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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 ‘Cameras’ Category

    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 »

    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.

    McClatchy: Rogue Cellphone Tracker Alarms Seattle Privacy Activists

    Friday, August 8th, 2014

    McClatchy News Service reports that there are substantial privacy and civil liberty questions concerning surveillance technology that the Seattle Police Department has bought:

    More than a year after Seattle police promised to not turn on a network of surveillance cameras and communication nodes installed as part of a federal port-security grant, the department still hasn’t released a draft policy on how it will use the equipment and protect citizen privacy.

    The installation of the 30 cameras and a wireless mesh broadband network came shortly after the Police Department’s purchase of two aerial drones, also with a Homeland Security grant, and also without public notice. [...]

    Now, privacy and civil-liberties advocates say the city needs to enact a strong review process to guide how information is collected, stored, shared and protected, rather than leaving the guidelines to various departments. [...]

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington, which questioned the law-enforcement value of both the drones and surveillance cameras, agrees that the city needs to develop policies that narrowly define how technology will be used and who will have access to it. [...] Read more »

    Associated Press: Illinois drone law extended to private operators

    Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

    The Associated Press reports that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has signed SB2937 (html; archive pdf), now known as Public Act 98-0831, amending the state’s Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act to include private operators of aerial drones (also known as “unmanned aerial vehicles” or “unmanned aircraft systems,” UAV or UAS), which can be used to conduct surveillance in the United States. (For more on drones and privacy, read this previous post.) The new legislation, the Associated Press reports, extends “state drone regulations to private craft.”

    U.S. Supreme Court: Warrants Needed to Search Cellphones After Arrest

    Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

    In a unanimous ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Riley v. California (court pdf; archive pdf) that the police need search warrants to search individuals’ cellphones after their arrest, which is a substantial victory for privacy rights. (Note: This decision is issued for two cases – Riley v. California, No. 13-132, and United States v. Wurie, No. 13-212. Riley concerned two searches of a smartphone after David Riley was arrested, and Wurie concerned the search of a flip phone after Brima Wurie was arrested.) Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for eight of the justices. Justice Samuel Alito joined in the judgment, but he wrote a separate concurrence.

    In the opinion, Justice Roberts noted that cellphones, “are now such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy” and “Cell phones, however, place vast quantities of personal information literally in the hands of individuals.” He explained, “[W]e generally determine whether to exempt a given type of search from the warrant requirement ‘by assessing, on the one hand, the degree to which it intrudes upon an individual’s privacy and, on the other, the degree to which it is needed for the promotion of legitimate governmental interests.’” In this case, the justices found that individual privacy trumped government interests.

    Read more »

    National Journal: Privacy Groups Sound the Alarm Over FBI’s Facial-Recognition Technology

    Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

    The National Journal reports that privacy organizations are asking the Department of Justice to consider the privacy implications for the FBI’s controversial facial-recognition technology database, which will soon be fully operational:

    More than 30 privacy and civil-liberties groups are asking the Justice Department to complete a long-promised audit of the FBI’s facial-recognition database.

    The groups argue the database, which the FBI says it uses to identify targets, could pose privacy risks to every American citizen because it has not been properly vetted, possesses dubious accuracy benchmarks, and may sweep up images of ordinary people not suspected of wrongdoing.

    In a joint letter sent Tuesday to Attorney General Eric Holder, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and others warn that an FBI facial-recognition program “has undergone a radical transformation” since its last privacy review six years ago. That lack of recent oversight “raises serious privacy and civil-liberty concerns,” the groups contend. [...]

    The Next Generation Identification program—a biometric database that includes iris scans and palm prints along with facial recognition—is scheduled to become fully operational later this year and has not undergone a rigorous privacy litmus test—known as a Privacy Impact Assessment—since 2008, despite pledges from government officials. Read more »