All Surveillance stories

Rise of the digital neighborhood watch

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Residents of major American cities are constantly watched by ubiquitous cameras, mushrooming license plate readers and a battery of new smart city sensors.

But, but, but: It's not just the government keeping tabs. An explosion of private surveillance — set up by businesses, landlords and neighbors — is being driven by increasingly cheap but powerful technology. And what these observers see could make its way back to law enforcement.

Jul 19, 2019 - Technology

The surveillance camera next door

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Get ready for a debate over the role of private security cameras, particularly the doorbell cameras used in services like Ring and Nest, owned by Amazon and Google, respectively.

What's happening: Law enforcement and cities actively subsidize Ring cameras, in exchange for potential access to the footage, the AP reports. And some departments use Ring’s Neighbors app, which encourages residents to share videos of suspicious activity.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Jul 19, 2019 - Technology

Kazakhstan's internet censorship move

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The government of Kazakhstan has started intercepting all of the secure HTTPS traffic within its borders.

Why it matters: The move is yet another example of the Balkanization of the once-global internet, as different countries seek to monitor or restrict what citizens can see. Authorities in China, Russia and other parts of Asia and Africa have all considered or imposed restrictions on their citizens' internet access.

The steady erosion of privacy at home

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Public spaces are under constant surveillance from AI cameras, cellphone towers and advertisers that can follow people from home to work and back again.

But life inside the home, too, is increasingly transparent to watchful outsiders, the result of mushrooming internet-connected devices that consumers are setting up in their dens and bedrooms.

AI is "awakening" surveillance cameras

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

There are millions of surveillance cameras in the U.S., but not nearly enough eyes to watch them all. When you pass one on the street, you can rightly expect your actions to go unnoticed in the moment; footage is instead archived for review if something goes wrong.

What's happening: Now, AI software can flag behavior it deems suspicious in real-time surveillance feeds, or pinpoint minute events in past footage — as if each feed were being watched unblinkingly by its own hyper-attentive security guard. The new technology, if it spreads in the U.S., could put an American twist on Orwellian surveillance systems abroad.

Your lunch is watching you

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One unexpected byproduct of the robotization of food — an accelerating trend I reported on last week — is an explosion of data about eaters' habits and preferences.

Why it matters: Companies often use this information to personalize food or ads to individual preferences. But seemingly trivial information about what and when you eat is also a gold mine that companies share with other interested parties — like your employer.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Apr 15, 2019 - Technology

From China to the U.S., sensor surveillance gets real

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

For years, we've known that the phones we love and are glued to also record our locations, faces, and fingerprints. And we've understood that the same sensors that serve our individual needs could also, theoretically, be used to conduct surveillance on us.

Driving the news: It's increasingly clear that things have moved from the theoretical to the real, as a pair of reports in the New York Times underscores.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Apr 3, 2019 - Technology

Nationalist concerns are splintering global tech

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As nationalism rises around the world, globally minded tech companies are finding their businesses increasingly hemmed in by association with their home countries.

The big picture: The bonds of international trade that for decades were viewed as a key driver of economic growth are instead coming to be seen as national security risks — by the U.S. as well as many of its trading partners.

Feb 23, 2019 - Technology

How Chicago police cracked the Jussie Smollett case

Epire actor Jussie Smollett leaving Cook County jail. Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Chicago's extensive web of surveillance cameras was key to law enforcement's success in tracking down Jussie Smollett's two co-conspirators, who helped the "Empire" actor stage an allegedly fake hate crime for which he has since been charged, the AP reports.

Details: By leveraging Chicago's colossal camera network — which has more than 32,000 cameras on buildings, poles, buses and even some private residences (with the owners' permission) — detectives were able to track the men's movements after the attack. Investigators used footage from the men's cab — whose driver they also interviewed — and following the vehicle "along a trail of cameras" to Chicago's North Side. They also reviewed "telephone logs, ride-share records and credit card records" as evidence to bring charges against Smollett.

Feb 22, 2019 - Technology

U.S. firm aided Chinese DNA collection of Uighur Muslims

A Uighur woman holds the Chinese flag. Photo: Guillaume Payen/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The New York Times reports that experts from the U.S. played a role in the Chinese government's use of DNA samples to keep tabs on its Uighur population — the largely Muslim ethnic group whose members the government has also forced into camps.

The big picture, per the NYT: Almost 36 million people took part in a DNA testing program in Xinjiang, the part of China where the government's campaign against Uighurs is most pronounced. Many Uighurs were coerced into giving the samples.