‘Game Changer’: Florida Judge Allows Cops to Search DNA Database

In what some are calling a “game changer,” a Florida detective has obtained a warrant to penetrate GEDmatch and search its full database of more than one million users.

Experts said this appeared to be the first time a judge had approved such a warrant, and that the development could have profound implications for genetic privacy, the New York Times reports.

The disclosure, made at the recent International Association of Chiefs of Police convention, adds a new wrinkle to the controversy surrounding law enforcement access to  consumer DNA sites that currently contain genetic profiles for over  20 million people.

Police in some jurisdictions have already used it to solve cases both new and cold. But criticism has added to the pressure on the two largest sites, Ancestry.com and 23andMe, keep their users’ genetic information private. A smaller one, GEDmatch, severely restricted police access  this year, but that may be changing.

“The company made a decision to keep law enforcement out, and that’s been overridden by a court. It’s a signal that no genetic information can be safe.” said New York University law Prof. Erin Murphy. “That’s a huge game-changer.”

Fears that DNA tracing could falsely implicate innocent people—even relatives who never provided samples of their DNA—appear to have prodded the company into introducing new terms of service that required users to consent in advance to have their information available to law enforcement.

The company, which holds 1.2 million profiles in its database  has changed all its profiles to the “opt out” mode, meaning police have access to only those profiles whose users logged on and voluntarily selected to “opt in” and share their DNA, The Daily Beast reported.

But the latest development was likely to encourage other agencies to request search warrants from 23andMe, with 10 million users, and Ancestry.com, with 15 million.

The Florida decision could affect not only the users of these sites but huge swaths of the population, including those who have never taken a DNA test. That’s because the forensic technique makes it possible to identify a DNA profile through distant family relationships.

Using public genealogy sites to crack cold cases had its breakthrough moment in April 2018, when California police used GEDmatch to identify a man they believe is the Golden State Killer, Joseph James DeAngelo.

After that, dozens of law enforcement agencies rushed to apply the method to their own cases. Investigators have used genetic genealogy to identify suspects and victims in 70 cases of murder, sexual assault and burglary.

Additional Reading:  Debate Grows Over Allowing Police to See DNA Data Stored by Genealogy Firms, The Crime Report, Aug. 23, 2019

Privacy & Policing: Does Your DNA Need a Lawyer?, The Crime Report, May 6, 2019

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November 6, 2019 at 11:29AM

Supreme Court to Hear Arguments in Case Implicating License Plate Readers

Next week the Supreme Court will consider Kansas v. Glover, a case concerning car stops and the status of the registered owner’s license. EPIC filed an amicus brief in the case which could lead to police stopping any vehicle if the registered owner’s license is suspended. EPIC warned that the Court’s decision, when combined with automated license plate readers, could “dramatically alter police practices” and “unfairly burden disadvantaged communities.” EPIC provided empirical data for the Court that indicate that police use license plate readers more frequently in disadvantaged communities. EPIC also provided data that car sharing is more prevalent in these communities and therefore that many drivers whose license is not suspended will be stopped. EPIC noted that the Supreme Court has previously established legal safeguards in response to evolving policing techniques, such as GPS tracking devices, (US v. Jones), cell phones searches (Riley v. California), and location data collection (Carpenter v. United States). EPIC recommended that the Court recognize the role of automated license plate readers in police stops. EPIC routinely files amicus briefs in federal and state courts concerning emerging privacy issues.

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October 31, 2019 at 04:47PM

Police Offered Virtual Reality ‘Empathy Training’

When dealing with someone experiencing a mental-health crisis, empathy is one of the most valuable tools a police officer has. Being able to empathize with the victim is often the first step in de-escalating a crisis before it turns more chaotic or dangerous. In a high-pressure situation, when a first responder is confronting someone in the throes of a suicidal or psychotic episode, empathetic feelings are often replaced by another feeling: paralyzing fear, the Washington Post reports. “They’re showing up to various scenes with an adrenaline spike,” says Laura Brown of Axon, a company known for making Tasers that has become the biggest U.S. seller of police body cameras. “The innate fear reaction is the most important thing police need to learn how to regulate during situations involving people suffering from mental-health issues.”

Axon doesn’t want officers to use the company’s Tasers each time the opportunity arises. Instead, company officials want to help law enforcement officers become more familiar with using empathy to resolve emergencies when confusion is high and verbal commands lose their effectiveness. Axon has released “empathy development training” based in virtual reality. Axon has unveiled similar virtual training — using Oculus Go virtual reality headsets — to prepare first responders for scenarios involving people with autism and schizophrenia. “The ability to tell the difference between someone who’s acting in an unusual way that may be due to their autism versus someone who could be a risk to you can be a really fine line,” David Kearon of the group Autism Speaks told the Associated Press. “When you’re trying to make that judgment very quickly, that’s where we see mistakes made.” Axon is the latest major organization to harness virtual reality as a means of preparing people for operating in complex, high-pressure environments where there is little room for error.

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September 25, 2019 at 11:25AM

‘I was devastated’: the crime victims made to give up their phones

In January 2017, a 30-year-old man reported himself to the Metropolitan police. He informed officers he had been having sex with a minor and had potentially given him a sexually transmitted infection. The minor, a 12-year-old boy, confirmed the details of the abuse and rape to police officers in February 2017.

Despite the age of the victim, which meant the case was a matter of statutory rape with no defence of “mistaken reasonable belief”, and the admission by the perpetrator, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said a review of the boy’s phone was required for a charging decision to be made. Among the data the Met’s specialist unit were instructed to extract and review were 40,000 messages from the boy’s phone.

The boy’s family instructed lawyers at the beginning of 2018 when they became frustrated by the failure to promptly charge and prosecute the perpetrator. The boy’s lawyers repeatedly asked the CPS and the Met why an extensive review of 40,000 files of personal data was required for a charging decision to be made. In June 2018, the CPS maintained that charges would not be pressed until police had reviewed the data on the minor’s phone. Days later, the Met informed the boy’s lawyers that his phone was still three to four months away from being examined as “post-charge cases take priority”.

“The response demonstrated the incongruous situation that many victims of serious crimes, like our client, may find themselves in. On the one hand, our client was told by the CPS that an unlawful electronic review of his personal data had to take place prior to a charging decision, but on the other hand the police force responsible for such a review admitted that they prioritised reviews of electronic data only in cases where a charge had been made,” Rachel Harger, a solicitor at Bindmans LLP, says.

Following a pre-action letter for judicial review, a charging decision was made, almost a year and a half after the incident had been reported. The perpetrator was convicted on 20 September 2018 after he pleaded guilty to offences, which included rape, attempted rape and sexual touching of a child under 13.

Barbara’s story

The string of high-profile historical sex abuse cases following the death of Jimmy Savile prompted Barbara to come forward to police to report the abuse she had suffered at the hands of a family friend in the 70s and 80s.

“I didn’t think I would ever report it. I didn’t think I was strong enough and I didn’t think I would be believed,” Barbara says. It took a year to find the perpetrator and four more women came forward to report abuse by the same man.

However, once the case was being investigated, Barbara was asked to give police access to the contents of her phone. “When they asked for my phone I felt like I wasn’t believed. I felt like I was under investigation. Mobile phones weren’t invented when I was abused in the 70s and 80s,” Barbara says.

Barbara agreed to disclose the entire contents of her phone to the police, including Facebook and WhatsApp messages, in order to pursue the case. “I don’t think the police particularly wanted to do it. The argument was that if I didn’t give my phone over it looked like I had something to hide. If they didn’t have my phone, his defence might be able to say that I had colluded and that could place reasonable doubt in the jury’s mind. I felt like I didn’t have anything to hide but I was devastated.”

Her phone was not returned for seven months. “They took away my means of calling for help and my support network. As he wasn’t on bail I was permanently convinced he was going to come after me and he was going to get me. Even though he’s an old man and I’m a grown-up now, I was terrified. Every time I went out I was constantly scanning and looking for him and because I didn’t have my phone I felt so vulnerable as I couldn’t call for help if I saw him.”

Barbara says about 30,000 pages of evidence were extracted from her phone and some of the information was passed to the defence and used to try to discredit her in court.

“The defence accused me of attention-seeking, doing it for money and of having false memories. Those were the three main tactics the defence used. They used my messages and messages my friends had sent me against me in court. Again, at a time when you’re feeling really vulnerable and low, to have his defence barrister use your words against you is just horrific.”

The case took almost four years to come to trial. Her abuser, Michael Murphy, was convicted of sexual abuse including rape over a 30-year period and described by the judge as a “serial predatory paedophile”. He was sentenced to 16 years earlier this year.

However, Barbara feels that using evidence from her phone to try to cast doubt on her character and memories is indicative of the limitations of the jury system.

“Juries don’t work. There needs to be a panel of experts because juries don’t work for this kind of trial. People don’t have enough understanding of what trauma is and that memories aren’t always clear. The upshot is that people who are guilty are walking around, making our society more dangerous.”

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September 21, 2019 at 03:19AM

License Plate Camera Footage Helps Fight Crime in Florida

(TNS) — Just before midnight over Labor Day weekend, two men in a Nissan 370z pulled onto Paddock Oaks Drive in Tampa, Fla., and stopped in front of the first house on the block.

In under 10 minutes, one man got out of the vehicle, removed the tailgate of a Ford pickup truck sitting in the driveway, and left. A neighbor’s home security system caught the moment.

Identifying the men might have taken significant legwork, but an automatic license plate reader positioned at the entrance of the community captured key evidence. Two weeks later, the Hillsborough County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office made two arrests.

Paddock Oaks is one of 14 Tampa Bay communities that have signed on with Atlanta-based Flock Safety to provide high-speed, high-definition cameras for surveillance. It’s a new twist on a technology that companies have historically sold to law enforcement, repossession companies or toll operators. And it may be coming to a neighborhood near you.

A company called Flock Safety is selling automatic license plate readers to neighborhood associations to cut down on crime, and Riverview neighborhood Paddock Oaks is one of their customers. The license plate footage in Riverview was “very, very important for us to make the arrest because it helped us to be able to identify who the vehicles belonged to,” said Joseanett Diaz-Sanchez, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

Flock, one of the first companies to market the technology to neighborhoods, touts the incident as a success.

“We are a crime-solving company,” said Joshua Miller, Flock spokesman. “We want to help everybody of any kind deter would-be criminals.”

But privacy advocates say the cameras amount to a dragnet surveillance network put in place without public discussion, carrying a significant potential for abuse and monitoring of innocent people, especially by law enforcement.

License plate readers capture every plate that passes in front of them. They use machine learning to turn a photo of a license plate into a line of code that is stored in a searchable database. Typically, they are used to enforce tolls and parking, but are increasingly used by law enforcement to find vehicles of interest.

Flock, which was founded in 2017, markets them to neighborhoods in 33 states as a way to tamp down on nonviolent crime.

Their cameras are placed at the entrances and exits of participating neighborhoods. Residents of the neighborhood can volunteer their license plate numbers so the cameras can distinguish between people who live there and those just visiting, and residents have the option of having their footage deleted immediately instead of having it uploaded to the company’s cloud storage. Flock charges around $2,000 per camera annually, and the neighborhood owns the footage — not Flock.

The company stores the footage for 30 days, a much shorter period than competitors, which often store the data indefinitely. This, spokesman Miller said, was a conscious choice to ensure the data is not misused.

“Privacy is as concerning to us as other people,” Miller said.

Flock declined to disclose which Tampa Bay neighborhoods it has cameras in or how many cameras are in use. It does, however, give police departments a list of available cameras.

Bill Staley, president of the Paddock Oaks Homeowners’ Association, became interested in the system when a neighbor who works in consumer electronics mentioned it to him. His neighborhood’s camera is placed at the sole entrance, attached to a pole at least 12 feet high.

“We were pretty much sold based on the fact that it’s able to pick up a license plate in the dark,” he said. “The technology is amazing.”

James Carey, a resident of Paddock Oaks had his tailgate stolen recently from his truck. Using a combination of home surveillance footage from his neighbor’s house and two license plates captured on the Flock Security camera in his neighborhood, he was able to report the crime to detectives leading to two arrests. James poses for a portrait in front of his home by his truck that had the tailgate stolen. LUIS SANTANA | Times | Tampa Bay TimesJames Carey, who owns the truck whose tailgate was stolen, initially thought the camera was intrusive.

Now, he said, “I think it’s a great idea. … I think 99 percent of your day you’re on camera and filmed anyway. The cameras are everywhere. It’s just another one.”

While customers own the data, Miller said the company has the technical ability to access footage if needed, and its privacy policy allows it to hand over information to law enforcement if it believes the footage is related to a crime. It can also retain the footage indefinitely for this purpose, though Miller said the company has not done so.

Privacy advocates consider the technology invasive. One of the primary concerns for Nathan Wessler, attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, is the potential to surveil an innocent individual’s movements over a period of time.

“This technology allows the recording of people’s most private patterns of movement,” he said, “whether it’s to the doctor’s office or the lover’s house.”

Wessler works on the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, which examines the use of and privacy issues with surveillance technology, such as license plate readers. He sees the greatest potential for abuse when law enforcement interacts with the footage.

For Flock, law enforcement can interact with the technology in two ways: Request footage from neighborhoods that use Flock, or contract directly with Flock on installing cameras. No Tampa Bay law enforcement agencies currently contract with Flock. Of the 100 law enforcement agencies Flock partners with around the country, just one — in Florida City — is in the state. Flock is, however, “looking to expand outward through Florida.”

These warning signs are posted in the Riverview neighborhood of Paddock Oaks, which uses the Flock Safety automatic license plate readers. Law enforcement agencies that have partnerships with Flock receive alerts within minutes if a recorded license plate shows up on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Center database, a shared listing of fugitives, missing people, stolen property, violent or wanted people, sex offenders and those on supervised release. Police that contract with the company can also create custom “hot lists” for cars they are looking for.

Several privacy issues crop up when a neighborhood is in control of the footage. For one, there’s the potential for discrimination by unduly focusing on someone because they don’t live in a given neighborhood.

“Every contact with law enforcement that is unnecessary carries risk,” Wessler said. “Those risks are particularly acute for people of color.”

Then there’s which neighborhoods have access to the cameras. The cost may be prohibitive for less affluent neighborhoods. Flock spokesman Miller said there is at least one instance where police have stepped in and contracted with Flock for a neighborhood. Even that may not be as benevolent as it might seem, Wessler said, as that means the residents are being watched and may not have had a say in getting the product.

Incorrectly identifying or flagging a license plate also is a possibility.

“There’s a real temptation by law enforcement and the public to see these computerized surveillance systems as being unfailing and inherently accurate,” Wessler said, “when in fact, they’re not.”

Because the residential use of license plate readers is relatively new, many scenarios haven’t been tested yet.

One of the largest concerns is how easily police are able to access footage. According to Flock, each camera has a limited number of people authorized to access it, and giving the information to police is voluntary. Before police are allowed to request footage (even if they directly contract with Flock), the agencies are required to suspect there is a possible crime, Flock said. But there isn’t necessarily a burden of proof beyond that, as Flock doesn’t require a significant explanation of the suspected crime and relies on customer complaints of any misuse of data.

“If police are using it with nefarious purposes, we will end that contract and take our equipment back,” Miller said. To date, the company has not found an instance of this.

A company called Flock Safety is selling automatic license plate readers to neighborhood associations to cut down on crime, and Riverview neighborhood Paddock Oaks is one of their customers. Joe Giacalone, a professor at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that the license plate readers can be a boon to crime stopping. But, they should come with backstops, such as limited access, a way to monitor for misuse and transparency about such policies when police are involved.

Wessler points out that the cameras do not stop, sleep or take breaks, and the volume of information they collect is unique.

“It’s not a great solution to say this neighborhood can consent to turning over data about tons of people who haven’t consented to being surveilled,” Wessler said.

Maj. Robert Ura, who works for Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, said he understands privacy concerns, but doesn’t see the cameras as any different than someone standing outside photographing license plates in public.

“I think in 2019 and beyond,” Ura said, “if you’re not aware that you’re under surveillance of one kind or another — Ring cameras, driveway cameras, traffic cameras — then you’re probably a little naive.”

©2019 the Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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September 20, 2019 at 06:04PM

Police body cameras are capturing so much footage it’s driving some defense attorneys to quit


Public defender’s offices have long struggled with high turnover. But lately, one time-consuming part of the job is driving lawyers out even faster.

Attorneys are quitting at least partly because they’re swamped by the amount of video footage they have to review from police body-worn cameras.

And in localities without public defender’s offices, court-appointed attorneys are struggling to maintain their own law practices and keep up with the body camera footage.

Police departments across Virginia have fitted officers with thousands of body cameras in the past few years, largely without considering the attorneys who are ethically bound to review the thousands of hours of video they produce. Both defense lawyers and prosecutors need to see if there’s anything in the footage that helps their cases, and prosecutors are legally required to turn over any evidence that’s favorable to the defense.

Generally, the lawyers aren’t advocating for body camera footage to go away; both prosecutors and defense attorneys see the benefits that lead to justice for clients and victims.

But they are concerned about the time it’s taking to review the footage — something that has to be done regardless of whether the video ultimately reveals any new information about a case.

“It is completely overwhelming,” said Robert Moody, a public defender in the Newport News office. “There’s no way physically possible I can watch the (video) data dumps they give me.”

Police departments across Virginia have added thousands of body cameras in recent years.
Police departments across Virginia have added thousands of body cameras in recent years. (Steve Roberts Jr)

Moody said he’s had to limit the amount of footage he can watch because he has a large caseload, and as much as he’d like to, he can’t spend his entire work week watching different angles of body camera footage from various officers at the same scene.

“It’s a razor thin wire, because you’re looking to be sure your client’s due process rights are preserved,” he said. “On the other hand, I have 120 other clients. I have to preserve their due process rights too.”

Last year, the General Assembly requested a work group to look at the impact reviewing body camera footage has on commonwealth’s attorney’s offices.

After mandating the offices staff one prosecutor for every 75 body cameras — or come to an agreement with the locality on a similar formula — the General Assembly this year expanded the work group to focus on how body cameras are affecting the entire criminal justice system.

A 2018 survey of Virginia police departments found they had more than 7,300 body cameras in use.

Most of the nearly 500 public defenders and court-appointed attorneys surveyed in the spring by the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission said watching body camera footage was significantly impacting their workloads, according to the commission’s executive director, David Johnson.

He said 93% of public defenders who responded reported difficulty in finding time to review all the footage, and 73% said they were unable to do other case-related work.

The responses from court-appointed attorneys were similar: 85% said it was hard to find time to review the footage, and 68% said it was hard to do other case-related work.

“That’s really concerning,” Johnson said during a meeting of prosecutors, attorneys, clerks, law enforcement and state officials Wednesday in Richmond. “What they are basically saying is, ‘Something needs to give here. There aren’t enough hours in the day.’”

Johnson said entry-level public defenders in most of the commission’s 25 offices make about $53,000 in Virginia, and 92% of the $54 million the agency received from the General Assembly this year is going toward personnel costs and office space.

He said the commission loses between 17% and 19% of its lawyers each year. The body camera footage workload has been brought up in exit interviews in the past few years.

The General Assembly set aside money for 20 paralegals to start working for the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission in January, but they won’t be able to review the footage on their own, Johnson said.

Court-appointed attorneys, meanwhile, are paid up to $120 per misdemeanor charge in the cases they take on, regardless of whether they spend two or 15 hours working on the case. The maximum pay increases to $445 for class 3, 4 or 5 felonies that carry a sentence of one to 20 years, and $1,235 for class 2 felonies that carry a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

The attorneys can also ask the court for up to $850 extra depending on the charge, but that pot of money runs out almost every year, said Richmond-based attorney Elliott Bender.

Bender said the workload increases when there are several police officers on the scene during an arrest, each with their own body camera footage to be reviewed. This happens a lot in DUI cases, and each hour of video might take two hours to review because attorneys are pausing the footage and taking notes.

Internet speed can make the process even slower for public defenders, Johnson said. Because the companies that sell body camera services largely keep the footage online now, rather than on disks,, lawyers often have to wait for the files to slowly download.

Defendants’ cases are also getting continued because the attorneys don’t have enough time to watch the footage, Johnson said.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Brian Moran, the secretary of public safety and homeland security, said at Wednesday’s meeting.

Virginia secretary of public safety, Brian Moran, speaks at a meeting of the Virginia Crime Commission Tuesday August 20, 2019 in Richmond.
Virginia secretary of public safety, Brian Moran, speaks at a meeting of the Virginia Crime Commission Tuesday August 20, 2019 in Richmond. (Rob Ostermaier / Daily Press)

He said after the meeting he was in favor of raising the salary cap court-appointed attorneys get and hiring more public defenders — both of which the General Assembly would need to approve.

The work group will have one more meeting in October. By Nov. 15 it must submit a report to lawmakers that could include recommendations to increase pay or hire more staff.

Moran said court-appointed attorneys don’t take those cases because of the pay — they feel ethically responsible to do some work “practically pro bono” — but the hours spent watching body camera footage mean it might not be worth it.

The General Assembly gave commonwealth’s attorney’s offices an extra $747,800 in this year’s budget for more positions. Moody, the public defender from Newport News, argues that if the General Assembly’s goal is to have a fair criminal justice system, public defenders should get some funding too.

“We should be equal partners on the playing field, but it doesn’t seem that way,” he said.

Marie Albiges, 757-247-4962, malbiges@dailypress.com

K9s trained to sniff out child porn?

You’ve heard of bomb- and drug-sniffing police dogs.

You may have heard of service dogs that can detect changes in a diabetic’s blood sugar levels. They are trained to wake their masters before they lapse into a coma.
But did you know police K9s can be trained to sniff out child porn?
The Miami Herald reported the Clay County Sheriff’s Office has a 2-year-old yellow lab named Ty that has been trained to detect the chemical scent of electronics that are often hidden in the most unusual of places, reports WJXT News4 Jax.
It should be made clear Ty isn’t trained to detect the content on the electronics, just the electronics themselves. But it’s safe to assume if someone is going to great lengths to hide a thumb drive, chances are there’s some data on it a person doesn’t want you to see.
Ty’s official title: Electronic Scent Detection Canine, or ESDC for short.
“What Ty is trained on is a chemical odor that most of your electronic devices will have in them, and he picks up on that odor,” Clay County spokesman Deputy Drew Ford told News4Jax.
“The suspects and criminals get very, very creative when it comes to hiding electronic devices,” Ford told First Coast News.
How creative?
Think micro SD cards or thumb drives that hold data, which can include offenses like child pornography, tucked inside books, taped to the bottom of drawers, even slipped inside a shower curtain rod.
The sheriff’s department has found the electronics in all of these places, often thanks to the K9 nose that knows.
When Ty, who works with deputies in the department that tackles crimes against minors, isn’t sniffing out SD cards, he’s used as a therapy dog to help anxious kids.
To read more CLICK HERE

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September 17, 2019 at 09:03AM

More Police Agencies Reconsider Tasers After Deaths

At least 49 people died in 2018 after being shocked by police with a Taser, a similar number as in the previous two years, reports Reuters. The deaths typically draw little public scrutiny. No government agency tracks how often Tasers are used or how many of those deployments prove fatal, and coroners and medical examiners use varying standards to assess a Taser’s role in a death. Some communities are considering more restrictive Taser policies following allegations that the weapons were used excessively or deployed against people with physical or mental conditions that put them at higher risk of death or injury.

Reuters has contacted 14 police departments, counties and cities that reported a Taser-related death or other serious Taser-related incident in 2018. Of those, five are reviewing their Taser policies; three conducted reviews and made no changes; and five declined comment because investigations were still ongoing. Reuters has documented at least 1,081 U.S. deaths after use of Tasers, almost all since the weapons began coming into widespread use in the early 2000s. In many of those cases, the Taser, which fires a pair of barbed darts that deliver a paralyzing electrical charge, was combined with other force, such as hand strikes or restraint holds. Independent researchers who have studied Tasers say deaths are rare when they are used properly. In a series of reports, Reuters found that many police officers are not trained properly on the risks and weapons are often misused. Axon Enterprise Inc , the Taser’s manufacturer, says most deaths involving the weapons are a result of drug use, underlying physiological conditions, such as heart problems, or other police force used along with the Taser. Axon argues that most cause-of-death rulings implicating its weapons are misinformed.

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February 5, 2019 at 10:47AM

Police trial of Amazon facial recognition tech doesn’t seem to be going very well

Amazon’s facial recognition technology, Rekognition, continues to cause controversy. In documents recently obtained by BuzzFeed News, we now have a behind-the-scenes look at how Orlando police have been using the technology. After the city let the original pilot program expire after public outcry, Orlando started a second pilot program with an “increased” number of face-scanning cameras. Amazon’s Rekognition is described broadly as a visual analysis tool. But, deployed by law enforcement, it can scan faces caught on camera and match them against faces in criminal databases. The ACLU called the technology “primed for abuse in the hands of governments” and warned that it “poses a grave threat to communities, including people of color and immigrants.”

Read more…

Database Policing: Can Your Personal Data Be Used to Arrest You?

If police find incriminating evidence against you in the course of an identity check, are they entitled to make an arrest? 

Police now have access to a broad expanse of databases detailing information on individuals, but there are few limitations on how they can obtain or use this information, according to a forthcoming study in the Iowa Law Review. 

The study, by Florida State University-College of Law professor Wayne A. Logan, warns that even as technology has rapidly increased police capabilities of discovering personal information about suspects, such as the usage of “remote biometric identifiers” which allow people to be identified without physical seizures or demands for identification, Constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure or from self-incrimination have not been broadened to cover them… 

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