Friday, February 13, 2015
Opinion: US Senator Reports On Automobile Privacy Threat
Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts) on Monday released a report on automotive privacy highlighting the failure of vehicle manufacturers to ensure the highest levels of security and privacy. The report examined the measures industry has taken to prevent electronic intrusion and the way companies gather and treat sensitive personal information. Markey concluded that government intervention may be appropriate. "New standards are needed to plug security and privacy gaps in our cars and trucks," Markey's news release explained. "We need to work with the industry and cyber-security experts to establish clear rules of the road to ensure the safety and privacy of 21st-century American drivers." Left out of his analysis was any mention of the threats to security and privacy created by the government's own regulations. Markey based his report on responses to a series of questions he received from BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen/Audi and Volvo. Markey had asked them to outline their policies on a number of issues, including retention of electronic data recorder or black box data. Markey suggested the industry's voluntary decision to limit data collection was inadequate. "While this is a good step forward, limiting themselves to collection 'only as needed for legitimate business purposes' still raises many questions about the extent to which companies will continue to collect sensitive information," Markey's report explained. "The principles also do not ensure that consumers will have rights to prevent data collection in the first place." Markey's report did not mention that in December 2012, US Department of Transportation formally proposed to mandate that all automakers to install event data recorders. The final rule remains pending, but an existing federal rule mandates that automotive black boxes collect certain data. "In sum, the objectives of our regulation are to get the right data, in sufficient quantity and in a standardized format, and to ensure that the data can survive most crash events and be retrieved by intended users," 49 CFR Part 563, states. Markey faulted the industry for failing to disclose to consumers how information might be used or shared with third parties. "This lack of transparency in personal vehicle data usage leaves consumers with little knowledge about how the companies actually use their data," Markey's report states. Markey made no mention of the ongoing federal effort to create a centralized database that tracks the movement of all motorists using equipment such as license plate reader cameras and toll road transponders. These government-sponsored programs have only come to light in heavily redacted documents released under the pressure of a freedom of information lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). As a US senator, Markey has the power to amend legislation and vote to withhold funding if he wishes to make an effort to stop any federal agency's privacy violation. A copy of Markey's report is available in a PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Tracking and Hacking (US Senator Edward Markey, 2/9/2015)
Thursday, February 12, 2015
California: Appellate Red Light Camera Ruling Worries Redflex
One of California's largest providers of red light camera systems believes a recent Court of Appeal decision spells trouble for the industry. The state's second-highest court found that proof of improper calibration was enough to cast doubt on an automated ticketing machine's reliability (view ruling). Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia asked the state Supreme Court to "depublish" the California v. Rekte decision, effectively erasing it from the books. "Redflex and its customers would be prejudiced if Rekte were left published, because it would cause confusion in the traffic courts and in the public," Redflex attorney Michael D. Stewart wrote. Unpublished cases cannot be cited as precedent in a California courtroom. Motorists interested in challenging citations without a published decision in hand would have to repeat from scratch all arguments about evidentiary problems. Redflex fears that easy challenges would lead to a loss of revenue without that legal roadblock. Redflex insists the appellate court was wrong to side with motorists since the state Supreme court sided with the red light camera industry in California v. Goldsmith (read decision) and California v. Gray (read decision). Redflex also mocked the defendant for hiring an expert to verify the yellow signal timing without actually examining the yellow time of Rekte's alleged violation. "Mr. Rekte never presented any evidence as to the duration of the yellow light at the time of his specific violation," Stewart wrote. "He only showed that the yellow phase was supposedly too short on dates before and after the date of his violation. Such a showing is too attenuated to rebut the statutory presumption that the video and photos 'constitute an accurate representation of the images they purport to represent.'" Viktors Andris Rekte successfully beat his $500 ticket for turning right less than a second after it turned red at an intersection in Riverside that had an illegally short yellow warning time. He wants the high court to reject the red light camera industry's attempt to sweep calibration problems under the rug. His attorney also points out that the expert did not review the actual violation because Redflex refused to hand over the original video until very late in the appeals process. "For many motorists, it may not be apparent that they have triggered an ATES [red light] camera until he or she receives a citation in the mail days or weeks afterwards," D. Scott Elliot, wrote. "For motorists who suspect that they were the target of an ATES camera immediately after seeing the flash go off, it is likely that only a very small percentage would have the presence of mind to find and retain an engineering expert to visit the intersection and take video clips of the yellow light interval on the day of the alleged violation so as to comply with the aforementioned 'attenuation test' articulated by Redflex." Elliot reminded the court that the intersection where Rekte's car was photographed had the red light turned away from motorists and toward the red light camera, making the signal 40 percent less visible to oncoming traffic. The California Supreme Court will decide whether to leave the case published or not.
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
North Carolina Court Admits Illegally Obtained Evidence In License Case
Police may not violate constitutional rights to obtain a drunk driving conviction, but the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can. The North Carolina Court of Appeals came to that conclusion last week in reinstating the driver's license suspension of Myra Lynne Combs. On January 6, 2013, Mount Airy Police Officer David Grubbs wrongly stopped Combs, who was behind the wheel of a blue SUV. An anonymous caller reported seeing a blue Ford Explorer weaving on Highway 52. Officer Grubs saw Combs, but her driving was just fine. She neither weaved nor committed any traffic violations. Officer Grubbs decided to stop her anyway once she had reached her destination. Combs smelled of alcohol, and she was unable to pass the standard battery of field sobriety tests. Combs refused to undergo a breath test. Although she was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), the Surry County District Court tossed the criminal case because the officer violated the Constitution in stopping her illegally. The North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), however, was unwilling to let Combs off the hook. It revoked her driver's license based solely on the illicitly obtained evidence. The DMV argued that the exclusionary rule does not apply to a civil proceeding. Combs argued that this was unfair. The trial judge told the DMV it could not base its action on illegal evidence, but the appellate court disagreed. "Combs's argument poses a fair question: how can law enforcement use evidence that was suppressed because of a Fourth Amendment violation to later revoke her driver's license?" Court of Appeals Judge Richard Dietz asked. "The answer, according to several published decisions of this court, is that the exclusionary rule -- a bedrock principle of criminal law -- does not apply to license revocation proceedings." Since the three-judge panel accepted the evidence obtained as a result of the traffic stop, it concluded that the DMV had sufficient evidence that Combs refused to submit to a breath test, the penalty for which is license suspension. Combs may have good reason to seek further review of her case, as the appeals court was quoting itself in arriving at its decision. "Our Supreme Court has not yet addressed this issue, but this court has," Judge Dietz wrote. A copy of the decision is available in an 80k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Combs v. Robertson (North Carolina Court of Appeals, 2/11/2015)
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Indiana: Traffic Cops May Not Open Pill Bottles
Police have no business looking through the pill bottles belonging to a motorist stopped for a routine traffic violation. That was the conclusion of a three-judge panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals, which last month reversed Antonio Garcia's conviction on drug charges because an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officer violated the state constitution. At around 9pm on August 6, 2012, Officer Philip Robinett saw a white Chevrolet Trailblazer that did not have its headlights on. The SUV pulled over and parked on the side of the street without signaling. Officer Robinett hit his lights and ordered Garcia to get back in the car. Garcia is not a US citizen, so he was arrested for driving without a license. A frisk revealed that Garcia had a pill bottle in his pocket, and the officer could not resist taking a look inside. "Every time I've either -- I've located either some type of illegal substance or -- unless it is a pill that is properly prescribed," Officer Robinett testified. "That's the only time I've seen it to where the substance inside this cylinder is a legal substance." The container held half a pill with markings indicating it was hydrocodone, a painkiller for which Garcia had no prescription -- a class D felony. Under federal case law, Officer Robinett's search would be considered valid, but Indiana offers greater protection to its residents. "The degree of concern, knowledge, or suspicion that a criminal violation had occurred with respect to the pill vial was low prior to opening the container," Judge Terry A. Crone wrote for the three-judge panel. "Although there could be situations in which the police find an unfamiliar object on a person through a search incident to arrest that may justify further investigation, that situation did not occur here. There is no evidence in the record that Officer Robinett had any concern or suspicion that the container held anything that threatened his or the public's safety." Prosecutors admit that they would not have had enough evidence to go to a judge and seek a warrant to open the container, as there was no reason to suspect Garcia had illegal drugs. "There was no need for law enforcement to preserve evidence relating to the offense for which Garcia was arrested," Judge Crone wrote. "Also, there were no circumstances unrelated to the reason for the arrest that led Officer Robinett to suspect that Garcia was impaired, had engaged in any illegal drug use, or was involved in any illegal drug dealing." Because the search was unreasonable, the court dismissed the drug possession charge. A copy of the decision is available in a 180k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Garcia v. Indiana (Court of Appeals, State of Indiana, 1/30/2015)
Monday, February 09, 2015
France, UK: Traffic And License Plate Cameras Disabled
Vigilantes disabled a speed camera in Loriet, France last Thursday. According to La Republique, gold spraypaint covered the lenses of the speed camera on the RD952 in Les Coteaux. The perpetrators also added the slogan "and a good year" on the side of the device. In Derry, Northern Ireland, vigilantes destroyed a automated license plate reader (ALPR, also known as ANPR) on January 31. The automated ticketing machine was cut down and smashed, the Derry Journal reported.