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San Francisco votes to ban city use of facial recognition technology

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Thursday, May 16th, 2019

Courtesy : Reuters

San Francisco officials on Tuesday voted 8 to 1 to ban the purchase and use of facial recognition technology by city personnel, in a move to regulate tools that local Silicon Valley companies helped develop.

The ordinance, which also would require city departments to submit surveillance technology policies for public vetting, can become final after a second vote next week by the same officials, the city’s Board of Supervisors.

The action puts San Francisco at the forefront of increasing discontent in the United States over facial recognition, which government agencies have used for years and now has become more powerful with the rise of cloud computing and artificial intelligence technologies.

“We have a fundamental duty to safeguard the public from potential abuses,” Aaron Peskin, the city supervisor who championed the ban, said before the board’s vote.

Peskin said the ordinance was not an anti-technology policy. It allows continued use of surveillance tools like security cameras; the district attorney or sheriff can make an appeal to use certain restricted technology in exceptional circumstances as well.

Rather, Peskin said, the aim is to protect “marginalized groups” that could be harmed by the technology.

For instance, Amazon.com Inc has come under scrutiny since last year for selling an image analysis and ID service to law enforcement. Researchers have said this service struggles to identify the gender of individuals with darker skin, prompting fears of unjust arrests. Amazon has defended its work and said all users must follow the law.

Jennifer Lynch, the surveillance litigation director at Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends digital privacy, told Reuters “They say, for example, that this might be a way to catch criminals and catch terrorists but what we’ve seen is that face recognition oftentimes is used to identify people who didn’t actually commit a crime. Face recognition’s accuracy is notoriously poor and it’s very inaccurate at trying to identify people of color and especially African American women.”

Civil rights groups and companies including Microsoft Corp , which markets a facial recognition service, have called for regulation of the technology in recent months. This has added momentum to the effort in San Francisco and to a parallel ban reportedly in the works in nearby Oakland.

While communities at the heart of the technology industry are moving to limit facial recognition, police elsewhere have increased their use, primarily to spot potential suspects in known offender databases after a crime has occurred.

U.S. customs agents are vetting foreign travelers at airports with facial recognition, and other federal agencies use the technology too.

Matt Cagle, an attorney for technology and civil liberties at ACLU Northern California, said “Face surveillance gives the government the power to watch us as we go to a protest, when we attend a place of business and when we just walk down the street going about our daily business. This isn’t power that belongs in government hands and is one that is easily abused to watch protestors, to scan and track activists and to discriminate against people of color.”

He also added that San Francisco will be just one of a number of American cities to join the ban on facial recognition technology.

Cagle told Reuters “So 13 American cities have already adopted ordinances that require community oversight of surveillance technology so we’re excited to see where this can go next and what we’re seeing is a lot of interest in community members across the United States in reining in secretive surveillance and placing communities in control of it.” (REUTERS)

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U.S. charges China’s Huawei with bank fraud, stealing trade secrets

by admin   |   Posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

Huawei logo on pillar in Shanghai, China | Reuters

The United States on Monday (January 28) charged China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, its chief financial officer, and two affiliates with bank and wire fraud to violate sanctions against Iran in a case that has added to tensions with Beijing.

In a 13-count indictment, the Justice Department said Huawei misled a global bank and U.S. authorities about its relationship with the subsidiaries, Skycom Tech and Huawei Device USA Inc, in order to conduct business in Iran.

In a separate case, the Justice Department also accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets, wire fraud and obstructing justice for allegedly stealing robotic technology from carrier T-Mobile US Inc to test smartphones’ durability.

T-Mobile had accused Huawei of stealing the technology, called “Tappy,” which mimicked human fingers and was used to test smartphones. Huawei has said that the two companies settled their disputes in 2017.

The charges add to pressure on Huawei, the world’s biggest telecommunications equipment maker, from the U.S. government, which is trying to prevent American companies from buying Huawei routers and switches and pressing allies to do the same. — Reuters

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Trump releases video announcing troop withdrawal from Syria

by admin   |   Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2018

 

US President Donald Trump giving a statement on withdrawing troops from Syria on Dember 19, 2018 | REUTERS

U.S. President Donald Trump overrode his top national security aides, blindsided U.S. ground commanders, and stunned lawmakers and allies with his order on Wednesday (December 19) for U.S. troops to leave Syria, a decision that upends American policy in the Middle East.

The result, said current and former officials and people briefed on the decision, will empower Russia and Iran and leave unfinished the goal of erasing the risk that Islamic State, or ISIS, which has lost all but a sliver territory, could rebuild.

Trump was moving toward his dramatic decision in recent weeks even as top aides tried to talk him out of it, determined to fulfill a campaign promise of limiting U.S. involvement militarily abroad, two senior officials said.

The move, which carries echoes of Trump’s repudiation of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate change accord, is in keeping with his America First philosophy and the pledge he made to end U.S. military involvement.

A U.S. defense official said Trump’s decision was widely seen in the Pentagon as benefiting Russia as well as Iran, both of which have used their support for the Syrian government to bolster their regional influence. Iran also has improved its ability to ship arms to Lebanese Hezbollah for use against Israel.

Asked who gained from the withdrawal, the defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, replied: “Geopolitically Russia, regionally Iran.”

Another U.S. defense official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said U.S military commanders had expressed concerns with the administration about what a rapid withdrawal would mean for U.S.-backed local forces fighting Islamic State.

The official said the plan to withdraw had caught the commanders by surprise.

Lawmakers from both parties complained that they were not briefed in advance of the decision.

French officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were scrambling to find out exactly what the announcement meant and how it will affect their participation in U.S.-led coalition operations against Islamic State.

Syria’s civil war, which began in 2011, has killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced around half the country’s pre-war 22 million population and defied all efforts at diplomatic resolution. — Reuters

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Penny Marshall, ‘Big’ director and TV’s ‘Laverne,’ dead at 75

by admin   |   Posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

 

FILE PHOTO: Actress and Director Penny Marshall | REUTERS

Penny Marshall, who played an endearingly graceless character with a thick Bronx accent in U.S. television’s “Laverne & Shirley” before becoming a pioneering film director with hits including “Big” and “A League of Their Own,” has died at 75, her publicist said on Tuesday (December 18).

Marshall died of complications of diabetes on Monday (December 17) at her home in Hollywood Hills, California, her publicist, Michelle Bega said in a phone interview.

Among the people paying tribute to Marshall were her ex-husband, actor and director Rob Reiner, who tweeted: “So sad about Penny. I loved Penny. I grew up with her. She was born with a great gift. She was born with a funnybone and the instinct of how to use it. I was very lucky to have lived with her and her funnybone. I will miss her.”

Marshall played the unrefined but lovable Laverne DeFazio on “Laverne & Shirley,” a situation comedy that ran on the ABC network from 1976 to 1983, following the lives of two single women and their nutty friends in 1950s and ’60s Milwaukee.

She turned to directing after her series ended. Her first film was the underwhelming 1986 Whoopi Goldberg comedy “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” but that was followed by the charming 1988 hit “Big,” starring fellow former TV sitcom star Tom Hanks. — Reuters

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