Sep 28, 2022 • 16M

🗞️ Facial Recognition's Role in the Courtroom, Social Media’s Appeals Split, & “Staggering” Fraud

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This Week: Public defenders get access to facial recognition AI, an appeals court split means social media questions are going to SCOTUS, and New York State levels a “staggering” fraud case at Trump's feet. Plus, how safe is Slack? Boeing settles its MAX suit, and Lewis Brisbois is seeing double.

👤 Facial Recognition for the Masses

Notorious facial-recognition firm Clearview AI has agreed to “balance the scales of justice,” says CEO Hoan Ton-That. Clearview's technology has long been used by law enforcement to surveil and even prosecute defendants, but it can also be used in a defendant’s favor. In a 2019 case, Andrew Grant Conlyn was acquitted of charges in a fatal car crash after his public defenders used the software to find a witness who could clear his name. Despite Conlyn's victory, some legal experts still question the use of Clearview for any case. 

  • “This [defense strategy] is mostly being done as a P.R. stunt to try to push back against the negative publicity that Clearview has about its tool and how it’s being used by law enforcement,” Jerome Greco, who works for the Legal Aid Society's forensics technology lab, told The New York Times.

  • Moreover, The Times notes, regardless of whether public defenders have access to the tech or not, “critics say it puts millions of law-abiding people in a perpetual lineup for law enforcement, which is particularly troubling given broader concerns about the accuracy of automated facial recognition.”

UK Troubles

As The Guardian writes, in May, the British Government's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) handed down one of its largest fines ever to Clearview (£7.5m) and ordered the firm to delete any data of UK residents from its systems. “The company not only enables identification of those people, but effectively monitors their behavior and offers it as a commercial service,” John Edwards, the ICO's commissioner said. “That is unacceptable. That is why we have acted to protect people in the UK by both fining the company and issuing an enforcement notice.”

The Verdict

The usefulness and legality of Clearview's tech are questionable. Can it save some innocent people? Maybe. But its broader use remains problematic. 

🎧 What We’re Listening To

This week, we’re playing back our latest event where we discussed how you can build a thriving professional online network. The event featured guest speakers Heather Stevenson, Kyle Robisch, and Brittany Leonard. So give it a go and maybe even share it with your network (😉).

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P.S. You might want to keep your headphones nearby. We’ll be sending another recap next Tuesday from our much-anticipated legal-operations panel (coming up this Thursday!).

💻 Big Tech v. Big State GOP

A federal appeals court split over free speech rights on social media platforms means a supreme court decision is now pending. Last week, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld a Texas law that prohibits large platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and others from banning or censoring Texans for their content. With their 2-to-1 ruling, Judge Andrew Oldham said, “today we reject the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say.”

NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), who represent Alphabet, Meta, Twitter, and others in the case, responded to the 5th Circuit ruling by saying, “‘God Bless America’ and ‘Death to America’ are both viewpoints, and it is unwise and unconstitutional for the state of Texas to compel a private business to treat those the same,” notes Reuters. Meanwhile, back in May, Florida's 11th Circuit struck down major portions of a very similar law. The state's attorney general has now filed an appeal that will send the case to the high court and resolve the appeals split. 

  • As Politico writes, Florida AG Ashley Moody's appeal claims the 11th's decision “strips states of their historic power to protect their citizens’ access to information, implicating questions of nationwide importance.”

  • And the CCIA supports the appeal: “There is consensus that this question — whether states can compel digital services to disseminate content inconsistent with their policies — is one that should be heard by the Supreme Court,” the association's president said. “While Florida’s social media law is a threat to the First Amendment and to democratic principles, we do agree that the case calls for additional review.”

California's Bill

As the two Republican states battle over Big Tech's ability to censor content, California has passed its own bill taking aim at social media giants. According to Politico, California's new law “will force social media companies to adopt safety guidelines for Californians under 18 and publicize their content moderation policies.”

The Verdict

Both Texas and Florida’s bills barring Big Tech from censoring content seem to be a political stunt that’s playing with fire. Unfortunately, the increased politicization of the Supreme Court itself doesn’t predict an easy verdict. 

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🏙️ A Most “Staggering” Case

Donald Trump, his children, and his central business, the Trump Organization, have engaged in “staggering” fraud by overvaluing their assets to secure loans, and then deflating their worth to the IRS to avoid taxes, says New York Attorney General Leticia James. “The number of grossly inflated asset values is staggering, affecting most if not all of the real estate holdings in any given year,” James said in a press conference last week, announcing the case and its 220-page lawsuit says The New York Times.

  • On his social media platform Truth Social, the former president lashed out at the charges, saying it's “another Witch Hunt by a racist Attorney General, Letitia James,” before adding, “she is a fraud who campaigned on a 'get Trump' platform.”

  • Beyond the state's case, James also noted that Trump “plausibly” violated federal law, and has referred the case to the federal prosecutor in Manhattan.

  • Should her case succeed, the Trumps will be permanently banned from operating a business in the state.

Understanding the Breadth

As The Times details, James's 3-year investigation into Trump and his organization included “​​interviews with over 65 witnesses; millions of documents; a complaint more than 200 pages long, with examples from more than 23 assets. Her office found over 200 false valuations, she said, calling it evidence of a scheme that she characterized as ‘astounding.’”

The Verdict

Trump is no stranger to lawsuits of all shapes and sizes. The question is how political will this case become, and can he figure out some legal maneuvering to avoid facing consequences?

📤 What Else We're Forwarding

Slacking Safety: Wired is drawing attention to lax security protections for popular workplace tools Slack and Teams. They point to a study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison looking at gaps in both platforms' third-party app security model.

MAX Settlement: Boeing wants to end an SEC fraud probe that claims the aviation giant misled investors in the wake of two crashes of its 737 MAX model in 2019. According to Law360, the $200 million settlement will go to a fund established for harmed investors pursuant to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Lewis Bris-who?: Will the real Lewis Brisbois please stand up? Law360 highlights a case in which the Big Law firm is suing an identically named “meditation and related services” provider based outside Houston.

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✌🏽 Raad