Surveillance

  • UAV developer CyPhy Works raises $7 million to build flying robots

    Danvers, Massachusetts-based CyPhy Works, a developer of advanced UAVs, the other day announced the close of a $7 million financing round led by Lux Capital, with participation from General Catalyst Partners, Felicis Ventures, and several undisclosed angel investors. As part of the financing, Lux Capital Partner Bilal Zuberi will join the CyPhy Works board of directors. The company says it targets 24/7 “persistent” operations.

  • Lawmakers want better security clearance process

    The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee(HSGAC) held a hearing last week to review security clearance procedures in light of Edward Snowden’s leaks and the Washington Navy Yard assault in which contractor Aaron Alexis shot and killed twelve people. Members of various federal agencies involved in issuing security clearances testified about their initiatives to improve the security clearance process, but legislators pushed for concrete plans and changes to the current system.

  • Senate panel’s NSA curbs not enough: critics

    Yesterday, the Senate’s intelligence committee approved by an 11-4, and released the text of, a bill which would scale back the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records, increase congressional and judicial oversight of intelligence activities, and create 10-year prison sentences for people who access the classified material without authorization. Critics of U.S. surveillance programs and privacy rights advocates said the bill does little, if anything, to end the daily collection of millions of records that has spurred widespread demands for reform.

  • Court: a warrant is required for GPS tracking of suspects’ vehicles

    A federal appeals court in Philadelphia has ruled that law enforcement officials must obtain a warrant before attaching a GPS device to a suspect’s car.The appeals judges said that “A GPS search extends the police intrusion well past the time it would normally take officers to enter a target vehicle and locate, extract, or examine the then-existing evidence.” They also pointedly noted that “Generally speaking, a warrant-less search is not rendered reasonable merely because probable cause existed that would have justified the issuance of a warrant.”

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  • U.S. tech companies increase lobbying efforts related to surveillance, NSA

    Technology firms Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, among other tech powerhouses, are quietly increasing lobbying efforts directed at government surveillance laws as they seek to have a say in what Congress does regarding surveillance reforms and National Security Agency (NSA) programs. Traditionally, tech firms have not pushed for restrictions on the ability of the U.S. intelligence community to collect data, and it is not clear what position these industry leaders will take, whether they plan to take a position at all, or whether they will present lawmakers with a united industry front.

  • White House to curb NSA monitoring of some allies' leaders

    It appears that President Obama will soon instruct the NSA to stop eavesdropping on leaders of close U.S. allies. It now emerges that both the president and Congress’s intelligence committees were kept in the dark about this aspect of the NSA surveillance program. Yesterday’s indication by the White House that it moving toward banning the NSA from eavesdropping on some foreign leaders is a historic change in the practices of an agency which has enjoyed unlimited and unfettered – and, it now appears, unsupervised – freedom of action outside the borders of the United States. The move is similar to, if more complicated than, the limits imposed on the CIA in the mid-1970s. Security experts note, though, that prohibiting the NSA from eavesdropping on some foreign leaders would be more complicated and potentially more damaging to U.S. interests than the prohibitions imposed on the CIA more than three decades ago.

  • U.S. worries about proliferation of drone technology

    A new Amnesty International report about U.S. drone use in the war on terror says that the drone campaign is killing so many civilians, that it does not only violate international law, but may be a war crime. The report also says that the growing use of drones by the United States in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia encourages their use by other states and groups. The United States rejects the figures of civilian casualties cited in the Amnesty report as unreliable, and says that the research methodology the report’s authors used is deeply flawed. The United States does agree, however, that there is a reason to worry about the proliferation of drone technology. “Going forward this is a technology that we know more people will probably get access to,” a State Department spokeswoman said.

  • 2008 drone killing of al Shabab leader used phone info collected by NSA

    Court documents filed in the case of Basaaly Moalin, a San Diego cab driver of Somali origin accused of aiding al Shabab, reveal that the 2008 killing by a CIA drone strike of al Shabab leader Aden Hashen Ayrow was aided by information collected by the NSA metadata collection program. The NSA was able to pinpoint Ayrow’s real-time location by tracking calls between him and Moalin. Lawyers for Moalin are appealing the conviction on grounds that he was unconstitutionally targeted by the NSA’s surveillance program.

  • MI6 asks for more spies in Afghanistan to fight terrorism after NATO withdrawal

    MI6, the U.K. Secret Intelligence Service, is calling for reinforcements from other agencies in order to strengthen the U.K. intelligence presence in Afghanistan after NATO forces withdraw from the country in 2014. Intelligence analysts warn that Afghanistan will become an “intelligence vacuum” which will allow terrorists to pose an increased threat to Britain. Intelligence sources said that Britain’s intelligence agencies were already “very stretched” and focused on potential threats from Yemen and Somalia, a fact which might persuade al Qaeda to seek to exploit the lack of attention to Afghanistan.

  • Police departments adopt sophisticated, cheap-to-operate surveillance technology

    Advancements in surveillance technology have been adopted not only by the National Security Agency (N.S.A) or other federal intelligence agencies. Local police departments have also incorporated the latest surveillance technologies into their work, allowing them to track individuals for different purposes.

  • Backlash: growing interest in counter-surveillance tools

    The revelations about the NSA surveillance programs has prompted what some see as high-tech civil disobedience: a growing number of products and applications aiming to limit the NSA’s ability to access encrypted e-mails, obtain phone records, and listen to phone conversations.

  • Turkey exposed Israeli spy network in Iran

    Israel and Turkey used to be close allies, but the relationship began to deteriorate in 2003, when Recep Tayyip Erdogan became prime minister after his Islamic party won the parliamentary elections the year before. The relationship reached its low point in 2010, when nine Turks were killed by Israeli commandos on a ship carrying supplies to the Gaza Strip. This was also the year that Hakan Fidan became the head of Milli Istihbarat Teskilati, or MIT, the Turkish intelligence service. Fidan is known for advocating a closer Turkey-Iran relationship – the Wall Street Journal wrote that “he rattled Turkey’s allies by allegedly passing to Iran sensitive intelligence collected by the U.S. and Israel.” Stories now emerge that in early 2012 Turkey deliberately blew the cover of an Israeli spy ring working inside Iran to collect information on Iran’s nuclear program.

  • Director of U.K. intelligence spiritedly defends surveillance programs

    The chief of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, said last week that recent leaks of government surveillance capabilities had given “the advantage to the terrorists.” Andrew Parker said that “What we know about the terrorists, and the detail of the capabilities we use against them, together represent our margin of advantage. That margin gives us the prospect of being able to detect their plots and stop them. But that margin is under attack.”

  • Web sites secretly track users without relying on cookies

    Device fingerprinting, also known as browser fingerprinting, is the practice of collecting properties of PCs, smartphones, and tablets to identify and track users. For the vast majority of browsers, the combination of these properties is unique, and thus functions as a “fingerprint” that can be used to track users without relying on cookies. Researchers have discovered that 145 of the Internet’s 10,000 top Web sites use device fingerprinting to track users without their knowledge or consent.

  • Virginia police built massive data base of political rallies participants

    From 2010 until last spring, the Virginia State Police (VSP) used automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) to collect information about – and build a massive data base of — political activities of law-abiding people. The VSP, for example, recorded the license plates of vehicles attending President Obama’s 2009 inauguration, as well as campaign rallies for Obama and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Following a strong opinion by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the VSP discontinued the practice, and the agency says it has purged its license plate database, and now disposes of ALPR-obtained information within twenty-four hours of collection, unless it is relevant to a clearly defined criminal investigation.