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An App That Allows Children & Teens To Cyber Bully Other Kids


Who on earth would develop an app that would allow, rather, encourage children to bully one another?? A company that claims it is a business site seeking true feedback for executives.   Yet, a members collage banner on the site’s home page features its alleged subscribers – one is a kid holding up his middle finger, another is of a 10 y.o. girl and a third is comprised of two teen “chicks” sporting that annoying duck face pose. (Hey, if they want to look stupid,  I will use a silly description.)

From The Telegraph, May 18, 2017:

UPDATE MAY 29, 2017: THE SITE, SAYAT.ME,  IS BACK ONLINE.

The Sayat.me website was taken offline by its administrators following the suicide of George Hessay, a teenager from Goole, East Yorkshire, who had been allegedly abused over the app.

The app, which is a growing craze among teenagers, allow users to post anonymous “feedback” about their friends. It has been criticised for creating a vehicle for cyber-bullying among school children.

Sayat.me, which is based in Estonia, is designed for business users seeking “constructive, honest feedback” from colleagues and clients. It has 30 million users, many of whom are believed to be teenagers.

The app is a growing craze among teenagers
The app was designed to provide businesses with feedback but is increasingly being used by teenagers

Last week Hessay, a keen footballer, took his own life after being allegedly bullied by his peers on the app.

Hanna Talving, the CEO of Sayat.me, said: “We have been made aware by police that they are investigating a bullying related suicide and we offer our sincere condolences to those affected by this loss.

“We deplore bullying of any kind and want it to have no place on our site. We will offer any assistance we can to the police. We have suspended use of the website to show how seriously we take these matters.”

Friends paid tribute to the teenager on Facebook, with Joely Baxter writing: “George Hessay was such a nice boy who cared about everyone and made sure everyone was ok.

“He really didn’t deserve what happened to him, nobody does and I think that whoever wrote things about him on that stupid Sayat.me thing should be ashamed and grow some balls and own up to it because whoever did it was sick in the head”.

I cannot image what was going through this promising young man’s head when he took his own life because he was being so badly cyber abused that he felt life was not worth living.  I also cannot imagine the family’s shock, pain and incomprehension at such a finite action taken by their loved one.  My heart goes out to George’s family and friends.

Now let me offer some advice to the people who were surely in George’s life but to be applied to those now in the lives of children and teens being cyberbullied:

  • Friends: You may be young but you know right from wrong. Speak up. Being quiet makes your friend who is targeted believe that no one cares or that what is being said about him is true,
  • Teachers: You see the kids snickering at a particular student. Speak up. Dirty looks only go do far.
  • Parents: You know your child, the sneaky looks with malicious intent. Speak up. Or run the risk of raising a punk.

If you believe your child is being bullied, contact StompOutBullying.org.  Anyone who has raised a teen knows that, often, adults are the last ones they may want to talk to about their problems.  Stomp Out offers a free hotline for teens 13+ who are being bullied to reach out and speak to peers.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Text Test By Police: The New Breathalyzer.

From Forbes, 05.15.2017:

Legislation that’s working its way through Albany could allow New York authorities to check drivers’ phones for signs of distraction following an accident, and to impose penalties for refusing that could burden drivers down the road.

A bill that would legalize the use of “textazlyer” devices for determining activity on drivers’ phones is seeing bipartisan support from New York lawmakers, WGRZ Buffalo reported. If passed, it could make New York the first state to implement the technology for catching distracted drivers, who contributed to more than 10,000 traffic fatalities in the last year alone, according to WGRZ.

Now moving through senate and assembly committees, the bill would require drivers who’ve been involved in an accident to let authorities scan their phones for evidence of recent use, or face penalties and license suspension, both at the time and later on, if they refuse. Once developed, the field test could allow officers to quickly generate a time-stamped report on which applications were running and whether drivers were using devices ‘hands on’ or ‘hands free’-style around the time of the accident, according to NPR.

State Senator Mike Ranzenhofer (R-Amherst), who co-sponsored the bill, told WGRZ that a textalyzer tool would not access other content on the phone, nor be able to read text messages, for example, that drivers may have sent or received on the road. Ranzehofer also said the bill could be passed in the legislature by the end of its current session, which concludes next month, and assured WGRZ, “If the device was trolling through your information, I would not be in support of it.”

In New York, the legislation would be known as Evan’s Law, named for 19-year-old Evan Lieberman, who was killed in a 2011 car crash that was later found to be the result of distracted driving. His father Ben Lieberman told NPR he’d “found out the hard way” after his son’s death that obtaining driver phone records after an accident can be “an agonizing process.”

“We often hear, ‘just get a warrant’ or ‘just get the phone records,’ [implying] that the warrant is like filling out some minor form … In New York, it involves a D.A. and a judge. Imagine getting a D.A. and a judge involved in every breathalyzer that’s administered,” he told NPR. Once obtained, such records only show activities like calls and texts, Lieberman said, but not whether drivers were checking email, browsing Twitter, or using any number of other popular apps and platforms.

Recently, Lieberman and representatives of Cellebrite, an Israeli tech developer, demonstrated the textalyzer system they’ve been working on before lawmakers in New York. CBS New York reported that Cellebrite hopes to finish the technology in around nine months, and said the final product will be designed to protect drivers’ data by only seeking evidence of activity on their phones. “For this device, the whole purpose is not to get any data,” said Jim Grady, CEO of Cellebrite USA, to CBS. “So no, police won’t be able to, unless they rewrite our code.”

Depending on the final product, the bill may also force drivers who, for whatever reason, want to protect their privacy by refusing to surrender phones to face some difficult decisions. According to the bill, everyone operating a motor vehicle which “has been involved in an accident or collision involving damage to real or personal property, personal injury, or death, and who has in his [sic] possession at or near the time of such accident or collision, a mobile telephone or electronic device,” would be required to submit such device or devices for on-the-spot field testing upon authorities’ request.

If a driver refuses to surrender their phone for ‘textalyzing,’ they could be subject to a variety of consequences under the bill, starting with the immediate suspension of their driver’s license. In such case, “The police officer will inform the driver that the person’s license or permit to drive and any non-resident operating privilege shall be immediately suspended and subsequently revoked,” the bill explains, while the record of refusal itself “shall be admissible in any trial, proceeding, or hearing” based on a violation of related distracted driving laws, and makes drivers vulnerable to higher fees and heavier punishment later on–all of which could weigh particularly heavily on low-income drivers, those whose employment relies on having an active license, and other disproportionately targeted groups.

According to the Tennessee Law Blog, similar technology is already being used by the FBI, while a number of states are also eyeing the system as a way to bring down the large number of U.S. road fatalities each year.

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My opinion: Textalyzer field testing is a huge overreach by the government and undoubtedly backed by insurance companies, who have become de facto arms of law enforcement of late.  We all know how this will turn up – FUBAR’d to heck and any personal privacy will be gone forever.  Are we seriously becoming such big babies that we can’t restrain ourselves from having to text non-urgent messages while driving? We need government to monitor our every movement because we can’t trust ourselves? With all due respect to those who have lost loved ones to distracted drivers- it’s not the cell, it’t the driver.  It’s after the fact.  If a person isn’t conscious of their actions, endangering everyone else’s privacy is not the answer.  There are apps out there that won’t allow texting while driving for our inexperienced drivers or the weak-willed:

From PolicyGenius:

Drive First
Drive First comes straight from Sprint, and it’s cool that carriers are getting into the no-texting-while-driving game. Your phone automatically locks when you start driving, so no need to start or stop the app, and it automatically replies to texts. But sometimes you need access to things on your phone, right? Drive First lets you set 3 driving apps – like maps or music – so you can get what you need without being tempted to text. You can also set VIP contacts to bypass the block so important people like your husband or boss aren’t blocked every time you get into the car.

Focus
You might have heard of Focus if you’re a fan of Note to Self. The episode that featured Focus was…um, focused on “wexting” – walking and texting – but it works just as well for driving. Like DriveMode, Focus doesn’t actually block anything. Instead, it works to train you to not use your phone while you’re driving. When you’re using it, Focus will tell you to pay attention to your driving. And honestly, while it starts off with gentle reminders, it can get kind of aggressive. If you’re not someone who handles confrontation well, you’ll probably learn quickly. You get report cards emailed to you so you can see how you (or someone else, like your kids) did. If you’re looking to form habits instead of just have your phone locked down, consider Focus.

Drive Mode
If you want something that’s a little less intense, consider Drive Mode. (Not to be confused with the above DriveMode. I know.) It doesn’t block anything, but it does prevent your lockscreen from enabling, so no more typing in PINs or swiping patterns, and it automatically switches calls to your speakerphone. It’s pretty simple, but those two changes remove a lot of the distractions you face from your phone.

TextNoMore
TextNoMore is interesting because it gives you an incentive to not text and drive (besides, you know, not dying). When you’re about to drive, you start the app and put in your estimated driving time. It’ll shut down notifications – nothing revolutionary about that – but the service is partnered with various retailers to provide coupons if you don’t text. It also shows missing children notifications once the app shuts down, so you can feel like you’re doing good, too. The app itself is a little rough-looking, but it’s an intriguing idea and it’ll be interesting to see if others implement similar features.

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For now, keep your eyes on the road and your cell in your pocket, purse or glove compartment, if you really need to.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

 

Tips For Witness Statements By Email Or Phone & Statement Checklist

With so many people with busy schedules these days, sometimes, an investigator does not have the opportunity to sit down with a witness and take a statement.  While an in-person statement is best and the ideal as the operative can view the witness’ demeanor, mannerisms and interpret the witness’ body language, that simply may not be possible. Or you can have a witness that has moved very far out-of-town.  For whatever reason, the investigator now finds herself having to take a statement via email or the phone.

There are several steps that we follow specific to these methods of recording testimony: (For this article’s purpose, references to emails and phones numbers are for those to be used in connection to a witness’ statement.)

  1. Verify your witness’ identity.   Via phone or email, you may not be able to tell if you are speaking with John Doe, Sr. or Jr., so ensure you are speaking with your true witness by verifying personal identifiers such as full name, DOB and SSN.
  2. Verify the owner/registrant of the phone number or the email.  Imagine trying to follow up with a witness for clarification on a point in his statement only to get this text in return, “Don’t text this number ever again. I don’t know where that lying cheater is and I never want to hear from him again either.”  Or, worse, you disclose sensitive information in an email only to find out that, for his own purposes,  your witness had given you someone else’s email address.
  3. Verify the person’s residence rather than where they are staying on the date and time of your call/email.   You may be reaching someone at their beach house or ski chalet.  Ask if the address is their permanent residence.
  4. Before taking any statement, talk with your witness at length.  Remember that a witness statement is taken not only for the sake of preserving evidence and recall of events, but also for the purpose of negotiation, therefore, the strength of your witness’ recall is critical in that the other side can then determine the validity of the monetary demand by the plaintiff’s attorney.  Witnesses should therefore, prior to any official statement recording, be walked through an initial recitation of events involved in the client’s matter to a) jog and strengthen their memories and  b) allow the witness to experience the logical chain of thought involved so that the memories are returned in efficient, logical order – especially important if live court testimony will be involved, enabling the witness to become adjusted to the pace of Q&A.  Also, always write for the court.  Presume a judge will see your witness statement at some point. The witness’ recall must therefore be recorded clearly.
  5. *Use a witness statement checklist for the actual statement. An investigator can go off script if there is reason to but for the most part, a comprehensive statement checklist ensures that no relevant information is lost or goes unrecorded.
  6. Request the contact formation of at least two emergency or backup contacts.  Two alternate contacts should be on record for any witness statement undertaking, in-person, via phone or by email.   You do not know the witness’ plans to relocate and neither may she at the time of statement intake.

*Below is an actual Witness Statement Checklist currently in use by BNI operatives for MVA (Motor Vehicle Accident) incidents.

Keep in mind that a strong witness statement may position a case for a fair settlement sooner rather than later.

BNI Operatives; Situationally aware.

As always, be safe.

With An Ear For New Technology: New API Can Copy The Voice Of Anyone

IN BRIEF: Montreal-based technology startup Lyrebird has launched a new app interface that allows people to synthesize speech using just a 60-second recording of anyone’s voice audio. While the technology is ground-breaking, its potential use to commit fraud is a huge red flag.

From Futurism: (For those you blessed/cursed with avid curiosity:  A lyre bird is most notable for its superb ability to mimic natural and artificial sounds from its environment.)

We regularly hear about new technologies for editing images in a unique way or better algorithms for visual recognition software. Clearly, a lot of work is being done to improve image generation techniques, but very rarely, however, does news about new voice-editing tech emerge. Adobe’s Project VoCo software is one of just a few exciting examples, but now, Montreal-based startup Lyrebird believes it’s done something even more impressive.


Like VoCo, Lyrebird’s latest application program interface (API) synthesizes speech using anyone’s voice. Unlike VoCo, which requires 20 minutes of audio to generate its replication, Lyrebird’s tech only needs a minute-long sample of the voice it’ll synthesize.

And, as if that’s not impressive enough, Lyrebird’s new service doesn’t require a speaker to say any of the actual words it needs. It can learn from noisy recordings and put different intonations into the generated audio to indicate varied emotions, also.

A CONCERNED VOICE:  Lyrebird’s new tech is revolutionary, indeed. It doesn’t just edit audio recordings — it makes it easy for someone to generate a new recording that truly sounds like it was spoken by a particular person and not created by a computer.

This raises some rather interesting questions, and not only does Lyrebird acknowledge these, the company actually wants everyone else to as well:

Voice recordings are currently considered as strong pieces of evidence in our societies and in particular in jurisdictions of many countries. Our technology questions the validity of such evidence as it allows to easily manipulate audio recordings. This could potentially have dangerous consequences such as misleading diplomats, fraud, and more generally any other problem caused by stealing the identity of someone else […] We hope that everyone will soon be aware that such technology exists and that copying the voice of someone else is possible. More generally, we want to raise attention about the lack of evidence that audio recordings may represent in the near future.

In short, Lyrebird want people to know they can easily be duped by audio, and hopes this knowledge will actually prevent fraud: “By releasing our technology publicly and making it available to anyone, we want to ensure that there will be no such risks.”

Being aware of the potential to be bamboozled by audio is one thing, but protecting oneself from potential fraud is another. Still, the value of Lyrebird’s technology can’t be denied. Whether its usefulness for things like creating more realistic-sounding virtual assistants outweighs its potential for nefarious endeavors remains to be seen.

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Lyrebird’s developer API is still under development.  BNI has become a beta-tester and we will be informed of its launch which we will, of course, pass along.  Our readers will be among the first to know how this new technology works in the real world.  Stay tuned.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

Your Daughter Arrested By Your Own DNA? Ancestry Sites & Law Enforcement

Back in 2009, I’d written an article on Disney theme parks sharing facial recognition technologically enhanced photos of park-goers with the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to boost the DHS’ base population photo database.  Shortly thereafter, the theme parks were joined by cruise lines, vacation spots and just about all hotel, domestic and international, check-ins.  Now firmly in possession of billions of citizen and visitor photos, law enforcement has moved on to absorb as much DNA from the public as it can, often to identify relatives of those on file in connection with crimes.

This 2015 Fusion article describes the acquisition of genetic IDs from family ancestry sites like Ancestry.com and 23andMe:

When companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe first invited people to send in their DNA for genealogy tracing and medical diagnostic tests, privacy advocates warned about the creation of giant genetic databases that might one day be used against participants by law enforcement. DNA, after all, can be a key to solving crimes. It “has serious information about you and your family,” genetic privacy advocate Jeremy Gruber told me back in 2010 when such services were just getting popular.

Now, five years later, when 23andMe and Ancestry both have over a million  customers, those warnings are looking prescient. “Your relative’s DNA could turn you into a suspect,” warns Wired, writing about a case from earlier this year, in which New Orleans filmmaker Michael Usry became a suspect in an unsolved murder case after cops did a familial genetic search using semen collected in 1996. The cops searched an Ancestry.com database and got a familial match to a saliva sample Usry’s father had given years earlier. Usry was ultimately determined to be innocent and the Electronic Frontier Foundation called it a “wild goose chase” that demonstrated “the very real threats to privacy and civil liberties posed by law enforcement access to private genetic databases.”

The FBI maintains a national genetic database with samples from convicts and arrestees, but this was the most public example of cops turning to private genetic databases to find a suspect. But it’s not the only time it’s happened, and it means that people who submitted genetic samples for reasons of health, curiosity, or to advance science could now end up in a genetic line-up of criminal suspects.

Both Ancestry.com and 23andMe stipulate in their privacy policies that they will turn information over to law enforcement if served with a court order. 23andMe says it’s received a couple of requests from both state law enforcement and the FBI, but that it has “successfully resisted them.”

23andMe’s first privacy officer Kate Black, who joined the company in February, says 23andMe plans to launch a transparency report, like those published by Google, Facebook and Twitter, within the next month or so. The report, she says, will reveal how many government requests for information the company has received, and presumably, how many it complies with. (Update: The company released the report a week later.)

“In the event we are required by law to make a disclosure, we will notify the affected customer through the contact information provided to us, unless doing so would violate the law or a court order,” said Black by email.

Ancestry.com would not say specifically how many requests it’s gotten from law enforcement. It wanted to clarify that in the Usry case, the particular database searched was a publicly available one that Ancestry has since taken offline with a message about the site being “used for purposes other than that which it was intended.” Police came to Ancestry.com with a warrant to get the name that matched the DNA.

“On occasion when required by law to do so, and in this instance we were, we have cooperated with law enforcement and the courts to provide only the specific information requested but we don’t comment on the specifics of cases,” said a spokesperson.

As NYU law professor Erin Murphy told the New Orleans Advocate regarding the Usry case, gathering DNA information is “a series of totally reasonable steps by law enforcement.” If you’re a cop trying to solve a crime, and you have DNA at your disposal, you’re going to want to use it to further your investigation. But the fact that your signing up for 23andMe or Ancestry.com means that you and all of your current and future family members could become genetic criminal suspects is not something most users probably have in mind when trying to find out where their ancestors came from.

“It has this really Orwellian state feeling to it,” Murphy said to the Advocate.

If the idea of investigators poking through your DNA freaks you out, both Ancestry.com and 23andMe have options to delete your information with the sites. 23andMe says it will delete information within 30 days upon request.

Another example of familial DNA invasion:

From pri,org:

DNA is taken from the crime scene and compared against a federally regulated FBI-run database used to process DNA evidence, called CODIS. The process can take as long as 18 months before a match is identified. In the meantime, the perpetrator has committed a string of other crimes.

But some local police departments claim they can get faster results — as little as 30 days — by using private labs and local DNA databases.

Frederick Harran, director of public safety at the Bensalem Police Department in Pennsylvania said, “18 months is not prevention, that’s not what they pay me for.”

“I would agree the federal database is a good thing, but we’re just moving too slow,” he claims.

So more and more law enforcement agencies are turning to local databases. But with loose regulations, that can present troubling scenarios. Take this real example from Melbourne, Florida, for example.

A few teenagers were sitting in a parked car, when a police officer pulled up and requested someone provide a DNA sample. The officer gave one boy a cotton swab and a consent form. Once the officer made the collection, he went back on patrol as usual.

Increasingly, local police departments are collecting consensual DNA samples, processed using private labs. It’s happening in cities across Florida, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and North Carolina.

The potential issues for these databases vary state by state. In Florida, minors are allowed to consent to having their DNA collected, which isn’t true in other states, like Pennsylvania. But simply maintaining the databases allows each jurisdiction to test every sample already collected, meaning that the DNA from a minor crime scene from years before could be immediately matched with the new sample.

Stephen Mercer, chief attorney for the Forensics Division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, finds the practice deeply troubling.

“The collection procedureshighlights the very real threat to liberty interests that local DNA databanks pose,” Mercer said. “The usual suspects are targeted, so we see this amplification of bias in the criminal justice system along the lines of race being amplified through the criminal justice system.”

Granted, many may think, “Well, if you have nothing to hide…”.  That’s not the point. The innocent, unindicted individual should retain a basic form of control over whether she becomes involved in situations wherein she identifies relatives in potential criminal acts. There is something perverse in having one’s DNA finger one’s own flesh and blood for the government’s purposes.  Identification by familial DNA isn’t a slippery slope… it’s a well-greased slalom of privacy infringement.

We will be looking into the matter of DNA familial finger-pointing in-depth and report back as developments warrant .

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

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