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Customs Officials Have Copied Americans’ Phone Data at Massive Scale + More • Children’s Health Defense

The Defender’s Big Brother NewsWatch brings you the latest headlines related to governments’ abuse of power, including attacks on democracy, civil liberties and use of mass surveillance.

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Customs Officials Have Copied Americans’ Phone Data at Massive Scale

The Washington Post reported:

U.S. government officials are adding data from as many as 10,000 electronic devices each year to a massive database they’ve compiled from cellphones, iPads and computers seized from travelers at the country’s airports, seaports and border crossings, leaders of Customs and Border Protection told congressional staff in a briefing this summer.

The rapid expansion of the database and the ability of 2,700 CBP officers to access it without a warrant — two details not previously known about the database — have raised alarms in Congress about what use the government has made of the information, much of which is captured from people not suspected of any crime. CBP officials told congressional staff the data is maintained for 15 years.

Details of the database were revealed Thursday in a letter to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who criticized the agency for “allowing indiscriminate rifling through Americans’ private records” and called for stronger privacy protections.

The revelations add new detail to what’s known about the expanding ways that federal investigators use technology that many Americans may not understand or consent to.

My Brother Died Without Loved Ones Amid Strident COVID Restrictions — More Humility From Fauci Would Be Welcome

The Daily Wire reported:

Dr. Anthony Fauci recently announced he will be stepping down from all government positions, including his position as chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden. As the most notable public health official leading America’s response to COVID for the past two and a half years, Fauci has repeatedly declared, “I represent science.”

My family abided by the severe restrictions Fauci demanded of Americans throughout the pandemic. During that time, my parents lost their son — and I lost my brother — to a non-COVID illness.

The devastating consequences of the government-mandated restrictions made his death that much more awful and, in my opinion, more preventable. A little more humility, along with an honest acknowledgment of the steep downsides of the policies he championed, would be a welcome change before Fauci leaves office.

My family did not get to see him one last time to bid farewell. Washington Hospital in Fremont, where he died, informed me that no visitors were allowed — unless the patient was on their death bed, breathing their last breaths. This meant that patients like my brother, who passed away unexpectedly in the middle of the night, died alone or in the company of medical personnel.

Johnson County Teen’s Fentanyl Death Spurs Bill to Hold Social Media Accountable

The Kansas City Star reported:

The death last year of a Johnson County teenager poisoned by fentanyl has led to a congressional effort to make social media companies report illegal drug activity on their platforms.

The Cooper Davis Act, introduced Thursday by Republican Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas, requires communication service providers to work more closely with federal authorities who need data to fight illegal drug sales.

Cooper’s parents had told The Star the pill laced with the synthetic opioid that killed their 16-year-old son was purchased by a friend who used Snapchat to hook up with a dealer in Missouri. Cooper and his friends thought they were taking Percocet pills. He was the only one who died.

Marshall has described his proposal as a way to hold social media companies accountable. Law enforcement officials warn that an alarming rate of fentanyl-laced pills is sold through TikTok, Snapchat and other popular social media sites. Drug cartels trafficking fentanyl in the United States use vast distribution networks on social media, Marshall says.

Star Alliance Wants Half Its Airline Members to Use Biometrics by 2025

Reuters reported:

Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline alliance, wants roughly half its 26 members to use biometrics technology by 2025, as passenger demand grows for contactless travel and less airport congestion after COVID-19.

By increasing the number of airport touchpoints where passengers can use biometrics technology, such as facial comparison which allows someone to use their face as a boarding pass, Star Alliance hopes to reduce processing time through airport security, baggage drop, departure gates and lounges.

The group wants 12 to 15 airlines, or roughly double the current number, to either use its biometrics strategy or ensure compatibility, said Christian Draeger, vice president of customer experience.

In addition to airlines, Star Alliance also hopes the four European airports that are participating in its biometrics program will add additional touchpoints, as well as increase the number of participating airports.

Marine Corps Rescinds Penalties for Service Members Seeking COVID Vax Religious Accommodations

Fox News reported:

The U.S. Marine Corps is rolling back strict punishments for service members seeking religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine, including ending involuntary terminations and delays of promotions for those refusing the shot.

According to a new “interim guidance,” signed Sept. 14 and posted quietly online, the message “amends actions” directed toward unvaccinated Marines whose religious accommodation requests were denied and who appealed the decision.

The memo states that the amended guidance comes after a U.S. Federal District Court in Florida issued a preliminary injunction on Aug. 18 prohibiting the Marines from taking “certain actions” against those seeking religious exemptions.

The guidance says the “Marine Corps will not enforce any order to accept COVID-19 vaccination, administratively separate, or retaliate against Marines in the class for asserting statutory rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).”

NYPD Cop Can’t Be Fired for Not Having COVID Vaccine, Judge Rules

New York Post reported:

An NYPD cop who sued over the city’s COVID vaccine mandate can’t be fired for not having the jab, according to a new “precedent-setting” ruling that could help nearly two dozen police officers who’ve filed similar cases, The Post has learned.

A Manhattan judge said Officer Alexander Deletto, 43, should be allowed to keep his job, noting in a Tuesday ruling that the city gave the Brooklyn cop no explanation for why it rejected his religious exemption application.

This is the first such ruling in an NYPD officer’s case fighting their possible firing over the mandate, according to attorney James Mermigis, who is representing Deletto and has been dubbed “the anti-shutdown” lawyer for taking on a slew of pandemic-related litigation.

As of July, more than 1,750 city workers were fired for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine — including at least 36 from the NYPD.

Adams Should Follow the Science and End the Useless COVID Vaccine Mandate for NYC Workers

SI Live reported:

Few things feel more senseless and out of touch these days than New York City’s continued vaccine mandate for private sector workers and municipal employees.

After all this time, workers are still required to be vaccinated in order to go to their offices and the city still maniacally looks to fire public employees who refuse the jab. When will the madness end?

New York City has also done away with some of its mandates, including the ludicrous mask mandate for city schoolchildren.

But the worker vaccine mandate remains in place. Whatever happened to following the science? It’s another of those great inconsistencies we’ve seen all throughout the pandemic, inconsistencies that have undermined public trust in the experts.

HHS Debuts Ads for Updated COVID Booster, Focusing on Adults 50 and Older

CNN Health reported:

As part of the White House’s COVID-19 response plan for the fall, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is debuting a video ad to encourage people to get the updated COVID-19 booster shot — especially those who are 50 and older.

In the new video advertisement from the public education campaign, released Thursday and titled “At Risk,” the text reads “9 out of 10 COVID deaths were people over 50” and “vaccines lower the risk of death,” as the music plays in the background. “So get your updated COVID vaccine. Now.”

An English version of the ad begins airing on television Thursday, and a Spanish version will air beginning Monday, according to HHS. These ads, first reported on CNN, also will go live on radio and online, and a print campaign is expected Monday.

As Pima County Vaccine Mandates End, It’s Looking for Ways to Keep Vaccine Rate up

KOLD News 13 reported:

The Pima County Board of Supervisors will vote next week on whether to give its employees who choose to be vaccinated against COVID, two days of leave time and 16 hours off with pay.

“To make sure the employees have that opportunity, that incentive, some extra leave to do the right thing for their families, their colleagues and their own families,” said District 2 Supervisor Matt Heinz. “And make sure they get protected.”

The reason is that the county has an 86% vaccination compliance rate and would like to keep it there. The vaccine mandates the county imposed on its workers last year will go away on Sept. 24 because of a law passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor which prohibits mandatory vaccine requirements. The county feels that’s one reason why the compliance rate is so high.

And whether this works to help incentivize the workers isn’t a sure thing either. It depends on whether it’s a benefit or whether some may say it discriminates against those who don’t want to get vaccinated. That’s yet to be debated.

YouTube’s Updating Its Ad Format to Better Sell You Stuff on Vertical Videos

Gizmodo reported:

It’s well established that, if a major tech company sees another platform succeeding based on a (relatively) original idea, it’s going to want to shamelessly copy that idea. And it’s probably also going to want some upgraded ad tech to go with it.

Google is expanding the number of ways that vertical ads can end up on its video platforms. The company is piloting a feature for advertisers that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to take horizontal ads, formatted for standard YouTube videos, and automatically translate them into vertical ads, optimized for YouTube Shorts, the company’s TikTok clone. Google, which owns YouTube, announced the change in a Thursday blog post.

Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have already all done their best to rip off TikTok, following the platform’s runaway success (especially with young users.)

And now, to accompany Google’s TikTok transition, we have YouTube ads, auto-chopped and screwed. The AI feature appears to make wide ads narrow by focusing specifically on peoples’ faces as well as logos and text in the original video.

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