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Facial recognition is now rampant. The implications for our freedom are chilling Stephanie Hare

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Last week, all of us who live in the UK, and all who visit us, discovered that our faces were being scanned secretly by private companies and have been for some time. We don't know what these companies are doing with our faces or how long they've been doing it because they refused to share this with the Financial Times, which reported on Monday that facial recognition technology is being used in King's Cross and may be deployed in Canary Wharf, two areas that cover more than 160 acres of London. We are just as ignorant about what has been happening to our faces when they're scanned by the property developers, shopping centres, museums, conference centres and casinos that have also been secretly using facial recognition technology on us, according to the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch. But we can take a good guess. They may be matching us against police watchlists, maintaining their own watchlists or sharing their watchlists with the police, other companies and other governments.


Privacy campaigners warn of UK facial recognition 'epidemic'

The Guardian

Privacy campaigners have warned of an "epidemic" of facial recognition use in shopping centres, museums, conference centres and other private spaces around the UK. An investigation by Big Brother Watch (BBW), which tracks the use of surveillance, has found that private companies are spearheading a rollout of the controversial technology. The group published its findings a day after the information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, announced she was opening an investigation into the use of facial recognition in a major new shopping development in central London. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has already raised questions about the legality of the use of facial recognition at the 27-hectare (67-acre) Granary Square site in King's Cross after its owners admitted using the technology "in the interests of public safety". BBW said it had uncovered that sites across the country were using facial recognition, often without warning visitors.


Facial recognition use prompts call for new laws

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There is growing pressure for more details about the use of facial recognition in London's King's Cross to be disclosed after a watchdog described the deployment as "alarming". Developer Argent has confirmed it uses the technology to "ensure public safety" but did not reveal any details. It raises the issue of how private land used by the public is monitored. The UK's biometrics commissioner said the government needed to update the laws surrounding the technology. Argent is responsible for a 67-acre site close to King's Cross station.


Facebook admits contractors listened to users' recordings without their knowledge

The Guardian

Facebook has become the latest company to admit that human contractors listened to recordings of users without their knowledge, a practice the company now says has been "paused". Citing contractors who worked on the project, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday that the company hired people to listen to audio conversations carried out on Facebook Messenger. The practice involved users who had opted in Messenger to have their voice chats transcribed, the company said. The contractors were tasked with re-transcribing the conversations in order to gauge the accuracy of the automatic transcription tool. "Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago," a Facebook spokesperson told the Guardian.


Apple halts practice of contractors listening in to users on Siri

The Guardian

Apple has suspended its practice of having human contractors listen to users' Siri recordings to "grade" them, following a Guardian report revealing the practice. The company said it would not restart the programme until it had conducted a thorough review of the practice. It has also committed to adding the ability for users to opt out of the quality assurance scheme altogether in a future software update. Apple said: "We are committed to delivering a great Siri experience while protecting user privacy. While we conduct a thorough review, we are suspending Siri grading globally. Additionally, as part of a future software update, users will have the ability to choose to participate in grading."


What does VDL mean for EU tech policy?

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Ursula von der Leyen was elected on Tuesday as the new President of the European Commission by 383 Members of the new European Parliament. She is the first woman to hold the office. A centre-right politician and close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, she was until this week Germany's defense minister. So what does her election mean for EU tech policy over the next five years? We did get a glimpse of her priorities in her Tuesday morning speech addressing the plenary of the European Parliament ahead of her confirmation vote.


Perth council's facial recognition trial accused of 'blanket surveillance'

The Guardian

Perth City council is pressing ahead with a trial of facial recognition technology to be installed in cameras across East Perth, despite concerns from privacy experts and local residents. The network of 30 cameras is set to go live within weeks, amid complaints there has been no proper local consultation since the plans were revealed last year. The cameras are equipped with software that uses deep-learning AI to recognise faces, count passing people and vehicles and track movement. The council said the system was going through final tests, and was expected to be activated within a few weeks. The secretary of the East Perth Community Safety Group, Lyn Schwan, said she was not aware of any community consultation about the trial.


Facial recognition tech: watchdog calls for code to regulate police use

The Guardian

The information commissioner has expressed concern over the lack of a formal legal framework for the use of facial recognition cameras by the police. A barrister for the commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, told a court the current guidelines around automated facial recognition (AFR) technology were "ad hoc" and a clear code was needed. In a landmark case, Ed Bridges, an office worker from Cardiff, claims South Wales police violated his privacy and data protection rights by using AFR on him when he went to buy a sandwich during his lunch break and when he attended a peaceful anti-arms demonstration. The technology maps faces in a crowd and then compares them with a watchlist of images, which can include suspects, missing people or persons of interest to the police. The cameras have been used to scan faces in large crowds in public places such as streets, shopping centres, football crowds and music events such as the Notting Hill carnival.


FDA Eyes Tailored Approach to Regulating AI-Based Medical Devices

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FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is making the most of his final week at the agency. In the month that has passed since Gottlieb rattled the medical device industry with news of his impending resignation, the commissioner has issued 18 public statements pertaining to nearly all corners of the agency's realm, from food, tobacco, and cosmetics to drugs and devices. Friday is Gottlieb's last day on the job. On Tuesday, Gottlieb said the agency will consider a new regulatory framework for reviewing medical devices that use advanced artificial intelligence algorithms. AI has been making headlines in medtech for a while now, and this is certainly not the first time FDA has turned its attention to how AI-based medical devices should be regulated.


Democrats dominate artificial intelligence commission

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A new federal commission on artificial intelligence is being led by Democrats. The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (AI), a federally appointed commission, held its first meeting Monday chaired by former Google executive and billionaire Eric Schmidt, a major donor and informal adviser to former President Barack Obama. The commission's vice chairman is Robert Work, who was deputy defense secretary in the Obama administration. Additionally, the AI commission has hired as a staff member Ylli Bajraktari, a former National Security Council staff member under Mr. Obama. Mr. Bajraktari also was a former aide to Obama Defense Secretary Ash Carter.