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Is Facial Recognition Destroying our Right to Privacy?

Is Facial Recognition Destroying our Right to Privacy? 

The recent Financial Times investigation revealed that Microsoft had collected discreetly a facial recognition database of some 10 million images of some 100,000 people. They apparently used it for facial recognition software. When the FT began investigating, Microsoft discretely deleted the database. The public dataset, called ‘MS Celeb,’ included images of ‘celebrities’ pulled from the internet, but also contained photos of ‘arguably private individuals,’ often without their knowledge or consent, the FT found.

The classic film, the Minority Report, takes place where facial recognition is just using eye scans. To become invisible, he goes through a procedure where he gets eye transplants to hide his identity. This scene shows that when walking through a store, they scan his eyes and offer advertising tailored to preferences. There is no question that this technology can become much like the movie but using facial recognition eliminating the option of just getting our eyes replaced.

Already there are government agencies using facial recognition to look for people walking in public places. New York Police Department’s facial recognition system, includes image alteration and the use of non-suspect images. They are using facial recognition in Britain to look for criminals, but it is apparently wrong 96% of the time. There has even been lawsuits filed over this intrusive approach. San Francisco banned the police from using facial recognition. There are companies offering facial recognition for police.

There is no question that facial recognition poses a significant threat to our privacy and could hamper First Amendment-protected protests and other legal activities. Anyone who exercises their right to join some protest can find their faces suddenly recorded into a secret database that pops up on any encounter with governments.

Is China Really More “Dystopian” Than The UK?

Is China Really More “Dystopian” Than The UK?

RT reported that the UK’s so-called “National Data Analytics Solution” will see an algorithm process whichever of 30 separate data points have been recorded about a person in local and national police databases in order to predict which members of the population are most likely to commit a crime or be victimized by one, after which the state will dispatch local health and social workers to offer “counseling” to them in an attempt to prevent the computer’s envisioned scenario from transpiring. This program is being likened to the 2002 film “Minority Report” and carries with it a vibe of China’s controversial “social credit” system, albeit without any “rewards” being offered for law-abiding behavior. In fact, one can actually make the claim that instead of the UK copying China to a degree, it was actually China that learned from the UK seeing as how the island nation’s mass surveillance system used to be far ahead of the communist nation’s one.

The problem with “pre-crime” technology, however, is that it straddles the fine line between security and liberty in what is supposed to be a “democracy”, therefore making it uncomfortably out of place in the UK while being much more natural to implement in centrally controlled societies like China’s. While the European country insincerely pretends to be a “democracy” in the Western sense of how this system is commonly assumed to function, the East Asian one makes no such pretenses and is proud of having a different organizational model, which should be doubly disturbing for any British citizen because it means that their “democratically elected government” is actually less forthcoming about its nationwide surveillance strategy than comparatively more centralized China’s is. No value judgement is being made about either country’s governing system, but the purpose of this comparison is to point out the surprising similarities between the two that are usually lost on most observers.

National Data Analytics Solution

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Minority Report Comes To Life: UK Police Will Use AI To Prevent Crime

With increasing availability of information and new technologies, West Midlands Police in the metropolitan county of West Midlands in England, has taken a page from the 2002 American neo-noir science fiction film, Minority Report, and will soon deploy artificial intelligence to stop crime before it happens, New Scientist reveals. 

The “pre-crime” software, called the National Data Analytics Solution (NDAS), uses a blend of AI, citywide smart cameras, and statistics to try to evaluate the risk of someone committing and or becoming a victim of a violent crime.

West Midlands Police has taken the lead on the project and will finish the prototype system by the end of 1Q 2019. Eight other police forces across the country are involved in the development, including London’s Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester Police. NDAS will be piloted in the Midlands district before a nationwide rollout. One of the main reasons behind predictive policing – is a cost-savings tool for law enforcement agencies that have been dealing with funding issues, said Iain Donnelly, the police lead on the project.

Donnelly insists NDAS algorithms will sniff out already known criminals, and divert them with “therapeutic interventions,” such as “support from local health or social workers” to avert a crime.

West Midlands Police used data and statistics from past criminal events to identify 1,400 potential indicators for crime, including 30 important ones. Machine learning algorithms then took the data points and learned how to detect crime while analyzing video from smart cameras.

Predictive policing is based on prior criminal stats, including stops, arrests, and convictions, and it is incapable of expanding the pool of suspects beyond the database.

Predictably, the Alan Turing Institute found “serious ethical issues” with the NDAS, warning the program could have good intentions but “inaccurate prediction” is an ongoing concern. 

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Censorship in the Digital Age

Censorship in the Digital Age

The grand experiment with western democracy, badly listing thanks to broadsides from profiteering oligarchs, may finally run ashore on the rocks of thought crime. In the uneven Steven Spielberg project Minority Report, starring excitable scientologist Tom Cruise, Cruise plays a futuristic policeman who investigates pre-crimes and stops them before they happen. The police owe their ability to see the criminal plots developing to characters called pre-cognitives, or pre-cogs, kind of autistic prophets who see the future and lie sleeping in sterile pools of water inside the police department. Of course, it turns out that precogs can pre-visualize different futures, a hastily hidden flaw that threatens to jeopardize the profits of the pre-crime project. Here is the crux of the story: thought control is driven by a profit motive at bottom. As it turns out, just like real life.

Now, the British government has decided to prosecute pre-crime but has done away with the clunky plot device of the pre-cogs, opting rather to rely on a hazy sense of higher probability to justify surveilling, nabbing, convicting, and imprisoning British citizens. The crime? Looking at radical content on the Internet. What is considered radical will naturally be defined by the state police who will doubtless be personally incentivized by pre-crime quotas, and institutionally shaped to criminalize trains of thought that threaten to destabilize a criminal status quo. You know, the unregulated monopoly capitalist regime that cuts wages, costs, and all other forms of overhead with psychopathic glee. Even a Grenfell Towers disaster is regarded more as a question of how to remove the story from public consciousness than rectify its wrongs.

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China Goes Full “Minority Report”, Creates “Pre-Crime” Program

China Goes Full “Minority Report”, Creates “Pre-Crime” Program

By now, the world is largely familiar with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s fabled “Tigers and Flies” campaign.

Since taking office in 2013, Xi has embarked on an ambitious effort to root out party corruption and ensure that the directives passed down from on high in the Politburo are executed faithfully among the sprawling rank and file. As The Atlantic wrote last year, the discipline “problem” is “made more urgent by a slowing economy,” an economy which desperately needs to be reformed.

“Reform, however, requires the ability to enact policy,” The Atlantic flatly adds. “That in turn necessitates bureaucrats who follow the central government’s orders.”

Publicly there have been more than 1,500 announced cases against party officials. But that’s just “publicly.” Knowing the Party’s reputation for “disappearing” those who “disappoint” or otherwise act in morally objectionable ways, the real number is impossible to know but is likely orders of magnitude higher.

When China’s stock market began to crash last summer as the country’s margin “miracle” finally buckled under the weight of the millions of illiterate daytrading housewives who poured their life savings into everything from umbrella manufacturers to industrial companies-turned P2P outfits, Beijing extended the corruption probe to those “responsible” for the equity meltdown.

Soon, the quest for stock market “manipulators” and those (like journalists) who would otherwise seek to harm the national interest by, well, by reporting the facts became part and parcel of a kind of mini Tigers and Flies campaign focused specifically on China’s financial markets. That campaign eventually ensnared quite a few officials, prominent money managers, and eminent businessmen, including Guo Guangchang, a self-styled “Chinese Warren Buffett.”

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‘Minority Report’ Is 40 Years Ahead of Schedule: The Fictional World Has Become Reality

‘Minority Report’ Is 40 Years Ahead of Schedule: The Fictional World Has Become Reality

“The Internet is watching us now. If they want to. They can see what sites you visit. In the future, television will be watching us, and customizing itself to what it knows about us. The thrilling thing is, that will make us feel we’re part of the medium. The scary thing is, we’ll lose our right to privacy. An ad will appear in the air around us, talking directly to us.”—Director Steven Spielberg, Minority Report

We are a scant 40 years away from the futuristic world that science fiction author Philip K. Dick envisioned for Minority Report in which the government is all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful, and if you dare to step out of line, dark-clad police SWAT teams will crack a few skulls to bring the populace under control.

Unfortunately, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American Peoplewe may have already arrived at the year 2054.

Increasingly, the world around us resembles Dick’s dystopian police state in which the police combine widespread surveillance, behavior prediction technologies, data mining and precognitive technology to capture would-be criminals before they can do any damage. In other words, the government’s goal is to prevent crimes before they happen: precrime.

For John Anderton (played by Tom Cruise), Chief of the Department of Pre-Crime in Washington, DC, the technology that he relies on for his predictive policing proves to be fallible, identifying him as the next would-be criminal and targeting him for preemptive measures. Consequently, Anderton finds himself not only attempting to prove his innocence but forced to take drastic measures in order to avoid capture in a surveillance state that uses biometric data and sophisticated computer networks to track its citizens.

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The World of Philip K. Dick is Almost Here

The World of Philip K. Dick is Almost Here

Holographic Computers and Self-Directing Bullets

Philip K. Dick was long viewed as a mere genre hack, although his fans always knew better of course. He used the medium of science fiction originally because it was the only way for him to make money as an independent author. His non-SF novels and stories (which have been published posthumously) would have been far more difficult to sell. And so he went and packaged his philosophical ideas into science fiction novels, which we can be eternally grateful for.

The man was brimming with ideas of what the future might look like. Hollywood has tried to bring some of them to the big screen in its adaptations of his novels (none of which Dick himself lived to see), such as e.g. the talking ads in “Minority Report”, which recognize every passer-by and address him by name. Modern-day internet advertising has already come close to this vision.

Dick not only described a fantastic future and displayed an uncanny sense of the things that would one day become reality (the “internet of things”? Try the talking doors in UBIK, which ask apartment owners to deposit money before they will open for them!), he often wrote about a dystopian future in which all these fantastic toys would be abused by seemingly nigh omnipotent governments.

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