Daily Digest 6/29

In US First, California City Bans Predictive Policing; Boston Bars Facial-Recognition Technology, 2nd-Largest City to Do So; Facebook to Label All Rule-Breaking Posts; Chinese Bank Forced UK Companies to Install Malware-Laced Tax Software. Click “Continue reading” below.

In US First, California City Bans Predictive Policing

The city of Santa Cruz in central California is now the first American city to ban predictive policing, which digital-rights experts said could spark similar moves across the country.

“Understanding how predictive policing and facial recognition can be disproportionately biased against people of color, we officially banned the use of these technologies in the city of Santa Cruz,” Mayor Justin Cummings said last week, Reuters reports.

His administration will work with the police to “help eliminate racism in policing,” Cummings, the city’s first African American male to hold the position, said on Facebook after a Tuesday evening vote.

Used by police across the U.S. for nearly a decade, predictive policing relies on algorithms to interpret police records, analyzing arrest or parole data to send officers to target chronic offenders, or identifying places where crime may occur.

But critics say it reinforces racist policing patterns. Low-income, ethnic minority neighborhoods historically have been overpoliced, so the data shows them as crime hotspots, they charge, leading to the deployment of more police to those areas.

“As Santa Cruz rightly recognized, predictive policing and facial recognition are dangerous, racially biased technologies that should never be used by our government,” Matt Cagle, an ACLU lawyer told Reuters.

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Boston Bars Facial-Recognition Technology, 2nd-Largest City to Do So

Boston last week banned the use of facial-surveillance technology in the city, following San Francisco to become the second-largest community in the world to do so.

The city council unanimously voted Wednesday to bar the technology and prohibit any city official from obtaining facial surveillance by asking for it through third parties, WBUR-FM reports.

The measure will go to Mayor Marty Walsh with a veto-proof majority. Mayoral aides said he would review the ban.

The vote came as city officials said the technology was not yet used by the Boston Police Department, though the department could access such powers with a software upgrade.

Democratic Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, who sponsored the bill along with fellow Democrat Michelle Wu, noted the technology was very inaccurate for people of color. A MIT study found that for darker-skinned women, facial analysis programs had an error rate of up to 35%.

“It has an obvious racial bias and that’s dangerous,” Arroyo said before the vote. “But it also has sort of a chilling effect on civil liberties.”

Wu said before the vote that Boston should not be using racially discriminatory technology. She noted news reports of the first known case of a Black man being arrested after he was misidentified by facial recognition technology in Michigan.

“We’re working to end systemic racism,” Wu said. “So, ending the … oversurveillance of communities of color needs to be a part of that,” she told WBUR.

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Facebook to Label All Rule-Breaking Posts

Facebook said Friday that it would flag all “newsworthy” posts from politicians that break its rules, including those from President Donald Trump.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg had refused to act against the president’s posts suggesting that mail-in ballots would cause voter fraud, saying that people deserved to hear unfiltered statements from political leaders.

Twitter, by contrast, slapped a “get the facts” label on them, The Associated Press reports.

“The policies we’re implementing today are designed to address the reality of the challenges our country is facing and how they’re showing up across our community,” Zuckerberg said on his Facebook page.

The platform, he said, was taking additional steps to counter election-related misinformation. In particular, Facebook would begin adding new labels to all posts about voting that will direct users to authoritative information from state and local election officials.

Facebook also is banning false claims intended to discourage voting, such as stories about federal agents checking legal status at polling places.

The company also said it was increasing its enforcement capacity to remove false claims about local polling conditions in the 72 hours before the U.S. election.

Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Civic Media, said the changes are a “reminder of how powerful Facebook may be in terms of spreading disinformation during the upcoming election.”

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Chinese Bank Forced UK Companies to Install Malware-Laced Tax Software

A Chinese bank has forced at least two Western companies to install tax software laced with malware on their systems, the Chicago cybersecurity firm Trustwave said in a report last week.

The companies are in the U.K., a technology-software vendor and a major financial institution, both of which had recently opened offices in China.

“Discussions with our client revealed that (the malware) was part of their bank’s required tax software,” Trustwave said in its Thursday report.

“They informed us that upon opening operations in China, their local Chinese bank required that they install a software package called Intelligent Tax produced by the Golden Tax Department of Aisino Corp., for paying local taxes.”

Trustwave, which was providing cyber-security services for the U.K. software company, said it identified the malware after observing suspicious network requests originating its customer’s network.

The company said it analyzed the bank’s tax software. Turstwave said that the software worked as advertised, allowing its customer to pay local taxes, but that it also installed a hidden backdoor.

The backdoor, which Trustwave codenamed GoldenSpy and said it allowed any remote attacker to connect to the infected system and run Windows commands, or upload and install other software.

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— By DPN Staff