Morning Security Brief: Muslim Student Surveillance, D Block Reallocated, The 'Arms Race' for Your Personal Data, and More
The NYPD left the city to spy on Muslim students. Congress passes first responder spectrum legislation. Why Web sites want your personal information so badly. And more.
►Documents obtained by the Associated Press show that the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim students went far beyond the borders of New York City. The AP found that police monitored Muslim student associations as far away as Pennsylvania and a conference in Toronto. In recent months, the AP has also revealed the existence of secret operations by the NYPD that placed undercover officers among Muslim student organizations to monitor their activities. “Student groups were of particular interest to the NYPD because they attract young Muslim men, a demographic that terrorist groups frequently draw from. Police worried about which Muslim scholars were influencing these students and feared that extracurricular activities such as paintball outings could be used as terrorist training,” the AP reports.
►Both houses of Congress on Friday passed legislation to reallocate the D Block to first responders , in addition to $7 billion in federal grant money to create a nationwide LTE (long term evolution) network. Currently, the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) holds the licenses to public safety’s 10 MHz of spectrum. This will give fist responders 20 MHz of spectrum to deploy the proposed LTE network. “Under the legislation, the license to that swath and the D Block will be held by the First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet — an independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration that will have a board that includes significant public-safety representation,” FireChief.com reports. Some observers question whether $7 billion will be enough to build an LTE network nationwide. “When you put $7 billion into a buildout of something of this nature, the public — if not the whole country — instantly and absolutely understands what is going on, so you can’t stop it,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, (D-W.Va.), who had originally proposed $11 billion to do it.
►A report from Reuters says the data collection “arms race” feeds the privacy fears of Internet users. Large Internet companies have faced little punishment for pushing he boundaries of user privacy that includes tracking Web history and storing browsing trends and collecting personal information. This data becomes valuable to these companies when it comes to advertising and the companies say that data collection helps their tailor services and the user experience. Policy analysts say recent developments fit a pattern where a company “over-reaches, gets caught, and promises to do better. If a greater than usual display of outrage prompts introduction of plausible legislation, the industry counters with a new plan for self-regulation, such as the publication of privacy policies that users seldom read,” Reuters reports.
►In other news, an NSA official says Anonymous could have the capability to take out power grids within two years. ♦ A Bloomberg piece on the decline of violent crime in the United States says an anonymous tip line to report crimes is what dropped the crime rate in the Washington, D.C. area. ♦ And in Oakland, local government agencies are teaming up to concentrate on its 100 most dangerous blocks in an effort to drive crime down throughout the whole city. This means more “job fairs, cleaning graffiti and other blight, a free summer camp for kids, extra police officers on patrol, enhanced efforts to track parolees, more block parties, and other efforts,” Oakland police say, noting that similar plans have worked in other metropolitan areas. Officials say the plan won’t cost any money because it consists of reprioritizing existing services.