Colombia Is Testing Drones to Drop Herbicide on Crops Used for Cocaine

Under newly elected President Iván Duque, Colombia is testing remote-controlled drones designed to track and destroy coca, the crop used in cocaine production. The government has reportedly tested ten drones so far. Read More >>

America’s Shady ‘Quiet Skies’ Programme Has Tracked Thousands of Airline Passengers, Yet Produced No Leads

America's Transportation Security Administration (TSA) admitted to surveilling about 5,000 US citizens this year as part of its secretive “Quiet Skies” program, which places travellers on TSA watch lists even if they aren’t suspected of a crime, the Boston Globe reports. In a meeting with members of the US Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee last week, the TSA reportedly declined to specify what exactly gets a person on the list for enhanced monitoring, but made one major admission: after monitoring thousands of people placed on the list, zero leads have been produced. Read More >>

Hackers Can Turn Body Cameras Into Malware Spewing Machines, Security Expert Says

Once lauded as tools to enhance police accountability, body cameras have been facing increasing scrutiny from privacy advocates, and now one researcher has identified them as cybersecurity time bombs. Speaking to Wired ahead of a Def Con presentation, Josh Mitchell, a consultant at the security firm Nuix, demonstrated that many body cameras are vulnerable to hacking, making several different nightmare scenarios possible: officers themselves could be tracked while wearing the cameras, footage could be doctored or deleted entirely, and the cameras could be hijacked to spread ransomware or other malicious code throughout police networks. Read More >>

facial recognition
Axon CEO Says Face Recognition Isn’t Accurate Enough for Body Cams Yet

Face recognition is coming to schools, stadiums, and airports, but surprisingly not to body cameras—yet. On an earnings call Tuesday, Rick Smith, CEO of Axon, one of the largest body camera manufacturers in the US, said the reason was simple: In addition to privacy and policy concerns, face recognition isn’t accurate enough. Read More >>

New US Bill Would Force TSA to Adopt ‘Gender-Neutral’ Screenings 

U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice, a New York Democrat, has introduced a new bill that compels the Transportation Security Administration to adopt gender-neutral technologies and screening techniques. Read More >>

Bangladesh Blocks Mobile Internet Amid Police Crackdown on Student Protests

The Bangladeshi government has reportedly suspended 3G and 4G mobile internet services since last Saturday after more than a week of violent clashes between police and student protesters over road safety. Read More >>

facial recognition
Can We Make Non-Racist Face Recognition?

As companies race to employ facial recognition everywhere from major league ballparks to schools , we face tough questions about the technology’s potential to intensify racial bias; Commercial face recognition software has repeatedly been shown to be less accurate on people with darker skin, and civil rights advocates worry about the disturbingly targeted ways face-scanning can be used by police. Read More >>

Get Ready for Indoor Surveillance Drones

Surveillance drones are headed indoors.

Amazon Accidentally Makes Rock-Solid Case for Not Giving Its Face Recognition Tech to Police

Days after the ACLU released a damning report on Amazon’s face recognition product Rekognition, Amazon’s general manager of AI, Dr Matt Wood, countered its findings in a blog post. The ACLU used Rekognition to scan the faces of all 535 members of the US Congress, finding the software mistook 28 of them for suspected criminals. Dr Wood notes first that the ACLU doesn’t reveal its methodology or dataset in the report, then punctuates Amazon’s original response—that it encourages higher confidence thresholds for law enforcement. Read More >>

Inmates ‘Hack’ Prison-Issued Tablets, Swiping £170,000 in In-App Credit for Music and Games

Hundreds of inmates in Idaho prison facilities reportedly exploited a “hack” that allowed them to illegitimately add over £170,000 worth of credits from prison-issued tablets into their accounts. Read More >>

Canadian Malls Secretly Tracked Shoppers’ Age, Gender Using Facial Recognition Technology

Shoppers at the Chinook Centre, a mall in Calgary, Canada, have been unwittingly scanned by face recognition software. Read More >>

Who Will Police Police Drones?

The US Police Foundation doesn’t want the police to call drones “drones.” Because of the public’s association with “military-style weapons like the Predator,” the organisation’s 311-page report reads, the term “drone” is “a major obstacle to law enforcement’s ability to convince the public” that police drone programs “could actually increase public safety, not jeopardise it.” Read More >>

Dozens Sentenced for Call Centre Scam Where Victims Bought iTunes Gift Cards Under Threat of Arrest

Dozens of defendants were sentenced to prison on a wealth of fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy charges relating to a complex call centre scheme operating from India, the US Department of Justice announced on Monday. A ring of scammers operating both in India and the US coerced victims, the DoJ says, into transferring money to them either directly or by purchasing bank cards or iTunes gift cards, which scammers laundered into money orders. The scammers ultimately stole “hundreds of millions” of dollars, according to the agency. Read More >>

WhatsApp Tries to Crack Down on Viral Hoaxes After 20 Lynchings in India

Facebook is restricting WhatsApp users’ ability to forward messages: Each message can now only be sent to a maximum of 20 chats, down from 250, per user. In India, the cap is even lower: only 5 chats. The cap on forwarding comes after at least 20 mob killings, linked to viral child abduction hoaxes spread on the platform. India had warned Facebook it could face heavy fines for not intervening in the fake news epidemics spreading via WhatsApp, at one point calling the platform a “mute spectator,” the BBC reports. Read More >>