Advocatus Diaboli writes: Investigators last year turned to a controversial technique known as familial searching, which seeks to identify the last name of potential suspects through a DNA analysis focusing on the Y chromosome. A promising “partial match” emerged between the semen sample and the genetic profile of Usry’s father, Michael Usry Sr. — a finding that excluded the father but strongly suggested one of his relatives had a hand in the young woman’s murder. The results instantly breathed new life into a high-profile investigation in which Idaho Falls authorities have weathered intense criticism. But the story of how the police came to suspect the younger Usry and then eventually clear him of murder raises troubling questions about civil liberties amid the explosive — and increasingly commercial — growth of DNA testing. The elder Usry, who lives outside Jackson, Mississippi, said his DNA entered the equation through a project, sponsored years ago by the Mormon church, in which members gave DNA samples to the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, a nonprofit whose forensic assets have been acquired by Ancestry.com, the world’s largest for-profit genealogy company.
Advocatus Diaboli writes: The results should be troubling for anyone who cares about privacy rights, judicial oversight of police activities, and the rule of law. The documents paint a detailed picture of police using an invasive technology — one that can follow you inside your house — in many hundreds of cases and almost entirely in secret. The secrecy is not just from the public, but often from judges who are supposed to ensure that police are not abusing their authority. Partly relying on that secrecy, police have been getting authorization to use Stingrays based on the low standard of “relevance,” not a warrant based on probable cause as required by the Fourth Amendment.
Advocatus Diaboli writes: According to a report in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the telecommunications company Cable & Wireless—now a subsidiary of Vodafone—“actively shaped and provided the most data to GCHQ surveillance programs and received millions of pounds in compensation.” The relationship was so extensive that a GCHQ employee was assigned to work full time at Cable & Wireless (referred to by the code name “Gerontic” in NSA documents) to manage cable-tap projects in February of 2009. By July of 2009, Cable & Wireless provided access to 29 out of the 63 cables on the list, accounting for nearly 70 percent of the data capacity available to surveillance programs.
Advocatus Diaboli writes: The manuals describe Hacking Team’s software for government technicians and analysts, showing how it can activate cameras, exfiltrate emails, record Skype calls, log typing, and collect passwords on targeted devices. They also catalog a range of pre-bottled techniques for infecting those devices using wifi networks, USB sticks, streaming video, and email attachments to deliver viral installers. With a few clicks of a mouse, even a lightly trained technician can build a software agent that can infect and monitor a device, then upload captured data at unobtrusive times using a stealthy network of proxy servers, all without leaving a trace. That, at least, is what Hacking Team’s manuals claim as the company tries to distinguish its offerings in the global marketplace for government hacking software.
Advocatus Diaboli writes: "After six years and over one billion dollars in development, the FBI has just announced that its new biometric facial recognition software system is finally complete. Meaning that, starting soon, photos of tens of millions of U.S. citizen's faces will be captured by the national system on a daily basis. The Next Generation Identification (NGI) program will logs all of those faces, and will reference them against its growing database in the event of a crime. It's not just faces, though. Thanks to the shared database dubbed the Interstate Photo System (IPS), everything from tattoos to scars to a person's irises could be enough to secure an ID. What's more, the FBI is estimating that NGI will include as many as 52 million individual faces by next year, collecting identified faces from mug shots and some job applications. So if you apply for any type of job that requires fingerprinting, for instance, those prints (which will now also likely be asked for along with a photo) will be sent off to the government for processing."
Here are two recent and related news items.
Boston police used facial recognition software on thousands of people at a music festival (http://theweek.com/speedreads/index/266552/speedreads-boston-police-used-facial-recognition-software-on-thousands-of-people-at-a-music-festival)
"Attendees of last year's Boston Calling music festival were — without their knowledge — test subjects for the Boston Police Department's new facial recognition software. The IBM program — which also analyzes each individual's build, clothes, and skin color — captured video of thousands of people, 50 hours of which is still intact."
General Motors May Be The First To Offer Cars That Detect Distracted Drivers (http://www.washingtonpost.com/cars/general-motors-may-be-the-first-to-offer-cars-that-detect-distracted-drivers/2014/09/02/d00b5bc4-32b9-11e4-9f4d-24103cb8b742_story.html)
"According to CNBC, the technology will come from an Australian firm called Seeing Machines. It will take the form of a series of cameras paired with facial recognition software — kind of like the software that Facebook uses to auto-tag your friends in photos, but in this case, it'll take note of things like the rotation of the driver's head and how often he/she blinks. That will help the system determine whether a driver is looking at the road, at a cell phone, or even nodding off. If the situation proves dire enough, the system could theoretically slow the vehicle and force the driver to pull over — not unlike a certain attention-powered car we've seen before."
Advocatus Diaboli writes: Software created by the controversial UK-based Gamma Group International was used to spy on computers that appear to be located in the United States, the UK, Germany, Russia, Iran, and Bahrain, according to a leaked trove of documents analyzed by ProPublica. It's not clear whether the surveillance was conducted by governments or private entities. Customer e-mail addresses in the collection appeared to belong to a German surveillance company, an independent consultant in Dubai, the Bosnian and Hungarian Intelligence services, a Dutch law enforcement officer, and the Qatari government.
Advocatus Diaboli writes: Nearly half of the people on the U.S. government’s widely shared database of terrorist suspects are not connected to any known terrorist group, according to classified government documents obtained by The Intercept. Of the 680,000 people caught up in the government’s Terrorist Screening Database—a watchlist of “known or suspected terrorists” that is shared with local law enforcement agencies, private contractors, and foreign governments—more than 40 percent are described by the government as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” That category—280,000 people—dwarfs the number of watchlisted people suspected of ties to al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah combined.
Advocatus Diaboli writes: The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept....The heart of the document revolves around the rules for placing individuals on a watchlist. “All executive departments and agencies,” the document says, are responsible for collecting and sharing information on terrorist suspects with the National Counterterrorism Center. It sets a low standard—”reasonable suspicion“—for placing names on the watchlists, and offers a multitude of vague, confusing, or contradictory instructions for gauging it. In the chapter on “Minimum Substantive Derogatory Criteria”—even the title is hard to digest—the key sentence on reasonable suspicion offers little clarity...
Advocatus Diaboli writes: The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans—including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers—under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies.
Advocatus Diaboli writes: "Thousands of Facebook Inc. users received an unsettling message two years ago: They were being locked out of the social network because Facebook believed they were robots or using fake names. To get back in, the users had to prove they were real. In fact, Facebook knew most of the users were legitimate. The message was a test designed to help improve Facebook's antifraud measures. In the end, no users lost access permanently. The experiment was the work of Facebook's Data Science team, a group of about three dozen researchers with unique access to one of the world's richest data troves: the movements, musings and emotions of Facebook's 1.3 billion users"
and there is more..
"Until recently, the Data Science group operated with few boundaries, according to a former member of the team and outside researchers. At a university, researchers likely would have been required to obtain consent from participants in such a study. But Facebook relied on users' agreement to its Terms of Service, which at the time said data could be used to improve Facebook's products. Those terms now say that user data may be used for research. "There's no review process, per se," said Andrew Ledvina, a Facebook data scientist from February 2012 to July 2013. "Anyone on that team could run a test," Mr. Ledvina said. "They're always trying to alter peoples' behavior." He recalled a minor experiment in which he and a product manager ran a test without telling anyone else at the company. Tests were run so often, he said, that some data scientists worried that the same users, who were anonymous, might be used in more than one experiment, tainting the results."
Advocatus Diaboli writes: Police in Florida have, at the request of the U.S. Marshals Service, been deliberately deceiving judges and defendants about their use of a controversial surveillance tool to track suspects, according to newly obtained emails. At the request of the Marshals Service, the officers using so-called stingrays have been routinely telling judges, in applications for warrants, that they obtained knowledge of a suspect’s location from a “confidential source” rather than disclosing that the information was gleaned using a stingray.
Advocatus Diaboli writes: Consider that each Protect is packed full of sensors, some of which are capable of much more than they're doing right now: What could go wrong?
"From heat and light sensors to motion sensors and ultrasonic wave sensors.This simple little device could scrape an incredible amount of data about your life if Nest asked it to: From when you get home, to when you go to bed, to your daily routine, to when you cook dinner. Now imagine how a device like that would interlock with another that you keep on your wrist, like the forthcoming Android Wear. Together, they would create a seamless mesh of connectivity where every detail of what you do and where you go is recorded into a living, breathing algorithm based on your life."
Advocatus Diaboli writes: A new map released Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union shows that fake cell towers, also known as stingrays, are used by state and local law enforcement in 15 states. Police departments in Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Tucson, Los Angeles, and even Anchorage, among others, have been confirmed to use the devices. Beyond those states, 12 federal law enforcement agencies, ranging from the FBI to the National Security Agency, also employ them. Relatively little is known about precisely how police decide when and where to deploy them, but stingrays are used to track targeted phones and can also be used to intercept calls and text messages. However, privacy advocates worry that while the devices go after specific targets, they also often capture data of nearby unrelated people.
Bob9113 writes: According to Glenn Greenwald, reporting at The Guardian: 'A June 2010 report from the head of the NSA's Access and Target Development department is shockingly explicit. The NSA routinely receives – or intercepts – routers, servers, and other computer network devices being exported from the US before they are delivered to the international customers. The agency then implants backdoor surveillance tools, repackages the devices with a factory seal, and sends them on. The NSA thus gains access to entire networks and all their users. The document gleefully observes that some "SIGINT tradecraft is very hands-on (literally!)".'
Advocatus Diaboli writes: Britain’s electronic surveillance agency, Government Communications Headquarters, has long presented its collaboration with the National Security Agency’s massive electronic spying efforts as proportionate, carefully monitored, and well within the bounds of privacy laws. But according to a top-secret document in the archive of material provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, GCHQ secretly coveted the NSA’s vast troves of private communications and sought “unsupervised access” to its data as recently as last year – essentially begging to feast at the NSA’s table while insisting that it only nibbles on the occasional crumb.