Sunday, September 20, 2009

EUROPE FUNDS ORWELLIAN SPY PROGRAM THAT WOULD MONITOR 'ABNORMAL BEHAVIOR' ON WEB

Telegraph, UK - A five-year research program, called Project Indect, aims to develop computer programs which act as "agents" to monitor and process information from web sites, discussion forums, file servers, peer-to-peer networks and even individual computers. Its main objectives include the "automatic detection of threats and abnormal behavior or violence".

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of human rights group Liberty, described the introduction of such mass surveillance techniques as a "sinister step" for any country, adding that it was "positively chilling" on a European scale.

Stephen Booth, an Open Europe analyst who has helped compile a dossier on the European justice agenda, said . . . projects such as Indect sounded "Orwellian" and raised serious questions about individual liberty.

"This is all pretty scary stuff in my book. These projects would involve a huge invasion of privacy and citizens need to ask themselves whether the EU should be spending their taxes on them," he said.

"The EU lacks sufficient checks and balances and there is no evidence that anyone has ever asked 'is this actually in the best interests of our citizens?'"

Miss Chakrabarti said: "Profiling whole populations instead of monitoring individual suspects is a sinister step in any society.

"It's dangerous enough at national level, but on a Europe-wide scale the idea becomes positively chilling."

According to the official website for Project Indect, which began this year, its main objectives include "to develop a platform for the registration and exchange of operational data, acquisition of multimedia content, intelligent processing of all information and automatic detection of threats and recognition of abnormal behaviour or violence".

It talks of the "construction of agents assigned to continuous and automatic monitoring of public resources such as: web sites, discussion forums, usenet groups, file servers, p2p [peer-to-peer] networks as well as individual computer systems, building an internet-based intelligence gathering system, both active and passive".

York University's computer science department website details how its task is to develop "computational linguistic techniques for information gathering and learning from the web".

"Our focus is on novel techniques for word sense induction, entity resolution, relationship mining, social network analysis [and] sentiment analysis," it says.

A separate EU-funded research project, called Adabts - the Automatic Detection of Abnormal Behaviour and Threats in crowded Spaces - has received nearly L3 million. . .

It is seeking to develop models of "suspicious behavior" so these can be automatically detected using CCTV and other surveillance methods. The system would analyze the pitch of people's voices, the way their bodies move and track individuals within crowds. . .

Open Europe believes intelligence gathered by Indect and other such systems could be used by a little-known body, the EU Joint Situation Centre, which it claims is "effectively the beginning of an EU secret service". Critics have said it could develop into "Europe's CIA".

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