Wednesday, June 23, 2010

privacy trends

the ability to collect and process massive amounts of information allows for a world where anonymity is minimized

i thought i remembered reading that investigators used public surveillance camera data to back-trace the craigslist killer philip markoff, but a quick glance or three at google didn't confirm that at all...

either way, the same idea played out in the whole dubai / mossad deal. cameras are all over, and if you have access to a lot of them you can start traveling back in time in a sense, back-tracing an event in your observable realm...

schneier has pointed out at length that to-date facial recognition false-positive rates render such systems ineffective. but anecdotal evidence suggest a different story when human analysts can quickly review large sets of public video data.

dubai wants more cameras, and technology drivers are expressing interest in mass video collection for further automated and auto-augmented manual analysis.

uav technology is already migrating to law enforcement applications... military developed gunshot detectors have been deployed as well. military style surveillance technology appears to be integrating into daily life relatively quickly.

automated license plate detection technology is growing, and in some places police have real-time access to computerized records which include details beyond court convictions or even incidents where a court was involved.

[physical evasion]
this brings up the whole issue of evasion. in theory tech like this could be expanded to cover more than faces. i hear there are higher grade cameras that filter IR, so this isn't entirely reliable, but then most cameras will be cheap. then there's also the fact that a white shiny blob of a person walking around might attract attention to humans and robots watching the video feed. it might be effective if employed w/ some planning as to when it is activated, and might be augmented by employing physical disguise as part of the plan if you wanted to be concealed moving to and from a location.

a more nifty technique would be lens detection and targeted energy overload of cameras (possible?), but beware false positives from peoples eyes ;) also, the wake of camera failures would be an alarm that something was going down and where it was happening

[secure comms]
there really are rooms where government agencies are sucking up massive amounts of data (presumably including voice data routing over digital transports) which are apparently important enough to invoke 'state secrets' to defend. it seems like major voip providers like skype are cooperating by giving states access to at least targeted conversations. and there seems to be industry enough to support manufacture of ssl mitm devices.

as an aside, big ups to moxie for releasing the redphone app to re-give average people the ability to have a semi-anonymous phone conversation. a friend and i were in the planning stages of a similar app built, but that damn moxie clearly had more motivation, time, and ability ;)

anywho, after september 11 2001 a US lt colonel and others stood up to talk about able danger, which was a mass data-mining and information processing effort. it takes approx 16-22 years of service to attain the rank of lt colonel, so after the government says "we don't know what he's talking about" and there are claims that evidence disappeared you've kinda gotta ask "are these people crazy to fuck up their lives for 15 minutes of fame, or does the government maybe have some interest in hushing the capabilities of massive data analysis...?"

the book 'the rootkit arsenal' calls full packet capture the worse-case scenario for a root-kit operator. you dig? collecting tons of information gives you significant potential detection capabilities.

anecdotal evidence indicates that anonymous voice and data connections may not be readily available as services you can purchase.

[wikileaks / nation-states]
so we get to a place where the founder of a site dedicated to exposing information inconvenient to massive entities is apparently laying low from a nation-state...? according to da twittaz one of the last people he was seen with was valarie plame... at first i was thinking she was sibel edmonds, but all these covert secret conspiracy women just had me all mixed up ;)

so there's always a weak link somewhere... and it seems to me that in a world where automated detection and tracking is growing, the weak link might be identity. if you can build ghost identities you can travel and exist in anonymity so long as you don't make anyone notice you, much as humans have been doing far into our past... but if you only have your natural identity then many of your words, motions, and actions may be available for later analysis to an interested party.

information may want to be free, but it seems some people want to horde it...