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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 ‘Civil liberties’ Category

    Column at Yahoo Tech: What Are Schools Doing with Your Kids’ Data?

    Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

    At Yahoo Tech, columnist Dan Tynan discusses children’s privacy and how their data is used by schools:

    Every student in every school district generates hundreds of data points each year — from their race and gender to their economic status, behavioral issues, biometric data, health status, and more. This tsunami of data is then absorbed and stored by school districts, state databases, educational service providers, websites, and app makers.

    Of course, schools have been collecting data on students since there have been schools. In the past, though, this information was squirreled away in filing cabinets or just on computers used in district offices. Now it lives in the cloud, and it’s being accessed by non-educators who want to apply the principles of big data analysis to it.

    What could go wrong? Plenty. Potentially damaging information about your child’s medical conditions or behavioral issues could accidentally leak or be exposed by hackers. Private companies could decide to use the information for commercial purposes. Potential employers, insurance companies, or other government agencies may someday lobby to get their hands on this data. [...] Read more »

    Opinion at Forbes: Why A Philosopher Teaches Privacy

    Monday, August 25th, 2014

    At Forbes, Evan Selinger (an associate professor of philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology) has an opinion column about why privacy is important to philosophy and why he makes it part of his curriculum:

    Not too long ago, a privacy course in the humanities would be of limited interest. Many students were predisposed to believe that privacy issues mostly concerned bad things that happened to indiscreet blabbermouths or anxiety experienced by folks with skeletons in the closet—you know, people with something to hide.

    But since privacy became a headline-grabbing issue, things have changed. Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA activity, fast-moving developments in surveillance and online information and communication technology, potent advances in data storage and analysis, and the emergence of powerful data brokers have all played a part in making privacy a matter of great daily concern for everyone. Read more »

    Washington Post: For sale: Systems that can secretly track where cellphone users go around the globe

    Sunday, August 24th, 2014

    The Washington Post reports on technology that allows the global surveillance and secret tracking of cellphone users:

    Makers of surveillance systems are offering governments across the world the ability to track the movements of almost anybody who carries a cellphone, whether they are blocks away or on another continent.

    The technology works by exploiting an essential fact of all cellular networks: They must keep detailed, up-to-the-minute records on the locations of their customers to deliver calls and other services to them. Surveillance systems are secretly collecting these records to map people’s travels over days, weeks or longer, according to company marketing documents and experts in surveillance technology.

    The world’s most powerful intelligence services, such as the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ, long have used cellphone data to track targets around the globe. But experts say these new systems allow less technically advanced governments to track people in any nation — including the United States — with relative ease and precision. [...] Read more »

    NACDL: Retaining Fourth Amendment Protections in Warranted Digital Searches

    Friday, August 22nd, 2014

    The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has released a white paper, “What’s Old Is New Again: Retaining Fourth Amendment Protections in Warranted Digital Searches (Pre-Search Instructions and Post-Search Reasonableness),” concerning law enforcement officials’ searches of digital evidence. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

    New technologies have challenged the jurisprudence of Fourth Amendment searches and seizures. Despite the disruptive and transformational changes that digital technologies have brought to our society, the constitutional prerequisites for searches and seizures of digital evidence should be no different than searching a physical place. Neither the technological sophistication nor the diminutive physical dimensions of a device to be searched are dispositive of the privacy interests in the information stored on the device.

    The fact that computers, external file storage and cloud servers are employed does not require one to alter the high threshold that must be met to justify government intrusion. Each new technology that affords a different type of private place to preserve private communications does not require a different standard for the search and seizure of its contents than is constitutionally required for the search of a file cabinet or the search of a home. What is different is the amount of private information that can be improperly searched and the substantially greater intrusion upon privacy and Fourth Amendment interests that may result.

    One must look to the Fourth Amendment to define the limits of such searches and then ask whether the existing policies, procedures and guidelines applied to the technologies of the day appropriately mirror our fundamental constitutional values. Currently, they do not. The starting point cannot be that everything is fair game. [...] 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 »