Government employee piloted drone that crashed at White House (Mystery ‘device’ found )

January 27, 2015 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

Government employee piloted drone that crashed at White House | 26 Jan 2015 | A government employee told the Secret Service that he lost control of a small drone before it crashed on the grounds of the White House shortly after 3 a.m. on Monday, officials said. The man, not identified by the government, has been “been fully cooperative” and “initial indications are that this incident occurred as a result of recreational use of the device,” the Secret Service said in a written statement. The pre-dawn incident triggered an early morning lockdown of the White House perimeter and revived concern about the security of the presidential home.

Secret Service investigating small drone on White House grounds –Mystery ‘device’ found on White House grounds | 26 Jan 2015 | The U.S. Secret Service is investigating a “device,” described as a small drone, found on the grounds of the White House, a White House official said Monday, and Press Secretary Josh Earnest said early indications are that the device does not pose an ongoing threat. The Secret Service is sweeping the White House grounds on Monday morning looking for anything else that might be on the ground. Flying drones is illegal in the District of Columbia.

N.S.A. Tapped Into North Korean Networks Before Sony Attack / Defector Lied About His Story of Captivity

January 20, 2015 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

N.S.A. Tapped Into North Korean Networks Before Sony Attack, Officials Say | 18 Jan 2015 |The trail that led American officials to blame North Korea for the destructive cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November winds back to 2010, when the National Security Agency scrambled to break into the computer systems of North Korea. The American spy agency [in violation of international law] drilled into the Chinese networks that connect North Korea to the outside world, picked through connections in Malaysia favored by North Korean hackers and penetrated directly into the North with the help of South Korea and other American allies, according to former United States and foreign officials, computer experts later briefed on the operations and a newly disclosed N.S.A. document.


Prominent North Korean Defector Lied About His Story of Captivity, Said to Be ‘Still Lying’ | 18 Jan 2015 | He was the [CIA] poster boy for human rights atrocities in North Korea; a soft-spoken survivor of the North’s cruel gulags who eventually met such dignitaries as John Kerry in his campaign to focus attention on the North’s abuses. Now, that survivor fabulist, Shin Dong-hyuk, is retracting central facts of his widely reported life story, memorialized in a 2012 book, “Escape from Camp 14,” by a former Washington Post reporter that has been published in 27 languages. Mr. Shin’s latest account has raised its own questions. “He is still lying,” said a North Korean defector who said he was in Camp 18 from 1967 to 1988 and would speak to journalists only on condition of anonymity because he still had family members in the North.

CENTCOM Twitter, YouTube hack traced to Maryland, home of the NSA

January 14, 2015 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

CENTCOM Twitter, YouTube hack traced to Maryland, home of the NSA –Goal is to ensure passage of Orwellian CISPA (now CISA), the spying gift, to the NSA/US corporations | 12 Jan 2015 | The Twitter and YouTube accounts of the Pentagon’s command for its forces in the Middle East were hacked Monday, according to U.S. Central Command. The command’s Twitter and YouTube sites “were compromised for approximately 30 minutes,” a statement released by CENTCOM said…A Twitter account from a group identifying itself as Anonymous said Monday it had tracked the source of the hack to Maryland, but that was not confirmed by official sources.




WASHINGTON — The Twitter and YouTube accounts of the Pentagon’s command for its forces in the Middle East were hacked Monday, according to U.S. Central Command.

The command’s Twitter and YouTube sites “were compromised for approximately 30 minutes,” a statement released by CENTCOM said. “These sites reside on commercial, non-Defense Department servers, and both sites have been temporarily taken offline while we look into the incident further. CENTCOM’s operational military networks were not compromised, and there was no operational impact to U.S. Central Command.”

“We view this as little more than a prank,” said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. “No (Pentagon) systems or computers were compromised.”

Shorty after 10 p.m. ET, CENTCOM announced “We’re back” in a tweet from it’s Twitter account.

Tampa-based Central Command oversees U.S. forces battling militants in Iraq and Syria, as well as its troops in Afghanistan. Along with the U.S. Special Operations Command, it is located at MacDill Air Force Base.

A group calling itself the CyberCaliphate claimed responsibility for the hack.

A Twitter account from a group identifying itself as Anonymous said Monday it had tracked the source of the hack to Maryland, but that was not confirmed by official sources.

Social media accounts, such as those on Twitter or YouTube, are routinely hacked, said Tim Junio, a Stanford University information security expert. “It is usually the result of guessing at passwords or the answers to security questions,” he said.

Though a Twitter account is easier to break into than a Pentagon computer, it’s not trivial, said Jim Penrose, a former National Security Agency computer security expert now with Darktrace, a British security firm.

“There’s been a lot of effort to increase Twitter’s security in the past few months,” he said. A user coming in from a different Internet address would have to answer multiple security questions to be able to change the password on the account and keep legitimate CENTCOM staffers out.

Rosetta Probe Touches Down On Speeding Comet

November 12, 2014 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

Let the Corporate Mining begin!

Sky News

The head of the European Space Agency hails “a big step for human civilisation” as Philae sends signals from the comet surface.

The Rosetta mission has successfully landed a probe on a comet moving at 34,000mph in a historic first for space exploration.

Scientists cheered and punched the air in the European Space (ESA) control room when they received confirmation that the Philae lander was sending signals from the comet.

ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain told a delighted audience: “This is a big step for human civilisation.”

Staff at the Lander Control Center 300 million miles away in Cologne said information they were receiving suggested the probe had made a “soft, gentle” landing.

Picture from instruments on the Philae Lander

Philae’s ROLIS camera captured the final stages of the probe’s descent

But they said they were investigating data that indicated Philae’s anchor “did not shoot” as planned, casting doubt over whether the probe was properly fixed to the comet.

Anchoring is necessary because gravity on the comet is 100,000 times weaker than on Earth so the potential for “bounce-back” is a major challenge.


Video: How Will Rosetta Mission Work?

There was a nail-biting wait of seven hours between the probe’s detachment from the Rosetta orbiter at 9am UK time and touchdown on the comet’s icy surface.

Philae had to negotiate a distance of 22km (14miles) between the orbiter and the comet and land on the 4km (2.4miles) wide lump of ice and dust as it hurtled through space.

There had been concerns after a problem with the lander’s active descent system emerged overnight and for a while put the final approach in jeopardy.


Video: ‘Singing’ Comet Reveals Space Song

A thruster intended to counteract rebound at touchdown could not be activated – meaning latching onto the comet was completely dependent on the dishwasher-sized probe’s harpoon and ice screw system.

But confirmation of the successful landing came at 4.04pm UK time when ESA operations tweeted: “RECEIPT OF SIGNAL FROM SURFACE European Space Agency receiving signals from @Philae2014 on surface of comet #67P/CG #cometlanding.”

In the final phase of the mission scientists said they were surprised to find the rock – called 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko – was “emitting a song”.


Video: Good Luck From Captain Kirk

The Rosetta Plasma Consortium (RPC) said it believed the comet was releasing particles into space which were becoming electrically charged and causing fluctuations in its magnetic field.

The £1bn mission is designed to analyse the composition and density of a comet to better understand the origins of our solar system.

The Rosetta mission blasted off from French Guiana in March 2004 and has travelled more than four billion miles to reach its target.

Scientists used gravity to act as a catapult, plotting co-ordinates which took the orbiter around the Earth three times and Mars once.

They even placed the spacecraft into deep space hibernation to conserve energy – it woke up after 31 months when it passed close to the Sun and was charged by solar rays.

Chief scientist Matt Taylor said the analysis of the data from the surface, together with Earth-based observations, could provide our most detailed ever snapshot of a comet.


Video: Rosetta: See How Philae Will Land

It is believed that comets which formed over four billion years ago could hold the key to how Earth was ‘seeded’ with water and organic matter, providing the building blocks for life.

Mr Taylor told Sky News: “This particular class of comet, Jupiter class comets, showed a similar flavour of water to what we see on Earth so possibly comets could have delivered the Earth’s oceans, so water – and ultimately us, because we are made of water.”



British spies can go through Americans’ telephone calls and emails without a warrant / NSA Phone Surveillance Faces Fresh Court Test

November 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech


British spies can go through Americans’ telephone calls and emails without a warrant, reveals legal challenge in the UK –Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) privileged agreement with National Security Agency revealed 29 Oct 2014 British spies can help themselves to data collected by the NSA from the telephone calls and Internet communications of Americans without a warrant, a new court document shows. The agreement between the NSA and its British equivalent, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) means that American citizen’s data can be seen and stored by the United States’ closest ally without a warrant when that is ‘not technically feasible’. Anything discovered in the data, once obtained, can be kept by the British for up to two years and specifically relates to ‘unselected’ or raw data. But, this deadline can be extended unilaterally by ‘senior UK officials’ if they believe it to be necessary for national security purposes.
NSA Phone Surveillance Faces Fresh Court Test 31 Oct 2014 The National Security Agency’s collection of Americans’ phone records will face a fresh test this coming week when a Washington, D.C., appeals-court panel hears arguments over the surveillance program. Tuesday’s arguments are just one of three federal appeals-court challenges to the NSA’s gathering of millions of Americans’ phone records–an issue that could eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court. The cases, which include two separate lawsuits in New York and San Francisco, were prompted by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations last year detailing the scope of U.S. government surveillance.

US Patent Application for Ebola Virus – Five Years Ago

October 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

October 26, 2014 by legitgov

US Patent Application for Ebola Virus – Five Years Ago Today By Lori Price, 26 Oct 2014 Below is a screenshot depicting the US government’s application for the Ebola Bundibugyo (EboBun) virus. PATENT – Human Ebola Virus Species and Compositions and Methods Thereof – US 20120251502 A1 – ABSTRACT: Compositions and methods including and related to the Ebola Bundibugyo virus (EboBun) are provided…Inventive methods are directed to detection and treatment of EboBun infection. [See also: Why does the CDC own a patent on Ebola ‘invention?’ 3 Aug 2014.]

US Ebola Patent Application

Former WWII airport in China re-assigned to “Cloud Seeding” Project

October 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

(Above – Jack Blood w/ G. Edward Griffin @ 57:00)

An old airport from World War II has been renovated to be used as a base for cloud seeding in central China’s Hunan Province.

Cloud-seeding aircraft have successfully landed at the Zhijiang Airport, also known as Chihchiang Airfield, in a trial operation on Sept. 30, Fan Zhichao, a senior engineer with the provincial weather modification office, told Xinhua on Tuesday.

He said the airport’s new mission is an important part of the efforts in Hunan, China’s largest rice producer, to fight severe droughts in recent years.

Built in 1936, the airport was once home to the American Volunteer Group known as the Flying Tigers and played a key role in China’s fight against invading Japanese.

“The Zhijiang Airport still needs to fix some facilities for its new service, but we are happy to have it as our new base anyway,” said Fan.

Zhijiang airport joins another airport in Changsha, the provincial capital, as a base of operations for artificial precipitation.

“It’s far more than enough considering the droughts worsening in recent years. Plus, the need of cloud seeding is mounting because of smog,” said Fan.

Despite nearly 2,000 artificial rainfall operations, Hunan saw the worst drought in decades in 2013, which led more than 3 million people experience water supply shortages and a direct economic loss of more than 11 billion yuan (1.79 billion U.S. dollars), according to the provincial government. Endi

Hundreds Of Devices Hidden Inside New York City Phone Booths

October 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

Beacons can push you ads — and help track your every move. Update: Hours after BuzzFeed News exposed the devices, the city ordered the removal of the devices.


Hours after BuzzFeed News published this report, City Hall asked Titan to remove the devices, which could have been used to push ads — and track phones.

A company that controls thousands of New York City’s phone booth advertising displays has planted tiny radio transmitters known as “beacons” — devices that can be used to track people’s movements — in hundreds of pay phone booths in Manhattan, BuzzFeed News has learned.

And it’s all with the blessing of a city agency — but without any public notice, consultation, or approval.

Titan, the outdoor media company that sells ad space in more than 5,000 panels in phone kiosks around the five boroughs, has installed about 500 of the beacons, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), Nicholas Sbordone, confirmed to BuzzFeed News.

Beacons are Bluetooth devices that emit simple signals that smartphones can pick up. They’re best known for their growing use in commercial settings: in stores, for example, to alert customers to sales, or in stadiums, to tell patrons which entrances are least crowded.

But the spread of beacon technology to public spaces could turn any city into a giant matrix of hidden commercialization — and vastly deepen the network of surveillance that has already grown out of technologies ranging from security cameras to cell phone towers.

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed News

New York City residents had no say in the deployment of Titan’s beacons. Titan notified DoITT of its plans to install the beacons in 2013, which the city agreed to without a formal approval process because, according to Sbordone, the company said it was using the devices for maintenance purposes only. Titan installed the beacons from September to November 2013; a source with knowledge of the situation alerted BuzzFeed News to the program anonymously for fear, the source said, of being fired for speaking publicly.

One of New York’s leading privacy advocates, New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman, denounced the program after learning of it from a New York Daily News reporter.

“To the extent that the city is involved in this, the lack of transparency [is] of even greater concern,” Lieberman, who called on the city to make public the details of the arrangement, told the Daily News.

“Consumers should be aware when they’re in a zone that projects beacons,” said Doug Thompson, the CEO of dot3, a beacon technology company, who also runsBEEKn, an industry blog. “It shouldn’t be kept hidden from them.”

Neither Titan nor DoITT would provide the specific locations of the beaconized phone booths, but they appear to be densely concentrated in central and lower Manhattan. On a 20-block stretch along Broadway and Sixth Avenue (from the bottom of Madison Square Park to just north of Bryant Park), BuzzFeed News identified 13 Titan-Gimbal beacons — or more than one, on average, every two blocks. To detect the beacons, BuzzFeed News used an Android app that lists nearby beacons, their identification codes, and signal strength, which gets stronger as a phone approaches the transmitter.

Titan, which is also active in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities, said it has installed Gimbal beacons in other markets, but declined to provide details about those programs to BuzzFeed News.

The beacons are manufactured and sold by Gimbal, a San Diego company thatspun off in April from Qualcomm, the telecommunications giant. In its current iteration, a Gimbal beacon requires a third-party app to trigger advertisements, and requires those apps to receive “opt-in” permission from users in order to collect data and send notifications. (Users, of course, also need to have Bluetooth enabled.) Major League Baseball and GameStop, among others, already use Gimbal beacons in their stadiums and stores (respectively). Each uses its own proprietary app (though not necessarily integrated with Gimbal’s software). A beacon in a New York City phone booth ad would need to recognize a corresponding app to push beacon-linked content to that phone.

Gimbal has unusual roots for a technology company. Its CEO, Rocco Fabiano, was chairman of Far Western Bank, a subprime auto lender shut down by California regulators in 1990. In 1993, a federal grand jury indicted Fabiano for allegedly taking bribes as part of an auto-financing scheme. He was acquitted in 1995.

DoITT and Titan say the beacons are currently in use on a test basis only, largely to determine the effectiveness of the technology and for “inventory management,” helping alert Titan which panels are scheduled to be replaced. DoITT’s Sbordone said that any explicit commercialization of the beacons would require a more formal city approval.

The Tribeca Film Festival app used Gimbal beacons this year to send festival-goers notifications about nearby happenings, according to an event press release. Dave Etherington, a spokesman for Titan, confirmed some of the beacons were in city phone booths, but stressed that Titan received no data from the festival-related beacon interactions.

The beacon industry is rooted in the increasingly complex interactions between the beacons, smartphone applications, and cloud-based data collection. Gimbal’s own, public documentation repeatedly and plainly indicates that the company receives beacon-phone interaction data. Those interactions, which Gimbal calls “sightings,” are illustrated in the following graphic from the documentation’s “Proximity Overview” section, intended for prospective Gimbal clients:


“Sightings,” according to the documentation, are sent to both Gimbal servers and, in some cases, “3rd party” servers.

Gimbal’s privacy policy says Gimbal-powered apps may collect your current location, the time of day you passed the beacon, and details about your device. These apps may also, under certain circumstances, collect data about the websites you visit, the apps on your phone, and the “frequency and duration of app usage.” The policy says that app-usage and website-visit data are not sent to Gimbal’s servers.

Gimbal COO Kevin Hunter said through a spokeswoman that the company only provides clients with “aggregated, anonymized data.” Indeed, Gimbal does not collect names, email addresses, or other personally identifiable information. But the company’s software, with users’ permission, can collect a remarkably detailed suite of information.

Gimbal has advertised its “Profile” service. For consumers who opt in, the service “passively develops a profile of mobile usage and other behaviors” that allow the company to make educated guesses about their demographics (“age, gender, income, ethnicity, education, presence of children”), interests (“sports, cooking, politics, technology, news, investing, etc”), and the “top 20 locations where [the] user spends time (home, work, gym, beach, etc.).”

Throughout its marketing materials, Gimbal emphasizes the importance of consumer privacy.

But, with severe data breaches at Home Depot, Target, and JPMorgan Chase, written commitments to privacy and security are only as strong as the technology backing them up.

Email the writers of this article at and


Major League Baseball has installed Gimbal beacons in stadiums, but does not use Gimbal’s software in its apps. An earlier version of this post said that an MLB app was “Gimbal-enabled.”

Why Do Rich People Refuse to Vaccinate Their Kids?

October 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

Duh… This SLATE article is largely Pro Vax Propaganda! Its good to know that a “fad” has sprouted even at the top. We suspect that the real elite NEVER vaccinated their offspring – membership has its privileges – knowledge…. 

SLATE seems to be pushing for Laws which will FORCE all children to be vaccinated (this will exclude the elite of course) 


Why is anti-vaccination sentiment associated with the economic elite? Alex Seitz-Wald examines the question in Salon, in light of an uptick in parents refusing to vaccinate their kids.* But not just any parents. As Seitz-Wald explains, the unvaccinated kids are clustered in some of the wealthiest schools and neighborhoods, particularly in California, where some extremely expensive private schools have vaccination compliance rates as low as 20 percent. Anti-vaccination sentiment has been stereotyped as a mindless lefty cause, but in reality,Republicans are slightly more likely to oppose vaccination than Democrats.


The real correlation is between having a lot of money and class privilege and opposing vaccination. 

So what’s going on? Seitz-Wald interviews some experts like Nina Shapiro, a professor at UCLA, who notes that anti-vaxx sentiment is “a little bit of a trend.” She describes it as “I’m going to be pure and I want to keep my child pure.” But that doesn’t quite get at why there’s such class differences here, since presumably people of all stripes object to the notion of poisoning their children and therefore are vulnerable to “propaganda” (ahem) that paints vaccinations as poisonous. I’d posit that refusing vaccination has become something of a status symbol, a way to distinguish your special snowflake from the herd. It’s in line with other trends of varied inherent value, such as putting your kid in a private school, not allowing him to ever eat trashy “kid” food like hot dogs or macaroni and cheese, or forbidding her from engaging with pop culture.

By design, the vaccination is for everyone. The needles they want to stab into the fancy children of fancy Hollywood celebrities and dot-com billionaires are exactly the same brand and shape as the ones they put into kids who go to public school and whose parents buy their clothes at Target. Next thing you know, they’ll be making everyone ride on public transportation. The line has to be drawn somewhere, folks.

There’s a silver lining here. As Jed Lipinski, writing for Slate, explains, there’s a small but growing interest in the possibility of curbing vaccination noncompliance through lawsuits, presumably by having people whose kids were injured by contracting diseases from nonvaccinated kids suing for damages. When you’re looking to sue, it’s always wise to pick people with deep pockets, and fortunately, the people invested in the trend of nonvaccination are those who have some of the deepest of all.

Remote Control Repo Man? Car Kill Switch Installed on those with Bad Credit Scores

September 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

Big Brother via Wall Street?  Don’t be a “Credit Slave” 

ALSO – If you think that these people deserve what they get, remember that ALL news cars, whether paid for or not, can be controlled remotely…. (see info on “V2V” here)


Miss a Payment? Good Luck Moving That Car

The thermometer showed a 103.5-degree fever, and her 10-year-old’s asthma was flaring up. Mary Bolender, who lives in Las Vegas, needed to get her daughter to an emergency room, but her 2005 Chrysler van would not start.

The cause was not a mechanical problem — it was her lender.

Ms. Bolender was three days behind on her monthly car payment. Her lender, C.A.G. Acceptance of Mesa, Ariz., remotely activated a device in her car’s dashboard that prevented her car from starting. Before she could get back on the road, she had to pay more than $389, money she did not have that morning in March.

“I felt absolutely helpless,” said Ms. Bolender, a single mother who stopped working to care for her daughter. It was not the only time this happened: Her car was shut down that March, once in April and again in June.

This new technology is bringing auto loans — and Wall Street’s version of Big Brother — into the lives of people with credit scores battered by the financial downturn.

Auto loans to borrowers considered subprime, those with credit scores at or below 640, have spiked in the last five years. The jump has been driven in large part by the demand among investors for securities backed by the loans, which offer high returns at a time of low interest rates. Roughly 25 percent of all new auto loans made last year were subprime, and the volume of subprime auto loans reached more than $145 billion in the first three months of this year.

But before they can drive off the lot, many subprime borrowers like Ms. Bolender must have their car outfitted with a so-called starter interrupt device, which allows lenders to remotely disable the ignition. Using the GPS technology on the devices, the lenders can also track the cars’ location and movements.

The devices, which have been installed in about two million vehicles, are helping feed the subprime boom by enabling more high-risk borrowers to get loans. But there is a big catch. By simply clicking a mouse or tapping a smartphone, lenders retain the ultimate control. Borrowers must stay current with their payments, or lose access to their vehicle.

“I have disabled a car while I was shopping at Walmart,” said Lionel M. Vead Jr., the head of collections at First Castle Federal Credit Union in Covington, La. Roughly 30 percent of customers with an auto loan at the credit union have starter interrupt devices.

Now used in about one-quarter of subprime auto loans nationwide, the devices are reshaping the dynamics of auto lending by making timely payments as vital to driving a car as gasoline.

Seizing on such technological advances, lenders are reaching deeper and deeper into the ranks of Americans on the financial margins, with interest rates on some of the loans exceeding 29 percent. Concerns raised by regulators and some rating firms about loose lending standards have disturbing echoes of the subprime-mortgage crisis.

As the ignition devices proliferate, so have complaints from troubled borrowers, many of whom are finding that credit comes at a steep price to their privacy and, at times, their dignity, according to interviews with state and federal regulators, borrowers and consumer lawyers.

Some borrowers say their cars were disabled when they were only a few days behind on their payments, leaving them stranded in dangerous neighborhoods. Others said their cars were shut down while idling at stoplights. Some described how they could not take their children to school or to doctor’s appointments. One woman in Nevada said her car was shut down while she was driving on the freeway.

Beyond the ability to disable a vehicle, the devices have tracking capabilities that allow lenders and others to know the movements of borrowers, a major concern for privacy advocates. And the warnings the devices emit — beeps that become more persistent as the due date for the loan payment approaches — are seen by some borrowers as more degrading than helpful.

“No middle-class person would ever be hounded for being a day late,” said Robert Swearingen, a lawyer with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, in St. Louis. “But for poor people, there is a debt collector right there in the car with them.”

Lenders and manufacturers of the technology say borrowers consent to having these devices installed in their cars. And without them, they say, millions of Americans might not qualify for a car loan at all.

A Virtual Repo Man

"I have disabled a car while I was shopping at Walmart," said Lionel M. Vead Jr., the head of collections at First Castle Credit Union in Covington, La., who said that starter interrupt devices and GPS tracking technology had made his job easier.
“I have disabled a car while I was shopping at Walmart,” said Lionel M. Vead Jr., the head of collections at First Castle Credit Union in Covington, La., who said that starter interrupt devices and GPS tracking technology had made his job easier.Credit Cheryl Gerber for The New York Times

From his office outside New Orleans, Mr. Vead can monitor the movements of about 880 subprime borrowers on a computerized map that shows the location of their cars with a red marker. Mr. Vead can spot drivers who have fallen behind on their payments and remotely disable their vehicles on his computer or mobile phone.

The devices are reshaping how people like Mr. Vead collect on debts. He can quickly locate the collateral without relying on a repo man to hunt down delinquent borrowers.

Gone are the days when Mr. Vead, a debt collector for nearly 20 years, had to hire someone to scour neighborhoods for cars belonging to delinquent borrowers. Sometimes locating one could take years. Now, within minutes of a car’s ignition being disabled, Mr. Vead said, the borrower calls him offering to pay.

“It gets their attention,” he said.

Mr. Vead, who has a coffee cup that reads “The GPS Man,” has been encouraging other credit unions to use the technology. And the devices — one version was first used to help pet owners keep track of their animals — are catching on with a range of subprime auto lenders, including companies backed by private equity firms and credit unions.

Using his computer or cellphone, Mr. Vead can monitor the movements of about 880 subprime borrowers, and if they are late in making a payment, he can disable their vehicles.
Using his computer or cellphone, Mr. Vead can monitor the movements of about 880 subprime borrowers, and if they are late in making a payment, he can disable their vehicles.Credit Cheryl Gerber for The New York Times

Mr. Vead says that first, he tries reaching a delinquent borrower on the phone or in person. Then, only after at least 30 days of missed payments, he typically shuts down cars when they are parked at the borrower’s house or workplace. If there is an emergency, he says, he will turn a car back on.

None of the borrowers or consumer lawyers interviewed by The New York Times raised concerns about the way Mr. Vead’s credit union uses the devices. But other lenders, they said, were not as considerate, marooning drivers in far-flung places and often giving no advance notice of a shut-off. Lenders say that they exercise caution when disabling vehicles and that the devices enable them to extend more credit.

Without the use of such devices, said John Pena, general manager of C.A.G. Acceptance, “we would be unable to extend loans because of the high-risk nature of the loans.”

The growth in the subprime market has been good for the devices’ manufacturers. At Lender Systems of Temecula, Calif., which sells a range of starter interrupt devices, revenue has more than doubled so far this year, buoyed by an influx of new credit union customers, said David Sailors, the company’s executive vice president.

Mr. Sailors noted that GPS tracking on his company’s devices could be turned on only when borrowers were in default — a policy, he said, that has cost it business.

The devices, manufacturers say, are selling well because they are proving effective in coaxing payments from even the most troubled borrowers.

A leading device maker, PassTime of Littleton, Colo., says its technology has reduced late payments to roughly 7 percent from nearly 29 percent. Spireon, which offers a GPS device called the Talon, has a tool on its website where lenders can calculate their return on capital.

Fears of Surveillance

While the devices make life easier for lenders, their ability to track drivers’ movements has struck a nerve with a number of borrowers and some government authorities, who say they are a particularly troubling example of personal-data gathering and surveillance.

At its extreme, consumer lawyers say, such surveillance can compromise borrowers’ safety. In Austin, Tex., a large subprime lender used a device to track down and repossess the car of a woman who had fled to a shelter to escape her abusive husband, said her lawyer, Amy Clark Kleinpeter.

The move to the shelter violated a clause in her auto loan contract that restricted her from driving outside a four-county radius, and that prompted the lender to send a tow truck to take back the vehicle. If the lender could so easily locate the client, Ms. Kleinpeter said, what was stopping her husband?

“She was terrified her husband would be able to find out where she was from the tow truck company,” said Ms. Kleinpeter, a consumer lawyer in Austin, who said a growing number of her clients had the devices installed in their cars.

Lenders and manufacturers emphasize that they have strict guidelines in place to protect drivers’ information. The GPS devices, they say, are predominantly intended to help lenders and car dealerships locate a car if they need to repossess it, not to put borrowers under surveillance.

Spireon says it can help lenders identify signs of trouble by analyzing data on a borrower’s behavior. Lenders using Spireon’s software can create “geo-fences” that alert them if borrowers are no longer traveling to their regular place of employment — a development that could affect a person’s ability to repay the loan.

A Spireon spokeswoman said the company takes privacy seriously and works to ensure that it complies with all state regulations.

Corinne Kirkendall, vice president for compliance and public relations for PassTime, which has sold 1.5 million devices worldwide, says the company also calls lenders “if we see an excessive use” of the tracking device.

Even though the device made her squeamish, Michelle Fahy of Jacksonville, Fla., agreed to have one installed in her 2001 Dodge Ram because she needed the pickup truck for her job delivering pizza.

Shortly after picking up her four children from school one afternoon in January, Ms. Fahy, 42, said she pulled into a gas station to fill up. But when she tried to restart the truck, she was not able to do so.

Then she looked at her cellphone and noticed a string of missed calls from her lender. She called back and asked, “Did you just shut down my truck?” and the response was “Yes, I did.”

To get her truck restarted, Ms. Fahy had to agree to pay the $255.99 she owed. As she pleaded for more time, her children grew confused and worried. “They were in panic mode,” she said. Finally, she said she would pay, and within minutes she was able to start her engine.

Borrowers are typically provided with codes that are supposed to restart the vehicle for 24 hours in case of an emergency. But some drivers say the codes fail. Others say they are given only one code a month, even though their cars are shut down more often.

Some drivers take matters into their own hands. Homemade videos on the Internet teach borrowers how to disable their devices, and Spireon has started selling lenders a fake GPS device called the Decoy, which is meant to trick borrowers into thinking they have removed the actual tracking system, which is installed along with the Decoy.

Oscar Fabela Jr., who said his 2007 Dodge Magnum was routinely shut down even when he was current on his $362 monthly car payment, discovered a way to circumvent the system.

That trick came in handy when he returned from seeing a movie with a date, only to find his car would not start and the payment reminder was screaming like a burglar alarm.

“It sounded like I was breaking into my own car,” said Mr. Fabela, 26, who works at a phone company in San Antonio.

While his date turned the ignition switch, Mr. Fabela used a screwdriver to rig the starter, allowing him to bypass the starter interruption device.

Mr. Fabela’s car eventually started, but it was their only date.

“It didn’t end well,” he said.

Government Scrutiny

"I felt like even though I made my payments and was never late under my contract, these people could do whatever they wanted," said T. Candice Smith, who testified before the Nevada Legislature that her car, which had a starter interrupt device installed, was shut down while she was driving on a Las Vegas freeway, nearly causing her to crash.
“I felt like even though I made my payments and was never late under my contract, these people could do whatever they wanted,” said T. Candice Smith, who testified before the Nevada Legislature that her car, which had a starter interrupt device installed, was shut down while she was driving on a Las Vegas freeway, nearly causing her to crash.Credit John Gurzinski for The New York Times

Across the country, state and federal authorities are grappling with how to regulate the new technology.

Consumer lawyers, including dozens whose clients’ cars have been shut down, argue that the devices amount to “electronic repossession” and their use should be governed by state laws, which outline how much time borrowers have before their cars can be seized.

State laws governing repossession typically prevent lenders from seizing cars until the borrowers are in default, which often means that they have not made their payments for at least 30 days.

The devices, lawyers for borrowers argue, violate those laws because they may effectively repossess the car only days after a missed payment. Payment records show that Ms. Bolender, the Las Vegas mother with the sick daughter, was not in default in any of the four instances her ignition was disabled this year.

PassTime and the other manufacturers say they ensure that their devices comply with state laws. C.A.G. declined to comment on Ms. Bolender’s experiences.

State regulators are also examining whether a defective device could endanger the borrowers or other drivers on the road, according to people with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Last year, Nevada’s Legislature heard testimony from T. Candice Smith, 31, who said she thought she was going to die when her car suddenly shut down, sending her careening across a three-lane Las Vegas highway.

“It was horrifying,” she recalled.

Ms. Smith said that her lender, C.A.G. Acceptance, had remotely activated her ignition interruption device.

“It’s a safety hazard for the driver and for all others on the road,” said her lawyer, Sophia A. Medina, with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada.

Mr. Pena of C.A.G. Acceptance said, “It is impossible to cause a vehicle to shut off while it is operating,” He added, “We take extra precautions to try and work with and be professional with our customers.” While PassTime, the device’s maker, declined to comment on Ms. Smith’s case, the company emphasized that its products were designed to prevent a car from starting, not to shut it down while it was in operation.

“PassTime has no recognition of our devices shutting off a customer while driving,” Ms. Kirkendall of PassTime said.

In her testimony, Ms. Smith, who reached a confidential settlement with C.A.G., said the device made her feel helpless.

“I felt like even though I made my payments and was never late under my contract, these people could do whatever they wanted,” she testified, “and there was nothing I could do to stop them.”

DRIVEN INTO DEBT Articles in this series are examining the boom in subprime auto loans.

In a Subprime Bubble for Used Cars, Borrowers Pay Sky-High Rates

Millions of Americans are receiving auto loans they cannot possibly afford, in a lending climate marked by some of the same lack of caution seen in the housing industry before its 2008 implosion.

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