Big brother is already here. With the latest release from Wikileak’s Global Intelligence Files — 5 million emails hacked by Anonymous from intelligence company, Stratfor – Americans are now aware of TrapWire, an existing sophisticated surveillance system used by the government and many corporations. But before you fret about the government breaking down your door as a consequence of a compromised algorithm, take note: Most people shouldn’t have much to worry about, unless you engage in criminal activities.
Stratfor partnered with TrapWire in August of 2009, to promote each other’s products and services. Stratfor provides the analyses and reports tied to terrorism surveillance and pre-operational activities to TrapWire, while TrapWire has been offering Stratfor introductions to senior security officials. As The Global Intelligence Files emails have indicated, there have been significant discussions regarding TrapWire’s efficacy and the entities that have sought its services.
Through existing CCTV cameras that you’ll find at just about every intersection or a major corporation today, TrapWire’s “TrapWire Critical Infrastructure” can integrate a facial and pattern recognition monitoring rules-based algorithm to collect data over time. The data can be “matched” by TrapWire between the organizations that have installed TrapWire, to identify pre-attack activities hinting at terrorism or criminal activities in different locations. For example, the algorithm will take note of a suspicious individual patrolling a DC area subway, who had appeared to patrol New York City’s subways just a day earlier. Note that New York City subways have been hardened with 500 cameras sporting TrapWire, and is now probably among the last places you’d want to attempt an attack. TrapWire would then alert law enforcement, which would take its own measures to monitor and thwart an attack.
As the emails and TrapWire’s website has indicated, the technology is already prevalent in the United States government, many multinational corporations, and overseas government entities including UK’s MI5 and possibly Nigeria. It’s used by The Department of Homeland Secturity, local law enforcement agencies, the FBI, CIA, U.S. Secret Service, and likely just about every other government security agencies that exist today. In fact, according to an email sent in February 2011 by Stratfor’s CEO, Fred Burton, “TrapWire is in place at every [High Value Target] in NYC, DC, Vegas, London, Ottawa and LA.”
But so far what we can ascertain from the emails is that TrapWire’s existence is not yet all encompassing. Its primary installation efforts have been focused on “iconic targets” or high-value targets for terrorism (including areas for tourism), Federal institutions, followed by locations with mass transportation. Correspondence indicates that TrapWire has been installed in Vegas casinos surveillance systems, in other private companies that can foot the steep bill, and even around the homes of former United States Presidents. But unless you live in a major city, you likely have not yet been subject to being monitored for walking to your local supermarket.
The emails have in fact indicated TrapWire’s successes with upending very real terrorist threats in the United States. For example, TrapWire had uncovered an al Qaeda terrorist plot in September of 2010 when the system connected the dots between suspicious individuals who were surveying a financial institution, an entertainment center and a government building in Los Angeles.
With CCTV cameras just about everywhere, there’s a very real probability that TrapWire could be the sole intelligence system watching our streets. The thought of a computer monitoring your every movement may put you at unease, unless you’re a drug lord or a terrorist, you should probably be more worried about losing your job, or inevitable data plan hikes by Verizon and AT&T. At this point, there’s no evidence that TrapWire has been employed anywhere for non-security purposes.
Does that mean the system is foolproof? Not quite. We’d be more worried that terrorists or criminals will be able to work around the existing systems than an everyday citizen getting caught up in false accusations. For example, an email indicates that all it would take to divert the attention of law enforcement would be to paint oxygen canisters with the yellow and black radioactive symbol.
In this day and age, we may have to come to grips with the reality that we’re going to be monitored 24/7 – if not by the government, then by the corporations that have purchased similar, more affordable surveillance and facial recognition technologies.