Documents obtained by Motherboard show that a key vendor of school-based facial recognition tools lied to school officials about the accuracy rate and racial bias of its surveillance product. The records reveal that SN Technologies' AEGIS system misidentifies black students at alarmingly high rates and mistakes objects like broom handles for guns. Despite these errors, at least one New York school district has the system configured to automatically alert police when it detects a weapon or an individual on the district’s watchlist. The use of face surveillance systems in schools increases unnecessary interactions between police and students and can accelerate the school-to-prison pipeline. SN Technologies' algorithm was included in the 2019 NIST study that showed extensive racial bias in face surveillance systems. EPIC advocates for a moratorium on facial recognition technologies and urges policymakers to increase algorithmic accountability and transparency around the adoption and use of these tools.
2020 Election Security
Since launching its Democracy and Cybersecurity Project, EPIC has worked to ensure that elections in the United States are secure and fair for all citizens, even during a pandemic. Through advocacy, litigation, and policy efforts, EPIC is fighting to protect democratic institutions and highlighting privacy and cybersecurity concerns related to election systems.
EPIC Analysis: CA Proposition 24
EPIC has published an analysis of Proposition 24 in California, the California Privacy Rights Act. In 2018, the State of California enacted the CCPA, the first comprehensive consumer privacy law enacted in the United States. A new ballot initiative, California Proposition 24: The California Private Rights Act of 2020, which will be on the November election ballot, would significantly change the CCPA.
Liberty at Risk: Pre-trial Risk Assessment Tools in the U.S.
Federal, state, and local governments use Risk Assessment Tools to make key decisions about defendants in criminal cases, depriving accused individuals of their liberty based on subjective assessments of the likelihood that they will flee or commit crimes in the future. Many of these tools are opaque and not subject to independent review. "Liberty at Risk: Pre-trial Risk Assessment Tools in the U.S." provides an overview of Risk Assessment Tools that practitioners and scholars can use to understand the nature of these systems, understand the broader context in which they are used, and help focus their evaluations of the fairness of these systems.
Privacy and the Pandemic
EPIC is working to ensure that private and public sector responses to COVID-19 safeguard the privacy and civil liberties of all people. Through advocacy, oversight, and litigation, EPIC is ensuring that the coronavirus pandemic does not lead to erosion of individual rights. Visit epic.org/covid to see EPIC's resources on these issues.
Kasparov, Experts, NGOs Urge OECD to Back Democratic Values
More than 70 NGOs and Experts, including former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, have asked the OECD Secretary General to reaffirm support for democratic values as the international organization develops policies for national governments that are battling the pandemic.
Court Rules for EPIC in Mueller Case.
A federal judge has agreed to conduct an independent assessment in EPIC's case for the release of the complete Mueller Report. Judge Walton called the Attorney General's conduct in the case EPIC v. DOJ "distorted" and "misleading." EPIC has published a book about the case EPIC v. Department of Justice: The Mueller Report", available for sale at the EPIC Bookstore.
Defend Privacy. Support EPIC.
EPIC is on the front lines of the major privacy and civil liberties debates. In 2019, EPIC has worked to protect democratic institutions, promote algorithmic transparency, and defend the right to privacy. We need your support. And EPIC is a top-rated non-profit - Charity Navigator (Four Star) and Guidestar (Gold). Please donate to EPIC today.
EPIC is on the front lines of the major privacy and civil liberties debates. In 2020, EPIC has important work to do on artificial intelligence, face surveillance, data protection, and election security, among many other issues. Please donate to EPIC today to help us continue this important work.
EPIC Launches Campaign For a Data Protection Agency
EPIC Advisory Board Member Professor Ari Waldman and EPIC Policy Director Caitriona Fitzgerald with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for introduction of Data Protection Act to establish a data protection agency in the United States.
EPIC Files Complaint with FTC about Employment Screening Firm HireVue
EPIC's Jeramie Scott: Ban Face Surveillance
EPIC Senior Counsel Jeramie Scott on CBS News discussing the dangers of face surveillance.
EPIC Launches Campaign to Ban Face Surveillance
EPIC has launched a campaign to ban face surveillance. EPIC will publish information on face surveillance laws, reports, and protests worldwide.
During oral argument this week in Van Buren v. United States, a case concerning the scope of the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, several Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court emphasized the need to protect sensitive personal data from both hackers and insiders who could abuse their access privileges. Van Buren, a police officer, was prosecuted under the CFAA for improperly accessing personal data in a government system for financial gain. He argued that he didn't violate the law because he had credentials to access the system. EPIC filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing that the CFAA was enacted "to protect personal information stored in recordkeeping systems" and the scope of the law "should be co-extensive with its data protection purpose." At oral argument, many of the justices questioned Van Buren's attorney about the impact of his interpretation on the privacy of sensitive personal information, and a majority seemed to agree that the conduct at issue in this case should be criminalized. Justice Alito said that insiders who abuse their access can do "enormous damage" to personal privacy and referenced EPIC's amicus brief. In the brief, EPIC explained that government databases "hold vast quantities of some of the most sensitive personal data imaginable" and that "we need the CFAA, now more than ever, to be an extra check against abuse by the people entrusted to access sensitive data and systems." EPIC also argued that the Court need not limit CFAA liability to those who bypass a login system to avoid criminalizing the activity of ordinary internet users. During argument, several justices were interested in alternative ways to limit the statute to better align the law with its data protection purpose. EPIC has also participated as amicus in another CFAA case before the Court, LinkedIn v. hiQ Labs. The petition for review in LinkedIn is currently pending.
A recent patent application reveals Microsoft is developing a “meeting insight computing system” that would monitor body language, facial expressions, and other features of participants in order to assign a “quality score” to workplace meetings. According to the filing, the system could be applied both to in-person and remote meetings. Microsoft also introduced a "Productivity Score" last month which would have allowed organizations to monitor employees' use of Microsoft products. The company quickly backtracked in response to public outcry and eliminated the individualized tracking feature. Worker surveillance has rapidly increased with the transition to remote work due to COVID-19, and many organizations with on-site workers are instituting surveillance systems with the stated goal of protecting public health. EPIC advocates against social scoring and has filed a complaint with the FTC about HireVue, which similarly evaluates facial expressions and vocal patterns in the context of hiring.
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The EPIC Alert is a biweekly newsletter highlighting emerging privacy issues.
EPIC in the News
The FBI Has Released A Final Batch Of Memos From The Mueller Probe
December 1, 2020
EPIC v. DOJ: Seeking the final report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller concerning Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Department of Commerce v. New York: Whether the Department of Commerce and Census Bureau violated the Administrative Procedure Act when it added a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.
EPIC provides expertise to shape strong privacy and open government laws at both the state and federal level.
EPIC recently launched a campaign to promote the creation of a Data Protection Agency in the U.S.
EPIC's Alan Butler on Location Privacy
Privacy Law Sourcebook 2020