Executives from Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Charter Communications, Google, and Twitter are heading to Washington Wednesday to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on the topic of privacy. As ever, the main question will be: Are these companies doing enough to protect consumer privacy, and if not, what should Congress do about it? It has been the backdrop to just about every hearing with tech leaders over the last year--and there have been many. And yet, the threat of regulation carries new weight this time around. Over the summer, California passed the country's first data privacy bill, giving residents unprecedented control over their data.
A photo from a summer camp posted to the camp's website so parents can view them. Venture capital-backed Waldo Photos has been selling the service to identify specific children in the flood of photos provided daily to parents by many sleep-away camps. Camps working with the Austin, Texas-based company give parents a private code to sign up. When the camp uploads photos taken during activities to its website, Waldo's facial recognition software scans for matches in the parent-provided headshots. Once it finds a match, the Waldo system (as in "Where's Waldo?") then automatically texts the photos to the child's parents.
Florida has stopped testing Amazon's facial recognition program after rights groups raised concerns that the service could be used in ways that could violate civil liberties. Orlando ended a pilot program last week after its contract with Amazon.com Inc to use its Rekognition service expired. 'Partnering with innovative companies to test new technology - while also ensuring we uphold privacy laws and in no way violate the rights of others - is critical to us as we work to further keep our community safe,' the city and the Orlando Police Department said in a joint statement Monday. Orlando was one of several U.S. jurisdictions that Amazon has pitched its service to since unveiling it in late 2016 as a way to detect offensive content and secure public safety.
Residents of Shenzhen don't dare jaywalk. Since April 2017, this city in China's Guangdong province has deployed a rather intense technique to deter jaywalking. Anyone who crosses against the light will find their face, name, and part of their government ID number displayed on a large LED screen above the intersection, thanks to facial recognition devices all over the city. If that feels invasive, you don't even know the half of it. Now, Motherboard reports that a Chinese artificial intelligence company is partnering the system with mobile carriers, so that offenders receive a text message with a fine as soon as they are caught.
WASHINGTON – Apple will let you unlock the iPhone X with your face -- a move likely to bring facial recognition to the masses, along with concerns over how the technology may be used for nefarious purposes. Apple's newest device, set to go on sale on Friday, is designed to be unlocked with a facial scan with a number of privacy safeguards -- as the data will only be stored on the phone and not in any databases. Unlocking one's phone with a face scan may offer added convenience and security for iPhone users, according to Apple, which claims its "neural engine" for FaceID cannot be tricked by a photo or hacker. While other devices have offered facial recognition, Apple is the first to pack the technology allowing for a three-dimensional scan into a hand-held phone. But despite Apple's safeguards, privacy activists fear the widespread use of facial recognition would "normalize" the technology and open the door to broader use by law enforcement, marketers or others of a largely unregulated tool.
Helen of Troy may have had a "face that launch'd a thousand ships", according to Christopher Marlowe, but these days her visage could launch a lot more besides. She could open her bank account with it, authorise online payments, pass through airport security, or raise alarm bells as a potential troublemaker when entering a city (Troy perhaps?). This is because facial recognition technology has evolved at breakneck speed, with consequences that could be benign or altogether more sinister, depending on your point of view. High-definition cameras combined with clever software capable of measuring the scores of "nodal points" on our faces - the distance between the eyes, the length and width of the nose, for example - are now being combined with machine learning that makes the most of ever-enlarging image databases. Applications of the tech are popping up all round the world.