• Pentagon Testing Mass Surveillance Balloons Across the U.S.

    The U.S. military is conducting wide-area surveillance tests across six Midwest states using experimental high-altitude balloons, documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reveal. Up to 25 unmanned solar-powered balloons are being launched from rural South Dakota and drifting 250 miles through an area spanning portions of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri, before concluding in central Illinois.

  • Military-Style Surveillance Technology Is Being Tested in American Cities

    What if you fly a helicopter over the city at 1,000 feet. Now, with your telescopic camera, you can even make out distinctive features of the people in your frame. Surely this isn’t legal, you might say. Surely a bright line exists between snapping a photo with your phone from an airplane window and focusing a telescopic lens a few hundred feet over someone’s backyard. But it doesn’t. This is because airspace over America falls into the same legal category as other public spaces, such as sidewalks, roads, parks, and beaches—and it isn’t illegal to take photographs of private property, or private citizens, from public space. As a result, we have no expectation of privacy from above.

  • Insurance Black Boxes and the Surveillance State – How Free Are You, Really?

    Over the last few years there’s been a noticeable rise in the number of drivers opting to fit a “black box” to their cars in order to obtain cheaper insurance. The idea is that the boxes send location data to nearby satellites, allowing insurance companies to monitor how people are driving, offering discounts and even refunds to those deemed to be driving more safely. Certainly, the driver wouldn’t know any different, as they’d still drive with the same acute awareness of the rules of the road.

  • Private Surveillance Is a Lethal Weapon Anybody Can Buy

    High-tech surveillance technology, once the purview of sophisticated spy services in wealthy countries, is now being offered by private contractors around the world as part of a highly secretive multibillion-dollar industry. While other kinds of weapons are subjected to stringent international regimes and norms — even if these are often broken — the trade in spy technology is barely regulated.

  • Mass surveillance is coming to a city near you

    The tech entrepreneur Ross McNutt wants to spend three years recording outdoor human movements in a major U.S. city, KMOX news radio reports. Conor Friedersdorf writes in The Atlantic that if that sounds too dystopian to be real, you’re behind the times. McNutt, who runs Persistent Surveillance Systems, was inspired by his stint in the Air Force tracking Iraqi insurgents. He tested mass-surveillance technology over Compton, California, in 2012. In 2016, the company flew over Baltimore, feeding information to police for months (without telling city leaders or residents) while demonstrating how the technology works to the FBI and Secret Service.

  • Dystopian Future Watch: Is San Francisco’s facial recognition ban too little, too late?

    Life just keeps creeping along, leading us step-by-step closer to living in a Philip K. Dick dystopian future—in real-time. And often, in our surveillance culture, we are willing participants to work alongside Big Brother. Harmon Leon writes in the Observer that Remember how fun it used to be to see facial recognition and retina scanning in sci-fi movies? We loved it in RoboCop and Blade Runner, right? Now, many of these biometrictechnologies have become a nightmarish reality.

  • WhatsApp's loophole reveals role of private companies in cyber-surveillance

    Last month, WhatsApp’s latest security flaw was discovered, a flaw which allow governments to spy on dissidents, activists, and journalists. An Israeli cyber company is reportedly behind the loophole — and not for the first time.

  • Big tech surveillance could damage democracy

    Data is often called the oil of the 21st century. The more tech companies know about their users, the more effectively they can direct them to goods and services that they are likely to buy. The more companies know about their users, the more competitive they are in the market. But this business model – what I consider spying machines – has enormous potential to violate civil liberties. Big tech is already being used abroad to enhance the power of repressive regimes, as my work and others’ has shown.

  • Silicon Valley’s scramble for China

    In August 2012, China launched one of its first major “smart city” projects for the remote oil town of Karamay in the autonomous province of Xinjiang. “Information technology is not just about technology. It should be integrated with all aspects of life in our city and make people’s lives more convenient,” said then Karamay Mayor Chen Xinfa. Nafeez Ahmed writes in Coda Story that A report released last year by subsidiary Deloitte China, titled “Super Smart City: Happier Society with Higher Quality,” celebrates China’s drive to build “super smart cities” which integrate data across services like health care, transport, education and public safety. Billed by Deloitte as a virtual utopia, China’s smart cities represent the biggest and most intrusive surveillance architecture ever built by any single nation, according to experts and analysts.

  • San Bernardino Court asked to review cell-site simulator, digital search warrants likely improperly sealed

    Since the California legislature passed a 2015 law requiring cops to get a search warrant before probing our devices, rifling through our online accounts, or tracking our phones, EFF has been on a quest to examine court filings to determine whether law enforcement agencies are following the new rules.

  • China’s Orwellian war on religion

    China is experimenting with Orwellian surveillance technology, including the Ministry of Public Security’s mass surveillance system and a “Social Credit System” that can create a blacklist for those who don’t pay debts or who cheat on taxes, break traffic rules or attend an unofficial church. Nicholas Kristof writes in the New York Times that blacklisted individuals can be barred from buying plane or train tickets: Although the system is still being tested in different ways at the local level, last year it barred people 17.5 million times from purchasing air tickets, the government reported. It could also be used to deny people promotions or assign a ring tone to their phone warning callers that they are untrustworthy.

  • Dystopian Future Watch: Is San Francisco’s facial recognition ban too little, too late?

    Life just keeps creeping along, leading us step-by-step closer to living in a Philip K. Dick dystopian future—in real-time. And often, in our surveillance culture, we are willing participants to work alongside Big Brother. “Remember how fun it used to be to see facial recognition and retina scanning in sci-fi movies?” Hermon Leon asks in the Observer. “We loved it in RoboCop and Blade Runner, right? Now, many of these biometric technologies have become a nightmarish reality. Let’s take a look.”

  • Analytic superiority, public-private cooperation and the future of U.S. foreign intelligence

    After years of focusing on counterterrorism, a mainly kinetic threat, the U.S. intelligence community must now adapt to a long-term cyber struggle with nation-state adversaries. This struggle includes election interference and other socio-political disruption, cyber sabotage, theft of secrets, and competition in emerging technologies such as quantum computing and 5G wireless communications. David Kris writes in Lawfare that to succeed against these threats, the intelligence community must shift its approach in two related ways. First, it must focus on analytic superiority as well as cryptographic superiority—terms that I explain below but that basically require a shift in emphasis from accessing data to managing and using data. Second, to achieve analytic superiority, the intelligence community must develop stronger partnerships with the private sector and academia, and a broader base of external support with the American people.

  • How artificial intelligence systems could threaten democracy

    U.S. technology giant Microsoft has teamed up with a Chinese military university to develop artificial intelligence systems that could potentially enhance government surveillance and censorship capabilities. The advent of digital repression is profoundly affecting the relationship between citizen and state. New technologies are arming governments with unprecedented capabilities to monitor, track and surveil individual people. Even governments in democracies with strong traditions of rule of law find themselves tempted to abuse these new abilities.

  • Detecting, analyzing suspicious activity in surveillance footage

    Traditional surveillance cameras do not always detect suspicious activities or objects in a timely manner. Researchers developed a hybrid lightweight tracking algorithm known as Kerman (Kernelized Kalman filter).