Tuesday, December 11, 2012

More Big Brother - Now He's Listening On The Bus

Just a few short hours after my previous post I ran across this story. Just one more example of how privacy in America is becoming an endangered species.

Government officials installing audio surveillance systems on public buses
The era of private conversations on city buses — and even on San Francisco’s iconic streetcars — may be coming to an end. 

Government officials are quietly installing sophisticated audio surveillance systems on public buses across the country to eavesdrop on passengers, according to documents obtained by The Daily. Plans to implement the technology are under way in cities from San Francisco to Hartford, Conn., and Eugene, Ore., to Columbus, Ohio.

Linked to video cameras already in wide use, the microphones will offer a formidable new tool for security and law enforcement. With the new systems, experts say, transit officials can effectively send an invisible police officer to transcribe the individual conversations of every passenger riding on a public bus.
I was kidding in my previous post when I said something snarky about how the government's next step was to install black boxes in our cars that would record our words and actions. I guess I'm a better fortune-teller than I realized.
A spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Paul Rose, declined to comment on the surveillance program. But procurement documents explain the agency’s rationale.

“The purpose of this project is to replace the existing video surveillance systems in SFMTA’s fleet of revenue vehicles with a reliable and technologically advanced system to increase passenger safety and improve reliability and maintainability of the system,” officials wrote in contract documents. (emphasis added)
Ever notice how all these changes are for our own good? "To increase passenger safety..." What a load of crap.

In San Francisco, the Department of Homeland Security is funding the entire cost with a grant. Elsewhere, the federal government is also providing some financial support. Officials in Concord, N.C., for example, used part of a $1.2 million economic stimulus grant to install a combined audio and video surveillance system on public transit vehicles, records show.
DHS is behind this latest assault on our liberties. What a surprise. I suppose the system will be keyed to identify anyone who uses the word "sucks" in connection with Dear Leader's name.
“Given the resolution claims, it would be trivial to couple this system to something like facial or auditory recognition systems to allow identification of travelers,” said Ashkan Soltani, an independent security consultant asked by The Daily to review the specs of an audio surveillance system marketed to transit agencies. “This technology is sadly indicative of a trend in increased surveillance by commercial and law enforcement entities, under the guise of improved safety.” (emphasis added)
In one of my classes we just finished discussing the implementation of facial recognition systems and related technology on a widespread basis.
The FBI has begun installing state-of-the-art facial recognition technology across the country as part of an update to the national fingerprint database, Sara Reardon of the New Scientist reports.

The agency's $1 billion Next Generation Identification (NGI) program will also include iris scans, DNA analysis and voice identification by 2014.
And the system could be easily be integrated with the National Security Agency's domestic spying apparatus, which whistleblower William Binney said can track electronic activities—phone calls, emails, banking and travel records, social media—and map them to collect "all the attributes that any individual has" and build a profile based on that data.
"... the National Security Agency's domestic spying apparatus..." That should send a chill down your spine.

There's a movie that came out way back in 1998 -- Enemy of the State -- that opens a frightening window on the implications of technological surveillance. If you've got a couple of spare hours this weekend pop some popcorn and watch it.

And if I suddenly stop posting, and this blog disappears, you'll know why...


Old NFO said...

Sigh... It' getting ugly out there... Get on, shut up, sit down and don't move...

CenTexTim said...

At least they can't read our minds ... yet...