Daily Digest (11/9)

Baltimore ‘Spy Plane’ Program Does Not Violate Privacy, Court Rules; Facebook Removes Iranian Accounts; WhatsApp to Release Disappearing Message Feature;Google Criticizes India for Limiting Digital Payments.

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Baltimore ‘Spy Plane’ Program Does Not Violate Privacy, Court Rules

A federal appeals court in Virginia ruled Friday that the Baltimore’s Aerial Investigative Research (AIR) Program did not violate privacy laws, blocking a lower court’s decision to ban the “spy plane” program.

The camera-mounted aircraft used by the Baltimore Police Department circle the city during daylight hours, recording activity below to create a surveillance network, The Baltimore Brew reports.

Authorities say this is a less-intrusive measure versus other aerial-surveillance programs that have been approved by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision stemmed from an April lawsuit and appeal later filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Maryland, seeking to stop a six-month trial of the program, which it attacked as a “society-changing threat to individual privacy.”

The appeal was decided by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond.

“What a person knowingly exposes to the public is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection,” Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote in the majority ruling.

The program’s risk of infringing upon constitutional rights is balanced by the surveillance in aiding Baltimore’s crime and violence problem, according to the decision.

“Baltimore is one of the more dangerous cities in America, with hundreds of people being murdered every year,” Wilkinson said.

“As cherished as constitutional rights are, the founders understood that the Bill of Rights was not the only source of rights worthy of protection.”

However, Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory dissented, saying that the majority opinion rested “on a fundamentally warped understanding of the facts” and that “no crime rate can justify warrantless aerial surveillance of an entire city, wholly unchecked by the judiciary.”

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Facebook Removes Iranian Accounts

Facebook said Thursday that it had removed Iranian accounts that supported protests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The company removed 12 accounts, two pages and 307 Instagram accounts for sharing content about protesting in Israel and Iraq, The Associated Press reports.

The account users tried to keep their identities secret, but Facebook said it had found that the source of the fake accounts was a Tehran-based technology company.

The fake accounts gained around 10,00 followers, and users were in the earlier stages of building an audience.

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WhatsApp to Release Disappearing Message Feature

WhatsApp said it would allow users to set up the app’s new disappearing message feature, designed to enable users to reduce their digital footprint.

Unlike competitors, the Facebook-owned messaging app decided against offering flexibility to users, The Guardian reports.

While the new feature gives users a chance to delete any message within seven days of being sent, WhatsApp has no option to change how long messages are stored.

“We’re starting with seven days because we think it offers peace of mind that conversations aren’t permanent, while remaining practical so you don’t forget what you were chatting about,” WhatsApp said in a blog post.

“The shopping list or store address you received a few days ago will be there while you need it and then disappear after you don’t.”

Even with the new feature, users need to trust their friends because nothing can prevent one side of an interaction from taking a screenshot of a deleted chat, according to the Guardian.

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Google Criticizes India for Limiting Digital Payments

Google criticized India on Friday after the country moved to limit the share of transitions from some companies within the digital-payment arena.

The tech giant spoke out after the National Payment Corp. of India (NPCI) said that third-party payment apps would only be allowed to process 30% of their total volume of transitions after Jan. 1, Reuters reports.

The transactions would come from the state-backed United Payments Interface (UPI) frameworks, which facilitate seamless peer-to-peer money transfers.

“This announcement has come as a surprise and has implications for hundreds of millions of users who use UPI for their daily payments and could impact the further adoption of UPI and the end goal of financial inclusion,” Sajith Sivanandan, business head at Google Pay in India, told Reuters.

The new caps do not apply to banks like Reliance’s Jio Payment Bank or Paytm, which have niche-banking policies that fall outside of India’s definition of “third-party apps,” according to the report.

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— By DPN Staff