Surveillance

  • Boston Police has suspended use of license plate scanners

    TheBoston Police Department (BPD) has suspended its use of license plate scanners which enable law enforcement agencies automatically to scan vehicles for traffic or criminal violations. The announcement comes after an investigation raised privacy concerns regarding whether BPD is capable of securing the data collected from the license plate scanners. The investigation also revealed that information on wanted vehicles captured by the scanners was not followed.

  • James Bond drank too much to perform at the level depicted in books, movies

    A detailed examination of James Bond’s books shows that Bond’s weekly alcohol intake is over four times the recommended limit for an adult male, putting him at high risk of several alcohol related diseases, such as alcoholic liver disease, cirrhosis, impotence, and alcohol-induced tremor, and an early death. The medical team concluded that it would not be realistic to expect Bond to have the capacity to perform (in all aspects of life) at his high level of alcohol intake.

  • Improving the national ballistic data base

    A team of researchers identified a number of areas of improvement in a national database of forensic ballistics evidence used to link guns to violent crimes. The report, just released by the National Institute of Justice, already has led to improvements in the system called the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN), which is operated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

  • Police cell-phone tracking raises privacy concerns

    Law enforcement agencies around the country are using the International Mobile Subscriber Identity locator (IMSI catcher), known as Stingray, to track cellphone users for the purpose of assisting criminal investigations. Stingray masquerades as a cellphone tower, tricking phones into sending it a signal that law enforcement can later use to identify the serial number of the phone and track the subscriber or cellphone user. Privacy advocates are worried about widespread police tracking of cellphones and violations of privacy.

  • NSA planted sleeper malware in 50,000 computer networks

    The NSA has planted 50,000 sleeper malware packages – in effect, digital sleeper agents – in more than 50,000 computer networks around the world. The agents, controlled by the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit, can be activated on command to harvest information of cause disruption. To plant the digital agents, the NSA employed methods typically used by Internet scammers and fraudsters.

  • Texas terror case may hinge on reason for a FISA warrant

    The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed in 1978, was the center of a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals trial last Thursday in New Orleans. The case involves Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, a former Texas Tech student serving a life sentence for an attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. At trial, federal prosecutors described Aldawsari as a “lone wolf” terrorist planning to wage a personal “holy war” from Lubbock, Texas. In the application for the warrants, however, prosecutors identified Aldawsari to a FISA court judge as an “agent of a foreign power.”

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.