Privacy Advocates Wary About Tech Giants’ Facial-Recognition Moves

By Robert Bateman

In the wake of worldwide protests over police brutality, three major technology giants have announced significant changes to their development and sale of facial-recognition technology — but privacy advocates told Digital Privacy News that the changes amounted to little more than public posturing.

The announcements began June 8, when IBM Corp. told Congress that it would stop offering general-purpose facial-recognition software, citing a desire to “help advance this nation’s pursuit of equity and justice.”

Two days later, Amazon followed, saying in a blog post that it was “implementing a one-year moratorium” on police use of its facial software. 

Then, in a June 12 interview with The Washington Post, Microsoft Corp. President Brad Smith said the company would not offer facial-recognition software to U.S. police departments until federal regulation was in place.

But privacy campaigners were cautiously welcoming these changes. They told Digital Privacy News that the efforts did not go far enough, while others remained cynical about the companies’ motivations.

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Q&A: UMass’ Erik Learned-Miller

Why Facial-Recognition Technologies Need Their Own FDA

By Jeff Benson

First of two parts.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has worked to ensure the nation’s food and drug supplies are safe and effective since its initial founding in 1927.

In a white paper released last month, “Facial Recognition Technologies in the Wild: A Call for a Federal Office,” four researchers argue that emerging facial-recognition tech needs its own version of the FDA. 

Co-author Erik Learned-Miller, a professor of computer science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, believes facial-recognition technologies (FRTs) are too complex for legislation alone to be effective.

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What Has US Learned from Asia’s COVID-Privacy Battle? Not Much, Experts Say

By Charles McDermid

Last of two parts.

The United States has done little to implement the data-privacy lessons learned in Asia after regional governments rolled out strict measures to control the spread of COVID-19, analysts told Digital Privacy News. 

In some Asian countries, the tough tactics — contact-tracing apps and so-called digital fencing — drew data-security concerns from an internet-savvy region long weary of hacks, leaks and enhanced surveillance. 

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Asia on the Front Lines of COVID Battle, But at What Privacy Cost?

By Charles McDermid

First of two parts.

Governments across Asia have recently deployed COVID-19 surveillance measures with the potential to reshape the world’s approach to public-health crises — and to forever alter the global debate over data privacy and protection. 

As the pandemic erupted, Asian nations moved quickly to monitor their citizens: from “digital fencing” in Hong Kong and Taiwan, to color-coded “health passports” in China and India, as well as data-collection platforms in Singapore and South Korea. 

But as the conversation shifted from emergency tactics to the eventual aftermath, many experts wondered which tools would be shut down or dismantled in the post-pandemic world, and how that uncharted process might actually work.

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