Daily Digest (6/9)

Google Maps to Alert Users About COVID-Related Travel Restrictions; NY Legislators to Repeal State Police Privacy Law; Researchers Propose Federal Authority to Manage Facial Recognition; Israel’s NSO Showcases Drone Technology, Seeks to Counter Rights-Abuse Allegations. Click “Continue reading” below.

Google Maps to Alert Users About COVID-Related Travel Restrictions

Google said Monday that it was adding features on its Maps service to alert users about coronavirus-related travel restrictions to help them plan their trips better.

The update would allow users to check how crowded a train station might be at a certain time, for instance, or if buses on a particular route are running on a limited schedule, Reuters reports.

The alerts would be rolled out in Argentina, France, India, Netherlands, the United States and United Kingdom, among other countries, the company said in a blog post.

The features also would include details on COVID-19 checkpoints and restrictions on crossing national borders, starting with Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

In recent months, Google has analyzed location data from billions of user cellphones in 131 countries to examine mobility under lockdowns and to help health authorities assess if people were abiding with social-distancing and other orders issued to limit spread of the virus, Reuters reports.

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NY Legislators to Repeal State Police Privacy Law

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators plan to repeal a police privacy law.

Section 50-A of New York state code seals the personal data of police officers, correctional officers and firefighters, WBFO-FM in Buffalo reports.

Information — including officers’ home addresses, substance-abuse history and family background — would be made public once Section 50-A is repealed.

Any previous complaints that have been filed against officers also would become public, according to the report.

Police unions pushed for the law and have fought its repeal. They claim it would open officers to people who want their addresses and family information for any purpose.

But criminal justice advocates have said the issue is only those discipline records, so the public can help force out officers who are bad actors on the street.

Such information can surface in court cases, where a judge can release it, particularly in federal courts.

Removing an officer is usually contingent on the rules in a union contract, and removals under that can be fought in court, WBFO reports.

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Researchers Propose Federal Authority to Manage Facial Recognition

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst have proposed a new federal agency to manage facial-recognition technologies.

The office would be modeled after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said computer science professor Erik Learned-Miller, which provides an example of centralized regulation for complex technologies with societal implications.

The model would categorize technologies by degrees of risk and assign corresponding controls.

“There are a lot of problems with face recognition, like breach of privacy, surveillance, unequal performance across sub-groups and profiling,” said Learned-Miller, lead author of the researchers’ report.

“Due to the high-stakes situations in which this technology is being deployed, such as in police work, financial decision-making and analysis of job applicants, harms from inaccuracies or misuse are a real and growing problem.”

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Israel’s NSO Showcases Drone Technology, Seeks to Counter Rights-Abuse Allegations

Israel’s NSO Group showcased a new anti-drone defense on Monday, giving the public a look at its technology as it sought to counter allegations that another product had aided privacy breaches and political surveillance. 

The new system, Eclipse, commandeers intruding drones and, according to NSO, costs “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to provide stadium-sized protection, Reuters reports.

More than 10 countries have bought it to safeguard sites like energy facilities, the agency said.

The promotion follows controversy for the company around Pegasus, spyware that has drawn a lawsuit by WhatsApp alleging that it helped government spies hack the cellphones of nearly 1,400 users, including journalists and dissidents.

Pegasus also has been linked to political surveillance in Mexico, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, according to Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, which researches digital surveillance.

NSO has denied wrongdoing, saying it sells only to government agencies, subject to oversight by Israel’s Defense Ministry, Reuters reports.

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— By DPN Staff