Wednesday, November 29, 2023

LAPD uses Israeli company's technology to bolster surveillance

 LAPD has bolstered its online surveillance operations by adding another piece of technology to its roster. LAPD’s newest surveillance partner, Cobwebs Technologies, gathers data from your phone and social media activity and turns it into intelligence, reported KnockLA. The Israeli company’s surveillance software, which outsources much of their surveillance work to AI and machine learning, gives police warrantless access to your personal information. 

Cobwebs Technologies was founded in 2015 by former IDF special operatives Omri Timianker, Shay Attias, and former Mossad official Udi Levy. The company is part of the controversial billion-dollar surveillance industry in Israel, where the technology is often tested on Palestinians before being implemented elsewhere in the world. During a 2014 trip to Israel, LAPD’s top brass saw firsthand how Israel used drones, social media surveillance software, and automatic license plate readers. Within five years of the trip, the department would be using all three. This year, Cobwebs was acquired by private equity firm Spire Capital, which owns the surveillance companies GeoTime and PenLink. The company currently has several contracts with local and federal agencies including the Texas Department of Public Safety (who use it to track migrants), the IRS, and the Department of Homeland Security

LAPD purchased the nearly $200,000-per-year subscription to the technology in 2022 with the help of a $600,000 DHS grant that focuses on terrorism prevention in urban areas. Part of the purchase was a suite of over 50 digital tools, including surveillance and investigative software built by other companies. In the grant proposal for the technology,  LAPD said it would make it easier to share intelligence with federal police agencies. 

Meta, the company behind Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, banned accounts used by Cobwebs and labeled it a surveillance-for-hire company. In a 2021 report, Meta found that Cobwebs was being used to target activists, opposition politicians, and government officials in Hong Kong and Mexico. The report pushes back against the surveillance company’s claims that it tracks only criminals and terrorists.

It is not news that LAPD monitors your social media and surveils your online activity. It is also not news that your phone and computer are doing the same, sending you targeted ads based on the links you click and apps you use. Cobwebs can combine all of this data and turn it into intelligence for police with the help of two platforms: Tangles and Webloc. 

Tangles is Cobwebs’ marquee platform. It uses AI and machine learning to automate its surveillance capabilities. The software’s AI is continually searching, scraping, and extracting information from the public’s online activity. This includes monitoring geotags of geographic locations, social media posts, and online communities, including those on the dark web. 

Tangles allows police to create extremely detailed dossiers on people, either targeted by police or found by Cobwebs while scraping personal and online data. Per the company’s promotion material, the information it provides to police includes “locations, context, internal relations, group structures, [and] hierarchies,” as well as the influence of the target’s “social communities.” This data-driven profiling, as Cobwebs describes it, can infer a person’s social network, whether they are “likely perpetrators of violence,” and monitor changes in a person’s sentiment. Cobwebs says it can help police “prevent events before they occur.”

Cobwebs’ AI can also profile a person by using its deep image analysis to make “connections” the company claims are “invisible to the naked eye.” The software scans photos and videos to find connections in people’s faces and intentions in text and labels within those photos, labeling anything it deems suspicious. Cobwebs doesn’t elaborate on what connections the software makes or how it can assert intentions from an image. 

 To read more CLICK HERE

No comments:

Post a Comment