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People just do not believe they have this option [to opt out]. They’re afraid of getting arrested.

- Sen. Jeff Merkley on airport facial scans

Welcome to Snippets đź‘‹ A quick read of recent headlines vividly illustrates the stark divide around the growing use of facial recognition technology.

On one hand, a bipartisan group of senators is opposing a bill that would significantly expand the use of facial recognition in airports across the US. In a similar vein, last week Microsoft suddenly revoked police access to their facial recognition service—noting concerns about discrimination and potential for abuse.

Meanwhile, in the other corner, the Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science, an organization backed by the US government, quietly published a paper arguing facial recognition can be used without infringing on privacy rights.

Where the chips will fall is anyone's guess, but keep reading to find out what else is happening in privacy and tech this week!


Senators push back against airport facial recognition


Julia Nikhinson/Associated Press

A bipartisan group of senators is looking to stop the expansion of facial recognition in US airports—penning a joint letter citing the growing database of Americans’ faces and potential for government abuse.
  • The letter was sent after the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act (FAARA) made it to the Senate floor.
  • If passed on Friday, this act would extend the use of facial recognition from 25 to 430 airports across the US.
  • The opposing legislators want to block the expansion until 2027— calling for clearer disclosures about passenger’s opt-out rights at airports where the technology is currently in use.
  • One of the Senators, Democrat Jeff Merkley, has received pushback from airport security staff while trying to opt out and notes there’s significant pressure for passengers to comply.

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Microsoft investing $3.3 billion in AI data center


Photo by Matt Jewell

President Biden announced Microsoft’s $3.3 billion investment in an AI data center in Racine, Wisconsin. Part of Biden’s Investing in America initiative, the project aims to revitalize Racine following the failed Foxconn project.
  • Microsoft's investment will establish an AI innovation lab at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It's also set to create 2,300 union construction jobs and up to 2,000 permanent jobs.
  • The Foxconn project's failure during Trump's administration left Racine worse off, with unfulfilled promises, empty buildings, and only a fraction of the anticipated jobs.
  • Biden's announcement aligns with his administration's focus on revitalizing manufacturing and technology sectors, including previous investments in semiconductor manufacturing.


UK payroll breach exposes military members’ data


AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File

The UK’s Ministry of Defense announced that a data breach has compromised the names and bank details of thousands of active British military personnel.
  • The bad actors are reported to have hacked into a third-party payroll system that contained the bank details of 272,000 serving members and recent veterans.
  • Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said the system has been taken down and an official probe has been launched into the failure of the service provider, SSCL.
  • Little is known about the identity of the attackers. Shapps alluded to potential state involvement, while the media was informed China was to blame, but there’s little evidence to support either claim.

  • Self-driving car maker Wayve receives $1B in funding.
  • Congress ramps up measures to protect kids’ privacy.
  • Google's privacy settlement awarded no money to class members.
  • Convincing deepfakes of Katy Perry emerge from the Met Gala.
  • Microsoft revokes police access to facial recognition service.


Amazon’s work surveillance systems under scrutiny


Martin Meissner/AP

In a joint letter, trade unions from 11 EU countries called for a probe into Amazon’s surveillance practices—alleging the company’s use of hand scanners, cameras, and GPS devices negatively impacts workers’ physical and mental health.
  • The letter calls upon the respective DPAs to follow France's lead, referencing the CNIL's 2023 decision to impose a €32 million penalty for an "excessively intrusive system."
  • Amazon claims the warehouse management systems are necessary to ensure workers' safety, but Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa, said they undermine workers’ trust and disregard privacy laws.
  • The letter follows recent scrutiny by EU lawmakers, who inspected several of Amazon's facilities after the company's representatives were barred from the European Parliament due to missed hearings.


Microsoft releases offline AI service for US Intelligence


JIM WATSON/AFP (Getty Images)

Microsoft introduced a generative AI model tailored for U.S. intelligence agencies, boasting advanced security measures and complete isolation from the internet.
  • The GPT-4-based AI model operates within an isolated network accessible exclusively by the US government, ensuring confidentiality and preventing data leakage.
  • Unlike typical AI models, this one refrains from learning through uploaded files—maintaining a "clean" slate to prevent absorption of classified information.
  • Microsoft's initiative represents a notable breakthrough in AI technology for classified applications, standing out as the first LLM entirely disconnected from the internet.

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