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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

    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 »

    FTC Approves iKeepSafe COPPA ‘Safe Harbor’ Oversight Program

    Friday, August 15th, 2014

    The Federal Trade Commission announced that it “has approved the Safe Harbor Program of iKeepSafe, also known as the Internet Keep Safe Coalition, as a safe harbor oversight program under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the agency’s COPPA Rule.”

    The Commission’s COPPA Rule requires operators of online sites and services directed at children under the age of 13 to provide notice and obtain permission from a child’s parents before collecting personal information from that child. The COPPA safe harbor provision promotes flexibility and efficiency by encouraging industry members and others to develop their own COPPA oversight programs, known as “safe harbor” programs. [...]

    The COPPA law directs the Commission to review proposals to create new oversight programs.  The Commission determined that the iKeepSafe safe harbor program provides “the same or greater protections for children” as those contained in the COPPA Rule; effective mechanisms to assess operators’ compliance; effective incentives for operators’ compliance with the guidelines; and an adequate means for resolving consumer complaints.

    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 »