Category Archives: Legal

Canadian Authorities Decided Clearview AI is Illegal in Canada



The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada released a report of findings regarding Clearview AI. They sought to determine whether Clearview AI Inc.’s collection, use and disclosure of personal information by means of facial recognition tool complied with federal and provincial privacy laws applicable to the private sector.

Here are some of their conclusions:

  • They found that Clearview engaged in the collection, use and disclosure of personal information through the development and provision of its facial recognition application, without requisite consent.
  • They found that Clearview’s collection, use and disclosure of personal information through the provision of its facial recognition application was for a purpose that a reasonable person would find to be inappropriate.
  • They found that Clearview does not comply with sections of the law by using biometric information for identification purposes without the express consent of individuals concerned by and that Clearview IA did not disclose its database of biometric characteristics and measurements to the Commission.
  • As a result, the Commissioner recommended that Clearview “cease offering the facial recognition services that have been the subject of this investigation to clients in Canada.” Clearview must also cease the collection, use and disclosure of images and biometric facial arrays collected from individuals in Canada and must also delete images and biometric facial arrays collected from individuals in Canada from its possession.

If Clearview refuses to adhere to those recommendations, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada “will pursue other actions available to us under our respected Acts to bring Clearview into compliance with federal and provincial privacy laws applicable to the public sector.”

The New York Times reported the following:

Clearview scraped more than three billion photos from social media networks and other public websites in order to build a facial recognition app that is now used by over 2,400 U.S. law enforcement agencies, according to the company. When an officer runs a search, the app provides links to sites on the web where the person’s face has appeared. The scope of the company’s reach and law enforcement application was first reported by The New York Times in January of 2020.

According to The New York Times, Hoan Ton-That, the chief executive of Clearview AI, said Wednesday that the company stopped operating in Canada last July – because of the inquiry. The company had no plans to proactively delete Canadians from its database. The New York Times also reported that authorities in Australia and the United Kingdom are jointly pursuing an inquiry of their own.

Personally, I think it should be illegal to gather up people’s personal information – including photos of their faces – without first receiving permission to specifically do that. There is no valid reason for companies to secretly harvest random people’s photos and hand them over to law enforcement, especially when there is no evidence that the people have committed any crimes.


Judge Grants Uber and Lyft a Temporary Stay



The ongoing battle between ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber,and the state of California, continues with an appeals judge extending a temporary stay, CNBC reported. This gives Uber and Lyft more time in which to comply with an order requiring the companies to reclassify their drivers as employees.

The situation began with a California law called AB5, when went into affect on January 1, 2020. It requires companies that hire independent contractors to reclassify them as employees.

On August 10, 2020, California Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman ordered Uber and Lyft to reclassify their contract drivers as employees with the same protections and benefits as other staffers. Those workers would be entitled to workers comp, unemployment, paid sick and family leave, and health insurance.

AB5 allows independent contractors to be classified as employees if the employers can verify that that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business (among other things).

It seems to me that Uber and Lyft, both of whom are ride-sharing companies, are going to have a difficult time trying to convince a judge that their workers are performing work that is outside the usual course the hiring entity’s business. The workers are driving their own vehicles and picking up and dropping off passengers. That’s literally the main purpose of ride-sharing companies!

Both Lyft and Uber posted blogs that can be summarized as a threat to users of their services. Each made it clear that they would shut down service in California. The blog posts also push people to vote for Proposition 22 which, if it gets enough votes, would reverse AB5. Lyft later updated their blog post to note that rideshare is back on, thanks to the stay.

As a person who lives in California, and who is also disabled, I think Lyft and Uber should not have threatened users with a stoppage of service. I rely on them to get me to and from appointments with health care providers. It feels like Uber and Lyft never bothered to consider how an abrupt stoppage of service could become a huge difficulty for people who cannot drive.

The Guardian reported that Proposition 22 has millions of dollars in backing from Uber and Lyft as well as other gig economy firms that are affected by the law. It appears that Lyft and Uber have plenty of money to fund Proposition 22 – which directly benefits them and harms their workers. They should use that money to do the right thing and comply with AB5.


Pro-Vision Trademark of Bodycam Demand Letter



On Friday of last week, I received a certified letter in the mail from the law firm of Price Heneveld LLP representing Pro Vision Inc. on the use of the word Bodycam which Pro-Vision holds a registered trademark in reference to a single article on Geek News Central from 2015 which covered the introduction of the PMD-901V by Marantz which they had a issue with me refering to the product as a Body Cam.

This is the first time I have received a demand letter over using someones trademark in an review article and asked that it be changed. It is obvious that Pro-Vision Inc. is doing their best to suppress and minimize companies like Marantz who have a competing camera product from being found in Google by going after sites like mine and demanding we change the editorial content.

Personally I am of the opinion that Pro-Vision should have never been given that mark, and am actually surprised that the Trademark office actually approved their Trademark back in 2014 as the use of the word Bodycam has been used by the media for a very long time.  Sending demand letters to sites like mine must keep their law firm busy, and able to submit a lot of billable hours. Good on Price Heneveld LLP for securing this legal representation.

I fully understand a companies right to protect their Trademark, it just surprised me that they would be so aggressive. I checked on the Marantz Site, and they must have also received the same letter some time ago as they now refer to their product as a wearable camera. For those interested I have scanned and linked the legal firms demand letter of my Marantz PMD-901V story.

Demand Letter from Pro-Vision Inc Legal Firm over Trademark of BodyCam

 


“Swatting” Could Get You a 20-Year Prison Sentence



Image by AJ Montpetit on StockSnap ioThere is a bill going through Congress that could attach a 20-year prison sentence to the act of “swatting”. The bill passed the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, and its next step is a floor vote in the House.

“Swatting”, for those who are unaware, is when a person calls the police to notify them of a bomb threat, a kidnapping, a hostage situation, or other criminal activity going on at someone else’s house (when no such activity has taken place). It is a form of harassment.

The result is that a fully armed SWAT team, that has no way of knowing if the reported threat was real or fake, goes to the target’s home. The assumption is that the call was legitimate. There is potential for an innocent person, who was a victim of a “swatting”, to end up injured or killed.

The Washington Post reports that people who play video games are often the victims of “swatting” and that the perpetrator might also be a gamer. There has been a situation where a SWAT team was called on a gamer who was streaming because someone apparently thought it would be funny to watch a streamed “swatting”.

In addition, journalists, celebrities, and politicians have been the targets of “swatting”. A bill called HR 2031 could attach legal consequences to “swatting”. The full title of the bill is: “To amend the Communication Act of 1934 to provide for enhanced penalties for the transmission of misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to trigger a response by a law enforcement agency.” The short title is: “Anti-Swatting Act of 2015”.

In short, the bill identifies “swatting” as a criminal violation. A person who does it could be fined and/or imprisoned for up to 5 years. Or, if serious bodily injury results, the perpetrator could be fined and/or imprisoned for up to 20 years. A court could require the perpetrator to reimburse law enforcement, fire, rescue, and emergency services that were called in on the “swatting”.

The bill has not yet been made into a law. It has passed a House committee, but has not yet been voted on in the House of Representatives.


Free Beer from Alcohoot at CES!



Alcohoot Logo

Alcohoot are offering free beer for visitors to their stand at CES (booth 74549). On the surface, it’s a cheap trick but as they sell breathalyzers there’s a certain relevance to it. No doubt the merit of personal breathalyzers will continue to be debated for years to come but focussing on the technology, Alcohoot have produced a portable breathalyzer that plugs into the headphone jack of both Android and Apple smartphones. The Alcohoot uses an FDA-registered fuel cell sensor built into a hand-sized pocket device to record the owner’s alcohol level as he or she breathes into the unit.

Alcohoot and Phone

The complementary app is available on both the Android and iOS platforms and lets the owner track his or her consumption. Handily, it can provide contact details for taxis when over the legal limit for driving.

App Screens

The Alcohoot was a winner of the Red Dot Design Award, 2014, which puts it in good company along with Apple, Beats By Dre, Bose, BMW, Nest, Nespresso, Blackberry, Lenovo, Nike+ FuelBand, LG and many more.

Available in three colours – black, white and red – the Alcohoot can be bought from their store for $99.99 along with extra mouthpieces.

If you want to learn more, pop into Alcohoot’s CES booth 74549 at the Sands Expo Center for a few beers. Cheers!


Aereo: “Our Work is Not Done”



Aereo logoBy now, you have probably heard about the Supreme Court’s decision on the case called American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo. In short, the Justices voted 6 to 3 in favor of the broadcast industry. Justice Breyer’s opinion was supported by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ginsburg, Kagen, Kennedy, and Sotomayor. The Justices who dissented were Justices Scalia, Alito, and Thomas.

Within seconds after the decision was revealed, rage swept across the internet. The “Court of Public Opinion” clearly feels that the SCOTUS decision stinks. Those hoped to finally being able to “cut the cord” and get rid of their cable bill forever are not going to see that happen through Aereo right now.

In plain English, this is a case about copyright (at least, that’s how SCOTUS sees it). The basic idea is that if you make a work – such as a television show – you can get a copyright. No one else is allowed to “publicly preform” that work unless they pay you. Aereo doesn’t pay the copyright owners, so SCOTUS decided that what Aereo was providing was illegal.

The Justices did not choose to make a decision about some related, and important, concepts. They didn’t specify how the copyright laws apply to services that aren’t exactly like the cable companies. They felt that their decision regarding Aereo did not call into question of the legality regarding cloud computing. Personally, I think that Justices’ lack of clarifying about these concepts is going to lead to more lawsuits as companies fight about where the real boundary is between legal and illegal.

Aereo released a statement from CEO and Founder Chet Kanojia regarding the SCOTUS decision. Here are some key points from the statement:

“…Consumer access to free-to-air broadcast television is an essential part of our country’s fabric. Using an antenna to access free-to-air broadcast television is still meaningful for more than 60 million Americans across the United States. And when new technology enables consumers to use a smarter, easier to use antenna, consumers and the marketplace win. Free-to-air broadcast television should not be available only to those wh can afford to pay for the cable or satellite bundle.”

“…We are disappointed in the outcome, but our work is not done. We will continue to fight for our consumers and fight to create innovative technologies that have a meaningful and positive impact on our world.”


Apple Offers iTunes Credits to Parents after Litigation



Apple LogoThere are so many apps out there that are intended to attract children. It is easy to see why parents are hesitant to let their children go ahead and buy whatever apps they like – especially if those apps allow for in-game purchases (using real money). What if your child does it without your permission?

A class-action lawsuit was filed in 2011 against Apple by 5 parents. The parents were upset because their children were able to purchase and download apps from Apple’s online store on the parent’s accounts without the parent’s knowledge or permission.

Earlier this year, Apple agreed to a settlement of this class-action lawsuit. It will end up costing Apple around $100 million. Apple has agreed to provide around 23 million affected customers with a $5.00 iTunes store credit.

Have your kids been downloading things from Apple that you didn’t give them permission to? You might want to read over the details of the settlement to see if you are eligible.

The settlement is specifically about apps or in-app purchases of game currency that were purchased by a minor without the parent’s knowledge or permission in the 45 days prior to May 2, 2013. If you qualify, you must file an online claim by January 13, 2014.

The settlement is only including qualified apps This means all apps from the App Store in the games category with an age rating of 4+, 9+, or 12+ that offer in-app purchases of consumable game currency.