Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategorySurveillance

Businessman hand holding tablet and Yuan currency sign on digital map backgroung.Chinese Yuan digital currency and circuit background.Technology digital Financial and china cryptocurrency concept.
Businessman hand holding tablet and Yuan currency sign on digital map backgroung.Chinese Yuan digital currency and circuit background.Technology digital Financial and china cryptocurrency concept.

Why China Is Making a Bold Gamble With Digital Currency

“Controllable anonymity” means that all transactions between individuals are visible to the People’s Bank and trackable by the Chinese government

Last week, China announced the national rollout of the electronic yuan, a plan in the works since 2014. The e-CNY* or Digital Currency Electronics Payment (DCEP) was piloted last year in four major Chinese cities: The digital yuan resides in cyberspace, available on the owner’s mobile phone — or on a card for the less tech-savvy — and spending it doesn’t strictly require an online connection. It appears on a screen with a silhouette of Mao Zedong, looking just like the paper money. In tests in recent months, more than 100,000 people in China have downloaded a mobile-phone app from the central bank enabling them to spend small government handouts of digital cash with merchants, including Chinese outlets of Starbucks…

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Electronics Engineer Works with Robot Checking Voltage and Program Response time. Computer Science Research Laboratory with Specialists Working.

Has the United States Lost Silicon Valley?

Once on friendly terms with the U,S, Department of Defense, Silicon Valley must consider the views of its friends in China

Recently, we learned that China had, for the first time, surpassed the United States in AI patent filings: The development was revealed by Li Yuxiao, Deputy Head of the Chinese Academy of Cyberspace Studies at the 7th World Internet Conference (WIC), reports SCMP. With this, China is now bolstering its position of being a leader in AI. As per the report, China had filed more than 110,000 artificial intelligence patents last year, more than the patents filed by the United States but the number of patents filed by the country has not been disclosed. “China surpasses US for the first time in artificial intelligence patent filings” at TECHregister (November 27, 2020) Now, people have been claiming that innovative competitiveness is…

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Young Man Identified by Biometric Facial Recognition Scanning Process from His Smartphone. Futuristic Concept: Projector Identifies Individual by Illuminating Face by Dots and Scanning with Laser

The New Retail: Cash or Face Scan? Is This Safe?

Retailers, anxious to speed up checkout lineups tend to brush off privacy and security concerns about payment by face recognition

The new face of retail is yours, according to a latest trend — paying with your face via biometric scanning. Russia’s largest food retailer, X5 Retail Group, in partnership with VISA and Sber (a bank), is introducing payment via facial recognition (face scanning) at the checkout counters of supermarkets and convenience stores. The trial at 52 stores succeeded well enough that the firm hopes to institute “facepay” (?) at 3000 stores. It works, at least technically, because we are more unique than we think: With the huge rise in digital wallets, biometrics – face or hand recognition – has started to become more popular as the safest means of protecting customers from identity fraud. Because nobody can replicate or guess…

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Cell phone addiction.

Getting Used to Liquid Modernity

The only constant of liquid modernity is change, chiefly of the self, but also of the self's surroundings

(Reprinted with permission from the Engineering Ethics Blog of Karl Stephan (pictured) of the Ingram School of Engineering at Texas State University) I do not own a conventional smart phone.  Instead, I intentionally use a style of flip phone whose rugged case and physical numeric keypad buttons won’t be injured by a drop of three or four feet to a concrete surface.  It can receive some texts on its small screen, and I can even send texts after a fashion with the twelve numeric keys, tapping them rapidly one to four times to select the correct letter or punctuation mark.  It won’t do capitals, but you can read texts from me without capitals and still get the message.  It took me a while to…

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Thumbs up on bricks wall

Facebook Exec Admits the Company Has Too Much Power

He worries, talking with an undercover reporter, that Zuckerberg is 36 and is “the ruler” of two billion people

In a video titled “KING ZUCK: Facebook Global Planning Lead Reveals Dire Need For Government Intervention In Facebook” (March 15, 2021), we hear an insider’s view from Benny Thomas, Facebook’s Global Planning Lead— who told what he knew to a Project Veritas undercover reporter. From the undercover interview: Benny Thomas: I’ll make less money but it will be a better thing for the world. Facebook and Google are too powerful and they need to be made less powerful … It needs to be broken up the way the telecom companies were broken up and the oil companies were broken up.” No king in the history of the world has been the ruler of two billion people. And he’s 36. [a…

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Finger touching phone with social media concept and dark background

Why Do Some People Try To Poison Big Tech’s Data Well?

Some social media users confuse Big Tech about their interests so as to preserve privacy and rein in relentless marketing campaigns

Here’s an article on a theme you probably didn’t expect to read about in a top tier tech magazine: How to poison the data Big Tech collects about you. It’s certainly evidence of the growing discontent with Monopoly Power and Big Surveillance: Now researchers at Northwestern University are suggesting new ways to redress this power imbalance by treating our collective data as a bargaining chip. Tech giants may have fancy algorithms at their disposal, but they are meaningless without enough of the right data to train on. Karen Hao, “How to poison the data that Big Tech uses to surveil you” at Technology Review (March 5, 2021) Researchers Nicholas Vincent and Hanlin Li presented a paper at the recent Association…

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fast food

What If Government Knows You Ate a Big Mac — and Doesn’t Approve?

One spur to the development of cryptocurrencies is a desire for privacy. And a growing number of citizens of societies dominated by Big Tech feel the need for privacy

That title question is not a crazy notion. It’s already happening in mostly cashless China. The Constitution and the law may not be the barrier that many suppose in America if your personal choices make it possible. We need to talk about the unpublicized implications of a cashless society. Bernard Fickser, whose work we profiled yesterday, thinks that surveillance creep is one of the factors driving the growing interest in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Yesterday we talked about the increasing popularity of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) — government should just print money to satisfy social demands and then raise taxes to pay for the choices made. A triumph of MMT would intensify the competition between government-issued currencies and cryptocurrencies…

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hacker virus malware attack during coronavirus pandemic concept

Computer Hacks of Governments, Hospitals, Firms Increase

Even the ones we depend on are vulnerable. They’re not always anxious to talk about it

It’s not just companies, it’s countries that get hacked these days. Here are some examples from the United States: ➤ The big story was the Solar Winds case last month. One version is that an intern thought that SolarWinds123 was a safe password: At this point though, it’s still uncertain whether the password leak played a role in the SolarWinds hack, CNN noted, which is believed to be the largest foreign intrusion campaign in U.S. history. This month, White House national security adviser Anne Neuberger stated that approximately 100 different companies and nine federal agencies, including the one that oversees the country’s nuclear weapons, had been compromised by foreign hackers. Jody Serrano, “SolarWinds Officials Throw Intern Under the Bus for…

Machine learning , artificial intelligence , ai, deep learning blockchain neural network concept. Brain made with shining wireframe above multiple blockchain cpu on circuit board 3d render.

Why Oxford’s John Lennox Wrote a Book on AI Promises and Threats

His book 2084 leans on George Orwell’s 1984 but takes its inspiration from C. S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength

Recently, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed Oxford mathematician John Lennox on his latest book 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (2020). He focused on why Lennox chose that theme and how far we have caught up with George Orwell’s 1984. Here are some excerpts from the combined interviews in “John Lennox on Artificial Intelligence and Humanity”: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-123-John-Lennox.mp3 A partial transcript follows, along with highlights, Show Notes, and Resources: Robert J. Marks (starting at roughly 1:40 min): Many of Orwell’s predictions about communism were proven. So what will be the effects of AI a century later in the year 2084? Replacing George Orwell is Dr. John Lennox who has written 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future…

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Social scoring and rating symbol abstract 3d illustration

Face recognition: Is the U.S. Copying China’s Surveillance State?

Although facial recognition (and the resulting “social credit score”) prevail in China, the technology is getting pushback in America

In a recent article, I recounted the story of Dana Kurtbek, who has faced harassment from the DHS and the FBI after facial recognition technology and anonymous reports placed her inside the Capitol Building during the riot on January 6th. By her own account, she never came closer than a mile from the Capitol. She expressed concern to Mind Matters News that the continuing harassment may have resulted from neighbors who disagree with her pro-Trump views reporting her to the federal government. Facial recognition technology and neighbors as informants may sound strange to American ears, but in China, both are essential elements of the Chinese Communist Party’s technocratic regime. In 2014, China unveiled a social credit system that Human Rights…

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Like facebook 3d box with white background. 3d rendering

Who’s Afraid of Facebook? Maybe We Should All Be More Wary

A whistleblower showed that rules are enforced very unevenly. Facebook allows extremist language to flourish in some venues and censors mainstream speech in others

Facebook is, according to Fortune Magazine, the “dominant social media app,” with $84.2 billion in revenue in 2019, especially after acquiring Instagram. So dominant that government hearings into questionable activities offer mere slaps on the wrist. There is a reason for that, as we shall soon see. Facebook is, of course, a censor but at best a clumsy one. It removed a page by international disease experts critical of the COVID lockdowns, as if they were mere health cranks. Recently, Facebook announced that it plans to continue to take down posts whose claims its fact checkers “deem false” (February 8, 2021). To get some sense of what that means, Facebook censored an article at UnHerd that was critical of the…

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Classic club sandwich with ham and bacon on a wooden board. Next cup is a mixture of pickled miniature onions, gherkins, tomatoes. Gray background. Close-up.

For Five Days There Was Free Expression in China

Then censors blocked the Clubhouse app

In March 2020, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Paul Davidson and former Google engineer Rohan Seth launched their newest app, Clubhouse. The app is an invite-only audio chat app that lets users talk in virtual rooms. These conversations can be one-on-one or they could have an audience of up to 5,000 users (the current room limit in the beta version of the app). The app is only available on the iPhone and, once invited, users must use their actual phone number and Apple ID to join. Each user is only allowed to invite up to five people. The app’s exclusive nature gave it the tantalizing aura of the “next-big-thing” among the tech types. On January 31, Space-X’s Elon Musk made an appearance…

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Ring fire in black

AI profs: Beware “Black Ball” Tech That Could Destroy the Planet

Oxford Future of Humanity researchers contemplate a technology with immense destructive powers that is easy to access and use

Nick Bostrom and Matthew van der Merwe of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute offer a sticky question: What if we invented a “black ball” technology, one that destroyed human civilization? In the wake of Hiroshima, many people predicted that nuclear technologies would destroy the world. Albert Einstein is purported to have said, “I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” However, say Bostrom and van der Merwe, to make nuclear technology work for you, you need to be a nuclear physicist. One might add that radioactive materials also “send messages.” Figuring out what untrusted actors are doing with nukes did not prove to be…

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facial recognition concept

False Identification: One Woman’s Facial Recognition Nightmare

Government security officials and the ACLU stay mum, despite repeated requests for information, involvement in the Pennsylvania woman’s case

After attending a pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C., on January 6, a Pennsylvania woman has told media, she has been interrogated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and visited by the FBI. She and her daughter have both been subjected to repeated security screenings before boarding flights. Federal security officials have reportedly claimed that facial recognition technology and anonymous reports place the woman inside the Capitol Building, among those who entered illegally on January 6. She insists she never went near the Capitol, let alone engaged in any illegal activity. Repeated inquiries from Mind Matters News to the DHS and FBI about their targeting of the woman and her daughter have been ignored. So have inquiries to the American…

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Kashgar, China - with more than 80% of the population made by Uyghurs, Kashgar displays a lot of Islamic landmarks. Here in particular the Id Kah Mosque, the biggest mosque in China

Leaked Police Database: Total Surveillance of China’s Uyghurs

Human Rights Watch notes that many countries engage in human rights abuses, but “more than any other government, Beijing has made technology central to its repression.”

Human Rights Watch has released its 2021 annual report of global human rights abuses in 2020. In his keynote article, Executive Director Kenneth Roth said “this has been the darkest period for human rights in China since the 1989 massacre that ended the Tiananmen Square democracy movement.” The report outlines several ways that the Chinese Communist Party has repressed Chinese citizens. Among those are the Uyghurs, an ethnically Turkish majority Muslim people living in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in western China. The CCP continues to use every means, including massive technological surveillance, to control the Uyghur population. This is the second year that China has been one of the biggest offenders of human rights. Last year’s keynote article pointed out…

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The concept of biased views judged by appearances. Various miniature people standing behind the glasses.

How Bias Can Be Coded Into Unthinking Programs

MIT researcher Joy Buolamwini started the project as a trivial “bathroom mirror” message

Coded Bias, a new documentary by 7th Empire Media that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020, looks at the ways algorithms and machine learning can perpetuate racism, sexism, and infringements on civil liberties. The film calls for accountability and transparency in artificial intelligence systems, which are algorithms that sift large amounts of data to make predictions, as well as regulations on how these systems can be used and who has access to the data. The documentary follows the path of MIT researcher Joy Buolamwini. Buolamwini took a class on science fiction and technology in which one of her assignments was to create a piece of technology that isn’t necessarily useful but is inspired by science fiction. Buolamwini…

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Mosquito stuck in honey

Hi Tech and China: The Long Game re Spying in the United States

The relationship between California’s Eric Swalwell and Fang Fang could be a thriller. But they say it really happened

An investigative report from news site Axios reveals that Christine Fang (better known as Fang Fang), a fundraiser for Representative Eric Swalwell (D.–California), not only interacted with political elites in California but cultivated relationships with two Midwestern governors. She is also accused of being a spy for China from 2011 to 2015. This story adds to the growing evidence that China is playing the long-game of influencing American politics: Start with promising figures at the bottom, not at the top: The case demonstrates China’s strategy of cultivating relationships that may take years or even decades to bear fruit. The Chinese Communist Party knows that today’s mayors and city council members are tomorrow’s governors and members of Congress.” Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and…

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3D rendering of a futuristic robot dog.

Questions Dog the Future of Police Robots

Robots will have all the human judgment flaws but none of the capacity to change

Here’s a snippet from a recent New York Times article on the apparent first use of police robots in the United States in 2016, to kill Micah Xavier Johnson. Johnson had been discharged from the U.S. Army under unclear circumstances and in July of that year he shot five officers dead. Like almost all police robots in use today, the Dallas device was a straightforward remote-control platform. But more sophisticated robots are being developed in labs around the world, and they will use artificial intelligence to do much more. A robot with algorithms for, say, facial recognition, or predicting people’s actions, or deciding on its own to fire “nonlethal” projectiles is a robot that many researchers find problematic. The reason:…

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digital world

China’s Eyes Are Watching Africa Closely

In exchange for help with high-tech communication systems, China gets to install mass surveillance technology

Depending on who you talk to, the twenty-year relationship between China and several countries in the African Union has been described as everything from mutually beneficial to asymmetric and dysfunctional right down to exploitative and neo-colonialist. Recent pre-COVID-19 surveys indicate that citizens of several African nations see their country’s interaction with China as largely positive. But if some African science fiction writers are any indicator, others see a dystopian future. The current onslaught of high-tech surveillance technologies from China provides a chance to compare the two views. Recently, I have written about racial tensions between African nationals and local government in Guangzhou amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and about how the pandemic has worsened African countries’ debt crisis, particularly due to…

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Ai identify person technology for recognize, classify and predict human behavior for safety. Futuristic artificial intelligence. Surveillance and data collection of citizens through city cameras.

The Information We Just Give Away Obliterates Privacy

Privacy may turn out to be one of the biggest political issues of the new decade

A story came to light at VICE in 2017, that the CIA spied on people through their smart TVs. Without getting into those weeds, note this conventional warning offered by manufacturers: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.” An old birdwatcher’s tip: If you can see them, assume they can see you. If the internet is wide open to us, we are potentially wide open to the internet. Here are three surveillance issues worth pondering, about the systems we take for granted: ➤ Alexa employees listen in: Amazon.com Inc. employs thousands of people…