Monday, July 23, 2018

Robocall Company Exposes Hundreds of Thousands of Voter Records

Hundreds of thousands of voter records were left exposed on an Amazon S3 bucket, ZDNet reports, this time by Virginia-based robocalling firm Robocent. Among the information that was left accessible were names, home addresses, gender, phone numbers, age, birth years, ethnicity, education and language spoken as well as state-provided or inferred political leanings such as "weak Democrat," "hard Republican" and "swing" voter.

Last year, information on nearly 200 million US citizens was exposed by a political ad-targeting strategist, and a voting machine supplier leaked personal information from over 1.8 million Chicago residents. (Yahoo Finance 18 Jul 2018)

It's not a matter of if a database of personal information is going to be exposed, it's just a matter of when. Whenever some business or organization asks that you provide them with your personal information, ask yourself whether they really need it and what benefit you get by providing it.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Kent Officer Killed by Fellow Officer After Being Struck by Patrol Car During Chase

It is with heartbreak and sadness that we read of the loss of an officer from the Kent, WA Police Department, killed in the line of duty.

An officer who was deploying spike strips was struck and killed by a patrol car that was pursing a suspect in Kent, WA early Sunday morning (July 22, 2018).

Just before 2 a.m. Sunday, Kent police officers responded to 911 calls of shots fired in the area of Russell Rd. S and W Meeker St. Officers in the area at the time heard the gunshots and noticed a red truck fleeing a parking lot of a Shari's Restaurant. A witness who also saw the red truck indicated the truck may have been involved, so officers followed the vehicle.

"They tried to initiate a stop and the vehicle fled from them and made attempts to elude them," said Kent Police Commander Jarod Kasner.

Kasner says officers chased the vehicle all the way to Kent Des Moines Rd., where officers were deploying spike strips at an intersection in an attempt to stop the truck. An officer who was deploying the spike strips was struck by one of the patrol cars who was pursuing the suspected vehicle.

Medical attempts were made at the scene to help the struck officer, but he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The other officer in the patrol car was involved in a collision immediately after the crash. He was also injured and transported to Harborview Medical Center, where he was listed in satisfactory condition.

The fleeing red truck continued east on Kent Des Moines Road, where it crashed near Washington Ave. One suspect was placed in custody and arrested. Police officers were looking for two other suspects.  (King 5 News, July 22, 2018)

Your Web Browser's Incognito Mode

I discussed private browsing here in the blog back in January 2018. Consumer Reports (June 19, 2018) published an article the further discusses private browsing ("Incognito Mode").

All of today’s major web browsers—Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari—offer a feature that provides a private browsing window and deletes the browsing history on your computer after you close it. These windows can help reduce the amount of information collected on you by retailers and advertising companies. Private browsing mode does some useful things, but you’re absolutely not anonymous when browsing in this mode.


Civil Rights Lawsuit Awards $640,000 Against Federal Way Police Department

A federal civil-rights jury has awarded a Federal Way man $640,000 after finding a Federal Way police officer used excessive force when arresting the man, who was a bystander at an accident scene in September 2014.

The jury gave Josiah Hunter $40,000 for the excessive-force claim and tacked on $600,000 in punitive damages, which U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman said could be awarded only if the panel found the officer’s conduct “was malicious, oppressive or in reckless disregard of the plaintiff’s rights.” (Seattle Times, July 20, 2018)  (King 5 News Video, July 21, 2018)

Police officers have to deal with many complex and dangerous situations as part of their duties on a daily basis. But this does not and cannot not excuse excessive actions by officers and departments.

Whether it is the unnecessary use of force, unwarranted investigations, or the abuse of authority by department leadership, juries in Washington are awarding hundreds of thousands of dollars in judgments against police departments because of their conduct.


Clandestine Photography and Surveillance

On December 6, 2017 I wrote: "If you plan to record telephone calls or in-person conversations (including by recording video that captures sound), you should be aware that there are federal and state wiretapping laws that may limit your ability to do so. These laws not only expose you to the risk of criminal prosecution, but also potentially give an injured party a civil claim for money damages against you." But just because the law may limit or even prohibit these recordings, it doesn't mean that you are not being recorded all without your knowledge or permission.

A pen, a wristwatch, or a necklace may all contain hidden recording devices.  Place your smartphone in a pocket with just the camera lens sticking out and control the camera with a Bluetooth Camera Shutter Remote Control and nobody is likely to notice that you are taking photographs. Just remember to turn off the shutter sound and the flash on your smartphone camera.

With a little practice to get use to range and view of your smartphone camera it is possible to get very good quality photos without drawing any attention to yourself as you take them. If the phone is not in your hand most people won't realize that you are using it to take a photo.

In some places where they may prohibit the presence of cell-phones, you can still get photos and sound recordings using cameras concealed in pens, watches, and similar common items. These concealed cameras won't give you the same quality photo as the camera on your smartphone, but the photos and recordings are clear enough for many surveillance purposes.

You can also use a small Telephoto Lens for Smartphones that lets you take photos from a distance, without the need to use a large and noticeable camera. Photographs can also be taken at a distance using binoculars and your smartphone, as demonstrated in this YouTube video.

If you are concerned about clandestine photography and surveillance, understanding these techniques can make you more aware when they are used against you. If you need to gather information without it being obvious to others, then understanding these techniques, and having access to a couple of hidden cameras will certainly improve your surveillance options.



Saturday, July 21, 2018

If You've Got Nothing to Hide...

1) Privacy isn’t about hiding information; privacy is about protecting information, and surely you have information that you’d like to protect.

2) Privacy is a fundamental right and you don't need to prove the necessity of fundamental rights to anyone.

3) Lack of privacy creates significant harms that everyone wants to avoid.

Several small pieces of your personal data can be put together to reveal much more about you than you would think is possible.  An analysis conducted by MIT researchers found that “just four fairly vague pieces of information — the dates and locations of four purchases — are enough to identify 90 percent of the people in a data set recording three months of credit-card transactions by 1.1 million users.”  (Duck Duck Go, June 27, 2018)

How would you feel if a government employee was keeping hidden files about you on a government computer network? You have nothing to hide... right?

Would it matter if the government agency involved had previously, in its own words, engaged in "a pattern of false arrests and detentions, attacks on homes and friendships, and attempted to impede [groups of citizens] from peacefully assembling... anywhere, at any time"?  

Do you care if someone other than the intended recipient is reading your e-mail? What about having your e-mail scanned for key words like bomb, terror, drugs, assassination? They're just looking for terrorists, aren't they?

Should automatic license plate readers (ALPS) record every vehicle that passes some point on the highway, or enters the parking lot at some venue? You're on a public street... that's not private is it?

You don't have anything to hide, do you?

It doesn’t matter if you have nothing to hide. Privacy is an individual right that underpins the freedoms of expression, association and assembly; all of which are essential for a free, democratic society.

Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.


Second Amendment Foundation and NRA Suing the City of Seattle

The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and NRA have filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle over the city's recently passed "safe storage" gun requirement, claiming it violates the state's preemption statute.

Seattle's ordinance assesses fines of up to $10,000 against gun owners who do not safely store their firearms or report their misuse. The law would go into effect in January.

SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb expressed frustration that Seattle is once again trying to pass its own gun laws.

“Seattle seems to think it should be treated differently than any other local government when it comes to firearm regulation,” Gottlieb said. "We should not have to repeatedly remind Seattle that they are still part of Washington state and must obey the law.”  (KOMO4 News, July 20, 2018)