Intersection: Sidewalks & Public Space

Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"

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    Archive for the ‘Cameras’ 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 »

    Ars Technica: Philips Smart TVs wide open to Gmail cookie theft, other serious hacks

    Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

    Ars Technica reports on new research that reveals a security vulnerability with Philips Smart TVs that could affect individual privacy. Smart TVs are part of the “Internet of Things,” which is a computerized network of physical objects. In IoT, sensors and data storage devices embedded in objects interact with Web services. (For more on privacy and the IoT, see a Center for Democracy and Technology report that I consulted on and contributed to, “Building the Digital Out-Of-Home Privacy Infrastructure.”) Ars Technica reports:

    Internet-connected TVs manufactured by Philips running the latest firmware update are wide open to browser cookie theft and other serious attacks by hackers within radio range, a security researcher has warned.

    The hacks work against Philips Smart televisions that have a feature known as Miracast enabled, Luigi Auriemma, a researcher with Malta-based ReVuln (Twitter handle @revuln), told Ars. Miracast allows TVs to act as Wi-Fi access points that nearby computers and smartphones can connect to so their screen output can be displayed on the larger set. The hacking vulnerability is the result of a recent firmware update that allows anyone within range to connect to the TV, as long as they know the hard-coded authentication password “Miracast.” [...] Read more »

    Slate: The sleuthing plot of the Veronica Mars movie gets all the technology right

    Monday, March 17th, 2014

    Slate takes a look at the new Veronica Mars movie (warning: the article contains spoilers about the film) and discusses how savvy the film is about technology, specifically how webcams can be hacked and video recorded and sent to others without the knowledge of the computer or tablet owner. The article references the 2010 case in Pennsylvania where a family filed suit accusing the Lower Merion School District of misusing the 2,300 Webcam-enabled laptops it issued to students in order to remotely peep into the students’ homes, take photographs and violate their privacy. Slate reports:

    In the same way that malware can control your computer, delete your files, and track your keystrokes, mistakenly installed virulent software can just as easily control your webcam. Here’s the tale of a 14-year-old doing it. And a 19-year-old. You may think your webcam is only looking at you when its LED light is on, but that can be bypassed, too. [...] Read more »

    Guardian (UK): Yahoo webcam images from millions of users intercepted by GCHQ

    Thursday, February 27th, 2014

    In the latest revelation from documents gathered by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, the Guardian reports that Yahoo chat users’ webcam images have been intercepted and stored by the British surveillance agency GCHQ:

    Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

    GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not. […]

    Yahoo reacted furiously to the webcam interception when approached by the Guardian. The company denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy”.

    GCHQ does not have the technical means to make sure no images of UK or US citizens are collected and stored by the system, and there are no restrictions under UK law to prevent Americans’ images being accessed by British analysts without an individual warrant. Read more »

    Wall Street Journal: How to Protect Your Kids’ Privacy Online

    Thursday, February 27th, 2014

    At the Wall Street Journal, Julia Angwin discusses teaching children about why privacy is important:

    If you search for my kids online, you’ll find barely a trace of them. Not only do I not post any information or photos of them, I have also taught them to erase their own digital footprints. [...]

    Why go to such extremes at such a young age? Because if I don’t do anything to help my children learn to protect themselves, all their data will be swept up into giant databases, and their identity will be forever shaped by that information. [...]

    Even worse, if my children leave their data lying around, they will face all the risks of what I call our “dragnet nation,” in which increased computing power and cheap data storage have fueled a new type of surveillance: suspicionless, computerized, impersonal and vast in scope. Criminals could use my kids’ data to impersonate them for financial fraud. Extortionists could seize control of their computers’ Web cameras and blackmail them with nude photos. And most terrifyingly, their innocent online inquiries would be forever stored in databases that could later place them under suspicion or be used to manipulate them financially. Read more »

    Washington Post: Department of Homeland Security cancels national license-plate tracking plan

    Thursday, February 20th, 2014

    The Washington Post reports that the Department of Homeland Security, which had sought to create a database of license-plate-reader information has scrapped the plan amid privacy questions. We’ve discussed the privacy and civil liberty issues connected with the use of license-plate-scanner recognition technology to gather and record drivers’ movements. Often, we don’t know what the restrictions are on the collection and use of the data. (See a previous post for more information on the camera surveillance technology.) Recently, the Boston police department stopped a program using license-plate-scanning technology to gather data on drivers after privacy questions arose. Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report (pdf) on license-plate readers and how they are used as surveillance devices. The Post reports:

    Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Wednesday ordered the cancellation of a plan by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to develop a national license-plate tracking system after privacy advocates raised concern about the initiative.

    The order came just days after ICE solicited proposals from companies to compile a database of license-plate information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers. Officials said the database was intended to help apprehend fugitive illegal immigrants, but the plan raised concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized. Read more »