SPD admit mesh network was never turned off after DHS testing phase

Source: Paul Joseph Watson

Following a privacy outcry concerning a wi-fi “mesh network” being installed in Seattle with DHS funding that has the capability of recording the last 1,000 locations of anyone in its vicinity, the Seattle Police Department announced last night that it is temporarily deactivating the network.

Image: City of Seattle.

As we highlighted yesterday, the $2.7 million dollar system, a series of white wi-fi boxes affixed to utility poles with which authorities had planned to blanket the entire city, can track cellphones even if they are not connected to the network. The system can also collect a mobile user’s IP address, mobile device type, apps used, current location and even historical locations.

Infowars subsequently obtained documents from a government insider that revealed how the mesh network was far more than just a means of tracking people’s locations, it was also linked with DHS fusion centers and collected a “wealth of information” from the cellphones of people in the coverage area.

The Seattle Police Department responded to the controversy by announcing that it will temporarily deactivate the network, which was rushed through the Seattle City Council with virtually no oversight, and allow public scrutiny of the system before proceeding.

“The wireless mesh network will be deactivated until city council approves a draft policy and until there’s an opportunity for vigorous public debate,” SPD spokesperson Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said last night, adding that turning off the system involves, “a little more than just flipping a switch.”

“Our position is that the technology is the technology,” Whitcomb added, “but we want to make sure that we have safeguards and policies in place so people with legitimate privacy concerns aren’t worried about how it’s being used.”

Whitcomb dubiously asserted that the network was “operational without being operated” because police had switched on the network for DHS grant-mandated testing and then forgot to turn it off again.

Police Chief Jim Pugel gave the order to begin the deactivation yesterday, but a temporary hold on the system is unlikely to satisfy surveillance critics.

If the Edward Snowden revelations about NSA wiretapping have taught us anything it’s that if a technology exists then it will be used to spy on the American people. Most privacy advocates will not be satisfied until the wi-fi mesh network which currently covers downtown Seattle is ripped out completely and abandoned for good.

At the very least, clear and provable safeguards need to be put in place to ensure that devices which are not connected to the network cannot be tracked. The company behind the technology, Aruba Networks, bragged in their promotional material that the grid could track “rogue” or “unassociated” devices.

The fact that an incident involving SPD surveillance cameras, which were supposed to protect the Port of Seattle from terrorists but were subsequently turned inwards to watch residents and not the coastline as intended, was explained as an “accident” by officials is not going to provide much assurance that Seattle authorities have much concern for privacy.