RF Capture Device Can ‘See” Through Concrete Walls

RF Capture Device Can ‘See” Through Concrete Walls

Research scientists at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab recently developed an RF Capture device that uses Wi-Fi technology to penetrate walls and develop 3D “silhouette fingerprints” of persons inside rooms.  The data retrieved can be compared to information in a database to distinguish between persons -- 15 people in the tests -- with a 90% accuracy.

The device sends wireless signals through a wall, and the signals then bounce back to the device from objects in the room.  Changes in movements of an object are noted and recorded, analyzed, and then “stitched” together to create a “silhouette fingerprint” of an individual.  “In other words, from the opposite side of a building RF Capture can determine where that person is, who they are, and even which hand they are moving.”

The technology can have major implications for “everything from gaming and film-making to emergency response and elder-care,” according to a recent article.  According to Dina Katabi, of MIT, “We’re working to turn this technology into an in-home device that can call 911 if it detects that a family member has fallen unconscious.”

Source:  Victoria Woollaston, “Forget X-rays, now you can see through walls using WI-FI: Device captures silhouettes and can even identify people when they're stood behind CONCRETE,” dailymail.co.uk, October 28, 2015: http://www.daily mail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3292246/Forget-X-rays-walls-using-WI-FI-Device-captures-silhouettes-identify-people-stood-CONCRETE.html

Stingray Updates

According to a recent Forbes article, thirteen federal agencies currently use the Stingray device:  Internal Revenue Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administra-tion (DEA), the Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Marshals Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. National Guard, U.S. Special Operations Command (Special Ops), and the National Security Agency (NSA).

House Representative Jason Chaffetz introduced a bill – the Stingray Privacy Act, or the Cell-Site Simulator Privacy Act -- in October 2015, to prohibit warrantless use of Stingray technology.  Representa-tive Chaffetz, chair of the House oversight committee, told the Guardian, “When you find out the IRS, and potentially others are using this tech – whoa! That’s a bridge too far …. If they have [probable] cause, go get a warrant.  But if you’re just on a surfing expedition, back off.”

The Stingray devices, also known as “cell site simulators” or “IMSI catchers,” according to the ACLU, “are invasive cell phone surveillance devices that mimic cell phone towers and send out signals to trick cell phones in the area into transmitting their locations and identifying information.  When used to track a suspect’s cell phone, they also gather information about the phones of countless bystanders who happen to be nearby.”

Sources:  Kelly Phillips Erb, “IRS Joins FBI, DEA & Other Federal Agencies With Access To Cellphone Surveillance Technology,” forbes.com, October 26, 2015: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2015/10/26/irs-joins-fbi-dea-other-federal-agencies-with-access-to-cellphone-surveillance-technology/; Nicky Woolf, “Congressman introduces bill to end warrantless Stingray surveillance,” theguardian.com, November 4, 2015: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/04/house-bill-end-warrantless-stin gray-surveillance-jason-chaffetz“Stingray Tracking Devices: Who's Got Them?” aclu.org [no date]: https://www.aclu.org/map/stingray-tracking-devices-whos-got-them

iPhone Records and Keeps Location Data

Apple’s iPhone records and maintains a phone-user’s location, “everywhere you go, along with the exact time you arrive and leave there each day,” according to a recent article.  The company said the data is only stored on the user’s phone, unless the user decides to share it with the company – for the Maps app --  in which case the data is stored anonymously.  Some people have concerns about privacy:  "One of the concerning things is, this is hidden from you in your phone," Noah Swartz, staff technologist at Electronic Frontier Foundation, said: "This could be used by abusive partners.  It could be used by police in an investigation.  It could be used by your boss or your company if you gave them access to your phone or if you're using a work phone."  A user can delete the data from the phone.

Source:  cbsnews.com, “Hidden iPhone feature tracks your every move,” December 9, 2015: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/hidden-iphone-feature-tracks-your-every-move/

Internet-Connected Voice-Recognition Devices Cause Privacy Concerns

Internet-connected voice-recognition devices, like the Amazon Echo, Apple’s Siri, “OK Google,” and Microsoft’s Cortana program, new smart-televisions, and some toys, allow people to run automated devices in and around their homes, get information, play music, and other services.  But the internet-connection also raises privacy concerns in some people.

For example, the Electronic Privacy Information Center has asked the FTC to set standards and limitations for data collected by voice-recognition devices.  Forrester Research analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo said, “This is going to require ?nding the ?ne balance between creating a really great user experience and something that’s creepy."  Kristen Anderson, an attorney with FTC's division of privacy and identity protection, has said the commission believes that companies selling such devices should only collect data necessary for the purpose, and that the data should be deleted once the purpose has been accomplished.

Amazon has indicated that the Echo device will not eavesdrop, for it only activates through the push of a button, or when a key-word is spoken, and that a blue-light is on and visible when the device is recording.

Source:  Michael Liedtke, “WILL THE INTERNET LISTEN TO YOUR PRIVATE CONVERSATIONS?” AP: kjrh.com, July 29, 2015: http://www.kjrh.com/news/national/will-the-internet-listen-to-your-private-conversations_06312190_

Proposed Bill in UK Requires Internet Records Kept for One Year

A new proposed bill, the Investigatory Powers Bill, in the UK would require the internet activity of everyone in Britain to be kept for one year by communications companies, and police would have warrantless-access (excluding journalistic sources) to the data.  One critic of the bill, Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights campaign Liberty, was quoted as saying, “After all the talk of climbdowns and safeguards, this long-awaited Bill constitutes a breath-taking attack on the internet security of every man, woman and child in our country.”

The communications companies would be required to “hold a schedule of which websites someone visits and the apps they connect to through computers, smartphones, tablets and other devices,” but would not give authorities “access [to] everyone's browsing history, just basic data, which was the ‘modern equivalent of an itemized phone bill’,” according to Home Secretary Theresa May.  To get more detailed data, for example, the content of emails and for access to a computer, authorities would still be required to get a warrant.

Sources:  bbc.com, “Surveillance bill includes internet records storage,” November 4, 2015: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-34715872; https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/473770/Draft_Investigatory_Powers_Bill.pdf.

Use of GPS Devices as “Bait” On the Rise

A recent article addressed the increasing use by law enforcement of GPS devices.  “GPS is the 21st-century version of the exploding dye pack that bank tellers slip into the bag of money during a holdup.”  Legal concerns arise due to the potential of abuse were law enforcement officers to utilize the tracking-data for an extended period of time, not just to solve a specific theft, but more generally to learn of other possible crimes of the perpetrator.

The article notes that, as a general rule, when someone steals something containing a tracking device, e.g., a car with a LoJak system, or money with a dye-pack, there are no substantive legal issues.  “Bait bottles,” containing a location device, are found in drugstores for use when a robber demands drugs.  The article noted that the maker of the painkiller Oxycontin reported that bait bottles are used in 33 states, and have led to almost 160 arrests.

However, "If somebody steals an object and the police don't arrest them for six months and just collect information about how they're living their life, that could be problematic," according to ACLU policy analyst Jay Stanley.  George Washington University constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley was quoted as saying, "Not only are we living in a fishbowl society, the government can now track us in real time in the fishbowl." In 2012, the United States Supreme Court held, among other things [and in a somewhat limited ruling], that placement of a GPS device on a vehicle is a search under the Fourth Amendment [United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. __ ; 132 S. Ct. 945].

Source:  “Hidden GPS devices to track suspects raise privacy concerns,” fox5ny.com, October 1, 2015: http://www.fox5ny.com/news/27225980-story