Tag Archives: Surveillance

N.S.A. Collecting Millions of Faces From Web Images

N.S.A. Collecting Millions of Faces From Web Images

The New York Times
May 31, 2014


The National Security Agency is harvesting huge numbers of images of people from communications that it intercepts through its global surveillance operations for use in sophisticated facial recognition programs, according to top-secret documents.

The spy agency’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications, the N.S.A. documents reveal. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world, the documents show. The agency’s ambitions for this highly sensitive ability and the scale of its effort have not previously been disclosed.

Read the full article at… Direct Link:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/us/nsa-collecting-millions-of-faces-from-web-images.html?hpw&rref=us&_r=0

Obama administration tight-lipped on NSA surveillance of allies

Obama administration tight-lipped on NSA surveillance of allies


CBS News
by Rebecca Kaplan
October 28, 2013


The U.S. Embassy, right, sits near Germany's legislative buildings in Berlin. Chancellor Angela Merkel is among the leaders of U.S.-allied nations who have complained in recent days over reports of U.S. spying. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images / October 28, 2013)
The U.S. Embassy, right, sits near Germany’s legislative buildings in Berlin. Chancellor Angela Merkel is among the leaders of U.S.-allied nations who have complained in recent days over reports of U.S. spying. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images / October 28, 2013)


The White House is under fire to explain exactly how much President Obama knows about U.S. surveillance programs in the wake of a Wall Street Journal article that suggested the National Security Agency (NSA) had been monitoring the phones of 35 world leaders until an internal Obama administration review discovered and ended the program.

The White House has avoided confirming or denying whether the report is true, instead choosing to reiterate that they are not currently and will not monitor the phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who raised the issue in a phone call with Mr. Obama last week.

“I don’t want to get into the specifics of how the president is briefed on different intelligence operations,” said Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes in an interview with CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett, regarding whether Mr. Obama knew about the monitoring. “What I will say is that he sets priorities as a commander in chief…he is briefed on a regular basis and the fact of the matter is what he’s focused on in the intelligence are threats. What is the state of counterterrorism around the world?”




Rhodes echoed White House spokesman Jay Carney’s briefing earlier Monday, stressing that the administration is in the process of reviewing its intelligence collection. One of the reason Rhodes declined to discuss whether Merkel’s phone was monitored was because the administration wants to deal with the larger question of how information is gathered and what constraints are placed on the collection, “not on an ad hoc basis,” he said.

“If we got into the business of briefing out every aspect of our intelligence operations we couldn’t operate with the necessary secrecy that intelligence gathering depends upon,” Rhodes said. “At the same time we can be more transparent about how we gather information.”

CBS News Senior National Security Analyst Juan Zarate said the president should know about surveillance programs at that level, and that it would be the responsibility of the Director of National Intelligence – currently James Clapper – to ensure that Mr. Obama knows the scope of what the intelligence community is doing.

Zarate also noted that Mr. Obama pledged to review Bush-era intelligence operations when he entered office, “so in some ways if the president didn’t know, shame on him, and shame on him and his leadership for not asking the question, but also it may not be believable [that he didn’t know] given the intensity and scope of this type of surveillance.”

“At the end of the day the administration is responsible for the programs and authorizes these programs so the president has to answer for them,” Zarate said.

The NSA, led by Keith Alexander, told CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former deputy director of national intelligence, that the president was never briefed in 2010 on any surveillance of Merkel.


NSA spying on foreign leaders: What did the President know about, and when?

“The way this works is the president gets the president’s daily briefing,” Miller said. “What you get in there is a lot of really good information that is meant to give American policy makers, starting with the president, what they call ‘decision advantage’ – which way are other people leaning, what are they thinking, what turmoil is going on inside their government, we call that the intelligence business.”

But the revelations about the surveillance is already straining U.S. relationships. “If you get the feeling that your closest allies spying on you, then that’s difficult to talk to such an ally in an open way anymore. And I think we have to make a clear distinction between fight together terrorism and not spying on friends,” said Elmar Brok, a German member of the European Parliament who had a closed-door session with House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., Monday morning. Brok added that if the German people – some of whom lived under the East German police state during the Cold War — feel like the U.S. was spying on all of them, “people do not love America anymore…that is a very damaging thing.”

“We’re not spying on everybody in Europe,” Rhodes said. “That’s a dramatic overstating of the situation.”

Brok said Germany will seek a “no-spying” pledge like the so-called “Five Eyes” agreement in which the U.S. and four other countries – the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – share intelligence but do not spy on one another. Rhodes said broadly that the U.S. is open to discussion with its European allies about how to better coordinate intelligence gathering. He also noted that there are already longstanding intelligence relationships that exist, and that U.S. intelligence has helped to foil terrorist plots in a number of European countries.

The frustration is reaching members of Congress as well. On Monday afternoon, Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called for a total review of all intelligence programs and said that the Senate had been inadequately informed of surveillance activities.

“With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies–including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany–let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed,” Feinstein said in a statement. “Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers. The president should be required to approve any collection of this sort.”


Direct Link:  http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57609690/obama-administration-tight-lipped-on-nsa-surveillance-of-allies/

US court rules warrant required for GPS tracking of vehicles

US court rules warrant required for GPS tracking of vehicles

PC World /IDG News Service
by John Ribeiro
October 22, 2013

US court rules warrant required for GPS tracking of vehicles
US court rules Law Enforcement requires warrant for GPS tracking of vehicles



A U.S. appeals court has ruled that police must obtain a warrant prior to using a GPS device to track a vehicle, deciding on an unaddressed issue in an earlier Supreme Court order.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on Tuesday is considered a victory by privacy groups as a number of courts in the country grapple with the legal and privacy implications of using mobile phone location information and GPS in investigations by law enforcement.

In the case, United States v. Katzin, the government used a GPS device attached to the exterior of the van of Harry Katzin, one of the suspects in the burglaries of several pharmacies, to track his movements and those of his two brothers as they drove from one pharmacy to another. Police eventually arrested them.

A District Court upheld the claim of the Katzin brothers that the government had violated their Fourth Amendment rights by attaching the GPS tracking device without a warrant. The government, which had contended that a warrant was not required for use of the GPS device, appealed the ruling.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Unless there are some very highly specific circumstances, which were not present in the current case, “the police cannot justify a warrantless GPS search with reasonable suspicion alone,” the appeals court wrote in its order.

The case is the first in which a federal appeals court has held explicitly that warrants are required for GPS tracking by police, said the American Civil Liberties Union, which was one of the amici curiae in the dispute. Described as “friend of the court,” an amicus curiae is a party that is not directly involved in a litigation, but believe they may be impacted or have views on the matter before the court.

The government held that if officers are required to obtain a warrant and have probable cause prior to executing a GPS search, “officers could not use GPS devices to gather information to establish probable cause, which is often the most productive use of such devices,” the court observed in its order.

In another case, United States v. Jones, the U.S. Supreme Court held last year that GPS tracking by attaching a device to a vehicle constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment. But the court did not decide on whether warrants were required.

“Among the issues that Jones left open, however, was whether warrantless use of GPS devices would be ‘reasonable — and thus lawful — under the Fourth Amendment [where] officers ha[ve] reasonable suspicion, and indeed probable cause’ to execute such searches,” according to the ruling by the court of appeals.


Direct Link:  http://www.pcworld.com/article/2057000/us-court-rules-warrant-required-for-gps-tracking-of-vehicles.html

Aaron’s computer rental chain settles FTC spying charges

Aaron’s computer rental chain settles FTC spying charges

The rent-to-own computer company settles a complaint that accused it of secretly taking Webcam photos of users in their homes and recording keystrokes of Web site login credentials.


C/Net News
by Dara Kerr
October 22, 2013



Aaron's computer rental chain settles FTC spying charges
Aaron’s computer rental chain settles FTC spying charges


Imagine getting set up with a rent-to-own computer only to later find out that the retailer was surreptitiously snapping Webcam photos of you and recording your keystrokes via spyware. As bad as this sounds, it reportedly happened.

Atlanta-based Aaron’s rent-to-own computer chain has been accused of knowingly installing software onto its computers that secretly monitored its customers. The Federal Trade Commission caught onto the Aaron’s alleged tactics and filed a complaint against the company earlier this year. On Tuesday, the chain agreed to settle with the FTC.

According to the FTC’s complaint (PDF), Aaron’s software tracked customers’ locations, took photos with the computers’ Webcams “including those of adults engaged in intimate activities,” and activated keyloggers that were able to capture login credentials for everything from e-mail to Facebook to banking sites.

“Consumers have a right to rent computers free of cyberspying and to know when and how they are being tracked by a company,” FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Jessica Rich said in a statement. “By enabling their franchisees to use this invasive software, Aaron’s facilitated a violation of many consumers’ privacy.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Aaron’s is prohibited from using monitoring technology that captures keystrokes, takes photos, or records sound. The company must also get customer consent before it uses location-tracking software on its rental computers.

Aaron’s came under fire from the FTC in a separate complaint last year that was specifically about software the company had allegedly used. The chain was one of eight companies accused of using a program called “Detective Mode,” which secretly monitored customers and also showed users fake “software registration” screens designed to gather personal information. In this instance, Aaron’s also settled with the FTC.

The settlement for the FTC’s current complaint has a 30-day public comment period before the government agency decides whether or not to approve it.


Related stories


Direct Link:  http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-57608838-83/aarons-computer-rental-chain-settles-ftc-spying-charges/