You Are a Rogue Device

A New Apparatus Capable of Spying on You Has Been Installed Throughout Downtown Seattle. Very Few Citizens Know What It Is, and Officials Don’t Want to Talk About It.

You Are a Rogue Device

Photos by Malcolm Smith

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Malcolm Smith
A WIRELESS ACCESS POINT (AP) HIGH ON A POLE What are these things for? SPD “is not comfortable answering policy questions when we do not yet have a policy.”

If you're walking around downtown Seattle, look up: You'll see off-white boxes, each one about a foot tall with vertical antennae, attached to utility poles. If you're walking around downtown while looking at a smartphone, you will probably see at least one—and more likely two or three—Wi-Fi networks named after intersections: "4th&Seneca," "4th&Union," "4th&University," and so on. That is how you can see the Seattle Police Department's new wireless mesh network, bought from a California-based company called Aruba Networks, whose clients include the Department of Defense, school districts in Canada, oil-mining interests in China, and telecommunications companies in Saudi Arabia.

The question is: How well can this mesh network see you?

How accurately can it geo-locate and track the movements of your phone, laptop, or any other wireless device by its MAC address (its "media access control address"—nothing to do with Macintosh—which is analogous to a device's thumbprint)? Can the network send that information to a database, allowing the SPD to reconstruct who was where at any given time, on any given day, without a warrant? Can the network see you now?

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.

Seattle Police detective Monty Moss, one of the leaders of the mesh-network project—one part of a $2.7 million effort, paid for by the Department of Homeland Security—wrote in an e-mail that the department "is not comfortable answering policy questions when we do not yet have a policy." But, Detective Moss added, the SPD "is actively collaborating with the mayor's office, city council, law department, and the ACLU on a use policy." The ACLU, at least, begs to differ: "Actively collaborating" is not how they would put it. Jamela Debelak, technology and liberty director of the Seattle office, says the ACLU submitted policy-use suggestions months ago and has been waiting for a response.

Detective Moss also added that the mesh network would not be used for "surveillance purposes... without City Council's approval and the appropriate court authorization." Note that he didn't say the mesh network couldn't be used for the surveillance functions we asked about, only that it wouldn't—at least until certain people in power say it can. That's the equivalent of a "trust us" and a handshake.

His answer is inadequate for other reasons as well. First, the city council passed an ordinance earlier this year stating that any potential surveillance equipment must submit protocols to the city council for public review and approval within 30 days of its acquisition and implementation. This mesh network has been around longer than that, as confirmed by Cascade Networks, Inc., which helped install it. Still, the SPD says it doesn't have a policy for its use yet. Mayor McGinn's office says it expects to see draft protocols sometime in December—nearly nine months late, according to the new ordinance.

Second, and more importantly, this mesh network is part of a whole new arsenal of surveillance technologies that are moving faster than the laws that govern them are being written. As Stephanie K. Pell (former counsel to the House Judiciary Committee) and Christopher Soghoian (senior policy analyst at the ACLU) wrote in a 2012 essay for the Berkeley Technology Law Journal:

The use of location information by law enforcement agencies is common and becoming more so as technological improvements enable collection of more accurate and precise location data. The legal mystery surrounding the proper law enforcement access standard for prospective location data remains unsolved. This mystery, along with conflicting rulings over the appropriate law enforcement access standards for both prospective and historical location data, has created a messy, inconsistent legal landscape where even judges in the same district may require law enforcement to meet different standards to compel location data.

In other words, law enforcement has new tools—powerful tools. We didn't ask for them, but they're here. And nobody knows the rules for how they should be used.

This isn't the first time the SPD has purchased surveillance equipment (or, as they might put it, public-safety equipment that happens to have powerful surveillance capabilities) without telling the rest of the city. There was the drones controversy this past winter, when the public and elected officials discovered that the SPD had bought two unmanned aerial vehicles with the capacity to spy on citizens. There was an uproar, and a few SPD officers embarked on a mea culpa tour of community meetings where they answered questions and endured (sometimes raucous) criticism. In February, Mayor Mike McGinn announced he was grounding the drones, but a new mayor could change his mind. Those SPD drones are sitting somewhere right now on SPD property.

Meanwhile, the SPD was also dealing with the port-camera surveillance scandal. That kicked off in late January, when people in West Seattle began wondering aloud about the 30 cameras that had appeared unannounced on utility poles along the waterfront. The West Seattle neighborhood blog (westseattleblog.com) sent questions to city utility companies, and the utilities in turn pointed at SPD, which eventually admitted that it had purchased and installed 30 surveillance cameras with federal money for "port security." That resulted in an additional uproar and another mea culpa tour, much like they did with the drones, during which officers repeated that they should have done a better job of educating the public about what they were up to with the cameras on Alki. (Strangely, the Port of Seattle and the US Coast Guard didn't seem very involved in this "port security" project—their names only appear in a few cursory places in the budgets and contracts. The SPD is clearly the driving agency behind the project. For example, their early tests of sample Aruba products—beginning with a temporary Aruba mesh network set up in Pioneer Square for Mardi Gras in 2009—didn't have anything to do with the port whatsoever.)

The cameras attracted the controversy, but they were only part of the project. In fact, the 30 pole-mounted cameras on Alki that caused the uproar cost $82,682—just 3 percent of the project's $2.7 million Homeland Security–funded budget. The project's full title was "port security video surveillance system with wireless mesh network." People raised a fuss about the cameras. But what about the mesh network?

Detective Moss and Assistant Chief Paul McDonagh mentioned the downtown mesh network during those surveillance-camera community meetings, saying it would help cops and firefighters talk to each other by providing a wireless network for their exclusive use, with the potential for others to use overlaid networks handled by the same equipment. (Two-way radios already allow police officers to talk to each other, but officers still use wireless networks to access data, such as the information an officer looks for by running your license plate number when you've been pulled over.)

As Brian Magnuson of Cascade Networks, Inc., which helped install the Aruba system, explained the possible use of such a system: "A normal cell-phone network is a beautiful thing right up until the time you really need it—say you've just had an earthquake or a large storm, and then what happens? Everybody picks up their phone and overloads the system." The network is most vulnerable precisely when it's most needed. A mesh network could be a powerful tool for streaming video from surveillance cameras or squad car dash-cams across the network, allowing officers "real-time situational awareness" even when other communication systems have been overloaded, as Detective Moss explained in those community meetings.

But the Aruba mesh network is not just for talking, it's also for tracking.

After reviewing Aruba's technical literature, as well as talking to IT directors and systems administrators around the country who work with Aruba products, it's clear that their networks are adept at seeing all the devices that move through their coverage area and visually mapping the locations of those devices in real time for the system administrators' convenience. In fact, one of Aruba's major selling points is its ability to locate "rogue" or "unassociated" devices—that is, any device that hasn't been authorized by (and maybe hasn't even asked to be part of) the network.

Which is to say, your device. The cell phone in your pocket, for instance.

The user's guide for one of Aruba's recent software products states: "The wireless network has a wealth of information about unassociated and associated devices." That software includes "a location engine that calculates associated and unassociated device location every 30 seconds by default... The last 1,000 historical locations are stored for each MAC address."

For now, Seattle's mesh network is concentrated in the downtown area. But the SPD has indicated in PowerPoint presentations—also acquired by The Stranger—that it hopes to eventually have "citywide deployment" of the system that, again, has potential surveillance capabilities that the SPD declined to answer questions about. That could give a whole new meaning to the phrase "real-time situational awareness."

So how does Aruba's mesh network actually function?

Each of those off-white boxes you see downtown is a wireless access point (AP) with four radios inside it that work to shove giant amounts of data to, through, and around the network, easily handling bandwidth-hog uses such as sending live, high-resolution video to or from moving vehicles. Because this grid of APs forms a latticelike mesh, it works like the internet itself, routing traffic around bottlenecks and "self-healing" by sending traffic around components that fail.

As Brian Magnuson at Cascade Networks explains: "When you have 10 people talking to an AP, no problem. If you have 50, that's a problem." Aruba's mesh solution is innovative—instead of building a few high-powered, herculean APs designed to withstand an immense amount of traffic, Aruba sprinkles a broad area with lots of lower-powered APs and lets them figure out the best way to route all the data by talking to each other.

Aruba's technology is considered cutting-edge because its systems are easy to roll out, administer, and integrate with other systems, and its operating system visualizes what's happening on the network in a simple, user-friendly digital map. The company is one of many firms in the networking business, but, according to the tech-ranking firm Gartner, Aruba ranks second (just behind Cisco) in "completeness of vision" and third in "ability to execute" for its clever ways of getting around technical hurdles.

Take the new San Francisco 49ers football stadium, which, Magnuson says, is just finishing up an Aruba mesh network installation. The stadium has high-intensity cellular service needs—70,000 people can converge there for a single event in one of the most high-tech cities in America, full of high-powered, newfangled devices. "Aruba's solution was ingenious," Magnuson says. It put 640 low-power APs under the stadium's seats to diffuse the data load. "If you're at the stadium and trying to talk to an AP," Magnuson says, "you're probably sitting on it!"

Another one of Aruba's selling points is its ability to detect rogue devices—strangers to the system. Its promotional "case studies" trumpet this capability, including one report about Cabela's hunting and sporting goods chain, which is an Aruba client: "Because Cabela's stores are in central shopping areas, the company captures huge quantities of rogue data—as many as 20,000 events per day, mostly from neighboring businesses." Aruba's network is identifying and distinguishing which devices are allowed on the Cabela's network and which are within the coverage area but are just passing through. The case study also describes how Cabela's Aruba network was able to locate a lost price-scanner gun in a large warehouse by mapping its location, as well as track employees by the devices they were carrying.

It's one thing for a privately owned company to register devices it already owns with a network. It's another for a local police department to scale up that technology to blanket an entire downtown—or an entire city.

Aruba also sells a software product called "Analytics and Location Engine 1.0." According to a document Aruba has created about the product, ALE "calculates the location of associated and unassociated wifi devices... even though a device has not associated to the network, information about it is available. This includes the MAC address, location, and RSSI information." ALE's default setting is anonymous, which "allows for unique user tracking without knowing who the individual user is." But, Aruba adds in the next sentence, "optionally the anonymization can be disabled for richer analytics and user behavior tracking." The network has the ability to see who you are—how deeply it looks is up to whoever's using it. (The Aruba technology, as far as we know, does not automatically associate a given MAC address with the name on the device's account. But figuring out who owns the account—by asking a cell-phone company, for example—would not be difficult for a law-enforcement agency.)

Geo-location seems to be an area of intense interest for Aruba. Last week, the Oregonian announced that Aruba had purchased a Portland mapping startup called Meridian, which, according to the article, has developed software that "pinpoints a smartphone's location inside a venue, relying either on GPS technology or with localized wireless networks." The technology, the article says, "helps people find their way within large buildings, such as malls, stadiums, or airports and enables marketing directed at a phone's precise location."

How does that geo-location work? Devices in the network's coverage area are "heard" by more than one radio in those APs (the off-white boxes). Once the network hears a device from multiple APs, it can compare the strength and timing of the signal to locate where the device is. This is classic triangulation, and users of Aruba's AirWave software—as in the Cabela's example—report that their systems are able to locate devices to within a few feet.

In the case of large, outdoor installations where APs are more spread out, the ability to know what devices are passing through is useful—especially, perhaps, to policing agencies, which could log that data for long-term storage. As networking products and their uses continue to evolve, they will only compound the "legal mystery" around how this technology could and should be used that Pell and Soghoian described in their Berkeley Technology Law Journal piece. Aruba's mesh network is state-of-the-art, but something significantly smarter and more sensitive will surely be on the market this time next year. And who knows how much better the software will get.

An official spokesperson for Aruba wrote in an e-mail that the company could not answer The Stranger's questions because they pertained "to a new product announcement" that would not happen until Thanksgiving. "Aruba's technology," the spokesperson added, "is designed for indoor (not outdoor) usage and is for consumer apps where they opt in." This is in direct contradiction to Aruba's own user's manuals, as well as the fact that the Seattle Police Department installed an outdoor Aruba mesh network earlier this year.

One engineer familiar with Aruba products and similar systems—who requested anonymity—confirmed that the mesh network and its software are powerful tools. "But like anything," the engineer said, it "can be used inappropriately... You can easily see how a user might abuse this ability (network admin has a crush on user X, monitors user X's location specifically)." As was widely reported earlier this year, such alleged abuses within the NSA have included a man who spied on nine women over a five-year period, a woman who spied on prospective boyfriends, a man who spied on his girlfriend, a husband who spied on his wife, and even a man who spied on his ex-girlfriend "on his first day of access to the NSA's surveillance system," according to the Washington Post. The practice was so common within the NSA, it got its own classification: "LOVEINT."

Other Aruba clients—such as a university IT director, a university vice president, and systems administrators—around the country confirmed it wouldn't be difficult to use the mesh network to track the movement of devices by their MAC addresses, and that building a historical database of their movements would be relatively trivial from a data-storage perspective.

As Bruce Burton, an information technology manager at the University of Cincinnati (which uses an Aruba network), put it in an e-mail: "This mesh network will have the capability to track devices (MAC addresses) throughout the city."

Not that the SPD would do that—but we don't know. "We definitely feel like the public doesn't have a handle on what the capabilities are," says Debelak of the ACLU. "We're not even sure the police department does." It all depends on what the SPD says when it releases its mesh-network protocols.

"They're long overdue," says Lee Colleton, a systems administrator at Google who is also a member of the Seattle Privacy Coalition, a grassroots group that formed in response to SPD's drone and surveillance-camera controversies. "If we don't deal with this kind of thing now, and establish norms and policies, we'll find ourselves in an unpleasant situation down the road that will be harder to change."

The city is already full of surveillance equipment. The Seattle Department of Transportation, for example, uses license-plate scanners, sensors embedded in the pavement, and other mechanisms to monitor individual vehicles and help estimate traffic volume and wait time. "But as soon as that data is extrapolated," says Adiam Emery of SDOT, "it's gone." They couldn't turn it over to a judge if they tried.

Not that license-plate scanners have always been so reliable. Doug Honig of the ACLU remembers a story he heard from a former staffer a couple of years ago about automatic license-plate readers on police cars in Spokane. Automatic license-plate readers "will read a chain-link fence as XXXXX," Honig says, "which at the time also matched the license plate of a stolen car in Mississippi, resulting in a number of false alerts to pull over the fence."

Seattle's mesh network is only one instance in a trend of Homeland Security funding domestic surveillance equipment. Earlier this month, the New York Times ran a story about a $7 million Homeland Security grant earmarked for "port security"—just like the SPD's mesh-network funding—in Oakland.

"But instead," the Times reports, "the money is going to a police initiative that will collect and analyze reams of surveillance data from around town—from gunshot- detection sensors in the barrios of East Oakland to license plate readers mounted on police cars patrolling the city's upscale hills."

The Oakland "port security" project, which the Times reports was formerly known as the "Domain Awareness Center," will "electronically gather data around the clock from a variety of sensors and databases, analyze that data, and display some of the information on a bank of giant monitors." The Times doesn't detail what kind of "sensors and databases" the federally funded "port security" project will pay for, but perhaps it's something like Seattle's mesh network with its ability to ping, log, and visually map the movement of devices in and out of its coverage area.

Which brings up some corollary issues, ones with implications much larger than the SPD's ability to call up a given time on a given day and see whether you were at work, at home, at someone's else home, at a bar, or at a political demonstration: What does it mean when money from a federal agency like the Department of Homeland Security is being funneled to local police departments like SPD to purchase and use high-powered surveillance gear?

For federal surveillance projects, the NSA and other federal spying organizations have at least some oversight—as flawed as it may be—from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (also known as the FISA court) and the US Congress. But local law enforcement doesn't have that kind of oversight and, in Seattle at least, has been buying and installing DHS-funded surveillance equipment without explaining what it's up to. The city council's surveillance ordinance earlier this year was an attempt to provide local oversight on that kind of policing, but it has proven toothless.

It's reasonable to assume that locally gleaned information will be shared with other organizations, including federal ones. An SPD diagram of the mesh network, for example, shows its information heading to institutions large and small, including the King County Sheriff's Office, the US Coast Guard, and our local fusion center.

Fusion centers, if you're unfamiliar with the term, are information-sharing hubs, defined by the Department of Homeland Security as "focal points" for the "receipt, analysis, gathering, and sharing" of surveillance information.

If federally funded, locally built surveillance systems with little to no oversight can dump their information in a fusion center—think of it as a gun show for surveillance, where agencies freely swap information with little restriction or oversight—that could allow federal agencies such as the FBI and the NSA to do an end-run around any limitations set by Congress or the FISA court.

If that's their strategy in Seattle, Oakland, and elsewhere, it's an ingenious one—instead of maintaining a few high-powered, herculean surveillance agencies designed to digest an immense amount of traffic and political scrutiny, the federal government could sprinkle an entire nation with lots of low-powered surveillance nodes and let them figure out the best way to route the data by talking to each other. By diffusing the way the information flows, they can make it flow more efficiently.

It's an innovative solution—much like the Aruba mesh network itself.

The Department of Homeland Security has not responded to requests for comment. recommended

This article has been updated since its original publication.


Comments (113) RSS

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rob! 1
It's not the "Federal International Surveillance Court."

It's the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA).
Posted by rob! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZBdUceCL5U on November 6, 2013 at 9:48 AM · Report this
recreate 2
lol at the typo in the first sentence of the first paragraph at the beginning of the piece. i thought you said you didn't need a proofreader? ;)
Posted by recreate on November 6, 2013 at 10:05 AM · Report this
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on November 6, 2013 at 10:07 AM · Report this
Posted by crumley on November 6, 2013 at 10:15 AM · Report this
"Tracking objects it owns." Perhaps the most interesting phrase. Someone could commit a crime and attach a traceable devise to someone's car, phone, computer, or to our bodies.

Otherwise, the system would be showing scores of unauthorized items (presumably stuff you and I carry) at any time.

In any case, great write-up. This is something to be aware of and track.
Posted by Juno on November 6, 2013 at 10:16 AM · Report this
Cascadian Bacon 6
Looks like McGinn gave this city one last kick in the nuts on his way out.

Why is the DHS pumping so much money into local police forces?
Posted by Cascadian Bacon on November 6, 2013 at 10:27 AM · Report this
What a waste of money.

The Portland and Oly anarcho-smashists will just leave their iPhones at home when they come up in May to disrupt the immigrant rights rally.

And of course the same goes for anyone else planning any other sort of crime.
Posted by robotslave on November 6, 2013 at 10:27 AM · Report this
Why is the DHS pumping so much money into local police forces?

Because they have nowhere else to send the money, and until Congress negotiates and passes an actual budget (instead of a continuation of the sequester), there's no way for anyone to cut that money off.
Posted by robotslave on November 6, 2013 at 10:34 AM · Report this
In other words, you don't have the story yet. You have implications and suspicions and a long-winded tech piece that's hard to read, concluding it's "capable" of tracking users - much like cell phone towers already are. Better headline: something's happening, we don't know what.
Posted by menace2society on November 6, 2013 at 11:14 AM · Report this
@1: Fixed, and thank you for the clarification.
@2: Just a typo introduced when the story was put on the web, fixed.
Posted by Bethany Jean Clement on November 6, 2013 at 11:37 AM · Report this
interesting article on the SPD Aruba network. I'm a network administrator in the retail industry and familiar a little with how some of this equipment works. You've brought up some interesting points on what the SPD plans on doing with this equipment (we're paying for it after all) bu I'd like to add a little color to your picture.

Retail is heavily investing in this technology to track where you go as well. How long you shop for or stand in front of a display for instance. Do people tend to shop in a particular pattern? Do you have bottlenecks somewhere? How long will people stand in line for? What's the last place people visit before leaving? This is all fine and dandy and the data can be linked to your mobile device's MAC address which is nothing more than a serial number really. (Fun fact for lawyers, MAC addresses are not finite and they can get re-used! You can also spoof these addresses) Getting personal information from your MAC is going to be a little difficult and require some work. I suppose if you buy something then they can cross reference a purchase made with the MAC address that was at the counter. This is great until you get a new mobile wireless device and now your MAC address has changed and they have to re-associate it again. Not that hard I guess if you are a frequent shopper.

Let's go down the rabbit hole a little further now. Apple uses facial recognition technology at their stores and if you've walked by one in the past year your face is in their database. All it takes is some data mining, a scour against facebook photos for instance and they can easily find out who you are.

Apple isn't the only place that does this either and celebrities can be big targets of this technology. "Hey! George Clooney shops here!"

Now I'll leave something for the tinfoil hats. If you don't want to be tracked then you'll need to turn your mobile device into something akin to "airplane mode" where cellular, Wifi, GPS and other location services are turned off. From a retail standpoint, just disabling your wireless should be sufficient.

As far as facial recognition goes. Wear a full mask I guess.That shit is pretty smart.

Welcome to the future!
Posted by The Anon on November 6, 2013 at 12:03 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 12
@2 - Who needs proofreaders when the internet is willing to berate you for free?
Posted by MacCrocodile http://maccrocodile.com/ on November 6, 2013 at 12:10 PM · Report this
typo: MAC addresses are not infinite. They are finite and can get re-used.
Posted by The Anon on November 6, 2013 at 12:12 PM · Report this
GlibReaper 14
@7: Airplane mode. It's also possible to clone or tumble MAC addresses on some phones. This sort of tracking will mostly affect people who aren't aware of it.
Posted by GlibReaper on November 6, 2013 at 12:19 PM · Report this
GlibReaper 15
DHS has already commented, in a way:
Maritime Domain Awareness

Posted by GlibReaper on November 6, 2013 at 12:21 PM · Report this
I imagine oil-mining is a messy business... On a less snarky note, I'm looking forward to a substantive follow-up to this story.
Posted by PCM on November 6, 2013 at 12:24 PM · Report this
Sounds like instead of turning off "Ask to join wireless networks" I should turn off wifi completely when I'm not at home.
Posted by unpaid reader on November 6, 2013 at 12:24 PM · Report this
correct, because even if you turn off the "ask to join network" option, the device is still constantly looking for familiar networks to join. This is how most mobile devices get detected.
Posted by The Anon on November 6, 2013 at 12:28 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 19
It is illegal under the Washington State Constitution to track you electronically without a specific (not blanket) warrant.

Not that this will stop them from doing exactly that.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on November 6, 2013 at 12:32 PM · Report this
GlibReaper 20
While we're on the subject, WSDOT has experimented with traffic timing analysis by Bluetooth device scanning. This explicitly searches for MAC addresses of phones and headsets along the roadway and uses timing to estimate traffic flow. Haven't heard what their future plans are in this regard.

Posted by GlibReaper on November 6, 2013 at 12:35 PM · Report this
skidmark 21
How long before someone builds an phone App to flood the network with bogus MACs? The MAC table on Aurba APs will have a cap and once that's reached the surveillance will tip right over. One smart phone probably couldn't do it but a swarm of them might be able to.

Posted by skidmark on November 6, 2013 at 12:37 PM · Report this
treacle 22
@9 - Cell phone tower tracking is very imprecise, yards of accuracy, at best. This Aruba mesh-network can pin-point devices. Match that with CCTV footage, and you can easily ID someone. From there, obtain their cellphone network info from their provider, and you have a detailed map of where they go any given day.

My question is: Does this SPD mesh-network only respond to WiFi signals? Or does it suck up standard cellphone signals as well.

Bcz it is trivial to turn off the Wifi component of your mobe & still have a functional mobe -- Would that be sufficient to render you invisible to this mesh? Or will any signal from your phone (standard cell; GPS; bluetooth; Near-Field) be 'seen' by this network? (ok, prolly not Bluetooth and NFC, they are v. low power).
Posted by treacle on November 6, 2013 at 12:53 PM · Report this
Some random thoughts.

1) Someone should collect all the SSIDs before SPD figures out they can shut off SSID broadcast.

2) Aren't there enough nerds in Seattle that someone can crack the wi-fi password so everyone can use the network for free internet access?

3) And, speaking of nerds, doesn't anyone have any scanning/monitoring equipment to see what's coming off the back end of those things, which is probably somewhere in or above the 5 Ghz. range?

It would be nice to see what they're capturing and retransmitting.

Come on, Seattle! Get busy, you guys! The nation is waiting to hear what those things do.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on November 6, 2013 at 1:07 PM · Report this
I have an outstanding public records request of Seattle City Council for those months-overdue surveillance protocols.
Posted by Phil M http://https://twitter.com/pmocek on November 6, 2013 at 1:13 PM · Report this
And how much time can you do under CFAA for unauthorized access to a wifi network?
Posted by unpaid reader on November 6, 2013 at 1:14 PM · Report this
And really, if we're going to talk about tracking cell phones, then the MAC address is a huge red herring.

If you're not listening for the MEID or IMEI or whatever they use now in the seek/connect/maintain traffic, then you're doing your passive mobile-phone tracking the wrong way.
Posted by robotslave on November 6, 2013 at 1:15 PM · Report this
Note that membership in SPD's secretive Seattle Shield information sharing program (check the anonymous WHOIS record on that domain) includes not just city agencies, utilities, and downtown businesses, but eight federal agencies and several out-of-town police departments, including NYPD: https://www.muckrock.com/foi/seattle-69/…

More on Seattle Shield, via public records requests: https://www.muckrock.com/foi/list/tag-se…
Posted by Phil M http://https://twitter.com/pmocek on November 6, 2013 at 1:16 PM · Report this
Here's how Bruce Harrell (a legislator and lawyer who should have known better) was duped into weakening the surveillance ordinance by SPD: http://mocek.org/blog/2013/03/20/while-c…

And what's this SPD surveillance topic City Council stumbled upon that they found to be unfit for public discussion in council chambers and unqualified for private discussion in executive session? http://mocek.org/blog/2013/03/19/city-co…
Posted by Phil M http://https://twitter.com/pmocek on November 6, 2013 at 1:21 PM · Report this
Posted by Cassette tape fan on November 6, 2013 at 2:07 PM · Report this
That's one way to get the DHS to pay for public wifi.
Now we just need to get somebody to sue.
Posted by dirge on November 6, 2013 at 2:09 PM · Report this
JonnoN 31
IT nerd here... This is hysterical paranoia. First, stop bagging on Aruba. Thwse are not "surveillance devices". They are fancy wireless APs. Second, why would they want to track people with a less-effective limited area tech (compared to cells)? How would they get people's MACs? They can get an IMEI with a quick call to cell carrier. Carriers don't track MACs. I don't see why they'd bother, and I see zero indication they intend to use this for anything other than the stated purpose. As to why SPD ignores the Stranger, well....they are jerks. But not particularly smart ones.
Posted by JonnoN http://www.backnine.org/ on November 6, 2013 at 2:11 PM · Report this
This was a great, well written piece.

Don't shoot yourself in the foot by displaying your ignorance about gun laws so prominently. Dealers at gun shows do background checks through NICS, just like internet purchases and in-store purchases.
Posted by Holyguacamole on November 6, 2013 at 3:28 PM · Report this
@31 - agreed completely. Any city that has installed municipal wifi has similar capabilities, although arguably not as sophisticated as the Aruba system. The urban landscape is blanketed with wifi networks, and the use of data mined from the management side of said networks is and will continue to be used for all sorts of purposes, commercial and otherwise. If peoples' tin foil hats don't offer a sufficient degree of protection, they should turn off their wifi when they leave home. If they are truly scared of being tracked, they should ditch their mobile devices completely.
Posted by IT Admin on November 6, 2013 at 3:30 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 34
How many public records requests has the Stranger filed about this?
Posted by Joe Szilagyi http://www.zombo.com on November 6, 2013 at 3:33 PM · Report this
Ah, the nerdy logic of someone that knows the technology. Goes something like this:

1) This specific instance is not a concern *to me*

2) Therefore, any discussion of it is stupid, you all are stupid.

The fact remains NSA does track people. SPD might not be NSA, but if they have a turnkey solution to tracking, they wont have to go get the IMEI, they can just look on their own mesh.

So it makes sense rather than to wait for the abuses to happen, to think forwardly to what could be done with applications of existing capability.

Posted by certaindoom on November 6, 2013 at 3:42 PM · Report this
"What does it mean when money from a federal agency like the Department of Homeland Security is being funneled to local police departments like SPD to purchase and use high-powered surveillance gear?"

To further centralize control -- the police state will arrive, and it won't be pretty.
Posted by ManInTheMiddle on November 6, 2013 at 3:49 PM · Report this
So let the idiots who walk around with their wifi on get tracked. This system can obtain your Mac address but only if your wifi is on. Leave it off and while your at it leave Bluetooth off as well. Now if you're downtown working and use wifi you're probably screwed.
Posted by Nerdherder on November 6, 2013 at 4:17 PM · Report this
@35: Furthermore, there's little reason to expect SPD staff to have the expertise to keep NSA out of whatever data SPD intentionally or unintentionally create. Google haven't even managed to do it. SPD sure as hell won't. I have spoken with Monty E. Moss #5598 of the Seattle Police Department. He's no network security expert.
Posted by Phil M http://https://twitter.com/pmocek on November 6, 2013 at 4:18 PM · Report this
seandr 39
@Cascadian Bacon: Why is the DHS pumping so much money into local police forces?

Because the Department of Homeland Security has nothing better to do with its ridiculous budget.
Posted by seandr on November 6, 2013 at 4:35 PM · Report this
seandr 40
@JonnoN: This is hysterical paranoia

That's what I said when the first round of Snowden documents were released. I now consider it justified hysterical paranoia.

Why would they want to track people with a less-effective limited area tech (compared to cells)?

The SPD does not have direct, real time access to the cellular network data. They have to get that (via warrant) from the cellular carriers. This data, in contrast, is all theirs.

How would they get people's MACs?

You mean how can they associate a MAC address with a given person? Obviously, they can get this via warrant from the carrier. Or, an officer working surveillance calls in the movements of a person, and the corresponding MAC address is identified on the map. Either way, they now have the ability to track that person anywhere they move within network range without further need for warrants or other forms of oversight.
Posted by seandr on November 6, 2013 at 4:54 PM · Report this
On the bright side, the city could make a little money finding people's lost iPhones.
Posted by craigmont on November 6, 2013 at 6:53 PM · Report this
If you’re bothered by the government tracking you through your wireless devices (something they undoubtedly already do when they feel like it, with or without the benefit this this mesh network), then don’t use such devices. Side effects of such a decision (besides increased privacy) may include greater awareness of the world around you, generally being less of an asshole, and a decreased risk of health problems like brain cancer and infertility (those of you who haven’t heard about that last one should check out http://fullsignalmovie.com/trailer-credi… or http://www.bioinitiative.org/preface/ ).

Not to overstate the obvious, but you can’t be tracked by your cellphone if you don’t use a cellphone.
Posted by cassandra unheard on November 6, 2013 at 6:59 PM · Report this
chinaski 43
Heresy! Quick to the pyre!
Posted by chinaski on November 6, 2013 at 7:59 PM · Report this
Thanks to The Stranger for crediting us with breaking the story about the cameras. One correction, though - there are not 30 cameras on Alki. The city installed about 30 cameras in all, from Fauntleroy to Shilshole. Fewer than half are in West Seattle. Our archived coverage, which has gone un-updated for too long, is here:

-Tracy Record, editor, West Seattle Blog
Posted by Tracy @ WSB on November 6, 2013 at 8:47 PM · Report this
Audio of two of Moss' and McDonaugh's presentations of SPD's surveillance network: https://archive.org/details/20130221Seat… and https://archive.org/details/20130319Seat…
Posted by Phil M http://https://twitter.com/pmocek on November 6, 2013 at 9:50 PM · Report this
Information I received a few months ago about SPD's mesh network steering committee via public records request:

1. Executive Steering Committee consists of the following persons: Erin Devoto - Dept of Info Technology; Jeff Joy - Seattle City Light; Mary Rutherford - Seattle Department of Transportation; Lenny Roberts - Seattle Fire Department; Paul McDonagh - Seattle Police Department

2. Agendas for meetings of the committee - No responsive Records

3. Minutes of the meetings of the committee - No responsive Records

4. Email, memos, and other correspondence to or from Paul McDonagh and/or Monty Moss regarding the wireless mesh network or components thereof, along with any associated metadata - see attached PDF documents.
Posted by Phil M http://https://twitter.com/pmocek on November 6, 2013 at 10:55 PM · Report this

The most interesting thing that a mesh network of passive rf receivers can do is store traffic. They can probably also do tracking at some unknown level just via traffic analysis, without knowing any encrypted device IDs, but that would have dubious realtime utility, and wouldn't stand up in court for more than five minutes.

The neat thing, though, is that if they just store all the encrypted cell syn/ack traffic, then they can later identify a suspect, get a warrant, get the relevant ids and cryptographic keys from the mobile provider, and thus unlock not just a particular call, text, or location, but the entire history of the suspect's mobile location/comms.

But they only get that if they get a warrant from a judge. Or at least that's how it's supposed to work; I might be wildly off the mark here, I suppose, but I'm pretty sure there's at least a shred of the fourth amendment still operating in Washington State.
Posted by robotslave on November 6, 2013 at 11:52 PM · Report this
If Mayor McGinn hadn't given us bike lanes and a streetcar, this would be a little worrisome.
Posted by Now the Mayor knows when I use his bike lanes! on November 7, 2013 at 12:41 AM · Report this
That's pretty obviously Combine technology.

Where's Gordon Freeman when you need him?
Posted by Alyx on November 7, 2013 at 6:33 AM · Report this
meanie 50
@31 and @40 MALARKEY!

Carriers have your mac addresses of your device its on the side of the box of your shiny smartphone, they also have real time data of what devices are used by who on their network.

While IMEIs might be protected by a warrant process, ASSUMING that mac address data and who owns them is, is foolish. It could be as simple as a monthly dump from carriers to have it.

Specualate all you want in either direction, but the fact is, the moves to make this a privacy nightmare are trival, not currently illegal, and have probably already occurred.

We need smarter laws and representatives who don't believe its hacking to look up someones birthday and reset their password or write a script that checks a random website.
Posted by meanie http://www.spicealley.net on November 7, 2013 at 10:25 AM · Report this
This is all for the Seattle Rapid Ride!
Posted by mattheff on November 7, 2013 at 1:53 PM · Report this
Aruba's installing a network at Candlestick Park? They're closing the stadium next year!

For those of you who don't follow San Francisco stadium politics, the 49s scammed the town of Santa Clara into building them a new billion-dollar stadium, about 30 miles away, and it's almost done. Maybe they'll be able to move most of the equipment.
Posted by Bill in SF on November 7, 2013 at 2:41 PM · Report this
Actual Advancement support amid Protection that has encountered bootlegging. Thank you. Over the top.
Posted by ; Anymissed on November 7, 2013 at 7:22 PM · Report this
Big Brother? You guys must listen to the dorky munson show to think that the City of Seattle is sophisticated enough to even think about this 1984 bullshit that the republicans think is happening. There is not one republican in Seattle that is worth the effort that you paranoid fools think is worth tracking. On further reflection, the 2014 mid term elections are coming up and the Democrats would dearly love to have any and all dirt on the dreaded republicans, please forward this to the Stranger as it impacts all of us sane taxpayers (reluctantly paying the republicans wages and benefits) and would further the American Way and get rid of the republican party forever. Amen
Posted by longwayhome on November 7, 2013 at 7:35 PM · Report this

I'm gasping for breath laughing so hard at you people.

Posted by Tard on November 8, 2013 at 6:20 AM · Report this
I'm not sure if I'm concerned...it's really in the downtown core only (and parts of Belltown). As you all know, it SUCKS having to drive down any one of the N/S routes at any time of the day down there...Think this is just an easier way to deal with active crimes/criminals in the downtown core? Instead of cops having to swarm everywhere, they can handle the situation smoother and quicker? (also not giving praises to SPD here). Seems like unless you live downtown, this is to protect businesses.

It's just odd that I live on the hill and I don't even see a security cam or wifi hub on that map for our neighborhood at all - and it gets pretty wild up here...


If you're protesting downtown and are expecting to be arrested, call your lawyer first to warn of a possibility of arrest (always do this FIRST) - write the phone # in sharpie on your bicep, then leave your phone at home. We need some protesting tactics classes here in Seattle
Posted by haaarvard on November 8, 2013 at 9:02 AM · Report this
Not a wifi pro, but in all my experience with wired and wireless network configs, every device broadcasts their MAC address in order to obtain their IP address. In addition, 4G broadcasts for handshakes on IP addresses, so MAC addresses would likely be transmitted as well. Whether or not we accept the connection is probably of inconsequence. The cell phones, as long as they are on (though I've heard they can relay this information even with the power off, but battery still in), are communicating with every tower they come within range of, so these devices Seattle has are probably negotiating connections based on MAC even though IP's aren't accepted. This means every phone can be triangulated. But, again - I'm not a pro.
Posted by mindovrx on November 8, 2013 at 11:26 AM · Report this
Not a wifi pro, but in all my experience with wired and wireless network configs, every device broadcasts their MAC address in order to obtain their IP address. In addition, 4G broadcasts for handshakes on IP addresses, so MAC addresses would likely be transmitted as well. Whether or not we accept the connection is probably of inconsequence. The cell phones, as long as they are on (though I've heard they can relay this information even with the power off, but battery still in), are communicating with every tower they come within range of, so these devices Seattle has are probably negotiating connections based on MAC even though IP's aren't accepted. This means every phone can be triangulated. But, again - I'm not a pro.

PS: Big Brother? Maybe not. Nothing appears overnight. It develops. Keep in mind that Russia and Germany weren't "big brother" overnight - it took years; gradual and incremental shifts. AKA, slippery slope. And yes, it can happen here. For those in Russia and Germany, they didn't think it could happen in their country either.
Posted by mindovrx on November 8, 2013 at 11:41 AM · Report this
Rotten666 59
I guess I'm just going to keep on not owning a cell phone.
Posted by Rotten666 on November 8, 2013 at 11:52 AM · Report this
What the implementation of Aruba Networks' mesh network (with DPI technology*) does is to shut down any future type Anonymous responses to unlawful, illegal (as courts in a number of other countries have ruled) actions by private corporations kowtowing to the US government against freedom of information and free press!

During the grassroots response against the Swedish government (promoted by the media moguls of that country, the Bonnier family) for their extradition against WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, etc., computer users were advised to utilize wi-fi spots offered at various coffeehouses, cafes, etc., so as to avoid being ID'd by their device's MAC addresses.

(Technically, it is remotely possible to do this even if they are going through a commercial AP, or wireless router, but the level of technical expertise and resources required is rare and I won't be explaining this. Normally, if one sits away from any observing cams, or security cameras, and utilizes public access wi-fi, then they are anonymous, and helping Anonymous! The MAC address normally picked up would be that of the AP, or wireless router/access point.)

The only ones who were busted by the FBI and Europol were unfortunate individuals like the young lady who was a student at MIT and went directly through her dorm's cable access, or the young fellow who was a part-time worker at a Dutch ISP, and went through that ISP directly, etc.

With the Aruba mesh network in place, they can monitor those individuals entering and exiting such public wi-fi access places, and do a temporal and geolocation analysis to discern who those people involved in such countermeasures are.

Recall how easily Paypal, then Visa, and other financial services firms quickly halted any transactions to WikiLeaks, plus how quickly locally based Tableau Software (837 North 34th Street, Suite 200, Seattle, WA 98103, 206-633-3400, fax: 206-633-3004) pulled their database license after a phone call from the US gov't (which WikiLeaks had purchased from them) just as Amazon also pulled server usage from WikiLeaks, dramatically hampering its effectiveness.

Given the link below, just how secure is Aruba Networks?

I'm certainly not filled with confidence.


*DPI: Deep packet inspection (DPI) is an advanced method of packet filtering that functions at the Application layer of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) reference model. The use of DPI makes it possible to find, identify, classify, reroute or block packets with specific data or code payloads that conventional packet filtering, which examines only packet headers, cannot detect.
Posted by sgt_doom on November 8, 2013 at 12:32 PM · Report this
Detective Moss also added that the mesh network would not be used for "surveillance purposes... without City Council's approval and the appropriate court authorization." Note that he didn't say the mesh network couldn't be used for the surveillance functions we asked about, only that it wouldn't—at least until certain people in power say it can. That's the equivalent of a "trust us" and a handshake.

Technically, this is probably true. But it is also true that police won't kick down your door and search your house without a warrant. Could they? Yes. They could--they have the technology. But they wouldn't, partially because the evidence wouldn't be admissable against you, nor, likely, would any evidence derived from the evidence (fruit of the poisonous tree and all...).
Posted by brent.b on November 8, 2013 at 12:35 PM · Report this
@21, skidmark,

Been around for awhile, dood, ever seen one of those Jason Bourne movies (the ones starring Matt Damon, the only actor worthy of the role), and you'll observe NMAP on those CIA monitors, always excellent for MAC spoofing.


Posted by sgt_doom on November 8, 2013 at 12:44 PM · Report this
@58: I don't see anyone claiming that SPD are abusing the system. I see expression of concern that there is nothing to stop SPD, NSA, NYPD, or anyone else who is given or who otherwise obtains access to the system from abusing it.

Let's stop asking whether SPD will do things we find unacceptable and start asking how, if at all, they will prevent those things. Policy backed up with stern finger-waggings doesn't cut it.
Posted by Phil M http://https://twitter.com/pmocek on November 8, 2013 at 12:45 PM · Report this
@42: Also, if you're worried about warrantless searches of your home, you can avoid them by being homeless and living under a bridge. Plus it makes you more mobile, aware of the weather, and reduces house maintenance costs.
Posted by also on November 8, 2013 at 1:50 PM · Report this
I submitted public records requests to SPD for draft policy regarding the network and for summaries and analyis of feedback received.
Posted by Phil M http://https://twitter.com/pmocek on November 8, 2013 at 2:16 PM · Report this
Hey, among all these comments, why no high-fives for outstanding reporting? Go Matt and Brendan! (And please -- keep fishing).
Posted by donstrosity on November 8, 2013 at 4:03 PM · Report this
One more encroachment on our liberty. We are clearly on a slippery slope here. Who authorized the SPD to buy this crap?
Posted by toxicfree on November 8, 2013 at 7:48 PM · Report this
@67: City Council authorized SPD to use DHS money for port security. It seems they were unaware that this is mostly not about security for the port.
Posted by Phil M http://https://twitter.com/pmocek on November 9, 2013 at 9:00 AM · Report this
I just want free wireless. The system sounds like it can be adapted to let us all make free skype calls from anywhere in town.
Posted by Fredq on November 9, 2013 at 10:57 AM · Report this
Now on Slashdot...


A number of commenters who claim to be "from" Seattle suggest The Stranger is being "knee-jerk" on this. The thing to remember about Slashdot is that for the most part, over the last 5 or so years the user-base has become pretty stunningly Tea Baggist.
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on November 9, 2013 at 2:37 PM · Report this
shorter version: we are concerned that the SPD might do something that they are not doing and have no plans to do with their communication network.

Honestly nothing to see here.

And slashdot getting teabaggy?! Ha!
Posted by drawn on November 9, 2013 at 3:10 PM · Report this
Who the hell cares? Nothing I do on my computer or mobile device would warrant any interest from any agency, law enforcement or otherwise. If you're worried, disconnect. Turn it off so "they" can't watch. Oh, and make sure your tinfoil hat fits well because the devices can probably scan your brain too.
Posted by tabahrak on November 9, 2013 at 7:05 PM · Report this
oh man the goverment is gonna spy on us? they are probably really interested in all of the capitol hill kids from issaquah reading the chive and perez hilton on the ipads they got for their birthday and not on catching actual criminals who are planning actual crimes.
Posted by merica on November 9, 2013 at 8:46 PM · Report this
ScotHarkins 74
Wow...way to spread FUD!

Big deal. It's a PD-run WiFi network to support connectivity for PD-owned doohickeys coz it's cheaper than the per-device cellular "B2B" (subscription) currently used by most departments. This stands to save the city millions of dollars in said cellular fees while providing better coverage and more secure connections.

If they were seriously hiding these things they'd hide the SSIDs. Why even let on anything about them such as network names when it's literally a checkbox to hide them?

Your phone knows your GPS location per 911-support laws, even when you think you have deactivated GPS, on your smart phone _and_ your feature phone. If John Law wants to follow your phone they have ways that are not that hard.

These are WiFi access points that interconnect to each other to extend a single internet connection across lots of square blocks. When we someday get a public urban wireless internet this will be how it's done.

Now, when cams go up everywhere, like "London everywhere", then worry. Until then, so what?
Posted by ScotHarkins on November 9, 2013 at 9:05 PM · Report this
Texas10R 75
@72 [self-centered idiot]

The world is more complicated than your pathetic hermit existence. Democracy functions because people are active and involved with shaping the laws that PREVENT gorillas in blue suits with guns from harassing you and the rest of us. Whether you admit it now or in the future, you CARE, because it affects you, stupid troll!
Posted by Texas10R on November 10, 2013 at 6:54 AM · Report this
After being assaulted by a gang of not-homeless, not kids (20's); I want this. This gang threatens the local businesses with smashed windows if they use surveillance video.
You can argue any point of so called freedom. Freedom isn't being afraid to go somewhere. Why? because the offenders have the right to do so.
Ask the woman beaten in Westlake park. Two of the juveniles (19&20) were the same people that smashed me on the head while I was just walking by. There wasn't any exchange before this.
It is organized crime. You don't want surveillance? Stop fostering a culture that makes it "okay". Stop being complaisant, because it hasn't happened to you.
These "things" are only located in the downtown corridor. Could they go elsewhere? Yes they could.
Does it help, or is it a power play?
When I was assaulted, they were trying to steal my girlfriends phone. They weren't shoplifting bread. The only thing that gave us backing to our story is surveillance from a video camera two stories up.
I contribute $1000 a year to the ACLU and $500 to Urban Rest Stop.
I am going to stop giving to the ACLU. Urban rest stop, I will send that money their way.
Every person has rights of civil liberty. Every person has the right to be clean. No person has the right to hide behind civil liberties to take them away from another person that has that same right.
You don't like the surveillance, I agree. Stop pretending and cooing persons that assault people. Did you run a cover story of the bicyclist whom was trashed and stolen from by the same crew? No
I used to think the Stranger was a well balanced news source. In most ways, it still is just that. When it comes to crime, no one seems to think about the victim. They just run to civil liberties. I don't have the same ones? I can't expect to walk along a stretch of this city without being in fear?
You are a news team. You have a responsibility to be well rounded and informed, from every facet.
As a person that watches my personal rights and liberties be forsaken in the culture of homeland security, I still want my society patrolled. I do not think I should walk any street in fear.
Stop reporting as a FOX like-fear right mongerer; just the antithesis. Start actually reporting.
You say crime has gone down in the downtown corridor, talk to the residents. Not once have you interviewed either side of the story; not the victim or the offender. Rape isn't the only crime that is under reported.
I can look up any database of numbers. What I can't do is relate that to a populace. That is your job. Right now you are failing.
Posted by Katniss on November 10, 2013 at 10:21 AM · Report this
This is why we need to wrest control of Seattle from the evil Republicans ... oh, wait ..
Posted by ConcernedProle on November 10, 2013 at 12:38 PM · Report this
You realize you really don't know what your talking about right ? you can not just scan for wireless enabled devices and retrieve MAC addresses ? that technology does not exist.

The information you post is normal, I run major conference networks such as EuroPython and can tell what devices are connecting to my networks and where they are located - you can allow only certain devices if you want or protect with user/passwords or whatever and detect when devices that are unauthorized connect.

By unassociated they mean devices that have authorized against that network but not associated the first step in a common 'hacking' technique and this is all basic security we are talking about on networks !

Get your facts straight and maybe talk to somebody who knows what they are doing before posting scare tactic type things like this
Posted by asigottech on November 10, 2013 at 3:30 PM · Report this
Slam1263 79
Hmmm, how many ways can I think of to take these out?

Posted by Slam1263 on November 10, 2013 at 7:22 PM · Report this
Texas10R 80
I think the overarching concept is still valid:
Unless laws (not policies) exist to protect the privacy of individuals, the next season's technological "improvements" will be deployed without civilian oversight. I think we have seen sufficient examples of how things go otherwise awry. Dumbfuck.
Posted by Texas10R on November 10, 2013 at 10:46 PM · Report this
Also in canada- these spying units are also in the metro Toronto area - became awareof them this past year!

Thanks for the depth and detail - much appreciated as no one is acknowledging them here.
Posted by A. Canuck on November 11, 2013 at 5:33 AM · Report this
Isn't anybody talking about the electro magnetic fields these things create? Where is all the smart meter people?
Posted by Arnieus on November 11, 2013 at 6:21 AM · Report this
Hey people, grow a pair and perform some civil disobedience. Break and damage them. Same with red light cameras. If it gets to expensive and is constantly under attack, they will give up.
Posted by Ju Ju Eyeball on November 11, 2013 at 7:15 AM · Report this
84 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
Simple. Destroy them.
Posted by IAmNotANumberIAmAFreeMan on November 11, 2013 at 10:29 AM · Report this
Why don't a few brave 'concerned' citizens just start destroying them as soon as they're installed? And don't give me the "that would be a criminal act" b.s., either. You think the unsolicited 'secret' planning, purchase and installation of this police state equipment with taxpayer money is not? This is so many kinds of wrong, it's beyond description.
What ever happened to the beautiful place that was once Seattle?
Posted by FarfromNormal on November 11, 2013 at 11:03 AM · Report this
Who protects you from your "protectors"? The concentration camps and mass graves of the last 100 years were filled with ordinary people like you and me, who had not done anything wrong.
Posted by Zhu Bajie on November 11, 2013 at 2:45 PM · Report this
Doomed. We are Doomed.
Posted by leicablixa on November 11, 2013 at 3:46 PM · Report this
I watch too much bad detective-tv. They apparently have devices that can screen out gunshots from background noise and help locate where gunfire might be happening, and these might be they.
Or not.
Posted by Chandira on November 11, 2013 at 4:29 PM · Report this
New streetlights in Seattle can track and record you as well..."Intellistreets" http://m.livescience.com/41106-big-broth…
Posted by mr.waterman on November 12, 2013 at 2:48 AM · Report this
What about the possibility of sending out frequencies to manipulate peoples brains? Might be more dangerous than knowing where an random individual is.
Posted by Dork on November 12, 2013 at 3:35 AM · Report this
Welcome to the liberal surveillance state, Seattle. Upscale, progressive, and slaves.

You can reject the moral code G(od) has established and get your code from the government. Like the glimpse?
Posted by MC777 on November 12, 2013 at 6:11 AM · Report this
93 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
Beware of Hatfield's Third Law: "Make something easy enough for a fool to operate... and a fool will."
Posted by Jasonn on November 12, 2013 at 9:53 AM · Report this
Is it Sieg Heil or Ja Comrade?
Just want to make sure I get it correct.
Posted by Sean1777 on November 12, 2013 at 10:24 AM · Report this
Oh good. I was afraid the NSA might not be up to the job.
Posted by sento18 on November 12, 2013 at 11:58 AM · Report this
These devices are a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The INDIVIDUALS that ordered their installation are guilty of CRIMES.

What usually happens in this situation (at best) is a long drawn-out court battle, then the (illegal) devices are removed. THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

Our Fourth-Amendment rights are being violated daily. The CRIMINALS that violate our rights should be CHARGED with their crimes, and serve prison time!

That's what prison time is for: To deter crime.

And if the district attorney doesn't prosecute, then HE'S an accessory, and should be charged with HIS crime!

The people in law enforcement ARE NOT ABOVE THE LAW!
Posted by Alan8 on November 12, 2013 at 12:24 PM · Report this
Using Android? Here you go... http://www.plusdroid.com/Blogandnews/how…
Posted by Android Guy on November 12, 2013 at 2:43 PM · Report this
There might be ways to overload the system with confusing messages. For example:

I - bombed - a test at school the other day.

I drank a few - shots - last night.

Obamacare sucks!!!

I just bought an awesome - knife - for my cooking class.

How many can you think off?

Posted by Pluto in Capricorn on November 12, 2013 at 2:47 PM · Report this
The democrats in Seattle clear across to the Whitehouse wonder why we dislike them SO much. We have one thing to say to them all. bring it.
Posted by American Patriot on November 12, 2013 at 7:37 PM · Report this
Wireless Mesh networks and asset location tracking are not anything new. It was invented by DARPA and then commercialized by many companies including local ones - Coco Communications and Recon Dynamics. These Access Points usually have a Licensed Frequency radio for Public Safety at 4.9 Ghz and unlicensed radio(s) in the 2.4 Ghz or 5.7 Ghz WiFi frequencies. If you don't have a devise transmitting or receiving in those frequencies then you can be detected or use the network. Bottom line shut off your WiFi in your mobile phone if you don't want to get detected.

If you also open up your map application on your smart phone indoors, you may notice it may be extremely accurate. This is due to Google Maps mapping Wifi hotspots every where, and if your WiFi radio is turned on you will have more accurate location information.
Posted by CHC on November 12, 2013 at 10:16 PM · Report this
could be the little chips in our enhanced IDs they are tracking...
Posted by FTP! on November 12, 2013 at 11:20 PM · Report this
1) Starbucks knows where half the smartphones in Seattle are right at this moment. Every Seattleite is nearly always within range of several WiFi access points that could theoretically be used to track us. Any agency with access to data from these thousands of WiFi networks could conceivably track our movements. I doubt SPD could do such a thing, but would anyone be surprised if the NSA could do it?

2) We'd all love free citywide WiFi, right? If we got it, that network would have all the same potential tracking abilities as SPD's mesh network.

3) If you want the Internet in your pocket, somebody is always going to know where you are. There is no way around it. The public definitely deserves more information about these networks, but the threat of someone tracking your smartphone should not be new or shocking to anyone.
Posted by thejeffo on November 13, 2013 at 2:01 AM · Report this
I cannot believe you all are griping about proofreading as we keep losing more and more freedoms. Get a grip, people!
Posted by MelodyNColorado on November 13, 2013 at 11:31 AM · Report this
These boxes are in my little town of Port Angeles. I plan on talking to police chief and mayor to let them know this is not acceptable. I will also inform everyone I can about these spy boxes as well as all the other corrupt activity that seems to be so previlent in these troubling times we find ourselves in today. It is time for clear minded folk to take up the cause and reveal the truths that will set us free. Are you ready to die for freedom or will you roll over and play dead as the wolf tears out and eats your inards. As for me I will defend my right to life, liberty and happiness to the death.
Posted by lenskin on November 13, 2013 at 9:19 PM · Report this


I normally come here to debate your social policies but you guys have been doing a lot of great work on calling out the police and their overreaching the past couple years. The libertarian in me is heartened by the common ground we share.
Posted by cliche on November 14, 2013 at 9:10 AM · Report this
curtisp 107
Oh for fucks sake Seattle City Government! Can't you just go back to making our streets safer by increasing police patrols in both downtown Seattle and our neighborhoods. This is not what many of us taxpayers want. We want more patrols! It works. So do that.
Posted by curtisp on November 14, 2013 at 5:16 PM · Report this
Its all becoming a monoply and we will become good little soldiers except for the few outcast...
There is a Hell to shun and a Heaven to gain thru Jesus Christ. Look for Him while He may be found!
Posted by ItscalledLife on November 14, 2013 at 6:46 PM · Report this
It won't be long that someone will get out their 'handy dandy' sniper rifle and from under cover take one of these mounted units out and all will be diclosed.
Posted by Sgt. York on November 15, 2013 at 5:27 AM · Report this
Dirtclustit 110
Sounds like more journoterrorist work to me, spreading of five year old information as if it happened yesterday, bullshit mixing of words as if the the pressure sensing network in the asses fault so that you are stuck waiting at red light for 2 & 1/2 minutes while no cross traffic is passing, that's been around since what, late 60s or the living 70s?

Police dept doesn't need permission to read your texts and they don't need to listen to your conversation nor hear the words to know the jist of your conversation (who knows why the nsa is all about that) the police only care that you not committing crimes but your either too stupid to understand because you belief propaganda like this journoterrorist article or else you are in on it, believe or not they know more or less the topic of your conversations just by the transmission patterns.

The FBI is there to protect you from weasels like reporters, crooked authority figure, and techies who are too smart and too dumb/abusive to or just plain male to not shoot, short shot themselves in the ignorant ugly feets foot root.
Posted by Dirtclustit on December 15, 2013 at 12:50 PM · Report this
1) Utility-pole boxes and highway boxes are are lucrative cost plus programs designed to ensnare every RF engineer and RF-capable company in secrecy agreements, hence the dizzying variety of utility-pole boxes

2) The utility-pole boxes all have dual functions, one declared and one clandestine. Utility workers will readily discuss the declared function, which is often to uplink residential utility meters, water, electricity and natural gas and often may not know about the secondary (actually primary) clandestine use.

3) The undeclared clandestine function is cleverly designed to keep everyone's mouth shut, which is tracking sex offenders by the RF emissions of their vehicles and cell phones. And as expected, a high concentration of utility-pole boxes will be found around parks, community centers and schools, but their equally high density concentrations around government buildings, utility installations and after highway on ramps and at highway off ramps belies the sex offender premise, pointing to program creep.

Program Creep:
Here's the catch: once in place, there's nothing to prevent program creep from extending the surveillance to everyone with criminal records or everyone who denounces NSA overreach or even everyone all the time.
Posted by Snowball Solar System on January 19, 2014 at 5:46 PM · Report this
It should be noted that iOS 8 - apple's forthcoming operating system for iPhones being released in September - randomizes the MAC address during every wifi scan .... so you will no longer be able to be tracked if you have an iPhone running iOS8.

This is a blow to the wifi tracking industry - it is huge, many retail stores are tracking your paths, for instance.
Posted by klinquist on July 10, 2014 at 7:45 PM · Report this
It should be noted that iOS 8 - apple's forthcoming operating system for iPhones being released in September - randomizes the MAC address during every wifi scan .... so you will no longer be able to be tracked if you have an iPhone running iOS8.

This is a blow to the wifi tracking industry - it is huge, many retail stores are tracking your paths, for instance.
Posted by klinquist on July 10, 2014 at 7:47 PM · Report this

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