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Category Archives: Civil Liberties

CA Auditor Damning Report About Law Enforcement’s Use of Automated License Plate Readers

EFF: “California police and sheriffs are failing to protect the privacy of drivers on city streets, the California State Auditor’s office determined after a seven-month investigation into the use of automated license plate readers (ALPRs) by the Los Angeles Police Department and three other local law enforcement agencies. California State Senator Scott Wiener sponsored the State Auditor’s report. The auditor raised a long list of concerns, including fundamental problems with police ALPR policies, failure to conduct audits, and the risk of ALPR data being abused to surveil political rallies or target immigrant populations. In addition to Los Angeles, the auditor investigated the Fresno Police Department, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, and Marin County Sheriff’s Office. The auditor indicated that the problems are likely prevalent across 230 California law enforcement agencies using ALPRs. The report is a damning assessment of how California law enforcement agencies use this mass-surveillance technology, which employs  computer-controlled, high-speed cameras mounted on street lights, on top of police cars, or speed-monitoring trailers that automatically capture images of every vehicle that drives by, without drivers’ knowledge or permission. The cameras capture the exact time and place a license plate was seen, and often compares that data point to hot lists of “people of interest” to police. The cameras are capable of capturing millions of data points, which, taken in the aggregate, can paint an intimate portrait of a driver’s life and even chill First Amendment protected activity…”

Read the State Auditor’s Report.

The Lost 110 Words of Our Constitution

Politico – “The U.S. Constitution is famously short—a mere 7,591 words, including its 27 amendments. That makes it all the more remarkable that 110 of those words have been, in effect, lost to the ages. These forgotten words form Section 2 of the 14th Amendment, which was designed to guard against the infringement of voting… Continue Reading

Oversight Subcommittee Seeks Information About Ring’s Agreements with Police, Local Governments

Washington, D.C. (Feb. 19, 2020)—”Today, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, sent a letter to Amazon seeking information about its subsidiary Ring Inc.’s partnerships with city governments and local police departments, along with the company’s policies governing the data it collects. Ring sells internet-connected home surveillance equipment, such… Continue Reading

Elephant behavior toward the dead

Washington Post – An elephants story does not end when it dies See also Goldenberg, S.Z., Wittemyer, G. Elephant behavior toward the dead: A review and insights from field observations. Primates 61, 119–128 (2020). “Many nonhuman animals have been documented to take an interest in their dead. A few socially complex and cognitively advanced taxa—primates,… Continue Reading

Ring and Nest helped normalize American surveillance

Washington Post – a nation of voyeurs – For all the worries about hacking, owners of Internet-connected cameras say they love watching people silently from afar — often their own family members. Amazon’s Ring, Google’s Nest and other Internet-connected cameras — some selling for as little as $59 — have given Americans the tools they… Continue Reading

Google AI no longer uses gender binary tags on images of people

INPUT Magazine: “Google’s image-labeling AI tool will no longer label pictures with gender tags like “man” and “woman,” according to an email seen by Business Insider. In the email, Google cites its ethical rules on AI as the basis for the change. This is a progressive move by Google — and one that will hopefully… Continue Reading

Life Sentenced Population Exceeds Entire Prison Population in 1970

The Sentencing Project: “Nationwide there are more people serving life sentences today (206,000) than the entire prison population in 1970 (196,000), according to a new fact sheet released by The Sentencing Project’s Campaign to End Life Imprisonment. Starting in the 1970s, the United States’s prison population began its steady upward climb to the vastly overcrowded… Continue Reading

Fighting Disinformation Online

RAND Corporation – Kavanagh, Jennifer, Samantha Cherney, Hilary Reininger, and Norah Griffin, Fighting Disinformation Online: Building the Database of Web Tools. Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 4.0 International License, 2020. “Today’s information ecosystem brings access to seemingly infinite amounts of information instantaneously. It also contributes to the rapid spread of misinformation and disinformation to millions of… Continue Reading

Freaked Out? 3 Steps to Protect Your Phone

The New York Times: “Your smartphone is one of the world’s most advanced surveillance tools. This week, Times Opinion is reporting on a huge trove of location data showing the precise location movements for millions of Americans. Once your location is shared with the companies, there’s no way to delete that information or get it… Continue Reading

ABA President Martinez defends judiciary, prosecutors at Midyear Meeting

AUSTIN, Texas, Feb. 18, 2020 – “American Bar Association President Judy Perry Martinez delivered a strong defense Monday of the judiciary and prosecutors in remarks to the ABA House of Delegates, the association’s policy-making body, on the final day of the ABA Midyear Meeting. “The personal attacks on our judges and prosecutors must cease,” she… Continue Reading

ABA House approves measures at Midyear Meeting to expand access to justice, voting rights

ABA news release: “The American Bar Association House of Delegates approved a resolution today that would encourage states and other jurisdictions to consider innovative approaches to expanding access to justice with the goal of improving affordability and quality of civil legal services. By voice vote, the 596-member House, which is the association’s policy-making body, overwhelmingly… Continue Reading