We’ve recently made progress on a number of fronts. We have been organizing a cryptoparty in Troy with several local students, slated for early April. We have also made contact with an anarchist collective in New York City, which has asked us to run a workshop there on surveillance issues and steps for personal privacy.
There have been significant updates to four software projects:
SpeakFree (Microphone Jammer)
Version 1.0.1 released!
Lots of small improvements to the UI, and a few bug fixes
Now working on releasing to F-Droid
SafeGuard (Dead Man Switch for Protesters)
Starting with an Electron-based cross-platform client
Can be left running on a PC at home
Configure the app with login details and an email
Sends the email if not disarmed in time
SocMap (Twitter Community Mapping)
Several analysis tools added
Lots of testing and debugging
Where are the Eyes (Camera Map)
Fixed the registration bug
Mostly done building a web-client for viewing the map
Implemented several new features and bug fixes in iOS
Approaching 1.4 release
A month and a half and lots of progress later, sounds like time for an update post. First, we have a new member! I’m very excited to announce Val Kwart has joined the team; she’ll be leading the zine project mentioned loosely in the January plan. We’re going to produce a periodic journal aimed at other activists, filled with tactics and news updates. If you have anything you’d like to write about for this zine, or would like to be more involved in the project, let Val or myself know, and we’ll get started right away.
Updates on other active projects:
SpeakFree (Microphone Jammer)
Taylor is working on some last minute bug-fixes related to saving files on Android
Amanda is working on image assets for the Play Store
We should be ready to publish to the Play Store and F-Droid on the 19th
SafeGuard (Dead Man Switch)
Ethan has been in contact with activists and journalists, establishing the exact target demographic and feature set
Outlining technical design next
Website coming soon
SocMap (Draws maps of Twitter communities)
Rapid progress! We have a prototype that collects data, and draws maps out to an arbitrary number of layers
Needs a means of recovering from partial downloads if interrupted, and a lot of tools for pruning the huge datasets
Website tentatively ready, mostly waiting on a project logo
Where are the Eyes (Camera Map)
Found some new bugs, one preventing new user registration in some cases
Also crashes or doesn’t work correctly on a small subset of phones (Including Jazmyn’s)
No new development work
Lastly, I’ve just put the profiles for our latest members online, so you can see everyone at https://daylightingsociety.org/about
It’s been an exciting year so far, and I remain very enthusiastic looking forward.
Our team and mission are growing considerably, so I’d like to check in with everyone and talk about our goals for 2018. I just flew back from this year’s Chaos Communication Congress, a major hacker convention focused on issues of civil rights. I met a vast community of individuals working along the same lines as we are, made some excellent contacts among them, and am exuberant about what we can accomplish this year.
Last year we got a lot of development done in the Spring, and focused on recruitment in the Fall. That recruitment is paying off, and we’re hoping to double our staff over the next few months. We have already introduced newcomers Daniel McKay (starting as a journalist) and Ethan Riley (starting as a web developer), but have also talked to several others have shown excitement about joining the team.
An update on our existing projects:
Where are the Eyes (Camera Map) is approaching its last foreseeable major update
Milo met with the OpenStreetMap team in person in Leipzig, and OSM integration in the form we were hoping for is not a possibility
This simplifies our remaining work considerably, and frees up our time and resources to work on other areas
SpeakFree (Microphone Jammer) is now feature complete, ready for release on Android
UI improvements would be appreciated, but we have all the functionality implemented and running smoothly
Additional testing to establish the effectiveness of the jamming would be great
Apple has so far blocked the iOS version of SpeakFree on the grounds that it has insufficient functionality
Paillier (Homomorphic Cryptography Library)
Received one software update this past year to improve the API
494 installations of latest version, 790 installs total (whoo!)
Added to the Paillier Cryptosystem Wikipedia article (not by us!) as a reference implementation in Ruby
Cited on Stack Overflow as the only explanation of how Paillier Zero-Knowledge-Proofs work (Congratulations Taylor!)
This year we are aiming to more than double our active projects. Here’s a summary of what’s been proposed:
A dead-man’s switch for journalists (name TBD)
TempestShield, an EM emissions jammer countering the NSA TEMPEST program
Project Lead: Taylor Dahlin?
SocMap, a framework for drawing maps of communities on social media, for further research into anonymity and propaganda
A series of articles on the history of surveillance states and their cultural impact (name TBD)
Project Lead: Daniel McKay
The above is a starting point, and may expand to include more topics
A cypherpunk / cryptoanarchist zine on resisting the surveillance state (name TBD)
Techniques and software for identifying false-flag operations on social media
I am thrilled for this year, can’t wait to work with you all, and have much more to say soon.
Too often we do not learn about surveillance systems until they are already in place, but there are a few exceptions. This is the story of Oakland California’s Domain Awareness Center, a DHS-funded city-wide security system narrowly blocked by concerned citizens.
The Domain Awareness Center, or DAC, was originally intended to improve safety near Oakland’s port, but rapidly grew to cover the city with draconian surveillance technology. Among its highlights are:
ShotSpotter deserves special recognition. The technology is supposed to deploy microphones to detect gunshots and alert police immediately to their location. Unfortunately, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) did not test ShotSpotter for false positives because of “criminal ordinances against fireworks in Redwood City.” As a result, the system (which costs over $100,000 per square mile) has performed abysmally, with only ten percent accuracy in a 2012 trial. ShotSpotter has also been shown to have a minimal impact on crime. Despite this, ShotSpotter has been widely deployed, perhaps for its perceived role in making streets safer, or because of its ability to record conversations through the city. SST, the company responsible for ShotSpotter, is adamant that their technology is not used for spying.
The Domain Awareness Center is a part of the growing “Smart City” movement, which aims to link a network of sensors and communication systems throughout a city, improving efficiency and reducing crime. Unfortunately, there remain many privacy concerns regarding Smart Cities, as well as their vulnerability to hackers.
In Oakland’s case, citizens became involved early in the process, involved the American Civil Liberties Union, and ultimately convinced the city council to severely reduce the scope of the Domain Awareness Center. Surveillance cameras and gunshot detectors were disconnected from the DAC, and the system was restricted to covering the Oakland port, but not the city.
Yesterday North Dakota activated its National Guard, who arrived in full riot gear to arrest protestors of the Dakota Oil Pipeline. At least twenty people were arrested, including medics and journalists. However, one of the most striking things about the arrest was its absence on social media.
The AntiMedia reports that Facebook blocked posts including a link to the protest live stream, and the Facebook debugger reported the link “violated ‘community standards.’” In a followup to MotherBoard, Facebook claims their automatic spam filter flagged the link by mistake, trying to remove “unsafe content”. It has also overzealously blocked links to Wikileaks, videos of police shootings, and a historic Vietnam War photo.
This may well be a technical glitch, as writing code to interpret video and images, or even human language, is a notoriously difficult task. Even so, the fact that an overly hasty algorithm can intervene and prevent news from reaching more than one and a half billion users is a disturbing thought.
The Intercept has published a 120-page leaked catalog of surveillance equipment by Cobham designed for “law enforcement, military, national security, and border patrol agencies.” This equipment is designed for covert surveillance of targets, usually by engaging in mass-surveillance of everyone in an area.
Some of the more impressive items include:
They also sport a large collection of microphones and transmitters, hidden among clothing, car chargers, mugs, usb sticks, and keyfobs.
Cobham also sells GPS, RDF (Radio Direction Finding), and GSM / CDMA transmitters, used to track the exact locations of moving targets.
Lastly, Cobham sells cell-network IMSI catchers, known more commonly as notorious “Stingrays.” These allow surveillance agencies to track your location using your cell phone, without installing any software or tracking devices on your person.
Ultimately they try to bundle all their equipment as a package deal to create “Safe Cities”, providing scalable surveillance “to help protect cities and keep citizens safe.” This is apparently done by deploying city-wide CCTV, hidden IP cameras, audio recording, and cell tower interception, all routed through a central Command and Control center.
Last Friday Indian trade unions held one of the biggest strikes in human history. At least tens of millions of protestors took a stand against privatization and increase of foreign investment. Union officials claim the protestors numbered as many as 180 million.
In the United States, however, this historic event was almost entirely ignored. No cable news network covered the protest at all, leaving many Americans in the dark. The Associated Press covered the event, leaving no doubt that it was a conscious decision to avoid discussing the protest on air.
Over the last few years the news has been full of stories of excessive force, civil forfeiture, and other police abuses of power. But there is a disturbing trend that could overshadow all of these problems.
A growing number of states allow for private police forces, often given terms like “special police”, or “special conservators of the peace.” These are mercenaries with arrest authority and guns. While we are working on reforming the police by increasing public records and deploying body cameras, private police operate outside public scrutiny, and have no such oversight.
In cases of misconduct private police are not required to turn any information over to the public. Any investigation of the incident can be handled between the public and private police, entirely behind closed doors.
Further, the training requirements for private police are slim to none. Virginia recently increased training levels from 40 to 130 hours. Washington D.C. remains at 40 hours. Maryland has no requirements at all, leaving training to the discretion of the employer.
Finally, when interacting with private police your civil rights may not apply. You can sue the police for violating your rights - but not private citizens. You can use a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to learn about the actions of government law enforcement - but not private citizens. Private Police have the rights of law enforcement to detain and arrest you, and even use violence when necessary, but have little of the responsibility.
This is not a new problem. Private police agencies like the Pinkertons were deployed at least as far back as the labor movement in the late 1800s. However, as funding for public police continues to plummet states are relying on private police forces in greater numbers, making this a rapidly growing problem.