Legislators Introduce Bill to Halt the Use of Facial Recognition

After recent reports revealing government use of facial recognition that fails to correctly identify people of color at a much higher rate than white people, Democratic lawmakers have proposed the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act to ban government use of the technology. Amazon, IBM and Microsoft have already temporarily stopped selling their facial recognition software to law enforcement agencies, and the bicameral bill would make this state of affairs permanent. Continue reading Legislators Introduce Bill to Halt the Use of Facial Recognition

Big Tech Companies Pull Back on Facial Recognition Products

After years of dissent from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Fight for the Future and groups of academics, Big Tech companies are finally taking another look at their facial recognition products. Microsoft president Brad Smith stated his company won’t sell facial recognition to the police until federal regulation is instituted. Amazon placed a one-year moratorium on police use of its Rekognition software, and IBM backed away entirely from facial recognition products, citing the potential for abuse. Yesterday we reported that Congress introduced a police reform bill that includes limits on the use of facial recognition software. Continue reading Big Tech Companies Pull Back on Facial Recognition Products

Facial Recognition Paused While Congress Considers Reform

In the wake of protests over police brutality, senators Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Kamala Harris (D-California) and representatives Karen Bass (D-California) and Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) introduced a police reform bill in the House of Representatives that includes limits on the use of facial recognition software. But not everyone is pleased. ACLU senior legislative counsel Neema Guliani, for example, pointed to the fact that facial recognition algorithms are typically not as accurate on darker skin shades. Continue reading Facial Recognition Paused While Congress Considers Reform

Zoom Clarifies its Relationship with Law Enforcement and FBI

Zoom founder and chief executive Eric Yuan said his company will assist the FBI and law enforcement by providing end-to-end encryption only to paying customers, but not for the majority of those who use its free version, “in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose.” During widespread U.S. protests over the death of George Floyd, Yuan’s comments did not go over well, with some users threatening to switch to rival services. But his words were misinterpreted and taken out of context. “We plan to provide end-to-end encryption to users for whom we can verify identity, thereby limiting harm to vulnerable groups,” explained Yuan. Continue reading Zoom Clarifies its Relationship with Law Enforcement and FBI

ACLU Files Privacy Lawsuit Against Facial Recognition Startup

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a suit in Illinois against facial recognition startup Clearview AI over privacy and safety violations. It accused the company of breaking “the 2008 Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, that bans companies from using a resident’s fingerprints or face scans without consent” and allows a resident to sue such companies for $5,000 per violation. The New Jersey and Vermont state attorneys general ordered Clearview to cease collecting their residents’ photos, and people in New York and Vermont also filed suits. Continue reading ACLU Files Privacy Lawsuit Against Facial Recognition Startup

Drones Take on Essential Roles During Coronavirus Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, drones have been put to good use. In Florida, for example, UPS Flight Forward is delivering medicine from a CVS pharmacy to a nearby retirement community. As former roboticist Daniel Wilson, author of “Robopocalypse” put it, “the machines we’re used to fearing are uniquely well suited to swoop in and save the day.” Although drones have successfully shed some of their dystopian image, privacy advocates and others are still wary of their use by police for broad surveillance. Continue reading Drones Take on Essential Roles During Coronavirus Pandemic

Supreme Court Will Review Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Many cybersecurity experts believe the current anti-hacking law, the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), is woefully out of date and applied too broadly by prosecutors and law enforcement. The Supreme Court is now taking another look at the law with a case in which a former Georgia police officer, Nathan Van Buren, was convicted in 2017 after allegedly selling information from a police database to an acquaintance for $6,000. Stanford University law professor Jeffrey L. Fisher is the lead attorney in the case. Continue reading Supreme Court Will Review Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Washington Inks Facial Recognition Law Backed by Microsoft

In Washington state, governor Jay Inslee just signed a law regulating facial recognition backed by Microsoft that could potentially be a model for other U.S. states. The law allows government agencies to use facial recognition but restricts it from using it for broad surveillance or tracking innocent people. It is more permissive than at least seven U.S. cities that have blocked government use of facial recognition technology due to fears of privacy violations and bias but stricter than states without such laws. Continue reading Washington Inks Facial Recognition Law Backed by Microsoft

Law Could Stoke Battle Between Congress and Silicon Valley

Senate Judiciary Committee chair Lindsey Graham and senator Richard Blumenthal plan to introduce a law that could interfere with Big Tech’s ability to provide end-to-end encryption. The Eliminating Abuse and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2019 (EARN IT Act) targets the distribution of child sexual abuse material on platforms such as Facebook and Google, making them liable for state prosecution and civil lawsuits for user-posted content currently protected by Section 230. Continue reading Law Could Stoke Battle Between Congress and Silicon Valley

WhatsApp Chief Pledges to Safeguard Messaging Encryption

WhatsApp head Will Cathcart revealed that the app now has more than two billion active users; numbers were last released two years ago. Cathcart also emphasized that he will continue to defend the messaging app’s encryption, noting that, “for all of human history, people have been able to communicate privately with each other … and we don’t think that should go away in a modern society.” Facebook, which acquired WhatsApp for $21.8 billion, finds encryption a barrier to recuperating its investment. Continue reading WhatsApp Chief Pledges to Safeguard Messaging Encryption

Ransomware Attacks Increase and Demand Bigger Payouts

An increasing number of cities, hospitals and businesses are being attacked by ransomware, by which bad actors shut down the victim’s computer network until a ransom is paid. Up until now, these attacks have been hard to measure since many of those impacted quietly paid the ransom without notifying any authorities. Security firm Emsisoft just reported a 41 percent increase in ransomware attacks between 2018 and 2019, with 205,280 businesses and other groups submitting evidence of such intrusions in 2019. Continue reading Ransomware Attacks Increase and Demand Bigger Payouts

White House Cracks Down on Counterfeit Goods Sold Online

The Trump administration is cracking down on counterfeit products sold over the Internet, warning warehouse operators and e-commerce platforms such as Amazon that they will pay fines if they don’t help identify such products. The Department of Homeland Security released a report on the problem, and the White House in concert with U.S. Customs and Border Protection is leading the initiative. The recent trade agreement with China requires that country to curb counterfeiters or risk potential new tariffs. Continue reading White House Cracks Down on Counterfeit Goods Sold Online

Twitter Warns Clearview to Stop Scraping its Users’ Photos

Clearview AI has scraped over three billion photos from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Venmo and hundreds of other websites to create a facial recognition database now used by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and over 600 law enforcement agencies. Twitter just sent a cease-and-decease letter to the startup demanding that it stop taking photos and other data from its site and to delete any data it has already collected. Twitter accused Clearview AI of violating its policies. Continue reading Twitter Warns Clearview to Stop Scraping its Users’ Photos

Apple Drops iCloud Encryption Plan Based on FBI Concerns

According to six sources, in response to FBI concerns, Apple dropped the plan to allow iPhone users to encrypt backups in its iCloud service. Although this took place two years ago, it is just now being reported. Stress between Apple’s stance on privacy and law enforcement’s push to have access to its phones re-emerged a few weeks ago when a Saudi Air Force officer killed three Americans at Naval Air Station Pensacola. U.S. attorney general William Barr and President Donald Trump urged Apple to unlock the killer’s two iPhones. Continue reading Apple Drops iCloud Encryption Plan Based on FBI Concerns

IBM Releases Policy Proposal to Regulate AI, Prevent Bias

As lawmakers in the U.S. and Europe ponder how to best regulate artificial intelligence, IBM called for the industry and governments to jointly create standards to measure and avoid AI bias. The company, led by chief executive Ginni Rometty, issued a policy proposal on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Although their policies are not as strict as governments might otherwise propose, the goal is to find a consensus among all parties. IBM, which has lagged in technology, now focuses on AI and cloud services. Continue reading IBM Releases Policy Proposal to Regulate AI, Prevent Bias

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