Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

Browsing Posts tagged Travel

From BlackHat:

Every day, millions of people go through airport security. While it is an inconvenience that could take a while, most are willing to follow the necessary procedures if it can guarantee their safety. Modern airport security checkpoints use sophisticated technology to help the security screeners identify potential threats and suspicious baggage.

Have you ever wondered how these devices work? Have you ever wondered why an airport security checkpoint was set up in a particular configuration? Join us as we present the details on how a variety of airport security systems actually work, and reveal their weaknesses. We’ll present what we have learned about modern airport security procedures, dive deep into the devices used to detect threats, and we’ll present some the bugs we discovered along the way.

If you’d like the pdf slides from the presentation, they are embedded below.

Download (PDF, 7.56MB)

Video.

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Chicago police have announced they plan to stop rush hour public transit riders before they pass through turnstiles and screen their bags for explosives. There is no threat. The police see this as a proactive approach to terrorism that doesn’t exist.

There is “no known terrorist threat” that prompted the new procedure slated to begin the week of Nov. 3, Nancy Lipman, Chicago police commander for public transportation, said Friday at a news conference announcing the initiative.

So, there is no threat, yet the city of Chicago is going to toss out civil liberties just because they can.

Chicago police spokesman Marty Maloney says the security measure is a “proactive, protective measure.”

Proactive and protective of whom? There is no threat.

“We know that surface transportation has been targeted in other places in the past [Madrid, New York, London, Russia] and want to take whatever precautions possible,” Maloney told RedEye.

So, surface transportation has been targeted in one other American city, but three others in Europe are being tossed in to add a fear factor and justification for the city of Chicago.

Amtrak and the New York City and Washington transit stations employ a similar screening measure, Lipman said.

This is akin to, “if all your other friends are doing it, you might as well do it, too.”

Chicago police say they will randomly select one rail station each day to set up the screening table outside the rail turnstiles during rush hour. Lipman said most of the stations will be downtown but other stops will be included as well.

Soon after the tables are put up, thousands of people will find out about it via the Internet and newly created apps and most people will avoid this stop.

A team of four to five officers will man the table, which will have two explosives testing machines.

Police will approach riders, whom they have randomly selected by picking a random number that morning, Lipman said.

For example, if police pick the number 10, they will ask the 10th person who enters the station, then the 20th and so on, Lipman said.

Police say they will swab the outside of the bags but will not open them during the test.

They won’t open them, for now. As soon as everyone complies with this “randomness” the test will require searches of bags.

Riders who pass the test are free to enter the turnstiles. Officers will ask to inspect the bags of riders who fail the test. Police say the machines are testing the presence of explosives, not drugs.

Again, for now. This has been done before.

The whole process should take “less than a minute,” Lipman said during the Friday press conference at the Clinton stop on the Green and Pink lines. “We expect it to have no impact on a customer’s commute time.”

Riders who refuse to have their bag swabbed won’t be allowed to get on the train—in fact they’ll be ordered to leave the station. But they can head to another station to board the train, police said.

Because this is being done during rush hour, it will probably be just as easy to leave the train station and return a few moments later and the police won’t notice simply because there’s too many people.

Or, if police suspect the rider is involved in “further suspicious activity, and if we determine that probable cause exists to stop him/her for questioning, we might do so,” Maloney said.

“Further suspicious activity” is conveniently not described and intentionally vague. All for your safety of course. This won’t be abused.

Riders who say no to the swabbing but try to enter that station’s turnstiles face arrest, police say.

And your free movement within the United States is restricted in the name of a non-existent threat to your safety.

The screenings at stations will occur “several times a week,” police said.

Good luck, Chicago. Please fight against this ridiculousness.

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In Rochester, New York, and other cities around the country, license plate readers (LPRs) continue to pop up. With little regulation nationwide, no one really knows how much of their data is collected, how it’s used, who keeps the data or for how long.

Most surprisingly, the digital cameras are mounted on cars and trucks driven by a small army of repo men, including some in Rochester and Syracuse.

Shadowing a practice of U.S. law enforcement that some find objectionable, records collected by the repo companies are added to an ever-growing database of license-plate records that is made available to government and commercial buyers.

At present that database has 2.3 billion permanent records, including hundreds of thousands gathered locally. On average, the whereabouts of every vehicle in the United States — yours, mine, your mother’s — appears in that database nine times.

Todd Hodnett, founder of the company that aggregates and sells that data, defends the activity as lawful and harmless. “We’re just photographing things that are publicly visible,” he said.

No matter how benign the intentions of camera system operators, they say, their data may prove irresistible to government or private parties bent on snooping.

“We think people are entitled to wander around this grand country without being concerned about being tracked,” said Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. “What they’re doing … is making it possible for someone to come back and check.”

As often is the case with emerging technologies, license-plate reader use is outpacing government attempts at regulation. Only five states have adopted laws regulating or banning private use of license-plate readers, also known as LPRs, with legislative bodies in as many more states having considered such measures.

New York State has no such laws, but there are 3.8 million records in their database.

Crowded mall parking lots have been favored venues for plate readers, which are deployed for market studies, security purposes or to guide shoppers who have forgotten where they left their car.

The owner of the Rochester area’s largest malls, Wilmorite Inc., is aware of the trend but has so far opted out.

“We have been approached by those companies. From our perspective … there’s still some privacy issues. People feel you’re using information they want to keep private,” said Janice Sherman, Wilmorite’s marketing director. “At this point we’re not going to jump in something like that. We want to see how it pans out.”

In some cases, motorists must provide their own personal data and then have no control over how it’s used.

At Monroe Community College, employees, students and frequent visitors register their plate numbers with the college. Employees gain access to gated lots when cameras match their plate with a number in the college database.

Campus security patrols student and visitor lots with license plate cameras, making sure everyone’s parked in the right place. If they’re not, tickets follow. The number of tickets is down, spokeswoman Cynthia Cooper said, perhaps because students no longer misplace their window stickers.

Perhaps tickets are down because access to gated areas are only allowed after plate numbers are matched with a database, not because people have forgotten to put a sticker on a window. Restricted access automatically reduces tickets.

New York State’s DMV has also jumped on the cash cow bandwagon.

Every two years, the New York DMV sells access to its database of registered vehicles. That database includes the registrant’s name and address plus the make, model and year of the vehicle. Under the current contract, Experian Information Solutions and R.L. Polk and Co. are expected to pay New York about $3 million over two years for this data.

Those two companies are free to use and to re-sell the data, but it can only be employed for “statistical compilations” and research. They cannot contact an individual or make use of their personal information except in connection with a vehicle manufacturer’s recall. Federal law contains a provision allowing registrants to “opt-in” to use of this data for marketing purposes, but New York DMV officials assume no one would want to be targeted for marketing in this way and thus the agency has no opt-in program.

Some individuals still do not see a problem with anyone obtaining this data. Your movements are tracked everywhere you go in your vehicle. After a few days, a profile can be developed on you.

Databases can, and are, hacked. If there’s a profile on you, someone now knows the schedule of your family and the most likely time you are not going to be home. They know where your spouse and children are on a regular basis.

This sort of information can be used to find out your political leanings, what protests or rallies you attend, who you associate with. It is a temptation those in power will not resist. With this information, it will be trivial to crush dissent.

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A man is suing the TSA after he says he opened his suitcase to find his mother’s ashes dumped out.

According to court documents, Mr. Thomas had followed all of the guidelines and properly packed his mother’s “heavy and sturdy” urn inside of his suitcase for check-in.

The urn was tightly screwed closed and he says it was packed with extra clothing for padding and protection.

But when he arrived in Puerto Rico, he found his mother ashes dumped inside of the suitcase, all over his clothing and with a TSA notice of inspection.

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A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) uses its Secure Flight Program to give many government employees special treatment.

In addition to members of Congress and federal judges, millions of employees of the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and intelligence agencies are automatically being considered low risk. As a result, they’re able to use the less invasive and more convenient Pre-Check line at the airport.

As the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has pointed out, this program creates something of a caste system in which government employees get special privileges, while civilians placed in the high or unknown risk categories can’t even find out the rationale for their categorization. “Ultimately,” the ACLU argues, “when we start rewarding or punishing people because of who they are, as opposed to what they’ve done, we drift farther from the principles at the heart of our Constitution.”

There’s no need to complain when you get the perks no one else does. Read the report below.

Download (PDF, 3.37MB)

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