Tag Archives: American Civil Liberties Union

ACLU: Amazon Is Selling Facial Recognition System To Local Law Enforcement

(DCNF) The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundations of California revealed communications and other documents Tuesday that seem to show Amazon is offering its facial recognition services and products to local law enforcement.

Along with a diverse set of other organizations, the ACLU sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos calling for the tech giant to stop supplying the government with its facial recognition tool called “Rekognition.”

“Rekognition marketing materials read like a user manual for authoritarian surveillance,” Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties director for the ACLU of California, said in a statement provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Once a dangerous surveillance system like this is turned against the public, the harm can’t be undone. Particularly in the current political climate, we need to stop supercharged surveillance before it is used to track protesters, target immigrants and spy on entire neighborhoods. We’re blowing the whistle before it’s too late.” (RELATED: DHS Seeking Facial Recognition Tech To Scan People’s Faces In Moving Cars)

The documents obtained “through a six-month ACLU investigation” show that Amazon has been trying to assist government agencies in states like Florida and Oregon in deploying the artificially intelligent spying apparatus. The city of Orlando, Fla., for example, has already been using Rekognition to identify people featured in government-deployed surveillance camera recordings, according to the ACLU.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon has reportedly created a mobile application using Rekognition’s unique capabilities, allowing it to scan images through its vast database of personal faces and their measurements. Several other governments have expressed interest in Amazon’s advanced technology, the ACLU alleges.

Facial recognition technology can be used to help nab criminals and arguably make certain processes more convenient. However, many, like the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, have deep-seated concerns with it being utilized for the wrong purposes and by the wrong entities.

The letter is also yet another example that as Amazon grows in power, so too does the larger public’s consternation with the company. (RELATED: There’s A Newfound Hatred Of Silicon Valley)

Concerns of surveillance have now joined other worries relating to antitrustlow wages, and an ostensibly cozy relationship with the Department of Defense.

Written by Eric Lieberman: follow Eric on Twitter.


This article was republished with permission from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Bipartisan Coalition of Lawmakers Introduce Anti-Surveillance Bills

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Tenth Amendment Center have partnered with lawmakers from 16 states to introduce counter-surveillance legislation. On January 20, Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, and Michael Boldin, executive director of the Tenth Amendment Center, released an op-ed through Time announcing the new legislation and calling for a partnership between conservatives and progressives.

Boldin and Romero discussed the increase in cell phone surveillance from tools like Stingrays and tracking from automatic license plate readers which track the public’s driving habits. Their concern extends not only to government institutions but corporations who are willing to capture and sell personal data of customers.

The legislation comes from both political parties spread across the United States, including the District of Columbia, Hawaii, North Carolina, Minnesota, Alabama, New Hampshire and New Mexico. The ACLU is supporting the bills as part of their campaign “#TakeCTRL: Nationwide Privacy Push.” The campaign offers a map showing the participating states and explanations of each bill introduced.

The bills deal with personal data privacy, location tracking through Stingray cell site simulators, Automatic License Plate Readers, employee and student social media privacy, and protection for students personal technology on campus. Each bill offers protections that guarantee the right for each individual to be in control of maintaining their private, personal information.

Boldin and Romero wrote, “Americans have grown tired of hearing stories like that of former college hockey player Megan Donahue, who quit her team because she did not want to give her coaches access to her social media accounts, or high school student Blake Robbins, whose school remotely accessed the webcam on the laptop it issued him and took pictures of him while he undressed.”

Another focus of the bills is to force law enforcement agencies to get a warrant if they desire to use new technologies to access someone’s private communications. When it comes to corporate access to Americans’ data, the coalition is calling for corporations to get “clear and express permission to do so.”

As the ACLU and Tenth Amendment Center recognize, the laws have not kept up to pace with technology that is being employed by the military and law enforcement. If every state passed their legislation and enacted privacy protections such as warrants it would still not stop invasions by federal agencies which are also known to have similar technology.

The coalition ends their letter with a call for unity and action.

“We know that this is a fight that will continue, but with conservatives and progressives standing united, it’s a fight we can win.”

Missouri bill proposes banning availability of police captured footage

A bill has been proposed by Missouri lawmakers which would exempt any footage recorded on a police operated camera from being viewed by the public.

Senate Bill No. 331 reads, “Any recording captured by a camera, which is capable of recording video or audio…shall not be a public record… [and] shall not be disclosed by a law enforcement agency except upon order of a court in the course of a criminal  investigation or prosecution or civil litigation.” Footage captured on any police camera attached to a piece of police equipment, car, aircraft, or police person, would therefore be protected by this bill.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Doug Libla (R), and Missouri’s attorney general, Chris Koster (D), has voiced his support of barring the public from access to these videos.

Koster said, according to St. Louis Today, the footage would be considered closed records and therefore unavailable under Missouri’s Sunshine Law. The footage would be available, however, to people investigating an incident resulting in a civil lawsuit, or by a court order to others.

Missouri Rep. Galen Higdon has called for similar legislature, saying, according to the River Front Times, “Capturing a crime on video, whether it was perpetrated by an officer or perpetrated by a perp, the chain of evidence needs to be protected.” Higdon also said if the footage is available to the public before a trial, the jury pool could potentially be tainted and this may slow the trial down.

Sarah Rossi, the director of advocacy and policy for the Missouri’s American Civil Liberties Union, has said the proposed legislature is just an “end run around Missouri’s Sunshine Law.” Current Sunshine Laws, said Rossi, already allow law enforcement officers to restrict the public from viewing evidence which is involved in active police investigations.

Libla’s bill also proposes police departments shall not be required by the state to provide their officers with body cameras, and no department shall require an officer to wear a body camera.

Federal Judge Rules Current No-Fly List Unconstitutional, House Intel Chairman Calls Ruling “Disaster”

Portland, OR- A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the current procedures for placing a passenger on a “no-fly” list are unconstitutional and are in need of reform, writing that “without proper notice and an opportunity to be heard, an individual could be doomed to indefinite placement on the No-Fly List.” 

U.S. District Judge Anna Brown has ruled that the procedures that have been used by those on the no-fly list are “wholly ineffective” and do not “provide a meaningful mechanism for travelers who have been denied boarding to correct erroneous information in the government’s terrorism databases.”

Brown has ordered the government to reform their current procedures to allow no-fly subjects to give evidence to argue their status on the list. Brown has also ordered the federal government to notify people who are on the no-fly list, and has directed the government to disclose the reason for a person’s inclusion on the list. The no-fly list has been regarded as highly secretive.

The ruling came after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of 13 Americans who discovered they were banned from flying. The plaintiffs, none of whom had been charged with any crimes, alleged that they were offered no reason from the government for the decision, and found there was no effective method of removing themselves from the list. The plaintiffs made attempts to resolve their situations by submitting applications to DHS  asking for clarification, but the agency didn’t provide any answers to them.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) criticized the decision, calling it a “great recipe for disaster” and insisting that it “it makes no sense whatsoever.” 

Rogers was discussing the possibility of bombs being built by terrorist organizations trying to “show their chops by having an international terrorist attack,” then made the claim “and now you just had a judge rule that we can’t put someone on a no-fly list. You tell me why I can’t sleep at night.”

ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi praised the ruling: “Our clients will finally get the due process to which they are entitled under the Constitution. This excellent decision also benefits other people wrongly stuck on the No Fly List, with the promise of a way out from a Kafkaesque bureaucracy causing them no end of grief and hardship.”

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