Tags: Electronic Frontier Foundation

FBI Plans to Have 52 Million Photos in Facial Recognition Database by 2015

I have highlighted the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and it great work on this website on many occasions. The organization has been at the forefront of many privacy and civil liberties related issues, including the increasing use of drones by the U.S. government domestically, unconstitutional NSA spying, as well as a host of other issues.

The latest article from them that caught my attention was published a couple of days ago, and shines light on the disturbing push by the FBI to create an extensive facial recognition database, which will include criminal and non-criminal photos alike. The information received by the EFF via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, demonstrates that the feds may have a mugshot database with up to 52 million photos by 2015.

The program is called Next Generation Identification (NGI), and the aspect of it that bothers the EFF most is the fact that non-criminal and criminal photos will be combined in the same database. So someone who has no criminal record can suddenly be flagged as a suspect just because an algorithm says so. What’s worst, research shows that the potential for false positive identification increases as the dataset increases.

To see if your state is participating, take a look at this map courtesy of the EFF.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 10.52.50 AM

More from the EFF:

New documents released by the FBI show that the Bureau is well on its way toward its goal of a fully operational face recognition database by this summer.

EFF received these records in response to our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for information on Next Generation Identification (NGI)—the FBI’s massive biometric database that may hold records on as much as one third of the U.S. population. The facial recognition component of this database poses real threats to privacy for all Americans.

NGI builds on the FBI’s legacy fingerprint database—which already contains well over 100 million individual records—and has been designed to include multiple forms of biometric data, including palm prints and iris scans in addition to fingerprints and face recognition data. NGI combines all these forms of data in each individual’s file, linking them to personal and biographic data like name, home address, ID number, immigration status, age, race, etc. This immense database is shared with other federal agencies and with the approximately 18,000 tribal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the United States.

The records we received show that the face recognition component of NGI may include as many as 52 million face images by 2015.
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Taiwanese Fight Back Against Internet Censorship and Win!

Great update here from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), of the outcome from government attempts to censor the internet in Taiwan in a similar manner to what was proposed in the U.S. with SOPA/PIPA. Just goes to show that we can stop these authoritarians if we stand up for ourselves.  From the EFF:  

Taiwan’s intellectual property office proposed a new Internet blacklist law that would have targeted websites for their alleged use in copyright infringement. The initiative would have forced Internet Service Providers to block a list of domains or IP addresses connected to websites and services found to enable “illegal” file sharing. In the face of massive online opposition and a planned Internet blackout, the IP office has now backed down and abandoned support for the law.

Taiwanese users were going to stage an Internet black out on Tuesday June 4th. Several websites, including Wikipedia Taiwan and Mozilla Taiwan pledged to go dark in order to raise awareness. At the time this was written, more than 45,000 people had shown their commitment to protest the bill.

Read the Full Article »

Stop CISPA: The Internet Spying Bill is Back in Congress

If at first you don’t succeed in implementing total state surveillance on your citizenry, try and try again.  These guys are just unbelievable.  From the EFF:

It’s official: The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act was reintroduced in the House of Representatives yesterday. CISPA is the contentious bill civil liberties advocates fought last year, which would provide a poorly-defined “cybersecurity” exception to existing privacy law. CISPA offers broad immunities to companies who choose to share data with government agencies (including the private communications of users) in the name of cybersecurity. It also creates avenues for companies to share data with any federal agencies, including military intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA).

As others have noted, “CISPA is deeply flawed. Under a broad cybersecurity umbrella, it permits companies to share user communications directly with the super secret NSA and permits the NSA to use that information for non-cybersecurity reasons. This risks turning the cybersecurity program into a back door intelligence surveillance program run by a military entity with little transparency or public accountability.”

The EFF sums up its most pressing concerns in the following bullet points:

1) Companies have new rights to monitor user actions and share data—including potentially sensitive user data—with the government without a warrant.

2) CISPA overrides existing privacy law, and grants broad immunities to participating companies.

3) CISPA also raises major transparency and accountability issues.

4) Users probably won’t know if their private data is compromised under CISPA, and will have little recourse.

In honor of Aaron Swartz, let’s please stop CISPA.

For more detail on the above concerns click here.

In Liberty,
Mike

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Google Transparency Report: Government Surveillance Requests Up 33% in 2012

Don’t worry I’m sure the increase is certainly related to finding Al Qaeda in the U.S., as opposed to targeting domestic civil rights activists.  I wonder how many of these requests were related to Aaron Swartz, the computer genius that federal prosecutors drove to suicide because they were still bitter about the role played in destroying SOPA.  Or are the requests aimed at “far right” extremists, folks that can be identified according to West Point by their defense of “civil activism, individual freedoms and self-government.”

Once again, the EFF deserves our highest praise for bringing this info to us.  From the EFF:

This morning, Google released their semi-annual transparency report, and once again, it revealed a troubling trend: Internet surveillance around the world continues to rise, with the United States leading the way in demands for user data.

Google received over 21,000 requests for data on over 33,000 users in the last six months from governments around the world, a 70% increase since Google started releasing numbers in 2010. The United States accounted for almost 40% the total requests (8,438) and the number of users (14,791). The total numbers in the US for 2012 amounted to a 33% increase from 2011. And while Google only complied with two-thirds of the total requests globally, they complied with 88% of the requests in the United States.

And the most troubling part?

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Drones in America? They are Already Here…

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is one of the most important organizations we have in America today.  While most of the country lays fast asleep to the dangers of the encroaching surveillance state, the EFF is always vigilantly at work on the front lines.  In their latest article, they show that military drones are already flying all over these United States and, using information received from a FOIA lawsuit they provide important details on what is flying and where.  You may be shocked at some of their conclusions.  From the EFF:

These records, received as a result of EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), come from state and local law enforcement agencies, universities and—for the first time—three branches of the U.S. military: the Air Force, Marine Corps, and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).

The records show that the Air Force has been testing out a bunch of different drone types, from the smaller, hand-launched Raven, Puma and Wasp drones designed by Aerovironment in Southern California, to the much larger Predator and Reaper drones responsible for civilian and foreign military deaths abroad. The Marine Corps is also testing drones, though it chose to redact so much of the text from its records that we still don’t know much about its programs.

Perhaps the scariest is the technology carried by a Reaper drone the Air Force is flying near Lincoln, Nevada and in areas of California and Utah. This drone uses “Gorgon Stare” technology, which Wikipedia defines as “a spherical array of nine cameras attached to an aerial drone . . . capable of capturing motion imagery of an entire city.” This imagery “can then be analyzed by humans or an artificial intelligence, such as the Mind’s Eye project” being developed by DARPA. If true, this technology takes surveillance to a whole new level.

While LIDAR can be used to create high-resolution images of the earth’s surface, it is also used in high tech police speed guns—begging the question of whether drones will soon be used for minor traffic violations.

However, once again, the records do not show that the FAA had any concerns about drone flights’ impact on privacy and civil liberties. This is especially problematic when drone programs like Otter Tail’s appear on first glance to be benign but later turn out to support the same problematic law enforcement uses that EFF has been increasingly concerned about.

It’s been over a year and a half since we first filed our FOIA request with the FAA, and we’re still waiting for more than half of the agency’s drone records. This is unacceptable.

Like with any new technology, drones can be put to good use or to evil use.  Just like nuclear power can harness energy or destroy humanity altogether, drones could do a lot of good, but the problem is that the government is clearly moving more and more towards a surveillance state so we must be extra careful.  Stay vigilant.

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike