Archive for the ‘US News’ Category

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FBI logo A US federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit that Google’s non-consensual use of facial recognition technology violated users’ privacy rights, allowing the tech giant to continue to scan and store their biometric data.The lawsuit, filed in 2016, alleged that Google violated Illinois state law by collecting biometric data without their consent. The data was harvested from their pictures stored on Google Photos.

The plaintiffs wanted more than $5 million in damages for hundreds of thousands of users affected, arguing that the unauthorized scanning of their faces was a violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which completely outlaws the gathering of biometric information without consent.

Google countered claiming that the plaintiffs were not entitled to any compensation, as they had not been harmed by the data collection. On Saturday, US District Judge Edmond E. Chang sided with the tech giant, ruling that the plaintiffs had not suffered any concrete harm, and dismissing the suit.

As well as allowing Google to continue the practice, the ruling could have implications for other cases pending against Facebook and Snapchat. Both companies are currently being sued for violating the Illinois act.

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New York State seal A bill was recently introduced to the New York State Senate by Senator Kevin Parker and Brooklyn borough President, Eric Adams, that would require gun license applicants to hand over social media passwords, and 3 years of search history for review by the State. Regardless of how you feel about gun rights, this is a clear violation of privacy, and a request like this in any context is completely inappropriate, and totally unconstitutional. Background checks are one thing, but the process outlined in this bill goes way too far. This isn’t about gun rights, this is about privacy rights.

The authorities intend to check that all licence applicants are totally politically correct. The relevant text of the bill reads:

In order to ascertain whether any social media account or search engine history of an applicant presents any good cause for the denial of a license, the investigating officer shall, after obtaining the applicant’s consent pursuant to subdivision three of this section, and obtaining any log-in name, password or other means for accessing a personal account, service, or electronic communications device necessary to review such applicant’s social media accounts and search engine history, review an applicant’s social media accounts for the previous three years and search engine history for the previous year and investigate an applicant’s posts or searches related to:

  • (i) commonly known profane slurs or biased language used to describe the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person;

  • (ii) threatening the health or safety of another person;

  • (iii) an act of terrorism; or

  • (iv) any other issue deemed necessary by the investigating officer.

For the purposes of this subdivision, “social media accounts” shall only include facebook, snapchat, twitter and instagram, and “search engine” shall only include google, yahoo and bing.

Security experts have long warned that it’s extremely dangerous to give your password to anyone, including your local police department. It not only exposes you to unreasonably intrusive analysis, but also exposes private details of everyone you have ever communicated with with online. If your friend wants to buy a gun does that mean the police should get to read every message you’ve ever sent them? The best thing we can do is reject these ideas right now to prevent bad privacy practices from become normalized.

It makes perfect sense to require background checks and other vetting before allowing someone to purchase a weapon, but setting any precedent that allows the government to demand social media passwords is extremely dangerous. If you care about privacy, and keeping a close eye on overreaching state power, please sign this petition and tell the NY State Senate that you oppose bill S9191.

Sign the petition from actionnetwork.org

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beau stantom mural Beau Stanton’s mural of Ava Gardner adorns the Robert F. Kennedy Community School in LA’s Koreatown. The mural is an homage to the famed Cocoanut Grove nightclub which stood nearby, and depicts the Old Hollywood film star in profile, palm trees and moorish architecture overlaid on her face. Behind her head, alternating rays of blue and orange in a sunburst pattern.japan rising sun flag Last month, the Wilshire Community Coalition sent a letter to the Los Angeles Unified School District requesting that the mural be censored. The group ludicrously claimed that the pattern was too similar to the Rising Sun Flag of Imperial Japan, a symbol loaded with pain and trauma for the Korean-American community that they likened it to the Swastika of German Nazism. The group wrote:

This work is extremely offensive and threatening to many survivors, descendants and community stakeholders who stand in absolute opposition of the Japanese Imperialism, Racism, ethnic hatred and crimes against humanity committed by the military aggression during the World War II

In response to their request, the LAUSD agreed to paint over the mural during winter break.

Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight issued a scathing rebuke to the decision calling it deplorable. An innocent artist is being smeared as a promoter of hate speech, Knight wrote, his work unfairly attacked for something it is not. He went on to detail the ways in which the mural differed from the Rising Sun Flag, from the number of rays — 44 vs 32 — to the colors used, and the myriad sources in which similar motifs can be found. Deceptive claims have been weaponized to shut down free speech, he concluded. The school mural is not the scandal; LAUSD’s imminent censorship is.

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US Supreme Court After the recent censorship purge of over 800 independent media outlets on Facebook, the Supreme Court is now hearing a case that could have ramifications for any future attempts at similar purges.The United States Supreme Court has agreed to take a case that could change free speech on the Internet. Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, No. 17-702, the case that it has agreed to take, will decide if the private operator of a public access network is considered a state actor.

The case could affect how companies like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google and YouTube are governed. If the Court were to issue a far-reaching ruling it could subject such companies to First Amendment lawsuits and force them to allow a much broader scope of free speech from its users.

DeeDee Halleck and Jesus Melendez claimed that they were fired from Manhattan Neighborhood Network for speaking critically of the network. And, though the case does not involve the Internet giants, it could create a ruling that expands the First Amendment beyond the government.

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Facebook logo The recent Fosta law in the US forces internet companies to censor anything to do with legal, adult and consensual sex work. It holds them liable for abetting sex traffickers even when they can’t possibly distinguish the trafficking from the legal sex work. The only solution is therefore to ban the use of their platforms for any personal hook ups. So indeed adult sex work websites have been duly cleansed from the US internet.But now a woman is claiming that Facebook facilitated trafficking when of course its nigh on impossible for Facebook to detect such use of their networking systems. But of course that’s no excuse under the FOSTA.

According to a new lawsuit by an unnamed woman in Houston, Texas, Facebook’s morally bankrupt corporate culture for permitting a sex trafficker to force her into prostitution after beating and raping her. She claims Facebook should be held responsible when a user on the social media platform sexually exploits another Facebook user. The lawsuit says that Facebook should have warned the woman, who was 15 years old at the time she was victimized, that its platform could be used by sex traffickers to recruit and groom victims, including children.

The lawsuit also names Backpage.com, which according to a Reuters report , hosted pictures of the woman taken by the man who victimized her after he uploaded them to the site.

The classified advertising site Backpage has already been shut down by federal prosecutors in April of this year.

Real Sex is better on Pornhub…US cable channel HBO drops its late night erotic fare

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hbo logoAn era of adult television has come to an and, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times , which reported that the Time-Warner owned, pay cable network HBO has spent the summer, quietly and without fanfare, removing its once-prodigious library of erotic documentaries and entertainment programs from the network and the HBO streaming platforms, HBO Go and HBO Now.Since the 1990s, HBO has produced and broadcast such series as the influential Real Sex , the Las Vegas brothel reality series Cathouse , and recurring instructional sex specials hosted by adult performer Katie Morgan.

But HBO has not produced new adult late night programs for several years, and now the network will no longer offer repeats or archived shows from its adult category either.

While HBO’s new owner, the telecom giant AT&T, informed HBO employees earlier this year that it planned big changes for the network, the elimination of HBO’s erotic fare, network execs told the Times , was not mandated by AT&T and in fact began well before the telecom conglomerate took over. The reason that HBO is ditching their late night lineup, according to what one spokesperson told the Times , is simply that HBO viewers have lost interest, most likely due to the proliferation of adult content online.

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donald trumpPresident Donald Trump took to Twitter to complain that social media companies are discriminating against prominent conservatives, saying we won’t let that happen. He tweeted:

Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices. Speaking loudly and clearly for the Trump Administration, we won’t let that happen. They are closing down the opinions of many people on the RIGHT, while at the same time doing nothing to others.

…..Censorship is a very dangerous thing & absolutely impossible to police. If you are weeding out Fake News, there is nothing so Fake as CNN & MSNBC, & yet I do not ask that their sick behavior be removed. I get used to it and watch with a grain of salt, or don’t watch at all.

The president later added:

….Too many voices are being destroyed, some good & some bad, and that cannot be allowed to happen. Who is making the choices, because I can already tell you that too many mistakes are being made. Let everybody participate, good & bad, and we will all just have to figure it out!

Trump in July said his administration will look into the practice of shadow banning on Twitter, or reducing the visibility of certain people or groups on the platform, which he alleged was happening to prominent conservative voices.