Newsletter #149: No Facial Recognition for Police

Hello Recompilers,

These days I’m not certain if I’m reading the news or a sourcebook for Shadowrun. The wild thing for me personally though is, I’m so used to us losing all the time it’s hard to really wrap my head around the precipice we stand on, looking down at possibly… winning. Everyone is going to define “winning” differently and that’s for the best, but statues are coming down and cities are considering disbanding the police altogether and seemingly overnight huge swathes of people have woken up to the fact that some problems can’t be solved by patching the software. Some problems are built into the operating system as features and it’s time for a whole new platform.


Microsoft, IBM, and even Amazon have decided to stop selling police facial recognition software to police. Amazon is only putting a one-year moratorium on such sales, presumably to see which way the wind blows so they end up on the right side of history no matter what. IBM is no longer going to develop such software at all until issues around its inherent racial bias can be addressed. Motherboard has offered a full round-up of responses from 43 facial recognition software developers about the issue.

The latest issue of the Tech Worker’s Coalition offers personal statements from various black tech workers. “[I] want this movement to be more than a moment, more than a well-written email. Beyond book clubs and Slack chats, I also don’t want to be afraid to call out the symbiosis between racism and capitalism. It’s so easy for me to share info about empathetic listening, but what about sharing a passionate defense of looting?”

The Plug has compiled a spreadsheet of tech company statements about the uprising. Snapchat decided to stop letting Donald Trump’s calls for violence be featured on the platform. A co-founder of Reddit stepped down, insisting that he be replaced by a black candidate. Thousands of scientists went on strike for Black lives this week. Microsoft employees are demanding that the company cut ties with the Seattle police.

A decent-sized chunk of Seattle has been liberated from police and the national guard and is currently being held as an autonomous zone by residents and protestors sick of the violence they’ve experienced. Here’s an interview with a participant.

Some audio engineers built a DIY-able prototype of an anti-LRAD shield, in case you’re feeling crafty. And it’s probably worth knowing that the SPLC maintains a map of racist monuments across the country.

From an opsec point of view, Twitter has made changes that reduce the ability to remain anonymous on the site, and Tails was recently compromised with a zero-day that Facebook hired a company to discover. (Serious content warning for the article, which describes the tactics and repeats the words of a sexual predator.)


The Final Straw: Hotel Sanctuary in MPLS
The Final Straw talks with Rosemary, an organizer in Minneapolis, about the former Sheraton that was liberated and turned into a sanctuary for houseless people during the uprising.

Conference Talk of the Week:

This talk is part of our “Favorite Talks” YouTube Playlist. Check it out and subscribe! 

Why we Worry About all the Wrong Things

Hilary Stohs-Krause at RailsConf 2020 couch edition talks about anxiety, mental health, and why humans are so bad at threat analysis.


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This newsletter compiled by Margaret Killjoy (@magpiekilljoy). Margaret is an author, activist, and musician based in Appalachia. Her most recent book series is the Danielle Cain novella series, which starts with The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion.

Image by Renoir Gaither (CC0)