A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jan 22, 2020

The European Union May Ban Facial Recognition For 5 Years

Taking action - perhaps for the first time since the modern era of technology - to assess how such technological innovations may impact the broader rights and liberties of citizens, rather than just the economic and political benefits of those who want to deploy it. JL

James Crisp reports in The Telegraph:

The European Commission is mulling a temporary ban of up to five years on the use of facial recognition technology in public places in the EU. A ban would buy regulators time to catch up with a fast-moving tech sector and would (permit) "assessing the impacts of this technology and risk management measures could be developed." The document cites the EU’s general data protection regulation as justification for the ban. That law protects EU citizens from being “subject to a decision based solely on automated processing, including profiling.”

Can A Digital Avatar Who's Your Boss Really Fire You?

Lawyer up. Because the answer to this question is ultimately going to depend on legal definitions and contract language, rather than the underlying 

Assuming that the robot or digital avatar is acting on behalf of management, which has dotted its Is, crossed its Ts and otherwise devolved authority to hire (already happening) and fire to such intangible overlords, the right to do so will likely be be recognized eventually. Until that time - and due to public outrage, it may never come - using this time-and-emotion saving expedience raises questions about leadership legitimacy that no smart executive who values her bonus and stock options will want surfaced in an era of hair-trigger boards and declining CEO tenure. JL

John Brandon reports in Wired:

Are you entitled to ignore what a fake human tells you? An avatar is a collection of pixels programmed to trigger a visual pattern, one that we perceive as a human. Algorithms determine the response, so a human is always behind the response. A digital avatar is incapable of understanding the emotional experience of being fired. How do you program that? To be cognizant of the shock and surprise, the awkwardness of telling your loved ones later, the weirdness of telling coworkers you may never see again. Getting fired by an avatar is not valid because there are too many nuances.

Jan 21, 2020

AI Will Make Important Decisions In Future Wars. With Autonomy

Once you start, how do you stop an autonomous AI? And what if you can't? JL

Simon Chandler reports in Forbes:

Adaption is a necessary response to the ever-changing nature of inter-state conflict. Instead of open armed warfare between states and their armies, geopolitical rivalry is increasingly being fought in cyber-warfare, micro-aggressive standoffs, and trade wars. Multiple smaller events require defence forces to be more aware of what's happening in the world around them. "Crews are already facing information overload with thousands of sources of data, intelligence, and information." The most interesting–and worrying–element  is the focus on introducing AI-enabled "autonomy" to defense capabilities.

The Majority of EU Websites Do Not Appear To Be Adhering To GDPR

So, you have to enforce a law, not just pass it?

The issue is that European marketers are as anxious to use the data as US-based companies so these data suggest that US and Chinese companies arent the only ones testing the system to see if they will be caught. And it appears profits are taking precedent over political theory. JL

Steve Dent reports in Engadget:

Websites that operate in Europe are supposed to follow GDPR rules that let consumers opt out of cookie tracking. In fact, only 11.8% of websites checked "meet the minimal requirements based on European law." The most common way websites bypass EU laws is via implicit consent, used by 32.%. That system presumes the user consents to cookies by visiting or scrolling a website or failing to respond to a pop-up consent window. Not having an opt-out button on the first page increased cookie consent by 23%.

The Next 46 Billion Devices. Microsoft Looks Beyond Phones And Computers

With trillion dollar valuations, thinking big comes naturally. JL

Tom Warren reports in The Verge:

"Windows is the billion user install base of ours. We continue to add a couple of hundred million PCs every year, and we want to serve that in a super good way,” explained Nadella. “The thing that we also want to think about is the broader context. We don’t want to be defined by just what we achieved. We look at if there’s going to be 50 billion endpoints. Windows with its billion is good, Android with its 2 billion is good, iOS with its billion is good — but there is 46 billion more. So let’s go look at what that 46 billion plus 4 [billion] looks like, and define a strategy for that."

How Misinformation Is Overwhelming Democracy

Intentionally 'manufactured nihilism' is doing its job: undermining faith in institutions and the information they impart so that a new, socially engineered reality can be implanted, one that will solely benefit the people who created it. JL

Sean Illing reports in Slate:

Democracy cannot function without a shared understanding of reality. The issue for many people isn’t a denial of truth. It’s a growing weariness over the process of finding the truth. And that weariness leads people to abandon the idea that the truth is knowable. If you short-circuit that process by saturating the ecosystem with misinformation and overwhelm the media’s ability to mediate, then you can disrupt the democratic process. As long as the zone is flooded with shit, that shared understanding is impossible.

Does the Clearview Face Scanning App Mean the End Of Human Privacy ?

Wait. You mean privacy as humans know it isn't already obsolete?

That major investors in this startup include a former aide to Rudy Giuliani and Peter Thiel, the leading Trump supporter in tech and Facebook board member should be an indication of the potential uses for this app. JL

Kashmir Hill reports in the New York Times:

Take a picture of a person, upload it and see photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared. A database of more than three billion images scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of websites , goes beyond anything ever constructed by the US government or Silicon Valley. A program automatically collects images of people’s faces from across the internet, as a “state-of-the-art neural net” converts the images into mathematical formulas based on facial geometry like how far apart a person’s eyes are. A directory clusters all the photos with similar vectors.