statism watch

Archive for June 26th, 2008

Electronic devices to self-censor, shut down at word from authorities with proposed ‘Digital Manners’ technology

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Bruce Schneier, Wired Magazine
June 26, 2008

It used to be that just the entertainment industries wanted to control your computers — and televisions and iPods and everything else — to ensure that you didn’t violate any copyright rules. But now everyone else wants to get their hooks into your gear.

OnStar will soon include the ability for the police to shut off your engine remotely. Buses are getting the same capability, in case terrorists want to re-enact the movie Speed. The Pentagon wants a kill switch installed on airplanes, and is worried about potential enemies installing kill switches on their own equipment.

Microsoft is doing some of the most creative thinking along these lines, with something it’s calling “Digital Manners Policies.” According to its patent application, DMP-enabled devices would accept broadcast “orders” limiting capabilities. Cellphones could be remotely set to vibrate mode in restaurants and concert halls, and be turned off on airplanes and in hospitals. Cameras could be prohibited from taking pictures in locker rooms and museums, and recording equipment could be disabled in theaters. Professors finally could prevent students from texting one another during class.

The possibilities are endless, and very dangerous. Making this work involves building a nearly flawless hierarchical system of authority. That’s a difficult security problem even in its simplest form. Distributing that system among a variety of different devices — computers, phones, PDAs, cameras, recorders — with different firmware and manufacturers, is even more difficult. Not to mention delegating different levels of authority to various agencies, enterprises, industries and individuals, and then enforcing the necessary safeguards.

Once we go down this path — giving one device authority over other devices — the security problems start piling up. Who has the authority to limit functionality of my devices, and how do they get that authority? What prevents them from abusing that power? Do I get the ability to override their limitations? In what circumstances, and how? Can they override my override?

How do we prevent this from being abused? Can a burglar, for example, enforce a “no photography” rule and prevent security cameras from working? Can the police enforce the same rule to avoid another Rodney King incident? Do the police get “superuser” devices that cannot be limited, and do they get “supercontroller” devices that can limit anything? How do we ensure that only they get them, and what do we do when the devices inevitably fall into the wrong hands?

It’s comparatively easy to make this work in closed specialized systems — OnStar, airplane avionics, military hardware — but much more difficult in open-ended systems. If you think Microsoft’s vision could possibly be securely designed, all you have to do is look at the dismal effectiveness of the various copy-protection and digital-rights-management systems we’ve seen over the years. That’s a similar capabilities-enforcement mechanism, albeit simpler than these more general systems.

And that’s the key to understanding this system. Don’t be fooled by the scare stories of wireless devices on airplanes and in hospitals, or visions of a world where no one is yammering loudly on their cellphones in posh restaurants. This is really about media companies wanting to exert their control further over your electronics. They not only want to prevent you from surreptitiously recording movies and concerts, they want your new television to enforce good “manners” on your computer, and not allow it to record any programs. They want your iPod to politely refuse to copy music to a computer other than your own. They want to enforce their legislated definition of manners: to control what you do and when you do it, and to charge you repeatedly for the privilege whenever possible.

“Digital Manners Policies” is a marketing term. Let’s call this what it really is: Selective Device Jamming. It’s not polite, it’s dangerous. It won’t make anyone more secure — or more polite.

Source | See Also: The Canadian DMCA: Check the Fine Print | Government ready to drop copyright bomb | Transparency needed on ACTA | Revamped copyright law targets electronic devices | New Attempt to Align Canada’s Copyright Act with USA Coming Soon | Canadian DMCA To Be Introduced Tomorrow Morning?

CCTV doesn’t keep us safe

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Bruce Schneier, The Guardian
June 26, 2008

Pervasive security cameras don’t substantially reduce crime. There are exceptions, of course, and that’s what gets the press. Most famously, CCTV cameras helped catch James Bulger’s murderers in 1993. And earlier this year, they helped convict Steve Wright of murdering five women in the Ipswich area. But these are the well-publicised exceptions. Overall, CCTV cameras aren’t very effective.

This fact has been demonstrated again and again: by a comprehensive study for the Home Office in 2005, by several studies in the US, and again with new data announced last month by New Scotland Yard. They actually solve very few crimes, and their deterrent effect is minimal.

Conventional wisdom predicts the opposite. But if that were true, then camera-happy London, with something like 500,000, would be the safest city on the planet. It isn’t, of course, because of technological limitations of cameras, organisational limitations of police and the adaptive abilities of criminals.

To some, it’s comforting to imagine vigilant police monitoring every camera, but the truth is very different. Most CCTV footage is never looked at until well after a crime is committed. When it is examined, it’s very common for the viewers not to identify suspects. Lighting is bad and images are grainy, and criminals tend not to stare helpfully at the lens. Cameras break far too often. The best camera systems can still be thwarted by sunglasses or hats. Even when they afford quick identification – think of the 2005 London transport bombers and the 9/11 terrorists – police are often able to identify suspects without the cameras. Cameras afford a false sense of security, encouraging laziness when we need police to be vigilant.

The solution isn’t for police to watch the cameras. Unlike an officer walking the street, cameras only look in particular directions at particular locations. Criminals know this, and can easily adapt by moving their crimes to someplace not watched by a camera – and there will always be such places. Additionally, while a police officer on the street can respond to a crime in progress, the same officer in front of a CCTV screen can only dispatch another officer to arrive much later. By their very nature, cameras result in underused and misallocated police resources.

Cameras aren’t completely ineffective, of course. In certain circumstances, they’re effective in reducing crime in enclosed areas with minimal foot traffic. Combined with adequate lighting, they substantially reduce both personal attacks and auto-related crime in car parks. And from some perspectives, simply moving crime around is good enough. If a local Tesco installs cameras in its store, and a robber targets the store next door as a result, that’s money well spent by Tesco. But it doesn’t reduce the overall crime rate, so is a waste of money to the township.

But the question really isn’t whether cameras reduce crime; the question is whether they’re worth it. And given their cost (£500 m in the past 10 years), their limited effectiveness, the potential for abuse (spying on naked women in their own homes, sharing nude images, selling best-of videos, and even spying on national politicians) and their Orwellian effects on privacy and civil liberties, most of the time they’re not. The funds spent on CCTV cameras would be far better spent on hiring experienced police officers.

We live in a unique time in our society: the cameras are everywhere, and we can still see them. Ten years ago, cameras were much rarer than they are today. And in 10 years, they’ll be so small you won’t even notice them. Already, companies like L-1 Security Solutions are developing police-state CCTV surveillance technologies like facial recognition for China, technology that will find their way into countries like the UK. The time to address appropriate limits on this technology is before the cameras fade from notice.

Source | See Also: Hats banned from Yorkshire pubs over CCTV fears | Billboards that look back | Tanks, Face-Scanning Cameras Part of ‘Discreet’ 2010 Games Security | $4 Million Earmarked for Cameras, “Respect” at Toronto Schools | Vancouver Olympics security cameras raise privacy concerns | CBC Radio Broadcasts Expose of North American Police State | Surveillance cameras to keep an eye on downtown Calgary | Privacy International responds to Ontario Privacy Commissioner ruling on CCTV | School removes CCTV cameras from children’s toilets after furious protest from parents | When Surveillance Cameras Talk | Ottawa police chief calls for more surveillance cameras | T.T.C. Starts Camera Installation On Buses & Streetcars | Toronto police seek feedback on installing security cameras | Premier Thinks Yonge St. Cameras Should Stay, John Tory Wants Them In Ent. District | Cameras To Be Installed Downtown For Holiday Shopping Season

High court reprimands CSIS policy of destroying secret evidence in security case

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

CBC News
June 26, 2008

The Supreme Court of Canada has scolded Canada’s spy agency for its policy of destroying classified evidence in its case against a Montreal man accused of having links to terrorism.

However, the court has decided that it will not halt the proceedings to have Adil Charkaoui deported to his native Morocco.

“It’s a partial victory for Mr. Charkaoui,” said the CBC’s Julie Van Dusen, reporting from Ottawa. “It’s certainly a rap on knuckles for CSIS for collecting information, destroying it and undermining his ability to have a fair hearing.”

Charkaoui, a landed immigrant, was arrested in 2003 and imprisoned until 2005 under a controversial regulation called a security certificate, used to hold foreign-born terrorism suspects without charge based on secret evidence.

In preparing its case against Charkaoui, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) provided summaries of its agents’ interviews with Charkaoui, but destroyed the original notes and taped conversations, in keeping with CSIS policy.

Charkaoui wasn’t allowed to see much of the evidence submitted against him since CSIS cited national security interests for withholding the information.

CSIS alleges that Charkaoui is a radical Islamist and an al-Qaeda sleeper agent ready to stage attacks against Western targets. He has denied those allegations.

Full Story | See Also: Youth Worker Subjected to Warrantless Raid on Secret Evidence | CSIS Spying on Natives, Olympic Dissidents | Family of Canadian stranded by no-fly list to make public appeal | CSIS suspected U.S. would deport Arar to be tortured: documents | Canadians who trust our secret police should think again

UK Parents Need Government Permission to Kiss Children

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Christopher Hope, London Telegraph
June 26, 2008

A quarter of the adult population faces an “anti-paedophile” test in an escalation of child protection policies, according to a report.

The launch of a new Government agency will see 11.3million people vetted for any criminal past before they are approved to have contact with children aged under 16.

But the increase in child protection measures is so great it is “poisoning” relationships between the generations, according to respected sociologist Professor Frank Furedi.

In a report for think tank Civitas, he said the use of criminal records bureau checks to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults has created an atmosphere of suspicion.

As a result ordinary parents – many of whom are volunteers at sports and social clubs – now find themselves regarded “potential child abusers”.

In one example, a woman could not kiss her daughter goodbye on a school trip because she had not been vetted.

In another, a mother was surprised to be told by another parent that she and her husband were “CRB checked” when their children played together.

In a third example, a father was given “filthy looks” by a group of mothers when he took his child swimming on his own in “a scene from a Western when the room goes silent and tumbleweed blows across the foreground”.

Prof Furedi details how one woman was made to feel like a “second class mother” because she was barred from a school disco because she did not have a CRB check.

Prof Furedi, a sociology professor from Kent University, said that “adults are no longer trusted or expected to engage with children on their own initiative”.

He said: “When parents feel in need of official reassurance that other parents have passed the paedophile test before they even start on the pleasantries, something has gone badly wrong in our communities.

“We should question whether there is anything healthy in a response where communities look at children’s own fathers with suspicion, but would balk at helping a lost child find their way home.”

Full Story | See Also: In the new Canada, we are all wards of the state | Why letting courts overrule parents is a dumb idea | Senators approve anti-spanking bill

Inquiry says ‘insidious’ TASERs being used as tool of convenience, should be reclassified, restricted under criminal code

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

CBC News
June 25, 2008

B.C. police complaint commissioner, Dirk Ryneveld, has told the Braidwood Inquiry that Tasers may be misclassified as prohibited weapons, as opposed to prohibited firearms, as defined under Canada’s criminal code.

The head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP said the force has to start listening to the public when it comes to using stun guns.

Paul Kennedy made his comments on Taser use Wednesday at the Braidwood Inquiry, which heard testimony for the final day before wrapping for the summer. The inquiry will reconvene on Oct. 20.

Retired Justice Thomas Braidwood is examining the controversial weapons.

Kennedy told the inquiry there is a problem when police are using a Tasers on teenagers, the elderly and passive citizens.

He said stun guns are used more often when multiple officers are at a scene and most often by constables on general patrol.

Kennedy said police don’t seem to appreciate how much pain is inflicted by the Taser, which he called insidious.

“I think there is something about that device itself that requires additional safeguards because you don’t see it … and you might become immune to it,” he said.

“Listen to the public…the public is telling you ‘we have concerns with this device’ and if you don’t modify your behaviour you are not going to be in sync with the public whom you should be serving.”

Reclassification of Tasers as firearms recommended

B.C.’s police complaint commissioner, Dirk Ryneveld, has told the Braidwood Inquiry that Tasers may be misclassified as prohibited weapons, as opposed to prohibited firearms, as defined under Canada’s criminal code.

Ryneveld told the public inquiry on Wednesday the distinction is important because the classification determines how police use the controversial stun guns.

“If this is a prohibited firearm, it must be authorized for use. And if their paperwork is misclassified as a prohibited weapon, then the restrictions on its use, and the reporting and the training and the certification don’t apply to the Taser, whereas perhaps it should,” said Ryneveld.

He also told the inquiry police need to use Tasers knowing that they could be lethal, not with the belief that they are a safe, non-lethal alternative to a gun.

“Unfortunately, the Taser has become a tool of convenience in some situations. Sort of a come along device. ‘Drop the beer!’ No? Zap!” said Ryneveld.

While he isn’t calling for an outright ban, Ryneveld said Tasers have become a ‘tool of convenience’ and require more study and training.

Ryneveld said he’s had a long-standing concern with how stun guns are used by police forces, adding that issues about the weapon that were raised several years ago still haven’t been resolved.

While he didn’t recommend a moratorium, Ryneveld said the Taser needs to be placed higher on the use-of-force scale than it currently is. A national protocol should be devised to help all users understand when a stun gun should be used, he said.

The public inquiry was called in the wake of the death of Robert Dziekanski after he was shocked with an RCMP Taser at Vancouver International Airport last October. A report on the general use of Tasers by police is expected this fall.

Source | See Also: Man dies in custody after Taser incident involving Ontario police | Ban Tasers if RCMP doesn’t curb use by year’s end: Commons committee | One-third of people shot by Taser need medical attention: probe | RCMP firing Tasers multiple times at subjects, probe reveals | U.S. jury shocks Taser, investors, with rare loss in court | Tasering violated suspect’s rights, judge rules | RCMP willing to change Taser policy, inquiry told | Tasers pose risk to heart, MDs testify | ‘Peel and Stick’ Tasers Electrify Riot Control | Canadian police have been brainwashed, Taser inquiry told | Mounties censor Taser report | Taser group’s chair to defend stun guns at public inquiry | Chicago study calls Taser’s safety claims into question | Officer injured in Taser demonstration