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Vestager promises Europe will go its own way on artificial intelligence rules

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Margrethe Vestager, the EU's new souped-up digital and big tech regulator, has promised ethical and human-centred rules on artificial intelligence (AI) in the first 100 days of her mandate. The EU can't be a leader in AI "without ethical guidelines," she told MEPs in her confirmation hearing this week. "The artificial intelligence you want must serve humans. That's a different kind of artificial intelligence" from that seen in the US and China, she said. The new rules will build on the EU's reputation as the world's foremost technology watchdog and regulator of online privacy.


'Alexa, are you invading my privacy?' – the dark side of our voice assistants

The Guardian

One day in 2017, Alexa went rogue. When Martin Josephson, who lives in London, came home from work, he heard his Amazon Echo Dot voice assistant spitting out fragmentary commands, seemingly based on his previous interactions with the device. It appeared to be regurgitating requests to book train tickets for journeys he had already taken and to record TV shows that he had already watched. Josephson had not said the wake word – "Alexa" – to activate it and nothing he said would stop it. It was, he says, "Kafkaesque". This was especially interesting because Josephson (not his real name) was a former Amazon employee.


Big Tech's 'nemesis' in EU gets new term -- and more power

The Japan Times

LONDON – The European Union's competition chief is getting a new term -- with expanded powers -- in a move that underlines how the bloc's battle to regulate big tech companies is only just beginning. Margrethe Vestager, who angered the Trump administration by imposing multibillion-dollar penalties on the likes of Google and Apple, was reappointed Tuesday for a second five-year term as the bloc's competition commissioner. The Danish politician's tasks will include strengthening competition enforcement in all sectors, stepping up efforts to detect cases of market abuse by big companies, speeding up investigations and helping strengthen cooperation with her global counterparts. Perhaps ominously for the big tech companies that she has cracked down on, Vestager is also getting extra clout. Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming president of the EU's powerful executive arm, promoted Vestager to a commission executive vice-president overseeing the EU's digital innovation and leadership efforts, including artificial intelligence.


Big Tech's 'Nemesis' in EU Gets New Term-And More Power

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Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming president of the EU's powerful executive arm, promoted Vestager to a commission executive vice-president overseeing the EU's digital innovation and leadership efforts, including artificial intelligence. "Margarethe Vestager will coordinate the whole agenda and be the commissioner for competition," von der Leyen said at a press conference . Von der Leyen has said that by the end of her first 100 days in office, she wants to draw up legislation for a European approach on the "human and ethical implications" of artificial intelligence. The Computer & Communications Industry Association, a lobby group with members including Google, Facebook and Amazon, reacted cautiously to Vestager's reappointment. "We encourage the new Commissioners to assess the impact of all the recent EU tech regulation to ensure that future legislation will be evidence-based, proportionate and beneficial," it said in a statement.


Advances in technology risk turning society into a 'ghastly Orwellian police state', Met Commissioner warns

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Britain risks sleepwalking into a "ghastly, Orwellian, omniscient police state" unless it addresses the ethical dilemmas posed by new technologies such as facial recognition and artificial intelligence, the Met Commissioner has warned. Cressida Dick said while the digital age presented numerous opportunities to help in the fight against crime it was vital there was a strict legal framework to ensure it was not used inappropriately. In a speech delivered at the Lowy Institute think tank in Sydney, Australia, Ms Dick said it was important to remember that the role of technology and data was to enable humans "to make better decisions.'' She said: "We're now tiptoeing into a world of robotics, AI [artificial intelligence] and machine learning ... the next step might be predictive policing. "People are starting to get worried about that ... particularly because of the potential for bias in the data or the algorithm, [like] live facial recognition software."


Delhi Lt. Governor Anil Baijal launches safety app for city travellers - Express Computer

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Delhi Lt. Governor Anil Baijal has launched a "QR Code Scheme" called Himmat Plus designed to enhance the safety and security of commuters, particularly of women, travelling in the yellow and black taxis and auto-rickshaws from airports, as well as Railway and Metro stations in the national capital. Delhi Commissioner of Police Amulya Patnaik, all Special Commissioners of Delhi Police, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) MD Mangu Singh, Northern Railway Divisional Railway Manager S.C. Jain and other senior officials of the Railway Protection Force attended the launch event. Several students from Swamy Sharadhanand College, Zakir Hussain College, Bhim Rao Ambedkar College, Mata Sundari College, as well as office bearer of auto rickshaw and taxi unions, and around 1,000 auto rickshaw and taxi drivers were also present at the programme. On the occasion, Baijal distributed the QR Codes to some of the auto rickshaw and taxi drivers. Around 3,000 auto-rickshaws and taxis are now associated with this initiative.


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.