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Current Topic: Surveillance

Google Earth
Topic: Surveillance 5:56 pm EDT, Jul 12, 2005

Want to know more about a specific location? Dive right in -- Google Earth combines satellite imagery, maps and the power of Google Search to put the world's geographic information at your fingertips.

Fun stuff. I especially enjoyed zooming in on certain places that I've visited over the years. Though sometimes their labels were a bit confusing. For example, I had some trouble finding Hong Kong, though Macau showed up when I turned "borders" on. And some remote areas are still very limited in terms of detail (such as Hainan Island). In Peru, I saw where "Cuzco" was labeled, but the label didn't seem to actually mark a settled area, and I could never find the airport. May just be mislabeled though (like the label for the Sphinx is about a mile off, too). Could never spot Angkor Wat. Did see the general location of the Sydney Opera House, but not close enough to actually pick out any detail.

On the up side, the close-up of CIA HQ is as good as is publicly available. And I could zoom close enough to see the house where I was staying last week in a small village (population: 1000) in Croatia. Checking on my office in St. Charles, I could see enough detail to tell that my car was not in the parking lot at the time that the picture was taken. My car wasn't in my apartment parking lot either, so I must have been driving around for lunch or something, or else I just managed to miss the scans of those two areas.

Fun time-waster!

Elonka :)

Google Earth

June 2003: TiVo to sell data on viewing habits of subscribers
Topic: Surveillance 7:45 pm EST, Feb  2, 2004

] TiVo boxes download scheduling information over phone
] lines each night. They also upload a record of what was
] watched, recorded and skipped.
] TiVo says it does not identify individual viewers but
] will customize the report to track, for example, viewing
] habits of Silicon Valley subscribers during the Super
] Bowl, the finale of American Idol or the Academy Awards.

June 2003: TiVo to sell data on viewing habits of subscribers

TiVo tracks which ads you watch
Topic: Surveillance 7:42 pm EST, Feb  2, 2004

] On June 2, personal-video-recorder outfit TiVo (TIVO )
] unveiled an analytical tool that can tell advertisers,
] agencies, and networks not only how many people tune in
] for a show but whether they're watching the ads. Unlike a
] Nielsen rating, which relies on surveys filled out by
] viewers, TiVo's system tracks what a viewer records and
] tunes into, even when the channel is changed

TiVo tracks which ads you watch

TiVo's records of viewing habits
Topic: Surveillance 7:22 pm EST, Feb  2, 2004

] TiVo estimated that halftime viewership among its
] customers was up 12 percent from 2003.
] The play-it-again company also reported that usage of its
] replay technology spiked a whopping 180 percent, the
] biggest surge ever measured, following the broadcast TV
] debut of Jackson's right mammary gland "as hundreds of
] thousands of households [TiVo'd] to view the incident
] again and again."

Um, this was news to me. TiVo maintains records of everything that its customers view, including everything they ask for replays of?? Is the FBI now going to be accessing this information to determine who's watching which TV shows??

TiVo's records of viewing habits

The debate about the FBI obtaining Las Vegas Jan 1 room lists with no court auth.
Topic: Surveillance 4:13 pm EST, Jan  6, 2004

Rattle wrote:
] ] The FBI demanded Las Vegas hotels turn over their guest
] ] lists leading up to New Year's Eve to check against a
] ] U.S. master list of suspected terrorists, a law
] ] enforcement official said on Sunday.
] ]
] ] The demand for "patron information" went to all major
] ] hotels in the Nevada casino and entertainment city, said
] ] the official who declined to be named.
] What was the money line in all the recent Vegas advertising?
] "What happens here, stays here." Well, not this New Years..
] ] A second U.S. government official said to his knowledge
] ] only one hotel had balked at providing its bookings list.
] ] Newsweek, the first to report the FBI demand, said one
] ] big hotel had refused and was "slapped with a subpoena."
] I would really like to know what the hotel was that required
] the subpoena.

I'd like to know too.

(gears up for a big vent)

But I also think that there's probably much more to this story than is in print. For example, suppose the FBI has a list of 1,000 possible suspects. Yes, they could go to each hotel and say, "Here's a list of 1,000 names, can you please run through the names of everyone in your guest list, and let us know if any of the names appear there?" That kind of request would put a sizable administrative burden on the hotel, which would be multiplied by the number of hotels that would each have to run their own search. It would also tip the FBI's hand as to just who it was that they were keeping an eye on!

Much easier is for the FBI to say, "Hi, we're worried that someone's trying to blow up your city this week. Can you please give us a list of names of who's at your hotel, so we can check it against our criminal database?" It's pro-active in a time of crisis, it doesn't put the burden on the hotel to do law enforcement's job, and it doesn't plaster long lists of confidential suspect names in every hotel backroom.

If I were a hotel manager, I wouldn't have any trouble providing the list, though I would ask for a "friendly" subpoena (subpoenas aren't always "slapped"), to verify that the request was coming from a bonafide law enforcement agency, and, yes, to address privacy concerns.

As a related subject, the concept of hotels keeping track of who's staying at their establishment, and working with law enforcement to track down criminals, is nothing new. I'd love to see some statistics that show how often that major hotels work with law enforcement -- my guess is that for the big hotels, it's probably a daily basis, which would also affect (in my opinion) the ease with which they'd hand over a patron list. If it's *not* something that's routinely asked for, the fact their FBI contacts were asking for it would probably have a great deal of weight.

I know this is putting me way out on the conservative side of our community here, but I feel strongly about this.

Okay, done venting,

Elonka :)

The debate about the FBI obtaining Las Vegas Jan 1 room lists with no court auth.

Author of 'The Ultimate Spy': H. Keith Melton
Topic: Surveillance 3:54 pm EDT, Apr 15, 2003

] CI Centre Professor H. Keith Melton is a renowned
] military historian, author and expert on clandestine
] devices and equipment. He is recognized internationally
] as an authority on espionage paraphernalia and has
] assembled an unparalleled collection of spy devices,
] books, and papers of famous spies--a portion of which is
] currently on temporary display in the Cold War Exhibit
] within the headquarters of the CIA. Melton also serves as
] an advisor to US intelligence agencies on historical
] espionage equipment.

Someone gave me a copy of "The Ultimate Spy" for Christmas, and I've been impressed by the quality of the book. The author, Keith Melton, is one of the guys out there who *really* does his research. This book has a ton of pictures and info tidbits, and as I flipped through it I learned a great deal about the history of spy equipment and techniques over the years.

This website is also a great resource... Click on the "links" section and there are dozens of interesting links to various intelligence-related sites around the web.

Author of 'The Ultimate Spy': H. Keith Melton

Guide to Websites of CI (Counter Intelligence) Interest
Topic: Surveillance 4:44 pm EST, Dec 30, 2002

From the governmental "Office of the National CounterIntelligenge Executive" website. This is a list of about 70 websites ranging from the Library of Congress to Los Alamos National Laboratory to the FBI and CIA and many many other TLAs.

Guide to Websites of CI (Counter Intelligence) Interest

Echelon Watch
Topic: Surveillance 6:57 pm EST, Dec 17, 2002

] "ECHELON is the term popularly used for an automated
] global interception and relay system operated by the
] intelligence agencies in five nations: the United States,
] the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (it
] is believed that ECHELON is the code name for the portion
] of the system that intercepts satellite-based
] communications)."

This is the site maintained by the ACLU that collates known information about the Echelon surveillance system

Echelon Watch

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