STLR Link Round-Up – March 13, 2015

Tracking License Plates

The increasing use of Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) technology is causing concern. Police in Oakland, California recently released the data they have collected using the technology, and the sheer amount of information is astounding. Analysis by the Electronic Frontier Foundation revealed that as few as two patrol cars equipped with ALPRs could be responsible for collecting as many 63,272 data points. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ALPR technology uses high speed cameras to take pictures of license plates, which are then stored in a database. This allows law enforcement to potentially track the movement of individual vehicles. ALPRs are also able to take pictures of both the surrounding background and persons inside the car. In fact, the ACLU claims that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) intentionally uses ALPRs to photograph car occupants. Not all law enforcement agencies have been as cooperative as the Oakland Police Department. Police in Los Angeles have been reticent to fully reveal their use of ALPRs. A court in San Diego ruled last year that data collected by ALPRs did not contain public records and therefore law enforcement were not obligated to turn the data over to the public.

China Proposes New Rules for Western Technology Companies

President Barack Obama recently criticized Chinese plans to revamp rules on American technology companies. The president warned that the proposed law was overly restrictive and could potentially backfire. Beijing, on the other hand, replied that companies had little to fear about its planned anti-terrorism law, characterizing the rules as fair. The new rules could require American technologies to turn over encryption keys, passcodes, and install security backdoors for the Chinese government. It may also seek to keep servers and user data within China.

Anonymous Chat Apps Causes Safety Concerns

Mobile application Yik Yak is causing trouble on college campuses. The application allows users to make posts and participate in chats without having to create a profile or provide identifying information. Instead, the application shows users chats that are within a 1.5 mile radius. Yik Yak is often the medium for crude and sometimes threatening speech, but unless a threat is very specific, the company has protected the identity of its users. That is not to say that Yik Yak never cooperates with authorities though. It recently helped authorities identify a user that threatened to shoot up Michigan State University.

Senate Cyber Security Bill Stalls

The most recent draft of a Senate cyber security bill has raised privacy concerns amongst some congressional Democrats and the White House. The bill proposes to make it easier for technology companies to share data with the government to prevent potential cyberattacks. Opponents claim that it will only serves a backdoor for government surveillance. The bill is the latest iteration of Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which. The proposed law continues to stall and the White House has introduced its own alternative proposal.

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