The new totalitarianism of surveillance technology

If you think that 24/7 tracking of citizens by biometric recognition systems is paranoid fantasy, just read the industry newsletters

by Naomi Wolf, guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 15 August 2012

A software engineer in my Facebook community wrote recently about his outrage that when he visited Disneyland, and went on a ride, the theme park offered him the photo of himself and his girlfriend to buy – with his credit card information already linked to it. He noted that he had never entered his name or information into anything at the theme park, or indicated that he wanted a photo, or alerted the humans at the ride to who he and his girlfriend were – so, he said, based on his professional experience, the system had to be using facial recognition technology. He had never signed an agreement allowing them to do so, and he declared that this use was illegal. He also claimed that Disney had recently shared data from facial-recognition technology with the United States military.

Yes, I know: it sounds like a paranoid rant.

Except that it turned out to be true. News21, supported by the Carnegie and Knight foundations, reports that Disney sites are indeed controlled by face-recognition technology, that the military is interested in the technology, and that the face-recognition contractor, Identix, has contracts with the US government – for technology that identifies individuals in a crowd.

Fast forward: after the Occupy crackdowns, I noted that odd-looking CCTVs had started to appear, attached to lampposts, in public venues in Manhattan where the small but unbowed remnants of Occupy congregated: there was one in Union Square, right in front of their encampment. I reported here on my experience of witnessing a white van marked “Indiana Energy” that was lifting workers up to the lampposts all around Union Square, and installing a type of camera. When I asked the workers what was happening – and why an Indiana company was dealing with New York City civic infrastructure, which would certainly raise questions – I was told: “I’m a contractor. Talk to ConEd.”

I then noticed, some months later, that these bizarre camera/lights had been installed not only all around Union Square but also around Washington Square Park. I posted a photo I took of them, and asked: “What is this?” Commentators who had lived in China said that they were the same camera/streetlight combinations that are mounted around public places in China. These are enabled for facial recognition technology, which allows police to watch video that is tagged to individuals, in real time. When too many people congregate, they can be dispersed and intimidated simply by the risk of being identified – before dissent can coalesce. (Another of my Facebook commentators said that such lamppost cameras had been installed in Michigan, and that they barked “Obey”, at pedestrians. This, too, sounded highly implausible – until this week in Richmond, British Columbia, near the Vancouver airport, when I was startled as the lamppost in the intersection started
talking to me – in this case, instructing me on how to cross (as though I were blind or partially sighted).

Finally, last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to unveil a major new police surveillance infrastructure, developed by Microsoft. The Domain Awareness System links existing police databases with live video feeds, including cameras using vehicle license plate recognition software. No mention was made of whether the system plans to use – or already uses – facial recognition software. But, at present, there is no law to prevent US government and law enforcement agencies from building facial recognition databases. Continue reading

Bill Gates and Bloomberg Digitizing “Stop and Frisk”, Criminalizing Privacy

[As the economic crisis deepens, and discontent, rage, and resistance grows, the system trumpets new mechanisms of surveillance and control.  Such attempts do not, despite the hype, ensure that the capitalist system will last forever.  They only postpone the days when the system becomes ungovernable. — Frontlines ed.]

Big Brother Gets Established in NYC

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and police Commissioner Ray Kelly on Wednesday revealed that for the last six months the city has been monitoring its residents via a network of roughly 3,000 closed circuit television cameras that feed into NYPD headquarters. The technology is termed the “Domain Awareness System.”

Developed in collaboration with Microsoft, the system cost $30 million to $40 million. The deal struck between the software company and the city will give New York 30 percent of the profits if other municipalities purchase the system.

Regarding the new opportunities to abuse residents’ privacy made available by the system, Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement: “We fully support the police using technology to combat crime and terrorism,but law-abiding New Yorkers should not end up in a police database every time they walk their dog, go to the doctor or drive around Manhattan.”

Bloomberg’s response to such worries was not assuring: “We are very concerned about staying within the law, within court decisions. We believe we do that, but I think it’s a fair thing to say today, if you walk around with a cellphone, the cell company does know where you are at all times,” he said at a news conference announcing Domain Awareness.

A similar system that has long been operating in London is estimated to have solved one crime per 1,000 cameras.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly. Follow him on Twitter: @areedkelly.

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New York Mayor Signs Up For Mass Surveillance

New York authorities unveil a mass surveillance plan in an attempt to revolutionise the way crime is tackled in the US city. Continue reading

Thirteen Ways the US Government Tracks Us

Tuesday, April 10, 20

by Bill Quigley

The national security state grew exponentially following 9/11, and now includes nearly 4,000 organizations across the country, employing technologies, old and new. Americans have been enlisted to track each other. “The Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative stores the profiles of tens of thousands of Americans and legal residents who are not accused of any crime but who are alleged to have acted suspiciously.”

There are 3,984 federal, state and local organizations working on domestic counterterrorism.”

Privacy is eroding fast as technology offers government increasing ways to track and spy on citizens. The Washington Post reported there are 3,984 federal, state and local organizations working on domestic counterterrorism. Most collect information on people in the US. Here are thirteen examples of how some of the biggest government agencies and programs track people.

One. The National Security Agency (NSA) collects hundreds of millions of emails, texts and phone calls every day and has the ability to collect and sift through billions more. WIRED just reported NSA is building an immense new data center which will intercept, analyze and store even more electronic communications from satellites and cables across the nation and the world. Though NSA is not supposed to focus on US citizens, it does.

Two. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Security Branch Analysis Center (NSAC) has more than 1.5 billion government and private sector records about US citizens collected from commercial databases, government information, and criminal probes. Continue reading

Training and Tools for Imperialism–The Video Game with real casualties

Sgt. Star, Robotic Recruiter

(Pentagon and Hollywood team up to capture imaginations, recruit and train imperialism’s next generation for foreign conquests, occupations, and war crimes.)

Army-Sponsored Institute Develops Virtual Reality Counterinsurgency Training Games

By Matthew Harwood
Created 06/21/2010

A U.S. Army-financed research institute, combining the skills of Hollywood and the video game world, is helping to train soldiers in winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond by developing virtual reality games that blur gaming and real life.

Based in Los Angeles’ Marina del Rey, the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies [1] (ICT) is on the cutting edge of creating immersive, interactive training environments— so much so that it developed the technology used in James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar to give the movie’s characters real-life human expressions and movements.

Led by Executive Director Randal Hill Jr. and Director of Technology Bill Swartout, the institute teams “computer scientists, graphics visionaries, artificial-intelligence wizards, social-science experts, digital game makers and Hollywood storytellers who are taking the notion of virtual reality to a new level of fidelity, creating immersive environments that, among other things, help America’s soldiers experience the culture of Iraq and Afghanistan before they go and treat them for post-traumatic stress when they return,” writes John Mecklin, the editor-in-chief of Miller-McCune magazine [2]. Continue reading