• Bans on Facial Recognition Are Naïve — Hold Law Enforcement Accountable for Its Abuse

    The use of facial recognition technology has become a new target in the fight against racism and brutality in law enforcement. The current controversy over facial recognition purports to be about bias — inaccurate results related to race or gender. Osonde A. Osoba and Douglas Yeung write that “That could be fixed in the near future, but it wouldn’t repair the underlying dilemma: The imbalance of power between citizens and law enforcement. On this, facial recognition ups the ante. These tools can strip individuals of their privacy and enable mass surveillance.

  • Yes, Big Brother IS Watching: Russian Schools Installing Surveillance Systems Called “Orwell”

    You might think governments seeking digital oversight of their citizens would avoid invoking the author who coined the phrase “Big Brother is watching you” and implanted the nightmare of total state surveillance in the imaginations of millions of readers. Think again, because Russian officials appear to disagree. In the first phase of the project, the “total surveillance” system will be installed in 43,000 schools across Russia.

  • “Black Box” Study: Testing the Accuracy of Computer, Mobile Phone Forensics

    Digital forensics experts often extract data from computers and mobile phones that may contain evidence of a crime. Now, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will conduct the first large-scale study to measure how well those experts do their job. But rather than testing the proficiency of individual experts, the study aims to measure the performance of the digital forensics community overall.

  • Forensics Laser Technology Can Detect Crime Scene Smokers

    Raman spectroscopy is a technique that shines a monochromatic light (i.e. from a laser) on a sample and measures the intensity of scattered light. No two samples will produce the same Raman spectrum, offering a unique measurement that is similar to a fingerprint. Results are instantaneous and nondestructive, preserving the sample for future testing. Researchers developed a laser-light technology which allows investigators to determine if a smoker was at the crime scene based on biological evidence.

  • European Police Services Turn to Tasers as Weapon of Choice

    On Friday, the French government announced that French police would no longer be allowed to use chokeholds on suspects. More police officers would instead be equipped with stun guns. About 15,000 French police officers, out of a force of 240,000 officers nationwide, are already equipped with stun guns. The police in Italy, the Netherlands, England, Wales and other European countries have been increasing their use of tasers to subdue suspects instead of other methods.

  • High-Tech Surveillance Amplifies Police Bias and Overreach

    Local, state and federal law enforcement organizations use an array of surveillance technologies to identify and track protesters, from facial recognition to military-grade drones. Police use of these national security-style surveillance techniques – justified as cost-effective techniques that avoid human bias and error – has grown hand-in-hand with the increased militarization of law enforcement. Extensive research, including my own, has shown that these expansive and powerful surveillance capabilities have exacerbated rather than reduced bias, overreach and abuse in policing, and they pose a growing threat to civil liberties.

  • Calls for New Federal Authority to Regulate Facial Recognition Tech

    A group of artificial intelligence experts — citing profiling, breach of privacy and surveillance as potential societal risks — recently proposed a new model for managing facial recognition technologies at the federal level. The experts propose an FDA-inspired model that categorizes these technologies by degrees of risk and would institute corresponding controls.

  • Slime Scene: Unusual Forensic Investigation Technique Put to the Test

    Could household slime become a tool to help solve crimes? This is the question researchers sought to answer in a recent study that tested a popular children’s “slime” recipe as a technique to enhance the appearance of hard-to-see fingerprints in forensic investigations.

  • Germany: Revised Domestic Surveillance Bill Submitted to Bundestag

    A draft law to reform Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency is to be re-submitted to parliament after long debate. It will allow German domestic intelligence and law enforcement to conduct electronic surveillance of telephone calls and SMS text services, including encrypted “chats” via services such as WhatsApp and Telegram, but will  not allow the use of cyber “Trojan” trawling tools.

  • COVID Is Ushering in a Surveillance State That May Never Be Dismantled

    Is the “new normal” to be a surveillance society, with tracing apps and facial recognition health passports? Philip Johnston writes in The Telegraph that the British government insists not; but if we are hit by a second wave of COVID-19, the temptation to extend the monitoring will be hard to resist.

  • Students Take Witness Stand in Virtual Courtroom

    USC students took the stand as part of the capstone project in their advanced digital forensics class at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. In years past, students in the class traveled to a real courtroom, but this year the COVID-19 pandemic pushed them to a digital venue: a videoconference on Zoom.

  • Coronavirus: Digital Contact Tracing Doesn’t Have to Sacrifice Privacy

    To make it safer to reduce the lockdown measures, proposals are being considered to use data from people’s smartphones to track their movements and contacts with potentially infected patients. Other systems involve monitoring the data trails of all citizens to generate useful information that helps to prevent the spread of the disease. All these approaches involve allowing the government, and in some cases private companies, to build a database of where we go, the people we associate with and when. Such intrusive tracking is more typically associated with totalitarian regimes and easily can be misused. Despite the good intentions, then, these measures raise serious concerns that collecting and sharing such data might pose a threat to citizens’ right to privacy.

  • Examining Australia’s COVIDSafe Tracing App

    The Australian government releases an App called COVIDSafe to help in tracing contacts of those infected with the coronavirus. As is the case with similar apps in other countries, COVIDSafe has raised privacy concerns, especially about the potential of abuse by government agencies and hacking by cybercriminals. The University of Sydney academics from the disciplines of cybersecurity, media, law and health comment on COVIDSafe, its pros and cons.

  • Seeing the Spread of Drug Particles in a Forensic Lab

    The spread of drug particles around crime labs cannot be completely avoided — it is an inevitable result of the forensic analyses that crime labs must perform. Black-light videos from NIST will help crime labs manage this invisible risk.

  • Self-Powered X-Ray Detector Improves Imaging for Medicine, Security, Research

    A new X-ray detector prototype is on the brink of revolutionizing medical imaging, with dramatic reduction in radiation exposure and the associated health risks, while also boosting resolution in security scanners and research applications. 2-D perovskite thin films boost sensitivity 100-fold compared to conventional detectors, require no outside power source, and enable low-dose dental and medical images.