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Seattle PD Mum On Tracking By Its New Wi-Fi Mesh Network

timothy posted about 5 months ago | from the progressive-city dept.

Privacy 107

An anonymous reader writes "The Stranger reports that Seattle's police department has installed a Wi-Fi mesh network paid for by the Department of Homeland Security. FTA: 'The SPD declined to answer more than a dozen questions from The Stranger, including whether the network is operational, who has access to its data, what it might be used for, and whether the SPD has used it (or intends to use it) to geo-locate people's devices via their MAC addresses or other identifiers.'"

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107 comments

changing it is a good idea regardless (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45376683)

geo-locate people's devices via their MAC addresses

If you use public wireless at all, changing your MAC is just wise, for privacy reasons.

# ifconfig eth0 hw ether

Re:changing it is a good idea regardless (5, Insightful)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 5 months ago | (#45376759)

No doubt there is a provision buried in Law somewhere that says that any attempt to subvert the surveillance system, obscure your identity, or obscure your location, shall constitution obstruction of police powers and land you in jail.

Re:changing it is a good idea regardless (4, Funny)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 5 months ago | (#45376805)

No doubt there is a provision buried in Law somewhere that says that any attempt to subvert the surveillance system, obscure your identity, or obscure your location, shall constitution obstruction of police powers and land you in jail.

When it is criminal to use airplane mode, only criminals will have airplane mode.

Re:changing it is a good idea regardless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377457)

No doubt there is a provision buried in Law somewhere that says that any attempt to subvert the surveillance system, obscure your identity, or obscure your location, shall constitution obstruction of police powers and land you in jail.

Not all of us are sheep.

Re:changing it is a good idea regardless (2, Insightful)

schnell (163007) | about 5 months ago | (#45377569)

This is insightful? Really?

The cops aren't setting this up for Joe citizen to use, it's for their use in emergencies. Maybe they can track you, maybe they can't, but we have no idea if they even have any interest in doing that. I live in Seattle and The Stranger is a fun alternative weekly, but they also enjoy stirring the pot and it's probably not a good idea to take their suppositions as fact.

Only on Slashdot can you get the same people freaking out because the police set up a Wi-Fi network that may know where you are even though they may have no intention of ever doing that ... who will turn around and cheer Google for putting up municipal Wi-Fi that is definitely being used to track you and your location, browsing, mail, search and personal buying habits and send you ads. Why is the police Wi-Fi network the one that people are worried about?

"Only on Slashdot" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377923)

"Only on Slashdot" -- it's like the inverse of No True Scotsman.

Only on Slashdot will you have some dumbass freaking out about a Google -- frothing spittle all over their keyboard when the story has nothing to do with Google.

The saddest part? The beginning of your comment was informative. But then you regurgitated your own imaginary persecution.

Re:changing it is a good idea regardless (4, Insightful)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about 5 months ago | (#45377983)

This is insightful? Really?

The cops aren't setting this up for Joe citizen to use, it's for their use in emergencies. Maybe they can track you, maybe they can't, but we have no idea if they even have any interest in doing that. I live in Seattle and The Stranger is a fun alternative weekly, but they also enjoy stirring the pot and it's probably not a good idea to take their suppositions as fact.

Only on Slashdot can you get the same people freaking out because the police set up a Wi-Fi network that may know where you are even though they may have no intention of ever doing that ... who will turn around and cheer Google for putting up municipal Wi-Fi that is definitely being used to track you and your location, browsing, mail, search and personal buying habits and send you ads. Why is the police Wi-Fi network the one that people are worried about?

The difference is that Google can't put me in jail on trumped up charges, if they don't like what I say where the police can. All Google wants to do is show me easily blocked ads. Giving the cops recored of my location at all times, which they could easily forge to make it look like you were at a crime or anywhere incriminating is not a good idea.

Re:changing it is a good idea regardless (0)

schnell (163007) | about 5 months ago | (#45378351)

The difference is that Google can't put me in jail on trumped up charges

So you think the police - if they wanted to frame you for something - couldn't do it before, but now Wi-Fi is going to change all that? Do you really think that if the police want you badly enough to fake evidence of a crime, they didn't have lots of other ways to do it already? Nobody is building multimillion dollar Wi-Fi networks just to do something they already had lots of ways to accomplish if they really wanted to.

Re:changing it is a good idea regardless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45379155)

It makes it easier.

Re:changing it is a good idea regardless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45380065)

And when something you were already doing gets easier to do you tend to do it more often.

Re:changing it is a good idea regardless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378079)

Funded by the Department of Homeland security. . . the same guys who do in depth background checks on every passenger. Such items as employment, property records, past travel itineraries, tax records, and so forth are checks for unknown purposes just because someone wants to travel within the country. So when they tell you they can but they won't, you should assume that they are because they can. Google is not the government and does not have law enforcement powers. The powers that a corporation have are vast, but they are not in the same league as government, which can, and does destroy lives over allegations. You know that the purpose of a company is economic and that it will use the data it collects to its economic advantage. The purpose of government is to control society and that often means curtailing freedoms with extreme prejudice. If you can imagine how a government with a particular agenda can use the powers of the technology at its disposal to prevent changes. Imagine this network being deployed against protesters. The devices are tracked and the police know was at the protest and can not ensure that your protest is met with constant surveillance and harassment. Every tiny infraction of the law will be observed and enforced against you because you disagree with those in power. Google is unlikely to do something like that as it does not have the supporting officers in uniform with badges and guns and authority. Just a little perspective. . . those of us who claimed that the NSA was spying on every thing transmitted were called paranoid. Not paranoid at all as it turns out. So perhaps you should think about every system and se how it could be abused before you dismiss the "paranoid."

Re:changing it is a good idea regardless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45381721)

I'm no stranger to The Stranger. Just because it does not acquiesce to the forces that be and send a message that aligns with mainstream media, does not mean it's reporting is unworthy. If SPD had answered their questions, their "suppositions" would, in all likelihood, be confirmed. I know this is /. but perhaps you should RTFA.

The difference between Google and the SPD setting up wi-fi is getting thinner everyday. But people are rightfully concerned about the SPD because 1) they're not being forthright about their motives and intentions and 2) they can arrest you for [insert made-up charge here].

Re:changing it is a good idea regardless (2)

arisvega (1414195) | about 5 months ago | (#45376977)

geo-locate people's devices via their MAC addresses

If you use public wireless at all, keep changing your MAC is just wise, for privacy reasons.

# ifconfig eth0 hw ether

FTFY

Re:changing it is a good idea regardless (2)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 5 months ago | (#45377643)

FTFY

You "fixed" it, but not the part where he was changing the wired MAC address to prevent wireles tracking.

Try wlan0.

Re:changing it is a good idea regardless (4, Funny)

arisvega (1414195) | about 5 months ago | (#45378259)

You "fixed" it, but not the part where he was changing the wired MAC address to prevent wireles tracking.

Try wlan0.

Utter nonsense- carrying around miles of ethernet cable is the only way to be safe.

Re:changing it is a good idea regardless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377067)

But there is also the wifi ESSID or hostname and all other stuff you can see from "iwlist"

Re:changing it is a good idea regardless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45379863)

geo-locate people's devices via their MAC addresses

If you use public wireless at all, changing your MAC is just wise, for privacy reasons.

# ifconfig eth0 hw ether

I suggest 41:6e:6f:6e:79:6d or 46:75:63:6b:20:55.

Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (4, Informative)

kaptink (699820) | about 5 months ago | (#45376693)

This just looks likely to be an out of the box Aruba Airwave (tracking) install on an Aruba MSR4000 mesh network. So just turn your wifi off when your not using it?

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (2)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 5 months ago | (#45376811)

This is more trouble than many are willing to take. It would be nice if you could blacklist ESSIDs and never touch them.

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (2)

imjustmatthew (1164609) | about 5 months ago | (#45377221)

I wonder if it would be possible to configure the phone's wifi to remain passive until it detects the beacon from a known access point?

Full disclosure: I'm not very familiar with the physical layer of 802.11 networks, please point out if this is impossible.

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 5 months ago | (#45377679)

I think you should be able to do that, and I seem to remember a setting mentioned somewhere. Basically, your phone shouldn't respond to an unknown beacon.

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 5 months ago | (#45377693)

Just did a quick bit of reading, and get the impression that Android phones do a passive scan, meaning they wouldn't be seen unless they connected, I believe. As usual, I may be wildly incorrect.

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (2)

foobar bazbot (3352433) | about 5 months ago | (#45379353)

AIUI, Android uses a heuristic to classify networks as hidden or non-hidden. If no hidden networks are defined, your device passively listens until it hears a beacon from a known network, and won't transmit anything till then. If one or more hidden networks are defined, it will periodically query all hidden networks, wasting a bit of battery life and conveniently transmitting both your current MAC and your list of known hidden-SSID networks to any 802.11 radios that happen to be listening (thus enabling a sufficiently widespread network of APs to track your position).

The heuristic is simple. If the network's ESSID shows up in the scanned list (which only happens if it's not in fact hidden-SSID) and you attempt to connect from the list, then fill in encryption values, etc., it's classified as non-hidden. If, however, you select "Add network..." (or whatever it's called in your particular version of android) and manually enter the ESSID as well as other parameters, it gets flagged as a hidden-SSID.

The reason this is broken: Say you just got a new Android tablet, and already have SSID and encryption parameters for some networks (belonging to parents, acquaintances, or anywhere else you might visit and use the wifi) saved on your old phone/MID/laptop. You might very reasonably attempt to define these networks on your tablet while sitting at home, with none of the networks in sight... so you choose "Add network", and add one, repeat until they're all in there. The result, stupidly enough, is that Android decides those networks are all hidden-ssid, and thus goes around querying them everywhere you go. Worst, unless you habitually fire up kismet and have a look at what your tablet is sending you'll never know it, because Android is apparently designed by disciples of the GNOME crew who've internalized the "options are the enemy" philosophy.

The right answer, of course, is to have a "Non-standards-conforming hidden-SSID network" checkbox in the settings, which defaults to checked when adding a network manually, so that people like me can uncheck it when deliberately configuring a standards-conforming network from out of sight. The slightly-less-right, but user-friendlier, option would be having that checkbox only appear when editing an already-defined network (not when defining a new one), to prevent morons accidentally unchecking it when defining a hidden-SSID network. The WRONG answer is to make it a secret property whose value is set when the network is first defined, is unsettable thereafter, and is entirely unreadable from the UI, but changes how things work behind the scenes.

(The user-unfriendly answer is to not support hidden-SSID networks at all, since they're a stupid idea that no knowledgeable and sane person would configure that way, and the best way to make the less-knowledgable clean up their act (can't do much for the insane) is to make their shiny new phone fail to connect until they fix their AP configuration. (One hopes that within a few weeks, googling "why won't Android connect to my wifi" will direct the unfortunate to an invective-laden screed explaining just how dumb hidden-SSID is, and how you can and should turn it off with step-by-step directions for the most common routers' configuration pages.) While I have a certain attraction to the LARTiness of this, I'm not really BOFH enough to seriously recommend it...)

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 5 months ago | (#45379539)

Do you know if there's any way to tell which of your networks are defined as 'hidden'? Is there a utility that you know of? Seems like the nice, secure thing to do from a wireless client perspective is to not use them at all.

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (1)

foobar bazbot (3352433) | about 5 months ago | (#45380905)

The sane thing to do is absolutely to not use them at all, unless
you absolutely need to connect to some network whose administrator you are unable to knock the requisite sense into, in which case the best recourse is for the OS to not automatically probe for them, but rather to require you to manually trigger probing and connection when you actually need to connect to the hidden-ssid network. Unfortunately, I don't know of a single OS that does this correct behavior by default for hidden-SSID networks, and AFAICT there's no way to make Android do it at all.

  I know of no such tools on Android -- which is not to say that there are none, I didn't really look. I think it might be as simple (given root access) as grepping /data/misc/wifi/wpa_supplicant.conf (or the equivalent file, sometimes it's located or named differently) for scan_ssid=1 or so, but I haven't looked into it.

I discovered the issue by seeing the probe requests pop up in kismet on my laptop, then googled about to figure out why Android was treating all my networks as hidden. Upon understanding it, and after a brief imprecatory interlude, I just wiped out all network definitions in my tablet, copied all the SSIDs and encryption credentials to a text file which I stored on the tablet, and redefined each network next time I was within range of it. Ugly, but as long as I only have to do it once, easier than casting about for an app or for the information to poke at it myself (at the time, I wasn't even aware android used a more-or-less standard wpa_supplicant rather than some completely home-grown thing).

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (3, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 5 months ago | (#45377451)

Install llama on your Android phone. Permit it to learn what your home environment looks like. Disable WiFi outside of the home area. That is also more trouble than many are willing to take, but if you do it once then your phone will disable WiFI for you when you go out.

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (2)

adolf (21054) | about 5 months ago | (#45377711)

Llama looks neat, but it also looks like a non-starter for VZW: "Llama uses phone masts to determine your location"

Attempting to locating oneself using Verizon towers alone only gets, at best, the approximate location of the tower itself, and never that of the handset.

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (1)

foobar bazbot (3352433) | about 5 months ago | (#45379433)

This shouldn't be true. (Note, I'm not particularly familiar with the CDMA family of protocols, but some assumptions seem pretty reasonable.)

I assume you mean because Verizon uses CDMA instead of GSM, so there's no timing-advance value, so you don't get a distance-from-tower measure. Which is true, and means you'll never get anything like the accuracy from GSM.

However, CDMA networks still have to do handoffs when moving from one cell to another, so it seems to me the mobile terminal must (1) be aware of more than one tower to decide which one to handoff to, and (2) have some measure of signal strength to decide when to handoff. One can easily improve on "location of associated tower" by simply averaging (in some sense) the positions of all currently-observed towers. And while it still won't be real accurate, you should get a further improvement by considering the signal strength (possibly in conjunction with a database of EIRP for each tower) as a proxy for distance, and weighting the average accordingly.

If there's some reason this can't be done, I'm curious to know what it is.

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (1)

adolf (21054) | about 5 months ago | (#45379595)

If there's some reason this can't be done, I'm curious to know what it is.

Because....you can't get there from here because that's all buried in the baseband firmware and VZW says "No"? Because no matter what, it always only reports that there is either exactly one or zero towers within earshot?

Because, even with their incarnation of LTE (which is loosely based on existing GSM methods), each tower reports its location as being 0,0 lat, lon? So even if you glean a unique identifier for it, you still need a local database and/or IP access to some third party's database in order to figure out even where that uniquely-identified tower physically resides?

In other words: Because VZW consists of a bunch of cocks who have purposefully broken all of this obvious, and in many cases pre-existing, functionality at every possible layer?

(I take it that you don't live in the US.)

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (1)

foobar bazbot (3352433) | about 5 months ago | (#45380607)

Ouch! Thanks for the info.

(I take it that you don't live in the US.)

I do live in the US, but I'm fortunate enough to live where T-mobile coverage is good, and the only smartphones I've ever had were Nokia Meego/Maemo hacktoys, an N900 and an N9; since the N9 died I've been getting by with larger devices (a couple tablets and a UMPC) + a dumbphone serving as bluetooth modem. I've never used Verizon, and though I realized they were evil, I didn't realize they were that evil. (Actually, I wasn't really sure it was possible to be that evil...) My condolences to those that have to put up with that.

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (1)

adolf (21054) | about 5 months ago | (#45381149)

Them's the rubs.

FWIW, around here, VZW has excellent coverage, and I really have no complaints about that at all. Every other carrier is a mixture of failure. (NW Ohio, which is all fairly well populated even once you get off of the beaten path. It's a hard place to cover even though it is ruler-flat, because the density is neither great enough for a large number of very small cells to make sense, nor can it be adequately covered with a smaller number of big cells due to usage. VZW seems to have figured out how to adequately cover this somewhat unusual population density, while nobody else has.)

I'll take my evil geopositional not-data any day, over zero coverage where I happen to be any other day. :-/

And back in context: This isn't Seattle, there is no public-ish Wifi to be exploited, and so I just don't care. :)

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 5 months ago | (#45380295)

That's okay. It doesn't actually try to locate itself. It just looks for conditions that it recognizes.

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (1)

adolf (21054) | about 5 months ago | (#45380517)

If Wifi is off (because the whole point is that Wifi is off), and GPS is off (because, you know, we don't like being tracked), then what other "conditions" does it have other than cellular?

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 5 months ago | (#45380643)

If you mean you can't detect cells at all, you're screwed. Otherwise, it can use cells to which it can't even establish a connection sufficient to make a call.

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (1)

adolf (21054) | about 5 months ago | (#45380719)

Who knows what it can detect. It -reports- the cell that I'm on, and the signal strength of that cell.

It cannot (or at least, does not) report anything else, without Wifi or GPS (I forgot to mention it before, but GPS obviously doesn't work well indoors and it's a massive battery-suck).

And that's not enough data to determine if I'm safely at home, and the Wifi is safe to turn on: On a 2D plot, this data can (at very best) produce a broad line, but never a point.

It's generally good enough for Weatherbug to give me storm warnings, and for various mapping things to give me directions from where I am (in -very- vague terms) and checking local take-out reviews when I'm out of town, and that's about it.

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (3, Informative)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 5 months ago | (#45378009)

What you'd need to do is disable query frames. Easily enough done, but probably not the default.

When I was hacking all my neighbour's wifi just for practice to see if I could, I noticed that I could detect busses passing by. Their onboard computer queries every few seconds for the depo's ESSID.

This means that the bus is actually asking 'Are we nearly there yet?' every five seconds, like an annoying child.

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378191)

mod up parent. This is a concise and haggle-resistant explanation of an important side of the issue.

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (2)

nospam007 (722110) | about 5 months ago | (#45377555)

"So just turn your wifi off when your not using it?"

Isn't NOT taking a live cellphone with you when robbing banks or planting bombs equivalent of wearing a clown mask in digital times?

Re:Looks like Aruba mesh network with Airwave (1)

mdielmann (514750) | about 5 months ago | (#45378493)

Since I can't tell whether or not your cell phone is turned off by looking at you, it would be more like carrying a clown mask in your jacket - not quite as obvious to the rest of us, but an examination will make it clear.

OTOH, isn't carrying a working cell phone while committing a major crime equivalent to doing so while carrying around a sign saying "Here I am"?

Why Would They Compromise OpSec?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45376711)

This sounds like a valuable tool to thwart evildoers, locate missing people/children and fight crime. Why would you expect them to reveal how this network works and help potential criminals to bypass it.
If this new technology stops nefarious activities and dastardly villains, I'm all for it.

Re:Why Would They Compromise OpSec?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377425)

If this new technology stops nefarious activities and dastardly villains, I'm all for it.

Did you know that placing a member of law enforcement or the military in every home - including yours - will stop nefarious activities and dastardly villains too. The same could be said for placing cameras with feeds to law enforcement or the military. Still all for it?

ALL YOUR BASES ARE BELONG TO SPD !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45376713)

So you know you are safer than ever before !!

SPD (3, Insightful)

some old guy (674482) | about 5 months ago | (#45376715)

Stasi Police Dragnet.

Coming soon to a fully-integrated nationwide real time tracking, private records collection, and surveillance system near you.

To fight drug abuse, arrest paedophiles, stop terrorists, and...right?

Re:SPD (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 months ago | (#45376757)

No and. We had to remove "money laundering" from the Infocalypse list.

I mean, think, who has still money left to launder, hmm?

Re:SPD (1)

Connie_Lingus (317691) | about 5 months ago | (#45376961)

its for the children for god's sake!

Re:SPD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377083)

"its for the children for god's sake!"

      Fuck the children! They're getting too much attention. -- George Carlin

Why should they care if Cellnet? (1)

foma84 (2079302) | about 5 months ago | (#45377501)

I seem to be missing a point here, why sould the PD care about identifying devices by MAC Address if they alredy have the capability (and have had this capability for decades) to trace the same device by it's phone number and just make your tipical Verizon collaborte with them. I mean, this is how you recieve phone calls, it wouldn't even work without this capability. So what do they plan to do with it?

Re:Why should they care if Cellnet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377919)

This mesh-network isn't exclusively being setup as a spy network, that's just an added feature. With that said, if the police built the network and is in their control, they won't need a warrant from a judge to actively track people that are within the boundaries of said network.

Sure, the PD could just talk to verizon, but that's one more step that can be cut out. I'm sure every police department would like NSA-like powers over the populations they police.

Besides, as far as SPD are concerned, this is "free" money from homeland security to help them be more draconian.

How long before (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45376725)

How long before we see something like this:

Cops show up at "suspects" work or home

Cops: "Sir, your MAC address was at the scene of the crime/terrorist attack yesterday. How do you explain that."

Suspect: "I have no idea."

Cops: "Sir, you need to come with us."

Neighbors or work associates: "WTF?! We were right next to the guy and he's a TERRORIST!"

And in the meantime, the criminals will just leave their electronic devices at home. - at least the smart ones. The terrorists will have none.

Badge + gun == grunt.

All this sophisticated tracking technology will only further destroy our freedoms.

Re:How long before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45376771)

'..And in the meantime, the criminals will just leave their electronic devices at home. - at least the smart ones. The terrorists will have none..'

already being found in a public place without a mobile phone is regarded as suspicious behaviour in certain quarters..

Re:How long before (2)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 5 months ago | (#45376821)

'..And in the meantime, the criminals will just leave their electronic devices at home. - at least the smart ones. The terrorists will have none..'

already being found in a public place without a mobile phone is regarded as suspicious behaviour in certain quarters..

But a dead battery is perfectly normal...

Re:How long before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45376839)

I've been a lot of places and be never heard this. Only phone I carry is a tracphone in the glovebox and never a problem. Source?

Re:How long before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377037)

I've been a lot of places and be never heard this. Only phone I carry is a tracphone in the glovebox and never a problem. Source?

Source? Uh, your friends who are trying to reach you?

Oh, wait a second, scratch that. You carry a cell phone around in your glovebox. Nevermind.

the smart ones (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 months ago | (#45376907)

And in the meantime, the criminals will just leave their electronic devices at home. - at least the smart ones. The terrorists will have none.

No, they will spoof honest citizens mac addresses.

Re: the smart ones (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377143)

No, they will spoof honest citizens mac addresses.

There are no "honest citizens". State authorities ascribe to the doctrine of original sin. Your existence is a crime. There may be mitigating circumstances, but it lies in the hand of law enforcement how much leeway they are willing to give you. Pray, and believe them to know what's good for you with all your heart, or you'll be damned.

Re: the smart ones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378059)

"Everything is suspicious if you look at it properly. Everyone has secrets. No one is without guilt. We just have to work out what it is that they're guilty of."

Prisoner (2009), Anvil [youtu.be] (10:50 and following)

good thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45376737)

a mac address doesn't mean a fucking thing.. they are even less of an absolute identifier than an ip address, or the brand and color of one's jeans. they are easily changed, and by normal people, not just 'techies' (yes, there's an app for that... many apps)

Meaning (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45376743)

Just because Seattle PD doesn't want to waste any more time responding to an obscure blogger does not indicate a nefarious conspiracy. But, the implication of a nefarious conspiracy does have a remarkably good effect on click counts. Doesn't it, Slashdot?

Here's the lowdown. WiFi, being unlicensed spectrum, can be used by anyone(even Seattle PD) to "track" WiFi clients. If it really bothers you, turn off WiFi(don't forget BueTooth). You can also turn the tables on your boogeymen by spoofing a MAC address or go all out and write an app that automatically rotates random MACs at random intervals(this is actually an appealing idea). Then you can walk around Seattle with your WiFi on and without fear of tracking. Though, the smug grin on your neck bearded face is a dead giveaway for the automatic facial recognition cameras that are everywhere, so you should probably shave and wear a disguise.

Re:Meaning (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45376777)

>> You can also turn the tables on your boogeymen by spoofing a MAC address

No, you can't, because doing so may be considered obstruction of justice. It is a crime to interfere with a police investigation. Also, taking deliberate attempts to obscure your identity to lawful police surveillance is prima facie evidence supporting probable cause to believe you are engaged or about to be engaged in criminal activity.

See US v. Haddon, where defendant attempted to obscure his identity using masks, body paint, and washable temporary car paint. While he was not the direct subject of an investigation, federal officers on other business noticed this behavior and became "interested" in him. They thought he must be up to no good, and he was ultimately convicted of obstruction because his behavior made it difficult to track him.

Re:Meaning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377021)

I'd like to see that, but the only thing I found was in relation to coerced confessions.

If you can't find a standard case citation, at least tell us which court decided the case of U.S. v. Haddon.

Re:Meaning (1)

Holi (250190) | about 5 months ago | (#45379009)

I call BS, There is no US v Haddon that involves obstruction of justice.

This is why you must cite your sources, because now I just think your a liar.

So which US v Haddon was it?

1977?
1991?
1995?

Re:Meaning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45376825)

Because police departments need checks and balances, their actions need to monitored, their intentions need to be understood, their statistics need to be out there in the public. Blindly letting any policing organization do what they want behind closed doors and hope for the best is not in the public's best interest.

Re:Meaning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378107)

A jackass blogger isn't a "check and balance", it's a jackass blogger.

Re:Meaning (1)

Holi (250190) | about 5 months ago | (#45379013)

The press most definitely is a check on police powers. The fact you think differently shows how little you understand the importance of the press.

Re:Meaning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45380321)

Are you waiting for ABC morning news to do an investigation and check into something? How about FOX news, NBC nightly news? How about your local news? Sorry, every one of those would rather cover (and cover them over and over and over again) shock and awe stories and stories about who got kicked off some reality show last night, both for ratings. They do not cover real world things that really do effect us. We've heard more about the Obama Care web site not working then we did about Obama Care itself. Politics and government thrives on the existing "news" organizations and consolidation of networks, news, and entertainment and broadcasting we have now. "News" can be spoon fed out as the government desires and those who question it or report their own news will be discredited.

Yes, random bloggers have agendas and biases as well but if the point of their mission is to get information then we all can benefit from it or at least add it to what we already know to form a better or more logical opinion about some of these topics.
   

Re:Meaning (4, Interesting)

ampmouse (761827) | about 5 months ago | (#45378855)

Eh, I wouldn't be so sure about that. This was the front page story of The Stranger print edition, which is a fairly popular weekly newspaper in Seattle. I had no connection with The Stranger story, but I'm one of the obscure bloggers investigating the wireless mesh [pilloud.us] . I made my first request to the Seattle Police Department in February 2013 [pilloud.us] . Yes, a full 10 months ago. I didn't ask them to answer any questions, I just asked for the records. I made the following request:

Pursuant to RCW Ch. 42.56 (Public Records Act), I hereby request the following records: The maps, purchase orders, maintenance contracts, technical specifications, usage policies, access procedures, data retention policies, installation instructions, device configurations, interconnect details, and other public records requests for the wireless mesh network installed in the second half of 2012.

Obviously these are all things they should have right? I've been fighting with the police department for months, and the best I've gotten is a picture of a crumpled up printout of a low resolution map of the system [pilloud.us] . You'd think there would be source files for that picture right?

There is clearly a coverup going on here, but the police aren't going to talk about it. So I went to the IT and Finance people. Well, I got back quite a few interesting records from them! For example, this project included $9795.19 RADIUS server [pilloud.us] . On what planet does a RADIUS server cost that much? It turns out to be a $1000 dell server running FreeRADIUS. Even that is overkill.

Another interesting feature, is the camera aspect you brought up. There are already 36 high-res pan tilt zoom cameras on this network, and there is enough bandwidth for them to add over 1600 more. [pilloud.us] In addition, they significantly overpaid for the cameras by not properly following their own bidding process rules.

There are real problems with this project and most of them are not related to surveillance. Even when it is just a small blogger investigating, it is the Seattle Police Department's responsibility under Washington state law to turn over copies of records requested. Hopefully The Stranger article will bring enough attention to this problem to encourage the Police department to do the right thing, obey the law, and release the records to anyone who asks for them.

Someone should hack it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45376785)

Free internet!

N5 has an amazing camera (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45376823)

As if the incredible f/2.0 lens and high-zoot image processing in the N4 wasn't enough, they really stepped up the game in the N5. I'm hard-pressed to see a difference between N5 photos and photos from my NIkon D5200 at this point EXCEPT for high-ISO / low-light situations. But, that is to be expected when the sensor size is so small.

Electronic Counter Measures?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45376849)

Since WiFi is Part 15 and has to accept interference.. what about a sophisticated jammer?

Random Mac Address Applet (2)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 months ago | (#45376919)

So, we just need a applet that every so often will generate a random new mac address for your device. Sure, if its in the middle of the day you lose connection for a moment, but is that really that big of a deal on a phone/tablet?

Of course i have been saying for years that eventually you will have to register your mac address(es) of all your devices at time of purchase and it will become a crime to spoof. Along with being handed out your assigned block of ipv6, again for tracking reasons.

Re:Random Mac Address Applet (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 5 months ago | (#45376935)

It's impossible on a phone/tablet unless you hack it first. Rooting android isn't too difficult, but it's still an undesireable situation when the only way to avoid government tracking is is via technological skill.

Re:Random Mac Address Applet (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 months ago | (#45376985)

True, it does take the 'extra step', but that doesn't negate a need for it. There are plenty of apps out there that *only* work on rooted/Jail broken devices. Just because the newbie-joe cant do it, doesn't mean it shouldn't be done.

As far as 'the only way avoid tracking is to have skill' idea, we have already passed that point, long ago.

Re:Random Mac Address Applet (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 5 months ago | (#45377755)

The obvious solution is for those who do have skill to make the task as simple and automated as possible for everyone else. Beyond that though, we also need to get the techniques in widespread use.

Right now, if someone is arrested on a serious charge and the police find they have anti-tracking software on their phone, they could probably use that as a sign of suspicion in court - if this person is innocent, why are they hideing from justice? The solution is to just get the software as widely used as possible, through a combination of spreading stories of abuse*, making anti-tracking a default configuration where possible** and providing services based around anti-tracking technology***.

*It's only a matter of time before some police offices suspects his wife is having an affair, and can't resist finding out.
** Every site should use SSL. Sure, the NSA could break it with a targetted attack, but at least it stops bulk-monitoring.
*** Mostly piracy, but also forums and social functions where you can be absolutely sure that your pro-X boss won't find your anti-X rants, where X may be any form of social, political, religious or personal view.

Re:Random Mac Address Applet (3, Informative)

mikael (484) | about 5 months ago | (#45377091)

You used to have to do that back in the early days of home Internet around the mid 1990's. Just to register for a SLIP/PPP dial-up connection with a static IP address and hostname required proof of identity, your name, address, contact details, and you'd get this deed of ownership of the hostname.

In France they actually require ID and a copy of your passport just to get a SIM card.

Re:Random Mac Address Applet (2)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 months ago | (#45377119)

Just to get static address I never had to do that back in the old days. ( well nothing beyond what you would do in order to have any telecom service.. as someone has to pay the bill remember ) Not saying you didn't, but not everyone had to.

Re:Random Mac Address Applet (1)

Holi (250190) | about 5 months ago | (#45379049)

Who made you do that? None of the providers I dealt with back then required anything like that.

We should, but won't. (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 5 months ago | (#45376969)

I can see a time coming, not so far from now, where all this is used as a quasi-radar system to track people, feeding into the machine that already tracks by face and license plate recognition.

Perhaps now is the time for constitutional amendment. Let's outlaw mind-reading machines, which are on the horizon, while we're at it. As in supra-4th Amendment, "Neither Congress nor any State shall (something flowery about invading a mind's operation to determine thoughts.)"

Re:We should, but won't. (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 5 months ago | (#45376979)

Note on that: Flat-out ban, not banned-without-warrant.

Re:We should, but won't. (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 5 months ago | (#45378025)

And while at it, how about one saying that a warrant means an actual warrant, signed by an actual judge? Not an all-encompassing national security letter, not a secret order to hand everything over, not a rubber-stamped off-the-public-records order by a FISA court, and not a flimsy 'Non-citizens have no rights' excuse.

Re:We should, but won't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378183)

we already have that - its called the 4th amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Re:We should, but won't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45379761)

That doesn't count for terrorists, and everyone who goes against the wishes of the state these days are terrorists.

Avoidance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45376989)

A question to the more techy crowd: Isn't turning off continuous Wi-Fi scanning a measure to decrease the geolocation data "they" can have on you?

Re:Avoidance (2)

ATMAvatar (648864) | about 5 months ago | (#45377181)

That's only part of the equation. You can still be tracked by the pings your phone sends to local cell towers. If you are concerned about tracking, you may as well leave the phone at home. The alternatives - setting the phone to airplane mode, powering it off, or removing its battery effectively render it useless for most things anyways.

Re:Avoidance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377687)

that works great until your biometric gait signiture is picked up by the pervasive video surveilance network

hmm a wave bubble (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377313)

Time to invest in low priced signal jammers, hmm wonder if there would be a good return on a kick-starter project for them.

()-()

lol (1)

sjwt (161428) | about 5 months ago | (#45377583)

Jee, we can't let Google store this kind of information, good thing the police can do what they want with out a warrent!

The NSA does not have god-like powers. (1)

ewieling (90662) | about 5 months ago | (#45377607)

One way to protect ourselves from this sort of thing (at least for a while) is to stop using many convenient technologies. The more stories about government surveillance I read, the less technology I use. So far it is little things like leaving my cell phone turned off most of the time, using cash instead of debit cards, not shopping online, etc. Most importantly I now think about leaving a digital footprint and privacy any time I use technology. The NSA does not have god-like powers and I will not give up trying to enforce my privacy. As side benefit there is less of a digital footprint for marketing companies and criminals to use against me.

Re:The NSA does not have god-like powers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377865)

You forgot another one. Don't drive a car. License plate reader use seems to have exploded in the last few years. In my medium sized city, they are suddenly everywhere. I see them in use for tolls on bridges, mounted on almost every police car, and pretty much everywhere at the airport. I'm sure there are also plenty more that I'm not noticing.

Re:The NSA does not have god-like powers. (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 5 months ago | (#45378033)

Helps, but most cities now either have or are looking into large-scale CCTV systems. Face recognition isn't up to the task of automatically following you across the city yet, but it's only a matter of time.

I don't use public WiFi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377845)

I only turn on and connect to known sources. don't wander around with my WiFi turned on. Use an app that knows my location and turns it on when I get to the house, work, family, turns it off outside of those areas.

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45381649)

This is the same police department that wanted to use drones. What the hell for? I bet they would decline to answer that as well.

Shodan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45384939)

I would imagine there are quite a few of these ap's with default passwords=)

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