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Authorities Using Facial Recognition, Social Media, GPS Tracking to Locate Rioters

The technology now exists to identify individuals participating in violent encounters in public spaces in real time.

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After rioters flooded the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, there was an immediate call for those who overran officers on the scene and swarmed the House and Senate floors, as well as congressional members’ personal offices, to be identified, arrested and prosecuted. The coordinated law enforcement response to this incident is massive.

As researchers who study criminal justice, we see that law enforcement agencies are accessing large amounts of information via technological sources to investigate the attack on the U.S. Capitol building. High-definition security cameras, facial recognition technology, location services acquired from cellphones and third-party apps, and accessing archival evidence on social media are all used to identify perpetrators of crimes and tie them to specific places and times.

While watchdog groups have raised legitimate concerns about the use of government and private-sector surveillance technology to identify people who might commit violent acts at some future point, there is much less concern raised about the use of technology to identify, arrest and prosecute individuals once these crimes have occurred.

Facial Recognition Technology

In the days since the breaching of the Capitol, information has flowed continuously to law enforcement with names and/or images of suspected participants in the unrest. Facial recognition technology can be used to compare images obtained by law enforcement – particularly those images taken from the network of security cameras within and outside the Capitol complex – to positively identify persons of interest.

Facial recognition systems work by matching a face in a video or photo with a face in a database that is associated with a person’s name and other identifying information. Beyond using public records, law enforcement agencies have been turning to private companies to access large databases of identified faces. A growing body of evidence shows the large amount of data some companies have been collecting from social media and other publicly available sources, as well as from CCTV systems in public spaces around the globe. Law enforcement agencies can simply purchase the services of these companies.

The technology exists to identify individuals participating in violent encounters in public spaces in real time using the soon-to-be-completed national ID database. This could result in some extremist groups going off the grid to avoid identification.

Sourcing Information From Social Media

Investigators are being aided by many of the participants in the events of Jan. 6 themselves who posted accounts of their activities on social networks. In addition to the participants who breached the barricades of the Capitol, many bystanders documented the happenings. Social media companies are assisting law enforcement in accessing content that may be useful to locate and prosecute specific individuals.

Some of the earliest subjects who were arrested after the events of Jan. 6 were previously known to law enforcement agencies around the nation, their involvement confirmed by social media postings. Reports have emerged that individuals and groups already under surveillance by law enforcement agencies nationwide via their activity on social media, including suspected white supremacists on the FBI’s terrorist watchlist, were contacted by officers before the individuals traveled to Washington to attend the “Stop the Steal” rally.

Information from social media is also assisting authorities in determining the extent of planning among individuals and groups that were involved.

There is some disagreement within the law enforcement community about the pros and cons of restricting the ability of extremists to communicate on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Parler. The benefit of restricting extremists’ access is hindering communication in the hopes of preventing similar attacks. There is emerging evidence that extremist groups are moving their social media conversations to password-protected sites and to the darknet, where an individual’s anonymity is protected. This migration might hinder extremist groups in recruiting and propaganda efforts, but it’s not clear if it has an effect on the groups’ organizing.

The downside of driving extremists to less-visible online platforms is that it makes it difficult for law enforcement to gather information needed to bring cases against those who participate in criminal incidents. Their virtual footprints become harder to follow.

Identifying a person – particularly someone not previously known to law enforcement – is just one piece of evidence needed to issue an arrest warrant. Empirical information that puts the suspect at the location of a crime when that crime occurred often provides the corroboration courts need to issue a warrant.

Location Tracking

The vast majority of participants in the Capitol unrest carried mobile devices with them and had them powered on, which makes it possible for law enforcement agencies to determine the movements of the cellphone’s owner. Even if users have location services, cellular data and Wi-Fi disabled, law enforcement has access to technology that can determine the location of a device at a specified time.

But location data is useful only when coupled with other evidence of a subject’s involvement in a criminal incident, such as photos and video. For instance, it is doubtful whether simply being in the vicinity of the Capitol during the unrest is sufficient. Location data may not be precise enough to discern whether a device was on someone’s person behind previously established barricades outside the Capitol building or if that device was inside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s private office, particularly with thousands of mobile devices clustered in one small geographic space inside structures that can obscure signals.

Tips From the Public

One aspect of criminal investigations that has not changed with the rise of technological surveillance is the value of information provided by eyewitnesses and associates of individuals suspected of perpetrating crimes. In the days since the storming of the Capitol, many tips have come into law enforcement from friends, relatives, ex-spouses, neighbors, co-workers and others who indicated they either saw images of someone they knew participating in the unrest on television or on social media, heard them boast of their exploits or heard from a third-party that they had participated.

The FBI, especially, took advantage of the constant media attention on the unrest at the Capitol to ask the public for tips and information, and had established a hotline to gather this information within hours of the incident. It certainly helps criminal investigations when perpetrators are willing to be recorded and photographed, and when they provide their names, ages and hometowns to reporters.

Technology expands the reach of law enforcement investigations, and, combined with tips from the public, makes it more difficult for participants in mob actions to become lost in the crowd. However, these technologies raise the question of whether they can and should be used in the future to prevent these types of large-scale violent incidents from occurring in the first place.

Republished from TheConversation.com under Creative Commons

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Bizarre

Landlord Accused Of Kidnapping Tenants to Evict, Dumping Them in Cemetery

Justin MacLachlan

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Shockingly a New York landlord has been accused of kidnapping two tenants to evict them.

Shawn Douglas is accused of kidnapping two of his tenants from his property and dumping them in a cemetery 30 miles away, ABC News 10 reported.

The two tenants accused Douglas of kidnapping them while armed from their home at his property in the South End neighborhood of Albany, NY. Douglas is out on bail following the disturbing case.

In the police report, the two accusers state they were abducted, restrained with zip ties, and then covered with pillowcases before being dumped off in a cemetery in Ghent.

One of the victims was eventually able to free themselves from the restraints to seek help at a nearby house where they called the authorities on Douglas.

“He’s lucky they came out of that alive. They could have froze to death out there,” Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple told NBC News 10.

New York, has had an existing ban on evictions which expires on May 1st due to the current pandemic. Following the lifting of the ban on evictions, many court cases are expected to attempt to evict tenants across the state.

The Albany Police Department has not released any additional details about the case at this time. But more people could be charged in connection with the alleged kidnapping according to ABC News 10.

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Bizarre

FBI ‘Aware Of’ Alleged Spotting of UFO by American Airlines Pilot Over New Mexico

Elias Marat

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New Mexico has long been considered the mecca for people interested in UFO incidents, with the southwestern state attracting tens of thousands of annual visitors to the alleged sites of close encounters in Roswell, as well as other sightings such as the Lonnie Zamora incident and the Aztec UFO crash.  

With such a rich history of alleged sightings of unidentified flying objects in New Mexico, it should come as no surprise that another close encounter has been reported – this time by a commercial airline pilot on Sunday afternoon.

At around 1 p.m. local time on Sunday, an unidentified aerial craft reportedly whooshed past American Airlines flight 2292 in the northern part of the state, startling the pilot who expressed his shock over the strange object flying overhead at a breathtaking rate of speed.

In a 15-second recording that was obtained by self-described “stealth chaser” Steve Douglass of Amarillo, Texas, and published on his blog Deep Black Horizon, the pilot can be heard excitedly communicating with air traffic controllers about the strange sighting he saw above the clouds during the passenger flight.

“Do you have any targets up here?” the pilot asks the Federal Aviation Administration traffic controllers.

“We just had something go right over the top of us,” he continues. “I hate to say this, but it looked like a long, cylindrical object that almost looked like a cruise missile type of thing moving really fast, and went right over the top of us.”

However, the response from Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center can’t be heard due to local air traffic in Amarillo interfering with the channel, Douglass said. The blogger and author of “The Comprehensive Guide to Military Monitoring” also noted that there was no “no significant military aircraft presence was noted on ADS-B logs” and that the flight proceeded to land without incident at its destination in Phoenix, Arizona.

While the FAA has yet to comment on the strange encounter, American Airlines has confirmed that the recording of the radio communications with the pilot is fully authentic.

“Following a debrief with our Flight Crew and additional information received, we can confirm this radio transmission was from American Airlines Flight 2292 on Feb. 21,” a spokesman for the airliner wrote in an email to Fox News. The spokesman added that any additional inquiries should be addressed to the FBI.

However, the FBI response was equally opaque.

“The FBI is aware of the reported incident,” bureau spokesman Frank Connor wrote in an email. “While our policy is to neither confirm nor deny investigations, the FBI works continuously with our federal, state, local and tribal partners to share intelligence and protect the public.”

Furthermore, authorities at the nearby Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque reported that they had been alerted to the supposed encounter through the media, but officials at the base were not discussing the matter.

“We have no knowledge of this. We’re not aware of anything,” Lally Laksbergs told Wall Street Journal. Officials at White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico have not yet responded to media inquiries.

However, Douglass has expressed doubt that the close encounter was with a military projectile.

“It was a Sunday. Basically, it’s a military’s day off,” Douglass told KVII News, where he works as a photographer. “When tests occur, the military notifies the FAA, aircraft are kept out of the area and their schedules and strict flight lanes as aircraft need to stay in to not interfere with these tests. That’s not what happened.”

“Whatever it was came fast, right at them and right over them, which gave them a big enough scare that they had to report it,” he added. “If the military can’t explain what it is, what’s flying out there that we don’t know about?”

In recent years, officials with the U.S. government have been increasingly vocal in its discussions of UFOs, which they prefer to refer to as unidentified aerial phenomena or UAPs.

In September 2019, U.S. Navy officials admitted that widely-circulating video footage captured by Navy pilots purportedly showing UFOs flying through the skies did, in fact, depict actual “unknown” objects that flew into U.S. airspace. The videos had been released months prior by To The Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences (TTS), a private “UFO research organization” founded by former Blink 182 frontman Tom De Longe. 

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Activism

Akon Finally Breaks Ground On His Futuristic $10 Billion Solar Powered “Crypto City”

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The rapper, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Akon has been making significant progress on his development plans in Africa, which involve the creation of a futuristic city that runs on clean energy and cryptocurrency.

In January of last year, Akon revealed that his agreements with Senegal President Macky Sall were going forward, and a few months later it was announced that the engineering and consulting firm KE International was awarded a $6 billion contract to build the city. The company previously said it had already received $4 billion from investors for the first two phases of Akon City’s construction, giving the project a price tag of at least $10 billion. 

The project goes much further than just this one city and it has already begun to make an impact across the continent. In the short time since the deal was finalized last year, a large number of solar street lights, and solar home lighting units, have been installed across 14 African countries, according to Akon Lighting Africa.

The effort was made possible by a private-public partnership model and a well-established network of partners including SOLEKTRA INT, SUMEC, and NARI.

Phase 1 of construction on the city is expected to be completed in 2023, and will include roads, a hospital, residences, hotels, a police station, a waste facility, a school, and a solar power plant. The entire city is expected to be finished around 2029. The city’s economy will be facilitated by Akon’s cryptocurrency “Akoin,” which runs on the Stellar blockchain. Stellar is a crypto ecosystem that includes its own cryptocurrency XLM, and also allows for the development of other projects, such as decentralized exchanges and additional currencies like Akoin. Banks around the world have also been considering using the Stellar blockchain for stablecoin deployment. 

Akon believes that cryptocurrency is the solution to the corruption problems that create widespread inequality in Africa because the blockchain provides a record that would make corruption extremely obvious if it were to take place. With an independent cryptocurrency, governments are unable to print money and devalue the currency, and the control of the money is decentralized.

In an interview with TMZ last year, Akon compared the vision that he has for the city with the fictional “Wakanda” from the movie Black Panther.

“This movie literally made an idea of what Africa could really be. It’s just ironic that I was already working on this before the movie came out, but it’s something that helped me a lot when I was trying to explain to explain to people what I was trying to do,” Akon said.

The city’s crypto-economic system will also solve many problems specific to the developing world, like instantly calculating conversation rates for currencies, which is often an obstacle because there are so many different regional currencies and methods of trade. In some cases, people even use prepaid cellphone minutes as a currency because it is easier to use and exchange than traditional currencies. Akon says that the Akoin wallet will allow users to trade between cryptocurrencies, fiat currencies, and cellphone minutes instantly without having to go through a major exchange using Atomic Swap technology. The app will also teach users to become more familiar with the technology in general.

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