Boston latest big city to take stand against facial recognition software

It’s sadly not surprising that the first false arrest attributed to faulty facial recognition was of a black man in Michigan.

Fast Company:

Boston on Wednesday banned municipal use of facial recognition technology, becoming the largest East Coast city to do so, public radio station WBUR reports.

“Boston should not be using racially discriminatory technology and technology that threatens our basic rights,” said city council member Michelle Wu at a Wednesday hearing, CNET reports.

Facial recognition technology has fallen under heavy criticism, with numerous research reports finding the technology does relatively poorly at recognizing people who aren’t white men. IBM recently announced it would stop offering “general purpose” facial recognition software, and Microsoft and Amazon both announced moratoriums on offering such technology to police.

Boston joins neighboring municipalities Somerville, Cambridge, and Brookline in barring local agencies from using the technology. Other cities, including Oakland and San Francisco in California, already ban the technology as well.

The new ordinance drew praise from civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which in a tweet called attention to Robert Williams, a Black man living in Michigan who was arrested after being falsely matched by such software to someone captured in surveillance footage.

City officials are still allowed to use facial recognition to unlock their own devices, and they can still use the technology to automatically spot faces to redact from photos, CNET reports.

Why it’s hot:

1. We’ve talked about inherent bias in AI before, but whether or not to use it has largely been left up to tech companies and the market. Major municipalities have been reluctant to outright ban the use of facial recognition algorithms in surveillance and policing until recently (maybe because mass surveillance is super appealing to governments looking for a cheap way to police the population). Current events could be turning the tide toward a more just and less dystopian future…but maybe this is just a bump in the road for facial recognition.

2. It’s telling that the current complaints lobbed at facial recognition technology focus on its problems with bias, but focus less on its fundamental problems concerning civil liberties and privacy. Maybe because it’s hard to notice until it affects us. Also maybe because those apps using it are just too much fun.

Source: Fast Company

Firefox founder launches privacy-first browser that rewards users for allowing brands access to them

The beta version has been out for a while, but “Today marks the official launch of Brave 1.0, a free open-source browser. The beta version has already drawn 8 million monthly users, but now, the full stable release is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.

Brave promises to prioritize security by blocking third-party ads, trackers, and autoplay videos automatically. So you don’t need to go into your settings to ensure greater privacy, though you can adjust those settings if you want to.” (The Verge)

Internet heavy hitter Brendan Eich (creator of JavaScript/co-founder of Firefox/Mozilla) just launched the stable version of new privacy-focused Brave browser, employing the idea of a Basic Attention Token (BAT), which allows users to be paid in crypto-currency tokens for allowing brands access to their eyeballs. Eich calls it “a new system for properly valuing user attention.”

He explains it best:

Why it’s hot:

1. As tech giants increasingly impinge on privacy and gobble up every imaginable byte of data about everyone in exchange for “a better user experience,” Brave is claiming to have found a non-zero-sum game that everyone (users, advertisers, and publishers) can benefit from:

  • Users get lots more control over the ads they see and get rewarded with tokens for allowing ads.
  • Advertisers get more precise and engaged audiences, so in theory, better ROAS.
  • Content creators get more control over their publishing and their income. And users can tip content creators on a subscription-style basis not unlike Patreon.

That’s the idea, at least.

2. Its look and feel is very similar to Chrome, so migrating to Brave may be smooth enough to encourage more people to abandon the surveillance-state-as-a-service (SSaaS) that Google is verging on.

Source: The Verge

Is FaceApp an Giant Russian Conspiracy… or Just an App with a Really Severe Privacy Policy

FaceApp has had it’s time in the sun over the past two years. Don’t you remember famous hits like “what you look like as a woman/man” or the very un PC “what you look like as another race”?

This week our entire feeds are filled with FaceApp photos of our friends if they were old. As well as warnings about how the tech is Russian. In our friends defense, the tech is VERY eerie.

https://twitter.com/yashar/status/1151311662592532480

Yes, the FaceApp tech has a very scary privacy/end user agreement:

But the best hot take of all comes from VICE… 

It’s not that the App is Russian is bad, it’s us allowing apps to have this much data about us at all…

“Extracting data from unsuspecting users, selling and sharing that data god-knows-where, and justifying it by providing users unreadable privacy policies is a near-universal practice. It transcends Cold War phobias. It’s not Russian. It’s not American. It’s a fundamentally capitalist practice. Companies can only provide free apps and profit if they scrape and share data from the people that use it.”

WHY ITS HOT?

We allow apps like Facebook, Instagram and snapchat to access much deeper levels of our data than they need, but it takes a true Russian scare to call us to action about this issue.

Can you own your data?

The question is interesting and one that carries a number of issues and questions. In the U.S. marketers are hungry for the best data – the mantra of delivering the best message to the right target at the right time is contingent on what data we can leverage at the individual level. Today we have very good access to data for targeting and messaging, and it’s getting better every day. Companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon are at the forefront (or rather the store front) of that data revolution and are commanding robust ad revenue as a result.

Everything from what you…

  • Like on Instagram
  • Search on Google
  • Check in on Facebook
  • Post on Twitter
  • Tell Alexa
  • Buy on Amazon
  • And more!

…can be used to ascertain your tastes and interest in products and services.

But with the privacy and trust concerns from recent snafus (i.e. Facebook), consumers are wondering how best to protect their data. Some are even pondering if there’s value in “owning” their personal data. But how? We don’t own the databases. We’ve already checked off on the privacy policy and kissing our data away…right?

At least one company is tackling the issue: https://hu-manity.co/

Hu-manity is hoping for a critical mass of users to claim data and set choices. If willing to share data, the app would allow users to reap monetary rewards.

“With the #My31 App consumers can claim a property interest on inherent human data, consent for privacy, authorize for permitted use, and elect for compensation if desired.”

Why it’s hot

If this catches on, it will undoubtedly do two main things: 1. Make data less accessible (and less timely), and 2. Make data more expensive. Marketers may end up depending more on statistical models based on limited data to reach the target audiences.

In an era where marketers have great access to data are becoming even more data-driven, we need to account for a future where greater restrictions and limitations may be put in place.

 

Other Companies:

https://datum.org/https://wibson.org/

Further Reading:

https://bryanjohnson.co/your-data-is-your-property/

https://medium.com/hub-of-all-things/can-you-own-your-data-8a185976ea7d

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612588/its-time-for-a-bill-of-data-rights/

http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20180921-can-you-make-money-selling-your-data