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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "surveillance"

Guy Mansfield QC: Overt digital surveillance can be justified in a crisis. But it must be time-limited.

Lord Sandhurst QC is a past Chairman of the Bar of England and Wales (as Guy Mansfield QC), and a current member of the Executive of the Society of Conservative Lawyers.

On May 4, the Government started, through its agency ‘NHSX’, a trial in the Isle of Wight of an automated system for tracing and informing those on the island who had been in contact with a person who has been found to be infected with Coronavirus.

Under the scheme, individuals voluntarily download an application (app) on their smartphone.

Once the app is turned on, every time that smartphone is in proximity with a smartphone that also has the app (and which is turned on), it updates the NHSX central server.

If someone who has been using the app becomes infected, the information is loaded onto the NHSX server and alerts are sent to all those whose smartphone had notified the server previously of contact with that person. They can then take steps to self-isolate or seek treatment.

So, the dataset charts all its users’ interactions, and the NHSX builds up a picture of the spread of the infection among its users.

The crucial questions are: will people download and use the app in sufficient numbers, will it work as intended, and what are the implications for our personal privacy both in the short term and longer term?

Together with Benet Brandreth QC and Simon Murray, I explored the current literature and what the app involved.

We concluded that to give automatically and regularly personal information about one’s contacts and health to the State is an unprecedented increase in overt digital surveillance.

This can be justified if it enables an effective fight against Covid-19.

But it is critical that data provided is not misused by government or anyone else. The NHSX scheme must be time-limited and not continue indefinitely.

The app will test whether a balance can be struck between the legitimate aims underlying its introduction and the rights and freedoms of individuals.

It is important to get it right now because of the precedent it creates for the future.

The NHSX model has been developed with the assistance of the National Cyber Security Centre (‘NCSC’, and part of GCHQ).

The individual leading for NCSC in developing it, Dr Ian Levy, gave details of its proposed operation in a blog post on May 4.

He said that it can run well on supported devices, only uses software development tools supported by Apple and Google, will not drain battery or stop other apps working properly, strongly protects its user’s privacy and security, and will provide the insights which public health professionals need better to manage the virus.

We hope he is right. An app which does not provide reliable information about the spread of the virus or routinely indicates a need to self-isolate on the basis of identification of a connection could not possibly justify the great invasion of privacy that is involved.

The merits of an effective and safe system are explained by Prof Christophe Fraser of the Oxford University Nuffield Department of Medicine.

He suggests that mobile contact tracing carefully deployed using key epidemiological parameters, if combined with critical ethical principles, can save lives, reduce the number of people needing to remain in self-isolation, and support as many people as possible safely and responsibly to start returning to active life again.

He believes that the epidemic can be stopped “if approximately 60% of the whole population use the app and adhere to the apps recommendations. Lower numbers of app users will also have a positive effect; we estimate that one infection will be averted for every one to two users.”

Since no effective vaccine is likely to be rolled out for at least a year, and social distancing severely curtails freedoms, our paper concluded (as had a recent Policy Exchange paper) that the merits of testing and contact tracing – which do not involve the direct curtailment of liberty – justify the loss of some privacy.

That being said, to place such personal Big Data referable back to its owner raises profound ethical legal and operational questions (which we explored).

In short, only a voluntary system is acceptable, but if it is a voluntary system and to be taken up by a sufficiently large number of people, we must be provided with transparent reassurances on how the data will be stored, analysed and used.

A high level of trust is vital to getting a critical mass of people to subscribe to the app and to use it routinely.

Its use must be time-limited and not indefinite.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 must be amended to give a statutory basis to a new Testing and Tracing Command Centre (as recommended by Policy Exchange) to oversee the whole process.

In turn, that body should be subject to judicial oversight.

But if the app is efficacious and works in practice, then it will be an effective tool to speed up the process by which social distancing and other restrictions on our freedoms can be relaxed. 

The Society of Conservative Lawyers will broadcast a webinar on this topic, chaired by Sir Bob Neill MP, at 6pm on Wednesday 13th May.

For details on how to join the Society and attend the webinar, as well as its other Covid-19 related research, please visit https://www.conservativelawyers.com/.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

A Feature on Zoom Secretly Displayed Data From People’s LinkedIn Profiles

Westlake Legal Group 00virus-zoom-privacy-facebookJumbo A Feature on Zoom Secretly Displayed Data From People’s LinkedIn Profiles Zoom Video Communications Zoom Videophones and Videoconferencing surveillance Social Media Privacy Mobile Applications LinkedIn Corporation Eric S. Yuan Data-Mining and Database Marketing Cyberattacks and Hackers Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Computer Security

For Americans sheltering at home during the coronavirus pandemic, the Zoom videoconferencing platform has become a lifeline, enabling millions of people to easily keep in touch with family members, friends, students, teachers and work colleagues.

But what many people may not know is that, until Thursday, a data-mining feature on Zoom allowed some participants to surreptitiously access LinkedIn profile data about other users — without Zoom asking for their permission during the meeting or even notifying them that someone else was snooping on them.

The undisclosed data mining adds to growing concerns about Zoom’s business practices at a moment when public schools, health providers, employers, fitness trainers, prime ministers and queer dance parties are embracing the platform.

An analysis by The New York Times found that when people signed in to a meeting, Zoom’s software automatically sent their names and email addresses to a company system it used to match them with their LinkedIn profiles.

The data-mining feature was available to Zoom users who subscribed to a LinkedIn service for sales prospecting, called LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Once a Zoom user enabled the feature, they could quickly and covertly access LinkedIn profile data — like locations, employer names and job titles — for people in their Zoom meetings by clicking on a LinkedIn icon next to their names.

The system did not simply automate the manual process of one user looking up the name of another participant on LinkedIn during a Zoom meeting. In tests conducted last week, The Times found that even when a reporter signed in to a Zoom meeting under pseudonyms — “Anonymous” and “I am not here” — the data-mining tool was able to instantly match him to his LinkedIn profile. In doing so, Zoom disclosed the reporter’s real name to another user, overriding his efforts to keep it private.

Reporters also found that Zoom automatically sent participants’ personal information to its data-mining tool even when no one in a meeting had activated it. This week, for instance, as high school students in Colorado signed in to a mandatory video meeting for a class, Zoom readied the full names and email addresses of at least six students — and their teacher — for possible use by its LinkedIn profile-matching tool, according to a Times analysis of the data traffic that Zoom sent to a student’s account.


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The discoveries about Zoom’s data-mining feature echo what users have learned about the surveillance practices of other popular tech platforms over the last few years. The video-meeting platform that has offered a welcome window on American resiliency during the coronavirus — providing a virtual peek into colleagues’ living rooms, classmates’ kitchens and friends’ birthday celebrations — can reveal more about its users than they may realize.

“People don’t know this is happening and that’s just completely unfair and deceptive,” Josh Golin, the executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a nonprofit group in Boston, said of the data-mining feature. He added that storing the personal details of school children for nonschool purposes, without alerting them or obtaining a parent’s permission, was particularly troubling.

Early Thursday morning, after Times reporters contacted Zoom and LinkedIn with their findings on the profile-matching feature, the companies said they would disable the service.

In a statement, Zoom said it took users’ privacy “extremely seriously” and was “removing the LinkedIn Sales Navigator to disable the feature on our platform entirely.” In a related blog post, Eric S. Yuan, the chief executive of Zoom, wrote that the company had removed the data-mining feature “after identifying unnecessary data disclosure.” He also said that Zoom would freeze all new features for the next 90 days to concentrate on data security and privacy issues.

In a separate statement, LinkedIn said it worked “to make it easy for members to understand their choices over what information they share” and would suspend the profile-matching feature on Zoom “while we investigate this further.”

The Times’s findings add to an avalanche of reports about privacy and security issues with Zoom, which has quickly emerged as the go-to business and social platform during the pandemic. Zoom’s cloud-meetings service is currently the top free app in the Apple App Store in 64 countries including the United States, France and Russia, according to Sensor Tower, a mobile app research firm.

As the videoconferencing service’s popularity has surged, however, the company has scrambled to handle software design choices and security flaws that have made users vulnerable to harassment and privacy invasions.

On Monday, for instance, the Boston office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a warning saying that it had received multiple reports from Massachusetts schools about trolls hijacking Zoom meetings with displays of pornography, white supremacist imagery and threatening language — malicious attacks known as “zoombombing.”

Privacy experts said the company seemed to value ease of use and fast growth over instituting default user protections.

“It’s a combination of sloppy engineering and prioritizing growth,” said Jonathan Mayer, an assistant professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton University. “It’s very clear that they have not prioritized privacy and security in the way they should have, which is obviously more than a little concerning.”

In response to news reports on its problems, Zoom recently announced that it had stopped using software in its iPhone app that sent users’ data to Facebook; updated its privacy policy to clarify how it handles user data; and conceded that it had overstated the kind of encryption it used for video and phone meetings.

Although profiling consumers and prospecting for corporate clients are standard practices in sales and customer relations management, privacy experts criticized Zoom for making the data-mining tools available during meetings without alerting participants as they were being subjected to them.

One service, called “attention tracking,” which Zoom also said it was removing on Thursday after reporters’ inquiries, displayed an icon “next to the name of any participant who does not have Zoom in focus for more than 30 seconds,” according to the company’s site.

In 2018, Zoom introduced the LinkedIn profile-matching feature to help sales representatives better profile and target sales prospects attending Zoom meetings.

“Instantly gain insights about your meeting participants,” a Zoom video promoting the service said. “Once signed in, you’ll be able to match participants to their LinkedIn profile information and view their recent activity.”

But neither Zoom’s privacy policy nor its terms of service specifically disclosed that Zoom could covertly display meeting participants’ LinkedIn data to other users — or that it might communicate the names and email addresses of participants in private Zoom meetings to LinkedIn. In fact, user instructions on Zoom suggested just the opposite: that meeting attendees may control who sees their real names.

“Enter the meeting ID number and your display name,” one section on Zoom’s Help Center said. “If you’re signed in, change your name if you don’t want your default name to appear.”

Similarly, Zoom’s privacy policy says that “some data will be disclosed to other participants” when a person uses Zoom. For instance, it says, “if you send a chat or share content, that can be viewed by others in the chat or the meeting.” But it did not mention that Zoom could show some users’ LinkedIn data to other users or disclose data about users’ participation in private Zoom meetings to LinkedIn.

Nicole Leverich, vice president of corporate communications at LinkedIn, said that fewer than 100 people per week were actively using the feature on Zoom and that LinkedIn did not retain the data about Zoom users.

Just after 1 a.m. Eastern time on Thursday, Zoom sent an automated message to users saying it had disabled the LinkedIn profile-matching feature “due to administrative issues.”

“We will notify you when the app is re-enabled,” the message said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Baltimore residents really want surveillance plane City Hall rejected

Westlake Legal Group Baltimore Baltimore residents really want surveillance plane City Hall rejected The Blog surveillance Privacy police Planes baltimore

Earlier this year we looked at a law enforcement program in Baltimore that put a plane up above the city almost around the clock. It was equipped with a high definition video camera and was able to monitor crime scenes and track criminals back to where they came from and/or to their destinations after the crime. And the best part of it was that it was absolutely free to the taxpayers, being funded by a private grant. But some Democrats objected to having an “eye in the sky” and it was abandoned. When the offer was renewed for the same free program again this summer, the new Police Commissioner dismissed it out of hand.

One local pastor disagreed with the decision, saying that he had heard from plenty of people saying they thought it was a great idea. But rather than relying on anecdotal evidence, he obtained a grant to pay for a professional survey to be done. When the results came back, his beliefs were verified. An overwhelming percentage of the public, including persons of color, were totally in favor of bringing the plane back. (Baltimore Sun)

Of 500 residents polled, 74% said they would generally support “a program to conduct aerial surveillance over the city of Baltimore to reduce serious crimes like murder.” Twenty percent said they would oppose such a program, with 6% unsure.

The numbers barely budged — to 72% in support, 23% opposed — when respondents were given a more detailed description: “A small aircraft flies over the city and provides images that track vehicles and people to and from reported crime scenes. The information is then provided to the Baltimore Police Department to help them solve crimes. An outside independent oversight group would ensure that the system is not being abused, and the program would be entirely paid for by a private donor.”

Those are just ridiculous numbers for almost any public opinion survey. It’s hard to get seventy percent of the population to agree on whether or not puppies are cute these days. To see so many of them in favor of this plan is remarkable and totally contrary to the attitude on display in City Hall and in the police leadership.

To sweeten the deal even further (and highlight how silly the opposition is) the program would once again be completely free. The same Texas husband and wife philanthropist team, John and Laura Arnold, are offering to pay for three planes providing round the clock coverage. They’re also offering to cover the costs of any overtime or extra personnel required to process and analyze the video data. And if anyone has any concerns over how the video is being used, they even volunteered to fund a public committee to provide oversight.

Despite all that, the Chief of Police and members of the City Council are rejecting the plan. And it’s a plan that we now know is supported by nearly three-quarters of the residents of the city.

Baltimore is still suffering from a plague of gun violence that’s reached biblical proportions. Gun crimes are precisely the sort of thing this surveillance system was built for. Once a shooting is identified and police know the time and location, the video footage can trace all the cars and pedestrian traffic at the crime scene. People can be traced back to where they came from originally as well as revealing where they headed after it all went down.

If the cops like it (they did) and it’s effective in solving crimes, and if the public supports it, why is the city leadership still turning their nose up? Particularly when it’s free. The residents of Baltimore seriously need to get together and start electing some smarter people who are willing to listen to the will of the public.

The post Baltimore residents really want surveillance plane City Hall rejected appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group Baltimore-300x153 Baltimore residents really want surveillance plane City Hall rejected The Blog surveillance Privacy police Planes baltimore  Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How doorbell cameras are changing suburban life

Westlake Legal Group doorbell How doorbell cameras are changing suburban life The Blog surveillance Ring Privacy doorbell crime cameras

While we’ve touched on this subject before, I’ve been increasingly interested in the quickly spreading phenomenon of what have come to be known as doorbell cameras. There are quite a few of them out there to choose from these days, with two of the most popular being Amazon’s Ring system and Google’s Nest. They’ve been growing in popularity, particularly in suburban neighborhoods. This has been abetted by hundreds of local police departments going so far as to subsidize or even give away Ring systems to homeowners in an attempt to gain access to more video surveillance footage when investigating crimes.

This partnership with law enforcement feeds into Ring’s social networking app called Neighborhood, where members of the community can share footage and reports of crime or suspicious activity. The police can request the footage from willing participants without a warrant because the sharing of the videos is not mandatory. Plenty of people are still sharing, however. This has led to the usual complaints about privacy concerns, misidentification, and even racism, as you might expect.

Over at Wired, Louise Matsakis has a lengthy analysis of how these camera systems are changing our culture. She does a good job offering data on both sides of the debate, both in terms of effects on crime rates and the aforementioned privacy concerns. On the latter point, she brings up some peculiar complaints, specifically in terms of questions as to whether this filming activity is actually doing anyone any good.

Often at the heart of Ring news reports is one thing: passivity. Because many of the videos were filmed when the cameras owners were out of town, at work, or sleeping, there’s little they could have done to change the course of what transpired in them, at least in the moment. The man whose camera filmed a girl with a dog at almost 4 am couldn’t go and ask if she was OK. The feeling is best encapsulated in a clip from North Carolina earlier this year, in which a Ring camera captured a tornado destroying the residence it was installed on. The couple who owned the house, who weren’t inside, watched as it was ravaged—at least until the connection was lost.

This “passivity” argument seems to me to be one of the most specious of them all. Take the examples that the author provides in that excerpt. A film clip of a little girl walking a dog at four in the morning isn’t all that interesting in and of itself. But if she was in trouble and the owners couldn’t help her because they were sleeping, that doesn’t invalidate the system. Let’s say in a worst-case scenario that the girl went missing. Police could still use the video and its timestamp to at least confirm someplace she was before disappearing and establish a timeline of events to help solve the mystery.

As for the homeowners who watched from afar as a tornado approached and then destroyed their house, what could they (or anyone) have done about it had they been there? We don’t have a way to stop or deflect tornados. But if they had been home and awake, perhaps they’d have seen the twister approaching a few minutes earlier and had time to flee to safety.

The article also goes into the question of whether or not you’re allowed to film things that aren’t taking place on your own property. That’s not even an issue anywhere in the country as far as I know. Anyone can take pictures or video of things going on out in public spaces, whether with their phone or an installed surveillance system. The only restrictions come into play if the owner of the video attempts to use someone else’s image for profit without their permission. Simply having the video, or even sharing it on social media or with the police is not going to land you in court to the best of my knowledge.

Also, these systems have settings where you can limit the range of the motion detectors and the angle of the lens. So if you really don’t want to film beyond the edge of your property you don’t have to.

This technology is not only helping police solve crimes more quickly, but it arguably reduces overall crime if potential porch pirates and car thieves become aware that a given neighborhood is constantly being filmed. How anyone sees this as a bad thing remains a mystery to me.

The post How doorbell cameras are changing suburban life appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group doorbell-300x153 How doorbell cameras are changing suburban life The Blog surveillance Ring Privacy doorbell crime cameras  Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How doorbell cameras are changing suburban life

Westlake Legal Group doorbell How doorbell cameras are changing suburban life The Blog surveillance Ring Privacy doorbell crime cameras

While we’ve touched on this subject before, I’ve been increasingly interested in the quickly spreading phenomenon of what have come to be known as doorbell cameras. There are quite a few of them out there to choose from these days, with two of the most popular being Amazon’s Ring system and Google’s Nest. They’ve been growing in popularity, particularly in suburban neighborhoods. This has been abetted by hundreds of local police departments going so far as to subsidize or even give away Ring systems to homeowners in an attempt to gain access to more video surveillance footage when investigating crimes.

This partnership with law enforcement feeds into Ring’s social networking app called Neighborhood, where members of the community can share footage and reports of crime or suspicious activity. The police can request the footage from willing participants without a warrant because the sharing of the videos is not mandatory. Plenty of people are still sharing, however. This has led to the usual complaints about privacy concerns, misidentification, and even racism, as you might expect.

Over at Wired, Louise Matsakis has a lengthy analysis of how these camera systems are changing our culture. She does a good job offering data on both sides of the debate, both in terms of effects on crime rates and the aforementioned privacy concerns. On the latter point, she brings up some peculiar complaints, specifically in terms of questions as to whether this filming activity is actually doing anyone any good.

Often at the heart of Ring news reports is one thing: passivity. Because many of the videos were filmed when the cameras owners were out of town, at work, or sleeping, there’s little they could have done to change the course of what transpired in them, at least in the moment. The man whose camera filmed a girl with a dog at almost 4 am couldn’t go and ask if she was OK. The feeling is best encapsulated in a clip from North Carolina earlier this year, in which a Ring camera captured a tornado destroying the residence it was installed on. The couple who owned the house, who weren’t inside, watched as it was ravaged—at least until the connection was lost.

This “passivity” argument seems to me to be one of the most specious of them all. Take the examples that the author provides in that excerpt. A film clip of a little girl walking a dog at four in the morning isn’t all that interesting in and of itself. But if she was in trouble and the owners couldn’t help her because they were sleeping, that doesn’t invalidate the system. Let’s say in a worst-case scenario that the girl went missing. Police could still use the video and its timestamp to at least confirm someplace she was before disappearing and establish a timeline of events to help solve the mystery.

As for the homeowners who watched from afar as a tornado approached and then destroyed their house, what could they (or anyone) have done about it had they been there? We don’t have a way to stop or deflect tornados. But if they had been home and awake, perhaps they’d have seen the twister approaching a few minutes earlier and had time to flee to safety.

The article also goes into the question of whether or not you’re allowed to film things that aren’t taking place on your own property. That’s not even an issue anywhere in the country as far as I know. Anyone can take pictures or video of things going on out in public spaces, whether with their phone or an installed surveillance system. The only restrictions come into play if the owner of the video attempts to use someone else’s image for profit without their permission. Simply having the video, or even sharing it on social media or with the police is not going to land you in court to the best of my knowledge.

Also, these systems have settings where you can limit the range of the motion detectors and the angle of the lens. So if you really don’t want to film beyond the edge of your property you don’t have to.

This technology is not only helping police solve crimes more quickly, but it arguably reduces overall crime if potential porch pirates and car thieves become aware that a given neighborhood is constantly being filmed. How anyone sees this as a bad thing remains a mystery to me.

The post How doorbell cameras are changing suburban life appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group doorbell-300x153 How doorbell cameras are changing suburban life The Blog surveillance Ring Privacy doorbell crime cameras  Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Detroit joins the fight over facial recognition software

Westlake Legal Group FaceRecognition Detroit joins the fight over facial recognition software The Blog surveillance facial recognition DETROIT cameras baltimore

For some time now, the police in Detroit, Michigan have been expanding a program named Project Green Light. It’s a series of cameras, now numbering nearly 600, installed around various businesses in the city. They initially focused primarily on 24/7 businesses that attracted a lot of crime, like gas stations and liquor stores. But now it’s expanded to cover significant portions of the city. The cameras are tied into a facial recognition program which is used when trying to identify perpetrators of violent crimes.

This, of course, has people angry. Because for some reason, many people don’t seem to want to make it any easier for the police to catch violent criminals if it means that the authorities might be “spying” on them. (NBC News)

Detroit police officials say they’re only using facial recognition technology to identify suspects in violent crimes — not to spy on ordinary citizens. But, in a city that is about 80 percent black, with a sizable population of Middle Eastern, Asian and Latin American immigrants, critics have blasted the police for using technology that has been shown to be more likely to misidentify people with dark skin, without fully explaining it to the public.

“What happens when this software misidentifies one single person that doesn’t have the resources for a good legal defense?” asked Willie Burton, an elected member of Detroit’s Board of Police Commissioners, a civilian body that oversees the police department. “Detroit is the poorest, blackest city in America. It should be the last city where we start implementing facial recognition.”

In what is hopefully a sign of things to come, Detroit’s Chief of Police is standing up to these objections and putting forth some common sense. First, they are not tracking everyone who comes in and out of a gas station or liquor store. And when a crime is reported, nobody is being arrested based solely on a facial recognition match. Human beings verify the identity of the person before any warrant is issued.

Detroit police Chief James Craig is alarmed by what he calls “hysteria” over tools he believes are making one of the nation’s most dangerous cities safer. He says trained police analysts verify the identity of suspects before they’re arrested, so computer misidentification isn’t an issue. And he warns that if lawmakers stop police from using the technology, Detroiters will suffer — specifically the victims of violent crimes.

“It would be tragic,” he said. “This is about safety. This is about the victims. This is about identifying violent suspects. This is not about Big Brother and taking that man who just left that store and we got facial recognition running and say, ‘Oh, that’s Mr. Jones who was arrested six years ago.’ We don’t do that. That’s absolutely wrong.”

Yes, it’s true that facial recognition software still has a ways to go before it’s completely reliable. It’s also a fact that most of the programs have a harder time correctly identifying persons of color and women. (You can read a pretty good analysis of why the software encounters these problems at CNET.) But as the Detroit Police Chief points out, nobody gets arrested based solely on the results of the facial recognition analysis. An actual officer looks at the photograph of the person identified and is able to tell whether the machine has made a mistake or not.

The way that people are working so diligently to stifle facial recognition for law enforcement is incredibly frustrating. It’s as bad as Baltimore turning down a free set of surveillance planes because people objected to video of public streets being recorded. Detroit may not be quite as bad as Chicago or Baltimore, but they have a serious violent crime problem. The police are using new technology to try to get a grip on this and make the streets safer. Why are these activists fighting so hard to make life easier for criminals?

The post Detroit joins the fight over facial recognition software appeared first on Hot Air.

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Baltimore abandons surveillance plane because things are going so well

Westlake Legal Group BaltimorePolice Baltimore abandons surveillance plane because things are going so well violent crime The Blog surveillance plane murder rate baltimore

A couple of years ago, the city of Baltimore launched a pilot program (no pun intended) that involved having a private contractor fly a surveillance plane over the city almost constantly, recording high-resolution video of the activity on the streets. It was surprisingly successful, resulting in police being able to retrace the movements of people engaged in shootings and other crimes back to their homes or to their post-crime destinations.

The public wasn’t initially informed of the program and when word leaked out there were complaints from the usual digital privacy advocates. The program was eventually terminated. This year, however, the company operating the program, Persistent Surveillance Systems, was back offering to start things up again. The new mayor didn’t have any objections, so the Police Commissioner met with them. He emerged from the meeting with a one-sentence response. No thanks, we’ll pass. (CBS Baltimore)

Baltimore’s police commissioner will not support flying a surveillance plane over the city again.
After meeting Monday with Ross McNutt, the founder of Persistent Surveillance Systems, the police department issued a one-sentence statement: “The commissioner learned a lot today about the surveillance plane program and still has no plans to bring it back.”

McNutt says the Greater Baltimore Committee set up the meeting.

The BPD statement echoes comments from spokesman Matt Jablow in an email last week that, “The commissioner has no plans whatsoever to bring back the surveillance plane,” he wrote.

Here’s a couple of things you might not know about the program that the Police Commissioner is turning his nose up at. First of all, it’s completely free to the taxpayers. The first time it was done, a pair of Texas philanthropists, John and Laura Arnold, paid for the entire thing. They also offered money to hire extra police officers and funding for a committee to provide oversight of the program.

They already offered to cover the full cost again for three years. And they would have provided three planes, not just one. They were rebuffed.

Baltimore’s murder rate remains off the charts, logging hundreds more homicides than even New York City, which is fifteen times as large. The vast majority of those killings are attributable to gang violence. The planes, with both normal daylight and nighttime infrared capabilities, are well suited to tracking gang violence on the streets. But the city is going to rebuff this offer of a free solution to some of their worst problems because they’re worried about the police filming what goes on in public?

People have been demanding answers to the skyrocketing murder rate in Baltimore as well as other troubled cities like Chicago. Now someone comes along and offers to make a gift that’s been proven effective to the city out of their own pockets, and they’re told to stay away? I’m quickly running out of sympathy for the city of Baltimore. They’ve got a violent crime rate that makes some war zones look safe and if they can’t take yes for an answer when a free solution comes along, perhaps they deserve their fate.

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NY Post: There’s no surveillance video of Epstein’s death

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We’re never gonna know.

Well … maybe not “never.” Cameras aren’t trained on inmates’ cells at MCC, per the Post, but they are trained on the hallways. If someone entered Epstein’s cell block to do him harm, his likeness should be on the footage somewhere.

Unless the Clintons perfected an invisibility cloak and gave it to their team of international assassins, in which case all bets are off.

There’s no surveillance video of the incident in which Jeffrey Epstein apparently hanged himself in a federal lockup in Lower Manhattan, law enforcement officials told The Post on Sunday.

Although there are cameras in the 9 South wing where the convicted pedophile was being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, they are trained on the areas outside the cells and not inside, according to sources familiar with the setup there.

Jazz already noted in an earlier post that the overworked guards on duty at MCC didn’t follow protocol by checking his cell every 30 minutes, as is required for inmates in the Special Housing Unit. But it wasn’t just one scheduled check that they missed; WaPo’s sources claim that “several” hours passed between look-ins on Epstein. Nor was that the only breach of protocol:

After he was removed from suicide watch at the end of July, Mr. Epstein had been downgraded to “special observation status,” which mandated guards check on him every 30 minutes and also required him to have a cellmate, a person familiar with the matter said.

Yet in the hours leading up to his death, it appears he had no cellmate and wasn’t receiving the required check, the person said. The cellmate had apparently left, possibly for a court appearance or another appointment, and was not quickly replaced as required by protocol, the person said.

Without both breaches of protocol, Epstein might be alive. If the guards had checked at the appointed time, they might have interrupted whatever was happening in his cell despite the fact that he had no cellmate. If he had had a cellmate, the cellmate might have alerted guards to a suicide attempt despite the fact that they weren’t checking on him at appointed times. Everything had to go right, or rather wrong, for Epstein to end up dead. Go figure.

This tweet on Saturday from a respected reporter at the Washington Post grabbed my eye:

Epstein’s representatives were sufficiently concerned that they had their own forensic pathologist attend the autopsy to observe. The coroner’s conclusion: Inconclusive, for the moment.

Barbara Sampson, New York City’s chief medical examiner, said her office conducted an autopsy Sunday but had not yet reached a determination on cause of death “pending further information.” The medical examiner also allowed Michael Baden, a private pathologist, to observe the autopsy at the request of Epstein’s representatives, Sampson said.

Conspiracy theorizing on social media this weekend was rampant, up to and including the president of the United States — although, actually, that’s par for the course for both Twitter and for Trump. The only cohort that seems skeptical of foul play is … people who actually know how the federal prison system works. Defense attorney “Caroline Court” is the latest criminal lawyer to make the case that this outcome just isn’t that surprising for an institution like MCC:

The MCC has been notoriously understaffed for some time now. Inmates have reported that they have been locked in their cells all weekend because of staff shortages, and, as I tweeted, even weekend legal visits are sometimes canceled for the same reason.

Because of the short staff issues, corrections officers at the MCC often work double shifts. Was the corrections officer covering the SHU that morning in the middle of a double and perhaps fell asleep?…

I’ll add that mental health treatment in a jail setting is often woefully inadequate. So for someone who has experience with how bad it can be, it simply does not surprise me that this happened.

Complaints about guards at MCC being spread too thin are nothing new, added law prof John Pfaff:

Complaints about guards dehumanizing inmates in federal prison, even to the point of gambling on their suicide odds, also aren’t unheard of, he added. Ken White, a former assistant U.S. Attorney turned criminal defense lawyer, made all of those same points over the weekend when Epstein conspiracy mania was in full flower, stressing that you simply can’t bet against the callousness and incompetence of administrators and staff as an explanation when catastrophe results at a federal prison. To which all I’d say is this: Wouldn’t the guards have thought to give Epstein extra attention purely for the sake of keeping heat off themselves in case he turned up dead? White scoffed at that theory in his weekend thread, claiming that only “gullible dipsh*ts” would believe that law enforcement might suffer consequences for a death on their shift, but most inmate deaths don’t draw an angry statement from the Attorney General in the immediate aftermath and white-hot media attention to the circumstances of their negligence. The guards must have anticipated how suspicious Epstein dying in their care would look and how irate the public would be. He was no ordinary prisoner. They got caught napping anyway. Why?

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China uses a surveillance app to search the phones of tourists entering the country

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A joint investigation by several news organizations has uncovered another sign of China’s use of technology to expand its authoritarian control over the western province of Xinjiang. People coming across the border from Kyrgyzstan (see map below), including western tourists, are having their phones confiscated and searched. From the Guardian:

Border guards are taking their phones and secretly installing an app that extracts emails, texts and contacts, as well as information about the handset itself…

Analysis by the Guardian, academics and cybersecurity experts suggests the app, designed by a Chinese company, searches Android phones against a huge list of content that the authorities view as problematic…

It appears with the default Android icon and the words 蜂采 (Fēng cǎi); the term has no direct English translation, but relates to bees collecting honey.

The Guardian spoke to a traveller who had crossed the border to Xinjiang this year with an Android phone and was disturbed to see the app installed on his phone.

He said he had been asked to hand over his phone at the checkpoint, and it had been taken into a separate room. He and all the other travellers at that checkpoint had also been asked to hand their pin numbers to the officials, and had waited about an hour to have their phones returned.

At no point were they told what was being done to the phones.

There are apparently two different procedures depending on which brand of phone you have. iPhones are plugged into a machine which can upload data from the phones. Android phones have an app installed which does the same job. The border guards searching the phones are apparently supposed to delete the app after using it but not all do. The current investigation began after a German tourist found the app and took it to Süddeutsche Zeitung. That app was then analyzed and a small portion of the searches it was carrying out were identified. From Vice:

Included in the app’s code are hashes for over 73,000 different files the malware scans for. Ordinarily, it is difficult to determine what specific files these hashes relate to, but the reporting team and researchers managed to uncover the inputs of around 1,300 of them. This was done by searching for connected files on the file search engine Virus Total. Citizen Lab identified the hashes in the VirusTotal database, and researchers from the Bochum team later downloaded some of the files from VirusTotal. The reporting team also found other copies online, and verified what sort of material the app was scanning for.

Many of the files that are scanned for contain clearly extremist content, such as the so-called Islamic State’s publication Rumiyah. But the app also scans for parts of the Quran, PDFs related to the Dalai Lama, and a music file from Japanese metal band Unholy Grave (the band has a song called “Taiwan: Another China.”)

Last week, Allahpundit wrote about a BBC report on the Chinese re-education centers in Xinjiang. These camps really are something straight out of the novel 1984 with people kept as prisoners at least 6-days a week and forced to chant communist party slogans until they get their minds right. We never see, of course, what happens to people who aren’t sufficiently upbeat about being sent to the camps but reports suggest it involves isolation and food deprivation. If you want to eat, support the party. That’s how things work in Democratic socialist Venezuela too.

Finally, this map shows the Xinjiang province along with some of the re-education camps set up for the region’s Muslim population:

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Big Government and Big Tech Are Partnering to Track Us Everywhere

George Orwell was a brilliant individual.  A man of incredible insight – and foresight.

In his unfathomably predictive novel 1984, Orwell warns of Big Brother:

“(O)stensibly the leader of Oceania, a totalitarian state wherein the ruling party Ingsoc wields total power ‘for its own sake’ over the inhabitants.

“In the society that Orwell describes, every citizen is under constant surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreens.…The people are constantly reminded of this by the slogan ‘Big Brother is watching you’: a maxim that is ubiquitously on display.

“In modern culture, the term ‘Big Brother’ has entered the lexicon as a synonym for abuse of government power, particularly in respect to civil liberties, often specifically related to mass surveillance.”

As brilliant as Orwell was, something continuously struck me as incorrect as I read 1984.

Orwell’s government – was extraordinarily competent in its totalitarian imposition of technological power.

In Reality – no government in the history of man has ever been even remotely close to that competent.

For Orwell’s Big Brother dystopia to become Reality – Big Government would need private sector help.

Enter private sector Big Tech.

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Big Tech has delivered much of the technology Orwell envisioned.  As but one of many examples – Orwell’s telescreens:

“(D)evices that operate as televisions, security cameras, and microphones….(T)elescreens are used by the ruling Party in the totalitarian fictional State of Oceania to keep its subjects under constant surveillance, thus eliminating the chance of secret conspiracies against Oceania.”

We’re already all the way there – via Big Tech.

How Google and Amazon Are ‘Spying’ on You:

“The study found that digital assistants (Google Home and Amazon Echo) can be ‘awake’ even when users think they aren’t listening….

“(T)he devices listen all the time they are turned on – and Amazon has envisioned Alexa using that information to build profiles on anyone in the room….

“Amazon filed a patent application for an algorithm that would let future versions of the device identify statements of interest, such as ‘I love skiing’, enabling the speaker to be monitored based on their interests and targeted for related advertising.

“A Google patent application describes using a future release of it smart Home system to monitor and control everything from screen time and hygiene habits, to meal and travel schedules and other activities.

“The devices are envisioned as part of a surveillance web in the home to chart a families’ patterns….”

Why Google’s Spying on User Data Is Worse than the NSA’s

Is Amazon Spying on Users Through Alexa? Thousands of Employees Listen to Conversations

Amazon-Owned Ring Has Reportedly Been Spying on Customer Camera Feeds

Microsoft Windows 10 Is Spying on Almost Everything You Do

Yes, Webcams Can Spy on You

Eleven Insanely Creepy Ways Facebook Is Spying on You Right Now

This is ALL insanely creepy.

Big Tech is…insanely big.

Microsoft (Market Cap: $1.1 trillion)

Amazon (Market Cap: $942 billion)

Google (Market Cap: $775 billion)

Facebook (Market Cap: $550 billion)

These four spying companies – are currently worth a combined $3.7 trillion.  Our nation’s entire economy – is $19.4 trillion.

Which mans these four companies – all by themselves – are worth 19% of the United States.

But it’s Big Tech doing the spying – not Big Government.

Anyone who looks at Big Tech’s all-encompassing spying ability and thinks Big Government is capable of doing anything remotely similar – hasn’t paid attention to the past 10,000 years of human history.

The ONLY way Big Government can impose Big Brother – is to partner with Big Tech.

Uh oh.

The Role of Tech Companies in Government Surveillance

Tech Companies Concede to Surveillance Program

Four High-Tech Ways the Federal Government Is Spying on Private Citizens:

“Right now, the government is tracking the movements of private citizens by GPS, reading private citizens’ emails, and possibly even reading what you’re saying on Facebook.”

Big Tech once offered at least token resistance to Big Government’s demands – at least after being outed for acquiescing to Big Government’s demands.

Facebook, Amazon, Google Call for Government Surveillance Reform:

“It first gained attention after the revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. Congress is in the process of weighing reforms for the program. It must vote to renew Section 702 before the end of the year, otherwise it will expire.

“The letter, addressed to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asks Congress to consider several reforms to the program to ensure greater transparency and privacy protections.”

We can now officially refer to those – as the Good Old Days.

Why would Big Tech fight Big Government – when they can get paid to join them?

And the Big Government-Big Tech surveillance state – is getting closer and closer to home.

In fact – just outside…and inside it.

Amazon’s Helping Police Build a Surveillance Network with Ring Doorbells:

“Police departments across the country, from major cities like Houston to towns with fewer than 30,000 people, have offered free or discounted Ring doorbells to citizens, sometimes using taxpayer funds to pay for Amazon’s products.

“While Ring owners are supposed to have a choice on providing police footage, in some giveaways, police require recipients to turn over footage when requested….

“(T)he sheer number of cameras run by Amazon’s Ring business raises questions about privacy involving both law enforcement and tech giants….(C)ritics have pointed out the retail giant’s (other) ventures with law enforcement, like offering facial recognition tools….

“More than 50 local police departments across the US have partnered with Ring over the last two years, lauding how the Amazon-owned product allows them to access security footage in areas that typically don’t have cameras — on suburban doorsteps….

“‘What we have here is a perfect marriage between law enforcement and one of the world’s biggest companies creating conditions for a society that few people would want to be a part of,’ said Mohammad Tajsar, staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California.”

That’s the outside of your home.  Here’s the in….

The Government Just Admitted It Will Use Smart Home Devices for Spying:

“If you want evidence that US intelligence agencies aren’t losing surveillance abilities because of the rising use of encryption by tech companies, look no further than the testimony…by the (then) director of national intelligence, James Clapper….

“Clapper made clear that the internet of things – the many devices like thermostats, cameras and other appliances that are increasingly connected to the internet – are providing ample opportunity for intelligence agencies to spy on targets, and possibly the masses. And it’s a danger that many consumers who buy these products may be wholly unaware of….

“Privacy advocates have known about the potential for government to exploit the internet of things for years. Law enforcement agencies have taken notice too, increasingly serving court orders on companies for data they keep that citizens might not even know they are transmitting. Police have already been asking Google-owned company Dropcam for footage from cameras inside people’s homes meant to keep an eye on their kids.”

Orwell got the tech right – just not Big Government’s ability to create it for totalitarian ends.

Freedom has allowed for the free markets – that allowed the rise of the private sector Big Tech Orwell thought Big Government would produce.

And now Big Tech and Big Government are partnering – to end that freedom.

Well…for we plebeians, anyway.

I’m sure Big Tech and Big Government will be just fine.

The post Big Government and Big Tech Are Partnering to Track Us Everywhere appeared first on RedState.

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