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Amazon, Google, and Microsoft Are at Odds on the Dangers of Face Recognition. One of Them Is on the Right Path.
Amazon, Google, and Microsoft Are at Odds on the Dangers of Face Recognition This was originally published by USA Today.A top Google executive recently sent a shot across the bow of its competitors regarding face surveillance. Kent Walker, the company's general counsel and senior vice president of global affairs, made it clear that Google — unlike Amazon and Microsoft — will not sell a face recognition product until the technology's potential for abuse is addressed.Face recognition, powered by artificial intelligence, could allow the government to supercharge surveillance by automating identification and tracking. Authorities could use it to track protesters, target vulnerable communities (such as immigrants), and create digital policing in communities of color that are already subject to pervasive police monitoring.So how are the world's biggest technology companies responding to this serious threat to privacy, safety and civil rights? Google at least appears to be taking the risks seriously with its recent announcement. Microsoft, unfortunately, is just talking the talk. And Amazon is completely running amok.All three companies need to take responsibility for uses of their technology. Now, a nationwide coalition of civil rights organizations have demanded that they not sell face surveillance to the government. Last spring, the ACLU exposed how Amazon is aggressively trying to sell its face surveillance product — Rekognition — to government agencies. The company's marketing materials read like a user manual for the type of authoritarian surveillance you can currently see in China.Amazon encourages governments to use its technology to track "persons of interest" and monitor public spaces, comparing everyone to databases with tens of millions of faces. Amazon even suggested pairing face recognition with police body cameras, a move that would transform devices meant for police accountability into roving mass-surveillance devices.The dangers couldn't be clearer. In an eye-opening test, Amazon’s Rekognition falsely matched 28 members of Congress against a mugshot database. Tellingly, congressional members of color were disproportionately misidentified, including civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. And that test wasn’t based on a hypothetical: Law enforcement has already been using Rekognition to match pictures against arrest-photo databases. Following these revelations, federal lawmakers spoke up about the risks of face surveillance, and civil rights groups, company shareholders, and hundreds of Amazon employees have called on Amazon to stop selling the technology to governments. But instead of heeding these concerns and taking their product off the table for governments, the company is trying to sell Rekognition to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI.Amazon's statements and actions provide a stark contrast with Google's approach. While Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos acknowledged his company's products might be put to "bad uses," he said the solution was to wait for society's eventual "immune response" to take care of the problems. This is a shocking abdication of responsibility, not to mention a convenient blindness to the "response" that Rekognition has already engendered.Google, on the other hand, has charted a distinctly different course with technologies based on artificial intelligence, with CEO Sundar Pichai urging his industry to realize that "it just can't build it and then fix it."So where is Microsoft in all this? The company has explicitly recognized the dangers of face surveillance in its statements, but its proposed solutions doesn't add up.In a blog post, Microsoft President Brad Smith correctly identifies the threats the technology poses to privacy, free speech and other human rights, observing that today's technology makes a surveillance state possible.But then, after outlining those grave threats to democracy, Smith proposes relying on inadequate safeguards that have failed in the past with technologies far less dangerous than face surveillance. He expresses excessive faith in notifying people of face surveillance systems — but what good is that in a world where face recognition is so widespread that nobody can opt out?History has taught us that given the opportunity, governments will exploit new surveillance technologies, especially to target communities of color, religious minorities and immigrants. With face surveillance, we are at a crossroads. The choices made now will determine whether the next generation will have to fear being tracked by the government for attending a protest or going to their place of worship — or simply living their lives.That's why so many people have been sounding the alarm. Microsoft has heard it, but seems to be in denial. Amazon needs to get its fingers out of its ears and start really listening. Google has heard it and is on the right track — the rest of the industry should follow its lead. Hide default image? :  

The FBI ‘Can Neither Confirm nor Deny’ That It Monitors Your Social Media Posts
The FBI ‘Can Neither Confirm nor Deny’ That It Monitors Your Social Media Posts In recent years, the federal government has significantly ramped up its efforts to monitor people on social media. The FBI, for one, has repeatedly acknowledged that it engages in surveillance of social media posts. So it was surprising when the bureau responded to our Freedom of Information Act request on this kind of surveillance by saying that it “can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records.”The six other federal agencies we submitted the FOIA request to haven’t produced a single document. The request, filed last May, seeks information on how the agencies collect and analyze posts from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.Today we sued the agencies to get some answers, because the public has a right to know about the exact nature of social media surveillance — especially whether agencies are monitoring and retaining social media posts, or using surveillance products that label activists and people of color as threats to public safety based on their First Amendment-protected activities.Based on what little information is publicly available, it’s clear that the federal government routinely tracks domestic social media users, with a particular focus on immigrants.For example, according to official government websites, the FBI has sought to create an application that would enable it to “instantly search and monitor” information on social media platforms. It completed detailed documentation stating that it intended to contract with Dataminr, a data analytics and machine-learning vendor that we previously called out for sharing data with federal “fusion centers,”  to obtain “the mission critical social media monitoring needed by the FBI.” And it contracted with Pen-Link, another big data analytics firm, for “software that parses and analyzes social media data.”Meanwhile, the State Department has announced plans to collect usernames from nearly all of the 14.7 million people who annually apply for work or tourist visas. And the Department of Homeland Security and its agencies have repeatedly expanded their manual and automated social media surveillance in efforts that include the misguided “extreme vetting initiative.”Federal law enforcement surveillance of social media associated with Black Lives Matter has already been exposed, continuing a decades-long pattern of government monitoring of minority activists and communities. The government could be using commercial surveillance software to conduct this surveillance:  Documents obtained by the ACLU of Northern California in 2016 revealed how companies marketing this software had built products specifically for law enforcement monitoring. The disclosure of the documents resulted in policy changes from Twitter and Facebook.Social media surveillance raises a number of red flags. First, it discourages people from speaking freely — a phenomenon that research and studies bear out.Indeed, in its letter responding to our FOIA request, the FBI said that simply acknowledging its use of social media surveillance would “risk circumvention of the law.” The bureau seems to be saying that if people knew that the government is monitoring what they’re saying on social media, they’d be less likely to say it. That looks like an admission of the chilling effect that the First Amendment aims to prevent. But because almost all online speech is lawful, it doesn’t make sense to argue that social media users are “circumventing” the law if they limit what they say online.Aside from chilling expression, government monitoring of social media raises the risk that innocent people will be wrongly investigated or put on government watchlists based on that speech.It’s clear from already public information that all of the agencies we’re targeting in our FOIA lawsuit engage in manual and automated surveillance of social media users and their speech, and it’s unacceptable for the government to withhold details about this domestic spying. The public needs to know how the government is watching us — and we shouldn’t have to think about self-censoring what we say online.Matt Cagle is a technology and civil liberties attorney at the ACLU of Northern California.Hugh Handeysideis a senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s National Security Project Hide default image? :  

ACLU Comment on Amazon Shareholder Resolution Against Selling Facial Recognition to Government
SEATTLE — A group of Amazon shareholders announced today that they have filed a shareholder resolution echoing widespread calls for Amazon to stop sales of facial recognition to the government. The shareholder resolution, which asks Amazon’s board of directors to prohibit sales of facial recognition technology to government agencies unless the board concludes that the technology does not pose actual or potential civil and human rights risk, is intended to be voted on at Amazon’s annual meeting in spring 2019.Shankar Narayan, Technology and Liberty Project director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, issued the following comment in response:“The fact that Amazon’s shareholders felt compelled to take this up to the company’s board of directors should be a wake-up call to Amazon’s leadership to take concerns around face surveillance seriously. It shouldn’t take a board or shareholder intervention for the company to do right by immigrants, people of color, religious minorities, protesters, and activists who are disproportionately harmed by such new surveillance technologies. We continue to urge Amazon to heed calls from civil, human, and immigrants’ rights groups, academics, lawmakers, and its own shareholders, employees and consumers to stop selling facial recognition technology to the government.”The shareholder proposal comes days after 90 racial justice, faith, and civil, human, and immigrants’ rights groups sent coalition letters to Amazon, Microsoft, and Google demanding the companies commit not to sell face surveillance technology to the government. It also follows Google’s recent announcement that it will not sell a face surveillance product until the technology’s dangers are addressed and Microsoft acknowledging the grave risks of face surveillance. In contrast, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has suggested waiting for society’s eventual “immune response” to take care of the problems. Meanwhile, recent reports also revealed that Amazon met with ICE officials to discuss its face surveillance product. The ACLU revealed last year that Amazon has been actively marketing its face surveillance technology to law enforcement and helping them deploy it. The ACLU also released results of a test showing that Rekognition falsely matched 28 current members of Congress with images in an arrest photo database. Congressional members of color were disproportionately identified incorrectly, including six members of the Congressional Black Caucus.A large group of Amazon shareholders and hundreds of Amazon employees wrote to Bezos and consumers signed over 150,000 petitions demanding the company stop providing face surveillance technology to governments. Dozens of members of Congress also wrote to Amazon with civil rights concerns and questions about the sale of Rekognition to law enforcement, and requested information from federal agencies about the use of this technology.  File Under :   Privacy and Government Surveillance Racial Justice Technology and Civil Liberties Hide default image? :  

Pressure Mounts on Amazon, Microsoft, and Google Against Selling Facial Recognition to Government
NEW YORK — A coalition of over 85 racial justice, faith, and civil, human, and immigrants’ rights groups today sent letters to Microsoft, Amazon, and Google demanding the companies commit not to sell face surveillance technology to the government. The coalition makes it clear to each company that a decision to provide face surveillance technology to the government threatens the safety of community members and will also undermine public trust in its business. “Companies can’t continue to pretend that the ‘break then fix’ approach works,” said Nicole Ozer, Technology and Civil Liberties director for the ACLU of California. “History has clearly taught us that the government will exploit technologies like face surveillance to target communities of color, religious minorities, and immigrants. We are at a crossroads with face surveillance, and the choices made by these companies now will determine whether the next generation will have to fear being tracked by the government for attending a protest, going to their place of worship, or simply living their lives.” The coalition also notes in its letters that face surveillance “gives the government new power to target and single out immigrants, religious minorities, and people of color in our communities” and that “systems built on face surveillance will amplify and exacerbate historical and existing bias.” Acknowledging both employee and shareholder calls for corporate change, the coalition reiterates that it is time for these companies to take responsibility for the impact of their technology on the privacy and safety of communities and commit not to sell face surveillance to the government.“In 2018, groups representing Muslims, African-Americans, immigrants, incarcerated Japanese-Americans, and more met with Amazon and Microsoft to share firsthand stories of the impacts of targeted surveillance on these communities,” said Shankar Narayan, Technology and Liberty Project director of the ACLU of Washington in Seattle. “The groups urged Microsoft and Amazon to not sell face surveillance technology to government entities, because doing so will supercharge a long history of impacts on those communities. All of these companies should heed that clear message — they owe it to society, their customers, their shareholders, and the diverse communities represented by this coalition.” The letters come as executives from Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have all spoken publicly about facial recognition technology, revealing an industry at odds on how to respond to concerns raised about government use of such technology. Google recently announced that it will not sell a face surveillance product until the technology’s dangers are addressed, with its CEO Sundar Pichai warning the tech industry that with artificial intelligence, you “just can’t build it and then fix it.” The coalition today welcomed Google’s decision, and called on the company to fully commit to not release a facial recognition product that could be used by government.Microsoft President Brad Smith also recently acknowledged the risks associated with face surveillance and the company’s obligation to act internally to address potential harms. The coalition commended Smith’s acknowledgement of the technology’s harms, but noted that the company’s proposed measures to prevent such harms were “wholly inadequate.” The groups added that Microsoft has a “responsibility to do more than speak about ethical principles; it must also act in accordance with those principles.”Amazon, meanwhile, has doubled down on efforts to sell facial recognition technology to government, despite continued warnings from consumers, employees, members of Congress, and shareholders. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos acknowledged his company’s products might be put to “bad uses,” but said the solution was to wait for society’s eventual “immune response” to take care of the problems. Further, recent reports revealed that the FBI is piloting the use of Rekognition, Amazon’s face surveillance product, and that Amazon recently met with ICE officials about its face surveillance product. In its letter to Amazon, the coalition notes that “Amazon’s inaction in response to widespread concerns about face surveillance stands in contrast to the steps taken by its competitors” and that “it is wholly irresponsible to wait for society to develop an ‘immune response’ to technologies like face surveillance.”The ACLU revealed last year that Amazon has been actively marketing its face surveillance technology to law enforcement and helping them deploy it. On July 26, 2018, the ACLU also released results of a test showing that Rekognition falsely matched 28 current members of Congress with images in an arrest photo database. Congressional members of color were disproportionately identified incorrectly, including six members of the Congressional Black Caucus.The release of the documents and test results spurred a nationwide movement in protest of government use of face surveillance and resulted in over 150,000 petition signatures, a coalition letter signed by nearly 70 organizations representing communities nationwide, and a letter from Amazon’s shareholders and employees demanding the company stop providing face surveillance technology to governments. Members of Congress also wrote to Amazon with civil rights concerns and questions about the sale of Rekognition to law enforcement, and requested information from federal agencies about the use of this technology. List of organizations that signed today’s letters to Amazon, Google, and Microsoft demanding that the companies commit not to sell face surveillance technology to the government:ACLUACLU Foundations of CaliforniaACLU of MassachusettsACLU of WashingtonNew York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU)18MillionRising.orgA New PATHAccess NowALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New YorkAmerican Friends Service CommitteeAmerican Muslim Empowerment Network-Muslim Association of Puget SoundAmerican Muslims of Puget SoundArab American InstituteAsian Americans Advancing Justice - AAJCAsian Americans Advancing Justice- Asian Law CaucusCAIR San Francisco Bay AreaCalifornians United for a Responsible BudgetCampaign for AccountabilityCasa LatinaCenter for Media JusticeCenter on Policy InitiativesCharles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and JusticeColor Of ChangeCouncil on American Islamic Relations, MassachusettsCouncil on American-Islamic Relations, CaliforniaCREDO ActionData for Black LivesDefending Rights & DissentDemand ProgressDenshoEl Centro de la RazaElectronic Frontier FoundationEnd Solitary Santa Cruz CountyEntre HermanosFair Chance ProjectFamilies for Justice as HealingFamilies Belong TogetherFight for the FutureFree PressFreedom for ImmigrantsFreedom of the Press FoundationGovernment Accountability ProjectGovernment Information WatchGrassroots CollaborativeHarrington Investments, Inc.Harvard Law School National Lawyers GuildHuman Rights WatchImmigrant Defense ProjectInterfaith Center on Corporate ResponsibilityInternational Committee for Robot Arms ControlJohn T. Williams Organizing CommitteeJustice for Muslims CollectiveLAANE (Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy)Legal Services for Prisoners with ChildrenLibrary Freedom ProjectLucy Parsons LabsMake the Road New YorkMedia AllianceMental Health Legal Advisors Committee of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial CourtMijenteMuslim Justice LeagueNational Association of Criminal Defense LawyersNational Immigration Law CenterNational Immigration Project of the NLGNational Lawyers Guild - New York City ChapterNational Lawyers Guild - Massachusetts ChapterNew Economy ProjectNew York Communities for ChangeOakland PrivacyOCCORD (Orange County Communities Organized For Responsible Development)OneAmericaOur Revolution ArlingtonPartnership for Working FamiliesPolicing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn CollegeRAICESReal Change Homeless Empowerment ProjectRestore The FourthSilicon Valley RisingSisters of St. Joseph of BrentwoodStarting Over, Inc.SumOfUsTenth Amendment CenterThe Greenlining InstituteThe Legal Aid Society (NYC)The Project on Government OversightTri-State Coalition for Responsible InvestmentUnitarian Universalist Mass ActionWar Resisters LeagueWomen's International League for Peace and FreedomX-LabThe letter to Google can be found here: letter to Microsoft can be found here:  The letter to Amazon can be found here:  Image :   File Under :   Privacy and Government Surveillance Technology and Civil Liberties Hide default image? :  

ACLU Comment on Google’s Commitment Not to Sell a Facial Recognition Surveillance Product
BANGKOK, Thailand — Google today made it clear that it has not, and will not, sell a facial recognition surveillance product until the technology’s dangers are addressed, citing its susceptibility to abuse.Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties director for the American Civil Liberties Union of California, issued the following comment in response:“This is a strong first step. Google today demonstrated that, unlike other companies doubling down on efforts to put dangerous face surveillance technology into the hands of law enforcement and ICE, it has a moral compass and is willing to take action to protect its customers and communities. Google also made clear that all companies must stop ignoring the grave harms these surveillance technologies pose to immigrants and people of color, and to our freedom to live our lives, visit a church, or participate in a protest without being tracked by the government.“We will continue to put Google's feet to the fire to make sure it doesn't build or sell a face surveillance product that violates civil and human rights. We also renew our call on Amazon and Microsoft to not provide dangerous face surveillance to the government. Companies have a responsibility to make sure their products can’t be used to attack communities and harm civil rights and liberties — it’s past time all companies own up to that responsibility.”Google’s announcement comes after the ACLU, joined by a coalition of 70 civil rights and civil liberties organizations, as well as employees, consumers, and members of Congress, raised concerns about government use of face recognition technology. Google’s announcement also coincides with sustained activism from workers demanding that the company stand up for the vulnerable, place human rights on the same footing with shareholder interests, and refuse to “outsource the moral responsibility of our technologies to third parties.”“This announcement is also a victory for Google’s employees, who advocated for the Artificial Intelligence Principles that guided the company’s commitment today,” added Ozer. This news comes a day after Amazon told the New York City Council, when asked about its relationship with ICE, that it provides Rekognition, its facial recognition product, to a variety of government agencies. Recently, members of Congress also expressed frustration over Amazon’s failure to answer their questions about its facial recognition technology and relationship with ICE.“ICE should not be using facial recognition for immigration enforcement,” said Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU senior legislative counsel. “Members of Congress should not rest until they get clear answers about who Amazon is selling and marketing this technology to, how it can be used, and what bias testing has been performed.”Earlier reports revealed Amazon met with ICE officials earlier this year to market its face surveillance product. File Under :   Privacy and Government Surveillance Technology and Civil Liberties Hide default image? :  

Amazon’s Disturbing Plan to Add Face Surveillance to Your Front Door
Amazon’s Disturbing Plan to Add Face Surveillance to Your Front Door Recently, a patent application from Amazon became public that seeks to pair face surveillance — like Rekognition, the product that the company is aggressively marketing to police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — with Ring, a doorbell camera company that Amazon bought earlier this year.While the details are sketchy, the application describes a system that the police can use to match the faces of people walking by a doorbell camera with a photo database of persons they deem “suspicious.” Likewise, homeowners can also add photos of “suspicious” people into the system and then the doorbell’s facial recognition program will scan anyone passing their home. In either case, if a match occurs, the person’s face can be automatically sent to law enforcement, and the police could arrive in minutes.As a former patent litigator, I've spent a lot of time reading patents. It’s rare for patent applications to lay out, in such nightmarish detail, the world a company wants to bring about. Amazon is dreaming of a dangerous future, with its technology at the center of a massive decentralized surveillance network, running real-time facial recognition on members of the public using cameras installed in people’s doorbells. The ACLU and other civil rights groups have repeatedly warned that face surveillance poses an unprecedented threat to civil liberties and civil rights that must be stopped before it becomes widespread. The history of discriminatory government surveillance makes clear that face surveillance will disproportionately harm people already targeted by the government and subjected to racial profiling and abuse — immigrants, people of color, and the formerly incarcerated.The ACLU’s test is consistent with academic research demonstrating that face surveillance technology is less accurate for darker skinned faces and women. These systems threaten to further entangle people with law enforcement, ripping families apart and increasing the likelihood of racially biased police violence. In addition, this technology puts activists and protesters in danger when exercising their First Amendment rights.Despite the risks to civil liberties and racial justice, Amazon has chosen to ignore questions from members of Congress and calls from consumers, civil rights groups, and its own employees and shareholders to take responsibility for the consequences of its technology on communities where it is deployed.This patent application also suggests that Amazon has no plans to stop at identifying people based on their faces. The company anticipates targeting an arsenal of other biometrics, including fingerprints, skin-texture analysis, DNA, palm-vein analysis, hand geometry, iris recognition, odor/scent recognition, and even behavioral characteristics, like typing rhythm, gait, and voice recognition.Diagram from Amazon's patent applicationImagine if a neighborhood was set up with these doorbell cameras. Simply walking up to a friend’s house could result in your face, your fingerprint, or your voice being flagged as “suspicious” and delivered to a government database without your knowledge or consent. With Amazon selling the devices, operating the servers, and pushing the technology on law enforcement, the company is building all the pieces of a surveillance network, reaching from the government all the way to our front doors.Don’t expect Amazon to limit tracking technologies to doorbells or homes. The patent application makes clear that any audio/visual device — such as Amazon’s popular line of Echo products — can be outfitted with the appropriate biometric surveillance features. It confirms that Amazon wants to enable the tracking of everyone, everywhere, all the time. And it’s apparently happy to deliver that data to the government.The application also undercuts Amazon’s own purported defense of its face surveillance product. The company has told the public that biometrics should only be used by law enforcement as an aid, not a replacement, to human judgment. But Amazon’s patent application is pushing the technology toward automation, removing human judgment from the identification process, and instead potentially relying on data, like arrest photos, that itself is a record of racially discriminatory policing.Amazon is building the tools for authoritarian surveillance that advocates, activists, community leaders, politicians, and experts have repeatedly warned against. It is doing so without regard for how the technology will be exploited by law enforcement, ICE, and other government agencies prone to violence and racial discrimination. It’s time for Amazon to take responsibility and stop chasing profit at the expense of safety and civil rights.Jacob Snow is a Technology and Civil Liberties Attorney at the ACLU of Northern California. Hide default image? :  

Why It’s More Important Than Ever to Protect Privacy and Free Speech: The ACLU Business Guide
Safeguarding people’s rights isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s also good for business. Over the past few years, scandal after scandal has put tech companies under a microscope. Users, policymakers, and investors are demanding to know how companies are protecting privacy and free speech, and companies that fail to do so are being held accountable, by the government, by their users, and by their employees.  Businesses large and small need to take proactive steps to protect users and find ways to navigate this landscape.The ACLU of California has a guide to help: Privacy and Free Speech: It's Good for Business, which offers advice for companies wrestling with today’s most pressing challenges.The industry can do better. It must do better. Right now, governments are seeking massive volumes of information from tech companies. Democracy is under threat by people exploiting poor privacy practices to suppress speech and weaponize personal information. The Trump administration is trying to exploit online services to monitor immigrants, activists, and entire neighborhoods. And a drum beat of data breaches are endangering users and exposing companies to massive potential liability.Mistakes in this climate can be catastrophic, for both users and a company’s long-term viability. Anticipating threats and protecting users isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also critical for business.  To protect people’s rights, companies must plan ahead, ask difficult questions early, and build privacy not just into their products, but into their business models. The ACLU guide offers over a hundred case studies that illustrate the benefits of building a business on a foundation of privacy and free speech. Other case studies show the serious risks, for both users and the business, when companies fail to do so.The guide includes expert advice, identifies common mistakes, and gives clear guidance for how to avoid them. For example, companies must respect their data by only collecting what’s needed, protecting users, and avoiding replicating destructive real-world biases. Had Facebook limited and protected the data it collected, Cambridge Analytica couldn’t have abused user data and the company could have avoided the lasting reputational harm from users who find the company’s numerous privacy failures unacceptable.We show companies how to plan ahead by building privacy and security practices and policies into organizations’ structure and product-design process. With proper planning, Equifax could have prevented a hacking nightmare that exposed highly sensitive personal information of 143 million people and led to the largest class-action suit in history.We also highlight how to promote privacy by communicating clearly with users about what data a company collects and what it does with the data. If Venmo had been transparent about its default privacy settings, then it wouldn’t have come under fire from users furious that years of their transaction histories end up being aired publicly.We illustrate how companies can support diverse voices, encourage free expression, and only remove content when it is illegal or specifically harmful. By following this advice, PayPal could have avoided a barrage of public criticism for threatening to kick book publishers off its platform unless they removed “offending literature” from their catalogs.And we provide concrete examples of how companies can effectively partner with users by putting them in control of their data and standing up for their civil and human rights. Twitter, for example, was hailed for protecting its users when it sued U.S. Customs and Border Protection over a request to unconstitutionally identify and share the personal information of an online critic.Time and again, companies have learned firsthand that taking proactive steps to design user-protective products and business plans builds long-term sustainability, while failing to do so can lead to public relations nightmares, costly lawsuits, and government investigations.The stakes are simply too high to ignore privacy and free speech, and with this guide, companies will have an important tool to protect their users and build their bottom line.  Jacob Snow is a Technology & Civil Liberties Attorney at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. Hide default image? :  

Amazon Met With ICE Officials to Market Its Facial Recognition Product
Amazon Met With ICE Officials to Market Its Facial Recognition Product According to documents released Tuesday by the Project on Government Oversight, earlier this year Amazon employees met with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to market “Rekognition” — the company’s facial recognition technology that the ACLU has been sounding the alarm on for months.The prospect of the Trump administration using facial recognition to supercharge its deportation machine is very alarming indeed. So to find out what’s happening, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Wednesday demanding that the Department of Homeland Security release information relating to where and how it intends to use facial recognition as well as who it has purchased the technology from.Amazon boasts that Rekognition can be used for surveillance on a massive scale, like tracking people in real-time, tagging over 100 people in a photograph, or identifying people just walking down the street. ICE has not released any information explaining what uses of Rekognition it has explored or whether it intends to buy it (or other face surveillance technology) to assist with immigration enforcement efforts. If ICE does plan to use this technology, it would be a significant cause for concern.ICE has historically relied on biometrics — primarily fingerprints — as a way of expanding its immigration enforcement capabilities. Through government programs like “Secure Communities,” the fingerprints of people arrested by local police are matched against ICE databases. In cases where ICE claims someone is undocumented, the agency can issue a request that someone be held for 48 hours so that they can be transferred to ICE custody. In 2017, ICE issued over 142,000 such detainer requests.The use of biometrics in this way has fueled the current mass detention and deportation efforts, which terrorize immigrant communities throughout the country, resulting in countless errors, deportations without due process, and increased racial profiling. Worse still, ICE is an agency that often acts with impunity, operating with a record $7.1 billion budget with inadequate oversight and accountability.If ICE is seeking to augment its existing biometric matching with facial recognition, the impact on immigrant communities could be even more striking. Using just a photo, it could make it easier to track and apprehend people as they attend a protest or walk their kids to school. And given the high rates of inaccuracy of facial recognition on communities of color the inevitable mistakes could be disastrous.In July, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California released a test showing that Amazon Rekognition falsely matched 28 members of Congress with mugshot photos, with members of color incorrectly matched at a disproportionately higher rate. After this, a bipartisan group of 25 House members, including civil rights legend John Lewis (D-Ga.), sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demanding a meeting and writing, “[W]e are alarmed about the deleterious impact this tool — if left unchecked — will have on communities of color; immigrants; protestors peaceably assembling and others petitioning the Government for a redress of grievances; or any other marginalized group.”In a recent statement to The Washington Post, ICE said that it had used face recognition in the past to assist in “criminal investigations.” This is disturbing given that Congress has never authorized this use, ICE has not publicly disclosed any policies or procedures, and the inherent civil liberties risks of the technology.Amazon shouldn’t be arming an out-of-control agency with additional means for targeting immigrants. And if the government is planning to use this powerful surveillance tool, the public has a right to know how.Neema Singh Guliani is a senior legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office. Hide default image? :  

BART Board’s Vote on Surveillance Technology Protects the Privacy of BART Riders; Promotes Public Safety
SAN FRANCISCO —  Today, the BART Board of Directors passed a surveillance oversight ordinance that requires public notice and debate prior to seeking funding, acquiring equipment, or otherwise moving forward with surveillance technology proposals. BART joins Palo Alto, Davis, Oakland, Berkeley, and Santa Clara County by passing legislation that puts communities in control of police surveillance.The ACLU of Northern California, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) SF, and Oakland Privacy, issued the following statements in response:“This is a victory for every person who rides BART,” said Matt Cagle, Technology and Civil Liberties Attorney. “This surveillance ordinance holds BART accountable to the community it serves and gives riders a seat at the table. People should be free to move around the Bay Area without being secretly policed by dangerous surveillance technology. We commend the willingness of BART leadership to find common ground, and we look forward to working together to build a city that we can all feel safe living in.”“Today’s decision will help BART staff and law enforcement officials begin to earn back the community’s trust by asking us for feedback about how they navigate the city,” said Sameena Usman, Government Relations Coordinator of CAIR SF. “Further, the passage of this ordinance will empower community members to have a say in the spaces they occupy -- which will increase public safety in and of itself. And under an administration committed to targeting sanctuary cities like San Francisco, it will protect our civil liberties at the local level, which is crucial to the safety of our most marginalized communities.”“We applaud the BART Board and Staff for recognizing the concerns caused by mass surveillance,” said Brian Hofer, a member of Oakland Privacy. “By implementing rules to govern the use of invasive equipment, BART can ensure adequate protection of our civil liberties, while still ensuring public safety.” File Under :   Privacy and Government Surveillance Racial Justice Technology and Civil Liberties

A Promising California Bill Could Help Communities Stop Secret And Discriminatory Police Surveillance
SB 21 Could Help Communities Stop Secret And Discriminatory Police Surveillance California is on the verge of passing Senate Bill 21 (SB 21), a strong bill that, in its current form, would help empower communities and their local elected officials to stop secret and discriminatory use of police surveillance technologies. Making sure state lawmakers enact robust surveillance reform laws is all the more important right now as the Trump administration equips its deportation force with surveillance capabilities, aggressively pursues political activists, and escalates pressure on sanctuary cities. Now is the time to make sure a strong SB 21 — with no further amendments — gets across the finish line.For years, the secret use of surveillance technology has been consistently expanding with virtually no restraints. Law enforcement agencies nationwide, using federal funds, have amassed sophisticated technologies, including Stingray cell phone trackers, automatic license plate readers (ALPRs), drones, and algorithm-based policing software.These surveillance technologies are frequently used to target immigrants and communities of color.  South Asian, Muslim and Sikh protesters were spied on in San Jose. Baltimore police used facial recognition technology to identify people protesting the police killing of Freddie Gray. And social media surveillance technology in Fresno enabled police to monitor hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter as “threats to public safety.” Residents of Compton, California, have been monitored in their own backyards with high-powered, fly-over cameras and the New York Police Department used license plate readers to track people as they worshiped at mosques. Now immigrant communities living along the United States and Mexico border are facing an invasive new program to scan their eyeballs.Californians want reform, with more than two-thirds supporting both local and state-level rules to rein in police surveillance. If passed in its current form, SB 21 will become the first state law to require transparency and community control over police decisions about surveillance technology. The bill requires a public debate over proposals to acquire new surveillance technologies. It places local communities and elected officials at the center of every decision to approve or reject their locality’s use of surveillance technologies.  And should local elected leaders approve the use of a surveillance technology, SB 21 requires the adoption of a council-approved policy governing its use and regular evaluations of its impact on civil rights and civil liberties.>> Take Action: Urge California to pass a strong SB 21 to rein in secret and discriminatory surveillance.The need for surveillance reform is not just a local issue. Sensitive surveillance information about who we are, where we go, and what we do that is collected by local law enforcement often flows, without adequate controls, to the federal government through fusion centers, which collect and share surveillance data from all levels of government, as well as other domestic spying infrastructure. This is not a hypothetical threat.  Just ask Oakland, California, which despite being a sanctuary city, discovered that U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was using a fusion center to get its hands on Oakland’s license plate reader data.  SB 21’s provisions, which empower communities to consider if and how any surveillance information is shared with the federal government, are particularly important in the current political climate.SB 21 builds on the nationwide Community Control Over Police Surveillance (CCOPS) movement, a reform effort spearheaded by 17 organizations, including the ACLU, that is designed to put local residents and elected officials in charge of decisions about surveillance technology. Last summer, Santa Clara County, California passed a groundbreaking ordinance ensuring consistent transparency, accountability, and oversight procedures for all surveillance decisions in the county. Nashville adopted a CCOPS law earlier this summer, and Seattle just voted to strengthen its first-in-the-nation surveillance ordinance.California’s SB 21 has emerged at a key moment — right now at least 18 U.S. cities are actively considering their own surveillance bills. Oakland is poised to enact a robust ordinance in an effort led by the city’s new Privacy Advisory Commission. In New York City, the ACLU of New York and various community groups are fighting to end the NYPD’s secret use of surveillance technology and prevent any inappropriate data sharing with the Trump administration. Residents in St. Louis are working to pass a CCOPS law as a part of broader efforts to address discriminatory policing in the region.We need strong local and state protections to push secret surveillance into the light, put communities back in control, and prevent abusive practices that all too often target immigrants, people of color, religious groups, and activists.We hope you’ll urge California lawmakers to pass a strong SB 21 – with no further amendments – and in so doing set an example for other cities and states to follow.To learn more about the CCOPS effort and how to start or join an effort in your community, please visit A. Ozer is the Technology & Civil Liberties Policy Director with the ACLU of California. Chad Marlow is Advocacy and Policy Counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union.