Texas Dept. Of Public Safety Forced To Admit Its Stratfor-Crafted Surveillance Tech Isn't Actually Catching Any Criminals

from the past-failure-no-indication-TrapWire-will-be-useless-for-years-to-come,-right? dept

Concerns over pervasive surveillance are often shrugged off with "ends justify the means" rationalizing. If it's effective, it must be worth doing. But as more information on domestic surveillance programs surfaces, we're finding out that not only are they intrusive, but they're also mostly useless.

TrapWire -- software produced by Stratfor and used by security and law enforcement agencies around the world -- utilizes facial and pattern recognition technology to analyze CCTV footage for "pre-attack patterns," meshing this information with other law enforcement databases, including online submissions from citizens reporting "suspicious behavior."

The Texas Department of Public Safety utilizes TrapWire and has touted its success to multiple entities over the past several months.

According to an email from [Texas DPS spokesman Tom] Vinger to DMN columnist Dave Lieber, TrapWire in Texas “has resulted in, 21 patterns identified (12 with connections outside Texas); 44 arrests made; 36 investigations launched; 14 sent to a Joint Terrorism Task Force, ICE, other federal agencies.”

The 44 arrests claim is also part of an email to the agency’s lobbyists from Robert Bodisch, deputy director of Homeland Security & Services at DPS, which was reported by Lieber/DMN Watchdog in a May report.
But when faced with FOIA requests for data backing up this claim, the DPS was unable to find anything to corroborate its public assertions.
The Texas Department of Public Safety has backed off its statement that the citizen monitoring program TrapWire has resulted in 44 arrests after a Texas Watchdog inquiry, the second time since May the department has publicly misrepresented the agency’s accomplishments.

Instead, the department could not directly link a single arrest by the DPS to the program.
Despite this being repeated to journalists and lobbyists, the DPS is now claiming its "44 arrests" claim was just an honest mistake.
“In attempting to answer a question in good faith, there was an internal miscommunication that led to misinterpretation of the arrest data set — and as a result, the arrest number was not properly qualified,” DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said in a Thursday email to Texas Watchdog. “We are unable to state that the arrest is directly linked to a specific suspicious activity report.”
Even in bogus public statements, a law enforcement agency wants the benefit of the "good faith" exception. It still wants people to believe TrapWire is a beneficial law enforcement tool, despite the lack of evidence. Vinger's "clarification" isn't the only non-apology the DPS has to offer for its misleading claims. It also has this bit of hedging, which only serves to portray TrapWire as being as integral to law enforcement investigations as, say, a local police blotter.
The Thursday statement admitted there were no arrest records, but rather the “arrest number illustrates that individuals who have been arrested due to a criminal act were also reported in the TrapWire program.”
So, expensive software and multiple databases managed to result in some arrests. Or, rather, attempted to garner post facto credit for criminals that had already been arrested. As a nexus for law enforcement leads, TrapWire -- at least in the hands of the Texas DPS -- appears to be no more useful than a phone book, another "database" where arrested individuals might be listed.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 12:54pm

    Wankers

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 1:17pm

    Typical correlation FUD

    This sounds like typical (intentional?) inability to distinguish correlation vs. causation.

    - The criminal was arrested due to some law enforcement activity.
    - The criminal was found in the TrapWire DB.
    - Therefore, TrapWire resulted in the arrest, investigation, etc.
    - Even more therefore, we continue to need the authority & budget to run TrapWire.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    You can't spell "Taylor" without T-O-R!, 22 Jun 2015 @ 1:18pm

    Hey, Masnick: the HUGE Apple story you couldn't bear to even mention is over! TAYLOR SWIFT WON!

    Jammed in. Who cares about this dreck.

    MASSIVE HOOTAGE. "Free" is NOT going to be forced on artists even by Apple.

    Taylor Swift is America's sweetheart. What a rare young lady: pretty, bright, moral, and courageous. I may even listen to her music someday.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 1:33pm

      Re: Hey, Masnick: the HUGE Apple story you couldn't bear to even mention is over! TAYLOR SWIFT WON!

      Except "free" wasn't being forced on artists. Apple entered into contract negotiations to provide a free trial to their new service with THE ARTISTS' RECORD LABELS who agreed to the "no pay during the free trial".

      So this isn't a case of Apple screwing artists, so much as artists getting screwed by the labels which they knowingly signed with and one which was remarkably not as short sighted as is common with most moves by the labels.

      To explain it so even your feeble mind can comprehend it, the labels know that by offering their artists' respective offerings via Apple's new service they've essentially opened up their market that much more and therefore a few months of earning nothing for it was the cost of doing so. Basically it was a huge promotional boon at no real cost to themselves, as Apple would foot the associated bill for setting up the service and all associated costs that goes in doing so. In return they guaranteed themselves a new revenue stream, one which it should be noted they entered into with Apple to the point of Apple promising them a slightly higher royalty rate payment than is the norm.

      So Apple offered to pay the labels more than normal in exchange for providing their artists' music to the new streaming service.

      The labels get more money from Apple per negotiations. The issue then becomes "how much the labels then pass onto the artists is another story entirely".

      But leave it to you to be disingenuous about what went on and why it didn't show up on this site.

      I hate you, Blue. With the fire of a thousand suns, because you're an idiot and a dangerously vocal one at that. You refuse to tell the truth and will spin any situation whatsoever into a narrative as you deem fit to dole out as long as it aligns with your interests and biases. You're the worst kind of person possible.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 1:46pm

        Re: Re: Hey, Masnick: the HUGE Apple story you couldn't bear to even mention is over! TAYLOR SWIFT WON!

        What you're saying is only true of Artists signed to the major labels.
        Everyone else, Indie labels and self publishing musicians, were not being offered anything.
        In fact Anton Newcombe revealed that when he went to Apple to say he didn't want his music in the 3 month trial he was told that his music would be removed from the iTunes store as well.

        When you say "labels", be aware you really mean "the 5 major labels".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        I have no love for Apple or the RIAA, but..., 23 Jun 2015 @ 5:56am

        Re: Re: Hey, Masnick: the HUGE Apple story you couldn't bear to even mention is over! TAYLOR SWIFT WON!

        "To explain it so even your feeble mind can comprehend it, the labels know that by offering their artists' respective offerings via Apple's new service they've essentially opened up their market that much more and therefore a few months of earning nothing for it was the cost of doing so. Basically it was a huge promotional boon at no real cost to themselves, as Apple would foot the associated bill for setting up the service and all associated costs that goes in doing so. In return they guaranteed themselves a new revenue stream, one which it should be noted they entered into with Apple to the point of Apple promising them a slightly higher royalty rate payment than is the norm."

        This sounds like good business sense to me. Get lots of consumers on board and get them hooked. The ones who bail after three months weren't going to sign up and pay a dime anyway, so no loss there. The ones who can't bear to lose their iStream? They'll start paying. There's a reason crack dealers hand out the first hit or two for free.

        As for blueballs, may he die a very painful and prolonged death.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 2:11pm

      Re: Hey, Masnick: the HUGE Apple story you couldn't bear to even mention is over! TAYLOR SWIFT WON!

      You should start blog!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 1:26pm

    TrapWire - it's for the children

    I just noticed the linked e-mail to the DPS lobbyist includes the de rigueur 'for the children' argument. The DPS deputy director managed to squeeze in that they're doing this because of all the Capitol complex visitors, "including many schoolchildren" even though its pretty much a complete non sequitur.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Vidiot (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 2:29pm

      Re: TrapWire - it's for the children

      And they hope to recognize terrorists among those schoolchildren using TrapWire. Or maybe juvenile child molesters! Because, after all, think of the children.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 5:47pm

    Lying

    "there was an internal miscommunication that led to misinterpretation..."

    When such a thing happens in a regular person's head it's called lying. When the DPS does it, it's just an "oopsie".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 6:44pm

    We flat out lied and assumed that no one would dare question us, DAMN YOU ERIC SNOWDEN!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shadow Firebird, 22 Jun 2015 @ 10:21pm

    Bomb Detectors

    Forgive my cynicism, but Trapwire is supposed to do WHAT? That would be…really impressive.

    My first instinct is to presume that Trapwire's functionality is in fact limited to making money, and to wonder if these Texas folk would also like to buy some golf^h^h^h^hbomb detetectors…

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Klaus, 23 Jun 2015 @ 3:59am

    Pre-crime

    "utilizes facial and pattern recognition technology to analyze CCTV footage for "pre-attack patterns," meshing this information with other law enforcement databases, including online submissions from citizens reporting "suspicious behavior."

    It's phrenology, all over again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Get off my cyber-lawn! (profile), 23 Jun 2015 @ 12:27pm

    Everything is Texas is bigger...

    including the lies and misrepresentations!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.