Prisons Across The U.S. Are Quietly Building Databases Of Incarcerated People’s Voice Prints

Source: George Joseph, Debbie Nathan, The Intercept, January 30, 2019

….Dukes, who was released in October, says he was never told about what that procedure was meant to do. But contracting documents for New York’s new prison phone system, obtained by The Appeal in partnership with The Intercept, and follow-up interviews with prison authorities, indicate that Dukes was right to be suspicious: His audio sample was being “enrolled” into a new voice surveillance system.

In New York and other states across the country, authorities are acquiring technology to extract and digitize the voices of incarcerated people into unique biometric signatures, known as voice prints. Prison authorities have quietly enrolled hundreds of thousands of incarcerated people’s voice prints into large-scale biometric databases. Computer algorithms then draw on these databases to identify the voices taking part in a call and to search for other calls in which the voices of interest are detected. Some programs, like New York’s, even analyze the voices of call recipients outside prisons to track which outsiders speak to multiple prisoners regularly.

Corrections officials representing the states of Texas, Florida, and Arkansas, along with Arizona’s Yavapai and Pinal counties; Alachua County, Florida; and Travis County, Texas, also confirmed that they are actively using voice recognition technology today. And a review of contracting documents identified other jurisdictions that have acquired similar voice-print capture capabilities: Connecticut and Georgia state corrections officials have signed contracts for the technology (Connecticut did not respond to repeated interview requests; Georgia declined to answer questions on the matter)…..

Towards an AI Economy That Works for All

Source: Stephen Herzenberg, Keystone Research Center, February 2019

From the summary:
This is the first report of a Keystone Research Center project on the “Future of Work.” The aim is to identify public policies that could help ensure that the application and diffusion of artificial intelligence (AI) over the next several decades fosters an economy in which Americans generally thrive. The project is motivated, in part, by concern that the opposite could occur: that AI will exacerbate the already high levels of income and wealth inequality in the United States. Our most important conclusion is that AI need not make our inequalities more severe. Creative public policies could lead to an AI economy “that works for the many, not just the few.”

The study design has been informed by the two principal authors’ experience at the one-time Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) of the US Congress. To guide the undertaking and provide feedback on its products, we recruited an advisory panel of nationally recognized academics and representatives of think tanks and the corporate, labor, and non-profit sectors. The project methodology combines interviews with technology experts, policy analysis, synthesis of research literature and, still to come, sectoral studies.

This first report contains three main parts. (1) Following an introduction, Sections II-IV contain an analysis of AI’s likely impacts through the lens of technology. Section II reviews past impacts of innovations including robotics and information technology on the economy and jobs. Section III looks at AI itself, how it does and does not go beyond previous technologies and substitute for human capacities and intelligence. Section IV explores the difficulties of predicting AI’s job impacts. (2) Section V, “The Plight of the American Worker,” considers the labor market context in which AI systems will spread and the roots of the economic inequality from which the nation suffers. (3) Section VI surveys policies that could influence inequality and the distribution of the benefits of productivity growth as AI spreads.

Press Release

An American Approach to Social Democracy: The Forgotten Promise of the Fair Labor Standards Act

Source: Kate Andrias, Yale Law Journal, Vol. 128 no. 3, January 2019

There is a growing consensus among scholars and public policy experts that fundamental labor law reform is necessary in order to reduce the nation’s growing wealth gap. According to conventional wisdom, however, a social democratic approach to labor relations is uniquely un-American—in deep conflict with our traditions and our governing legal regime. This Article calls into question that conventional account. It details a largely forgotten moment in American history: when the early Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) established industry committees of unions, business associations, and the public to set wages on an industry-by-industry basis. Alongside the National Labor Relations Act, the system successfully raised wages for hundreds of thousands of Americans, while helping facilitate unionization and a more egalitarian form of administration. And it succeeded within the basic framework of contemporary constitutional doctrine and statutory law.

By telling the story of FLSA’s industry committees, this Article shows that collective labor law and individual employment law were not, and need not be, understood as discrete regimes—one a labor-driven vision of collective rights and the other built around individual rights subject to litigation and waiver. It also demonstrates that, for longer than is typically recognized, the nation experimented with a form of administration that linked the substantive ends of empowering particular social and economic groups to procedural means that solicited and enabled those same groups’ participation in governance (to the exclusion of other groups). Ultimately, recovering this history provides inspiration for imagining alternatives to the current approach to worker participation in the American political economy and to administrative governance more broadly.

Beyond the Critique of Rights: The Puerto Rico Legal Project and Civil Rights Litigation in America’s Colony

Source: Valeria M. Pelet del Toro, Yale Law Journal, Vol. 128 no. 3, January 2019

Long skeptical of the ability of rights to advance oppressed groups’ political goals, Critical Legal Studies (CLS) scholars might consider a U.S. territory like Puerto Rico and ask, “What good are rights when you live in a colony?” In this Note, I will argue that CLS’s critique of rights, though compelling in the abstract, falters in the political and historical context of Puerto Rico. Although it may appear that rights have failed Puerto Ricans, rights talk has historically provided a framework for effective organizing and community action. Building on the work of Critical Race Theory and LatCrit scholars, this Note counters the CLS intuition that rights talk lacks value by focusing on the origins and development of the Puerto Rico Legal Project, an understudied but critical force for community development and legal advocacy on the island that was founded in response to severe political repression during the late 1970s and early 1980s. This Note draws on original interviews with Puerto Rican and U.S. lawyers and community activists to reveal fissures in the critique of rights and to propose certain revisions to the theory. By concentrating on the entitlements that rights are thought to provide, CLS’s critique of rights ignores the power of rights discourse to organize marginalized communities. The critique of rights also overlooks the value of the collective efforts that go into articulating a particular community’s aspirations through rights talk, efforts which can be empowering and help spur further political action. By analyzing twentieth-century Puerto Rican legal and political history and the Puerto Rico Legal Project, I demonstrate the value (and limits) of rights in a colonized nation.

GINA, Big Data, and the Future of Employee Privacy

Source: Bradley A. Areheart & Jessica L. Roberts, Yale Law Journal, Vol. 128 no. 3, January 2019

Threats to privacy abound in modern society, but individuals currently enjoy little meaningful legal protection for their privacy interests. We argue that the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) offers a blueprint for preventing employers from breaching employee privacy. GINA has faced significant criticism since its enactment in 2008: commentators have dismissed the law as ill-conceived, unnecessary, and ineffective. While we concede that GINA may have failed to alleviate anxieties about medical genetic testing, we assert that it has unappreciated value as an employee-privacy statute. In the era of big data, protections for employee privacy are more pressing than protections against genetic discrimination. Instead of failed legislation, GINA could represent the future of employment law.

U.S. Transportation Infrastructure 2019 Sector Outlook: Mostly Stable, Despite Expected Slower Growth And Unlikely Investment Package

Source: S&P Global Ratings, January 17, 2019
(subscription required)

S&P Global Ratings’ 2019 outlook for business conditions and credit quality across most U.S. public transportation infrastructure sectors, including airports, ports, federal grant-secured, and parking, is stable. We are maintaining our positive outlook for the toll road and bridge sector and revising our outlook for the mass transit sector to negative from stable.

U.S. Public Power and Electric Cooperative Utilities 2019 Sector Outlook: Ratings Stability Persists In A Difficult Era

Source: S&P Global Ratings, January 22, 2019
(subscription required)

S&P Global Ratings believes the U.S. local government sector remains stable and resilient for now. Local governments benefited from positive economic trends in 2018 (such as higher GDP growth and low unemployment), but 2019 already show some signs of slowing…

U.S. Municipal Housing 2019 Sector Outlook: Stable For Now

Source: S&P Global Ratings, January 23, 2019
(subscription required)

S&P Global Ratings’ 2019 outlook for the U.S. public finance (USPF) housing sector is stable, with a few exceptions in certain subsectors. The outlook reflects stronger financial metrics, including asset growth, revenue diversification, and resilient strategy and management in most of the sector. We expect housing issuance volume to continue increasing this year as housing finance agencies (HFAs) expand their issuance of mortgage revenue bonds and more community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and public housing authorities (PHAs) enter the public markets. While S&P Global Ratings forecasts slower economic growth in 2019, last year ended with positive employment information. The combined strength of jobs, number of hours worked, and wages points to a strong income gain to end the year. Adding to that, the continued rise in the labor force participation rate of prime-age workers suggests that there is potentially more room to expand.

U.S. Municipal Water And Sewer Utilities 2019 Sector Outlook: Stable, Although Potential Disruptions Are Not Making Planning Easy

Source: S&P Global Ratings, January 15, 2019
(subscription required)

As the calendar flipped to 2019, many market participants did not use the word “happy” to precede “new year.” January unfolded with a federal government shutdown, the uncertainty related to a new Congress, and a potential debt ceiling due date by August….