While discussions of automated license plate readers focus primarily on law enforcement's recent adoption of them in Texas, they are hardly confined to that state. In fact, police agencies as far as New York are adopting it and other chilling technologies being hawked by the tech giant.
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.