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Intersection: Sidewalks & Public Space

Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"


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    Archive for the ‘Biometrics’ Category

    National Journal: Privacy Groups Sound the Alarm Over FBI’s Facial-Recognition Technology

    Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

    The National Journal reports that privacy organizations are asking the Department of Justice to consider the privacy implications for the FBI’s controversial facial-recognition technology database, which will soon be fully operational:

    More than 30 privacy and civil-liberties groups are asking the Justice Department to complete a long-promised audit of the FBI’s facial-recognition database.

    The groups argue the database, which the FBI says it uses to identify targets, could pose privacy risks to every American citizen because it has not been properly vetted, possesses dubious accuracy benchmarks, and may sweep up images of ordinary people not suspected of wrongdoing.

    In a joint letter sent Tuesday to Attorney General Eric Holder, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and others warn that an FBI facial-recognition program “has undergone a radical transformation” since its last privacy review six years ago. That lack of recent oversight “raises serious privacy and civil-liberty concerns,” the groups contend. [...]

    The Next Generation Identification program—a biometric database that includes iris scans and palm prints along with facial recognition—is scheduled to become fully operational later this year and has not undergone a rigorous privacy litmus test—known as a Privacy Impact Assessment—since 2008, despite pledges from government officials. Read more »

    Center for Investigative Reporting: Privacy, accuracy concerns as license-plate readers expand

    Thursday, June 19th, 2014

    The Center for Investigative Reporting looks into privacy questions concerning the use of license-plate readers:

    [Today,] the use of license-plate readers has emerged as one of the biggest concerns among privacy advocates. Car-tracking technology is becoming ubiquitous in cities around the United States, and the types of data collected and analyzed with the help of license-plate readers is expanding into other realms of personal information.

    Documents obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting show that a leading maker of license-plate readers wants to merge the vehicle identification technology with other sources of identifying information. Vigilant Solutions is pushing a system that eventually could help fuse public records, license plates and facial recognition databases for police in the field.

    The Livermore company released facial recognition software last year for use in stationary and mobile devices. The technology uses algorithms to determine whether a person’s face matches that of someone in a law enforcement database. Like license-plate readers, privacy advocates say, the technology can make incorrect identifications that ensnare innocent people. Read more »

    Washington Post: Three awesome new Apple features that also protect your privacy

    Monday, June 9th, 2014

    The Washington Post reports on newly announced features from Apple that are privacy-protective:

    Apple critics are already bummed that the company didn’t release a new TV or shiny iDevice during its 2014 keynote at the World Wide Developers’ Conference. But WWDC has always been mainly about the software, and for fans of iOS and Mac OS X, there’s actually a lot to like.

    Some of the biggest changes take place under the hood. And this time, Apple has released a handful of software features that promise to improve security without sacrificing ease of use, which is often the tradeoff when it comes to protecting your data. Here’s a sampling. [...]

    A fingerprint sensor API. Last year, Apple introduced a hardware update to the iPhone that let users sign into their Apple accounts and unlock their devices just by pressing their thumb to the built-in sensor. Now, Apple’s making that same hardware available to developers, meaning you’ll soon be able to log in and make purchases with your fingerprint on third-party apps, too. The fingerprint itself won’t be directly accessible to the apps and will continue to be stored in a special locker inside Apple’s A7 processor, said Apple execs. It’s another step toward a future where the password no longer has to be memorable (and thus, easy to hack) to be useful.

    Center for Investigative Reporting and KQED: Hollywood-style surveillance technology inches closer to reality

    Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

    The Center for Investigative Reporting and KQED looked into emerging surveillance technologies that could have a significant impact on the privacy rights of individuals:

    [Ross McNutt] and his Ohio-based company, Persistent Surveillance Systems, persuaded the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to use his surveillance technology to monitor Compton’s streets from the air and track suspects from the moment the snatching occurred.

    The system, known as wide-area surveillance, is something of a time machine – the entire city is filmed and recorded in real time. Imagine Google Earth with a rewind button and the ability to play back the movement of cars and people as they scurry about the city. [...]

    McNutt who holds a doctorate in rapid product development, helped build wide-area surveillance to hunt down bombing suspects in Iraq and Afghanistan. He decided that clusters of high-powered surveillance cameras attached to the belly of small civilian aircraft could be a game-changer in U.S. law enforcement. [...]

    The Center for Investigative Reporting and KQED teamed up to take an inside look at the emerging technologies that could revolutionize policing – and how intrusively the public is monitored by the government. The technology is forcing the public and law enforcement to answer a central question: When have police crossed the line from safer streets to expansive surveillance that threatens to undermine the nation’s constitutional values? Read more »

    Economic Times: Indian government to set up Data Protection Authority to safeguard privacy

    Friday, February 21st, 2014

    The Economic Times reports that India is considering the creation of a data protection agency, which would seek to protect privacy:

    NEW DELHI: The government plans to set up a Data Protection Authority (DPA) that will rule on issues around privacy invasion and impose penalties on violations, moving strongly towards safeguarding individual privacy and defining invasion of privacy offences.

    The authority will “investigate any data security breach and issue appropriate orders to safeguard security interests of all affected data subjects in respect of any personal data that has or is likely to have been compromised by such breach,” according to a draft Right to Privacy Bill that was seen by ET.

    In the draft prepared for approval of a committee of secretaries, the government has proposed that all Indian residents shall have a right to privacy. Restrictions can be imposed only in accordance with the law and to meet specific objectives. Further, more extensive safeguards for privacy will override the Act in case of a conflict.  Read more »

    PBS: Forget Fingerprints: Law Enforcement DNA Databases Poised To Expand

    Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

    PBS’s “Nova Next” reports on the expansion of DNA databases, and the biometric data collection has implications for privacy rights:

    In June, the Supreme Court ruled that it is constitutional to take DNA samples from people who have been arrested for serious crimes—without a warrant, much less a conviction. Like bits of DNA taken from people found guilty, those samples can be entered into a database and used not only for the case at hand, but compared to other crime scene samples, connecting the arrestee to past crimes. [...]

    Today, 28 states and the federal government already collect genetic samples from people arrested for serious crimes (mostly felonies, though some jurisdictions include certain misdemeanors as well), while the remaining 22 states only take samples from people convicted of those crimes. The recent ruling is likely to have wide-reaching implications—both for states that already have databases and for those that don’t, yet. [...]

    Depending on whom you ask, DNA databases herald a future of either lower crime or less privacy. Many of the arguments echo the Supreme Court ruling and dissent: Proponents say the databases help police catch dangerous criminals faster and identify offenders who had eluded detection, thus providing a big pay-off for each law enforcement dollar. Others object to the databases on the grounds that they violate privacy by storing genetic data, are an inefficient use of limited resources, or are likely to encompass more and more people—perhaps including those never even suspected of a crime. Read more »