Damien Patton

Utah Creates Surveillance Panopticon By Giving Data To Private AI Company

Leaders in ‘conservative’ Utah have swan-dived into predictive policing and surveillance by granting a private company access to virtually all of its data systems and cameras in the state. This is Technocracy at work and reveals the deepest level of bonding between private and public entities. ⁃ TN Editor

Banjo is applying artificial intelligence to government-owned surveillance and traffic cameras across the entire state of Utah to tell police about “anomalies.”

The state of Utah has given an artificial intelligence company real-time access to state traffic cameras, CCTV and “public safety” cameras, 911 emergency systems, location data for state-owned vehicles, and other sensitive data.

The company, called Banjo, says that it’s combining this data with information collected from social media, satellites, and other apps, and claims its algorithms “detect anomalies” in the real world.

The lofty goal of Banjo’s system is to alert law enforcement of crimes as they happen. It claims it does this while somehow stripping all personal data from the system, allowing it to help cops without putting anyone’s privacy at risk. As with other algorithmic crime systems, there is little public oversight or information about how, exactly, the system determines what is worth alerting cops to.

In its pitches to prospective clients, Banjo promises its technology, called “Live Time Intelligence,” can identify, and potentially help police solve, an incredible variety of crimes in real-time. Banjo says its AI can help police solve child kidnapping cases “in seconds,” identify active shooter situations as they happen, or potentially send an alert when there’s a traffic accident, airbag deployment, fire, or a car is driving the wrong way down the road. Banjo says it has “a solution for homelessness” and can help with the opioid epidemic by detecting “opioid events.” It offers “artificial intelligence processing” of state-owned audio sensors that “include but may not be limited to speech recognition and natural language processing” as well as automatic scene detection, object recognition, and vehicle detection on real-time video footage pulled in from Utah’s cameras.

In July, Banjo signed a five-year, $20.7 million contract with Utah that gives the company unprecedented access to data the state collects. Banjo’s pitch to state and local agencies is that the more data that’s fed into it, the better its product will work. Thus, the company has spent the last year trying to get as many state and local agencies as possible to give it access to its CCTV and traffic cameras, audio sensors, and other data.

On this it has been incredibly successful. Banjo has installed its own servers in the headquarters of the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), a civilian agency, and has direct, real-time access to the thousands of traffic cameras the state operates. It has jacked into 911 systems of emergency operations centers all over the state, according to contracts, emails, and other government documents obtained by Motherboard using public record requests, as well as video and audio recordings of city council meetings around the state that we reviewed.

Its contract with the state says that Banjo’s technology will be deployed or is in the process of being deployed in all 29 of Utah’s counties, in the state’s 13 largest cities, and in 10 other cities with “significant relevance” as well as for “campus security” for the University of Utah. A representative for Banjo told the city of Springville, Utah in January that a total of roughly 70 other cities and counties within Utah had agreed to give Banjo their data. It is also working with the Utah Department of Public Safety and the Utah Highway Patrol, according to public records.

So far, however, the Utah Attorney General’s office could not provide Motherboard with an example of a real-life case in which Banjo has been used, though it insisted that it had indeed been used.

Banjo is yet another in a new crop of predictive policing and artificial intelligence-focused policing tools. Unlike other tools, such as Palantir—which is used by ICE and is so controversial that there have been multiple protests about its use—Banjo claims that it does not help police find criminals, it helps them to find “emergencies” and locate criminal acts.

“We essentially do most of what Palantir does, we just do it live,” Bryan Smith, Banjo’s top lobbyist, told the Salt Lake Valley Emergency Communications Center Operations Board, which is made up of police chiefs and 911 dispatch officials, in August. “So Palantir is a tool you use for analysis, kind of to deep dive investigate certain things. What we want to do is deliver you the information right at the moment. Think of a Google Maps [you’ll get] a pin that drops with a [computer-aided dispatch] caller and attached to that event, within sub one second with intelligence related to that event.”

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FISA

President Trump Nixes Extending Current FISA Surveillance Law

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has been greatly abused in recent years and is full of loopholes that allow bad actors to misuse the system for political purposes, including spying on Americans. The current FISA legislation is due to expire in 2 weeks. ⁃ TN Editor

President Donald Trump told top House and Senate Republicans on Tuesday evening that he would not support a clean extension of federal surveillance powers and called for them to work out a deal with Democrats on how to move forward.

GOP leaders are already talking about a potential 30-day extension of provisions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act while they try to hammer out a deal with Democrats.

Trump’s comments in an hour-plus meeting on Tuesday night came despite a push from Attorney General William Barr to modify the law administratively to appease the president, who has railed in the past against the spying law after authorities used it to monitor an associate of his 2016 campaign.

“The president made it exceedingly clear he will not accept a clean re-authorization … without real reform,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), told reporters after the meeting. “He was told by the attorney general, we can massage around the edges and we can fix this through regulation, the president didn’t accept that, pushed back very vigorously and said ‘we’re not doing this.'”

rump instead told the lawmakers: “You all work out a bipartisan deal and come back to me and I’ll sign it,” according to a source in the room.

Aides to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are having staff level discussions on “discrete provisions where there are possible bipartisan compromises,” according to a source familiar with the discussions. There is no sense among lawmakers that a deal is imminent at this point, and the provisions are set to expire on March 15.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Pelosi and McCarthy, are meeting Wednesday to discuss coronavirus. It’s unclear if FISA will be a topic of discussion.

Congressional leaders have been scrambling to find a way to preserve sensitive federal surveillance powers, but they’re running out of options — and time — as they struggle to bridge deep rifts within both parties.

The imminent expiration of the programs has thrown Congress into a mess, with factions in each party — and Trump — threatening to derail any agreement with less than two weeks until the provisions lapse.

With lawmakers from both parties dug in against the status quo, even a short-term extension of the current law may lack the votes to pass, jeopardizing the fate of provisions that U.S. intelligence agencies consider crucial for national security.

“This shouldn’t be as hard as it feels like it is,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), one of the leading advocates for progressive-backed changes.

Many Democrats and the libertarian wing of the GOP, of which Paul belongs, worry about extending broad surveillance authorities without more civil liberties protections and have threatened to oppose any measure that doesn’t include them. Republicans, meanwhile, have raised broader concerns about abuses of the FISA program, driven by Trump’s fury over a watchdog’s finding that the FBI repeatedly mishandled the law to monitor Carter Page, a former associate of the 2016 Trump campaign, who had ties to Russia and was the subject of surveillance warrants.

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Geospatial

5G Plus Geospatial Mapping Combine For High-Def Surveillance

With 5G providing real-time data acquisition, the geospatial industry is one of the first to be actualized in this new era of total surveillance of everything that moves in relation to everything that doesn’t move. ⁃ TN Editor

LAND INFO Worldwide Mapping LLC, the premier provider of mapping solutions for 5G wireless in North America, has assembled a world-class team of geospatial companies to extend its reach in the 5G industry in Europe. The LAND INFO team includes Bluesky International Ltd. in the U.K. and COWI (soon to be part of Hexagon Group) in continental Europe.

“Our international team will give 5G wireless operators in Europe direct local access to the geospatial data and expertise they need to develop state-of-the-art telecommunications networks,” said LAND INFO president Nick Hubing.

LAND INFO timed the announcement with this week’s Hexagon Geospatial Content User Group Meeting in Seville, Spain, where Hubing will present “Mapping for Wireless Telco: From Landsat to CityMapper” on Friday, Feb. 21, at 10 am.

Based in Ashby-De-La-Zouch, England, Bluesky is an innovative aerial survey company with offices in Great Britain, Ireland, and the U.S. COWI is an international engineering consultancy based in Denmark with more than 400 aerial mapping personnel in offices across Europe and India. COWI’s aerial mapping business will join Hexagon in Q2 2020.

LAND INFO entered into the collaboration with Bluesky and COWI based on their acknowledged leadership in aerial data acquisition and well-established sales networks across the United Kingdom and Europe. Both organizations are constantly adding updated data to their geospatial archives, capturing in stunning 3D detail the rapid changes occurring across Europe.

“Years of experience have demonstrated that aerial data delivers the detail and accuracy required for optimal 5G network engineering,” said Hubing. “We have used Hexagon aerial imagery at scale in North America for several years, and our technology is optimized to work with Hexagon’s Leica aerial sensors, including the new CityMapper.”

LAND INFO emerged as a primary provider of 5G network mapping solutions after making significant investments in developing automated geospatial technologies that include object-based image analysis and artificial intelligence. These proprietary technological advancements have uniquely positioned LAND INFO to meet the demanding mapping specifications of 5G network design worldwide.

LAND INFO differentiates itself from other mapping firms by using these proprietary techniques to quickly extract scalable elevation and landcover information from very high-resolution aerial imagery. The signal propagation characteristics of 5G cell design require a level of detail and accuracy that is best met with airborne-derived data.

Representatives from LAND INFO will be discussing geospatial solutions for 5G network design at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain (when rescheduled). Future 2020 trade show exhibitions include the BIG 5G Event being held May 18-20 in Dallas, Texas, and 5G World in London on June 9-11.

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