Morning Security Brief: Defense Authorization Act, Facial Recognition, and Government Data Requests

By Teresa Anderson

► The 2014 Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1960), which has been approved by the House of Representatives, includes several amendments addressing sexual assault in the military, indefinite detention, the use of drones, and the resilience of the military supply chain. One of the sexual-assault provisions would establish mandatory sentences for certain offenses and another would require that the Armed Services submit an annual report to Congress detailing the steps taken to retain evidence and records in sexual assault cases. H.R. 1960 also contains a measure that would require that those currently held by the United States in indefinite detention be immediately provided a trial. The bill would also prohibit the use of unmanned aircraft against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. A measure on the resilience of the supply chain would require that the Department of Defense submit a report to Congress on the sole source suppliers of military components. The report would have to address how the military is ensuring that the supply chain is protected against vulnerability. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The Washington Post reports that 37 states are now using their driver’s licenses to establish photo ID databases. Using facial recognition technology, law enforcement agencies are using the databases to identify criminals. For example, Florida has more than 120 million faces in its databases. The Florida repositories were designed to prevent driver’s license fraud but are being used by police to identify “suspects, accomplices, and even innocent bystanders in a wide range of criminal investigations.” The police do not usually need special authority to access the databases. This has led to a backlash in some states where citizens fear the police will use the tool inappropriately, such as to identify those involved in political rallies. A few states, such as Washington, Oregon, and Minnesota, have placed restrictions on law enforcement access to the databases, but the overall trend is “toward more sophisticated databases with more expansive access.”

► Apple reported today that it has received up to 5,000 requests on around 10,000 devices from federal, state, and local authorities over the past seven months. The company says that some of the requests it gets are related to national security but that most are related to criminal investigations and searches for missing persons. Apple says that it evaluates each request for government information and will provide the “narrowest possible set of information to authorities.” It notes that it is unable to provide some information, such as instant messages because it does not record them. Apple issued the information in response to all the media coverage of the government’s PRISM program. The company says that it first heard of the program on June 6.


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