January 18, 2012
By Brandon Turbeville
Fresh on the heels of India’s massive databasing program that is set to encompass all 1.2 billion members of its population, recent announcements by IBM should be drawing the attention of some 300 million Americans.
IBM’s “IBM 5 in 5” predictions reveal part of a goal that has been discussed for some time, yet too often continues to be dismissed as mere conspiracy theory. This goal is for biometric data such as fingerprints, iris scans, and voice recognition to not only become commonplace amongst the general public, but soon to replace all other forms of identification.
Even more startling, the next level of technology is set for release which will link the human brain directly to the digital world, enabling the user to control their reality purely by thought.
IBM has also announced that it is developing technology that can harness the power of human movement for the purpose of providing “renewable energy.”
The IBM 5 in 5 is a series of five predictions for the next five years which “is based on market and societal trends as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s research labs around the world that can make these transformations possible.”
Directly related to the massive biometric database being created in India, the IBM technology can (and most likely will) be used to create a database of user biometrics that includes the very same type of information currently being collected on the other side of the world — facial photographs, fingerprints, and iris scans – here in the United States and elsewhere in the Western world. The IBM system, however, comes with the notable addition of voice files.
January 9, 2012
By Tana Ganeva
The FBI claims that their fingerprint database (IAFIS) is the “largest biometric database in the world,” containing records for over a hundred million people. But that’s nothing compared to the agency’s plans for Next Generation Identification (NGI), a massive, billion-dollar upgrade that will hold iris scans, photos searchable with face recognition technology, palm prints, and measures of gait and voice recordings alongside records of fingerprints, scars, and tattoos.
Ambitions for the final product are candidly spelled out in an agency report: “The FBI recognizes a need to collect as much biometric data as possible within information technology systems, and to make this information accessible to all levels of law enforcement, including International agencies.” (A stack of documents related to NGI was obtained by the Center for Constitutional Rights and others after a FOIA lawsuit.)
It’ll be “Bigger — Better — Faster,” the FBI brags on their Web site. Unsurprisingly, civil libertarians have concerns about the privacy ramifications of a bigger, better, faster way to track Americans using their body parts.
“NGI will expand the type and breadth of information FBI keeps on all of us,” says Sunita Patel of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “There should be a balance between gathering information for law enforcement, and gathering information for its own sake.”
January 27th, 2011
By: Raphael G. Satter
Nearly two months after WikiLeaks outraged the U.S. government by launching the release of a massive compendium of diplomatic documents, the secret-spilling website has published 2,658 U.S. State Department cables – just over 1 percent of its trove of 251,287 documents.
Here’s a look at what the consequences of the cables’ release have been so far, and what the future could hold for WikiLeaks.
IT’S LIFTED THE VEIL ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
WikiLeaks has given the world’s public an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes look at U.S. diplomacy. Among the most eye-catching revelations were reports that Arab countries had lobbied for an attack on Iran, China had made plans for the collapse of its North Korean ally, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had ordered U.S. diplomats to gather the computer passwords, fingerprints and even DNA of their foreign counterparts.
Some of the most controversial cables dealt with a directive to harvest biometric information on a range of officials. U.S. diplomats have been forced repeatedly to deny spying on their counterparts – although none have specifically addressed the instructions to gather personal details, sensitive computer data, and even genetic material or iris scans.
Anthony Cordesman, an analyst for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, cautioned that some cables were less explosive when taken in the context they were written. He noted that Arab belligerence toward Tehran has festered for years – and suggested the rhetoric was being ratcheted up at a time of high tensions over Iran’s nuclear program.
As for the cables on scooping up fingerprints, frequent flyer numbers, and other personal information, Cordesman said that “there isn’t a diplomatic service in the world that doesn’t serve its intelligence community.”
IT’S SHOWN HOW LEADERS LIE
Over and over again, the cables captured world leaders lying – to each other, to their allies, and to their own citizens.
Diplomacy “comes across as a scheming, duplicitous profession – which it kind of is,” said Carne Ross, a former British diplomat who resigned over the Iraq war.
September 24, 2010
By: Douglas McIntyre
Don’t kid yourself. Real privacy no longer exists in this country.
We’ve long had government organizations collecting data that paints a pretty clear picture of what we do with our time. The Internal Revenue Service knows everything about what you earn and any major transactions you make. It can access every bit of information it needs to determine how much money you should be sending on April 15.
The most important gatherer of personal information in the country is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It keeps a database of over 90 million fingerprints, which can be accessed by other law enforcement agencies. It also has an extensive database of DNA, the most specific marker of personal identity. The bureau’s ability to collect information expanded following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It now tracks a large portion of mail, cell phone traffic and Internet activity of people it deems suspicious.
Thanks to advances in technology, however, there are also now numerous private enterprises that track and record your every move. Although they don’t usually give out this information, there are often worrisome leaks and security breaches where they inadvertently release sensitive information about their customers. Taken together, these industries have data on where you are, who you are communicating with, how you are earning your money, how you are spending that money, as well as the hobbies and interests you are pursuing.
We examined a large number of organizations to find the most intrusive firms and industries. Here they are, ranked by the number of people they track:
1) Credit Rating Agencies
With each firm having files on over 200 million people, the three credit bureaus — Equifax (EFX), Experian (EXPGY), and TransUnion — know not only your credit history, but also have the data to project your credit future. The companies collect a history of all credit use by an individual, including payment of bills, mortgages, and credit cards. The agencies also track the frequency with which a person applies for credit. That information is used to determine a person’s credit risk through a credit score. These scores are produced using secret algorithms, ensuring that the bureaus know much more about you than you know about them.
2) Cell Phone Service Providers
As cell phone popularity has increased and technology has evolved, cell phone companies have come to possess a wealth of information about their customers. Covering over 90% of the American population, cell phone providers can tell who you call, when you call, how often you call certain people and what you say in your text messages. With GPS, they also now know where you are whenever you have your phone. As smartphones become the equivalent of miniature computers, cellular companies can also track personal behavior, such as use of multimedia and wireless e-commerce transactions.
3) Social Media Companies
In its ascent to Internet superpower, social enterprise Facebook has amassed an enormous amount of user information. Who your friends are, what you like, and what photos you are in are all information that the company has access to. That, however, is not the full extent of it. Facebook also tracks which profiles you view, who you communicate with most often, companies and causes you support, your personal calendar, and a great deal of personal information about your friends and family. Perhaps most surprising, Facebook can access much of the information you may have deleted, including photos and status updates, from their servers.
4) Credit Card Companies
There are currently 610 million credit cards owned by U.S. consumers. In an economy dominated by credit, the amount of power held by credit card companies, such as Visa (V), MasterCard (MA) and American Express (AE), should not be surprising. They know their customers’ credit scores, credit histories, what they buy, when they buy, and when they are likely to default on their payments. The interest rates charged for credit fluctuates based on their analysis of individuals’ ability to pay back the debts they incur. Some of the information kept by credit card companies can help consumers, however. Algorithms that study buying patterns, for instance, are used to detect fraud.
5) Search Engines
Every search you perform on Google (GOOG) goes into the Internet giant’s database, which it uses to keep a profile of your habits and interests. The search engine also keeps track of which links you click on during your search and which advertisers you visit. Google uses your interest profile and search history to place targeted ads in your browser. Perhaps most disturbingly, Google uses its Gmail service to monitor the content of your email in order to place targeted advertising in your email account. Google also keeps records of account and credit card information for everyone who uses their “Checkout” service, tracks which videos people watch on YouTube, where people are planning to visit, and what they plan to do there. Google’s location-based map systems also allow the search company to know where people are in real time through the use of smartphones and other GPS-enabled devices.
6) Retail Chains
Walmart (WMT) uses data-mining services to collect and store information for all its customers in a central location. This allows it to determine the purchasing behavior of people who shop in its stores or on its website. It also optimizes inventory distribution by determining which products people are most likely to buy in the future. In August, Walmart began installing Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID) in their underwear and jeans, which lets them track items and customers around the store. This means they are able to determine how much time someone who buys a specific pair of pants spends in each aisle. Walmart plans to use this data to reorganize displays and further control inventory. The retail giant also sell this information to thousands of other businesses, who use consumer profiles for advertising and demographic research.
Casinos like the Wynn Resorts (WYNN) are increasingly using “loyalty cards” to monitor the behavior of their patrons. The Wynn “red” cards are used in place of tokens, and allow the casino to keep track of which machines and tables each gambler visits on a regular basis, the path they take during their visits (using RFID chips), and even how often and how much they are willing to lose before giving up. When a slot machine in Wynn detects a gambler is close to his breaking point, it will issue a small payout in order to keep him spending money.
Large banks, such as Bank of America (BAC), Chase (JPM) and Citibank (C), have access to customer account information, which includes savings, employer payroll deposits, and the time and date of ATM and teller visits. They track transfers made by account holders to third parties. A bank also knows your income, your salary, and your balance, moment-by-moment. Perhaps among the most confidential data a bank keeps is how often people move money in and out of accounts. Banks know how much you save each month, and often exactly how those savings are invested. Banks use this information to assess the risk of giving you a mortgage or loan, and they are legally allowed to use data-mining companies to check your website activity.
9) Life Insurance Companies
About 140 million households currently have life insurance. In order to apply for life insurance, applicants generally must disclose their health history. This includes incidence of heart disease, height, weight, smoking habits, and often includes full records from your doctors. Perhaps more invasive, life insurers seek disclosure of hospitalization for mental illness, use of illegal drugs, and whether or not you have had to file for bankruptcy. Insurance companies use a national prescription database to determine whether or not you have ever been prescribed medication. And certain high-risk professions and hobbies usually have to be disclosed.
March 30, 2010
By Stephen Fuller
In every Hollywood produced dystopian film one fantasy is certain to appear with deafening familiarly; absolute control. These visions of our future, and indeed humanity’s past, accentuate the authoritarian or totalitarian government enacting some random form of repressive social control. However, if you are seeking out the next big blockbuster dystopia, look no further than the American reality today. As shown by this newscast from FOX6Now, Milwaukee – WITI, we are obediently barreling toward such degeneration of civil freedom.
The newscast title reads, “Avoid Mistaken Identity”, and presents us with everyone’s favorite friendly neighborhood police officer, Joseph Boehlke, “just trying to do his job” in the fastest, most painless and polite manner possible. The producers of this agitprop news piece are trying to sell the viewer the message that these actions are not some horrible vision; it’s innovative, hip, and all for your protection and service. Unfortunately the truth is that while Officer Boehlke may in fact be a very nice person, what he is doing in this clip is as un-American as the persona of the Sheriff of Nottingham.
It is no longer acceptable enough to the statists that you must, under penalty of law, present your state issued driving license, personal motor vehicle insurance, and state issued vehicle registration. Now, in order to move “freely” about Milwaukee they desire your biological identity to match the information in their database. And, of course, the newscast provides substantial reason for your compliance: only the guilty don’t do it, you need your identity protected, you do it unless you’re hiding something, and it’s already helped us catch bad guys and so on ad infinitum. Yet the reasons against totalitarian methodologies like this are just as infinite and in fact, quite a bit more powerful and meaningful to society. In point of fact, this type of police state dragnet has been shown to violate our basic natural rights; as the Supreme Court has held:
That fingerprints are subject to the requirements of the Search and Seizure Clause of the Fourth Amendment , Davis v. Mississippi, supra.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court has also noted the importance of such natural rights:
The interests in human dignity and privacy which the Fourth Amendment protects forbid any such intrusions on the mere chance that desired evidence might be obtained…The integrity of an individual’s person is a cherished value of our society. That we today hold that the Constitution does not forbid the States minor intrusions into an individual’s body under stringently limited conditions (in this case, blood alcohol tests after an arrest) in no way indicates that it permits more substantial intrusions, or intrusions under other conditions. Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757 (1966).
With total disregard for our fundamental law and most treasured values, the statists push ever forward in the surge to biometrically identify and catalog every person in America. As evidenced by Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) proposal for biometric ID cards intended for immigration reform, which will require such identification on any persons obtaining any sort of job whatsoever, they will seize at any innocuous justification to push forward on biometric identification legislation. The Department of Homeland Security is already admittedly maintaining the biometrics-based immigration records database and has now implemented the Secure Communities (LINK: http://media-newswire.com/release_1115135.html ) information-sharing program designed to comprehensively link nationwide local law enforcement agencies to the FBI and DHS biometric systems.
The case has already been made that such systems can aid law enforcement and fugitive tracking. However, to what end? Civilizations more secure against crime yet free from liberties? Surly across the board nightly house-to-house searches would increase our jail population and decrease our crime rate, yet no one dare call for such measures. And certainly the statist will argue that biometric information is but a minor infringement by the State and as such serves much more as your civil duty in the maintenance of law and order than it does harm to your liberty. But this is the ultimate failure of statist reasoning: that one liberty may be abdicated while the others stay intact. Eventually the biometric database will prove insufficient and some other liberty will be required to be extinguished to maintain the state of constant warfare against the criminal element. This is how our dystopia is forged and was most succinctly stated:
He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself. ~Thomas Paine
March 16, 2010
Forensic scientists could soon use hand germs to help identify criminals and victims, a study said Monday.
Researchers led by Noah Fierer of the University of Colorado at Boulder swabbed individual keys on three personal computer keyboards, extracted bacterial DNA from the swabs and compared the results with bacteria on the fingertips of the keyboards’ users.
They also lifted germs from an unspecified number of other private and public computer keyboards that the three individuals did not use to see if there was a cross-over between the bacteria on an individual’s hands and bacteria on keyboards that had never been touched by that individual.
The bacteria on each person’s fingers were “personal” and gave a much closer match to the germs on the keyboard they used than to bacteria found on keyboards they had never touched, the researchers said.
The researchers also swabbed nine personal computer mice that had not been touched for at least 12 hours and took bacteria samples from the palms of their owners.
The bacteria on each mouse were “significantly more similar” to those found on the owner’s hand than to bacteria taken from 270 other hands, which were on record from previous studies.
“Each one of us leaves a unique trail of bugs behind as we travel through our daily lives,” said Fierer, a professor at the University of Colorado’s ecology and evolutionary biology department, adding that hand bugs could “become a valuable new item in the toolbox of forensic scientists.”
Hand germs are abundant, can be lifted from small areas and are remarkably hardy. The researchers found that colonies of hand bacteria remain essentially unchanged after two weeks at room temperature, and recovered within hours of handwashing.
Fingerprints, however, can be smudged or impossible to obtain, such as on fabric.
And unless there is blood, tissue, semen or saliva on an object, it is often difficult to obtain enough human DNA for forensic identification, said the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
“Given the abundance of bacterial cells on the skin surface… it may be easier to recover bacterial DNA than human DNA from touched surfaces although additional studies are needed to confirm that this is actually true,” the study said.
February 23th, 2010
Unveiling the government’s long-awaited white paper on counter-extremism, Kevin Rudd, the prime minister, said Australia was also concerned about the rising threat from home-grown militancy, just one week after five Sydney men received long jail terms for planning a violent jihad attack.
“Terrorism continues to pose a serious threat and a serious challenge to Australia’s security interests. That threat is not diminishing,” Mr Rudd said.
“In fact, the government security intelligence agencies assess that terrorism has become a persistent and permanent feature of Australia’s security environment. These agencies warn that an attack could occur at any time.
“Prior to the rise of jihadist terrorism, Australia was not a specific target, now Australia is.”
Under the plans, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship would begin collecting the fingerprints and facial images this year, and cross-check them with immigration and law enforcement databases in Australia and overseas.
Stephen Smith, the foreign minister, said Australia would delay naming the countries where visa applicants will need to submit to fingerprints and face-scans before they will be issued with a visa for entry into Australia, admitting that a “diplomatic effort” would have to be made with their governments.
But Mr Rudd said Somalia and Yemen had been identified as two countries where the threat of Islamic extremism was growing.
He added that Australia would spend $69 million dollars on the new biometric facilities and would set up a new national control centre to coordinate efforts to fight extremism.
The government also planned to work with communities to stamp out radicalism by helping all ethnic groups integrate better with mainstream society.
“The threat of terrorism is no longer just something that travels to Australia from overseas,” Mr Rudd said.
“The threat of home-grown terrorism is now increasing. This white paper is clear, some of the threat we now face comes from the Australian born, Australian educated and Australian residents.”
Last week five Australian citizens of Lebanese, Libyan and Bangladeshi origin were jailed for up to 28 years for gathering weapons in preparation for an attack on an unknown target.
More than 100 Australians have been killed in terrorist attacks since 2001.
Columbia Daily Tribune
By Brennan David
A $200,000 COPS — or Community Oriented Policing Services — technology grant will fund license plate and iris scanners for patrol vehicles and the Boone County Jail. The grant is a small chunk of a $1.45 million grant awarded to the Central Missouri Criminal Justice Information System, which will receive a total of $4 million in grants by 2012. The system is made up of seven Mid-Missouri counties that in 2009 began receiving federal grant money through the U.S. Department of Justice to upgrade information technology systems.
David Severson, Osage Beach police chief and system organizer, said upgrading systems will better equip officers to fight crime.
“If a guy was working the road in Osage Beach and he saw a suspicious vehicle, he needs information on that vehicle,” Severson said. “That vehicle could have been involved in a St. Louis murder earlier that day. He needs to have that information while in his car, not later.”
The grant calls for the sheriff’s department and Columbia police to each receive two license plate scanners to attach to patrol vehicles and portable and tethered iris scanners. A permanent iris scanner will be placed at the Boone County Jail so scanning can become part of the booking process, building a database.
“It’s not here to replace fingerprints but to complement it,” said Mike Southard of Sure Scan Technology of Jefferson City.
The iris scan takes a photo of the eye and uses 240 identifiable points of an eye to create a file. The portable device will be used on occasions when identifying a suspect is difficult, Boone County sheriff’s Capt. Chad Martin said, as well as during booking.
Information collected will be stored on a Boone County sheriff’s server and also will be available to law enforcement departments statewide that can access the Missouri Data Exchange. The goal is to get all Missouri counties to create databases to share, Severson said.
In terms of data sharing, the same will apply for the Mobile Plate Hunter 900 Series cameras. The system includes two cameras mounted on a patrol car that automatically scan and process license plate numbers of vehicles parked or driving nearby. A computer instantaneously cross-references the license plate numbers against a database containing license plate numbers of wanted vehicles or suspects linked to those vehicles.
The database is updated at least twice a day by the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, as well as law enforcement agencies that enter the license plate numbers of stolen vehicles or vehicles whose owners have outstanding warrants or are linked to a missing-person case.
A match sounds an alarm in the patrol car that alerts the officer, said Matthew Maxwell of ELSAG North America, the license plate manufacturer. The system can scan more than 3,000 license plates per day and is only limited by an officer’s ability to drive through areas where cars are plentiful.
“This item increases the officer’s safety,” he said. “It keeps both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.”
The sheriff’s department and Columbia police tested the scanner for a 60-day period in 2009. The sheriff’s department netted six arrests and discovered five vehicles with stolen license plates. Columbia police reported 10 arrests and the recovery of a stolen vehicle.
July 30, 2009
Home Secretary Alan Johnson has unveiled the final design of the controversial national identity card.
The card will be offered to members of the public in the Greater Manchester area from the end of this year.
Ministers plan to launch the £30 biometric ID Card nationwide in 2011 or 2012 – but it will not be compulsory.
Opposition spokesmen said it was a “colossal waste of money” and civil liberty groups said it was “as costly to our pockets as to our privacy”.
Ministers say the card, which follows the launch of the foreign national ID card, will provide an easy way of safely proving identity.
They say this system, backed up by a national identity register, will help combat identity fraud, crime and terrorism.
The card is very similar in look to a UK driving licence but holds more data, including two fingerprints and a photograph encoded on a chip.
This chip and its unique number in turn links the card to a national identity register which, under current legislation, could hold more information about the identity of the individual.
If the scheme goes ahead, the card could be used as a travel document within Europe, separate to the passport, similar to arrangements between other EU member states.
Like the UK passport, the front of the card displays the royal crest as well as the thistle, the rose, the shamrock and the daffodil to represent the four parts of the UK.
The Home Office denied the union jack had been left off the card for fear of antagonising Northern Ireland’s nationalist community. A spokeswoman said the card was based on the British passport, which did not have a flag on it.