Tiny videocamera worn by an insect

University of Washington engineers developed a tiny, wireless, and steerable videocamera that can be worn by insects or minuscule micro-robots to stream live video. The device weighs just 248 milligrams. Evan Ackerman writes in IEEE Spectrum:

The system was successfully tested on a pair of darkling beetles that were allowed to roam freely outdoors, and the researchers noted that they could also mount it on spiders or moths, or anything else that could handle the payload. (The researchers removed the electronics from the insects after the experiments and observed no noticeable adverse effects on their behavior.)

The researchers are already thinking about what it might take to put a wireless camera system on something that flies, and it’s not going to be easy—a bumblebee can only carry between 100 and 200 mg [...]

Insects are very mobile platforms for outdoor use, but they’re also not easy to steer, so the researchers also built a little insect-scale robot that they could remotely control while watching the camera feed.

"A Bug-Sized Camera for Bug-Sized Robots and Bug-Sized Bugs" (IEEE Spectrum)

"Wireless steerable vision for live insects and insect-scale robots" (Science Robotics)

Read the rest

What you need to know about police drone surveillance at protests against police brutality

Technology writer Faine Greenwood has a great piece in Slate about the expansion of police drone surveillance fleets. While there are still many, many reasons to worry about abuses of drone technology and mass surveillance in general, Greenwood takes a look at the legal, technical, and practical limitations of these policing methods. Greenwood essentially argues that, as much as American police officers love to think of themselves as special military tactical forces (often treating normal-ass citizens like enemy combatants), they're really just cosplaying, and their use of drones is part of that:

Unlike a Predator—which is capable of staying aloft for more than a day—these small drones usually have short battery lives, from as little as 16 minutes, when carrying a very heavy camera, to 35 minutes when carrying a lighter sensor. (Drone evasion tip: If you think you’re being followed, duck under a shelter or a convenient tree. You can probably wait the drone’s battery out.)

Police drone users are largely not exempt from the same rules that other drone users must abide by, which include restrictions on flight over people, at night, and beyond the pilot’s “visual line of sight.”

[…]

While a police drone can certainly chase someone for a bit, that doesn’t mean police can readily use drone-collected imagery to identify who that person is. In my research for this piece, I couldn’t find a single example of U.S. law enforcement using facial recognition technology and drone imagery to identify someone in the real world. This almost certainly isn’t because police don’t want to, or because they’ve been legally barred from doing so.

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IRS says it bought in to location database for millions of US cellphones to track tax crime suspects

The United States Internal Revenue Service says it purchased access to a marketing database that offers location data for millions of US cellphones, so the IRS can identify and track persons suspected of tax-related crimes. Read the rest

IBM to exit facial recognition business, opposes use of AI technology for mass surveillance

In a letter to members of Congress, IBM says it will abandon the general-purpose facial recognition business, and that the company opposes the use of facial recognition for mass surveillance. Read the rest

Zoom CEO says it won't encrypt free calls because it wants to share them with law enforcement

It's game over for those holding out hope Zoom would do more for user privacy: the company's CEO explicitly cited law enforcement as why it will not offer encrypted calling to free (i.e. undocumented) users.

Yuan said free users won’t enjoy that level of privacy, which makes it impossible for third parties to decipher communications.

“Free users for sure we don’t want to give that because we also want to work together with FBI, with local law enforcement in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose,” Yuan said on the call.

Google Duo and Apple Facetime are already encrypted, and these companies are no enemies of the state. Zoom's position is not just cooperative but collaborative: assume they are already working with law enforcement to make general surveillance of Zoom as simple and pushbutton as possible. Read the rest

Clearview AI promises to cancel accounts that aren't law enforcement or government entities

Clearview AI is reportedly set to cancel client accounts that are not associated with law enforcement or other government entities, as scrutiny grows over abuses of the facial recognition AI app. Read the rest

Amazon used a China firm on U.S. blacklist for thermal cameras to monitor workers for COVID-19 fever

Amazon's new Chinese thermal spycam vendor was blacklisted by U.S. over allegations it helped China detain and monitor Uighurs and other Muslim minorities Read the rest

Damien Patton, CEO of tech surveillance company Banjo, once helped KKK shoot up a synagogue: Report

“We believe that the Blacks and the Jews are taking over America, and it’s our job to take America back for the White race,” Patton testified at trial, describing his beliefs while carrying out the crime — beliefs he said he no longer held.

Banjo CEO Damien Patton has admitted to being a Neo-Nazi skinhead in his youth. But until today, the extent of his activity had not yet been reported, in part because of multiple spellings of his name used over the years. Read the rest

Watch: #FightCovid19 robot enforces Singapore social distance rules with 360º spy-cam

VIDEO: RTÉ News.

Singapore's Public Utilities Board is deploying a robot to encourage people wandering the outdoor parks of the densely populated Asian metropolis to social distance, and "stay safe, stay home". Read the rest

Businesses and stores are adding AI to security cameras for social distancing and mask-wearing compliance

📷 Pepper Construction is using Startup SmartVid.io to analyze worksite images for Oracle Industries Innovation Lab in Deerfield, Illinois.

Existing security cameras at retail stores and workplaces are being equipped with articifial intelligence to enforce measures intendded to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, Reuters reports, based on interviews with 16 different machine vision software firms and a number of businesses that are now their clients. Read the rest

Facebook accuses Israel's NSO Group of exploiting U.S. servers to infect 100s of devices via WhatsApp

Israeli spy-tech firm used WhatsApp accounts to hack, Facebook claims

Under coronavirus lockdown, Russia expands surveillance state

In Russia, two human rights groups say Vladimir Putin's government has vastly expanded surveillance to enforce the nation's coronavirus lockdown, using facial recognition technology and collection of personal data. The groups say regulation is required to ensure that surveillance measures are both temporary and proportionate. Read the rest

Anti-camera shirts

Want to avoid being seen by person-recognizing camera systems? Wear a shirt printed with a complex, confusing image that looks like a mangled JPG of a crowd scene.

The bright adversarial pattern, which a human viewer can darn-near see from space, renders the wearer invisible to the software looking at him. ... Code does not "think" in terms of facial features, the way a human does, but it does look for and classify features in its own way. To foil it, the "cloaks" need to interfere with most or all of those priors. Simply obscuring some of them is not enough. Facial recognition systems used in China, for example, have been trained to identify people who are wearing medical masks while trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or other illnesses.

And of course, to make the task even more challenging, different object detection frameworks all use different mechanisms to detect people, Goldstein explained. "We have different cloaks that are designed for different kinds of detectors, and they transfer across detectors, and so a cloak designed for one detector might also work on another detector," he said.

See also Adversarial Fashion. Read the rest

More reporting links Clearview AI to Trump-aligned racists, neo-Nazis, and alt-right trolls

“Big Brother, it turned out, was wearing a MAGA cap”

Snowden's Box: the incredible, illuminating story of the journey of Snowden's hard drive

Dale Maharidge is a journalist and J-school professor who is dear old friends with the muckracking, outstanding political documentarian Laura Poitras. Jessica Bruder (previously) is a a writer and J-school prof who's best friends with Maharidge. When Laura Poitras was contacted by an NSA whistleblower who wanted to send her the leak of the century, she asked Maharidge for help finding a safe address for a postal delivery, and Maharidge gave her Bruder's Brooklyn apartment address. A few weeks later, Bruder came home from a work-trip to discover a box on her doormat with the return address of "B. Manning, 94-1054 Eleu St, Waipau, HI 96797." In it was a hard-drive. The story of what happened next is documented in a beautifully written, gripping new book: Snowden's Box: Trust in the Age of Surveillance.

Spying on everyone to combat COVID-19 will further erode civil liberties just like 9/11, privacy advocates warn

Tracking entire populations now with electronic surveillance, facial recognition, and biosecurity sensors to combat the coronavirus pandemic will inevitably mean even more invasive forms of government spying later, privacy advocates warn. Read the rest

Hackers say they breached Russian contractor, got details on IoT hacking project for Russia spy agency

• 'Fronton' is the FSB's IoT botnet project

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