Editorial roundup

The Marietta Times, June 17

Across the country, one in 167 pregnancies ends in a stillbirth.

That translates to a fetal mortality rate in the U.S. of about 3.98 per 1,000 pregnancies. But in Ohio, the rate is 4.39 per 1,000.

Ohio’s Department of Health is working to do something about that, and has partnered with public awareness campaign Count the Kicks to develop a new smartphone app that may help prevent some stillbirths. It tracks fetal movement during the third trimester of pregnancy by: helping count a baby’s kicks, reminding to pick a time when the baby is active and time how long it takes to get 10 movements, and then reminds to call a doctor immediately if there are changes from what is normal for the baby.

The idea is to give expectant mothers tools and education because they are the people best positioned to evaluate their baby’s health. It has been developed in 10 languages and is available free online, along with other educational resources and information about hospitals, maternal health care providers and social service agencies.

Bravo to the folks at the Department of Health who took a step toward addressing this grim statistic. It may be a small step, but if it saves even one baby, the effort is well worth it.

Online: https://bit.ly/2IobmLN

___The Toledo Blade, June 14

Major hacks of facial-recognition data have long seemed like an inevitability, but that does not make the recent breach of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection subcontractor any less frustrating.

Customs recently revealed that tens of thousands of travelers’ faces may have been compromised after a “malicious cyberattack” targeted an unidentified contractor — though the company Perceptics seems to have been implicated thanks to Custom’s public statement, which was headlined “CBP Perceptics Public Statement.”

These guardians of security and secrecy estimate that fewer than 100,000 people had their photos taken in the data breach.

Concerns about the use of facial-recognition technology and the storage of the resulting data have been growing in recent years. Parallel to that, the government has been expanding its use of facial-recognition systems, particularly at border crossings. CBP is reportedly working to use facial-recognition technology on “100 percent of all international passengers,” including American citizens, within the next several years. And because congressional oversight on this technology is lagging behind, the bureau has been able to move forward without much regulation.

This has allowed Customs to partner with contractors who have a less than stellar track record, like Perceptics.

Just last month, hundreds of gigabits of data were breached at the Tennessee-based company, namely scans of drivers’ license plates that tracked their locations. It is unclear if that data breach is related to the facial-recognition hack, though investigators will surely want to look into such a possibility. Efforts are under way at all levels of government to address the growing use of facial-recognition technology.

San Francisco recently banned city agencies from using the technology and, in Congress, a bill has been introduced by Sens. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.) and Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii) that “would strengthen consumer protections by prohibiting commercial users of facial-recognition technology from collecting and resharing data for identifying or tracking consumers without their consent.”

But the government must begin serious discussions about how to regulate its own use of facial-recognition technology and how to provide meaningful oversight that will limit abuses and system breakdowns.

Without such safeguards in place, more problems are sure to arise and more innocent people will have to pay the price for governmental incompetence and failure.

That is unacceptable.

Online: https://bit.ly/2IKjo0o