Archive for August 18th, 2012
While details of a futuristic and frightening global surveillance network called TrapWire are discovered, members of the Anonymous collective are calling for people everywhere to voice their opposition and help end the system, starting this Saturday.
“As we learn about TrapWire and similar systems in the surveillance industry, it becomes more apparent that we must, at all costs, shut this system down and render it useless,” active members of the loose-knit hacktivist collective Anonymous write in a press release issued early Thursday. Starting with this weekend, the group is asking for anyone that is concerned with TrapWire and the acceleration of the world into a full-fledged surveillance state to make sure their voices are heard — peacefully.
Only one week after RT first broke news of TrapWire, an intricate global intelligence infrastructure discussed in emails claimed to be compromised from Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, activists around the world have denounced the state-of-the-art surveillance system that is believed to be in use at certain locales internationally.
According to emails Anonymous claims to have hacked from Stratfor that were then distributed to WikiLeaks as the ‘Global Intelligence Files,’ the TrapWire system has been installed in the cities of Las Vegas, New York, London and Washington, D.C., among others. Now members of the group are encouraging anyone that is opposed to a system orchestrated by mysterious artificial intelligence programming with vast government ties to civilly reject it.
“An omniscient AI electronic brain able to monitor us through the thick web of CCTV cameras, as well as online social media feeds is monstrous and Orwellian in its implications and possibilities. Anonymous will now put forth a call to arms. We will see to it that this evil and invasive system ceases to function, and the right to privacy is upheld,” members of the collective tell the media.
As stated in the Global Intelligence Files, Stratfor had a contractual agreement with TrapWire and its parent company, Abraxas, to advertise its product in exchange for an 8 percent commission [pdf]. Abraxas founder Richard Helms has publically claimed TrapWire, “can collect information about people and vehicles that is more accurate than facial recognition, draw patterns, and do threat assessments of areas.”
When Abraxas white-papers and other publically available information is corroborated by claims made in the alleged emails, though, the TrapWire system is turned into not just a tool to fight terrorists but a stealthy way of letting law enforcement and federal agencies monitor the moves and actions of any person of interest.
Stratfor has formally recognized that their servers were attacked but have never verified the authenticity of the Global Intelligence Files.
Off the record, Stratfor Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton claims in the hacked emails that TrapWire has allowed its affiliated agencies to do “what no US Govt Agency has been able to do in the CT [counterterrorism] arena.” Other accusations attributed to Stratfor link the surveillance system’s intelligence to being delivered “inside the walls” of the White House, Scotland Yard and other agencies, with Burton even touting their elusive ties in one decoded emails as purposely circumventing the “dysfunctional” Department of Homeland Security and bureaucratic Capitol Hill politics.
When the government is given the ability to decide what constitutes suspicious activity and no oversight into that decision making is at all apparent, the consequences of the TrapWire system transcend to a point where free speech and political activism can become nonexistent, lest the fear of governmental retaliation is ignored entirety. Given repeated reports of activists and journalists being targeted by law enforcement even within the United States this year, though, the fear of federal surveillance of all US citizens is quickly becoming not just a distant worry but a very real crisis.
Anonymous members have taken notice, and write this week, “The imbalance between our accountability to the government and big business and their accountability to us is growing.” Beginning Saturday, they want others to help end that asymmetry.
“Anonymous cordially invites you to observe and participate in an upcoming protest of what we see as a direct violation to our fundamental rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in privacy,” members of the group write. “This Saturday the 18th, Anonymous members will be engaging SplashCam as a branch of Op-TrapWire. The goal is to peacefully disrupt the unnecessary and disturbing surveillance of citizens beginning the morning of the 18, and ending when the network and infrastructure are proven to be off-line and no longer functioning.”
In order to do as much, Anonymous is also circulating suggestions that could be implemented to attempt to render TrapWire-linked cameras useless, even momentarily, including placing boxes and bags over cameras, plastering the lenses with stickers and even using household lubricates and other viscous liquids to leave the lenses unusable.
“Some TrapWire cameras are sealed inside a plastic dome, from which they observe our every move. Cover or smear this dome, or the exposed lenses, and the camera becomes useless. A way to achieve this is smudging with Vaseline, or other grease. Pudding as well as bean or starch pastes are also great alternatives, and while removable, are not easily cleaned whence dry,” members write.
“Many cameras are not within easy reach, so for these we recommend supersoakers or water-balloons full of karo syrup and water or, more easily available, soda.If you are within reach of the camera but do not have access to aforementioned items, simple crayons or other waxes will suffice.”
In the single week since TrapWire has been exposed, both Abraxas and its parent company have tried to dismiss their connection with the program, although alleged Stratfor emails suggest that the system, at least at the time of that correspondence, was growing by the day.
The New York Police Department — who is documented in the Global Intelligence Files to have entered an agreement with the surveillance system — has shot down rumors of existing ties as well. In Australia, where TrapWire is rumored to be operated, a Sydney Morning Herald piece published earlier this week critiquing the project was mysteriously scrubbed from the website of the paper and its affiliates.
With the mainstream media only slowly catching on to a campaign growing even quicker than TrapWire itself, Anonymous members say that dismantling the linked devices and raising awareness is necessary for the sake of all.
“They will not hesitate to label us terrorists, and that we are out to destroy and undermine safety,” the members say in a statement. “They will say we are the ones placing you in danger. We are merely patriots taking a stand for individual rights outlined in the Constitution and which our elected officials swear to uphold but have failed to do.”
A set of new Gamescom screens for Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch provides the perfect reason to check in on the “Ninostarter” pre-order campaign.
With 12 days left, enough fans have pre-ordered the special “Wizard’s Edition” to unlock one bonus item, a set of five prints. The second item is a gold “Wizard’s Coin,” which has 24% of its allotted pre-order numbers. You have until August 31 to throw your pre-order in and get the game, the book, the prints, and possibly that coin.
Cloud streaming business OnLive confirmed its sale and subsequent restructuring “into a newly formed company” this afternoon, and said both its game and desktop services “will continue to operate.” That includes “all of OnLive’s apps and devices.”
According to the statement, OnLive, Inc. is now a new company “backed by substantial funding” ? enough funding to hire “a large percentage of OnLive, Inc.’s staff across all departments.” Furthermore, there are plans to “hire substantially more people, including additional OnLive employees.” The statement also said that its various plans for the future, including “products and services” that are still in development, will be unaffected by the spin off.
The statement doesn’t address how many employees were affected by today’s news. Reports from former employees put the layoff numbers at 50 percent or more of OnLive’s total staff.
When asked whether CEO Steve Perlman was still heading the company, an OnLive rep confirmed that the company’s management team “remains intact.”
SAN FRANCISCO: A U.S. judge rejected Facebook Inc’s proposed legal settlement to resolve allegations that the social networking company violated its members’ rights through the its ‘Sponsored Stories’ advertising feature.
In an order on Friday, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco listed several concerns with the proposed settlement, including a request for more information on why the agreement does not award any money to members.
Seeborg said the company and attorneys for the plaintiffs could try to modify their agreement to address his concerns.
“We continue to believe the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. “We appreciate the court’s guidance and look forward to addressing the questions raised in the order.”
Representatives for the plaintiffs could not immediately be reached for comment.
Five Facebook members filed a lawsuit seeking class-action status against the social networking site, saying its Sponsored Stories feature violated California law by publicizing users’ “likes” of certain advertisers without paying them or giving them a way to opt out. The case involved 100 million potential class members.
As part of the proposed settlement, Facebook agreed to allow members more control over how their personal information is used. In the opinion of one economist hired by the plaintiffs, contained in a court filing, the value to Facebook members resulting from the changes is about $103 million.
Facebook had also agreed to pay $10 million for legal fees, and $10 million to charity, according to court documents.
The case is Angel Fraley et al., individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated vs. Facebook Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, 11-cv-1726.
SAN FRANCISCO: A professional clown who used an iPad pilfered from the home of the late Steve Jobs to play pop songs as he made balloon animals said Friday he had no idea his friend had snatched the tablet.
Kenneth Kahn, who wears a curly rainbow wig when he performs at street fairs and children’s birthday parties as Kenny the Clown, said he unwittingly received the iPad from the friend who owed him money for a vacation the pair planned to take to Hawaii.
“He owed me $300 for the plane tickets, so he said he had an Apple computer that he wasn’t using anymore. I said fine, not having any clue what the hell was going on,” Kahn told The Associated Press.
The professional entertainer, who has also made unsuccessful bids to become mayor of Alameda and San Francisco, said he never examined the contents of the device. Instead, he downloaded Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” and other songs for his clown routine, which includes magic shows and juggling torches on a unicycle.
Kahn, 47, said he played music on the iPad for a few days at a local art and wine fair before police came for it. The device has been returned to the family of Jobs, who died last Oct. 5.
“The thing that is embarrassing to me is I’m a huge fan of Steve Jobs,” Kahn said. “It’s just bizarre.”
Kariem McFarlin, 35, of Alameda was arrested on suspicion of breaking into the Palo Alto residence of the Apple co-founder. Kahn said he had no idea where the iPad came from until McFarlin was taken into custody on Aug. 2.
Apple investigators identified McFarlin after he used the stolen device to connect to his iTunes account on the Internet, police said. He acknowledged to police that he broke into Jobs’ residence, as well as other homes, and wrote an apology letter to Jobs’ widow, according to a police report.
McFarlin targeted the unoccupied Palo Alto home on July 17 because it was under renovation, authorities said. When construction crews left, he hopped a fence and found a spare key, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
The newspaper said the suspect apparently didn’t realize he was in Jobs’ house until he saw a letter addressed to the Silicon Valley icon.
During the 15-hour overnight heist, Jobs’ wallet and driver’s license were taken as well as iPhones, iPads, iPods, Mac computers, champagne and $60,000 worth of Tiffany & Co. jewelry, police said.
Kahn said he met McFarlin when he coached him on a high school basketball team in Alameda more than a decade ago.
“Kariem and I used to talk about ethics all the time, so I thought we were on the same page,” Kahn said. “I guess he just got desperate, and made a terrible decision.”
McFarlin remained jailed on $500,000 bail and was expected to appear in court Monday. If convicted, he could face almost eight years in prison. Kahn said he has not been questioned in the case. Law enforcement officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
The Santa Clara County public defender’s office, which is officially representing McFarlin, declined to comment, according to the Mercury News. McFarlin has recently hired a private attorney who wants to remain anonymous until Monday’s hearing.