Feds Demand Gun Owner Data From Apple, Google

Technocrats in the Administration believe they have some sort of divine right to any data that exists anywhere in the universe, and are working backdoors to increase their already massive hoard or citizen data. ⁃ TN Editor

Own a rifle? Got a scope to go with it? The U.S. government might soon know who you are, where you live and how to reach you.

That’s because the government wants Apple and Google to hand over names, phone numbers and other identifying data of at least 10,000 users of a single gun scope app, Forbes has discovered. It’s an unprecedented move: Never before has a case been disclosed in which American investigators demanded personal data of users of a single app from Apple and Google. And never has an order been made public where the feds have asked the Silicon Valley giants for info on so many thousands of people in one go.

According to an application for a court order filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on September 5, investigators want information on users of Obsidian 4, a tool used to control rifle scopes made by night-vision specialist American Technologies Network Corp. The app allows gun owners to get a live stream, take video and calibrate their gun scope from an Android or iPhone device. According to the Google Play page for Obsidian 4, it has more than 10,000 downloads. Apple doesn’t provide download numbers, so it’s unclear how many iPhone owners could be swept up in this latest government data grab.

If the court approves the demand, and Apple and Google decide to hand over the information, it could include data on thousands of people who have nothing to do with the crimes being investigated, privacy activists warned. Edin Omanovic, lead on Privacy International’s State Surveillance program, said it would set a dangerous precedent and scoop up “huge amounts of innocent people’s personal data.”

“Such orders need to be based on suspicion and be particularized—this is neither,” Omanovic added.

Neither Apple nor Google had responded to a request for comment at the time of publication. ATN, the scope maker, also hadn’t responded.

Why the data grab?

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) department is seeking information as part of a broad investigation into possible breaches of weapons export regulations. It’s looking into illegal exports of ATN’s scope, though the company itself isn’t under investigation, according to the order. As part of that, investigators are looking for a quick way to find out where the app is in use, as that will likely indicate where the hardware has been shipped. ICE has repeatedly intercepted illegal shipments of the scope, which is controlled under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), according to the government court filing. They included shipments to Canada, the Netherlands and Hong Kong where the necessary licenses hadn’t been obtained.

“This pattern of unlawful, attempted exports of this rifle scope in combination with the manner in which the ATN Obsidian 4 application is paired with this scope manufactured by Company A supports the conclusion that the information requested herein will assist the government in identifying networks engaged in the unlawful export of this rifle scope through identifying end users located in countries to which export of this item is restricted,” the government order reads. (The order was supposed to have been sealed, but Forbes obtained it before the document was hidden from public view.) There’s no clear stipulation on the government’s side to limit this to countries outside of America, though that limitation could be put in place.

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Woof! Geofencing Used To Corral People, E-Scooters, E-Bikes, Cars

Geofencing technology is well-known to pet owners who want to keep their dogs inside their yard, but now it is being implemented to control the geospatial limitation of people and the vehicles they drive.

Geofencing may be fine for animals like dogs and livestock, but people are not animals. This dystopian technology will be the capstone of total population control. ⁃ TN Editor

Geofencing is a virtual fencing created around the desired boundary locations of a land. Geofencing primarily consists of the software programs which are executed using the data gathered from the GPS (Global Positioning Systems) or the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification).

The data includes the location details as per the geographic parameters of the person’s equipment. The primary factor responsible for the increasing popularity of the Geo-fencing is that it allows an administrator who has set up the geo-fencing to set up the triggers for events. These triggers are set by the administrator for the events such as entry or exit of the devices within the decided boundaries by the administrator. Also, geofencing is getting increasing popularity due to the many application’s incorporations such as the Google Earth.

This incorporation allows the administrators to define the boundaries for geofencing on top of a satellite view as per specific geographical area which is available for the Google Earth application and also the users are deploying the other applications for defining the boundaries using longitude and latitude or through user-created and Web-based maps.

Geofencing Market: Drivers and Restraints

The prime factor responsible for the growth of the Geofencing market is increasing technological advancements in maintaining the security and safety majors for the organizations and also part of the geographies. Also, the constant technological advancements going on in the cloud computing applications, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), and the wireless technologies which are supporting the Location-Based Services (LBS), Global Positioning System (GPS), are contributing significantly in driving the demand for the geofencing.

The other rare and indirect applications of the geo-fencing such as it is virtual perimeter which can be used by the malls or other profit-making organization to attract the customers who are present within their geo fencing boundaries by sending them notifications on their mobile devices. This is one of the emerging parameter driving the demand for geo-fencing in the different industry verticals. On the other hand, higher deployment cost and lack of knowledge are one of the restraining factors for the geo-fencing market.

Global Geo fencing Market: Market Segmentation

Global Geofencing Market can be divided into three segments, based on Component and end users of the Geofencing.

Segmentation on the basis of the Component of Geo fencing market:

The major segments in the Geofencing market based on the components of the Geofencing for the variable use. This segmentation includes the segmentation by Software and services. This segmentation is performed as per the component types offered such as software and services. The software is offered by the manufactures to end users for deployment of geo-fencing and services are offered to maintain the workflow and remove the problems in execution.

Segmentation on the basis of the type for Geofencing market:

The major segments of the Geofencing market on the basis of the type is performed as Mobile geo-fencing and fixed geofencing. The mobile geofencing can be modified as per the end user requirements and fixed geo-fencing are permanent.

Segmentation on the basis of the end user for a Geofencing market:

The major segments of the Geofencing market on the basis of the end user is performed by considering the industry verticals which are deploying the Geofencing for carrying out their industry-specific operations. The segmentation includes the Defence and Aerospace, Transportation, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, banking, and others. The type of geofencing is selected based on the industry-specific requirement of the Geofencing.

Global Geofencing Competitive Landscape

Companies such as Apple, Bluedot Innovation, DreamOrbit, Embitel, Esri, Factual, GeoMoby, GPSWOX, InVisage, Localytics, LocationSmart, MAPCITE, Maven Systems, Mobinius Technologies, MobiOcean, Nisos Technologies, and Visioglobe (France) have adopted various growth strategies, including partnerships, agreements, and collaborations, to enhance their presence in the geofencing market. The key vendors are constantly focused on developing new displays and enhancements in their application to improvise the industrial usage.

Global Geofencing Market: Regional outlook

The global Geofencing market is divided into seven regions as North America, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Asia Pacific excluding Japan, Japan, and the Middle East and Africa. Among the given regions, North America region leading the global market for Geofencing due to the dense presence of end users from commercial, manufacturing, and others using Geofencing.

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TSA Launching Facial Recognition For Domestic Flights

TSA will scan your printed travel documents and then scan your face to see how well they can match you. In the process, they will ultimately create a nationwide facial recognition system on all travelers.

Do the math. In America, some 750,000,000 passengers board domestic flights each year, or twice the population of the country. Thus, TSA’s plan will capture the vast majority of American citizens. ⁃ TN Editor

The agency will assess how the tech verifies travelers’ live facial images against pictures taken from travelers’ identity documents.

The Transportation Security Administration will conduct a short term proof of concept in Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport to examine how effective facial recognition technology could be at automating travelers’ identity verification, according to a recent publication from the Homeland Security Department.

For passengers who opt in, the agency will assess the technology’s capability to verify travelers’ live facial images taken at security checkpoints against the images on their identity documents.

“TSA expects that facial recognition may permit TSA personnel to focus on other critical tasks and expediting security processes—resulting in shorter lines and reduced wait times,” officials said in a privacy impact assessment regarding the proof. “Biometric matching is also expected to increase TSA’s security effectiveness by improving the ability to detect impostors.”

The agency plans to use biometrics to identify 97% of travelers flying out of the country by 2022. Last year, TSA performed an initial proof of concept, capturing real-time facial images from biometric-enabled automated electronic security gates to passengers’ e-Passports at the Los Angeles International Airport.

Instead of using automated security gates in this pilot, TSA will use a Credential Authentication Technology device with a camera, or a CAT-C device, to authenticate passengers’ identity documents. The device also will collect the image and biographic information from those documents and capture live images of passengers’ faces. The ultimate goal is to ensure that biometrics work for verifying passengers.

“To participate, passengers will voluntarily choose to enter a lane dedicated to the proof of concept,” TSA said.

Ultimately the agency plans to collect: live photos of passengers’ faces, photos from traveler documents, identification document issuance and expiration dates, travel dates, various types of identification documents, the organizations that issued their identification documents, the years of passenger’s births, as well as the gender or sex listed in the identification documents.

The agency assures that the data will be “obfuscated to the greatest extent possible.”

TSA plans to store the data on encrypted hard drives that it will remove daily and transfer to DHS Science and Technology Directorate personnel weekly. Biometric information cannot be recovered from the templates produced and the information will only be used for the purpose of the pilot, it said. The agency also plans to consult with the National Institutes for Standards and Technology during the assessment of the algorithm and to ensure that all methodologies meet industry standards.

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Snitch City: Ring Camera Has Partnered With 400 Police Forces

Amazon owns Ring and has sole million of the camera-embedded cameras to homeowners nationwide. Next, it offered the surveillance to police forces in every community. So far, 400 police forces are signed up.

Homeowners are snitching on people who may or may not be evil-doers, putting entire neighborhoods at risk for privacy violations. It’s one thing to film someone who is on your property, but quite another to film someone walking or driving by on the street. ⁃ TN Editor

The doorbell-camera company Ring has quietly forged video-sharing partnerships with more than 400 police forces across the United States, granting them access to homeowners’ camera footage and a powerful role in what the company calls America’s “new neighborhood watch.”

The partnerships let police automatically request the video recorded by homeowners’ cameras within a specific time and area, helping officers see footage from the company’s millions of Internet-connected cameras installed nationwide, the company said. Officers don’t receive ongoing or live-video access, and homeowners can decline the requests, which are sent via emails that thank them for “making your neighborhood a safer place.”

The number of police deals, which has not previously been reported, will likely fuel broader questions about privacy, surveillance and the expanding reach of tech giants and local police. The rapid growth of the program, which launched last spring, surprised some civil-liberties advocates, who believed fewer than 300 agencies had signed on.

Ring is owned by Amazon, which bought the firm last year for more than $800 million, financial filings show. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post.

Ring officials and law-enforcement partners portray the vast camera network as an irrepressible shield for American neighborhoods, saying it can assist police investigators and protect homes from criminals, intruders and thieves.

“The mission has always been making the neighborhood safer,” said Eric Kuhn, the general manager of Neighbors, Ring’s crime-focused companion app. “We’ve had a lot of success in terms of deterring crime and solving crimes that would otherwise not be solved as quickly.”

But legal experts and privacy advocates have voiced alarm over the company’s eyes-everywhere ambitions and increasingly close relationship with police, saying the program could threaten civil liberties, turn residents into informants and subject innocent people, including those who Ring users have flagged as “suspicious,” to greater surveillance and potential risk.

“If the police demanded every citizen put a camera at their door and give officers access to it, we might all recoil,” said Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, a law professor and author of “The Rise of Big Data Policing.”

By tapping into “a perceived need for more self-surveillance and by playing on consumer fears about crime and security,” he added, Ring has found “a clever workaround for the development of a wholly new surveillance network, without the kind of scrutiny that would happen if it was coming from the police or government.”

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Detroit’s Project Green Light: Battle Line Over Facial Recognition

High-tech facial recognition systems are fostering a total-surveillance police state across America and citizens may not have much time left to declare it un-American, un-Constitutional and a violation of their Civil Rights.  ⁃ TN Editor

When the Detroit police department proposed a network of high-definition surveillance cameras that would stream live video from gas stations, liquor stores and other all-night businesses to a central police command center, Nasser Beydoun was one of the first to sign up.

In early 2016, Beydoun, owner of a Marathon gas station on the city’s west side, enthusiastically paid $6,000 to install cameras around his station and connect them with the crime-fighting effort, called Project Green Light. Since then, he said, crime at his gas station has fallen and revenue has climbed.

“We don’t have the trouble that we used to have,” he said. “There’s an element that used to come to the station to cause problems that no longer shows up.”

But now, as those Project Green Light cameras have expanded to 578 locations across the city, Beydoun is among the Detroiters grappling with the news that police can zero in on anyone who is filmed — including customers who are simply pumping gas — and collect personal information about them.

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 poorestblackest city in America. It should be the last city where we start implementing facial recognition.”

The debate over facial recognition in Detroit has grown so heated that Burton was dragged out of a recent police commissioners board meeting in handcuffs and charged with disorderly conduct after the board’s chairwoman complained that he was interrupting the meeting. (The charge was later dropped.) The oversight board, along with Michigan’s state Legislature and the Detroit City Council, are all weighing proposals to restrict or ban the police use of facial recognition. The oversight board’s vote could come in the next few weeks.

This debate has put Detroit at the center of an escalating national conversation about high-tech crime-fighting tools that are promoted as beneficial to the public but may lead to more intrusive forms of government surveillance. Facial recognition is a policing tool that was uncontroversial two years ago but is now so contentious that several cities, including San Francisco, have preemptively banned its use by police, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, recently called for a national ban.

In Detroit, though, police have been using the technology for more than two years. That, combined with the city’s high crime rate, its demographics and the expansive network of Project Green Light cameras, has made the discussion here remarkably combative — and closely watched across the country.

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.”

Beydoun hasn’t attended the raucous community meetings this summer, but as a Lebanese immigrant and a Muslim, he says he has reason to worry the government could target him or his neighbors. He chairs Detroit’s Arab-American Civil Rights League, which has joined 11 other local civil rights groups to call for a ban on facial recognition technology.

He’s also a business owner who relies on the police to keep his customers and employees safe. That puts him in a difficult place, struggling along with his neighbors and fellow business owners to figure out if police surveillance has gone too far.

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How Red Light Cameras Undermine Our Rule Of Law

If the vast majority of drivers despise red-light cameras, then why do governments insist on forcing them upon us? This does little more than undermine the Rule of Law while fanning distrust and animosity. ⁃ TN Editor

Speed and red-light cameras are the bane of many motorists. A modern idea made possible by technology, they have been installed in at least 24 states. Although these cameras are a revenue boon for governments across the nation, their intrusion into daily life is disturbing, and their constitutionality is dubious.

Specifically, use of these cameras could violate the Sixth Amendment. The Confrontation Clause grants criminal defendants the right to be confronted with the witnesses against them. Since it is a camera and not a person that witnessed the offense, such violations generally cannot be considered a criminal offense. The ticket is issued to the owner of the vehicle, not to the person driving it, leaving a lack of certainty as to the identity of the offender.

Therefore, the “ticket” in most places is nothing more than a civil fine, making enforcement and collection difficult. To date, governments have avoided this problem by requiring payment of the fine before motorists can renew their driver’s license or auto registration. Although there generally are appeals procedures, they typically do not give drivers a day in court. In other words, what happened to being innocent until proven guilty?

There are several for-profit companies that install and operate the cameras, some of them foreign-owned. In a typical arrangement, a camera company will contract with a local government to pay the capital cost of installing the cameras in exchange for a share of the revenue generated via fines. In short, governments get a new revenue stream without any operating cost, and the camera companies make a tidy profit.

The companies and government officials argue that greater safety will result from fewer accidents and that the increased government revenue will benefit the local communities.

Studies to confirm those claims have yielded mixed results. Studies paid for by the camera companies or governments usually show fewer accidents. Independent studies and those financed by opponents usually show no gains and sometimes worse results.

There is more evidence that greater public safety actually depends on the timingof yellow and red lights. Longer yellow and all-way red times have been shown to significantly reduce accidents. Sometimes local governments actually decrease yellow-light timing to catch more red-light runners, a result of the perverse financial incentives that tempt government officials and camera companies. Studies also show motorists are more likely to hit the brakes hard at camera-enforced intersections, increasing rear-end collisions.

Unsurprisingly, these cameras are deeply unpopular. Since 1991, there have been 42 elections on adopting or prohibiting either speed or red-light cameras or both. In all but two of these, voters have opposed the cameras by an average margin of 63 percent.

However, polling on the issue can show different results. A recent Public Opinion Strategies poll of 800 likely voters nationwide found 69 percent of respondents either strongly or somewhat support red-light cameras, while 29 percent somewhat or strongly oppose. Interestingly, 47 percent of those same respondents thought most of their neighbors opposed the cameras.

A possible explanation is that, as a national poll, most respondents do not live in a locality with red-light cameras since less than half the states allow them and not all jurisdictions in those states have them. Therefore, many have never experienced them. Familiarity breeds contempt.

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Police Use License Plate Readers To ‘Grid’ Neighborhoods

Chances are your city is already hoovering up license plate images on every street, but there are few regulations to prevent it. Any city council could stop this unConstitutional practice cold, if they would dare to make a protest. ⁃ TN Editor

Every shift in Chandler, police officers in cars equipped with special cameras can be seen driving up and down every street in a neighborhood, gathering data on every vehicle in the area.

The cameras, known as automated license plate readers, or ALPRs, scan license plates of nearby cars, capturing images not only of the license plate number, but also recording where the vehicle is located and the time of day, among other things.

As part of the training for the ALPR systems, Chandler officers are taught to “grid” neighborhoods during their downtime – systematically driving up and down every street in an area, indiscriminately scooping up information on vehicles – not because of any suspected criminal activity, but because the information might be useful in future criminal investigations.

The practice is worrisome for civil liberties advocates, who view the sweeping data collection as too expansive.

“Historically, police officers could go out and look for license plate numbers, walk or drive up and down the streets in the whole neighborhood to do that, but until you had this technologies, there were physical limitations to that,” said Jared Keenan, Criminal Justice Staff Attorney at ACLU of Arizona. “You had to have officers go out and do it, and it naturally limited how much information they could gather.”

Automated readers, on the other hand, can gather thousands of records a second, which Keenan says is scary.

Chandler Police Department’s Commander Ed Upshaw said that ALPRs do not capture individuals, and that collecting data on what cars are where at specific times can create investigative leads.

“If your vehicle is parked in a public place or visible from a publicly accessible place, it can be recorded by anyone. Is there a reason a YouTuber can record but police cannot?” he told the Mirror in a written statement. Chandler Police Department officials would not agree to an interview.

But critics say there is a difference.

“When the government is indiscriminately gathering massive amounts of data like this, it can provide very intimate insight into people’s lives,” Keenan said.

For instance, law enforcement can use ALPR data to determine the places people frequent, with whom they associate, what doctors they go to and what religious services they attend.

Additionally, Keenan said, when these types of technologies are deployed without reasonable suspicion, implicit and explicit bias can mean that police deploy this technology more heavily in poor neighborhoods and communities of color. For example, police could grid low-income or minority neighborhoods more often, which could lead to over-policing of those neighborhoods—even if there are just as many crimes in rich, white areas.

This has played out in Oakland, where police disproportionately captured ALPR data in low-income communities and communities of color, according to a week’s worth of 2014 data analyzed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. And in 2016, a BuzzFeed investigation found that ALPRs in Port Arthur, Texas, were primarily used to track down unpaid traffic citation arrests, leading to the incarceration of mostly black residents.

ALPR devices are marketed as ways for police to “develop more leads and solve more cases” for a variety of crimes, ranging from murders to kidnappings, and organized crime to terrorism. But some Arizona contracts for automated license plate readers, including those in Mesa and Chandler, were  provided through a grant from the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority, because one of the primary uses of ALPR is to identify and recover stolen vehicles. In Chandler, where the first two 3M PIPS LPR systems and Vigilant Solutions subscription came from these grants, police officers were instructed to send one-sentence emails with report numbers and how Vigilant Solutions helped their investigation, not just for arrests but also for locating stolen vehicles. 

The expansion of the license plate reader program and maintenance of the systems in Chandler has come from Federal Justice Assistance Grants, according to Commander Upshaw.

The longer ALPR  data is retained, the more likely it is to be misused or exposed in a data breach. While some cities have policies to retain license plate data for only six or 12 months, some police departments don’t appear to have retention policies at all. And though police departments with retention schedules all indicated that records are purged automatically, public records indicate that only a single department has ever conducted an audit – and the last one was conducted in 2015.

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Amazon Bonds With Law Enforcement Over Ring Cameras

Amazon is providing police with blanket surveillance in neighborhoods but homeowners bear the cost of installing its Ring cameras that replace doorbells with Internet connected cameras. Privacy? Forget it! ⁃ TN Editor

On July 12, a few hours before dawn, a man in Chandler, Arizona, was jolted awake by an alert on his phone. It was coming from his Ring security camera, which had detected movement outside his home.

The live feed showed a group of young men breaking into cars. The man hollered at them through his front door, then called the police.

As an officer arrived, the men sped off in a car, leaving behind cellphones, tools and other things they’d taken during their interrupted burglary spree. They abandoned the getaway vehicle in a housing complex and turned themselves in later that morning.

By then, the homeowner had showed police his camera footage and posted it to Neighbors, an app run by Ring, which is owned by Amazon. Ring doesn’t just make the wireless security cameras — it also accesses police data to alert residents of potential crimes, encourages users to share recordings of suspicious behavior themselves, and connects them with law enforcement.

“Thank goodness for the Ring!!!” the man wrote on Neighbors.

“Thanks for posting,” a Chandler police officer responded.

The exchange was typical of the way police are using Ring, helping it spread its business while using it to detect and investigate crime. The arrangement in Chandler is among dozens of such partnerships around the country, and part of a much broader effort by Amazon to deepen its reach into law enforcement — which critics say is expanding the government’s surveillance of Americans.

Amazon, known mainly for its online consumer marketplace, is becoming a potent resource for federal, state and local authorities, peddling an array of tools that harness the power of cloud-based computing, artificial intelligence and video analysis.

Some of the products seem mundane, offering agencies a relatively cheap method of storing, sharing and crunching data through networks of remote web servers known as the cloud. Others are contentious, making it easier for police to identify and monitor people. Together, they show how one company has broadened its influence by supplying law enforcement with technology that has modernized crime-fighting but is evolving too fast for government oversight to keep up.

Amazon’s government work has become a significant component of the company’s move beyond e-commerce and into tools that run the internet. Its government contracts, through the company’s cloud-computing subsidiary, Amazon Web Services, have ballooned from $200 million in 2014 to $2 billion today, said Daniel Ives, who researches Amazon at the financial advisory firm Wedbush Securities. That has allowed the company to build “a fortress of cloud deals” that include police departments, federal law enforcement, national intelligence agencies and immigration authorities.

“In so many investigations, time is of the essence, and this enables many police departments to access data so much more quickly and in forms that are much more helpful,” Ives said.

But critics say Amazon’s products and services also show how a corporation can position itself within government in ways that could lead to overreach and abuse.

Privacy and civil liberties advocates have warned that the Ring partnerships are creating a new layer of government surveillance. Amazon employeesartificial intelligence researchers and activist investors have asked the company to stop selling its facial recognition service to law enforcement, to stop providing web-hosting services that help federal immigration authorities, and to create a committee that would review the potential societal consequences of its products.

“While providing secure cloud storage does not appear to pose privacy threats, providing a package of technologies that includes powerful surveillance tools like facial recognition and doorbell cameras, plus the capability to pool data into a massive database and run data analytics, does create very real privacy threats,” said Sharon Bradford Franklin, policy director of New America’s Open Technology Institute, a nonprofit that advocates for digital rights.

For example, Franklin said, a homeowner might voluntarily share the footage from their doorbell camera with police seeking clues to a nearby crime. The police might then run the video through facial recognition software, which is imperfect and might incorrectly identify innocent people as potential suspects. Those wrong matches could then be shared with other agencies, such as immigration enforcement, with far-reaching consequences.

“I am not sure Amazon has quite grappled with how their innovative technologies intersect with issues of privacy, liberty and government police power,” said Andrew Ferguson, a law professor at the University of the District of Columbia who studies how police use technology.

“The pushback they are getting comes from a failure to recognize that there is a fundamental difference between empowering the consumer with information and empowering the government with information. The former enhances an individual’s freedom and choice, the latter limits an individual’s freedom and choice.”

When law enforcement agencies are the customers, a company has an obligation to slow down, Ferguson said.

But Amazon is not slowing down. It says it has a duty to help police, defense and intelligence agencies.

“We believe our customers — including law enforcement agencies and other groups working to keep our communities safe — should have access to the best technology and believe that cloud services can materially benefit society,” Amazon said in a statement.

‘A game changer for law enforcement’

Police often say that they’re not interested in which company sells a piece of technology, as long as the product is affordable and easy to use and helps keep people safe.

That is the philosophy in Chandler, a rapidly growing city outside Phoenix, where authorities noticed an increase in the number of residents who’d outfitted their homes with a new generation of internet-connected video cameras that monitor activity outside their front doors. The Chandler Police Department began looking for ways to make use of that growing network, and came across the Neighbors app.

The app is run by Ring — bought by Amazon for an estimated $1 billion in early 2018 — which uses Neighbors to promote its popular line of doorbell cameras by encouraging members to share videos of suspicious activity. The platform includes a law enforcement portal that allows police departments to post alerts and request video from members who live near where a crime occurred. The portal can tell police agencies if anyone in a particular area recorded a Ring video at the time of a crime.

Chandler police got access to the portal by entering into an agreement with Ring in which the company agreed to “seed” the partnership with a donation of 25 cameras to the department. The department gets another free camera for every 20 people who sign up using a particular text code, Assistant Chief Jason Zdilla said. The city has given the free cameras away as door prizes to boost attendance at community meetings, he said.

The agreement — which appears to be a boilerplate document used in partnerships with police agencies around the country — also allows Ring to access Chandler Police Department’s “incidents/call logs.” Ring obtains that information through the city’s publicly available data portal and uses it to post alerts on Neighbors.

More than 20,000 Chandler residents are now on the Neighbors app, according to Zdilla. Police typically use the videos posted there to investigate property crimes, such as car break-ins and package thefts, but have also used the app to seek evidence of more serious crimes, including a fatal shooting. The department has an officer in each of its precincts assigned to search Neighbors for residents’ posts about potential crimes. But the department has also had to address false perceptions, stoked by the app and the publicity around it, that crime is on the rise.

Most videos obtained by police through Ring are voluntarily provided by homeowners, according to police and Amazon; the company declined to say how many subpoenas or court orders it has received for access to videos.

“This is a game changer for law enforcement because it basically is a virtual block-watch giving us the ability to communicate with a large number of people and the ability to ingest video from cameras in any case,” said Chandler police Cmdr. Edward Upshaw, who manages the department’s partnership with Ring. “It’s more information, more intelligence. We have a better sense of what’s going on in every single neighborhood.”

By embracing law enforcement in this way, Amazon has expanded Ring’s national network, from Fresno, California, to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, from Houston to Norfolk, Virginia. Amazon declined to say how many police agencies have arrangements with Ring, but the nonprofit group Fight for the Future, which advocates against government surveillance, has assembled a map that identifies more than 50 of them.

The strategy fits into Amazon’s aim to improve its home-delivery operations; the use of Ring cameras to catch people stealing packages from the front of homes has become a television news staple. Amazon has also provided materials to police to conduct sting campaigns aimed at luring thieves to snatch Amazon-labeled bait boxes from doorsteps under surveillance by Ring cameras. And the company has filed a patent application for outfitting Ring cameras with facial recognition.

Amazon’s investment in this technology has prompted warnings that it is contributing to the creation of a runaway surveillance state fed by an overblown fear of crime.

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Police State: US Military Set To Monitor All Movement In USA

It’s now clearly stated that the Military will join law enforcement and DHS to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats, but at the expense of tracking everything, everywhere.

High altitude balloons equipped with radar and other battle zone surveillance technology can see through any weather and even through vegetation and buildings.

This technology was perfected in combat zones under the label GEOINT and the project name of “Mastering the Human Domain” ⁃ TN Editor

The US Military will conduct high altitude MESH networking radar tests over South Dakota to provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats.

High altitude balloons will fly at twice the altitude of passenger jets and use radar to simultaneously track many individual vehicles day or night, through any kind of weather.

Interferometric synthetic aperture radar is a radar technique used in geodesy and remote sensing. This geodetic method uses two or more synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images to generate maps of surface deformation or digital elevation, using differences in the phase of the waves returning to the satellite or aircraft. The technique can potentially measure millimeter-scale changes in deformation over spans of days to years.

Synthetic aperture radar placed 20 times farther away than the militaries high altitude balloons can scan for features at 30 centimeters (one foot or less). Synthetic aperture radar from balloons would likely be able to create 3D surface images with one-centimeter accuracy. The balloons would be able to update several times a minute.

Simple high-resolution optical cameras were already used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Dayton, Ohio to monitor the movement of all people and vehicles. About ten years ago in Dayton a Cessna flew for everyday for weeks and created video that could be used to Tivo all movement.

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John Whitehead: The Tyranny Of The Police State Disguised As Law-And-Order

As police departments are further militarized and as training is increasingly degraded, overreactions are common and atrocities against innocent citizens are seen more frequently across the nation. ⁃ TN Editor

“But these weren’t the kind of monsters that had tentacles and rotting skin, the kind a seven-year-old might be able to wrap his mind around—they were monsters with human faces, in crisp uniforms, marching in lockstep, so banal you don’t recognize them for what they are until it’s too late.” ― Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Enough already.

Enough with the distractions. Enough with the partisan jousting.

Enough with the sniping and name-calling and mud-slinging that do nothing to make this country safer or freer or more just.

We have let the government’s evil-doing, its abuses, power grabs, brutality, meanness, inhumanity, immorality, greed, corruption, debauchery and tyranny go on for too long.

We are approaching a reckoning.

This is the point, as the poet W. B. Yeats warned, when things fall apart and anarchy is loosed upon the world.

We have seen this convergence before in Hitler’s Germany, in Stalin’s Russia, in Mussolini’s Italy, and in Mao’s China: the rise of strongmen and demagogues, the ascendency of profit-driven politics over deep-seated principles, the warring nationalism that seeks to divide and conquer, the callous disregard for basic human rights and dignity, and the silence of people who should know better.

Yet no matter how many times the world has been down this road before, we can’t seem to avoid repeating the deadly mistakes of the past. This is not just playing out on a national and international scale. It is wreaking havoc at the most immediate level, as well, creating rifts and polarities within families and friends, neighborhoods and communities that keep the populace warring among themselves and incapable of presenting a united front in the face of the government’s goose-stepping despotism.

We are definitely in desperate need of a populace that can stand united against the government’s authoritarian tendencies.

Surely we can manage to find some common ground in the midst of the destructive, disrupting, diverting, discordant babble being beamed down at us by the powers-that-be? After all, there are certain self-evident truths—about the source of our freedoms, about the purpose of government, about how we expect to be treated by those we appoint to serve us in government offices, about what to do when the government abuses our rights and our trust, etc.—that we should be able to agree on, no matter how we might differ politically.

Disagree all you want about healthcare, abortion and immigration—hot-button issues that are guaranteed to stir up the masses, secure campaign contributions and turn political discourse into a circus free-for-all—but never forget that our power as a citizenry comes from our ability to agree and stand united on certain principles that should be non-negotiable.

For instance, for the first time in the nation’s history, it is expected that the federal deficit will surpass $1 trillion this year, not to mention the national debt which is approaching $23 trillion. There’s also $21 trillion in government spending that cannot be accounted for or explained. For those in need of a quick reminder: “A budget deficit is the difference between what the federal government spends and what it takes in. The national debt is the result of the federal government borrowing money to cover years and years of budget deficits.” Right now, the U.S. government is operating in the negative on every front: it’s spending far more than what it makes (and takes from the American taxpayers) and it is borrowing heavily (from foreign governments and Social Security) to keep the government operating and keep funding its endless wars abroad. Meanwhile, the nation’s sorely neglected infrastructure—railroads, water pipelines, ports, dams, bridges, airports and roads—is rapidly deteriorating.

Yet no matter how we might differ about how the government allocates its spending, surely we can agree that the government’s irresponsible spending, which has saddled us with insurmountable debt, is pushing the country to the edge of financial and physical ruin.

That’s just one example of many that shows the extent to which the agents of the American police state are shredding the constitutional fabric of the nation, eclipsing the rights of the American people, and perverting basic standards of decency.

Let me give you a few more.

Having been co-opted by greedy defense contractors, corrupt politicians and incompetent government officials, America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour)—and that’s just what the government spends on foreign wars. The U.S. military empire’s determination to police the rest of the world has resulted in more than 1.3 million U.S. troops being stationed at roughly 1000 military bases in over 150 countries around the world. That doesn’t include the number of private contractors pulling in hefty salaries at taxpayer expense. In Afghanistan, for example, private contractors outnumber U.S. troops three to one.

No matter how we might differ about the role of the U.S. military in foreign affairs, surely we can agree that America’s war spending and commitment to policing the rest of the world are bankrupting the nation and spreading our troops dangerously thin.

All of the imperial powers amassed by Barack Obama and George W. Bush—to kill American citizens without due process, to detain suspects indefinitely, to strip Americans of their citizenship rights, to carry out mass surveillance on Americans without probable cause, to suspend laws during wartime, to disregard laws with which they might disagree, to conduct secret wars and convene secret courts, to sanction torture, to sidestep the legislatures and courts with executive orders and signing statements, to direct the military to operate beyond the reach of the law, to operate a shadow government, and to act as a dictator and a tyrant, above the law and beyond any real accountability—were inherited by Donald Trump. These presidential powers—acquired through the use of executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements and which can be activated by any sitting president—enable past, president and future presidents to operate above the law and beyond the reach of the Constitution.

Yet no matter how we might differ about how success or failure of past or present presidential administrations, surely we can agree that the president should not be empowered to act as an imperial dictator with permanent powers.

Increasingly, at home, we’re facing an unbelievable show of force by government agents. For example, with alarming regularity, unarmed men, women, children and even pets are being gunned down by twitchy, hyper-sensitive, easily-spooked police officers who shoot first and ask questions later, and all the government does is shrug and promise to do better. Just recently, in fact, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals cleared a cop who aimed for a family’s dog (who showed no signs of aggression), missed, and instead shot a 10-year-old lying on the ground. Indeed, there are countless incidents that happen every day in which Americans are shot, stripped, searched, choked, beaten and tasered by police for little more than daring to frown, smile, question, or challenge an order. Growing numbers of unarmed people are being shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.

No matter how we might differ about where to draw that blue line of allegiance to the police state, surely we can agree that police shouldn’t go around terrorizing and shooting innocent, unarmed children and adults or be absolved of wrongdoing for doing so.

Nor can we turn a blind eye to the transformation of America’s penal system from one aimed at protecting society from dangerous criminals to a profit-driven system that dehumanizes and strips prisoners of every vestige of their humanity. For example, in Illinois, as part of a “training exercise” for incoming cadets, prison guards armed with batons and shields rounded up 200 handcuffed female inmates, marched them to the gymnasium, then forced them to strip naked (including removing their tampons and pads), “bend over and spread open their vaginal and anal cavities,” while male prison guards promenaded past or stood staring. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the entire dehumanizing, demoralizing mass body cavity strip search—orchestrated not for security purposes but as an exercise in humiliation—was legal. Be warned, however: this treatment will not be limited to those behind bars. In our present carceral state, there is no difference between the treatment meted out to a law-abiding citizen and a convicted felon: both are equally suspect and treated as criminals, without any of the special rights and privileges reserved for the governing elite. In a carceral state, there are only two kinds of people: the prisoners and the prison guards.

No matter how we might differ about where to draw the line when it comes to prisoners’ rights, surely we can agree that no one—woman, man or child—should be subjected to such degrading treatment in the name of law and order.

In Washington, DC, in contravention of longstanding laws that restrict the government’s ability to deploy the military on American soil, the Pentagon has embarked on a secret mission of “undetermined duration” that involves flying Black Hawk helicopters over the nation’s capital, backed by active-duty and reserve soldiers. In addition to the increasing militarization of the police—a de facto standing army—this military exercise further acclimates the nation to the sight and sounds of military personnel on American soil and the imposition of martial law.

No matter how we might differ about the deference due to those in uniform, whether military or law enforcement, surely we can agree that America’s Founders had good reason to warn against the menace of a national police force—a.k.a. a standing army—vested with the power to completely disregard the Constitution.

We labor today under the weight of countless tyrannies, large and small, disguised as “the better good,” marketed as benevolence, enforced with armed police, and carried out by an elite class of government officials who are largely insulated from the ill effects of their actions. For example, in Pennsylvania, a school district is threatening to place children in foster care if parents don’t pay their overdue school lunch bills. In Florida, a resident was fined $100,000 for a dirty swimming pool and overgrown grass at a house she no longer owned. In Kentucky, government bureaucrats sent a cease-and-desist letter to a church ministry, warning that the group is breaking the law by handing out free used eyeglasses to the homeless. These petty tyrannies inflicted on an overtaxed, overregulated, and underrepresented populace are what happens when bureaucrats run the show, and the rule of law becomes little more than a cattle prod for forcing the citizenry to march in lockstep with the government.

No matter how we might differ about the extent to which the government has the final say in how it flexes it power and exerts its authority, surely we can agree that the tyranny of the Nanny State—disguised as “the better good,” marketed as benevolence, enforced with armed police, and inflicted on all those who do not belong to the elite ruling class that gets to call the shots— should not be allowed to pave over the Constitution.

At its core, this is not a debate about politics, or constitutionalism, or even tyranny disguised as law-and-order. This is a condemnation of the monsters with human faces that have infiltrated our government.

For too long now, the American people have rationalized turning a blind eye to all manner of government wrongdoing—asset forfeiture schemes, corruption, surveillance, endless wars, SWAT team raids, militarized police, profit-driven private prisons, and so on—because they were the so-called lesser of two evils.

Yet the unavoidable truth is that the government has become almost indistinguishable from the evil it claims to be fighting, whether that evil takes the form of terrorism, torture, drug traffickingsex trafficking, murder, violence, theft, pornography, scientific experimentations or some other diabolical means of inflicting pain, suffering and servitude on humanity.

No matter how you rationalize it, the lesser of two evils is still evil.

So how do you fight back?

How do you fight injustice? How do you push back against tyranny? How do you vanquish evil?

You don’t fight it by hiding your head in the sand.

We have ignored the warning signs all around us for too long.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government has ripped the Constitution to shreds and left us powerless in the face of its power grabs, greed and brutality.

What we are grappling with today is a government that is cutting great roads through the very foundations of freedom in order to get after its modern devils. Yet the government can only go as far as “we the people” allow.

Therein lies the problem.

The consequences of this failure to do our due diligence in asking the right questions, demanding satisfactory answers, and holding our government officials accountable to respecting our rights and abiding by the rule of law has pushed us to the brink of a nearly intolerable state of affairs.

Intolerable, at least, to those who remember what it was like to live in a place where freedom, due process and representative government actually meant something. Having allowed the government to expand and exceed our reach, we now find ourselves on the losing end of a tug-of-war over control of our country and our lives.

The hour grows late in terms of restoring the balance of power and reclaiming our freedoms, but it may not be too late. The time to act is now, using all methods of nonviolent resistance available to us.

“Don’t sit around waiting for the two corrupted established parties to restore the Constitution or the Republic,” Naomi Wolf once warned. Waiting and watching will get us nowhere fast.

If you’re watching, you’re not doing.

Easily mesmerized by the government’s political theater—the endless congressional hearings and investigations that go nowhere, the president’s reality show antics, the warring factions, the electoral drama—we have become a society of watchers rather than activists who are distracted by even the clumsiest government attempts at sleight-of-hand.

It’s time for good men and women to do something. And soon.

Wake up and take a good, hard look around you. Start by recognizing evil and injustice and tyranny for what they are. Stop being apathetic. Stop being neutral. Stop being accomplices. Stop being distracted by the political theater staged by the Deep State: they want you watching the show while they manipulate things behind the scenes. Refuse to play politics with your principles. Don’t settle for the lesser of two evils.

As British statesman Edmund Burke warned, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.”

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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.