Thursday, May 30, 2013

Schools scanned students’ irises without permission


Parents in Polk County, Florida are outraged after learning that students in area schools had their irises scanned as part of a new security program without obtaining proper permission.

Students at three facilities — an elementary school, a grade school and a high school — had their eyeballs scanned earlier this month as part of a ‘student safety’ pilot program being carried out by Stanley Convergent Security Solutions.

“It simply takes a picture of the iris, which is unique to every individual,” Rob Davis, the school board’s senior director of support services, wrote home to parents in a letter dated May 23. “With this program, we will be able to identify when and where a student gets on the bus, when they arrive at their school location, when and what bus the student boards and disembarks in the afternoon. This is an effort to further enhance the safety of our students.The EyeSwipe-Nano is an ideal replacement for the card based system since your child will not have to be responsible for carrying an identification card,” he added.

Parents at Daniel Jenkins Academy, Bephune Academy and the Davenport School of the Arts received the letter from the school board on May 24 informing them of the EyeSwipe-Nano program and that their child’s principal should be notified if they don’t want their son or daughter to participate.

But elsewhere in the letter, the board explained that the program would begin last Monday, May 20. By the time the letter was received on Friday, iris scans had already been completed at the three area schools without a single student opting out, Angel Clark wrote for The Examiner this week.

Because Memorial Day landed on May 27, parents were unable to receive confirmation from the school until this Tuesday, nearly one week after the scans began.

In the letter, Davis described the scanning as a safe and noninvasive way of collecting students’ biometric data as a way of ensuring the safety of pupils in the Polk County school district. Parents are appalled that they weren’t informed of the program ahead of time, though, and are calling it an invasion of privacy.

“It seems like they are mostly focused on this program, like the program was the problem. It's not, it's the invasion of my family's Constitutional right to privacy that is the problem, as well as the school allowing a private company access to my child without my consent or permission,” one concerned parent wrote in a Facebook post that has since been shared hundreds of times. “This is stolen information, and we cannot retrieve it.”

When the parent reached the school on Tuesday, she was told that the program was suspended.

Reporter Michelle Malkin caught up with Davis on Wednesday and he apologized for the board’s actions and confirmed that the data had been destroyed.

“Davis told me that ‘it is a mistake on our part’ that a notification letter to parents did not go out on May 17,” she wrote. “He blamed a secretary who had a ‘medical emergency.’”

Polks planned to install EyeSwipe-Nano units on 17 local school busses starting next year. The scandal comes just months after a high school student in Texas was suspended for refusing to wear an identification card to class.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Scotland: Every Child to Have “State Guardian” From Birth

by Paul Joseph Watson

Every child in Scotland is to be assigned a “state minder” from birth under draconian new proposals that would enable the government to spy on families under the justification of preventing “child abuse”.

Writing in the Scotsman of how he penned a dystopian novel based around this very scenario of every child being assigned a government mentor, sociology and criminology lecturer at the University of Abertay Dundee Stuart Walton writes, “Unfortunately, this dystopian future has arrived a little faster than I imagined, as last week the Scottish Government’s plan to give every child a state guardian from birth was launched.”

“This state-appointed overseer will be a specific, named individual, and every child will have one, from birth. The responsibility for creating this named guardian will fall on the heads of the health boards for the first five years of a child’s life, before being transferred to councils.”

The program is a statutory initiative built into the Children and Young People Bill. Children’s minister Aileen Campbell justified the proposal by asserting it would “make sure there is someone having an overview of what is happening to that child, to make sure that early indicators of anything that would pose a threat or risk to that child are flagged up”.

Walton speculates on what kind of behavior could eventually be deemed “child abuse,” including the contents of a child’s school lunch box or a re-definition of “bullying” to include a parent shouting at their kid.

Indeed, as we have previously documented, schools are now encouraging children to spy on their parents’ recycling habits in the name of protecting mother earth. Could the alleged eco-crime of failing to place a piece of cardboard in the correct trash can prompt the child to report his parents to the “state guardian” and spark an investigation?

In the aftermath of the Jimmy Savile scandal, concern about child abuse is rampant in the UK but it is a fear that has largely been generated by media scaremongering and not an actual marked increase in cases of child abuse.

Top judges like Alan Goldsack QC are also calling on the government to intervene to remove children from “criminal families” at birth. As part of what it calls “Family Intervention Projects,” the British government has also forced thousands of families to install surveillance cameras inside their own homes while subjecting them to home visits to ensure that children go to bed on time, attend school and eat proper meals.

The idea of having a government social worker assigned to spy on every family via the child is an abhorrent notion that would only be accepted in despotic hellholes like North Korea, Maoist China, or Stalinist Russia, yet it is calmly being proposed in current legislation.

The secret police of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu also recruited thousands of children aged 12-14 to spy on their school friends, parents and teachers, according to communist-era archives. At the height of the dictatorship, a staggering 15 per cent of the country’s informants were children. They were encouraged to report anyone who expressed a political opinion contrary to the status quo or those who merely made a joke of Ceausescu.

Is the Scottish government also taking cues from George Orwell’s 1984? In the dystopian classic, “children who turned in their own parents as traitors” are treated as heroes by the Party.

The notion of children being the collective property of the state is also creeping into American society. As we reported last month, college professor and MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry caused an outcry amongst conservatives when she remarked, “We have to break through our private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families,” as part of a promotional video for an MSNBC campaign entitled ‘Lean Forward’.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

New York reveals plans for MORE micro-apartments averaging 400 square feet to deal with housing shortage

Daily Mail

For New Yorkers, the grueling search for affordable apartments is about to get a little easier.

The city is planning to build more 'micro-apartments' - economically-friendly spaces that average 400 square feet - the New York Observer reports.

'We are considering RFPs for two or three micro-unit developments later this year,' a housing official told the Observer. 'We’re in the process of vetting a number of city-owned sites, and RFP guidelines will be tailored to the chosen sites.'

The news comes several months after city officials announced plans to build 55 new units of micro-apartments on the East side.

Those units are planned for East 27th Street in Manhattan - with 40 per cent of homes available to low and middle-income New Yorkers. The first residents are expected to move in September 2015.

The project, which was viewed by Mayor Bloomberg in January, will be the first apartment building in New York where units are constructed off-site and then fitted together.

The design team behind the project aimed to capitalize on the sense of 'openness' in the tiny units.

The new homes are all between 250 to 370 square feet and have ceiling heights of around 9ft.

Each unit has an open-plan living space with kitchen, a separate bathroom, balcony and long storage area packed in close to the ceiling.

The apartments were designed with a pull-out pantry, fridge, range and fold-down bed. The new homes will be at 335 East 27th Street in mid-town Manhattan close to the East River. The building will have rehearsal spaces on the ground floor, lecture halls and a cafe.

An attic garden and ground-level picnic area have also been planned along with a laundry room, bike room and gym.

Mayor Bloomberg said of the units: 'New York’s ability to adapt with changing times is what made us the world’s greatest city – and it’s going to be what keeps us strong in the 21st Century.

'The growth rate for one- and two-person households greatly exceeds that of households with three or more people, and addressing that housing challenge requires us to think creatively and beyond our current regulations.'

The current housing codes do not allow for an entire building of micro-apartments in NYC - despite the number of one and two-person households accelerating at the fastest rate.

At present 1.8 million people in New York live alone or with one another - yet there are only one million studios and one-bed apartments in the five boroughs. The design was a joint collaboration by Monadnock Development LLC, Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation and nARCHITECTS. They will be built by Capsys at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The winning design along with four runners-up will be part of an upcoming exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Naked Citizens


Increasing numbers of 'terror suspects' are being arrested on the basis of online and CCTV surveillance data. Authorities claim they act in the public interest, but does this intense surveillance keep us safer?

"I woke up to pounding on my door", says Andrej Holm, a sociologist from the Humboldt University. In what felt like a scene from a movie, he was taken from his Berlin home by armed men after a systematic monitoring of his academic research deemed him the probable leader of a militant group. After 30 days in solitary confinement, he was released without charges.

Across Western Europe and the USA, surveillance of civilians has become a major business. With one camera for every 14 people in London and drones being used by police to track individuals, the threat of living in a Big Brother state is becoming a reality.

At an annual conference of hackers, keynote speaker Jacob Appelbaum asserts, "to be free of suspicion is the most important right to be truly free". But with most people having a limited understanding of this world of cyber surveillance and how to protect ourselves, are our basic freedoms already being lost?

Biometric Database of All Adult Americans Hidden in Immigration Reform


The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system.

Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation (.pdf) is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.

Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo.

This piece of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants. But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep, ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet. Think of it as a government version of Foursquare, with Big Brother cataloging every check-in.

“It starts to change the relationship between the citizen and state, you do have to get permission to do things,” said Chris Calabrese, a congressional lobbyist with the American Civil Liberties Union. “More fundamentally, it could be the start of keeping a record of all things.”

For now, the legislation allows the database to be used solely for employment purposes. But historically such limitations don’t last. The Social Security card, for example, was created to track your government retirement benefits. Now you need it to purchase health insurance.

“The Social Security number itself, it’s pretty ubiquitous in your life,” Calabrese said.

David Bier, an analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, agrees with the ACLU’s fears.

“The most worrying aspect is that this creates a principle of permission basically to do certain activities and it can be used to restrict activities,” he said. “It’s like a national ID system without the card.”

For the moment, the debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee is focused on the parameters of legalization for unauthorized immigrants, a border fence and legal immigration in the future.

The committee is scheduled to resume debate on the package Tuesday.