At a glance.
- India extends strict online surveillance in Kashmir.
- California police use of license plate readers called into question.
- Amazon Ring may cater to a private appetite for snooping.
India cracks down on VPNs in Kashmir.
Social media use in India's Kashmir region has been restricted over concerns that they were being used to spread dangerous content, particularly radical and separatist messaging. Reuters reports that authorities in Kashmir have begun investigating "hundreds" of people suspected of using VPNs to circumvent such restrictions. Foreign Affairs sees a growing disposition on the part of India's government to deploy advanced surveillance technology.
Are California police oversharing their take from license plate reading systems?
The Auditor of the State of California has looked at four of the state's police forces and found that they're not doing a particularly conscientious job handling data collected from automated license plate readers (ALPR). The Auditor looked at the police in Fresno (where two-hundred-thirty-one personnel had access to the data collected), Marin County (where data were accessible to three-hundred-eighty personnel), Sacramento County (with five-hundred-thirty-nine employees able to see the data), and Los Angeles (where a whopping thirteen-thousand people working for or with the LAPD had access to the data). While the Auditor noted that there's no reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to people being able to see your license plate, collecting and keeping such data for indefinite periods of time raises concerns about misuse. It's possible, for example, to gain a fairly complete picture of where people go based on the data the ALPRs sweep up. The report concluded: "In general, we determined that the law enforcement agencies we reviewed must better protect individuals’ privacy through ensuring that their policies reflect state law. In addition, we found that these agencies must improve their ALPR data security, make more informed decisions about sharing their ALPR data, and expand their oversight of ALPR users."
Gladys Kravitz could've used a Ring to keep an eye on the Stephenses' house...
The evidence that Amazon's Ring home security system serves to drive down property crime is, by some reports, ambiguous. NBC News surveyed a number of the eight-hundred-seventy-seven police departments who've partnered with Ring, and they generally report their sense that the smart doorbell and home surveillance product helps control crime, but their grounds for thinking so are more anecdotal than rigorous.
But there is, according to the Washington Post, an emergent use-case for the Internet connected video. Ring calls itself a "new neighborhood watch," and indeed that's what many people seem to use it for: watching the neighbors (and children, babysitters, contractors, domestic workers, etc.). What goes for Ring probably goes equally well for Google's Nest and other competing systems. The Post conducted an admittedly unscientific survey of fifty users of such products, and they found that "they were fine with intimate new levels of surveillance — as long as they were the ones who got to watch." Unscientific, but then so too are the police department testimonials to the positive effect home surveillance has on crime rates. What the external cameras capture isn't confined to the owners' premises. We're now a "nation of voyeurs," the Post aridly remarks (as if that's news to any American who's been around the block a time or two).
There's also the possibility of home surveillance systems themselves being hacked, as they have been. The breaches that enabled bad actors to log in to others' smartphone-connected systems appear to have been, for the most part, the result of credential stuffing attacks as opposed to breaches in Ring, Consumer Reports wrote in December, but this particular corner of the Internet-of-things has long been attractive to hackers.