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FBI Eyeing Microsoft Technologies to Assist Law Enforcement

Aug 02, 20115 mins
Data and Information SecurityEnterprise ApplicationsMicrosoft

Skinput, Wiffler, Menlo and the Greenfield app are present and future wireless Microsoft technologies that interest the FBI in regards to helping law enforcement with surveillance and fighting crime. The FBI publication 'Wireless Evolution' mentions several more.

In dealing with how law enforcement must keep pace with technology, and the challenges represented by the ever-changing world of wireless devices, the FBI published Wireless Evolution [PDF]. It was originally published in the March 2011 Emerging Technologies Research Bulletin, but this FOIA publication on Secrecy News was obtained by the Federation of American Scientists. While redacted, it was originally marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive” and seems to have been written by FBI Special Agent Richard McFeely who is the Acting Deputy Assistant Director of the Operational Technology Division. It’s an interesting read to see what law enforcement has its eye on in the present and future in communication trends. Since this is being posted on a Microsoft subnet area, here are some Microsoft technologies that were mentioned and seem to interest the FBI in regards to helping law enforcement:

Under “Human Data Transmission,” it mentions Microsoft’s Skinput. “Using Skinput, a person could tap their thumb and middle finger together to answer a call; touch their forearm to go to the next track on a music player; or flick the center of their palm to select a menu item. All of these sign language-like movements, which are customizable, would control a gadget In a person’s pocket through a Bluetooth connection. When fitted with a pica-projector, the Skin put system could display an image of a digital keyboard on a person’s forearm. So, using Skinput, someone could send text messages by tapping his or her arm in certain places — without pulling the phone out of a pocket or purse.” It goes on to talk about using the skin to transfer broadband signals.

Gesture recognition mentioned Kinect and Momo for Windows Mobile. Momo, created by GestureTek, “uses a cell phone camera to track objects and motions.” Motion and Mosaic are the trackers that combine into a tool allowing “users to control and direct actions on their phone using specific hand or body gestures and does not require movement of the device itself.” Technology that utilizes gesture control movement were listed as “one to watch.”

The FBI wireless tech publication mentioned Microsoft Menlo and the Greenfield app. “Microsoft is in the process of designing a mobile device that can collect trail data while a user walks indoors, underground, and in other spaces where GPS signals are not available or are too weak to be picked up like multi-level parking garages. The device would essentially facilitate the gathering of data used to create of a path of ‘digital bread crumbs’.” Law enforcement impact for the Greenfield app “digital bread crumbs” is mostly redacted, but Microsoft Research has a paper called User Experiences with Activity-Based Navigation on Mobile Devices [PDF].

The Microsoft Wiffler referenced Network World’s Julie Bort and her article Microsoft Wiffler lets smartphones use free WiFi from moving vehicles. This research is working on letting “mobile phones and other 3G devices automatically switch to public WiFi even while the device is traveling in a vehicle.There are a couple others of interest in the publication such as Project Ubertooth Kickstarter, a $100, open-source, DIY Bluetooth hacking tool and “turn your iPhone into a fake Windows Phone 7 with this hack.” Yet what really caught my eye were the patents:

The patent abstract for Location-based services states, “Provided herein are methods and systems relating to location-based services such as social networking, providing demographic information, tracking mobile devices, providing business information, providing an adaptable user interface, remotely effecting a change on a portable electronic device, providing a geofence, outputting location-based information on a mobile device, varying transmissions to and from a mobile device, providing location-based alerts, verifying transactions and tailoring information to the behavior of a user.”

The Exclusive wireless service proposals abstracts states, “Provided herein are systems and methods for providing exclusive wireless service proposals to subscribers. A method for providing an exclusive wireless service proposal to a subscriber includes the steps of conducting measurements of at least one metric; sending measurement data acquired during the step of conducting to a measurement analysis machine (MAM), the MAM being configured to analyze the measurement data; analyzing the measurement data; predicting performance of at least one of wireless voice and wireless data services based upon the results of the analysis step; generating a proposal for exclusive wireless services based upon the measurement data and the performance prediction; and providing the proposal to a subscriber. Systems for performing this and additional or alternative methods are also disclosed.”

 Controlling a document based on user behavioral signals detected from a 3D captured image stream abstract states, “A computer-implemented method, system, and program product comprises a behavior processing system for capturing a three-dimensional movement of a user within a particular environment, wherein the three-dimensional movement is determined by using at least one image capture device aimed at the user. The behavior processing system identifies a three-dimensional object properties stream using the captured movement. The behavior processing system identifies a particular defined behavior of the user from the three-dimensional object properties stream by comparing the identified three-dimensional object properties stream with multiple behavior definitions each representing a separate behavioral signal for directing control of the document. A document control system selects at least one document element to represent the at least one particular defined behavior and inserts the selected document element into the document.”

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.