• Four questions Belgians should ask about the Patriot Act

    The Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks added a sense of urgency to calls for Belgium to enact its own counterterrorism bill. It is a call the French government has already answered. Increased use of surveillance is a worldwide trend. There is no guarantee, however, that even with the most sophisticated surveillance technology out there today, passing a bill or law to collect private information on citizens will protect us from terrorist threats and violence. Even more vexing: the nature of intelligence gathering means we may never know exactly how many attacks have been prevented by the Patriot Act, the French surveillance law — or a similar law that Belgium may soon pass.

  • FBI may be able to break into San Bernardino terrorist’s phone without Apple’s help

    Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym has postponed until 5 April a court hearing about the FBI’s request that the court would order Apple to unlock the phone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists. The FBI asked the judge to postpone the hearing after the agency said it may have found a way to unlock the phone without Apple’s help.

  • Miniaturized fuel cell makes drones fly more than one hour

    Drones are used for various applications such as aero picturing, disaster recovery, and delivering. Despite attracting attention as a new growth area, the biggest problem of drones is its small battery capacity and limited flight time of less than an hour. A newly developed fuel cell can solve this problem.

  • Apple versus FBI: All Writs Act’s age should not bar its use

    A federal magistrate judge in California has issued a warrant ordering Apple to assist the FBI in accessing data on an iPhone used by a suspect in the December 2015 San Bernardino mass shooting. Apple’s public refusal to comply with the order – and its motion asking a judge to reverse the order – have set up a legal showdown that has captivated the technology world. It’s hard not to think that marketing and economics are at least somewhat behind Apple’s actions. But my guess is most people understand that the FBI would not be getting into their phones without a probable cause search warrant. In addition, I would think Apple would not want to have a market composed of people who want to use iPhones for dangerous and illegal activity. The company might actually lose more future customers because of its uncooperative attitude than it would ever lose by helping the government by complying with a court order.

  • In FBI versus Apple, government strengthened tech’s hand on privacy

    The ongoing fight between Apple and the FBI over breaking into the iPhone maker’s encryption system to access a person’s data is becoming an increasingly challenging legal issue. This case is very specific, and in this narrow case, Apple and law enforcement agencies will likely find a compromise. However, this question is not going away anywhere. With the “Internet of things” touted as the next big revolution, more and more devices will capture our very personal data – including our conversations. This case could be a precedent-setting event that can reshape how our data are stored and managed in the future.

  • Refined interview technique can reveal terror plots

    An interview technique for eliciting intelligence without asking questions has in a series of experiments proven to work very well. The idea dates back to the renowned Second World War interrogator Hanns Scharff, but has now, for the first time, been empirically validated. The technique can help intelligence agencies reveal plans of future terrorist acts.

  • Fast, lightweight autonomous air vehicle completes first flight data tests

    DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) technologies could be useful in addressing a pressing surveillance shortfall. Military teams patrolling dangerous overseas urban environments, and rescue teams responding to disasters such as earthquakes or floods, currently can use remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to provide a bird’s-eye view of the situation, but to know what is going on inside an unstable building or a threatening indoor space often requires physical entry, which can put troops or civilian response teams in danger.

  • Autonomous cloud seeding aircraft successfully tested in Nevada

    A team of Nevada scientists and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) engineers have successfully flight-tested the first-ever autonomous cloud seeding aircraft platform. Cloud seeding flare tests were deployed from Drone America’s DAx8 UAS aircraft flown in Reno in late January.

  • More Americans support Justice Dept. than Apple in locked iPhone dispute

    As the standoff between the Department of Justice and Apple Inc. continues over an iPhone used by one of the suspects in the San Bernardino terrorist attacks, 51 percent say Apple should unlock the iPhone to assist the ongoing FBI investigation. Fewer Americans (38 percent) say Apple should not unlock the phone to ensure the security of its other users’ information; 11 percent do not offer an opinion on the question.

  • Passwords, privacy and protection: can Apple meet FBI’s demand without creating a ‘backdoor’?

    The point of encryption is to make decryption hard. However, hard does not mean impossible. The FBI could decrypt this data, with sufficient effort and computational power, and they could do this with no help from Apple. However, this route would be expensive, and would take some time. In effect, what they’re requesting of Apple is to make their job easier, cheaper and faster. Ultimately, how this matter gets resolved may depend more on the big-picture question of what privacy rights we as a society want for the data we record on our personal devices. Understanding the technical questions can inform this discussion.

  • Snowden ready to return to U.S. for “fair trial”

    Edward Snowden has told friends and supporters he was ready to return to the United States if he could be guaranteed a fair trial. Snowden said his representatives had approached the U.S. Justice Department in an effort to negotiate a plea deal, even one involving him spending time in jail. He told the BBC Panorama last year, however, that the Justice Department had made no effort to respond.

  • NYPD has used Stingrays since 2008 -- with lower-level court orders rather than warrants

    The NYPD has confirmed that it owns and operates Stingrays— surveillance devices that spy on cell phones nearby and which can be used to track location. In response to an NYCLU FOIL request, the NYPD disclosed it used Stingrays nearly 1,016 times between 2008 and May of 2015 without a written policy and following a practice of obtaining only lower-level court orders rather than warrants. This is the first time the extent of the use of Stingrays by the NYPD has been made public.

  • Intelligence agencies could use Internet-of-things to spy on people

    James Clapper, the director of U.S. national intelligence, told lawmakers the other day that the Internet of things — baby monitors, TV set, home security devices, voice recognition dolls – may be used by intelligence services to spy on people. Clapper, testifying yesterday before a Senate panel, said that intelligence agencies might be able to use this new generation of household devices to increase their surveillance capabilities.

  • Nearly 300,000 UAV owners register with the FAA

    Nearly 300,000 owners have registered their small unmanned aircraft in the first thirty days after the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) online registration system went live. Owners who registered in the first month received a refund for the $5 application fee.

  • Brennan Center sues DHS, DOJ to make “Countering Violent Extremism” records public

    The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law last week sued DHS and the Department of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for records pertaining to an inter-agency initiative known as “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE). The CVE initiative is designed to identify and preempt Americans from becoming involved in “violent extremism” and is being implemented in Muslim communities in several parts of the country, including the three formally designated pilot cities of Los Angeles, Boston, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.