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Update December 2017


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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
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Saturday, Dec. 9 - Dec. 15, 2017

Does cellphone-sweeping ‘StingRay’ technology go too far?

This undated file photo provided by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office shows the StingRay II, a cellular site simulator used for surveillance purposes manufactured by Harris Corporation, of Melbourne, Fla. (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office via AP, File)

Colleen Long

New York (AP) - New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas are among scores of police departments across the country quietly using a highly secretive technology developed for the military that can track the whereabouts of suspects by using the signals constantly emitted by their cellphones.

Civil liberties and privacy groups are increasingly raising objections to the suitcase-sized devices known as StingRays or cell site simulators that can sweep up cellphone data from an entire neighborhood by mimicking cell towers. Police can determine the location of a phone without the user even making a call or sending a text message. Some versions of the technology can even intercept texts and calls, or pull information stored on the phones.

Part of the problem, privacy experts say, is the devices can also collect data from anyone within a small radius of the person being tracked. And law enforcement goes to great lengths to conceal usage, in some cases, offering plea deals rather than divulging details on the StingRay.

“We can’t even tell how frequently they’re being used,” said attorney Jerome Greco, of the Legal Aid Society, which recently succeeded in blocking evidence collected with the device in a New York City murder case. “It makes it very difficult.”

At least 72 state and local law enforcement departments in 24 states plus 13 federal agencies use the devices, but further details are hard to come by because the departments that use them must take the unusual step of signing nondisclosure agreements overseen by the FBI.

An FBI spokeswoman said the agreements, which often involve the Harris Corporation, a defense contractor that makes the devices, are intended to prevent the release of sensitive law enforcement information to the general public. But the agreements don’t prevent an officer from telling prosecutors the technology was used in a case.

In New York, use of the technology was virtually unknown to the public until last year when the New York Civil Liberties Union forced the disclosure of records showing the NYPD used the devices more than 1,000 times since 2008. That included cases in which the technology helped catch suspects in kidnappings, rapes, robberies, assaults and murders. It has even helped find missing people.

But privacy experts say such gains come at too high a cost.

“We have a Fourth Amendment to the Constitution,” said Jennifer Lynch, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, referring to the protection against unreasonable search and seizure. “Our Founding Fathers decided when they wrote the Bill of Rights there had to be limits placed on government.”

Lawmakers in several states have introduced proposals ranging from warrant requirements to an outright ban on the technology; about a dozen states already have laws requiring warrants. Federal law enforcement said last year that it would be routinely required to get a search warrant before using the technology - a first effort to create a uniform legal standard for federal authorities.

And case law is slowly building. Two months ago, a Washington, D.C., appeals court overturned a conviction on a sex assault after judges ruled a violation of the Fourth Amendment because of evidence improperly collected from the simulator without a proper warrant.

In the New York murder case argued by the Legal Aid Society, a judge in Brooklyn last month ruled that the NYPD must have an eavesdropping warrant signed by a judge to use the device, a much higher bar than the “reasonable suspicion” standard that had previously been required.

“By its very nature, then, the use of a cell site simulator intrudes upon an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy, acting as an instrument of eavesdropping and requires a separate warrant supported by probable cause,” wrote state Supreme Court Judge Martin Murphy.

New York City police officials disagreed with the ruling and disputed that a StingRay was even used in the case, even though there had been a court order to do so. Police officials also said they have since started requiring a higher stander of probable cause when applying for the devices.

Legal Aid Society’s Greco said he hoped the ruling will push the nation’s largest department into meeting the higher standard, and help judges better understand the intricacies of more cutting-edge surveillance.

“We’re hoping we can use this decision among other decisions being made across the country to show that this logic is right,” Greco said. “Part of an issue we’re facing with technology, the judges don’t understand it. It makes it easier if another judge has sat down and really thought about it.”


Update Saturday, Dec. 2 - Dec. 8, 2017

Minnesota, Poland and Argentina compete to host World’s Fair

Minister of Foreign affairs of Argentine Jorge Faurie of Argentina delivers a speech at the 162nd General Assembly of BIE, in Paris, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) is the intergovernmental organization in charge of overseeing and regulating World Expos, since 1931. Argentina will host Specialized Expo 2022/23. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Steve Karnowski

Minneapolis (AP) - Minnesota is hoping to host the first World’s Fair on U.S. soil in nearly 40 years, but it will have to overcome bids by Poland’s third-largest city, Lodz, and the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires when a winner is selected in the coming days.

The events that introduced the world to the Eiffel Tower, Space Needle and Ferris Wheel have lost some of their cultural relevance in an age of globalization and cheap air travel. But World’s Fairs - now referred to as World Expos for the largest events held every five years and as specialized expos for smaller ones in other years - still draw millions of visitors and allow hosts to show off.

The Bureau of International Expositions will choose the site of the 2022 or 2023 specialized expo on Wednesday in Paris. Minnesota’s theme is health and wellness, Lodz’s is the reinvention of cities and Buenos Aires’ highlights creative industries in the digital era.

Here’s a closer look:

What are expos?

According to the BIE, expos are global events aimed at “educating the public, sharing innovations, promoting progress and fostering cooperation.” They’re meant to bring the world together to find solutions to some fundamental challenge of humanity. Visitors tour pavilions where participating countries and organizations showcase their contributions on the theme, while experts and diplomats attend conferences on the sidelines.

Six-month-long world expos are held every five years, while smaller, three-month “specialized expos” on specific themes, which are what the BIE is currently considering, fall in between. World leaders often visit.

“Expos remind us that there is much more that binds us together than separates us,” Jim Core, director of the international exhibitions unit at the U.S. State Department, told The Associated Press by phone from Paris on Friday.

Many Americans have lost sight of how big these events are because the U.S. hasn’t hosted one since New Orleans did so in 1984, but the Milan World Expo in 2015 drew around 20 million visitors, according to the BIE. This summer’s specialized expo on Future Energy in Astana, Kazakhstan, drew 4 million people, and the 2020 Dubai World Expo is expected to draw about 25 million, the BIE says.

Healthy Minnesota

Minnesota has proposed a specialized expo for 2023 on the theme “Healthy People, Healthy Planet.” It would trade on the state’s reputation as a center of innovation and excellence in health and wellness, the leader of the bid committee, former Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, said from Paris. Minnesota is home to world-class health care institutions including the Mayo Clinic, medical device makers such as Medtronic, and insurers such as UnitedHealth.

The site would be near the Mall of America, one of the country’s biggest shopping centers, which is located in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington. The committee projects that it will draw around 12 million visitors, including nearly 220,000 international visitors, with a total impact on the local economy of $1.5 billion.

The State Department is vigorously lobbying on Minnesota’s behalf, a bigger diplomatic effort than Poland’s or Argentina’s, Ritchie said. It has hosted events in Washington, Paris and other cities, while its embassies and consulates around the world are promoting the bid. It also brought foreign ambassadors to Minnesota. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will be in Paris to cast the U.S. vote.

The U.S. left the Bureau of International Expositions in 2001 as congressional interest waned following the end of the Cold War, said Matthew Asada, the State Department’s expo program officer. But President Donald Trump signed a bill in May, the “U.S. Wants to Compete for a World Expo Act,” to rejoin and put the U.S. back in the game.

Revitalized Poland

The bid theme of the central Polish city of Lodz for 2022 is “City Re: Invented” and focuses the revitalization of post-industrial cities. The city’s expo website says the event would kick-start a second wave of modernization and share Poland’s expertise in “urban regeneration” with the rest of the world.

“Lodz is writing an extraordinary story of how to successfully combat a permanent social and infrastructural crisis,” the website states. The city expects about 8 million visitors.

Lodz is Poland’s third-largest city, an hour away from the capital Warsaw. It became a thriving industrial city in the 19th century but lost momentum after communist rule ended in 1989. The demise of its big textile plants fueled unemployment and decay. But the city says it has undergone a rebirth lately, including the restoration of many of the inner city’s richly decorated tenement houses from the late 1800s and revitalization around the main railroad station.

Creative Argentina

Buenos Aires has offered a 2023 expo on “Creative Industries in Digital Convergence.” If approved, it would be the first expo in Latin America under the auspices of the BIE, which began operations in 1931. Several were held in Latin America before then, though.

“It will be a celebration of human creativity, in which no one should be left out,” Argentine government minister Gabriela Ricardes said last month in a presentation to the Organization of American States.

Buenos Aires expects over 6 million visitors, including 250,000 international tourists. “They will be able to discover the latest innovations in the technological industries, the newest proposals from the world of creativity, and multimedia, artistic, scientific and technological content from Argentina and the participating countries,” its expo website says.

Note: Members of the Bureau of International Expositions, based in Paris, picked Buenos Aires to host a specialized World Expo.

Argentinians at the vote literally jumped for joy as the result was announced - and then started handing out white-and-blue soccer t-shirts with star Argentinian player Lionel Messi’s name on them.

Delegates donned the t-shirts on top of their suits as members of the Argentinian bid team hugged and kissed each other in excitement and relief.

It will be the first expo in Latin America under the auspices of the BIE, which began operations in 1931.

Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said Buenos Aires’ bid is aimed at showing creative ways that smartphones and other increasingly accessible technology can “give people around the world an opportunity to have better lives.”

“We are very happy not only for my country but for South America,” Faurie told reporters in Paris as he invited countries around the world to mount exhibits at the expo.

Argentina’s organizers hope the event will attract at least 6 million visitors.

Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, is set to host the next full World Expo in 2020. A specialized expo focused on energy was held this year in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana.
 


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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Does cellphone-sweeping ‘StingRay’ technology go too far?


Minnesota, Poland and Argentina compete to host World’s Fair


 



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