Firearms dealers now required to provide buyers’ addresses to feds for denied transactions

As part of a sweeping change that has gun rights groups alarmed, federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) are now required to provide the FBI with the personal addresses of individuals whose attempted purchases were denied.

In turn, the FBI must now provide details of the failed transactions — not only those denied but also those just delayed — and the personal information of the rejected individuals to local law enforcement, raising fears of greater government infringement on the Second Amendment.

The changes were quietly implemented last week by the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to comply with new federal law. NICS was established to determine if an individual is prohibited by law from receiving firearms and can either approve, deny, or delay a firearms purchase.

In March, Congress passed and President Biden signed a massive appropriations package for fiscal year 2022 that included the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act (VAWA). Tucked into the VAWA was a bipartisan measure called the NICS Denial Notification Act, which mandates that the FBI’s NICS Section alert state and local law enforcement of all denied attempts to purchase a firearm within 24 hours.

The stated purpose of the bill is to stop criminals and prevent gun crimes before they happen.

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The US edges closes to passing digital ID legislation

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Committee has approved the Improving Digital Identity Act, a legal framework for digital ID systems for US citizens.

We obtained a copy of the bill for you here.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee already voted to pass the legislation in July.

The Improving Digital Identity Act is a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). It aims to create a public-private digital identity task force tasked with “improving” digital ID verification systems in government agencies.

The legislation would also allow the Department of Homeland Security to award grants for advancements to digital identity verification systems. Territorial, tribal, local, and state governments would be eligible to receive funding for the establishment of interoperable and secure digital ID systems.

The legislation would also require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to provide Congress with reports on the cost savings of the wide use of digital ID systems.

Critics of digital ID systems say such systems raise privacy concerns. Supporters of these systems argue that they will help prevent identity fraud and improve economic activity by providing secure online transactions.

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We Can’t Hear You? Public Buses Across Country Quietly Adding Microphones To Record Passenger Conversations

Transit authorities in cities across the country are quietly installing microphone-enabled surveillance systems on public buses that would give them the ability to record and store private conversations, according to documents obtained by a news outlet.

The systems are being installed in San Francisco, Baltimore, and other cities with funding from the Department of Homeland Security in some cases, according to the Daily, which obtained copies of contracts, procurement requests, specs and other documents.

The use of the equipment raises serious questions about eavesdropping without a warrant, particularly since recordings of passengers could be obtained and used by law enforcement agencies.

It also raises questions about security, since the IP audio-video systems can be accessed remotely via a built-in web server (.pdf), and can be combined with GPS data to track the movement of buses and passengers throughout the city.

According to the product pamphlet for the RoadRecorder 7000 system made by SafetyVision (.pdf), “Remote connectivity to the RoadRecorder 7000 NVR can be established via the Gigabit Ethernet port or the built-in 3G modem. A robust software ecosystem including LiveTrax vehicle tracking and video streaming service combined with SafetyNet central management system allows authorized users to check health status, create custom alerts, track vehicles, automate event downloads and much more.”

The systems use cables or WiFi to pair audio conversations with camera images in order to produce synchronous recordings. Audio and video can be monitored in real-time, but are also stored onboard in blackbox-like devices, generally for 30 days, for later retrieval. Four to six cameras with mics are generally installed throughout a bus, including one near the driver and one on the exterior of the bus.

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New Zealand expands surveillance network that was used to hunt down three Covid-positive women

The surveillance networks that New Zealand police used to hunt down three Covid-infected women are being rolled out in other parts of the country.

Police have taken advantage of tapping into a surveillance system run by two private companies, allowing them to access thousands of cameras that are constantly scanning and documenting car number plates, even when they don’t own the cameras.

Police issued new rules about the use of automated number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras last week.

We obtained a copy of the rules for you here.

New Zealand police have spent years pushing for the development of a second privately-owned network of almost 5000 CCTV cameras owned by businesses, local governments, and more – all that is accessible by police officers through the use of a simple app.

The approach, similar to new proposals in San Francisco, joins the public law enforcement tools with private surveillance and raises extensive privacy concerns.

Further, the new law that allows this also shields police from liability for data breaches.

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USPS spied on ‘MAGA’ protesters, right-wing groups, gun rights activists, documents show

The U.S Postal Service spied on ‘MAGA’ protesters, gun rights activists and other right-wing groups between late 2020 and early 2021, according to records obtained by The Washington Times. ‘MAGA’ is former President Donald Trump’s slogan meaning “Make America Great Again.”

Patrick Eddington, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, obtained heavily redacted files detailing the USPS’ surveillance activities from September 2020 to April 2021, which included a secret effort to surveil social media known as the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP).

The USPS monitored the activities of gun rights activists, protesters planning to demonstrate against police in Louisville, Kentucky after the shooting of Breonna Taylor, and right-wing groups traveling to Washington, D.C. after the 2020 election. 

Eddington said the documents demonstrate the USPS’ surveillance capabilities.

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Senator Wyden: US military bought mass monitoring tool that includes email and browsing data

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has revealed that the US Naval Investigative Service (NCIS) has a contract for “Augury” – a mass monitoring tool that reportedly covers 93% of the world’s internet traffic and provides access to petabytes of current and historical data.

Wyden made the revelation in a recent letter that urged officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Defense (DOD), and Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate their department’s “warrantless purchase and use of records revealing the websites Americans have accessed online.”

The Senator wrote that public contracting records show that NCIS has a contract for Augury and that these records show that Augury provides access to network data “from over 550 collection points worldwide.” Wyden added that these records show Augury “is updated with at least 100 billion new records each day” and “confirm that Augury provides access to email data…and data about web browser activity.”

Not only does Wyden’s letter highlight this Augury contract but it also reveals that Wyden’s department was recently contacted by a whistleblower who had filed formal complaints “regarding the warrantless purchase and use of netflow data by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).” This whistleblower told Wyden’s department that NCIS is “purchasing access to data, which includes netflow records and some ‘communications content” from Team Cymru – a data broker that offers access to Augury.

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Facebook spied on private messages of Americans who questioned 2020 election

Facebook has been spying on the private messages and data of American users and reporting them to the FBI if they express anti-government or anti-authority sentiments — or question the 2020 election — according to sources within the Department of Justice.

Under the FBI collaboration operation, somebody at Facebook red-flagged these supposedly subversive private messages over the past 19 months and transmitted them in redacted form to the domestic terrorism operational unit at FBI headquarters in Washington, DC, without a subpoena.

“It was done outside the legal process and without probable cause,” alleged one of the sources, who spoke on condition of ­anonymity.

“Facebook provides the FBI with private conversations which are protected by the First Amendment without any subpoena.”

These private messages then have been farmed out as “leads” to FBI field offices around the country, which subsequently requested subpoenas from the partner US Attorney’s Office in their district to officially obtain the private conversations that Facebook already had shown them.

But when the targeted Facebook users were investigated by agents in a local FBI field office, sometimes using covert surveillance techniques, nothing criminal or violent turned up.

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An Opaque Web of Credit Reports Is Tracking Everything You Do

Liam Downey remembers the first time he heard about ChexSystems. It was December 2021, not long after he moved to Mancos, Colorado, a tiny mountain hamlet with a population under 1,500.

The only bank in town had just barred the 52-year-old flight paramedic from opening an account because his so-called ChexSystems score was too low. The teller gave him the contact information of the agency but not much else. He walked out of the bank perplexed.

ChexSystems, as Downey would soon find out, is a national consumer reporting agency — abbreviated CRA — that specializes in gathering data on how Americans use checks and bank accounts. It distills this information into a score similar to a credit score. Some 80% of banks rely on such information to screen people who want to open new accounts.

On a scale of 100 to 899, Downey’s ChexSystems score was 553. As far as the sole bank in Mancos was concerned, those three digits — regardless of his 15-year-long relationship with his current out-of-state bank — meant he was too risky to take on as a customer.

“I think this is complete nonsense,” Downey says of the reporting system. “People don’t even recognize it exists. It’s not easy to interpret, it’s not easy to change, and it’s completely arbitrary.”

Critics of ChexSystems note the agency generally tracks only negative information like account closures and overdrafts, essentially making it a bank-account rap sheet. The company is just one of a large — and largely unknown — sum of CRAs that actively monitors the financial and nonfinancial behavior of more than 200 million Americans, including many children.

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A Guided Tour of How Cops Can Browse Your Location Data

In Part 1 of our series on Fog Data Science, we saw how when you give some apps permission to view your location, it can end up being packaged and sold to numerous other companies. Fog Data Science is one of those companies, and it has created a sleek search engine called Fog Reveal that allows cops to browse through that location data as if they were Google Maps results.

In this article, we’ll be taking a deep dive into Fog Reveal’s features. Although accounts for Reveal are typically only available to police departments, we were able to analyze the app’s public-facing code to get a better understanding of how it works, how it’s used, and what it looks like when cops get warrantless access to your location data.

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US government finally unseals long-hidden rulings on mass surveillance

The US government has finally released previously classified rulings from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which have revealed how the secretive court interprets the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a law that allows mass surveillance of foreigners.

FISC was created by Congress in 1978 to act as a warrant court that approved the surveillance of individual foreign targets. However, after 9/11, the court’s role expanded and it started approving mass surveillance programs, some of which illegally collected data of foreigners and US citizens.

In 2015, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act, which required the government to make public all significant rulings by the FISC. However, the executive branch argued that the USA Freedom Act did not apply to FISC rulings issued before the passing of the law in 2015.

Due to this lack of transparency, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sued under the Freedom of Information Act to force the government to disclose all significant FISC rulings. The lawsuit resulted in the government releasing more than 70 FISC rulings that were previously kept secret.

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