February 17, 2012
By Joe Wright
“Here is just one more example that shows just how corrupt police are in the US. Wouldn’t it be great if they actually did their jobs to serve and protect? We would all love cops if they weren’t power hungry egomaniacs.” –KTRN
A growing body of (missing) evidence is suggesting that the concept of police dash cams as a valuable tool to record the facts of police and citizen interaction is being selectively used and enforced.
Several recent incidents highlight the aftermath of police forcefully subduing suspects while being recorded on their police cruiser dash cams. Yet, those involved, as well as witnesses, have reported that the treatment was far worse than what the cameras eventually revealed.
Seattle is at the center of this firestorm of controversy after not only tacitly permitting the selective dash cam recording of events, but of apparently hiding what actually has been recorded.
A recent incident involving the arrest of two men on Nov. 16th, 2010 was recorded on officer Brad Richardson’s dash cam, but clearly begins later in the arrest process. The officer can be seen in the video below picking up the suspects off of the ground and putting them in the police cruiser. This suggests that something must have happened previous to where the recording begins. In fact, both suspects insist that they were brutalized in the missing portion of the video. Additionally, the officer’s uniform microphone clearly recorded him telling the suspects that “Yeah, I’m going to make stuff up” with a clear suggestion that they would be framed for a robbery that had just taken place in the area. (Source)
As it turns out, neither man had a criminal record, and neither was charged following the incident, which began after a “felony stop” where the officer engaged the two men with his gun drawn. Despite this, the Office of Professional Accountability (run from the Seattle P.D.) ruled that officer Brad Richardson did nothing wrong, not even questioning why the videotape of the incident begins only in the aftermath where the suspects begin to question their treatment. Left with the officers word against those of “suspects” the police department’s conclusion seems to be an easy one.
To the credit of the media bringing this incident to light, ABC News affiliate KOMO is now suing the Seattle police department for violations of the Public Records Act, as they continue to refuse to allow independent investigators access to their video database. Even at the onset of this investigation it has been made clear that tens of thousands of hours from dash cams have gone missing. Clearly, the incident described above is among those “missing” hours. Despite there being 3 different dash cam videos of the aftermath, none show the critical moment when the alleged abuse took place.
November 23, 2011
By Charles Farrier
“Privacy issues are just as heated in the UK. Why can’t they leave us alone? Sometimes when I see a security camera, I blow it kisses for fun.” –Chris Davis KTRN
The use of surveillance cameras in taxis that record both sound and images hit the headlines last week, when it emerged that the City Council of the historic English city of Oxford was making them compulsory for all local private hire vehicles . Many commentators were shocked by the depths to which the surveillance society had now stooped but few spotted that this phenomenon has been around for over a decade, and not just in the UK.
CCTV in taxis is a worldwide development. The globalised surveillance industrial complex offers one-solution-fits-all products regardless of regional differences or actual need. Wherever taxi cameras have been introduced the measure has courted controversy and time and time again privacy laws around the world have seemingly been unable to restrain this addition to the surveillance panoply. It is through such incremental steps that societal values have and continue to be eroded.
Driving a taxi undoubtedly has risks, particularly at night with an alcohol fuelled clientèle, but is there actual evidence that cameras can significantly improve driver safety? Even if cameras were effective, are they truly acceptable? Are there not other measures that could be introduced which would have less impact on the freedoms of taxi passengers?
Amazingly the first city to introduce compulsory taxi cameras was not in the UK. That dubious accolade goes to Perth in Australia, where a licensing condition was introduced from mid December 1997, after an 18 month decision making, testing and development process. Other countries with cities that have compulsory taxi cameras include Canada, Norway, China, the United States, Holland and New Zealand.
Bolton’s brave experiment
In the UK cameras were trialled in Bolton in 2001  – cameras, recording images and sound, were fitted to ten taxis for six weeks. The trial was hailed a success because no incidents occurred. No control group was used. No independent study was produced. It was simply hailed a success by Bolton Council, the taxi drivers and the security industry firms behind the trial . One of the reasons given for driver support was the hope that it would lead to cheaper insurance premiums .
In 2002 the then MP for Bolton South East, Dr Brian Iddon raised the trial in the House of Commons , calling it a “brave experiment” and and asking Home Office Minister John Denham whether he agreed it should be spread throughout the country. And so Bolton became the poster city for taxi CCTV in the UK.
On the back of the Bolton success myth, Chubb, the company whose CabWatch system had been used, touted their wares to Leicester and Cambridge City Councils who ran their own trials. As with Bolton, Chubb’s system relayed sound and images to a remote video response centre. Over the next few years a string of UK councils began considering cameras as a condition of license for taxis and private hire vehicles.
It is now commonplace for taxis to be equipped with CCTV cameras throughout the UK.
Southampton Court Challenge
In the UK Parliament in July 2007  it was reported that the Southampton Safe City Partnership were sponsoring CCTV in taxi cabs.
In November 2010 a driver, Keith May, who runs taxi firm K & K Hire, began legal action in the Southampton Magistrates’ Court against the City Council’s imposition of a condition requiring the installation of a taxi camera in one of his licensed hackney carriages. In April 2011 the court found in May’s favour . Southampton City Council are now appealing that decision .
A month after the court decision, taxi drivers held a demo in Southampton  to protest against the council’s compulsory camera requirement. But before defenders of passengers’ freedoms get too excited about the Southampton taxi drivers’ stand, it is worth listening to a recent edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘You and Yours’ , on which May clarified his position. May said:
I’m not against CCTV, I’m not against CCTV at all. I’m against the conditions that this council, Southampton Council Licensing Office has imposed on us.
The problem we’ve got in Southampton is that the CCTV operates in a way that it is on 24/7, you can never turn it off, the driver’s got not control of it whatsoever, so every single passenger that gets in a licensed vehicle in Southampton – their conversation’s being recorded no matter whether they’ve done anything wrong or not.
What about, the taxi drivers in Southampton, private hires and taxis, majority of those vehicles gets used privately as well. The drivers own those vehicles, [?], what happens when they’re taking their children down to the beach with their wife on a weekend. Why should that conversation be getting recorded?
In other words May is saying that in his view surveilling passengers is okay as long as the driver has control over it, but surveilling a taxi driver’s family is wrong. And it is worth mentioning that the court case challenged the cameras as a licensing requirement, not the right or wrong of the cameras themselves. At time of writing the judgment is not publicly available.
November 4, 2011
By S. D. Wells
As part of a federally funded project, public street lights will soon have the ability to record conversations, broadcast government warnings, advertise just about anything, and possibly even x-ray bodies for concealed weapons, just like the highly controversial TSA scanners. The street light surveillance systems are fail-proofed because they are linked together through underground cables and a wireless network, so if one goes out, the rest still work in tandem.
If you thought the Patriot Act was an infringement of civil and personal rights, wait until you get a load of this. Like some strange deja vu of the Nazi concentration camps, the manufacturer Illuminating Concepts is now installing hi-tech devices, paid for with tax dollars, which enable “big brother” to monitor, record, display, and announce just about anything he wants.
Do citizens get to vote for or against this latest disturbance of the peace? When people drive down the street with car stereos pumping music too loud, police pull them over and write tickets, but no citizen will have any say at all in what pumps out of the street speakers: including political propaganda, pharmaceutical advertisements, religious speeches, promotions for unnecessary vaccinations, and inappropriate, unrated or biased information.
The city of Farmington Hills, Michigan is the first guinea pig for the new Homeland Security light poles, which include the speaker system for emergency broadcast alerts and advertising, light sensors to record pedestrian and road traffic, and an LED video display for directional instructions.
The British are already using them as surveillance tools. The city of Middlesbrough uses the speakers to bark orders at people and reprimand them for “inappropriate behavior,” littering, or committing other minor offenses in public.
Beyond the video cameras themselves, the speakers may pose the most invasive disturbances, blaring out advertisements at people as they walk past. What about restaurants with outdoor cafes and patios which try to create cultural atmosphere of their own?
What about when natural disasters and emergencies are overrated and exaggerated, like the “horrific” hurricane Irene that evacuated millions of people from east coast cities, but ended up being just a tropical storm? Will there be loud sirens screaming at the public in the streets for days or weeks on end, creating a sense of anxiety and panic?
The United States could be on the fast track to becoming one huge police state
In fact, the Nazi Party depended heavily on speakers to get its message across. Nazi camp commanders used music to mentally break down the prisoners and rob them of their dignity and cultural identity, and to achieve ideological ends. By using the concentration camps’ loudspeaker systems, they aimed to manipulate, intimidate, and indoctrinate.
October 16, 2011
By Bob Sullivan
Imagine that you couldn’t drive on major highways without agreeing to put a camera in your car — one that could film either the occupants or the vehicle’s surroundings and transmit the images back to a central office for inspection.
You don’t have to read George Orwell to conjure up such an ominous surveillance state. You just have to skim through filings at the U.S. Patent Office.
It’s hard to imagine Americans would tolerate such a direct, Big-Brotherish intrusion. But they might not notice if the all-seeing cameras were tucked inside another kind of government tracking technology that millions of Americans have already invited into their cars.
Kapsch TrafficCom AG, an Austrian company that just signed a 10-year contract to provide in-car transponders such as the E-Z Pass to 22 electronic highway toll collection systems around the U.S., recently filed a patent on technology to add multi-function mini-cameras to their toll gadgets. Today, transponders are in about 22 million cars around the U.S. Adding inward and outward facing cameras to the gadgets would create surveillance capabilities far beyond anything government agencies have tried until now.
The stated reason for an inward-pointing camera is to verify the number of occupants in the car for enforcement of HOV and HOT lanes. The outward-pointing camera could be used for the same purpose, helping authorities enforce minimum occupant rules against drivers who aren’t carrying transponders.
But it’s easy to imagine other uses. The patent says the transponders would have the ability to store and transmit pictures, either at random intervals or on command from a central office. It would be tempting to use them as part of a search for a lost child, for example, and law enforcement officials might find the data treasure trove irresistible. The gadget could also be instructed to take pictures when the acceleration of a car “exceeds a threshold,” or when accidents occur, so it could be used like an airplane cockpit flight recorder.
It’s important to note that a patent filing is a far cry from the invention and manufacturing of a new product. Many patent filings are nothing more than a defensive measure taken to protect the farthest reaches of intellectual property. Officials at Kapsch declined to be interviewed for this story, but in a statement said that citizens shouldn’t read too much into the filing.
“This patent filing is part of the standard intellectual property protection process followed by every company that invests in research and development,” said Erwin Toplak, chief operating officer of Kapsch, in an e-mail. “Kapsch, for example, files approximately 20 patent applications a year. This process protects our unique ideas; it does not signify that a commercial product is in development or even contemplated .”
And P.J. Wilkins, executive director of the E-Z Pass Group consortium that manages the massive toll collection cooperative, said he hadn’t even heard of camera technology when told about the patent by msnbc.com.
“It’s not an upgrade we are working on here,” said. “We just signed a long-term contract with them and this wasn’t a requirement.”
Enforcement of HOV and HOT lanes is a labor-intensive and expensive issue for many state agencies, he said, and he understood why a company like Kapsch would try to invent a technology to deal with the problem, But he said he couldn’t imagine it being used in the E-Z Pass system.
“Before anyone goes down that road there’s a whole host of questions that would have to be answered,” he said. “What’s the impact on privacy? What’s the impact on the data stream? I just don’t think it’s something that would gain a lot of traction.”
Kapsch sells its technology in 41 countries around the globe, and 64 million cars worldwide have been outfitted with its transponders, according to the firm’s website. Occupant cameras could be attractive, and more acceptable, outside the U.S.
And while it’s possible cameras-in-cars technology would be a non-starter in America, that doesn’t mean Americans shouldn’t be worried, said Lee Tien, a privacy expert with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“I think (drivers) should be pretty concerned,” he said. “You want to make sure any use of that technology is very carefully regulated. People should let the E-Z Pass folks know now what they think about any possible plans to introduce cameras in their cars, now, while it’s being developed, rather than before it’s already a fait accompli, and some agency says it’s already spent millions on it and can’t turn back now.”
Tien said there’s nothing inherently bad about using new technology to enforce tolls, but he cautioned against what is sometimes called “surveillance spillover.” Technology designed for one function is inevitably used by law enforcement officials and other government agencies in unintended ways.
“You could imagine that they could limit the capacity of devices — say the images would be destroyed after a very short period of time — so it would not be as powerful a surveillance device. But that’s not the general dynamic,” he said. “Once you have the device out there, someone says, ‘Why not use it for this, or that.’ That’s usually where the battle between privacy and other social goals is lost.”
The dynamic is playing out right now in a European scandal surrounding use of a secret government program used by German law enforcement officials to monitor citizens’ Internet behavior through the use of Trojan horse software called R2D2. German courts had permitted use of the software only when officials were fulfilling a legal wiretap order, and only to listen in on Skype conversations. But the R2D2 Trojan has allegedly been used by German authorities to send thousands of screen shots detailing suspects’ Internet explorations, to keylog their typing, and in a host of other potentially illegal evidence-gathering methods.
The solution, says Tien, is to design privacy right into the gadget in the first place, to minimize the inevitable temptations for law enforcement and security officials.
“It doesn’t bother me that (Kapsch) filed this patent. Surveillance technology is constantly being developed. There is money in surveillance,” he said. “The question is less about lamenting the invention of these things and more about questioning our demand for surveillance, and thinking about the kind of society we are building and encouraging when we legitimize the continual, gradual architecting of the social world into a surveillance society.”
News of the camera patents comes as electronic toll collection continues to expand around the U.S. — and while options for using the systems anonymously have finally become commonplace. After years of complaints from skeptics that E-Z Pass toll paying created an undesirable public record that could be used to track individuals, systems in Texas and Washington state now allow users to register for the devices without disclosing their identities. And a new “E-Z Pass On the Go” gadget is being sold in the Eastern U.S. that functions much like a disposable prepaid phone card, allowing anonymous use of the E-Z Pass tolls.
E-Z Pass has had to beat back a lot of conspiracy theories through the years, Wilkins noted — such as the idea that the gadgets would be used to catch speeders and issue tickets. E-Z Pass users now register very few complaints, he said, and are overwhelmingly happy with a system that helps them avoid delays at long toll booth lines.
“The whole tracking thing is a bogus argument,” said Wilkins. “If you have a cell phone you are being tracked anyway. Law enforcement can get to cell phone records just as easily (as E-Z Pass records). And the phone company keeps that data a very long time.”
April 22nd, 2011
By: Douglas McIntyre
American consumers love bargains. But that zest for getting a coveted product at the lowest price also has an economic downside: It creates a giant opportunity for the scads of shady operators — especially from China — that specialize in pumping out counterfeit versions of the real thing.
U.S. companies lose at least hundreds of millions of dollars a year in sales from products that are counterfeited overseas and shipped to America. The problem’s exact scope isn’t entirely known because most of these products are never seized and, therefore, the federal government can’t get an accurate measurement of the economic loss.
To get a better handle on just how extensive counterfeiting has become, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the U.S. Homeland Security Department’s Customs and Border Protection unit, the federal agency charged with enforcing intellectual property rights (IPR) within America’s borders.
The CBP does so by seizing products that infringe the originals’ copyrights and patents. According to the agency, “The theft of intellectual property and trade in fake goods threatens America’s economic vitality and national security, and the American people’s health and safety. Trade in these illicit goods funds criminal activities and organized crime. In Fiscal Year 2009, there were 14,841 intellectual property rights seizures with a domestic value of $260.7 million. Goods from China accounted for 79% of the total domestic value for all IPR seizures.”
The first notable aspect of the data is the astonishing level at which China takes advantage of the U.S. markets. Some estimates by economists say 8% of China’s GDP comes from the sales of counterfeit goods, from software to designer clothing.
In addition to the CBP data, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed information from the Alliance for Gray Market and Counterfeit Abatement, the International Authentication Association, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and PC World magazine.
The one thing that becomes clear from these investigations is that while counterfeiting improves China’s GDP, it undermines economic growth in the U.S. The federal government can do only so much to combat the problem with current resources. Unfortunately, that means the erosion of sales in some industries due to counterfeit goods coming into the U.S. will continue.
Here are the 10 product categories, in descending order, that lose the most money to counterfeit goods.
Value: $99.8 million
Percent of Total Seizures: 38%
Just under $100 million worth of counterfeit footwear was seized entering the U.S. in 2009, by far the greatest amount of any product. By value, 98% of counterfeit footwear originated in China. This was the fourth year in a row that footwear was the top commodity seized.
2. Consumer Electronics
Consumer electronics, such as cell phones, digital music players and cameras, made up 12% of all seizures worth nearly $32 million. China produces most of these electronics, with approximately $18.5 million worth of seizures originating from there. Consumer electronics are also the most popular illegitimate product coming out of Hong Kong, second only to China. They make up 40% of all counterfeit goods that are intercepted from Hong Kong.
Anyone who has walked down a major New York City street has had the opportunity (or several) to buy a fake designer handbag. The CBP seized $21.5 million worth of counterfeit handbags, wallets and backpacks coming into the country. This accounts for 8% of all seized commodities that violated IPR. China exported $19.5 million of these goods.
There was only slightly less apparel seized than handbags, wallets and backpacks. The amount exported from China is also similar, worth $17.9 million. Counterfeit apparel is most often made to resemble designer fashion brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren.
lthough counterfeit watches are readily available in the U.S., over $15.5 million worth of watches and watch parts were seized in 2009. The majority of these items (just over $7.9 million in value) came from Hong Kong. The industry is currently flooded with replicas of every Rolex model available, as well as Panerai and Omega models.
Today, Kevin explains where your tax dollars are really going and why simple tips like, cleaning your desk can lead to a healthier life.
Take Trudeau on the Go! Click here to download this show to your iPod, mp3 player, or PC through iTunes!
Today, Kevin explains where your tax dollars are really going and why simple tips like, cleaning your desk can lead to a healthier life.
Take Trudeau on the Go! Click here to download this show to your iPod, mp3 player, or PC through iTunes!
November 2nd, 2010
By: Richard C. Paddock
Drive a car into this affluent town on San Francisco Bay and you will be noticed. At least your license plate will.
The small community of Tiburon has begun photographing and recording the license plate of every vehicle that enters or leaves town. The goal is to catch criminals in an area that already has among the lowest crime rates in the state.
“We think it provides a great post-event tool for criminal investigation,” Tiburon Police Chief Michael Cronin told AOL News. “Our geography limits access to the community to only two roads, giving us the opportunity to easily identify vehicles associated with crimes.”
Tiburon is one of many communities around the country that increasingly are turning to technology to tackle crime, adopting such devices as police officer headcams, robots and laser scanners.
In Tiburon’s case, recording the license plate of every vehicle is made relatively easy by its isolated location. Tiburon sits on a peninsula that juts into San Francisco Bay, and only two roads lead in and out of town. About 12,000 people live on the peninsula, which also includes the town of Belvedere.
Six cameras have been installed at key points along the two highways, one for each lane of traffic. The cameras photograph each license plate, and the photos are stored in a database that can be easily searched. The system also will be programmed to check whether any of the plates are linked to an Amber alert or a stolen car.
The system began photographing and recording license plates last week. Other features of the system should be operating by the end of this week, Cronin said.
But here in Marin County, a bastion of liberalism, dealing with civil liberties issues was tougher than installing the technology. Initially, the idea of bringing Big Brother to Tiburon did not sit well with some members of the community.
“It’s beyond creepy,” Tiburon resident James Bramlette, 34, told the Marin Independent Journal. “It’s totally unnecessary, and it raises questions about what kind of community we live in. It’s embarrassing.”
Others, however, liked the safety aspect the technology provides.
“It’s just like locking your door,” Robin Pryor, 66, of Belvedere told the San Francisco Chronicle.” “If [visitors] have reason for it to bother them, they shouldn’t be coming in.”
Cronin said the police department overcame resistance by incorporating a number of civil liberties safeguards into the system. The cameras will not photograph the occupants of any vehicle, unlike red light cameras used in many cities. The license plates will be searched only in an effort to solve a reported crime. And the photos will be stored for only 30 days.
“We are not going to amass this huge pile of data on who went in and out of Tiburon every day,” Cronin said. “We are not even going to know that unless we think a particular vehicle had something to do with a crime.”
One of the main goals, he said, is to reduce the number of burglaries committed by outsiders who drive into Tiburon and Belvedere.
“It’s hard to get around in our society without owning a car, and most criminals do,” the chief observed.
The decision to install cameras was prompted by the case of a well-dressed woman who drove to Tiburon in a Mercedes several times and stole mail from homes in quiet residential neighborhoods as part of a sophisticated identity-theft ring.
Cronin realized that being able to know what cars entered the town around the time of the thefts would have made catching her far easier. She was eventually arrested and convicted, but Cronin said, “That was sort of a catalyst for me.”
Many communities have license-plate cameras, which can catch speeders and stolen vehicles. Such was the case last week in Washington, D.C., when police were investigating the apparent murder of an American University professor. They caught up with her stolen Jeep through a license-plate camera, according to The Washington Post.
“Shortly before midnight, the Cherokee passed one of the District’s license-plate recognition sensors, which are programmed to alert police to stolen vehicles,” the Post reported. “The sensor transmitted a message to police dispatchers that the Jeep was in the area, officials said.”
What makes Tiburon’s system unique is that it will record every car that comes into the community.
Tiburon’s main crime problem is burglaries of houses and vehicles, with losses of up to half a million dollars a year. Over a 10-year period, the system’s cost will be less than the cost of employing a police officer for two years, the chief said.
“This is a very safe community,” he said. “People feel very safe here, and they often leave their cars unlocked. And people have nice things, and they leave them in their car. Petty criminals looking for easy pickings are attracted to neighborhoods like ours.”
October 5th, 2010
By: Andrew Levy
It could make the time-honoured tradition of taking the school register a thing of the past.
Cutting-edge cameras are being used to scan children’s faces as they enter school.
The face-recognition technology makes sure they have turned up, records whether they were on time or late and keeps an accurate roll call.
It can also deliver messages to pupils as they sign in. Ten schools have started using the system, which is likely to be introduced elsewhere if considered a success.
But privacy campaigners reacted angrily yesterday, warning that the technology was another ‘encroachment on civil liberties’. Britons are already subjected to the greatest level of electronic surveillance in the world, with our movements said to be recorded in some way about 3,000 times a week.
Facial recognition systems are in use in airports to catch those using fake passports.
The faceREGISTER systems that are being installed in schools take 3D digital images of faces and infra-red scans.
Pupils must face a box which is the size of an A3 piece of paper while their image is taken.
They then punch in their four-digit pin on a number pad to confirm their identity.
The technology, made by Northamptonshire firm Aurora Computer Services, is said to be so accurate that there is no chance of pupils signing in for their friends.
The system is being used in schools in Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. Sir Christopher Hatton School, a comprehensive in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, started testing it on A-level pupils last month.
The technology has been installed in reception and the sixth-form block at a cost of £9,000.
Head of sixth form Kelli Foster said: ‘The technology is just incredible. Before, each pupil had to sign in and out of the reception by filling in a form but now it takes under ten seconds to gather so much more information.’
But Big Brother Watch campaign director Daniel Hamilton said: ‘This is another worrying development in the expansion of the surveillance state.
‘There is no need for schools to hold such sensitive information about their pupils. Such systems have limited benefits yet are wide open to abuse – from the risk of data theft to misuse by unscrupulous individuals.
‘Rather than spend money on gimmicks like this, schools should focus on educating their pupils. Both parents and pupils should resist this encroachment on civil liberties.’
August 9th, 2010
NBC New York
Surveillance video from subway stations are getting closer scrutiny recently, as transit police increase efforts to identify and arrest armed robbers and other criminals, a published report said today.
The NYPD asked transit police to pull footage from surveillance cameras some 2000 times last year — ten times more often than five years ago, the Daily News reports.
There are now 3100 cameras installed in city subway stations recording activities, officials said.
Millions of people ride the subway each day, and crime on trains and in stations is at a historically low level with an average of fewer than six felonies a day in the 468-station system, the News reported.
However, as the MTA faces a massive budget shortfall that has led to service cuts and the layoff of hundreds of station agents, some riders worry that crime could be on the rise in unattended stations.
Meantime, the MTA intends to install another 1000 cameras before the end of the year.