Law Enforcement Technology – Spotlight #354

Good Monday morning. It’s September 14th. Rosh Hashana begins at sundown local time on Friday and ends Sunday. Yom Kippur begins the following Sunday.

Spotlight has a new feature called “Spotlighters Ask” that you’ll find below. We always get questions about the internet, technology, and how businesses and nonprofits can thrive in this environment. We’ll share your smart questions and the answers with all Spotlight readers. You can ask a question at any time by replying to this email. You’ll get an answer like always and you may see your question in a future issue, but we’ll never share your name.

Today’s Spotlight is 1,946 words — about a 7 minute read. We were off last week. We’ll be back to five minute reads next week.

Breaking Sunday night: Oracle Corp. will become TikTok’s “technology partner” according to The Wall Street Journal. We expect more clarity from Byte Dance and Oracle on Monday. The transaction was announced one hour after Microsoft’s bid was rejected.

1. News to Know Now

a.  Facebook removed the pages of far-right group Patriot Prayer. Despite its name the group has been linked to The Proud Boys, a hate group. At least two members of Patriot Prayer threatened people in Portland including Mayor Ted Wheeler. Facebook also announced that it removed U.S., Russia, and Pakistan based networks of pages targeting people outside their respective  countries, including a Russian disinformation campaign against the U.S.

b. President Trump also posted disinformation Friday on Twitter that the network labeled as “specifically encouraging people to vote twice.” The North Carolina Board of Elections specifically asked voters not to follow the president’s recommendations because doing so could result in a felony charge. Voting twice is illegal in all states and is a felony in twenty-eight.

Earlier in the week the president complained on Twitter that a private user with 266 followers had posted an image of the satirical “Moscow Mitch” image showing the head of Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) poorly edited into a Russian soldier’s overcoat.  The contrast is important because the president and his advisors have posted manipulated videos of political opponents allegedly saying things that they didn’t or inaccurately portraying them as asleep or intoxicated. 

c.  Amazon Alexa has some nifty new commands including “Call for help” and allowing you to pay for gas by voice at Exxon and Mobil gas stations. Alexa can also now print by voice, and Lifehacker shows you how to set that up.

2. COVID-19 Online Resources and News

Great Trackers
Covid Tracking Project — useful for its annotations
Johns Hopkins Dashboard or Animations — the gold standard
COVID-19 Forecast Hub — Collects multiple models
Google Mobility Reports — county level info on people locations

NEW: Long-Term Care COVID Tracker

COVID-19 Tech News
Amazon customers face price gouging — CBS News
Google and Apple change tactics on contact tracing tech — Wired
Googling for gut symptoms predicts Covid hot spots — Bloomberg
Schools are buying surveillance to fight COVID-19 — The Markup
These states have the biggest decreases in internet speed — PC Mag

3. Search Engine Optimization News

The impending election is causing Google to act on privacy in much the same way as Facebook. They recently announced that they will not share with advertisers some of the words that trigger the ads they paid for. Microsoft search and advertising executive Christi Olson called the move “ludicrous” according to Search Engine Journal. I added a word in front of the word ‘ludicrous’ and am reliably informed by my wife that the word I chose should not be yelled with the windows open. That may be so, but it was the correct word.

Background: Advertisers can access a “search query report” that has many uses. Among the things we do with it is show our clients the actual words and spellings that customers use to find them. And once upon a time, Google reported on any query that resulted in a click to a website, not just the advertising clicks. It’s been nearly ten years since Google did that, and I’m still complaining. 

A big problem: the data is used to refine the advertising, to make it more efficient, less expensive, and not just for intelligence gathering. 

Google also announced that its autocomplete function will not include candidate names, political parties, or voting terms. You can still search for all of those terms, but Google will no longer use predictive text to guess what you’re searching for. The company did something similar with COVID-19 and acknowledged in an interview with Ad Week that it was too restrictive when it originally blocked ads from appearing next to terms related to the novel coronavirus. 

Google will also allow all organizations to update their Google My Business listings with health and safety attributes such as “masks required” or “temperature check required.” See Search Engine Roundtable for details

4. Also in the Spotlight — Law Enforcement Technology

Last summer we told you how the military and police were using technology including facial recognition, advanced databases, social media, and even consumer cameras like Amazon Ring. This law enforcement technology update covers newer concepts in vogue like geofencing and predictive analytics.

Portland, Oregon, made news again last week for banning the use of facial recognition in city agencies and privately owned businesses including stores, banks, restaurants, and even transit stations. The legislation also grants consumers the right to sue for damages. The legislation took effect immediately, and city officials reported that local police are not using facial recognition or biometrics. 

This ban occurs after San Francisco’s ban just over one year ago. Oakland and Boston have also banned use of this law enforcement technology. 

Police are also relying on geofence warrants that compel a company like Google or Apple to provide the identity of anyone who was at a specific location during a specific time. But in the same way that a red light camera only detects a vehicle breaking a law, a geofence warrant only identifies that a phone or other mobile device was present.

Arizona resident Jorge Molina was arrested for murder and told by a detective “we knew, one hundred percent, without a doubt that [your] phone was at the shooting scene.” Unfortunately for Molina, an old phone of his that he had lent to someone was at the scene. Police reportedly ignored that Molina’s location was reported on two devices in different locations and that the car registered in his name had multiple drivers. Molina spent six days in jail, was fired from his job,  and even lost his car.

Law enforcement technology also contributed to the arrest of Robert Julian-Borchak Williams in Michigan. Williams was handcuffed in front of his wife and children eight months ago. Detectives investigating $3,800 in shoplifted watches from a boutique wrongly identified Williams using a facial recognition algorithm. Williams’ arrest followed a similar arrest by Detroit police of Michael Oliver for felony larceny. Four months later, Oliver was finally exonerated. 

An even more egregious use of law enforcement technology is currently being used by the Pasco County (FL) Sheriff. A Tampa Bay Times expose reported that residents in the 1.2 million person county are subject to interrogation from a “predictive algorithm” that identifies them as “likely to break the law.” You win a prize if you think that sounds exactly like the plot of Tom Cruise’s 2002 science fiction thriller “Minority Report,” but it’s really happening in this county north of Tampa.

At least ten percent of those identified by the algorithm are children. One fifteen year old was arrested for sneaking into carports with a friend and stealing mopeds. Already under the supervision of a juvenile probation officer, deputies went to his home at least twenty-one times in a five month period to question him and his family. They also visited his mother at work, went to a friend’s house, and checked his gym.

Californians will vote on Proposition 25 this November. Its passage would require judges to use a similar system to Pasco County’s when deciding whether to grant noncash bail. One study estimates that one-third of jurisdictions already use these types of predictive systems in pretrial environments.

Law Enforcement Technology Smartlinks

Avondale man sues after Google data leads to arrest — Phoenix New Times
Calif. bill would mandate crime prediction algorithms — Motherboard
Creepy geofence finds anyone near a crime scene — Wired
Facial recognition software tallies second wrongful arrest — State Scoop
Google geofence warrants face a major legal challenge — One Zero
More cities saying no to facial recognition — CNN
Portland passes groundbreaking ban on facial recognition — One Zero
Targeted — The Tampa Bay Times
Wrongfully accused by an algorithm — The New York Times

5. Following Up: GPT-3 AI & Walmart’s Prime

We told you in mid-August about GPT-3, the Open AI algorithm that uses machine learning to process language in ways that weren’t commercially available before. Now you can read some of GPT-3’s longer prose in The Guardian’s op-ed “A robot wrote this entire article. Are you scared yet, human?”

And we told you in the same issue that Walmart had delayed its Amazon Prime competitor. That changes tomorrow with the launch of Walmart+, a $98 annual service that gives users a 5 cent per gallon fuel discount, an app to allow them to check out of Walmart stores without going through a cashier, and provides free delivery for online orders of at least $35. Get details at Yahoo Finance.

6. Debugging: Victoria’s Secret & Bra Tracking

A silly TikTok video claimed that ordinary RFID tags found in bras sold at Victoria’s Secret were used to track people. Faster than you could say, “Oh, you goofballs …” it quickly morphed into more than one dozen YouTube videos that refer to the theft deterrent devices as “sex trafficking tags.”

I just think that more people need better hobbies. Go read the rest at Fast Company.

7. ProTip: How to Check for Stalkerware

Assuming your bra is clear of sex trafficking tags, you still want to lock down your privacy from stalkerware. This fantastic Wired article explains how to secure your phone, PC, and online accounts.

8. Spotlighters Ask: Facebook Political Study

I got an invitation to be involved in a Facebook political study. My friend got one too and has an offer to go offline for compensation. Is this really legit?

Yes, it really is legit

Researchers from UT Austin and NYU are working with Facebook and have tabbed researchers at 15 other schools for “rigorous peer-reviewed research” about how social media generally and Facebook specifically affects democracy and voting. The other schools include Stanford, Princeton, UNC, and George Washington.

Facebook is allowed to have transparency into the data and findings, but has no editorial control. The program is under the auspices of former UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg who was hired in late 2018 as Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs.

Clegg’s announcement of the initiative is here.

8. Spotlighters Ask: Facebook Political Study

I got an invitation to be involved in a Facebook political study. My friend got one too and has an offer to go offline for compensation. Is this really legit?

Yes, it really is legit

Researchers from UT Austin and NYU are working with Facebook and have tabbed researchers at 15 other schools for “rigorous peer-reviewed research” about how social media generally and Facebook specifically affects democracy and voting. The other schools include Stanford, Princeton, UNC, and George Washington.

Facebook is allowed to have transparency into the data and findings, but has no editorial control. The program is under the auspices of former UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who was hired in late 2018 as Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs.

Clegg’s announcement of the initiative is here.

Screening Room: Ikea

Ikea’s GUNRID air purifying curtains are made from recycled plastic bottles. Here’s a whimsical look at their potential journey from a spot that just launched in Asia.

10. Coffee Break: Blade Runner in SF

Every creative person on the west coast is taking photos and videos of the weird colors caused by wildfires. After one person posted drone footage of San Francisco, another creative type overlaid music from Blade Runner 2049 because that’s our world now.

Here are three ways that we can help you:

1. Get a free SEO audit on our website.

2.  Have a simple, fact-based question about digital marketing? Reply & ask George for free.

3. If your organization needs help with search, social media, or advertising, have a look at what we do.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>