NSA reportedly collects 5 billion cell phone location records a day
The NSA collects nearly 5 billion records a day on the locations of cell phones overseas to create a huge database that stores information from hundreds of millions of devices, including those belonging to some Americans abroad, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Documents provided to the Post by NSA leaker Edward Snowden detail how this database is able to track people worldwide and map out their relationships with others.
The NSA inadvertently gathers U.S. location records, along with the billions of other records it collects by tapping into worldwide mobile network cables, the Post reported.
The database and projects designed to analyze it have created a mass surveillance tool for the NSA, allowing it to monitor individuals in a way never seen before.
NSA analysts can look at the data and track an individual's movements throughout the world. They can then map out the person's relationships with others and expose previously unknown correspondence.
The agency collects the large amount of cell phone data in order to find out who is interacting with targets the agency is already tracking, even though most of the records collected are not relevant to national security.
The number of Americans who are tracked as part of the data collection overseas is unclear from the Snowden documents, and a senior intelligence official told the Post it is “awkward for us to try to provide any specific numbers.”
U.S. officials told the Post the programs that collect cell phone data are strictly geared towards tracking foreign intelligence targets, and are not against the law.
Orders for mistletoe pour in after Oregon girl told she can't sell them, but can beg for money at city park
It appears the Oregon girl who was told she could not sell mistletoe in a public park, but could beg for money to pay for her braces, will be able to pay for dental work...and then some.
Hundreds of mistletoe orders have poured in after reports of 11-year-old Madison Root being told by a security guard that she cannot sell the item at a public park, but she could, if she wanted to, beg for money, KATU.com reported.
Root, who was selling the classic Christmas staple to earn enough money to pay for her new braces, also received $1,000 from a local entrepreneur as "seed money" for her mistletoe operations.
She was with her father at the time next to the Skidmore Fountain in downtown Portland, where the city holds a weekly market. A security guard told her that she had to stop selling due to a city ordinance that bans such activity in a park "except as expressly permitted under the terms of a lease, concession or permit," KATU.com reported.
The guard then told Madison that she could sell her mistletoe outside the boundaries of the park where the fountain and the market are located, away from the crowds, or she could simply ask for donations to cover the cost of her braces.
"I don't want to beg! I would rather work for something than beg," Madison told KATU. "It's crazy. People can get money for pot. But I can't get money for braces. I'm working for this! They're just sitting down on their butts all day asking for pot."
KATU.com reports that Mayor Charlie Hales, who met with city officials to discuss the situation, will contact staff at Portland's Saturday Market, which is located in the park, to gain a better understanding of the issue and will see if the procedures could be changed to allow children to sell at the event.
A Portland Parks Bureau spokesman told the station that begging is a form of free speech and is protected by the First Amendment. One market vendor told the station that she wished an exception to the ordinance could be made for children.
"They should have a caveat for children trying to create options for commerce, especially this time of year," Sharon Steen, who sells ceramic bowls at the market told KATU. "We encourage it. We want them to grow up and be entrepreneurs."
3-D printed plastic guns: a public safety risk?
by Nathan O'Neal
TUCSON - Congress is poised to extend a federal law that requires all guns to be detectable by metal screening machines.
The 25-year-old gun law is set to expire next Monday and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to extend the law. The Senate will likely vote on Monday.
Critics say the problem is that the law on the books doesn't take into account plastic guns, which have become more of a reality because of the advancements in 3-D printers.
The technologically-advanced printers can print anything you can think up. That has some worried that plastic guns could easily find their way into the wrong hands.
"If people can make these in their home, you don't know who has what," said Jocelyn Strauss, of Moms Demand Action, a local group that urges common sense gun legislation.
"You can't do background checks on 3-D printers and so if someone has a 3-D printer it doesn't matter if they are a felon or deemed unable to possess firearms due to whatever mental issues that they have," Strauss said.
While 3-D printers can be pretty expensive, they're becoming more accessible and over time they're getting cheaper. Critics point to that as a potential problem for law enforcement because the guns can be hard to trace.
"I believe that any more regulations is just redundant," Fabian De La Cruz told News 4 Tucson. He describes himself as a responsible gun owner and said if someone really wanted to create a weapon to do damage, they will do it.
"You see pipes with nails formed together to make a shotgun of sorts. You see pistols hidden as other objects but as long as there's an intent, people will find a way," De La Cruz said.
Many view the extension of this ban as a victory of sorts even without addressing the 3-D printed plastic guns. Lawmakers point to the harsh deadlock they've experienced on Capitol Hill regarding gun legislation this past year.
Some Senate Democrats also say they will try to close loopholes and expand the current ban on undetectable firearms. However, they face powerful opposition on that -- the National Rifle Association, which opposes any expansion of the law.
Detroit company builds drones for public safety use; City eyed as hub for unmanned aircraft
by David Muller
DETROIT, MI - Jon Rimanelli said he believes unmanned aircraft is the next big thing in aviation, and he sees no reason why Detroit, with its engineering and manufacturing capacity, can't play a major role in the burgeoning sector.
Rimanelli and his staff of six at Detroit Aircraft Corporation (DAC) rent two hangars at the nearly vacant Coleman Young Municipal Airport, where they build drones designed to fly reconnaissance missions for law enforcement and first responders, or to deliver packages for large companies such as UPS or FedEx. The latter use is big news this week with Amazon.com announcing it hopes to deliver packages with drones by 2015.
“This is a product we hope to have for sale within the next three months,” Rimanelli said, gesturing to one of the unmanned aircraft he has in a small workshop at the airport. “It's a question of getting the design right and then offering them for sale, because everybody's out there selling these things for forty- or sixty-thousand dollars a unit. We want to deliver it for under ten (thousand dollars).”
The near-term focus of DAC is on aiding law enforcement and first responders.
The aircraft Rimanelli and his staff “will basically allow law enforcement, or neighborhood watch organizations, to deploy these things on demand. We could provide an aviation unit basically for every law enforcement agency on the ground at a very low cost.”
DAC is talking to Wayne County and Macomb County about possible uses, he said. “Essentially they're just waiting for us to finish our design,” he added.
Although the Internet advertises drones selling for as low as $150, Rimanelli brushed those off as “hobby grade.”
The so-called octocopters, quadcopters and other aircraft that DAC is developing includes a military-grade radio, first-person viewing technology with a remote camera (see video below) and the ability to carry a 12-pound package.
One of the vehicles Rimanelli has in development is a linear aircraft that could take off and land vertically like a helicopter and fly horizontally like an airplane. It includes a cabin for passengers.
Rimanelli re-chartered the DAC name in 2011, but its history dates back to 1922 as Aircraft Development Corporation. What would then become DAC would go on to own several other companies including Lockheed-Vega Aircraft Company in a short amount of time. The entire company was dissolved shortly after the stock market crash of 1929, but the Lockheed name got a second chance after a group of investors bought the assets of Lockheed Aircraft Corporation for $40,000, and later that company grew into the $46 billion global aerospace and defense firm today known as Lockheed-Martin.
Rimanelli, a commercial pilot, also in 2000 founded Nextronix, a printed circuit board solutions company. He is using the Nextronics technology to develop an unmanned aircraft that has circuit boards in its frame, apparently making it lighter than current drones on the market.
Rimanelli is not enthusiastic about the use of the word “drones” to refer the unmanned aircraft he is developing. He calls it a “Hollywood” word that has been misused in the media.
Still, the media appears to be seeing drones as less a tool of military destruction and more as something that could have civilian use.
On Sunday, CBS' 60 Minutes featured a plan by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos for “Amazon Prime Air,” a drone delivery program that Bezos said could make delivery time of the online retail giant's products as low as 30 minutes. Seeing octocopters and quadcopters carrying packages across your local airspace will not happen any time soon, though, Bezos acknowledged.
The Federal Aviation Administration still does not allow commercial unmanned aircraft use, though the agency has laid out a plan. Bezos said 2015 would be an optimistic date for the launch of Amazon Prime Air.
Meanwhile, Rimanelli is trying to get Michigan to be one of six states where the FAA tests commercial unmanned air traffic.
“As I understand we are now in the top eight of six potential sites,” said Rimanelli, who founded Michigan Unmanned Aerial Systems Consortium (MI-UAS) to help land the FAA”s testing program in Michigan. “We went form 37th on the list to number eight, so I think that our chances are really good. Detroit is one of the UAS test site locations along with Battle Creek, and some other airports in northern Michigan as part of a group of airports that would engage in this type of testing.”
Rimanelli sees commercial unmanned air traffic as a certainty, and hopes Detroit could leverage its assets to grow the sector.
“One thing that's sure is there is going to be a radical shift in aviation as we know it within the next couple years,” he said. “Whether it be small packages or semi-autonomous passenger aircraft. We think this is a Goldilocks moment, if you will, because we got all the industrial, manufacturing capacity here in the region.”
This 5-foot tall, 300-pound ‘R2-D2' security robot could be the future of public safety
by John Koetsier
Tomorrow a Silicon Valley startup named Knightscope will unveil the K5, a 5-foot tall, 300-pound robot that just might take away the traditional security guard job in America.
And, perhaps, prevent the next Sandy Hook or Boston Marathon bombing.
The K5 is an autonomous security robot with 360-degree high-definition vision, laser-based 3D mapping technology so it knows where it is, radiation, chemical, and biological agent detectors, night vision, and thermal imaging capabilities to detect the warm bodies of puny humans like you and me.
It can detect dangerous individuals via facial recognition technology and behavior analysis, and can notify the police automatically when it senses a problem.
“Sandy Hook was part of the motivation behind this … and also the Boston Marathon bombings,” a company spokesman told me today. “Our co-founder, Stacey Stevens, in a former law enforcement officer.”
The battery-powered bot uses radar and lidar (laser-based targeting) to map its environment and identify objects. It will follow pre-programmed routes, tracing its way through a defined security area, but also has some autonomy to deviate based on what is senses. And while it calls up images of Robocop — or at least R2-D2 — it is not at all weaponized.
Knightscope hasn't set a price on the security bot yet, but there is some speculation that the company would rent out its services for $6.25 an hour — undercutting human security guards and potentially putting some of them out of work. The representative I talked to, however, said that the machine would be rented for $1,000 for an 8-hour shift — an astonishing $125/hour.
That's not the only controversy this bot could generate, of course.
With significant sensing, detection, and recording capability, the K5 raises significant questions of privacy. Knightscope is attempting to head those off at the pass by adopting a “crowdsourced security model” which would make all data collected by the K5 public. That sounds nice — a sort of Panopticon where we're all prisoners and guards at the same time — but it's unlikely companies paying for the K5's service would want their private buildings broadcast all over the internet.
The K5 will feature face recognition technology, the company told me, right out of the box. That's unlikely to settle any privacy advocate's fears, but would allow scanned faces to be uploaded to central processing centers for double-checking.
The K5, which charges itself autonomously to stay in operation 24/7, returns to a charging station in much the same way as a Roomba vacuuming robot charges itself. It also has the capability to be remotely driven, the company says, much like a modern Predator drone that can have a live human operator.
And it will have multiple uses, the representative told me.
“It's so flexible at this point in terms of its usage … the government could come in and buy it … it really depends on what it would be utilized for,” he said. “This would be really good for the Olympics … or any areas with large crowds.”