Invasive Procedures

When refusing to hand over your phone & password lands you in a chokehold; the evolution of open data in NYC; and more.


  • U.S. border patrol agents are frequently asking American citizens to hand over their cell phones and passwords on their return to the country, Cynthia McFadden, E.D. Cauchi, William Arkin, and Kevin Monahan report for NBC News. In one case, a man tried to refuse and he was put into a chokehold by an officer while another pulled his phone from his pocket. In 23 of 25 cases examined by NBC, the people stopped were Muslim. None were on terror watch lists. They also report that “Data provided by the Department of Homeland Security shows that searches of cellphones by border agents has exploded, growing fivefold in just one year, from fewer than 5,000 in 2015 to nearly 25,000 in 2016. According to DHS officials, 2017 will be a blockbuster year. Five-thousand devices were searched in February alone, more than in all of 2015.” In some cases, people are also being searched on their way out of the country.

  • Facebook is responding to pressure from the ACLU, Color of Change, and the Center for Media Justice and says it will explicitly prohibit the use of Facebook or Instagram data by developers making surveillance tools used by law enforcement, Kate Conger reports for TechCrunch.

  • The U.K.’s surveillance camera commissioner Tony Porter, who oversees the government’s sprawling CCTV program, is warning that the spread of surveillance technologies along with advances in facial recognition and big data analytics may be leading to invasion of privacy on a massive scale, Matthew Weaver reports for The Guardian.

  • Related: A Canadian sex-toy manufacturer has been ordered to pay customers huge rebates following a class action lawsuit in Illinois, Alex Hern reports for The Guardian. The company, We-Vibe, made a bluetooth connected vibrator that could be controlled remotely via an app. Not only did the We-Vibe 4 Plus have security vulnerabilities that would allow anyone within range to take control of the device, data was collected and sent back to the company, allowing it to obtain intimate information about its users. (Note to Baratunde Thurston: This is not a Comedy Hack-Nite joke.)

  • Nearly all of the 200-plus senior women in tech who responded to a recent survey said they have experienced sexist interactions with their male colleagues. So, why is the tech industry so awful to women, and what is to be done? Liza Mundy has many answers in this month’s Atlantic cover story. She warns that while unconscious bias is a major factor, the current wave of anti-bias trainings may not really help change hiring or retention patterns. Making gender parity a priority from the launch of a company—not later—seems to be the one sure move that can make a big difference.

  • Two co-workers, one male and one female, swapped their email signatures for two weeks and the results showed that their company’s clients were much more responsive to the male name than the female name, Danielle Decourcey reports for Attn.com.

  • Trump time: The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy website, which was once a hub of innovative activity, is currently a ghost-town. (h/t Jason Schultz)

  • Former President Obama made a stealthy visit to San Jose Sunday night to meet tech industry leaders, NBC Bay Area reports. He came in after a meeting with Warren Buffett in Omaha. The architect for Obama’s presidential library has said that it needs an endowment of $1.5 billion so we know at least one topic of conversation.

  • This is civic tech: Here’s a great recap of the evolution of New York City’s open data policies, written by Craig Campbell for Harvard’s Data-Smart City Solutions. It makes the crucial point that “Five years after open data became law, the program thrives because it still enjoys support and pressure from a variety of community stakeholders. Take, for instance, the New York City Transparency Working Group. This coalition of local civic organizations represents among the strongest collective voices driving more and better open data for New York City. The group is co-chaired by John Kaehny, Executive Director of good government group Reinvent Albany, and Gene Russianoff, who in 1988 helped drive campaign finance laws in NYC that have been replicated around the nation. Its member institutions include the League of Women Voters, which has been active locally in NYC since its inception on the eve of women’s suffrage in 1920, and BetaNYC, a civic technology and open government group that has been connecting New Yorkers with city data since before the existence of the open data law.

  • The city of San Francisco’s Office of Civic Innovation is taking applications for its 2017 Startup In Residence program. Participants will work with San Francisco, Oakland, San Leandro and West Sacramento on one of 20 civic challenges. To find out more, you can sign up for an online briefing March 30 with past participants in the program. (h/t Lawrence Grodeska)

  • Related: The city of Toronto has created a Civic Innovation Office, which will work with city agencies and divisions to identify projects that can be solved through innovative partnerships with outside teams, Jessica Galang reports for BetaKit. The initiative is part of Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Teams program.

  • The Knight Foundation is revamping its Prototype Fund, upping the amount awarded from $35,000 to $50,00 and focusing its next round on projects that focus on misinformation and trust in media, Joseph Lichterman reports for NiemanLab.

  • Resistance jobs: Indivisible is looking to hire several key positions, including a director of policy and research, an organizing director, a digital organizing manager, a data manager, a social media engagement manager and a digital director.

  • Your moment of zen.

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