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Intersection: Sidewalks & Public Space

Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"


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    Archive for the ‘Anonymity’ Category

    Sydney Morning Herald: Could peer-to-peer technology solve the privacy conundrum?

    Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

    The Sydney Morning Herald reports on a privacy proposal concerning peer-to-peer technology by computer scientists from Saarland University and the Center for IT Security, Privacy and Accountability (CISPA), in Germany, and the Italian IMT Institute for Advanced Studies:

    A unique approach to crunching website visitor data promises the best of both worlds between accuracy and privacy.

    Data leaned from people’s behaviour online is an important tool in everything from marketing to social planning, but consumers lose control over their privacy the more data is collected about them. [...]

    [The computer scientists'] technology, known as Privada, uses peer-to-peer file sharing as the inspiration to send parts of website visitor data to different servers for processing and storage.

    When Privada collects a behavioural metric on visitors (women aged 35-45, for example) it sends it to a third-party server. Other metrics are sent to other servers, so no central database has the complete picture.

    Each server then adds up to 10 per cent of data “noise” to their records, enough to keep any single user from being identified and leaving the reassembled data 90 per cent accurate. [...] Read more »

    MIT Technolog Review: Q&A: Former NSA Deputy Director John C. Inglis

    Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

    MIT Technology Review talks about privacy and security with John C. Inglis, a former deputy director at the National Security Agency and a current advisor to Securonix, a company selling security and surveillance software. Inglis was at the NSA at the time of the leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, which have revealed surveillance programs that have raised significant privacy and civil liberty questions.

    Could technology be used to make mass surveillance programs more respectful of privacy? Former NSA cryptographer William Binney says that he helped build a system with such safeguards but that it was rejected by the agency’s leaders.

    It would be foolhardy for NSA to reject technology that would at once help us pursue national security and defend privacy and civil liberties. I know it ultimately didn’t pass muster. There is incidental collection, as there are two sides to every communication in the world, but you’re bound by law and policy to treat innocents as innocent until you have compelling information to treat them otherwise. If you asked [NSA employees] how they compromise between privacy and national security, they would say that the question is flawed because they’re expected to do both.

    Forbes: Whoops, Anyone Could Watch California City’s Police Surveillance Cameras

    Monday, August 18th, 2014

    Forbes reports that Thomas “T.K.” Kinsey and Dustin Hoffman of Exigent Systems, an IT company, were able to hack into the surveillance system of law enforcement in Redlands, Calif.:

    Redlands has over 140 surveillance cameras around the 70,000-person town that have helped the police spot and stop drunk drivers, brawlers, vandals, and people illegally smoking in parks, according to a case study on the site of Leverage Information Systems, the company that provided the camera system. [...]

    The cameras were deployed as a mesh network, with camera nodes popping up as “available wireless networks” dubbed with names that were far from stealth, such as “RPD – West End.” The cameras used a proprietary mesh protocol to communicate but were not password-protected. Hoffman and Kinsey said that the protocol was fairly easily reverse-engineered and that tapping into the network was then easy, requiring no specialized hardware, and allowing anyone to have a police-eye’s view of the town. “All you need is a little Linux knowledge and some $20 Wi-Fi hardware,” says Hoffman. He and Kinsey mapped what the cameras watched, including the entrance to an adult video store. Read more »

    Los Angeles Times: Health products like wristband monitors prompt privacy worries

    Thursday, August 14th, 2014

    The Los Angeles Times reports on privacy questions surrounding fitness technology such as health-monitoring wristbands:

    Digital devices and smartphone apps that track what we eat, how much we exercise, our weight, blood glucose and blood pressure, among other things, are widespread. [...]

    There’s no shortage of mobile health apps, either. According to Forrester Research, by the end of 2013, 40,000 health and wellness apps were available for download. And more are coming.

    As consumers increasingly use mobile apps and devices to capture and store health-related information, they can release personal data that may not be as confidential as they thought.

    “Most apps are created by independent app developers, and you, for the most part, don’t know what’s happening to the information” you input, says Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy with San Diego-based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Read more »

    Washington Post: Feds to study illegal use of spy gear

    Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

    The Washington Post reports that the Federal Communications Commission will investigate the reported misuse of surveillance technology to spy on ordinary individuals:

    The Federal Communications Commission has established a task force to study reported misuse of surveillance technology that can intercept cellular signals to locate people, monitor their calls and send malicious software to their phones.

    The powerful technology — called an IMSI catcher, though also referred to by the trade name “Stingray” — is produced by several major surveillance companies and widely used by police and intelligence services around the world.

    The FCC, in response to questions from U.S. Rep. Alan M. Grayson (D-Fla.), plans to study the extent to which criminal gangs and foreign intelligence services are using the devices against Americans. [...] Read more »

    Associated Press: Surveillance cameras raise privacy concerns

    Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

    The Associated Press reports on privacy questions concerning surveillance cameras in South Sioux City, Nebraska. (I’ve written a lot about privacy and camera surveillance in the archives, including the proliferation of surveillance technology in cities getting funding from the federal Department of Homeland Security.)

    ll told, about 90 cameras are posted in the 6-square-mile community – or one for every 149 residents. Most are on municipal buildings, but some – like those near the waterfront – are free-standing.

    While numerous communities have camera systems, Amy Miller, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, said the proliferation and use of the devices in South Sioux City is concerning from a privacy point of view. She questions the effectiveness of using them for minor crimes like littering. [...]

    The system is maintained by South Sioux City Information Technology Director Dan Feenstra. Some cameras have a zoom function, are recorded and can be used for evidence. The network has been paid for through various funding streams, including post-9/11 federal funding for increased security. The city in 2004 received a $457,226 U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant for information technology.