What Sony’s robot dog teaches us about biometric data privacy

The $2,900 pup is a companion robot, one Sony claims “learns its environment and develops relationships with people.” Aibo even enlists a camera in its nose to scan faces and determine who’s who so it can react to them differently.

Because of our office pet’s face-detecting capabilities, Sony doesn’t sell Aibo in Illinois. The state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) regulates the collection of biometric data, including face scans.

So Aibo’s out in the land of Lincoln, but the story doesn’t stop with Sony’s quirky robot. Illinois also limits access to facial recognition in home security cameras, a feature that’s becoming increasingly prevalent in the consumer security market. Let’s take a closer look at BIPA, the growth of biometric tech in consumer products — and how other states in the US treat your biometric info.

Illinois law

The Biometric Information Privacy Act was established in 2008 to regulate “the collection, use, safeguarding, handling, storage, retention, and destruction of biometric identifiers and information.” BIPA defines “biometric identifiers” as retina scans, iris scans, fingerprints, hand scans, face scans and voiceprints.

Basically, an individual or a company needs “informed written consent” to use another individual’s biometric info.

State senator Terry Link for Illinois’ 30th district introduced Senate Bill 2400 on Feb. 14, 2008 to protect the biometric privacy of Illinois residents. State senators Christine Radogno, Iris Y. Martinez, David Koehler and Heather Steans served as co-sponsors of the bill. It was approved as the Biometric Information Privacy Act on Oct. 3, 2008.

Senator Link filed an amendment to BIPAon May 26, 2016 to redefine “biometric identifier,” to make it easier to collect certain biometric data, but later withdrew the amendment.

A Sony support page titled “Why Is Aibo Not for Sale in Illinois?” simply says:

Due to state regulations and policies, the Aibo™ robotic companion is not for sale or use in Illinois.

In order to mimic the behavior of an actual pet, an Aibo device will learn to behave differently around familiar people. To enable this recognition, Aibo conducts a facial analysis of those it observes through its cameras. This facial-recognition data may constitute “biometric information” under the law of Illinois, which places specific obligations on parties collecting biometric information. Thus, we decided to prohibit purchase and use of Aibo by residents of Illinois.

While Sony simply opted out of selling the face-detecting Aibo in Illinois, other companies, like Nest, sell their facial recognition-enabled cams in Illinois, with the facial recognition feature disabled.

A quick visit to the Nest Cam IQ Indoorpage says “Familiar face alerts require a Nest Aware subscription. Not available on Nest Cams used in Illinois.”

The Nest Cam IQ Indoor has an optional feature called familiar face alerts that you pay a monthly (or yearly) fee to access via the Nest Aware service. Like many other home security cameras with facial recognition, the IQ Indoor allows you to create a database with the faces of friends, family members, caregivers and any other people that regularly visit your home. That way, when you get a motion alert, the Nest app tells you it sees “Molly” or “Tyler.”

That feature won’t work in Illinois, even if you pay for Nest Aware. Google disables Nest’s facial recognition capabilities in the state: “We use a variety of factors to determine a user’s location, including IP address of their devices and the physical address associated with their account,” a Google spokesperson told me over email.

Privacy talk

Although BIPA remains the strictest state privacy law, Texas and Washington also regulate biometric information. A Texas law, established in 2009, similarly defines biometric identifiers as “a retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint, or record of hand or face geometry.”

A section of the law states: “A person may not capture a biometric identifier of an individual for a commercial purpose unless the person: informs the individual before capturing the biometric identifier; and receives the individual’s consent to capture the biometric identifier.”

Washington’s 2017 House Bill 493 doesn’t specifically reference face or hand scans in its definition of biometric identifier. The definition also doesn’t include “a physical or digital photograph, video or audio recording or data generated therefrom, or information collected, used, or stored for health care treatment, payment, or operations under the federal health insurance portability and accountability act of 1996.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group for digital privacy, supports state regulation of biometric data.

“When you start to capture biometrics from people it turns a corner to where we think that shouldn’t be happening without the consent of the person who’s biometrics are being taken,” EFF senior staff attorney Adam Schwartz says during a phone interview while referencing Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act.

“What it says [BIPA] is that, one private person can’t take biometrics from another private person without their consent. And that’s where we [the EFF] would draw the line,” Schwartz adds.

The facial recognition landscape

At the same time that states are implementing biometric privacy laws, we’re seeing more consumer devices with facial recognition. Here’s a list of home security cameras you can buy today with facial recognition capabilities.

Not only is facial recognition more prevalent, we’re also seeing more products that enlist fingerprints or hand scans. The iPhone and other smartphoneshave fingerprint-scanning capabilities so you can quickly unlock your phone. I saw a smart lock at CES 2019 called the Elecpro US:E that relies on a face scan and a hand scan to unlock.

Airports are increasingly adding tech that scans faces or fingerprints to determine who you are, too. Schwartz refers to the growing popularity of biometric tech as a “normalization of biometrics,” something the EFF finds concerning, he says.

“If you start using biometrics to board your airplane because it’s convenient, other forms of biometrics seem more normal. We’re very concerned about that,” explains Schwartz.

Whether or not you’re personally concerned about your biometric data, expect to see more regulations around it in the coming years. Alaska, Michigan, Montana and New Hampshire are already working on their own biometric laws. And, given the influx of devices that use biometric information both for consumer and commercial purposes, more are probably on the way.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.cnet.com/news/what-sonys-robot-dog-teaches-us-about-biometric-data-privacy/

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Watch: The Day Privacy Officially Died

Zero Hedge recently reported on a recent study that concluded: “only 2 percent of the population needs to have done a DNA test for virtually everyone’s genetic makeup to be exposed.”

That exposure opens the doors to the ultimate breach of privacy, a breach that will germinate the seed constructing a prison planet, nanny-state system that would even horrify George Orwell.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.infowars.com/watch-the-day-privacy-officially-died/

Police Use of Facial Recognition With License Databases Spur Privacy Concerns

Police in the small Maryland city of Hagerstown used a cutting edge, facial recognition program last week to track down a robbery suspect, marking one of the first such instances of the tactic to be made public.

In the process of identifying a possible suspect, investigators said they fed an Instagram photo into the state’s vast facial…….

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.wsj.com/articles/police-use-of-drivers-license-databases-to-nab-crooks-spurs-privacy-concerns-1529233200

Looming Privacy Regulations May Strengthen Facebook and Google

Facebook and Google may emerge stronger after Europe enacts sweeping new regulations that prioritize people’s data privacy. Credit Tomi Setala/Bloomberg

SAN FRANCISCO — In Europe and the United States, the conventional wisdom is that regulation is needed to force Silicon Valley’s digital giants to respect people’s online privacy.

But new rules may instead serve to strengthen Facebook’s and Google’s hegemony and extend their lead on the internet.

That could begin playing out next month, when Europe enacts sweeping new regulations that prioritize people’s data privacy. The new laws, which require tech companies to ask for users’ consent for their data, are likely to hand Google and Facebook an advantage. That’s because wary consumers are more prone to trust recognized names with their information than unfamiliar newcomers. And the laws may deter start-ups that do not have the resources to comply with the rules from competing with the big companies.

In recent years, other regulatory attempts at strengthening online privacy rules have also had little effect at chipping away at the power of the largest tech companies, ultimately aiding internet incumbents rather than hurting them.

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“Regulations help incumbents,” said Avi Goldfarb, a marketing professor at the University of Toronto who has studied the effect of privacy regulations on competition. Mr. Goldfarb was the co-author of a 2013 reportthat said privacy regulation could be anti-competitive because the cost of getting permission from users for their data was typically much higher for a younger company than for an established firm.

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That Facebook and Google may emerge stronger from all of this can seem like a distant prospect. The Silicon Valley companies have been under scrutiny for months for how they collect and use people’s data, with Facebook reeling from revelations that the political research firm Cambridge Analytica harvested the personal information of up to 87 million of its users. That led to Congress dragging Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, to Washington this month for a grilling.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

http://radiobiafra.co/how-looming-privacy-regulations-may-strengthen-facebook-and-google

Greitens case could test the definition of ‘privacy’ in the smartphone era

In 1994, officials in Buffalo, Mo., made a discovery that sent shock waves through the tiny town: The owner of a local tanning salon had hidden a camera in the latticework above a dressing area, and had videotaped more than 100 women and girls in various states of nudity.

Then came the aftershock: Authorities initially said they couldn’t charge the man with any crime. There was nothing on Missouri’s books specifically prohibiting what he had done.

That scandal helped create the law under which Gov. Eric Greitens was indicted Thursday. Because of the tanning salon case and others, it has been illegal in Missouri for more than 20 years to take a person’s photo without permission when that person is in a state of undress in a place where there is a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” If that picture is transmitted to a computer, it goes from misdemeanor to felony.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/greitens-case-could-test-the-definition-of-privacy-in-the/article_13377041-1410-57fa-8a98-c45fe25d13d8.html

Microsoft privacy case is heading to Supreme Court

Foreign countries may be troubled’

This conflict has captured the attention of Congress, where just this week a group of bipartisan lawmakers introduced legislation that would clarify the rules on cross-border data searches. If that legislation passes, the case against Microsoft may be rendered moot — if not, the Supreme Court will be forced to weigh in on a thorny topic that could pose negative consequences for America’s image abroad.

“Foreign countries may be troubled by the idea that U.S. law enforcement can search the files of any company with a U.S. office, even if those files are located overseas,” says Matthew Tokson, an associate professor at University of Utah’s College of Law and an expert on digital privacy.

“This is especially sensitive territory,” he added, in an email to Yahoo Finance, “because U.S. surveillance of foreigners for national security purposes has already caused foreign countries to be wary of U.S.-based tech companies, hurting U.S. businesses.”

Or, as another associate law professor, Jennifer Daskal of American University’s Washington College of Law, put it, “There’s an ongoing concern about the scope of U.S. surveillance.”

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/supreme-court-fight-stir-fears-us-spying-overseas-125402542.html

It’s time to take our privacy back from tech companies

Your personal information is being collected, organized, purchased and sold on a global market. Polls consistently show that most people are concerned they have lost control of their own personal data. No one is immune from the pervasive information grab by governments, companies, and hackers. This is happening to pretty much anyone alive (or dead) who has ever used the internet, a credit card, gone to school, subscribed to cable television or used a cell phone. There is no escaping this new reality.

However, we can change the rules that govern the way your information is collected and used.

Absolute control of your information is no longer possible, but you can and should have a say in the matter. Think of your data or information as personal property. Companies and governments can use eminent domain or other seizure processes to take that property, but the sting eases when you realize they must afford due process and justly compensate the owner for the property taken.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

http://thehill.com/opinion/technology/369573-its-time-to-take-our-privacy-back-from-tech-companies