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Posted: Feb 07, 2013 5:59 PM CST Updated: Feb 08, 2013 8:31 AM CST By David Gotfredson, Field Producer

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VISTA (CBS 8) – They look like small helicopters with onboard cameras. Surveillance drones are taking off in San Diego County, literally.

Police agencies, small businesses, even your own neighbor could soon be flying an “eye in the sky.”

News 8’s Phil Blauer participated in a demonstration of the $100,000 “Scout” surveillance drone, manufactured by Datron in Vista.

“This unit literally flies itself. It just waits for us to tell it what to do,” said Paul Wilson, Field Support Specialist with Datron.

“I can pull this thing out of a backpack and have that video come directly to me, so I know what’s going on,” said Chris Barter, Datron Program Manager. “The real value is it streams video to a computer.”

Datron managers frequently give demonstrations of the Scout for the media, the military, and police agencies nationwide.

“We’re shooting to get the system into law enforcement and educate the public about how these systems are ultimately of benefit,” said Barter.

The video streamed back from the Scout can be recorded on the computer and monitored live. The drone can also snap still photos from above.  It can fly for about a half hour on a single battery.

Police departments across the country have purchased surveillance drones for use in swat standoffs, drug busts, or search and rescue operations.

In 2011, Datron conducted a drone demo for the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, but the department never purchased one, according to Commander David Myers.

The department reviewed several other drones last year on display at the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention in Mission Valley, Myers said.

“I’ve seen them from $50,000 all the way up to $300,000,” said Myers. “It all depends on what you want and what the capabilities are.”

Myers said he is not aware of any local law enforcement agency currently using a surveillance drone, including the Sheriff’s department.

Commercial photography businesses also are using drones in San Diego County.

“About two months ago there was a train derailment in Kentucky. The Scout was used in the air to take photography of the train collision,” said Barter, the Datron manager.

Most people are familiar with military use of drones in war zones but the technology is evolving and getting cheaper.

For about $300, anybody can go online and buy a personal drone with streaming, high-definition video capabilities.

“I live in Encinitas and I’ve gone surfing and actually seen these things up in the air. At that point though, those are just hobby-class birds,” said Barter.

Current Federal Aviation Administration rules restrict the flights of surveillance drones to line of sight and 400 feet in altitude.

The Scout is one of several drones being reviewed in Oklahoma by the Department of Homeland Security for surveillance capabilities, which is causing privacy concerns.

“We certainly can’t accept law enforcement secretly acquiring drones for surveillance purposes,” said Kevin Keenan, Executive Director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

“This is a public issue. It deserves to be debated,” said Keenan. “I think local law enforcement understands that people are a little freaked out by the idea of our sky being populated by these surveillance drones.”

The ACLU wants to make sure police agencies are restricted from using drones for routine surveillance on civilians.

“They can stay up there for a long time. You can’t even hear them. So it’s a potential for complete and total surveillance that we just haven’t confronted as a society,” Keenan said.

Datron managers said their Scout drone is no more invasive than a helicopter.

“Unmanned aircraft are no different than manned aircraft. They have to operate within the same legal framework as all aircraft platforms,” said Barter. “You can’t go off and do things that are illegal.”

In response to public records requests, the Federal Aviation Administration last year released a list of agencies nationwide with FAA permits to fly drones. No law enforcement agencies in San Diego County were on the list.

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RT.com
Wed, 06 Feb 2013 11:54 CST

© Reuters / Nacho Doce

Officials may gain access to intimate knowledge of the whereabouts of cell users in Maryland. Phone records could be handed over without a search warrant if a new bill passes. A civil liberties group has labeled the proposal ‘invasive’.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has criticized government plans to allow law enforcement officials automatic access to these records, testifying against the intrusive tracking bill, House Bill 377 , on Tuesday. The bill is currently being considered by the Maryland House Judiciary Committee.

Law enforcement officials must obtain a search warrant prior to accessing such information, insisted ACLUM.

“Of all of the recent technological developments that have expanded the surveillance capabilities of law enforcement agencies at the expense of individual privacy, perhaps the most powerful is cell phone location tracking,” said the national American Civil Liberties Union last September, in response to knowledge they obtained that numerous police departments were tracking the devices without a search warrant anyway.

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Crossroads News : Changes In The World Around Us And Our Place In It

IT  :  Security – Collection of Personal Data – Social Networks – Invasion Of Privacy

Feds snooping on email activity and social networks, without warrants – and it’s on the rise

 

Private investigator, courtesy of ShutterstockCrime-fighting authorities in the United States can snoop upon your email activity, who you are instant messaging, and what you are up to on Facebook, Google Plus and other social networks in real-time, not only without your permission – but without even requiring a warrant.

And, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), this real-time access by federal investigators to your online activity is on the rise.

Documents released by the ACLU on Thursday show that law enforcement agencies in the United States have greatly increased surveillance of Americans’ electronic communications, and often the surveillance happens without a warrant or judicial oversight.

The documents were released by the U.S. Department of Justice in response to a February 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request (PDF) by the ACLU.

They show a sharp rise in the use of two types of surveillance in the last five years: “trap and trace” and “pen register”.

Orders for pen registers and trap and trace devices used to spy on phones increased by 60% between 2009 and 2011, from 23,535 to 37,616. The number of individuals whose communications were the subject of surveillance more than tripled in the same period, from approximately 15,000 to 45,000, ACLU said.

Requests to eavesdrop on electronic communications such as email and network data jumped during the same period, also. Trap and Trace requests for electronic data, for example, increased from just over 100 in 2009 to 800 in 2011, the ACLU found.

Graph from ACLU

Pen registers capture outgoing data from a subject over telecommunications lines. Trap and trace surveillance tools capture incoming data.

Historically, the tools were physical devices attached to telephone lines in order to covertly record the incoming and outgoing numbers dialed. Today, no special equipment is required to record this information, as interception capabilities are built into the call-routing hardware of telecoms firms.

According to the ACLU, the surveillance requests do not require a warrant, because American courts consider the data in question – phone numbers, the “to” and “from” addresses in an email, records about IM conversations, etc – to be “non-content” information, which is not covered by the Constitution’s 4th Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure.

Man with magnifying glass, courtesy of ShutterstockTo initiate pen register or trap and trace surveillance under the act, therefore, law enforcement can simply request approval from a judge by saying that the information they are likely to obtain is “relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation”.

Judges don’t get to weigh the merits of that claim.

The ACLU took the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to court in May to force the government to release the data about its electronic surveillance activities. The ACLU said that the DOJ is required to release the surveillance statistics to Congress each year, but rarely does so.

Past FOIA requests by the ACLU also document the sharp increase in surveillance requests. A 2010 request covering 2006 to 2009 showed that original requests for pen register and trap and trace doubled in that period, as well, from 11,000 to 24,000.

Together with the data released this week, the evidence suggests that law enforcement surveillance requests have more than tripled between 2006 and 2012.

The ACLU said that legislation is needed to toughen the requirement for the government to regularly update the public about its surveillance activities.

The civil liberties group also said that courts should reconsider the 1979 ruling (Smith v. Maryland) that set a lower standard for pen register and trap and trace monitoring than for traditional wire taps.

ACLU wrote:

The distinction from which these starkly different legal requirements arise is based on an erroneous factual premise, specifically that individuals’ lack a privacy interest in non-content information... Non-content information can still be extremely invasive, revealing who you communicate with in real time and painting a vivid picture of the private details of your life... The low legal standard currently applied to pen register and trap and trace devices allows the government to use these powerful surveillance tools with very little oversight in place to safeguard Americans’ privacy.

You can view the Pen Register and Trap and Trace documents online here.