Tuesday, September 30, 2014

GM's new high-tech recorder is illegal in many states

Earlier this year, I reported that GM had added a DVR to its venerable Corvette. It seems that GM was a little shy about the details of their system in the initial marketing of the system. Now, RT.com is reporting that GM is warning owners of the car in several states that they might be committing a felony by activating the system. The problem: it also records audio.

“Federal wiretapping laws generally require only one party to consent to a recording of an interaction," Ars Technica reported. “But in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington, all parties involved in the recording must either consent to a recording or at least be aware that the recording is happening, depending on the state. So if a Corvette owner turns on Valet Mode in California and turns the car over to the unknowing attendant, that Corvette owner could be committing a felony.”

“If they do use the Valet Mode, they should (i) notify any occupants of the vehicle that they will be recorded while in the vehicle, and (ii) obtain their consent to this recording. It is very important that you explain this to each customer at the time of delivery.”

GM is “evaluating several scenarios for the software update – for example disabling the audio recording in Valet Mode, but keeping the video recording active,” Monte Doran, a spokesperson for Corvette, said to Forbes.

Ryan Calo of the University of Washington School of Law explained that the audio – not video – recording is the legal sticking point of the technology.

“It’s really the interior audio that triggers various wiretap laws,” Calo said. “But not if the owner warns, thereby defeating the expectation of privacy.”


Monday, September 29, 2014

Project NOLA - a public private CCTV partnership

You've heard that the NYPD has blanketed areas of NYC with CCTV cameras. Ditto for Chicago and a few other metropolitan areas. These efforts have been funded and run by the local police agencies. But, in an interesting twist, ProjectNOLA has the public buying and installing their own CCTV systems, then turning over control to the New Orleans PD - and paying the NOPD for the privilege.

"Part of a sprawling surveillance strategy dubbed “Project NOLA,” citizens’ security cameras would be integrated with footage shot from other law enforcement cameras already installed around the St. Bernard Parish area near New Orleans, and would give the sheriff’s department the ability to tap into those cameras at a moment’s notice.

“All you have to do is, you can go to a map and click on an icon for that camera in that area and pull up that camera and it’ll give us a live feed from that area,” St. Bernard Sheriff Jimm Pohlmann told CBS affiliate WAFB, adding that access to cameras on private property would eliminate the need for police to visit homes in person. “I think the more cameras out there, the more successful the program will be.”

"A $10 monthly fee is required for residents interested in granting police access to their existing home camera systems, but those who don’t yet have cameras can purchase entire kits from [ProjectNOLA's founder] for $295. For another $150, you can also get those cameras professionally installed.

“This is great for NOPD,” writes Jules Bentley for AntiGravity Magazine, “firstly because [the Police won't] have to pay for any of this—the costs are borne by the home or business owner and the increasingly grant-funded Project NOLA nonprofit—and secondly because private cameras can do things the government’s not allowed to.”

There's no indication that the ProjectNOLA system is actively monitored by LE officials. Rather, it seems that the residents are expected to report the crimes as usual with the police having the access to retrieve the CCTV footage remotely. The technical/procedural details about the system are rather thin at this point. Still and all, it's an interesting development.

Friday, September 26, 2014

FBI blasts Apple, Google for locking police out of phones

The war of words has ramped up over Apple's / Google's plans to encrypt handsets. Law Enforcement spokespersons are taking to the media to voice their frustration over the decision.

"FBI Director James B. Comey sharply criticized Apple and Google on Thursday for developing forms of smartphone encryption so secure that law enforcement officials cannot easily gain access to information stored on the devices — even when they have valid search warrants.

His comments were the most forceful yet from a top government official but echo a chorus of denunciation from law enforcement officials nationwide. Police have said that the ability to search photos, messages and Web histories on smartphones is essential to solving a range of serious crimes, including murder, child pornography and attempted terrorist attacks.

“There will come a day when it will matter a great deal to the lives of people . . . that we will be able to gain access” to such devices, Comey told reporters in a briefing. “I want to have that conversation [with companies responsible] before that day comes.”

"Los Angeles police Detective Brian Collins, who does forensics analysis for anti-gang and narcotics investigations, says he works on about 30 smartphones a month. And while he still can successfully crack into most of them, the percentage has been gradually shrinking — a trend he fears will only accelerate.

“I’ve been an investigator for almost 27 years,” Collins said, “It’s concerning that we’re beginning to go backwards with this technology.”

The new encryption initiatives by Apple and Google come after June’s Supreme Court ruling requiring police, in most circumstances, to get a search warrant before gathering data from a cellphone. The magistrate courts that typically issue search warrants, meanwhile, are more carefully scrutinizing requests amid the heightened privacy concerns that followed the NSA disclosures that began last year.

Civil liberties activists call this shift a necessary correction to the deterioration of personal privacy in the digital era — and especially since Apple’s introduction of the iPhone in 2007 inaugurated an era in which smartphones became remarkably intimate companions of people everywhere."

Read the whole story by clicking here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

VisionBase's Previs vs. Ocean Systems' Field Kit

Not to be outdone by Ocean Systems, long time vendor VisionBase (UK) recently announced the release of their Portable Recording of Evidence, Viewing and Investigation System (Previs). The best comparison of the two companies' products would be if Ocean Systems' Field Kit was based on their Hurricane Mobile Video Editing system.

VisionBase loses me with this claim on the product's data sheet, "DVR’s exporting via USB instead of CD/DVD present the risk of transferring viruses or malware. DVR hardware in most instances are capable of recording and displaying a much clearer and sharper image when viewed via video, VGA and HDMI, PREVIS takes advantage of this fact allowing recording of the audio and video in original high-resolution at up to full HD 1920x1080 pixels." It's like a firearms examiner saying that a picture of a gun is better than the actual gun for forensic examination cause their hands might get dirty. Seriously? I'd rather have the data, the actual evidence, than a picture of that evidence - as I've said many times on this blog.

Then there's this:

Create Evidence in uniform format? Are you kidding!? Create evidence!? Come on folks.

From the looks of it, Previs allows for the user to load all of VisionBase's software and perform clarifications and case management in the field. The laptop version of Previs breaks the capture device out as a separate piece of hardware, like the Field Kit. Both companies have bags of cables and connectors that ship with the units. VisionBase adds a handy trolly - your tip that the full version of Previs might be quite heavy.

No hint at pricing. But, as they're a UK based company, they probably can't compete too closely with the field kit on price. Also a factor for US agencies is the ability to buy and get service from a US vendor. When last I dealt with VisionBase US, there were just a few employees in Florida ... and no technicians outside of the UK. Perhaps that's changed. Nevertheless, its something to consider.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Experimental Feature Manager in Photoshop CC

Photoshop's new Experimental Feature Manager now has experimental (beta) features that you can enable and try out. As these features are in beta, you might want to refrain from using them for case work. For example, many folks are now using tablet PCs with touch screen support. To enable the experimental features, do the following:

Select Preferences>Experimental Features.

Select the experimental feature that you want to enable.

Click OK.

Restart Photoshop.