Privacy SOS

DHS has a cell phone sniffer? And more technology news

  • TAMPA SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS: The Tampa City Council agreed to the installation of $2 million worth of surveillance cameras for the Republican National Convention on the condition that the council would have a say in determining what to do with the technology after the convention. It turns out things aren't working exactly as they had expected. Tampa Bay Online reports:
Since then, Mayor Bob Buckhorn has said that he will decide on the cameras' use and that the council can only regulate how the costs of maintaining the system are doled out.
"We're keeping them," Buckhorn said. "There's a year's maintenance associated with the contract anyway. It starts with the final payment, which we haven't made yet."
  • YOUR WALK IS LIKE A FINGERPRINT: The FBI's billion dollar Next Generation Identification database will include the personal biometric indentifiers of hundreds of millions of people. One of those biometrics could be gait information — or the pattern of someone's walk. Like the shape of our ears and our heart rates, our gait pattern is unique to each of us. Advanced video analytics can use our gait signature to distinguish us from one another, giving police and federal agents the ability to identify people in low light, or even those wearing sunglasses or masks. Researchers from the UK National Physical Laboratory have been working on the science, and produced this video showing off their progress:

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  • VOICE DETECTION DATABASES: Yet another biometric tool marketed to law enforcement is voice identification. One company, VoiceGrid Nation, boasts the ability to store millions of voice patterns and operate checks that it says take only a few seconds to match, with 90% accuracy. Governments are using the technology already, amid typical secrecy. Corporations operating call centers are also using the tool to verify their customers on the phone.
  • DHS USING CELL PHONE SNIFFERS: A Department of Homeland Security letter to ACLU technologist Chris Soghoian suggests the agency's Immigration, Customs Enforcement (ICE) office is using at least one "Stingray" cell phone sniffing device. The technology, also called an "IMSI catcher," pretends to be a cell phone tower and tricks mobile phones into sending data to the spy tool. Stingrays can defeat mobile encryption and turn phones against their owners, sending the entire contents of the phone and all communications in and out of it to the police instead of to the phone company. At a surveillance technology fair last year, one manufacturer told privacy researcher Eric King that IMSI catchers are great for protests because they enable police to scoop up the personal information of everyone present.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.