Monday, December 20, 2010

If the FBI is correct, I'd look at this as similar to the “zero down” schemes where the bad guys “bought” real estate with no money down, collected rents and never paid the mortgages. Is this the tip of the iceberg? (and is there a less disruptive way to gather evidence?)

FBI Defends Disruptive Raids on Texas Data Centers

The FBI on Tuesday defended its raids on at least two data centers in Texas, in which agents carted out equipment and disrupted service to hundreds of businesses.

The raids were part of an investigation prompted by complaints from AT&T and Verizon about unpaid bills allegedly owed by some data center customers, according to court records. One data center owner charges that the telecoms are using the FBI to collect debts that should be resolved in civil court. But on Tuesday, an FBI spokesman disputed that charge.

"We wouldn’t be looking at it if it was a civil matter," says Mark White, spokesman for the FBI’s Dallas office. "And a judge wouldn’t sign a federal search warrant if there wasn’t probable cause to believe that a fraud took place and that the equipment we asked to seize had evidence pertaining to the criminal violation."

… According to the owner of one co-location facility, Crydon Technology, which was raided on March 12, FBI agents seized about 220 servers belonging to him and his customers, as well as routers, switches, cabinets for storing servers and even power strips. Authorities also raided his home, where they seized eight iPods, some belonging to his three children, five XBoxes, a PlayStation3 system and a Wii gaming console, among other equipment. Agents also seized about $200,000 from the owner’s business accounts, $1,000 from his teenage daughter’s account and more than $10,000 in a personal bank account belonging to the elderly mother of his former comptroller.

… But a 39-page affidavit (.pdf) related to the Crydon raid provides a convoluted account of the investigation. It alleges that a number of conspirators, some of who may have connections to Faulkner, conspired to obtain agreements from AT&T and Verizon to purchase connectivity services with the telecoms. Several documents used to provide proof of business ownership and financial stability were forged, according to the affidavit.

Interesting that no one has raised the Privacy questions. This is new technology replacing the old technology (pen and paper) and making the police job faster and more accurate(?) – that part is a good thing.

Cops track gangsters with licence-plate readers – and store innocent people’s data?!

December 19, 2010 by Dissent

Chad Skelton reports:

The Vancouver police department’s plans to use automatic licence-plate readers to track gangsters’ movements could have a real impact on gang violence, according to one of the first U.S. police departments to deploy the technology.

“It’s been great for us and, looking at what they want to do in Vancouver, I think it’ll help them,” said Lt. Mike Wallace, head of Palm Beach County’s Gang Task Force.


Wallace said Palm Beach County – an area of one million people that includes affluent Palm Beach but also a number of rural areas – got its first plate-reader four years ago. At first, the force used it mainly to find stolen vehicles. “But once we understood the technology we thought: There’s more we can do with this,” Wallace said.

Soon, every time police learned gang members would be congregating, such as at a funeral or party, police simply drove one of their tracking-equipped cruisers to the scene and turned it on.

“We’ll take it out and drive around at a funeral for an hour and we’ll get 3,000 to 4,000 numbers,” Wallace said. [What percentage were “gang related?” Bob]

Almost immediately, Wallace said, the device started paying off, alerting officers to the presence of gangsters with outstanding arrest warrants. It also helped them discover new gang members who weren’t on their radar.


Wallace said his department hasn’t received much push-back from privacy advocates, despite the fact that it permanently stores all plate numbers the device captures – including those of law-abiding citizens.

Read more in the Montreal Gazette.

An interesting examination of the scope of information being gathered on everyone... Many examples of information being gathered with little or no real value and suggests a lack of trained intelligence analysts. But, the data is being gathered and cross-indexed. Some day they will find something, right?

Monitoring America

Nine years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators.

The system, by far the largest and most technologically sophisticated in the nation's history, collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of U.S. citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing.

… One of the biggest advocates of Memphis's data revolution is John Harvey, the police department's technology specialist, whose computer systems are the civilian equivalent of the fancier special ops equipment used by the military.

Harvey collects any information he can pry out of government and industry. When officers were wasting time knocking on the wrong doors to serve warrants, he persuaded the local utility company to give him a daily update of the names and addresses of customers.

When he wanted more information about phones captured at crime scenes, he programmed a way to store all emergency 911 calls, which often include names and addresses to associate with phone numbers. He created another program to upload new crime reports every five minutes and mine them for the phone numbers of victims, suspects, witnesses and anyone else listed on them.

Now, instead of having to decide which license plate numbers to type into a computer console in the patrol car, an officer can simply drive around, and the automatic license plate reader on his hood captures the numbers on every vehicle nearby. If the officer pulls over a driver, instead of having to wait 20 minutes for someone back at the office to manually check records, he can use a hand-held device to instantly call up a mug shot, a Social Security number, the status of the driver's license and any outstanding warrants.

Face it. Governments don't trust their citizens.

Google won’t share encryption keys with Indian sleuths

December 19, 2010 by Dissent

Google Inc will not share the encryption keys of its email service with Indian security agencies as it would compromise the privacy rights of millions of Gmail users worldwide, a top company executive said.

The Union home ministry, intelligence agencies and the telecom department are collectively exploring mandatory sharing of software by all communication service companies in India, a sensitive issue with global firms. Some firms have already been asked to comply and Canada’s Research In Motion (RIM) is edging closer to January 31, 2011, deadline to hand over the encryption keys for its popular BlackBerry messaging services to intelligence agencies.

Read more in The Economic Times. considers Google’s response somewhat hypocritical.

Ubiquitous Surveillance? How should I read this? Is it another “We can, therefore we must?” or is Google simply matching any application competitors offer that might become popular?

Google PowerMeter tracks home electricity via Wi-Fi

Blue Line Innovations is expected to announce a deal tomorrow to tie its PowerCost Monitor to Google's PowerMeter for monitoring home energy. Combined with a WiFi Gateway sold by Blue Line Innovations, a person can get real-time and historical information on electricity use.

In July, Microsoft and Blue Line Innovations announced a similar deal where people can track electricity data using Microsoft's Hohm Web application, a competitor to Google PowerMeter. Both Web applications are free.

Over time, executives have said Google intends to expand the capabilities of the application beyond electricity monitoring to track water, natural gas, and potentially schedule electric vehicle charging.

Making the courts more transparent. Now we need to write a “bot” to read all the opinions and flag anything dealing with Identity Theft, Privacy, etc.

December 19, 2010 announces 2 yr plan to release opinions of appellate and supreme courts of 50 states and federal government

News release: "Public.Resource.Org will begin providing in 2011 a weekly release of the Report of Current Opinions (RECOP). The Report will initially consist of HTML of all slip and final opinions of the appellate and supreme courts of the 50 states and the federal government. The feed will be available for reuse without restriction under the Creative Commons CC-Zero License and will include full star pagination. This data is being obtained through an agreement with Fastcase, one of the leading legal information publishers. Fastcase will be providing us all opinions in a given week by the end of the following week. We will work with our partners in Law.Gov to perform initial post-processing of the raw HTML data, including such tasks as privacy audits, conversion to XHTML, and tagging for style, content, and metadata."

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