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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 ‘Biometrics’ Category

    Center for Investigative Reporting and KQED: Hollywood-style surveillance technology inches closer to reality

    Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

    The Center for Investigative Reporting and KQED looked into emerging surveillance technologies that could have a significant impact on the privacy rights of individuals:

    [Ross McNutt] and his Ohio-based company, Persistent Surveillance Systems, persuaded the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to use his surveillance technology to monitor Compton’s streets from the air and track suspects from the moment the snatching occurred.

    The system, known as wide-area surveillance, is something of a time machine – the entire city is filmed and recorded in real time. Imagine Google Earth with a rewind button and the ability to play back the movement of cars and people as they scurry about the city. [...]

    McNutt who holds a doctorate in rapid product development, helped build wide-area surveillance to hunt down bombing suspects in Iraq and Afghanistan. He decided that clusters of high-powered surveillance cameras attached to the belly of small civilian aircraft could be a game-changer in U.S. law enforcement. [...]

    The Center for Investigative Reporting and KQED teamed up to take an inside look at the emerging technologies that could revolutionize policing – and how intrusively the public is monitored by the government. The technology is forcing the public and law enforcement to answer a central question: When have police crossed the line from safer streets to expansive surveillance that threatens to undermine the nation’s constitutional values? Read more »

    Economic Times: Indian government to set up Data Protection Authority to safeguard privacy

    Friday, February 21st, 2014

    The Economic Times reports that India is considering the creation of a data protection agency, which would seek to protect privacy:

    NEW DELHI: The government plans to set up a Data Protection Authority (DPA) that will rule on issues around privacy invasion and impose penalties on violations, moving strongly towards safeguarding individual privacy and defining invasion of privacy offences.

    The authority will “investigate any data security breach and issue appropriate orders to safeguard security interests of all affected data subjects in respect of any personal data that has or is likely to have been compromised by such breach,” according to a draft Right to Privacy Bill that was seen by ET.

    In the draft prepared for approval of a committee of secretaries, the government has proposed that all Indian residents shall have a right to privacy. Restrictions can be imposed only in accordance with the law and to meet specific objectives. Further, more extensive safeguards for privacy will override the Act in case of a conflict.  Read more »

    PBS: Forget Fingerprints: Law Enforcement DNA Databases Poised To Expand

    Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

    PBS’s “Nova Next” reports on the expansion of DNA databases, and the biometric data collection has implications for privacy rights:

    In June, the Supreme Court ruled that it is constitutional to take DNA samples from people who have been arrested for serious crimes—without a warrant, much less a conviction. Like bits of DNA taken from people found guilty, those samples can be entered into a database and used not only for the case at hand, but compared to other crime scene samples, connecting the arrestee to past crimes. [...]

    Today, 28 states and the federal government already collect genetic samples from people arrested for serious crimes (mostly felonies, though some jurisdictions include certain misdemeanors as well), while the remaining 22 states only take samples from people convicted of those crimes. The recent ruling is likely to have wide-reaching implications—both for states that already have databases and for those that don’t, yet. [...]

    Depending on whom you ask, DNA databases herald a future of either lower crime or less privacy. Many of the arguments echo the Supreme Court ruling and dissent: Proponents say the databases help police catch dangerous criminals faster and identify offenders who had eluded detection, thus providing a big pay-off for each law enforcement dollar. Others object to the databases on the grounds that they violate privacy by storing genetic data, are an inefficient use of limited resources, or are likely to encompass more and more people—perhaps including those never even suspected of a crime. Read more »

    Los Angeles Times: How simple photos are leading to full profiles of ordinary people

    Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

    The Los Angeles Times takes a look at cameras with facial-recognition technology and what the increasing use of such technology means for individuals’ privacy:

    There may be nothing that technology is changing more dramatically than privacy. What is happening with our images online is just one example of our digital reality: We’re living life out loud — secrets and all. [...]

    Here is the simple math behind our brave new digital world, with its blurry boundaries between private and public: Photos + Name = Information.

    Photos — a snapshot at a party or a “selfie” shot in the bedroom — can reveal names, using tools such as Google Plus’ “Find My Face” and Facebook’s facial recognition software. And geo-tagged posts on social networks can reveal your name to complete strangers. Read more »

    New York Times: When Algorithms Grow Accustomed to Your Face

    Thursday, December 5th, 2013

    The New York Times looks at advances in facial-recognition technology and considers the effects of this biometric technology on individuals’ privacy rights:

    People often reveal their private emotions in tiny, fleeting facial expressions, visible only to a best friend — or to a skilled poker player. Now, computer software is using frame-by-frame video analysis to read subtle muscular changes that flash across our faces in milliseconds, signaling emotions like happiness, sadness and disgust. 

    With face-reading software, a computer’s webcam might spot the confused expression of an online student and provide extra tutoring. Or computer-based games with built-in cameras could register how people are reacting to each move in the game and ramp up the pace if they seem bored.

    But the rapidly developing technology is far from infallible, and it raises many questions about privacy and surveillance. [...] Read more »

    Reuters: Big Retailer is watching you: stores seek to match online savvy

    Friday, November 22nd, 2013

    Reuters reports on the increasing collection of data on individuals, both online and offline, by marketers and companies. Now, stores are deploying technology to gather facial features, track cellphones and more.

    BERLIN — The next time you walk into a shop, consider this:

    You may not be using your phone, but it is giving out a unique signal that the retailer may be monitoring. A face scanner may check your age and gender while sensors pick up your body heat to help locate popular parts of the store. [...]

    To counter the online threat, bricks and mortar retailers are playing catch-up, using increasingly sophisticated technology to improve staffing, layout and marketing.

    Some people are less comfortable being watched in the offline world, prompting many in the business to promise to use only anonymised and aggregated data unless shoppers explicitly give their permission to be tracked. Read more »