcement from using drones to search for missing persons, locate illegal marijuana operations, or perform several actions officers currently handle with helicopter surveillance.

  • U.S. intelligence community seeking better face recognition biometrics

    Intelligence analysts often rely on facial images to assist in establishing the identity of an individual, but too often, just examining the sheer volume of possibly relevant images and videos can be daunting. While biometric tools like automated face recognition could assist analysts in this task, current tools perform best on the well-posed, frontal facial photos taken for identification purposes. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), the research arm of the U.S. intelligence community, is seeking significantly to improve the current performance of face recognition tools by fusing the rich spatial, temporal, and contextual information available from the multiple views captured by today’s media.