Experts have warned for years about using Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) technology (see 1, 2, 3). Embarrassing as well as tragic examples of A.I. inaccuracies continue to be reported (see 1, 2, 3, 4).
People have been accused and convicted of crimes based on inaccuracies (see 1, 2) including from the use of A.I. based ShotSpotter technology. Nevertheless, a new A.I. device is being marketed to American communities and police departments.
Technology rarely invents new societal problems. Instead, it digitizes them, supersizes them, and allows them to balloon and duplicate at the speed of light. That’s exactly the problem we’ve seen with location-based, crowd-sourced “public safety” apps like Citizen.
These apps come in a wide spectrum—some let users connect with those around them by posting pictures, items for sale, or local tips. Others, however, focus exclusively on things and people that users see as “suspicious” or potentially hazardous. These alerts run the gamut from active crimes, or the aftermath of crimes, to generally anything a person interprets as helping to keep their community safe and informed about the dangers around them.
These apps are often designed with a goal of crowd-sourced surveillance, like a digital neighborhood watch. A way of turning the aggregate eyes (and phones) of the neighborhood into an early warning system. But instead, they often exacerbate the same dangers, biases, and problems that exist within policing. After all, the likely outcome to posting a suspicious sight to the app isn’t just to warn your neighbors—it’s to summon authorities to address the issue.
And even worse than incentivizing people to share their most paranoid thoughts and racial biases on a popular platform are the experimental new features constantly being rolled out by apps like Citizen. First, it was a private security force, available to be summoned at the touch of a button. Then, it was a service to help make it (theoretically) even easier to summon the police by giving users access to a 24/7 concierge service who will call the police for you. There are scenarios in which a tool like this might be useful—but to charge people for it, and more importantly, to make people think they will eventually need a service like this—adds to the idea that companies benefit from your fear.
These apps might seem like a helpful way to inform your neighbors if the mountain lion roaming your city was spotted in your neighborhood. But in practice they have been a cesspool of racial profiling, cop-calling, gatekeeping, and fear-spreading. Apps where a so-called “suspicious” person’s picture can be blasted out to a paranoid community, because someone with a smartphone thinks they don’t belong, are not helping people to “Connect and stay safe.” Instead, they promote public safety for some, at the expense of surveillance and harassment for others.
An arrogant BBC News anchor lectured a privacy advocate Tuesday who argued that a rise in violent crime, particularly against women, cannot be countered by eroding freedom and further empowering the surveillance state.
Following the announcement that police in the UK are setting up a scheme to use CCTV cameras to watch women at night to make them ‘feel safer’, Madeline Stone of the privacy advocate group Big Brother Watch argued that there are already masses of surveillance cameras everywhere and they do not make people any safer or prevent crime.
Stone emphasised that adding more cameras strips away privacy and is in no way a solution to the problem, including harassment of and violence against women.
“But the woman is asking for the camera to be on them, so this is not a breach of civil liberties,” the anchor responded, referring to the scheme which uses an opt-in app.
Stone replied that having an anonymous stranger tracking a woman’s movements via a camera isn’t going to help, but was continuously interrupted by the anchor who repeatedly stated “if it’s something that’s going to make you feel safer,” it will be welcomed.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has doubled down on a provision in the Democrats’ multi-trillion-dollar reconciliation bill that would allow the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to see information on all Americans’ bank transactions totaling $600 or more. Republicans and banks have raised the alarm about the provision, reporting that their constituents and clients are deeply concerned about the proposal.
Since the introduction of their reconciliation bill, Democrats have insisted that the bill will not add to the debt or the deficit, claiming that all new spending in the bill will be paid for.
Along with significantly increasing marginal tax rates to pay for the bill, Democrats proposed and wrote into the bill a section to allow the IRS to gather Americans’ private information from banks, including information on all transactions totaling more than $600.
In August 2016, Bloomberg Businessweek revealed the existence of a pilot program being operated by the Baltimore Police Department in which small manned aircraft circled over the city all day, using cameras to continuously photograph a 32-square-mile area and giving police the ability to retroactively track any vehicle or pedestrian within that area. It was the ultimate Big Brother “eye in the sky”—and yet the Baltimore police had not notified the public or even the mayor or city council about the program. Revelation of the secret program generated a storm of controversy, and eventually it was put on hold—though in December 2019, the city’s police commissioner announced that the program would be revived.
The technology behind the Baltimore program involves pointing multiple cameras toward the ground and stitching those images together into a single, larger photograph. It also uses computers to automatically correct for the changing camera angles of the circling planes as well as factors such as topographic variances and lens distortion.
The result is a surveillance system of enormous power, able to reconstruct the movements of all visible vehicles and pedestrians across a city—where they start and finish each journey and the paths they take in between. It can allow tracking of a great proportion of people’s movements throughout a city.
Schools across the United States reportedly handed out laptops to pupils for distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic — and then spied on them with the very same electronic device, according to a Monday report from The Guardian.
What are the details?
According to recently released research from the Center for Democracy and Technology, 86% of teachers polled said their schools provided electronic learning devices — such as tablets, laptops, and Chromebooks — for students to use at home at nearly double the rate when compared year over year.
Many of those devices, however, were reportedly being used to monitor students — even going as far as to “[comb] through private chats, emails, and documents” — in order to protect them from harassment and suicidal ideations.
The research noted that more than 80% of teachers surveyed admitted that their schools used such surveillance software on those student devices.
One anonymous administrator told the Center for Democracy and Technology that many teachers believe that spying on kids for the greater good will have only positive impacts on the students being surveilled.
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency published the agency’s data strategy Oct. 6, outlining its plans to transform and improve the way data is created, managed and shared in order to maintain dominance in the delivery of geospatial intelligence.
“It is essential that we take all actions necessary to sustain our advantage in GEOINT — and that includes managing our data as a key strategic asset,’’ stated NGA Director Vice Adm. Robert Sharp in the data strategy. “With the holistic enterprise approach mapped out within this new data strategy, NGA sets forth a path for leading the way and staying ahead of our competitors.’’
The NGA Data Strategy 2021, a 28-page public document, includes both strategic goals and courses of action for the agency as it continues to chart a secure and innovative path forward while facing increasing amounts of data, risk and competition.
Aligned to the agency’s Moonshot effort to “deliver trusted GEOINT with the speed, accuracy and precision required,’’ the strategy calls for the accelerated, shared and trusted use of data to help NGA better deliver on its mandates and show the way.
The plan, created as a companion document to the NGA Technology Strategy published in 2020, already has played an integral role in the agency’s recent adoption of a new data governance structure to provide a coordinated framework for data policies and stewardship.
The data strategy, combined with the established collaborative data governance program, guides the agency’s push to close the gap between current and future capabilities by accelerating developments in four significant focus areas: making data easily accessible, improving data reusability, improving cross-domain efficiencies and enabling next-generation GEOINT.
The federal government is issuing warrants from compliant Google to turn over anyone typing in certain search terms.
But they assure the American public that they can be trusted. Just like the federal government assured Americans they would not abuse the secret FISA courts to spy on innocent Americans!
We now know that crooked feds were spying on Donald Trump, his family, his campaign and his presidency using the secret courts to obtain warrants.
This is your brave new world. Get used to it.