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This Alternative Credit Agency Lets Immigrants Bring Their Credit With Them Millions of immigrants enter the United States lacking something important for success: a documented financial history or credit score. Unable to prove their reliability to lenders, they find it harder to rent an apartment, lease a car, or get their first credit card. A lack of credit score hobbles immigrants as they try to get a footing in American life. It’s not only poor immigrants who experience inconvenience and hardship, says Misha Esipov, cofounder of an alternative credit scoring startup called Nova Credit . Even people with decent scores in their home countries become “credit invisibles” once they arrive here–consumers who can’t prove their viability to the mainstream U.S. financial system. “The databases are structured differently around the world, they have different standards. But, at the end of the day, they’re capturing substantially the same thing.” [Image: Olena Chernenka/iStock] Traditionally, the credit reporting industry has operated on a nation-by-nation basis. There have been no international standards by which bureaus and their financial clients have shared data about customers. Each time people have emigrated, they’ve effectively gone back to square one–that is, to having little or no credit score in their adopted countries. To Crowdsource Crime-Fighting, A Cop Camera Giant Eyes Your Videos Axon, the police supplier formerly known as Taser and now a leading maker of police body cameras, has also charged into police software with a service that allows police to manage and eventually analyze increasingly large caches of video, like a Dropbox for cops. Now it wants to add the public’s video to the mix. An online tool called Citizen, set to launch later this year, will allow police to solicit the public for photos or video in the aftermath of suspected crimes and ingest them into Axon’s online data platform. Todd Basche, Axon’s executive vice president for worldwide products, said the tool was designed after the company conducted surveys of police customers and the public and found that potentially valuable evidence was not being collected. “They all pointed us to the need to collect evidence that’s out there in the community.” Basche, a former VP of engineering at Apple, cited the mass shooting in Las Vegas, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and the riots in Vancouver in 2011 as cases in which police have tried to gather crime-solving evidence from the public. In some cases, he said, citizen uploads “overwhelmed the website.” Evidence.com, Axon’s subscription-based online video storage and management platform, is designed to keep data encrypted and secured using detailed audit logs, and lets police track, tag, distribute, and redact video as needed. An added piece of software aims to help officers quickly sort through the massive influx of media that may be submitted and decide which are most useful and which aren’t, said Basche. “If a fight breaks out at a football game or something, obviously you can see people taking videos, snapshots of things,” he said. “So both law enforcement said that there’s a need for this, because people are out there who have evidence, and then we wanted to make sure people were comfortable sharing that.” (In a survey Axon conducted of over 1,500 citizens, he said, 65% said they were okay with sharing cellphone pictures and videos with police in this way.) The software lets police departments create a community-wide portal where those with potentially valuable evidence about a particular suspected crime can upload their video, photos, or audio securely. Alternatively, officers at the scene of a crime can personally review evidence captured by bystanders or neighbors, determine if it’s relevant, and then request that they share it. A mobile app lets officers text or email a link to a web portal for uploading. All submissions are entered directly into Evidence.com, “and are immediately logged in the audit trail instead of sitting on your camera roll or in your email,” Axon tells police customers in a brochure. The company won’t store people’s phone numbers, Basche said, and community members can choose to upload their files anonymously, too. (The company warns, however, that this isn’t foolproof: “There is still metadata embedded in the image being submitted,” and images and audio could also be used by police to identify the submitter.) Basche stressed that Citizen’s community-wide portal is meant as a way to gather evidence around specific incidents, not as a general tip box. It is “not for community members to randomly submit evidence and claim a crime has taken place,” he said. “It’s not to rat out your neighbor.” (Last year, Apple’s App Store booted Vigilante, an app that asked users to report any crimes they witnessed; a new version of the app, minus that feature, emerged in March, also under the name Citizen.) Who Watches The Watchers? Anonymity or not, systems like Citizen still raise new privacy and policy questions, and could test the limits of already brittle police-community relations. “While the tool is not intended to be an open-ended ‘tip box,’ has Axon designed the product to guarantee that departments can’t use it as such?” asked Harlan Yu, who has studied police video as a principal at the policy consultancy Upturn. For instance, he wondered, “are there controls that would stop the Las Vegas MPD from keeping an evidence submission link open long after a mass shooting took place?” Axon generally leaves decisions like these up to local departments. Another concern relates to how long a department retains publicly submitted evidence. “Would it follow the retention and disposition schedules for body-worn camera footage, or would it follow some other retention guidelines
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