• SurveillanceSurveillance Equipment: Scrutiny Necessary for the Police, Manufacturers

    Facial recognition, body cameras and other digital technologies are increasingly used by police departments, municipalities and even gated communities, but these tools, manufactured by private companies, raise the specter of unchecked surveillance.

  • SurveillanceCalif. Sheriff Sued for Sharing Drivers’ License Plate Data With ICE, CBP, Other Out-of-State Agencies

    License plate scans occur through Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs): high-speed cameras mounted in a fixed location or atop police cars moving through the community that automatically capture all license plates that come into view, recording the exact location, date, and time that the vehicle passes by. The information can paint a detailed picture of our private lives, our daily schedules, and our social networks.

  • CybersecurityIs There Such a Thing as a Safe Algorithm? Talk of Regulation Gathers Momentum

    By Tanner Stening

    There is now wide agreement among experts and politicians that regulatory changes are needed to protect users, particularly young children and girls, who are vulnerable to mental health problems and body image issues that are tied to the social media platform’s algorithms.

  • Pandemic & AuthoritarianismCOVID-19 Could Nudge Minds and Societies Towards Authoritarianism

    By Leor Zmigrod

    Humans have not one but two immune systems. The first, the biophysical immune system. The second is the behavioral immune system, which adapts our behavior to preemptively avoid potentially infectious people, places and things. An examination of the impact of the behavioral immune system on our attitudes towards obedience and authority shows that high rates of infectious diseases – and the disease-avoidance they promote – may fundamentally shape political opinions and social institutions.

  • Digital PrivacyIn U.S. v Wilson, the Ninth Circuit Reaffirms Fourth Amendment Protection for Electronic Communications

    By Jennifer Lynch

    The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a new ruling which is a victory for digital privacy rights, has confirmed that the police need to get a warrant before they open your email attachments—even if a third party’s automated system has flagged those attachments as potentially illegal.

  • ARGUMENT: Digital PrivacyPrivate Data/Public Regulation

    Police, increasingly relying on the collection of digital data,  seek fewer search warrants and more requests to harvest metadata. They buy data from brokers, they track location and other aspects of our lives. Sometimes police collect the data themselves. More often they gather it from third parties. Barry Friedman writes that “The benefits of this approach are uncertain, but placing this much personal data in the hands of the government has its costs.”

  • ARGUMENT: Social Media & Societal HarmNearing the Tipping Point Needed to Reform Facebook, Other Social Media?

    The recent series of five articles from the Wall Street Journal exposed Facebook’s complicity in spreading toxic content. Yet, social media platforms continue to enjoy free rein despite playing what many consider to be an outsized and destabilizing role in delivering content to billions of individuals worldwide. No one said reigning in social media was going to be easy. But the harm caused of social media is simply too big for us to fail.

  • Hate crimesFBI Releases 2020 Hate Crime Statistics

    On Monday the FBI released Hate Crime Statistics, 2020, the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s latest compilation about bias-motivated incidents throughout the nation. The 2020 data, submitted by 15,136 law enforcement agencies, provide information about the offenses, victims, offenders, and locations of hate crimes.

  • ARGUMENT: Strengthening cybersecurityThe Van Buren Decision Is Good News for Cybersecurity

    In June, after years of uncertainty, the Supreme Court finally shed some light on the meaning of a notoriously vague law, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Timothy Edgar writes that one problem with CFAA was that some courts had interpreted the CFAA’s language so broadly. Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s technically informed opinion, which narrowed the scope of CFAA, was a win for civil liberties — and also a victory — not a loss — for cybersecurity. Moreover, Barrett’s opinion “offers a model for how to interpret computer crime laws.”

  • ARGUMENT: Precautionary principle Ban Use of Affective Computing in Federal Law Enforcement

    Affective computing uses algorithms to analyze bodies, faces, and voices to infer human emotion and state of mind. Even though there clearly needs to be more research done on this technology, law enforcement agencies are starting to experiment with it to extract information, detect deception, and identify criminal behavior. Alex Engler says that President Biden should ban affective computing before it starts to threaten civil liberties.

  • China watchLawmakers Looking to Curb Chinese Ownership of U.S. Farmland

    By Yinan Wang

    The Chinese threat to American food security, so far, would seem minimal: As of December 2019, Chinese agricultural real estate holdings in America totaled about 78,000 hectares, which is about 0.02 percent of America’s roughly 3.6 million square kilometers of total farmland. Still, U.S. lawmakers are seeking to restrict Chinese purchases of American farmland amid fears that such purchases could ultimately pose a threat to the U.S. food supply chain.

  • China watchU.S. “Undeterred” over China Sanctions

    By Patsy Widakuswara

    Earlier Friday, China sanctioned former U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and several other Americans who have been involved in U.S. China trade policies and human rights issues, following Washington’s sanctions against seven deputy directors and the director of Beijing’s Hong Kong liaison office. The White House said Friday that it is “undeterred” by the latest Chinese sanctions.

  • GunsNew York Defines Illegal Firearms Use as a “Public Nuisance” in Bid to Pierce Gun Industry’s Powerful Liability Shield

    By Timothy D. Lytton

    New York will soon test that notion that calling the illegal use of firearms a “public nuisance” could bring an end to the gun industry’s immunity from civil lawsuits. I’ve been researching lawsuits against the gun industry for over 20 years, and I doubt that the New York statute would end the gun industry’s immunity from liability. It is even less clear whether the statute will do much to curb gun violence.

  • Finance & terrorismSEC's Increasing Focus on Terrorism May Limit Financial Oversight

    When SEC asks companies about potential ties to terrorism, it catches fewer reporting errors. The SEC’s shift of attention to firms’ financial ties to states sponsoring terrorism (SSTs) began at Congress’s behest in 2003, leading to a shift in the composition of SEC review staff — the number of lawyers the review staff has grown while the number of accountants has decreased.

  • GunsIn Launching of Anti-Crime Campaign, Biden Cites Old Data

    By Masood Farivar

    Ninety percent of guns found at crime scenes were sold by just 5% of gun dealers, President Joe Biden said Wednesday while unveiling his anti-crime initiative. But the 2000 ATF report has long been considered out of date, and irrelevant to today’s gun control debate. Supporters of the president’s initiative and gun-safety groups note that Biden had to rely on the 2000 report because there are no more recent ones: In 2003, Congress, under pressure from the gun lobby, passed legislation that prevents ATF from releasing the data.