Daily Digest (6/10)

IBM Cancels Facial-Recognition Programs, Calls for Police Reforms; FCC Fines Insurance Telemarketers $225M for a Billion Robocalls; Over 518,000 Sign Petition for Congress to Not ‘Kill Encryption’ With EARN IT Act; EFF, ACLU Sue LA Over Scooter Data Program. Click “Continue reading” below.

IBM Cancels Facial-Recognition Programs, Calls for Police Reforms

IBM is getting out of the facial-recognition business, CEO Arvind Krishna told Congress, over concerns about how the technology can be used for mass surveillance and racial profiling.

In a letter to Democratic U.S. lawmakers Monday, Krishna said IBM “has sunset its general-purpose facial-recognition and analysis software products.

“We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial-recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies,” he said.

“IBM firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any technology, including facial-recognition technology offered by other vendors, for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms, or any purpose which is not consistent with our values,” said Krishna, who is of Indian descent and is IBM’s first CEO of color.

Krishna’s letter was to Democrats who have been working on police-reform legislation in response to the death of George Floyd and others in police interactions that have sparked worldwide demonstrations over racial injustice.

Legislators are considering reforms that could include restricting police use of facial recognition.

IBM had tested its facial-recognition software with the New York Police Department, but it’s not clear if it has existing contracts with other governments, The Associated Press reports.

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FCC Fines Insurance Telemarketers $225M for a Billion Robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday fined two health insurance telemarketers $225 million, its largest ever, for spamming people with 1 billion robocalls using fake phone numbers.

The agency said John Spiller and Jakob Mears made the calls through two businesses, Rising Eagle and JSquared Telecom, The Associated Press reports.

Attorneys general of Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas also sued the men and their companies in federal court in Texas, where they live, for violating the U.S. Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

According to the FCC, the robocalls offered plans from major insurers — Aetna and UnitedHealth, among them — with an automated message.

If consumers pressed a button for more information, however, they were transferred to a call center that sold plans unconnected to the companies.

The FCC said the Missouri attorney general sued Rising Eagle’s largest client, Health Advisors of America, for telemarketing violations last year.

The fine is not a final decision, however. Spiller and Mears will have a chance to respond, according to the AP.

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Over 518,000 Sign Petition for Congress to Not ‘Kill Encryption’ With EARN IT Act

More than 518,000 people have signed an online petition calling on Congress to reject the EARN IT Act because it could “kill encryption,” according to internet rights group Fight for the Future.

The petition had 518,969 signatures as of Tuesday, the Daily Dot reports, with an overall goal of 819,200.

The EARN IT Act, proposed by a bipartisan group of senators in March, would require websites to adhere to “best practices” for removing child-exploitation content or risk losing immunity under Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act.

Internet-rights advocates have bitterly opposed the legislation, arguing that the U.S. Justice Department and the attorney general could greatly influence the panel creating the “best practices,” the Daily Dot reports.

Section 230 protects websites from being liable for what is posted by third parties.

“The EARN IT act is a perfect storm of bad ideas,” Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, told the website.

“It threatens to enable mass surveillance and monitoring of our internet activity and communications, while also posing an existential threat to online freedom of expression.”

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EFF, ACLU Sue LA Over Scooter Data Program

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and two California ACLU branches have sued Los Angeles for collecting detailed trip data and real-time locations and routes of the electric scooters in daily use by thousands of citizens.

Two riders, Eric Alejo and Justin Sanchez, are seeking a court order barring the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) from collecting and turning over to the city information about scooter trips taken within city limits.

LADOT operates dockless vehicles like JUMP, Lyft, and Lime, according to an EFF release. The data collected includes real-time and historical, minute-by-minute information about where and when every ride started, and where and what time each ride ended.

Los Angeles is gathering this information via a software tool it developed with an outside vendor, Mobility Data Specification (MDS), which amasses location data through GPS trackers on scooters.

“MDS doesn’t capture the identify of riders directly,” the EFF statement said, “but collects with precision riders’ location, routes and destinations to within a few feet, which can easily be used to reveal the identities of riders.”

Other parties to the litigation include ACLU-Northern California and ACLU-Southern California.

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— By DPN Staff