Will “Persistent Surveillance” Turn U.S. into a Panopticon?

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Disturbing revelations about the breadth of spying by the U.S. government on its citizens and allies continue to emerge.

In a recent post, I suggested that U.S. security officials never abandoned the concept of “Total Information Awareness,” a program for intensive digital spying proposed and ostensibly withdrawn by the Pentagon shortly after 9/11.

Another Pentagon phrase that keeps popping up in my head is “persistent surveillance.” I first heard this term while researching “The Drones Come Home,” an article for the March issue of National Geographic Magazine. Predators, Global Hawks and other unmanned planes, or drones, were enabling U.S. armed forces to carry out continuous, 24/7 visual, infrared, radar and electronic monitoring of large regions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As this 2011 Pentagon report states, persistent surveillance, which like Total Information Awareness was inspired by 9/11, “facilitates the prediction of an adversary’s behavior and the formulation and execution of preemptive activities to deter or forestall anticipated adversary courses of action.”

Incorporating data from conventional aircraft, satellites, balloons and towers as well as drones, persistent surveillance allows U.S. armed forces to predict enemy attacks and coordinate counter-strikes with greater precision than traditional methods.

Such surveillance can also help identify perpetrators of past attacks. For example, if militants blow up a U.S. convoy with an improvised explosive device, persistent surveillance data allow investigators to watch the whole plot unfold in reverse and track perpetrators back to their hideouts. Persistent surveillance turns an entire city into the equivalent of a convenience store monitored by security cameras.

One of the most detailed, candid discussions I have found of persistent surveillance is a 2009 master’s thesis by Christina Fekkes of the Naval Postgraduate School. Fekkes began her paper by recalling the proposal of 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham to create a “panopticon,” a prison whose inmates are monitored so thoroughly that they do not even contemplate misbehaving.

Read more . . .

via Scientific American –  John Horgan
 

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Nearly 35% Of Android Apps In China Secretly Steal User Data, Another Sign Of Google’s Lack Of Control

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Earlier this week, the Data Center of China Internet (DCCI) released a report (h/t Tech In Asia) that showed nearly 35 percent of the Android apps it surveyed were secretly stealing user data unrelated to the app’s functionality.

The DCCI, a research institute, looked at 1,400 apps downloaded from different app markets and found that 66.9 percent were tracking users’ private data, with 34.5 percent collecting information that had no connection to the app’s usage.

The DCCI’s findings are yet more signs of how fragmented and chaotic China’s Android market is–and how little control Google has over it, despite the Chinese government’s concerns about its supposed dominance. Just last week, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued a white paper that said Google has too much control over China’s smartphone industry via Android and has discriminated against domestic companies, in part by making it difficult for Chinese firms to develop their own operating systems.

But as TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas wrote last week, even though Android dominates the OS landscape in China, “not all Chinese Android-powered devices are equal since a large proportion of homegrown mobile makers heavily customise Android and do not carry any of the standard Google services such as its Play store.”

Many observers believe that “Chinadroids,” or no-name devices that have been equipped with modified versions of Android, will take over China’s mobile market in the near future. As TechRice notes, sales of these forked devices may be lucrative, but ChinaDroids are also a valuable gateway to content, starting with in-app purchases and then becoming the “terminal of choice” for e-commerce. Google’s absence has created “fierce and chaotic competition to control content delivery channels in China.”

The DCCI’s recent report shows that all data in user’s phones is up for grabs, from calling records to contacts.

Read more . . .

via TechCrunch – CATHERINE SHU
 

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