IBM’s “Smart Surveillance System” – Liner Notes Intro

I’m going to explore here revelations published elsewhere, in detail that was duly blue-penciled into oblivion by able editors. This is a first introductory post and concerns the acquisition the revelatory information, its general nature, and some hints at specific content and future publication plans.

In the course of what for me is routine mining of the internet for choice key terms, using some custom Google queries, I happened upon a server belonging to an IBM researcher working on the company’s Smart Surveillance System project, AKA “SSS” and “S3.” This server contained among other documentation the SSS deployments in several cities across the United States, including Boston, Chicago, New York City, as well as for various private and public agencies. It also included notes for deployments in locations outside the US (OCONUS), such as Pakistan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. The story of the server itself and its owner is developing – the url which I navigated to no longer resolves, and I it is safe to assume that publication of the server’s contents has finally triggered a tripwire, after months of my having free access to it – never mind probable years of unsecured exposure before I discovered it.

After remaining accessible for several weeks after some of its content was disclosed in the first of a three-part DigBoston series on surveillance in the City of Boston, the server, at an FTP url, no longer resolves in my browser nor allows connection via an FTP client. It is safe to assume that the exposure was discovered by the owner, or, as likely, that he was alerted to it by his employer. Fortunately for the public I was able to not only download most of the server’s files before I lost access, I also exported an XML file of the entire directory, which includes names of files as well as metadata.

Boston Police told us they did not participate in the project  which the two Boston Police officers in yellow jackets above are seen participating in.
Boston Police told us they did not participate in the project which the two Boston Police officers in yellow jackets above are seen participating in.

The volume and variety of the files (everything from PowerPoint to .G64 video files) has made extracting their meaning and context an incremental process – my understanding the information has increased exponentially with editing for public consumption at DigBoston, and now well into a review of the much more extensive documentation of projects in NYC and Chicago it is plain to me how elucidating this trove will be.

Closely guarded details of the NYPD/LMSI’ “Domain Awareness System” are now being parsed and organized, and I expect that in the near future I and collaborating journalists will be able to significantly increase the public’s understanding of how authorities and computers are watching. I also expect that an IBM employee will probably be fired soon, if he has not been already.



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