Hillicon Valley: FBI facial recognition database has 640M photos | Disclosure sparks new privacy fears | App developers sue Apple | House panel approves $600M for election security

Hillicon Valley: FBI facial recognition database has 640M photos | Disclosure sparks new privacy fears | App developers sue Apple | House panel approves $600M for election security

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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).


I'LL BE WATCHING YOU: A representative with the government's top watchdog on Tuesday revealed that the FBI has access to a database of roughly 640 million photos that can be used for facial recognition searches.

Gretta Goodwin, a representative with the Government Accountability Office, said during a House hearing on Tuesday that the FBI uses expansive databases of photos, including from driver's licenses, passports and mugshots, to search for potential criminals.

She noted that the FBI maintains a database of 36 million mugshot photos, called the Interstate Photo System, but has access to a total of more than 600 million photos across multiple databases, including 21 state driver's license directories.


Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanMeadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader House Republicans want details on Democrats' trips to Mexico GOP lawmakers, states back gunmaker in Sandy Hook appeal MORE (R-Ohio), the ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, responded with surprise to the number at Tuesday's hearing. "640 million photos," he repeated. "There are only 330 million people in the country."  

Read more here.


Disclosure sparks new fears over facial recognition technology: Kimberly Del Greco, a deputy assistant director at the FBI, emphasized that the bureau only uses facial recognition technology to help out with ongoing criminal investigations.

But that failed to assuage lawmakers from both parties at the hearing, who accused federal agencies of failing to implement adequate privacy and accuracy guardrails before deploying the technology across the country. They warned repeatedly that the committee is planning to take concrete steps to address those concerns.

After the hearing, Oversight members from both parties told The Hill they would support a full moratorium on facial recognition technology until stakeholders can address civil rights and liberties concerns.

“Although the Committee has not called for a broad moratorium at this stage, I personally feel that we should consider it, and we will be continuing our robust bipartisan oversight of this issue to develop common-sense, concrete reforms that the whole Committee can support,” Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsMajority of voters say federal officials staying at Trump hotels is a conflict of interest The Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? House committee launches investigation into Transportation Secretary Chao MORE (D-Md.) said in a statement to The Hill.

We've got more on the fallout here.


ELECTION SECURITY GETS A BOOST: A House Appropriations subcommittee approved a bill Monday night that includes $600 million in funding for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) meant for states to bolster election security, with the money specifically earmarked for states to buy voting systems with "voter-verified paper ballots."

The approval comes as recent remarks by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal MORE emphasizing the dangers posed by foreign interference in U.S. election systems injected new life into the election security debate on Capitol Hill.

The Senate already approved a bill Monday night to ban foreign individuals who meddle in U.S. elections from entering the country.

The funds are part of the Financial Services fiscal 2020 budget, and were approved by voice vote by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.

The bill now goes to the full House Appropriations Committee for consideration.

Should the funding bill be signed into law by President TrumpDonald John TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border MORE, it would be nearly double the amount of the most recent election security funds states receive from Congress.

The EAC last received these funds as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which set aside $380 million to assist states in updating and securing their voting systems.

This new potential election security funding is designated "for necessary expenses to make payments to States for activities to improve the administration of elections for Federal office, including to enhance election technology and make election security improvements."

But subcommittee members added clauses to the bill that require the money to be used by states to replace voting systems which use "direct-recording electronic voting machines with a voting system which uses an individual, durable, voter-verified paper ballot which is marked by the voter by hand or through the use of a non-tabulating ballot-marking device or system."

Read more here.


SUE YOU LOSE: Two app developers sued Apple on Tuesday, alleging the company's Apple Store is anticompetitive.

California developer Donald Cameron and Illinois-based Pure Sweat Basketball filed the suit in federal court in San Jose, California, arguing that only allowing apps to be downloaded onto iPhones via the Apple Store stifles developers.

The suit cites several examples of what they call unfair results of that control, including that developers have to pay Apple 30 percent commissions on app purchases and a $99 yearly fee and that Apple dictates minimum and maximum price points.

"This practice is analogous to a monopsonist retailer paying artificially low wholesale prices to its suppliers," the developers said in their suit.

"In both paradigms a competitive market would yield better post-commission or wholesale prices, and fairer profit, for developers' digital products."

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill on the suit.

Tuesday's lawsuit closely mirrors one from consumers who allege that Apple's practices have artificially inflated the price of software in the App Store, according to Reuters.

Read more here.


DO NOT TRACK: Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyOvernight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US GOP lawmaker: US shouldn't attack anybody on behalf of Saudi Arabia GOP senator calls Google antitrust probe 'great progress' MORE (R-Mo.) on Monday morning sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking him to institute a "Do Not Track" option for Apple customers, which would allow users to opt out of any online tracking on the App Store beyond what is "indispensable" for the programs to run.

Hawley's letter comes the day after Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, in which the tech giant introduced a parade of new products and features, including some aimed at increasing Apple customers' privacy.

Hawley wrote he was "pleased" to see Apple announce on Monday that it will restrict apps from permanently tracking users' location and tapping into data about which Wi-Fi signals they are using.

"But you can still do better," the Missouri Republican, an outspoken critic of Big Tech, wrote.

In the letter, he urged Apple to institute a policy that would require all apps on the App Store to respect users' wishes if they choose the Do Not Track option.

Read more here.


'NO-SPY' PROMISE?: A top Huawei executive on Tuesday said the Chinese telecommunications giant would be willing to sign a "no-spy agreement" with the U.S. in response to intelligence officials raising concerns that the company may be sharing information with China's government, NPR reported.

"We are willing to sign a no-spy agreement with the U.S.," Chairman Liang Hua told reporters visiting the company's headquarters in Shenzen, China. "The U.S. has not bought from us, is not buying from us and doesn't have plans to buy from us. So, I don't know if there's opportunity to sign such an agreement."

Huawei has offered similar agreements to the United Kingdom and Germany, according to NPR.

The U.S. has been its urging allies to sever ties with Huawei. The Trump administration last month moved to ban U.S. companies from doing business with the tech firm. That decision was later delayed by 90 days, though companies like Google have begun breaking off business with Huawei.

Read more here.


STEPPING INTO THE BREACH: The American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA) said it is notifying law enforcement and conducting internal reviews following a data breach that exposed the personal information of 11.9 million customers of blood testing company Quest Diagnostics.

The AMCA told The Hill on Monday it is in the process of investigating the breach of its system, which Quest announced earlier in the day involved an "unauthorized user" gaining access to personal information including Social Security numbers, medical data, and financial information. The AMCA is a billing collection service provider for Quest.

"Upon receiving information from a security compliance firm that works with credit card companies of a possible security compromise, we conducted an internal review, and then took down our web payments page," a spokesperson for AMCA said.

The spokesperson noted the AMCA "hired a third-party external forensics firm to investigate any potential security breach in our systems, migrated our web payments portal services to a third-party vendor, and retained additional experts to advise on, and implement, steps to increase our systems' security. We have also advised law enforcement of this incident."

The AMCA "remains committed to our system's security, data privacy, and the protection of personal information," the spokesperson said.

Read more here.


ART IN THE NUDE: Dozens of naked protesters gathered outside of Facebook's New York offices to raise concerns about the social media platform censoring works of art featuring nudity.

Artist and photographer Spencer Tunick and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) created the "We The Nipple" nude installation outside of the office, according to a report from tech outlet CNET.

Tunick wrote on Twitter that there were "male nipple stickers covering female presenting nipples and male nipple cards covering all the participant's genitalia."

NCAC's head of global policy, Christopher Finan, penned an open letter to the tech giant criticizing Facebook and Instagram for prohibiting nudity in sculpture, painting and photography.

"The nudity ban is punishing for photographers and particularly harms artists whose work focuses on their own bodies, including queer and gender nonconforming artists," Finan wrote. "It also affects museums and galleries that have difficulty promoting photography exhibitions featuring nudes."

More than 20 arts and free speech organizations, as well as hundreds of artists, signed onto the "#WeTheNipple" petition asking the platforms to welcome alternatives to the nudity ban.

Read more here.


AN OP-ED TO CLICK ON: Facial recognition surveillance in Congress's crosshairs.


A LIGHTER CLICK: Apple fanatics need to be stopped.



Russia says Tinder must share user data, private messages (ZDNet)

Ex-NSA hacker wants to give 2020 campaigns a free cybersecurity tool, but the FEC may block him (NBC News)

The 2020 campaigns aren't ready for deepfakes. (Axios)

Microsoft is making Xbox body wash. (The Verge)