How and why the US government surveils on its citizens.
How and why the US government surveils on its citizens.
You have a right to privacy. How about when you are driving around Manhattan? Maybe not.
On January 7, 2014, the New York Civil Liberties Union sent the New York State Department of Transportation, the New York City Department of Transportation and the NYPD formal legal requests for information on how they use E-ZPass readers to track and record New Yorkers’ movements. The request was filed after several recent press reports documented the use of E-ZPass readers to collect information on law-abiding New Yorkers far from toll plazas.
“New Yorkers have a right to know if their use of toll-paying technology is secretly being used to track their innocent comings and goings,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “No one should have to trade their privacy to pay a $10 toll.
“The NYCLU’s video shows the E-ZPass detector – the device that looks like a cow – going off almost constantly during a drive through Midtown and Lower Manhattan — in areas free of toll collection booths. In the area around 34th Street and Seventh Avenue, the cow lit up continuously for several blocks. It even detected a signal directly in front of the NYCLU’s office in the Wall Street area.
“An E-ZPass is a great convenience, but the technology in it can easily be misused. Given the potential for abuse when the government systematically starts collecting information about the day-to-day activities of law-abiding people, it is essential that there be clear and explicit limitations on how E-ZPass readers are used,” NYCLU Legislative Counsel Nate Vogel said. “The public should know if, how and why we are being tracked.”
The NYCLU’s Freedom of Information requests specifically seek information about the criteria and purpose for installing E-ZPass readers; the location of E-ZPass readers, including, any information distinguishing those used to collect tolls and those used for other purposes; privacy policies and marketing materials describing the types of data that can be collected by E-ZPass readers, when it will be collected and how it will be used; and how the New York City Department of Transportation shares data with other entities, including but not limited to the NYPD, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
You can also read more about E-ZPass tags from Kashmir Hill.
The system is entirely adaptable. The lights are currently being tested in Las Vegas but they could soon be positioned on public streets throughout the city.
They look like ordinary street poles but they’re actually capable of a wide variety of features from playing music, to broadcasting messages via voice and digital display. It’s all controlled by an Ipad or a similar-type of device.
“Actually, there’s a server that’s housed by the company that’s providing this product and we’re communicating with just a wireless, wi-fi connection,” Roheloder said.
“This technology, you know is taking us to a place where, you know, you’ll essentially be monitored from the moment you leave your home till the moment you get home,” said civil rights activist Daphne Lee.
And this system would never be hacked or abused in any way whatsoever.
Illuminating concepts, the company who designed Intellistreets, say the processors store and analyze data, soundtracks, announcements, commercials and even video files.
According to its own marketing video, the lights they manufacture are adaptable and capable of adding cameras for surveillance and security and even recording devices.
“Right now our intention is not to have any cameras or recording devices…it’s just to provide output out there, not to get any feed or video feed coming back,” said Las Vegas public works director, Jorge Servantes.
It’s not their intention now, but as soon as a government grant allows it to start, you can be sure recording will begin.
The Glendale Unified School District in California has hired Geo Listening to monitor its middle and high school students’ social media posts both during the school day and after. Under the banner of school and student safety, the district intends to monitor its students’ actions.
Chris Frydrych, the CEO of Geo Listening said, “We have provided information to school districts, which has led to numerous successful interventions on behalf of students that intended self-harm, suicide, bullying, truancy, substance abuse, and vandalism. We monitor only public posts to social networks. We do not monitor privatized pages, SMS, MMS, email, phone calls, voicemails.”
School districts are supposed to be about education. Over reaching on that goal and spying on students is teaching them to accept spying in all aspects of their lives as they grow up. The schools’ jurisdiction should end at the property line of the school. It should not be prying into the private lives of its students after school hours. It is a violation of privacy and First Amendment laws under 18 USC Sections 241,242 and 42 USC Sections 1983, 1985, 1986 of the United States.
This system will only succeed in forcing students to suppress any written speech they may have had and teach them that anything they say will, eventually, be used against them.
If there is no hit in the database, why is it necessary to keep the data at all?
The cameras only snap photos of license plates, not your faces. But the ACLU has some serious privacy concerns. They’re worried these cameras could be misused to track people’s movements.
In a recent report, the ACLU said these cameras store vast amounts of data on innocent people.
The group is concerned about the length of time the data is stored. The ACLU also commented that the cameras pose a risk to people’s privacy since it could be used to track people’s movements.
The report stated: “Anyone with access to these systems could track his boss, his ex-wife, his romantic or workplace rivals, friends, enemies, neighbors, family, and so forth. An agent could target the owners of vehicles parked at political meetings, gay bars, gun stores, or abortion clinics.”
“There are regulations, policies and laws in place that prohibit that kind of abuse. And if abuse is discovered, it’s punished,” said Cumming.
It doesn’t matter what regulations and policies are put into the law to prevent abuse. If the technology is there, someone is going to abuse it. When LPR was first introduced, it was designed as a policing tool to stop those who were wanted. Now, investigative companies pay law enforcement for the data to find vehicles. Lobbyists have also used the information to get bills defeated, or passed. Other data brokers are willing mine all this data and sell it for as little as $10.
What Longboat Key is doing is storing information on innocent people who have no recourse and no way to protect their privacy. Their information is then sold on to the next customer who is willing to pay the police department for their data.
Given the fact that this information will be kept for ten years, anyone buying this information (or in the case of the police, directly stealing it) will be able to know your work hours, where you live, what kind of car you drive, when you’re likely to be home alone, or gone on vacation.
Americans need to stop and think about the fact that such a simple technology, multiplied several times in numerous jurisdictions changes your right to privacy. It is collecting data on every aspect of your life and storing it, to be sold to the highest bidder. Is this the kind of world anyone would want to live in? This question needs to be asked, and answered, because it is now possible and we are heading in that direction faster than we can understand the technologies behind it. This needs to be discussed before we arrive in a country that we no longer recognize and every aspect of privacy is taken away.