Surveillance Cameras, the Government and You, Nothing is Private

surveillance camerasIt seems like almost everywhere I go I see surveillance cameras.  They show up in the strangest places even on back roads in the backcountry.  Cameras are mounted on telephone poles temporarily to watch for potential arsonists.  They move them around to cover areas in which they are having suspicious fires.

Cameras are located all over in the cities, mounted on stores, overpasses, light poles and many other locations. You never know who or what are monitoring the cameras.  The reason I say what is explained in the following paragraph, sent me by a friend.

surveillance cameras

These are the easy ones to spot.

“Increasingly, smart surveillance cameras are monitoring public places in search of suspicious cues, a high-tech version of “if you see something, say something.”  By reviewing massive volumes of ordinary surveillance tape, algorithms can “learn” what type of behavior is typical right before a crime or terrorist attack is committed – like a person suddenly breaking into a run or abandoning a suitcase on a subway platform – and alert authorities. Esther Hovers, a photographer, captures some examples of the seemingly deviant behavior that these cameras pick up in a photo exhibition called “False Positives.”  These photographs, which Hovers took in Brussels, the de facto capital of Europe, are montages, partially natural and partially staged, which Hovers created by combining images from several minutes of video… (To readers develop a better sense of what some call situational awareness, I have long encouraged them to take note of those things that depart from normal patterns. I found this article to be a good exercise for such recognition.)”

Take a look at the pictures in the  attached link and see if you can spot what the government considers suspicious behavior. You will be surprised. I have included two links, because some of you may have a problem with the one from the Washington Post.

Now that you have an idea of what the government is looking for, you now have more information that will help you to avoid the government’s radar and stay a grey man.



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7 Responses to Surveillance Cameras, the Government and You, Nothing is Private

  1. Ed Harris says:

    Government eyes are watching you. They see your every move: what you read, how much you spend, where you go, with whom you interact, when you wake up in the morning, what you’re watching on television and reading on the internet. Every move you make is being monitored, mined for data, crunched, and tabulated in order to form a picture of who you are, what makes you tick, and how best to control you when and if it becomes necessary to bring you in line… For example, police have been using Stingray devices mounted on their cruisers to intercept cell phone calls and text messages without court-issued search warrants. Doppler radar devices, which can detect human breathing and movement within a home, are already being employed by the police to deliver arrest warrants and are being challenged in court… Sidewalk and “public space” cameras are blanketing small and large towns alike with government-funded and monitored surveillance cameras. It’s all part of a public-private partnership that gives government officials access to all manner of surveillance cameras, on sidewalks, on buildings, on buses, even those installed on private property…

  2. Ed Harris says:

    Another update on this subject with scary implications:

    Surveillance technology has advanced far beyond the laws that govern it…Ars Technica Live #2: Law professor Elizabeth Joh predicts the future of high-tech policing.

    Joh made it clear that the problem isn’t surveillance per se… The problem is when this surveillance becomes invasive, and the government inhibits freedom of expression and punishes unconventional behavior…

    Joh talked a lot about the future legal landscape we’re creating with cutting-edge technologies like self-driving cars, facial recognition, and body cams… But there are no federal guidelines for how cops will use these cams… Who has access to the data they collect? Can they use facial recognition in body cams? All of these questions remain unanswered…

    A similar problem…use of DNA databases, Joh explained. The US government gives states financial incentives to develop databases and biological sample libraries with the DNA of everyone who gets arrested. These aren’t convicts, mind you—just anyone who gets arrested, regardless of whether they were released the next day or found guilty of a felony. Again, the question here is how to regulate these databases, as well as other digital databases full of our “information microbiome.” The key, Joh argued, isn’t going to be found in the courts or Congress. Instead, “public vigilance” is the only social force that moves fast enough to push government to behave responsibly with new surveillance technologies.

    Of course, public vigilance is only as good as public information, and if the public doesn’t know what data law enforcement has, we can’t push for better rules. That’s why the rise of private security forces is so troubling… 3-5 times larger than public forces. And they are not regulated…which means that it’s impossible for the public to know what kinds of data private forces are gathering…

    Though self-driving cars may be great for safety, they will also log everywhere you go. Who will have access to all the information generated by these cars? She also believes very strongly that robots will become a key part of law enforcement, whether via surveillance drones or actual Robocop-style police officers who arrest people. She’s…very concerned about “predictive policing,” or using algorithms to predict where crimes will happen and who is likely to be involved in them. The idea of “pre crime police” is straight out of science fiction… but it’s not far from reality…

    Watch the whole video for more of her insights and to find out what law enforcement will look like ten years from now, when your car tracks your every move and robots swoop down from the sky to prevent you from smoking a joint in the park.

  3. Ed Harris says:

    Related article:

    Secret Text in Senate Bill Would Give FBI Warrantless Access to Email Records

    A still-secret text of the Senate’s annual intelligence authorization would give the FBI the ability to demand individuals’ email data and possibly web-surfing history from their service providers without a warrant and in complete secrecy.

    If passed, the change would expand the reach of the FBI’s already highly controversial national security letters. The FBI is currently allowed to get certain types of information with NSLs — most commonly, information about the name, address, and call data associated with a phone number or details about a bank account.

    Since a 2008 Justice Department legal opinion, the FBI has not been allowed to use NSLs to demand “electronic communication transactional records,” such as email subject lines and other metadata, or URLs visited.

    The spy bill passed the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, with the provision in it. The lone no vote came from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who wrote in a statement that one of the bill’s provisions “would allow any FBI field office to demand email records without a court order, a major expansion of federal surveillance powers…”

    The FBI used to think that it was, in fact, allowed to get email records with National Security Letters, and did so routinely until the Justice Department under George W. Bush told the bureau that it had interpreted its powers overly broadly. Ever since, the FBI has tried to get that power and has been rejected, including during negotiations over the USA Freedom Act.

    The FBI’s power to issue NSLs is actually derived from the Electronic Communications Privacy Act — a 1986 law that Congress is currently working to update to incorporate more protections for electronic communications — not fewer. The House unanimously passed the Email Privacy Act in late April, while the Senate is due to vote on its version this week.

  4. Ed Harris says:

    Civil rights and privacy groups are alarmed by a plan by the Justice Department to exempt from the Privacy Act the FBI’s Next Generation Identification Database, a collection of biometric data that already includes tens of millions of Americans… And the Electronic Privacy Information Center warned that under the announced plan, the FBI even could create “databases about the political activities of … citizens.”

    At issue is the NGID system, which Rutherford described as “a massive biometric database that contains more than 100 million fingerprints and 45 million facial photos gathered from a variety of sources ranging from criminal suspects and convicts to daycare workers and visa applicants.” …

  5. Ed Harris says:

    Last year, a facial recognition system was used on live video from surveillance cameras at the European Games, in Baku, Azerbaijan. During the June 2015 event, organizers watched a webpage that could issue an alert if a face in the crowd matched that of an individual on a watch list. A match that scores above a certain level of confidence will generate an alert.

    Sometimes, the vast amount of faces in a highly-populated area can bog down the scanning process, so high-performance computers are available for support on the back-end, said John Waugaman, president of Tygart Technology, the company that deployed the technology and whose customers include the U.S. intelligence community, Pentagon and law enforcement agencies…intertwining of real-time person identification, object recognition and activity detection—is the next wave of video surveillance, Waugaman said.

    “Easily within the next two years, you’ll see pairing of facial and object recognition in operational use,” he said.

    With “accurate object detection capabilities, you can broaden the use cases from known subjects to just people that are behaving oddly,”Waugaman said. Instead of the software program “being trained to find faces, it’s trained to find people with backpacks or it’s training to find people carrying guns.”

    There could be backlash surrounding the use of activity recognition software from privacy or gun rights groups, Waugaman acknowledged. But perhaps paradoxically, combining all the identification modes could cut the number of “false positives.”

  6. Ed Harris says:

    The Privacy Act of 1974 limits the collection, disclosure and use of personal information and requires agencies to disclose what kinds they are using, generally about whom and how. The FBI did not publish such disclosures, according to the referenced report.

    The FBI’s system searches not just its own database, but also photo databases maintained by seven participating states, the US Department of State – which issues passports – and the US Department of Defense, shared among federal law enforcement agencies and the participating agencies, though access on the state level is obtained through the FBI.

    Initial queries…referred to the Next Generation Identification-Interstate Photo System (NGI-IPS, or NGI), which allows the FBI and some state and local agencies to cross-reference surveillance camera footage and other photographs with its collection of candidate photos.

    But the GAO report found a much larger program, run by the criminal justice information services division of the FBI (CJIS), called Facial Analysis, Comparison and Evaluation, or Face, which “conducts face recognition searches on NGI-IPS and can access external partners’ face recognition systems to support FBI active investigations”…

    “The FBI has done very minimal testing on the accuracy of their internal system…” they hedged…guaranteed 80%, maybe 85% accuracy if the candidate is in the top 50 responses…As the database gets larger, accuracy goes down…”

    The reason state governments currently keep detailed facial recognition databases from driver’s licenses, said Lynch, is to stymie identity theft and other crimes. “Data that’s being collected for one purpose is being used for a very different purpose and that’s not the way we operate in our democratic system,” she said…

    The FBI said it believed previous disclosures were adequate and that its searches for leads in criminal cases of records acquired from civilians by DMVs and passport offices were “in strict compliance with federal and state law”.

  7. Charles Harris says:

    Disturbing situation in the UK with regard to proposed government control of the Internet, background published in The Independent:

    The UK government intends to introduce huge restrictions on what people can post, share and publish online. The plans will allow Britain to become “the global leader in the regulation of the use of personal data and the internet…” It comes just soon after the Investigatory Powers Act came into law. That legislation allowed the government to force internet companies to keep records on their customers’ browsing histories, as well as giving ministers the power to break apps like WhatsApp so that messages can be read…

    saying that the government will work even harder to ensure there is no “safe space for terrorists to be able to communicate online”. That is apparently a reference in part to its work to encourage technology companies to build backdoors into their encrypted messaging services – which gives the government the ability to read terrorists’ messages, but also weakens the security of everyone else’s messages, technology companies have warned.

    How the IT companies respond is not the issue. How the UK public responds IS the issue. These companies exist to make a profit, not to create and implement government policy. If the IT companies really wanted to create change all they would have to do is shut down Google, Bing and all the other search engines for 2 hours on Monday afternoon, one of the most productive segments of the work week, and show the UK public what real censorship might really be like.

    There is a lesson here for Americans that we must all be vigilant and not permit the nose of the government camel into our tents.

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