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Eye in the Sky Busts Fraudulent Farmers

michael posted more than 13 years ago | from the modern-day-palintir dept.

News 211

Peter Kuhns writes: "Awesome article about Big Brother using USGS satellite photos to ferret out a fraudulent farming company that scammed insurance companies over lost crops. The USGS apparantly takes lots of infrared (re:remote sensing) photos of the entire nation and stores this data going back a number of years. This is a big wake up call to farmers, the government, and potentially the USGS, who could suddenly be in the business of big business." Another very cool use of USGS data is drawmap, which I discovered a few months ago.

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211 comments

Re:Ever heard of an adjuster? (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#136830)

judge: What evidence would the plaintifs like to present at this time?

lawyer: Your honor, recent X-Ray signals picked up by the SOHO solar observatory suggest that Earth's natural infrared emmissions reflect off the sun's surface and can be reassembled into images as you can see here in exhibit A. While we'd like to thank the scientists for their incredible work, however damaging these images are to the defendants case, I'd like to draw the courts attention to the eye witness' account of the Adjuster who claims no crops were planted.

oh no! (3)

Wakko Warner (324) | more than 13 years ago | (#136832)

there are cameras in space watching us! crap! gotta hide my pot^H^H^Hherb crops under netting.

- A.P.

--
Forget Napster. Why not really break the law?

Good (2)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 13 years ago | (#136835)

I'm glad this was used in this way.

1. Farm insurance is pretty expensive, some of that expense no doubt is because of fraud.

2. It's not like farmers don't know that TR-1s (U-2s) and satellites are doing this, they get copies all the time in the mail. In fact there is a *huge* depository of them in plain sight at Sioux Falls South Dakota - the EROS data center.

3. I noticed some people comparing this to the recent court case about IR and pot growing. It's not the same technology, this is a near infrared that lets them see through cloud cover, not walls. In all the pictures I've seen of the family farm, you couldn't see through the roof.

All in all it's a good thing.

Re:Behold, Terraserver. (1)

Elrond, Duke of URL (2657) | more than 13 years ago | (#136842)

Come now... it's not quite that barren. It's actually pretty nice. And it even rains occasionally. In fact, the high today was only 104. And yesterday the humidity was only 8%. So it's got its advantages. And who doesn't like cactus?


--Elrond, Duke of URL
"This is the most fun I've had without being drenched in the blood of my enemies!"

Re:404 (1)

dwdyer (5238) | more than 13 years ago | (#136848)

Not only is it 404, the ~ directory is 404. Hopefully /. didn't cost the user his web space.

It can be found at metalab.unc.edu under pub/Linux/science/cartography/drawmap-2.4.tar.gz

Re:How is this even legal? (1)

markb (6556) | more than 13 years ago | (#136850)

It's in plain view.

Re:The article seems incomplete (1)

mph (7675) | more than 13 years ago | (#136859)

Because insurance fraud is a federal crime [ibrinc.com] .

Re:what about... (1)

Anonymous Coed (8203) | more than 13 years ago | (#136860)

toxins... like tomatoes? Oh, that's right, the only people growing any plants indoors must be growing that toxic, noxious weed that kills so many thousands of people every day... hahaha....
---

Re:Real-time watching? (1)

whydna (9312) | more than 13 years ago | (#136862)

key word commercial... there are many satellites that are not commercial... I'm not even going to ask their capabilities...

-andy

Re:Down on the farm (1)

Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) | more than 13 years ago | (#136864)

But can they catch seriously disturbed farmers???

How do you know that flash animation wasn't directly imported from color-enhanced spy-satellite photos? :-)


---

Re:How is this even legal? (3)

Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) | more than 13 years ago | (#136866)

It's in plain view.

EXACTLY. While a lot of the things Government-authorized people are allowed to do these days does bother me, I've never had a problem with the "plain view doctrine". A police officer pulling someone over at random and demanding to search the car just in case they're carrying drugs bothers me, but a police officer pulling over a car with smoke pouring out of the windows and arresting the driver on the basis that there's a planter full of marijuana plants plainly visible in the front seat next to an open, half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels doesn't really bother me at all...

100's of acres of land out in the open sounds like "plain view" to me, too.


---

Re:Frightening possibilities.... (1)

ethereal (13958) | more than 13 years ago | (#136869)

In this particular case, the satellite probably cost more. If you use that satellite to bust enough fraud complaints, then it may pay for itself. This was more of a test case/new technology prototype than anything.

Caution: contents may be quarrelsome and meticulous!

Re:Behold, Terraserver. (1)

Bowie J. Poag (16898) | more than 13 years ago | (#136871)

Duh, screwed up the URL. Here you go [msn.com] ....Enjoy. :)

Behold, Terraserver. (3)

Bowie J. Poag (16898) | more than 13 years ago | (#136872)



Not to promote Mickeysoft or anything, but they have an awfully nice timekiller on the web called Terraserver [microsoft.com] . It holds a crapload of fairly-recent USGS satellite maps (1994/1996 or so) that you can zoom in on, and pick out your home town, your home street, even your house and the car in your driveway from orbit...Your entire neighborhood photographed at 1m resolution. For example, I work here [http] ...Zoom in, and you can see me waving to the satellite's camera. :)

Cheers,

Re:what about... (2)

Pope (17780) | more than 13 years ago | (#136874)

Gives you the creeps? Relax. You need to smoke more weed, man.

Besides, everyone knows hydroponics is the way to go...

Re:Can I buy stock in the USGS? (1)

bobdehnhardt (18286) | more than 13 years ago | (#136875)

US Treasury Bonds are the only way of financially supporting the USGS, but under the current administration, damn little of your contribution will actually go their way. The same was true under the previous Bush. The situation improved, but only somewhat, under Clinton. "Science in the public interest" (their old slogan) and "Science for a changing world" (their new one) aren't sexy enough to get notice come appropriations time.

If you're truly serious about supporting their science and efforts (and you're a US citizen), write or call your Congresscritters and tell them to support increases to DoI and USGS funding.

support the USGS (3)

aardvaark (19793) | more than 13 years ago | (#136879)

I hope this isn't off topic, but a segment of the government that doesn't get much spotlight is the work the USGS does. Here's a great example. The USGS does a great job for the country (whether or not you like the big brother mentality of this article). They monitor stream flow, mineral resources, earthquake activiey, etc.

I use to work for the USGS and they have had their budget cut year after year. I don't think they'll do too well under the Bush administration either. One of the things they were really working on when I left them was public relations. The USGS does alot for you all, whether you know it or not. Everyone in the /. community will get in an uproar when NASA gets its huge budget cut, but I would make the case you should all be aware of the great work the USGS does, and maybe support their great silent works.

Re:In sytematic use in Europe since 1992 (IACS) (1)

LL (20038) | more than 13 years ago | (#136880)

According to one analysis Ronnie Horesh [geocities.com]

The most recent calculations show that the annual cost to consumers and taxpayers of its 29 member countries' support for agriculture and horticulture amounts to US$361 billion. Such a large sum is difficult to grasp, but it is large enough to pay for a first class, round-the-world air ticket for each of the 56 million cows in the 29-member OECD?s dairy herd, and to give each cow a further US$1450 spending money for her stopovers in the US, Europe and Asia.

Thus while there may be laudable social objectives in keeping Scottish farmers around, there is a serious economic cost which makes you wonder why don't they just give the money directly to funding a Silicon Glen.

LL

Re:Frightening possibilities.... (1)

scm (21828) | more than 13 years ago | (#136881)

My grandparents were cited for having a patio covering in their back yard (that was built by the previous owner without a permit). They were only required to file for the permit, I belive. This was back in the 70s, IIRC. The covering was spotted by plane.

Re:oh no! (1)

Rinikusu (28164) | more than 13 years ago | (#136885)

looks like they're targeting on infra-red signatures and the like. Might take more than netting these days.

Big Brother (1)

terpia (28218) | more than 13 years ago | (#136886)

I beleive this is definately a valid use for this technology. Combating fraud is a worthy cause. The problem I see though, is that the general public is usually pretty retarded about these things, and once they see a valid use, they'll accept any other use the government or big brother deems ok, which we all know will lead to invasions of privacy and personal freedoms and then inevitably to abuses by "big company". If we only had a trustworthy government we could trust to protect our freedoms instead of slowly erode them, this would be great. But facing reality, this will just lead to more invasions of privacy.

Does anyone else see any correlation between this and the recent ruling against police using infrared technology to detect marijuana growing inside an Oregon mans home?

Re:Behold, Terraserver. (2)

ryanr (30917) | more than 13 years ago | (#136887)

You work in the middle of the desert?

Re:Ever heard of an adjuster? (1)

StenD (34260) | more than 13 years ago | (#136893)

Why didn't the insurance company send somebody out to inspect the crops?
Why should they? They knew the government would reimburse them, so they had no incentive to check it out.

Ack! Hide the reactor ma! (1)

redsmoke (37560) | more than 13 years ago | (#136895)

ACK! Hide the Thermonuclear Reactor ma! they been taken infared pictures of us!

Re:Ever heard of an adjuster? (1)

kettch (40676) | more than 13 years ago | (#136896)

From my perspective, this is a big double standard. They won't go after a big corporation, but they will go after the little guy like your average /.er. I don't know about you guys, or Hemos [slashdot.org] , but after my house burned (fire in one room, did extensive smoke and heat damage to about 75 percent of the house, and pretty much ruined everthing in that 75%) the insurance company handed us a handfull of sheets with lines on them. They expected us to go through and write down an inventory of what would have to be replaced. I am glad that the whole house didn't burn completely, or else we wouldn't have been able to write down a lot of stuff. How come this farmers didn't have to do something like that, and send in picture proof?
----------------------

CLUES, GET CLUES (5)

Multics (45254) | more than 13 years ago | (#136900)

The responses to this article just are freaking me out. HOW MANY SLASHDOTTERS DOES IT TAKE TO KNOW SOMETHING? ABOUT 50 POSTS BEFORE THERE IS A QUALITY ONE.

Now that I have that said...

At one point or another your property (the few of you that actually own property in the USA) was probably imaged this week. Your land is probably imaged 30 or 40 times a year (especially right now where there is maximum sun and sun angles are very high). That 30-40 doesn't count being spied on the NRO or the Russians (or whomever else). Most of the pictures are so low-res that they get what they need for time-sensitive maps (crops, diseases, erosion, land types, etc) that short of you doing something outrageously odd, you'll not be bothered.

How do you think that your precious GPS navigator got its maps? It wasn't from a State Road Inventories since they are not accurate enough. It was from being overflown.

Ever see big Xs, +s or Ls painted on the pavement? Well those are there so the overflight photos can be tied to known geographic locations and the photos can be tied together to build a mosaic.

What makes this story vaguely more intresting is that it is about satelite photos, not traditional air photos. Further the USGS took the photos but the USDA got to use them.

USDA has been overflying on crop validations since at least the 1960s (perhaps as far back as the mid-1940s). How do you think the estimates of crop production get produced? Overflights by Billy-Bob in his Piper with a classic B/W Kodak IR film (roughly 10"x10" negatives, BTW) do most of the heavy lifting then some poor photogramitrist measures whatever was of interest and poof, yet another thematic map.

You folks need some sense of how the world works. Most of this has been happening since long before you were born.

-- Multics

See also:
GEOG 415-001: Air Photo Interpretation [wku.edu]
Air Photo Interpretation [ku.edu]
And for you EUers, Air Photo Services [airphotoservices.co.uk] .

P.S. About crop insurance... go read the USDA web site before you spout about it -- no bailouts there, oh clueless ones.

Can I buy stock in the USGS? (3)

devphil (51341) | more than 13 years ago | (#136903)

potentially the USGS, who could suddenly be in the business of big business.

Between this publicity and cool people like Orlando Jones' character in _Evolution_ working for the USGS, I think I've found my new favorite organization.

Okay, seriously: Busting fraud is way cool in my book.

Re:Real-time watching? (NRO!) (2)

kbonin (58917) | more than 13 years ago | (#136904)

Depends on who you are and what you have access to. Your average internet user? No. If you're the NRO [nro.gov] , its a different story...

Fun with the USGS... (5)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | more than 13 years ago | (#136905)

Ever see big Xs, +s or Ls painted on the pavement? Well those are there so the overflight photos can be tied to known geographic locations and the photos can be tied together to build a mosaic.

I see a fun anarchist legend in the works...

Get black paint, and cover up the white crosses.

Get white paint, and paint random Xs, +s or Ls all over your town in random locations.

Before they know it, the USGS will be mapping Los Angeles right next to San Jose! Wish I could see those Geologists faces right now...
"Holy shit! Now THAT is some big Continental Drift!"

Re:what about... (3)

outlier (64928) | more than 13 years ago | (#136906)

The Supreme Court decided [yahoo.com] that law enforcement agencies need a warrant to use technologies like thermal imaging to "look" into your home. In theory, the cops can't (without probable cause or permission, etc...) walk in and start searching your house without a judge's approval, the Supremes said that the police can't rely on technology to look inside your house unless they get the same type of approval. In that case the cops brought an infrared camera to his house and looked at the thermal activity.

This is interesting because now we have a systematically assembled and stored database.

The question is, if the spatial resolution on these scans were good enough to detect growing lamps in your house (who knows?), would the authorities need a search warrant to look at their own data?

This raises a more general question about the use of data mining for law enforcement. With increased collection of data about where we go and what we do (credit card records, electronic toll paying devices, face recognition software, satellite images, etc.) Can (and should) the government search datasets that it owns (or others) looking for suspicious patterns? Yes, they can use these data once they suspect you, but can they use it to find new suspects?

General (2)

karb (66692) | more than 13 years ago | (#136907)

Lots of people are saying things ignorant of the fact that the res on these is probably no better than about one meter or half a meter (not good enough to see people). At least that's the best pictures anybody is taking right now.

Besides, if you have ever thought that anything that can be viewed from the sky is private you have been in a cave on the moon since the cuban missle crisis. There are commercial companies as well as *publicy* available pictures of lots of stuff like this.

Your rights of privacy are overridden by the rights of everybody else to fly more than 400 feet over your property and take pictures. Suck it up.

Re:General (3)

karb (66692) | more than 13 years ago | (#136908)

*publicy*

I'm so tired and light-headed I've turned into The President Of The United States.

Re:Frightening possibilities.... (2)

technos (73414) | more than 13 years ago | (#136914)

My guess is they just called up the USGS and asked them for a picture the USGS took anyway.. Hell, they prolly even paid the $40-50 the USGS usually wants..

So no.. Unless they paid that expert witness a half mil.

Re:Can I buy stock in the USGS? (3)

selectspec (74651) | more than 13 years ago | (#136915)

While you can't buy equity you can invest in USGS. The US government issues 2yr, 5yr, 10yr Treasurey notes.

Ever heard of an adjuster? (4)

selectspec (74651) | more than 13 years ago | (#136916)

Why didn't the insurance company send somebody out to inspect the crops? Why wouldn't the insurance company require the farmers to at least photograph the crops and the damage?

Re:Frightening possibilities.... (2)

staplin (78853) | more than 13 years ago | (#136918)

Not yet. If you look at commercial satellite imagery companies, most satellites have a 1 meter or larger resolution. We're talking about maybe being able to distinguish between cars and trucks, not look at the 1/4 inch you are extending over your property line.

Re:Real-time watching? (3)

staplin (78853) | more than 13 years ago | (#136919)

Nope. If you look around at commercial satellite imagery companies, they seem to be struggling to get a 24 hour turn around time on still images, let alone video.

oooh yeah! (1)

-=Izzy=- (80039) | more than 13 years ago | (#136920)

Not Found

The requested URL /~fme/drawmap.html was not found on this server.


i use that all the time..
seriously though .. its amazing how people are constantly scrutinized for not reading the article .. then the links dont work..

just my two cents

Make that $291,259.50 (3)

pcmills (83944) | more than 13 years ago | (#136921)

And also the GPS unit on your tractor said you were doing 40MPH in a 35MPH farm zone. Here is your ticket.

Re:what about... (4)

Trekologer (86619) | more than 13 years ago | (#136923)

What about the recent SCOTUS decision about using heat sensors to discover pot grows? theoretically, this could even be used for the exact same thing. This stuff gives me the creeps.

Heat sensors were being used to look inside houses while these satalites photograph what is out in the open. Legally, its called "plain sight". Anything that can been seen out in the open can be used against you. For example, the police pull over a car for running a red light. The police can not open and search the trunk to find the money the people in the car just robbed from a nearby bank (unbeknownst to the police). Now, if the loot was in the back seat and the police officer could see it though the window (in "plain sight") he could use it as evidence and arrest the people in the car for the robbery. He still can't open the trunk to find the 20 killos of coke in it (unless he received a warrant, received consent from the driver, or had evidence suggesting there were drugs in it).

It would be another story if the satalites could "see" inside building (ie: infared heat sensor).

Drawmap xscreensaver module (1)

jimmcq (88033) | more than 13 years ago | (#136925)

Anybody know if there is a Drawmap xscreensaver module available? If not, then somebody should make one. That would rock!

404 (1)

jimmcq (88033) | more than 13 years ago | (#136926)

Looks like Drawmap couldn't handle the /. effect, because it produces a 404 now.

Got Mirror?

Google Cache (1)

jimmcq (88033) | more than 13 years ago | (#136927)

Google cache version can be found here [google.com] .

http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:http%3A%2F%2F www%2Ettc%2Dcmc%2Enet%2F%7Efme%2Fdrawmap%2Ehtml

Re:CLUES, GET CLUES (4)

_Mustang (96904) | more than 13 years ago | (#136928)

You are so right on this. That most people find this newsworthy is a simple testament to "how far from the land" people have become; ie: city folk.

In fact at this very moment I have a large photo of the entirety of my family farm hanging on my wall. The scale of the picture is roughly 2KM by 5 KM and believe me when I say that it's not too difficult to distinguish every feature including my Dad's car. Actually we have one from every five year period between 1965 until 1985, which makes it kinda neat to see how the area developed over the last x-years as the farm expanded..

This is actually very typical and has been done with fly-overs since at least the late 60's. That they have begun to use satellite to do this is hardly surprising since you get more area with a higher detail for less money...

Sounds to me like those weren't family farmers in involved since they would know about this kind of stuff.

In sytematic use in Europe since 1992 (IACS) (3)

JPMH (100614) | more than 13 years ago | (#136932)

The EU has been systematically using satellite data to monitor farmers for almost ten years now, to prevent farmers falsely claiming government subsidies for crops they then never plant.

Every farm in Europe now has to submit an annual IACS [scotland.gov.uk] form (Integrated Administration and Control System), listing what they are going to grow that year field-by-field; and submit new maps with it showing any changes in field boundaries (new fences etc), with the new areas measured to the nearest 100 square metres (0.01 of a hectare).

These plans are then automatically compared against the IR satellite photos of what actually gets grown. If you have planted less than you have claimed for, your entire subsidy claim is void. If it looks like you've done it intentionally, they'll nail you for fraud. (The inspectors are on results bonuses, so they don't take prisoners).

Crazy system, the C.A.P., in lots of ways; but without farm support, many of the more marginal Scottish rural areas would turn into depopulated deserts.

Re:Frightening possibilities.... (3)

Pollux (102520) | more than 13 years ago | (#136935)

Uh, I think you rushed to quickly to jump on big brother and not bother to notice that these satellites are infared, not photo.

These things wouldn't be able to notice the lot locations, only the houses (since your house is climate controlled, and would show up only as a yellow dot in a red background if it was a hot day outside). It would have no idea how well your home or roof are built. It would not happen to notice whether or not you were standing outside naked waving your full monty (now a legit word... thank you, Oxford) to your neighbor.

...of course, you'd probably still go to jail, if your neighbor got too offended.

Personally, although there are big brother issues, I hope everyone realizes that there are already satellites orbiting in space that take pictures of the Earth already (you know, the ones that can pick off your license plates, and the ones that can tell that you're speeding even though they're 31 miles away). We were too busy crying for better satelite TV and cell phone availability to figure out what was going on in abusing this technology.

Although, I'm glad that these things were put to good use in this case. Being from a farming state and knowing the current farm economy (or lack thereof), I'm glad to see them stopping farm insurance claim fraud, because it's incredably easy to file for...all you gotta do is spend an hour filling out the right papers, plus an hour calling your state representative demanding justice if the claim was rejected the first time. Rarely will you get a visit from any big insurance guys unless you claim some proposterous amount of land that was damaged.

Re:Real-time watching? (1)

scotch (102596) | more than 13 years ago | (#136936)

IIRC, the real-time imagery shown in that movie seemed to indicate that the spy satellites were hanging stationary over their intended targets, which of course is bogus. Birds that get good resolution fly by *really* fast. Birds that stand still wouldn't be able to resolve anything.

The movie should have been called "Enemy of the Accurate Portrayal of Technology" or "Enemy of Checking Technology in the Script Against Real Capabilites", or perhaps even "Enemy of Employing Anyone Who Has Completed Even a Freshman Level Physics Course."

Otherwise the movie was A-OK

HTH

Re:Real-time watching? (1)

scotch (102596) | more than 13 years ago | (#136937)

Not to burst your bubble (do ACs have bubbles? we may never know), but nowhere in my post will you find any claim that the "real-time" part is wrong.

As far as "stand still", I only meant that with respect to the surface of the earth. Perhaps I should have used quotes. What I of course meant by stand-still was geostationary. This hardly needed pointing out, or so I thought. The term geosynchronous (or in all caps, if you prefer, GEOSYNCRONOUS) indicates a satellite with the same rotational period as the earth. A subset of geosynchronous satellites is geostationary satellites which have the additional requirements of circular orbits and locations above the equator. These are the ones that seem to "stand still" with respect to an observer on earth. Of course, they don't even remain in a constant position with respect to the surface of the earth but tend to drift from various perturbabtions.

This is all beside the point - the resolution depicted by the movie is impossible from a geostationary orbit given current technology. The resolution may or may not be acheivable from low-earth orbit, but like I said and you ignored, in the movie, the video feeds were from cameras that appeared to be stationary with respect to the surface of the earth.

HAND

In New Zealand... (1)

rediguana (104664) | more than 13 years ago | (#136940)

I believe that the Ministry for Ag and Fish and local councils have used satellite imagery to detect stock movement across roads, and have prosecuted farmers where they haven't gained appropriate resource consents. Just had a quick look for references, but wasn't able to find any.

Re:what about... (2)

andy@petdance.com (114827) | more than 13 years ago | (#136944)

What about the recent SCOTUS decision about using heat sensors to discover pot grows? theoretically, this could even be used for the exact same thing. This stuff gives me the creeps.

What, you're pissed that the gov't enforces laws by observing what you do? Do you expect the bad guys to turn themselves in?

I'm no fan of pot being illegal, but don't be pissed because the cops use technology to observe what's going on.
--

ack (1)

Frizzled (123910) | more than 13 years ago | (#136946)

this is gunna put a major crimp on naked outdoor sunbathing _f

Re:Ever heard of an adjuster? (1)

KahunaBurger (123991) | more than 13 years ago | (#136947)

They may well have shown an adjuster some of the 200 acres that were distroyed, but I doubt that the adjuster (who probably had to confirm a bunch of damages in the area) took the time to confirm that 1000 acres had been planted in the first place.

well, not just took the time, how exactly would he? I mean, even 200 acres is over the horizon, and depending on what kind of damage it was (fire for instance) destroyed planted crops might not look that different from destroyed stubble from a previous years planted crops. Maybe if he found proof that the guy hadn't bought enough fuel to have run his tractors over the whole acreage... but its hard to come up with evidence of absence after the thing that was supposed to be there was already destroyed. Except of course by using the very method that they did use. What makes the orriginal poster think that it wasn't the adjusters who flagged those cases for more investigation in the first place?

Kahuna Burger

Re:They're Everywhere! (1)

KahunaBurger (123991) | more than 13 years ago | (#136948)

Do farmers have a union? If they do, the first discussion at the next meeting should be about the difficulties in hiding from the omnipresent.

Wouldn't it be more constructive to have a meeting about preventing fraud from driving up everyone elses premiums? just checking.

Kahuna Burger

Re:what about... (2)

KahunaBurger (123991) | more than 13 years ago | (#136949)

This raises a more general question about the use of data mining for law enforcement. With increased collection of data about where we go and what we do (credit card records, electronic toll paying devices, face recognition software, satellite images, etc.) Can (and should) the government search datasets that it owns (or others) looking for suspicious patterns? Yes, they can use these data once they suspect you, but can they use it to find new suspects?

Well, I will (as usual) be called a fascist, but my opinion would be that if each individual peice of data is legal for them to have, there is no reason it would not be legal for them to cross check all that data. What they do with the patterns is another question.

I don't know enough about law enforcement or (for example) drug production and dealing to know to what extent a corelation of banking habits, energy consumption, travel and or video rentals could be considered "probable cause" to start a formal or informal investigation. Where does it become harrassment based on "profile"? Its a legitamate question, but no more debilitating of one than the profiling issues that have recently plauged highway patrolmen etc. It is in other words an issue to be dealt with, not one to make us ban the practice altogether. All IMFO of course.

Kahuna Burger

Pros and Cons? (2)

crashnbur (127738) | more than 13 years ago | (#136954)

I like the idea that such things can be used to justify what is right and justly punish what is wrong. I don't like the idea that this world can never be completely just, and so naturally all of this "Big Brother" power crap just frightens me.

It's good to know that I'm being watched. It's not good to know that being watched will always work to someone else's advantage. Ah...

The article seems incomplete (1)

Chagrin (128939) | more than 13 years ago | (#136955)

I'm a little confused - why exactly would a U.S. Attorney be prosecuting this case? Do farmers actually purchase crop insurance from the U.S. government?

I was just going to say... (1)

Hellmongr (132101) | more than 13 years ago | (#136956)

All of the sudden there will be tons of posts "This is frightning! Evil big brother spying on us!!! Evil!!!". You people (the ones writing posts such as I mentioned) don't realize that this is probably going to save you money as a tax payer in the long run (as less insurance fraud will mean this part of the government doesn't have to shell out false insurance claims, meaning they can spend their money on other, less wasteful things).

Besides, if you're so frightned by the use of this technology, you're probably doing something illegal anyways, otherwise you should have little to no reason to be frightned.

Sorry if this sounds like flaimbait but you people have to realize the government doesn't just do this to be mean or be bad or think they're cool, they're doing it to protect their (and the vast majority of their citizens) interests. And don't try to tell me that its not in the vast majority of their people's interests, after all, the majority did vote them into power.

Big whoop (2)

fleener (140714) | more than 13 years ago | (#136961)

Fraudulent companies only get fined? Big whoop. Fines are not a deterrent. Throw white collar criminals in jail. Give them real reason to fear getting caught.

Other uses. (2)

Faux_Pseudo (141152) | more than 13 years ago | (#136963)

I remember back during the OJ Simpson trial thinking there had to be one decent shot of Brentwood in the US/China/USSR satellite archives.
What would this show? It would show the location of the "White Bronco" and the time it was(n't) there and since we are talking IR we could even see if the engine was warm.
Kidnappings and lots of other crimes could be traced with this tech beyond just farm fraud.

But with all things there is a dark side.
The next thing you know this information is commercially, don't even think about publicly, available and you find your email and mail box stuffed with spam saying they noticed that YOU where stuck in traffic at 17:45, of course no spamer would ever assume their customer was smart enough to read military time, and they want to sell you something to easy your time to and from work.

In short: rejoice for the good this can bring. In long: Big Brother is watching.

Re:what about... (2)

|<amikaze (155975) | more than 13 years ago | (#136968)

Not in Canada. In Canada, police have the right to pull you over, and search your vehicle for any reason they may choose. They can tear it completely apart, and leave it like that for you to put back together, if they so desire. It happened to a friend of mine, the police were looking for a black guy who had just robbed a convenience store, and they pulled my (white) friend over and searched his car top to bottom. They WERE nice enough to help him put it back together, but they weren't obligated to.

Re:what about... (2)

Misch (158807) | more than 13 years ago | (#136969)

The reasoning is this: The heat sensors were used to gain thermal readings from inside a house on the pot growers, where the SCOTUS has ruled that one has a reasonable expectation of privacy, inside ones' own home. In this case, the land was not located inside the house. Thus, no reasonable expectation of privacy.

federal government reimbursed insurance company? (1)

Suidae (162977) | more than 13 years ago | (#136974)

"the federal government reimbursed the insurance company, under the federal crop insurance program."

What the hell? The federal government bailing out yet another industry that can't figure out a viable business model?

We already pay them not to grow food (sound economics there) now we get to pay their insurance too.

Re:what about... (1)

Suidae (162977) | more than 13 years ago | (#136975)

http://www.freerepublic.com/forum/a3a9171610594.ht m

This just means that they will need to dump the HPS lights and move to a source that produces a similar spectrum but uses less power. This will also allow them to appear less anomalous in power usage (I know, they bypass the meters, but that is detectable, at the very least the radiated heat from the pole transformer could be observered).

Next they'll need to address the rather potent odor. Possibly a bit of excavation a sewer map and some more fans could be useful.

Re:Other uses. (1)

tritiumsys (176498) | more than 13 years ago | (#136980)

While your idea seems like a good one, what are the chances of the satelite being overhead at that exact moment in time? As I understand it, they are stuck in pretty much static orbits that only fly over a certain spot every once and awhile (I'm not sure what the exact figures are, but there are a bunch of variables), and i'm pretty sure that they haven't been able to build spy birds that are in geostationary orbits yet. At least I hope not!

-Rick

Star Wars type testimony meets Arkansas (1)

G Neric (176742) | more than 13 years ago | (#136982)

Larry Reed & Sons are Arkansas farmers and their attorney said the testimony sounded like Star Wars? Here's what I imagine was heard in court:

Larry: [sound of mechanical breathing aahhhh] I'm your father [hhhhhaaaaa], son.

Son: but, but, but your my brother!

Larry: yes, Luke [hhhhaaaaaa] I am [aaaaahhhh]

You could test the imaging resolution.... (1)

bigmaddog (184845) | more than 13 years ago | (#136984)

Write "I'm going to ass-ass-inate the president" on your ass (it'll take a fairly big ass, so you may have to ask someone else for a favour...) and lay on the roof of your house for a few hours, mooning the sky. You might want to do this at night so that your warm ass provides a nice contrast against the relatively cool roof and so that you offend fewer neighbours. Then see how long before the secret service shows up. If they don't, wait a month, then repeat.
----------

of course, drawmap is GPL (2)

sulli (195030) | more than 13 years ago | (#136985)

I'm sure Microsoft will throw a fit over not being able to repackage it as MS Mapper and charge $200...

Frightening possibilities.... (1)

xmason (206262) | more than 13 years ago | (#136987)

What's next, using the photos to see if I'm extending 1/4" into the lot line of my neighbor? If my home and roof are up to local covenants? Big Brother indeed.... (I'm not cool enough to have a .sig)

Re:USGS' motto (1)

rogue_cheddar (208134) | more than 13 years ago | (#136988)

Most likely "provided by" the USGS meant that
someone purchased a series of images from the EROS
Datacenter, just as you could if you wished.

Heck, now that the Reagan error imagery commercialization scheme has been rescinded for new Landsat data, even I could afford this. However, I'm waiting for the release of the satellite photos of Slick Willie popping Vince Foster; the right-wing wackos just KNOW they exist.

http://edc.usgs.gov

Re:Ever heard of an adjuster? (1)

vitamino (210402) | more than 13 years ago | (#136989)

I used to know a guy that owned an autobody and committed insurance fraud numerous times. Basically, he would tell the insurance company that the insured car had a broken whatever, and then just photograph whatever junk he had lying around. Of course he would get reimbursed for his "work." I can't say I blame him either. Freaking brilliant.

Anyway, photographs can be faked pretty easily, and it may even be the case that the fraudulent farmers did send photographs back to their insurance company...

USGS in big business, ins. fraud, etc. (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 13 years ago | (#136991)

Perhaps someone else watches 60 minutes and saw the episode about the absurd practices of crop insurance. In a nutshell, insurance companies could sell higher risk policies to the US Dept of Ag and dodge having to pay claims, hence encouraged to sell lots of very high risk policies to farmers. Fraud is putting it mildly, how the insurance agencies and famers took advantage of it. That USGS is capturing a farmer who says he planted crops and didn't is insignificant in contrast. The whole Dept of Ag needs a serious shake up, but with all the clowns in the House of Reps, don't expect it very soon, even after the airing of dirty laundry on national TV.

--
All your .sig are belong to us!

A New business model (1)

JMan1865 (223387) | more than 13 years ago | (#136992)

The answer to this is simple - it's because it wasn't the insurance company's money. Case in point:

I am insuring you for $X, but I know that any money I pay out will be reimbursed by the government, and my insurance company is making money off the exorbitant monthly insurance premiums. By charging high premiums, and looking the wrong wayu when necessary, everyone wins - the farmer gets his money, and my insurance company gets its money in the form of continued insurance.

Sounds like a racket I really need to get into.

Re:How is this even legal? (1)

JMan1865 (223387) | more than 13 years ago | (#136993)

Funny, if someone grows pot in their front yard, the police don't need a warrant to seize it. Whats the difference between looking over your fence, or discovering it by flying over your property in a helicopter, or by looking in your backyard with a satellite. Yeah, damn it's creepy, but I would have to venture a guess that the government has exceedingly small print clauses that state somewhere in them that a farmer must submit to random screenings of their property unobtrusively (and taking a photo from a satellite IS unobtrusive, in the sense that they don't have to knock on your door, or hop your fence to take said pictures. Essentially, it sucks, but the government restrictions on getting free money are no more restrictive than your average EULA (has anyone who isn't a lawyer read all the way through one of them, especially a M$ one, and not get sick?) So we may not like it, but if you want to play the game, you have to play by the rules, because the government CAN afford to check up on people who break the rules (especially when ONE property owner was on the hook for almost $300K of government money.

Re:Didn't the Supreme Court rule on this? (1)

alen (225700) | more than 13 years ago | (#136995)

The case you're talking about involved "looking" inside a house. Crops are planted for the whole world to see. Unless a farmer builds a greenhouse that covers several hundred acres, he better not be breaking any laws.

Re:Frightening possibilities.... (1)

Alatar (227876) | more than 13 years ago | (#136997)

Did it cost more to collect the satellite information, and prosecute the case, than it cost for the government to pay off the crop damage claim?

Re:what about... (1)

Alatar (227876) | more than 13 years ago | (#136998)

Refusal to allow your car to be searched is grounds for the police to hold you, stuck on the side of the road, for as many hours as it takes for them to get a K-9 unit on the scene to have the drug dog sniff all over your car.

They're Everywhere! (3)

grovertime (237798) | more than 13 years ago | (#136999)

The agriculture industry really should have seen this one coming. With the "eye in the sky" busts that have been made from farmer's growing hidden crops of marijuana, they had to know that massive frauding of their crops could be determined by the same process. Do farmers have a union? If they do, the first discussion at the next meeting should be about the difficulties in hiding from the omnipresent.

  1. is this.....is this for REAL? [mikegallay.com]

Reminds me of... (1)

RapaNui (242132) | more than 13 years ago | (#137000)

A story I heard a few years ago (sounds very UL'ish) about the [DEA | DOA | CIA].
Growing a crop of [Coca | Marijuana] using captured [Mexican | Whoever] growers.
They were using remote sensing of this controlled experimental crop to be able to determine when
similar crops are ready for harvest, and how to detect them from aerial / satellite photography.
Anyway - crop is almost ready for harvest - next batch of photos show --
no crop, no prisoners, and the first (?) US Government subsidized batch of whatever had disappeared
across the border to Mexico.

what about... (1)

epicurus (252619) | more than 13 years ago | (#137001)

What about the recent SCOTUS decision about using heat sensors to discover pot grows? theoretically, this could even be used for the exact same thing. This stuff gives me the creeps.

Re:what about... (1)

epicurus (252619) | more than 13 years ago | (#137002)

It would be another story if the satalites could "see" inside building (ie: infared heat sensor). Why couldn't these things (or more refined future versions) be used for that? That was my point in the initial post...seems to me it's just one step away...

Re:what about... (1)

epicurus (252619) | more than 13 years ago | (#137003)

that's what scares the hell out of me...even if this sat can't get good enough resolution, the next generation will likely be able to find grows the same way that the cops were doing on the ground...after that, why not face recognition, etc...the whole big brother thing just freaks me totally out, who knows what the cia/fbi/etc. could do w/ this type of tech...

Re:what about... (1)

epicurus (252619) | more than 13 years ago | (#137004)

that doesn't mean you don't still need a light source!

Re:what about... (1)

epicurus (252619) | more than 13 years ago | (#137005)

you have no legal obligation to consent to a search w/o probable cause, police generally seem suspicious of people that don't want to be searched, but screw 'em, you'll get your case thrown out for unlawful search if you refuse and they do it anyway...

Re:oh no! (1)

Kinchie (260645) | more than 13 years ago | (#137006)

And of course there is the dumbass pot grower story I heard from a reliable source--not that pot growers are necessarily dumbasses, just in this instance...

Seems that they used netting to hide their crop. Unfortunately, they used old surplus Vietnam-era netting which was colored a tannish-orange for the dry season--only this was Ohio, in the summer, in the middle of a bean field.

Can you say "busted" girls and boys?

Look at your sig... (1)

Smegma4U (301112) | more than 13 years ago | (#137011)

You say that busting fraud is way cool in your book, which in this case was simply an application of technology by the USGS to solve a sociological problem, that of theft/fraud. Doesn't that seem to be in direct opposition with your sig("You cannot apply a technological solution to a sociological problem. (Edwards' Law)")?

Re:what about... (1)

dhovis (303725) | more than 13 years ago | (#137013)

That SCOTUS decision has nothing to do with this.

In the indoor pot growing case, the Justices rule (5 to 4) that an individual would have a reasonable expectation of privacy against such a device. If IR scanning devices ever become commonplace (everyone gets their own night vision goggles), then it would no longer apply.

However, the Supreme Court has also ruled in the past that an individual does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy against a plane flying overhead and taking pictures of visible things on their property. Sattelite data would fall into this second category.
--

Re:Ever heard of an adjuster? (4)

dhovis (303725) | more than 13 years ago | (#137014)

It says in the article that the farmers planted about 200 acres of cotton and claimed damage on nearly 1000 acres. They may well have shown an adjuster some of the 200 acres that were distroyed, but I doubt that the adjuster (who probably had to confirm a bunch of damages in the area) took the time to confirm that 1000 acres had been planted in the first place.
--

Re:what about... (5)

Rick the Red (307103) | more than 13 years ago | (#137019)

For example, the police pull over a car for running a red light. The police can not open and search the trunk to find the money the people in the car just robbed from a nearby bank

I wish that were true. It was once, but no longer. The supreme court just ruled ('Atwater vs. City of Lago Vista' April 24, 2001) that an officer can arrest you even if the violation which got you pulled over is a misdemeanor with no jail time. As Sandra Day O'Conner said in that decision: "After today, the arsenal available to any officer extends to full arrest and the searches concomitant to that arrest." In other words, if they want to search your trunk all they have to do is pull you over for failure to signal a lane change or some other lame excuse then arrest you. Now they have you in handcuffs in the back of the cruser and they can legally do any damn thing they want to your car without a warrent, and anything they find can and will be used against you.

The only thing the Supremes have left to do is find a way to empower the cops to just shoot you on the spot and avoid the cost of a trial.

Let me get this straight... (1)

Burgundy Advocate (313960) | more than 13 years ago | (#137020)

When technology is used to go online and ferret out terrorists, pedophiles, et al, it is dangerous and shouldn't be allowed because it might infringe on Your Privacy.

But when it is used to spy on individuals and see if they are obeying laws from space, it is a 'pretty cool use'?

Hua? Hypocrisy? It's okay as long as it isn't me?

--

Re:what about... (1)

Computer! (412422) | more than 13 years ago | (#137023)

Don't believe that myth. Cops tell you that so that you let them search your vehicle. Most counties don't even have K-9 units, and if they do, are not about to call them out to search your car at 2AM. Also, a judge still has to sign a warrant. Again, at 2AM. They also have to have probable cause. Exercising your rights as an American doesn't quite qualify. You get just as much jail time if cops find your stash as you do when dogs find it, and no matter what they say, cops can't make your sentence any shorter. That's the DA's job, and he's still in bed. So, sweat it out, and plead the fifth.

Re:what about... (1)

Tech187 (416303) | more than 13 years ago | (#137027)

I suspect the heat profile on a building full of grow lights is different than that of neighboring buildings with just people living in them.

Hence, this technology should be quite adequate for locating growers of various toxins.

Evidence rules may not apply (2)

sy5tematic (442619) | more than 13 years ago | (#137029)

The article does not say explicitly, although it does imply (by use of the word "judgement" instead of "fines") that this may have been a _civil_ case, not a criminal one (yes, the federal government can be a party to civil cases too.)

If this were the case, the Supreme court decision about heat sensors is probably irrelevant, as the rules of evidence are greatly relaxed for civil cases.

USGS' motto (2)

Violet Null (452694) | more than 13 years ago | (#137031)

So when Microsoft gets into this biz, will their motto change to, "We know where you went today"?

No, seriously, why did it take the USGS to do this? I mean, if I reported a loss to my insurance company, I'd get someone coming out to verify it. The insurance company doesn't just take my word for it. Of course, I'm not a big business, but still...

Re:Can I buy stock in the USGS? (1)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 13 years ago | (#137032)

You cant. USGS is a government organization: www.usgs.gov [usgs.gov]

Real-time watching? (1)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 13 years ago | (#137033)

Does know if it is possible to use satellite imagery in real-time, like in the movie Enemy of the State?

Re:USGS' motto (1)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 13 years ago | (#137034)

Microsoft might be able to: terraserver.microsoft.com [microsoft.com]

Right now they're only stills of most (not all) of the globe, but who knows where Microsoft's "Innovation" may take them.

Didn't the Supreme Court rule on this? (1)

Anomolous Cow Herd (457746) | more than 13 years ago | (#137035)

I don't know if the case that was recently in the Supreme Court was exactly this, but didn't it also involve infrared imaging? Doesn't this satellite monitoring constitute an unlawful search?

Down on the farm (3)

return 42 (459012) | more than 13 years ago | (#137036)


OK, fine, they're catching fraudulent farmers. But can they catch seriously disturbed farmers [riddleme.com] ???

Re:Frightening possibilities.... (2)

phathead296 (461366) | more than 13 years ago | (#137038)

The possibilities are very frightening, but I don't have too much sympathy for farmers trying to perpetuate insurance fraud. It's people like them who drive up the cost of almost every service and product we buy, especially doctors.

Using satellites for this is just one more step up. The county I'm about to move into uses planes to search out land owners who build new buildings without a permit. Planes could have also been used for this purpose. It just happens that satellites already catch picture and IR photos all over the world.

The prospect of what could be done with satellites is not very comforting, but when used properly to catch criminals I'm all for it.

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