Biometric Privacy Rights

Shock: U.S. 4th Worst Abuser Of Biometric Privacy Rights

The Chinafication of America is well underway. The only three countries with a worse record than the U.S. are China, Malaysia and Pakistan. This should be a massive wake-up call for all Americans to demand that this madness be stopped. ⁃ TN Editor
 

Does anyone really believe America is still the land of the free?

Since 9/11, DHS, the FBI, the CIA, and countless other alphabet soup agencies have turned the United States into a public surveillance monstrosity.

In 19 years, one terrorist attack has done what no one else could have dreamed of: turn America’s freedoms into a distant memory.

Abusing citizen’s rights and privacy used to be the hallmark of dictatorships and police states like the CCCP or North Korea.

A recent study conducted by Comparitech, rated 50 countries from best to worst at protecting citizen’s biometric data.

The study found that America is one of the world’s worst abusers of citizen’s biometric privacy.

“While China topping the list perhaps doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, residents of (and travelers to) other countries may be surprised and concerned at the extent of biometric information that is being collected on them and what is happening to it afterward.”

This really should not come as a surprise, because last year Comparitech revealed that American and Chinese cities lead the world in spying on their citizens. Last week, I wrote an article explaining how 2019 would go down as the year that facial recognition and corporate surveillance became commonplace in America.

Comparitech’s recent study on biometric privacy compared how 50 countries collect and use data to identify innocent people:

  • Many countries collect travelers’ biometric data, often through visas or biometric checks at airports
  • Every country we studied is using biometrics for bank accounts, e.g. fingerprints to access online app data and/or to confirm identities within the banks themselves
  • Despite many countries recognizing biometric data as sensitive, increased biometric use is widely accepted
  • Facial recognition CCTV is being implemented in a large number of countries, or at least being tested
  • EU countries scored better overall than non-EU countries due to GDPR regulations protecting the use of biometrics in the workplace (to some extent)

The USA is the 4th worst abuser of citizen’s biometric privacy 

Comparitech warns, “these 5 countries show a concerning lack of regard for the privacy of people’s biometric data.” That’s right, the former “land of the free” has become the land of the surveilled and tracked.
How can that be you ask?

According to Comparitech, the United States scores highly in most areas due to:

  • Having biometrics in passports, ID cards, and bank accounts.
  • Having a biometric voting system (optical scan equipment used in a large number of states).
  • Not having a specific law to protect citizens’ biometrics. While there is a handful of state laws that protect state residents’ biometrics (as can be seen in our state privacy study), this does leave many US citizens’ biometrics exposed as there is no federal law in place.
  • Implementing the widespread use of facial recognition cameras with law enforcement pushing for further use in the identification of criminals. For example, the FBI and ICE have recently been criticized due to their use of facial recognition technology to scan drivers’ license photos without gaining the citizens’ consent beforehand. Equally, some city-level bans have been put in place with San Francisco (CA), Oakland (CA), Berkeley (CA), and Somerville (MA) banning government use of facial recognition technology.
  • The growing use of biometrics in the workplace. Many companies use employees’ biometrics for certain actions, e.g. using a fingerprint to gain access to a work computer. Again, some state laws offer a little more protection but this still leaves many employees’ biometrics exposed.
  • Fingerprints being required for most American visas and everyone’s fingerprints being collected upon entry to the country.

Curiously, Comparitech failed to elaborate on DHS’s national Real-ID program which forces everyone to provide biometric information to drive or fly in America. If they had included Real-ID in their study it is my opinion that America would be 2nd only to China in abusing citizen’s biometric privacy.




Patriot Act

Patriot Act: ‘Normalizing The U.S. Government’s Mass Surveillance Powers’

The Patriot Act was a watershed for Technocrats as it has enabled total surveillance. It has changed the entire law enforcement culture and practice in America.

Moreover, this happened right under America’s nose because everyone was focused on infighting between Democrats and Republicans instead of watching the ongoing back-room collusion between the two parties (and others) to drive the Constitution into the ground. ⁃ TN Editor

While Congress subjects the nation to its impeachment-flavored brand of bread-and-circus politics, our civil liberties continue to die a slow, painful death by a thousand cuts.

Case in point: while Americans have been fixated on the carefully orchestrated impeachment drama that continues to monopolize headlines, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law legislation extending three key provisions of the USA Patriot Act, which had been set to expire on December 15, 2019.

Once again, to no one’s surprise, the bureaucrats on both sides of the aisle—Democrats and Republicans alike—prioritized political grandstanding over principle and their oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution.

As Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) predicted:

Today, while everyone is distracted by the impeachment drama, Congress will vote to extend warrantless data collection provisions of the #PatriotAct, by hiding this language on page 25 of the Continuing Resolution (CR) that temporarily funds the government. To sneak this through, Congress will first vote to suspend the rule which otherwise gives us (and the people) 72 hours to consider a bill. The scam here is that Democrats are alleging abuse of Presidential power, while simultaneously reauthorizing warrantless power to spy on citizens that no President should have… in a bill that continues to fund EVERYTHING the President does… and waiving their own rules to do it. I predict Democrats will vote on a party line to suspend the 72 hour rule. But after the rule is suspended, I suspect many Republicans will join most Democrats to pass the CR with the Patriot Act extension embedded in it.

Massie was right: Republicans and Democrats have no problem joining forces in order to maintain their joint stranglehold on power.

The legislation passed the Senate with a bipartisan 74-to-20 vote. It squeaked through the House of Representatives with a 231-192 margin. And it was signed by President Trump—who earlier this year floated the idea of making the government’s surveillance powers permanent—with nary a protest from anyone about its impact on the rights of the American people.

Spending bill or not, it didn’t have to shake down this way, even with the threat of yet another government shutdown looming.

Congress could have voted to separate the Patriot Act extension from the funding bill, as suggested by Rep. Justin Amash, but that didn’t fly. Instead as journalist Norman Solomon writes for Salon, “The cave-in was another bow to normalizing the U.S. government’s mass surveillance powers.”

That, right there, is the key to all of this: normalizing the U.S. government’s mass surveillance powers.

In the 18 years since the USA Patriot Act—a massive 342-page wish list of expanded powers for the FBI and CIA—was rammed through Congress in the wake of the so-called 9/11 terror attacks, it has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse.

The Patriot Act drove a stake through the heart of the Bill of Rights, violating at least six of the ten original amendments—the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments—and possibly the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well.

The Patriot Act also redefined terrorism so broadly that many non-terrorist political activities such as protest marches, demonstrations and civil disobedience are now considered potential terrorist acts, thereby rendering anyone desiring to engage in protected First Amendment expressive activities as suspects of the surveillance state.

The Patriot Act justified broader domestic surveillance, the logic being that if government agents knew more about each American, they could distinguish the terrorists from law-abiding citizens—no doubt a reflexive impulse shared by small-town police and federal agents alike.

This, according to Washington Post reporter Robert O’Harrow, Jr., was a fantasy that “had been brewing in the law enforcement world for a long time.” And 9/11 provided the government with the perfect excuse for conducting far-reaching surveillance and collecting mountains of information on even the most law-abiding citizen.

Federal agents and police officers are now authorized to conduct covert black bag “sneak-and-peak” searches of homes and offices while you are away and confiscate your personal property without first notifying you of their intent or their presence.

The law also granted the FBI the right to come to your place of employment, demand your personal records and question your supervisors and fellow employees, all without notifying you; allowed the government access to your medical records, school records and practically every personal record about you; and allowed the government to secretly demand to see records of books or magazines you’ve checked out in any public library and Internet sites you’ve visited (at least 545 libraries received such demands in the first year following passage of the Patriot Act).

In the name of fighting terrorism, government officials are now permitted to monitor religious and political institutions with no suspicion of criminal wrongdoing; prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they tell anyone that the government has subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation; monitor conversations between attorneys and clients; search and seize Americans’ papers and effects without showing probable cause; and jail Americans indefinitely without a trial, among other things.

The federal government also made liberal use of its new powers, especially through the use (and abuse) of the nefarious national security letters, which allow the FBI to demand personal customer records from Internet Service Providers, financial institutions and credit companies at the mere say-so of the government agent in charge of a local FBI office and without prior court approval.

In fact, since 9/11, we’ve been spied on by surveillance cameras, eavesdropped on by government agents, had our belongings searched, our phones tapped, our mail opened, our email monitored, our opinions questioned, our purchases scrutinized (under the USA Patriot Act, banks are required to analyze your transactions for any patterns that raise suspicion and to see if you are connected to any objectionable people), and our activities watched.

We’re also being subjected to invasive patdowns and whole-body scans of our persons and seizures of our electronic devices in the nation’s airports. We can’t even purchase certain cold medicines at the pharmacy anymore without it being reported to the government and our names being placed on a watch list.

It’s only getting worse, folks.

Largely due to the continuous noise from television news’ talking heads, most Americans have been lulled into thinking that the pressing issues are voting in the next election, but the real issue is simply this: the freedoms in the Bill of Rights are being eviscerated.

The Constitution has been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded to such an extent that what we are left with today is but a shadow of the robust document adopted more than two centuries ago. Most of the damage has been inflicted upon the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—which historically served as the bulwark from government abuse.

Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches and the like—all sanctioned by Congress, the White House and the courts—a recitation of the Bill of Rights would understandably sound more like a eulogy to freedoms lost than an affirmation of rights we truly possess.

We can pretend that the Constitution, which was written to hold the government accountable, is still our governing document. However, the reality we must come to terms with is that in the America we live in today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.

What once were considered inalienable, fundamental “rights”  are now mere privileges to be taken away on a government bureaucrat’s say-so.

To those who have been paying attention, this should come as no real surprise.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the Constitution has been on life support for some time now, and is drawing its final breaths.

The American government, never a staunch advocate of civil liberties, has been writing its own orders for some time now. Indeed, as the McCarthy era and the wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr. and others illustrates, the government’s amassing of power, especially in relation to its ability to spy on Americans, predates the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001.

What the Patriot Act and its subsequent incarnations did was legitimize what had previously been covert and frowned upon as a violation of Americans’ long-cherished privacy rights.

After all, the history of governments is that they inevitably overreach.

Thus, enabled by a paper tiger Congress, the president and other agencies of the federal government have repeatedly laid claim to a host of powers, among them the ability to use the military as a police force, spy on Americans and detain individuals without granting them access to an attorney or the courts. And as the government’s powers have grown, unchecked, the American people have gradually become used to these relentless intrusions into their lives.

In turn, the American people have become the proverbial boiling frogs, so desensitized to the government’s steady encroachments on their rights that civil liberties abuses have become par for the course.

Yet as long as government agencies are allowed to make a mockery of the very laws intended to limit their reach, curtail their activities, and guard against the very abuses to which we are being subjected on a daily basis, our individual freedoms will continue to be eviscerated so that the government’s powers can be expanded, the Constitution be damned.

Read full story here…

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.




Western Tech Giants Propping Up China’s Surveillance State

Western firms have long served as prostitutes for tyrannical governments such as the Bolshevik Revolution in WWI and the rise of Hitler in WWII. That Big Tech is now supporting China’s Technocracy shows that they are “birds of a feather.’

The late Antony Sutton documented Wall Street’s nefarious affairs with despotic entities in several books: Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution, Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler, National Suicide and The Best Enemy Money Can Buy. ⁃ TN Editor

A bombshell follow-up report to a major document leak which confirmed and detailed China’s vast Uyghur Muslim Xinjiang prison network and system for monitoring communications and whereabouts has named names. Names that is, of US tech giants that are actually aiding and abetting China’s multibillion-dollar surveillance industry being used to impose a total electronic police state on the communist country. And it’s not just Google and IBM, but a growing list of recognizable names.

U.S. companies, including Seagate Technology PLC, Western Digital Corp. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., have nurtured, courted and profited from China’s surveillance industry,” the scathing report begins. “Several have been involved since the industry’s infancy.”

These American companies gained greater scrutiny after the US Treasury recently targeted up to eight Chinese surveillance companies, blocking their ability to export US technology through which they could help the Chinese state in committing human rights and individual privacy violations. This included a federal ban on US agencies purchasing video surveillance equipment manufactured by Dahua, Hikvision, and Hytera Communications.

American companies over recent years have competed to enter China’s booming $10BN+ surveillance market, and also take advantage of Chinese companies’ rapidly progressing technology.

Stunningly, the WSJ investigation finds that “Of 37 Chinese firms singled out last November by the Beijing-backed China Security and Protection Industry Association for outstanding contributions to the country’s surveillance industry, 17 have publicly disclosed financing, commercial or supply-chain relationships with U.S. technology companies.” And further, “Several had multiple connections.”

Demonstrating the ‘indirect’ relationship between US companies and Chinese state surveillance, via the WSJ: “Hikvision, China’s largest surveillance systems maker, has bought technology from U.S. firms directly and through third parties. Hikvision was placed on the U.S. entity list in October, limiting some of the technology it can buy from the U.S. American companies said they comply with the law and export rules, and declined to comment on whether sales continue.”

For example, the report details Hewlett Packard Enterprise owns 49% of New H3C Technologies Co. Ltd. This Chinese company is well-known as providing internet control systems to Chinese security services. “According to company marketing materials, one end customer for its switches is Aksu, a Xinjiang city that conducts broad surveillance of residents in public spaces. Satellite images suggest the city is home to multiple internment camps,” the report concludes.

Read full story here…




face scans

China Now Requires Mandatory Face Scans For All Phone Users

As a Technocracy, China will turn the screws on data collection until they possess every conceivable piece of information on every citizen, including DNA and psychographic/behavioral profile. This is the “science of social engineering.’ ⁃ TN Editor

China will require telecom operators to collect face scans when registering new phone users at offline outlets starting Sunday, according to the country’s information technology authority, as Beijing continues to tighten cyberspace controls.

In September, China’s industry and information technology ministry issued a notice on “safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of citizens online”, which laid out rules for enforcing real-name registration.

The notice said telecom operators should use “artificial intelligence and other technical means” to verify people’s identities when they take a new phone number.

A China Unicom customer service representative told AFP that the December 1 “portrait matching” requirement means customers registering for a new phone number may have to record themselves turning their head and blinking.

“In next steps, our ministry will continue to…increase supervision and inspection…and strictly promote the management of real-name registration for phone users,” said the September notice.

Though the Chinese government has pushed for real-name registration for phone users since at least 2013 — meaning ID cards are linked to new phone numbers — the move to leverage AI comes as facial recognition technology gains traction across China where the tech is used for everything from supermarket checkouts to surveillance.

Online, Chinese social media users reacted with a mix of support and worry over the December 1 facial verification notice, with some voicing concerns their biometric data could be leaked or sold.

“This is a bit too much,” wrote one user on Twitter-like Weibo, commenting under an article about the new rules.

“Control, and then more control,” posted another.

While researchers have warned of the privacy risks associated with gathering facial recognition data, consumers have widely embraced the technology — though China saw one of its first lawsuits on facial recognition last month.

Read full story here…




Woof: Spot The Robot Police Dog

Short of laws or regulations to control police departments, robotics will play a huge part of future enforcement. Spot the robot dog is seen as a viable replacement for police dots. Future weaponization is almost certain. ⁃ TN Editor

Cops have long had dogs, and robots, to help them do their jobs. And now, they have a robot dog.

Massachusetts State Police is the first law enforcement agency in the country to use Boston Dynamics’ dog-like robot, called Spot. While the use of robotic technology is not new for state police, the temporary acquisition of Spot — a customizable robot some have called “terrifying” — is raising questions from civil rights advocates about how much oversight there should be over police robotics programs.

The state’s bomb squad had Spot on loan from the Waltham-based Boston Dynamics for three months starting in August until November, according to records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and reviewed by WBUR.

The documents do not reveal a lot of details on the robot dog’s exact use, but a state police spokesman said Spot, like the department’s other robots, was used as a “mobile remote observation device” to provide troopers with images of suspicious devices or potentially hazardous locations, like where an armed suspect might be hiding.

“Robot technology is a valuable tool for law enforcement because of its ability to provide situational awareness of potentially dangerous environments,” state police spokesman David Procopio wrote.

tate police say Spot was used in two incidents, in addition to testing.

Boston Dynamics vice president for business development Michael Perry said the company wants Spot to have lots of different uses, in industries ranging from oil and gas companies, to construction, to entertainment. He envisions police sending Spot into areas that are too hazardous for a human — a chemical spill, or near a suspected bomb, or into a hostage situation.

“Right now, our primary interest is sending the robot into situations where you want to collect information in an environment where it’s too dangerous to send a person, but not actually physically interacting with the space,” Perry said.

Spot is a “general purpose” robot, with an open API. That means customers — whether a police department or warehouse operator — can customize Spot with its own software. (State police say they didn’t use this feature.) It has a 360-degree, low-light camera, and an arm.

For all of its potential, Boston Dynamics doesn’t want Spot weaponized. Perry said the lease agreements have a clause requiring the robot not be used in a way that would “physically harm or intimidate people.”

“Part of our early evaluation process with customers is making sure that we’re on the same page for the usage of the robot,” he said. “So upfront, we’re very clear with our customers that we don’t want the robot being used in a way that can physically harm somebody.”

That’s one of the reasons why the company is opting for lease agreements, rather than a sale, Perry said. Boston Dynamics wants to be selective in which companies get access to Spot — and have the ability to take the equipment back if the lease is violated.

Worries About Weaponized Robots

Through Procopio, state police said the department never weaponized any of its robots, including Spot.

But while Spot and other tactical robots aren’t designed to kill, they still can. In 2016, Dallas Police sent a bomb disposal robot armed with explosives to kill a sniper who had shot at police officers and killed five. Experts said it was the first time a non-military robot had been used to intentionally kill a person.

That deadly potential, and lack of transparency about the state police’s overall robotics program, worries Kade Crockford, director of the technology for liberty program at the ACLU of Massachusetts. Crockford said they want to see a policy from state police about its use of robotics and a conversation about how and when robots should be used. State police didn’t say whether there’s a current policy about the use of robots, and the ACLU’s records request to the agency didn’t turn one up.

“We just really don’t know enough about how the state police are using this,” Crockford said. “And the technology that can be used in concert with a robotic system like this is almost limitless in terms of what kinds of surveillance and potentially even weaponization operations may be allowed.”

Read full story here…




Security Robots Are Actually Mobile Surveillance Devices

Originally posed as replacement security guards, Knightscope robots are actually the ultimate surveillance platform. Operating at ground level, they scan faces and cell phones, license plates and collect other data. ⁃ TN Editor
 

Security robots are slowly becoming a more common sight in malls, offices, and public spaces. But while these bots are often presented as replacements for human security guards — friendly robots on patrol — they’re collecting far more data than humans could, suggesting they’re more like mobile surveillance machines than conventional guards.

A new report from OneZero sheds some light on the scope of the data collection, featuring marketing material and contracts between Knightscope and various city councils. Both show that the main purpose of these robots is gathering data, including license plates, facial recognition scans, and the presence of nearby mobile devices. It’s the sort of constant low-level surveillance that only a machine can perform.

Exactly what each robot collects differs, as Knightscope leases its bots rather than selling them outright, tailoring each contract to customers’ needs. But it’s a fair bet that if you’ve seen one of these machines in person, it’s recorded your presence in one way or another.

As an internal report by California’s Huntington Park Police Department (HPPD) published by MuckRock back in August noted, “Knightscope’s secret to the K5 robot is simply sensors — lots of them.”

HPPD started leasing a Knightscope K5 robot to patrol parks and buildings this June, and the robot soon made headlines when a passerby pressed its emergency button to report a nearby fight, to no effect. According to NBC News, the bot ignored the woman and continued moving down its preprogrammed path “humming an intergalactic tune” and pausing to tell visitors to “please keep the park clean.”

Stories like this suggest that, as a replacement for human security guards (people who can respond intelligently and spontaneously to emergency situations), Knightscope’s machines are lacking. But as surveillance devices, they have a lot of potential.

The report from the HPPD notes that the robots can identify nearby smartphones over an unknown range, recording their MAC and IP addresses. In Knightscope marketing material published by OneZero, this is a central part of the company’s sales pitch, with one slide telling customers: “90%+ of Adults Have Smartphones And Use WiFi When Available.”

Scanning phones is a subtle form of surveillance with a far-reaching impact. It’s not as invasive as identifying someone by name, but it can be a rich source of information, telling you a lot about someone’s daily routine, like how often they visit a certain area and how long they stay there. As Knightscope says, it can also be used as a proxy to keep out unwanted individuals: just create a whitelist of approved devices, and scan for unfamiliar ones.

Read full story here…




public shaming

Jaywalk Shaming: China Puts Your Face And Name On E-Billboard

China’s ubiquitous surveillance and identification system watches everything, everywhere for rule-breakers and shames them in real-time by displaying pictures with names on electronic billboards. 

Since the entire population has already been catalogued into a national database, identifying a single person takes only seconds. This is symptomatic of a Technocracy at work.  ⁃ TN Editor

 

It’s something that many people do without giving it a second thought, but if you jaywalk in China , you could be publicly shamed.

Facial recognition technology is being used in several Chinese cities, including Shanghai and Shenzhen, which can spot people jaywalking, and post their photo and ID to a huge billboard.

Writer Matthew Brennan tweeted a shocking video of the strange system, although it remains unclear where it was filmed.

He wrote: “Chinese facial recognition system to discourage minor traffic violations. Cross the road when you shouldn’t and a picture of you with your name, ID card number pop up on the big screen for everyone to see.”

His tweeted has garnered over 3,000 retweets and almost 5,000 likes (at time of writing), with many people replying to express their shock at the system.

However, while it may be shocking to us, it’s pretty common place for locals, who have had to endure the system since 2018.

Speaking to Channel News Asia , Janine Wong, a news researcher in Shanghai explained: “It doesn’t matter if you’re walking or riding a bicycle.

“(Your picture) will be captured, and your face will show up on a screen nearby so everyone can see your face.

“Once they identify your face, all your information (like mobile phone number) is linked.”

Facial recognition is widely used across China, including in several airports.

Read full story here…




DNA

Judge: DNA Data Can Be Mined By Police, Government

Massive private DNA databases are being rapidly pried open by law enforcement and government. Technocrat handlers are incapable of keeping their hands off such a treasure trove of family trees. ⁃ TN Editor
 

For police officers around the country, the genetic profiles that 20 million people have uploaded to consumer DNA sites represent a tantalizing resource that could be used to solve cases both new and cold. But for years, the vast majority of the data have been off limits to investigators. The two largest sites, Ancestry.com and 23andMe, have long pledged to keep their users’ genetic information private, and a smaller one, GEDmatch, severely restricted  police access to its records this year

Last week, however, a Florida detective announced at a police convention that he had obtained a warrant to penetrate GEDmatch and search its full database of nearly one million users. Legal experts said that this appeared to be the first time a judge had approved such a warrant, and that the development could have profound implications for genetic privacy.

“That’s a huge game-changer,” said Erin Murphy, a law professor at New York University. “The company made a decision to keep law enforcement out, and that’s been overridden by a court. It’s a signal that no genetic information can be safe.”

DNA policy experts said the development was likely to encourage other agencies to request similar search warrants from 23andMe, which has 10 million users, and Ancestry.com, which has 15 million. If that comes to pass, the Florida judge’s decision will affect not only the users of these sites but huge swaths of the population, including those who have never taken a DNA test. That’s because this emerging forensic technique makes it possible to identify a DNA profile even through distant family relationships.

Using public genealogy sites to crack cold cases had its breakthrough moment in April 2018 when the California police used GEDmatch to identify a man they believe is the Golden State Killer, Joseph James DeAngelo.

After his arrest, dozens of law enforcement agencies around the country rushed to apply the method to their own cases. Investigators have since used genetic genealogy to identify suspects and victims in more than 70 cases of murder, sexual assault and burglary, ranging from five decades to just a few months old.

Most users of genealogy services have uploaded their genetic information in order to find relatives, learn about ancestors and get insights into their health — not anticipating that the police might one day search for killers and rapists in their family trees. After a revolt by a group of prominent genealogists, GEDmatch changed its policies in May. It required law enforcement agents to identify themselves when searching its database, and it gave them access only to the profiles of users who had explicitly opted in to such queries. (As of last week, according to the GEDmatch co-founder Curtis Rogers, just 185,000 of the site’s 1.3 million users had opted in.)

Like many others in law enforcement, Detective Michael Fields of the Orlando Police Department was disappointed by GEDmatch’s policy shift. He had used the site last year to identify a suspect in the 2001 murder of a 25-year-old woman that he had spent six years trying to solve. Today, working with a forensic consulting firm, Parabon, Detective Fields is trying to solve the case of a serial rapist who assaulted a number of women decades ago.

In July, he asked a judge in the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida to approve a warrant that would let him override the privacy settings of GEDmatch’s users and search the site’s full database of 1.2 million users. After Judge Patricia Strowbridge agreed, Detective Fields said in an interview, the site complied within 24 hours. He said that some leads had emerged, but that he had yet to make an arrest. He declined to share the warrant or say how it was worded.

Detective Fields described his methods at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago last week. Logan Koepke, a policy analyst at Upturn, a nonprofit in Washington that studies how technology affects social issues, was in the audience. After the talk, “multiple other detectives and officers approached him asking for a copy of the warrant,” Mr. Koepke said.

DNA policy experts said they would closely watch public response to news of the warrant, to see if law enforcement agencies will be emboldened to go after the much larger genetic databases.

“I have no question in my mind that if the public isn’t outraged by this, they will go to the mother lode: the 15-million-person Ancestry database,” Professor Murphy said. “Why play in the peanuts when you can go to the big show?”

Yaniv Erlich, the chief science officer at MyHeritage, a genealogy database of around 2.5 million people, agreed. “They won’t stop here,” he said.

Because of the nature of DNA, every criminal is likely to have multiple relatives in every major genealogy database. Without an outcry, Professor Murphy and others said, warrants like the one obtained by Detective Fields could become the new norm, turning all genetic databases into law enforcement databases.

Not all consumer genetics sites are alike. GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA make it possible for anyone to upload his or her DNA information and start looking for relatives. Law enforcement agents began conducting genetic genealogy investigations there not because these sites were the biggest but because they were the most open.

Read full story here…

Also see: 

“Hundreds” of crimes will soon be solved using DNA databases, genealogist predicts




Ring doorbell camera

Amazon Co-opting Homeowner’s Ring Cameras To Police

Several weeks ago it was reported that over 400 law enforcement agencies had partnered with Amazon’s Ring Camera. Ring distributes a free app called the Neighbors App that Ring owners use to store video images in the cloud. Amazon has now bonded its Neighbor’s app with police agencies to effectively turn private homeowners into snitches for the police. 

While Ring cameras have been used to catch some criminals that come to your door, there are huge privacy concerns because the administrators/ controllers have direct access to all cameras in the system. Currently, police are not given full access to homeowner’s installed cameras, and homeowners must volunteer to upload videos to their local police department. 

Why would anyone think that Amazon would somehow be benevolent with the data its collects? With a demonstrated history of listening in on its Alexa speakers, who would not expect them to do the same with Ring? Furthermore, who would expect Amazon to offer a ‘free’ app to both homeowners and police without having an ulterior motive to monetize and/or weaponize the data? And, keep in mind that Amazon is creating and selling the most sophisticated facial recognition software in the world… to the same law enforcement agencies.

Amazon is creating the ultimate surveillance grid for law enforcement that will include millions of homeowners in thousands of cities across America. 

A Technocracy News reader in San Bernardino, California forwarded to me an email received from the local Sheriff’s office:

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is excited to announce our partnership with Ring and the Neighbors App. Detectives and station personnel from across the county completed their training today and our stations are now live. Station staff are able to receive information and interact with residents through the app. Customers with a Ring camera will be able to share videos with their local Sheriff’s station. The Neighbors App connects communities with the goal of creating safer and stronger neighborhoods and one of the benefits is you do not need to own a Ring device to use the app.

I could find no public notice of the training that is mentioned above, but it clearly was nationwide and it clearly took place. The result is that the system has gone live.

The following article provides more details about how it all works.

Police partnerships with doorbell-camera company raise privacy questions

Dyana Bagby via Reporter Newspapers

In February, the Dunwoody Police Department sent out an upbeat press release announcing it was the first in Georgia to team up with doorbell-camera company Ring to access the company’s Neighbors app. The partnership, the department boasted, could help the department crack down on package thieves, stop burglaries and keep neighborhoods safe.

“Leveraging today’s technology to help keep our citizens safe is a key focus of our department,” Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan said in the release. “Our partnership with Ring and use of the Neighbors app will definitely help in our crime fighting efforts.”

The Brookhaven Police Department followed up a month later with its own press release announcing its alliance with Ring.

“Partnering with Ring using the Neighbors app will give officers a technological advantage when investigating crimes,” Brookhaven Police Chief Gary Yandura said in the release.

Dunwoody and Brookhaven are just two of 10 law enforcement agencies in Georgia to team up with Ring, owned by corporate giant Amazon. Across the nation, more than 400 law enforcement agencies have signed on with Ring to gain free access to surveillance video shared by customers to Ring’s public social network, named “Neighbors.” Through the partnership, law enforcement agencies gain access to the Neighborhood Portal which includes a map of where Ring cameras are located.

Other Georgia law enforcement agencies partnering with Ring including police departments and sheriff’s offices in Chamblee, Cobb County, Duluth, Forsyth County, Garden City, Gwinnett County, Sandy Springs and the Savannah Police Department.

“This partnership is another way for us to engage the community and share information in a timely manner,” Sandy Springs Deputy Chief of Police Keith Zgonc said in an email. The department teamed up with Ring in April.

For some, the rising number of police partnering with Ring is chilling. They say Ring is creating a nationwide surveillance network that raises serious concerns about privacy and the blurring of police departments with corporations.

“Constant surveillance may sound safe for people who have nothing to fear from a biased criminal justice system, but making the decision to extend Amazon and police surveillance to your home is a potential hazard for people who live and work in your community,” said Matthew Gauriglia, policy analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. EFF is an international nonprofit organization “defending civil liberties in the digital world,” according to its website.

Ring says its partnerships with law enforcement are just another way to keep communities safer by allowing police and residents to share crime and safety information through the Neighbors app.

“We are proud to work with law enforcement agencies across the country and have taken care to design these programs in a way that keeps users in control,” a spokesperson said in a written statement.

The partnerships claim to ensure anonymity to Ring users by requiring police to make a request to the company for footage they saw on the Neighbors app they want for an investigation. Ring then contacts the homeowner to make the actual request.

“With each request, customers decide whether to share all relevant videos, review and select certain videos to share, take no action (decline), or opt out of all future requests,” Ring says in a FAQ on its website.

Grogan also discounted privacy concerns, saying police are only looking for surveillance footage someone has voluntarily posted to the Neighbors app.

“I understand to some degree some concerns about ‘Big Brother,’ but you also have to understand that none of us have the resources or time to really look at video just randomly just see what people are doing,” Grogan said.

“We have specific purposes, to investigate crimes … other than that we are not looking at video,” he said. “We have no direct access to anything. It’s all voluntary. Nobody has to share anything with us.”

EFF says it’s not as black-and-white as Ring says when it comes to giving their customers the choice to not share video footage with police. Ring acknowledged in a story in Government Technology that if a resident does not want to share their footage, the company will still turn it over if a law enforcement agency has a “valid and binding legal demand.”

Yandura did not say his department has made demands for Ring footage, but said when customers post to the Neighbors app, it essentially becomes part of the public domain.

“Once someone publishes to the app, it’s out there,” Yandura said.

How Ring and the Neighbors app work

Residents can download the free Neighbors app and use it to monitor neighborhood activity, share crime and safety-related videos, photos and text-based posts; and receive real-time safety alerts from their neighbors, local law enforcement and the Ring team, according to a Ring press release.

Ring users are alerted when their doorbell-cameras detect motion from as far away as 30 feet; when someone presses the video-doorbell button; or when the user turns on a “Live View” option through the Ring app.

Those events begin recording a video file that is streamed from the Ring device to the cloud on Amazon Web Services servers, according to the company’s privacy notice.

Those who subscribe for $3 a month to Ring Protect Plans can have their videos stored on the cloud for 60 days to watch them later. Those without a plan will have their videos automatically deleted, according to Ring’s privacy notice.

Ring’s terms of service says the company and its licensees have permanent and wide-ranging rights to keep and use the footage from the cameras, including: “an unlimited, irrevocable, fully paid and royalty-free, perpetual, worldwide right to re-use, distribute, store, delete, translate, copy, modify, display, sell, create derivative works from and otherwise exploit such shared content for any purpose and in any media formats in any media channels without compensation.”

This kind of corporate control of homeowner’s video surveillance contributes to what EFF calls a “perfect storm of privacy threats.”

“Having a Ring camera may seem like a harmless way to protect your packages, but it is helping to create a large surveillance network within your own community that does more than just thwart the work of criminals,” Gauriglia said.

When Ring customers continually post footage to the Neighbors app resulting in constant alerts sent to users, fear is generated in communities, EFF says. That leads to more sales of Ring doorbell-cameras and other security devices, adding to an already massive surveillance network, according to EFF.

“With every update, Ring turns the delivery person or census-taker innocently standing on at the door into a potential criminal,” Gauriglia reported in an Aug. 8 EFF story. “Neighborhood watch apps only increase the paranoia.”

Yandura said there is nothing threatening about the Ring cameras, saying they are like having a “cop on every corner in the city” 24 hours a day.
Grogan said Ring and the Neighbors app are simply keeping communities informed on what is happening in their neighborhoods.

“People know their neighborhoods better than anybody,” he said. “They live there and know what is unusual. … The people that participate are choosing to do that and making the decision to work with police to try to help keep their communities safe.”

How many Ring doorbell-camera users live in Dunwoody and Brookhaven is not known by the police departments, according to the chiefs, and Ring declined to comment on this question.

Yandura did say a Ring representative told him earlier this year that Brookhaven’s 30319 ZIP code had the highest concentration of Ring devices in the state.

Both cities have also invested heavily in surveillance cameras and license plate readers, or LPRs.

Earlier this year, Dunwoody spent about $189,000 to buy 16 LPRs from Georgia Power to post throughout Perimeter Center where most of the city’s crime occurs.

In 2017, Brookhaven entered into a $700,000, three-year lease agreement with Georgia Power to place 44 LPRs throughout the city. The LPRs average 4 million “reads” a month of people driving in and out of the city, Yandura said, and are used to get hits on stolen cars and wanted fugitives.

What’s included in the partnership

Grogan said the department reached out to Ring last year after reading about the company partnering with law enforcement through the Neighbors app.

Yandura said he learned about Ring and the Neighbors app at a conference for the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

After the chiefs agreed their departments would team up with Ring, they were required by the company to sign memorandums of understanding, non-binding agreements that outlined roles and responsibilities. Both cities MOUs stated Ring would provide mutually agreed-upon press releases announcing the partnerships.

The agreements included Ring providing the departments a few free Ring doorbell cameras to give out to residents at community events or homeowners’ association meetings.

ast month, the Dunwoody Police Department hosted a “pizza with police” event at City Hall that included free Ring doorbell camera giveaways.
Yandura said Brookhaven Police have also handed out four free Ring cameras at community events and HOA meetings.

Emails obtained through the open records request show that Dunwoody Police Department employees were given a special promotion code, “nbdunwoody,” after the MOU was signed in February. The code gave them $50 off any purchase of the Ring Classic, Ring Pro, Ring Video Doorbell 2, Floodlight Cam, Spotlight Cam and Ring Protect.

Ring also provided a free webinar to Dunwoody officers to train them on how to use the Neighbors app portal, according to emails.

Those requested by Ring to attend online training included the public information officer, the social media coordinator, an investigative coordinator and a community relations coordinator who “oversees the team that interfaces with the community at events, HOAs, Neighborhood Watch meetings, etc.”

These kinds of agreements can weaken a police department’s standing in a community where they are supposed to be neutral, Gauriglia said

“Ring-police partnerships also undermine our trust in local police departments,” he said. “We know from reporting that almost everything police put out about Ring, from press releases to the answers to potential questions citizens may have, are scripted and approved by Amazon.”

Grogan denied Amazon or Ring had control over what his department says, including the initial press release announcing the partnership.

“We modified it and removed language we felt sounded too much like an endorsement of the Ring camera,” he said. “Other than that, they have provided no input into any other communication related to the Neighbors by Ring app.”

Yandura also denied the arrangement meant Brookhaven officers were now representing Amazon and Ring.

“No, we are not salesmen and no money is exchanged by the parties,” Yandura said. “We are not promoting one [security company] over another.”

Ring did include in its Dunwoody MOU that it would donate Ring cameras to the Dunwoody Police Department based on the number of Neighbors app downloads that result from their partnership with the city.

“Each qualifying download will count as $10 toward these free Ring cameras,” according to the Dunwoody MOU.
Grogan said his department is not obligated to Ring or Amazon.

“We don’t actively promote one system over another,” he said. “If any other camera company wants to provide free security cameras for us to give out, we will give them out as well.”

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concentration camps

UN Claim: China’s Concentration Camps Bring ‘Stronger Sense Of Happiness’

In a classic case of Orwell’s Doublethink, China’s concentration camps are re-labeled as counter-terrorism and de-radicalization centers that make people happy and secure. This is Technocrat madness that defies any rational explanation. ⁃ TN Editor
 

A group of 54 United Nations members issued a statement Tuesday defending China for building over 1,000 concentration camps to imprison, torture, indoctrinate, rape, and kill Muslims, crediting the camps with building “a stronger sense of happiness” in the country.

Belarus, often considered the last dictatorship standing in Europe, delivered the statement on behalf of the China-allied nations at the General Assembly in response to a group statement condemning China’s human rights atrocities.

China has built hundreds of concentration camps in western Xinjiang province – home to the nation’s Muslim Uyghur ethnic minority – since late 2017, which it has used to imprison up to 3 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz Muslims. Survivors of the camps, mostly Kazakhs or Uyghurs married to foreign nations who appealed abroad for their freedom, say they were subject to forced sterilization and beatings, forced to memorize Communist Party propaganda songs, affirm their loyalty for dictator Xi Jinping, and serve as sex slaves for guards at the camps. Some also accused China of using the prisoners for slave labor to manufacture products sold in, among other places, the United States.

The Chinese government published the favorable statement in full.

Belarus, claiming to speak on behalf of other draconian states like Russia, Bolivia, Pakistan, and Democratic Republic of Congo, condemned “politicizing human rights issues by naming and shaming” human rights violators.

“Faced with the grave challenge of terrorism and extremism, China has undertaken a series of counter-terrorism and deradicalization measures in Xinjiang, including setting up vocational education and training centers,” Belarus said, using China’s preferred term for the concentration camps. “The past three consecutive years has [sic] seen not a single terrorist attack in Xinjiang and people there enjoy a stronger sense of happiness, fulfillment and security.”

Despite the Chinese regime severely limiting the entry of foreigners or other Chinese people from elsewhere in the country into Xinjiang, the note said the countries “appreciate China’s commitment to openness and transparency,” referencing a staged “media access” tour China organized for the state media of various friendly countries.

The statement concluded by condemning those standing up for human rights and demanding they “refrain from employing unfounded charges against China based on unconfirmed information before they visit Xinjiang,” which they cannot do freely.

The statement followed an attack against human rights defenders in July by a coalition of countries with deep business ties to China for demanding accountability on the Xinjiang camps.

Belarus has a longstanding human rights record that the United Nations defined as “fundamentally poor” in July. It has only ever had one president since achieving independence from the Soviet Union. pro-Russia autocrat Alexander Lukashenko. Among the human rights crimes Lukashenko stands guilty of are the arbitrary arrest and silencing of journalists and dissidents and widespread regulations on speech and assembly.

Belarus is an “important” partner to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), according to Beijing. The BRI is a sprawling infrastructure project nominally meant to expand modern transportation to connect Beijing to Western Europe. In reality, China has used the BRI to hand out predatory loans to developing countries, many of which then embezzle the money and leave the government deeply in debt. China then takes ownership of key properties in those countries, expanding its political reach.

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The full statement

Mr. President,

I have the honor to make the following joint statement on behalf of 54 countries including Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Egypt, Bolivia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Serbia.

We reiterate that the work of Human Rights in the United Nations should be conducted in an objective, transparent, non-selective, constructive, non-confrontational and non-politicized manner. We express our firm opposition to relevant countries’ practice of politicizing human rights issues, by naming and shaming, and publicly exerting pressures on other countries.

We commend China’s remarkable achievements in the field of human rights by adhering to the people-centered development philosophy and protecting and promoting human rights through development. We also appreciate China’s contributions to the international human rights cause.

We take note that terrorism, separatism and religious extremism has caused enormous damage to people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, which has seriously infringed upon human rights, including right to life, health and development. Faced with the grave challenge of terrorism and extremism, China has undertaken a series of counter-terrorism and deradicalization measures in Xinjiang, including setting up vocational education and training centers. Now safety and security has returned to Xinjiang and the fundamental human rights of people of all ethnic groups there are safeguarded. The past three consecutive years has seen not a single terrorist attack in Xinjiang and people there enjoy a stronger sense of happiness, fulfillment and security. We note with appreciation that human rights are respected and protected in China in the process of counter-terrorism and deradicalization.

We appreciate China’s commitment to openness and transparency. China has invited a number of diplomats, international organizations officials and journalist to Xinjiang to witness the progress of the human rights cause and the outcomes of counter-terrorism and deradicalization there. What they saw and heard in Xinjiang completely contradicted what was reported in the media. We call on relevant countries to refrain from employing unfounded charges against China based on unconfirmed information before they visit Xinjiang. We urge the OHCHR, Treaty Bodies and relevant Special Procedures mandate holders to conduct their work in an objective and impartial manner according to their mandate and with true and genuinely credible information, and value the communication with member states.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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