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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

    Opinion at Boston Globe: Surveillance and privacy

    Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

    In an opinion column for the Boston Globe, Alan M. Dershowitz (a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School) discusses surveillance, privacy, and the case of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who  revealed several surveillance programs by the agency. Dershowitz writes:

    THE RECENT disclosure by Edward Snowden of the US government’s wide net of surveillance has stimulated an emotional debate about security, privacy, and secrecy. We have learned from Snowden that the National Security Agency engages in virtually unchecked monitoring of all sorts of communications that were thought to be private but that we now know are maintained in secret government databases.

    Three fundamental issues are raised by these disclosures: Was it proper for the government to conduct such massive surveillance and to maintain such extensive files? Was it proper for the government to keep its surveillance program secret from the public? If not, did this governmental impropriety justify the unlawful disclosure of so much classified information by Snowden? Read more »

    Hill: Tech giants demand vote on email privacy bill

    Friday, September 12th, 2014

    The Hill reports that technology companies including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are pushing for Congress to vote on the E-mail Privacy Act, which would update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA,” also known as Title 18 § 2511 of the United States Code).

    Google, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo and scores of other technology titans are demanding congressional leaders allow a vote on a bill to grant new privacy protections to people’s emails.

    The companies want a vote on the Email Privacy Act, a bill that counts more than half of the House as co-sponsors. The bill has yet to move since it was introduced last summer, and a companion measure in the Senate is also awaiting action.

    The legislation would update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which allows police to conduct warrantless searches of people’s emails and other information stored on the “cloud” that are more than 180 days old. Critics on both sides of the aisle say the law is antiquated and undermines people’s privacy. [...] Read more »

    Opinion at Slate: The Potemkinism of Privacy Pragmatism

    Friday, September 5th, 2014

    At Slate, the University of California at Berkeley’s Chris Hoofnagle has an opinion column about how “use regulation” affects privacy and civil liberties:

    A revolution is afoot in privacy regulation. In an assortment of white papers and articles, business leaders—including Microsoft—and scholars argue that instead of regulating privacy through limiting the collection of data, we should focus on how the information is used. It’s called “use regulation,” and this seemingly obscure issue has tremendous implications for civil liberties and our society. Ultimately, it can help determine how much power companies and governments have.

    In a use-regulation world, companies may collect any data they wish but would be banned from certain uses of the data. In U.S. law, a good example of use regulation comes from credit reporting. Your credit report can be used only for credit decisions, employment screening, and renting an apartment. Or consider your physician: Her professional norms encourage expansive data collection, but she can use medical records only to advance patient care. 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 »

    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 »