Category: Politics & Government

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New FCC rules could force telephone companies to block robocalls to 911 call centers

Back in 2012, Congress directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create a special do-not-call registry to protect 911 call centers from robocalls. The system was never implemented in part due to security concerns that came up when the FCC and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) started looking into the feasibility of the idea. Specifically, there was a worry that a bad actor could use the registry to flood a call center with automated calls and thereby prevent them from helping people in need.

Fast forward to the present and the FCC says it has a better idea on how to accomplish the goal assigned to it by Congress. On Thursday, the agency proposed new rules that would require telephone companies to block robocalls made to those facilities. As Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel points out, the advantage of this approach is that it would limit access to the do-not-call registry to a select group of verified telephone companies and carriers. And by limiting access to that list, the FCC and FTC can put in place better safeguards to protect it. With today’s decision, the FCC isn’t ready yet to implement that system, but what it does plan to do is collect feedback before moving forward. “We believe this is a promising approach, but we want to get this right,” Rosenworcel said. 

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Maine bans facial recognition technology from schools and most police work

Maine has passed the strongest statewide law regulating government use of facial recognition to date. The state’s House and Senate voted unanimously in favor of rules that prohibit law enforcement from using the technology unless they have probable cause that an unidentified person in an image committed a serious crime. Once the law goes into effect later this year, it will also limit how police conduct facial ID searches. They won’t have direct access to the tech. Instead, they’ll need to go through the FBI and Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) in the few instances where they’re sanctioned to use it.

Additionally, the law affords citizens the right to sue the state if they believe a government agency has used the technology unlawfully. It also prohibits Maine from deploying facial recognition systems in schools, and mandates that both Maine State Police and the BMV will need to maintain public records of search requests from law enforcement.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the bill “stands in sharp contrast” to Washington state’s SB 6280, the only other statewide law in the US governing the use of facial recognition. That bill was sponsored and primarily written by a current Microsoft employee. It has also been criticized by privacy advocates for giving police too many opportunities to use the technology for surveillance purposes. 

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