First Read Tech

Biometrics and the Cohen probe … NYPD sends in a drone … and more of today’s tech news

Michael Cohen | Shutterstock
The Latest

FBI sought biometrics use in Cohen probe
An affidavit released on Tuesday revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation requested a warrant to use Michael Cohen’s fingerprints and face to access Apple devices retrieved during a 2018 raid on his office, home, and hotel room in New York. The warrant was approved, although it’s unclear whether law enforcement used the biometrics. (Slate)

Cohen tracked with controversial device
Search warrant documents also revealed that the FBI used a controversial cellphone sweeping technology called Triggerfish to track the whereabouts of Cohen’s two iPhones during that raid last year. (Associated Press)

NYPD drone plays role in arrest
A New York Police Department drone was used to track – and then help arrest – a 49-year-old Brooklyn man armed with what appeared to be a loaded pistol during a daytime standoff in downtown Brooklyn. Cops used the drone to confirm that the man – who was mostly out of sight – had put down his gun when asked. (New York Daily News)

Cuomo ready to ditch film tax credit
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would eliminate the state’s $420 million Film Tax Credit Program, comparing it to tax breaks for Amazon HQ2. Cuomo said legislators should be consistent in their disapproval of tax credits, drawing attention to state Sen. Michael Gianaris, a vehement Amazon critic who supports the film credit program. (New York Post)

Brindisi hears Spectrum complaints
Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi listened as Southern Tier residents complained about internet and cable coverage from Spectrum Cable, which is part of Charter Communications. The company has long been criticized for increasing prices and allegedly promising faster speeds than it is able to provide. (Press & Sun-Bulletin)

Tech’s talent war
Google executive Paul Durrah hyped the company’s expansion into Hudson Square as part of its plans to double its presence in New York City, but noted that as several tech companies grow in cities like Austin and Chicago, the war for tech talent will be a significant issue. (New York Post)

House seeks answers on violent content
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, asked chief executives from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Microsoft to attend a closed-door briefing next week on their efforts to prevent violent videos from being disseminated in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in New Zealand. (The Wall Street Journal)

Facebook halts ad targeting
After years of criticism, Facebook announced that it would stop allowing advertisers in key categories to show their messages only to people of a certain race, gender or age group. The changes are part of a settlement with groups that have sued Facebook over these practices in recent years, including the American Civil Liberties Union. (The New York Times)

Nunes sues Twitter
U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, a Republican from California, has sued Twitter and three users for defamation, claiming the users smeared him and the platform allowed it to happen because of a political agenda. Nunes seeks $250 million in damages. (The New York Times)

Nevada eyes “textalyzer” law
Nevada is considering legislation that would allow police to test for cellphone use at the scene of a car crash. The use of such technology to curb distracted driving also raises privacy concerns, as evidenced by a similar bill failing to advance in New York in 2017. (The Washington Post)


The case for investigating Facebook
Watchdogs and consumers alike report that the quality of Facebook’s products has declined. It has killed innovation and eliminated competitive threats. And the price for advertising on the platform has continued to rise. In other words, there is a smoking gun. (U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, The New York Times)

Public good as a corporate incentive
Amazon’s HQ2 exit will, I suspect, come to be seen as the high-water mark for Big Tech hubris. There are enormous benefits to a city in attracting major tech firms. But I believe we will see far fewer attempts to create vast corporate campuses with helipads, and more effort to integrate into the existing ecosystem. (Yung Wu, TechCrunch)


Drones haven’t clogged the skies...yet
The hype over commercial drones is, so far, largely just that. Regulatory thickets, technical complexity, and the public’s skittishness have proven to be formidable hurdles. But that doesn’t mean there’s likely to be a drone-free future. And maybe there shouldn’t be. (The New York Times)

The great privacy awakening
Despite the theories and suppositions about how data could be misused, for a lot of people, it took Donald Trump’s election, Cambridge Analytica’s loose ties to it, and Facebook’s role in it to see that this squishy, intangible thing called privacy has real-world consequences. (Wired)


The tough-on-tech Republican
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley has emerged as a surprising Republican voice on efforts to crack down on the size and power of companies like Facebook and Google. Hawley has joined Democrats on a number of issues on this front, including investigations into Facebook and writing legislation to extend privacy protections for children. (The Verge)

New York