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posted by CoolHand on Wednesday April 29 2015, @03:23PM   Printer-friendly
from the not-creepy-at-all dept.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is warning of a new surveillance technology to look out for alongside drones, automatic license plate readers, facial recognition, IMSI catchers (like Stingray), and Rapid DNA analyzers. It's Xerox's new and improved system for Automated Vehicle Occupancy Detection, also known as Automated Vehicle Passenger Detection or Automated Vehicle Occupancy Verification:

For years, government agencies have chased technologies that would make it easier to ensure that vehicles in carpool lanes are actually carrying multiple passengers. Perhaps the only reason these systems haven't garnered much attention is that they haven't been particularly effective or accurate, as UC Berkeley researchers noted in a 2011 report.

Now, an agency in San Diego, Calif. believes it may have found the answer: the Automated Vehicle Passenger Detection system developed by Xerox.

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), a government umbrella group that develops transportation and public safety initiatives across the San Diego County region, estimates that 15% of drivers in High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes aren't supposed to be there. After coming up short with earlier experimental projects, the agency is now testing a brand new technology to crack down on carpool-lane scofflaws on the I-15 freeway.

Documents obtained by CBS 8 reporter David Gotfredson show that Xerox's system uses two cameras to capture the front and side views of a car's interior. Then "video analytics" and "geometric algorithms" are used to detect whether the seats are occupied.

When the detection system's computer determines a driver is improperly traveling in the carpool lane, the cameras instantly send photos of the car's interior and its license plate to the California Highway Patrol.

In short: the technology is looking at your image, the image of the people you're with, your location, and your license plate. (SANDAG told CBS the systems will not be storing license plate data during the trial phase and the system will, at least for now, automatically redact images of drivers and passengers. Xerox's software, however, allows police the option of using a weaker form of redaction that can be reversed on request.)

Related Stories

Police: Stingray Device Intercepts Mobile Phones 10 comments

mrbluze writes:

"Columbia Tribune / AP reports of Police agencies' reluctance to divulge details about the Stingray cell-phone interception device, whose use has increased since a Supreme Court decision to prevent the use of GPS tracking devices without a warrant. The Stingray is reported to be a suitcase-sized device that pretends to be a mobile phone tower, tricking a cell phone to connect to it instead of the cellphone company's tower, but details on how this works are not revealed.

In one of the rare court cases involving the device, the FBI acknowledged in 2011 that so-called cell site simulator technology affects innocent users in the area where it's operated, not just a suspect police are seeking.

A December 2013 investigation by USA Today found roughly 1 in 4 law enforcement agencies it surveyed had performed tower dumps, and slightly fewer owned a Stingray.

However, a report by GlobalResearch.ca gives much greater detail, including photographs of the device:

When a suspect makes a phone call, the StingRay tricks the cell into sending its signal back to the police, thus preventing the signal from traveling back to the suspect's wireless carrier. But not only does StingRay track the targeted cell phone, it also extracts data off potentially thousands of other cell phone users in the area.

Although manufactured by a Germany and Britain-based firm, the StingRay devices are sold in the US by the Harris Corporation, an international telecommunications equipment company. It gets between $60,000 and $175,000 for each Stingray it sells to US law enforcement agencies."

Debt Collectors Fight Privacy Advocates Over License Plate Readers 40 comments

It's not just governments and law enforcement agencies that are advocating the use of license plate readers, as The Intercept's Lee Fang reports:

As privacy advocates battle to rein in the use of automated license plate readers (ALPRs), they're going up against another industry that benefits from this mass surveillance: lenders and debt collectors. [...] In Rhode Island, for instance, state Rep. Larry Valencia and state Sen. Gayle Goldin proposed bills in 2014 to prohibit the sale or trade of data collected by ALPRs, and to mandate that the state destroy records after one year.

I filed a records request and found two letters in opposition. One letter came from the[sic] Steven G. O'Donnell, on behalf of the Rhode Island State Police, arguing that law enforcement should be able to come up with its own internal procedures to govern the use of ALPRs. The other letter came from Danielle Fagre Arlow, senior vice president to the American Financial Services Association (AFSA), a trade group for consumer lending companies, some of which target the subprime market.

"Our particular interest in the bill," Arlow wrote, "is the negative impact it would have on ALPR’s valuable role in our industry – the ability to identify and recover vehicles associated with owners who have defaulted on their loans and are not responding to good-faith efforts to contact them." Arlow opposed the bill's restrictions on "how long data can be kept because access to historical data is important in determining where hard-to-find vehicles are likely located."

AFSA lobbied against several similar bills as they were proposed around the country. In Massachussetts, the group lobbied against a bill designed to destroy ALPR records after 90 days. AFSA argued that such a regime is unfair because "ALPR systems work best when they are used to string together the historical locations of vehicles."

[...] According to the ACLU of Rhode Island, the ALPR privacy bill died last session — notably, the bill failed after the consumer lending lobbyists voiced their opposition.

Unofficial Secrets is a newly launched and more frequently updated blog from First Look Media/The Intercept.

Related stories:

DHS Wants a National License Plate Tracking System
Ars Technica Obtains Large Dataset of Oakland Police Department License Plate Scans
Watch Out for "Automated Vehicle Occupancy Detection"

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  • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday April 29 2015, @03:30PM

    by VLM (445) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @03:30PM (#176650)

    Thankfully I don't live in a 3rd world shithole that has stuff like this, either the lanes or the Orwell spy gear, but I wonder how the law and machines deal with car seats and little kids in general in the back seat? Or are the laws written such that passengers are only legally defined as adult in the front passenger seat only?

    Thinking back to when my kids were infants, a rear facing child seat buried in the center of the back seat is pretty well invisible externally. Thinking back on window geometry I don't think it was possible to look into the seat from outside the car, in fact it takes some peculiar viewing angles to see the seat at all.

    Obviously I could commute to work every day with that car seat installed while my wife takes the baby in her car seat equipped car?

    Personally I suspect the long term purpose of this tech is anti-uber type stuff to punish the users. Much like "most" prostitution busts in my area are the johns not the girls (or whatever) as per the paper, maybe the long term goal is not to bust uber drivers but to bust uber passengers. So if someone who looks like you shows up in a uber car you get a ticket in the mail.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 29 2015, @03:37PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 29 2015, @03:37PM (#176657)

      > So if someone who looks like you shows up in a uber car you get a ticket in the mail.

      I want some of whatever you've been smoking.

      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday April 29 2015, @03:55PM

        by VLM (445) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @03:55PM (#176679)

        Bratwurst? I've been thinking of getting an electric smoker.

        So here's this tech. Its gonna be deployed. Why?

        1) Maybe good ole corruption, .gov got election money, .com gets contact money, repeat endlessly. A really expensive paperweight. Wouldn't exactly be the first implementation of that biz model.

        2) .com and .gov merger means that disruption to entrenched interests brings down .gov rifle barrels on the disruptors. And punishing johns is not a new operating model either. So I'm not seeing this as ridiculous

        3) THE CFR IS MAKING FEMA CAMPS FOR CHRISTIANS AND PATRIOTS BECAUSE THE SPACE ALIENS TOLD THEM TO ITS ALL A GREY PLOT. Actually, given growing unrest and civil disorder etc, if the .gov isn't doing stuff like this, they're incompetent. So I could see using this to track citizens who make the mistake of thinking the government serves them and requires their guidance and input instead of the other way around as we currently have with our corrupt imperial system.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 29 2015, @03:42PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 29 2015, @03:42PM (#176666)

      the ticket by mail shit is completely ridiculous. especially when you add in the possibility of a false-positive.

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday April 29 2015, @08:25PM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday April 29 2015, @08:25PM (#176817) Journal

      Thankfully I don't live in a 3rd world shithole that has stuff like this, either the lanes or the Orwell spy gear,

      Where do you live where you have HOV lanes? They seem to be everywhere.

      I hate HOV lanes. They are an aberration of normal traffic flow, inducing more traffic density than they solve, all for the appearance of reducing cars on the road.

      Proof that they are a failure is seen in Washington state where some HOV lanes are allowing single occupancy vehicles IF a toll is paid. So now all pretense of reducing actual vehicles on the road goes out the window, and its all about collecting the money. They've changed the designation to HOT lanes, High Occupancy (or) Toll [wa.gov]

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday April 29 2015, @08:27PM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday April 29 2015, @08:27PM (#176819) Journal

        meant to say
        Where do you live where you don't have HOV lanes?

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 30 2015, @05:13AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 30 2015, @05:13AM (#176945)

        Anywhere that's not the USA.

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by snick on Wednesday April 29 2015, @03:39PM

    by snick (1408) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @03:39PM (#176662)

    The stretch of I-15 that they talk about is dual use. They are toll lanes that HOVs can use for free.

    The point of this is to automate toll collection via something like platepass Currently, the lanes require a little fasttrack gizmo in the car, and if you have 2 or more in your car, you need to remember to put your fasttrack gizmo in its little bag or you will get charged the toll anyway.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Ethanol-fueled on Wednesday April 29 2015, @03:43PM

      by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @03:43PM (#176668) Homepage

      Not to mention that this is not a new arms race [google.com] at all.

      But as a San Diegan who cruises the 15 erryday, I've noticed that cops like to post near the carpool lanes of highway on-ramps during metered periods and check the cars one by one entering the highway through the metered on-ramp. In that situation a violator has no choice but to accept the ticket or be on the losing end of a police chase.

      • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Wednesday April 29 2015, @10:49PM

        by kaszz (4211) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @10:49PM (#176853) Journal

        Better up, buy an inflatable Barbara.. Dual use without export restrictions. ;)
        Add computer controlled pump such that it will automatically inflate only when it's needed.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 29 2015, @07:45PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 29 2015, @07:45PM (#176803)

      That might be what they say the "point" is, but those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. New technology comes out that could be used to violate people's privacy. Government/companies claim they won't do such evil things. Government/companies use said technology to violate people's privacy. It has happened time and time again; don't be fooled.

  • (Score: 2) by bart9h on Wednesday April 29 2015, @03:41PM

    by bart9h (767) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @03:41PM (#176664)

    inflated dolls

    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday April 29 2015, @04:02PM

      by VLM (445) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @04:02PM (#176685)

      obvious solution performance art / political demonstration edition: one of the toymakers products from Stross's Rule 34, strapped into a car seat. If you're going to offend/horrify people at least do a through job of it.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by tangomargarine on Wednesday April 29 2015, @03:57PM

    by tangomargarine (667) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @03:57PM (#176681)

    So you mean 85% of people voluntarily choose to obey the system when there is no way to catch them now?

    Sounds like the (lack of) system is working to me.

    --
    "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by ikanreed on Wednesday April 29 2015, @04:30PM

      by ikanreed (3164) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @04:30PM (#176709) Journal

      We're kinda of wired in our brains to detest people who are selfish, even when their net effect on the sustainability of the system is near zero. We don't like unfairness. It's deep in our psyche, and other social primates like chimps and monkeys demonstrate angry reactions to "unfair" situations. Monkeys cite. [primates.com] Chimp cite [shareable.net](And they'll even apparently reject unfairness that benefits them if they think reprisal is likely)

      • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Wednesday April 29 2015, @05:29PM

        by tangomargarine (667) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @05:29PM (#176741)

        I have an on-ramp near me that I'm not quite sure how to handle. It's going onto a commuter highway and there's one of those really faded diamond paints in one of the two lanes. Is it just really faded and they haven't bothered to repaint it, or did they buff it out on purpose? (People tend to go over to that lane when it gets congested a lot of the time, too.)

        Plus, with only 2 lanes I would think it'd be more efficient to just have them both be normal unrestricted lanes. How many people carpool to work in the morning anyway? We're Americans; we love wasting gas.

        Presumably the reason for carpool lanes is to encourage carpooling, but in this instance it feels like it's pragmatically just causing traffic flow inefficiency.

        --
        "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 29 2015, @04:45PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 29 2015, @04:45PM (#176716)

      Not good enough for zero tolerance fascist america. You must obey!

    • (Score: 2) by Tork on Wednesday April 29 2015, @07:34PM

      by Tork (3914) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @07:34PM (#176796)
      This is off-topic but I'm curious if that number fluctuates when news stories of gov't or law enforcement scandal air.
      --
      Slashdolt Logic: "24 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday April 29 2015, @07:39PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @07:39PM (#176801)

      No.
      85% of the people in the HOV belong there. 90 to 99%% of the single-occupant vehicles are -stopped- in the 2-to-8 non-HOV lanes.
      15% of the HOV occupants cheating usually only means a few percent of the overall traffic.

      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Thursday April 30 2015, @12:19AM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday April 30 2015, @12:19AM (#176878) Journal

        The thing is, if I go to buy groceries, and my wife rides along, my trip no more or less necessary than if I drive alone.

        And this is the case in the vast majority of trips. Car pooling often engenders more trips (after work hours) because the stops planned along the way now have to be repeated in several vehicles.

        We all pay for car pool lanes, but only certain among us get to use them. The rest are wasting gas in stop and go traffic, in crowding that another lane would have lessened.

        As far as I know nobody has demonstrated that HOV lanes do what they were intended to do. In fact there is evidence to the contrary [csueastbay.edu].

        The 4 reasons HOV lanes fail [berkeley.edu].
        10 modes of failure [psu.edu].

        Almost ALL sites promoting HOV/carpool lanes are EPA/DOT sites spewing the same nonsense, with little evidence [b-bot.ca].

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday April 30 2015, @03:51PM

          by bob_super (1357) on Thursday April 30 2015, @03:51PM (#177125)

          That first link is an article written by someone with an axe to grind.
          The next two are different .docs with the same "executive summary"
          The last one is a summary of the same study.

          So, you should have put one link instead of four, because you're not citing different sources.

          I could go over each of the 7 points in the "executive summary" to point out that the methodology and phrasing are highly dubious. The sentences are not wrong, but the sample of data used as summary (HOV lanes at rush hours don't have as much efficiency as general-purpose uncongested lanes, what a concept...) clearly shows an agenda. "mean/median travel times are under two minutes apart for two miles": no shit sherlock, the question, and the incentive, is at 7:30 or 15:30! The fact the all-time mean goes up so much is pretty f'ing good, when ten miles should only take you 10 minutes! Summarize on the same stats for rush hour...

          Anyway. HOV lanes are a major incentive for people to carpool or buy a less polluting car. Many studies have pointed out that adding more lanes on freeways are only a temporary solution, with jams eventually coming back. It's one piece of a puzzle which is hard to solve, because Americans sprawl so much it's hard to have friends doing the same trip as you. And if I'm picking up strangers in my car, they'd better Uber-pay me.

          • (Score: 2) by frojack on Thursday April 30 2015, @05:35PM

            by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday April 30 2015, @05:35PM (#177175) Journal

            Read more carefully.
            There were two independent studies, by researchers at two different universities. They actually did research, measured flow rates.

            The pro HOV "studies" consist of nothing but assertions, trumpeted by various DOT agencies. They have never been rigorously studied with a detail traffic flow for more than the first weeks of an HOV installation.

            --
            No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by BK on Wednesday April 29 2015, @04:12PM

    by BK (4868) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @04:12PM (#176694)

    And the police wonder why their traditional middle-class allies aren't standing up for the in places like Baltimore...

    Not that it's right, but the American middle classes clearly have a high tolerance for enforcement (abuse, harassment, mass incarceration) of the poor. Usually this works out to be the racial minorities, which plays into our stereotypes.

    But the tolerance is decreasing as the police and police state encroach on that middle class. Automated "enforcement". Traffic cameras of all types. Extreme surveillance. Swatting and paramilitary police. Internal investigations assuring us that everything is OK and by the book.

    We don't buy the book anymore. When the police have no allies, they truly are an occupying force.

    --
    ...but you HAVE heard of me.
  • (Score: 1) by Fauxlosopher on Wednesday April 29 2015, @04:23PM

    by Fauxlosopher (4804) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @04:23PM (#176701) Journal

    I'm on record here as stating that most/all taxes in the USA are illegal (income, sales, most "license fees", etc.), that government surveillance without due process is illegal (ALPR, drone spying, etc.), and that government mass surveillance using automated technology is a critical problem (and also illegal) that could be a breaking point for society...

    ... and yet I'm hard pressed to criticize the AVOD system as described by the EFF. Sure, HOV lanes are counter-productive [thenewspaper.com] and as such are a stupid service to offer, but that doesn't seem to change the fact that use of stupid HOV lanes is an optional service with a relatively clear price tag associated with such use. There is cause to be concerned for people that do want to use HOV lanes, primarily due to false positives of a claimed rate of five out of every hundred (would not be surprised if real-world usage produced a much higher error rate), true. Nonetheless, this seems to be technology used with a clear goal of ensuring that users of an optional service are abiding by the terms of use. I'd frankly expect a similar sort of system to be in use on my fantasized-about private highway network, even as I hope smart humans could figure out less intrusive solutions.

    Services both desired and used must be paid for, and that seems to be the intent of AVOD system implementation. (It's the undesired "services" offered and/or the fraudulently [gunowners.org] misrepresented [gundata.org] ones that almost exclusively resort to illegal taxation rather than let the unwilling customers go unfleeced.)

    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday April 29 2015, @05:06PM

      by VLM (445) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @05:06PM (#176728)

      With respect to the idea of HOV being illegal or stupid, I agree, and I'm reminded of the argument against banning gay marriage that the .gov really has no business enshrining religious dogma in law, so the best way to fix the problem would be to excise marriage entirely out of the .gov, make marriage no longer exist from a legal perspective.

      I see no reason why, after removal of the religious institution of marriage from the .gov, something can't be set up to cheaply handle any kind of partnership any adults desire. Nor any reason to see a problem with it. My wife has legal power of attorney over an elderly great uncle currently slowly dying of Alzheimers, and her being able to sign his legal documents and make medical decisions has basically nothing to do with Jesus or the Bible or getting married while simultaneously being married to me. Its none of the .gov business what happens in church and none of the church's business what happens in .gov.

      So the best way to solve the HOV implementation problem is to get rid of the dumb idea of HOV lanes. Its like arguing who has the most elegant divide by zero exception handler instead of fixing the code so you don't divide by zero in the first place. Also in this case it would give people one less thing to make fun of California for.

      • (Score: 1) by Fauxlosopher on Wednesday April 29 2015, @05:25PM

        by Fauxlosopher (4804) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @05:25PM (#176736) Journal

        Most of the stupidity or illegality (aka "overreach") involved with government persists because Americans have largely forgotten the original source for the US fedgov's founding charter is ultimately a derivative of a single human's authority, and as such, cannot legitimately exceed the authority of its source. (The same is true for State governments as well.)

        HOV lanes, government involvement with marriages, and other interferences persist because such are imposed at gunpoint by agents of government, and/or because some individuals refuse to take responsibility for their own choices and turn with wailing and gnashing of teeth to government courts to seek a club of so-called law with which to strike another person with.

        Thus, I counter with the claim that the best way to solve problems such as HOV implementation is to remind people in and out of government that forcing such choices on people is literally criminal. Seems to me that one approach that strikes the root of all such issues is better than trying to pick a way to solve one of a thousand "leaf" issues.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 29 2015, @07:51PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 29 2015, @07:51PM (#176807)

      Again, don't be fooled. [soylentnews.org] How many times can people possibly be fooled by this "No, we won't abuse this surveillance network we're setting up, just trust us! We'll only use it for Innocuous Purpose X!" garbage? It's ridiculous.

      The service will only be "optional" up until enough of you short-sighted fools have accepted it. And then you'll whine when it's suddenly almost impossible to avoid.

  • (Score: 2) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Wednesday April 29 2015, @06:27PM

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 29 2015, @06:27PM (#176767) Homepage Journal

    The correct term is "image processing" but "video analytics" notches up the stock price an increment or so.

    Last I heard was that "analytics" involved privacy-invasive customer tracking for purposes of more effective advertising, but hey that's OK people who buy stocks don't know analytics from Shinola.

    Back in the day, when Red Hat made a big splash on Wall Street, a friend pointed out that some other company with "Red" in its name enjoyed a significant stock price increase. He said that "investors thing Red Hat is the only place where you can get Linux from" and that they were too ignorant to actually figure out the full name of the company.

    Similarly with "geometric algorithms". The general public is just now becoming dimly aware that there is such a thing as an "algorithm". They don't know that algorithms have been finding least common denominators for thousands of years but they do know that algorithms are responsible for eliminating the world-wide threat of terrorism.

    --
    Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by krishnoid on Wednesday April 29 2015, @07:19PM

    by krishnoid (1156) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @07:19PM (#176792)

    A car forced to decide between two collisions could use this to determine how/where to strike another vehicle.

    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday April 29 2015, @07:46PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @07:46PM (#176804)

      Deploying the overhead drone to assess the number of passengers in the limo-tinted SUV was found to have convenient side-effects: The data never made it on time, but the crash video really helped the cops.

  • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Wednesday April 29 2015, @10:56PM

    by kaszz (4211) on Wednesday April 29 2015, @10:56PM (#176859) Journal

    Who said the straw man could'nt do any good? ;-)

    Oh and some glue and clothes. I'm sure inflatable Barbara will service this device properly ;)

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 30 2015, @01:30AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 30 2015, @01:30AM (#176895)

      Just wrap em in a Burkha. Claim ethnic discrimination if busted

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 30 2015, @08:17AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 30 2015, @08:17AM (#176988)

    SANDAG told CBS the systems will not be storing license plate data during the trial phase and the system will, at least for now, automatically redact images of drivers and passengers.

    Keywords being "trial phase" and "at least for now".

    Xerox's software, however, allows police the option of using a weaker form of redaction that can be reversed on request.

    Interpret as: we /request/ that you use a weaker form of redaction at all times and reverse anything and everything we see... because of HOV terrorists!