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9Mar/12

Deportation: There’s an app for that.

PHOENIX -- A group of pro-immigrant rights activists in Arizona aim to develop a smartphone application that would help immigrants notify friends, family and their attorney if they are detained and arrested during a traffic stop.

Arizona was the first state to pass a law to make it a crime to be an undocumented immigrant (SB 1070), leading to an increased crackdown and climate of fear among immigrants. A recent Department of Justice investigation on racial profiling of Latinos by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office found that Latinos were four to nine times more likely to be pulled over in a traffic stop than non-Latinos

“When someone gets pulled over the first thing to worry about is the family,” said Lydia Guzman, the president of the nonprofit Respect/Respeto.
For years, the nonprofit’s emergency hotline has monitored cases of possible civil rights violations against Latinos by local law enforcement, provided information about rights, and tracked down missing family members in immigration custody after undocumented drivers are detained.

“It’s difficult. We try to get all of this information from them to reach their family, while at the same time we’re trying to advise them about their rights,” she said.

It was Guzman’s experience with Respect/Respeto and the increased crackdown on undocumented immigrants by local police using state laws that inspired her friend Todd Landfried, a spokesperson for Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform, to come up with an idea for a smartphone app that could do what the group does and more.

The app will allow users to notify family, friends, attorneys and even their consulate when they get pulled over by law enforcement or when they are facing an emergency situation that puts their safety or civil rights at risk.

With the touch of a button, Landfried says, the “Emergency Alert and Personal Protection” app will send a pre-set list of people information about the person’s location using GPS technology and date and time of the incident. The app will also have an option to record audio and video, which is a common function on most mobile phones, but it will take it a step further by sending the audio and video to a “web interface” where the data can be stored and accessed by lawyers, for example.

It will also inform them, in English and Spanish, of their civil rights if they are arrested during a traffic stop; for example, reminding them that they have the right to remain silent and have an attorney present during questioning.

Guzman says the app could help people make split-second decisions at a crucial moment about who to call and how to get help. She says it would also provide immigrant advocates a starting point to search for undocumented immigrants once they are in the detention system – a search that can sometimes take days.

In order to take the app from idea to reality, Landfried and Guzman recently launched a 30-day crowdfunding campaign to support the development of the app. If they reach their goal of raising $225,000, they will work with a software developer to have the app ready by July. Donors would get the app, which will cost about $2, for free.

The app is similar to the “I’m Getting Arrested” app that launched in response to the arrests of protestors involved in the Occupy movement. Landfried and Guzman say their app would be designed to specifically address the situation of undocumented immigrants pulled over in traffic stops. They say it would consolidate functions on the phone to allow users to document, store and send photos, audio and video to web interface that can be used to document racial profiling or violations of civil liberties.

Landfried says he believes Latinos are well-positioned to make use of such an app based on recent trends of Latinos' usage of smartphones.
According to a 2010 Nielsen Company report, 45 percent of Hispanic mobile users have a smartphone compared to just over a quarter of white mobile users.

Landfried and Guzman say they hope the app can be a tool for tracking statistics of potential instances of racial profiling.

“Keeping in mind you have to protect the attorney-client privilege,” Landfried said. “If data was made anonymous, we can track how many times people hit the button for traffic stops and they can fill in later what the outcome was.”

“This is about protecting people. Everybody has rights, whether you like it or not,” he said.

Via http://newamericamedia.org/2012/03/im-getting-arrested-app-aims-to-help-those-detained-in-traffic-stops.php

 

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23Nov/11

Malls track shoppers’ cell phones on Black Friday

He knows when you are sleeping...

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Attention holiday shoppers: your cell phone may be tracked this year.
Starting on Black Friday and running through New Year's Day, two U.S. malls -- Promenade Temecula in southern California and Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Va. -- will track guests' movements by monitoring the signals from their cell phones.

While the data that's collected is anonymous, it can follow shoppers' paths from store to store.
The goal is for stores to answer questions like: How many Nordstrom shoppers also stop at Starbucks? How long do most customers linger in Victoria's Secret? Are there unpopular spots in the mall that aren't being visited?

While U.S. malls have long tracked how crowds move throughout their stores, this is the first time they've used cell phones.

But obtaining that information comes with privacy concerns.

The management company of both malls, Forest City Commercial Management, says personal data is not being tracked.

"We won't be looking at singular shoppers," said Stephanie Shriver-Engdahl, vice president of digital strategy for Forest City. "The system monitors patterns of movement. We can see, like migrating birds, where people are going to."

Still, the company is preemptively notifying customers by hanging small signs around the shopping centers. Consumers can opt out by turning off their phones.

Via http://money.cnn.com/2011/11/22/technology/malls_track_cell_phones_black_friday/

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8Feb/11

I Know What You Did Last Winter (Snow Job)

For those who believe revenge is a dish best served cold...

Like so many around the country, David Welles has had to endure a long cold Winter this year -- only made worse by the volume of snow in front of his Chicago home, and the untimely disappearance of his snow shovel. While Welles is no better equipped to dig his way out of a snowstorm than anyone else without a shovel, he was perfectly equipped to identify the perpetrator -- or, at least her car. That's because Welles works for a security company by the name of Tunnel Vision Technology, and it appears as though he's been visiting the supply closet.

While we'll presume that David's "eagle eye" came with a receipt, the snow shovel he caught his neighbor stealing on digital video didn't. Under ordinary circumstances, one might turn the evidence over to the police. Then again, under ordinary circumstances, it's not likely there would have been any evidence. But, these are no ordinary circumstances, and these are no ordinary times.

David's shovel was probably worth less than $25, maybe ten on the street. The trail was cold before it was laid. And the "perp" wore gloves, so no fingerprints. This wasn't about money. This was about the age's-old relationship between a man and his tools. Besides, Welles had another idea. He entered an arms race, added a dose of PsyOps... and then he turned to YouTube. The result? What Welles calls, "The Quadrilogy of My Favorite Snow Shovel". See the results for yourself.

(NOTE: If you are ONLY connaisseur of revenge, skip to the mid-point.)

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6Feb/11

Verizon’s iPhone Commercials Are So Snarky, You’d Think They’ve Been Stuck on AT&T For the Last 4 Years


Once again, Verizon isn't pulling any punches. I caught this commercial during the SuperBowl. Though there are actual differences between the iPhones sold on At&T and Verizon networks -- some favoring Verizon, and at least one, that I know of, favoring AT&T -- Verizon has chosen to make it all about The Network.


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4Feb/11

POLL: Do You Think An Internet “Kill Switch” Is An Effective Way To Protect National Security?

In the aftermath of Egypt and Tunisia's government-imposed Internet shut-downs, there has been a lot of talk this week about the U.S. Senate's Internet "Kill Switch" bill. No one argues that our networks are vulnerable to attack. Senators say they have committed to this power only to protect against "external cyber attacks". This raises several questions and deserves serious debate:

  • In a global network, is there really a distinction between internal and external threats?
  • Under what circumstances would the President use this power, and with what oversight?
  • Could the financial damage of isolating U.S. commerce from foreign customers outweigh the potential damage from attack?
  • Does the risk of an "Egyptian-style" shut-down really exist in Western Democracies, and if it does, is it a fair trade-off for national security?

That leads to today's poll question:

Do you think an Internet "Kill Switch" is an effective way to protect National Security?

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Of course, there are few perfect Yes/No answers in this world. Please feel free to share your comments below, and we encourage you to use the "Like" and "Share" buttons to elicit more opinions from others.

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2Feb/11

Senators Deny Similarities Between Egypt’s Internet Blocking & USA’s “Kill Switch” Bill

Some have suggested that our legislation would empower the president to deny U.S. citizens access to the Internet. Nothing could be further from the truth.
-Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.)

In a statement issued this week, Senators' Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and  Tom Carper (D-Del.) said that their intent was to allow the president "to protect the U.S. from external cyber attacks," not to shut down the Internet.

Aside from the obvious civil liberties concerns, the problem I see is largely a mechanical one, and it demonstrates the Senators' lack of fundamental understanding when it comes to the world in which they legislate: By the time a cyber attack is apparent, it's no longer likely an "external" threat. The most effective attacks known today are distributed amongst a multitude of machines in various locations, making it impossible to protect citizens without shutting down the Internet -- if such a thing could even be accomplished in this country.

The U.S. network infrastructure is much more complex and diverse than that of Egypt. In part, that has to do with the shear differences in scale. But, perhaps surprisingly, it also has to do with the age of our network. Parts of our interconnected network go back five decades. Some interconnected networks predate the Internet itself. And these are interconnected with new infrastructure being added every day without the need for government knowledge or consent.

Most importantly, when the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was conceived, it was specifically designed to survive and reroute against an outage. That means, depending on the final draft, the law would likely be either ineffective, dangerous, or both.

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13Jan/11

Privacy Law’s Gone Ex Parte Like it’s 1986…or 1984

A byproduct of life in the 21st Century is that many of the perks of a post-centennial lifestyle require the abdication of a fair bit of privacy to cyberspace. That means that the paper records that once required a search warrant to read (and maybe the forceful extraction from your cold-dead-hands), are now in the possession of companies who don't. Of course there's Facebook and Twitter. Those didn't exist in the 20th. Century. But, what about your phone records and email? While your phone company has long been subject to a warrant or subpoena, in the 21st. Century new "self-service" tools have been developed to help telcos manage the onslaught of requests made particularly attractive by the fact that most of us carry what amounts to a homing-beacon in our pockets. Similarly, while email has always been an attractive source of discovery, until recently most of it resided on each correspondent's physical, and virtual, desktop waiting to get written-over by something more current. Today, it's more likely been put out to pasture in a seemingly-endless "server farm", waiting to be picked by a custodian of records.

Even our personal computers, which have always required a search warrant, and often require a cascading series of search warrants covering various regions of storage space and categories of searches, are rapidly being replaced by windows to the web -- sleek sheets of glass and sculpted-aluminum that act as a portal to your virtual existence. Like a supermodel, these tablets are thin and beautiful, but two-dimensional, with very little substance inside. What makes these devices a reality today is a combination of near-ubiquitous Internet connectivity and access to your personal online data once it's established. Even the notion of "backing up" is becoming a thing of the past, because the data you see, isn't really here. It's somewhere else, presumably safe from destruction, but not necessarily from dissemination. Like many things in life, it's a trade-off.

But, not when it comes to fighting crime. The shift of discovery from physical space to cyberspace is a decided advantage for law enforcement. In fact, Google reports that it responded to more than 4200 discovery requests in the first-half of 2010 alone. One of the reasons these requests have become so popular is that online data is easier seize than a laptop, and often much more useful. Much of what can be had requires no search warrant at all, and thanks to online tools, can be had without even so much as contacting the service provider. Why? Because, unlike the data on your hard drive, you don't necessarily own your data when it's stored in cyberspace.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act was enacted by Congress in 1986 -- long before most people had access to the Internet, email, or a cellphone. When Mark Zuckerberg's only friends were his stuffed animals. Mind you, it was revolutionary for it's time -- enacted to extend government restrictions on wire taps from telephone calls to also include transmissions of electronic data by computer. But, it doesn't address current evolution. Today, far more can be gleaned from a historical records search than any telephone wiretap. Perhaps that's why last year the Department of Justice argued in favor of warantless email searches. Or why in the same year the DOJ argued that cellphone users had abdicated any expectation of privacy by using a service that stores location data.

Read more at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/10/technology/10privacy.html?_r=2&pagewanted=2&ref=technology

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11Jan/11

Winona Ryder Fears Accidentally Opting-Into Al Queda

Careful What You Click F

Actress Winona Ryder doesn't use the Internet. She just got her first smartphone, but finds it unpredictable. She had a laptop, but rarely used it.

She's fearful of technology. And that just might make her smarter than you.

As evidenced in her "Late Night" interview with Jimmy Fallon, these days, such concerns are the fodder for comedians. It's the current equivalent of being afraid to drive or swim. In the late 20th. Century, it might have been a fear of handing one's money over to an ATM machine. Or more recently, making a purchase online. But, well over 30,000 people died in car accidents in 2009. Another 24,000 were injured. In a similar period, more that 3000 people died from drowning. Fear is not necessarily a bad thing. Not if it keeps you safe.

Most of us either fear what we don't know, or fear what we do. There's also a whole complicated subset of irrational, or misguided fears that really fall into the first category. According to her own interview, Ryder falls into the former classification.

Ryder told Fallon, "We're a button away from joining Al Queda!"

How many times have you accidentally opted yourself into joining a mailing list because you forgot to un-approve your pre-approved consent? What about that time when you accidentally installed a bunch of "trial-ware" that came along with a program you legitimately wanted to use. Somewhere, before or after the end-user-license agreement you didn't read, it may have been an option. In the 90's one of my attorney-client's accidentally sold a good investment when he was dabbling with online day trading. I have met people who accidentally purchased cars on eBay. Meanwhile, I promise (though I don't recommend confirming it) that many forms of contraband are just a few clicks, or even a typo, away from where you sit this very moment. Last Summer I gave National Public Radio (NPR) a glimpse into just how easy it can be. Even if you bleed apple pie filling, you're still just a click away from looking like someone else.

I haven't tried it myself, but I'll bet joining Al Queda requires, at least, the completion of an annoying CAPTCHA in order to submit a membership application.  While I'm sure Ryder has no interest in joining, just the accusation, or even a rumor, that she ever supported a terrorist organization, or had some other frighting interest, could be just as detrimental. Remember Christine O'Donnell, the Republican Party's most famous witch? In some parts of the country that's harder to understand than extremism.

Ryder: "We're a button away from joining Al Queda."

Remember, Ryder works in the industry that was most famously asked, "Are you, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"

Maybe -- even if unwittingly -- she's on to something. Maybe we'd have several thousand fewer vehicular deaths every year if more drivers understood the engineering that goes into the highway, or a car, it's tires, or even just its brakes and safety systems. Sure, it might scare a few people out of driving altogether. But it might make the rest think a little harder before they accelerated into a turn, or tried to beat a red light across a wet intersection. Maybe, if more people really understood the Internet better before hopping on the "Information Superhighway", law enforcement might have fewer accidents to investigate.

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31Aug/10

A Click Away…

I recently had another occasion to meet with Reporter Martin Kaste from NPR's "All Things Considered". Last time we met to play a game of cat-and-mouse in the streets of San Francisco to demonstrate the current state of cellular telephone and wireless device tracking. This time we discussed an issue closer to my heart.

"Right now, anybody is just one search term and a click on Google away from most of the same files that I have seen as part of my work," he says.

Fischbach believes the easy-to-find images are a kind of public hazard.

He worked for one defendant who went to prison because of one night of ill-advised Web surfing. The easy-to-find images are also tempting weapons in messy custody battles and divorces — he's convinced that in some of the cases he's worked on, one spouse has been framed by another. All of this makes Fischbach wonder why more isn't done to block some of the more obvious sources of these "radioactive" files.

"It's the same thing as any other public nuisance. Part of the government's job is not just to go out there and stop people from doing bad things, but to stop good people from having to fall victim to that," he says.

It's probably not constitutional for the government to block offending Web sites outright, but Fischbach says Internet service providers and search engines could volunteer to filter the images that reach their customers, just as e-mail providers filter out known viruses.

He's been suggesting this idea for years, and now somebody is trying it.

Listen to NPR's A Click Away: Preventing Online Child Porn Viewing

Audio and transcript: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129526579

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18Mar/10

If your car’s not owned it could be pwned

Disgruntled Hacker [Debt Collector] Disables More Than 100 Cars Remotely

Pay Technology's Webtech Plus

Cleveland-based Pay Technologies is a company that sells hidden wireless black boxes that allow car dealers to remotely disable a car’s ignition, or trigger the horn to begin honking, as a not-so-gentle reminder that a payment is due. The Webtech Plus responds to commands issued through a central website, and relayed over a wireless pager network.

A car dealer in Austin Texas began receiving complaints from hundreds of stranded customers late last month. According to the dealership's manager, the complaints stopped several days later, when he reset all the Webtech Plus employee passwords. Then police obtained access logs from Pay Technologies, and traced an IP address to a former employee. Police say he hacked into the dealership's computer system to deactivate the starters on the cars and set off their horns.

To call the suspect a "hacker" is really an insult to hackers. On the other hand, anyone who's ever spoken with a debt collector probably isn't very surprised by allegations of unethical behavior.

According to the dealership, the employee's account had been closed when he was terminated last month, but they allege he got in through another employee’s account. They claim he was working his way alphabetically through a database of all 1,100 customers whose cars were equipped with the device.

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