The federal government was preparing to monitor the public through anti-terror surveillance cameras, according to documents recently leaked on WikiLeaks. According to the WikiLeaks website, which was offline due to a sustained denial-of-service attack Aug. 13, ex-federal officials from the CIA and other agencies led the development of the “TrapWire” system, which links surveillance cameras in private businesses to a central database to be analyzed with facial recognition software.
The hacktivist group Anonymous issued a statement on Aug. 12 that supported WikiLeaks' report and called on followers to take down the TrapWire system, which it called a “monster.” “This program also monitors all social media on the Internet,” the Anonymous statement read.
The TrapWire system is billed as an anti-terrorism measure and has received legal liability protections through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's SAFETY Act.
“TrapWire is a unique, predictive software system designed to detect patterns indicative of terrorist attacks or criminal operations,” the TrapWire website reads. “Utilizing a proprietary, rules-based engine, TrapWire detects, analyzes and alerts on suspicious events as they are collected over periods of time and across multiple locations. Through the systematic capture of these pre-attack indicators, terrorist or criminal surveillance and pre-attack planning operations can be identified -- and appropriate law enforcement counter measures employed ahead of the attack. As such, our clients are provided with the ability to prevent the terrorist or criminal event, rather than simply mitigate damage or loss of life.”
WikiLeaks has made factual errors before, and the exact description of how the TrapWire system works is not yet clear, but privacy concerns naturally arise with the development of any new surveillance system.