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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 ‘First Amendment’ Category

    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 »

    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.”

    Reuters: Internet privacy service Tor warns users it was attacked

    Thursday, July 31st, 2014

    Reuters reports that Tor, an anonymization network for online activities, told users that it had been attacked:

    Tor, the prominent system for protecting Internet privacy, said on Wednesday many of its users trying to reach hidden sites might have been identified by government-funded researchers.

    In a note on the nonprofit’s website, Tor Project leader Roger Dingledine said the service had identified computers on its network that had been quietly altering Tor traffic for five months in an attempt to unmask users connecting to what are known as “hidden services.”

    Dingledine said it was “likely” the attacking computers, which were removed on July 4, were operated on behalf of two researchers at the Software Engineering Institute, which is housed at Carnegie-Mellon University, but funded mainly by the U.S. Department of Defense.

    The pair had been scheduled to speak on identifying Tor users at the Black Hat security conference next month. After Tor developers complained to Carnegie-Mellon, officials there said the research had not been cleared and canceled the talk. Read more »

    Newsweek: New Bill Takes Aim at NSA’s Bulk Phone Data Collection

    Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

    Newsweek reports on a new bill from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, that seeks to reform the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk telephone data collection surveillance program, which was revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. (In related news, the ACLU and HRW have released a report on how NSA surveillance programs harm journalism, “With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale US Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy.” Also, the Open Technology Institute has released a report on the cost of the NSA surveillance program, “Surveillance Costs: The NSA’s Impact on the Economy, Internet Freedom & Cybersecurity.”)

    Newsweek reports:

    Earlier today, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Chairman of the SenateJudiciary Committee, introduced a bill aimed at reining in some of the NSA’s most controversial digital surveillance practices including the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records. [...]

    The USA Freedom Act of 2014 is a revised version of the USA Freedom Act legislation that, back in October, was introduced in the Senate by Leahy and in the House by Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). A weaker version of the bill ultimately passed in the House back in May. Leahy, meanwhile, has been working with Congress and the White House to develop a stronger version in the Senate. The result has the support of the administration and, according to Leahy’s press office, “a wide range of privacy and civil liberties groups.” [...] Read more »