Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategorySurveillance

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Desperate woman trying to log into her computer forgot password

Forgot Your Password? Maybe You Can Forget It for Good! But Wait…

Tech companies are trying to develop workarounds for passwords via biometrics — facial recognition, fingerprints, and behavior patterns

A tech writer — maybe not the sort of person you’d expect — confesses that he is terrible with passwords. But he is hardly alone: In 2019, a survey conducted by Google and The Harris Poll found that 24% of Americans use “password,” “123456,” or some other ridiculously easy combination as the key to their online world. More than a third of people in the U.S. and Canada keep their passwords in notebooks or on Excel, according to a 2019 study from HYPR, the self-anointed “passwordless company.” And the same report detailed how 72% of people reuse their passwords in their professional and personal lives, while 49% just add or change a particular digit or character in their passwords when…

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Closeup of unrecognizable little girl using smartphone, focus on hands scrolling through internet, copy space

Drawing a Line: When Tech To Keep People Safe Seems Dangerous

A dispute at the Washington Post about tech aimed at detecting child sex abuse highlights some of the issues

Princeton computer scientists Jonathan Mayer and Anunay Kulshrestha thread that needle:: Earlier this month, Apple unveiled a system that would scan iPhone and iPad photos for child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The announcement sparked a civil liberties firestorm, and Apple’s own employees have been expressing alarm. The company insists reservations about the system are rooted in “misunderstandings.” We disagree. We wrote the only peer-reviewed publication on how to build a system like Apple’s — and we concluded the technology was dangerous. We’re not concerned because we misunderstand how Apple’s system works. The problem is, we understand exactly how it works. Opinion by the Editorial Board: Apple’s new child safety tool comes with privacy trade-offs — just like all the others…

3D rendering illustration of security camera in classroom at school. CCTV camera on ceiling children protection concept.

No, the Surveillance State isn’t Better in the Hands of the Public

Matt Walsh's suggestion that cameras be installed in every classroom is understandable, but it won't teach children to live in a free society

In the modern era, cameras are everywhere. Nearly every person — man, woman, or child — carries a high-end video camera with them everywhere they go on their cell phone. This proliferation of cheap surveillance equipment has caused society to largely re-think the ethics of surveillance. In previous generations, sound and video recording devices were expensive. While recording equipment in general was not out of the reach of ordinary people, miniaturized equipment was, and having enough of it to actually “surveil” someone or something was quite expensive. Today, I can have nondescript cameras set up in each room in my house for just a few hundred dollars. This ability for ordinary people to engage in constant surveillance of their own…

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Dna test in the lab. a laboratory technician with a dispenser in his hands is conducting dna analysis in a sterile laboratory behind glass

China Is Building the World’s Largest Global DNA Database

The government violates the country’s own privacy laws in the name of security and stability

A January 2021 study by a U.K. cybersecurity and privacy watchdog, Comparitech, found that China was the world’s worst offender for “widespread and invasive biometric data collection” out of ninety-six countries studied. The Chinese government aspires to build the world’s largest police-run DNA database. Its Made in China 2025 plan places a priority on building its biotechnology industry, which involves collecting a large number of DNA samples. The way Chinese authorities obtain DNA is often intrusive and without consent. In a previous article, we looked at how U.S. companies’ DNA sequencing and identification technologies end up in Xinjiang despite U.S. sanctions. In this article, we will look at how China is using DNA collection to further its national goals. China’s…

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DNA sequence with colored letters on black background containing mutation

U.S.-Made DNA ID Equipment Is Being Sold to Xinjiang’s Police

Engineering professor Yves Moreau’s research shows that a more serious approach to existing sanctions against such uses is needed

The U.S. leads the world in DNA sequencing technologies. Unfortunately, two U.S. companies’ products are being used in China in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region despite the fact that the U. S. has placed sanctions on such uses. The sanctions were put in place because Chinese authorities surveil and detain Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities without legal precedent and engage in acts that are in violation of the Genocide Convention of 1948. The New York Times, for example, obtained ten contracts, along with government procurement documents, showing that Thermo Fisher Scientific’s and Promega’s equipment is being sold to Xinjiang police: The government procurement documents and contracts show that several Chinese companies sold Thermo Fisher equipment worth at least $521,165 to…

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Bottom view close-up of four white surveillance cameras

What We Lose When We Stop Losing Things

What do we lose when we stop losing things? Amidst all this finding, do we risk losing part of ourselves?

To live is to lose. We’ve all felt the anguish of losing something important — keys, wallet, phone, bags, money, opportunities, loved ones. Loss is part of the human condition. Some things we find again, some we don’t. It has been this way throughout history. But the development of Bluetooth technology in the 1990s forever changed the way we interacted with our possessions. The wireless standard — developed by a consortium of early tech companies — uses low-power short-range radio waves to connect our gear to personal-area networks known as piconets. It got its name rather serendipitously from the medieval Scandinavian king Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson. And just as his rule united Scandinavia, so Bluetooth networking has united our favorite tech…

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Total population control concept with CCTV videocam and small figures of people

A One-Girl War With the Total Surveillance State —Sci-fi Saturday

The acting, ambience, and special effects in “Bolero” are top quality

“Boléro” at DUST by Sarah Gross (June 13, 2021, 17:24) In a future where telepaths are used by the government to monitor the public and root out insurgents, Maya, a non-speaking teen, witnesses her father’s brutal and unjust execution. Set on a path of revenge and destruction, Maya joins the Resistance, hellbent on tracking down Reader 8, the telepath responsible for her father’s death. However, when Maya finally locates her target after years of searching, she is confronted with a choice: either capture Reader 8 and deliver essential intelligence to the Resistance or take him out and fulfill her vengeful quest. Review: “Boléro” debuted at IMDB in 2019 and has deservedly won some industry awards. The acting, ambience, and special…

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accurate facial recognition software detection technology. blur people with facial scan showing digital personal data and social credit

U.S. Ranked #8 in Countries Using Facial Recognition Technology

7 in 10 governments widely use facial recognition technology

A new report has ranked the United States #8 among 100 countries for widespread use of facial recognition technology (FRT). The report came out of Comparitech last week. A team evaluated the 100 most populated countries to compare their use of FRT. The study analyzed the use of FRT in governments, police departments, airports, schools, banks, workplaces, and on public transportation. The U.S. scored 18 on a scale of 0-40 (0 indicating an invasive use of FRT, and 40 indicating no evidence or an outright ban on the technology), pairing it with Mexico for the eighth ranking in the top 10 list. “There is…growing use of this technology within the US, but buses don’t appear to have FRT installed as…

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Young man using modern mobile phone

Does the Company Selling You Tech Have the Same Worldview As You?

A worldview is how we view the world and our place in it.

Much of the technology we interact with today is part of a larger group of ecosystems maintained by major tech companies. If you have an iPhone, for example, you’re often more likely to use a Macbook, watch AppleTV, or subscribe to Apple Music. If you shop on Amazon, you might also have their Echo digital assistant or a Ring video doorbell. And if you Chromebook, you’re likely to use Gmail and maybe have a Pixel. Fueled by brand loyalty, tech ecosystems are part of the workings of a healthy free market. But if you’re going to commit to a tech company by being part of their ecosystem, it’s important to compare the worldview of that company to your own and…

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Divided young couple busy with their smartphones each

The (Magnetic) Force Is Strong With Apple — Here’s How to Resist

To keep the magnetic force in check between Big Tech and us, we must first establish who is boss over our technology

With the iPhone 12, Apple has introduced a new line of accessories that use magnetism to quickly attach and charge the phone. The company has used magnets for years to connect charging adapters and cases. Now they’re adding it to more products with the bet that iPhone users will find the lure of magnetic connection irresistible. As a natural phenomenon, magnetism is as old as dirt and yet it still amazes us when we see it in action. There’s another kind of magnetism at work here, too. It’s the pull of attraction between Apple’s devices and the people who use them. Like many longtime Apple customers, I have felt this attraction since 2008 when I purchased my first iPhone, the 3G.…

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Couleur

How Google’s Chromebook Erodes Your Digital Freedom

A Chromebook is designed to serve up Google services, allowing Google outsized control of your computing experience and your digital identity.

This month, Chromebook turns ten years old. It’s a good time to take a look at Google’s latest Chromebook offering and show you why you can do better. Much better. Although the Pixelbook Go has a hefty price tag and is lighter, thinner, and faster than ever, it’s still just a Chromebook. Here’s why using a Chromebook weakens your computing power, erodes your digital freedom, and reduces your ability to learn and think. “I’ve got the power,” goes the famous 90’s song by Snap!, but you wouldn’t be able to sing that with confidence holding a Chromebook. Somewhere between netbook and notebook, the Chromebook is a physical manifestation of the Google ecosystem, giving customers who already use Google services a…

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mobile connect with security camera

How Much of Your Income — and Life — Does Big Tech Control?

Erik J. Larson reviews the groundbreaking book Surveillance Capitalism, on how big corporations make money out of tracking your every move

In a review of Shoshana Zuboff’s groundbreaking Surveillance Capitalism (2019), computer science historian Erik J. Larson recounts a 1950s conflict of ideas between two pioneers, Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) and John McCarthy (1927–2011). Wiener warned, in his largely forgotten book The Human Use of Human Beings (1950), about “new forms of control made possible by the development of advancing technologies.” McCarthy, by contrast, coined the term “artificial intelligence” (1956), implying his belief in “the official effort to program computers to exhibit human-like intelligence.” His “AI Rules” view came to be expressed not in a mere book but in — probably — hundreds of thousands of media articles warning about or celebrating the triumph of AI over humanity. If you are skeptical…

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conceptual image Chinese stock exchange with digital currency, devaluation of bitcoin or growth of Chinese e-rmb

Will China’s Digital Yuan Displace the US Dollar in Global Trade?

The U.S. dollar became the world’s reserve currency because it was stable and easily transferable. It also enabled the U.S. to penalize sponsors of terrorism and genocide

China has just launched its Digital Currency Electronic Payment System, called variously the electronic yuan or electronic renminbi (abbreviated e-CNY or e-RMB). It will likely thwart Alipay and WeChat Pay’s dominance in China’s financial tech market and allow the government to track almost all financial transactions in real time. There are, of course, international implications to China being the first country to roll out a digital currency backed by the central bank. Can the Digital Yuan Compete with the Dollar for Global Dominance? Some analysts now see China’s move to a digital currency based on blockchain technology as intended to displace the dollar. Right now, eighty-eight percent of global trade interactions are in U.S. dollars, followed by the euro, and…

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Mailman Delivering Mail

U.S. Postal Service Secretly Monitoring Social Media Posts

Legal experts don't understand why the Post Office is involved in online government surveillance

According to a government document obtained by Yahoo News, the U.S. Postal Service has been secretly monitoring the social media posts of American citizens. The covert operation, conspicuously known as the Internet Covert Operations Program (or iCOP), has been conducted by the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service. Normally, USPIS is responsible for protecting the functions of USPS as well as its employees. Branching out into online surveillance is both unexpected and surprising to many experts. “It’s a mystery,” University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone told Yahoo. “I don’t understand why the government would go to the Postal Service for examining the internet for security issues.” Likewise, Rachel Levinson-Waldman, deputy…

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Face recognition and personal identification technologies in street surveillance cameras, law enforcement control.

Canada Orders Facial Recognition App to Cease and Desist

Your face is likely already stored in this app's database

In February, Canada released the findings of a year-long investigation into the US-based facial recognition app, Clearview AI. The investigation declared Clearview’s actions illegal within Canada and ordered the company to cease operations within the country and to remove all Canadian citizens from its database. “What Clearview does is mass surveillance, and it is illegal,” said Canadian Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien. So what is Clearview AI? And why has it raised the ire of our neighbors to the North? Clearview AI, Inc. Clearview AI is a facial recognition company marketed primarily to law enforcement agencies. It boasts a database of over 3 billion facial images “scraped” from public sources online such as news articles and social media sites. In other…

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Collage of portraits of young emotional people on multicolored background in neon. Concept of human emotions, facial expression, sales. Listening to music, delighted, winner, shocked. Flyer for ad

AI Prof Sounds Alarm: AI “Emotion Detectors” Are Faulty Science

An industry worth over $30 billion uses emotion recognition technology (ERT) on school children and potential hires

Kate Crawford, a principal researcher at Microsoft, and author of Atlas of AI (2021), is warning at Nature that the COVID-19 pandemic “is being used as a pretext to push unproven artificial-intelligence tools into workplaces and schools.” The software is touted as able to read the “six basic emotions” via analysis of facial expressions: During the pandemic, technology companies have been pitching their emotion-recognition software for monitoring workers and even children remotely. Take, for example, a system named 4 Little Trees. Developed in Hong Kong, the program claims to assess children’s emotions while they do classwork. It maps facial features to assign each pupil’s emotional state into a category such as happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, surprise and fear. It also…

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…