Articles Tagged with right to privacy

For the last seven years, the police in the city of San Diego made use of facial recognition technology through a network of 1,300 mobile cameras. The information compiled was successful in developing a database of 65,500 face scans. As of December 31, 2019, though, the California legislature put a stop to the use of the technology. A three-year ban was enacted against the use of mobile facial recognition technology by law enforcement. The ban came at the frustration of the police, but privacy advocates saw it as a win. 

Unfortunately, determining the effectiveness of the technology is not simple or easy. San Diego law enforcement agencies did not keep track of the results associated with the facial recognition initiative. According to the city’s police spokesperson, it is not known that there were arrests or prosecutions as a result of using the technology.

What is the Tactical Identification System (TACIDS)?

In 2012 the TACIDS was put into place without a public hearing or public notice. The software behind the system worked by focusing on unique identifiers via patterns and textures on the face to compare with a database of over 1.8 million mugshots. In less than two seconds the software can compare the traits to find matches with the images collected by the San Diego County Sheriff’s office.

FaceFirst supplied the software to law enforcement agencies. There were 30 agencies as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement who used TACIDS. Out of all the agencies that had access to the software, law enforcement in San Diego made the most use of it. The large police department used it frequently. The newly developed Neighborhood Policing Division which began in 2018 was easily behind the department’s high rate of use. This division was a response to the rising homeless population in the city. The technology was given to officers so that they could identify homeless individuals who often do not carry identification.

How Did the Ban on TACIDS Come About?

Privacy advocates had major concerns with the facial recognition technology, and increased pressure on lawmakers motivated them to put the ban in place. The American Civil Liberties Union tested the software and found that it had flaws. They found a 20% failure rate for matching individuals and the majority of those that were mistaken were with individuals of color. Community leaders argued that the technology violated people’s civil liberties. Lawmakers listening to these concerns agreed that there are problems with the way surveillance capabilities are utilized. Continue reading

Criminal law has entered the digital age. Every day, the privacy of innocent people is compromised as law enforcement officials scoop up information about them while executing routine search warrants involving someone else. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a warrant was required for law enforcement to be able to access historical data about an accused person’s cell phone location over several weeks. This ruling, however, does not address the use of geo-fence warrants by law enforcement officials when seeking to identify the perpetrators or witnesses to a crime.

Geo-Fence Warrant in Action

The police department in a suburb of Phoenix obtained a search warrant to identify the perpetrators and witnesses to a crime. They asked Google to provide information about any and all devices it recorded near the crime site to identify suspects and witnesses. Independent video surveillance showed the vehicle of interest was a white Honda Civic. The video did not capture an image of the driver or license plate number.  

Google’s Sensorvault

Sensorvault is a global database maintained by Google to capture and record personal information about its users. Where you go with your friends, what you read, eat, listen to, and watch, and when these activities happen are all recorded.

For years, technology companies have responded to court orders and search warrant to reveal specific user information. That is and remains legal. Under the geo-warrants, a single warrant can collect location information on dozens or hundreds of devices at or near the area of interest.

Geo-fence warrants are just one of the technological advancements that have improved criminal investigations in California and North Carolina, Florida, Minnesota, and Washington, other states that routinely use these types of warrants during criminal investigations.

Apple states that it is not able to perform these types of searches involving their iOS devices. However, Google software is the culprit, and that software can be downloaded onto an iPhone. The software, not the device, tracks user’s location and other data.

Review and Understand Your Privacy Settings

Selling you location data is a lucrative business for Google and companies that track your information to share with themselves or others. To protect yourself against intrusion, understand the location history setting on your mobile devices and portable computers. If you routinely travel with your smartphone and tablet, the feature must be disabled on all devices to avoid being tracked. The location history setting enables users to see what information is being tracked and recorded. Users can opt to delete their location and account history permanently, but future information must also be purged or it will remain on their website in perpetuity. Continue reading

It has been reported that once again the F.B.I. seems to be hiding planted microphones to spy on American citizens. Federal agents have planted hidden microphones and conducted secret video surveillance at Alameda County’s Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in northern California for ten months. They did not have a search warrant as required by the fourth amendment to be able to do so.

The FBI’s surveillance operation was part of an investigation into alleged bid rigging scheme at foreclosed property auctions where thousands of houses and apartment buildings were sold by banks. Defense attorneys for some of those accused of the fraud say these surveillance tactics violate their clients’ constitutional rights, along with anyone else’s whose conversations might have been recorded. They claim that speaking in public does not mean one does not have an expectation of privacy. Private conversations, especially in or near courtrooms, happen routinely amongst citizens and attorneys alike.

The FBI planted microphones in bushes, at a bus stop, on a pole, and inside vehicles near the auction site. A similar thing happened in San Mateo last year. Facing these allegatiosn of constitutional violations, government prosecutors in San Mateo had moved to withdraw the recordings as evidence at trial.