Vigilant Solutions, a vehicle surveillance broker, has offered Texas law enforcement agencies “free” access to its automated license plate reader databases and analytical tools. However, this comes at a hefty price. The police must give Vigilant access to all of their data.
Each Saturday we round up the news stories that we didn’t break or cover in depth at WIRED, but which deserve your attention nonetheless.
Vigilant Solutions’ License Plate Reader Database Is a Massive Threat to Privacy
Vehicle surveillance broker Vigilant Solutions has offered Texas law enforcement agencies “free” access to its massive automated license plate reader databases and analytical tools— but only if the police give Vigilant access to all of their data on outstanding court fees and hand the company a 25 percent surcharge from money collected from drivers with outstanding court fines. Vigilant also gets to keep a copy of any license-plate data collected by the police, even after the contract ends, and can retain it indefinitely. The EFF warns that it turns police into debt collectors and data miners. Neither policymakers nor the public have evaluated the technology, it contains a non-disparagement clause, and it uploads everyone’s driving patterns into a private system without any ways for these individuals to control how their data is used or shared. According to a contract between Vigilant and the NYPD, the “Domain Awareness System” has extensive surveillance capabilities. The system combines license plate data with camera footage and surveillance devices, and it allows NYC police to monitor cars across the country. The software’s “stakeout” feature gives the NYPD access to who was at a location (such as a protest, a church, or even an abortion clinic) at a given time, and can use both “predictive analysis” to determine where a person is likely to be, and “associative analysis” to determine whether someone is a “possible associate” of a criminal.
UK Government Allows Firms to Sell Invasive Spying Equipment to Human Rights Abusers
The Independent revealed that the UK government has been licensing the sale of invasive surveillance equipment to repressive states rampant with human rights abuses, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. The licenses include tools that can hack into devices, intercept private phone calls, and run internet monitoring and surveillance programs throughout entire countries.
Android Ransomware Threatens to Share Users’ Browsing History With Their Contacts
If adult apps that are only available in third party stores are your thing, but you don’t want everyone in your contact list to know, you should make sure you’re running Lollipop on your Android device. That’s because Symantec discovered a new ransomware strain called Lockdroid that uses a clickjacking technique to install itself. The secondary popup comes up as an error message appearing on top of a permissions window, and tricks users by disguising itself as an intermediary screen with a “continue” button perfectly overlaid on top of an activation button. (Lollipop doesn’t show secondary popups on installation screens, so you’d have to be gullible enough to manually approve it if you’ve upgraded—but only a third of phones in the Android ecosystem are up-to-date). The ransomware encrypts users’ files and requires a ransom to decrypt them, and blackmails users by threatening to send their browsing history to all their contacts. Lockdroid is currently being distributed through the “Porn ‘O’ Mania” app.
Records Show That Chicago Police Involved in Teen Shooting Sabotaged Their Own Dashcams
Despite the City of Chicago trying to cover up the police execution of black teenager Laquan McDonald, dashcam footage was released last November, over 13 months after the shooting had taken place. Three dashcams pointing at McDonald did not record video, and audio was missing from four others. It’s unlikely that this was a coincidence.
A CPD audit has revealed that officers deliberately sabotaged their own dash cams by pulling out batteries, destroying or “losing” antennas, and removing microphones or stashing them in their squad car glove compartments. No wonder 80 percent of the department’s dash cam videos didn’t record audio, and 12 percent didn’t record video, which police officials blamed not just on officer error but also on “intentional destruction.”