Apple to provide online tool for police to request data — letter

An Apple logo above a store location entrance in Dallas, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)
Updated 07 September 2018
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Apple to provide online tool for police to request data — letter

Apple Inc. plans to create an online tool for police to formally request data about its users and to assemble a team to train police about what data can and cannot be obtained from the iPhone maker, according to a company letter seen by Reuters.
The letter, dated Sept. 4, was from Apple General Counsel Kate Adams to US Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island.
Apple declined to comment beyond the letter.
Apple can and does provide some user data, such as data stored in its iCloud online service, to law enforcement officials if they make a valid legal request.
But Apple has sparred with US law enforcement officials because it encrypts its devices in such a way that Apple cannot access the devices if asked to do so.
The company said in its letter that it had responded to 14,000 US law enforcement requests last year, including 231 “domestic emergency requests,” that it largely addressed within 20 minutes of receipt “regardless of the time of day or night.”
Apple previously handled those requests via email, a company spokeswoman confirmed. By the end of this year, Apple will provide an online tool for law enforcement officials to make and track requests, according to its letter.
Apple said in the letter that it had trained nearly 1,000 law enforcement officers in how to obtain data from the company. The training previously happened in person at Apple’s headquarters, but the company said it would create an online training course and a team of trainers to help extend its reach to smaller departments.
It said the training and portal would be available globally.
A July report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies that surveyed state and federal US law enforcement officials said their top concern was how to identify which technology companies had access to which data and how to obtain it, which can change from year to year and even month to month as consumers use new devices and services.
“Regardless of what happens in the encryption debate, these are efforts that ought to be undertaken,” Jennifer C. Daskal, one of the report’s authors, told Reuters. “Law enforcement needs to know about, and be able to access, the data that is available.”
Apple participated in the study by responding to questions from the researchers, as did other technology companies.


Greek researchers enlist EU satellite against Aegean sea litter

Greek university students gently deposits a wall-sized PVC frame on the surface before divers moor them at sea at a beach in the island of Lesbos on April 18, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 22 April 2019
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Greek researchers enlist EU satellite against Aegean sea litter

  • “All the targets were carried into the sea, the satellites passed by and we’re ready to fill out the first report”
  • Satellite data is provided free from the European Space Agency (ESA) and hours after the overpass targets should be detected from the Sentinel-2 satellite

LESBOS ISLAND, Greece: Knee-deep in water on a picture-postcard Lesbos island beach, a team of Greek university students gently deposits a wall-sized PVC frame on the surface before divers moor it at sea.
Holding in plastic bags and bottles, four of the 5 meter-by-5-meter (16 foot-by-16-foot) frames are part of an experiment to determine if seaborne litter can be detected with EU satellites and drones.
“This was the first big day,” says project supervisor Konstantinos Topuzelis, an assistant professor at the University of the Aegean department of Marine Sciences, said of the scene from last week.
“All the targets were carried into the sea, the satellites passed by and we’re ready to fill out the first report.”
The results of the experiment — “Satellite Testing and Drone Mapping for Marine Plastics on the Aegean Sea” — by the university’s Marine Remote Sensing Group will be presented at a European Space Agency symposium in Milan in May.
“Marine litter is a global problem that affects all the oceans of the world,” Topouzelis told AFP.
Millions of tons of plastic end up in the oceans, affecting marine wildlife all along the food chain.
“Modern techniques are necessary to detect and quantify marine plastics in seawater,” Topouzelis added, noting that space agencies have already been looking into how drones and satellites can help with the clean-up.
“The main advantage is that we are using existing tools,” which brings down costs and makes it easier to scale up, says Dimitris Papageorgiou, one of the 60 undergraduate and postgraduate students who worked on the experiment.
To prepare, the team gathered some 2,000 plastic bottles and lashed them to the frames. Other targets were crafted with plastic bags, as these are even harder to spot in the water and usually constitute the deadliest threat to Aegean marine life such as dolphins, turtles and seals.
In 2018, a first phase in the experiment was able to detect large targets of around 100 square meters from space.
This year’s experiment uses targets a quarter that size to test the smallest detectable area under various weather conditions.
“It was a crazy idea,” laughs Topouzelis.
“We knew that the European satellite system passes at regular intervals with a spatial resolution of 10 meters.”
In theory, then, the satellites should be able to detect the floating rafts of plastic the team pushed out to sea.
The University of the Aegean is working on the project with Universidad de Cadiz in Spain, CNR-Ismar in Italy and UK environmental consultants Argans Ltd.
Satellite data is provided free from the European Space Agency (ESA) and hours after the overpass targets should be detected from the Sentinel-2 satellite.
The project acts as a calibration and validation exercise on the detection capabilities of the satellites.
But even if relatively small patches of plastic garbage can be spotted from orbiting satellites, the problem of how to remove it from the sea remains.
Last year, a giant floating barrier five years in the making was launched off the coast of San Francisco, as part of a $20-million project to clean up a swirling island of rubbish between California and Hawaii.
But the slow speed of the solar-powered barrier prevents it from holding onto the plastic after it scoops it up.