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surveilling
May 26, 2017

On May 11, the Director of National Intelligence's office declassified some rulings by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, explaining why the National Security Agency had limited its surveillance of emails and text messages from American citizens. Most of the ruling concerned the NSA's apparently since-corrected use of Section 702 of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, but, as Circa notes, 83 pages into the 98-page ruling, the FISA court reserved some criticism for the FBI, too.

The FBI has access to certain FISA data from the NSA, but it's required to follow privacy "minimization procedures" and it can't share the FISA data with anyone outside the government, among other restrictions. But on at least two occasions, the FBI shared raw FISA data with private contractors (whose names and functions are redacted), apparently for analytical purposes, and the court notes that the government acknowledged in October that it's "investigating whether there have been similar cases in which the FBI improperly afforded non-FBI personnel access to raw FISA-acquired information on FBI systems."

The contractors were trained on FBI minimization procedures and "stored the information only on FBI systems, and did not disseminate it further," the court said, and though the FBI has correct its identified violations involving contractors, "the court is "nonetheless concerned about the FBI's apparent disregard of minimization rules and whether the FBI is engaging in similar disclosures of raw Section 702 information that have not been reported."

In a statement to Circa, the FBI said that "as indicated in its opinion, the court determined that the past and current standard minimization procedures are consistent with the Fourth Amendment and met the statutory definition of those procedures under Section 702." Congress has to renew the FISA Amendments Act this year, or it expires, and lawmakers are trying to figure out where to draw the line between privacy rights and legitimate counterterrorism and law enforcement. Peter Weber

October 19, 2016

Police facial-recognition database systems across the U.S. already have the faces of half of American adults on file, a study published Tuesday by researchers at Georgetown University's Center on Privacy and Technology revealed. The researchers found that the collection of photos "is not limited to serious criminals" — or even limited "at all, really."

In total, more than 117 million American adults are already in the law enforcement database. The Atlantic reported that while "some departments only use facial-recognition to confirm the identity of a suspect who's been detained," other departments "continuously analyze footage from surveillance cameras to determine exactly who is walking by at any particular moment." Some facial-recognition networks cross-reference the information with "databases of ID photos such as driver's licenses," Mashable reported.

Moreover, a majority of the states using these databases don't have laws regulating police use of face-recognition technology. "Never before has federal law enforcement created a biometric database — or network of databases — that is primarily made up of law-abiding Americans," the report said, noting that "face recognition, when it's used most aggressively, can change the nature of public spaces." Becca Stanek

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