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Current Topic: Surveillance

Wired News: Mass Spying Means Gross Errors
Topic: Surveillance 3:21 pm EST, Jan 25, 2006

Mass surveillance isn't just illegal, it's probably a bad idea. We need to ferret out real terrorists, not create a smoke screen of expensive and distracting false positives that they can hide behind. More information doesn't make us smarter. We need smarter information.

Jennifer Granick checks in on TMS.

Wired News: Mass Spying Means Gross Errors

On [Domestic] NSA Spying: A Letter To Congress
Topic: Surveillance 9:43 am EST, Jan 12, 2006

We are scholars of constitutional law and former government officials. We write in our individual capacities as citizens concerned by the Bush administration's National Security Agency domestic spying program, as reported in The New York Times, and in particular to respond to the Justice Department's December 22, 2005, letter to the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees setting forth the administration's defense of the program.

This letter is a bit repetitive due to its structure, but the legal explanation offered here is relatively clear and concise.

On [Domestic] NSA Spying: A Letter To Congress

Slashdot | Google Searches Used in Murder Trial?
Topic: Surveillance 6:17 pm EST, Nov 12, 2005

Robert Petrick searched for the words "neck," "snap," "break" and "hold" on an Internet search engine before his wife died, according to prosecutors Wednesday... Investigators continue to find new evidence on computers seized from Robert Petrick's home that prosecutors say support their arguments that Petrick killed his wife.The Google search was the latest in recently discovered evidence found in the 100 million pages of content removed from computers.

I've been predicting for quite some time that Google's "save everything forever" policy will turn them into a treasure trove for prosecutors. While this case doesn't involve a Google subpoena, the idea does not seem far removed. Subpoenas are easier to get then the sort of search warrant executed in this case. Most of the Slashdot commentators miss the point. The point is that this stuff is evidence of someone's thought processes that can be relevant to a trial. Its use will expand.

If a national security letter could be used to obtain all of Google's records, and the police where prepared to manage that amount of data, and the policies allowed them to retain the data and reuse it elsewhere, the impact of that could be quite similar to having police doing background checks on any questionable search term. I do think this is an unlikely scenario. It would be more likely to bring the NSL house of cards crashing down then to succeed. But even without this, once people realize that their search history is legally discoverable its going to have a big chilling effect on how they use the Internet.

Slashdot | Google Searches Used in Murder Trial?

FBI Dealt Setback on Cellular Surveillance
Topic: Surveillance 2:10 pm EDT, Oct 29, 2005

"When the government seeks to turn a mobile telephone into a means for contemporaneously tracking the movements of its user, the delicately balanced compromise that Congress has forged between effective law enforcement and individual privacy requires a showing of probable cause," wrote federal Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

FBI Dealt Setback on Cellular Surveillance

Missouri To Track Through Cell Phones
Topic: Surveillance 2:54 pm EDT, Oct 28, 2005

Delcan NET, a Canadian company, developed the system which triangulates the location of each driver by monitoring the signal sent from the cell phone as it is handed off from one cell tower to the next. Each phone is uniquely identified and the information is compared with a highway map to record on what road each motorist is traveling at any given time. The system also records the speed of each vehicle, opening up another potential ticketing technology.

A pilot program in Baltimore only tracks Cingular cell phones on 1,000 miles of road. AirSage Inc. has contracted with Sprint to spy on motorists in Norfolk, Virginia and Atlanta and Macon, Georgia.

Wow thats fucked up. AirSage says identifying information is stripped from the data in their pilot in Georgia.

Missouri To Track Through Cell Phones

Passports to get RFID chip implants | CNET
Topic: Surveillance 3:22 pm EDT, Oct 26, 2005

All U.S. passports will be implanted with remotely readable computer chips starting in October 2006, the Bush administration has announced.

They are going with a wire mesh in the cover to prevent skimming.

Passports to get RFID chip implants | CNET

Google Web Accelerator: Hey, not so fast - an alert for web app designers - Signal vs. Noise (by 37signals)
Topic: Surveillance 10:58 am EDT, May  6, 2005

] The accelerator scours a page and prefetches the content
] behind each link. This gives the illusion of pages
] loading faster (since they've already been
] pre-loaded behind the scenes). Here's the problem:
] Google is essentially clicking every link on the page
] including links like "delete this" or "cancel that."

What a mess. Is anyone on MemeStreams actually using this thing? Maybe you don't mind if Google now has ALL of your internet traffic logged forever, but you probably ought to mind if it goes through and cleans out your MemeStreams or webmail account. I cannot imagine that this thing is THAT much faster.

Lauren Weinstein put it eloquently:

Google is smiling their way into becoming -- probably more through a
bizarre combination of hubris and naivete than purposeful intentions
-- a one-stop surveillance "shopping center" for every lawyer,
police agency, district attorney, government agency, and so on who
wants to know what people are doing on the Internet.

Of course, Lauren Weinstein is one of those people who thinks you should be forced to make your home phone number a matter of public record in order to have a domain name.

You can't win...

Google Web Accelerator: Hey, not so fast - an alert for web app designers - Signal vs. Noise (by 37signals)

CBS News | States Mull Taxing Drivers By Mile
Topic: Surveillance 12:01 pm EST, Feb 16, 2005

] He also pays a lot less in gasoline taxes which fund
] highway projects and road repairs. As more and more
] hybrids hit the road, cash-strapped states are warning of
] rough roads ahead.
] Officials in car-clogged California are so worried they
] may be considering a replacement for the gas tax
] altogether, replacing it with something called "tax by
] the mile."
] Kim and his team at Oregon State University equipped a
] test car with a global positioning device to keep track
] of its mileage. Eventually, every car would need one.

Question: We're discouraging fuel efficiency. Why not just raise the damn gas tax?

Answer: Because this way we get to install tracking devices in every car!

You might win a debate with the cops about this but you'll never win a debate over tax revenue.

CBS News | States Mull Taxing Drivers By Mile

No court order required for GPS bugs! (More dumb judges.)
Topic: Surveillance 5:18 pm EST, Jan 24, 2005

] When Robert Moran drove back to his law offices in Rome,
] N.Y., after a plane trip to Arizona in July 2003, he had
] no idea that a silent stowaway was aboard his vehicle: a
] secret GPS bug implanted without a court order by state
] police.
] A federal judge in New York ruled last week that police
] did not need court authorization when tracking Moran from
] afar. "Law enforcement personnel could have conducted a
] visual surveillance of the vehicle as it traveled on the
] public highways,
" U.S. District Judge David Hurd wrote.
] "Moran had no expectation of privacy in the whereabouts
] of his vehicle on a public roadway."

Yowzer... The police "could have" visually observed the vehicle, but they didn't. They attached a tracking device to it. A tracking device it a wholly different animal and has wholly different privacy implications. The expense require to visually track an individual car's every movement, without being observed, is extremely high. An individual might have no expectation of privacy with regard to the specific location of his car at a specific time, but there is a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to the specific location of his car at every time.

One might also inquire as to whether this tracking device stopped working the minute this individual pulled off of a public road and onto private property? Its doubtful.

This ruling implies that as one tracking device has no privacy implications, then presumably 1000 tracking devices have no privacy implications, as 1000*0=0. Moving from the idea that the police have every right to tail your car on a public road to the idea that the police can electronically track the location of every car at every time is a massive leap of logic that has little basis in common sense.

Furthermore, one would think that the process of attaching a tracking device would have some private property concerns. Is it legal for me to attach anything I want to your car? Can I put a audio recording device on your car? (Apparently so, according to one of the rulings in this article!)

Anothing article linked in here discusses a very very tenuous barrier that the courts established to prevent the FBI from wiretapping cars using their on-star systems. Apparently its only illegal if it might interfere with emergency road side services!

We're rapidly approaching a period of time when technologies like these will allow the police to monitor your every movement and record your daily conversations. If we will not properly apply the 4th amendment to this domain the results will be terrible.

No court order required for GPS bugs! (More dumb judges.)

Chicago moving to 'smart' surveillance cameras | CNET
Topic: Surveillance 12:10 pm EDT, Sep 21, 2004

] "We're not inside your home or your business," Mayor
] Daley said. "The city owns the sidewalks. We own the
] streets and we own the alleys."

City wide 24/7 surveillance planned for Chicago.

Chicago moving to 'smart' surveillance cameras | CNET

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