April 2016

Beware Software

A software program, called Beware, currently being used by police in Fresno, California, analyzes billions of data points -- from “arrest reports, property records, commercial databases, deep Web searches and the man’s social-media postings” – relating to an address when police respond to a call.  The program analyzes available data for residents and assigns to the resident a threat score, either red, yellow or green.  The software is one of the tools Fresno police utilize in a Real Time Crime Center – a high-tech law enforcement facility of a type also used in Houston, New York, and Seattle.  In addition to the social media scanning programs, Fresno police can also tap into 200 police cameras in the city, 80 school and traffic cameras, and – likely soon – body-cams and cameras at local businesses.

Sources:  Justin Jouvenal, “The new way police are surveilling you: Calculating your threat ‘score’,” washingtonpost.com, January 10, 2016: https:// www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/the-ne w-way-police-are-surveilling-you-calculating-your-thr eat-score/2016/01/10/e42bccac-8e15-11e5-baf4-bdf3 7355da0c_story.html

Household Smart Devices Might Be Surveilled By Government Agencies

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently acknowledged that intelligence agencies might utilize smart appliances as part of intelligence surveillance programs.  Intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies say they face increasing obstacles through encryption technology – often referred to as “going dark” -- and are increasingly looking into accessing data through other internet-connected resources, “ranging from “toasters to bedsheets, light bulbs, cameras, toothbrushes, door locks, cars, watches and other wearables,” as well as smart televisions and children’s toys, according to a recent article in the New York Times.

The New York Times article also referenced a recent study, “Don’t Panic: Making Progress on the ‘Going Dark’ Debate,” published February 1, 2016, by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, which found that end-to-end encryption for obscuring data will likely not become widespread, because communication services businesses need the data from customers for revenue purposes.  Also, the study concluded that the lack of standardization in the industry renders widespread encryption use unlikely, metadata is not – and should not become – encrypted, and the growing “Internet of Things” [e.g., smart-appliances] will make surveillance and monitoring possible through other, non-encrypted channels.

Sources: Stephanie Mlot, “Feds Eye the ‘Internet of Things’ as next frontier in Spying,” pcmag.com, February 10, 2016: http://www.pcmag.com/article2 /0,2817,2499109,00.asp.  Spencer Ackerman and Sam Thielman, “US intelligence chief: we might use the internet of things to spy on you,“ guardian.co.uk, February 9, 2016: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/09/internet-of-things-smart-home-devices-government-surveillance-james-clapper.  David E. Sanger, “New Technologies Give Government Ample Means to Track Suspects, Study Finds,” nytimes.com, January 31, 2016: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/01/us/politics/new-technologies-give-government-ample-means-to-track-suspects-study-finds.html?_r=0.  Don’t Panic: Making Progress on the ‘Going Dark’ Debate: https://cyber.law.harvard.edu/pubrelease/dont-panic/Dont_Panic_Making_Progress_on_Going_Dark_Debate.pdf

Stingray Update

The New York Police Department widely used Stingray devices to track cellphones, without warrants, more than 1,000 times since 2008.  According to a recent article, “This is the first time that the scope of stingray use by the nation’s largest police agency has been confirmed.”  The information was obtained by the New York Civil Liberties Union pursuant to a records-request.

Stingray devices “work by mimicking cell towers and tracking a cellphone’s location at a specific time,” and law enforcement can track a person’s movements, the phone-numbers the person has contact with, and data about bystanders near the targeted-individual.

Sources:  Clara McCarthy, “NYPD tracked citizens’ cellphones 1,000 times since 2008 without warrants,” theguardian.com, February 11, 2016:  http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/feb/11/new-york-city-police-tracked-cellphones-without-war rants-stingrays.  Related:  And for more detailed examination of the Stingray technology, see this detailed report: Linda Lye, Senior Staff Attorney, “STINGRAYS: The Most Common Surveillance Tool the Government Won't Tell You About,” ACLU of Northern California, June 27, 2014: https://www.aclunc.org/sites/default/files/StingRays_The_Most_Common_Surveillance_Tool_the_Govt_Won't_Tell_You_About.pdf

“Tech Tattoos”

Software company Chaotic Moon has developed a “tech tattoo,” made from “electro conductive ink” and which contains sensors, and, possibly, tiny microchips, that can be embedded into a person’s arm and track financial and medical information.  The tech tattoo “monitors everything that they would do in a physical and it sends that to your doctor … can look at early signs of fever, your vital signs, heart rate, everything it needs to look at to notify you that you’re getting sick or your child is getting sick … [and] can carry all your … credit card information or your ID,” according to Eric Schneider, Chaotic Moon’s hardware creative technologist.

Source:  “Seen At 11: Company Developing ‘Tech Tattoos’ So People Can Track Their Medical, Financial Info,” newyork.cbslocal.com, January 29, 2016” http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2016/01/29/tech-tattoos-chaotic-moon/

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor