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Enjoy this newsletter? Forward it to a friend or get them to sign up. I’m David Meyer, aka @superglaze on Twitter and @davidmeyerwrites on Facebook. Don’t forget to check out the Connected Rights website and download a copy of my book, Control Shift: How Technology Affects You and Your Rights. Lek oy li la talike!
THE ACLU AND A BUNCH MORE CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS have written to Google, Amazon and Microsoft, begging the companies not to sell facial recognition technology to governments.
From the letter to Google: “This year, in response to sustained employee activism over its work for the Pentagon, Google published its AI principles, pledging that the company will only seek to develop AI that is socially beneficial, free from unfair bias, and tested for safety. The Principles specifically state that Google will not release technologies that gather or use information for surveillance that violates international norms. Consistent with these Principles, Google announced in December 2018 that it has not, and will not sell a facial recognition product until the technology’s dangers are addressed.
“The dangers of face surveillance can only be fully addressed by stopping its use by governments. Face surveillance provides the government with an unprecedented ability to track who we are, where we go, what we do, and who we know. Face surveillance gives the government new power to target and single out immigrants, religious minorities, and people of color in our communities. Systems built on face surveillance will amplify and exacerbate historical and existing bias that harms these and other over-policed and over-surveilled communities.”
GOOGLE SHOULD NOT HAVE TO APPLY THE RIGHT to be forgotten (RTBF) around the world, even though French privacy regulator CNIL insists it does, the Court of Justice of the European Union’s advocate general, Maciej Szpunar, has opined.
Szpunar said Google should have to geoblock Europeans from viewing RTBF’d links on google.com etc, as it already does now, but it shouldn’t have to make those delistings applicable for users outside the EU. In this case.
As Belgian lawyer Geert Van Calster notes on his blog, Szpunar seems to agree with Google’s essential argument that allowing the EU to censor global search results would lead to a “race to the bottom”, but then he “perhaps not quite torpedoes but certainly seriously softens his overall general analysis by suggesting that his views on territoriality are the default position only, which may be varied should specific instances of the balancing act of fundamental rights, so require: it’s just that the specific circumstances of the case do not.”
“There could be many instances where national data protection authorities might find worldwide delisting to be the only proper means to balance the various fundamental rights at stake. The AG Opinion offers little to no support that such worldwide delisting in concrete cases [would] infringe the Directive /the GDPR,” Van Calster adds.
GERMANY’S ANTITRUST REGULATOR MAY BAN FACEBOOK from some of its data-collecting activities – the ones where people’s aren’t aware their data is being collected – in an upcoming, long-awaited final ruling. However, the Bundeskartellamt is likely to give Facebook time to change its ways, rather than immediately slamming the door on its fingers.
EU PRIVACY LAW HAS LED THE US Securities and Exchange Commission to block European hedge funds that want to raise cash stateside, according to a Financial Times report. Why? Apparently the SEC is worried that the GDPR will block it from getting the data it needs from the hedge funds in order to do its job, i.e. protecting investors.
From the piece: “Companies that have tried to register with the SEC have been asked by the regulator to provide assurances that they can provide access to such information as trade records, financial statements or client profiles. Law firms including Schulte Roth & Zabel and Dechert have been involved in trying to find wording that can satisfy the SEC’s requirements. As yet, these have not been accepted… The situation has left some EU-based managers unable to manage money for US clients that they have already signed up.”
THE REVELATION THAT US MOBILE CARRIERS are selling subscriber location data to third parties (covered in last week’s newsletter) led the House commerce committee chair, Frank Pallone Jr., to ask for an emergency briefing from FCC chair Ajit Pai. Nope, said Pai, pointing to the government shutdown.
“The Commission has been investigating wireless carriers’ handling of location information,” the commission told CNET. “Unfortunately, we were required to suspend that investigation earlier this month because of the lapse in funding, and pursuant to guidance from our expert attorneys, the career staff that is working on this issue are currently on furlough.”
Pallone was not impressed, pointing out that Pai himself was still working and there was “nothing in the law that should stop the Chairman personally from meeting about this serious threat that could allow criminals to track the location of police officers on patrol, victims of domestic abuse, or foreign adversaries to track military personnel on American soil.”
AMERICAN COPS CAN’T FORCE PEOPLE TO UNLOCK their phones with their faces and fingers, according to a ruling that goes against previous rulings on the matter.
From Forbes: “Judge Westmore declared that the government did not have the right, even with a warrant, to force suspects to incriminate themselves by unlocking their devices with their biological features. Previously, courts had decided biometric features, unlike passcodes, were not ‘testimonial.’ That was because a suspect would have to willingly and verbally give up a passcode, which is not the case with biometrics. A password was therefore deemed testimony, but body parts were not, and so not granted Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination…
“‘If a person cannot be compelled to provide a passcode because it is a testimonial communication, a person cannot be compelled to provide one’s finger, thumb, iris, face, or other biometric feature to unlock that same device,’ the judge wrote. ‘The undersigned finds that a biometric feature is analogous to the 20 nonverbal, physiological responses elicited during a polygraph test, which are used to determine guilt or innocence, and are considered testimonial.'”
ANOTHER REMINDER THAT EVERYTHING ISN’T TERRIBLE: As Jodie Ginsberg argues in Prospect, the case of Rahaf Mohammed – the abused Saudi teenager who won Canadian asylum after barricading herself into a Bangkok airport hotel room and taking to Twitter – shows how social media can still be a force for good.
Ginsberg writes: “The plight of the 18-year-old, who argued she faced death if she returned to Saudi Arabia, was picked up in real-time by prominent activists like Mona Eltahawy and quickly escalated into a global public online furore that forced governments and UN agencies into action. The comments of a Saudi official who flew to Thailand to deal with the case are telling. ‘I wish you had taken her phone, it would have been better than (taking) her passport,’ he told Thai officials.”
“Platforms like Twitter can unleash mass pile-ons that result in vile abuse being directed at individuals, or those seen as belonging to a particular group. But that same mechanism is what helps appeals for help or support spread at lightning speed and offer vital solidarity and positive action. It is what has helped sustain and spread movements like #MeToo or Zimbabwe’s #ThisFlag movement, giving courage to those who previously felt isolated and alone.”
SPEAKING OF ZIMBABWE, the government there has ordered internet shutdowns in order to suppress protests. But there’s a problem (apart from that human rights thingy, I mean): most people in Zim use a mobile payment system called EcoCash every day, and the system has been knocked out by the outage. Among other things, that means people can’t pay their electricity bills online, so the lights are going out. Perhaps not the best way to quell public outrage.