Tag: scanning

Judge nixes Google email scanning “settlement”

A federal judge  has thrown out a legal settlement which would have only paid lawyers but nothing to consumers who had the contents of their email scanned by Google without their knowledge or permission.

In a six page order, Judge Lucy Koh told Google and class action attorneys the proposed settlement was insufficient. Not just because it failed to clearly tell consumers what the search giant had done.

“This notice is difficult to understand and does not clearly disclose the fact that Google intercepts, scans and analyses the content of emails sent by non-Gmail users to Gmail users for the purpose of creating user profiles of the Gmail users to create targeted advertising for the Gmail users,” Koh wrote.

The case is mostly over whether Google’s email scanning practices amount to illegal wiretaps and a violation of California privacy laws. Google won a related lawsuit several years ago involving Gmail users.  This case is different, however, because it involves people who use other email providers—such as Microsoft, or Yahoo but whose messages are scanned without their permission when they send an email to a Gmail customer.

Google agreed to change the way it scans incoming messages so that it no longer reads emails while they are in transit, but only when they are in someone’s inbox. This is mostly a technicality but the company and the class action lawyers agree it puts Google in the clear as far as wiretap laws and they get a lot of money out it.

Judge Koh said the settlement does not provide an adequate technical explanation of Google’s workaround, which involves scanning in-transit emails for security purposes, and then later parsing them for advertising data.

“It does not disclose that Google will scan the email of non-Gmail users while the emails are in transit for the “dual purpose” of creating user profiles and targeted advertising and for detecting spam and malware,” Koh wrote.

The judge also added that another settlement last year, involving Yahoo’s scanning of emails, did not reflect the facts of the Google case.

Koh wants the case to proceed further and for the class action lawyers to push Google for recent documents about how the email scanning process really works. As the judge notes, the current settlement relies on documents that are three to six years old.

Any future settlement will presumably also have to do more to inform email users about Google’s scanning practices and, possibly, direct some of the settlement money to consumers instead of only the lawyers. Under the deal Koh rejected, Google would have paid $2.2 million to the attorneys, plus up to $140,000 in online ads to publicise the agreement.

Koh’s concerns reflect a sore point among many, including judges, who feel a long string of privacy settlements with big tech companies have done little to compensate consumers or improve privacy.

Vendors missing out on document opportunities

Caxton print - Wikimedia CommonsThe lack of abilities to print from tablets and from smartphones is “shockingly lacking”.

So says Angele Boyd, group VP of IDC Document Solutions.

She pointed to a survey she managed that showed there are great opportunities for document management as companies switch to smartphones and to tablets.

She said that the business value for smartphone and tablet printing is very clear, and “this is a huge missed productivity opportunity for both businesses and print providers”.

Statistics from a survey Boyd conducted show that 35 percent of smartphone users and 34 percent of tablet users cannot print although they want to.

Being able to print from mobile devices will show double digit growth compared to flat growth for the rest of the print market, she said.

One of the advantages of using a tablet or a smartphone is that you can use the now rather high powered cameras for capturing documents and opportunities are legion in accounting, financial, legal, education, marketing and sales.

IDC surveyed 22,041 end users in six countries to come to its conclusions.

US cops' Iris scanner "has no place in a free society"

A biometric iris and facial scanning device, which will soon be used by police forces in the US, has been described as having “no place in a free society”.

The technology, known as the Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System (MORIS) is a smartphone-based scanner, which slides over an iPhone.

It can be activated on a crime site or at a police station.

According to its developers B12, it’s more accurate than traditional fingerprinting and can scan a suspect’s iris. It will swiftly identify a suspect by detecting the unique patterns in a person’s eyes.

This information is then run through software and the US criminal records database to find a match.

However, the $3,000 device will not receive a warm welcome from privacy advocates.

Maria Fort at Big Brother Watch tells TechEye: “While police should not be impeded from carrying out legal criminal investigations, the use of this technology on a regular basis crosses a serious line.

“Capturing the biometrics and images of suspects in custody or charged with a crime is one thing, but this is quite another.  When this technology is used on innocent, private citizens as a preventative measure, the premise of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ becomes murky and everyone is treated as a potential criminal.

“Covertly using facial recognition technology on anyone other than a charged or convicted criminal is simply uncalled for, especially when it is still developing and not without its failures, leaving innocent people at risk of accusation based on technology alone.

“Measures like this have no place in a free society.”

B12 issued a rebuttal to Reuters, saying that its device should be used in a close proximity. Its defence amounts to difficulties in “covertly” identifying suspects.

If the technology gets the go-ahead then around 40 forces in the US will use it.

Although it’s easy to make connections to science fiction, it’s hard not to draw comparisons with the iris swapping as seen in Minority Report.

Dutch coppers end up in a virtual spat

Police in The Netherlands are having to come to grips with a malfunctioning IT system. To make things better, the coppers in the low lands will also have to brace themselves for the fallout threatening to rain down on them after the Dutch Data Protection Authority said the police are breaking the law by illegally saving scanned licence plates.

A regional IT system has decided it would be spiffing to be as fast as an Intel 80386 based PC running Windows Vista. Peter-Jaap Aalbersberg, chief of the district of Ijsselland’s police corps, wrote a damning letter yesterday to the police’s IT-services unit vtsPN, stating the problems were catastrophic, cited Dutch radio station Radio Nederland Wereldomroep on their website.

Police in the district of Ijsselland are having to send law-abiding citizens home, as they cannot use their computers to file reports. The problems are the result of both a new system currently being introduced and network problems. Cops on the street are getting information too late, which means criminals manage to slip away.

On top of it all, the police in the districts Rotterdam-Rijnmond and Ijselland have been storing all automatically scanned license plates in a database, despite Dutch police law stating licence plates not matched to suspicious vehicles and their owners. Dutch police law clearly states that scanned licence plates which do not deliver a hit, i.e. are not linked to any crime, must immediately be purged.

Nonetheless, coppers in Rotterdam-Rijnmond saved all licence plates in a database for 120 days, whereas the nice folk in Ijselland did so for a mere ten days.

Dutch motorists driving along the regional motorways can  rest assured they are stored as suspects in a crime database managed by an institution which is breaking the law, despite being tasked with upholding it.