The Effect of Facial Recognition Technology on Privacy

As better technologies emerge to identify people using facial recognition programs, our right to privacy is being threatened. From Facebook to the FBI, your face is being used without your permission as a new type of fingerprint.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are using face recognition technology to help solve crimes. Camera footage is used to identify wanted persons. Stores also use camera footage to identify shoplifters. The programs allow officers to solve crimes faster by quickly identifying suspects. They simply cross-reference an image against the DMV, inmate records, passport photos, and visa applications to find potential matches. While this isn’t the only tool used in solving these crimes, they do aid in the process.

Face recognition is used for more than just fighting crime though. Brick and mortar stores use it to track repeat customers and customize ads, Facebook uses it to suggest tagging people in photos, Apple uses it to allow users to unlock devices, and car-makers are starting to use the technology to unlock vehicles.

Essentially, the face is a fingerprint. It is broken down into a binary code. The facial recognition programs aim to match the code, not match the actual photo, as one might think. It is the pixels that are being used to search.

But is face recognition technology a violation of privacy? Civil liberty groups think that it is and they see it posing a threat to minorities and immigrants. It completely removes anonymity and it is not just used to solve terrible crimes. It can be used to pick out a participant in a protest among a crowd of people for example.

Though face recognition first came to light in the 1960’s, it really took off once funds were increased for national security after 9/11. Now the technology is growing and there are no federal laws prohibiting the use of the technology.

Furthermore, big companies like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google are not required to get your permission for facial recognition tracking. Nor do they have to provide information to the government when it is requested from them.

While facial recognition technology is a useful tool among law enforcement officials, it does have a negative effect on privacy. There are currently several law suits under way and their outcome will likely effect the future of face recognition programs and how they can be used.

Police Dish Up Lip Service in Viral Lip Sync Battles

Lip Sync battles are fan favorites. People enjoy seeing and sharing lip sync videos on various social media. The latest trend that showed up this summer is the police department lip sync challenges. Many of the videos the officers posted have gone viral.

Police officers have a serious job most of the time. Now they are taking their lip sync videos and dance moves just as seriously. The challenge all started with the Corinth, Texas Police Department. They put together a lip sync video and challenged another police department to do the same. The challenge started in early June and has since spread nationwide, as the departments continue to challenge each other.

Police across the nation have dished up their lip service in video footage of them lip syncing pop tunes. Most of the footage is done exclusive in cop cars, but not all of them. Some departments have shown they can really bust a move, as well.

Several videos that have gone viral include:

  • “Uptown Funk,” by the Norfolk Police Department
  • “Meant to Be,” by the Fairfax Police Department
  • “I Can Only Imagine,” by the Alabama Police Chief
  • “Thriller,” by the Moody Police Department

Not only has the challenge spread nationwide among law enforcement, but it is also spreading among other first responders. Examples include:

  • “Wrecking Ball,” by the Edmund Fire Department
  • :It’s Tricky,” by the Allegiance EMS

The great thing about the police lip sync battle, other than it being purely entertaining, is that it brings humor and reliability to the officers. Although not everyone is on board with the challenge. Some departments have declines to participate because they feel that it would take away from their homicide investigations and other cases. Some department, however, have noted that they produced their lip sync battles videos in one take during their lunch hour. Millions of views show that people enjoy the police

Gun Buyback Events Prove Successful

In a time when gun safety is a hot topic, there are a few options for getting rid of an unwanted gun. Melting them or donating them for police training purposes are options. However, gun amnesty programs may be your best bet, and can put a little cash in your pocket. Gun buyback events are successful in gathering unwanted guns, getting them off the streets, and improving safety.

Many cities offer annual or bi-annual gun amnesty programs. These gun buyback events general offer either a $50 gift card or up to $200 cash for the donated guns. Depending on the event, some are ran based on donations to help cover this cost. It helps get guns out of the hands of teens, makes the neighborhoods safer, reduces gun-related accidents, and prevents the guns from getting in the wrong hands.

Police officers welcome the unwanted guns, no questions asked. Many of the weapons turned in have not been registered. There is no need to explain where it came from or how you obtained it. Even if the gun is stolen, it removes the risk of being prosecuted. It is a great way to dispose of unwanted weapons. The guns that are turned in at these buyback events are usually from people who inherited them, and simply don’t want them in their home. But the officers are sometimes surprised to get more than pistols and rifles. On occasion a semi-automatic machine gun and sawed-off shotgun have also been turned in, as well.

The guns that are collected during these amnesty programs are carefully destroyed. They are generally melted down. Some cities transform the melted guns into jewelry and other art projects.

Gun buybacks are successful for most of the cities that host these events. They recover hundreds of weapons and gun accessories within a few hours. People often line up to turn them in. For some, it is a relief to know that they are getting rid of the gun safely and it takes the stress out of not knowing what might happen to it otherwise.

Weather you want to get rid of a gun because you can’t register the firearm, you no longer need the firearm, you want to avoid being charged, or you feel a sense of responsibility to get rid of the gun.

Schuette Reminds Residents about August Consumer Education Programs

LANSING – Attorney General Bill Schuette is encouraging Michigan residents to learn more about the consumer education programs offered through his office in the month of August. The Department of Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division offers a variety of programs throughout the month aimed at keeping Michigan consumers safe and up-to-date on the latest scams.

The August Programs Include:

  • Home Repair & Improvement – Learn the telltale signs of home repair scams, unscrupulous contractors, and how to navigate the home improvement process.
  • Phone, Mail, & e-Scams – Learn the signs of scams prevalent in phone calls, mail, email, and texts, along with steps to take to minimize your risk of being victimized.
  • Identity Theft – Learn about the signs of identity theft, how to protect your personal information online and off, and what to do if you become an identity theft victim
  • Online Safety – Learn how to protect your devices, money, and personal information while online. Also provides information on how to avoid common and emerging online scams.
  • In Home Care & Senior Residences – Learn about resources available to help you make the best decisions regarding care for yourself or your loved ones at home or in a senior residence.
  • Investment Fraud – Learn how to recognize fraudulent investments and obtain objective facts about reverse mortgages and annuities. Also provides information on how to investigate both the seller and the product before investing.

CONSUMER PROTECTION EDUCATION NUMBERS

In 2017, the Department of Attorney General presented 723 consumer protection programs reaching 14,535 consumers. So far in 2018, the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division has held nearly 250 events educating more than 5,000 consumers.

OTHER CONSUMER PROGRAMS

In addition to the free educational programs, the Consumer Protection Division also publishes an electronic quarterly newsletter. To sign up to receive the newsletter, visit the Attorney General’s website.

Schuette is also dedicated to protecting children across the state of Michigan, and his office runs safety programs like OK2SAY and Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative (CSI). These programs inspire Michigan students to share and respond to student safety threats and break the code of silence. In the 2017-2018 school year, more than a quarter of a million attendees went to an OK2SAY/CSI presentation.

To schedule a student safety presentation for the 2018-2019 school year, visit the OK2SAY website.

REGISTER FOR A CONSUMER EDUCATION PRESENTATION

Consumer Education Presentations are available for your group, club, or class on the topics outlined above.

To register for a presentation, please complete the online registration form. You may also print a copy of the registration form and submit it to the following address:

Michigan Department of Attorney General
Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909

MEDIA CONTACT: Andrea Bitely Megan Hawthorne 517-373-8060 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 19, 2018 Schuette’s Charitable Trust Section’s Actions Highlighted in Nationwide Campaign “Donate with Honor”

AG joined officials from all 49 other states to combat fraudulent charities that falsely claim to help veterans and servicemembers

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced his Charitable Trust Section’s participation in a sweeping new donor education campaign “Operation Donate with Honor.” The campaign includes law enforcement officials from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The campaign serves as an opportunity both to educate residents about fraudulent veterans charities and related scams and to announce new and recent law enforcement actions by the states and the FTC against fraudulent veterans charities.

In recent years, Schuette’s Charitable Trust Section has been a leader in fighting deceptive charitable solicitations and, in particular, fighting deceptive veterans charities. As part of Operation Donate with Honor, participating agencies announced 100 recent enforcement actions against deceptive veterans charities, including five actions in Michigan. (Michigan’s actions are detailed below.)

“I am proud of the work my Charitable Trust Section has done to protect Michigan consumers, as well as veterans and active duty military from fraudulent charities,” said Schuette. “Most charities operate in good faith and fulfill the promises they make, but unfortunately a few lie about their activities and profit by exploiting the sympathy of donors for veterans causes. This nationwide action serves as a reminder to residents to research before donating; it’s also a reminder to the scammers that charity regulators across the country are working to expose them.”

Below are Michigan’s five enforcement actions against deceptive veterans charities:

  1. Michigan’s March 2017 action against Illinois-based VietNow alleged thousands of deceptive solicitations that misrepresented VietNow’s charitable programs, programs that were minimal to non-existent. Michigan’s action led to other state investigations and actions against VietNow and, ultimately, a 24-state settlement resulting in penalties, restitution, and VietNow’s dissolution.
  2. Michigan’s 2017 allegations of filing inaccurate financial statements against Florida-based Help the Vets resulted in a 5-year solicitations ban in Michigan and brought Help the Vets to the attention of other charity regulators. Recently, the FTC and 6 other states filed a complaint and settlement in federal court, resulting in Help the Vets’ dissolution and other penalties against its founder Neil Paulson. In 2017, Michigan also acted against another of Paulson’s deceptive charities, Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation.
  3. Michigan’s 2017 action against Texas-based Healing American Heroes and its professional fundraiser Jeremy Squires and Associates resulted in a settlement including penalties, restitution, and the dissolution of Healing American Heroes. Healing American Heroes, which also used the name Help Our Wounded, promised to send phone cards to deployed servicemembers, but used almost all funds raised for other purposes. (As part of Operation Donate with Honor, the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance featured this enforcement action in a video interview here.)
  4. In September 2017, Schuette alleged deceptive solicitation violations against Florida-based American Veterans Foundation. In February 2018, Schuette sued. The action remains pending.
  5. In 2016, Schuette began investigating Michigan-based Foundation for American Veterans. In response to that investigation, Foundation for American Veterans elected to voluntarily dissolve. The investigation remains pending.

The law enforcement actions announced today by the FTC and states showcase the many ways that consumers are approached to donate: online, telemarketing, direct mail, door-to-door, and at retail stores. Common to all enforcement actions was a false promise to help veterans, including false promises to give financial and other assistance to homeless and disabled veterans; to counsel veterans; to assist local veterans; and to send phone cards and care packages to deployed service members. Many of the schemes operated nationwide and employed fundraisers that took 85% or more of each donation.

“Operation Donate with Honor” Education Campaign

Operation Donate with Honor was planned by the FTC and the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO), the association of state charity officials charged with overseeing charitable organizations and charitable solicitations in the United States. The initiative pairs enforcement actions with an education campaign, in English and Spanish, to help consumers recognize charitable solicitation fraud and identify legitimate charities.  This includes a new video that highlights tips on how to research charities on giving wisely to veterans organizations. The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance also cooperated by producing three videos of assistant attorneys general explaining some of the enforcement actions they took, including this video of Michigan Assistant Attorney General Will Bloomfield discussing Michigan’s action against Healing American Heroes. The national education campaign is intended to help potential donors, regardless of where or how they choose to donate, learn to spot fraudulent and deceptive solicitations so their contributions will truly benefit veterans and service members.

Schuette encourages potential donors, regardless of where or how they choose to donate, to learn to spot fraudulent and deceptive solicitations so their contributions truly benefit veterans and service members.

When donating to charity, remember the following:

  • Don’t be pressured into donating before you’ve researched the charity;
  • Don’t rely on a sympathetic sounding name (see infographic below);
  • Search the charity’s name online with the word “scam” or “complaint,” and see what other people say about it;
  • If contacted by telephone, ask how much of any donation will go to the charitable program you want to support;
  • Check whether a charity has registered with the Attorney General’s Charitable Trust Section;
  • Check the charity’s ratings at the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Watch, or Charity Navigator;
  • Never pay with cash, a gift card, or by wiring money;
  • Consider paying by credit card, which is the safest option for security and tax purposes.

Another resource is the annual Giving Wisely brochure. The brochure is published by the Department of Attorney General in partnership with The Michigan Nonprofit Association, Council of Michigan Foundations and Michigan Association of United Ways. Donors and business owners can also find information to help them donate wisely and make their donations count at FTC.gov/Charity.

Michigan Law: Police Must Use Missing Person Database

Governor Snyder signed a bill that made it a law for Michigan police officers to use The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, (NamUs.) The law went into effect on July 4 and is an effort to reduce the number of missing persons.

As of July 2018, Michigan State Police is reporting 4,431 missing persons. Yet the NamUs site has been underutilized. The hope is that with the new law in effect, police can diligently work on bringing that number down. It gives officers a way to search online photos and descriptions to match missing persons, victims, and bodies. Having quick access to this information can identify people, solves crimes, and even return missing people to their families.

While other states have a 30-day window to enter the missing person information, that is not the most effective way to get results. The faster the information gets out the to public, the better the chance of finding the person.

Human trafficking is a big concern in Michigan, with more than 1,000 children missing per month. Sex trafficking occurs with 1 in 5 runaways, which are almost always initiated though an online app. Being aware of this and having instant access to information regarding these missing kids could help find and save them.

NamUs was first launched in 2007 by the U.S. Justice Department. The site is open to the public, as well. Families of missing persons can use the database to help locate them. Users can either enter a new case or add information to an existing case. It is searchable by case, demographics, circumstances, physical description, clothing, and images.

Police and the community need to work together in Michigan for faster results and to bring missing children home to their families safely.

Law Enforcement Solving Crimes with DNA, but Not Without Controversy

Crimes often go unsolved because of lack of evidence or the inability to prove that a particular person was at the scene of the crime. But technology is changing the way law enforcement solves crimes. Now genetics can help in solving crimes, even cold cases. While DNA can be traced through a number of online sources, it is also controversial because of privacy laws.

Using genetics to solve crimes stirs up controversy For example, there is no proof that someone’s genetic makeup would make them more likely to commit a serious crime. According to The Personal Genetic Education Project (pgED,) “there is no genetic variant that has been perfectly correlated with aggressive behavior.” The is controversial since “the possibility has been raised of using an individual’s genetic makeup to predict his or her likelihood of committing crime.”

Specific DNA, however, can help tie an individual to a crime scene. What can start off as a simple DNA search in an online database, can turn into concrete evidence to help law enforcement solve a case. DNA analysis is being used to solve cold cases as well. The process also elicits a controversial reaction because it infringes on privacy laws.

Commercial DNA testing sites are also being used in criminal cases. These are websites that allow people to voluntarily send in DNA samples in exchange for information about their genetics and family tree. In some cases, their DNA can help identify a relative linked to a particular crime scene. But is this an invasion of privacy?

According to Science News, there are people who disagree with using DNA searches because it violates privacy laws. While using familial searches to help solve cases is controversial, it is only used to help solve horrendous crimes. Rapes, murders and kidnapping are being solved using this technology.

After decades of unanswered questions and insufficient evidence to convict, cold cases are now being reopened with new leads, and sometimes being solved, with the help of new technology. Running DNA evidence through a growing federal database, law enforcement is able to link a person to the scene of the crime.

Genetics and DNA testing provide new hope to families who are seeking justice and closure in murder and kidnapping cases.

Personal Genetic Education Project

Science News

Attorney General Bill Schuette Encourages Michigan Residents to Dispose of Unwanted Prescription Drugs

AG joined Walgreens to highlight new instore kiosks for disposal of unused medications

GRAND RAPIDS – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today joined local law enforcement to highlight new kiosks for drug disposal in select Walgreens locations. This initiative is designed to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding homes of potentially dangerous, unwanted prescription drugs. Michigan residents will now have more options to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs.

At 28 select Walgreens drugstores across Michigan there will be kiosks for free prescription drug drop offs operating at all times the Walgreens location is open.

“More people were killed in Michigan by drug overdose than car wrecks last year,” Schuette said. “It is vitally important that we dispose of unused or unwanted prescription drugs so they don’t get in the wrong hands.”

The kiosks will accept the following:

  • Prescriptions, including controlled substances
  • OTC
  • Creams, ointments, lotions
  • Inhalers
  • Pet medication

You can find a complete list of all Walgreens Safe Medication Disposal kiosks here.

Walgreens is working with AmerisourceBergen, Pfizer, and Prime Therapeutics to expand its safe medication disposal program. The safe medication kiosks will allow individuals to safely and conveniently dispose of unwanted prescriptions at no cost.

MEDIA CONTACT:

Andrea Bitely
Megan Hawthorne
517-373-8060

 

Michigan’s Seat Belt Enforcement Saves Lives

During the Click It or Ticket enforcement, from May 21 through June 3, The Michigan State Police made 14,384 traffic stops and gave out 4,364 tickets to people who were not wearing their seat belts. Research shows that seat belts are the most effective technology that we have to date for staying protected on the roads. The enforcement brings awareness to the issue and increases the number of lives saved.

15 people lost their lives in car crashes over Memorial Day weekend alone. Of those, at least one person was not wearing a seat belt.

According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seat belt use in Michigan was at 94.5% in 2106, which was above the national average of 90.1 percent. While seat belt use is up, there are still millions of people taking a risk and endangering their lives by not buckling up.

The Click It or Ticket program began in 1993 and was launched by North Carolina’s Governor Jim Hunt. This was the first time officers were able to pull over individuals and issue citations if they were not wearing seat belts, even if no other offenses were observed. In 1988, New York was the first state to make seat belt mandatory and that has spread state-wide ever since.

The fact is that wearing a seat belt properly can prevent a person from being thrown from the car upon impact. It also reduces the force, reducing the risk of death by 50%, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a time when distracted driving and cell phone use while driving pose a serious threat, it is more important than ever to be diligent about wearing a seat belt.

The Click It or Ticket enforcement is a reminder to drivers to always buckle up, no matter how short of a distance you are traveling. Stated where seat belt use is enforced equates to a higher percentage of use and more lives saved. Michigan’s recent seat belt enforcement was successful and is spreading awareness and keeping drivers safe.