THIS WEEK IN SURVEILLANCE

AI SURVEILLANCE BECOMING AN EVERYDAY REALITY. It can happen buying an espresso to go from Starbucks. Or just driving down the road. More and more pervasively, companies and governments are utilizing AI to identify people, predicting behaviors, and scanning to assess compliance… without permission or probable cause.

Rekor Systems, hardly a household name, is one of a growing number of companies cashing in on selling sophisticated systems to corporations and governments looking to track and profit from “under the radar” surveillance.

Rekor specializes in AI-driven vehicle recognition. Speaking with the SNN Network on YouTube, President and CEO Robert Berman bragged about his company’s technology: “We identify the vehicle’s make, model, color, body type, bumper stickers or window decals, rust, dents and other things like speed of travel and vehicle direction.”

The blog MassPrivateI pointed out that Rekor’s technology is being used in 500 regions around the world. In November 2020, Oklahoma rolled out a Rekor-technology-powered program to sift through data from virtually any motorist driving anywhere in the state, to track things like insurance compliance. 

The motive is not simply to enhance citizen protections but to generate revenue for the state. Oklahoma has been particularly hard hit by the reduced oil revenues resulting from COVID economic lockdowns. 

A press release by Rekor detailed the stunning intrusiveness of their AI-surveillance partnership with the state:

“The platform allows for real-time detection of non-compliant vehicles and instant data consolidation into a regularly updating insurance database connected to the state’s enforcement programs. Additionally, Rekor’s AI-driven technology identifies a vehicle’s make, model and color—providing additional validation for confirming vehicle identification.”

Mounted on utility poles and mobile trailers, AI-powered cameras sift virtually all cars on the road. Offenders are sent a violation notice and a $174 citation. Incredibly, they are also required to enroll in an insurance policy via a Rekor insurance portal. Other states including Nevada and Florida track uninsured drivers with Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs). But Oklahoma’s program takes things to a new level. 

“What you seem to have here is a mass surveillance program being created to satisfy the insurance industry, and to potentially generate money for the government," said Electronic Frontier Foundation’s David Maas about the program. 

Private Corps Using AI-Surveillance to Supercharge Their Bottom Line

Rekor is also marketing its surveillance to private companies. In the YouTube interview, Berman noted that Starbucks uses Rekor technology to identify vehicles that approach their drive-throughs. “It helps the folks who are making the food to do it more efficiently,” he asserted while explaining how the AI technology does things like identify customers who tend to order the same thing every day.

The interview with Berman also touched on Rekor’s hopes to provide technology for the “Smart Cities’’ agenda being pushed by global entities like the World Economic Forum (WEC). “This is where things are headed. This is where things are going to converge.”

DHS PARTNERING WITH SOCIAL NETWORKS ON CITIZEN SNOOPING. The already cozy relationship of the Federal government and Big Tech, lobbying and leveraging each other to invasively data mine and manipulate citizenry, is growing more formal. 

Using the pretext of the 6 January protest in Washington, D.C. and “domestic terrorism,” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to work with big socials to expand political spying on U.S. citizens.

According to NBC news, a government report detailed the initiative: 

“DHS plans to expand its relationships with companies that scour public data for intelligence, one of the senior officials said, as well as to better harness the vast trove of data it already collects about Americans, including travel and commercial data through Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, the Coast Guard, the Secret Service and other DHS components.”

It represents a sweeping set of policy changes, as NBC noted, which would increase the working relationship of intelligence agencies and companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Agencies are quickly assuming the authority not just to use their resources to monitor social media, but to leverage the technology of the socials themselves, via the spying partnerships.

It represents a scary new level of a government – corporation nexus of political spying, control, and retribution that has already been playing out in various ways during the Trump presidency and especially the 2020 Presidential election cycle.

The blog The Conservative Treehouse outlined some of the working details of the partnership: “From the description it appears DHS is going to pay ‘big tech’ (Google, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.) via contracts, to hire and organize internal monitoring teams to assist the government by sending information on citizens they deem ‘dangerous.’”

Big Tech Proved Its Power in the 2020 Election

Social media progressively widened the criteria for banning alternative news and social influencers in the Trump years. It started with firebrand personalities like Alex Jones and Laura Loomer. Reddit banned the influential subreddit group “r/DonaldTrump,” and phone apps of the upstart GAB social media platform were taken down from the Google Play Android and Apple iPhone stores.

Trump allies including Michael Flynn were banned off Twitter, and tweets of the President himself to the American electorate were censored. Hundreds of Trump tweets ended up being censored during campaign 2020, while rival candidate Joe Biden and his allies were given virtual carte blanche. Not a single tweet of the Democrat candidate was censored. By January 2020, scrupulously polite and even milquetoast outlets like PragerU, The Epoch Times, and Rightside Broadcasting were being banned and demonetized.

Censoring extended to policies surrounding the COVID pandemic, climate change, and more. Amazon banned books critical of the lockdowns and vaccines. “Anti-vax” websites were expunged. Then social media came for “Q” enthusiasts, who followed mysterious breadcrumbs purporting to dispense news about President Trump’s secretly effective efforts to drain the Washington swamp run rampant with corruption and deviant decadence.

Big media and the Biden campaign excused and even actively fueled widespread BLM and Antifa riots in the wake of a police incident in Minnesota involving the death of George Floyd. The riots in literally hundreds of American cities and localities caused hundreds of billions in property damages, mostly to businesses already hard-hit by pandemic policies. Dozens of people were killed and injured by the rampages.

But instead of BLM and Antifa organizers being held to account, BLM became a “cause celebre” of the Big Socials and politicians. Corporations rushed to fund the organization to the tune of billions of dollars. And while Antifa repeatedly attacked government and police buildings in cities like Portland and Rochester, influential politicians including Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler denied Antifa even existed.

The treatment of leftist violence and protest found a stark contrast in the aftermath of an overwhelmingly large and peaceful protest of Trump supporters following the November election. In that case, a breach of the Capitol building by the protestors, though little material damage was done and no politicians were accosted, was labeled an “insurrection” and a dire existential threat to the nation. 

“Insurrection” and Pandemic Wrongthink Fuel Technocratic Crackdown

The DHS initiative to explicitly partner with Big Tech social networks to sift data for signs of “domestic terrorism” has used the Washington, D.C. protest as the main excuse.

According to NBC, DHS sources confirm the data collection partnership between U.S. intelligence and Big Tech will include “the sorts of public social media posts that threatened an attack on the Capitol.”

A senior official said the department is also looking at additional changes to its terrorist watchlist “to see if there are ways we can leverage it to take into account international and domestic travel of known violent extremists.”

The Conservative Treehouse pointed out some of the dangers of the new DHS program:

“Expand your thinking to what was initiated with the COVID model for ‘contact tracing’ and you can quickly see how physical proximity to a rogue dissident, a person with wrong thoughts—aka a domestic extremist, can result in you being labeled along with that dissident… and you are on the list,” the site added.

“Then overlay the efforts of Big Tech to assist the administrative state with an electronic trail of your habits, contacts, phone calls, text messages and internet patterns… and you are on the list.”

(Credit to surveillance.news for some of the reporting in this story.)

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