Police are allowed in some circumstances to install hidden surveillance cameras on private property without obtaining a search warrant, a federal judge said yesterday.
CNET has learned that U.S. District Judge William Griesbach ruled that it was reasonable for Drug Enforcement Administration agents to enter rural property without permission — and without a warrant — to install multiple “covert digital surveillance cameras” in hopes of uncovering evidence that 30 to 40 marijuana plants were being grown.
This is the latest case to highlight how advances in technology are causing the legal system to rethink how Americans’ privacy rights are protected by law. In January, the Supreme Court rejected warrantless GPS tracking after previously rejecting warrantless thermal imaging, but it has not yet ruled on warrantless cell phone tracking or warrantless use of surveillance cameras placed on private property without permission.
Yesterday Griesbach adopted a recommendation by U.S. Magistrate Judge William Callahan dated October 9. That recommendation said that the DEA’s warrantless surveillance did not violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and requires that warrants describe the place that’s being searched.
“The Supreme Court has upheld the use of technology as a substitute for ordinary police surveillance,” Callahan wrote.
NSA: We Can’t Say If We’ve Spied On You (Because It Would Violate Your Privacy)
“The surveillance experts at the National Security Agency won’t tell two powerful United States Senators how many Americans have had their communications picked up by the agency as part of its sweeping new counterterrorism powers. The reason: it would violate your privacy to say so. That claim comes in a short letter sent Monday to civil libertarian Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall. The two members of the Senate’s intelligence oversight committee asked the NSA a simple question last month: under the broad powers granted in 2008′s expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, how many persons inside the United States have been spied upon by the NSA?” Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur discuss on The Young Turks.
The U.S. intelligence community will now be able to store information about Americans with no ties to terrorism for up to five years under new Obama administration guidelines.
Until now, the National Counterterrorism Center had to immediately destroy information about Americans that was already stored in other government databases when there were no clear ties to terrorism.
Giving the NCTC expanded record-retention authority had been called for by members of Congress who said the intelligence community did not connect strands of intelligence held by multiple agencies leading up to the failed bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas 2009.
“Following the failed terrorist attack in December 2009, representatives of the counterterrorism community concluded it is vital for NCTC to be provided with a variety of datasets from various agencies that contain terrorism information,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement late Thursday. “The ability to search against these datasets for up to five years on a continuing basis as these updated guidelines permit will enable NCTC to accomplish its mission more practically and effectively.”
The new rules replace guidelines issued in 2008 and have privacy advocates concerned about the potential for data-mining information on innocent Americans.
“It is a vast expansion of the government’s surveillance authority,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said of the five-year retention period.
The government put in strong safeguards at the NCTC for the data that would be collected on U.S. citizens for intelligence purposes, Rotenberg said. These new guidelines undercut the Federal Privacy Act, he said.
“The fact that this data can be retained for five years on U.S. citizens for whom there’s no evidence of criminal conduct is very disturbing,” Rotenberg said.
“Total Information Awareness appears to be reconstructing itself,” Rotenberg said, referring to the Defense Department’s post-9/11 data-mining research program that was killed in 2003 because of privacy concerns.
Big Brother is watching — and getting better at its job. At this year’s Security Show expo in Japan, Hitachi Kokusai Electric took the wraps off a new surveillance camera system that can pick out your face— and compare it to 36 million records — in just one second. What’s more, it can do this from live video, whereas older systems needed to analyze pre-recorded footage thus introducing a delay in the process.
Beyond just looking you up based on your face, the system scours archived footage and pulls up any clips it believes contain you, so that operators can quickly get a look at your recent activity. It has some limitations, though, such as angle (faces can’t be turned more than 30 degrees left or right) and face size (at least 40 pixels square in the frame).
Hitachi Kokusai Electric plans to make the system available for sale by next spring. You can see a demonstration of its capabilities in the video above, then start planning ways to foil it should you want to escape its all-seeing gaze.