Tech Today: March 3, 2021

Tech Today: March 3, 2021

Here’s what you need to know about what happened in tech today:

Police suddenly concerned about Ring camera privacy
Amazon’s Ring cameras are effectively built as a neighborhood surveillance network: They capture anything and everything in front of them, including delivery people, cars on the road, pedestrians on the sidewalk. Police absolutely love them, to the tune of requesting 20,000 videos from Ring users through the dedicated law enforcement portal.
But now, police are realizing that “anything and everything” includes them. A suspect in Florida shot and killed two FBI agents approaching his home last month after seeing them on his home security system. According to the Washington Post, another person “‘was able to see and hear everything happening at his residence’ when [police] executed a search.”

Flock: The ‘Ring doorbell of License Plate Recognition’
There’s a huge story out in Motherboard this morning from the prolific Joseph F. Cox about Flock, a company that a Sergeant from the Raleigh Police Department called the ‘Ring doorbell of LPR’. Flock sells their camera and software packages to “law enforcement, homeowners associations and businesses” with the express purpose of reading license plates and identifying plates that don’t “belong” in their neighborhood.
As someone who drives Lyft and DoorDash to make ends meet, this is a scary prospect. My deliveries are already caught on Ring cameras. Am I going to become a suspect in a crime that happened while I was dropping off someone’s Chipotle order?

Perseverance captures beautiful images of Mars
For something slightly different, let’s appreciate what NASA has been able to do. They launched Perseverance nearly seven months ago, and in February it landed on Mars. That’s no small feat! The BBC has a wonderful collection of photos taken by the rover. Congratulations to the engineers, scientists, project managers and every single person who made this possible.

Google’s going to stop tracking you? Not really.
In an announcement this morning, Google says they’re going to “not build alternative identifiers to track individuals as they browse the web, nor will we use them in our products.” The move against third-party cookies – where one site (like Google) tracks your activity on other, unrelated sites – is a positive things and all major browser manufacturers are adopting the change.
But we know that Google, at its core, is a data and advertising business. It requires information on you. The new system they’re using Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) looks interesting on a technical level but doesn’t prevent them from tracking, for example, your searches on their sites. They’ll put you in a cohort (people shopping for office furniture, for example) based on your other activity, and will still theoretically be able to make things as specific as possible (people who searched Ikea in Connecticut). Oh, I’m looking for a new desk chair. Thanks for the ads, Google.