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Current Topic: Surveillance

Too Much, Not Enough
Topic: Surveillance 7:38 am EDT, Jun  1, 2002

Amid all the questions about possible intelligence failures at the CIA and FBI related to Sept. 11, one spy group -- the National Security Agency (NSA) -- has largely escaped the public spotlight. But a congressional joint intelligence committee, which will examine those questions in closed hearings beginning Tuesday, will give particular attention to missed opportunities at the secretive NSA -- the largest of all such agencies and the one specifically created to warn America of surprise attack at home.

James Bamford on why the NSA is to blame for 9/11. He wants to expand the NSA's human resources and give them new technical capabilities in order to avoid future "intelligence failures."

Too Much, Not Enough

An Erosion of Civil Liberties
Topic: Surveillance 7:10 am EDT, May 31, 2002

Attorney General John Ashcroft has a gift for making the most draconian policy changes sound seductively innocuous. He was at it again yesterday, describing new domestic spying powers for the Federal Bureau of Investigation as nothing more than the authority to surf the Internet or attend a public gathering. That is profoundly misleading. In reality Mr. Ashcroft, in the name of fighting terrorism, was giving F.B.I. agents nearly unbridled power to poke into the affairs of anyone in the United States, even when there is no evidence of illegal activity.

The New York Times is clearly unhappy with recent changes at the FBI. But they seem to be narrowly focused on the negative privacy implications, while not assessing the likelihood that these changes will prove (in)effective in "preventing" future acts, or that they will disrupt the FBI's responsibilities with regard to law enforcement.

An Erosion of Civil Liberties

The New FBI
Topic: Surveillance 6:11 am EDT, May 31, 2002

The changes in law approved by Congress after Sept. 11 and the plans announced this week to restructure the FBI constitute a shift of historic proportions: The FBI is becoming a domestic intelligence agency. ... An organization that seeks to prevent and disrupt is not chiefly a law enforcement organization.

... Intelligence was never the bureau's forte. It was a law enforcement organization. ... At every juncture, Congress should ask not only about effectiveness but also about the risks to liberty -- and whether, in every case, there is no less intrusive way to proceed.

With a feeling of deep concern, the Washington Post editorializes on the future of the Bureau.

It appears that the venerable McGruff, everyman's best friend from elementary school days, has been promoted to Chief Strategist at the FBI.

I predict that he will soon engage in a secret pow-wow with his long-time fellow traveller, Smokey the Bear, for a wide-ranging discussion on the current state of domestic and world affairs.

From this warm-and-furry yet serious-as-a-DeathStick dog-meets-bear exchange of barks and growls will emerge a simple truism for all humans:

Only You Can Prevent Terrorism.

The New FBI

O'Reilly Network: Network Forensics: Tapping the Internet
Topic: Surveillance 9:46 pm EDT, May  2, 2002

Picked this up from a Slashdot article, and also recommended here. Good stuff on a couple of different topics.

O'Reilly Network: Network Forensics: Tapping the Internet

Grocer puts new way to pay at shoppers' fingertips
Topic: Surveillance 6:37 am EDT, May  2, 2002

Shoppers at West Seattle Thriftway yesterday were eager to be among the first in the nation to "pay-by-touch" for their groceries, using their fingerprints instead of plastic cards or cash.

Customer: "It is a hassle to have to pull out your cards. This will be much more convenient." Cashier: "It has been entertaining." Another customer: "It is just a way to make my life a little easier. I support new technology." Yet another: "I figure they must have perfected it or they wouldn't be doing it." Biometrics vendor: "It is much safer than a card, which can be lost or stolen."

"HAL" the cash register asks: Is that a wallet in your pocket, or are you just afraid to touch me?

Technology Supporter asks: "Did you know that humans and dinosaurs once roamed the prairie together?"

Grocer puts new way to pay at shoppers' fingertips

The Intrusion Explosion
Topic: Surveillance 6:25 am EDT, May  2, 2002

Coming soon in a bookstore, video store or newsstand near you: a close-up recording of your examination of a girlie magazine or lusty movie, a left-wing weekly or a right-wing book. Your reactions go in the marketers' dossier on you, available for a fee to advertisers, telemarketers or political opposition researchers.

HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson: "You never did have federal privacy rights."

How would Bush like to have "observational research" in the Oval Office?

William Safire on postmodern privacy.

The Intrusion Explosion

_World Without Secrets: Business, Crime and Privacy in the Age of Ubiquitous Computing_
Topic: Surveillance 10:53 am EDT, Apr 29, 2002

A new book from Richard Hunter, VP of security research at Gartner, published by John Wiley & Sons, available now. ISBN 0471218162. 304 pages.

Hunter asks: "Is the convenience of being known everywhere worth the risk of being known everywhere?"

Rapid technological innovation is moving us towards a world of ubiquitous computing-a world in which we are surrounded by smart machines that are always on, always aware, and always monitoring us. These developments will create a world virtually without secrets in which information is widely available and analyzable worldwide. This environment will certainly affect business, government, and the individual alike, dramatically affecting the way organizations and individuals interact. This book explores the implications of the coming world and suggests and explores policy options that can protect individuals and organizations from exploitation and safeguard the implicit contract between employees, businesses, and society itself. World Without Secrets casts an unflinching eye on a future we may not necessarily desire, but will experience.

Worth a look, although Publishers Weekly laments, "very little is resolved" by the end of the book. offers up the first chapter of the book (available at the logged URL).

_World Without Secrets: Business, Crime and Privacy in the Age of Ubiquitous Computing_

_Intelligent Image Processing_, by Steve Mann
Topic: Surveillance 3:35 pm EST, Dec 15, 2001

This is a new book by Steve Mann that will be in stores this January. Included below is the publisher's overview of the book.

"Intelligent Image Processing examines the fundamentals of personal imaging and wearable computing with a concentration on the EyeTap technology invented by the author. EyeTap technology comprises eyeglasses or contact lenses that cause the eye itself to function, in effect, as if it were both a camera and a display. Modern embodiments of this invention use a laser system having no moving parts to provide infinite depth of focus from the inside of the eye, out to infinity. The invention eliminates the distinction between cyberspace and the real world, allowing a shared visual experience and shared visual memory among multiple users. ...

There are a wide range of commercial applications ... The invention blurs the boundary between seeing and recording ...

The author approaches the fundamental ideas of wearable computing and personal imaging by providing an historical overview of the subject that takes the reader from his original wearable photographic computer inventions of the 1970s, through to the modern EyeTap system. This fascinating technology promises to change the way we live and the way we communicate, and Intelligent Image Processing provides a detailed, technical, and stimulating guide for those who wish to learn about or contribute to this promising future.

_Intelligent Image Processing_, by Steve Mann

Netting Bin Laden
Topic: Surveillance 8:47 pm EST, Nov 16, 2001

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius explains how ubicomp can help save the world from terrorism. All that it takes is your acceptance of the Scott McNealy reality.

... We're all still waiting on you; are you ready yet?

This article also recommends John Arquilla's new book, _Networks and Netwars_, available at and referenced elsewhere in my log.

Netting Bin Laden

NPR: 'Social Network Analysis' Tracks Terrorists [RealAudio]
Topic: Surveillance 2:05 pm EDT, Oct 13, 2001

"Law enforcement uses a system known as "social network analysis" to predict and track individuals operating in terrorist networks. They may expand to analyze marketing data. NPR’s Joe Palca reports for Morning Edition. Oct. 12, 2001. Running time: 7 minutes, 11 seconds."

NPR: 'Social Network Analysis' Tracks Terrorists [RealAudio]

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