Posts Tagged ‘photos’

Private Companies Continue To Amass Millions Of License Plate Photos, Hold Onto The Data Forever

March 16th, 2015 No comments

Vigilant Solutions’ automatic license plate readers are everywhere, even places where you wouldn’t expect them. Like, mounted on private companies’ vehicles. This isn’t new. BetaBoston investigated the private ALPR growth industry early last year. Unfortunately, there’s been very little good news to report since then. In fact, there still isn’t.

Vigilant’s ALPR database currently houses more than 2 billion plate scans, with nearly 100 million more being added every day by law enforcement agencies and repo companies. It actually has two databases. One can be plugged into by law enforcement. The other, housed by Vigilant-owned Digital Recognition Network, can be accessed by certain members of the public: car dealers, insurance companies, private detectives… basically anyone willing to pay access fees and who can offer a suitable justification for digging through a multi-billion plate database.

But when confronted with the possible privacy issues this massive database creates, the company is swift to point out the obvious: license plates on vehicles are, in fact, public. But this justification for the creation of the database fails to carry over to those requesting information about what’s in the database. Public records requests have routinely been denied by law enforcement, who claim releasing publicly-obtained, by definition public, license plate photos is somehow a privacy violation.

Todd Hodnett, founder of Digital Recognition Network (corporate “child” of ALPR manufacturer Vigilant Solutions), says privacy concerns should be addressed by anyone but the company making the ALPR equipment and the one housing billions of plate photos accessible by non-government entities.

Hodnett… added that state and federal laws protect the privacy of motorists’ information. State lawmakers, he said, could instead focus on restricting public access to the records and requiring state government oversight and more transparency.

He also points out the hypocrisy of the current situation:

“For the state on one hand to require that you place a license plate with six or eight alphanumeric characters on your vehicle and then on the other hand come back and say that is private – well it doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “It is not private. Otherwise, how could they require you or mandate you to expose it?”

It’s a good point, but one Hodnett ultimately doesn’t care about. At present, plates are considered “public” — which allows his company to do what it does with no legal ramifications. And when the massive database of plate and location info is threatened, DRN’s parent company (Vigilant) is prone to filing lawsuits claiming its license plate photography is protected speech.

It also goes to great lengths to portray any limitation of its plate readers as a threat to public safety.

Brian Shockley — vice president of marketing at Vigilant — plans to warn legislators that Massachusetts risks getting left behind in the use of a new tool that helps fight crime.

“I fear that the proposed legislation would essentially create a safe haven in the Commonwealth for certain types of criminals, it would reduce the safety of our officers, and it could ultimately result in lives lost,” Shockley is scheduled to say in testimony prepared for the hearing before the Joint Transportation Committee.

This may sound reasonable, but Shockley’s claim doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. As it stands now, ALPRs seem nearly as likely to return false positives as generate useful leads.

Until there’s any serious pushback, Vigilant is free to arm both cops and citizens with plate scanners and sell access to both. And until someone starts seriously considering the fact that a plate/location database containing billions of records unrelated to criminal activity might be a bit of a privacy issue (in terms of long-term tracking of people’s movements), Vigilant has no reason to alter even the most questionable of its practices. After all, it’s not as if law enforcement agencies and their private customers (through DRN) have any problem with limitless collection and retention.

Fulton County Police Dept. Corporal Kay Lester:

“Per our understanding, the data that we contribute stays on the database indefinitely,” Lester said in an email. “We can change the time frame if we choose, but since the data is only accessible to (law enforcement agencies), we currently have elected not to do so.”

This is the standard m.o. for most law enforcement agencies in the country. As McClatchy reports, only 10 states have implemented laws governing collection and retention of license plate photos. There’s even less oversight of Vigilant’s “private” collection — the database accessible by corporate customers. Until laws are passed governing the private side of Vigilant’s collection activities, the company is free to hold onto everything forever.

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What To Do With All Those Photos You Took Over the Holidays

January 12th, 2015 Comments off

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If you’re anything like me, you probably took a ton of photos over the holidays. If you’re feeling anxiety about what to do with them, or if you’re the type to not do anything with them at all, here are some things to encourage you towards making those memories last!


Tech | Apartment Therapy

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How To Take Better Family Photos this Holiday Season

December 23rd, 2014 Comments off

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The holidays are one of those rare times when entire families are together, ensuring no one will be missing from great pictures and memories. However, if you often find that you are not hugely excited about about the images that come out of these wonderful days, there are a few things you can do to make more memorable images.


Tech | Apartment Therapy

Cut the Clutter: 3 Get-Tough Tips For Culling Digital Photos

November 25th, 2014 Comments off

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No matter what you do or wish to do with your photos — keep them digital exclusively, share them online, store them in the cloud, print them, organize them for yearly photo books, display them — the question of what photos to keep and what to delete comes into play, most likely first and foremost. Here are the three “rules” I try to implement when deciding what to keep and what needs to go.


Tech | Apartment Therapy

Photos of Samsung’s next Galaxy Alpha leak

September 19th, 2014 Comments off


As soon as Samsung answered consumer demand by introducing a metal-clad smartphone, it seems the company is already on a path toward abandoning the build material. That’s what is being suggested by the newly-leaked Samsung SM-A500, anyway.

The SM-A500 is said to be the next model in Samsung’s Galaxy Alpha line and could launch as the Samsung Galaxy A5. Those familiar with the original Galaxy Alpha, which debuted last month, will recall that the phone featured an aluminum frame as part of the “evolution of Galaxy design.” Word is the Galaxy A5, however, will forego such materials in favor of ones the carry the premium feel of metal without the added production cost. Our hopes in that regard aren’t especially high.


The Galaxy A5 is being positioned as a mid-tier smartphone that would fall in line a notch or two below the original Alpha, which leaves some room for optimism. Samsung could again go with metal for future A-series devices targeting the higher end of the market. As for the A5, the rumored specs include:

  • 5-inch Super AMOLED display
  • Snapdragon 400 processing
  • 13MP camera (5MP front-facing)
  • 16GB storage (expandable via MicroSD)
  • 2,330mAh battery

As for how that faux-metal finish actually looks? From the pictures it’s hard to spot a difference between the A5 and the original Galaxy Alpha. The design will likely carry over to two additional Alpha models that are supposedly slated to follow the SM-A500 out of the gate. No details on when a launch will occur are known at this time.



Nude Photos Of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Ariana Grande Leak In Massive iCloud Hack

August 31st, 2014 Comments off

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Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande, and Kate Upton were among a handful of celebrities whose nude photos were leaked late Sunday afternoon following  what appears to be a large-scale hack.

The photos first appeared on a 4Chan thread (very NSFW). So far, only Lawrence’s publicist Bryna Rifkin has confirmed, in an official statement to Buzzfeed, that the photos were of her client:

This is a flagrant violation of privacy. The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence.

The leaked photos were apparently obtained via a massive hack of Apple’s iCloud. They were then posted on 4chan by users offering more explicit material in exchange for bitcoin payments. 

“The hacker on 4chan is also claiming to have explicit videos of Lawrence, and claims to have over 60 nude selfies of the Oscar-winning actress,” Buzzfeed reported Sunday.

A master list of all of the celebrities whose phones were apparently obtained is circulating the internet.

It includes Cara Delevingne, Kim Kardashian, Mary-Kate Olsen and Kim Kardashian.

Master ListBusiness Insider will continue to update this post as more details become available. 

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More High-Quality Photos Show 4.7-Inch iPhone 6 Rear Shell with Colored Bands

August 29th, 2014 Comments off

New high-quality photos of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6′s rear shell have been shared by (Google Translate), showing us what may be a finished back from the space grey version of the device. Notably, this newest component appears to have its rear bands colored in to fit with the rest of the device, perhaps suggesting that the different color options of the iPhone 6 will feature a similar treatment.

Besides its colored bands, the rear shell shown in the photos appears to be consistent with previous looks at the component, displaying a rounded chassis, embedded rear logo, and more. The shell also appears to adopt redesigned speaker holes and a rounded True Tone LED flash, which join the typical Lightning port, headphone jack, and rear camera.

Apple is expected to announce the iPhone 6 at an event on September 9, where it will also likely unveil its wearable device for the first time. The 4.7-inch iPhone 6 will likely launch a week or so after the event, while the bigger 5.5-inch version of the device may be held back due to production issues. In addition to a larger screen, the iPhone 6 is expected to feature a faster A8 processor, a revamped camera system, iOS 8, and near field communication (NFC) technology for mobile payments.

MacRumors: Mac News and Rumors – All Stories

Check out Nav Camera if you need precise location info for photos and video

August 29th, 2014 Comments off

Nav Camera (US$ 3.99) is an innovative app that uses navigation, augmented reality and display overlays to tell you where you are, your altitude, the direction you are facing and more. The information appears on your image in real time and it’s…
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Awkward Family Photos Reviews

August 22nd, 2014 3 comments

Awkward Family Photos

  • Based on the hit website
  • Components include a 20-sided die and a double-sided, oversized game board
  • From the makers of the bestselling Loaded Questions games
  • Creative questions combine with classic and never-before-seen Awkward Family Photos for a hilarious game night!
  • Made in the USA
Awkward Family Photos
Awkward Family Photos Board Game
Awkward Family Photos
Back of Box
Awkward Family Photos
Sample Card
Awkward Family Photos Board Game

Get ready to laugh. Our Awkward Family Photos game combines 20 thought-provoking questions with 124 of the popular website's classic and never-before-seen photos. Your hilarious answers guarantee a night of awkward fun. And if you know your fellow players well enough and can impress them with your answers, you'll get the last laugh.

Based on the hit website and New York Times bestselling book, comes a celebration of the gloriously odd side of family and your new favorite party game. Just flip over classic and never-before-seen Awkward Family Photos featuring uncomfortable moments including vacations, weddings, and holidays, and read aloud the open-ended questions.

How To Play
  • Flip over a card, roll the 20-sided die, and read aloud the corresponding question.
  • All players, except the roller, write down an answer. Answer sheets are collected and read aloud by the player to the right of the roller. The roller then picks a favorite answer and tries to guess which player said which answer.
  • The player who wrote the favorite answer places one of their five chips on the board. If the roller matches two or more answers correctly, the roller also places a chip on the board. The first player to place all five of their chips on the board wins!

  • Large, double-sided gameboard
  • 62 blue photo cards
  • 62 red photo cards
  • 30 marker chips
  • Answer pad
  • Six pencils
  • 20-sided die
  • Rules

Quick Facts
  • Based on the hit website and New York Times bestselling book
  • From the makers of the bestselling Loaded Questions board game
  • Made in the USA
  • Ages Teen to Adult
  • Four to six players

List Price: $ 24.99 Price: $ 11.94

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Guy Claims Patent On Photographing People In Races And Then Selling Them Their Photos; Sues Photography Company

August 22nd, 2014 Comments off

The folks over at EFF have yet another story of patents gone wrong. This time it’s from a guy named Peter Wolf, who owns a company called Photocrazy, that takes photos of sporting events like running and bike races, and then offers to sell people their photos by matching up their bib numbers. This kind of thing has been around forever, but because Peter Wolf paid a lawyer and said some magic words, he got some patents (specifically: 6,985,875; 7,047,214; and 7,870,035). Here’s the primary claim in the 875 patent:

1. A process providing event photographs of a sporting event for inspection, selection and distribution via a computer network, comprising the steps of:

taking photographs of at least one participant of a sporting event along at least one point of a course or field thereof;

associating identifying data with each photograph taken, wherein the identifying data is selected from at least one of: a number corresponding to a number worn by a participant, a participant’s name, a code acquired from a component worn by a participant, and a date and time, including hour and minute the photograph was taken;

informing the sporting participants of the identifying data;

transferring the photographs to a computer network server;

cataloging each of the photographs in a web-site server according to the identifying data;

accessing the server at a location other than the sporting event and searching for a photograph of a particular sporting event participant utilizing the identifying data; and

displaying the photograph of the sporting event participant for inspection and ordering.

Or, as EFF’s Vera Ranieri summarizes:

In plain English: Take photos of a race, tag and sort by bib number and date, and search for photos based on that tag via the Internet. That’s it.

This, of course, is the problem with many patents these days. You could take nearly any half-competent programmer, explain to him what you wanted to do, and they could build you a system like this without any trouble at all. Because there’s nothing tricky here at all. It’s just putting together a few basic obvious ideas that were really only limited in the past by the underlying technology not being ready. But now that it is… one guy has patents to block anyone else from implementing such an obvious idea. These patents aren’t promoting the progress, they’re hindering it. It seems likely that under the Alice v. CLS ruling, this patent is not valid.

Wolf is suing a small (mostly part time!) photography company called Capstone for doing some of this. While it’s already likely that the patents are invalid, with Capstone, because of how it works, and because of the Limelight v. Akamai ruling, it’s likely that Capstone itself isn’t even infringing (that ruling said that if separate parties do separate parts of the claim, you can’t say that the original party “induced infringement” because there is no direct infringement). But, still, as we’ve discussed many times, patent lawsuits are crazy expensive. And Capstone is a tiny company:

Capstone doesn’t have a widely-distributed podcast that it can use to drum up the backing of thousands of fans and supporters. Its owner’s own attempt to crowdfund the defense raised only about $ 5,000. And although Capstone’s business has been profitable, the owner tells us that because of the patent lawsuit and the costs his company is facing, his business faces the very real prospect of shutting down.

Recent reforms have been helpful to reduce costs for some defendants. For example, the Inter Partes Review (“IPR”) program now being implemented at the Patent Office promises to be a much cheaper way to determine validity.  One problem though, is that it is still too expensive for businesses like Capstone. An IPR costs $ 23,000 in filing fees alone, and requires paying lawyers and often experts as well. 

Ranieri notes that the US Patent Office is accepting comments about dealing with post-grant challenges, and now might be a good time to highlight that it’s impossibly expensive for small businesses being sued over questionable patents:

EFF previously advocated for reduced fees for IPR filings by small businesses and others without the ability to fund patent challenges. Unfortunately, the PTO ignored our request. However, the PTO is currently accepting comments regarding the post-grant challenges such as the IPR process. We encourage the public, especially small business owners, to let the PTO know by September 16 that the costs are still too high for many, and absent a lower cost, patent trolls will continue to assert dubious patents against companies they know can’t afford to do anything but settle.

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