Civil Rights & Constitutional Law


New iPhone brings face recognition --and fears -- to the masses

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – Apple will let you unlock the iPhone X with your face -- a move likely to bring facial recognition to the masses, along with concerns over how the technology may be used for nefarious purposes. Apple's newest device, set to go on sale on Friday, is designed to be unlocked with a facial scan with a number of privacy safeguards -- as the data will only be stored on the phone and not in any databases. Unlocking one's phone with a face scan may offer added convenience and security for iPhone users, according to Apple, which claims its "neural engine" for FaceID cannot be tricked by a photo or hacker. While other devices have offered facial recognition, Apple is the first to pack the technology allowing for a three-dimensional scan into a hand-held phone. But despite Apple's safeguards, privacy activists fear the widespread use of facial recognition would "normalize" the technology and open the door to broader use by law enforcement, marketers or others of a largely unregulated tool.


Japan's foreign residents sound off in unprecedented survey on discrimination

The Japan Times

Rent application denials, Japanese-only recruitment and racist taunts are among the most rampant forms of discrimination faced by foreign residents in Japan, according to the results of the country's first nationwide survey on the issue, released Friday. The unprecedented survey of 18,500 expats of varying nationalities at the end of last year paints a comprehensive picture of deeply rooted discrimination in Japan as the nation struggles to acclimate to a recent surge in foreign residents and braces for an even greater surge in tourists in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It also represents the latest in a series of fledgling steps taken by Japan to curb racism, following last year's first-ever video analysis by the Justice Ministry of anti-Korea demonstrations and the enactment of a law to eradicate hate speech. In carrying out the survey, the Justice Ministry commissioned the Center for Human Rights Education and Training, a public foundation, to mail questionnaires to non-Japanese residents in 37 municipalities nationwide. Of the 18,500, 4,252 men and women, or 23.0 percent, provided valid responses.


U.N. votes for Japan co-drafted resolution slamming North Korea for diverting dire food funds to arms programs

The Japan Times

The U.N.'s new rights expert on North Korea, Argentine Tomas Quintana, is In an unusual move, the General Assembly's human rights committee approved Tuesday's resolution sponsored by Japan and the European Union without a vote despite North Korea's vehement opposition. North Korean Counselor Ri Song Chol told the committee before the vote that his government totally rejects the resolution as "full of lies, fabrications," calling it "an illegal and unlawful document, a plot, which is not worth … consideration." The draft resolution expresses "very serious concern" at continuing reports of North Korean human rights violations including torture, rape, public executions, arbitrary executions, severe restrictions on freedom of religion, expression and peaceful assembly, and the absence of due process and the rule of law. Japan's Bessho said North Korea continues to divert its limited resources to develop weapons of mass destruction in spite of the "dire humanitarian situation" in the country, where a U.N. report said 18 million of the country's 24.9 million people need assistance.


U.S. police used Facebook, Twitter data to track protesters: ACLU

The Japan Times

SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. police departments used location data and other user information from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to track protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday. Facebook, which also owns Instagram, and Twitter shut off the data access of Geofeedia, the Chicago-based data vendor that provided data to police, in response to the ACLU findings. "These special data deals were allowing the police to sneak in through a side door and use these powerful platforms to track protesters," said Nicole Ozer, the ACLU's technology and civil liberties policy director. In a tweet, Twitter said that it was "immediately suspending Geofeedia's commercial access to Twitter data," following the ACLU report.


Weaponized robot used by Dallas police opens ethical debate

The Japan Times

While there doesn't appear to be any hard data on the subject, security experts and law enforcement officials said they couldn't recall another time when police deployed a robot with lethal intent. Meanwhile, militaries around the world have come to rely on their robotic friends to disable improvised explosive devices -- a need that only increased with the U.S. occupation of Iraq following its 2003 invasion. One robot developed by China's National Defense University called AnBot has been designed for "an important role in enhancing the country's anti-terrorism and anti-riot measures," according to its website. A 2014 report by Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School's International Human Rights Clinic raised concerns about the use of fully autonomous weapons in law enforcement operations.