Law and Legal
Gizmodo: “…One of the many ways that ads get in front of your eyeballs on Facebook and Instagram is that the social networking giant lets an advertiser upload a list of phone numbers or email addresses it has on file; it will then put an ad in front of accounts associated with that contact information. A clothing retailer can put an ad for a dress in the Instagram feeds of women who have purchased from them before, a politician can place Facebook ads in front of anyone on his mailing list, or a casino can offer deals to the email addresses of people suspected of having a gambling addiction. Facebook calls this a “custom audience.” You might assume that you could go to your Facebook profile and look at your “contact and basic info” page to see what email addresses and phone numbers are associated with your account, and thus what advertisers can use to target you. But as is so often the case with this highly efficient data-miner posing as a way to keep in contact with your friends, it’s going about it in a less transparent and more invasive way…”
Sept. 27 (UPI): “A Virginia man leading a group of “Hurricane Cowboys” is again rescuing animals displaced by Hurricane Florence – much the same way he did in Texas after Harvey last year. Patrick McKann, a former bull rider and rodeo rider, and several volunteers are providing aid to help rescue horses and livestock amid the heavy flooding in South Carolina brought on by Florence. McKann and his team are helping animals in Conway, S.C. In previous days, it also offered help in Pender County, N.C. Horses, donkeys, dogs and cats and chickens have been rescued. “Everybody is good with cats and dogs, and we’ll help them too. But we deal with large livestock — horses, cattle, pigs,” the 42-year-old McKann said. “There’s a lot to do in South Carolina.”..The well-being of pets is always a concern following major storms like Florence. Hundreds of animals have were evacuated in the Carolinas and Virginia ahead of Florence, the Humane Society said…” [h/t Pete Weiss]
Fascinating read via The Paris Review: “…Thumb marks were used as personal seals to close business in Babylonia, and, in 1303, a Persian vizier recounted the use of fingerprints as signatures during the Qin and Han Dynasties, noting, “Experience has shown that no two individuals have fingers precisely alike.” The Chinese had realized that before anyone: a Qin dynasty document from the third-century B.C.E, titled “The Volume of Crime Scene Investigation—Burglary,” pointed up fingerprints as a means of evincing whodunnit. In the mid-1800s, a British magistrate named William Herschel observed the Indian custom of inking hands or fingers alongside autographs or marks on contracts. Such agreements, he appreciated, were more often honored than disputed, and in the summer of 1858, Herschel started requiring prints on contracts with Bengali subjects. He credited their effect to superstition before seeing the truth: fingerprints actually did distinguish one person from the next.
Around the same time, a Scottish physician named Henry Faulds matched the greasy print from a drinking glass and the sooty print from a white wall to the criminals who had left them behind. Faulds wrote to Charles Darwin in 1880, asking the naturalist for help collecting “skin-furrows”—the ridges on fingertips reminded him of furrows in plowed fields. Faulds included cards and instructed Darwin to use printer’s ink, which could “easily be removed by benzine or turpentine” or by “burnt cork mixed with very little oil.” But Darwin was ill, and he punted the “curious” request to his cousin, the polymathic anthropologist Francis Galton, who had coined the phrase “nature versus nurture.” Galton took to the subject with gusto, piloting it toward science. (When Galton compared prints from “art-students” and “science-students” against “the worst idiots in the London district,” he found “no notable difference.”)
Mark Twain boosted the nascent forensic science into the realm of common knowledge with his novels Life on the Mississippi (1883) and Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894). The plots of both stories included murders solved with fingerprints (in the latter’s case, at a sensational trial). Galton had classified prints based on types of patterns, still known today as “Galton details,” but real-world fingerprinting for forensic application would struggle with a system to classify, index, and reference the marks for decades…
In the twenties, the FBI’s first director, J. Edgar Hoover, created a national print pool: 7,000 law-enforcement agencies shared their fingerprint files, quickly amounting to 5 million sets. Hoover, John Lienhard, a professor emeritus of mechanical engineering and history at the University of Houston, explained to me, went on to use the theater of fingerprinting to define the FBI’s hi-tech look. “We heard a lot about how modern his FBI and his G-Men were.”
Even so, the prints were hard to use, Lienhard stressed. The FBI relied on a system of reference—worked out before the turn of the century by the head of London’s Metropolitan Police—that described fingerprints with symbols. “It was 1967 before we could read and compare prints optically.” Each request to search the database took months. In 1999, the bureau launched a computerized database, called the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. IAFIS was itself replaced in 2014 by the Next Generation Identification Program, which records additional biometrics, such as moles, scars, and tattoos. Stephen G. Fischer, Jr., a chief in the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, told me in early May that the repository holds 123,027,098 fingerprint sets, 74,851,046 of which are criminal. “The overall average response time for criminal submissions is 8 minutes 15 seconds,” he specified. Before DNA technology, the sexiest clues at crime scenes were fingerprints—a latent residue of salts, amino acids, and lipids, dusted into revelation…”
The Guardian: “…Shailagh Murray had spent two terms in the White House helping to lead the administration’s communications strategy and it appeared to have taken its toll. With Obama just a few months away from leaving office, journalists wanted exit interviews; they wanted to be first, biggest, loudest. She was sick of the egos, the same old questions. The letters, she said, served as a respite from all that, and she offered to show some to me. She chose a navy blue binder, pulled it off the shelf, and opened it, fanning through page after page of letters, some handwritten in cursive on personal letterheads, others block printed on notebook paper and decorated with stickers; there were business letters, emails, faxes and random photographs of families, soldiers and pets. “You know, it’s this dialogue he’s been having with the country that people aren’t even aware of,” she said, referring to Obama’s eight-year habit of corresponding with the American public. “Collectively, you get this kind of American tableau.” Obama had committed to reading 10 letters a day when he first took office, becoming the first president to put such a deliberate focus on constituent correspondence. Late each afternoon, around five o’clock, a selection would be sent up from the post room to the Oval Office. The “10 LADs”, as they came to be known – for “10 letters a day” – would circulate among senior staff and the stack would be added to the back of the briefing book the president took with him to the residence each night. He answered some by hand and wrote notes on others for the writing team to answer, and on some he scribbled “save”…Starting in 2010, all physical mail was scanned and preserved. From 2011, every word of every email factored into the creation of a daily word cloud, distributed around the White House so policy makers and staff members alike could get a glimpse of the issues and ideas constituents had on their minds…”
- Note – This article includes audio transcripts of some of the letters President Obama received, as well as copies of the text of other letters.
Google Blog: “As part of a collaboration between Google, photo industry consortium CEPIC, and IPTC, the global technical standards body for the news media, you can now access rights-related image metadata in Google Images. It’s traditionally been difficult to know the creator of images on the web, as well as who might own the rights. This information is often part of image metadata, and is key to protecting image copyright and licensing information. Starting today, we’ve added Creator and Credit metadata whenever present to images on Google Images. To see this information on Google Images, you can click on the “Image Credits” link to view the metadata fields. Over the coming weeks, we will also add Copyright Notice metadata. Also in partnership with CEPIC and IPTC, we hope to create better usage guidance for photographers, photo agencies and publishers to include copyright and attribution information in image metadata. For more on how to best implement IPTC metadata, refer to the IPTC Guidelines. Andrew Fingerman, CEO of PhotoShelter, a provider of digital asset management tools for photographers and brands, describes why this is a big step for Google Images: “Employing IPTC metadata standards in Google Images results will help ensure proper attribution of credit and support photographers’ copyright, while also boosting the discoverability of content and creators. This is a win for the professional photo community.”
“Election machines used in more than half of U.S. states carry a flaw disclosed more than a decade ago that makes them vulnerable to a cyberattack, according to a report to be delivered Thursday on Capitol Hill. The issue was found in the widely used Model 650 high-speed ballot-counting machine made by Election Systems & Software LLC, the nation’s leading manufacturer of election equipment. It is one of about seven security problems in several models of voting equipment described in the report, which is based on research conducted last month at the Def Con hacker conference. The flaw in the ES&S machine stood out because it was detailed in a security report commissioned by Ohio’s secretary of state in 2007, said Harri Hursti, an election-security researcher who co-wrote both the Ohio and Def Con reports. “There has been more than plenty of time to fix it,” he said. While the Model 650 is still being sold on the ES&S website, a company spokeswoman said it stopped manufacturing the systems in 2008. The machine doesn’t have the advanced security features of more-modern systems, but ES&S believes “the security protections on the M650 are strong enough to make it extraordinarily difficult to hack in a real world environment,” the spokeswoman said via email. The machines process paper ballots and can therefore be reliably audited, she said. The Def Con report is the latest warning from researchers, academics and government officials who say election systems in the U.S. are at risk to tampering. Earlier this month, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommended U.S. states move away from voting machines that don’t include paper ballots. And senior intelligence officials have described Russian efforts to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections as deep, real and ongoing…”
- See also the U.S. Election Assistance Commission: “This report details the findings of one part of the Ohio Secretary of State’s EVEREST: Evaluation and Validation of Election-Related Equipment, Standards and Testing initiative. The goal of this review was to assess the security of electronic voting systems used in Ohio, and to identify any procedures that may eliminate or mitigate discovered issues. The review teams were provided the source-code (computer instructions), software, and election equipment for the majority of systems used in Ohio. During the 9 week review, security researchers at three institutions studied the software and systems and identified and confirmed security issues. The evaluated systems included those designed and developed by Election Systems and Software (ES&S), Hart InterCivic (Hart) and Premier Election Solutions (Premier, formerly Diebold).”
- Note: “Maryland’s new voting system is a voter-verifiable paper based solution leased from Election Systems and Software (ES&S).”
- See also – Voting methods and equipment by state and Voting Equipment in the United States.
Techcrunch: “Google has responded to blowback about a privacy hostile change it made this week, which removes user agency by automating Chrome browser sign-ins, by rowing back slightly — saying it will give users the ability to disable this linking of web-based sign-in with browser-based sign-in in a forthcoming update (Chrome 70), due mid next month. The update to Chrome 69 means users are automatically logged into the browser when they are signed into another Google service, giving them no option to keep these digital identities separate. Now Google is saying there will be an option to prevent it pinning your Chrome browsing to your Google account — but you’ll have to wait about a month to get it. And of course for the millions of web users who never touch default settings being automatically signed into Google’s browser when they are using another Google service like Gmail or YouTube will be the new normal. Matthew Green, a cryptography professor at Johns Hopkins, flagged the change in a critical blog post at the weekend — entitled Why I’m done with Chrome — arguing that the new “forced login” feature blurs the previously strong barrier between “never logged in” and “signed in”, and thus erodes user trust. Prior to the Chrome 69 update, users had to actively opt in to linking their web-based and browser-based IDs. But Google’s change flips that switch — making the default setting hostile to privacy by folding a Chrome user’s browsing activity into their Google identity. In its blog post Google claims that being signed in to Chrome does not mean Chrome sync gets turned on. So it’s basically saying that despite it auto-linking your Chrome browsing and (Google) web-based activity it’s not automatically copying your browsing data to its own servers, where it would then be able to derive all sorts of fresh linked intel about you for its ad-targeting purposes. “Users who want data like their browsing history, passwords, and bookmarks available on other devices must take additional action, such as turning on sync,” writes Chrome product manager Zach Koch.
But in his blog post, Green is also highly critical of Google’s UI around Chrome sync — dubbing it a dark pattern, and pointing out that it’s now all too easy for a user to accidentally send Google a massive personal data dump — because, in a fell swoop, the company “has transformed the question of consenting to data upload from something affirmative that I actually had to put effort into — entering my Google credentials and signing into Chrome — into something I can now do with a single accidental click”.“The fact of the matter is that I’d never even heard of Chrome’s “sync” option — for the simple reason that up until September 2018, I had never logged into Chrome. Now I’m forced to learn these new terms, and hope that the Chrome team keeps promises to keep all of my data local as the barriers between “signed in” and “not signed in” are gradually eroded away,” Green also wrote. Hence his decision to dump Chrome. (Other browsers are certainly available, though Chrome accounts for by far the biggest chunk of global browser usage.)
“Google made its first substantial foray into postsecondary education in January, with the creation of a new online certificate program aimed at people who are interested in working in entry-level IT support roles. Necessity was a key motivator for the technology giant, which like most has struggled to find enough IT hires and also is seeking to diversify its work force. And many observers say the move by such a powerful player in the economy is an intriguing sign of what could happen if big employers in high-demand industries increasingly take a hands-on role in postsecondary education and training. In its first five months, more than 40,000 learners enrolled in the Google certificate program, with 1,200 completing. “It’s a whole new marketplace, and it’s driven by the employers and the students,” said Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor for online learning at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “These companies for the most part don’t want to get into education. They’re going to do it because it needs to be done.” Instead of the typical approach of designing credential programs to meet employer demand, a growing number of colleges are following Google’s lead and creating college credit-bearing and accredited versions of the new certificate. So far more than 25 community colleges and Northeastern University have signed on to offer credit for the certificate program. Company officials say its content can be tweaked easily by college faculty members to create a customized certificate or stackable pathway to a degree. “We built the curriculum to be modularized,” said Natalie Van Kleef Conley, a senior product manager for Grow With Google. “It’s very flexible for them to use it as they see fit.” Finding qualified candidates for IT support jobs has long been a problem for Google and its parent company, Alphabet, which employs 85,000 people. “We were struggling to find hires. And we knew we couldn’t be the only company,” Conley said, adding that “we realized that being qualified didn’t mean having a four-year degree.” IT support is a hot occupation, currently accounting for 150,000 open positions in the U.S., according to Burning Glass Technologies, which analyzes the employment market. These are typically middle-class jobs, with federal data showing an average starting salary of $52,000…”
Following is the link to her written testimony that includes the following statement: “My responsibility is to tell the truth.”
- “Christine Blasey Ford, the first woman to come forward alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, will tell the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that “I am no one’s pawn.”
- “I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming,” Ford says in her prepared testimony. “This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life.”
- Ford says she was first prompted to discuss her allegation in 2012, during a couple’s counseling session, because she wanted to install a second door on her family home during a remodel and her husband disagreed and did not understand her insistence.”
Atlas Obscura – With the right training, feral donkeys go from zero to hero.
“Peaceful Valley, the largest rescue organization of its kind, has recently been tasked with removing thousands of donkeys from national parks across the country. Mark Meyers, executive director of Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue (PVDR) spends his days venturing into these donkey hot zones, catching them using humane water traps (an enclosed space with water, food, and no exit), and bringing them to his Texas headquarters. But what does one do with tens of thousands of formerly feral donkeys? Historically, not too much. But Meyers and his team are working to change that. At PVDR, donkeys are sorted, taken to donkey school, and given a new life, often as companion donkeys or pets. But burros with a wild side, it turns out, are huge boons for ranchers across the U.S. seeking effective, humane ways to protect their herds. With the help of PVDR, unwanted “wild” donkeys are becoming guardians, set out to pasture with goats, sheep, and even cattle, to keep them safe from predators…”
See how new data-science tools are determining who gets hired, in this episode of Moving Upstream: “Hiring is undergoing a profound revolution. Nearly all Fortune 500 companies now use some form of automation — from robot avatars interviewing job candidates to computers weeding out potential employees by scanning keywords in resumes. And more and more companies are using artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to assess possible employees. DeepSense, based in San Francisco and India, helps hiring managers scan people’s social media accounts to surface underlying personality traits. The company says it uses a scientifically based personality test, and it can be done with or without a potential candidate’s knowledge. The practice is part of a general trend of some hiring companies to move away from assessing candidates based on their resumes and skills, towards making hiring decisions based on people’s personalities…”
See also previous BeSpacific posting – Google Search – Deep Learning Revives the Neural Net Revolution
DLA Piper – “Much time and attention has been spent examining ways to improve how lawyers can more effectively educate jurors in complex product liability trials. Many, if not most, of these efforts focus on “the hammer” – ie, the persuasiveness, credibility and clarity of the lawyers and of the witness presentations. But there is potentially another way to improve lawyers’ persuasion of jurors at trial: focus on informing and honing the thinking of the jury. Even an effective hammer benefits from sharpened nails. We can and should work to develop jurors who are better prepared and better equipped to carry out the difficult tasks we place before them. This article takes a look at eight ways to sharpen jurors’ abilities: to help them become better students in the courtroom and, hopefully, mitigate some of the skepticism voiced by lawyers and clients in an era of dwindling product liability and other complex jury trials…” [h/t Alan Rothman]
Via TRAC: “In August 2018, Immigration Courts remained overwhelmed with record numbers of cases awaiting decision. As of August 31, 2018, the number had reached 764,561. In July, the number of cases awaiting decision was 746,049 cases. This is a significant increase – up 41 percent – compared to the 542,411 cases pending at the end of January 2017, when President Trump took office. California, Texas, and New York have the largest backlogs in the nation at 142,260, 112,733, and 103,054 pending caseloads respectively. While California is the state with the most pending cases, New York City’s immigration court topped the list of immigration courts with highest number at 99,919 pending cases at the end of August. To view further details see TRAC’s immigration court backlog tool: http://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/court_backlog/.”
EveryCRSReport.com: Supreme Court October Term 2017: A Review of Selected Major Rulings, September 19, 2018.
“On October 2, 2017, the Supreme Court began one of the most notable terms in recent memory. The latest term of the Court was the first full term for Justice Neil Gorsuch, who succeeded Justice Antonin Scalia following his death in February 2016. The October Term 2017 was also the last term for Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in July 2018. With nine Justices on the Court for the first time at the beginning of a term since October 2015, this past term witnessed the High Court issuing fewer unanimous opinions and more rulings that were closely divided relative to previous terms. The increased divisions on the High Court during the October Term 2017 may have been a product of the nature of the cases on the Court’s docket, with the Supreme Court hearing a number of high-profile matters implicating issues of considerable interest for Congress and the public at large. For instance, during its last term, the Court considered a challenge to President Trump’s so-called travel ban, several redistricting disputes concerning partisan gerrymandering, and a dispute that pitted a state government’s interests in enforcing certain civil rights laws against the interests of those who object to same-sex marriage on religious grounds. Some of the Court’s most highly anticipated rulings resulted in opinions where the Justices avoided resolving core issues of dispute, such as the Court’s rulings on partisan gerrymandering, in which the legal challenges were largely dismissed on procedural grounds, or the Court’s opinion in the case of a baker’s refusal to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, which was decided on narrow grounds peculiar to the case before the Court. Nonetheless, the October Term 2017 resulted in several far-reaching opinions. Perhaps most notably, the last term for the Court saw the overturning of several long-standing precedents, including (1) two 20th Century cases interpreting Congress’s Commerce Clause power to limit the states’ ability to require certain out-of-state retailers to collect and remit sales taxes; (2) a 1977 ruling requiring nonconsenting members of public employee unions to pay certain fees as a condition of employment; and (3) a long-criticized 1944 case that sanctioned the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Of particular note are seven cases from the October Term 2017 that could impact the work of Congress: (1) Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, which upheld the enforceability of certain agreements between employers and employees to arbitrate labor disputes in lieu of class and other collective actions; (2) Carpenter v. United States, which interpreted the Fourth Amendment to impose certain limits on the warrantless collection of the historical cell phone location records of a criminal suspect; (3) Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, a case that held that Congress, by prohibiting a state from partially repealing a state law, impermissibly commandeered the powers of the state; (4) Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, which held that agency fee arrangements that require nonconsenting public employees to contribute a fee to a public employee union violate the First Amendment; (5) National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, a case that concluded that a California law imposing various notice requirements for certain facilities providing pregnancy-related services likely violated the First Amendment; (6) Trump v. Hawaii, which rejected a challenge to the lawfulness of President Trump’s so-called travel ban; and (7) Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission, which concluded that the appointment of administrative law judges within the Securities and Exchange Commission did not comply with Article II of the Constitution.”
Washington Post: “…By 2100, visitors walking the grounds of California’s Joshua Tree National Park may view exhibits showing what will have been lost — the spiky yucca palms that inspired the park’s name, dwindled to a few rare husks. Climate change could kill most of the park’s iconic trees, wildfires may transform the towering conifer forests at Yellowstone National Park into scarred grasslands, and once-mighty ice sheets in the north will probably melt and flow into the sea, making Glacier National Park both an obsolete name and a hard lesson about environmental degradation. A new study published Monday has warned that climate change has adversely and uniquely affected many of the 417 national parks spread across the United States and its territories, according to scientists from the University of California at Berkeley and University of Wisconsin. “Human-caused climate change exposes the U.S. national parks to severely hotter and drier conditions than the U.S. as a whole,” Patrick Gonzalez, a climate scientist at Berkeley and a lead author of the study, told The Washington Post on Tuesday. The consequences are alarming, the study suggests. Some of the most sacred and ecologically sensitive areas in the country, from the Grand Canyon to Yosemite and Denali, may decay into ghosts of their former mighty selves and be unrecognizable to future generations expecting to inherit a planet hotter than they received. Researchers looked at data between 1895 and 2010 and concluded temperatures in national parks increased twice as much compared with other parts of the country, while precipitation fell dramatically at those parks…”
“Digital disinformation poses a grave threat to our democracy and demands a new social contract between consumers and internet companies that is rooted in transparency, privacy and competition, according to a new report co-published by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and New America, the Washington, D.C.-based public policy think tank. The report, titled “Digital Deceit II: A Policy Agenda to Fight Disinformation on the Internet,” argues for the codification of a set of digital rights into public law encompassing a set of regulations designed to advance democratic values and protect the public from disinformation while fostering open digital markets…The report outlines a sweeping policy framework that would address the digital threat to democracy, focused on three key principles:
- Ad Transparency – As citizens, we have a right to know who is trying to influence our political views and how they are doing it. There must be explicit disclosure about the operation of such advertising and the content curation processes on dominant digital media platforms. We must have disclosure in the form of real-time and archived information about targeted political advertising, clear accountability for the social impact of automated decision-making, and explicit indicators for the presence of non-human accounts in digital media.
- Privacy – As individuals with the right to personal autonomy, we must be given more control over how our data is collected, used and monetized, particularly when it comes to sensitive information that shapes political decision-making. A baseline data privacy law must include consumer control over data through stronger rights to access and removal, transparency for the user of the full extent of data usage and meaningful consent, and stronger enforcement with resources and authority for agency rule-making.
- Competition – As consumers, we must have meaningful options to find, send and receive information over digital media. The rise of dominant digital platforms demonstrates how market structure influences social and political outcomes. A new competition policy agenda should include stronger oversight of mergers and acquisitions, antitrust reform and robust data portability and interoperability between services…”
Cram, Ian and Fenwick, Helen, Protecting Free Speech and Academic Freedom in Universities (September 2018). The Modern Law Review, Vol. 81, Issue 5, pp. 825-873, 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3245459 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-2230.12366
“Restrictions on speaking events in universities have been created both by recent student‐led efforts at ‘no‐platforming’ and by Part 5 of the Counter‐terrorism and Security Act 2015 which placed aspects of the government’s Prevent strategy on a statutory basis. The statutory Prevent duty in universities includes, under the accompanying Guidance, curbing or monitoring events that could have an impact in drawing persons into terrorism. This article places the combined impact of Part 5 and student‐led curbs on campus speech in context by juxtaposing pre‐existing restrictions with the various free speech duties of universities. Focusing on speaking events, it evaluates the resulting state of free speech and academic freedom in universities. It finds potential violations of established free speech norms due to the impact of pre‐emptive strikes against some campus‐linked speech articulating non‐mainstream viewpoints. But it also argues that not all such speech has a strong foundation within such norms.”
Slaw: “The cohort of students currently in law school and the junior ranks of firms are often described as “digital natives.” Wherever possible, we prefer to access information online instead of going to the library for books or other secondary sources. Our preference for online research is reinforced as we learn to engage with legal information. In our first year of law school, we are directed primarily to online platforms like CanLII, Quicklaw, Westlaw, and SSRN, and are encouraged to develop our skills in operating those services…”
POGO: “…Existing technology that is affordable and in wide use allows law enforcement to spy on individuals over huge distances. The most prominent example is the DJI Zenmuse Z30 camera, which can be affixed to commonly used drone models such as the Inspire 2 and the Matrice. Chinese manufacturer DJI, the drone maker most favored by U.S. law enforcement, promotes the Zenmuse Z30 by describing it as “the most powerful integrated aerial zoom camera on the market with 30x optical and 6x digital zoom for a total magnification up to 180x.” The implications of this are profound, and frightening. With this technology, law enforcement can use small and inconspicuous drones to snoop on individuals from thousands of feet away, and even watch activities occurring several miles away with a good degree of precision. In an aerial space, these drones can easily move to adjust view and overcome obstacles that make this type of long distance surveillance impossible from ground level. In addition to the surveillance powers modern drones possess in terms of long-distance monitoring, automated identification, and automated tracking, technological advances are making aerial surveillance an exponentially cheaper option, and thus something that can be done more broadly and on a larger scale. The Inspire 2 costs around $3,000, and equipping it with the powerful Z30 zoom camera costs an additional $3,000. In comparison, police helicopters cost roughly $500,000 to $3,000,000. The helicopter’s operating costs of $200 to $400 per hour and the maintenance costs increase the expense of this traditional aerial surveillance tool even more. With this cost differential, a department could potentially purchase a fleet of 500 drones in lieu of a single police chopper—a swarm of devices that can watch individuals without notice from thousands of feet away, use software to identify people in an automated manner, and follow them without human piloting. As technology improves, the potential power of this type of fleet will only increase, creating the possibility of a massive surveillance umbrella permanently buzzing over America’s cities and towns…”
EFF: “Today, the content-delivery network Cloudflare is announcing an experimental deployment of a new web privacy technology called ESNI. We’re excited to see this development, and we look forward to a future where ESNI makes the web more private for all its users. Over the past several years, we at EFF have been working to encrypt the web. We and our partners have made huge strides to make web browsing safer and more privacy through tools like HTTPS Everywhere and the Let’s Encrypt Certificate Authority. But users still face many kinds of online privacy problems even when using HTTPS. An important example: a 15-year-old technology called Server Name Indication (SNI), which allows a single server to host multiple HTTPS web sites. Unfortunately, SNI itself is unencrypted and transmits the name of the site you’re visiting. That lets ISPs, people with access to tap Internet backbones, or even someone monitoring a wifi network collect a list of the sites you visit. (HTTPS will still prevent them from seeing exactly what you did on those sites.)…”
…Today, Cloudflare is announcing a major step toward closing this privacy hole and enhancing the privacy protections that HTTPS offers. Cloudflare has proposed a technical standard for encrypted SNI, or “ESNI,” which can hide the identities of the sites you visit—particularly when a large number of sites are hosted on a single set of IP addresses, as is common with CDN hosting….”