Live Streaming Summary Executions

The Company Formerly Known as Taser (Axon) has announced a new line of body cameras that allow law enforcers to live stream their antics:

Police officers wearing new cameras by Axon, the U.S.’s largest body camera supplier, will soon be able to send live video from their cameras back to base and elsewhere, potentially enhancing officers’ situational awareness and expanding police surveillance.

[…]

Axon plans to test the device, the Axon Body 3, with a group of agencies early next year and ship to U.S. customers in the summer. (The initial price of $699 doesn’t include other costs, like a subscription to Axon’s Evidence.com data management system.) A built-in antenna transmits HD video over dedicated 4G LTE cellular networks, while another feature triggers the camera to start recording and alerts command staff once an officer has fired their weapon, a possible corrective to the problem of officers forgetting to switch them on.

Now the whole department can tune in for the summary execution of the unarmed black man!

Less you mistakenly believe that this live streaming capability might give oversight committees the ability to oversee law enforcers by randomly activating the live streaming capability, never fear, the live streaming capability can only be activated when the officer wearing the camera enables it:

Giving supervisors the ability to live-stream from officers’ chests has raised privacy concerns among police too. Axon’s system does not allow supervisors to remotely begin live-streaming from an officer’s camera unless it is in recording mode–that is, once an officer presses a large button in the center of the camera or is activated automatically by the sound of a gunshot, for instance. The video streams will also be limited to those with permission through the Evidence.com software.

That’s a relief! I was almost worried that there was a chance that an overseer might randomly activate an officer’s body camera can catch them doing something unlawful!

Of course the live video is streamed to Evidence.com, which is a service geared towards preventing the use of collected evidence from being used to defend an accused party or from bring charges against a law enforcer who has been caught doing something illegal.

Axon has covered all of its bases. There’s no possibility that these new features will be used to hold law enforcers accountable, which will make them popular with law enforcement departments.

Living in a Surveillance State

People often argue about whether Brave New World or Nineteen Eighty-Four more accurately predicted our current predicament. I tend to believe that both books predicted different aspects of the present. Governments have certainly invested heavily in dumbing down and distracting the population in order to make them more docile and therefore easier to rule. But they have also invested heavily in ensuring that they can watch everything you do wherever you go:

The next time you drive past one of those road signs with a digital readout showing how fast you’re going, don’t simply assume it’s there to remind you not to speed. It may actually be capturing your license plate data.

According to recently released US federal contracting data, the Drug Enforcement Administration will be expanding the footprint of its nationwide surveillance network with the purchase of “multiple” trailer-mounted speed displays “to be retrofitted as mobile LPR [License Plate Reader] platforms.” The DEA is buying them from RU2 Systems Inc., a private Mesa, Arizona company. How much it’s spending on the signs has been redacted.

This is why I laugh at people who leave their cellphone at home when they “don’t want to be tracked.” If you drive your vehicle somewhere, there’s an ever increasing chance that the license plate will be recorded by a government scanner. If you take public transit, there’s an almost guaranteed chance that your face will be caught on a surveillance cameras inside of the vehicle (and an ever increasing chance that facial recognition software will automatically identify you). If you walk, you’ll likely be recorded on any number of private and public surveillance cameras (which, again, are more and more being tied to facial recognition software to automatically identify you).

Everything has pros and cons. One of the cons of technology becoming more powerful and cheaper is that surveillance technology has become more powerful and cheaper. Tracking an individual, especially in metropolitan areas, is trivial. Fortunately, surveillance is a cat and mouse game. One of the pros of technology becoming more powerful and cheaper is that countersurveillance technology is becoming more powerful and cheaper.

Your Password, Please

Since I live in the United States, I spend most of my time lambasting its government’s infringements on privacy. But the United States doesn’t have a monopoly on violating individuals’ privacy. Every government has an interesting in violating rights. The hot privacy violation at the moment is demanding access to cell phones. Cell phones are becoming more integrated into our daily lives every day, which makes them a treasure trove of personal information. Here in the United States the government has made several efforts to force cell phone manufacturers to include a backdoor it can access. New Zealand has taken a different approach. If you don’t hand over your password to law enforcers, you will be fined:

New Zealand privacy activists have raised concerns over a new law that imposes a fine of up to NZ$5,000 (more than $3,200) for travelers—citizens and foreigners alike—who decline to unlock their digital devices when entering the country. (Presumably your phone would be seized anyway if it came to that.)

The Southern Pacific nation is believed to be the first in the world to impose such a law.

As a general rule, especially when crossing borders, it’s best to travel with clean devices and access whatever information you need remotely when you arrive at your destination. For example, instead of storing contract information on your cell phone when traveling, you might consider have your contract information on a remotely accessible server. When you get to your destination, you can log into the server and grab the phone numbers you need when you need them. When you’re ready to leave the country, you can factory reset your phone so your call log is erased.

Such a plan isn’t bulletproof. A factory reset phone is suspicious in of itself. Unfortunately there are no silver bullets. Every defensive measure has a list of pros and cons. You have to decide which set of pros and cons best fit your situation.

Marijuana You Say? Case Dismissed!

Do you remember the Dallas law enforcers that went to Botham Jean’s apartment to plant, err, find evidence to assassinate his character? This is probably going to come as a shock but they found something:

One of the warrants became a public record Thursday afternoon when it was returned to the judge who signed it. It was shortly after Jean’s funeral had ended. It listed several items found in Jean’s apartment, including a small amount of marijuana.

I can see the courtroom now. The officer’s defense attorney mentions that the search warrant resulted in the discovery of marijuana. The judge says, “Marijuana you say?” He then taps his gavel and says, “Case dismissed!”

Truth be told, the discovery of marijuana is irrelevant to the case at hand. Even if Officer Guyger was aware that Jean was in possession of cannabis, she had no warrant to enter the premise. Without a warrant or an invitation, which she never claimed to be given, she was in his dwelling unlawfully. But I’m sure the discovery of cannabis will give all of the boot lickers their much needed reason to defend Officer Guyger’s actions and that’s what the warrant was all about, assassinating Jean’s character.

Don’t Trust Snoops

Software that allows family members to spy on one another is big business. But how far can you trust a company that specializes in enabling abusers to keep a constant eye on their victims? Not surprisingly, such companies can’t be trusted very much:

mSpy, the makers of a software-as-a-service product that claims to help more than a million paying customers spy on the mobile devices of their kids and partners, has leaked millions of sensitive records online, including passwords, call logs, text messages, contacts, notes and location data secretly collected from phones running the stealthy spyware.

Less than a week ago, security researcher Nitish Shah directed KrebsOnSecurity to an open database on the Web that allowed anyone to query up-to-the-minute mSpy records for both customer transactions at mSpy’s site and for mobile phone data collected by mSpy’s software. The database required no authentication.

Oops.

I can’t say that I’m terribly surprised by this. Companies that make software aimed at allowing family members to spy on one another already have, at least in my opinion, a pretty flexible moral framework. I wouldn’t be surprised if all of the data collected by mSpy was stored in plaintext in order to make it easily accessible to other buyers.

Love It or Leave It… If You Can

Love it or leave it is a common phrase used by nationalistic Americans who would rather tell people who criticize their beloved country to get the fuck out than acknowledge its imperfection. What these individuals don’t stop to consider is that getting out isn’t necessarily easy and it’s becoming more difficult everyday:

PHARR, Texas – On paper, he’s a devoted U.S. citizen.

His official U.S. birth certificate shows he was delivered by a midwife in Brownsville, at the southern tip of Texas. He spent his life wearing American uniforms: three years as a private in the Army, then as a cadet in the Border Patrol and now as a state prison guard.

But when Juan, 40, applied to renew his U.S. passport this year, the government’s response floored him. In a letter, the State Department said it didn’t believe he was an American citizen.

As he would later learn, Juan is one of a growing number of people whose official birth records show they were born in the United States but who are now being denied passports — their citizenship suddenly thrown into question. The Trump administration is accusing hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Hispanics along the border of using fraudulent birth certificates since they were babies, and it is undertaking a widespread crackdown on their citizenship.

It’s pretty difficult to leave without a passport.

This is another sign of something that nationalists often fail to acknowledge, the United States is a police state. Controlling passports and other forms of travel papers has been a beloved strategy of tyrannical regimes to keep people from fleeing to greener pastures. The Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic were especially notorious for this. In fact in those two countries merely requesting official permission to leave could land you on a secret police watch list. Even if it didn’t, your chances of getting permission were slim unless your communist credentials were solid or you had some collateral (i.e. family members) to put up to ensure your return.

As the United States government continues to tighten the cuffs it has placed on the wrists of population, passport denials for citizens will become more frequent. This, of course, will be sold as necessary for national security but it will really be about stopping tax cattle from taking their wealth outside of the government’s power to steal it.

Living in the Freest Country on Earth

A lot of people living here in the United States remain adamant that it is the freest country on Earth. Even those who don’t believe that it is the freest country on Earth are skittish about calling it a police state. However, I can’t think of any other term that describes the state of a nation where this kind of nonsense takes place:

Los Angeles will be the first US city to start equipping its subways with body scanners. But the Southern California metropolis isn’t using the bulky, slow-operating models that populate US airports: Instead, LA’s Metropolitan Transit Authority will deploy portable trunk-sized scanners that can survey people from 30 feet away at a rate of 2,000 individuals an hour.

This shouldn’t surprise anybody. When the Transportation Security Administration installed body scanners at airports, there was a short period where people expressed outrage at the idea. After that short period almost everybody rolled over and accepted it. Now that practice is coming to subways in Los Angeles and I predict a similar result. There will be a short period of outrage but everybody will roll over like the good little slaves they are in short order. Then this system will come to trains (including municipal light rail) and buses and eventually you won’t be able to go anywhere without being subjected to a full body scan.

Being Treated Like a Criminal

I didn’t make it to DEF CON this year but I’m beginning to think that it was for the best. If there’s one thing I hate it’s being falsely accused of a crime, which is what many hotel staffs are now in the practice of doing in Las Vegas:

Caesars began rolling out a new security policy in February that mandated room searches when staff had not had access to rooms for over 24 hours. Caesars has been mostly tolerant of the idiosyncratic behavior of the DEF CON community, but it’s not clear that the company prepared security staff for dealing with the sorts of things they would find in the rooms of DEF CON attendees. Soldering irons and other gear were seized, and some attendees reported being intimidated by security staff.

[…]

And since the searches came without any warning other than a knock, they led, in some cases, to frightening encounters for attendees who were in those rooms. Katie Moussouris—a bug bounty and vulnerability disclosure program pioneer at Microsoft, an advocate for security researchers, and now the founder and CEO of Luta Security—was confronted by two male members of hotel security as she returned to her room. When she went into the room to call the desk to verify who they were, they banged on the door and screamed at her to immediately open it.

Caesars wasn’t the only hotel reported to be doing this by DEF CON attendees. Hotels owned by MGM Resorts International were also searching rooms without cause.

I don’t do business with people who assume ill of me so I sure as the hell am not going to do business with Caesars or any hotel owned by MGM Resorts International unless this practice is stopped. Unfortunately, I don’t foresee this practice ceasing. Instead I see this practice becoming the norm for hotels. If we look at the recent history of the United States, this kind of behavior will, at most, cause a very minor and very temporary dip in business. After their initial outrage though, if even that much of a reaction occurs, the American people will roll over and accept this incursion into their private life just as they have accepted every other incursion. If you accuse an American of being a criminal without cause, they tend to get upset… unless you tell them that the reason you’re accusing them is because somebody else committed a crime, then they’ll totally understand that it’s for the “greater good” and roll over like the good dogs that they are.

You Live in a Police State

When people think of police states they get an image of jackbooted thugs performing nightly raids in every neighborhood for the purpose of disappearing seemingly random citizens. Because of that image most people fail to recognize a real police state when they’re living in one. A real police state is far more subtle. It is a state where the government reserves for itself the right to harass anybody for entirely arbitrary reasons:

If you fall asleep or use the bathroom during your next flight, those incriminating facts could be added to your federal dossier. Likewise, if you use your laptop or look at noisy children seated nearby with a “cold, penetrating stare,” that may be included on your permanent record. If you fidget, sweat or have “strong body odor” — BOOM! the feds are onto you.

[…]

Anyone who has recently traveled to Turkey can apparently be put on the list — as well as people “possibly affiliated” with someone on a terrorist watchlist (which contains more than a million names). The program is so slipshod that it has targeted at least one airline flight attendant and a federal law enforcement agent.

After a person makes the Quiet Skies list, a TSA air marshal team is placed on his next flight. Marshals receive “a file containing a photo and basic information” and carefully note whether the suspect’s “appearance was different from information provided” — such as whether he has “gained weight,” is “balding” or “graying,” has a beard or “visible tattoos” (bad news for Juggalo fans of the Insane Clown Posse). Marshals record and report any “significant derogatory information” on suspects.

The key to a police state is that just because the government reserves for itself the right to harass anybody for entirely arbitrary reasons doesn’t mean it will choose to harass everybody or even a majority of people. Usually a police state will choose to harass only a small percentage of people, which allows the majority of people to believe that they don’t live in a police state because they’ve never been harassed.

The United States is a police state. The government has established a system of laws so complete that it is impossible not to be in violation of the law. Moreover, the government grants its agencies a great deal of free reign. The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) can surveil any air traveler for any arbitrary reason, including them somehow being associated with one of a million individuals on a secret list, and there is no way to know what the result of that surveillance is because the TSA has long had the power to add people to secret lists of people who it has the right to harass. But since most air travelers won’t suffer consequences from this practice, they will continue to be oblivious to the fact that they live in a police state.

Dimwitted Sheep

It is fortune for the United States government that it rules over such dimwitted and malleable sheep for if it wasn’t, it might suffer some kind of resistance whenever it inserted itself further into their everyday lives:

Federal air marshals have begun following ordinary US citizens not suspected of a crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting extensive information about their movements and behavior under a new domestic surveillance program that is drawing criticism from within the agency.

The previously undisclosed program, called “Quiet Skies,” specifically targets travelers who “are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,” according to a Transportation Security Administration bulletin in March.

Fortunately for the United States government, this new infringement on its subject’s supposed rights will meet with at most a few days of people making statements about how outraged they are before they roll over like the docile domesticated animals they are.