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Total surveillance society becoming reality
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2014 4:00 pm    Post subject:  Reply with quote

Feds Creating Database to Track ‘Hate Speech’ on Twitter
$1 Million study focuses on internet memes, ‘misinformation’ in political campaigns


The federal government is spending nearly $1 million to create an online database that will track “misinformation” and hate speech on Twitter.

The National Science Foundation is financing the creation of a web service that will monitor “suspicious memes” and what it considers “false and misleading ideas,” with a major focus on political activity online.

The “Truthy” database, created by researchers at Indiana University, is designed to “detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution.”

The university has received $919,917 so far for the project.

“The project stands to benefit both the research community and the public significantly,” the grant states. “Our data will be made available via [application programming interfaces] APIs and include information on meme propagation networks, statistical data, and relevant user and content features.”

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2014 4:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

More Federal Agencies Are Using Undercover Operations

The federal government has significantly expanded undercover operations in recent years, with officers from at least 40 agencies posing as business people, welfare recipients, political protesters and even doctors or ministers to ferret out wrongdoing, records and interviews show.

At the Supreme Court, small teams of undercover officers dress as students at large demonstrations outside the courthouse and join the protests to look for suspicious activity, according to officials familiar with the practice.

At the Internal Revenue Service, dozens of undercover agents chase suspected tax evaders worldwide, by posing as tax preparers or accountants or drug dealers or yacht buyers, court records show.

At the Agriculture Department, more than 100 undercover agents pose as food stamp recipients at thousands of neighborhood stores to spot suspicious vendors and fraud, officials said.

Undercover work, inherently invasive and sometimes dangerous, was once largely the domain of the F.B.I. and a few other law enforcement agencies at the federal level. But outside public view, changes in policies and tactics over the last decade have resulted in undercover teams run by agencies in virtually every corner of the federal government, according to officials, former agents and documents.

Some agency officials say such operations give them a powerful new tool to gather evidence in ways that standard law enforcement methods do not offer, leading to more prosecutions. But the broadened scope of undercover work, which can target specific individuals or categories of possible suspects, also raises concerns about civil liberties abuses and entrapment of unwitting targets. It has also resulted in hidden problems, with money gone missing, investigations compromised and agents sometimes left largely on their own for months or even years.

“Done right, undercover work can be a very effective law enforcement method, but it carries serious risks and should only be undertaken with proper training, supervision and oversight,” said Michael German, a former F.B.I. undercover agent who is a fellow at New York University’s law school. “Ultimately it is government deceitfulness and participation in criminal activity, which is only justifiable when it is used to resolve the most serious crimes.”

Some of the expanded undercover operations have resulted from heightened concern about domestic terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

But many operations are not linked to terrorism. Instead, they reflect a more aggressive approach to growing criminal activities like identity theft, online solicitation and human trafficking, or a push from Congress to crack down on more traditional crimes.

At convenience stores, for example, undercover agents, sometimes using actual minors as decoys, look for illegal alcohol and cigarette sales, records show. At the Education Department, undercover agents of the Office of Inspector General infiltrate federally funded education programs looking for financial fraud. Medicare investigators sometimes pose as patients to gather evidence against health care providers. Officers at the Small Business Administration, NASA and the Smithsonian do undercover work as well, records show.
Continue reading the main story

Part of the appeal of undercover operations, some officials say, is that they can be an efficient way to make a case.

“We’re getting the information directly from the bad guys — what more could you want?” said Thomas Hunker, a former police chief in Bal Harbour, Fla., whose department worked with federal customs and drug agents on hundreds of undercover money-laundering investigations in recent years.

Mr. Hunker said sending federal and local agents undercover to meet with suspected money launderers “is a more direct approach than getting a tip and going out and doing all the legwork and going into a court mode.”

“We don’t have to go back and interview witnesses and do search warrants and surveillance and all that,” he added.

But the undercover work also led federal auditors to criticize his department for loose record-keeping and financial lapses, and Mr. Hunker was fired last year amid concerns about the operations.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 9:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DEA Agents Surprise NFL Teams With Drug Checks After Sunday Games

Federal drug enforcement agents showed up unannounced Sunday to check at least three visiting NFL teams' medical staffs as part of an investigation into former players' claims that teams mishandled prescription drugs.

There were no arrests, Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne said Sunday. The San Francisco 49ers' staff was checked at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, after they played the New York Giants. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' staff was checked at Baltimore-Washington International airport after playing the Redskins. The Seattle Seahawks, who played at Kansas City, confirmed via the team's Twitter account that they were spot-checked as well.

The operation was still ongoing, and other teams may be checked later Sunday, Payne said.

"DEA agents are currently interviewing NFL team doctors in several locations as part of an ongoing investigation into potential violations of the (Controlled Substances Act)," Payne said.

The spot checks were done by investigators from the federal DEA. They did not target specific teams, but were done to measure whether visiting NFL clubs were generally in compliance with federal law. Agents requested documentation from visiting teams' medical staffs for any controlled substances in their possession, and for proof that doctors could practice medicine in the home team's state.

"Our teams cooperated with the DEA today and we have no information to indicate that irregularities were found," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email.

The nationwide probe is being directed by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York — where the NFL is headquartered — but involves several U.S. attorney's offices.

The investigation was sparked by a lawsuit filed in May on behalf of former NFL players going back to 1968. The number of plaintiffs has grown to more than 1,200, including dozens who played as recently as 2012. Any violations of federal drug laws from 2009 forward could also become the subject of a criminal investigation because they would not be subject to the five-year statute of limitations.

"This is an unprecedented raid on a professional sports league," said Steve Silverman, one of the attorneys for the former players. "I trust the evidence reviewed and validated leading up to this action was substantial and compelling."

Federal prosecutors have conducted interviews in at least three cities over the past three weeks, spending two days in Los Angeles in late October meeting with a half-dozen former players — including at least two who were named plaintiffs in the painkillers lawsuit, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the meetings who spoke on the condition of anonymity because prosecutors told them not to comment on the meetings.

The lawsuit alleges the NFL and its teams, physicians and trainers acted without regard for players' health, withholding information about injuries while at the same time handing out prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet, and anti-inflammatories such as Toradol, to mask pain and minimize lost playing time. The players contend some teams filled out prescriptions in players' names without their knowledge or consent, then dispensed those drugs — according to one plaintiff's lawyer — "like candy at Halloween," along with combining them in "cocktails."

Several former players interviewed by The Associated Press described the line of teammates waiting to get injections on game day often spilling out from the training room. Others recounted flights home from games where trainers walked down the aisle and players held up a number of fingers to indicate how many pills they wanted.

The controlled substance act says only doctors and nurse practitioners can dispense prescription drugs, and only in states where they are licensed. The act also lays out stringent requirements for acquiring, labeling, storing and transporting drugs. Trainers who are not licensed would be in violation of the law simply by carrying a controlled substance.

The former players have reported a range of debilitating effects, from chronic muscle and bone ailments to permanent nerve and organ damage to addiction. They contend those health problems came from drug use, but many of the conditions haven't been definitively linked to painkillers.

The lawsuit is currently being heard in the northern district of California, where presiding judge William Alsup said he wants to hear the NFL Players Association's position on the case before deciding on the league's motion to dismiss. The NFL maintained that it's not responsible for the medical decisions of its 32 teams. League attorneys also argued the issue should be addressed by the union, which negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that covers player health.

The DEA investigation comes during a turbulent time for the NFL.

The league is still weathering criticism over its treatment of several players accused of domestic violence and just wrapped up an arbitration hearing
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2014 6:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I do not disapprove of random drug tests.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2014 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Senate blocks NSA phone records measure

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Tuesday blocked a bill to end bulk collection of American phone records by the National Security Agency, dealing a blow to President Barack Obama's primary proposal to rein in domestic surveillance.

The 58-42 vote was two short of the 60 needed to proceed with debate. Voting was largely along party lines, with most Democrats supporting the bill and most Republicans voting against it. The Republican-controlled House had previously passed its own NSA bill.

**And they say this past midterm elections "fixed" things?

The legislation would have ended the NSA's collection of domestic calling records, instead requiring the agency to obtain a court order each time it wanted to analyze the records in terrorism cases, and query records held by the telephone companies. In many cases the companies store the records for 18 months.

The revelation that the spying agency had been collecting and storing domestic phone records since shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was among the most significant by Edward Snowden, a former agency network administrator who turned over secret NSA documents to journalists. The agency collects only so-called metadata — numbers called, not names — and not the content of conversations. But the specter of the intelligence agency holding domestic calling records was deeply disquieting to many Americans.

The bill had drawn support from technology companies and civil liberties activists. Its failure means there has been little in the way of policy changes as a result of Snowden's disclosures.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 8:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Next-generation tracking technology could be in your gadgets soon

Sophisticated tracking technology, the likes of which you might associate with governments or big companies, may soon be in consumers' hands, homes, cars and local stores.

If it works as described - a big "if," of course, - the technology developed by a small-but-established U.K. company called Apical could detect not only people, but determine what they are doing, where they are going and even what they may be thinking. The technology, dubbed Spirit and part of the growing and fast-developing field of computer vision, could be used for everything from helping consumers shoot better videos to helping the local coffee shop improve its sales.

"What (the Spirit technology) is doing solves a lot of problems," said Mike Krell, an analyst at industry research firm Moor Insights & Strategy. "It could open up a lot of applications."

Scientists and companies have been making huge strides in computer vision and tracking technologies. Just last month, researchers at Google and Stanford separately announced they had developed software that allows computers to identify and even write a caption for what's happening in a scene. And for years now, consumers have been able to configure smartphones running Google's Android software to unlock their screens when they recognize particular faces.

Meanwhile, companies are becoming ever more sophisticated at tracking consumers' movements and gleaning data from them. A company called Affectiva, for example, has developed a way of determining consumers' emotional states by monitoring their facial expressions with a simple webcam. Meanwhile, San Jose-based RetailNext has developed a system that combines data from video cameras, Wi-Fi antennas, Bluetooth beacons, cash registers and more to track consumers in retail stores.

Spirit represents another advance in the field, one that offers similar practical and consumer uses. According to Apical, the technology is powerful enough to track up to 120 people or moving objects at a time and glean their directions and intentions in real time. Unlike similar technologies, though, Spirit doesn't rely on powerful computers and doesn't need to transmit video to servers in the cloud. Instead, it can be built into the camera chips inside a smartphone or even a relatively simple webcam.

Generally, tracking systems try to glean information from video files, which means they have to process the video after it's recorded. By contrast, Spirit works independently of video. It takes a snapshot of a scene, but instead of recording pixel-by-pixel information such as color and brightness, it only records so-called metadata, such as the location, shape, trajectory and pose - how someone is standing or gesturing - of a particular person or object.

Because the system is recording much less information, the data can be used immediately. It also means that applications don't have to worry about storing or processing large video files or about how much bandwidth is available to transmit them up to the cloud.

"That's the essential difference," said Paul Strzelecki, a consultant who works with the company. "You've got to deal with the data at the edge and not create data" - like video - "that you don't need."

You may not have heard of Apical, but there's a decent chance that you've used its technology. The company designs specialized processing "cores" for imaging chips that have been shipped in about a billion products, mostly smartphones, and have been licensed by Qualcomm and Samsung, two of the major manufacturers of smartphone processors.

The company was one of the pioneers of the high-dynamic range, or HDR, feature found in many smartphone cameras that helps them take pictures of scenes with a high contrast between light and dark areas. It also has developed a sophisticated screen-dimming technology found in Microsoft's Lumia phones that helps make them more legible outdoors.

One of the first places that Spirit is likely to show up is in smartphone cameras. Apical has developed a way of using Spirit to help consumers take better videos. The technology would maintain focus on a subject in a busy scene - say, of a child riding a bike in a park - and even automatically zoom in on the subject. At the same time, Spirit could be used to make it easier for consumers to find their videos later, by automatically tagging the video with pertinent information - not only the time it was taken and the location, but also what's happening and who's in the video.

That system could be in smartphones as soon as the end of next year. But Spirit may find its way into other products as well. The company is also exploring using Spirit in home-automation devices, in which the light might turn on or the TV volume might be automatically turned down when a particular person enters the room. Apical is also marketing Spirit to retailers, suggesting that it could allow them to present consumers with offers in real time on particular products based on what they happened to be looking at in the store.

And the system could have plenty of other applications. It could potentially be used in cars, to warn drivers about pedestrians near the road, or in security cameras to help identify actual threats.

"As with a lot of these things, the actual killer app will turn out to be something that's completely different, something that we weren't expecting," said Jeremy Green, principal analyst at Machina Research.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2015 7:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Big Brother Moves Into The Passenger Seat

January 20, 2015 | WASHINGTON EXAMINER
In 2008, the Washington legislature passed a law mandating a 50 percent reduction in per capita driving by 2050. California and Oregon laws or regulations have similar but somewhat less draconian targets.

The Obama administration wants to mandate that all new cars come equipped with vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, so the car can send signals to and receive messages from street lights and other infrastructure.

Now the California Air Resources Board is considering regulations requiring that all cars monitor their owners’ driving habits, including but not limited to how many miles they drive, how much fuel they use, and how much pollution or greenhouse gases they emit.

Put these all together and you have a system in which the government will not only know where your vehicle is at all times, but can turn off your vehicle if it decides you are driving too much or driving in a way that emits too many grams of carbon dioxide or is otherwise offensive to some bureaucratic imperative.

I sometimes think privacy advocates are a paranoid bunch, seeing men in black around every corner and surveillance helicopters or drones in the air at all times. On the other hand, if a technology is available — such as the ability to record cell phone calls — the government has proven it will use it
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2015 10:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rolling Eyes

Two Irish guys sneaked into Super Bowl, sat in $25,000 seats

Upper-deck tickets for Super Bowl XLIX rose to more than $10,000 by gameday. But two Seattle Seahawks fans from Ireland sneaked into the game and sat in lower-bowl seats valued at $25,000 for free.

The Irish fans, Paul McEvoy and Richard Whelan, couldn't afford tickets to the game at University of Phoenix Stadium between their beloved Seahawks and the New England Patriots. So they decided to walk through the front door.

First, they tried to grovel for tickets while being interviewed on NFL Network, but to no avail. They they found their way in illegally.

"Our game plan was to be super confident," Whelan told RTE Radio One Morning Ireland, via The Independent. "We just thought if we pretend we belong there, nobody will question us. Between one layer of security and another we just walked in behind these 20 first aid workers, straight up to the front door and hid in behind them.

"Paul was looking at his phone, pretending to text me, as if we had just popped out to look at an email we got or something. We walked past another security guard that just wasn't paying attention. We could see the field then, the stadium and the atmosphere was insane."

Once inside, Richard sent out this tweet.

They walked around the stadium, careful not to look back in case they were followed.

"I remember looking at Paul's face, we just couldn't believe we got in," Whelan said.

They seat-hopped for a while, taking people's places while they went to the bathroom or for concessions, before settling in lower-bowl seats of two girls who were part of the halftime show, they learned. Those seats were worth $25K apiece.

In a hilarious coincidence, they ended up sitting next to former Patriots and Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy, who gave them a play-by-play of the action.

"It was pretty cool to have the Super Bowl champion sharing all the details," Whelan said.

Yes, Irish eyes were smiling.

Until, of course, the final sequence of plays. You know what happened.

It will be a long trip back to Dublin, but Whelan said the experience was well worth it.

"It was a good day of hustling," Whelan said. "What seemed like impossible came true."
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2015 9:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Data Collection at Schools: Is Big Brother Watching Your Kids?

Most people need at least a shred of privacy in their lives — and are even more fiercely protective of it when it comes to their kids. It’s why an increasing number of moms and dads are feeling betrayed by their children’s schools, who often collect and use sensitive data on students like a valuable form of currency.

"It’s crazy. It’s creepy. Why are they collecting all this data on our children, and what are they doing with it?" says Colorado mother of three Traci Burnett in speaking with the Gazette, a Colorado news outlet, for a story this week about kids and privacy in that state. But many parents across the country believe that schools gather too much personal information about their children and families — typically in the name of bettering student achievement — and now national legislators are considering various new laws on data privacy.

According to EPIC’s student privacy project director Khaliah Barnes, who wrote on the topic for the New York Times in December, “The collection of student data is out of control. No longer do schools simply record attendance and grades. Now every test score and every interaction with a digital learning tool is recorded. Data gathering includes health, fitness and sleeping habits, sexual activity, prescription drug use, alcohol use and disciplinary matters. Students’ attitudes, sociability and even ‘enthusiasm’ are quantified, analyzed, recorded and dropped into giant data systems.” The rampant data collection, she added, “is not only destroying student privacy, it also threatens students’ intellectual freedom. When schools record and analyze students’ every move and recorded thought, they chill expression and speech, stifling innovation and creativity.” Some cafeteria software, according to Marketplace, tracks eligibility for free and reduced-price lunches, including sensitive financial data about a student’s family such as weekly income and alimony payments.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a non-partisan research organization, reports that students’ personal information is often collected through in-school surveys, sometimes for commercial use. Congress most recently addressed such surveys in the No Child Left Behind Act, providing parents and students the right to be notified of, and consent to, the collection of student information, though it allows for many exceptions.

And while federal laws protect children’s privacy, most have loopholes. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), for example, doesn’t cover online educational data or third-party vendors, and is up for Congressional revision. A hearing in Washington earlier this month addressed how emerging technology affects student privacy, and what additional protections are needed. “Think George Orwell and take it to the nth degree,” explained Fordham University Professor Joel Reidenberg, when asked what information would be available in one findable place on any particular preschool through college student.  

The concerns have prompted President Obama to propose the Student Digital Privacy Act, to ensure that data collected in the educational context is used only for educational purposes. The bill would prevent companies from selling student data to third parties for purposes unrelated to the educational mission, and from engaging in targeted advertising to students based on data collected in school – though it would still allow for research initiatives to improve student learning outcomes, as well as efforts by companies to improve their learning technology products.

“The Education Department and the Federal Trade Commission could and should do more to protect student privacy,” wrote EPIC president Marc Rotenberg in a statement submitted to the recent Congressional hearing. “But because they have not, meaningful legislation will provide a private right of action for students and their parents against private companies that unlawfully disclose student information.” Recently, as just one example, the statement explained, EPIC filed an extensive complaint with the FTC concerning the business practices of Scholarships.com. “The company encouraged students to divulge sensitive medical, sexual, and religious information to obtain financial aid information,” Rotenberg explained. “The company claimed that it used this information to locate scholarships and financial aid. Scholarships.com, however, transferred the data to a business affiliate that in turn sold the data for general marketing purposes.”

Jules Polonetskys, the executive director of the Future of Privacy Forum, wrote in the New York Times that he believes transparency is key. Most important, to build trust in the new technology, parents need to be kept in the know. The paramount concern of schools and tech and data companies should be making sure parents and students understand why and how technology and data are being used to advance learning, how the information collected is protected in the process and what the schools are doing to safeguard protected information.”

It’s an idea that Colorado mom, Traci Burnett, can get behind. “I think people have forgotten these are my kids, not the school’s,” she told the Gazette. “When you start linking all this data — my kid’s biometrics, with an address, a juvenile record, voter registration, you get a profile, and there’s so much wrong with that. The danger is that the information doesn’t need to be in the hands of the state or federal government. It reminds me of China — we’re going to flow you to the correct job so you can be productive in our society.”

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