• Gulf States Use Coronavirus Threat to Tighten Authoritarian Controls and Surveillance

    Governments across the Middle East have moved to upgrade their surveillance capabilities under the banner of combatting COVID-19, the disease linked to the new coronavirus. Matthew Hedges writes in The Conversation that overtly repressive policies have been commonplace across the Middle East for years, notably in Egypt, Iraq and Syria, where violent measures have been taken to control populations. As a result of technological advances, an increase in political engagement and changes of leadership, the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – have also upgraded their form of authoritarianism in recent years. This has seen policies of partial economic liberalization and market-based reforms used to obscure an increase in repression and surveillance, for example by containing the work of civil society groups. Following the pattern in which authoritarian states tend to exploit common threats, some of the GCC states are now manipulating the current pandemic to enhance their social power and control.

  • The Challenge of Proximity Apps For COVID-19 Contact Tracing

    Around the world, a diverse and growing chorus is calling for the use of smartphone proximity technology to fight COVID-19. In particular, public health experts and others argue that smartphones could provide a solution to an urgent need for rapid, widespread contact tracing—that is, tracking who infected people come in contact with as they move through the world. Proponents of this approach point out that many people already own smartphones, which are frequently used to track users’ movements and interactions in the physical world. But it is not a given that smartphone tracking will solve this problem, and the risks it poses to individual privacy and civil liberties are considerable.

  • Bluetooth Signals from Your Smartphone Could Automate COVID-19 Contact Tracing While Preserving Privacy

    Imagine you’ve been diagnosed as Covid-19 positive. Health officials begin contact tracing to contain infections, asking you to identify people with whom you’ve been in close contact. The obvious people come to mind — your family, your coworkers. But what about the woman ahead of you in line last week at the pharmacy, or the man bagging your groceries? Or any of the other strangers you may have come close to in the past 14 days? Researchers are developing a system that augments “manual” contact tracing by public health officials, while preserving the privacy of all individuals. The system enables smartphones to transmit “chirps” to nearby devices could notify people if they have been near an infected person.

  • How to Protect Privacy When Aggregating Location Data to Fight COVID-19

    As governments, the private sector, NGOs, and others mobilize to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen calls to use location information—typically drawn from GPS and cell tower data—to inform public health efforts. Compared to using individualized location data for contact tracing—as many governments around the world are already doing—deriving public health insights from aggregated location data poses far fewer privacy and other civil liberties risks such as restrictions on freedom of expression and association. However, even “aggregated” location data comes with potential pitfalls.

  • Body Armor for Women in Law Enforcement

    Law enforcement in the United States remains a male-dominated profession. According to recent reports, less than 13 percent of full-time officers are female. So, it stands to reason that the ballistic-resistant body armor worn by law enforcement officers in the field has traditionally been designed for the male build. As the number of women entering the field continues to rise, so too has the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) that is designed for the female physique.

  • Forensic Proteomics: Going Beyond DNA Profiling

    A new book details an emerging forensic method that could become as widespread and trustworthy as DNA profiling. The method is called mass-spectrometry-based proteomics, which examines the proteins that make up many parts of living things. These proteins exist in unique combinations in everything from blood cells and clothing fibers to certain types of medicine and the diseases they fight. Because proteomics analyzes these proteins directly, forensic proteomics can fill in when DNA is missing, ambiguous, or was never present to begin with.

  • Why Are Cops around the World Using This Outlandish Mind-Reading Tool?

    The creator of Scientific Content Analysis, or SCAN, says the tool can identify deception. Law enforcement has used his method for decades, even though there’s no reliable science behind it. Even the CIA and FBI have bought in.

  • Forensic Methods for Getting Data from Damaged Mobile Phones

    Criminals sometimes damage their mobile phones in an attempt to destroy evidence. They might smash, shoot, submerge or cook their phones, but forensics experts can often retrieve the evidence anyway. Now, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have tested how well these forensic methods work.

  • Science Helps Improve Eyewitness Testimony

    As we move through the world, looking at objects and people, we generally trust that we are accurately perceiving what’s out there. But research has shown that part of what we see sometimes originates in our own minds — that our brains fill in blanks in our vision based on our expectations or past experiences. Now science — and the insights it provides about the pitfalls in our vision and memory — is improving the way eyewitness testimony is taken and used.

  • Israeli Court to Hear Case against Spy-Software Company NSO Behind Closed Doors

    On Thursday, a judge at Tel Aviv’s District Court begin hearing arguments as to why Israel’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) should revoke the export license of NSO Group. The firm’s Pegasus software has been used to target journalists and activists in several countries – including in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates.

  • DHS S&T, BIRD Foundation Announce Awards for Advanced Homeland Security Technologies

    The Israel – U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation the other day announced three awards for collaborative projects totaling $2.3 million to develop advanced technologies for the homeland security mission.

  • The FBI Needs to Be Reformed

    Bob Bauer and Jack Glodsmith write that “the FBI has taken a large hit in its credibility over the last four years, due in large part to Trump’s unprecedented, reckless, and routinely baseless attacks on it. But the Bureau has also hurt itself by its conduct of the investigation of Trump campaign officials and of Hillary Clinton’s emails when she was a presidential candidate.” There are many destructive pressures today on the legitimacy of the American electoral process, and “Our democracy cannot afford the added delegitimating burden of botched investigations related to elections that inevitably give rise to suspicions or charges of political manipulation,” they write.

  • The Crossfire Hurricane Report’s Inconvenient Findings

    The DOJ IG report, Michael Sanchez, writers, confounds the hopes of Donald Trump’s more ardent admirers by failing to turn up anything resembling a Deep State cabal within the FBI plotting against the president, or deliberate abuse of surveillance authorities for political ends – but it also paints a disturbing picture of the FBI’s vaunted vetting process for FISA warrant applications.

  • Justice Department Inspector General’s Report Raises Troubling Questions About FBI’s Role in FISA

    The Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded that the FBI’s initiation of the Russia probe met legal standards, but the report issued last Monday by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) strongly criticized the FBI’s handling of one aspect of the probe: the request for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) wiretap of ex-Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page and subsequent renewals of the FISA. Peter Margulies writes that along with the record of Russian election interference compiled in the Russia probe, institutional reforms to the FISA process will be a valuable legacy of the investigation.

  • Unlawful Metadata Access Is Easy When We’re Flogging a Dead Law

    After watching this year’s media raids and the prosecution of lawyers and whistleblowers, it’s not hard to see why Australians wonder about excessive police power and dwindling journalistic freedom. But these problems are compounded by another, less known issue: police, and other bodies not even involved in law enforcement, have broad powers to access metadata. Each year, police alone access metadata in excess of 300,000 times.