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Author Topic: Increase in Knowledge/New Technologies  (Read 19262 times)
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« Reply #15 on: June 20, 2009, 01:10:12 PM »

March of the killer robots    

telegraph.co.uk

It's the most realistic shoot-'em-up game ever. The player has a choice of two planes: a Predator with two Hellfire missiles, or a Reaper with 14. The action takes place in the Middle East, where you can attack villages and kill the inhabitants with impunity. But don't bother looking for it in the shops: to play this deadly game, you'll have to travel to Creech Air Force base in the Nevada desert. That's because the planes are real, and so are the casualties.

The first time a Predator made a kill was in Yemen, in 2002, when the CIA used it to destroy a vehicle carrying an al-Qaeda leader and five of his associates. The fleet now stands at around 200 craft, which have flown more than 400,000 combat hours. The company that makes them, General Atomics, can't keep up with the demand. The bigger, badder version – the Reaper hunter-killer – is also flying off the shelves. There are now around 30 in active service, with the first kill taking place in the mountains of Afghanistan in October 2007.

In every field of warfare, mechanical soldiers are fighting alongside – or instead of – human beings. Apart from unmanned combat air vehicles such as Predators, the skies above Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are filled with drones carrying out surveillance operations. On the ground are between 6,000 and 12,000 robots, up from a mere 150 in 2004. Their role is mostly to protect our soldiers by disrupting improvised explosive devices, or to carry out surveillance of dangerous places such as caves and buildings.

Our image of such robots owes a great deal to films – most notably The Terminator or Transformers, both of which have sequels out this month. But the actual models being used are more like miniature tanks, similar to the contraptions seen on the television series Robot Wars. The most popular is the PackBot made by the US company iRobot, which is normally used for bomb disposal. As the company started out making robotic vacuum cleaners known as Roombas, the 18kg PackBot is sometimes jokingly referred to as the "Roomba of doom" or "Doomba" – much to the displeasure of the firm's management, who would clearly hope to keep the two brands separate.

Recently, iRobot joined forces with Taser International to mount the allegedly non-lethal weapons on the "bots". But that pales in comparison with the ordnance that comes with the Talon, a larger device made by Foster-Miller, a US subsidiary of the British firm QinetiQ. It comes with chemical, gas, temperature and radiation sensors and can be mounted with a choice of grenade launcher, machine gun, incendiary weapon or 50-calibre rifle. Its bigger brother, the MAARS robot, ups the stakes with a tanklike turret.

Despite planned cutbacks in spending on conventional weapons, the Obama administration is increasing its budget for robotics: in 2010, the US Air Force will be given $2.13 billion for unmanned technology, including $489.24 million to procure 24 heavily armed Reapers. The US Army plans to spend $2.13 billion on unmanned vehicle technology, including 36 more Predators, while the Navy and Marine Corps will spend $1.05 billion, part of which will go on armed MQ-8B helicopters.

Of course, when the military describes such systems as "unmanned", it is stretching the truth very slightly. At the moment, all the armed robots in the Middle East are remote-controlled by humans – there is a "man in the loop" to control them and to decide when and whether to apply lethal force.

But that makes very little difference to villagers in Waziristan, where there have been repeated Predator strikes since 2006, many of them controlled from Creech Air Force Base, thousands of miles away. According to reports coming out of Pakistan, these have killed 14 al-Qaeda leaders and more than 600 civilians.

Such widespread collateral damage suggests that the human remote-controllers are not doing a very good job of restraining their robotic servants. In fact, the role of the "man in the loop" is becoming vanishingly small, and will disappear. "Our decision power [as controllers] is really only to give a veto," argues Peter Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC. "And, if we are honest with ourselves, it is a veto power we are often unable or unwilling to exercise because we only have a half-second to react."

As Dyke Weatherington, deputy director of the Pentagon's Unmanned Aerial Systems Task Force, points out: "There's really no way that a system that is remotely controlled can effectively operate in an offensive or defensive air combat environment. The requirement of that is a fully autonomous system."

Sure enough, plans are well under way to develop robots that can locate and destroy targets without human intervention. There are already a number of autonomous ground vehicles, such as the seven-ton "Crusher" developed by DARPA, the US military's research agency. BAE Systems, a British defence contractor, recently reported that it had "completed a flying trial which, for the first time, demonstrated the co-ordinated control of multiple Unmanned Aerial Vehicles autonomously completing a series of tasks". The Israelis are already fielding autonomous radar-killer drones known as Harpy and Harop, and the South Koreans use lethal autonomous systems to defend their border with the North.

Many in the military are enthusiastic about such developments. "They don't get hungry. They're not afraid. They don't forget their orders," says Dr Gordon Johnson, of the Pentagon's Joint Forces Command. "Will they do a better job than humans? Yes."

Dr Johnson insists that "there are no legal prohibitions against robots making life-and-death decisions", adding: "The US military will have these kinds of robots. It's not a question of if, it's a question of when."

The problem, however, is that no autonomous robots or artificial intelligence systems have the necessary capabilities to discriminate between combatants and innocents. Compared with the robots in the Terminator films, they suffer from artificial stupidity. Allowing them to make decisions about who to kill falls foul of the fundamental ethical precepts of the laws of war set up to protect civilians, the sick and wounded, the mentally ill and captives. We are already overreaching the technology and stretching the laws of war.

"Unless we end war, end capitalism and end science, the use of robots will only grow," says Peter Singer. "We are building and using machines with more and more autonomy because they are viewed by militaries as useful for war, and viewed by companies as profitable business." Spending on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles is expected to exceed tens of billions of dollars over the next 10 years, and more than 40 countries – including Russia and China – now have their own programmes.

Amid this robotic arms race, there is a sliver of hope. Professor Ron Arkin, of the Georgia Institute of Technology, believes that humans do not have the time to make rational ethical decisions in the modern battlefield. "There appears to be little alternative," he says, "to the use of more dispassionate autonomous decision-making machinery." He has funding from the US Army for research on how to programme ethical rules into robots to stop them causing excessive collateral damage. But this does not get around the problem of how to discriminate between innocents and combatants – and Arkin admits that the technology to fully support his system may not be available for 25 years.

The problem is that it is not just a matter of developing adequate sensors. In complex wars, complex human reasoning is often needed to decide when it is appropriate to kill. Robots do not feel anger or seek revenge – but they also don't have sympathy, empathy, remorse or shame. Nor can they be held accountable for their actions. In subcontracting our wars to our robotic creations, we are abdicating moral responsibility, too.
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« Reply #16 on: June 20, 2009, 01:11:09 PM »

Are You Being Watched?  

newsweek.com

At first glance, there was nothing special about the blimp floating high above the cars and crowd at this year's Indy 500 on Memorial Day weekend. Like most airships, it acted as an advertising vehicle; this time for the Fisher House, a charity focused on helping injured veterans and their families. But the real promo should have been for the blimp's creator, Raytheon, the security company best known for its weapons systems. Hidden inside the 55-foot-long white balloon was a powerful surveillance camera adapted from the technology Raytheon provides the U.S. military. Essentially an unmanned drone, the blimp transmitted detailed images to the race's security officers and to Indiana police. "The airship is great because it doesn't have that Big Brother feel, or create feelings of invasiveness," says Lee Silvestre, vice president of mission innovation in Raytheon's Integrated Defense division. "But it's still a really powerful security tool."

Until recently, Raytheon's eye-in-the-sky technology was used in Afghanistan and Iraq to guard American military bases, working as airborne guards against any oncoming desert threat. Using infrared sensors and a map overlay not unlike Google Earth, the technology scans a large area, setting important landmarks (say, the perimeter of a military base), and constantly relays video clips back to a command center. If a gun fires or a bomb is detonated, the airships can detect the noise and focus the camera—all from a mighty-high 500 feet.

After the success of the Indy 500 trial, the company is targeting police departments and sporting facilities that want to keep an eye on crowds that might easily morph into an unruly mob. "Large municipalities could find many uses for this [technology] once we figure out how to get it in their hands," says Nathan Kennedy, the blimp's project manager.

For now, cost might be the only thing preventing a blimp from appearing over your head. Raytheon won't disclose how much the system may eventually cost, but chances are it won't be cheap. For municipalities without a Pentagon-size police budget, the blimps' potential to display ads may assist with financing. Raytheon says local authorities could install a built-in LED screen to attract sponsors, generate revenue and defer operating costs.

But what about privacy and civil-rights concerns? Raytheon argues that its technology is no different than what's already watching us on a daily basis: street cameras, cop cars, helicopters and foot patrols. "No new information is being picked up by the airships, necessarily," Silvestre says. "We're just incorporating lots of different feeds to provide a quick, complete picture; integration is the key here."
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« Reply #17 on: June 20, 2009, 01:12:14 PM »

Is Your Cell Phone Spying On You?  

newsweek.com

Don't talk: your cell phone may be eavesdropping. Thanks to recent developments in "spy phone" software, a do-it-yourself spook can now wirelessly transfer a wiretapping program to any mobile phone. The programs are inexpensive, and the transfer requires no special skill. The would-be spy needs to get his hands on your phone to press keys authorizing the download, but it takes just a few minutes—about the time needed to download a ringtone.

This new generation of -user-friendly spy-phone software has become widely available in the last year—and it confers stunning powers. The latest programs can silently turn on handset microphones even when no call is being made, allowing a spy to listen to voices in a room halfway around the world. Targets are none the wiser: neither call logs nor phone bills show records of the secretly transmitted data.

More than 200 companies sell spy-phone software online, at prices as low as $50 (a few programs cost more than $300). Vendors are loath to release sales figures. But some experts—private investigators and consultants in counter-wiretapping, computer-security software and telecommunications market research—claim that a surprising number of people carry a mobile that has been compromised, usually by a spouse, lover, parent or co-worker. Many employees, experts say, hope to discover a supervisor's dishonest dealings and tip off the top boss anonymously. Max Maiellaro, head of Agata Christie Investigation, a private-investigation firm in Milan, estimates that 3 percent of mobiles in France and Germany are tapped, and about 5 percent or so in Greece, Italy, Romania and Spain. James Atkinson, a spy-phone expert at Granite Island Group, a security consultancy in Gloucester, Massachusetts, puts the number of tapped phones in the U.S. at 3 percent. (These approximations do not take into account government wiretapping.) Even if these numbers are inflated, clearly many otherwise law-abiding citizens are willing to break wiretapping laws.

Spyware thrives on iPhones, BlackBerrys and other smart phones because they have ample processing power. In the United States, the spread of GSM networks, which are more vulnerable than older technologies, has also enlarged the pool of potential victims. Spyware being developed for law-enforcement agencies will accompany a text message and automatically install itself in the victim's phone when the message is opened, according to an Italian developer who declined to be identified. One worry is that the software will find its way into the hands of criminals.

The current predicament is partly the result of decisions by Apple, Microsoft and Research In Motion (producer of the BlackBerry) to open their phones to outside application-software developers, which created the opening for spyware. Antivirus and security programs developed for computers require too much processing power, even for smart phones. Although security programs are available for phones, by and large users haven't given the threat much thought. If the spying keeps spreading, that may change soon.
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« Reply #18 on: June 27, 2009, 12:48:26 PM »

A robot displaying human emotion has been unveiled   

telegraph.co.uk

Kobian, a "humanoid" robot, which can express seven human emotions, has been unveiled by researchers at Waseda University in Japan.

The Emotional Humanoid Robot can express seven different feelings, including delight, surprise, sadness and dislike. In addition to assuming different poses to match the mood, Kobian uses motors in its face to move its lips, eyelids and eyebrows into various positions, according to pinktentacle.

To express delight, for example, the robot its hands over its head and opens it mouth and eyes wide.

To show sadness, Kobian hunches over, hangs its head and holds a hand up to its face in a gesture of grief.

Kobian can also walk around, perceive its environment and perform physical tasks. The robot features a double jointed neck that helps it achieve more expressive postures.

It was developed and unveiled by researchers at Waseda’s Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering in Tokyo on Tuesday June 23.

They were led by Professor Atsuo Takanashi, and worked with robot manufacturer Tmsuk, based in Kitakyushu, southern Japan.

According to Kobian’s developers, the robot’s expressiveness makes it more equipped to interact with humans and assist with daily activities.

There are plans for it to be further developed and then possibly deployed into the field of nursing.
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« Reply #19 on: June 27, 2009, 12:49:19 PM »

Welcome to the nation's most closely watched small city 

latimes.com

Lancaster, Pa. -- This historic town, where America's founding fathers plotted during the Revolution and Milton Hershey later crafted his first chocolates, now boasts another distinction.

It may become the nation's most closely watched small city.

Some 165 closed-circuit TV cameras soon will provide live, round-the-clock scrutiny of nearly every street, park and other public space used by the 55,000 residents and the town's many tourists. That's more outdoor cameras than are used by many major cities, including San Francisco and Boston.

Unlike anywhere else, cash-strapped Lancaster outsourced its surveillance to a private nonprofit group that hires civilians to tilt, pan and zoom the cameras -- and to call police if they spot suspicious activity. No government agency is directly involved.

Perhaps most surprising, the near-saturation surveillance of a community that saw four murders last year has sparked little public debate about whether the benefits for law enforcement outweigh the loss of privacy.

"Years ago, there's no way we could do this," said Keith Sadler, Lancaster's police chief. "It brings to mind Big Brother, George Orwell and '1984.' It's just funny how Americans have softened on these issues."

"No one talks about it," agreed Scott Martin, a Lancaster County commissioner who wants to expand the program. "Because people feel safer. Those who are law-abiding citizens, they don't have anything to worry about."

A few dozen people attended four community meetings held last spring to discuss what sponsors called "this exciting public safety initiative." But opposition has grown since big red bulbs, which shield the video cameras, began appearing on corner after corner.

Mary Pat Donnellon, head of Mission Research, a local software company, vowed to move if she finds one on her block. "I don't want to live like that," she said. "I'm not afraid. And I don't need to be under surveillance."

"No one has the right to know who goes in and out my front door," agreed David Mowrer, a laborer for a company that supplies quarry pits. "That's my business. That's not what America is about."

Hundreds of municipalities -- including Los Angeles and at least 36 other California cities -- have built or expanded camera networks since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In most cases, Department of Homeland Security grants helped cover the cost.

In the most ambitious project, New York City police announced plans several years ago to link 3,000 public and private security cameras across Lower Manhattan designed to help deter, track and detect terrorists. The network is not yet complete.

How they affect crime is open to debate. In the largest U.S. study, researchers at UC Berkeley evaluated 71 cameras that San Francisco put in high-crime areas starting in 2005. Their final report, released in December, found "no evidence" of a drop in violent crime but "substantial declines" in property crime near the cameras.

Only a few communities have said no. In February, the city council in Cambridge, Mass., voted not to use eight cameras already purchased with federal funds for fear police would improperly spy on residents. Officials in nearby Brookline are considering switching off a dozen cameras for the same reason.

Lancaster is different, and not just because it sits amid the rolling hills and rich farms of Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Laid out in 1730, the whole town is 4 square miles around a central square. Amish families still sell quilts in the nation's oldest public market, and the Wal-Mart provides a hitching post to park a horse and buggy. Tourists flock to art galleries and Colonial-era churches near a glitzy new convention center.

But poverty is double the state's average, and public school records list more than 900 children as homeless. Police blame most of last year's 3,638 felony crimes, chiefly thefts, on gangs that use Lancaster as a way station to move cocaine, heroin and other illegal drugs along the Eastern Seaboard.

"It's not like we're making headlines as the worst crime-ridden city in the country," said Craig Stedman, the county's district attorney. "We have an average amount of crime for our size."

In 2001, a local crime commission concluded that cameras might make the city safer. Business owners, civic boosters and city officials formed the Lancaster Community Safety Coalition, and the nonprofit organization installed its first camera downtown in 2004.

Raising money from private donors and foundations, the coalition had set up 70 cameras by last year. And the crime rate rose.

Officials explained the increase by saying cameras caught lesser offenses, such as prostitution and drunkenness, that otherwise often escape prosecution. The cameras also helped police capture and convict a murderer, and solve several other violent crimes.

Another local crime meeting last year urged an expansion of the video network, and the city and county governments agreed to share the $3-million cost with the coalition. Work crews are trying to connect 95 additional high-resolution cameras by mid-July.

"Per capita, we're the most watched city in the state, if not the entire United States," said Joseph Morales, a city councilman who is executive director of the coalition. "There are very few public streets that are not visible to our cameras."

The digital video is transmitted to a bank of flat-screen TVs at coalition headquarters, several dingy offices beside a gas company depot. A small sign hangs outside.

On a recent afternoon, camera operator Doug Winglewich sat at a console and watched several dozen incoming video feeds plus a computer linked to the county 911 dispatcher. The cameras have no audio, so he works in silence.

Each time police logged a new 911 call, he punched up the camera closest to the address, and pushed a joystick to maneuver in for a closer look.

A license plate could be read a block away, and a face even farther could be identified. After four years in the job, Winglewich said, he "can pretty much tell right away if someone's up to no good."

He called up another feed and focused on a woman sitting on the curb. "You get to know people's faces," he said. "She's been arrested for prostitution."

Moments later, he called police when he spotted a man drinking beer in trouble-prone Farnum Park. Two police officers soon appeared on the screen, and as the camera watched, issued the man a ticket for violating a local ordinance.

"Lots of times, the police find outstanding warrants and the guy winds up in jail," said Winglewich, 49, who works from a wheelchair on account of a spinal injury.

If a camera records a crime in progress, the video is given to police and prosecutors, and may be subpoenaed by defense lawyers in a criminal case. More than 300 tapes were handed over last year, records show.

Morales says he refuses all other requests. "The divorce lawyer who wants video of a husband coming out of a bar with his mistress, we won't do it," he said.

No state or federal law governs use of public cameras, so Morales is drafting ethical guidelines for the coalition's 10 staffers and dozen volunteers. Training has been "informal" until now, he said, but will be stiffened.

Morales said he tries to weed out voyeurs and anyone who might use the tapes for blackmail or other illegal activity.

"We are not directly responsible to law enforcement or government at this point," he said. "So we have to be above suspicion ourselves."

Morales, 45, has a master's degree in public administration. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., he grew up mostly on Army bases. He was accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy, he said, but turned it down. "I made a lot of bad choices," he said. "Substance abuse was part of that."

Mary Catherine Roper, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, says the coalition's role as a self-appointed, self-policed gatekeeper for blanket surveillance of an entire city is unique.

"This is the first time, the only time, I've heard of it anywhere," she said. "It is such a phenomenally bad idea that it is stunning to me."

She said the coalition structure provides no public oversight or accountability, and may be exempt from state laws governing release of public records.

"When I hear people off the street can come in and apply to watch the camera on my street, now I'm terrified," she added. "That could be my nosy neighbor, or my stalker ex-boyfriend, or a burglar stalking my home."

J. Richard Gray, Lancaster's mayor since 2005, backs the program but worries about such abuses. He is a former defense attorney, a self-described civil libertarian, and a free-spirited figure who owns 12 motorcycles.

"I keep telling [the coalition] you're on a short leash with me," Gray said. "It's one strike and you're out as far as I'm concerned."

His campaign treasurer, Larry Hinnenkamp, a tax attorney and certified public accountant, took a stronger view. He "responded with righteous indignation" when a camera was installed without prior notice by his home.

"I used to give it the finger when I walked by," Hinnenkamp said.

But Jack Bauer, owner of the city's largest beer and soft drink distributor, calls the network "a great thing." His store hasn't been robbed, he said, since four cameras went up nearby.

"There's nothing wrong with instilling fear," he said.
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« Reply #20 on: July 04, 2009, 01:02:40 PM »


RFID could be in all cell phones by 2010

news.zdnet.com/

All cell phones will come packed with an RFID chip by next summer — giving your phone the possibility of also becoming the keys to your car or house.

That was the prediction of Ericsson's vice-president of systems architecture, Håkan Djuphammar, speaking at the company's Business Innovation Forum in Stockholm on Tuesday.

He told delegates: "A year from now, basically every new phone sold will have [near field communication]. It's a two-way, bio-directional RFID communication link that makes this device work as a tag or reader."

Djuphammar said devices with RFID chips will have a secure environment on the SIM card, where "trusted identities" or "secure elements" can be downloaded. This will enable phones to take on other roles, such as the keys for your car or house, or a credit card or concert ticket. He said Ericsson is working with a utilities company that has 700 separate unmanned facilities and around 15,000 keys — a logistical nightmare it wants to eliminate via the use of RFID-enabled mobiles.

"They don't know really where those keys are, so they want to replace all the locks with RFID locks, put RFID-capable phones in the hands of all their personnel, and then they can control the access to these sites."

Using RFID in this way would enable a mobile to be assigned to open a door for a certain period of time only, meaning the company could better manage access to its facilities, while also replacing the hassle of dealing with thousands of physical keys.

"All sorts of things will be enabled by [RFID] — a small piece of technology, but with an ecosystem around it that opens up tremendous opportunities for innovation," Djuphammar added.

Mobile phones could also become instruments of fraud detection. Djuphammar said credit card companies could make use of mobile user location data and IP mapping to ascertain whether a transaction is taking place in the vicinity of the official card holder, thereby judging whether the transaction is likely to be genuine or not.

"In some countries, there's a lot of credit card fraud, so it is in the interest of the issuer to be able to match the position of the phone that belongs to the person who has a card. If the phone is close to where the card is used, the fraud risk is low. But if the phone suddenly moves away from where the card is used, the issuer can be alerted to check that particular transaction — it's most likely fraud, because now the phone and the card are separated," he explained.

Another example of leveraging location data is to create real-time road traffic maps generated by analysing the speed of the mobile phone base station hand-off to ascertain how fast cars are travelling. This data could then be sold to GPS device companies, enabling them to provide dynamic travel information to motorists.

Djuphammar said selling access to mobile user information in this way would open up new revenue streams in a "win-win" scenario for all parties involved — the end user, the operator and the broker who manages the sharing of that user data.

"That is a typical win-win, where the operators share their assets/knowledge through a broker and the GPS company can sell a service to the end user. The end user wins, the GPS service provider wins, the broker provider wins and the operator wins," he added.
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« Reply #21 on: July 12, 2009, 02:47:51 PM »

Microsoft Chief: In 10 years, computers will know your intent      

charlotteobserver.com/

In the next 10 years, computers as flexible as a sheet of paper will replace notepads and newspapers, while others will be able to intuit what you're trying to find online, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said Friday to a group of Charlotte technology workers.

Ballmer's speech and question-and-answer session kicked off the N.C. Technology Association conference in uptown Charlotte. He discussed topics including health care costs and the future of Microsoft's new search engine, Bing.

“Nothing ever slows down,” he said, highlighting the need for research and development even in a down economy. “There continues to be amazing change, and it's not just in the new things you see and read.”

In 1999, fewer than half of households had desktop computers or cell phones, which are now ubiquitous. The next 10 years, Ballmer said, should see even more rapid changes.

He said a big part of the future of computing is in determining users' intent. For example, he said it's simple to ask his assistant to get him ready to visit Charlotte. But on a computer, it involves opening up his calendar, visiting several Web sites, printing out tickets, and so on. The two will become more similar, Ballmer said.

When you type the word “Chicago” into a search engine, it will be able to determine whether you meant the city, the band or the musical based on your Internet history.

Another part of the future is the development of a more natural interface. Users will be able to speak to, touch and gesture at their computers even more.
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« Reply #22 on: July 18, 2009, 11:29:35 AM »

Bluetooth "Big Brother" tracks festival-goers     

reuters.com/


Researchers are using Bluetooth technology to observe the meanderings of tens of thousands of festival-goers at a top European rock festival, hoping their findings will launch a new generation of tracking devices.

The team from the University of Ghent in Belgium believes the research could yield new satellite navigation applications for the retail and security sectors.

"We have installed 36 Bluetooth scanners across the site and along a few surrounding roads, as well as bus stops," the university's Nico Van de Weghe said on Friday of the project at the Werchter festival, northeast of Brussels this weekend.

Within a radius of 30 meters, the scanners track mobile phones equipped with Bluetooth, a type of short-range wireless technology which allows different devices to connect with one another, often to transfer files.

But the masses flocking to see Coldplay, Kings of Leon or Metallica need not worry about their privacy, Van de Weghe said.

The researchers will only track the devices' MAC address -- a number that identifies each device on a network -- which cannot be traced to phone numbers or personal details.

"Werchter is a very interesting case," Van de Weghe told Reuters, adding that this is the first time his team, working on a wider research project using new technology to track moving objects, will collect full data on a live situation.

The team is carrying out research on geographical information systems, such as satellite navigation systems, and is hoping to be able to track moving objects in real time.

"Tracking movements via Bluetooth could become very interesting. It could help retailers keep track of the number of customers numbers at different times, " Van de Weghe said.

The technique could also be used by security services to track suspicious movements, or monitor evacuations at mass events.

Some 80,000 people from across Europe attended a sweltering first day of the festival in the small town of Werchter, 40 km (25 miles) northeast of Brussels, on Thursday, with thousands more expected on Friday and over the weekend.
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« Reply #23 on: July 18, 2009, 11:30:37 AM »

India to issue all 1.2 billion citizens with biometric ID cards    

timesonline.co.uk/

It is surely the biggest Big Brother project yet conceived. India is to issue each of its 1.2 billion citizens, millions of whom live in remote villages and possess no documentary proof of existence, with cyber-age biometric identity cards.

The Government in Delhi recently created the Unique Identification Authority, a new state department charged with the task of assigning every living Indian an exclusive number. It will also be responsible for gathering and electronically storing their personal details, at a predicted cost of at least £3 billion.

The task will be led by Nandan Nilekani, the outsourcing sage who coined the phrase “the world is flat”, which became a mantra for supporters of globalisation. “It is a humongous, mind-boggling challenge,” he told The Times. “But we have the opportunity to give every Indian citizen, for the first time, a unique identity. We can transform the country.”

If the cards were piled on top of each other they would be 150 times as high as Mount Everest — 1,200 kilometres.

India’s legions of local bureaucrats currently issue at least 20 proofs of identity, including birth certificates, driving licences and ration cards. None is accepted universally and moving from one state to the next can easily render a citizen officially invisible — a disastrous predicament for the millions of poor who rely on state handouts to survive.

It is hoped that the ID scheme will close such bureaucratic black holes while also fighting corruption. It may also be put to more controversial ends, such as the identification of illegal immigrants and tackling terrorism. A computer chip in each card will contain personal data and proof of identity, such as fingerprint or iris scans. Criminal records and credit histories may also be included.

Mr Nilekani, who left Infosys, the outsourcing giant that he co-founded, to take up his new job, wants the cards to be linked to a “ubiquitous online database” accessible from anywhere.

The danger, experts say, is that as one of the world’s largest stores of personal information, it will prove an irresistible target for identity thieves. “The database will be one of the largest that ever gets built,” Guru Malladi, a partner at Ernst & Young who was involved in an earlier pilot scheme, said. “It will have to be impregnable.”

Mr Nilekani will also have to mastermind a way of collecting trustworthy data. Only about 75 million people — or less than 7 per cent of the population — are registered to pay income tax. The Electoral Commission’s voter lists are thought to be largely inaccurate, not least because of manipulation by corrupt politicians.

He will also have to persuade as many as 60 government departments to co-operate. The Government has said that the first cards will be issued within 18 months. Analysts feel that it will take at least four years for the project to reach “critical mass”.

Such is the scale of the project that analysts believe India will have to develop a new electronics manufacturing base to supply information-storing servers, computer chips and card readers.

For the time being Mr Nilekani has more mundane matters on his mind. “I’ve only just left my previous job,” he said. “First I have to find a new office.”

Keeping tabs around the world

• Compulsory national identity cards are used in about 100 countries including Germany, France, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain

• ID cards are not used in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the Irish Republic or Nordic countries

• German police can detain people who are not carrying their ID card for up to 24 hours

• The Bush Administration resisted calls for an identity card in the US after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001

• In Australia street protests in the 1980s forced the Government to abandon its plans for a card

• Plastic cards are favoured over paper documents because they are harder to forge

• Most identity cards contain the name, sex, date of birth and a unique number for the holder

• South Korean, Brazilian, Italian and Malaysian ID cards contain fingerprints. Cards in some countries contain information on any distinguishing marks of the holder

• Objections to card schemes have focused on the cost and invasion of privacy

• Supporters say that they prevent illegal immigration and fraud

• In the European Union some cards can be used instead of a passport for European travel
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« Reply #24 on: July 18, 2009, 11:31:54 AM »

Monkey Moves Robot Using Mind Control      

news.sky.com

A monkey fitted with a hi-tech brain chip has learned to move a complex robotic arm using mind control.

The chip implant allows the monkey to manipulate the arm by thought

The animal can operate the robot with such dexterity that it can reach out to grab, and turn a handle.

The mechanical arm has an arm, elbow, wrist and simple hand, which the monkey controls with the power of thought.

Sky News was given exclusive access to the laboratory at Pittsburgh University in the United States.

The research is progressing so rapidly that scientists hope to start trials on paralysed patients within a year.

Neurobiologist Dr Andy Schwartz said: "What we're trying to do is go to a very dextrous hand - where the functionality is very similar to the human hand. If we could help stroke patients there would be a huge market for this kind of device."

They also hope to help patients who have been paralysed by spinal chord injuries or degenerative diseases of the nervous system.

Electrodes implanted in the monkey's motor cortex, the brain's movement control centre, pick up pulses within individual neurones.

The signals are relayed to a computer which analyses their pattern and strength to gauge what the monkey is trying to do. It then translates the signals to alter the speed and direction of the robotic arm.

The system is so quick that if the arm overshoots the monkey's intended target, it can rapidly correct the movement.

Dr Schwartz told Sky News: "It's pretty amazing because monkeys aren't used to moving tools.

Monkeys known for their intelligence

"We use them all the time. Imagine you're moving your arm to get that piece of food. Conveying that to a monkey is pretty difficult, yet the monkey learns it fairly rapidly.

"As the days go by, you see the monkeys start using it as if it is part of their own body."

The monkey cannot feel the electrodes in its brain, and did not appear to be distressed by the wires leading from a socket on its head.

At Brown University in New England, scientists have just started the first clinical trials of a similar device. Braingate allows tetraplegic patients to control a computer cursor by thinking about moving their paralysed hand.

Matthew Nagel took part in the first tests of a prototype. Before he died of an unrelated infection, he described how the Braingate device gave him back some freedom.

"I can't put it into words. I just use my brain. I said: 'cursor go up to the top right' and it did. And now I can control it all over the screen. It's wild," he said.

The new trial will be on 15 patients. Scientists hope to prove that the technology is safe and effective enough to use on a wider scale.

Head of the research, Professor John Donoghue, said the ultimate aim is for patients to regain control of their own limbs, which are more sophisticated than any robotic arm.

He told Sky News: "Our goal with Braingate is to have a physical replacement for a broken biological nervous system.

"So we'd like to have a physical system that senses what's going on in the brain, takes those signals inside your body and routes them off to the muscles, so when you think, you move.

"That's just what you or I do, so one day you could be sitting here with a person and you wouldn't know if they had the system or not."
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« Reply #25 on: July 18, 2009, 11:34:07 AM »

Governments will soon have, for the first time in history, the means to identify, monitor and track citizens anywhere in the world in real time     

cbsnews.com/


Climbing into his Volvo, outfitted with a Matrics antenna and a Motorola reader he'd bought on eBay for $190, Chris Paget cruised the streets of San Francisco with this objective: To read the identity cards of strangers, wirelessly, without ever leaving his car.

It took him 20 minutes to strike hacker's gold.

Zipping past Fisherman's Wharf, his scanner detected, then downloaded to his laptop, the unique serial numbers of two pedestrians' electronic U.S. passport cards embedded with radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags. Within an hour, he'd "skimmed" the identifiers of four more of the new, microchipped PASS cards from a distance of 20 feet.

Embedding identity documents _ passports, drivers licenses, and the like _ with RFID chips is a no-brainer to government officials. Increasingly, they are promoting it as a 21st century application of technology that will help speed border crossings, safeguard credentials against counterfeiters, and keep terrorists from sneaking into the country.

But Paget's February experiment demonstrated something privacy advocates had feared for years: That RFID, coupled with other technologies, could make people trackable without their knowledge or consent.

He filmed his drive-by heist, and soon his video went viral on the Web, intensifying a debate over a push by government, federal and state, to put tracking technologies in identity documents and over their potential to erode privacy.

Putting a traceable RFID in every pocket has the potential to make everybody a blip on someone's radar screen, critics say, and to redefine Orwellian government snooping for the digital age.

"Little Brother," some are already calling it _ even though elements of the global surveillance web they warn against exist only on drawing boards, neither available nor approved for use.

But with advances in tracking technologies coming at an ever-faster rate, critics say, it won't be long before governments could be able to identify and track anyone in real time, 24-7, from a cafe in Paris to the shores of California.

The key to getting such a system to work, these opponents say, is making sure everyone carries an RFID tag linked to a biometric data file.

On June 1, it became mandatory for Americans entering the United States by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean to present identity documents embedded with RFID tags, though conventional passports remain valid until they expire.

Among new options are the chipped "e-passport," and the new, electronic PASS card _ credit-card sized, with the bearer's digital photograph and a chip that can be scanned through a pocket, backpack or purse from 30 feet.

Alternatively, travelers can use "enhanced" driver's licenses embedded with RFID tags now being issued in some border states: Washington, Vermont, Michigan and New York. Texas and Arizona have entered into agreements with the federal government to offer chipped licenses, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has recommended expansion to non-border states. Kansas and Florida officials have received DHS briefings on the licenses, agency records show.

The purpose of using RFID is not to identify people, says Mary Ellen Callahan, the chief privacy officer at Homeland Security, but rather "to verify that the identification document holds valid information about you."

Likewise, U.S. border agents are "pinging" databases only to confirm that licenses aren't counterfeited. "They're not pulling up your speeding tickets," she says, or looking at personal information beyond what is on a passport.

The change is largely about speed and convenience, she says. An RFID document that doubles as a U.S. travel credential "only makes it easier to pull the right record fast enough, to make sure that the border flows, and is operational" _ even though a 2005 Government Accountability Office report found that governmentRFID readers often failed to detect travelers' tags.

Such assurances don't persuade those who liken RFID-embedded documents to barcodes with antennas and contend they create risks to privacy that far outweigh the technology's heralded benefits. They warn it will actually enable identity thieves, stalkers and other criminals to commit "contactless" crimes against victims who won't immediately know they've been violated.

Neville Pattinson, vice president for government affairs at Gemalto, Inc., a major supplier of microchipped cards, is no RFID basher. He's a board member of the Smart Card Alliance, an RFID industry group, and is serving on the Department of Homeland Security's Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee.

Still, Pattinson has sharply criticized the RFIDs in U.S. driver's licenses and passport cards. In a 2007 article for the Privacy Advisor, a newsletter for privacy professionals, he called them vulnerable "to attacks from hackers, identity thieves and possibly even terrorists."

RFID, he wrote, has a fundamental flaw: Each chip is built to faithfully transmit its unique identifier "in the clear, exposing the tag number to interception during the wireless communication."

Once a tag number is intercepted, "it is relatively easy to directly associate it with an individual," he says. "If this is done, then it is possible to make an entire set of movements posing as somebody else without that person's knowledge."

Echoing these concerns were the AeA _ the lobbying association for technology firms _ the Smart Card Alliance, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Business Travel Coalition, and the Association of Corporate Travel Executives.

Meanwhile, Homeland Security has been promoting broad use of RFID even though its own advisory committee on data integrity and privacy warned that radio-tagged IDs have the potential to allow "widespread surveillance of individuals" without their knowledge or consent.

In its 2006 draft report, the committee concluded that RFID "increases risks to personal privacy and security, with no commensurate benefit for performance or national security," and recommended that "RFID be disfavored for identifying and tracking human beings."

For now, chipped PASS cards and enhanced driver's licenses are optional and not yet widely deployed in the United States. To date, roughly 192,000 EDLs have been issued in Washington, Vermont, Michigan and New York.

But as more Americans carry them "you can bet that long-range tracking of people on a large scale will rise exponentially," says Paget, a self-described "ethical hacker" who works as an Internet security consultant.

Could RFID numbers eventually become de facto identifiers of Americans, like the Social Security number?

Such a day is not far off, warns Katherine Albrecht, a privacy advocate and co-author of "Spychips," a book that is sharply critical of the use of RFID in consumer items and official ID documents.

"There's a reason you don't wear your Social Security number across your T-shirt," Albrecht says, "and beaming out your new, national RFID number in a 30-foot radius would be far worse."

There are no federal laws against the surreptitious skimming of Americans' RFID numbers, so it won't be long before people seek to profit from this, says Bruce Schneier, an author and chief security officer at BT, the British telecommunications operator.

Data brokers that compile computer dossiers on millions of individuals from public records, credit applications and other sources "will certainly maintain databases of RFID numbers and associated people," he says. "They'd do a disservice to their stockholders if they didn't."

But Gigi Zenk, a spokeswoman for the Washington state Department of Licensing, says Americans "aren't that concerned about the RFID, particularly in this day and age when there are a lot of other ways toaccess personal information on people."

Tracking an individual is much easier through a cell phone, or a satellite tag embedded in a car, she says. "An RFID that contains no private information, just a randomly assigned number, is probably one of the least things to be concerned about, frankly."

Still, even some ardent RFID supporters recognize that these next-generation RFID cards raise prickly questions.

Mark Roberti, editor of RFID Journal, an industry newsletter, recently acknowledged that as the use of RFID in official documents grows, the potential for abuse increases.

"A government could do this, for instance, to track opponents," he wrote in an opinion piece discussing Paget's cloning experiment. "To date, this type of abuse has not occurred, but it could if governments fail to take privacy issues seriously."
___

Imagine this: Sensors triggered by radio waves instructing cameras to zero in on people carrying RFID, unblinkingly tracking their movements.

Unbelievable? Intrusive? Outrageous?

Actually, it happens every day and makes people smile _ at the Alton Towers amusement park in Britain, which videotapes visitors who agree to wear RFID bracelets as they move about the facility, then sells the footage as a keepsake.

This application shows how the technology can be used effortlessly _ and benignly. But critics, noting it can also be abused, say federal authorities in the United States didn't do enough from the start to address that risk.

cont....
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« Reply #26 on: July 18, 2009, 11:34:46 AM »

cont....


The first U.S. identity document to be embedded with RFID was the "e-passport."

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks _ and the finding that some of the terrorists entered the United States using phony passports _ the State Department proposed mandating that Americans and foreign visitors carry "enhanced" passport booklets, with microchips embedded in the covers.

The chips, it announced, would store the holder's information from the data page, a biometric version of the bearer's photo, and receive special coding to prevent data from being altered.

In February 2005, when the State Department asked for public comment, it got an outcry: Of the 2,335 comments received, 98.5 percent were negative, with 86 percent expressing security or privacy concerns, the department reported in an October 2005 notice in the Federal Register.

"Identity theft was of grave concern," it stated, adding that "others expressed fears that the U.S. Government or other governments would use the chip to track and censor, intimidate or otherwise control or harm them."

It also noted that many Americans expressed worries "that the information could be read at distances in excess of 10 feet."

Those concerned citizens, it turns out, had cause.

According to department records obtained by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, under a Freedom of Information Act request and reviewed by the AP, discussion about security concerns with the e-passport occurred as early as January 2003 but tests weren't ordered until the department began receiving public criticism two years later.

When the AP asked when testing was initiated, the State Department said only that "a battery of durability and electromagnetic tests were performed" by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, along with tests "to measure the ability of data on electronic passports to be surreptitiously skimmed or for communications with the chip reader to be eavesdropped," testing which "led to additional privacy controls being placed on U.S. electronic passports ... "

Indeed, in 2005, the department incorporated metallic fibers into the e-passport's front cover, since metal can reduce the range at which RFID can be read. Personal information in the chips was encrypted and a cryptographic "key" added, which required inspectors to optically scan the e-passport first for the chip to communicate wirelessly.

he department also announced it would test e-passports with select employees, before giving them to the public. "We wouldn't be issuing the passports to ourselves if we didn't think they're secure," said Frank Moss, deputy assistant Secretary of State for passport services, in a CNN interview.

But what of Americans' concerns about the e-passport's read range?

In its October 2005 Federal Register notice, the State Department reassured Americans that the e-passport's chip _ the ISO 14443 tag _ would emit radio waves only within a 4-inch radius, making it tougher to hack.

Technologists in Israel and England, however, soon found otherwise. In May 2006, at the University of Tel Aviv, researchers cobbled together $110 worth of parts from hobbyists kits and directly skimmed an encrypted tag from several feet away. At the University of Cambridge, a student showed that a transmission between an e-passport and a legitimate reader could be intercepted from 160 feet.

The State Department, according to its own records obtained under FOIA, was aware of the problem months before its Federal Register notice and more than a year before the e-passport was rolled out in August 2006.

"Do not claim that these chips can only be read at a distance of 10 cm (4 inches)," Moss wrote in an April 22, 2005, e-mail to Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance. "That really has been proven to be wrong."

The chips could be skimmed from a yard away, he added _ all a hacker would need to read e-passport numbers, say, in an elevator or on a subway.

Other red flags went up. In February 2006, an encrypted Dutch e-passport was hacked on national television, with researchers gaining access to the document's digital photograph, fingerprint and personal data. Then British e-passports were hacked using a $500 reader and software written in less than 48 hours.

The State Department countered by saying European e-passports weren't as safe as their American counterparts because they lacked the cryptographic key and the anti-skimming cover.

But recent studies have shown that more powerful readers can penetrate even the metal sheathing in the U.S. e-passport's cover.

John Brennan, a senior policy adviser at the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, concedes it may be possible for a reader to overpower the e-passport's protective shield from a distance.

However, he adds, "you could not do this in any large-scale, concerted fashion without putting a bunch of infrastructure in place to make it happen. The practical vulnerabilities may be far less than some of the theoretical scenarios that people have put out there."

That thinking is flawed, says Lee Tien, a senior attorney and surveillance expert with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which opposes RFID in identity documents.

It won't take a massive government project to build reader networks around the country, he says: They will grow organically, for commercial purposes, from convention centers to shopping malls, sports stadiums to college campuses. Federal agencies and law enforcement wouldn't have to control those networks; they already buy information about individuals from commercial data brokers.

"And remember," Tien adds, "technology always gets better ... "
___

With questions swirling around the e-passport's security, why then did the government roll out more RFID-tagged documents _ the PASS card and enhanced driver's license, which provide less protection against hackers?

The RFIDs in enhanced driver's licenses and PASS cards are nearly as slim as paper. Each contains a silicon computer chip attached to a wire antenna, which transmits a unique identifier via radio waves when "awakened" by an electromagnetic reader.

The technology they use is designed to track products through the supply chain. These chips, known as EPCglobal Gen 2, have no encryption, and minmal data protection features. They are intended to release their data to any inquiring Gen 2 reader within a 30-foot radius.

This might be appropriate when a supplier is tracking a shipment of toilet paper or dog food; but when personal information is at stake, privacy advocates ask: Is long-range readability truly desirable?

The departments of State and Homeland Security say remotely readable ID cards transmit only RFID numbers that correspond to records stored in government databases, which they say are secure. Even if a hacker were to copy an RFID number onto a blank tag and place it into a counterfeit ID, they say, the forger's face still wouldn't match the true cardholder's photo in the database, rendering it useless.

Still, computer experts such as Schneier say government databases can be hacked. Others worry about a day when hackers might deploy readers at "chokepoints," such as checkout lines, skim RFID numbers from people's driver's licenses, then pair those numbers to personal data skimmed from chipped credit cards (though credit cards are harder to skim). They imagine stalkers using skimmed RFID numbers to track their targets' comings and goings. They fear government agents will compile chip numbers at peace rallies, mosques or gun shows, simply by strolling through a crowd with a reader.

Others worry more about the linking of chips with other identification methods, including biometric technologies, such as facial recognition.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, the U.N. agency that sets global standards for passports, now calls for facial recognition in all scannable e-passports.

Should biometric technologies be coupled with RFID, "governments will have, for the first time in history, the means to identify, monitor and track citizens anywhere in the world in real time," says Mark Lerner, spokesman for the Constitutional Alliance, a network of nonprofit groups, lawmakers and citizens opposed to remotely readable identity and travel documents.

Implausible?

For now, perhaps. Radio tags in EDLs and passport cards can't be scanned miles away.

But scientists are working on technologies that might enable a satellite or a cell tower to scan a chip's contents. Critics also note advances in the sharpness of closed-circuit cameras, and point out they're increasingly ubiquitous. And more fingerprints, iris scans and digitized facial images are being stored in government databases. The FBI has announced plans to assemble the world's largest biometric database, nicknamed "Next Generation Identification."

"RFID's role is to make the collection and transmission of people's biometric data quick, easy and nonintrusive," says Lerner. "Think of it as the thread that ties together the surveillance package."
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« Reply #27 on: July 18, 2009, 11:35:53 AM »

Welcome to Tiburon - Click - Every vehicle that crosses city limits to be recorded     

sfgate.com/


Welcome to Tiburon - Click

Your presence has been noted.

The posh and picturesque town that juts into San Francisco Bay is poised to do something unprecedented: use cameras to record the license plate number of every vehicle that crosses city limits.

Some residents describe the plan as a commonsense way to thwart thieves, most of whom come from out of town. Others see an electronic border gate and worry that the project will only reinforce Tiburon's image of exclusivity and snootiness.

"I personally don't see too much harm in it, because I have nothing to hide," commodities broker Paul Lambert, 64, said after a trip to Boardwalk Market in downtown Tiburon on a recent afternoon.

"Yet," he said, "it still has the taint of Big Brother."

Tiburon's camera idea is a marriage of technology, policing and distinct geography.

Situated on a peninsula, Tiburon's hillside homes and waterfront shops are accessible by only two roads, allowing police to point the special cameras known as license plate readers at every lane that leads into and out of the town of 8,800.

The readers, which use character recognition software, can compare plates to databases of cars that have been stolen or linked to crimes, then immediately notify police of matches, said Police Chief Michael Cronin.

If someone burglarized a Tiburon home at 3 a.m. one morning, he said, detectives could consult the devices and find out who came to town in the hours before - and who rolled out soon after.

'Very low-key'

"It's very low-key," said Town Manager Peggy Curran. "The whole point of license plates is that people can be identified by them."

If the Town Council gives final approval, Curran said, officials hope to install the readers on Tiburon Boulevard and Paradise Drive by late fall.

Tiburon plans to spend grant funds on the project and ask two other governments that could benefit from it to contribute to an expected price tag of $100,000 - the city of Belvedere, a bump of land on the southeastern edge of Tiburon, and Marin County.

Cronin called it a sound investment. He pointed to a frustrating twist in Tiburon crime: Residents feel so safe that they don't lock their cars and homes.

In all of 2007 and 2008, Tiburon recorded 196 thefts, 37 burglaries and a dozen stolen cars. The chief said every alleged thief who was arrested in those years was from outside Tiburon.

Finding suspects

Once the street cameras are installed, Cronin said, hunting a burglary suspect could be easier. "We'll look for a plate that came and went," he said. "That's going to give us a very short list to work on."

Detectives could then check to see if any of the cars has been linked with crimes in the past. Between 300 and 400 cars use Tiburon Boulevard to travel in or out of the town from midnight to 6 a.m. on weekdays.

"It's much more efficient than having an officer sit on the boulevard, watch passing cars and guess who might be a burglar," Cronin said.

Nicole Ozer, who directs policy on technology for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, isn't as supportive. She called the cameras a "needle in a haystack" approach that may waste money, invade privacy and invite unfair profiling.

"To be under investigation simply because you entered or left Tiburon at a certain time is incredibly intrusive," Ozer said. "Innocent people should be able to go about their daily lives without being tracked and monitored."

City leaders promise to prevent abuses. Information on which cars enter and leave town will not be available to the public, they said, and will be erased within 60 days. Police officers will be granted access to the information only during an investigation.

License plate readers have exploded in popularity in recent years, but Tiburon would be one of the first to mount them at fixed locations - and perhaps the very first to record every car coming or going.

California Highway Patrol officials have put the readers on 18 cruisers and at four fixed locations. CHP officers have seen a huge increase in recoveries of stolen cars since the devices were installed starting in August 2005, the agency said.

Devices help CHP

Through December, officials said, the CHP had used the devices to recover 1,739 cars and arrest 675 people.

San Francisco gave the devices to police as well as parking control officers, allowing them to track cars parked for too long in one spot. Some cities use the cameras to assess anti-congestion tolls on motorists, while casino bosses get an alert when a high roller - or a cheater - pulls in.

Outside Tiburon's Boardwalk Market, where a flyer in the window offered a $2,000 reward for the return of a stolen Pomeranian, residents seemed split on the plan.

Robin Pryor, 66, of Belvedere said the most important issue was whether the cameras made people safer.

"It's just like locking your door," Pryor said. "If they have reason for it to bother them, they shouldn't be coming in."

But Fred Mayo, 62, who lives in Tiburon and owns a travel agency in Mill Valley, said the cameras would invade privacy. "Where does it end?" Mayo asked.

He referred to the crime blotter in the local newspaper, which listed two incidents recently of kids tossing water balloons at cars, and noted, "It's not like Tiburon's a high-crime area."
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« Reply #28 on: July 24, 2009, 09:58:01 PM »

Welcome to Tiburon - Click - Every vehicle that crosses city limits to be recorded     

sfgate.com/


Welcome to Tiburon - Click

Your presence has been noted.

The posh and picturesque town that juts into San Francisco Bay is poised to do something unprecedented: use cameras to record the license plate number of every vehicle that crosses city limits.

Some residents describe the plan as a commonsense way to thwart thieves, most of whom come from out of town. Others see an electronic border gate and worry that the project will only reinforce Tiburon's image of exclusivity and snootiness.

"I personally don't see too much harm in it, because I have nothing to hide," commodities broker Paul Lambert, 64, said after a trip to Boardwalk Market in downtown Tiburon on a recent afternoon.

"Yet," he said, "it still has the taint of Big Brother."

Tiburon's camera idea is a marriage of technology, policing and distinct geography.

Situated on a peninsula, Tiburon's hillside homes and waterfront shops are accessible by only two roads, allowing police to point the special cameras known as license plate readers at every lane that leads into and out of the town of 8,800.

The readers, which use character recognition software, can compare plates to databases of cars that have been stolen or linked to crimes, then immediately notify police of matches, said Police Chief Michael Cronin.

If someone burglarized a Tiburon home at 3 a.m. one morning, he said, detectives could consult the devices and find out who came to town in the hours before - and who rolled out soon after.

'Very low-key'

"It's very low-key," said Town Manager Peggy Curran. "The whole point of license plates is that people can be identified by them."

If the Town Council gives final approval, Curran said, officials hope to install the readers on Tiburon Boulevard and Paradise Drive by late fall.

Tiburon plans to spend grant funds on the project and ask two other governments that could benefit from it to contribute to an expected price tag of $100,000 - the city of Belvedere, a bump of land on the southeastern edge of Tiburon, and Marin County.

Cronin called it a sound investment. He pointed to a frustrating twist in Tiburon crime: Residents feel so safe that they don't lock their cars and homes.

In all of 2007 and 2008, Tiburon recorded 196 thefts, 37 burglaries and a dozen stolen cars. The chief said every alleged thief who was arrested in those years was from outside Tiburon.

Finding suspects

Once the street cameras are installed, Cronin said, hunting a burglary suspect could be easier. "We'll look for a plate that came and went," he said. "That's going to give us a very short list to work on."

Detectives could then check to see if any of the cars has been linked with crimes in the past. Between 300 and 400 cars use Tiburon Boulevard to travel in or out of the town from midnight to 6 a.m. on weekdays.

"It's much more efficient than having an officer sit on the boulevard, watch passing cars and guess who might be a burglar," Cronin said.

Nicole Ozer, who directs policy on technology for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, isn't as supportive. She called the cameras a "needle in a haystack" approach that may waste money, invade privacy and invite unfair profiling.

"To be under investigation simply because you entered or left Tiburon at a certain time is incredibly intrusive," Ozer said. "Innocent people should be able to go about their daily lives without being tracked and monitored."

City leaders promise to prevent abuses. Information on which cars enter and leave town will not be available to the public, they said, and will be erased within 60 days. Police officers will be granted access to the information only during an investigation.

License plate readers have exploded in popularity in recent years, but Tiburon would be one of the first to mount them at fixed locations - and perhaps the very first to record every car coming or going.

California Highway Patrol officials have put the readers on 18 cruisers and at four fixed locations. CHP officers have seen a huge increase in recoveries of stolen cars since the devices were installed starting in August 2005, the agency said.

Devices help CHP

Through December, officials said, the CHP had used the devices to recover 1,739 cars and arrest 675 people.

San Francisco gave the devices to police as well as parking control officers, allowing them to track cars parked for too long in one spot. Some cities use the cameras to assess anti-congestion tolls on motorists, while casino bosses get an alert when a high roller - or a cheater - pulls in.

Outside Tiburon's Boardwalk Market, where a flyer in the window offered a $2,000 reward for the return of a stolen Pomeranian, residents seemed split on the plan.

Robin Pryor, 66, of Belvedere said the most important issue was whether the cameras made people safer.

"It's just like locking your door," Pryor said. "If they have reason for it to bother them, they shouldn't be coming in."

But Fred Mayo, 62, who lives in Tiburon and owns a travel agency in Mill Valley, said the cameras would invade privacy. "Where does it end?" Mayo asked.

He referred to the crime blotter in the local newspaper, which listed two incidents recently of kids tossing water balloons at cars, and noted, "It's not like Tiburon's a high-crime area."


Essentially it gives people a false sense of security, as Britain's ubiquitous security cameras have done nothing to lower crime rates.

If I was a criminal, I would either steal a car elsewhere and then hit Tiburon, or else steal or make some plates and put them on just before passing the cameras.
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« Reply #29 on: July 24, 2009, 10:27:35 PM »

Hello Brother Rhys,

I would agree that something like this might not reduce crime, but I do know that things like this make it easier to catch criminals. The same would be true for putting a stolen license plate on your car because police can easily and quickly find out that it doesn't belong on that car. Stolen license plates are also put into national law enforcement databases that can return results now in seconds. This would just be another good tool for law enforcement to use. One could have like discussions about false and/or stolen identifications. As a matter of fact, the same is true for all information placed in law enforcement databases for quick retrieval (i.e. stolen property, fingerprints, methods of operation for specific criminals, behavioral profiles for the worst criminals, etc., etc.). Citizens can do many common sense things to reduce their risks of becoming a victim (i.e. locks, lighting, alarms, etc.). These things do reduce crime, but the biggest challenge is catching the criminal and putting them out of business behind bars. As another example, a neighborhood forming a Neighborhood Watch and putting up signs usually does result in a significant reduction of crime in that neighborhood. Many cost effective measures either serve as a deterrent or aid ON THE CATCHING END! Remember the old saying:  criminals will usually pick the softest target - one with the best chance of getting away. So, I would say that these cameras will have a positive effect for an extremely low cost. The camera is a smart investment for the same reasons why a computer in each patrol car is a good investment.
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