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Hidden Microphones Part of Government Surveillance Program in the Bay Area (cbslocal.com)
573 points by randomname2 on May 14, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 276 comments

If that's true we are moving into a scary world pretty much like 1984 where everything you do is monitored all the time. Add voice, face recognition, surveillance drones, cheap data storage and AI to the mix it seems pretty soon everything you do in a public place will be recorded and analyzed. And all this can be done fully automated.

I hope people will recognize that some laws need to change. Surveillance makes sense in some cases but it should be hard and expensive to do.

Total surveillance is sold under guise of preventing terrorism, but the main effect is simple: it allows the status quo to become entrenched and permanent.

You are rendered economically exploitable and politically neutered. There is a reason the state and intelligencies, from the Pinkertons to the FBI, have had a historical obsession with extensive spying on political movements and economic assembly. Both have real potential to change society.

Would the civil or labor rights movements be possible under these conditions? Both threatened the bottom lines of powerful people. The FBI tried to persuade MLK to commit suicide by digging up dirt from his love life. He was considered a national security threat[0].

[0] http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/11/16/magazine/what-an-uncens...

Yes. We are told these measures are taken to protect our national security, but in reality they are meant to protect the government.

Take the ongoing incident with Hillary Clinton's email server, for example. Clinton was quick to support scrapping 4th amendment rights (Patriot Act) in the name of security, but when it came to state secrets, she played it fast and loose (at best). It took 15 years and a scandal before the Secretary of State's emails were finally secured. We started a mass surveillance program practically the day after 9/11.

We are starting to forget we are supposed to have things like civil liberties, and that the exceptions made for wartime only work if war is not permanent. The war on terror has no end. Before terror, it was drugs and communism. The government will never stop coming up with reasons it needs more power.

The war where government agencies compete for more resources probably don't help either.

"Entrenched and permanent" is a bit exaggerated, as the governments of pervasive-surveillance East Germany and the Soviet Union discovered.

I think "permanent" in the sense of "until the state collapses and the government, and the nation, ceases to exist" is a fair use of the word.

It's not accurate. "Permanent" means "something that lasts forever," not "something that lasts for a while, until it stops existing."

I got a job, permanent role. Does it mean I will live forever?

No, it means that the role will exist forever at that company, as far as anyone knows. It means the company has no plans to ever eliminate it. You may die or quit, but then someone else will be hired to do that job.

Except permanent jobs are frequently made redundant and cease to exist. The original intention may have been for the job to exist forever but things change, and permanent things cease to be so permanent. Much like countries...

As I wrote above, it means that the role is permanent as far as anyone knows. It does not mean that you will permanently be doing that job. It means that, based on all available current information, the job will continue to exist forever.

Of course, people can and do make mistakes. The fact that someone chooses to use a word to describe something does not mean that it's necessarily an accurate description. They may be lying, or they may simply have judged the situation incorrectly. How many startups say "we are the next Google"?

So then, using your logic, the governments of East Germany and the Soviet Union would, at the time, have been considered permanent, as those governments were expected to last forever as far as anyone knew.

Language isn't that strict.

It is. The fact that many people use language incorrectly is beside the point.

No, it isn't. I suggest you read some of Wittgenstein's work on perfectly logical languages and how they're impossible.

I've read Wittgenstein, and I wasn't terribly impressed.

Not everyone who disagrees with you is merely ignorant of the superior wisdom and knowledge you have attained.

The Stasi and KGB couldn't dream of the technology and telecommunications networks that enable today's surveillance society.

They would have considered every citizen paying money to carry around a tracking device with attached cameras and microphones and broadcasting nearly every detail of their private life to public forums fanciful science fiction.

A small correction: The communists (Stasi and KGB) would have made it compulsory to not broadcast it but to unicast/multicast it to servers owned by the Party politburo.

Communism is horrendously corrupt and inflicts great control on all its "lesser equal" citizens. Read this report about how Chinese communists have told microblogging sites to hire “self-discipline commissioners” [1].

[1] https://rsf.org/en/news/weibo-microblog-users-be-deducted-po...

To pretend this is unique to communism ignores that this can happen in any society where rights are ignored and authority has absolute power with no accountability.

I've seen forums shut down because admins got a visit from the FBI and decided that running a site that garners that much attention from the state isn't a risk they want to take. One was a comedy forum that leaned a little more left of center near the 2012 election. Memes and words might endanger national security.

> The communists (Stasi and KGB) would have made it compulsory to not broadcast it but to unicast/multicast it to servers owned by the Party politburo.

Today, we see our government pushing for something similar: unencrypted communication over networks they have captured to servers they can access unimpeded (Google, FB, Skype etc).

This had nothing whatsoever to do with the ideology itself, but with those who implemented it and were in power controlling the state apparatus. Communism shouldn't have a state exerting control on citizens at all.

Governments are horrendously corrupt and seek increased control over all its citizens. The ideology doesn't much matter after the initial revolutionary sentiment settles down.

If that's true we are moving into a scary world pretty much like 1984 where everything you do is monitored all the time.

Well, not everything. Plant a GPS tracker on a police car or a bug in the restroom at FBI headquarters and you'll soon discover some troubling asymmetries in the modern post-privacy paradigm.

Theres no need to plant a GPS tracker, the radio protocol almost all police/fire/EMS use is called P-25[0]. Even when both parties remember to enable encryption, the protocol still has a long list of security of security vulnerabilities including the ability to jam it (both broad range and single user jamming) with the radio embedded in a childrens' toy because of poor implementation [1,2]. The protocol is so bad in fact that it could easily be used as active location tracking silently. Here is a talk about the complete list of fail [3]


[1] https://hackaday.com/2010/10/09/pulling-data-from-the-im-me-...

[2] http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/p25sec08102...


Subversive art project idea:

A RaspberryPi(or similar) with a $12 TV tuner software defined radio, and a small database of the various frequencies and bands particular flavours of your local LEO and/or federal TLA use.

I know our local highway patrol, for example, use at least: P25, police issued cell phones, iPads with cellular data, HF radio (at least on rural/country cars), and whatever they use for the data connection for their in-car computers.

Most/all of that would be encrypted, but hey - metadata's a free-for-all according to them, right? I bet if you knew what to look for, you could quite reasonable detect the presence of a highway patrol car when you saw some digital P25, a cellular connection on the bands used by the contracted cellular provider, and I'd bet good money that patterns of encrypted data that things like ALPR systems send would be quite distinctive...

That's all staying pretty solidly at the whitehat end of the wide grey space of "what's allowed". If you were much closer to the blackhat end of that spectrum, I'd also bet pretty good money that sophisticated criminals are already exploiting GSM and 3/4G weaknesses to individually identify cellular radios by cracking the encryption to see the IMSI data. And that'd all be passive and undetectable, if you were firmly in the blackhat camp, active attacks against their P25 radios can (as pointed out) be done for effectively zero dollars.

Not the same thing at all.

Broadcastify requires self-censorship, their ToS prohibits broadcasting tactical, command, vice, narcotics, and other interesting channels.

Also, metadata and retroactive analysis is much different than listening to a live audio stream.

Or just go to your friendly local TV station's website: http://komonews.com/live/live-police--fire-scanner-11-20-201...

thats audio, and only some of it...I want location

They are helpful enough to announce their locations to the dispatcher on every call. It would not be difficult to find a specific unit if you wanted to.

I was thinking the same thing. If no warrant is required then anybody can record whatever they want, right?


I can't figure out how this could possibly be legal. It seems to me the rule for recording conversations is 1 party consent. [1] There is no way the FBI is participating in those conversations it's recording. I have no problem with law enforcement having special powers, but, isn't that special power a warrant?

[1] http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/recording-phone-calls-and-co...

Whether a warrant is required is a federal Constitutional question. Requiring consent to record a conversation is a statutory creation (and state law at that). State law doesn't define what does or does not violate the Constitution.

That would only apply if the jurisdictional predicate (effect on interstate commerce) were met, which I don't think would be the case here.

I spent far more time reading about this than a sane person ought to. I was all raring to make procedural arguments about obtaining warrants, and another crazy tangent about Katz.

But really, It's easy. Put the audio online. Make it all public. Obviously, there should be some time constraint, can't expose an ongoing investigation. Maybe a year after charges are filed? Perhaps a year after trial, to avoid messing with jury pools.

I think this is a pretty great general policy. Police record whatever they want. If the police overstep and record stuff that turns out was private, the people are free to sue. Seems like a nice self balancing amount of surveillance.

Secretly stepping on peoples privacy rights is pretty much consequence free. Publicly stepping on peoples privacy makes the line very bright, and easy to avoid crossing. It also plays neatly into the "honest man has nothing to fear" trope.

Presumably State law still applies to the activities of FBI employees in that state, unless the Federal government has passed a law specifically exempting them.

Interesting point. In regards to wiretaps https://www.privacyrights.org/content/wiretapping-and-eavesd... seems to imply that no, Federal Agents when investigating are not bound by State law but by federal law:


Courts have held that the California law does not apply to wiretaps by federal agents authorized by a valid federal warrant. For example, federal agents may go to federal court and obtain a warrant to place a wiretap in California, even though state officials may be barred by state law from obtaining a wiretap under similar circumstances.


In general I suspect they cannot be prevented by local state laws from doing their jobs.

That example is not precisely on point though, because it involves a federal warrant - there's no doubting that the US Government can pass laws overriding relevant State laws where it has jurisdiction, and Federal warrants are ultimately authorised by a Federal law.

Yeah this is not an exact case, the quote mentions the warrant part as well (that is why I pasted that part in), but thought it was similar because it is still Federal agents, in their line of duty, and court declared they get to disregard state laws.

The other interesting aspect is this is looked what Federal agents can do, not "How can we protect the privacy of our citizens? Let's see what we can do for them. Maybe they are entitled to more privacy because they live in California". This mirrors the attitude of the "expert" in the story, they just see the Constitution as an inconveniance you need to bypass in order to get your job done.

State law can be a factor in determining whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, which is a key factor in whether a warrant is required.

In California it's two-party consent.

You don't even need to go that far. Try to find the salary scales or FOIA the salary data of police. In most places, they cook up some reason why it's protected information.

In many states, every aspect of public employee compensation is publicly available. As it should be. Public safety folks are usually exempt.

Secrecy is one of the government's greatest powers. Unchecked, they try to classify anything and everything.

In Germany, these are (relatively) public; on the shoulder flaps of any regular police officer (except the riot police <insert deserved swear word here>) you have the rank insignia which allows one to approximate the salary level.

Police officer personal income varies wildly from $30k to $400k per year, quite unpredictably, in the US. Overtime pay, bonuses, double-dipping by being "on call" for Fire Services while actively writting traffic tickets, etc. There is much variability and many factors.

If there aren't already intelligent criminals using the police's own tech and tactics against them, I would be very surprised.

Which is why the corruption is even worse. When before, the dirty tricks bag was mostly limited to domestic threeletters, largely due to tech limitations, now that both technical and legal barriers are lowered, every public figure of power is now more vulnerable than ever before.

Its closely related to the issue of gov mandated backdoors, in which the gov erroneously claims only they can do it, but in reality a backdoor is a backdoor for anyone.

Now, as for me, where did I put my camera detector/focused emp burst gun?

There are, even if there aren't any who don't also work for the police department. Working in law enforcement doesn't mean you aren't a criminal.

A good, depressing angle I didn't intend or really consider when I made my comment, but of course you're right to think of that first.

> If that's true we are moving into a scary world pretty much like 1984

This became obvious since the proof delivered by Snowden. And we don't need more proof.

What we need now is a way to roll the surveillance state back.

Encypt, baby, encypt.

Encrypt your public discourse

We are moving into a world where everything you do is monitored all the time.

This is driven by technology, and legislation can't do much to change it. It's possible other technology can, but until then, assume you are monitored.

Surveillance gets easier and cheaper over time, that is progress, to know more than you did before.

Every person will have a (or multiple) device that can capture and broadcast multiple audio, video, and other sensor data streams to the entire world.

Yeah, with that kind of advancement in technology, the "Captain America vs Iron Man" debate is going to be sprung soon. In other words, the debate between Individual Freedom vs Individual Safety.

To quote Franklin - "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

You can't have an expectation of privacy in public places.

Facial recognition can be beat by a hat + sunglasses (which is the hugest plot hole in Person of Interest, the characters never even attempt to disguise themselves).

If you followed PoI closely enough (if you did not: spoiler alert!), the main characters do not have to disguise themselves from Samaritan because they snuck in a patch that literally makes Samaritan blind when it sees them. For one reason or another, Samaritan or its accomplices can not locate and remove that patch. That, of course, does not prevent Samaritan from figuring out where they are by other means (like tracking their actions, accomplices, vehicles, etc.) and from Samaritan agents to see them in plain old ways. But by the time a team of dozen commandos comes in guns blazing, it's too late to get the hat on. They would probably disregard the hat.

I don't want to live in a world where I have to wear a hat + sunglasses.

You don't have to. But throwing a tantrum isn't going to change reality. We have the laws allowing anybody to film anything visible from public places, with a few security exceptions. That's more important than you getting upset that you are not invisible.

We're talking about limiting the actions of government here. It's hardly a "tantrum".

To address your point on Person of Interest (an absolutely wonderful series, recommended to the entire HN audience): There's several instances where the main characters disguise themselves. But it's not practical for general purpose - There is more than facial recognition at play - voice recognition, process of elimination etc and there is no trouble tracking already-identified targets.

It's not a plot hole if the magical artificially-intelligent supercomputer also integrates gait detection and real-time location data.

You can be identified by body shape and gait. If you've ever been through airport security, a 3D model of your body has been captured. If you have a smartphone, your gait can be recorded.

Your walking style identifies you better than face. Are you going to walk differently once you put a hat and sunglasses on?

In Cory Doctorow's book Little Brother, the protagonist defeats gait sensors with some pebbles in his shoe. It's really not such a bad idea, as every step is going to be different as your foot tries not to hit the pebble too hard.

Do you have a database of walking styles? Does anybody?

They definitely have access to most people's photos - driver's licenses, passports.

I personally don't care if they know where I go in public. They can just tail me if they really want to know.

> Do you have a database of walking styles? Does anybody?

I nearly always walk around with a 3-d accelerometer which can indeed "phone" home.

Here's the ML extraction mechanism as explained by a Samsung engineer - http://www.slideshare.net/satnam74/the-fifth-elephant-2013-t...

Yeah but if they have access to your phone, they already know where you are, no need for the overcomplicated accelerometer method.

If it's in a database, then people without access to your phone can still identify you.

We are moving in a scary world... technology is nice but it makes monitoring too easy. As I see it, updated laws is the only thing that can save us... One of so many examples would be to get rid of car license plates.

I feel that car license plates are a reasonable compromise.

A car provides you with an ability to inflict a lot of damage AND with an ability to escape from the scene quickly. Think hit and runs, road rage, dangerous driving, drunk driving, driving without license, etc.

I'll definitely take lack of anonymity when driving over having to deal with the millions of unaccountable assholes.

That's not something you can feel, but it seems reasonable to think it.

A neighbor of mine made a license plate reader and he logs all the traffic into and out of our neighborhood. People thought it was creepy, until he was able to give the data to police after a couple of nights where cars were broken into.

That will make insurance rates skyrocket.


Because it will make hit and runs easier to get away with. It won't make liability insurance worse, but it will make coverage that pays for damages in those cases much more expensive.

I wonder what percentage of hit and runs get a license plate number, and what percentage of the ones that _do_ get an id eventually end up with the insurance company in question recovering costs from the at-fault driver? My gut feel? The number of hit and runs and the insurance company costs is likely to be a very small part of the costs of running an insurance company, and that the rate of recovery from the identified hit and runs is probably a vanishingly small amount in the big picture. Maybe I'm being classist/racist/prejudiced here, but I'd guess there's very few hit and runs done by fully insured Tesla drivers on 200k+ a year - compared to hit and runs done by some variation/combination of unlicensed drivers in uninsured vehicles by people with no assets or income to make it viable to recover from.

I'd love to see some data, but my back-of-the-envelope analysis reckons this wouldn't even budge the needle on my insurance costs.

Probably a small number get a license plate number, because having license plates discourages hit and runs in situations where there are enough witnesses that's it's likely that one of them will do that.

and let me guess, it will make terrorists harder to catch. most newer cars already broadcast their locations to the car manufacturer (http://www.businessinsider.com/ford-exec-gps-2014-1)

The article does not corroborate your claims at all.

> Rather, Ford cars have several on-board services such as "Sync Services Directions" (a navigation device that works with drivers' phones) and 911 Assist, which users have to switch on and opt into. And employers can use a service called "Crew Chief" to monitor their corporate car fleet.

Austin police do not follow up on hit and runs unless there is a crime - vehicular assault or manslaughter. Even if you have the plate number and video footage.

Leaving the scene when there is property damage IS a crime in and of itself.

Point being, they don't care about property damage.

Not really. Hit-and-run situations usually have few witnesses (that's why the person think they can get away with it) and even if there are, for someone to have the presence of mind to get a license number in a hit and run is not that common.

Without license plates, people will think (correctly) that they can get away with it even when there are more witnesses.

In this article, they seemed to be targeting one person. They fucked up because they didn't get a warrant. They shouldn't need one. It is a public place.

I don't want to get into the situation where regular citizens are not allowed to take pictures of people in public places. Still, I can see their lawyer's argument for expectation of privacy. What about the homeless? Do they have no expectation of privacy? Unless they are in their tent? (If they even have a tent).

> In this article, they seemed to be targeting one person.

That is an interesting interpretation, because the same article left me with the impression that they recorded everybody within earshot of the bugs for 10 months.

Google has vastly more information on everyone in America. Orders of magnitude. (and by extension maybe foreign intelligence agencies) The government is just playing catch-up! I rather our slightly dysfunctional government have more information about me than an ad company that's the play toy of tech-utopian billionaires

I don't use Google, and prefer they not keep tabs on me all the time...but I think governments have a much...much worse track record on suppressing people than corporations. Google can be wiped from the earth by merely a new invention or a shift in the market to a better product...or financial fraud. Pretty hard to up root an entire legal structure and apparatus that grows every single year and has the ability to jail you or kill you.

What I find terrifying is corporations like Google that have all of this data working hand in hand with the government. This creates two problems, a) the government now has tons more data they shouldn't have giving them more authoritarian abilities and b) that company now has immense lobbying power and can stifle competition for its mere deep relationship with the government. Basically, fascism.

I don't use google either! But I've gotta say, every year it gets more and more frustrating as people ask me to use their google spreadsheets and chat with them on google hangouts etc. etc.

Google might not have an account of mine, but I'm 100% sure they know who I am, what I'm interested in and what I'd be interested in in the future! Thanks to cookies, their ads and snippets of JavaScript on every webpage, my friends uploading contacts lists with my name in them etc. etc. they must have a profile built for me.

With the current state of things it actually doesn't really bother me (other than it's monopolistic market distorting effects, but whatever), but you brought up the possibility of them falling part! A very interesting scenario. Google is playing nice and placating people while they make boatloads of cash. When Firefox and IE natively implement adblock or some technounicorn clobbers them they'll get a lot less nice! And we checked enough End User Agreements to let them

With the government we have some recourse

>I think governments have a much...much worse track record on suppressing people than corporations.

Ever heard of the East India Company? Pinkerton National Detective Agency?

Ever heard of Communist China, Communist Russia, Nazi Germany, North Korea, North Vietnam, Serbian Genocide, Iraqi slaughter of the Kurds, Trail of Tears, East Germany, Bulgaria, The Sudan. I can keep going. Just in the past few years ~200,000 people have been killed by the Syrian government.

Of the list of people responsible for those atrocities, none of them were CEOs. Mao alone killed 45 Million people, that's still less than half of the list.

So again, let me know when corporations have even 1/10th of that number, even 1/20th. Governments have a much worse track record win killing people. Just as I was typing this it's very likely that a government murdered someone, statistically speaking. Perhaps even the U.S. government. I didn't say corporations were blameless...just that governments have a much much worse track record.

Why? One wants you to look at ads more relevant to you than random placement. The other wants you to stay in line, not question your leaders, accept the oligarchy, and if you don't, your life will be made a living hell until you are rendered neutral.

Yeah go government.

Google wants to manipulate you into buying things and hading them over more information. If you know even a little about marketing/sales you know how powerful these forces are especially when targeted at a whole nation. On an individual level we never feel like the CocaCola ad makes us buy more coke, but it does.

"your life will be made a living hell until you are rendered neutral" ... sorry, but that just doesn't match up with reality. Maybe your fantasy of the future?

Many journalists, lawyers, political activists, and civil rights advocates would disagree with your characterization. Just because you personally aren't aware of abuses doesn't mean that they don't occur.

Bush-era antiwar groups, Occupy Wall Street, leftist political groups, security researchers, environmental activists, whistleblowers, lawyers representing "sensitive" clients, and MLK himself... all have faced some kind of illegal surveillance or intimidation tactics. (There are many known targets that I didn't list here, and likely many that we don't hear about, simply because the oppressed often lack access to media channels.)

I would much rather be manipulated into buying more Coke than targeted for harassment, intimidation, no-fly lists, and smear campaigns because of my political beliefs. Not that marketers are angels, but they don't hold a candle to the type of abuse that the government can dish out when someone is "marked" as inconvenient.

Yeah, but wouldn't you agree that each time the government does overstep it's authority there is a backlash and they stop? Society seems to keep the government in check. Things like the MLK scenario are a lot less likely now-a-days. If you're say prodrug legalization, it's very very unlikely you'll be blackmailed for your extramarital affairs by a government official (in fact that seems kinda absurd). Yes bad things happen on a small scale, I wouldn't deny that, but I just don't see it as something slipperyslopping anywhere. There isn't a direct mechanism keeping the government in check other than education (and the values that it fosters) along with citizen outrage. Government's fear of it's citizens seems to have worked everywhere in the 1st world.

No, they never stop. 21st century governments use secrecy to avoid having to deal with the public. And they use national security to justify secrecy. Sometimes they screw up, or there's a leak (like with TTIP), but for the most part we don't know about what's happening until its too late to do anything about it. That's why you need to study history to see the pattern of abuse. Once you see how it happens historically, you can see pieces of the puzzle indicating where its still happening today. Or, you look to the few journalists still doing investigative reporting (e.g. theintercept.com) to expose the man-behind-the-curtain.

Yeah, but wouldn't you agree that each time the government does overstep it's authority there is a backlash and they stop?

Most definitely NOT. Even discounting things like the PATRIOT act, which wasn't even hidden, the government only gets backlash when it's actually CAUGHT, and then only when it's particularly provable.

The government doesn't need to coerce the average person to stay in line. The government is the instrument through which the average person forces the fringe elements to stay in line. The average person, thus, has a lot more to fear from corporations than from the government.

Perhaps you are mistaking the ideal government from the actual government. Governments are repeat offenders, and they lie to the public constantly. Its no secret - look it up. Yet they are so powerful, that it happens anyway.

Its also no secret that the people who control the government have interests in retaining power and accumulating wealth. Politicians don't even deny that they can be bought, money is free speech after all (http://www.amendmentgazette.com/how-spending-money-became-a-...). Congressmen spend more than half of their time fundraising for a reason.

The policies and actions of the government are not intended to protect you, even though sometimes your interests are aligned.

I'm not describing the ideal, I'm describing the reality.

Digression: my mom loves Hillary Clinton. She's an immigrant, consumes very little American media, but she is a staunch Clinton supporter. Clinton recites all the buzzwords she likes: children, education, security. She views politically radical ideas with deep suspicion and views nonconformity as a character flaw. I look at the government we have, and can't help but think it's exactly what she would do if she were in charge: lots of benefits for retirees, enormous spending on education, vigorous enforcement of drug laws, long punishments for criminals. What exactly would we do differently if my mom were in charge instead of the shadowy cabal of rich people and purchased politicians? Very little.

And the fact is, she is in charge. She's who votes, without fail, in every election. The government doesn't need to keep her in line. The government is what she uses to keep everyone else in line.

What Clinton tells her is not what Clinton actually does. Campaign promises are exactly that. The government lies to your mom to get her support and 'keep her in line'.

Are you saying the government does not do "vigorous enforcement of drug laws, long punishments for criminals"? These are topics that are the source of perennial complaints on HN. I think rayiner's point is that outside the HN echo chamber, there is a lot of implicit support for all kinds of empowerment of government and law enforcement agencies to "keep people in line". These same people may possibly even condone surveillance if it helps catch some small fry drug dealers.

I see the same thing when it comes to TSA threads. I know people who actually want the TSA around, and when stories of TSA ineffectiveness come out, their reaction is not "security theatre!", it's "fund them more!"

The point is, the government is literally doing what most of the populace wants it to do. The opinions on HN are in the minority.

The original point was that people should fear corporations more than the government, because the government is the instrument of the people, whereas corporations have other less savory motives.

But its not true - the government is not to be trusted. It has a monopoly on military / police force, which it abuses incessantly. Moreover, it is effectively controlled by a private duopoly (Democrats + Republicans), with the same motives as any corporate coalition. What's more, corporations effectively control the duopoly. Just look at what happened with TTIP (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/04/secrets...).

And it is not doing what most of the populace wants, if that's not clear from the current election, look at the Congress approval ratings (http://www.gallup.com/poll/1600/congress-public.aspx). It's barely gone above 20% in the last 6 years. And has only once briefly gone above 50% in the past 30 years.

And if we view the government as a type of corporation? The populace ("founders"?) theoretically are still on the board of directors (if they ever were, really, but for the sake of argument...) but the "venture capitalists" using their usual bag o' tricks have watered down the shares and kicked most of the directors off the board.

America needs a down round, perhaps... or how does one kick VCs off the board? Dissolve the company and start another one?

Clinton lies to you to appease my mom. President Clinton will funnel even more money into education and social security and Medicare. It's any views she expresses about having "evolved" on issues of criminal justice or drugs that are in danger when she shifts from talking to democratic primary voters to talking to the general electorate.

The average person has way more to fear from government. Ever known a company that started a world war? or genocided people ? concentration camps etc etc etc.

Governments have killed way more people than corporations and statistics prove it, thus the average person has a lot more to fear from government.

You may want to learn more about the East India Company. If you don't think that an company can start a war then their history may surprise you. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_India_Company

Oh I was not disputing they can start wars or even kill, there are examples of such through history. I chose world war as an example of scale and because I was familiar with smaller wars and battles fought by companies. I would still stand by the vast amount of body count difference that government is much more to be feared.

We haven't yet seen a corporation start a world war because multinationals the scale of google and samsung are a relatively recent phenomenon.

With that said I agree that we're unlikely to see a world war started by a corporation. I think we're far more likely to see an interplanetary conflict started by a corporation however.

It will be quite an easy thing for an asteroid mining venture to turn into an arms manufacturer the likes of which we have never seen.

The government as an instrument of the average person? I find the notion absurd on the face of it. Maybe it's the instrument of a small group of people who originally came from a group of people you could call "average", and maybe it has some incentive to do visible things that make it appealing to a majority of the citizenry. But by no means can a random average person say, "I want the government to do X", and cause the government to do X for them, except in a very restricted class of X's (like "arrest this person who I see doing Y crime"). If it happens that a majority of average people want Z, maybe this will influence some politicians at some point, or maybe it won't. (It's sort of similar to the market incentive companies face, but worse in various ways.)

Furthermore, just because you can use an institution to do some things for you (if you can call that "being your instrument") doesn't mean you have nothing to fear from it. It does not follow, especially not in the case of the government. More or less every person who's been oppressed by a government could nevertheless say it was providing police and other services to them. If the government were the average person's instrument, as in, a piece of machinery that didn't do anything unless an average person picked it up and used it, and in that case performed exactly the actions the person wanted, then your conclusion would follow [barring accidental misuse and such]. I'm tempted to imagine that you're deliberately giving HN readers an exercise in how to recognize the misleading use of language in a debate.

While I'm on the subject, I'll volunteer that the social contract is a nice-looking facade made up after the fact; it's more like, the government does things to everyone, and afterward maybe a few people decide it was worth it and approve, while others may be displeased but usually lack any effective means of changing the situation, and shrug and put up with it. Further, I'll quote Nock:

"The positive testimony of history is that the State invariably had its origin in conquest and confiscation. No primitive State known to history originated in any other manner. ... Moreover, the sole invariable characteristic of the State is the economic exploitation of one class by another. In this sense, every State known to history is a class-State. Oppenheimer defines the State, in respect of its origin, as an institution "forced on a defeated group by a conquering group, with a view only to systematizing the domination of the conquered by the conquerors, and safeguarding itself against insurrection from within and attack from without. This domination had no other final purpose than the economic exploitation of the conquered group by the victorious group.""

How about neither big companies nor government should have that much information and power?

Whoa, whoa, whoa. This is a very misleading headline.

The article contains no evidence of a government-operated network of listening microphones in the Bay area. It deals with one incident using a specific piece of surveillance gear.

What we actually know is this:

An FBI agent was attempting to bust two individuals suspected of a bid-fixing scheme.

This FBI agent then placed two recording devices in a light fixture and another at the bus stop nearest the courthouse.

After the surveillance recorded enough incriminating evidence, the FBI/DOJ sought to introduce the recordings at trial.

All else was rank speculation by a former FBI employee named Jeff Harp.

He also stated, "If you’re going to conduct criminal activity, do it in the privacy of your own home... that was the original intention of the Fourth Amendment," which makes me question his grasp of the constitution, and thus his reliability as an expert.

No, it's far more than two devices, and it went on for 10 months. They placed surveillance all around the 2 courthouses: light fixtures, a bus stop, bushes, poles, the steps, and inside several vehicles. And there's another similar case from last year with >200 hours of recordings in San Mateo.


You're correct. I didn't realize how extensive this operation was.

The Motion to Suppress is practically a lay-up, and definitely worth a quick read. If you're familiar with the fact pattern, you can skip down to the Summary of Argument (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/media/pdf/motiontosuppress.pdf .) The prosecution really had no choice but to withdraw the recordings.

However, I can't help but wonder if there was more to it than that. This pattern is becoming a more frequent occurrence: the FBI provides the DOJ with evidence obtained through an improper method. If the Constitutionality or legality of that method is strongly questioned, the DOJ either withdraws the evidence or drops the charges.

Since the issue is dropped, the techniques used by law enforcement are never subject to judicial scrutiny. The reason reason for dropping key pieces of evidence and even whole cases would have to be significant. The clear reasons are first, to preserve the ability of agents to continue using these techniques, and second, to prevent direct precedent saying they can't use them.

My grandfather, a former FBI agent, used to half-jokingly reply to my complaints about the erosion of the Fourth Amendment, and after briefly laughing jovially would say, "You don't need a warrant if you don't use it in court!"

So this method has been around since J. Edgar ran the Bureau.

Around courthouses? That's horrific. You couldn't step outside to have a private conversation with your lawyer.

Wonder what the RoI on all this is, and how they allocate resources to each ongoing investigation.

Seems like it would cost a heck of a lot. I mean, you would need trained people sitting around listening to all those recordings.

Or maybe you just need to feed it into a voice to text engine, and then grep through the output for interesting bits. I'm quite sure that the NSA capabilities in this regard are quite beyond what is publicly available.

I have seen such systems in use by medical transcription companies. The key is you need to know what you are looking for. If not someone has to actually sit and listen to all those hours of recordings. Which translates to a high operational cost.

Audio\Speech mining they call it, but it has a ways to go. Even with just one speaker in a noise less environment, there are all kinds of issues with transcription accuracy. I can imagine it being much worse in the kind of conditions the FBI needs it to work in. Ofcourse high end equipment can make things better but it all adds to the cost.

I'll get hammered for this, and I don't like FBI secretly recording anyone, but in this particuliar case; I'm kinda glad they were at least interested in stopping this alleged crime.

The crime? Supposedly, guys were buying up foreclosed properties. Yea, they were just doing what every get rich in realeste book/seminar suggests. They were buying up forclosed houses/apartments by the thousands. They were paying off competitors to Not bid on certain properties. They were rigging the system. They were in violation of The Sherman Anti-trust Act. Again, I think it's wrong, but have no sympathy for shinagigans concerning public auctions, and rich guys breaking laws.

(These forclosed properties usually only get a blurb in back of some newspaper. If I had money, I would be bidding on them. I went to one years ago in my county, and I was suprised how few people were there.)

Everything you can think of, including infiltration of forums like hacker news, they are doing. Joining the security services will be the definition of freedom in the future.

Hmm I wonder how this would work considering its all things openly available to be recorded.

Follow a federal agent home from work and film them and their house. Film their children going to school and post pictures locations and times online, also taking photos of other relatives, friends etc and where they live and their phone numbers and post it all online.

Have your friends join in and keep posting every detail and picture you can get of federal agents and their families etc and compile it into a website.

Then let me know how that works out.

Edit: Does anyone know of any USA law that stands against such activity?

I don't see how that's relevant. The whole point of the government is for it to have a monopoly on law enforcement. They're supposed to be able to do stuff you and I can't do.

That's not the whole point of government, that is a radical statist perspective.

See, for example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peelian_principles

> the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

It's a statist perspective, but hardly radically-so.

From your link:

> The Home Office has explained this approach as "the power of the police coming from the common consent of the public, as opposed to the power of the state. It does not mean the consent of an individual. No individual can choose to withdraw his or her consent from the police, or from a law."

That's the difference between the police and private citizens. Interactions between private citizens must be consensual. Policing, at some level, must necessarily be coercive.

BTW, is it really your opinion that the state has a legitimate claim to nigh-unlimited rule over the public? The Constitution and Bill of Rights was a best-effort attempt to prevent tyranny, not an effort to draw a line for rulers to toe and reach over as far as they can.

You're reading "unlimited rule" into my comment. All I said was that the police are, by design, empowered to do some things ordinary people are not empowered to do.

As Pinker's research has demonstrated, when we move from vigilante "justice" to a centralized system of rules and punishments, over-all violence is greatly reduced and over-all social stability is greatly increased.

It turns out to be a really good thing to give The People In Charge a monopoly on violence and punishment. For optimal stability, The Punishers must also be accountable to the people that they serve. Lamentably, we're doing poorly on the whole accountability part, but the alternative to a State monopoly on violence is -historically- far, far, far worse than the situation that we have today.

Your quote says nothing about the police having unique or extreme powers, it says only that individuals have no right to opt out of society's defense mechanisms.

Further, your quoted line, that conflates aggregate consent with individual consent, while trying to distinguish them, making the utterly self-contradictory claim that "no individual can chose to withdraw his or her consent" , which comes from a 2012 commentary opinion by the Home Office, not the classic Peelian principles. (And it is likely a confusion of wording, not their actual understanding of the law or principles.)


Individuals can withdraw their consent from interactions with other individuals. They cannot do so in interactions with the police. That's a unique power. And while the Home Office stated it, it's the basis for policing in every developed country.

And there is nothing contradictory about the Home Office quote. The government is the instrument through which the people, acting collectively, coerce individuals to behave. The collective needs to consent, but the individual doesn't need to. That's the point of government.

You just repeated the Home Office's mistake:

> They cannot [withdraw their consent] in interactions with the police.

> The collective needs to consent, but the individual doesn't need to

Do you see how you contradicted yourself?

The police can act without an individual's consent. That doesn't mean they have the individual's consent.

Monopoly on police power is not a radical statist perspective. It's fundamental to sovereignty which is itself a very basic concept.

A radical statist perspective would be, e.g. suggesting the state has powers that the founding document of that state says it does not have (or doesn't grant that or a superseding power).

Small point but still relative. A citizen can make a citizens arrest, which is law enforcement (USA).

Also as far as being relative it was posed frome the idea that just because something may be legal, it doesn't mean it's a good idea.

Bothering individual FBI-employees seems like a silly idea.

Reading this thread, it seems some people think the problem is that it is legal to record stuff in the open. IMHO, that is the wrong take on it.

Let's take license-plates. I don't mind that a police officer is able to see it and note where I am at a given time. But it becomes something quite different when we have surveillance-systems recording where every car is all the time. I do mind that.

It is the systems that are scary and ripe for abuse, not individuals.

Yes I agree its silly, it would also probably land you in jail.

I also share your thought on "license-plates".

My post was more aimed at a discussion on how easily openly available information can be misused, to which I appreciate the responses. I always enjoy the level of discussion to be had on this site.

I wonder this now. What if a person lived across from federal employee and all you did was have a security camera covering a view of their house and live streamed it. Lets also assume in the camera view other houses are viewable so you are not directly targeting them, I wonder if Feds would stop by and make you take it down.

>Does anyone know of any USA law that stands against such activity?



It's not the best reporting, but from what I can tell, the FBI is collecting evidence against auction bidders who allegedly conspire to pay less for foreclosed real-estate. The auctions take place on the courthouse steps, and the bidders have been accused of working together to keep prices low by intimidating some bidders and conspiring with others. I'd love to see the auctions moved to a website marketplace. Maybe a good startup idea?

You mean like http://www.auction.com Real Estate Auction for Homes and Commercial Real Estate? Yes they definitely should do that... ;)

The frequency response of most microphones (before DSP filtering) does not perfectly cut-off above 20 khz. I suppose if you were really paranoid you could walk around blasting exceptionally loud noise around and above this freq for privacy ;). Although your local dogs might not be too happy

Heh! Finally a profitable pivot idea for uBeam! Get their ultrasound transmitters mounted in hats or sunglasses, instant "privacy shield"! ;-)

(Bug report #0000001: "I charged my iPhone up by carefully holding it within 8 inches of my uBean transducer all night then when I went to make a call in the morning with my uBeam Privacy Sunglasses(tm) on, the other party couldn't hear anything I said." Response: "Closed WONTFIX. You're holding it wrong.")

I realize I'm being a stereotypical message board nerd about what was presumably a joke, but: I don't understand what you're proposing. Surely the extraneous frequencies could just be filtered out at playback? Or ignored entirely, since--as you imply--human ears filter that out anyway.

If they've got any kind of dynamic gain going on so that they can capture the quietest stuff when nothing's going on but not clip everything when it's louder then they might not be able to do that. Once it's recorded only the information they sampled will be there. So if you play something really loud that's not hearable by a human but is by the recorder and it changes the gain so that it can record it properly then it can miss anything quieter than the noise. White noise above 20kHz would be perfect for this since it would also alias down to lower frequencies with a badly designed setup.

> If you're going to conduct criminal activity, do it in the privacy of your own home.

> That was the original intention of the 4th amendment.


The intention of the 4th amendment was to enable criminal activity, but confine it to private property?

Not to protect citizens' privacy from government snooping without probable cause?

The intent was to prevent the executive branch from indiscriminately "searching" (and hidden microphones are a form of search) innocent people without any cross-check from the judicial branch. The fact that you can "conduct criminal activity in the privacy of your own home" is a side effect, not a design goal, of the principle that a free society is worth the risk of letting a few criminals slip through the cracks.

> Not to protect citizens' privacy from government snooping without probable cause?

> The fact that you can "conduct criminal activity in the privacy of your own home" is a side effect, not a design goal, of the principle that a free society is worth the risk of letting a few criminals slip through the cracks.

You can't really separate the two ideas. If you look hard enough, every single person is a criminal. That's why we can't have total surveillance. We would end up with either total prosecution or, more likely, selective prosecution by those in power silencing the dissidents.

So, actually, grandparent post has it "more" correct. The goal is to let everyone be a criminal (since we all are in some way other) and the means to that goal is preventing "government snooping without probable cause".

This is a much deeper problem - there are so many laws, and so little public knowledge of many of them, that it's pretty close to being true that anyone the government wants to coerce into doing something against their own interest can probably be threatened with being charged with something (with at least reasonable chance of success in convicting).

When the best unpaid legal advice you can find says "Don't talk to police" already* - think how much worse that situation is going to get if the FBI gets away with saying "recording every conversation you ever have in a public place just in case we want to take it out of context and use it as evidence against you is entirely legal, moral, and ethical, and no warrant or any form of external oversight is required for us to do it".

When "every single person is a criminal", there's a deeply disturbing imbalance in power between law enforcement and the populace. It won't just be the dissidents, it'll be everybody that stands in the way of career-climbing LEO or profit seeking civil-asset-forfiture-funded LEO organisations (in fact in my worst dystopian imaginings, not prosecuting selected dissidents will be how the LEO community controls the political class...)


When "every single person is a criminal",

That is tyranny ^

Tyranny? This is America!

Here is a fun fact about "don't talk to the police". The advice applies to everyone, even the police. The union regularly warns members about this. You cannot avoid answering questions as a police officer but if you're being compelled to talk without the presence of an attorney, there are limits on what the superiors can do with the statements.

So basically in case your superiors are planning to put criminal charges on you, you should ask if you are at liberty to not talk without an attorney present.

So remember when you hear the "don't talk to the police" line that even police officers don't talk to the police.

The 4th ammendment is meant to protect you from the power imbalance with the government. Or at least that's how it seems to be interpreted by the courts.

Kyllo v. US ruled that heat-cameras mounted on helicopters were considered a "search" and could not be committed without a warrant because most people do not have heat-cameras and helicopters.

But everyone has ears (and microphones obstensibly work as well as ears in public spaces). The government has the right to investigate on the same level as normal citizens, in a way. Binoculars are also fair game, because a lot of people have binoculars.

The "expectation of privacy" is usually evaluated as "if somebody could try to spy on me, would they be able to do so relatively easily?"

In a way, this 4th ammendment interpretation is what protects us from NSA mass-surveillance. Because only very few people have the resources necessary to set up such a network, you can end up with an expectation of privacy.

And while you don't have an expectation of privacy with regards to tor nodes (anybody running a node could be trying to watch you), IIRC expectation of privacy comes in if , as in the recent case, the gov't runs a very large amounts of nodes and cross-references the data to "find" people.

And why pretend that the privacy of your home is so special? The only thing keeping laser microphones from being aimed at all of our windows is a 5-4 decision in Kylio v. US, and Scalia is dead, and Clinton is going to be appointing the next Supreme Court justice. Clinton (DLC) Democrats love surveillance even more than Bushes.



edit: If you downvote, I'd appreciate you telling me why what I said is incorrect, instead of possibly reflexively reacting to the fact that Scalia is being mentioned in a positive way and Clinton in a negative way.

> The only thing keeping laser microphones...

The legality has nothing to do with it, as it has been demonstrated over and over that law enforcement will employ methods that can charitably be described as "legally questionable" and then attempt to hide it (see stingray). What is stopping them is limitations imposed by the physical world - both in number of windows and the fact that laser mics don't work the way they're portrayed on television. This is the reason why digital key escrow is infinitely more dangerous than physical key escrow (like fire department lockboxes).

Laser mics can get better, and I've got a window in every room but the closets.

I was pointing more to the fact that angle of incidence needs to be carefully figured into the placement of both the emitter and receiver - for every window. Better laser mics won't change laser physics or the logistical challenges.

First, Supreme Court Justices are pretty much inscrutable as far as their jurisprudence before they join the bench (see: just about any justice in modern history). Knowing anything about the president's political leanings tells us next to nothing about how their nominees will decide cases, beyond knowing the nominee themself.

Second, as soon as Trump and Clinton are locked in (after the conventions), the Republicans will cave on Merrick Garland, rather than have Clinton nominate someone. The next Supreme Court justice is Merrick Garland, an Obama nominee.

This is a possibility, but if they don't cave, Clinton is not putting in Merrick Garland. And I don't know that Merrick Garland has any sympathy for Scalia's argument.

This is a case where the more liberal justices tended towards an anti-fourth argument as long as the surveillance was done in a public place, and neither Obama nor Clinton have shown themselves to have a problem with universal surveillance that I'm aware of, in any case, ever.

There's no reason they won't cave. McConnell even put forth Garland as a nominee they'd like to see from Obama, even though "he'd never nominate him".

I was going to say this is the devil they know, but in this case, it's actually the devil they've wanted.

> There's no reason they won't cave.

Before the election, sure there is. The optimal course would be to wait until the elections happen (or at least until polling shows a clear advantage one way or another), then either approve Garland or refuse until Trump is inaugurated.

>Clinton (DLC) Democrats love surveillance even more than Bushes.

I'd disagree. The complete and absolute infatuation with surveillance by both the Bush's and the Clinton's is the same.

Pessimizer, I think you are wrong, I agree with Stanislav. Republicans don't believe in the right to privacy, they use that as the reason why Texas should be able to restrict dildo sales (among many other things :-)), for instance, and conservatives use their disbelief in privacy to argue they should be able to legislate against consensual sex practices they don't like. Dems generally do support a right to privacy in your home.

Instead of depending on generalizations, I'd say that without Clarence Thomas and Scalia (and also Ginsberg, Breyer, and Souter), it would be legal today to record what goes on inside your home without a warrant. So to generalize about conservatives or liberals in this case would probably not be helpful because both the liberal-leaning and the conservative-leaning justices split. What is absolutely true is that the two most right-wing justices were on the side of the Fourth.

All I'm saying is 1) that the next person to appoint a Supreme Court justice, and the last person to appoint a Supreme Court justice, are both New Democrats who seem hostile to Fourth Amendment defences against surveillance, and 2) that the author of the opinion that protects us from total audio surveillance, and the fiercest defender of the Fourth in the Court is the one currently being replaced.

Take it as you will; I'm not hopeful at all, but there's nothing I can do about it anyway. I honestly believe that any justice that Emperor Trump would put on the court would be more likely to preserve that view than not, and the opposite would be true for any Clinton appointment.

Obama may be anti-4th, as nearly every President is (being an Executive whose rights are limited by the 4th), but his SCOTUS appointee isn't, at least as seen below:


Trump has no principles and flip-flops every other second so how can you know what he will do?

That is a fair point, but a simple rephrasing sidesteps that and still maintains the thrust of the argument: a justice that readily defers to 4A is more likely to be appointed by an unprincipled flip-flopper than a consistent strong state advocate. It is the same logic that makes the selection of a half empty cylinder rational in a game of Russian roulette, when the alternative option is a full cylinder. A mechanism for a vote of no confidence sure would be nice right now.

Conservatives have a pretty obvious hole in their logic, where they both want to legislate morality and reduce the state's ability to enforce such legislation. The modern liberal on the other hand is much more single minded in the expansion of federal responsibility, and logically granting the powers necessary to accomplish said responsibilities (firearm registration, clipper chip, etc). Pretending that it isn't a false choice for a moment, I'd prefer the confused conservative position.

On one hand, it's isn't a false choice -- the reality is that if you want to support a political candidate in the US in 2016, you're making that exact choice.

On the other, I totally agree -- they both want to legislate morality.

On the gripping hand, I'm forced to wonder if there was a situation where conservatives started burning their garbage in their home, would liberals be OK with it? Or is the "gay sex in the home" thing only relevant because it happens to be the Republicans big fear?

assuming it were known but not spread, e.g. people proudly announced burn pits, but captured and buried their exhaust. That's the only way to torture this analogy into shape.

> ...if you want to support a political candidate...

That is the false choice, also commonly found in the form "the lesser of two evils" or "the most electable".

> That's the only way to torture this analogy into shape.

I can think of a better one, better because it actually happened. An anarchist starts making a bunch of noise about how 3d printers enable individuals to produce extremely low quality guns in the privacy of their own homes. Liberals are outraged, propose legislation to ban such activity - then float the lead balloon of 3d printer technology regulation. Like the burning garbage analogy, externalities are used as justification for liberty curtailment, but unlike burning garbage - such externalities are not a certainty (in fact home firearm production has been legal for a very long time). The liberal's real beef is with the threat to the state's authority, the more often the state's regulations are sidestepped - the weaker it appears.

So the short answer is this: liberals, like conservatives, are fine with private activities that don't threaten their world views. Unfortunately liberals have a very detailed idea of the way the world should work, whereas the conservative imagination doesn't go much further than approved penis destinations.

I think your characterization of liberal and conservative is inaccurate. First, there is no central summary of what the views are for these groups.

Liberals are okay with private activities that don't hurt anyone, so they are okay with sexual activities. They think people own their own bodies, so they are okay with taking drugs like pot that don't hurt anyone; harder to say where the line goes with harder drugs. Burning trash in your backyard hurts the environment, and hurts people who live around you, so they are generally not okay with that.

Conservatives want to give you freedom to do what you want, and they say they want to be free to make choices. But of course they want things to be like they were in the past, so they don't like freedom to be gay or whatever. They hate the concept of global warming exists, I think because it leads to their actions might hurt others (like buying a gas guzzler). The problem really becomes apparent when conservatives deny science, in the earth is 8000 years old crowd, or the truly childish fantasy that 99% of scientists are only in it to make money and are happy to lie, that's why there's collusion about global warming.

Conservatives want to have a gun in their house if they want it. The liberals next door might say you are statistically more likely to accidentally shoot someone else or even your own family, so get rid of that to make us all safer - but this is more of a middle ground.

It's not about threatening my world views, I'm a liberal and that's all wrong. Liberals or progressive people want to learn and advance, they want to base their actions off of facts. Conservatives generally make their decisions based on ideology. I have changed my opinions on many things during my life, based on facts and my own experience. When I was a kid I didn't know any gay people, I wasn't sure what to think of them. As an adult, I'm sad to think of how they quietly suffered their whole lives. If cons were really operating based on facts, they'd not be so afraid of trans or gay people, because facts show there is nothing to be afraid of. Facts tell us about the conspiracy in the catholic church to hide predators - there's no international conspiracy to help trans people.

> I think your characterization of liberal and conservative is inaccurate.

That can go without saying - did you really think that I was trying to comprehensively describe such complexity in less than a dozen sentences?

I think your characterization certainly adds more color, but you go wrong with "they want to base their actions off of facts". It would be more accurate, and succinct, to say "they are utilitarian". The goal is a world in which the maximum number of people enjoy the maximum number of "rights" (libs have a very different list of rights than the enumerated ones cons stick to). The utility to achieve that goal is the state. So it isn't fact based, it is much more "the end justifies the means". Your characterization of conservative thought as an "ideology" isn't inaccurate; with the exception of the logical defects introduced by religion - the ideology is a precept based bottom up approach, starting at individual rights. Whereas the liberal approach starts with the end goal and works backwards, which makes it much more likely to run roughshod over individuals - because the needs of the many...

Hopefully that helps you see my prior post as less "inaccurate" and more "I don't agree because feelings".

Just wanted to say thank you to you guys for following up my comment with a couple that really made me learn and think a little more.

As I approach my mid-30s, I realize that both liberals and conservatives are so incredibly biased in their first-principles that the ideologies will never reconcile. I just wish both sides realize their differences arise from differing assumptions, not differing conclusions. (The conclusions of what is "right" are just opinions derived from assumptions.)

No problem. HN actively discourages this sort of discussion, for a lot of good reasons, but I can't really help myself. Because I can't help myself I'll take your "differing assumptions" and say that I see it like a disagreement over software design principles - rooted in a differing in cost/benefit valuation between the stakeholders. On one extreme end of the spectrum you've got anarchists who want a logically and morally consistent system that scales from a single individual to a society - which is like insisting that the entire software stack be formally verified. On the other extreme you've got statists that are largely unconcerned with implementation details that may be immoral and illogical so long as the end result mostly works - php web developers :) Both approaches have different costs and benefits.

Yes, this was a good discussion.

Clinton winning in November is far from a sure bet, IYAM.

With the semi-libertarian concept of "crime" the founders had, it is quite hard to commit a crime in your own home.

Murder is one example.

Indeed. When all crime is property crime, you must have someone else's person or property present to commit a crime.

Whether your body is your property or not is for another philosophy debate.

A bit of a and a bit of b. The intention was to protect private property from government snooping without probable cause. It was a way to balance property rights against the governments' law-enforcement powers.

Could you qualify your use of "private property" to account for the many ways in which the "property rights" are assessed in terms of the 4A, e.g. in terms of surveillance?

Personally, I don't think the 4th amendment has much to say about surveillance. It protects four enumerated property rights: houses, persons, papers, and effects. If you have a property right in something, the government needs a warrant. If you don't, it doesn't.

I don't think surveillance is good, but I'm strongly opposed to twisting the interpretation of the Constitution to fight in courts battles that should be fought in the political realm. We have a real problem with excessive surveillance and over-policing in the US (but also in the UK and other places, to be fair). But the people want safety and security. That's democracy.

I would put the emphasis on "private" rather than on "property" - if a house I rent contains a person and their papers or effects, they enjoy 4A protection even though I do not own the house, the person, or their papers or effects.

A good intro to the US 4th amendment for anyone needing background details is at: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/fourth_amendment

The key element in the Oakland FBI story seems to be the idea that a conversation whose participants might reasonable believe is private in nature that happens in a public place can be recorded without a warrant.

Consider conversations in: a hotel room, an office room, an office conference room, an empty office or hotel elevator, a hotel lobby, an otherwise empty bus stop, an elevator occupied by others, a city bus or subway car with others nearby.

At what points on the ranges of private to public spaces, and numbers of others present & in eavesdropping range does an expectation of privacy fade away?

For a startup perspective, in which spaces/places could one speak candidly about financials or the latest funding round and believe that one's speech is truly private?

2016: The year the Elevator Pitch died…

(Now I'm wondering who's bugging every conference venue and nearby hotel elevators around Disrupt/TechWeek/SxSW/YC interview/etc venues? I wonder how often bug installers find competitors bugs, and whether they compete or collaborate with each other?)

Renting confers an enforceable property right.

I would just like to point out something, not entirely focused at you, but because I see that phrase and similar about "well thats democracy for ya.."

America is not a democracy.

It is a Constitutional Democratic Republic.

Words have meaning, And I would highly suggest that anyone reading this, begin using that phrase when referencing our government.

A democracy is mob rule, and with a "mob" so ruled by propaganda and easily influenced by the oligarchy corrupted fourth estate, democracy without the Constition or Representative government is nothing but doom.

What America needs is to forget their petty hegellian dialect issues, unite around the enlightenment ideals that inspired our hard won revolution from the british Monarchy, and focus on the return to and enforcment of the principles of the Constitution.

Looks around at my local Australian politics... Nice handbasket here, I wonder where we're going?

How is it democracy when a group of individuals hold concentrated amounts of power? And when I say individual, I mean corporations, based on current standing legal precedent.

I usually agree with a lot of the things you've stated on here in the past, but I'm really disappointed that you:

a) Conflate democracy with the current sham political system we have in the USA.

b) Don't think that the 4th amendment has much to say about surveillance.

The will of the few is not will of the people. That's the exact opposite when we think of democracy as the "tyranny of the majority".

The formet FBI agent was lying through his teeth, and that's why he caged by adding the line about the judge. The FBI believes (as do criminals and defense attorneys) that whatever they do is legal unless they are caught, tried, and convicted -- facts in the court, not facts on the ground. And the FBI gets the privilege of being mostly free from law enforcement oversight in the first place.

I've come to the opinion that warrants are simply there to provide an audit trail. The executive branch needs to provide a record of what it's up to to the Judicial branch.

If you think in terms of that, current attempts by the executive branch to spy on people without warrants is extremely alarming. You have to ask, why exactly do they have a problem with informing the Judicial branch what they are doing?

> Wat.

It is true if it is true for you. Let's pay attention who says it: "Jeff Harp, a KPIX 5 security analyst and former FBI special agent"

That is absolutely how FBI and large parts of the executive branch see the Constitution. This annoying piece of paper, that prevents them doing their job, and enables criminals to get away with crimes.

> If you're going to conduct criminal activity, do it in the privacy of your own home.



Soon they'll say "if you're going to do or say 'bad stuff', just do it in your own head". And then we'll have technologies that can read and "hear" what our brains think all around us.

Well, if you voluntarily put in your home device designed to listen to you around the clock, and send the data out, you can't complain it listens to you and sends the data out, can you?

That's pretty much exactly what Snowden is telling us we do when we choose to carry a cell phone...

Cell phone is not designed to listen to you all the time. But yes, it is designed for you to be contact-able all the time, so the premise of somebody knowing your (rough) location is there.

Your cell phone is designed to do is maker's bidding. It only has to record when they want it to. You aren't interesting, today. Tomorrow is another day.

I watched the end of this video and had to do a double take (watch?). Said out loud 'wat'!, came here and found out that I still have never had an original thought. Thanks!

I'm pretty sure she was just being sarcastic...

> ...if you’re going to conduct criminal activity...

The actual scandal here is not the potential danger to criminal enterprises but that we're all being made suspects beforehand 24/7.

How much do you suppose these microphones are worth?

Also, what's an easy way to locate them?

Now I am finally convinced that Internet of Things is going to be the next big thing - Internet of Real-time Microphones...

Many of us, in the Bay area Veterans community so agree with the topics and in one brand new book just released at www.barryeisler.com; civil liberties; rule of law, my community my neighbors, Please permit me to suggest his latest, just release book; "A God's Eye View." I for one like the one sentence in Chapter 47, "When you collect it all ;when you monitor everyone, you understand nothing." And a suggestion for the President's Blue Ribbon Panel for a position titled: " public interest advocate" is making more sense daily. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/12/civillib...

I like the review Chelsea Manning gave of Barry, "Creepy. This story is much more plausible than I expected or care to admit." Salutes all too you for keeping me educated. As we said in my old army unit; "heart-faith-skill, the only way to win in a battle advocacy" (we borrowed it from Sean Connery as Ramirez in The Highlander Movie) peace..j.

The quotes from the former FBI agent, showing complete disregard for the 4th Amendment, send a clear message about how deep illegal behavior runs in the FBI.

This is a more informative article around the topic IMO:


Previously covered on HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10582392

Defense Claims Courthouse Was Illegally Bugged (therecorder.com) 171 points by morninj 179 days ago | 100 comments

So what is going to be done about it? with each revelation that has no riot it looks more and more like the average person is silenced into submission to just 'deal with it' rather then correct it.

If I really gave a damn, had 1000 bucks to blow, and had no life I could go plant hidden microphones, pinhole video cameras, and more in just about every conceivable public place too. If anyone argued or brought me to court - I could demonstrate how this is absolutely no different than everyone "secondhand recording" me in their little snap stories and instagrams which do go online forever. My point is, this is some small potatoes 1980's style shit that is nothing compared to NSA Echelon (which I find to be actually a fascinating technology if it weren't so malleable to abuse by human nature) If Echelon were an independently operating AI system that had algorithms that identified criminal activity, then used soft paternalism in the form coercing unaware law enforcement personnel into making "chance" encounters with would-be criminals (random traffic stop, or passing them by on the street), the psychology of the criminal would be to stop doing whatever their doing because they feel more watched when they are doing said crime; although the law enforcement agent may never be directly aware of the criminals communications or conduct. I can deal with surveillance all day, no sweat. Totalitarian censorship is my problem, and that doesn't appear to be happening stateside.

> If Echelon were an independently operating AI system that had algorithms that identified criminal activity, then used soft paternalism in the form coercing unaware law enforcement personnel into making "chance" encounters with would-be criminals (random traffic stop, or passing them by on the street), the psychology of the criminal would be to stop doing whatever their doing because they feel more watched when they are doing said crime; although the law enforcement agent may never be directly aware of the criminals communications or conduct.

You just described the main antagonist ("Samaritan") in the show Person of Interest. It is a rogue AI that records everything, determines threat level, then "nudges" police and even private citizens to take action against what it sees as a threat (in this show, the protagonists trying to stop the evil organization using the neutral Samaritan for evil deeds). Samaritan itself isn't evil, but in the hands of tyrannical masters, it is a deadly weapon and nearly a god (omnipresent, omniscient and almost omnipotent).

This show has been riding the cutting edge of real life espionage and rogue government programs since it debuted.

> My point is, this is some small potatoes 1980's style shit that is nothing compared to NSA Echelon

Absolutely. The "creep" factor of this however is more tangible to the general public so I imagine they will come under significantly more (relative to population size) pressure to answer for this.

Microphones hidden under rocks are much easier to understand and perceive as an intrusion and threat, compared to the nature of Echelon

It's also eerily reminiscent of the Stasi era. Just take a trip to the Stasi museum next time you are Berlin and perhaps you'll freak out a little too.


finally a voice a reason!

I actually think the tech world's outrage is the equivalent of survivalist doomsday paranoia. In their minds once the evil government people have our data it's just a slippery slope to fascism. (the survivalist at least have their guns! so they can go shoot cops that day)

Of course grounding yourself in reality you should realize that a 1984-dystopia-scifi government is effectively impossible in an advanced educated society. While people are mildly annoyed by databases (and that's why nothing gets done to stop them) - people have always been outraged when the government abuses those databases. Societies that are way further along in terms of mass surveillance (ex: Singapore) aren't on the verge of dystopia.

I think you're onto something there with that comparison to survalist doomsday scenarios. Some people have very vivid imaginations and they fail to see how there theory is basically impossible and then when challenged they fall back to some trope about slippery slopes.

I think in some part it's actually a part of a bigger American cultural trope. We also have this unique obsessions with zombies and pandemics etc. etc. Kinda thinking I'm special, the rest of the riff raff die and I'm left alone to "make it" from a feral rock bottom.

My guess is it's American individualism and it's unique inflated sense of self worth (not to knock it =] it's got its plus sides!) + fascination with the biblical apocalypse. I'm not as familiar as I should be with the faiths of the founders of the colonies, maybe it's something that traces back to then?

What makes you think you could do that?

Given your stance, I suppose you would be OK with censorship too, assuming it was monitored by a soft paternalistic AI intended only to 'protect' people?

Unfortunately we don't have any AI like what you described, and history has proven time and again that governments abuse powers like this to their own advantage.

He is supposedly the manager of Autodesk's "Global threat management program." Do their "global threats" amount to more than watching over the cars in the parking lot at night?

Long ago I worked at Autodesk, and they would regularly publish threat reports on their intranet, mainly covering news from their competitors, identifying emerging or disruptive technologies, and economic threats. No doubt threat management also included morale, stagnation, theft and subterfuge, external attacks on IT infrastructure, legal and intellectual property issues, etc.

To me this goes back to the issue of having a reasonable expectation of privacy.

As others have pointed out, if I am in a public place and someone snaps a photo of me or a surveillance camera records my actions, I generally can't argue this was an unreasonable invasion.

I'm certain legal scholars are well-versed in the technicalities of expectations of privacy, but I do wonder if we will face new challenges in this area as the number of pervasively connected and recording devices increases.

Do we have secondary sources confirming this, specifically, lawyers in the case confirming this being brought up as evidence? If so, where is the public record of that?

What are CBSLocal's incentives? Can they push fearmongering without repercussions?

If this story is not true, where should we put the "flag" threshold? What are operational voting with money against stories like this ever, ever making HN frontpage again, and for the "news" industry to structurally reduce unfounded fearmongering?

Is this[1,2,3] the case the article refers to?

I had a bit of a click around, I'm not sure how to find record of the evidence etc. I'm not familiar with the US courts websites.

1. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/two-northern-california-real-...

2. https://www.justice.gov/atr/case/us-v-florence-fung

3. https://www.justice.gov/atr/case/us-v-michael-navone

When will people say enough is enough?

I've become increasingly convinced that western society will accept anything so long as it's fed, housed, and safe. If that's true, as a society we have a lot of rights that we're not willing to fight for but which the government is highly intent on restricting - an equation for inevitably losing them.

What troubles me most is that I don't know what to say or do, but feel people know this is wrong, yet do nothing.

Any society will trade liberty for food and safety.

When it is too late? We're still at the phase where people say, "This doesn't impact me", or "I have nothing to hide".

Or David Brin's view that transparency solves everything.

That is not David Brin's point[1]. Brin's point is more that the government will inevitably surveil citizens, and since citizens cannot reasonably prevent it, the best option is to try to level the playing field so that citizens can surveil the government back. In other words, reciprocal transparency is the least bad option.

[1] Transparent Society, by David Brin

I discuss this pretty regularly with Brin (on G+). We disagree strongly.

His point is that souveillance is the solution. I disagree for the reasons expressed by Bruce Schneier (in his famous exchange with Brin) and Yonatan Zunger (in a comment included on my G+ profile page links). Surveillance amplifies power imbalances.

Power and People have different mixes of power and vulnerability. Each exploits its strengths and fears its weaknesses. Transparency doesn't of itself balance those differences though. If anything, it amplifies them.

That said, I'm for transparency punching up. Less so punching down absent clear justification -- much as the US founding fathers established in the Bill of Rights.

I still think you are mischaracterizing Brin. He does not think transparency "solves everything" or is "the solution". He just believes that reciprocal transparency is the least bad option. If there were a better option, such as complete privacy for all, perhaps Brin would prefer that. But realistically, such is not feasible.

Even if judges prohibit such evidence on the grounds of it being illegally obtained, you will still find that prosecutors will use that evidence to find other evidence and for constructing a case that doesn't use that illegally obtained evidence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_construction

Snowden suggests that the microphones and cameras on your cell, landline, desktop can be remotely activated any time by the government or hackers.

You don't even need to be clandestine about it though. Why hasn't this story hasn't gotten more traction? Where's the outcry?


Correlated story: Google's Parsey McParseface.

If this were true then how do you explain all the crime that still happens. Even high profile cases. It would be a lot easier to manager bigger crimes. But since we still see them struggling with even big profile cases, where not having an arrest is embarrassing, it's extremely hard to imagine this being true.

Call to action: Machine learners, you'd better start tuning your sarcasm classifiers.

Haven't you guys ever seen The Wire? Is this seriously a surprise to anyone?

Cops in The Wire made an extreme point of getting warrants for limited targeted surveillance

You forget when Herc went and grabbed the portable mic from the spy store and stuck it in a tennis ball. Or when they stuck the video camera in the park and got it stolen.

It's pretty much the same thing that happened here. They knew the discussions were happening, they knew where the discussions were happening, and since it was in a public space they didn't need a warrant. It's not like they are running around town putting microphones in all the bus stops hoping to catch anybody saying something. They were looking for a specific type of criminal activity and they placed the mics accordingly.

This sort of public spying has been documented since at least 1959.

This _particular_ public spying was reported at least since 2012.


"In July 1956, the Pennsylvania Bar Association Endowment (PBAE) commissioned a comprehensive study of "wiretapping practices, laws, devices, and techniques" in the United States. [..] The man appointed to direct the study was Samuel Dash, a prominent Philadelphia prosecutor [..] The result of Dash's efforts was The Eavesdroppers, a 483-page report [..] The book uncovered a wide range of privacy infringements on the part of state authorities and private citizens [..]

While law enforcement agencies were tapping lines in flagrant violation of state and federal statutes, phone companies were deliberately underreporting wiretap statistics to maintain public confidence in their services. While American businesses were stockpiling equipment to spy on employees and gather competitive intelligence, private investigators were using frightening new tools to listen in on wayward lovers and loose-lipped politicians."

http://www.infowars.com/spy-grid-can-now-record-your-convers... (2013)

"The Washington Post recently published a feature length article on gunshot detectors, known as ShotSpotter, which detailed how in Washington DC there are now, “at least 300 acoustic sensors across 20 square miles of the city,” microphones wrapped in a weather-proof shell that can detect the location of a sound down to a few yards and analyze the audio using a computer program.

𝐖𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐲𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐦𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐨𝐮𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐬 “𝐠𝐮𝐧𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐭 𝐝𝐞𝐭𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐬,” 𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐍𝐞𝐰 𝐘𝐨𝐫𝐤 𝐓𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐧 𝐌𝐚𝐲 𝟐𝟎𝟏𝟐, 𝐬𝐢𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐚𝐫 𝐭𝐞𝐜𝐡𝐧𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐠𝐲 𝐢𝐬 𝐚𝐥𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐲 𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐧 𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝟕𝟎 𝐜𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐲, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐢𝐧 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐜𝐚𝐬𝐞𝐬 𝐢𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐮𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬. "


This quote from the 1959 report sums up everything nicely:

"As Dash told members of Congress on the eve of the book's release, the American public's longstanding disregard for threats to communications privacy had only served to exacerbate these developments. [..]

'Each generation seems to forget the problems of the past and considers this their own unique problem.' - Samuel Dash"

As this seems to come up more and more. I can't fathom why most people can't get what's being fed to them by our media sources. http://craigbhulet.com/10%20Mega-Corporations.jpg This chart albeit a bit big of a image demonstrates which media entities are owned/connected to whom. Pretty interesting

Perhaps I've been reading the wrong newspapers, but I can't recall Kraft, Coca Cola, Nestle, P&G, Coca Cola, et al ever being considered media companies.

It's a pretty picture, but it doesn't really seem to mean much. Not one of those companies is in the 50 largest by revenue [1]. This seems to be a picture of what food and health brands are related to each other?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_companies_by_r...

I'd love to find a sample -- how do they communicate? Wirelessly? Betcha they can be fingerprinted

So, can they just associate a voice to a person legally with those random recordings?

KPIX5's Jackie Ward said it's legal, so the defense can withdraw the motion.

huh? but ca and sf is two party consent?


From your link:

(c) The term “confidential communication” includes any communication carried on in circumstances as may reasonably indicate that any party to the communication desires it to be confined to the parties thereto, but excludes a communication made in a public gathering or in any legislative, judicial, executive or administrative proceeding open to the public, or in any other circumstance in which the parties to the communication may reasonably expect that the communication may be overheard or recorded.

'public gathering' is perhaps intentionally ambiguous

the other disjunct: in any legislative, judicial, executive or administrative proceeding open to the public; led me to interpret 'public gathering' as bagley-keene(o) does

> 11122.5. (a) As used in this article, “meeting” includes any congregation of a majority of the members of a state body at the same time and place to hear, discuss, or deliberate upon any item that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the state body to which it pertains.

stead of just anyone standing at a bus stop

(o) http://ag.ca.gov/publications/bagleykeene2004_ada.pdf

In many cases federal law trumps state law. State law is likely to not be allowed to hinder a federal investigation. Typically the FBI isn't allowed to record conversations it isn't a party to without a warrant if you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. They are likely going to argue that there is no such expectation of privacy at a public bus stop.

> As the California Supreme Court made clear, federal law (which permits monitoring with the consent of one party) does not preempt more restrictive state eavesdropping laws, even when the monitored communications are interstate. Accordingly, companies that monitor interstate calls for quality control purposes must consult the applicable provisions of state, as well as federal, law. (o)

i feel another commenter, em3rgent0rdr, may have indirectly answered my confusion by stating:

> Even if judges prohibit such evidence on the grounds of it being illegally obtained, you will still find that prosecutors will use that evidence to find other evidence and for constructing a case that doesn't use that illegally obtained evidence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_construction (i)

(o) http://www.mofo.com/resources/publications/2006/07/californi...

(i) https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11699146

.. completely offtopic, but how unfortunate is that lawfirm's domain?

> > As the California Supreme Court made clear, federal law (which permits monitoring with the consent of one party) does not preempt more restrictive state eavesdropping laws, even when the monitored communications are interstate. Accordingly, companies that monitor interstate calls for quality control purposes must consult the applicable provisions of state, as well as federal, law. (o)

This clearly applies to private citizens, but it is less clear that that precedent applies to the FBI.

This clickbait article is going to cause people to think the government was just spying on everyone everywhere for no other reason than just to spy on you. Another "distrust the damn government" article that further divides people against others.

Clickbait title wouldn't specify it as only being in the Bay area. The title makes no claims not held up by the article


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