Category Archives: Law Enforcement

Human Trafficking – Technology and Real Issues

Commentary
Bill Owen – TechNewsBlog.net

Follow up Commentary to 2/14/19 post on Human Trafficking: How technology is tackling human trafficking by Alexon Bell, Global Head of AML and Compliance at Quantexa.

Human trafficking is the trade of humans for the purpose of forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others.[1][2] This may encompass providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage,[3][4][5] or the extraction of organs or tissues,[6][7] including for surrogacy and ova removal.[8] Human trafficking can occur within a country or trans-nationally. Human trafficking is a crime against the person because of the violation of the victim’s rights of movement through coercion and because of their commercial exploitation.[9] Human trafficking is the trade in people, especially women and children, and does not necessarily involve the movement of the person from one place to another.

Human trafficking has always been a part of society. Slavery, of any type, can be dated back to the establishment of any form of human civilization. It is fair to say that it exists in any major city and many smaller cities and towns, across the globe, right under our noses. It is the advent of various technologies that has brought this issue to the attention of the general public and has allowed governments and specialty organizations to make significant inroads into the freeing of victims and the incarceration of criminals.

Human trafficking: countries of origin and countries of destination


Click to enlarge

 

I have listed a small sampling of organizations involved with human trafficking below, be it a provider of technology that is currently being used to combat human trafficking, or a provider of direct surveillance and apprehension of criminals involved in this activity. It is the combination of technologies and collaboration of efforts from all parties that is making the difference. Note: I am not implying endorsement or making statements of support for their personal work or their projects.

Quantexa: As noted in the 2/14/19 article provided by Alexon Bell above, Quantexa has been involved in providing the technology, specifically artificial intelligence, that helps to keep law enforcement and global organizations on the heels of traffickers. An additional article/report from  Brian Wang, sole author and writer of nextbigfuture.com and his interview with Alexon Bell, posted January 26, 2019: Quantexa Uses Context-Aware Artificial Intelligence to Uncover Human Trafficking Networks

Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.): As their website main page states, “We exist to rescue children from sex trafficking.” Operation Underground Railroad is a non-profit founded by Tim Ballard which assists governments around the world in the rescue of human trafficking and sex trafficking victims, with a special focus on children. O.U.R. also aids with planning, prevention, capture, and prosecution of offenders, and works with partner organizations for prevention, victim recovery, strengthened awareness, and fundraising efforts.[10]  Quite a background story on Tim and the impetus behind this organization.

Human Trafficking Fact Sheet Infographic via O.U.R.

 

THORN: Digital Defenders of Children, previously known as DNA Foundation, is an international anti-human trafficking organization that works to address the sexual exploitation of children. The primary programming efforts of the organization focus on Internet technology and the role it plays in facilitating child pornography and sexual slavery of children on a global scale. The organization was founded by American actors Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

Kutcher speech on human trafficking before Congress:

 

Blue Campaign (DHS). The Blue Campaign is the unified voice for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to combat human trafficking. Working in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations, the Blue Campaign strives to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.

 

Additional organizations involved with Human Trafficking

It is important to verify the legitimacy of any organization that you may want to get involved with. Remember, if there is ever a non-partisan issue that would be considered, this is definitely one of them. Be aware of any potential criminal or political attempt to capture your donations for anything other than the intended use for anti-trafficking causes. This list of organizations is the tip of the iceberg. There is no doubt a solid organization near you, if you want to get involved hands-on. Of course, donations can be made to any organization in any location. Again, all should be vetted first.

Before Giving to a Charity (via the Federal Trade Commission)

15 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking (via the U.S. Department of State)

List of organizations that combat human trafficking (via Wikipedia)

National Human Trafficking Hotline

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Human Trafficking

 

Background on Human Trafficking by region (via Wikipedia):

Human trafficking in the United States

Human trafficking in Canada

Human trafficking in Mexico

Human trafficking in South America

Human trafficking in Europe

Human trafficking in Australia

Human trafficking in the Middle East

Human trafficking in Southeast Asia

Human trafficking in Indonesia

Human trafficking in China

Human trafficking in Russia

Human trafficking in India

 

As you can see, this is a huge problem globally. This could happen to anyone. The news stories that you have heard over the years of missing people could very well be the victim of human trafficking and are still alive today under duress. With the diligent work of governments, organizations and individuals focused on this issue, as well as prayers from many people, a serious dent is being made to try and bring it to an end.

 

References

  1. “UNODC on human trafficking and migrant smuggling”. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  2. “Amnesty International – People smuggling”. Amnesty.org.au. 23 March 2009. Archived from the originalon 9 March 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  3. “Child Trafficking for Forced Marriage” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 July 2013.
  4. “Slovakian ‘slave’ trafficked to Burnley for marriage”. BBC News.
  5. “MARRIAGE IN FORM, TRAFFICKING IN CONTENT: Non – consensual Bride Kidnapping in Contemporary Kyrgyzstan” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 April 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  6. “Trafficking in organs, tissues and cells and trafficking in human beings for the purpose of the removal of organs” (PDF). United Nations. 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  7. “Human trafficking for organs/tissue removal”. Fightslaverynow.org. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  8. “Human trafficking for ova removal or surrogacy”. Councilforresponsiblegenetics.org. 31 March 2004. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  9. MCLAUGHLIN. “What is Human Trafficking?”. http://www.unodc.org. Retrieved 2018-09-06.
  10. Erica Ritz (2014-10-27). “The Disturbing Reason Operation Underground Railroad Is Able to Take So Many Photos of Child Sex Traffickers”. The Blaze. TheBlaze Inc. Archived from the original on 2016-05-16. Retrieved 16 May 2016.

Protect Yourself Against Social Security Identity Theft

Retirement The PBS website for grown-ups who want to keep growing

By Amy Zipkin, Freelance Writer and Journalist, Next Avenue Contributor and Contributor to Forbes
Jan 17, 2018, 01:11pm

Last fall, after the Equifax breach, Jim Borland, acting deputy commissioner for communications at the Social Security Administration wrote a blog post on the agency website headlined “Protecting Your Social Security.”  He said: “A my Social Security account is your gateway to many of our online services. Create your account today and take away the risk of someone else trying to create one in your name, even if they obtain your Social Security number.”

I took Borland’s advice, since anyone 18 or older with a Social Security number, an email address and a mailing address can open a mySocialSecurity online account and maintain it for decades before claiming benefits. But fewer than nine months after I opened the my Social Security account, I received an unexpected email from the Social Security Administration. It said: My account was being deactivated at my request.

Why Was My Social Security Account Deactivated?

I was mystified since I hadn’t contacted the agency. And no one else had access to personal details to change my password. So I called the next morning and requested a direct deposit block on my Social Security account to prevent any additional suspicious activity. (Even though I don’t collect Social Security benefits yet, a block offers two apparent safeguards: It prevents changes to direct deposit information through a financial institution or through the Social Security site. And it prevents someone else from changing my mailing address through the Social Security site.)

Also on Forbes:

I also asked the Social Security Administration to notify its Inspector General about suspected fraud.

Then I tried to find out what happened.

The U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) website offered a possible clue. “With full name, birth date and Social Security number a thief can try to open a  my Social Security account in your name and change your direct deposit information to his or her checking account.”

It continued, “Coupled with other information that can easily be found online such as place of birth, a thief can try to claim your benefits over the phone.”

The Rising Trend in Compromised Social Security Accounts

My compromised account, it turns out, was not alone.

In its 2018 Identity Fraud Report, the Javelin Strategy and Research firm found nearly a third (30%) of U.S. consumers were notified of a breach in 2017, up from 12% in 2016, to the tune of $16.8 billion dollars. And for the first time, Social Security numbers were compromised more than credit card numbers in breaches. What this means, according to Javelin, is that 35% of individuals who were notified that their personal information was involved in a breach in 2017 had their Social Security numbers compromised.

One reason Social Security number theft is up: scammers seem to have shifted tactics. “Over the past couple of months, our helpline has received fewer reports of the IRS scam [a con artist pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service, demanding money] while complaints about scammers impersonating the Social Security Administration have been on the increase,” said Amy Nofziger, an AARP expert on frauds and scams.

“I am aware advisories have been put out for consumers to beware of impersonation schemes,” said Mike Litt, Consumer Campaign Director at U.S. PIRG based in Washington, D.C.

How to Safeguard Your Future Social Security Benefits

How do you safeguard your Social Security benefits if you are months or even years away from collecting them?

Perhaps its counterintuitive, but experts recommend signing up for a my Social Security account and closely monitoring it.

The way to do that, says Mike Litt, consumer campaign director at U.S. PIRG, is by logging into your Social Security account regularly and checking your personal information, such as your address or date of birth. If you see changes to the information you entered when you opened the account or information that doesn’t belong to you, contact the Social Security Administration (800-772- 1213 or by email: https://secure.ssa.gov/emailus).

“It may mean someone has tried to claim your benefits, perhaps by telephone,” Litt said.

To report possible fraud or identity theft, Nofziger suggests casting a wide net. “The more reporting entries the better,” she said. Besides the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, the Federal Trade Commission and the Senate Select Committee on Aging fraud hotline 800-303- 9470 are options. (Note: The Federal Trade Commission is currently closed due to the lapse of government funding.)

If You Have a Password Problem

The Social Security Administration says that if you have password problems with your my Social Security account, call Social Security and answer “helpdesk” when the auto prompt asks the nature of your call.

The Social Security Administration uses Equifax credit reports for personal identification verification. “If a person has a security freeze, fraud alert or both with Equifax, a my Social Security account could not be created,” the agency said in an email.

While reporting this story I checked back with the Office of the Inspector General to find out why my account was closed without my authorization. “Due to privacy and law enforcement concerns, we cannot comment on any investigative action we take on the allegation going forward,” communications director Andrew Cannarsa wrote in an email.

After checking my credit report and making sure it was accurate, I then opened another my Social Security account. The block is still in place and Social Security sent me a confirmation. But if I call to request direct deposit or mailing address agencies, the agency said, I may be asked to visit my local Social Security office to confirm my identity.

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5 Technology Trends Impacting State and Local Governments

Contributed by the Community Editorial Team at Comcast Business
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March 01, 2018

State and local governments stand at the cusp of a technology renaissance, as new offerings and services are available to help agencies serve their constituents faster, more effectively and more efficiently. Technologies that once were thought of as “bleeding edge” now are increasingly ubiquitous, enabling government agencies to become more customer-centric in myriad ways, from answering billing queries to proactively identifying when customer data is being targeted by cybercriminals.

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According to research firm Gartner, government CIOs expect to spend 28 percent of their 2018 budget on digital initiatives designed to increase the value of government to constituents.[1] Technologies such as analytics, automation, artificial intelligence and even autonomous vehicles all have the potential to enable governments to offer services and aid their citizens in ways that not only can improve the customer experience, but also save governments time, money and labor.

Imagine logging on to a government website and being “recognized” through facial recognition, then “telling” the site what you’re looking for in plain English and receiving the results instantly. Or imagine a self-driving maintenance truck that “sniffs out” and automatically fills potholes without human intervention.

On the surface, this may sound like the stuff of science fiction. But these scenarios are coming closer to being reality, as technologies such as artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles are moving closer to the mainstream. And their effect on state and local governments would be transformational in providing services and keeping citizens safe from physical and cyber perils.

TECHNOLOGIES TO WATCH

The scope of technologies that can impact government services—and, in turn, our lives—is far-reaching, from robots that clean parks to systems that can create personalized cybersecurity by observing and learning from users’ behaviors. Some technologies are still more bleeding-edge than leading-edge, while others have the potential to be in service—and of service—today.

Five technologies in particular—artificial intelligence and robotics, autonomous vehicles, digital government, automation, and efforts to increase cybersecurity—demonstrate value to state and local government initiatives.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND ROBOTICS

Of all the technologies that can reap the largest benefit for governments, artificial intelligence is perhaps the one most likely to have the biggest impact. In fact, a number of agencies already are using AI to handle tasks quickly that otherwise would take much longer for humans to do, such as sorting through massive amounts of paperwork to find relevant information.

Law enforcement agencies are looking at artificial intelligence as a weapon to help fight crime by improving video surveillance, spotting criminals in crowds through facial recognition, and even helping reduce the amount of time police officers spend writing reports.

Beyond artificial intelligence, robotics is becoming a way for agencies to spend less and do more. Consultancy firm Deloitte highlights the coming of process robotics, which it describes as “… computer-coded, rules-based software that uses ‘bots’ to automate repetitive, rules-based tasks otherwise performed by humans. Requiring minimal system integration, bots can be deployed in as little as a few weeks depending on the complexity of the process.”[2] Any high-volume, rules-based work can be performed by process robotics, which helps free employees to focus on more valuable customer-facing activities.

Bots are already being used by agencies to help improve customer service. Chatbots in particular are being used to answer questions via the web without the need for customer service agents—a technology especially useful for agencies that are understaffed and don’t have dedicated customer-facing employees.

Deloitte estimates that employing AI technology in the government space could free up as many as 1.2 billion working hours every year, saving $41.1 billion.[3]

AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

While much of the conversation around government and autonomous vehicles has focused on legislating such technology, governments can benefit from the use of autonomous vehicles in multiple ways. Another Deloitte study notes that, as end users, agencies not only can improve their government-operated fleets, but also further the concepts of shared mobility and “other new types of travel through their procurement decisions.”[4]

The federal government operates a fleet of more than 600,000 vehicles, including U.S. Postal Service trucks and General Services Administration vehicles leased to various agencies.[5] In 2016, USPS vehicles were involved in about 30,000 accidents nationwide, resulting in about $67 million in repair and legal costs.[6] As a result, the agency is considering autonomous vehicles for its fleet, not only to help improve safety but also to increase productivity of letter carriers, who could ready the mail for deliveries during transit.

At the state and local level, highway maintenance departments could dispatch autonomous trucks to repair road damage such as potholes or broken curbs, clean debris from roads following a collision or events such as a parade, or clear snow and ice from roadways during inclement weather. Public transportation can also be a potential target for autonomous vehicles to help municipalities save on labor costs while keeping their fleets moving.

While autonomous vehicles can have the ability to negatively impact state and local budgets—the amount of revenue generated by traffic tickets is certain to decrease due to anticipated safer driving by autonomous vehicles—governments potentially have more to gain than lose from the technology, including decreased labor costs, increased productivity and lower legal costs related to vehicle accidents.

DIGITAL GOVERNMENT

The term “digital government” is an umbrella term used to describe technologies such as mobile services, common online identities and crowdsourcing—all designed to streamline services and improve the end-user experience.

Mobility in particular is an area where governments at all levels can increase the quality of their services and the efficiency of their employees. Apps can be used to access information quickly and easily, enabling citizens to, for example, see in real time where tree-trimming crews are slowing traffic or virtually check in to the local DMV office to avoid waiting in line. Mobile apps also can help government employees working offsite and in the field. Building inspectors can get instant access to building plans, permit applications and more, for example. Parks and recreation department workers can see the location and working status of every water fountain connected to an internet of things (IoT) sensor. And transportation department employees can remotely change the status of digital signage to alert motorists of changing traffic conditions.

Back-office systems that facilitate common identities for constituents also can help improve the user experience, especially when dealing with multiple agencies. Much like users can log on to various websites by connecting with social media sites such as Facebook, government agencies can use common identity systems to help simplify the process of accessing various agency sites to accomplish tasks, such as checking on the status of a request filed with the zoning commission or filing a police report for a hit-and-run traffic accident.

Crowdsourcing, once the purview of sites that harness user opinions to make recommendations on restaurants, hotels and more, is now joining the government fray, as more agencies are depending on the “wisdom of the crowd” to help collect and disseminate information. The federal government has established a site, citizenscience.gov, to help agencies encourage public participation to accelerate innovation. It features federal citizen science efforts in climatology, ecology and disaster response, among others, to help “engage the American public in addressing societal needs and accelerating science, technology, and innovation,” according to the site. At the state and local level, crowdsourcing can be used by agencies to gather real-time traffic information, monitor power outages and collect other data important to citizens, providing facts to the minute and on the fly.

AUTOMATION

Consultancy firm KPMG pegs automation as “the next step in government’s digital transformation,”[7] and with good reason: Automation is perhaps the most useful technology in terms of impacting government services from both the agency and the constituent perspectives. In particular, process automation can free employees from mundane tasks such as filing paperwork to concentrate on more meaningful projects or tasks that require their full attention, such as addressing constituent issues.

Automation is one step below artificial intelligence on the technology ladder; however, interest in “intelligent automation” is growing as a way to further enhance productivity while improving accuracy. Chatbots are a simple example of intelligent automation, while IBM’s Watson with its cognitive analytics, which has the ability to learn and solve problems, offers a prime example of more complex intelligent automation.

Automation is not a new concept in government or other industries, for that matter. However, as advances in artificial intelligence and robotics continue, automation will take on a much more important role in helping governments run efficiently and providing more valuable citizen services.

EFFORTS TO INCREASE CYBER SECURITY

As more processes and constituent interactions occur digitally, governments must do more to protect sensitive and valuable data from cyber threats. No longer should agencies worry about whether their systems will be breached; rather, they should worry about when their systems will be breached.

Researchers estimate damages from cyber crime will amount to $6 trillion worldwide annually by 2021.[8] Included in that amount are damage and destruction of data, embezzlement, stolen money, restoration and deletion of hacked data and systems, lost productivity, theft of intellectual property, forensic investigation, theft of personal and financial data, fraud, post-attack disruption to the normal course of business, and reputational damage.

As cyber threats continue to surge, so does the demand for qualified cyber security talent. However, a recent study by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education predicts there will be a worldwide shortage of 1.8 million skilled security workers by 2022.[9] Agencies must look for new and innovative ways, then, to secure their data and keep their systems safe from breaches and malicious activity.

The cloud is emerging as one tool in the fight against cyber crime, as technologies such as cloud workload protection platforms show promise in keeping data protected no matter where data resides—on-premises, in virtual machines or in cloud environments. Deception technologies, which are designed to throw off a would-be attacker, also can help, as well as endpoint detection and response solutions and network traffic analysis capabilities.

Artificial intelligence shows the biggest promise in improving cyber security, and is the technology upon which many of the new security solutions are based. It is evident that artificial intelligence will serve as the backbone for many, if not most, of the technologies powering the next generation of government services.

HOW THE NETWORK MATTERS WITH NEW-GENERATION TECHNOLOGIES

State and local governments are quickly reaching the point where adoption of new technologies is inevitable. Indeed, the efficiency and effectiveness of any government agency is dependent on the technologies it uses to provide services and protect the health and welfare of its citizens.

In preparing for their impending technology renaissance, agencies first must prepare their networks to certify they are able to handle the increase in demand. Artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, mobility and other technologies can stress the bandwidth of traditional networks and impact performance.

Agencies need to ascertain if they have the right foundation for both customer-facing and back-office operations, as well as new opportunities yet to be imagined. Today’s efficient networks comprise multiple technologies and platforms all chosen to ensure the solutions they support operate at peak performance without issue.

In building a network for the next generation of government services, agencies should consider an environment that includes both on-premises, cloud, and networking technologies such as SD-WAN and high-speed broadband to make certain traffic is handled efficiently over any type of network. And networking components such as WiFi and unified communications can ensure users of the network—employees and constituents—interact with each other using their preferred method of communication.

To help ease stress on an agency’s current network—not to mention the daily burden on IT managers—managed services can be utilized to offer certain constituent services, such as bill payments, without further impacting the network. Managed services can be used to help tie disparate systems together and “fill in the gaps” as agencies update their current infrastructure, and can prove useful even after networks have been upgraded.

Working with a network service provider can help ease the burden associated with building and maintaining a network capable of handling the bandwidth-intensive needs of the next generation of government services. By working with a third-party network services provider, agencies can leverage virtual and physical private Ethernet connectivity to assure critical applications perform as expected. They also can receive all or some of their most critical connectivity functions as a managed service, including managed connectivity, WiFi, security, voice and business continuity, among others.

CONCLUSION

New technologies loom on the horizon to help government agencies better serve their constituents, from answering billing queries to protecting sensitive data from cyber threats. The network on which these technologies run must be robust and flexible enough to handle the traffic and bandwidth demands of today and beyond.

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View the infographic: Trends in Government

 


[1] “Gartner Survey Finds Government CIOs Spend 21 Percent of Their IT Budget on Digital Initiatives,” press release, Gartner, April 25, 2017 https://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3693017

[2] “Process robotics in the federal government,” Public Sector Solutions web page, Deloitte, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/public-sector/solutions/federal-government-process-robotics.html

[3] William D. Eggers, David Schatsky, Dr. Peter Viechnicki, “How artificial intelligence could transform government,” executive summary, Deloitte, April 26, 2017, https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/focus/cognitive-technologies/artificial-intelligence-government-summary.html?_ga=2.17808368.871295872.1509472479-881865455.1507121216

[4] RJ Krawiec, Vinn White, “Governing the future of mobility,” Deloitte, Aug. 3, 2017, https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/focus/future-of-mobility/federal-government-and-transportation-of-the-future.html

[5] Ibid

[6] “Autonomous Vehicles for the U.S. Postal Service,” report, USPS Office of the Inspector General, Oct. 2, 2017, https://www.uspsoig.gov/sites/default/files/document-library-files/2017/RARC-WP-18-001.pdf

[8] “Official 2017 Annual Cybercrime Report,” Cybersecurity Ventures, October 2017, https://cybersecurityventures.com/hackerpocalypse-cybercrime-report-2016/

[9] “Global Cybersecurity Workforce Shortage to Reach 1.8 Million as Threats Loom Larger and Stakes Rise Higher,” news release, Center for Cyber Safety and Education, June 7, 2017 https://www.isc2.org/News-and-Events/Press-Room/Posts/2017/06/07/2017-06-07-Workforce-Shortage

 

10 Best Automotive Technologies of 2019

By KBB.com Editors | January 9, 2019 1:14 PM – Kelley Blue Book

New car buyers would do well to spend less time looking under the hood and more examining all the technology in the car. Of course, the powertrain still matters, but more important is how the driver and vehicle occupants interact with today’s increasingly sophisticated automobiles. That’s why we’ve come up with our 10 Best Automotive Technologies of 2019.

These are the things to look for when buying a new car this year. You may not find them all useful, but regardless of price point it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a vehicle that has most of them. If you want to see the best of the best, find out which two all-new cars took home our 2019 Best Auto Tech Awards.

1. Connected Mobile Apps

It’s no exaggeration to say that the smartphone has changed everything, including how we interact with our cars. Most carmakers offer some sort of connected smartphone app, but some are better than others. Look for one that lets you remotely lock and unlock the doors, check the status of things like fuel and tire pressure, and even remotely start the car to warm things up on a cold winter’s morning.

Make sure to ask if there is a monthly or yearly subscription fee for the service, as it can vary from carmaker to carmaker.

2. Teen Driver Technology

Handing over the keys to your teenager can be a nerve-wracking experience, but some clever new tech might ease your mind a little bit. Several cars have some type of teen driver limitations built in that can notify you if the car is driven over a certain speed, disable the stereo if seatbelts aren’t used, and even keep the stereo from being turned up past 7 — never mind full blast!

Chevrolet’s Teen Driver feature also offers a Report Card that will tell parents if safety systems like ABS or forward collision alert have been triggered while Junior was behind the wheel.

3. Stolen Vehicle Tracking Software

Experts estimate that more than 750,000 motor vehicles will be stolen in 2019. While that number sounds alarming, nearly 46 percent of those vehicles will be recovered — and that number continues to improve. Much of the credit goes to innovative technology that automakers are building into their vehicles, such as the ability for the stolen car or truck to tell law enforcement when it is being held.

The technology is bundled into the vehicle’s assistance and security systems, such as BMW’s Connected Drive or GM’s OnStar. While those advertised features allow effortless diagnostics, concierge, and post-crash notification for summoning rescue services, they may also be used by law enforcement to pinpoint the exact location of a vehicle that is no longer in the owner’s possession. Criminals beware.

4. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Though they are loath to admit it, many manufacturer infotainment systems — the do-it-all screens that control stereo, navigation, and climate control — aren’t very user-friendly. That’s why we like Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto. Plug in your smartphone and it takes over that big screen, replacing it with something that looks a lot more familiar and easy to use.

You’ll get a simplified control scheme to access your music, maps, and your phone’s built-in voice-control features while avoiding the unnecessarily complicated system that comes with the car. Basically every manufacturer has promised support for at least one or both Apple and Google’s systems, but not all trim levels will support them. Make sure to verify your car has the right options, and that it matches your mobile devices.

5. Adaptive Cruise Control

Commuting is no fun. But advanced driver assist systems like adaptive cruise control can take a lot of the stress out of the experience. By using an array of sensors built into the car, adaptive cruise control can match the speed of the car in front of you, meaning you don’t need to constantly hit the gas and brake in highway traffic.

Some systems even allow the car to be brought to a complete halt and then resume automatically, making stop-and-go traffic considerably less frustrating. It might make you uneasy handing over some amount of control to the car, but we promise: use it once, and you’ll never want to go back.

,
6. Exit Warning to Protect Cyclists

People riding bicycles in congested urban areas are often as concerned with parked vehicles as they are with the vehicles on the road — an unexpected opening car door spells doom for cyclists and injury for hapless passengers. Automakers are beginning to address this common danger with rear-looking sensors that detect approaching bicycles and traffic.

The systems are engineered to work for several minutes after the engine has been turned off. If the sensors see an approaching bicyclist or close vehicle, they alert the passenger with a series of bright lights. If the warning is ignored, the most advanced systems will physically lock the door to prevent it from being swung open into the path of the approaching object.

7. Rear Cross-Traffic Alert

Parking lots are extremely common sites for low-speed — but pricey — car crashes. Backing out of a parking spot, even with a rearview backup camera, can be a perilous exercise. That’s why rear-cross traffic alert is so useful.

Thanks to sensors built into the rear of the car, the system can alert you to approaching vehicles, shopping carts, or pedestrians who might wander behind your car without you noticing. Loud beeps are standard with these systems, but some cars can even automatically brake before a collision occurs.

8. Lane Departure Warning

Distracted driving happens. Whether it’s a quick glance at the stereo to change the channel or a child urgently asking for your attention, sometimes we pay a little less attention to the road than we should.

Lane departure warning systems use cameras to determine if a car has drifted across a marked lane line, giving a visual or audible notification (or even a vibration through the seat or steering wheel) that you’ve moved too far out of your lane. The system turns itself off when you use a directional, so there’s no fear of accidental engagement.

More advanced tech, sometimes called Lane Keeping Assist, can even help nudge you back into the proper lane, which can be a literal life-saver if you were heading into opposing traffic.

9. Automatic Emergency Braking

Automatic Emergency Braking or AEB uses a variety of sensors to determine if a forward collision crash is imminent and automatically applies the brakes to diminish the severity or avoid a crash entirely.

The auto industry agreed to make AEB standard in cars by 2022, but many vehicles have it available today. The systems are extremely good, though you absolutely shouldn’t rely on it to stop you — it’s meant as a last resort for when the driver isn’t paying attention, and it’s extremely alarming when the system does engage. While Apple CarPlay and smartphone apps are important, this one could save your life, so it’s worth making this one a high priority on your shopping list.

10. 360-Degree Camera

Insurance claims from low-speed crashes are some of the most common in the industry. Usually occurring during parking, a 360-degree camera system can make life a lot easier for folks who might not realize just how big that new SUV is.

By combining cameras on every side of the car with some clever computing power, your car’s display can show a virtual top-down view of your surroundings. It can show the sides of your garage, whether you’re lined up in the parking spot at the grocery store, or provide invaluable assistance while parallel parking.

The systems are getting cheaper and cheaper, and are available on even moderately priced cars these days. If you’re in the market for a small hatchback, you might not need this one as much — but a big SUV? You could find it invaluable.

 

Rise of the Drones – Managing the Unique Risks Associated with Unmanned Aircraft Systems


Report – Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty

Drones or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) used to be primarily associated with military operations. Today, compact versions are increasingly operating in everyday life and the UAS industry is fast becoming a multi-billion dollar business, as the benefits to be gained from utilizing such innovative technology become apparent.
This Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) report examines the key issues and trends underpinning rapid growth in usage of UAS and provides insight into the potential risk exposures related to their deployment in the private, public and commercial realms.

> Download the full report Rise of the Drones – Managing the Unique Risks Associated with Unmanned Aircraft Systems

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UAS have the potential to both solve problems and save costs in the future across a number of industries, throughout the developing world and in disaster relief scenarios. Growth projections for the sector are significant as UAS become cheaper to purchase, smaller in size and easier to operate. In fact, the UAS industry is regarded by many as the most dynamic growth sector of the global aerospace industry.

However, as civilian and commercial use of UAS rapidly increases and continues to evolve, the potential for misuse of this technology needs to be considered. Advances in technology are inevitably accompanied by a host of new and little understood risks. There have already been enough incidents and near-misses to date involving UAS to generate concern that the likelihood of collisions and other loss events will grow as UAS numbers multiply.

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Photo: microdrones.

The landscape today

Use of drones or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in public airspace is increasing dramatically. In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) projects that by the end of 2016 over 600,000 UAS will be deployed for commercial use – three times the amount of manned general aviation aircraft. In addition, 1.9 million UAS are expected to be in recreational use. The number of UAS is set to triple by 2020. (1)

Globally, UAS market volume is forecast to reach 4.7 million (2) units by 2020 (other estimates are even higher), with the market for commercial application of UAS technology estimated to soar from $2bn to $127bn (3). Such projections are driven by UAS becoming cheaper, smaller and easier to use, as well as regulatory progress.

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UAS – The nuts and bolts: Types of UAS

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Graphic in German

Uses and benefits

Piloted remotely on the ground via control stations, UAS are increasingly used for menial or dangerous tasks, potentially solving problems and overcoming challenges across numerous countries and industries, improving the safety of thousands of workers every year and significantly reducing costs.

UAS are commercially used in a variety of situations, the most popular of which are industrial inspections, aerial photography, agriculture (surveying crops) and law enforcement. As UAS technology penetrates further, a decline in workers compensation losses can be anticipated, particularly related to building inspections. Insurers are also increasingly utilizing UAS to survey loss damage from floods and other catastrophic events, to help alleviate distress and damage to victims and property more quickly.

Emerging UAS usage includes delivering blood and vaccines to remote locations in Africa, as monitoring tools to prevent the exploitation of slave labor in Brazil, fighting grass fires and even delivering pizza and coffee. Subsidiary UAS industries are also being created, such as the emergence of third party “drone for service” vendors, who rent UAS to commercial operators.

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UAS – The nuts and bolts: Featured Technology
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(Click to enlarge)
Graphic in German

The risk landscape

As recreational and commercial UAS usage increases, new risk exposures are emerging. More incidents likely will occur once regulations are finalized that encourage more widespread use. Such incidents could result in multi-million dollar claims against businesses, operators and manufacturers.

Hobbyists account for the majority of UAS owners yet remain largely unregulated in many countries, raising safety concerns, as many can be untrained and inexperienced. Insurers have already seen loss activity resulting from novice control of UAS. Regardless of technological sophistication or operator skill, however, accidents happen.

UAS raise two priority safety concerns: mid-air collisions and the loss of control. A collision can occur if the pilot cannot see and avoid manned aircraft in time. Most at risk are manned aircraft which fly below 500 feet, such as helicopters, agricultural planes and aircraft landing or departing from airports.

Loss of control can result from system failure or flying beyond signal range; a major risk that has already caused incidents involving injuries. A scenario involving a pilot losing control of a UAS during a building inspection could result in a loss easily in excess of $5m. Damage from “foreign objects”, such as bird strikes for example, is already an issue for the aviation sector, as it is the fifth largest generator of insurance claims (6). A collision involving a UAS striking the engine of an airliner could cause $10m in physical damage alone.

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As with manned aircraft there are concerns UAS may be used for malicious acts. An emerging peril is the potential threat from UAS being used to target critical infrastructure. There have been a number of incidents of drone overflights at power stations. There are also concerns that UAS could be utilized to attack sports stadiums or other events where large crowds gather.

Other risk scenarios include the prospect of hackers “spoofing” a UAS radio signal, potentially leading to a crash, the potential loss or theft of valuable recorded data when the device is transmitting information to the control station or after the flight by cyber-attack when the data has been stored. In addition to data protection, there are also many public concerns around such issues as privacy and trespass and nuisance.

Increasing use of UAS is also altering the risk profile of many industries. For example, a real estate agent has little bodily injury exposure but this changes if it engages UAS to take aerial photographs.

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Regulation

Regulations have been a significant barrier to more widespread use of UAS. Standards differ remarkably around the world, as evidenced by the hundreds of working groups trying to harmonize rules. Another challenge is posed by the fact that regulations cannot keep pace with technological advancement.

In most cases, the designation between commercial and recreational UAS use is the starting point. Other common standards exist such as visual line of sight (VLOS) requirements for pilots, size restrictions (usually <55 lbs/25 kg.), and restrictions against operating UAS near airports or outdoor venues.

New rules for commercial use in the US (effective August 2016) represent a milestone as they lower the barrier to entry for new commercial users and are expected to significantly increase the number of units in operation. These new regulations will likely influence other countries to adopt similar laws. The European Union (EU) is also working towards UAS rules.

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Improving UAS safety: insurance and risk mitigation

As UAS ownership grows so will expectations around safety education. Operators should make this a top priority and obtain the necessary training and experience to competently pilot their UAS.

Training is crucial to reducing the number of incidents and operators should focus on flight time calculation, meteorology, security checks for aircraft navigation systems, emergency instructions, and air traffic law. For businesses, additional training should include on-board camera image uses, flight communications and planning, system maintenance and a host of other technological issues. Even basic safety checklists can help.

In many countries UAS registration is not required, causing problems for insurers and claimants. Identification of both UAS and operator will be essential for maintaining proper liability in future. Introduction of car registration-style schemes will help.

Insurance can protect both operators and the public from risk of mid-air collision, as well as physical or property damage or injury to others. Manufacturers, owners and operators of UAS are exposed to a number of risks, as are businesses which sell and service UAS.

If growth projections for the commercial UAS industry in the US materialize, there is potential for the drone insurance market to be worth $500m+ by end of 2020. Globally, its value could be approaching $1bn (7).

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(1) FAA Aerospace Forecast FY2016-2036
(2) Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Market, By Value and Volume Analysis and Forecast 2015-2020 – Research and Markets
(3) Drones will take $127bn worth of human work by 2020, PwC says. Clarity from above – PricewaterhouseCoopers
(4) New Era for Aviation: Opening the Aviation Market for Civil Use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems In A Safe and Sustainable Manner – European Commission, 2014
(5) Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty
(6) Global Claims Review, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty
(7) Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty

How technology is tackling human trafficking

18/07/2018
By Alexon Bell, Global Head of AML and Compliance at Quantexa
Contributor to Global Banking & Finance Review

 

Technology is both a blessing and a curse for officials fighting against human trafficking.

With the rise of social media and a world growing smaller through communication platforms, alongside the accessibility of online advertisements and encrypted messaging apps, traffickers have a host of technologies at their fingertips to help entrap victims, advertise their services and cover up the trafficker’s own illegal activity.

However, new technologies are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are playing a key role in eliminating human trafficking. Some are used to discover and rescue victims, others to identify networks of perpetrators. Many of these advancements are beginning to empower governments to source the root of trafficking rings and stop the activity at its core. In turn, this puts a new and heavier responsibility onto banks and corporates to innovate and improve their systems to themselves spot any nefarious activity and feed this back into the global effort against trafficking.

Spotting victims

At the heart of each case of human trafficking is a victim, but knowing the identity of this victim is difficult. Hundreds of images of abused children are shared online every day – even if all of these are flagged, many will be duplicates of cases that have already been actioned. Understanding whether an image is a duplicate or a new photo – which would require a new response from law enforcement – is difficult as such images are hard to track.

Previously, traffickers wanting to proliferate an image could make small tweaks to it, such as adding marks or a resizing the photo. This creates a distinct image, making it impossible to trace back altered duplicates using traditional methods.

Now, technologies are being used to outsmart traffickers and distinguish new and existing images faster. For example, Microsoft PhotoDNA imposes a fine grid over an image and assigns a numerical value to each square, representing the “hash” – like a DNA signature for the image. Rather than scanning for whole images, the program matches a numerical hash against a database of known illegal images to match duplicate images instantly.

To help law enforcement turn this innovation into positive action, Thorn – a tech start-up founded by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore to fight child sexual abuse and trafficking – has partnered with Microsoft to allow organisations to add to and access a centralised hash sharing database. New images that have not been hashed are reported as belonging to a new victim – meaning law enforcement is alerted to a new victim sooner. This accelerates victim discovery and therefore, hopefully, rescue.

Preventing victim entrapment

Many perpetrators of modern day slavery use contract substitution to entrap their victims. Recruiters offer a lucrative contract to lure individuals abroad, but this is then reworded – often in a language the victim does not understand. Innovators are hoping that blockchain technology may soon help prevent this deception, if governments were to only issue visas when signed contracts are confirmed by the blockchain as matching those originally provided to the individual.

Finding traffickers

Traffickers can use technology to obscure their activity, but technology is also revolutionising the way officials are finding criminal networks. The key is joining the dots of information from NGOs, news sources, databases of known traffickers and details available to institutions such as banks.

Traditional human intelligence is gathered on the ground in a particular country by charities, looking at news sources, hearsay and other resources at their disposal. With many charities operating within one country alone, and much trafficking happening between countries, this information often then needs to be shared with governmental and intra-governmental organisations to compile a profile of a trafficker or activity more broadly. This traditional intelligence, however, is usually not enough to rapidly identify a network of traffickers.

Now, institutions like banks are helping combine this human intelligence with innovative technologies which joins the dots of information from these organisations with the bank’s own internal data and other third party sources. Using big data, artificial intelligence software is able to find links between individuals and their transactions, addresses, associates and company ties, alongside a mass of other relevant information which may suggest nefarious activity when seen in its proper context. By resolving these separate entities, AI tech can build a detailed picture of a criminal’s network, putting an individual transaction or relationship in its wider context. Using a combination of human intelligence and digitally compiled insight, organisations can identify traffickers and their connections.

While some technologies are accelerating trafficking, others are vital in tackling against this devastating crime. The combination of human intelligence, artificial intelligence and the sharing of information is starting to pay dividends.

Whether helping to identify victims, preventing them being ensnared or detecting traffickers themselves, innovative technology is helping at every stage of the fight against trafficking, enhancing processes to make every effort more efficient, effective and accurate – and, ultimately, life-saving.

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Side note to this article/report by Alexon Bell: I will be following up on the human trafficking issue in the near future with a Commentary. It will include key links to Fact Sheets, Quantexa’s specific involvement, including other organizations on the front lines. You may consider becoming involved (directly, donations to key organizations, etc.), and those sources will be added as well.

Bill Owen – TechNewsBlog.net

 

Technologies That Are Changing the Way Police Do Business

How Advancements Shape Criminal Justice Professions

The world of law enforcement is very different now than it was when I entered it in 2001. In just a few short years, technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, changing the way police officers do just about everything. When I first became a cop, we didn’t even have computers available to use at our stations, much less in our cars. But technological advancements are changing law enforcement.

Now, the unimaginable has not only been imagined but manifested. And there’s no slowing down. From drones in the sky to microcomputers in our glasses, technological advancements abound. Here are just a few of the technologies, either already on the street or on the horizon, that will help police make the stuff of science fiction become science fact.

Law Enforcement Looking to Use Drones on Patrol

Critics decry them as harbingers of an Orwellian police state, a la “1984.” Proponents point to the vast potential to solve and prevent crime. Wherever you fall in the argument, the fact is that drones are well on their way to becoming eyes in the sky for law enforcement officials.

Unmanned drones can help patrol in ways and areas that police officers simply cannot. They can provide real-time information to police dispatchers and crime analysts so that officers can get vital information about crimes in progress and dangerous situations, as they unfold. It can help them better plan responses and save lives.

In addition, drones can capture video and images of crimes as they occur, providing crucial evidence in future court proceedings. Imagine a bank robbery in progress; a surveillance drone could be quickly dispatched to the area and follow a fleeing suspect to his home or hideout without his knowledge, avoiding a potential hostage situation or unnecessary injuries.

How Police Can Use Google Glass, HoloLens, and Augmented Reality

Imagine an officer on foot patrol. As he walks down the street, his special glasses are recording and analyzing everything he sees. A built-in screen provides information about the businesses, homes, and vehicles he looks at, while facial recognition software provides real-time information about the people he passes, letting him know if anyone matches BOLO descriptions or if someone he is near has an outstanding warrant.

It was not long ago that this seemed like an impossibility. With the advent of Google Glass, though, this scenario is becoming a very real possibility. Both the software and the data for such a scenario is already available; facial recognition has been in existence for a decade, and simple smartphone apps like Around Me can already provide an augmented reality experience using the phone’s camera.

While the first generation of Google’s computer goggles may not have these capabilities, one can easily see that it’s only a matter of time before officers on the street will have built-in heads-up displays that provide a host of data. This data can help patrol more effectively and efficiently and keep them and their charges safe.

Police Use Social Media to Solve Crime and Engage the Public

Our society has become one in which, though we talk about the importance of privacy, we sure don’t seem to care who knows what about us. Through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others, we seem to be more than happy to share with anyone and everyone what we’re doing, thinking, and even eating at any given moment.

For law enforcement agencies, crime analysts and even probation and community control officers, social media is beginning to prove itself to be a crucial criminal justice tool in gathering intelligence, locating clues and even screening candidates for employment.

There have been numerous cases of police thwarting or solving crimes based on tips gleaned from Facebook posts, and undetected crimes have been successfully prosecuted as a result of videos posted to YouTube. While social media may seem “old hat” as a social and marketing platform, its potential as a crime-fighting tool is only just beginning to be realized.

Law Enforcement Uses Biometrics for Data Security and Identification

From data security to suspect identification, the use of biometrics—using unique biological traits such as fingerprints, retina scans, and DNA to identify individuals—is rapidly increasing among law enforcement circles.

Once a tedious and messy task that included ink, fingerprint cards and arduous analysis by hand, using fingerprints and other biometric data once took weeks and even months. Now, as technology becomes cheaper, smaller, more portable, and readily available, officers are able to use handheld scanners to instantly identify individuals with criminal pasts.

Scanners built into laptop computers provide added security to ensure no unauthorized person can gain access to sensitive intelligence and personal information. DNA databases and software continue to improve, reducing the time and the backlog that once served as major impediments to solving crimes.

New York Police Department’s Domain Awareness System

The New York City Police Department worked with the Microsoft Corporation to develop a comprehensive information and data system that can assist law enforcement at almost every step of patrol and investigations.

The Domain Awareness System, nicknamed the Dashboard, ties in data from a host of available sources, including Computer Aided Dispatch, crime reports and criminal histories, maps and even cameras to provide instant access to real-time information, pictures and video about calls in progress. This comprehensive information is available to officers and crime analysts at a glance, allowing them to formulate a response to any given call better.

How Police Can Use Tablets and Smartphones

Jumping on Facebook, playing Words with Friends or wasting time watching YouTube videos is fine on your off time, but smartphone and tablet computing technology are gaining steam as a crime-fighting tool.

Laptops in patrol cars were once all the rage, but they have their limitations. The increasing portability of connected devices is allowing for new uses and applications for police officers. From handheld translation services that help officers communicate with non-English speakers to handheld electronic ticket-writing devices, tablets and smartphones now give officers the ability to access, record and disseminate important information no matter where they are.

Automatic Tag and License Plate Readers for Police

Mounted to the exterior of patrol cars, electronic tag readers are becoming more prevalent among larger departments and traffic-oriented agencies. Using cameras connected to vehicle information databases, electronic tag readers instantly analyze license plates on every vehicle that comes within their range of view.

Instead of having to call in tags to dispatchers one at a time in order to check for stolen vehicles or compare BOLO information, officers can be alerted to the fact that they are behind a stolen vehicle without having to lift a finger. Tag readers have the potential to increase the number of vehicles recovered and criminals apprehended.

Law Enforcement Use of GPS

The Global Positioning System is not new, but its applications are continuing to expand into the law enforcement community. Using GPS technology, police can pinpoint the location of a call and determine the fastest and safest route to it, getting people the help they need more efficiently and timely.

Officers can record the location of their traffic stops and crash investigations, and that information can be exported to maps to determine how enforcement efforts can be better focused on decreasing the occurrences of traffic crashes. GPS technology can also be used by crime analysts to help identify emerging trends in crime locations and help better plan for shift staffing and patrol assignments.

GPS also adds increased accountability for officers, allowing management and supervisory personnel to track locations and speeds of officers. Received however grudgingly, these uses and innovations help keep officers honest and help them maintain the high ethical standards they are held to.

Advancements Continue to Transform the Policing Profession

Technology continues to advance and change, and in so doing, it advances and changes the profession of law enforcement and other careers in criminology and criminal justice. With proper restraint and respect for constitutional concerns, the use of technology in criminal justice will continue to allow crime fighters to further their ability to serve and protect their respective communities.