We Built an ‘Unbelievable’ (but Legal) Facial Recognition Machine — from nytimes.com by Sahil Chinoy

“The future of human flourishing depends upon facial recognition technology being banned,” wrote Woodrow Hartzog, a professor of law and computer science at Northeastern, and Evan Selinger, a professor of philosophy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, last year. ‘Otherwise, people won’t know what it’s like to be in public without being automatically identified, profiled, and potentially exploited.’ Facial recognition is categorically different from other forms of surveillance, Mr. Hartzog said, and uniquely dangerous. Faces are hard to hide and can be observed from far away, unlike a fingerprint. Name and face databases of law-abiding citizens, like driver’s license records, already exist. And for the most part, facial recognition surveillance can be set up using cameras already on the streets.” — Sahil Chinoy; per a weekly e-newsletter from Sam DeBrule at Machine Learnings in Berkeley, CA

Excerpt:

Most people pass through some type of public space in their daily routine — sidewalks, roads, train stations. Thousands walk through Bryant Park every day. But we generally think that a detailed log of our location, and a list of the people we’re with, is private. Facial recognition, applied to the web of cameras that already exists in most cities, is a threat to that privacy.

To demonstrate how easy it is to track people without their knowledge, we collected public images of people who worked near Bryant Park (available on their employers’ websites, for the most part) and ran one day of footage through Amazon’s commercial facial recognition service. Our system detected 2,750 faces from a nine-hour period (not necessarily unique people, since a person could be captured in multiple frames). It returned several possible identifications, including one frame matched to a head shot of Richard Madonna, a professor at the SUNY College of Optometry, with an 89 percent similarity score. The total cost: about $60.

 

 

 

 

From DSC:
What do you think about this emerging technology and its potential impact on our society — and on other societies like China? Again I ask…what kind of future do we want?

As for me, my face is against the use of facial recognition technology in the United States — as I don’t trust where this could lead.

This wild, wild, west situation continues to develop. For example, note how AI and facial recognition get their foot in the door via techs installed years ago:

The cameras in Bryant Park were installed more than a decade ago so that people could see whether the lawn was open for sunbathing, for example, or check how busy the ice skating rink was in the winter. They are not intended to be a security device, according to the corporation that runs the park.

So Amazon’s use of facial recognition is but another foot in the door. 

This needs to be stopped. Now.

 

Facial recognition technology is a menace disguised as a gift. It’s an irresistible tool for oppression that’s perfectly suited for governments to display unprecedented authoritarian control and an all-out privacy-eviscerating machine.

We should keep this Trojan horse outside of the city. (source)

 

AI’s white guy problem isn’t going away — from technologyreview.com by Karen Hao
A new report says current initiatives to fix the field’s diversity crisis are too narrow and shallow to be effective.

Excerpt:

The numbers tell the tale of the AI industry’s dire lack of diversity. Women account for only 18% of authors at leading AI conferences, 20% of AI professorships, and 15% and 10% of research staff at Facebook and Google, respectively. Racial diversity is even worse: black workers represent only 2.5% of Google’s entire workforce and 4% of Facebook’s and Microsoft’s. No data is available for transgender people and other gender minorities—but it’s unlikely the trend is being bucked there either.

This is deeply troubling when the influence of the industry has dramatically grown to affect everything from hiring and housing to criminal justice and the military. Along the way, the technology has automated the biases of its creators to alarming effect: devaluing women’s résumés, perpetuating employment and housing discrimination, and enshrining racist policing practices and prison convictions.

 

Along these lines, also see:

‘Disastrous’ lack of diversity in AI industry perpetuates bias, study finds — from by theguardian.com by Kari Paul
Report says an overwhelmingly white and male field has reached ‘a moment of reckoning’ over discriminatory systems

Excerpt:

Lack of diversity in the artificial intelligence field has reached “a moment of reckoning”, according to new findings published by a New York University research center. A “diversity disaster” has contributed to flawed systems that perpetuate gender and racial biases found the survey, published by the AI Now Institute, of more than 150 studies and reports.

The AI field, which is overwhelmingly white and male, is at risk of replicating or perpetuating historical biases and power imbalances, the report said. Examples cited include image recognition services making offensive classifications of minorities, chatbots adopting hate speech, and Amazon technology failing to recognize users with darker skin colors. The biases of systems built by the AI industry can be largely attributed to the lack of diversity within the field itself, the report said.

 

 

 

Addendum on 4/20/19:

Amazon is now making its delivery drivers take selfies — from theverge.com by Shannon Liao
It will then use facial recognition to double-check

From DSC:
I don’t like this piece re: Amazon’s use of facial recognition at all. Some organization like Amazon asserts that they need facial recognition to deliver services to its customers, and then, the next thing we know, facial recognition gets its foot in the door…sneaks in the back way into society’s house. By then, it’s much harder to get rid of. We end up with what’s currently happening in China. I don’t want to pay for anything with my face. Ever. As Mark Zuckerberg has demonstrated time and again, I don’t trust humankind to handle this kind of power. Plus, the developing surveillance states by several governments is a chilling thing indeed. China is using it to identify/track Muslims.

China using AI to track Muslims

Can you think of some “groups” that people might be in that could be banned from receiving goods and services? I can. 

The appalling lack of privacy that’s going on in several societies throughout the globe has got to be stopped. 

 

 

A Chinese subway is experimenting with facial recognition to pay for fares — from theverge.com by Shannon Liao

Excerpt:

Scanning your face on a screen to get into the subway might not be that far off in the future. In China’s tech capital, Shenzhen, a local subway operator is testing facial recognition subway access, powered by a 5G network, as spotted by the South China Morning Post.

The trial is limited to a single station thus far, and it’s not immediately clear how this will work for twins or lookalikes. People entering the station can scan their faces on the screen where they would normally have tapped their phones or subway cards. Their fare then gets automatically deducted from their linked accounts. They will need to have registered their facial data beforehand and linked a payment method to their subway account.

 

 

From DSC:
I don’t want this type of thing here in the United States. But…now what do I do? What about you? What can we do? What paths are open to us to stop this?

I would argue that the new, developing, technological “Wild Wests” in many societies throughout the globe could be dangerous to our futures. Why? Because the pace of change has changed. And these new Wild Wests now have emerging, powerful, ever-more invasive (i.e., privacy-stealing) technologies to deal with — the likes of which the world has never seen or encountered before. With this new, rapid pace of change, societies aren’t able to keep up.

And who is going to use the data? Governments? Large tech companies? Other?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m generally pro-technology. But this new pace of change could wreak havoc on us. We need time to weigh in on these emerging techs.

 

Addendum on 3/20/19:

  • Chinese Facial Recognition Database Exposes 2.5 Million People — from futurumresearch.com by Shelly Kramer
    Excerpt:
    An artificial intelligence company operating a facial recognition system in China recently left its database exposed online, leaving the personal information of some 2.5 million Chinese citizens vulnerable. Considering how much the Chinese government relies on facial recognition technology, this is a big deal—for both the Chinese government and Chinese citizens.

 

 

How MIT’s Mini Cheetah Can Help Accelerate Robotics Research — from spectrum.ieee.org by Evan Ackerman
Sangbae Kim talks to us about the new Mini Cheetah quadruped and his future plans for the robot

 

 

From DSC:
Sorry, but while the video/robot is incredible, a feeling in the pit of my stomach makes me reflect upon what’s likely happening along these lines in the militaries throughout the globe…I don’t mean to be a fear monger, but rather a realist.

 

 

Why AI is a threat to democracy — and what we can do to stop it — from technologyreview.com by Karen Hao and Amy Webb

Excerpt:

Universities must create space in their programs for hybrid degrees. They should incentivize CS students to study comparative literature, world religions, microeconomics, cultural anthropology and similar courses in other departments. They should champion dual degree programs in computer science and international relations, theology, political science, philosophy, public health, education and the like. Ethics should not be taught as a stand-alone class, something to simply check off a list. Schools must incentivize even tenured professors to weave complicated discussions of bias, risk, philosophy, religion, gender, and ethics in their courses.

One of my biggest recommendations is the formation of GAIA, what I call the Global Alliance on Intelligence Augmentation. At the moment people around the world have very different attitudes and approaches when it comes to data collection and sharing, what can and should be automated, and what a future with more generally intelligent systems might look like. So I think we should create some kind of central organization that can develop global norms and standards, some kind of guardrails to imbue not just American or Chinese ideals inside AI systems, but worldviews that are much more representative of everybody.

Most of all, we have to be willing to think about this much longer-term, not just five years from now. We need to stop saying, “Well, we can’t predict the future, so let’s not worry about it right now.” It’s true, we can’t predict the future. But we can certainly do a better job of planning for it.

 

 

 

Google and Microsoft warn that AI may do dumb things — from wired.com by Tom Simonite

Excerpt:

Alphabet likes to position itself as a leader in AI research, but it was six months behind rival Microsoft in warning investors about the technology’s ethical risks. The AI disclosure in Google’s latest filing reads like a trimmed down version of much fuller language Microsoft put in its most recent annual SEC report, filed last August:

“AI algorithms may be flawed. Datasets may be insufficient or contain biased information. Inappropriate or controversial data practices by Microsoft or others could impair the acceptance of AI solutions. These deficiencies could undermine the decisions, predictions, or analysis AI applications produce, subjecting us to competitive harm, legal liability, and brand or reputational harm.”

 

Chinese company leaves Muslim-tracking facial recognition database exposed online — from by Catalin Cimpanu
Researcher finds one of the databases used to track Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang.

Excerpt:

One of the facial recognition databases that the Chinese government is using to track the Uyghur Muslim population in the Xinjiang region has been left open on the internet for months, a Dutch security researcher told ZDNet.

The database belongs to a Chinese company named SenseNets, which according to its website provides video-based crowd analysis and facial recognition technology.

The user data wasn’t just benign usernames, but highly detailed and highly sensitive information that someone would usually find on an ID card, Gevers said. The researcher saw user profiles with information such as names, ID card numbers, ID card issue date, ID card expiration date, sex, nationality, home addresses, dates of birth, photos, and employer.

Some of the descriptive names associated with the “trackers” contained terms such as “mosque,” “hotel,” “police station,” “internet cafe,” “restaurant,” and other places where public cameras would normally be found.

 

From DSC:
Readers of this blog will know that I’m generally pro-technology. But especially focusing in on that last article, to me, privacy is key here. For which group of people from which nation is next? Will Country A next be tracking Christians? Will Country B be tracking people of a given sexual orientation? Will Country C be tracking people with some other characteristic?

Where does it end? Who gets to decide? What will be the costs of being tracked or being a person with whatever certain characteristic one’s government is tracking? What forums are there for combating technologies or features of technologies that we don’t like or want?

We need forums/channels for raising awareness and voting on these emerging technologies. We need informed legislators, senators, lawyers, citizens…we need new laws here…asap.

 

 

 

The real reason tech struggles with algorithmic bias — from wired.com by Yael Eisenstat

Excerpts:

ARE MACHINES RACIST? Are algorithms and artificial intelligence inherently prejudiced? Do Facebook, Google, and Twitter have political biases? Those answers are complicated.

But if the question is whether the tech industry doing enough to address these biases, the straightforward response is no.

Humans cannot wholly avoid bias, as countless studies and publications have shown. Insisting otherwise is an intellectually dishonest and lazy response to a very real problem.

In my six months at Facebook, where I was hired to be the head of global elections integrity ops in the company’s business integrity division, I participated in numerous discussions about the topic. I did not know anyone who intentionally wanted to incorporate bias into their work. But I also did not find anyone who actually knew what it meant to counter bias in any true and methodical way.

 

But the company has created its own sort of insular bubble in which its employees’ perception of the world is the product of a number of biases that are engrained within the Silicon Valley tech and innovation scene.

 

 

 

C-Level View | Feature:
Technology Change: Closing the Knowledge Gap — A Q&A with Mary Grush & Daniel Christian

Excerpts:

Technology changes quickly. People change slowly. The rate of technology change often outpaces our ability to understand it.

It has caused a gap between what’s possible and what’s legal. For example, facial recognition seems to be starting to show up all around us — that’s what’s possible. But what’s legal?

The overarching questions are: What do we really want from these technologies? What kind of future do we want to live in?

Those law schools that expand their understanding of emerging technologies and lead the field in the exploration of related legal issues will achieve greater national prominence.

Daniel Christian

 

 

 

Why Facebook’s banned “Research” app was so invasive — from wired.com by Louise Matsakislo

Excerpts:

Facebook reportedly paid users between the ages of 13 and 35 $20 a month to download the app through beta-testing companies like Applause, BetaBound, and uTest.


Apple typically doesn’t allow app developers to go around the App Store, but its enterprise program is one exception. It’s what allows companies to create custom apps not meant to be downloaded publicly, like an iPad app for signing guests into a corporate office. But Facebook used this program for a consumer research app, which Apple says violates its rules. “Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked, which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data.” Facebook didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Facebook needed to bypass Apple’s usual policies because its Research app is particularly invasive. First, it requires users to install what is known as a “root certificate.” This lets Facebook look at much of your browsing history and other network data, even if it’s encrypted. The certificate is like a shape-shifting passport—with it, Facebook can pretend to be almost anyone it wants.

To use a nondigital analogy, Facebook not only intercepted every letter participants sent and received, it also had the ability to open and read them. All for $20 a month!

Facebook’s latest privacy scandal is a good reminder to be wary of mobile apps that aren’t available for download in official app stores. It’s easy to overlook how much of your information might be collected, or to accidentally install a malicious version of Fortnite, for instance. VPNs can be great privacy tools, but many free ones sell their users’ data in order to make money. Before downloading anything, especially an app that promises to earn you some extra cash, it’s always worth taking another look at the risks involved.

 

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