“This should probably be illegal,” Fight for the Future action will show why face surveillance should be banned
Digital rights group Fight for the Future is currently conductinglive facial recognition surveillance in Washington, DC, using Amazon’s commercially available Rekognition software to scan thousands of people’s faces and cross-check them with a database to track down members of Congress, Amazon lobbyists, and members of the press. The whole fiasco is being livestreamed at ScanCongress.com, which will show a live count of the number of faces scanned.
The action shows that facial recognition surveillance is dangerous both when algorithms work and when they don’t. Three activists are wearing white jumpsuits emblazoned with “Facial Recognition in Progress” and headgear equipped with a phone running facial recognition software. The trio are scanning faces at major metro stops and busy areas around Capitol Hill, looking for members of Congress and journalists, and around K street, looking for Amazon lobbyists. In the process, the group will collect biometric data on potentially thousands of DC residents and commuters.
Following the protest, Fight for the Future will release a web tool at ScanCongress.com that allows people who were in DC on Thursday to upload a photo and check whether their face was scanned. All the photos, and the facial recognition data, will be destroyed after two weeks.
“This should probably be illegal,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future (pronouns: she/her), “but until Congress takes action to ban facial recognition surveillance, it’s terrifyingly easy for anyone –– a government agent, a corporation, or just a creepy stalker –– to conduct biometric monitoring and violate basic rights at a massive scale. We did this to make a point. And we’re going to delete the data that we collect. Someone else could use the same technology to do unimaginable harm. We need an immediate ban on law enforcement and government use of face surveillance, and should urgently and severely limit its use for private and commercial purposes.”
The action is part of Fight for the Future’s BanFacialRecognition.com campaign, which has been endorsed my more than 30 major grassroots civil rights organizations including Greenpeace, Color of Change, Daily Kos, United We Dream, Council on American Islamic Relations, MoveOn, and Free Press. The groups are calling for local, state, and federal lawmakers to ban law enforcement use of facial recognition. Several cities have already banned the controversial technology outright, including San Francisco, Somerville, MA,Berkeley, CA, and Oakland, CA, and there is growing bipartisan support in Congress to address the issue at the federal level.
Fight for the Future recently made headlines by dealing the first major blow to the commercial spread of facial recognition in the US. Alongside artists like Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, the group pushed 40 of the worlds largest music festivals to clearly state they have no plans to use face recognition at their events. Morello and FFTF deputy director Evan Greer wrote about the significance of the victory in a widely shared Buzzfeed News op-ed.
Fight for the Future opposes attempts by the tech industry (including Amazon) and law enforcement to pressure Congress to pass an industry-friendly “regulatory framework” for facial recognition that would allow this dangerous technology to spread quickly with minimal restrictions intended to assuage public opposition. But we support narrower efforts to ban or restrict specifically egregious uses of this surveillance, such as a bill introduced recently to ban the use of facial recognition in public housing. For more on our position, read our op-ed “Don’t regulate facial recognition. Ban it.”
IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 7, 2019 CONTACT: Evan Greer, 978-852-6457, firstname.lastname@example.org
Today, Cyberscoop reported a major security vulnerability in Amazon’s Ring doorbell app. Amazon’s Ring doorbells, which have already raised significant privacy and civil liberties concerns, have now been shown to be deeply insecure, exposing users Wi-Fi passwords to hackers.
With this Wi-Fi information, hackers can access customers’ personal home networks. It only gets scarier from there as hackers could use customer’s webcams to spy on them and their children, gain access to their bank accounts, and retrieve personal information necessary for identity theft.
“This is a classic example of how more surveillance does not mean more safety,” said Evan Greer, Deputy Director of Fight for the Future. “Amazon has consistently shown reckless disregard for privacy and civil liberties, but this is terrifying on a whole other level. Putting insecure cameras and listening devices around your home puts your family in danger. Congress should immediately investigate the threat posed by Amazon’s rapidly spreading, for-profit surveillance dragnet.”
Amazon’s surveillance network doesn’t only threaten our privacy and civil liberties, but our security as well. Meanwhile, millions of Americans continue to buy Ring products unaware of the dangers the technology and surveillance partnerships with police pose.
With over 550 partnerships across the country and millions of Americans potentially impacted, we need Congress to intervene. More than 10,000 people have already written their lawmakers calling on them to investigate Amazon’s surveillance empire and their troubling partnerships with law enforcement.
Gamers and human rights activists are organizing a protest outside Blizzard’s annual convention, BlizzCon, today in Anaheim, CA. We’re calling on all gaming companies to stand up for free expression and refuse to act as censors on behalf of ANY government. Details about the protest are here.
If you can’t make it, you can still make your voice heard. Here are the easiest ways to help turn up the pressure on Blizzard and other companies:
Use this handy toolto tweet and email gaming companies en masse and ask them to clarify their position on free expression. You can also tweet at BlizzCon’s sponsors and tell them to pull out.
Make noise online. Run a livestream, post a video, flood #BlizzCon2019 and #BlizzCon hashtags with human rights and free expression content. We have some graphics and memes you can use here.
When Blizzard first made the terrible decision to punish professional gamer Blitzchung for speaking out about the situation in Hong Kong, there was massive online backlash. It’s clearly having an impact, but we can’t let that energy die down or it will send the message that companies can act as government speech police and get away with it. We won’t let that happen. Please do everything you can.
On Friday, November 1st, Gamers for Freedom will be organizing protests outside of BlizzCon. Gamers from around the world will be in attendance to share their voices in support of banned Hearthstone player Ng Wai “blitzchung” Chung, Hong Kong residents standing up for their liberty, and free expression online. The day will be filled with passionate speakers, fun events, and acts of legal, nonviolent protest.
Our protest will run from noon until 3:00pm, but there will be plenty of activity before and after the official protest hours. We encourage anyone in the Southern California area to join us at the Anaheim Convention Center to participate in this important day of political action.
At 7:00am, as part of the campaign organized by Freedom Hong Kong, 4,000 t-shirts will be handed out to BlizzCon attendees and protesters alike, with assistance from Hong Kong Forum Los Angeles volunteers and community members. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the ongoing Hong Kong protests demanding freedom and democracy, and call for support from the world to join our fight against totalitarianism. The t-shirt giveaway will continue on Nov 2 starting from 7:00am until supply runs out.
At 12:00pm, Gamers for Freedom will organize along Convention Center Way, holding signs and handing out flyers to BlizzCon attendees. We will be joined by Zephronica and YX, who have gone viral on social media for their cosplay of the character Mei from Blizzard’s Overwatch game. Zephronica and YX have also donated 400 t-shirts to hand out to BlizzCon attendees and protesters.
At 1:00pm, Gamers for Freedom will hold a cosplay contest hosted by comedian Ron Placone. Anyone wearing a costume is eligible to participate. We will select the 10 best costumes based on crowd reaction, and provide them with a free one-year subscription to VPN service graciously provided by Private Internet Access.
At 2:00pm, members of the protest will speak to the crowd. Our featured speakers will be Casey Chambers and Torino, two members of the American University Hearthstone team whom Blizzard has banned from competition for making peaceful political statements during a recent Hearthstone tournament livestream.
Gamers for Freedom is a project by Fight for the Future, a non-profit dedicated to promoting digital rights. To speak with Dayton Young, Product Director at Fight for the future and organizer of Gamers for Freedom, please email email@example.com.
Digital rights group Fight for the Future has launched a new campaign calling on Congress to investigate Amazon’s surveillance-based business practices, and the rapidly spreading partnerships between it’s doorbell camera company, Ring and local law enforcement. More than 10,000 people have already written to their member of Congress through the campaign.
There has been widespread reporting on the privacy and civil liberties concerns surrounding these Amazon-surveillance partnership, 35+ civil rights groups sign on to open letter calling on elected officials to address them, and some local police departments, like St. Petersburg Police Department, are refusing to enter into these partnerships.
But despite these growing concerns, Amazon is aggressively pursuing surveillance partnerships. A little over a month ago, there were 400 cities with these partnerships. Today, there are over 500. As the number of partnerships grows, so do the threats they pose to:
Civil Liberties. Amazon renders the Fourth Amendment irrelevant by giving law enforcement backdoor, warrantless access to mass surveillance footage.
Privacy. Amazon’s Ring doorbell cameras provide footage of millions of American families––from a baby in their crib to someone walking their dog to a neighbor playing with young children in their yard––and other bystanders that don’t know they are being filmed and haven’t given their consent.
Security. Ring cameras don’t use end to end encryption, and reports indicate that Amazon employees and contractors have direct access to some live feeds, raising significant national security concerns.
“We can’t trust Amazon to do what’s necessary to protect us,” said Evan Greer deputy director of Fight for the Future. “Millions of Americans buy Amazon Ring products unaware of the dangers the technology and partnerships pose. Amazon wants to keep it that way. We need Congress to publicly investigate Amazon’s surveillance dragnet and hold a hearing to openly question Amazon Ring CEO Jamie Siminoff on dangers Ring technology and these partnerships pose to this country.”
Amazon’s inability to be transparent and honest exacerbates existing concerns with their surveillance network. Amazon denies integrating facial recognition software with Ring technology—yet Ring’s Ukrainian office reportedly tests facial recognition technology on user footage. They claim that police won’t ever have direct access to user footage—but they experimented with a feature for 911 calls to trigger Ring doorbell cameras to wake up and live stream for police use.
With no accountability and oversight, privacy and civil liberties concerns with Amazon’s surveillance technology and partnerships outpace the NSA’s spying programs. Congress was elected to protect our rights and ensure our security. It’s time they did both when it comes to Amazon.