1.3 Billion Facebook Posts Removed Between October and December + More.
1.3 Billion Facebook Posts Removed Between October and December, Company Says
The Hill reported:
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in recent months have pressured Facebook and other social networking giants to do more to combat misinformation peddled on their platforms about the coronavirus, election integrity and other hotly-debated political topics.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee this week will hold hearings to examine what tech companies are doing to stem the flow of misinformation and disinformation.
Energy and Commerce ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said earlier this month social that media companies need to “do better” in combatting misinformation given “the significant role they play in our society.”
“Unfortunately, Big Tech has broken any sense of trust that they can be fair stewards for speech and the truth. It is time for Energy and Commerce Republicans to act,” she said. “To be clear, we will not pursue government regulation of speech, but it’s a dereliction of our duty to our constituents to do nothing.”
Democrats Plan to Come for Big Tech With Swarm of Small Antitrust Bills
Representative David Cicilline, the chair of the judiciary committee, told Axiosthis weekend that he sees prepping numerous proposals on antitrust as a sort of drone swarm tactic that would overwhelm Big Tech’s political firewall by sheer numbers.
Cicilline told Axios that he believes the result of the committee’s work could be 10 or more small bills that he believes would increase the likelihood that individual components could pass—as individual propositions may have broader support from members of both parties—and that would be harder for lobbyists to unite against. There’s also the possibility that tech firms could target each other in the crossfire over individual bills. For example, while both Apple and Facebook might put up a united defense on some antitrust issues, they have a bitter, ongoing feud over more specific arguments like user privacy and the way Apple runs the iOS App Store.
“If you look at the way these technology companies have staffed up with their lobbying and the money they’re investing in Washington, it’s designed… to prevent any changes to the current ecosystem that benefits them enormously,” Cicilline told the site. “They have literally billions and billions and billions of reasons to try to protect the current system because it produces… profits not seen on planet Earth.”
“My strategy is you’ll see a number of bills introduced, both because it’s harder for (the tech companies) to manage and oppose, you know, 10 bills as opposed to one,” the representative added.
Hohmann: Technocracy Will Dehumanize All Humans Into ‘Digital Assets’
Technocracy News reported:
One year ago, in March 2020, as governments were shutting down their economies citing a mysterious virus, Gates did a series of media interviews calling for a globalized “digital certificate” for every human being on the planet.
He said this was the only way to keep up with who has the virus and who has been vaccinated. Note that no vaccine was known to be in the pipeline in March 2020, but Gates talked about the vaccine as if it was just around the corner. He knew.
In a March 18, 2020 “Ask Me Anything” online forum sponsored by Reddit, Gates was asked what changes needed to be made to the way businesses operate to ensure public health without ruining the economy.
Gates’ answer to the problem was digital certificates, which clearly drives once-free Western societies into a “show your papers” scenario that pre-COVID would have been considered a Nazi-like taboo.
Gates was also known at the time to be investing in the ID2020 initiative, which seeks to connect people’s vaccine history to their purchasing actions.
Instead of taking Gates seriously back in March 2020, the vast majority of folks blew off his comments as the fantasy of the world’s biggest geek.
Big Tech ‘Making Billions’ Off Surveillance Advertising
Common Dreams reported:
A global coalition of more than three dozen groups on Monday launched a campaign to ban surveillance advertising, which the leaders of the effort described as “the extractive profit model underlying so many of Big Tech’s worst behaviors.”
“Surveillance advertising — the core profit-driver for gatekeepers like Facebook and Google, as well as adtech middlemen — is the practice of extensively tracking and profiling individuals and groups, and then microtargeting ads at them based on their behavioral history, relationships, and identity” the coalition — co-organized by Accountable Tech and the American Economic Liberties Project — said in a joint statement.
Your Face Is Not Your Own
The New York Times reported:
Computers once performed facial recognition rather imprecisely, by identifying people’s facial features and measuring the distances among them — a crude method that did not reliably result in matches. But recently, the technology has improved significantly, because of advances in artificial intelligence. A.I. software can analyze countless photos of people’s faces and learn to make impressive predictions about which images are of the same person; the more faces it inspects, the better it gets. Clearview is deploying this approach using billions of photos from the public internet. By testing legal and ethical limits around the collection and use of those images, it has become the front-runner in the field.
After Clearview’s activities came to light, Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts wrote to the company asking that it reveal its law-enforcement customers and give Americans a way to delete themselves from Clearview’s database. Officials in Canada, Britain, Australia and the European Union investigated the company. There were bans on police use of facial recognition in parts of the United States, including Boston and Minneapolis, and state legislatures imposed restrictions on it, with Washington and Massachusetts declaring that a judge must sign off before the police run a search.
In Illinois and Texas, companies already had to obtain consent from residents to use their “faceprint,” the unique pattern of their face, and after the Clearview revelations, Senators Bernie Sanders and Jeff Merkley proposed a version of Illinois’s law for the whole country. California has a privacy law giving citizens control over how their data is used, and some of the state’s residents invoked that provision to get Clearview to stop using their photos. (In March, California activists filed a lawsuit in state court.) Perhaps most significant, 10 class-action complaints were filed against Clearview around the United States for invasion of privacy, along with lawsuits from the A.C.L.U. and Vermont’s attorney general. “This is a company that got way out over its skis in an attempt to be the first with this business model,” Nathan Freed Wessler, one of the A.C.L.U. lawyers who filed the organization’s lawsuit, in Illinois state court, told me.
It seemed entirely possible that Clearview AI would be sued, legislated or shamed out of existence. But that didn’t happen. With no federal law prohibiting or even regulating the use of facial recognition, Clearview did not, for the most part, change its practices. Nor did it implode. While it shut down private companies’ accounts, it continued to acquire government customers. Clearview’s most effective sales tool, at first, was a free trial it offered to anyone with a law-enforcement-affiliated email address, along with a low, low price: You could access Clearview AI for as little as $2,000 per year. Most comparable vendors — whose products are not even as extensive — charged six figures. The company later hired a seasoned sales director who raised the price. “Our growth rate is crazy,” Hoan Ton-That, Clearview’s chief executive, said.
Teachers Sue LA School District Over COVID Vaccine Mandate
The Defender reported:
Employees of the second-largest school district in the U.S. filed suit last week to prevent the district from mandating COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment.
California Educators for Medical Freedom, with assistance from the Health Freedom Defense Fund (HFDF), filed a federal lawsuit March 17 against the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).
In a press release, HFDF said LAUSD’s vaccine mandate violates federal law and basic human rights by requiring employees to take an experimental vaccine in order to remain employed.
All COVID vaccines available in the U.S. — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — are approved under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). By the FDA’s own definition, that makes the vaccines “experimental” until or unless the FDA licenses them.
School employees alleged in their complaint that the statute granting the FDA power to authorize a medical product for emergency use, 21 U.S.C. § Section 360bbb-3, requires that the person being administered the unapproved product be advised of the benefits and risks, and of his or her right to refuse the product.
Israel’s Supreme Court Rules Air Travel Restrictions Unconstitutional
I24 News reported:
Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday that the government’s restrictions on entering and exiting the country are unconstitutional, daily Haaretz reported.
Currently, the state will neither permit entry to those who are unvaccinated nor those who have recovered from a bout of COVID-19.
In addition, the Israeli government limited the entry capacity to 3,000 passengers per day — an unprecedented policy that has also drawn legal queries as to its constitutionality.
The air travel limits were due to expire on March 21, and the justices have now ruled that they will not be extended.
States Are Right to Rebel Against Big Tech
The New York Times reported:
As Congress continues its interrogation of monopolistic practices of technology companies, states are getting into the game. Among the first targets on their list are Apple and Google, which together command 100 percent of the market for smartphone operating systems. New bills introduced in several states would threaten the companies’ dominance and represent an opportunity for state leaders to put fairness in commerce at the center of governance.
All apps that iPhone users download pass through Apple’s app store, because Apple doesn’t allow alternative marketplaces. Google uses its own store, which is called Google Play and is preinstalled on most Android phones, to give preference to its own apps over similar apps from competitors. While Google does allow alternative app stores, users must download them.
Both companies retain as much as 30% of the money consumers pay both for apps and for the purchases they make within those apps. (Credit card networks typically charge around 3 percent in transaction fees.) Apple made $72 billion last year from app store fees alone, while Google Play earned Google $39 billion, according to a research company called Sensor Tower. This week Google said it would reduce its commission for some app store sales. Both companies are targets of American and European inquiries into monopolies in the technology market.
Facebook Working on Instagram Product for Children Under 13 Years Old
Facebook did not respond to a request for comment sent late Thursday but did confirm to other news outlets, such as Australia’s ABC News, that it was indeed working on an Instagram product for children. The company did not elaborate on the kinds of things that would differentiate an Instagram For Kids product from regular Instagram.
It’s long been said that social media is the new smoking and this heightened focus on children would seem to give more ammunition to that thesis. Tobacco companies spent the 1970s and 80s marketing their product to kids in an effort to create a new generation of smokers as the negative health effects of smoking became better understood and led people to quit the product. Tobacco ads on TV and radio were banned in 1971, but it wasn’t until the 1990s when there was a concerted effort to crack down on tobacco marketing in the U.S., with a ban on tobacco billboards starting in 1999.
Anti-advertising advocates have long worried about the kinds of messages that kids have been receiving, whether it’s about tobacco or particularly sugary food. But messages about the dangers of social media haven’t been spread with the same cohesive and well-funded movements that emerged like the anti-tobacco organizations of the 1990s.
It obviously remains to be seen what kind of product an Instagram for kids might look like, but we can expect Big Tech to make a concerted effort to find new demographics in the coming years. And, to be frank, there’s not a lot of money in getting Grandma on your social media platform. Aside from being very set in their ways, and by extension their buying habits, making them less attractive to advertisers, it’s much more lucrative to get a child addicted to your product because they’re more likely to use it for life. Again, it’s one of the great lessons from Big Tobacco.
Former FDA Commissioner: ‘Costly’ Social Distancing Mandate ‘Wasn’t Based on Clear Science’
By many measures, March was supposed to be a “difficult month” but as the vaccine campaign continues uninterrupted, April and May will “look much more clear.”
“People can be more liberal… people will be taking off their masks because we are going to see prevalence decline around the country and people who’ve been vaccinated can go out with more confidence.”
This shocking revelation comes just days after Senator Rand Paul destroyed Dr. Fauci’s so-called “science”-based reasons for various restrictions – from mask-wearing to social-distancing – as ‘useless political theater’.
Interestingly, Gottlieb said “both [Paul and Fauci] made valid points,” but specifically said that “Senator Paul was right, we need to see light at the end of the tunnel and have guidance that prescribes an environment where people can start doing things again.”
France to Use ‘Smart’ Cameras to Check How Many Transport Passengers Are Wearing Masks
French government has been accused of dystopian designs after authorizing the use of surveillance cameras to tally how many commuters are masking up.
A new decree has given public transport operators the power to use “intelligent video to measure the rate of mask-wearing on transport.” France’s data protection watchdog, CNIL, said the “smart” cameras will be used on buses, subways and trains to “observe” whether Covid-19 rules mandating facial coverings are being obeyed. However, the government claims that the cameras will only tabulate how many people are wearing masks, without identifying individuals.
Notably, a similar initiative was proposed back in December, but the government shelved the idea after CNIL said it risked “undermining the proper functioning of our democratic society” and that there was no clear legal framework under which it could be justified. The agency said that it decided to approve the surveillance program the second time around because the government had clearly stated its purpose and that the cameras will not “process biometric data” and therefore do not “constitute a facial recognition device.”
The decision was met with fierce opposition by civil rights groups. La Quadrature du Net, which defends digital freedoms, condemned the decree as an “authoritarian offensive.” The group also argued that surveillance was a clear violation of French law, as well as EU regulations regarding the processing of personal data.
Facebook Reveals Plan to Let You Control Augmented Reality With Your Thoughts
Washington Post reported:
Facebook is researching how to take minute nerve movements in your arm and translate them into gesture controls for your gadgets. The idea announced Thursday would help the social networking giant launch augmented reality glasses, which would rely on new ways to control computers and interact with the virtual world.
“We’re developing natural, intuitive ways to interact with always-available AR glasses because we believe this will transform the way we connect with people near and far,” Facebook said in a blog post.
But to launch such a product, the company would also need access to a new type of data: your thinking.
Facebook says the wristband product would rely on a “neural interface” that adapts to you and your environment.
‘We Are Not Doing It’: Vaccine Passports Won’t Be Required in Florida, Desantis Says
As more people get vaccinated against the coronavirus, there is more talk of requiring vaccine passports to travel.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is taking a hard stance against that.
“I want to make it clear in Florida — we are not doing it,” DeSantis told reporters Thursday. “Under no circumstances will the state ask you to show proof of vaccination. People are able to make decisions for themselves.”
“In order to get the airline industry back up in the air, give people confidence that they’re gonna be safe and comfortable, you’re gonna have something like that, but here in Florida the governor is opposed to requiring people to get vaccinated and to show proof that they have been,” said Dr. Jay Wolfson from USF Morsani School of Medicine.
Big Tech Helps Set Standards for COVID-19 Vaccine Verification
The Wall Street Journal reported:
A coalition that includes tech giants and healthcare providers is preparing to release global standards for mobile apps that verify whether someone has had a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Vaccination Credential Initiative standards will incorporate digitally-verified clinical data with a name and birth date that can be also displayed as machine-readable QR codes.
After the open-source standards are released next month, they can be integrated into mobile apps that people could use to verify they have been vaccinated to gain admission to offices, restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and other public places.
Companies and large venues could also choose to request additional verification, such as a driver’s license, or temperature checks in addition to seeing an individual’s vaccine record.
England Explores Proof of Vaccine, Negative Test for Fans
USA Today reported:
England is considering the introduction of coronavirus certificates as a way of getting fans back into large sports events in significant numbers as pandemic restrictions are eased.
The government is exploring asking supporters to provide proof they have been vaccinated or have tested negative, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said Friday.
“From June 21, if all goes to plan … we hope to get people back in significant numbers,” Dowden told Sky News. “We’re piloting the different things that will enable that to happen. Clearly it will have to be done in a COVID-secure way.”
One of the pilot events is due to be the FA Cup final on May 15, with the government hoping for more than 10,000 fans at the Wembley Stadium game after they have been tested or vaccinated.
This AI Uses Your Brain Activity to Create Fake Faces It Knows You’ll Find Attractive
Singularity Hub reported:
A new AI could throw a wrench in the already-overwhelming world of dating apps. Developed by a team from the University of Helsinki and Copenhagen University, the artificially intelligent system was able to generate images of fake faces that it knew particular users would find attractive — because those same users’ brain activity played a part in training the AI. It sounds creepy, futuristic, and like the ultimate catfishing opportunity, right?
The system, which was detailed in a paper published in IEEE Xplore in February, uses a generative adversarial network, or GAN, to create fake faces. The word “adversarial” is in there because a GAN is made up of two different neural networks competing against one another. There’s the generator network, which generates data (in this case, images) similar to what it saw in its training data. The discriminator network, meanwhile, tries to pick out which images are fake and which are real (the fake images created by the generator are mixed with real images from the training data). As the cycle is repeated over and over, the generator gets better at creating realistic images, while the discriminator gets better at picking out the fake ones. Talk about symbiosis!
Analysis: China’s Small Tech Firms Step Out of the Shadows as Giants Reel From Regulatory Crackdown
One firm’s loss is another’s gain. China’s smaller technology companies and investors are eager to seize the day as a sweeping crackdown by anti-monopoly regulators on the country’s internet giants creates a wealth of new opportunities.
Nasdaq-listed microlender 360 DigiTech Inc is one such firm, having seen an increase in new business and a run-up in its share price after the introduction of new rules designed to rein in fintech giant Ant Group and other large rivals.
“Since December, we’ve seen clients whose credit lines have been reduced or restricted by lending giants transfer to our services,” 360 DigiTech Chief Financial Officer Alex Xu told Reuters.
UK Rapidly Moving Toward Police State Tyranny
Technocracy News reported:
Britain will take a step closer to police state tyranny this week when parliament passes a bill that will effectively end the cherished, longstanding tradition of ‘the right to protest.’
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 has been described by one MP as ‘a major step on the road to authoritarianism and suppression of dissent’ and by a leading criminal barrister as ‘absolutely crazy’ and ‘really scary.’
The new legislation is the brainchild of Home Secretary Priti Patel and is being sold to the Conservative base as a way of avoiding repeats of the various Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion demos which caused damage to property, massive disruption and a huge bill to the taxpayer for extra policing costs.
Biden Admin to Provide $10B for COVID Testing to Speed School Reopenings
NBC News reported:
The Biden administration is directing $10 billion from the recently passed stimulus package toward increased COVID-19 testing in schools, as the White House grapples with the difficult task of getting the nation’s school children back into classrooms.
The funding will go out in April and be awarded directly to states, the administration said Wednesday. Because the funding will be allocated proportionally, large states such as California and Texas will receive more than $800 million each, the administration said.
COVID: EU Plans Rollout of Travel Certificate Before Summer
BBC News reported:
A digital certificate to kick-start foreign travel should be given to citizens across the EU “without discrimination”, officials say.
The aim is to enable anyone vaccinated against COVID-19, or who has tested negative or recently recovered from the virus to travel within the EU.
The 27 member states will decide how to use the new digital certificate.
Vaccine passports have faced opposition from some EU member states over concerns they might be discriminatory.
Some argue that they would enable a minority to enjoy foreign travel without restrictions while others, such as young people who are not seen as a priority for inoculation, continue to face measures such as quarantine. European Commission officials have made clear they want to avoid discrimination.
Another issue raised has been that data on the efficacy of vaccines in preventing a person from carrying or passing on the virus is incomplete.
Ahead of the EU’s announcement, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that it was working to “create an international trusted framework” for safe travel, but that vaccinations should not be a condition.
What the U.S. Missed With Google
The New York Times reported:
Of the three antitrust lawsuits now pending against Google, I’ll focus on two: First, the Department of Justice says that Google used business deals with Apple and Android smartphone companies to cement its hold on our digital lives. And a group of U.S. state attorneys general claimed that Google hobbled online specialists in areas like home repair services and travel reviews.
The funny thing about the current government lawsuits is that much of the behavior is old news. Not everything. But a lot. That was clear before, but the F.T.C. documents made that undeniable. (The Wall Street Journal also got part of one of these documents in 2015.)
The Politico documents show fear within the F.T.C. in 2012 that Google would use its money and power to ensure that its search box had a prominent position on smartphones and expand its digital dominance. That’s essentially what the U.S. government (and the European Union) now say that Google did. Google has said the government’s claims have no merit.
And based on interviews and emails from executives at Google and other companies, government staffers found that Google promoted its own products — and in some cases demoted identical online information from competitors — because it helped Google’s bottom line. Again, that’s a behavior at the heart of one of the state lawsuits.
The Fully Vaccinated Employee: What the New CDC Guidelines Mean for Employers
The National Law Review reported:
As employers consider whether to require vaccinations for employees and how to handle employees who refuse to be vaccinated, the CDC has given employers some clarity … and new issues to navigate. On March 9, the CDC issued its first set of recommendations for fully vaccinated people, providing guidance for everyone who has been patiently wondering what types of pre-COVID activities they can safely resume now that vaccines are here.
According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people can now safely gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask, as well as refrain from quarantining and testing for COVID-19 following a known exposure so long as they remain asymptomatic. (The CDC considers someone to be “fully vaccinated” at two or more weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.)
But, as dinner parties make a triumphant return and the noses of the vaccinated are mostly spared from unpleasant swabs, the new guidelines make clear that fully vaccinated people must continue to take certain precautions …
Google Gets Into Sleep Surveillance With New Nest Hub Screen
Google’s next internet-connected home device will test whether consumers trust the company enough to let it snoop on their sleep.
New sleep-sensing technology will be a key feature on Google’s latest version of its Nest Hub, a 7-inch smart screen unveiled Tuesday. Like the previous generation, the $100 Nest Hub can display pictures and video in addition to fielding questions and handling household tasks through Google’s voice-activated assistant. It also doesn’t feature a camera.
But the latest Nest Hub’s new trick may help differentiate it from similar devices, such as Amazon’s Echo Show, while also providing a springboard for Google to get more involved in helping people manage their health.
If you allow it, the device will also monitor your sleeping patterns from your bedside, negating the need to wear a fitness device or any other potentially bothersome gadget in bed. The feature, which Google intends to offer for free through at least this year, relies on a new chip Google calls Soli, which uses radar to detect motion, including the depth of a person’s breathing.
Facebook Must Tackle ‘Spanish-Language Disinformation Crisis’, Lawmakers Say
The Guardian reported:
“[Facebook has] allowed their platform to be used to amplify hate and disinformation about and at our community,” said Jessica J González, the co-CEO of the media reform advocacy group Free Press at the launch of the #YaBastaFacebook campaign. “It shows a complete disregard and complete disrespect for the Latino community.”
The calls come amid growing warnings from advocacy groups that Facebook removes Spanish-language misinformation less consistently on its platforms than it does misinformation in English.
Facebook in past years has introduced several policies to address misinformation, hate speech, and violent organizing including militias on its platforms. But researchers previously told the Guardian that the company does not appear to enforce those policies equally when it comes to misinformation in Spanish.
Fulgent Genetics Awarded Contract from CDC to Study Variants of COVID-19 Virus
Yahoo! Finance reported:
Fulgent Genetics, Inc. (NASDAQ: FLGT) (“Fulgent Genetics” or the “Company”), a technology company providing comprehensive testing solutions through its scalable platform, today announced that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has awarded the Company a contract to provide genomic sequencing of samples of SARS-CoV-2 on an ongoing basis, leveraging the Company’s Next Generation Sequencing (“NGS”) capabilities.
Under the agreement, Fulgent Genetics will sequence the genomes of random samples that have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Fulgent will leverage its NGS platform and provide sequencing data to the CDC as part of their initiative to conduct a large-scale genomic survey of the virus using random samples from across the United States. Ultimately, the CDC believes this large-scale genomic survey of the virus can provide important baseline information for national and state-level virus surveillance, help define important changes in transmission, help to identify unusual or emerging variants, and ultimately improve the public health response to the virus.
Fulgent believes its position as a leading provider of COVID-19 testing solutions, combined with the Company’s ability to handle large volumes of samples on its NGS platform, make the Company uniquely suited to aid the CDC in this initiative. Fulgent was selected as a partner due to its access to samples, laboratory capabilities for processing and sequencing of these samples, ability to manage the significant amount of data collected, and ability to deliver data to the CDC under the strict specifications they require.
Ticket? Passport? Add a COVID Vaccination Card to the List of Must-Have Travel Documents
The Wall Street Journal reported:
The world’s airlines are betting on vaccinations to restart international travel.
Two of Europe’s biggest airlines, British Airways and budget carrier Ryanair Holdings PLC, have started allowing fliers to provide vaccination and COVID test-result details alongside personal data, like passport numbers and visa information, during bookings. The airlines say the move will eventually help passengers show they have been inoculated when landing at destinations that have started to welcome vaccinated travelers.
Across the U.S., domestic travel is picking back up, amid stabilizing or falling COVID-19 cases and a relatively quick vaccination drive. That rebound isn’t yet showing up in international travel, where a patchwork of travel bans, quarantine rules and testing requirements have stymied cross-border flights.
Doctors Remix ‘Hamilton’ Song to Celebrate COVID Vaccine. Watch the Video
The Sacramento Bee reported:
If you thought “My Shot” from “Hamilton” got stuck in your head before, wait until you hear the coronavirus remix.
A group of doctors in California adapted the hit musical’s song into an anthem on COVID-19 vaccines. The group calls themselves Vax’n 8, and they spent months working on the remix, KOVR reported.
The song is set to the Broadway music, but the group reworked the lyrics. It starts by recounting the impact the coronavirus has had on the U.S. and how people have felt beaten down after spending months fighting the virus.
The song mentions some people were hoping for a cure to “change the game.”
“A vaccine that works most effectively, so COVID can’t strike with impunity,” the song goes. “Essentially, it trains your immunity to recognize virus parts with most certainty. Activate T and B Cells to fight disease and kill the virus before it can grow with ease.”
The lyrics also explain how the vaccine works to fight against the virus and goes over the testing the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines went through before being authorized for emergency use in the U.S.
The Lockdowns Weren’t Worth It
Wall Street Journal reported:
I’ve looked at more than 100 regions and countries. None have seen exponential growth of the pandemic continue until herd immunity was reached, regardless of whether a government lockdown or other stringent measure was imposed. People eventually revert to more-relaxed behavior. When they do, the virus starts spreading again. That’s why we see the “inverted U-shape” of cases and deaths everywhere.
After a year of observation and data collection, the case for lockdowns has grown much weaker. Nobody denies overwhelmed hospitals are bad, but so is depriving people of a normal life, including kids who can’t attend school or socialize during precious years of their lives. Since everyone hasn’t been vaccinated, many wouldn’t yet be living normally even without restrictions. But government mandates can make things worse by taking away people’s ability to socialize and make a living.
The coronavirus lockdowns constitute the most extensive attacks on individual freedom in the West since World War II. Yet not a single government has published a cost-benefit analysis to justify lockdown policies — something policy makers are often required to do while making far less consequential decisions. If my arguments are wrong and lockdown policies are cost-effective, a government document should be able to demonstrate that. No government has produced such a document, perhaps because officials know what it would show.
Facebook To Label Vaccine Posts To Combat COVID-19 Misinformation
NBC News reported:
Facebook is adding informational labels to posts about vaccines as it expands efforts to counter COVID-19-related misinformation flourishing on its platforms.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post Monday that labels will contain “credible information” about the vaccines from the World Health Organization. They will be in English and five other languages, with more languages added in coming weeks.
“For example, we’re adding a label on posts that discuss the safety of COVID-19 vaccines that notes COVID-19 vaccines go through tests for safety and effectiveness before they’re approved,” Zuckerberg said.
The social network is also adding a tool to help get users vaccinated by connecting them to information about where and when they can get their shot.
Four Hidden Ways Big Tech Platforms Suck Up Your Data
Washington Examiner reported:
Big Tech companies such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon collect personal user data from many different sources to create “secret identities” of people in order to understand users’ personality traits, predict purchasing behavior, and ultimately sell these profiles to advertisers and sometimes the government.
Most often, users don’t even realize that their data is being collected and exploited by tech companies. Besides advertisers, millions of people’s personal user data has also been sold to U.S. federal agencies for border control purposes as well as to the military for counterterrorism purposes.
User data can also be used by machine learning or artificial intelligence tools that are being used by entities in the criminal justice system to help the government make decisions, including who should be imprisoned to a person’s ability to enter a country.
‘Vaccine Passports’: Will They Be Available in the U.S. in Time for Summer?
NBC News reported:
With more than 335 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine administered around the world so far, according to the World Health Organization, the race is on to develop a COVID-19 “vaccine passport.”
Vaccine passports that could determine what people can and can’t do come loaded with ethical considerations. Vaccines are still not easily available around the world and people would be divided into “haves” and “have nots.” Earlier this week, Dr. Mike Ryan, director of WHO’s emergencies program, said using vaccine certification as a requirement for travel “is not advised.”
Proof-of-immunization cards already exist for yellow fever, and I’ve used one for years to travel to Colombia, Ecuador or anywhere around the globe as needed.
Big Tech In Crosshairs As Congress Takes Up Antitrust Reform
Antitrust law is the cornerstone of free markets.
In the U.S., three laws — the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Clayton Antitrust Act — work in concert to prevent any one company from becoming powerful enough to block competition in its sector, industry or market. When markets stay competitive, businesses innovate to keep prices low and quality high, which benefits consumers.
Lawmakers like Sen. Klobuchar argue that over recent decades, court rulings and inaction by regulators have eroded the ability of antitrust law to protect the market and consumers from monopolies. There’s growing bipartisan agreement that more needs to be done to reign in Big Tech companies — specifically Facebook, Google and Amazon — which many argue have become too powerful.
In December 2020, Facebook was sued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 46 states for snapping up competitors Instagram and WhatsApp in mergers over the last decade. The FTC is aiming to unravel the acquisitions with its lawsuit. Facebook also has a long history of purchasing dozens of smaller companies that promise to become competitors if left free to grow.
A.I. Is Not What You Think
The New York Times reported:
What downsides are there from neural networks and A.I.?
So many. The machines will be capable of generating misinformation at a massive scale. There won’t be any way to tell what’s real online and what’s fake. Autonomous weapons have the potential to be incredibly dangerous, too.
And the scariest thing is that many companies have promoted algorithms as a utopia that removes all human flaws. It doesn’t. Some neural networks learn from massive amounts of information on the internet — and that information was created by people. That means we are building computer systems that exhibit human bias — against women and people of color, for instance.
Tinder’s Upcoming Feature for Singles? a Criminal Background Check on Potential Dates.
Washington Post reported:
To use Garbo, Tinder users will need to know their date’s first name and phone number, information they presumably get through chatting online or texting. Garbo will then give them a report of that person’s criminal history, pulling from public records.
There are a few intentional limitations to the report. Garbo is focused on violent crimes, said founder and CEO Kathryn Kosmides. It won’t provide any information on drug possession or traffic violations, “which have a disproportionate impact on marginalized groups,” the companies said in a news release.
Garbo wants to stand apart from other background-check services. It won’t provide people’s emails or addresses, in an effort to cut down on doxing and stalking. Kosmides is a survivor of gender-based violence, she said, and met her abuser on a dating app. She was stalked, she said, and doesn’t want to make that easy for anyone else to do — certainly not by using documents pulled from her site.
Who Is Making Sure the A.I. Machines Aren’t Racist?
The New York Times reported:
The big thinkers of tech say A.I. is the future. It will underpin everything from search engines and email to the software that drives our cars, directs the policing of our streets and helps create our vaccines.
But it is being built in a way that replicates the biases of the almost entirely male, predominantly white work force making it.
In the nearly 10 years I’ve written about artificial intelligence, two things have remained a constant: The technology relentlessly improves in fits and sudden, great leaps forward. And bias is a thread that subtly weaves through that work in a way that tech companies are reluctant to acknowledge.
IBM and Moderna Team Up for the Great Reset and Digital Health Passes
IBM and Moderna have taken the next step toward tracking vaccinated persons in real time by teaming up to produce COVID-19 digital health passes. To help roll out the passes, they will implement the plan with artificial intelligence (AI) and hybrid cloud services.
The “focus on exploring the utility of IBM capabilities in the U.S.” is now in place with a pilot program in New York as the Excelsior Pass, which New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced during his 2021 state of the state address, Mint Press News reported.
The Excelsior Pass will enable vaccinated persons to attend events at Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden, as starters. While it’s an intrusion on personal freedoms and choices when it comes to vaccines, IBM is looking at the Excelsior Pass as a model for what IBM predicts will be mandatory digital health passes for other venues in the future.
To that end, IBM’s U.S. public and federal market leader, Steve LaFleche, said there will come a time when the passes will cease to be voluntary “once government guidelines and regulations force the private sector to enforce their implementation.”
Democrats and Republicans Alike Are Talking About Breaking Down Big Tech Monopolies
Buzzfeed News reported:
There’s a growing bipartisan appetite in Congress to crack down on big tech, with progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans preparing to flex the federal government’s anti-monopoly powers.
The Senate began hearings this week on antitrust law. Senators expressed different philosophies and concerns, but they all agreed on at least one key point: Tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon have become too powerful.
It’s the latest sign that Congress is ready to jump into a decades long vacuum created by marginal action from federal regulators as the tech sector became increasingly concentrated. Lawmakers discussed ways both to stop tech giants from growing larger in the future and steps that could be taken to chip away at their existing dominance.
“Why should any dominant corporation be able to merge with any other entity?” Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican, said in a Thursday hearing after rattling off a long list of companies owned by Google. “Why should Google, for instance, or Facebook be able to buy anything else given their dominant size?”
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, also a Republican, blasted tech giants for cornering the online ad market while local newsrooms endure round after round of cuts. Three companies — Google, Facebook, and Amazon — take in about two-thirds of all online advertising dollars. “Every one of these newsrooms have experienced the loss of reporters, which is the loss of journalism, which is the loss of insight of the people into issues,” said Blackburn.
Defying Rules, Anti-vaccine Accounts Thrive on Social Media
ABC News reported:
With vaccination against COVID-19 in full swing, social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter say they’ve stepped up their fight against misinformation that aims to undermine trust in the vaccines. But problems abound.
For years, the same platforms have allowed anti-vaccination propaganda to flourish, making it difficult to stamp out such sentiments now. And their efforts to weed out other types of COVID-19 misinformation — often with fact-checks, informational labels and other restrained measures, has been woefully slow.
Twitter, for instance, announced this month that it will remove dangerous falsehoods about vaccines, much the same way it’s done for other COVID-related conspiracy theories and misinformation. But since April 2020, it has removed a grand total of 8,400 tweets spreading COVID-related misinformation — a tiny fraction of the avalanche of pandemic-related falsehoods tweeted out daily by popular users with millions of followers, critics say.
Why Healthy Competition Would Heal Our Big Tech Problems
One could argue that the digital advertising industry has been “regulated” (even if enforcement was less than robust) since 2010 when the industry’s self-regulation group, the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), rolled out its AdChoices program. In 2018, Europe began enforcing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In 2020, the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) came online followed by the November passage of the GDPR-like California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA).
Against this alphabet soup of patchwork regulation, we may be reaching a tipping point. For one thing, more states are expected to pass consumer privacy laws in 2021. Even with pandemic-altered legislative calendars, 16 states nearly passed laws in 2020.
Additionally, Congress has held countless hearings over the last two years to investigate big tech’s massive data collection operations. Those hearings are sometimes painful to watch, but they are serving to educate members of Congress, who appear to be much more knowledgeable now than they were a few years ago. (Remember when one of them asked Mark Zuckerberg how Facebook makes money? Oy.)
While States Repeal Mask Mandates, the Federal Government Quietly Considers Mask Regulations for Workers
A federal regulatory agency is approaching the deadline to decide whether masks should be required at workplaces in the United States, in response to an executive order by President Biden.
On Jan. 21, President Joe Biden’s first full day in office, he signed an executive order that asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, to consider if any new emergency temporary standards are needed to protect workers from COVID-19. That could include masks in workplaces, if necessary, the order said — and such standards would need to be issued by March 15.
Covid-19 requirements from OSHA would be very different than the mask guidance and recommendations from the White House or the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC Suggesting Vaccinated People Not Travel Is Curious
With vaccines becoming more available, the CDC has released new guidance for those who have received the vaccine. On the positive side, it makes clear that, once fully vaccinated, more families can meet together and grandparents can see their grandkids. It also stresses that in public and group settings, known proven protocols like masks and distancing still make sense. But after outlining the flexibility that the vaccine brings, the document then states “You should still delay domestic and international travel.”
This is highly curious. Travel has been safe, with proper precautions, even before the vaccines, as long as someone had a place to go. The broad CDC statement suggests that a fully-vaccinated family shouldn’t take a one hour car trip to see fully-vaccinated relatives. This kind of far-reaching statement does not help people get their lives back in order, is not scientifically based, and could encourage those on the fence about the vaccine to just not bother with it.
Big Tech Companies Cannot Be Trusted To Self-Regulate: We Need Congress to Act
Tech Crunch reported:
It’s been two months since Donald Trump was kicked off of social media following the violent insurrection on Capitol Hill in January. While the constant barrage of hate-fueled commentary and disinformation from the former president has come to a halt, we must stay vigilant.
Now is the time to think about how to prevent Trump, his allies and other bad actors from fomenting extremism in the future. It’s time to figure out how we as a society address the misinformation, conspiracy theories and lies that threaten our democracy by destroying our information infrastructure.
T-Mobile Is Taking All of Your Sweet, Sweet Data… Unless You Tell It to Stop
T-Mobile’s latest Privacy Notice lays out some of the specifics: Starting April 26, the company writes, it will begin a “new program” that shares some personal data — like the apps you download or the sites you visit — with third-party advertisers. T-Mobile also adds that it won’t share your precise location data “unless you give [T-Mobile] your express permission,” and won’t share information in a way that can be directly tied back to your device. But like we’ve written before, just because a dataset is “anonymized” doesn’t mean that you can take the company anonymizing it (T-Mobile, in this case) at its word.
Why Big Tech Is Facing Regulatory Threats From Australia to Arizona
Ars Technica reported:
Last week, Arizona’s House of Representatives approved legislation to prohibit platform owners like Apple and Google from locking app makers into their own payment systems. The bill passed only narrowly, and it must be approved by the Arizona Senate and Gov. Doug Ducey before it can become law. But regardless of the bill’s ultimate fate, the vote is the latest sign of a dramatic shift in public attitudes toward Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies.
For the first two decades of the Internet era, there was a broad consensus that politicians shouldn’t tie Silicon Valley companies down with burdensome rules and regulations. Companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, and Uber were widely admired. In 2007, presidential candidates from both parties made pilgrimages to associate themselves with Google. In 2015, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and other Republican hopefuls tripped over each other to position themselves as the most Uber-friendly candidate.
Fitbit Reveals Next Generation of Wearable for Kids
Mobile Health News reported:
Fitbit is rolling out its latest child-centered wearable called the Fitbit Ace 3 that can track activity and sleep. The latest technology is geared at children over the age of 6 and comes with an eight-day battery life.
The watch and connected app let families set fitness challenges. Parents are able to set limits as to what their child can see, and manage their children’s friend requests. The tech is designed to help motivate kids to get 60 minutes of activity and walk 250 steps per hour. Kids and their families can personalize their goals. The watch is also swim-proof.
One of the ways that Fitbit is pitching this as kid-friendly is by including animated clock faces that change as daily goals are met. They are also incorporating the Minions into the watch art.
Fauci Draws Backlash for Admitting CDC Must Make ‘Judgment Call’ on Whether Vaccinated People Can Travel
Fox News reported:
White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci drew backlash on Wednesday for admitting that the Biden administration has to make a “judgment call” when it comes to COVID travel guidance.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new health guidelines for vaccinated people Monday, but made no mention of travel.
The guidelines, which were supposed to be released last week, originally included recommendations about traveling but senior health officials decided to remove that section, according to Politico.
During an appearance on CNN, Fauci was pressed about what “science” is preventing the Biden administration from declaring that Americans with both doses of the COVID vaccine can travel safely.
COVID-19: Biden Administration Opens Nursing Home Doors
The New York Times reported:
The Biden administration on Wednesday published revised guidelines for nursing home visits during the pandemic, allowing guests the freedom to go inside to see residents regardless of whether the visitors or the residents have been vaccinated.
The new recommendations, released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services with input from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are the first revision to the federal government’s nursing home guidance since September. And they arrived as more than three million vaccine doses have been administered in nursing homes, the agency said.
The guidance was also the latest indication that the pandemic in the United States was easing, with COVID-19 cases continuing to decrease across the nation, though the seven-day average remains at more than 58,000. The C.D.C. on Monday released long-awaited guidance for Americans who have been fully vaccinated, telling them that it is safe to gather in small groups at home without masks or social distancing.
COVID-19: False Test Results ‘Ruining’ Return to School
BBC News reported:
Reports have emerged of pupils having to isolate after testing positive at school using the on-the-spot checks – only for a more reliable follow-up lab-based PCR test to find them negative.
Parents said it was “ruining” the return to school.
Rapid tests at home or in workplaces can be overruled by a lab test.
But the government has insisted this cannot happen for tests done in school – although it has been unable to explain why.
Pupils at secondary schools – of which there are around four million – are being offered three lateral-flow tests following their return to school.
But because infection rates are so low, the Royal Statistical Society believes more of the positive results produced this week could be wrong than right.
LA Schools to Track Every Kid Using Microsoft’s ‘Daily Pass’ COVID App
The Defender reported:
Los Angeles schools plan to reopen next month — and when they do, every child will be required to have a COVID-tracking app that will be scanned daily before they can enter the classroom.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) last month announced the launch of Daily Pass, a COVID tracking system developed by Microsoft. The app will scan children in schools, using a barcode, to coordinate health checks, COVID tests and vaccinations.
The Daily Pass generates a unique QR code — each day, for each student and staff member — that authorizes entry to a specific Los Angeles Unified location. An individual must have a negative test result for COVID, show no symptoms and have a temperature under 100 degrees in order to gain entry to class.
All data gathered by the app will be reported as required to health authorities. Anonymized data from Daily Pass will be used by Los Angeles Unified’s research and healthcare collaborators –– Stanford University, UCLA, The Johns Hopkins University, Anthem Blue Cross, Healthnet and Cedars Sinai –– “to provide insights and strategies” to implement in safe school environments, school officials said.
Students without the barcode will be barred from going into school.
Facebook Is Finally Cracking Down Hard on Anti-Vaccine Content. It Is Facing an Uphill Battle.
After years of allowing anti-vaccine groups and pages to rack up followers on its social network, Facebook announced last month that it wants to lead the world’s largest COVID-19 inoculation information campaign and encourage its users to get vaccinated. It’s also banned users from sharing general forms of vaccine misinformation, like the idea that vaccinations cause autism.
Facebook’s big push is meant to help bring an end to a pandemic that has killed more than 2.5 million people around the world. But for some of the people who have for years been sounding the alarm about the dangers of anti-vaccine groups and pages on Facebook and Instagram, the announcement — even if it’s a step forward — feels like too little, too late.
“No matter what the commitment is or the ideas made, at the end of the day … I can clearly see their priority was their job and the reputation of Facebook, versus the lives of Americans,” said vaccine advocate Ethan Lindenberger, who said that Facebook groups helped convince his mother not to vaccinate him as a child against illnesses like measles.
Over the past decade, Instagram and Facebook users have created communities on these platforms to organize against vaccines, mixing with and assuming online affinities like “vaccine safety,” parenting communities, or “health freedom,” among others. In Facebook groups, people have promoted the anti-vaccine movement by posting everything from personal anecdotes claiming vaccines have injured their children to far-out conspiracy theories, including the idea that inoculations are disingenuous money-making schemes.
Instagram is Pushing Anti-Vaccine Misinformation and QAnon Content, Study Finds
Rolling Stone reported:
In the past year, social platforms like Facebook and Twitter have made very public efforts to try to prevent the proliferation of COVID-19-related misinformation and election fraud conspiracy theories. Yet a new study from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which tracks the spread of misinformation on digital platforms, suggests that at least one platform — Instagram — has failed in its efforts to curb such content.
According to Imran Ahmed, CEO of the U.K.-based organization, the study was prompted by Instagram’s August 2020 rollout of a new feature called “suggested posts,” which appeared when users reached the bottoms of their feeds. The study’s authors found it curious that the platform would introduce such a feature in the midst of the pandemic, when COVID-19-related misinformation was abounding across social media. They were particularly interested in studying Instagram, which Ahmed refers to as the “fastest-growing” platform regarding misinformation about vaccines, which has been “driven by a new wave of influencers who’ve come along in the anti-vaxx space driven in part by the opportunity COVID-19 has presented,” he says.
Disabled Man Kicked Off Southwest Flight Over Mask Despite Doctor’s Notes
A family from Ohio have been left “disheartened, embarrassed and disappointed” after their disabled son was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for not wearing a mask despite having two doctor’s notes explaining his health exemption.
Cheri Fleming and her son Bryan Crislip were trying to travel with one of her friends from Chicago Midway to Los Angeles on Monday when Southwest staff barred them from taking the flight.
Crislip, 22, has been vaccinated against COVID-19 and two doctors have given him an exemption from wearing a face mask for medical reasons, his mother said.
Federal rules on wearing masks during flights have a narrow exception for people with disabilities.
Airline Industry Pushes U.S. to Standardize Health Papers
ABC News reported:
Leading airline and business groups are asking the Biden administration to develop temporary credentials that would let travelers show they have been tested and vaccinated for COVID-19, a step that the airline industry believes will help revive travel.
Various groups and countries are working on developing so-called vaccine passports aimed at allowing more travel. But airlines fear that a smattering of regional credentials will cause confusion and none will be widely accepted.
“It is crucial to establish uniform guidance” and “the U.S. must be a leader in this development,” more than two dozen groups said in a letter Monday to White House coronavirus-response coordinator Jeff Zients. However, the groups said that vaccination should not be a requirement for domestic or international travel.
Police Use ‘Citigraf’ To Surveil Everyone, Including School Kids
Technocracy News reported:
At the click of the “INVESTIGATE” button, Citigraf gives law enforcement the ability to go through a city’s historical police records and live sensor feeds, looking for patterns and connections of a person.
Wired explains that Citigraf allows police to access a person’s address, photographs, license plate number and much more.
“Once a police officer clicks on INVESTIGATE a long list of possible leads appeared onscreen, including a lineup of individuals previously arrested in the neighborhood for violent crimes, the home addresses of parolees living nearby, a catalog of similar recent 911 calls, photographs and license plate numbers of vehicles that had been detected speeding away from the scene, and video feeds from any cameras that might have picked up evidence of the crime itself, including those mounted on passing buses and trains.”
This is an incredible admission and one that I have been warning people about for years. All those DHS surveillance cameras being installed on public transit are actually connected to a much larger police surveillance network. (To see how police departments use Genetec to surveil 911 calls click here.)
Genetec admits police departments love Citigraf because it gives them access to a wide-range of surveillance devices.
At Dubai Airport, Eye Scan Becomes Your Passport
Dubai’s airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, can already feel surreal, with its cavernous duty-free stores, artificial palm trees, gleaming terminals, water cascades and near-Arctic levels of air conditioning.
Now, the key east-west transit hub is rolling out another addition from the realm of science fiction — an iris-scanner that verifies one’s identity and eliminates the need for any human interaction when entering or leaving the country.
It’s the latest artificial intelligence program the United Arab Emirates has launched amid the surging coronavirus pandemic, contact-less technology the government promotes as helping to stem the spread of the virus. But the efforts also have renewed questions about mass surveillance in the federation of seven sheikhdoms, which experts believe has among the highest per capita concentrations of surveillance cameras in the world.
CDC Says Vaccinated People Can Get Together Without Masks
MSN News reported:
People who are fully vaccinated against the new coronavirus can gather privately in small groups without masks or physical distancing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, relaxing safety guidelines for inoculated individuals under some circumstances.
The CDC said Monday that fully vaccinated people should continue to take precautions in most circumstances to prevent the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19. People who are fully immunized should continue to wear masks and keep their distance from others in public or while visiting unvaccinated people at higher risk for severe cases of Covid-19, the CDC said. The agency, leaving its travel guidance unchanged, said vaccinated people should continue to hold off on long trips.
“Our guidance must balance the risk to people who have been fully vaccinated, the risks to those who have not yet received the vaccine and the impact on the larger community transmission of Covid-19,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a media briefing.
China Launches ‘Virus Passport’
China has launched a health certificate programme for Chinese citizens traveling internationally, one of the first countries in the world to issue a “virus passport”.
The digital certificate, which shows a user’s vaccination status and virus test results, is available for Chinese citizens via a programme on Chinese social media platform WeChat that was launched on Monday.
The certificate is being rolled out “to help promote world economic recovery and facilitate cross-border travel”, a foreign ministry spokesman said.
The certificate, which is also available in paper form, is currently only for use by Chinese citizens and is not yet mandatory.
There is also no information on which countries China is working with to get the certificate recognised when Chinese travellers go overseas.
Vaccinated Americans Allowed to Taste Freedom
Exactly one horrific, demoralizing and family-splitting year since darkness descended on America, top public health officials arrived at a (virtual) White House coronavirus strategy briefing on Monday armed with tangible hope.
In announcing new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on how fully vaccinated citizens can begin to pick up their lives, they struck a momentous turning point in a pandemic that has killed more than 525,000 Americans.
“It’s science based. It’s sensible. You can hug your grandkids again. If you’ve been waiting to get a haircut, see the dentist, you can do that,” former CDC Director Tom Frieden said on CNN’s “The Situation Room.”
As is the way in the worst public health disaster in 100 years, good news is heavily caveated. Those in the long lines for the vaccine must not let up. Travel, even for those who’ve been vaccinated, is advised against — though some prominent medical experts said the CDC is being overly cautious. And the threat of pernicious COVID-19 variants may be about to inflict another surge of death and sickness, again testing the patience of a weary nation.
Ohio COVID-19 Health Order Allows Dancing at Proms, Weddings
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported:
Dancing is again allowed at weddings, proms and banquet hall events in Ohio, state health officials clarified this week.
A March 2 health order lifted the 300-person capacity limit for banquet halls and catering facilities. The order didn’t explicitly mention dancing, but an Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman confirmed the order replaced a November health order temporarily banning socializing in congregate areas and dancing.
Gov. Mike DeWine put that ban in place as cases and hospitalizations were rising statewide.
The new order applies to “wedding receptions, funeral repasts, proms,and other events, whether or not food is served, at banquet facilities.” Facilities must adhere to the business safety guidelines issued in orders on Sept. 23 and July 23. That includes face coverings for everyone except when eating or drinking, which must be done while seated.
Stop Letting Google Get Away With It
What Google does plan on building, though, is its own slew of “privacy-preserving” tools for ad targeting, like its Federated Learning of Cohorts, or FLoC for short. Just to get people up to speed: While cookies (and some of these planned universal ID’s) track people by their individual browsing behavior as they bounce from site to site, under FLoC, a person’s browser would take any data generated by that browsing and basically plop it into a large pot of data from people with similar browsing behavior—a “flock,” if you will. Instead of being able to target ads against people based on the individual morsels of data a person generates, Google would allow advertisers to target these giant pots of aggregated data.
We’ve written out our full thoughts on FLoC before—the short version is that, like the majority of Google’s privacy pushes that we’ve seen until now, the FLoC proposal isn’t as user-friendly as you might think. For one thing, others have already pointed out that this proposal doesn’t necessarily stop people from being tracked across the web, it just ensures that Google’s the only one doing it. This is one of the reasons that the upcoming cookiepocolypse has already drawn scrutiny from competition authorities over in the UK. Meanwhile, some American trade groups have already loudly voiced their suspicions that what Google’s doing here is less about privacy and more about tightening its obscenely tight grip on the digital ad economy.
Which brings us back to that Google blog post from earlier this week—the post that was literally called “charting a course towards a more privacy-first web,” while also glossing over all of the obvious problems that others have pointed out with FLoC: how tracking is still tracking, even if it’s happening in aggregate. How Google’s claim that targeting based on FLoC is “95% as effective” as cookie-based targeting seems to be built on bunk math. How this ploy would give Google exclusive access to a ton of user data that the company already largely monopolizes. If Google actually wants to shift the national conversation on consumer privacy, then it should start by clarifying what they think “privacy” actually means.
Amazon Alexa’s ‘Skills’ Can ‘Pose Significant Privacy, Security Risk,’ Study Warns
When most consumers use Amazon’s friendly voice-activated assistant, they probably think they’re just dealing with the famous Alexa. It turns out, however, Alexa is just a “middle woman” for countless third parties that could put your private information in harm’s way. Researchers from North Carolina State University reveal that Alexa has a number of vulnerabilities when dealing with the programs users interact with via the popular Amazon device.
“When people use Alexa to play games or seek information, they often think they’re interacting only with Amazon,” says study co-author Anupam Das in a university release. “But a lot of the applications they are interacting with were created by third parties, and we’ve identified several flaws in the current vetting process that could allow those third parties to gain access to users’ personal or private information.”
The danger stems from the thousands of programs, or skills, that can run on Alexa. These skills function like the apps on a smartphone, which do everything from play music to order groceries. Study authors say Amazon has sold at least 100 million Alexa devices and there are currently over 100,000 skills users can install. Since the vast majority of these programs are created by third parties and have access to homes all around the world, researchers set out to identify any security issues in this relationship.
The New Normal’s Religion of ‘Techno-Voodooism’ Has Bewitched the World
If COVID-19 has been a boon for anyone, that would be Big Business and Big Tech – overblowing fears, widening the wealth gap and facilitating global control through all-powerful technology the world now depends on.
What happens when systems cross the threshold of peak complexity and can no longer be improved in their current forms? Decision-makers can commission competing models in order to pick a winner. This however calls for patience, prudence and sound oversight. Alternately, they can pounce on a fantastical blueprint that will supposedly gel via Artificial Intelligence and get to play monopoly at the same time. An all-in-one solution!
Such thinking was precisely what beleaguered the F-35 combat aircraft program with its estimated $1.7 trillion in lifetime costs. After 20 years of troubled development, the stealth fighter’s problems have become so insurmountable that there is talk in the US Air Force of considering a clean slate fighter jet program to replace its ageing F-16s.
You Can Poison the Data That Big Tech Uses to Monitor You
Getting ads about something you were searching for is not a coincidence. Tech giants track your online movement; from the shows you watch, the websites you use for shopping, the latest gadget you might be interested in buying, everything is monitored.
The data is collected and stored on machine-learning algorithms which sent ads and recommendations according to your preference. Companies like Google cash in your data for over $120 billion a year from ad revenue, reports MIT.
Even if you disable settings in Google Chrome to purge all website cookies and site data when you close the browser it still stores data for itself and YouTube, according to Mac programmer Jeff Johnson who elaborated on this in a blog.
Big Tech Targets DC With a Digital Charm Offensive
Did you know Facebook supports updated internet regulations? I know that. Boy, do I know it. I’m guessing everyone else who lives in the Washington, DC, area knows it too. For at least the past five weeks, Facebook has been deluging the region with ads declaring its support for regulation. I originally noticed when my morning ritual of watching basketball highlights on NBA.com started getting disrupted by the same 30-second message from Facebook every single time I wanted to watch a 3-minute video. Just let me see the slam dunks, please!
Somehow, despite having seen the ad dozens of times, I still couldn’t quite tell you what regulations Facebook really has in mind. That’s probably because the ads are less about specific policy proposals than about trying to improve Facebook’s battered reputation in the eyes of DC decisionmakers. The regulation ads are part of an all-out blitz on the part of not just Facebook but also Google and Amazon. They, along with American Edge, a pro-tech lobbying group that Facebook has acknowledged backing, have been pumping ads into the feeds of the DC policy audience.
A very visible part of that push has come in the form of newsletter sponsorships. After noticing a deluge beginning in early February, the Tech Transparency Project tracked the sponsorships of 10 super-inside-the-Beltway newsletters, from Politico, the Hill, Axios, and Punchbowl News. They found that for every day in February, at least one of the newsletters was sponsored by one of the three companies or American Edge. In the third week of the month, Facebook alone sponsored three of them.
Can Long-Term Care Employers Require Staff Members to Be Vaccinated?
For much of the winter, Meryl Gordon worried about the people caring for her 95-year-old mother, who was rehabbing in a Manhattan nursing home after surgery for a broken hip.
“Every week they sent out a note to families about how many staff members had positive COVID tests,” said Ms. Gordon, a biographer and professor at New York University. “It was a source of tremendous anxiety.”
Ms. Gordon feels reassured now that her mother is fully vaccinated and has returned to her assisted living facility. But what about the two home care aides who help her 98-year-old father, David, in his Upper West Side apartment?
Neither has agreed to be vaccinated. David Gordon’s doctor has advised him to delay Covid vaccination himself because of his past allergic reactions.
Ms. Gordon has not insisted that the caregivers receive vaccinations. “You’re reluctant to do something that could cause you to lose the people you rely on,” she said. But she remains uneasy.
CDC Says Fully Vaccinated Americans Can Spend Time Together Indoors and Unmasked
People who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can now spend time together indoors and unmasked, according to new Biden administration guidance.
Fully immunized Americans can also visit with low-risk individuals from other households even if they haven’t yet received a vaccine. And if vaccinated individuals are exposed to COVID-19, there’s no need to either quarantine or get tested for the disease, according to new recommendations released Monday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We know that people want to get vaccinated so they can get back to doing the things they enjoy with the people they love,” Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said in prepared remarks. “There are some activities that fully vaccinated people can begin to resume now in the privacy of their own homes. Everyone — even those who are vaccinated — should continue with all mitigation strategies when in public settings.”
Vaccine Passports Begin at Rangers Game in New York
A vaccine passport system in New York City was introduced to attendees at a New York Rangers game March 2, 2021, at Madison Square Garden. The same passport was tested at The Barclays Center in February 2021.
The “Excelsior Pass” system, which shows a QR barcode on a phone app or printed out on paper, was endorsed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said that it should be used for admission to all sports arenas, theaters and other businesses.
Only a short time earlier, Cuomo had given the OK for certain venues to open to just 10% capacity. With the introduction of the pass, which presumably would allow more spectators inside an arena, MSG Entertainment embraced the passport
program, telling the New York Post, “We applaud Governor Cuomo’s leadership in reopening New York. The Excelsior Pass program, along with his decision to allow venues to begin welcoming fans, will play important roles in helping to get our City back on its feet.”
The Excelsior system was developed by IBM and is expected to be widely adopted by other cities and states.
California Doubles Down on Mask Mandates
Just after Texas and Mississippi declared their states are now free from mask mandates, California Gov. Gavin Newsom responded by doubling down on mandates in his state. And, by doubling down, he means business: Instead of just one mask, everyone in California must now wear two.
Newsom said he was doing this in light of what he called “bad information coming from at least four states” that have loosened or ended their mask mandates. “We will not be walking down their path; we’re mindful of your health and your future,” ZeroHedge reported Newsom as saying.
In response, the California health department updated its guidelines to coincide with the governor’s call for two masks, or a filtered mask if just one is used.
In Apparent New Aim at Web Freedoms, Putin Wants ‘Moral Laws’ for the Internet
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for the Internet in Russia to be bound by “moral laws” that he says will stop society from “collapsing” — suggesting that Russian children are being exploited by his political opponents at anti-Kremlin demonstrations.
Putin’s televised remarks on March 4 come amid mounting efforts by Moscow to exert greater influence over U.S. social media giants and frustration from Russian authorities over what they say is the failure of U.S. social media firms to follow Russian laws.
As tens of thousands of Russians demonstrated across Russia to protest the jailing of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny, Moscow accused U.S. social networks of failing to take down what it says are fake posts about anti-Kremlin demonstrations.
In December, the State Duma, the parliament’s lower house, backed substantial new fines on platforms that fail to delete banned content and a separate bill that would allow U.S. social media giants to be restricted if they “discriminate” against Russian media.
Health Ministry Revokes License of Doctor Who Warns Against Using COVID Vaccine
Israel’s Health Ministry revoked the medical license Tuesday of (now former) Dr. Aryeh Avni, an anti-vaccination doctor and current political candidate running as head of the Rapeh Party, according to Health Ministry statement.
The decision was made by retired judge Amnon Strashnov following a review of a report submitted to the medical community’s disciplinary committee, which listed complaints and gave the recommendation to revoke Avni’s license.
Explaining the decision to revoke Avni’s license, Strashnov said that his articles published on websites, YouTube, Facebook, and elsewhere against the public immunization of the coronavirus pose a danger to public health.
YouTube Cancels Myanmar Military-Run Channels, Pulls Videos
YouTube has removed five channels run by Myanmar’s military for violating its community guidelines and terms of service.
The company said Friday that it terminated channels of broadcasters Myawaddy Media, MRTV, WD Online Broadcasting, MWD Variety and MWD Myanmar. The decision follows a Feb. 1 military coup that ousted the country’s elected government, provoking massive public protests.
“We have terminated a number of channels and removed several videos from YouTube in accordance with our community guidelines and applicable laws,” YouTube said in an emailed statement.
The company said it was monitoring the situation for any content that might violate its rules.
YouTube said it had terminated around 20 channels and removed over 160 videos in the past couple months for violating its policies regarding hate speech and harassment, spam and deceptive practices, violent or graphic content policy and violations of its terms of service.
New Technology Can Bring Anne Frank to Life — but Should It?
The technology, called Deep Nostalgia, allows users to animate photos, letting that old sepia-tone picture of Bubbe smile and blink, or Zayde back in the old country turn his head. The company is marketing Deep Nostalgia as a heartwarming tool that can help users connect with relatives they may have never had the chance to meet, or to bring memories of lost loved ones to life. But users have already started to expand past their own families, animating historical figures such as Anne Frank or even famous paintings.
This technology is not new, though MyHeritage’s tool has enhanced its ease of use. But if you’re familiar with the term deepfake, the idea of bringing a photo to life might not sound quite so harmless and wholesome. Deepfakes use technology to alter photos or video, and allow the creator to convincingly replicate the motions and voice of the person in question.
CDC Director Urges People to Keep Masking and Distancing ‘Regardless of What States Decide’
The director of the U.S. Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said she hopes people will decide to individually “do the right thing” about distancing and wearing masks, even in states moving to eliminate restrictions against the CDC’s recommendations.
“I think we at the CDC have been very clear that now is not the time to release all restrictions,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing.
Walensky’s comments come after governors of Texas and Mississippi said they were lifting mask mandates and allowing businesses to open at full capacity, starting now or within days.
President Joe Biden sharply criticized states lifting Covid restrictions Wednesday, saying he thought it was a “big mistake” and that “these masks” make a difference.
Big Law’s ‘Big Tech’ Problem: Are You With Them, or Against Them?
With the tech giants entering all manner of industries with increasing speed in Europe, major law firms may have to start picking sides with clients.
Increasing antitrust regulation and enforcement of U.S. tech giants is forcing law firms with EU competition practices to make a tough strategic choice: Do they want to represent Big Tech firms like Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google? Or do they want to advise the traditional players whose industries those tech players have disrupted?
New Yorkers Would Have to Flash COVID-19 Passport to Enter Venues Under New Program
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday the rollout of a new pilot program in which New Yorkers would have to flash a sort of COVID-19 passport in order to enter sports arenas, theaters and other businesses as the state continues reopening efforts.
The plan is to test the “Excelsior Pass,” which will use secure technology to confirm if a person has gotten vaccinated or has had a recent negative COVID-19 exam result, during events at Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center, Cuomo said in a statement.
The pass was tested at Tuesday night’s New York Rangers game at Madison Square Garden.
Similar to an airline boarding pass, people will be able to print out their pass or save it on their phones using the Excelsior Pass’s “Wallet App.” Each pass will have a secure QR code, which venues will scan using a companion app to confirm a person’s health status.
‘Digital Authoritarianism’ Threatening Basic Rights In Africa, Study Says
From internet shutdowns and online surveillance to social media taxes and arrests for anti-government posts, “digital authoritarianism” is a threat to basic freedoms and rights in many African countries, researchers said on Tuesday.
A study by the African Digital Rights Network (ADRN) focusing on 10 countries found governments used a plethora of measures over the last two decades to stifle people’s ability to organise, voice opinions and participate in governance online.
“Our research shows online civic spaces are being closed through various repressive actions, including unwarranted arrests, unwarranted surveillance and various forms of intimidation,” said Juliet Nanfuka from the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and member of the ADRN.
“Self-censorship online is being fueled by financial restrictions and online content regulation. All of these actions inhibit freedom of expression and access to information, which are fundamental to a flourishing civic space,” Nanfuka, a digital rights researcher, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Local Police Departments To Receive Drones With ‘Most Advanced AI Ever’
Founded by Google veterans and backed by $340 million from major VCs, Skydio is creating drones that seem straight out of science fiction—and they could end up in your neighborhood soon.
Three years ago, Customs and Border Protection placed an order for self-flying aircraft that could launch on their own, rendezvous, locate and monitor multiple targets on the ground without any human intervention. In its reasoning for the order, CBP said the level of monitoring required to secure America’s long land borders from the sky was too cumbersome for people alone. To research and build the drones, CBP handed $500,000 to Mitre Corporation, a trusted non-profit skunkworks that was already furnishing border police with prototype rapid DNA testing and smartwatch hacking technology.
Mitre’s unmanned aerial vehicles didn’t take off. They were “tested but not fielded operationally” as “the gap from simulation to reality turned out to be much larger than the research team originally envisioned,” a CBP spokesperson says.
But the setback didn’t end CBP’s sci-fi dreams. This year, America’s border police will test automated drones from Skydio, the Redwood City, Calif.-based startup which on Monday announced it had raised an additional $170 million in venture funding at a valuation of $1 billion. That brings the total raised for Skydio to $340 million. Investors include blue chip VC shops like Andreessen Horowitz, AI-chip maker Nvidia and even Kevin Durant, the NBA star. It’s not clear just how well its drones are selling; Skydio refuses to discuss revenue figures, claiming an estimate of sub-$5 million per year was “significantly off base.”
But the Army and Air Force have spent a collective $10 million and the DEA $225,000 on Skydios in the last two years. By Forbes’ calculation, based on documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and Skydio’s public announcements, more than 20 police agencies across the U.S. now have Skydios as part of their drone fleets, including major cities like Austin and Boston.
Vaccine Passports, COVID’s Next Political Flash Point
While such passports are still hypothetical in most places, Israel became the first to roll out its own last week, capitalizing on its high vaccination rate. Several European countries are considering following. President Biden has asked federal agencies to explore options. And some airlines and tourism-reliant industries and destinations expect to require them.
Dividing the world between the vaccinated and unvaccinated raises daunting political and ethical questions. Vaccines go overwhelmingly to rich countries and privileged racial groups within them. Granting special rights for the vaccinated, while tightening restrictions on the unvaccinated, risks widening already-dangerous social gaps.
Vaccine skepticism, already high in many communities, shows signs of spiking if shots become seen as government-mandated. Plans also risk exacerbating Covid nationalism: sparring among nations to advance their citizens’ self-interest over global good.
“Immunity passports promise a way to go back to a more normal social and economic life,” Nicole Hassoun and Anders Herlitz, who study public health ethics, wrote in Scientific American. But with vaccines distributed unequally by race, class and nationality, “it is not obvious that they are ethical.”
Scientists Stimulate Brain To Remove Fear, Boost ‘Confidence’
Via a combination of artificial intelligence and brain scanning technology, scientists in Japan say they’ve discovered avenues to remove specific fears, boost confidence, and even alter individual preferences.
They believe that in the future these techniques may lead to new treatments for patients dealing with issues like PTSD or generalized anxiety disorder.
All of this is incredibly promising, but researchers admit they haven’t perfected their approach just yet. While the treatment they developed has proven effective with many, some individuals haven’t seen the same benefits.
States Roll Back Restrictions as Infections Plateau
Governors across the country have begun to rescind policies meant to stem the coronavirus’s spread, even as the rapid drop in new infections begins to stall.
In Texas, the nation’s second most populous state, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced that he would lift the state’s mask requirement and restrictions on businesses. Mississippi officials unveiled a similar plan.
Health officials reacted with concern, warning that lifting restrictions too early risked another surge of the virus.
Twitter to Permanently Ban Users Who Spread COVID Misinformation
Twitter says it will start labelling misleading tweets about COVID vaccines and ban users who continue to spread such misinformation.
The microblogging platform introduced on Monday a “strike system” that will gradually escalate to a permanent ban after the fifth offending tweet.
“We believe the strike system will help to educate the public on our policies and further reduce the spread of potentially harmful and misleading information on Twitter,” the San Francisco-based company said in a blog post.
“Particularly for repeated moderate and high-severity violations of our rules.”
Twitter users will be notified when a tweet is labelled as misleading or needs to be removed for breaking the platform’s rules, earning a strike, according to the company.
The second and third strikes will each result in the violating account being blocked for 12 hours.
Indonesia Warns of Big Fines for Refusing COVID19 Vaccine, in a World First
Indonesia’s capital Jakarta is threatening residents with fines of up to 5 million rupiah ($450) for refusing COVID-19 vaccines, an unusually stiff penalty aimed at ensuring compliance with a new regulation making jabs mandatory.
Deputy Jakarta governor Ahmad Riza Patria said city authorities were merely following rules and such sanctions were a last resort in Jakarta, which accounts for about a quarter of the archipelago nation’s more than 1.2 million coronavirus infections.
“If you reject it, there are two things, social aid will not be given, [and a] fine,” Mr Riza told reporters, in what appears to be a world first in making the jabs compulsory.
Amazon Quietly Bans Books Containing Undefined ‘Hate Speech’
Amazon has adopted a rule against books that contain anything the company labels as “hate speech.” It appears there was no announcement of the new rule. It was only noticed by media after the online retailer recently banned a book that criticizes transgender ideology.
It’s not clear what Amazon means by “hate speech” or even if it used that label to drop that particular book. In general parlance, Americans hold widely diverging views on what constitutes hate speech, a 2017 Cato poll found. Some tech platforms describe it as speech that disparages people based on characteristics such as race, gender, and sexual proclivities. But insider evidence indicates the companies aren’t clear on where to draw the lines, perpetually redraw them, and at least in some instances ignore violations when politically convenient.
“As a bookseller, we provide our customers with access to a variety of viewpoints, including books that some customers may find objectionable,” an Amazon spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.
“That said, we reserve the right not to sell certain content as described in our content guidelines for books, which you can find here. All retailers make decisions about what selection they choose to offer, and we do not take selection decisions lightly.”
The statement omitted that the $1.5 trillion company changed the rules sometime after August 10 last year, apparently without telling its customers.
Home-Security Cameras Have Become aFruitful Resource for Law Enforcement — And a Fatal Risk
Police forces across the U.S. made more than 20,000 requests last year for footage captured by Ring’s “video doorbells” and other home-security cameras, underscoring how the rapid growth of inexpensive home surveillance technology has given American law enforcement an unprecedented ability to monitor neighborhood life
The requests reflect the Amazon-owned company’s policy of allowing police and fire departments to request video from camera owners who live near the scene of a crime. Some officers have celebrated the digital informants for helping them gather valuable evidence and watch over the public at large.
But the proliferation of the kind of surveillance cameras once limited primarily to airports, banks and convenience stores also has meant millions of unsuspecting people — including camera owners’ neighbors, peaceful protesters and anyone else walking down a residential block — are being recorded without their knowledge or consent.
Red Deer Mother in Tears as Son Taken to Undisclosed Isolation Centre
A Red Deer mom has told of her anguish after watching her son being detained at the Calgary airport, loaded into a van, and taken to an undisclosed isolation centre.
Rebekah McDonald was at the airport late Saturday night, hoping to welcome her son, Ethan, back to Calgary from Arizona.
McDonald hadn’t seen her son for two years.
But the joy soon turned to tears when her son was taken into custody for having what the Canadian federal government considers the wrong COVID-19 test.
“They are saying it’s not accurate and they are wanting to take him to a quarantine facility. They won’t let me talk to him. They won’t let me see him. They won’t come and talk to me. The border patrol services say they have nothing to do with it – they won’t tell me who has to do with it,” said McDonald in a social media video as she walked through the airport concourse.
“They won’t tell me who’s picking him up. They won’t tell me where he’s going. They won’t tell me anything.
Babies Not Exempt From Mask Bylaw at Some Regional Businesses
A Guelph mother says she was following public health advice when she was asked to leave the premises of a nearby ski hill for not putting a mask on her 13-month-old son.
Rebecca Adam said she was picking up a ski badge on Sunday at Chicopee in Kitchener for her three-and-a-half year old daughter’s upcoming lessons.
“At the entrance I got turned down because my baby didn’t have on a mask,” said Adam. “I told her under two, Ontario law is no masks. She said it didn’t matter.”
At no time were Adam and her son indoors. She said people were only allowed to line up outside and that everyone was physically distanced.
Adam said she asked to speak to a manager, who reiterated there were no exceptions to the rule, not even for babies. She ended up walking away without getting the pass.
Judge Approves $650 Million Facebook Privacy Settlement Over Facial Recognition Feature
A federal judge on Friday gave final approval to a $650 million Facebook class action privacy settlement and ordered the 1.6 million members of the class in Illinois who submitted claims to be paid “as expeditiously as possible.”
Chicago attorney Jay Edelson sued Facebook in Cook County Circuit Court back in 2015, alleging that the platform’s use of facial recognition tagging was not allowed under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. The lawsuit claimed that Facebook’s Tag Suggestions tool, which scanned faces in users’ photos and offered suggestions about who the person might be, stored biometric data without users’ consent in violation of the Illinois law.
The case became a class action lawsuit in 2018. In 2019, Facebook made facial recognition on the platform opt-in only.
Scientists: Vaccination Before EVERY Holiday May Be Needed
Scientists at Oxford University have suggested that people may need to have a coronavirus vaccination not once, not twice, but EVERY time they want to travel out of their home country.
The scientists published a report in the Royal Society Journal last week that acknowledged there is little data on how efficient or long lasting the current vaccines are, and so it is likely that countries will require a recent vaccination.
Having endless vaccinations when there is no indication of how effective they are, or what long term side effects there may be sounds absolutely mental, but that is what is being suggested.
Speaking to the London Telegraph, Epidemiologist Christopher Dye, a leading author of the reports stated “If we thought that the duration of protection was just a matter of months, then the sort of criteria that might be introduced – we’re not saying they should be – is that when one travels internationally for a short trip, going on vacation for example, that one is vaccinated each time on that occasion for that particular trip.”
Lawyers To Sue WHO for ‘Misleading World Over COVID-19 Outbreak’
A group of lawyers is preparing to sue the World Health Organization and some of its partners for allegedly misleading the world over the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak and the measures taken to control it, which they say have damaged livelihoods and caused tremendous harm to economies.
The move was announced by Dr. Reiner Fuellmich, one of four members of the German Coronavirus Investigative Committee that has been hearing international scientists’ and experts’ testimonies since July 10, 2020
Facebook’s Making a Good Case Why You Should Never Wear Its Smart Glasses
Everyone and their mother is supposedly building a pair of smart glasses now, Facebook included. However, a BuzzFeed News report notes that apparently, Facebook is thinking about building facial recognition into its forthcoming pair of AR glasses. Um, no thank you.
In an internal meeting, Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president of augmented and virtual reality, said that the social media giant was considering whether it had the legal capacity to include facial recognition features in its AR glasses. According to Buzzfeed, Bosworth said facial recognition “might be the thorniest issue, where the benefits are so clear, and the risks are so clear, and we don’t know where to balance things.” His comment was in response to an employee’s question about whether such technology had the potential for “real-world harm,” specifically stalking. As for potential benefits, Bosworth pointed to secretly looking up an acquaintance’s name if you’d forgotten it or have face blindness.
How One State Managed to Actually Write Rules on Facial Recognition
Though police have been using facial recognition technology for the last two decades to try to identify unknown people in their investigations, the practice of putting the majority of Americans into a perpetual photo lineup has gotten surprisingly little attention from lawmakers and regulators. Until now.
Lawmakers, civil liberties advocates and police chiefs have debated whether and how to use the technology because of concerns about both privacy and accuracy. But figuring out how to regulate it is tricky. So far, that has meant an all-or-nothing approach. City Councils in Oakland, Portland, San Francisco, Minneapolis and elsewhere have banned police use of the technology, largely because of bias in how it works. Studies in recent years by MIT researchers and the federal government found that many facial recognition algorithms are most accurate for white men, but less so for everyone else.
EU to Propose Vaccine Certificates in Time for Summer Holidays
The European Commission will propose this month an EU-wide digital certificate providing proof of a COVID-19 vaccination that could allow Europeans to travel more freely over the summer.
The EU executive aims to present its plans for a “digital green pass” on March 17 and to cooperate with international organisations to ensure that its system also works beyond the European Union.
The pass would provide proof that a person has been vaccinated, the results of tests for those not yet vaccinated and information on recovery for people who have contracted COVID-19.
“The aim is to gradually enable them to move safely in the European Union or abroad – for work or tourism,” Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet on Monday.
Optimizing For Outrage: Ex-Obama Digital Chief Urges Curbs on Big Tech
A former digital strategist for Barack Obama has demanded an end to big tech’s profit-driven optimization of outrage and called for regulators to curb online disinformation and division.
Michael Slaby – author of a new book, For All the People: Redeeming the Broken Promises of Modern Media and Reclaiming Our Civic Life – described tech giants Facebook and Google as “two gorillas” crushing the very creativity needed to combat conspiracy theories spread by former US president Donald Trump and others.
“The systems are not broken,” Slaby, 43, told the Guardian by phone from his home in Rhinebeck, New York. “They are working exactly as they were designed for the benefit of their designers. They can be designed differently. We can express and encourage a different set of public values about the public goods that we need from our public sphere.”
The Art of (Big Tech) War
The government is preparing its antitrust strategies and has begun the battle to “break up Big Tech.” The problem is that they’ve been studying the wrong maps, brought the wrong weapons and aren’t even on the right battlefield.
The uncomfortable truth is the government is the underdog in this fight. The big four—Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google—have thousands of lawyers, lobbyists and corporate communication staffers, better equipped and motivated to win. Therefore, for the government to properly regulate and enact change, it needs to focus on neutralizing Big Tech’s behavioral weapons.
Timnit Gebru’s Ouster Shows How Big Tech Dominates AI Ethics
Timnit Gebru — a giant in the world of AI and then co-lead of Google’s AI ethics team — was pushed out of her job in December.
Gebru had been fighting with the company over a research paper that she’d coauthored, which explored the risks of the AI models that the search giant uses to power its core products—the models are involved in almost every English query on Google, for instance. The paper called out the potential biases (racial, gender, Western, and more) of these language models, as well as the outsize carbon emissions required to compute them. Google wanted the paper retracted, or any Google-affiliated authors’ names taken off; Gebru said she would do so if Google would engage in a conversation about the decision. Instead, her team was told that she had resigned. After the company abruptly announced Gebru’s departure, Google AI chief Jeff Dean insinuated that her work was not up to snuff — despite Gebru’s credentials and history of groundbreaking research.
The backlash was immediate. Thousands of Googlers and outside researchers leaped to her defense and charged Google with attempting to marginalize its critics, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds. A champion of diversity and equity in the AI field, Gebru is a Black woman and was one of the few in Google’s research organization.
Australia Led the Way V. Big Tech, now Congress Needs to Follow
Australia’s Parliament has passed its Media Bargaining Code into law. What’s Congress waiting for?
Lawmakers from both US parties have made lots of noise about cracking down on Big Tech, but actual legislation with any hope of passage remains out of sight. The obvious first step is to copy the law from Down Under, which will force Facebook and Google to pay media companies for news content that the tech firms make big money off of.
Both companies tried to browbeat the Aussies out of moving ahead, and Facebook even blocked Australian news from its sites last week, along with an “accidental” blockage of vital government public-info releases. But it didn’t work.
Yes, Facebook won some concessions, but the law still sets a landmark of the first legislation to force Big Tech to share the huge profits it makes off others’ intellectual property. The Pew Research Center reports that employment at US newspapers is down by over 50 percent since 2008, driven by plummeting ad income — even as Google and Facebook together collect roughly three-quarters of all online advertising revenue.
U.S. House Lays Out Three Potential Areas of Change To Rein in Big Tech
The U.S. House antitrust subcommittee met again on Thursday to listen to expert witnesses and consider legislative proposals to “address the rise and abuse of market power online.”
Thursday’s hearing is slated to be the first of several intended to build on a bipartisan investigation carried out by the U.S. House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust. Unlike the first phase, lawmakers are focused on new regulations and rules in the new series of hearings.
“This problem is a cancer that is metastasizing across our economy and our country. Mark my words. Change is coming. Laws are coming,” said Rep. David Cicilline, the subcommittee’s chairman.
Understanding Eisenhower’s Warning of Technological Elite Takeover
In June 2019, Susan Gordon stood on a stage at the Washington Convention Center. Behind her loomed three giant letters, “AWS,” the abbreviation for Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing division of the giant Internet retailer. After three decades at the Central Intelligence Agency, Gordon had risen to one of the top jobs in the cloak-and-dagger world: principal deputy director of national intelligence. From that perch she publicly extolled the virtues of Amazon Web Services and the cloud services the tech giant provides the CIA.
She told the crowd that the intelligence community’s 2013 decision to sign a multi-year, $600 million contract with AWS for cloud computing “will stand as one of those that caused the greatest leap forward. … The investment we made so many years ago in order to be able to try and harness the power of the cloud with a partner who wanted to learn and grow with us has left us not only ready for today but positioned for tomorrow.”
The agreement was also a “real game-changer,” said André Pienaar, founder and CEO of a tech firm called C5 Capital, whose business includes reselling AWS services. “When the CIA said they were going adopt the AWS cloud platform,” Pienaar said at another AWS event. “People said if the U.S. intelligence community has the confidence to feel secure on the AWS cloud, why can’t we?”
COVID Vaccine Passports Are Being Considered. And Health Experts And Rights Groups Are Deeply Concerned.
Public health officials and civil liberty organizations are urging policymakers to resist calls for coronavirus vaccine passports, at a time when many countries are in the process of reviewing whether to introduce digital passes.
The U.S., U.K. and European Union are among those considering whether to introduce a digital passport that will allow citizens to show they have been vaccinated against Covid-19.
The certificate system could be used for traveling abroad, as well as to grant access to venues such as restaurants and bars.
It is thought a digital passport could help stimulate an economic recovery as countries prepare to relax public health measures over the coming weeks. The ailing airline industry, hit particularly hard by the spread of the virus last year, is among those calling for governments to usher in legislation that supports Covid vaccine passports.
Physicians and rights groups, however, are deeply concerned.
Big Tech Regulation: Why It Could Be a Long Road Ahead
Following Facebook’s decision to ban news outlets in Australia, which has since been reversed after the government made media code amendments, the issue of Big Tech regulation has once again been thrust into the public eye.
Tech companies make up five of the six most valuable companies in the world today. Our heavy reliance on Big Tech services, which offer undeniable positives, has only increased during the pandemic, as we work, shop and play online.
The unchecked concentration of power in “digital monopolies” is, however, also having negative impacts on people and businesses, in the form of data practices, content and media control, and misuses of market power. Examples include Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, Covid-19 conspiracy theories running rampant on social media and Google’s preferential ranking of its comparison-shopping service in its search results pages.
Former Clinton Adviser Warns U.S. Becoming ‘Totalitarian’ Under Lockdown Orders
A former advisor to Bill Clinton said the United States is becoming a “totalitarian state” due to COVID-19 lockdown orders.
Former Democratic adviser Naomi Wolf, who aided former President Clinton during his second reelection bid, told Fox News on Monday night that the nation is “moving into a coup situation, a police state” as a result of lockdowns.
“That is not a partisan thing,” Wolf told the network. “That transcends everything that you and I might disagree or agree on. That should bring together left and right to protect our Constitution.”
“The state has now crushed businesses, kept us from gathering in free assembly to worship as the First Amendment provides, is invading our bodies … which is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, restricting movement, fining us in New York state … the violations go on and on,” she said in the Fox News interview.
Wolf further explained that authoritarianism is being implemented under the guise of safety and security.
American Airlines Launches VeriFLY — COVID Passport
American Airlines has announced its new app, VeriFLY, which includes a mobile health wallet to which flyers can upload their health information and vaccination status to get clearance to fly.
On its website, the airline explains, “When you check in you’ll be asked to confirm you’ve been free of COVID-19 symptoms for the past 14 days. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick.”
Sheryl Sandberg and Top Facebook Execs Silenced an Enemy of Turkey to Prevent a Hit to the Company’s Business
As Turkey launched a military offensive against Kurdish minorities in neighboring Syria in early 2018, Facebook’s top executives faced a political dilemma.
Turkey was demanding the social media giant block Facebook posts from the People’s Protection Units, a mostly Kurdish militia group the Turkish government had targeted. Should Facebook ignore the request, as it has done elsewhere, and risk losing access to tens of millions of users in Turkey? Or should it silence the group, known as the YPG, even if doing so added to the perception that the company too often bends to the wishes of authoritarian governments?
It wasn’t a particularly close call for the company’s leadership, newly disclosed emails show.
“I am fine with this,” wrote Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s No. 2 executive, in a one-sentence message to a team that reviewed the page. Three years later, YPG’s photos and updates about the Turkish military’s brutal attacks on the Kurdish minority in Syria still can’t be viewed by Facebook users inside Turkey.
The conversations, among other internal emails obtained by ProPublica, provide an unusually direct look into how tech giants like Facebook handle censorship requests made by governments that routinely limit what can be said publicly. When the Turkish government attacked the Kurds in the Afrin District of northern Syria, Turkey also arrested hundreds of its own residents for criticizing the operation.
The FAQ page states that WhatsApp will not delete the accounts of users who do not accept the new terms, but that they won’t be able to use it like they normally do.
“If you haven’t accepted by then, WhatsApp will not delete your account. However, you won’t have full functionality of WhatsApp until you accept. For a short time, you’ll be able to receive calls and notifications, but won’t be able to read or send messages from the app,” WhatsApp wrote.
FBI Seized Congressional Cellphone Records Related to Capitol Attack
Within hours of the storming of the Capitol on January 6, the FBI began securing thousands of phone and electronic records connected to people at the scene of the rioting — including some related to members of Congress, raising potentially thorny legal questions.
Using special emergency powers and other measures, the FBI has collected reams of private cellphone data and communications that go beyond the videos that rioters shared widely on social media, according to two sources with knowledge of the collection effort.
In the hours and days after the Capitol riot, the FBI relied in some cases on emergency orders that do not require court authorization in order to quickly secure actual communications from people who were identified at the crime scene. Investigators have also relied on data “dumps” from cellphone towers in the area to provide a map of who was there, allowing them to trace call records — but not content — from the phones.
Prisons Prime Testing Ground for Dehumanizing Hi-tech ‘Advances’
Prisons are among the main targets for its implementation, as they provide an ideal and literally captive market for its proof of concept.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is coming under fire again from Democratic lawmakers, as well as from the American Postal Workers Union, who are calling for President Joe Biden to pave the way for DeJoy’s removal after the Trump-appointee announced higher mailing fees and logistical changes that could further slow down mail. The U.S. Postal Service has already suffered a more than 50% drop in on-time arrivals for first-class mail deliveries, according to the service’s own data.
Nevertheless, thanks to the ubiquitous presence of high-speed internet, the personal communications of most Americans don’t seem to be fundamentally affected by the problems at USPS. Excluding the mail-in-ballots controversy leading up to the 2020 presidential election, the majority of the country remains little more than a curious spectator in what seems to be the inevitable demise of legacy long-distance message-carrying methods in the midst of a blossoming technological wonderland.
But, at least one key American demographic could well prove to be the canary in the coal mine in terms of the implications of a fully digitized mail system. The 2.3 million people currently incarcerated in America’s prison systems could be on the verge of altogether losing the privilege of receiving physical mail from friends and family if the Biden administration does nothing to stop the growing trend of handing over prison mail operations to companies like Smart Communications and its “Postal Mail Elimination” services.
A Digital Firewall in Myanmar, Built With Guns and Wire Cutters
Since the coup, the military has repeatedly shut off the internet and cut access to major social media sites, isolating a country that had only in the past few years linked to the outside world. The military regime has also floated legislation that could criminalize the mildest opinions expressed online.
So far, the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is known, has depended on cruder forms of control to restrict the flow of information. But the army seems serious about setting up a digital fence to more aggressively filter what people see and do online. Developing such a system could take years and would likely require outside help from Beijing or Moscow, according to experts.
Such a comprehensive firewall may also exact a heavy price: The internet outages since the coup have paralyzed a struggling economy. Longer disruptions will damage local business interests and foreign investor confidence as well as the military’s own vast business interests.
“The military is afraid of the online activities of people so they tried to block and shut down the internet,” said Ko Zaw Thurein Tun, a president of a local chapter of the Myanmar Computer Professionals Association. “But now international bank transactions have stopped, and the country’s economy is declining. It’s like their urine is watering their own face.”
Techno-Censorship: The Slippery Slope From Censoring ‘Disinformation’ To Silencing Truth
In a world increasingly automated and filtered through the lens of artificial intelligence, we are finding ourselves at the mercy of inflexible algorithms that dictate the boundaries of our liberties.
Once artificial intelligence becomes a fully integrated part of the government bureaucracy, there will be little recourse: we will be subject to the intransigent judgments of techno-rulers.
This is how it starts.
Martin Niemöller’s warning about the widening net that ensnares us all still applies.
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”
In our case, however, it started with the censors who went after extremists spouting so-called “hate speech,” and few spoke out — because they were not extremists and didn’t want to be shamed for being perceived as politically incorrect.
Then the internet censors got involved and went after extremists spouting “disinformation” about stolen elections, the Holocaust, and Hunter Biden, and few spoke out — because they were not extremists and didn’t want to be shunned for appearing to disagree with the majority.
By the time the techno-censors went after extremists spouting “misinformation” about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, the censors had developed a system and strategy for silencing the nonconformists.
Still, few spoke out.
Eventually, “we the people” will be the ones in the crosshairs.
White House Enlists Social Media Giants to Suppress Vaccine ‘Misinformation’
The White House is asking Big Tech giants Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to “clamp down on chatter that deviates from officially distributed COVID-19 information,” according to the New York Post and other news reports.
Reuters reported that Biden, concerned that “fear about taking the vaccine has emerged as a major impediment” to his administration’s pandemic plan, wants help from the social media moguls to keep “misinformation” from going viral.
“Vaccine hesitancy is a huge obstacle to getting everyone vaccinated and there are no larger players in that than the social media platforms,” a White House source told Reuters late last week.
Biden’s Chief of Staff Ron Klain had previously said information questioning the COVID vaccine has caused others to question the vaccine. But the news out of Washington last week was the first sign that officials are directly engaged with Silicon Valley in censoring social media users, according to Reuters.
“Social media tycoons are now openly serving as government surrogates in censoring factually accurate information that departs from government policies and pronouncements,” said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., co-founder and chair of Children’s Health Defense.
The Biden administration wants to make sure that unfavorable material does not start trending on social media or become an even broader movement, citing concerns over a recent anti-vaccine protest at Los Angeles Dodgers Stadium which was organized through a Facebook page.
How Oracle Sells Repression in China
Police in China’s Liaoning province were sitting on mounds of data collected through invasive means: financial records, travel information, vehicle registrations, social media, and surveillance camera footage. To make sense of it all, they needed sophisticated analytic software. Enter American business computing giant Oracle, whose products could find relevant data in the police department’s disparate feeds and merge it with information from ongoing investigations.
So explained a China-based Oracle engineer at a developer conference at the company’s California headquarters in 2018. Slides from the presentation, hosted on Oracle’s website, begin with a “case outline” listing four Oracle “product[s] used” by Liaoning police to “do criminal analysis and prediction.” One slide shows Oracle software enabling Liaoning police to create network graphs based on hotel registrations and track down anyone who might be linked to a given suspect. Another shows the software being used to build a police dashboard and create “security case heat map[s].” Apparent pictures of the software interface show a blurred face and various Chinese names. The concluding slide states that the software helped police, whose datasets had been “incomprehensible,” more easily “trace the key people/objects/events” and “identify potential suspect[s]” — which in China often means dissidents.
Oracle representatives have marketed the company’s data analytics for use by police and security industry contractors across China, according to dozens of company documents hosted on its website.
Coronavirus: Americans Could Still Be Wearing Face Masks Into 2022, Fauci Says
Despite predicting Americans would return to a “significant degree of normality” by fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that it is also “possible” people may still be wearing masks outside their homes into 2022.
“I want it to keep going down to a baseline that’s so low there is virtually no threat,” Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser for COVID-19, told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
First Government Launches Green Pass For Vaccinated
The Health Ministry on Thursday launched the long-awaited “Green Pass” certificate which will enable those vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus to take part in various activities. At the same time, the ministry warned of serious legal penalties for those who falsify the passes.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy, and other health officials presented the new certification and demonstrated the methods of issuing the QR-code-secured pass, which has been the target of skepticism following reports demonstrating how easy it is to falsify.
Street-front shops, malls, markets, museums, and libraries will be open to all Israelis. But only those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 will be able to use gyms and pools, attend sporting and culture events, and stay at hotels.
To be allowed to open Sunday, relevant businesses must undertake to scan for the pass and only accept those carrying it.
Thousands Of Israelis Return To Normal Life With Forged ‘Green Pass’ As Vaccine Refuseniks Otherwise Barred From Venues
Israel will officially reopen businesses from gyms and hotels to malls, museums and libraries on Sunday. However, only those who can prove they have been vaccinated or had COVID-19 will be welcome in the gyms, hotels, and swimming pools, and only they will be allowed to attend sports and cultural events.
But having over 100,000 Israelis buying and selling fake passes on social media, a market the Times of Israel reported on Thursday is already moving at a healthy pace, defeats the purpose of having a vaccine pass. The passes are going for about 750 shekels ($230), according to Haaretz, and even before the businesses reopen their doors can exempt the holder from quarantine.
Bar-Zik went on at length in his post about how easy it would have been to make a secure version using the same kind of digital signature deployed all over the internet in HTTPS and other common protocols and expressed frustration that supposedly tech-forward Israel had not deployed this comparatively ancient technology in a piece of ID considered to be so important. He was far from the only cybersecurity professional to take the news public – the firm Check Point also came forward, sharing a video with Haaretz that even walked the user through the process of faking the Green Pass.
Why Europe’s COVID Vaccine Passports Won’t Work
Almost as soon as authorities in the Mediterranean announced that no one who has not been vaccinated for COVID-19 would be able to visit Sardinia, Cyprus, or the Greek islands this summer, fake vaccine certificates started popping up for sale on the black market for around €100 a piece. And now that Europe’s vaccination program is in full swing and the standardized state-mandated health cards one gets after receiving the COVID jabs are readily available to creative forgers to copy, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how a relatively cheap fake document could allow anyone who hasn’t been able or willing to get the actual vaccine but still wants a sunny beach holiday can sneak past entrance controls.
The president of the European Union Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has adamantly supported the introduction of a “COVID passport” that would allow tourists to bypass quarantines and even invasive brain-tickling swab tests if they can prove they have been inoculated. “It is a medical requirement to have a certificate proving that you have been vaccinated,” she said last week, after a measure was introduced by Greece to make vaccination passports mandatory for E.U. travel, much like it is for those traveling to many African nations to prove they have had a Yellow Fever vaccine.
Facebook Political Ad Ban Blocks Pro-vaccine Messages
Paid-for messages from at least 110 groups aimed at raising awareness of how the vaccines work or where to get inoculated were flagged and sent to Facebook’s register of political messages, a POLITICO review of barred ads dating from last September shows.Sponsors of the ads have the option of appealing but say the process may prove too burdensome while they deal with the halting distribution of vaccines and respond to new more contagious strains of the virus. That’s led some public health experts to question if Facebook can be a viable forum for information on the pandemic as it faces pressure to combat anti-vaccination forces that have been prevalent on its platform.
Drones With Facial Recognition Are Set to Fly
Some of the first drones with advanced facial recognition capabilities are being developed by Israeli surveillance companies, as American police consider whether they will soon be adding the controversial technology to their unmanned flying machines.
As a sign of the imminent arrival of biometric identification from the air, an Israeli startup, one previously-funded by Microsoft, has patented technologies for drone-based facial recognition. A patent application, published earlier this month, was filed by Tel Aviv-based AnyVision back in August 2019 in the U.S., detailing tech to help a drone find the best angles for a facial recognition shot, before trying to find a match for the target by referring to faces stored in a database. It was titled, “Adaptive positioning of drones for enhanced facial recognition,” and filed by current and former AnyVision employees, including three from Belfast, U.K.
The patent aims to iron out some of the complexities of identifying faces from a flying machine. Various obvious issues arise when trying to recognize someone from a drone: acquiring an angle at which a face can be properly captured and being able to get good-quality visuals whilst moving or hovering. Both are considerably harder than getting a match from static footage.
Civil Rights Groups Ask Biden Administration to Oppose Facial Recognition
The American Civil Liberties Union and more than 40 other groups urged President Biden in a letter Tuesday to freeze federal use of facial recognition and block federal funds from being used by state and local governments to buy or access the artificial-intelligence tools.
The groups say a Democratic-controlled government will be more receptive to their arguments of the software’s bias and privacy threats than the previous administration.
But the advocates are certain to face resistance from law enforcement and other facial recognition proponents who argue that a technology widely used to unlock phones and confirm travelers’ identities should also be made available to scan for wanted fugitives and investigate crimes.
Reject ‘No COVID Jab, No Job’, Trade Unions Urge Government
Trade unions have urged the government to speak out against “no jab, no job” contracts and warned employers that they could face legal action if they tried to force staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
One described the news that companies were consulting lawyers on how to make immunisation compulsory as “disgraceful” and “divisive.” Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, urged everyone to be vaccinated to support the NHS but added: “The government should make clear that making vaccination a condition of employment is the wrong approach. It may be discriminatory and open up employers to legal challenges. Ministers must remind employers to make sure their workplaces meet COVID-secure guidelines.”
LAPD Sought Ring Home Security Video Related to Black Lives Matter Protests
Emails obtained from the Los Angeles Police Department show that the department sought protest-related footage from Amazon’s Ring home camera systems in the wake of George Floyd’s killing last year, lending credence to years of warnings that pervasive private surveillance networks will enable questionable police practices.
On July 16, 2020, the footage was sought by a detective assigned to an LAPD task force dedicated to investigating “significant crimes committed during the protests and demonstrations,” according to emails obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation via public records request and shared with The Intercept. It’s unclear if the police request, relayed to customers through Amazon’s Ring subsidiary, was directed to a single camera owner or many; contemporaneous emails released by the department show that Ring’s in-house law enforcement liaisons were helping officers use an interface that would allow them to send bulk video requests to specific neighborhoods or broader geographic areas.
“The LAPD ‘Safe L.A. Task Force’ is asking for your help,” reads the message, from detective Gerry Chamberlain. “During recent protests, individuals were injured & property was looted, damaged, and destroyed. In an effort to identify those responsible, we are asking you to submit copies of any video(s) you may have for [redacted].” The request appears to have made no mention of what exactly the LAPD was pursuing; no crime, proven or alleged, is described in the unredacted portion of the request, only that the police wanted footage of an unspecified “incident” related to a protest. The redacted portion of the request does not appear to contain any substantive further description.
COVID Vaccine Passports Could Discriminate, Experts Warn
And they have the potential to discriminate against the young, pregnant or those who can’t have the jab for medical reasons.
This must be factored into any such scheme before launching, according to a Royal Society report.
It sets out 12 tests which should be met by any vaccine passport plan.
The criteria include having a way of accommodating “changes in vaccine efficacy against emerging variants.”
And a vaccine passport would need to meet ethical and legal standards including around data protection, human rights and equality and discrimination laws.
It is also vital to be clear about what the passports would be used for, whether that’s international travel or greater domestic freedoms, the report outlined.
House to Grill Facebook, Google, Twitter CEOs as Washington Seeks to Crack Down on Disinformation, Antitrust
The first hearing, to be held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 25, marks the latest congressional inquiry featuring Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Democrats who lead the panel said Thursday the social media sites had allowed misinformation to spread with “real-life, grim consequences for public health and safety,” potentially alluding to the deadly riot that enveloped the U.S. Capitol last month.
“For far too long, big tech has failed to acknowledge the role they’ve played in fomenting and elevating blatantly false information to its online audiences. Industry self-regulation has failed,” Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and other panel leaders said. “We must begin the work of changing incentives driving social media companies to allow and even promote misinformation and disinformation.”
A second panel of lawmakers — the House Judiciary Committee — announced Thursday it would begin its own sweeping effort to crack down on big tech. Lawmakers said they would start legislative hearings next week to explore the extent to which Silicon Valley relies on its social networks, app stores and other services as choke points against competitors.
A Clearview AI Patent Application Describes Facial Recognition for Dating, and Identifying Drug Users and Homeless People
Clearview AI, the facial recognition company that claims it’s scraped 3 billion images from the internet to power its face-matching system, has proposed applying its technology to everything from policing to retail to dating, according to a 2020 patent application that became public on Thursday.
The patent filing was made in August — three months after the company said in a federal court that it would take voluntary actions to “avoid transacting with non-governmental customers anywhere.” The patent application, however, describes ways to apply its facial recognition software to the private sector as well as to law enforcement and social work, where it says it could be used to possibly identify people who use drugs or people experiencing homelessness.
Thousands of Israelis Return to Normal Life With Forged ‘Green Pass’ as Vaccine Refuseniks Otherwise Barred From Venues
Israel will officially reopen businesses from gyms and hotels to malls, museums and libraries on Sunday. However, only those who can prove they have been vaccinated or had COVID-19 will be welcome in the gyms, hotels, and swimming pools, and only they will be allowed to attend sports and cultural events.
But having over 100,000 Israelis buying and selling fake passes on social media, a market the Times of Israel reported on Thursday is already moving at a healthy pace, defeats the purpose of having a vaccine pass. The passes are going for about 750 shekels ($230), according to Haaretz, and even before the businesses reopen their doors can exempt the holder from quarantine.
Bar-Zik went on at length in his post about how easy it would have been to make a secure version using the same kind of digital signature deployed all over the internet in HTTPS and other common protocols and expressed frustration that supposedly tech-forward Israel had not deployed this comparatively ancient technology in a piece of ID considered to be so important.
What Place Should COVID-19 Vaccine Passports Have in Society?
The expert deliberation found that:
- At present, vaccination status does not offer clear or conclusive evidence about any individual’s risk to others via transmission, so cannot be a robust basis for risk-based decision making, and therefore any roll-out of a digital passport is not currently justified.
- However, given that evidence on transmission will emerge, and other countries and companies are developing such systems, the UK Government must act urgently to address the public policy issues that arise, and create clear and specific guidelines and law around any appropriate uses, mechanisms for enforcement and methods of legal redress.
- While vaccine passports will be seen by some as a way to increase freedom, for those without a passport they would constitute a denial of liberties that others are being granted. Therefore the justifications both for the relaxation of current restrictions for some and also for their continuation for others should be clearly articulated.
- The Government will need to take a clear position outlining the specific purposes and use cases for which, if any, vaccine passports can be legally and legitimately used.
In allowing some uses or actively facilitating vaccine passport apps, governments must address the issues and risks arising from such schemes or the creation of related digital infrastructure, and whether and how these risks could be mitigated.
Instagram Announces Policing of Private Direct Messages, Law Enforcement Team-Up in Latest ‘Hate Speech’ Crackdown
Instagram announced last week that they will begin policing private messages in their latest crackdown on so-called “hate speech.”
Citing “targeted footballers in the UK,” the platform announced Wednesday that they will be taking “more steps” “to help prevent” abuse and hate speech in direct messages:
“So today we’re announcing some new measures, including removing the accounts of people who send abusive messages, and developing new controls to help reduce the abuse people see in their DMs.”
The platform’s “stance on hate speech” includes a zero tolerance policy for “attacks on people based on their protected characteristics, including race or religion.”
“We strengthened these rules last year, banning more implicit forms of hate speech, like content depicting Blackface and common antisemitic tropes,” Instagram said. The company bragged that they “took action on 6.5 million pieces of hate speech on Instagram, including in DMs, 95% of which we found before anyone reported it” between July and September of last year.
‘We Need a Fundamental Reset.’ Shoshana Zuboff on Building an Internet That Lets Democracy Flourish
Shoshana Zuboff, author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, argues the threat to our democracy won’t recede unless we address the fundamental flaws of the business model that companies like Google and Facebook have ridden to market dominance — a model built on extracting data about our behaviors, and using the insights from those data to manipulate us. Zuboff spoke to TIME on what to expect from the next 10 years.
The details of the algorithms used by big tech platforms are known to nobody outside the companies that operate them. How do you begin to regulate something like that?
We have backed ourselves into an untenable social framework, where a few giant companies own and operate the Internet. The companies are black boxes, outside of societal influence and democratic control. Their surveillance economics compel them to extract data from our lives at a massive scale. They simply claimed the right to treat our private lives as raw material for their profit. The data come from us, but they are not for us. The more they track us and engage us, the more data they gather, the better they can target, manipulate, and predict future behavior — insights that they sell to lucrative markets of business customers. Algorithms are engineered to amplify the most extreme, angry, toxic content, drawing people in to maximize data extraction.
The Internet Is Splintering
We probably don’t want internet companies deciding on the freedoms of billions of people, but we may not want governments to have unquestioned authority, either.
Some Germans might agree with a law that prohibits online posts that their government views as hate speech. But what about the Germans who feel they’re shut down for expressing such views? And what should Facebook or Google do if an increasingly authoritarian government in Turkey uses similar rules to silence its citizens, or if Poland’s anti-censorship law lets politicians smear their constituents?
Regulating online expression in any single country — let alone in the world — is a messy set of trade offs with no easy solutions. Let me lay out some of the issues:
The “splinternet” is here: The utopian idea of the internet was that it would help tear down national boundaries, but technology watchers have been warning for decades that it could instead build those barriers even higher. That vision, often called the “splinternet,” is real, said Mishi Choudhary, a lawyer who started an organization in India representing the rights of internet users and software developers.
Ron Desantis Announces Second Skirmish in ‘Big Tech’ Battle With Data Privacy Bill
Two weeks after unveiling Republicans’ proposal cracking down on social media companies, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the sequel — legislation to protect Floridians’ personal information from big tech.
The Governor announced the second part of his priority Monday alongside Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez, House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Rep. Fiona McFarland, the Sarasota Republican who is sponsoring the bill (HB 969).
The bill would guarantee Floridians the right to find out what information companies have on them, to have the companies delete the data, to ask companies not to sell the data and to sue businesses that violate those protections.
“The Big Tech platforms have created a surveillance economy, which enriches those platforms by free-riding on consumer data,” DeSantis said.
Earlier this month, DeSantis and Sprowls announced a bill titled the Transparency in Technology Act to protect Floridians’ right to use social media platforms, a crackdown on what he called the “big tech cartel.” That includes a daily $100,000 fine for “de-platforming” candidates for office, such as when Twitter and other sites banned former President Donald Trump.
Italy Fines Facebook 7 Mn Euros Over Data Protection
Italy’s antitrust regulator announced Wednesday a new fine of 7.0 million euros ($8.45 million) against Facebook for misleading conduct on data protection.
According to the authority, known as AGCM, the U.S. social media giant fails to properly inform users about how it collects and uses their data for commercial purposes.
AGCM had already fined Facebook 5.0 million euros in 2018, charging it with unfair trading practices, and ordered it to take corrective action.
Wednesday’s second fine came because the U.S. company ignored orders to alter its practices as requested, the Italian regulator said.
Even if Facebook no longer advertises itself as free, “immediate and clear information on the collection and use of user data for commercial purposes is still not provided,” AGCM said.
“This is information that the consumer needs to decide whether to join the service, in light of the economic value for Facebook of the data provided by the user, which represents payment for the use of the service.”
Big Tech’s Next Big Problem Could Come From People Like ‘Mr. Sweepy’
Then there are the lawsuits from people like Mr. Sweepy.
The operator of a website called Sweepstakes Today, Mr. Sweepy — a nickname used by Craig McDaniel — says Google used its power over online advertising to bleed his website dry. In December, he filed a lawsuit against Google, saying he was entitled to “substantial” damages.
His case is one of what is expected to be a host of private antitrust lawsuits stemming from the government cases against Google and Facebook.
Technocracy Set to Compete With U.S. Rule of Law in Nevada Desert
In the Nevada desert, a cryptocurrency magnate hopes to turn dreams of a futuristic “smart city” into reality. To do that, he’s asking the state to let companies like his form local governments on land they own, which would grant them power over everything from schools to law enforcement.
Jeffrey Berns, CEO of Nevada-based Blockchains LLC, envisions a city where people not only purchase goods and services with digital currency but also log their entire online footprint — financial statements, medical records and personal data — on blockchain. Blockchain is a digital ledger known mostly for recording cryptocurrency transactions but also has been adopted by some local governments for everything from documenting marriage licenses to facilitating elections.
The company wants to break ground by 2022 in rural Storey County, 12 miles (19 kilometers) east of Reno. It’s proposing to build 15,000 homes and 33 million square feet (3 million square meters) of commercial and industrial space within 75 years. Berns, whose idea is the basis for draft legislation that some lawmakers saw behind closed doors last week, said traditional government doesn’t offer enough flexibility to create a community where people can invent new uses for this technology.
North Korea Reportedly Tried to Hack Pfizer To Steal COVID-19 Vaccine Tech
North Korea reportedly attempted to hack pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to steal coronavirus vaccine and treatment information. South Korea’s intelligence agency informed lawmakers of its findings during a closed-door session on Tuesday, according to multiple media reports.
“There were attempts to steal COVID vaccine and treatment technology during cyber attacks and Pfizer was hacked,” said Ha Tae-keung, a member of South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee, according to Reuters. It’s unclear when the hack occurred or whether it was successful.
Pfizer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
In Surprise Move, Facebook Blocks News Access in Australia
In a surprise retaliatory move Thursday, Facebook blocked Australians from sharing news stories, escalating a fight with the government over whether powerful tech companies should have to pay news organizations for content.
Australia’s government condemned the step, which also blocked some government communications, including messages about emergency services, and some commercial pages.
The digital platforms fear that what’s happening in Australia will become an expensive precedent for other countries as governments revamp laws to catch up with the fast changing digital world.
Facebook acted after the House of Representatives passed legislation that would make it and Google pay for Australian journalism, said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. He said he was given no warning before Facebook acted. The legislation must be passed by the Senate to become law.
Spain Betting on Vaccine Passports To Revive Summer Tourism
Spain hopes the introduction of vaccination passports combined with pre-travel COVID-19 testing will allow British tourists to return to Spanish destinations this summer, a tourism ministry source told Reuters on Tuesday.
“We support the vaccination certificate but not as the only way to recuperate mobility, rather, as one of the means within a portfolio of measures including social distancing, pre-travel tests, mask-wearing,” the source said.
The government has no plans to introduce quarantines on foreign visitors, and was also counting on a wider agreement to be hammered out between Europe and Britain to remove restrictions on non-essential travel, the official added.
Banks Will Soon Only Provide Loans to the Vaxxed
If the International Monetary Fund (IMF) gets its way, it won’t be long before you won’t be able to buy, sell or borrow without meeting certain lifestyle criteria — rules that could even lead to mandatory vaccines if you want to be able to take out a loan.
The IMF is a worldwide banking system based in Washington, D.C., that directs the flow of money throughout 190 countries. While its stated purpose is to “ensure the stability of the international monetary system,” the IMF has a new goal of controlling individuals’ banking transactions.
Specifically, the IMF is pointing toward the use of technology as a way to determine creditworthiness based on customers’ online activities. The new technology essentially would create a “social” credit system not unlike what China is already rolling out.
Ultimately, the social credit system could restrict customers’ access to their own money, as well as the ability to borrow money, all based on how their digital lives are rated and scored — and those scores quite possibly could be negatively affected for anyone refusing to differ with the opinion of the ruling class.
The bottom line is if those in power decide everyone should have every vaccine that comes along, those who don’t comply could have their banking services restricted or even blocked.
Vaccine Refusers Will Be Kept to ‘Supermarkets, Pharmacies’ When Israel Opens Up
The Health Ministry is reportedly planning to clamp down on Israelis who refuse to vaccinate against the coronavirus and impose severe sanctions on businesses that accept unvaccinated customers and on individuals who forge a document that says they have been vaccinated.
According to a Channel 12 news report Thursday night, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein wants to encourage widespread vaccination by offering advantages to those who take the shot, and also by limiting the options of those who don’t.
“Whoever doesn’t vaccinate will only go out to supermarkets or pharmacies, while the vaccinated will go to stadiums and gyms,” Edelstein was quoted as saying.
Parler Says It’s Back Without ‘Big Tech’ After Being Kicked Off Amazon
Parler.com is getting back online after being kicked off Amazon’s hosting service, with the controversial social network saying it no longer relies on “Big Tech” for its Web infrastructure. A Parler announcement today said its relaunched website is “built on sustainable, independent technology and not reliant on so-called ‘Big Tech’ for its operations.”
Amazon cut off Parler’s Web-hosting service on January 10, a few days after a Trump-incited mob stormed the US Capitol, saying that “Parler cannot comply with our terms of service and poses a very real risk to public safety.” Parler sued Amazon in response, but a federal judge denied Parler’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have forced Amazon to reinstate its services.
Now, Parler is using hosting services from a company called SkySilk. Parler said its site is available this week only to users who already had accounts. New users, on the other hand, will be able to sign up next week. While existing users can now log in to Parler, their old posts have been removed from the site, TechCrunch reported.
“When Parler was taken offline in January by those who desire to silence tens of millions of Americans, our team came together, determined to keep our promise to our highly engaged community that we would return stronger than ever. We’re thrilled to welcome everyone back,” Parler interim CEO Mark Meckler said in the announcement.
Peru’s Foreign Minister Resigns in Furor Over Secret Vaccination of Government Officials
Peru’s foreign minister has stepped down amid a furor over government officials being vaccinated against the coronavirus, even before the country began rolling out doses to health care workers.
President Francisco Sagasti said that he had accepted Elizabeth Astete’s resignation and an investigation was under way into other senior public officials who had received early doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Deputy health minister Luis Suárez Ognio has also resigned over reports that he got vaccinated ahead of health care workers.
The scandal broke on Thursday when Peru’s former president Martin Vizcarra, who was ousted from office on November 9 over corruption allegations, confirmed a report that he and his wife had received shots of a vaccine from the Chinese state pharmaceutical company Sinopharm in October.
Outdoor Exercise Banned in UC Berkeley COVID-19 Lockdown
All students living in dorm-style residence halls were ordered to “self-sequester” in the lockdown initially put in place from Feb. 1-8. This week, school officials extended the lockdown through at least Feb. 15.
Students are required to stay in their rooms at all times with the exception of seeking medical care, using the bathroom or picking up food from dining kiosks, according to an email sent to students. Students may also leave their rooms for required COVID-19 tests twice weekly.
“You may NOT leave your room for solo outdoor exercise,” said the email, noting it was a change from the previous week’s rules. “We are working with the City of Berkeley to determine whether outdoor exercise may be permitted, and we will provide more information on this in the near future.”
The ban on outdoor activities goes beyond strict guidelines issued by the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom has encouraged outdoor exercise, even during strict lockdown periods.
Gov’t Should Fire Healthcare Workers Who Refuse Vaccination: Canadian Medical Journal
Provincial governments in Canada should mandate that healthcare workers who refuse to receive a COVID vaccine be sent home, according to three University of Ottawa law professors writing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) this week.
Forcing people to be vaccinated would be a clear violation of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, law professors Colleen Boyd, Bryan Thomas, and Kumanan Wilson admit in their legal analysis of the issue published Monday. Since the Charter does not protect “economic interests and specifically the ‘right to work’,” however, it would be difficult for workers who don’t want the shot to keep their jobs if they refuse it, according to the law professors.
The policy is referred to in the United Kingdom and Australia as “no jab, no job.”
Now, questions about whether employers can fire workers who refuse experimental COVID-19 vaccines which are still in Phase III of their clinical trials have come to Canada, where a growing number of employees are wondering if their employers can mandate injections. Can the government strong-arm frontline healthcare workers into taking the shot? Will mandates affect teachers and students, plant workers and travelers? With “vaccine passports” and “digital vaccine IDs” for shopping and entertainment, as well as “vaccine incentive programs” emerging, how hard will it become to decline an injection?
Recent polls say about one in four Canadians do not want a coronavirus shot, and only 36% of Canadians said they would be willing to roll up a sleeve for one immediately; the rest would prefer to wait at least a few months to see more data.
We Asked 175 Pediatric Disease Experts if It Was Safe Enough to Open School
Many of the common preconditions to opening schools — including vaccines for teachers or students, and low rates of infection in the community — are not necessary to safely teach children in person, a consensus of pediatric infectious disease experts said in a new survey.
Instead, the 175 experts — mostly pediatricians focused on public health — largely agreed that it was safe enough for schools to be open to elementary students for full-time and in-person instruction now. Some said that was true even in communities where COVID-19 infections were widespread, as long as basic safety measures were taken. Most important, they said, were universal masking, physical distancing, adequate ventilation and avoidance of large group activities.
“There is no situation in which schools can’t be open unless they have evidence of in-school transmission,” said Dr. David Rosen, an assistant professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Washington University in St. Louis.
The risks of being out of school were far greater, many of the experts said. “The mental health crisis caused by school closing will be a worse pandemic than COVID,” said Dr. Uzma Hasan, division chief of pediatric infectious diseases at RWJBarnabas Health in New Jersey.
For the most part, these responses match current federal guidance, which does not mention vaccines, and reflect significant scientific evidence that schools are not a major source of spread for children or adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to release new recommendations Friday on how schools can safely operate, and the Biden administration has prioritized opening schools.
MLB Players To Wear Electronic Contact Tracing Wristbands During Spring Training
Major League Baseball players, on-field staff and non-playing personnel who require access to them at ballparks must wear electronic tracing wristbands from the start of spring training and face discipline for violations.
Players will be encouraged to get vaccines but are not required to get them.
That was part of upgraded health protocols agreed to by Major League Baseball and the players’ association to deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The 108-page operations manual, agreed to Monday night and obtained by The Associated Press, expands on the 101-page version used during the shortened 2020 season.
“Every covered Individual must wear a Kinexon contact tracing device at all times while in club facilities and during club directed travel and while engaged in team activities, including group workouts and practices,” the manual says. “Repeated failure to wear the devices or repeated failure to return the devices to the Kinexon device docking station may be a basis for discipline,” the manual says.
The manual states violations of the MLB or club codes of conduct or of spring training home quarantine “are subject to potential discipline, including but not limited to suspension or forfeiture of salary for days spent away from the club while in mandatory self-isolation or quarantine resulting from the violation.”
Player discipline would be subject to the just cause provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.
CDC Considering Classifying Schools Into Color-coded Zones
The Biden administration’s guidelines for reopening schools is expected to include recommendations for phased reopening based on rates of community transmission, according to a draft internal summary by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention obtained by CBS News on Thursday.
This phased approach for reopening provides recommendations for types of instruction for K-12 schools: full in-person, hybrid, reduced attendance, and virtual-only. These will be broken into four color-coded “zones” based on coronavirus prevalence in the area.
The summary of the guidance obtained by CBS News does not stipulate the rates of community spread that determine who qualifies for each zone.
K-12 Schools are in the “Blue” zone if they have low community spread, and in the “Yellow” zone, with moderate transmission. Blue and Yellow Zones are recommended to allow for a reopening with full in-person learning, with as much social distancing as possible. Schools in the “Orange” zone, which are classified as having substantial transmission, are recommended to have hybrid learning or reduced attendance, with required social distancing.
“Red” zone schools are broken into two categories: Those that engage in regular screening testing of asymptomatic staff and students, and those that do not. “Red” zone schools that do not test should have hybrid learning or reduced attendance with mandatory physical distancing in elementary schools only; middle and high schools should be virtual-only. Schools that conduct screening testing can have hybrid learning or reduced attendance for all elementary, middle, and high schools, with required social distancing, according to the draft summary of the guidelines.
Why Is Facebook Rejecting These Fashion Ads?
Earlier this year Mighty Well, an adaptive clothing company that makes fashionable gear for people with disabilities, did something many newish brands do: It tried to place an ad for one of its most popular products on Facebook.
The product in question was a gray zip-up hoodie ($39.95) with the message: “I am immunocompromised — Please give me space.” The “immunocompromised” was in a white rectangle, kind of like Supreme’s red one. It has rave customer reviews on the company’s website.
Facebook — or rather, Facebook’s automated advertising center — did not like the ad quite so much.
It was rejected for violating policy — specifically, the promotion of “medical and health care products and services including medical devices,” though it included no such products. Mighty Well appealed the decision, and after some delay, the ruling changed.
Apple Watch Can Detect COVID-19 a Week Early, Study Finds
In the early days of the pandemic, dozens of researchers launched studies trying to see whether wearables of all sorts could potentially identify COVID-19 before symptoms began. In one such study, researchers from Mount Sinai discovered that the Apple Watch was capable of detecting the onset of COVID-19 up to seven days before current testing methods.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, studied the impact of COVID-19 on several hundred healthcare workers at Mount Sinai Health System between April and September of last year. All participants wore an Apple Watch and answered daily surveys about symptoms via an app. The researchers then observed changes in the participants’ heart rate variability (HRV), which measures the changes in heartbeat and is an indicator of your autonomic nervous system.
A Button That Tells Your Boss You’re Unhappy: Why Mental Health Wearables Could Be Bad News at Work
With gyms closed and millions cooped up and restless at home, it’s little wonder that “healthtech” is now being billed as the next big battleground over which the likes of Microsoft, Apple and Google will fight. Chief among their products are wearable devices that measure your heart rate, your step count, and dozens of other data points that keep you informed about your physical health.
The increasing prevalence of these devices is to be welcomed. They help people track their workouts, setting quantifiable goals that can help them stay fit and healthy.
But the introduction of wearables that measure our mental health — like employee mood tracker “Moodbeam” — should be greeted with a more cautious optimism. Such devices will, after all, hold some of our most personal data — and constantly logging our emotional state might even be counterproductive in helping us achieve better mental health.
RFK, Jr. Responds to Instagram’s Removal of His Account
Wednesday, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s Instagram account was deplatformed without advanced notice. Dozens of media outlets reporting on this censorship asserted the account was removed over “false COVID vaccine claims” or “vaccine misinformation.” Some reports referred to Kennedy as an “anti-vaxxer.”
Kennedy, founder, chairman and chief legal counsel of Children’s Health Defense,” unequivocally rejects those characterizations as false and misleading.
Children’s Health Defense (CHD), including Kennedy, advocates for vaccine safety and health freedom. CHD’s mission is to end childhood health epidemics by exposing the causes, eliminating harmful exposures, holding those responsible accountable and seeking justice for those harmed.
As Kennedy has said many times, for a democracy to function, civil debate of issues — including vaccine science — must be allowed. Censorship of that debate is anathema to democracy.
German Court: Google Can’t Favor Government’s Health Website
Topping Google‘s search rankings is the dream of online publishers far and wide. Germany’s government found a shortcut to the summit for its new health website, but a court in Munich has dragged it back down for now.
In November, Google and the Health Ministry launched a cooperation to steer German-language searches about the 160 most common illnesses to a government-funded website.
“Anyone who Googles about their health should land on our government site, and find the information that they need there,” Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters, standing alongside Google’s vice president for Central Europe, Philipp Justus. Though the plan predated the pandemic, Spahn said COVID-19 had highlighted its importance “as if through a magnifying glass.”
“Gesund.bund.de should become the central port of call for reliable health information on the internet,” he said.
But a state court in Munich provisionally shot down the deal on Wednesday.
In essence, it found that the ministry’s bid to secure prominence for its information had been too successful, putting private providers of health information at an unfair disadvantage.
Hubert Burda Media, the company behind the NetDoktor.de website that tops many health search rankings on Google in German, filed the lawsuit. Hubert Burda was a longstanding president of the Association of German Magazine Publishers (the VDZ). Its managing director, Stephan Scherzer, told DW that the decision was a “meaningful step to securing a free press” in Germany.
Judge Gesa Lutz warned in her ruling that Google and the Health Ministry teaming up could put “serious private health websites” at risk financially and thus threaten “a reduction in freedom of the press and of opinion.” She also found that Burda had adequately demonstrated that their case was urgent and that the deal was already hurting traffic and their bottom line.
Airline Industry Fiercely Opposed to Mandatory COVID Tests for Domestic Flights
In an interview broadcast Sunday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Axios on HBO there is an “active conversation” with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about whether to require coronavirus testing for domestic flights. Pressed Monday in a CNN interview on the likelihood of that happening, Buttigieg said “the CDC is looking at all its options.”
The federal government already requires international travelers to be tested before they board flights to the United States — a mandate that drew praise from many in the aviation industry. But requiring tests for domestic travelers raises a different set of challenges for the administration.
Fully Vaccinated People Can Skip COVID Quarantines, CDC Says
“Vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria,” the CDC added.
The criteria: They must be fully vaccinated — having had both shots with at least two weeks having passed since the second shot. That’s because it takes two weeks to build full immunity after the second dose of vaccine.
But the CDC says it’s not known how long protection lasts, so people who had their last shot three months ago or more should still quarantine if they are exposed. They also should quarantine if they show symptoms, the CDC said.
“This recommendation to waive quarantine for people with vaccine-derived immunity aligns with quarantine recommendations for those with natural immunity, which eases implementation,” the CDC said. The agency will update guidance as more is learned.
Facebook Dials Down the Politics for Users
After inflaming political discourse around the globe, Facebook is trying to turn down the temperature.
The social network announced on Wednesday that it had started changing its algorithm to reduce the political content in users’ news feeds. The less political feed will be tested on a fraction of Facebook’s users in Canada, Brazil and Indonesia beginning this week, and will be expanded to the United States in the coming weeks, the company said.
“During these initial tests we’ll explore a variety of ways to rank political content in people’s feeds using different signals, and then decide on the approaches we’ll use going forward,” Aastha Gupta, a Facebook product management director, wrote in a blog post announcing the test.
Facebook previewed the change last month when Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, said the company was experimenting with ways to tamp down divisive political debates among users.
Forget 5G, the U.S. and China Are Already Fighting for 6G Dominance
For companies and governments, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The first to develop and patent 6G will be the biggest winners in what some call the next industrial revolution. Though still at least a decade away from becoming reality, 6G — which could be up to 100 times faster than the peak speed of 5G — could deliver the kind of technology that’s long been the stuff of science fiction, from real-time holograms to flying taxis and internet-connected human bodies and brains.
The scrum for 6G is already intensifying even as it remains a theoretical proposition, and underscores how geopolitics is fueling technological rivalries, particularly between the U.S. and China.
“This endeavor is so important that it’s become an arms race to some extent,” said Peter Vetter, head of access and devices at Nokia Oyj’s research arm Bell Labs. “It will require an army of researchers on it to remain competitive.”
Facebook Will Now Take Down Posts Claiming Vaccines Cause Autism
Facebook is expanding what false claims it will remove from its platforms related to COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines, and vaccines in general starting today. The company began removing debunked COVID-19 claims in December of last year and notifying customers when they had interacted with a post that has false information that same month. But now the list of potential claims that could get a post removed has grown.
Highlights from the new expanded list of false COVID-19 and vaccine-related claims that will be removed include:
- COVID-19 is man-made
- Vaccines are not effective at preventing the disease they were created to protect against
- It’s safer to get a disease than to get its vaccine
- Vaccines are dangerous, toxic, or cause autism
Facebook says it will start enforcing this policy immediately, focusing on groups, pages, and accounts that share content from its new list of debunked claims. The company also says it would consider removing the sources of the posts entirely if they became repeat offenders.
What Jeff Bezos Hath Wrought
If I had to guess who inspired Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, to kick himself upstairs and appoint Andy Jassy, a deputy, as his successor as chief executive, I might wager that at least part of the blame can be laid on Lucy McBath, the freshman Georgia congresswoman, and her understated grilling of one of the world’s richest men at a July hearing held by the House antitrust subcommittee.
At the hearing, widely regarded as a watershed moment for America’s tech giants, most of the subcommittee members — and all the Democrats — had coalesced around a consensus: The business models of the four biggest tech companies depend on cementing and exploiting their statuses as gatekeepers to the internet, and scheming to bring down anyone who threatens their power to exact ever higher tolls on every minute we spend on the internet.
Only Mr. Bezos, however, had explicitly set out to become a ubiquitous “middleman” of all internet commerce. So most of the lawmakers pushed him to admit that he had systematically bought rivals and lost money selling goods and services below cost solely to destroy the competition, in violation of numerous federal laws that had long gone unenforced — or, as the antitrust scholar Lina Khan has put it, “charted the company’s growth by first drawing a map of antitrust laws, and then devising routes to smoothly bypass them.”
Travellers Face £1,750 Cost for England Quarantine Hotels
Travellers having to stay in quarantine hotels in England will be charged £1,750 for their stay, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.The measures apply to UK and Irish residents returning from 33 so-called red list countries.
Those who fail to quarantine in a government sanctioned-hotel face fines of up to £10,000, Mr Hancock said.
And those who lie on their passenger locator forms about visiting a red list country face up to 10 years in jail.
Mr Hancock said similar measures were being looked at for the devolved nations.
He told the Commons 16 hotels have been contracted for the programme, which begins on Monday.
In China, an App Offered Space for Debate. Then the Censors Came.
One by one, the chatroom participants took the digital microphone as thousands quietly listened in.
A Chinese man said he did not know whether to believe the widespread reports of concentration camps for Muslims in the far western region of Xinjiang. Then a Uighur woman spoke up, calmly explaining that she was certain of the camps’ existence because her relatives had been among those interned. A man from Taiwan chimed in to urge understanding on all sides, while another from Hong Kong praised the woman for her courage in coming forward.
It was a rare moment of cross-border dialogue with people on the mainland of China, who are usually separated from the rest of the online world by the Great Firewall. For a short time, they found an open forum on the social media app, Clubhouse, to discuss contentious topics, free from the usual constraints of the country’s tightly controlled internet.
By Monday evening, the inevitable happened: The Chinese censors moved in. Many mainland users reported receiving error messages when they tried to use the platform. Some said they could only access the app by tunneling through the digital border using a VPN, or virtual private network. Within hours, more than a thousand users had tuned in to hear a discussion about the ban in a chatroom titled “Walled off, so now what?” Searches for “Clubhouse” on the popular Chinese social media platform Weibo were blocked.
Coming Soon: The ‘Vaccine Passport’
One of President Biden’s executive orders aimed at curbing the pandemic asks government agencies to “assess the feasibility” of linking coronavirus vaccine certificates with other vaccination documents, and producing digital versions of them.
Denmark’s government said on Wednesday that in the next three to four months, it will roll out a digital passport that will allow citizens to show they have been vaccinated.
It isn’t just governments that are suggesting vaccine passports. In a few weeks, Etihad Airways and Emirates will start using a digital travel pass, developed by the International Air Transport Association, to help passengers manage their travel plans and provide airlines and governments documentation that they have been vaccinated or tested for Covid-19.
Clearview’s Facial Recognition Tech Is Illegal Mass Surveillance, Canada Privacy Commissioners Say
Clearview AI’s facial recognition amounts to mass surveillance and the company should delete the faces of Canadians from its database, Canada’s privacy commissioners said Wednesday.
Commissioner Daniel Therrien said what Clearview does — scraping photos from social media and other public sites for use by law enforcement — is “illegal” and creates a system that “inflicts broad-based harm on all members of society, who find themselves continually in a police lineup.”
The commissioners released a report that follows a yearlong investigation by several Canadian privacy agencies into Clearview’s practices, which found the company had collected highly sensitive biometric information without consent and that it “used and disclosed Canadians’ personal information for inappropriate purposes.”
Apple to Roll Out Awaited App Tracking Feature in ‘Early Spring’
Apple in early spring will roll out a long-awaited privacy feature that limits companies from tracking users across different apps, the company said Thursday.
The App Tracking Transparency feature will require apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps and websites owned by other companies, limiting the reach of targeted ads.
The feature will be rolled out in “early spring” with the release of Apple’s new iOS 14, the company said in a blog post on Data Privacy Day. Apple did not further detail the expected timetable for the release of the feature or the upcoming operating system.
Intermountain to Conduct World’s Largest DNA Mapping Effort in Children
The study will involve the voluntary collection of 50,000 DNA samples of children as young as newborns, as well as their parents and siblings who wish to participate.
“Discoveries from the study can be combined with extensive clinical data at Intermountain Healthcare and research insights from University of Utah Health. With this comprehensive approach . . . potentials for cures can emerge,” added Josh Bonkowsky, professor of Pediatrics at University of Utah Health and director of Primary Children’s Center for Personalized Medicine.
Participation is free and confidential, though some participants will have the option to receive their genetic results report if a clinically significant gene mutation is identified.
The Coup We Are Not Talking About
Two decades ago, the American government left democracy’s front door open to California’s fledgling internet companies, a cozy fire lit in welcome. In the years that followed, a surveillance society flourished in those rooms, a social vision born in the distinct but reciprocal needs of public intelligence agencies and private internet companies, both spellbound by a dream of total information awareness. Twenty years later, the fire has jumped the screen, and on Jan. 6, it threatened to burn down democracy’s house.
I have spent exactly 42 years studying the rise of the digital as an economic force driving our transformation into an information civilization. Over the last two decades, I’ve observed the consequences of this surprising political-economic fraternity as those young companies morphed into surveillance empires powered by global architectures of behavioral monitoring, analysis, targeting and prediction that I have called surveillance capitalism. On the strength of their surveillance capabilities and for the sake of their surveillance profits, the new empires engineered a fundamentally anti-democratic epistemic coup marked by unprecedented concentrations of knowledge about us and the unaccountable power that accrues to such knowledge.
In an information civilization, societies are defined by questions of knowledge — how it is distributed, the authority that governs its distribution and the power that protects that authority. Who knows? Who decides who knows? Who decides who decides who knows? Surveillance capitalists now hold the answers to each question, though we never elected them to govern. This is the essence of the epistemic coup. They claim the authority to decide who knows by asserting ownership rights over our personal information and defend that authority with the power to control critical information systems and infrastructures.
TikTok Is Adding a Potential Misinformation Warning Label to Save Us From Ourselves
TikTok said today in a press release that it’ll be looking for content that includes unproven claims, especially those spreading during “unfolding events.” Such videos, it says, won’t reach the For You page (TikTok’s curated main feed where users scroll through random videos) and will include a warning banner reading “Caution: Video flagged for unverified content.” If a user chooses to share the video, they’ll have to click through a substantial popup asking them: “Are you sure you want to share this video?” with an “unverified content” reminder. The video’s creator also gets a notification informing them that they’ve gotten a warning label.
Seems like a lot for a massive platform that supports text, audio, and video. A spokesperson confirmed in an email to Gizmodo that the platform takes “all of those signals into account” and identifies potentially troublesome content through a mix of proactive searching, user reports, and automated detection.
In order to deem a claim “unverified,” TikTok’s moderation team sends videos to one of their fact-checking partners, PolitiFact, Lead Stories, and SciVerify. When a partner determines something to be unambiguously debunked, it’s removed outright, while “inconclusive” determinations will receive this new warning label. (These labels can’t be appealed by the content creator.)
Scientists Propose New Way to Detect Emotions Using Wireless Signals
ECG signals detect electrical activity in the heart, providing a link between the nervous system and heart rhythm. To date the measurement of these signals has largely been performed using sensors that are placed on the body, but recently researchers have been looking towards non-invasive approaches that use radio waves, to detect these signals.
Methods to detect human emotions are often used by researchers involved in psychological or neuroscientific studies but it is thought that these approaches could also have wider implications for the management of health and wellbeing.
At Last, the Regime That Enabled Amazon’s Monopoly Power Is Crumbling
This week, Amazon announced that Jeff Bezos will no longer be chief executive of the corporation but will instead take the position of “executive chairman.” Andy Jassy, who runs the highly profitable Amazon Web Services cloud computing division, will take the title.
It’s not clear what this announcement means, whether Bezos wants to genuinely give up power or whether he wants to continue making decisions while having someone else testify before Congress or in potential antitrust proceedings. But in truth, it doesn’t matter, because why Amazon exists in its current form, for good or ill, is a function not of one talented man, but of a legal regime that enables and encourages monopoly power. And that regime is falling apart.
The scale of Amazon’s empire is breathtaking. This week, the corporation announced that third-party businesses in the U.S. sold 1 bn products through Amazon’s marketplace. It is no longer just an online retailer, but is effectively an economy in itself, adding on to its cloud computing, retail and logistics arms everything from podcasting to low-orbit, satellite-delivered broadband to home security to microchip development to prescription drug distribution to trucking to military contracting. The corporation also mirrors the inequality in the American economy, with the world’s richest man presiding over more than a million workers, many of whom make minimum wage.
Big Tech Is So Big It Doesn’t Need Its Founders Anymore
But in any case, it’s clear that most of Big Tech has become so Big and entrenched that it no longer needs the men who made it.
That doesn’t mean they don’t pay lip service to the idea that they’re still the scrappy startups they once were: Bezos, in his step-down note to employees, insisted that it is still “Day 1” at Amazon. That’s a reference to the company’s insistence that everyone at the company — a $1 trillion company that hired more than 250,000 people in 2020 alone — should act as if they’re at a just-launched startup. Amazon also fetishizes the desks that Bezos and his early co-workers made out of wooden doors, which are supposed to symbolize the company’s lean, stay-hungry mentality.
The counter to all of that lip service: There’s a serious antitrust movement afoot that wants to break up, or at least slow down, Google, Apple, and Amazon. (Microsoft, which faced its own antitrust breakup case 20 years ago, has largely avoided the wrath of politicians, regulators, and activists this time around.)
Police and Fire Departments in 48 U.S. States Are Reportedly Involved in Amazon’s Ring Program
If you have an Amazon Ring smart doorbell, there’s something you should know. A growing number of fire and police departments are interested in your doorbell — or to be frank, in its camera footage — especially if they feel it can help them in their investigations. In fact, there are now 2,014 departments in the program from every U.S. state except Montana and Wyoming.
According to a recent report in the Financial Times, the number of departments in Amazon’s Ring program has more than doubled last year, when the company added 1,189 departments. The program allows law enforcement officials to contact Ring users in a certain area and ask them to provide footage from their cameras that might be relevant to local investigations.
The Times reported that in 2020, the departments collectively requested videos related to more than 22,335 incidents.
Police don’t need a warrant to request the videos, and owners can decline to provide their Ring’s footage. Nonetheless, the scenario changes when subpoenas, court orders, and search warrants are involved, per the Times, because Amazon can be forced to comply with these legal requests and provide footage and “identifying data” even if the owner of the doorbell has denied access.
‘See Something, Say Something Online Act’ Punishes Big Tech for Not Snitching
A new bill revitalizes the war on terror’s favorite slogan in service of forcing tech companies to turn over more user data to the government. The “See Something, Say Something Online Act,” introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) and co-sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R–Texas), is the latest attack on the federal communications law known as Section 230 as well as freedom of speech and online privacy.
The legislation says any interactive computer service provider—that means social media giants, small blogs, podcast hosting services, app stores, consumer review platforms, independent political forums, crowdfunding and Patreon-style sites, dating apps, newsletter services, and much more—will lose Section 230 protections if they fail to report any known user activity that might be deemed “suspicious.”
“Suspicious” content is defined as any post, private message, comment, tag, transaction, or “any other user-generated content or transmission” that government officials later determine “commits, facilitates, incites, promotes, or otherwise assists the commission of a major crime.” Major crimes are defined as anything involving violence, domestic, or international terrorism, or a “serious drug offense.”
India Invents AI Camera Network To Track Every Physical Movement
The future of total police surveillance just got a whole lot bleaker, thanks to researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). IISc researchers have figured out a way to turn a vast network of CCTV cameras into one massive surveillance network, which can target a specific vehicle or person.
Anveshak, the Hindi word for “investigator” gives law enforcement the ability to overlap the camera feeds from a thousand CCTV cameras to track an individual person[s].
“Anveshak has the big-picture ability to know the locations and overlap points of 1,000 camera feeds, as well as possible paths an object (such as a stolen car) or person could take through those feeds, critical details in limiting what would otherwise be an unfathomably large quantity of video data coming from multiple cameras.”
The Anveshak platform will now allow police use CCTV cameras to track or “spotlight” a person through blindspots.
The Left Should Oppose Censorship by Big Tech Companies
The fact that I was being “jailed” for the first time since I started my account fourteen years ago, and that this happened while all the major tech platforms were ramping up censorship after the Capitol riot is suggestive, but it could have been a coincidence. One of the most frustrating things about this sort of tech censorship is that there’s simply no way to know what’s happening behind the curtain.
Does any of this matter? It’s certainly an inconvenience for podcasters and streamers like me, but that surely ranks very low on any list of injustices worth losing sleep over. But these companies’ actions do matter. Social media is a key part of the information commons of the twenty-first century, but it’s been enclosed by private companies.
Even if the right standard for what should or shouldn’t be sayable on the digital commons falls somewhere short of free speech absolutism, it’s a problem that the standards we have are arbitrarily arrived at and opaquely applied by private companies whose primary allegiance is to making money rather than serving the public good, and who provide no basic due process for users to appeal suspensions or even find out what they allegedly did wrong.
Pandemic Highlights Risk of ‘Big Employer’ Surveillance
Depending on the state, employers may or may not be required by law to notify their workers they are monitoring them via their webcams, software that tracks mouse activity or clicks, or compiling private browser data. Some of these programs, such as InterGuard, can be installed remotely, without the employee’s knowledge or consent. Big Brother, indeed.
These programs can be quite elaborate in scope. They can monitor what an employee does online; what they type; capture screenshots; timestamp what files are accessed and when; track their location via GPS; and, in some cases, measure an employee’s productivity down to the Nth degree; or even go so far as to punch them off the clock if they’re away from the computer for more than 60 seconds.
CDC Issues Sweeping Mask Mandate for Planes, Public Transportation in U.S.
Masks must be worn at train and subway stations, bus terminals and airports nationwide, as well as on planes, trains and other types of public transportation in the United States, according to a far-reaching federal public health order issued late Friday.
The order, which will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday, adds details to the mandate President Biden signed on his first full day in office.
The order goes beyond the “masking for interstate travel” previously announced by the White House.
A key objective, it said, is “preservation of human life.”
“Requiring masks on our transportation systems will protect Americans and provide confidence that we can once again travel safely even during this pandemic,” according to the order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Therefore, requiring masks will help us control this pandemic and aid in re-opening America’s economy.”
Davis Wright Tremaine Will Require All Employees to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine Before Returning to the Office
Davis Wright Tremaine will require its attorneys and staff to be vaccinated if they are to return to the firm’s office, according to firm guidelines announced on Thursday. It is the first Am Law 200 firm to publicly announce such a requirement.
In China, How People Are Pushing Back On Surveillance State
Escaping Big Brother is a nearly impossible mission in China. In the name of counterterrorism, the number of surveillance cameras are exploding. The country counted some 350 million in 2018, according to IHS Markit. This number could reach 560 million next year, half of the estimated one billion surveillance cameras in use around the world. Eighteen of the world’s 20 most monitored cities are in China, according to the British company Comparitech. In Beijing alone, there are believed to be one million surveillance cameras — still less than the amount in London — if they’re estimated in ratio to the number of inhabitants (56 cameras for 1,000 citizens in the Chinese capital against 67 in the British capital).
These cameras are also getting more and more sophisticated. Many are equipped with facial recognition technology, a sector heavily invested in by Beijing in its quest to be the world leader in artificial intelligence. The facial recognition cameras have invaded daily life in China.
Gabbard: Big Tech Controls Who Gets to Have a Voice
“Let’s be clear, the John Brennans, Adam Schiffs and the oligarchs in Big Tech who are trying to undermine our constitutionally protected rights and turn our country into a police state with KGB-style surveillance are also domestic enemies — and much more powerful, and therefore dangerous, than the mob that stormed the Capitol,” Gabbard said in a video posted to social media at the time.
The former lawmaker addressed her earlier comments in a Sunday appearance on “The Next Revolution,” where she told host Steve Hilton that the crackdown on domestic terror represents a danger to every American and our constitutional rights and freedom of speech.
“The Big Tech companies and oligarchs created a virtual town square, they have invited to us come and be a part of this town square, [and] then they’ve made billions from our private information and our attention, and now are saying we’ll pick and choose which one of you get to have a voice, and which do not,” Gabbard said.
How Data Collection Is Posing New Challenges in the COVID-19 Vaccination Effort
After a long day of doling out COVID-19 vaccines, workers in Utah County toil late into the night entering data on every single dose. What they don’t finish, they come in early the next morning to file before the state’s daily 7 a.m. reporting deadline.
Even though the county’s appointment system is electronic, each vaccination generates a paper record which must be entered, one at a time, into an electronic system so that they can be transmitted to the state’s immunization registry. If there’s a delay in reporting, a shot that’s in someone’s arm might look like it’s still sitting in a freezer, or worse, that it’s been lost.
“Our throughput and our vaccination capabilities are not the challenge, truly,” Aislynn Tolman-Hill, a spokesperson for the county’s health department, told STAT. “It’s really the documentation.”
Are Vaccine Providers Selling Your Health Data? There’s Not Much Stopping Them.
When the city of Philadelphia announced its “unique public/private partnership” to create a mass vaccination clinic with an upstart nonprofit called Philly Fighting COVID in early January, it seemed like an objectively good thing. The clinic could vaccinate thousands of people per day, and Philly Fighting COVID’s website allowed not-yet-eligible Philadelphians to preregister for vaccines by supplying their name, birthday, address, and occupation — which the city encouraged residents to do because it hadn’t made a preregistration site of its own.
Smart Shopping Carts on the Rise as Stores Adapt to Pandemic Era
Kroger now has 20 branded smart carts built to know what customers place inside. The wireless buggies can tally up your total, make recommendations and allow you to pay for groceries directly on the cart. The gadgets eliminate the need to stand in line around strangers or pass off items to a salesclerk.
For the past few years, connected shopping carts were billed as a way to cut down on labor costs, get customers to spend more cash and shift patrons out of stores more swiftly. However, according to Caper, the pandemic has pushed more companies to check out the trend to reduce face-to-face interactions amid the ongoing pandemic.
Will COVID-19 Sniffing Dogs Allow Fans Back Into Sporting Events?
Recently, the Miami Heat announced they are trying a new tactic to screen fans beyond the now familiar temperature checks and questionnaires. The NBA franchise will employ Covid-19 sniffing dogs. While the idea may seem far-fetched, there is some basis in science and actual application. Dogs have been employed to sniff out drugs and explosives and even some medical conditions such as cancer. Additionally, K-9 units have been employed for years to detect explosives at the Super Bowl. Fans have been routinely screened on and off-site before walking into stadiums on game day.
A dog’s nose has about 300 million scent receptors, which is 50-60 times as many as the average human. It is thought that the breakdown process in the body that occurs with infections or cancers leads to the release of odor molecules called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These VOCs then enter the air where the scent can be picked up by a properly trained dog.
Facebook’s New ‘Supreme Court’ Overturns Firm in First Rulings
Facebook’s new Oversight Board found company content moderation policies vague and poorly communicated in its first set of decisions released Thursday, overruling the company’s actions in four of the five cases it decided in its initial round of cases.
The actions covered a range of issues that have vexed social media companies — alleged hate speech, coronavirus misinformation and references to dangerous organizations and people — and included one case in which an automated detection system apparently overreacted to an image of an uncovered female nipple in a breast cancer awareness campaign.
Taken together, the rulings suggest the oversight board is going to demand greater clarity and transparency from Facebook in the tiny sliver of cases it chooses to review. The board is also weighing Facebook’s ban of President Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, though a decision in that case is not likely for months. The five cases decided Thursday all date to October or November of last year.
Facebook Said to Consider Suing Apple Over App Store Practices
Tensions between Apple and Facebook have been growing for months, rooted in how the companies are diametrically opposed on how they make money. Apple, which has made privacy a key tenet, prefers that consumers pay for their internet experience, leaving less need for advertisers. In contrast, Facebook relies on data about its users to fuel its digital advertising business.
Over time, the Apple chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, and the Facebook chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, have increasingly taken thinly veiled shots at each other to underline their distaste for the other’s philosophies on advertising, targeting and privacy.
The friction ratcheted up after Apple announced changes last year to its upcoming software for iPhones that could harm Facebook’s business. Apple said that it would clamp down on some data collection practices by developers and that it would allow iPhone owners to choose whether to allow companies to track them across different apps. That would likely hurt Facebook’s ability to collect user data to target ads.Apple also recently began requiring developers to include privacy labels for their apps in the App Store, which detail an app’s information collection practices. In a recent analysis, The New York Times found that the privacy label for Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging app showed that it gathered far more information from people than another messaging app, Signal.
U.S. ‘Actively Looking’ at Requiring COVID Testing Before Domestic Flights
“These are conversations that are ongoing,” CDC Director for the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine Marty Cetron told reporters, “and looking at what the types and locations of testing might be. We’re actively looking at it.”
This would be an expansion of the administration’s mandatory testing requirement for U.S.-bound travelers that took effect on Tuesday. All travelers flying into the U.S. must now provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, taken no more than three days before their flight, or they will be denied boarding.
What We Learned From Apple’s New Privacy Labels
To put the labels to the test, I pored over dozens of apps. Then I focused on the privacy labels for the messaging apps WhatsApp and Signal, the streaming music apps Spotify and Apple Music and, for fun, MyQ, the app I use to open my garage door remotely.
I learned plenty. The privacy labels showed that apps that appear identical in function can vastly differ in how they handle our information. I also found that lots of data gathering is happening when you least expect it, including inside products you pay for.
But while the labels were often illuminating, they sometimes created more confusion.
Democratic Congress Prepares to Take On Big Tech
Many Democrats, as well as some Republicans, want to take on Big Tech with laws and regulations to address issues like market power, data privacy, and disinformation and hate speech. Those ambitions have only grown since the insurrection of Capitol Hill, with more members of Congress pointing to the power of the tech companies as the root cause of many problems.
The growing talk of new federal laws adds to the industry’s many headaches. Facebook and Google are fighting federal and state regulators in court over allegations of anticompetitive conduct. Regulators continue to investigate Amazon and Apple over antitrust violations. President Biden and his nominees for attorney general and commerce secretary have also promised to hold tech companies to account for the speech they host and to strengthen policing of competition violations.
Mozilla Took the Internet’s Vitals. And the Results Are Concerning.
Control of the internet, though, has become increasingly concentrated. According to the Foundation, only seven companies (Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google’s parent company Alphabet, Facebook, and China’s Tencent and Alibaba) control the vast majority of the internet’s traffic and much of its infrastructure. Together, they’re among the largest companies in the world by market cap — beaten only by Saudi oil giant Aramco. The internet is a huge driver of financial value — and that value is increasingly concentrated.
This control is often hidden, too. Most people, the Foundation says, assume that when they use an independent web-based service, they’re interacting directly with that service. In many cases, though, popular apps, software platforms, and websites rely on infrastructure from the internet’s Big Seven. In the Foundation’s words, if you’re using “Netflix or Zoom, for example, you’re using Amazon Web Services” because both companies rely on Amazon to make their products work. Because so many other companies rely on them, the Big Seven’s control is probably broader-reaching and more impactful than most people realize.
It gets worse. According to the Foundation’s data, four of the most-used platforms on the internet are controlled by a single company: Facebook. The company operates Facebook itself (the internet’s most-used platform) but also Facebook Messenger (#3), WhatsApp (#4), and Instagram (#5). The only service that rivals these is YouTube, which is operated by Google and is the second most-used platform worldwide. Chinese services like TikTok and QQ are making inroads, but they’re still tiny compared with Facebook’s combined might.This creates major problems with regulation and the concentration of power — as well as stability in the event one of these services goes down. But it also creates major issues in terms of the flow of misinformation, especially during the pandemic. According to Mozilla, 8,105 YouTube videos containing COVID-19 misinformation racked up 71 million views on YouTube, Facebook, and Reddit before they were taken down. That’s almost as many people as those who watch the Superbowl — and that was only on one chunk of videos that Mozilla studied.
Amazon, Facebook, Other Tech Giants Spent Roughly $65 Million to Lobby Washington Last Year
Amazon, Facebook, Google and four other top technology giants spent more than $65 million to lobby the U.S. government last year, shelling out record-breaking amounts in some cases to try to battle back antitrust scrutiny and new regulatory threats.
The sizable sums foreshadow the political blitz that Silicon Valley is likely to mount as President Biden and his new Democratic control in Congress start sending early signals about their plans to try to rein in the tech industry.
Amazon in 2020 spent roughly $18 million on lobbying, and Facebook spent nearly $20 million, marking the most that either company has ever devoted to pushing its political agenda in Washington, according to an analysis of federal lobbying disclosures that became available Friday. The companies filed their final updates for the year, reflecting the period between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, at midnight Thursday.
Big Tech Is Getting Bigger, and That’s a Problem Politically
Normally, the holiday quarter is a moment for celebration, but this is no time to spike the football. Success for the tech industry now serves as a stark reminder of its dominance. While brick-and-mortar retailers and restaurants go under, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have collectively delivered a stunning $67 billion in net profit over the past two quarters.
“These tech stalwarts are gaining more market share by the day,” Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives said this fall. “It’s A Tale of Two Cities for this group of tech companies and everyone else.”
Mexico’s Pandemic Policy: No Police. No Curfews. No Fines. No Regrets.
So was Mexico wrong? The answer is nuanced, say health experts and human rights advocates, and reflects the difficulty of balancing public health and civil rights. It’s especially tricky in a region with a history of heavy-handed policing and vast inequality. Many Latin American countries decreed strict quarantines last spring, and deployed police and soldiers to enforce them. Human rights complaints soared.
“The countries that do the best get people to comply voluntarily,” said Tom Frieden, a former head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “But they are very clear about what people need to do.”
For years, governments have used law enforcement to promote public health goals such as getting people to wear seat belts or stop smoking in restaurants. The coronavirus pandemic took things to a new level. To stem the initial outbreak, China imposed the largest quarantine in history, locking down 50 million people, who were forbidden even to use their cars.
California Lifts Its Statewide COVID Stay-at-Home Orders
Monday’s change moves counties back to a tiered system of reopening, with most regions across the state expected to move into the most restrictive tier. It lifts an evening curfew and, in many areas, will allow restaurants and churches to resume outdoor operations and hair and nail salons to reopen. Local officials still could choose to impose stricter rules.
The decision came amid improving trends in the state’s rate of infections, hospitalizations and intensive care unit capacity as well as vaccinations. Newsom said on Monday that California averaged 23,283 new coronavirus cases a day over the past week, and its positivity rate was down to 8%, below that of Texas, Florida and Arizona.
Monday’s announcement follows months of a relentless case surge that exhausted the healthcare system statewide and made California the first US state to record 3m COVID-19 infections. It also comes as more than 50 wine country-based restaurants and wineries have filed a lawsuit against Newsomover the state’s restrictions on outdoor dining.
United Airlines CEO Calls on Companies to Mandate COVID-19 Vaccination
United Airlines may make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for employees, and other companies should do the same, United Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby told workers at a meeting on Thursday, according to a transcript reviewed by Reuters.
A United spokeswoman confirmed that the company was “strongly considering” making vaccines compulsory, though it isn’t a policy yet.
Third Stimulus Check: GOP Lawmaker Wants $1,400 Payment Reserved for People Who Get COVID-19 Vaccine
Rep. Steve Stivers, a Republican from Ohio, suggested checks go to people who’ve received the coronavirus vaccine.
“I hope the administration will look at that option because we actually buy something with our $1,400 — and that’s herd immunity,” Stivers said in an interview with Yahoo Finance.
He suggested the quickest way to get the economy going is to get people vaccinated and back to work or school.
“I’d be willing to accept a $1,400 stimulus check if people are willing to take the vaccine,” Stivers added.
Facebook Spent More on Lobbying Than Any Other Big Tech Company in 2020
For the full year 2020, Facebook spent more than any other Big Tech company at $19.68 million. It increased its lobbying spending by 17.8% from 2019 in a year when the Federal Trade Commission and 48 attorneys general from states and territories filed antitrust complaints against the business.
In the fourth quarter, Facebook lobbied on issues including copyright reform, election integrity, content policy, immigration and international tax policies.
Amazon spent the second most of its Big Tech peers in 2020 at $17.86 million, up 10.7% from the year before. In the fourth quarter, Amazon lobbied on issues including broadband, intellectual property, postal reform, health care and the Justice in Policing Act.
Biden to Reinstate COVID Travel Restrictions Trump Rescinded, Impose New Ban on South Africa
The ban would prevent most non-U.S. citizens from entry if they have recently been in South Africa, where a new strain of COVID-19 has been identified. The virus has killed more than 418,000 people and infected upward of 25 million across the U.S., according to an NBC News tracker.
Biden is also expected to reinstate broader restrictions that were in effect much of the past year but were rescinded by President Donald Trump days before his term ended. The limits would affect non-U.S. citizens traveling from the United Kingdom, Ireland and much of Europe in what is known as the Schengen countries, which share a common visa process. Travelers from Brazil would also be affected.
Cruise Line Says Only Vaccinated Passengers Can Sail
Saga, which caters mostly to British people over the age of 50, told CNN Travel that the vaccinated-passengers-only rule was prompted by the results of a recent customer poll, which suggested 95% of regular Saga customers would support such a policy change.
Saga Holidays’ CEO Chris Simmonds said in a statement that the decision was made partly because “many of our customers [are] amongst the first groups of people to be offered the vaccine.”
“With this in mind and having spoken with our customers, we want to ensure we are providing the safest possible experience whilst they are on holiday with us,” said Simmonds.
What ‘Vaccine Passports’ Mean for Your Summer Vacation
Some destinations — including the Seychelles, Cyprus and Romania — have already lifted quarantine requirements to visitors able to prove they’re vaccinated. Others, such as Iceland and Hungary, have opened up to people who’ve recovered from COVID-19.
This raises the prospect that proof of inoculation or immunity could be the golden ticket to rebooting travel and seems good news for people eager to book summer vacations after months of lockdown, particularly as vaccine rollouts gather pace.
They could open up the restaurants, bars, cinemas and other leisure and entertainment facilities whose closure over the past year have left many teetering on the edge of — or already victim to — financial ruin.
Tech companies such as IBM are also trying to get in on the act, developing smartphone apps or digital wallets into which individuals can upload details of COVID-19 tests and vaccinations. These are gaining support from major travel industry players.
If COVID-19 is Primarily a ‘First World’ Virus, Why is the Global South in Lockdown?
It is not COVID-19 virus, but the COVID-19 infodemic, as well as, WHO-led international policy that has triggered a deep economic, social and political crisis in the Global South at this time. The call for lockdowns, curfews and stoppage of public transport systems, often implemented by militaries based on the “Global pandemic” narrative and infodemic of COVID-19 infection figures form the John’s Hopkins University data base with contradictory messages resulted in creation of COVID-19 fear psychosis and anxiety in many tropical countries where the Corona virus is mild. As a result, millions have not been able to go to work and have lost jobs and livelihoods in countries like Sri Lanka and Thailand.
As OXFAM’s ’Hunger Virus” Report noted: COVID-19 is deepening the hunger crisis in the world’s hunger hotspots and creating new epicentres of hunger across the globe. By the end of the year 12,000 people per day could die from hunger linked to COVID-19, potentially more than will die from the disease itself.
The pandemic is the final straw for millions of people already struggling with the impacts of conflict, climate change, inequality and a broken food system that has impoverished millions of food producers and workers.
(UK) Care Homes Consider Legal Challenge to Force Their Workers to Take Vaccine
Care providers are seeking legal advice over whether they can force staff to have a coronavirus jab, as a poll reveals some young people are shunning vaccines.
The National Care Association has taken the unprecedented step of seeking a legal opinion on whether care home workers can be made to accept vaccination after thousands refused. Between 6% and 8% of the 1.5 million adult social care workforce in England are declining jabs, despite the number of coronavirus cases in care homes trebling in the past month, according to industry reporting of uptake across the country.
People Who Have Received First COVID-19 Jab Must Stay at Home for Three Weeks, Says Jonathan Van-Tam as Urges Them to Keep Following Lockdown Rules
People who have received their first COVID-19 jab must stay at home for three weeks after their injection because it can take that long for immunity to ‘kick in’, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam warned last night.
He said that while getting vaccinated was ‘something to celebrate’, recipients of the jab needed to ‘stay patient’.
The caution of England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer comes amid concern from Ministers that vaccinated people might start mixing with others or relax their social distancing too soon.
Care Home Resident Must Have Vaccine Despite Son’s Concerns, Says Judge
A West Indian woman in her 80s who is suffering from dementia and living in a care home should be given a coronavirus vaccine despite her son’s concerns, a judge has ruled.
The pensioner’s son raised concerns about the effectiveness of the vaccine and said testing had been predominantly carried out on “white people.”
He did not object to vaccination in principle but said medics should wait until more evidence had been gathered.
Riots, Cellphones, Selfies — and Orwell
Orwell predicated his draconian vision on government’s installing a device in every home, watching, tracking and recording each life. In 2021, we are the ones installing the devices, 24/7, and not just in homes but in pockets, purses and cars.
Combine this self-generating trove of online personal information with an ever-greater number of cameras in public and private spaces, the increasing forensic ability of facial-recognition software and the mushrooming presence of smart devices in our daily lives. We have every reason for new concerns about the potential chilling effect on free expression and our rights of assembly and petition.
MUSC Pediatrician: ‘Kids Need to Be in School, and It’s Safe’
New research data by the Medical University of South Carolina shows there’s been no surge in COVID-19 cases in public schools in Charleston County following the return of in-person classes.
According to Dr. Allison Eckard with MUSC Children’s Health, only 1% of students and staff at Charleston County schools tested positive for the virus between the start of in-person school on Sept. 8 and winter break which started on Dec. 18.
MUSC officials said that added up to about 500 total cases out of about 38,000 students and staff. Health officials said the data does not include charter schools, which were not part of the assessment because they can have different rules than traditional public schools.
Why 2021 Will Be a Year of Reckoning for Big Tech
To prevail against the Big Tech titans, the government will need more than a strong legal case; it will need public support. For years, however, our idolatry of innovators was Big Tech’s ace in the hole. That’s changing. Social media disinformation and polarization, the exploitation of the gig economy, and the strip-mining of our personal information are melting away the heat shield of likability that surrounds these companies. More hearings like July’s CEO barbecue, and more revelations about the way in which these companies exploit their dominance, will burn it away for good.
The point is not that we should adopt an anti-Big Tech posture. These companies are built on a legacy of innovation and products that would have seemed like magic a generation ago. But we are the victims of their success, because the rational decision for a company with the market power of a Big Tech company in 2021 is to secure and leverage that dominance, not to risk further innovation. When that happens, the role of government is to act as a countervailing force to private capital. Like forest fires clearing out the underbrush, antitrust action oxygenates the economy by creating new competitors and opening up space for new entrants.
‘Anti-Facebook’ App MeWe Sees Surge in Downloads Amid Big Tech Scrutiny
The app that calls itself the “anti-Facebook” added 2.5 million new users last week, bringing its total userbase to 16 million — 50% of which live outside the U.S., MeWe spokesperson David Westreich told Fox Business.
“People all over the world are leaving Facebook and Twitter in droves because they are fed up with the relentless privacy violations, surveillance capitalism, political bias, targetin, and newsfeed manipulation by these companies,” Westreich ssaid. “MeWe solves these problems.”
He added that the platform “is the new mainstream social network with all the features people love and no ads, no targeting, no newsfeed manipulation, and no BS.”
How Law Enforcement Is Using Technology to Track Down People Who Attacked the U.S Capitol Building
As researchers who study criminal justice, we see that law enforcement agencies are accessing large amounts of information via technological sources to investigate the attack on the U.S. Capitol building. High-definition security cameras, facial recognition technology, location services acquired from cellphones and third-party apps, and accessing archival evidence on social media are all used to identify perpetrators of crimes and tie them to specific places and times.
While watchdog groups have raised legitimate concerns about the use of government and private-sector surveillance technology to identify people who might commit violent acts at some future point, there is much less concern raised about the use of technology to identify, arrest and prosecute individuals once these crimes have occurred.
How to Rein in Big Tech? Tax the Behemoths.
No matter what your politics, there are reasons to be uneasy about Silicon Valley’s swift and brutal exercise of power after the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Not only was a head of state silenced but large numbers of his followers were, as well. Most disturbing, Parler, the only service that still welcomed some Trump supporters, was summarily driven out of business by Apple, Google and Amazon’s Web-hosting services.
Even if you think that President Trump had it coming, this demonstration of corporate power is troubling, especially if you believe our country’s divisions are deepened by social media business models. In this view, the platforms’ ad revenue depends on user engagement, and engagement is driven by anger, so social media serves up content calculated to leave users angry. If that’s true, the violence-marred protests over the summer and at the Capitol are powerful arguments for forcing a fundamental change in how U.S. social media companies make money.
Human Experimentation Oversight Committee Wants to Approve Israel-Pfizer Data-Sharing Deal
“It is vital to make clear that we support the COVID-19 vaccination effort, only that we ask that the rights of Israeli citizens are protected under the deal struck between Israel and U.S drugmaker Pfizer,” said Prof. Eytan Friedman, chairman of the Helsinki Committee, the statutory body that’s tasked with overseeing human medical trials in Israel.
Israel’s Ministry of Health published on Sunday a redacted copy of a 14-page contract it signed with drugmaker Pfizer for the exchange of public medical data in return for the swift supply of COVID -19 vaccines. The January 6th deal titled: Real-World Epidemiological Evidence Collaboration Agreement, details the legal and logistical workings of the collaboration, including the sharing of publicly available and de-anonymized data with the objective being to ‘measure and analyze epidemiological data arising from the product rollout to determine whether herd immunity is achieved after reaching a certain percentage of vaccination coverage in Israel.”
The agreement came under criticism by privacy rights activists who claimed Israel was sharing personal medical information without securing the participant’s permission.
DuckDuckGo Search Engine Increased Its Traffic by 62% in 2020 as Users Seek Privacy
Because DuckDuckGo doesn’t track users, it’s not clear exactly how many people use it. However, the search engine‘s CEO, Gabriel Weinberg, estimates that nearly 25 million users use the platform.
Google, for example, collects information about the apps, browsers, and devices users use to access Google services, as well as searched terms, videos watched and purchase activity. Google’s policy applies to YouTube, Android, and services offered on third-party sites, such as advertising services.
The news comes as more users flock to privacy-focused apps as companies, including Whatsapp, are changing their privacy policies. Signal and Telegram are seeing a rise in users amid these changes and the ban on the social media platform Parler.
COVID Vaccine Passports Are A Ticket To Nowhere
Today, it’s the prospect of a COVID-19 vaccine certificate that’s conjuring up digital-dictatorship fears. The idea is being pushed by the travel industry as a leap towards normality after the worst year on record for international tourism and by technology firms eager for lucrative government contracts and a gold mine of data. Yes, it’s nice to daydream about being able to travel freely again, but critics say it would introduce an unequal society in which an inoculated elite get the freedom to fly long-haul, attend concerts or dine in restaurants. Do we really want to be divided between the jabs and the jab-nots?
This might all make for a great episode of “Black Mirror,” but it’s not what advocates within the European Union, led by tourism-dependent Greece, have in mind right now. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has proposed such vaccine passports as a way to travel freely from one country to another, and also as an incentive to be vaccinated. There’s no plan to ban unvaccinated travelers.
Want to Get Away From Big Tech? Here’s How to Make the Change.
The recent ban of Parler from Apple and Google’s app stores and the Amazon shutdown of the social media app might have you thinking about Big Tech’s power. Add to this news that the messaging service WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, is grabbing more of your personal data.
Tap or click to be shocked by how much of your data WhatsApp is sending to Facebook. Millions of users have now flocked to alternative messaging platforms such as Signal and Telegram.
Germany and France Push Forward With Big Tech Crackdown, Rather Than Waiting for EU-Wide Laws
Europe may be gearing up to crack down on Big Tech with a set of new laws covering antitrust and illegal content, but its most influential countries—Germany and France—aren’t hanging around to see how that works out.
On Tuesday, Germany’s competition regulator—the Bundeskartellamt, or Federal Cartel Office—gained the ability to restrict the activities of tech firms that are of “overriding importance across markets.” For example, a dominant e-commerce giant won’t be allowed to favor its own products over those sold by third-party merchants over its platform, or to stymie its competitors by withholding certain data from them.
Turkey Slaps Advertising Ban on Twitter, Pinterest
Turkey on Tuesday slapped advertising bans on Twitter, Periscope and Pinterest over their non-compliance with a controversial new law that requires social media platforms to appoint legal representatives in the country.
The law — which human rights and media freedom groups say amounts to censorship — forces social media companies to maintain representatives in Turkey to deal with complaints about content on their platforms.
Companies that refuse to designate an official representative are subjected to fines, followed by advertising bans and could face bandwidth reductions that would make their platforms too slow to use. The ban is on selling online space for ads, which is what many social media companies make their money from.
Workers Get Sonic ‘Dog Collars’ To Enforce Social Distancing
The French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT), the largest union representing workers at Essity, a Swedish global hygiene and health company, compared the device to a dog collar, saying it is “a system comparable to that which deters dogs from barking.”
The CFDT said according to the French newspaper Le Monde, that the necklaces emit a sound of 85 decibels as soon as “social distancing is no longer respected.”
CFDT union representative Christine Duguet said that “the idea is to discipline employees and call them to order,” going on to say that the implementation of the system represents “an attack on individual freedoms.”
“Since the start of the pandemic, we have scrupulously respected distancing and wearing masks. We wear them all day, we are responsible people!” she protested.
Germany to Repurpose Refugee Camps to Detain People Who Repeatedly Flout COVID Rules by Going Out When They Should Be Quarantining
Germans who refuse to quarantine after being exposed to COVID will be held in detention centres under new rules prepared by regional authorities.
The eastern state of Saxony has confirmed plans to hold quarantine-flouters in a fenced-off section of a refugee camp set to be built next week.
The regional state claimed that the facility will only be used for people who have repeatedly flouted lockdown rules around self-isolation.
New Research Could Enable Direct Data Transfer From Computers to Living Cells
The main complication lies in finding a way to interface the digital world of computers and data with the biochemical world of genetics. At present this relies on synthesizing DNA in the lab, and while costs are falling rapidly, this is still a complicated and expensive business. Once synthesized, the sequences then have to be carefully stored in vitro until they’re ready to be accessed again, or they can be spliced into living cells using CRISPR gene editing technology.
Now though, researchers from Columbia University have demonstrated a new approach that can directly convert digital electronic signals into genetic data stored in the genomes of living cells. That could lead to a host of applications both for data storage and beyond, says Harris Wang, who led the research published in Nature Chemical Biology.
“Imagine having cellular hard-drives that can compute and physically reconfigure in real time,” he wrote in an email to Singularity Hub. “We feel that the first step is to be able to directly encode binary data into cells, without having to do in vitro DNA synthesis.
Octopus of Big Tech Is Strangling America
Over a century ago, the oil, railroad, telegraph, and power industries created huge monopolies. They set up vertically integrated cartels. And they used their enormous profits to lavish gifts on politicians, control information, and destroy competition.
Some people likened these huge trusts to octopuses whose tentacles strangled freedom. In reaction, angry workers and farmers, muckraking journalists and novelists, and crusading populist and progressive politicians passed antitrust laws.
And so they broke up the monopolies.
Today, however, progressive politicians, Wall Street, the media, academia, Hollywood and professional sports are all on the side of the mega-rich tech cartels. Partnering with Big Tech is both politically useful and financially lucrative.
Peer-Reviewed Study Shows Lockdowns Didn’t Work
A Stanford University, peer-reviewed study led by one of Stanford’s associate professors of medicine shows no evidence that the U.S. lockdowns that destroyed people’s lives for the past year were effective.
Not only that, the study found that extreme measures taken to force everyone to stay home and for businesses to close were not effective in ANY country in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
To determine their conclusions, the study looked at eight countries — the U.S. and seven in Europe — and compared them to South Korea and Sweden, which didn’t mandate lockdowns.
After You Die, Microsoft Wants to Resurrect You as a Chatbot
According to the new Microsoft patent, images, voice data, social media posts, electronic messages, and written letters can all be used to “create or modify a specific index in the theme of the specific person’s personality.” From there, engineers can use the index to train a chatbot to converse like that person—yes, even if they’re already dead.
Even creepier: The application could also don the likeness of your dead loved one in a “2D or 3D model,” and utilize their voice while talking to you.
Millions Flock to Telegram and Signal as Fears Grow Over Big Tech
Over the past week, tens of millions of people have downloaded Signal and Telegram, making them the two hottest apps in the world. Signal allows messages to be sent with “end-to-end encryption,” meaning no one but the sender and receiver can read its contents. Telegram offers some encrypted messaging options, but is largely popular for its group-based chat rooms where people can discuss a variety of subjects.
Their sudden jump in popularity was spurred by a series of events last week that stoked growing anxiety over some of the big tech companies and their communication apps, like WhatsApp, which Facebook owns. Tech companies including Facebook and Twitter removed thousands of far-right accounts — including President Trump’s — after the storming of the Capitol. Amazon, Apple and Google also cut off support for Parler, a social network popular with Mr. Trump’s fans. In response, conservatives sought out new apps where they could communicate.
Israel Trades Pfizer Doses for Medical Data in Vaccine Blitz
After sprinting ahead in the race to inoculate its population against the coronavirus, Israel has struck a deal with Pfizer, promising to share vast troves of medical data with the international drug giant in exchange for the continued flow of its hard-to-get vaccine.
Proponents say the deal could allow Israel to become the first country to vaccinate most of its population, while providing valuable research that could help the rest of the world. But critics say the deal raises major ethical concerns, including possible privacy violations and a deepening of the global divide that enables wealthy countries to stockpile vaccines as poorer populations, including Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza, have to wait longer to be inoculated.
Mexican President Mounts Campaign Against Social Media Bans
Mexico’s president vowed Thursday to lead an international effort to combat what he considers censorship by social media companies that have blocked or suspended the accounts of U.S. President Donald Trump.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration is reaching out to other government to form a common front on the issue.
“I can tell you that at the first G20 meeting we have, I am going to make a proposal on this issue,” López Obrador said. “Yes, social media should not be used to incite violence and all that, but this cannot be used as a pretext to suspend freedom of expression.”
Trump’s Been Deleted From Internet, and Any One of Us Could Be Next
We’ve been told, in very clear terms, who has the power. And it is certainly not us, nor is it our elected representatives.
In fact, it’s not anyone with either democratic mandate or legal accountability, but rather a series of nameless executives, faceless bureaucrats and a succession of tech-billionaires forming a new breed of royalty.
Why Big Tech Wants Your Body
Some companies will identify you by your body movement. Some will use body information to sell you things or to combine that data with other information that places you in helpful sales categories — for example, a fit, active 20-year-old will receive different sales pitches than a heavy, sedentary 50-year old. And we will only ever see the tip of the iceberg. For example, Microsoft has applied for a patent that would use body movement and facial expressions to evaluate the success of business meetings. The possibilities are endless. And, as discussed in my blog posts from the past two weeks, body data provided to Amazon, Target or other companies can be used by that company for almost any reason.
Your body may belong to you, but the story it tells belongs to big tech.
U.S. to Require Negative Virus Tests From International Air Passengers
The new policy requires all air passengers, regardless of vaccination status, to get a test for current infection within the three days before their flight to the United States departs, and to provide written documentation of their test results or proof of having recovered from COVID-19.
Proof of immunization will not be sufficient, because the vaccines have only been shown to prevent serious illness, said Jason McDonald, a spokesman for the CDC. Vaccinated people may still become infected, in theory, and transmit the virus on a flight.
The agency will not require further testing in the three months after a positive test, so long as the traveler has not had any symptoms. In this situation, a passenger may travel with documentation of the positive test result and a letter from a health care provider or a public health official stating that the traveler now has been cleared for travel.
IMF Calls for Credit Score to Be Tied to Internet Search History
Presenting their findings from a paper they wrote, the researchers argue that by using non-financial data, specifically “the history of online searches and purchases,” we can solve the problem of “certain kinds of people not having enough hard data (income, employment time, assets and debts) available.”
The authors of the piece claim that this move is a necessary innovation in order to compete with the rise of corporate cryptocurrencies such as the one in development by Facebook, who hope to launch next year. While Facebook is a monopoly that has engaged in political censorship, their power pales in comparison to that of the IMF. The International Monetary Fund is a veritable superpower with ties to the World Bank, and they oversee the entire global economy.
Humans Won’t Be Able to Control Artificial Intelligence, Scientists Warn
An international group of researchers warned of the potential risks of creating overly powerful and standalone software. Using a series of theoretical calculations, the scientists explored how artificial intelligence could be kept in check. His conclusion is that it would be impossible, according to the study published by the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research portal.
“A super-intelligent machine that controls the world sounds like science fiction. But there are already machines that carry out certain important tasks independently without the programmers fully understanding how they learned it […], a situation that could at some point become uncontrollable and dangerous for humanity, ” said Manuel Cebrian, co-author of the study, to the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.
Kicking Trump Off Social Media Won’t Save Democracy, Say Antitrust Experts
“Whatever one thinks of stopping Trump fomenting violence by limiting his ability to communicate, the ability of democratically unaccountable monopolies with extraordinary control over communications infrastructure, like Facebook and Google, YouTube’s parent company, to silence political speech is exceptionally dangerous,” wrote Matt Stoller and Sarah Miller in a Guardian editorial published Monday. “It also sidesteps the underlying problem—that it’s their dominance and business model that promotes conspiratorial, fake, and violent content to millions.”
Stoller and Miller, both of American Economic Liberties Project, note that companies including Facebook and Google make billions of dollars by fostering the “ecosystem of disinformation, extremism, rage, and bigotry” that “won’t go away by banning Trump or his supporters.”
Health and Tech Groups Aim to Create Digital Covid ‘Vaccination Passport’
The Vaccination Credential Initiative, a coalition of organisations including Microsoft, Oracle and the U.S. healthcare non-profit Mayo Clinic, aims to establish standards to verify whether a person has had their shot and prevent people falsely claiming to be protected against the disease. The coalition builds on work done by one of its members, The Commons Project, to develop an internationally accepted digital certificate to prove travellers have tested negative for COVID-19. The pass developed by the non-profit, established with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, is now being used by all three major airline alliances.
Why We Should Be Frightened by Tech Companies’ Censoring of Conservatives
Companies have every legal and moral right to do what they wish with their property, of course. But one can acknowledge that while also asking whether what they do is wise, or good for America, or even good for the companies themselves. A handful of executives made another business go away, while signaling that corporate America has chosen a political side and that it’s not afraid to go further than our government. That’s unprecedented, and I’m frightened of setting that precedent now.
As with the “War on Terror,” short-term victories seem certain, and enticing; Big Tech made it harder for Trump to disrupt the inauguration, which is great. But in the longer term, we may radicalize people who were previously neutral, and thereby empower even worse foes than the ones we vanquished. The other day I heard from a never-Trump friend, a Biden voter, who is convinced that eventually, after we all get comfortable with what Big Tech has done, it will come for conservatives like him. If that happens, he — and others like him — are not going to ally with their censors, public or private.
Surveillance Tech Is Not Accomplishing the Things It’s Supposed to
Alvaro Bedoya: Historically, surveillance technology has tracked our technology — our phone calls, our cars, our computers. And increasingly, surveillance technology tracks our bodies — who we are physically in the flesh, fingerprint, iris, DNA. But really, the big area of growth is face recognition. And so you have a [Department of Homeland Security] biometric system with a heavy reliance on face, you have an FBI face-recognition network that taps into many state driver’s-license databases. And you have, right now, a focus on tracking immigrants. That, I think, is something that we need to start to reckon with after what happened at the Capitol.
Molly Wood: Well, it’s been interesting to see, too, that there’s a debate about whether to refer to those events of January 6 as terrorism, because that activates this very specific infrastructure that has very little to do with domestic white nationalism.
What We Know About the Spread of Covid Among Children — and Whether Shutting Schools Reduces the Risk
The polarizing issue of whether schools should stay open is far from clear cut, with the World Health Organization urging policymakers to be guided by a risk-based approach to maximize the benefit for the population.
School closures have a clear negative impact on children’s health, the United Nations health agency has warned, citing setbacks to children’s education and development, family income and the overall economy.
At present, the exact timing of how long schools will need to remain at least partially closed, and when they may be able to fully reopen, remains to be seen.
Denmark Developing Digital COVID-19 ‘Vaccine Passport’
Denmark is developing a digital “vaccine passport” for people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine, a move that may enable them to travel to countries where such documentation is required during the pandemic.
“It is expected that there may be requirements from other countries to present vaccine documentation upon entry. A Danish vaccine passport can be used here,” the Health Ministry said in an emailed statement on Friday.
The passport may be rolled out in the first months of this year to be accessed through the Danish public health website, the ministry said. It was not clear whether the passport would be available via an app.
Trump Was Dangerous But the Solution is Not to Give More Political Power to Unrivalled TechGiants
That every tech company could work together to effectively block the President of the United States, however much of a dangerous person he has become (or always was) is not something to take lightly. Real power today is not with politicians or the banks, it’s with these new media and big data organisations who have fundamentally transformed lived conditions on earth. I appreciate technology has always been with us. But today it’s different. Technology has become a new religion, the unmediated power that promises to save us from ourselves. The pandemic already provided these companies with such a momentous condition of possibility for changing the lived reality of life on this planet. That we now see even the most “radical” of thinkers and activists cheer them on when they assume for themselves the ultimate political power – the ability to take command of the circulation of thoughts and ideas, however threatening, demands serious critical attention.
This is not just about joining the “free speech” debates, which have also been complicit in creating highly reductive with us or against us narratives. It’s to ask deeper questions about who ultimately decides and who has the power to effectively say a person has no use. For let’s be clear too, Trump was both useful and then utterly disposable for these firms, which will continue to profit from divisions.
California Legislation Targets Police Use of License Plate Readers
The bill’s introduction comes after alarm has grown among privacy advocates over the technology, which is used by hundreds of local police forces across the country, as well as by federal government agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (Ice).
ALPRs use cameras mounted on police vehicles or a stationary location such as a highway overpass to collect images of license plates, documenting the image accompanied by the date, time and location of that vehicle and in some cases photographs of drivers and their passengers.
Who Should Make the Online Rules?
I can think all these tech companies made the right decision in the last few days but still feel extremely uncomfortable that they are in the position of acting as a Supreme Court — deciding for billions of people what is appropriate or legal expression and behavior.
My McDonald’s example above isn’t really equivalent. Facebook and Twitter have become so influential that the choices they make about appropriate public discourse matter far more than whom McDonald’s lets in to buy a burger.
And while these companies’ rules are extensive, they are also capriciously applied and revised solely at their whim.
On Factory Floors, a Chime and Flashing Light to Maintain Distance
The league was able to evade the virus by requiring teams to live and play their games in an isolated area known as the Bubble, at the closed Disney World resort in Florida.
But a small piece of technology also played a role: a wristband that players, coaches and trainers could wear off the court, and that was required for reporters covering the teams. A tiny digital chip in the band enforces social distancing by issuing a warning — by light and sound — when wearers get too close to one another for too long off. The bands have been picked up by the National Football League, the Pacific-12 college football conference and other sports leagues around the world.
The Munich start-up behind the N.B.A.’s wristbands, Kinexon, is happy with the publicity of helping prevent top athletes from catching the virus, even as such devices raise privacy concerns. Now it is looking toward broader arenas: factory production lines, warehouses and logistics centers where millions of people continue to work despite the pandemic.
COVID-19 Fuelling Education’s Tech Disruption, Deepening Digital Divide
Thomson Reuters Foundation reported:
The COVID-19 pandemic deepened inequities in accessing and benefiting from education but the future of learning could be a more equal one, participants told Reuters Next panels on Monday.
The pandemic hastened a rise in virtual learning and a disruption of the status quo already under way but probably won’t eliminate in-person instruction for good, they said.COVID-19 forced the University of Oxford and myriad other schools online amid COVID lockdowns. “We surprised even ourselves” in their ability to do it, Vice-Chancellor Louise Richardson said.
January 11, 2021
The Capitol Attack Doesn’t Justify Expanding Surveillance. Wired reported:
They took our Capitol, stormed the halls, pilfered our documents, and shattered the norms of our democracy. The lasting damage from Wednesday’s attack will not come from the mob itself, but from how we respond. Right now, a growing chorus is demanding we use facial recognition, cellphone tower data, and every manner of invasive surveillance to punish the mob. In the days since the attack, the airwaves have been full of former law enforcement officials claiming that surveillance is the answer, such retired FBI special agents Danny Coulson and Doug Kouns. Even many who are normally critical of policing have jumped on the surveillance bandwagon in the desire to find justice. As understandable as it feels to give police even more powers in this crisis, this would be a gigantic mistake.
We don’t need a cutting-edge surveillance dragnet to find the perpetrators of this attack: They tracked themselves. They livestreamed their felonies from the halls of Congress, recording each crime in full HD. We don’t need facial recognition, geofence, and cell tower data to find those responsible, we need police officers willing to do their job.
Defense Department Further Accelerating 5G Development. National Defense reported:
The Pentagon plans to enhance 5G technology and invest in future “Next-G” systems to support all war-fighting functions including fires, command and control, intelligence, movement and maneuver, protection, sustainment and information, Lord said in November during remarks at MITRE’s 5G Summit.
“Ubiquitous high-speed connectivity will transform the way the military operates,” she said. “Tomorrow’s warfighters will use local and expeditionary 5G networks to move massive amounts of data to connect distant sensors and weapons into a dense, resilient battlefield network.”
WhatsApp Gives Users an Ultimatum: Share Data With Facebook or Stop Using the App. Ars Technica reported:
- User phone numbers
- Other people’s phone numbers stored in address books
- Profile names
- Profile pictures and
- Status message including when a user was last online
- Diagnostic data collected from app logs
Under the new terms, Facebook reserves the right to share collected data with its family of companies.
Dr. Mercola Defamed by Digital ‘Anti-Hate’ Group. Mercola reported:
In a December 22, 2020, article, The Hill claims the “anti-vaccination movement sees COVID-19 as an opportunity” to strengthen its position, stating that “As public health officials seek to reassure Americans on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine, anti-vaccine efforts could prevent the country from reaching herd immunity.”
According to a November 9, 2020, report in The Times, the British “government regards tackling false information about COVID-19 vaccination as a rising priority,” ostensibly for the same reason. But does concern for implementation of public health policy really justify the use of cyberwarfare against those who raise questions about vaccine safety?
Wouldn’t vaccine safety be part and parcel of a successful public health campaign? Doesn’t public trust play a significant part as well? The fact that they’re trying to shut down any and all conversations about vaccines — using warfare tactics no less — suggests that the planned mass vaccination campaign has very little to do with keeping the public healthy and safe. It’s about controlling the public, for some undisclosed purpose.
Sweden’s health agency says open schools did not spur pandemic spread among children. Reuters reported:
Sweden’s decision to keep schools open during the pandemic resulted in no higher rate of infection among its schoolchildren than in neighbouring Finland, where schools did temporarily close, their public health agencies said in a joint report.’
Sweden decided to forego a hard lockdown and keep most schools and businesses open throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, a divisive strategy that set it apart from most of Europe.
Its Public Health Agency has maintained that the negative consequences of a shutdown on the economy and society outweigh the benefits, and says this also applies to schools.
Bans on Parler and Trump Show Big Tech’s Power Over Web Conversation. Bloomberg reported:
The Parler restrictions underscore how technology companies have increasingly been held accountable for the potential consequences of what happens on their services, where they have greater visibility than governments do — and the ability to take quicker action. For years, large tech companies avoided such debates by claiming to be content-neutral. Meddling and misinformation campaigns in the 2016 presidential election made it clear that these companies, and their software algorithms and content moderation, had real-world impact.
Now, pressured by lawmakers, civil rights advocates and even their own workers, the big tech companies are realizing just how much power and responsibility they have over public conversation — including over apps they didn’t create.
Such monopoly-like powers are already under scrutiny by U.S. regulators, with Google and Facebook battling government antitrust lawsuits. At the same time, the companies have come under fire for their lackadaisical practices on content moderation, when being too permissive on incendiary speech can lead to real-world violence or illegal activity.
Civil Society Groups Warn Against Anti-Protest Legislation Following Siege of U.S. Capital. Common Dreams reported:
The proposed legislation in Florida is a continuation of a national trend to attempt to criminalize Black Lives Matter, indigenous and other civil rights protest movements. The proposed Florida legislation aims to punish municipalities that reduce funding to police departments, protect Confederate monuments, legalize forms of vigilante violence against protesters, and heighten “riot” charges. Democratic State Rep. Omari Hardy called it “bad legislation that is fundamentally un-American,” and “unconstitutional.”
Across the nation, dozens of sister anti-protest bills have been passed and proposed over the past few years, many at the behest of law enforcement lobbies and unions and influential corporate lobbies.
Fight Over Closing Schools Reignites as N.Y.C. Positive Rate Tops 9%. New York Times reported:
The renewed tension over opening schools makes it even less likely that the city’s middle and high schools will reopen in the next few months. Those schools were open for just a few weeks last fall before the mayor closed them again. The city does not yet have the testing capacity to open those schools, officials have said, and the teachers’ union has said it would oppose plans to reopen middle and high schools this winter.
Since reopening in December, the city has conducted weekly testing inside the roughly 850 public schools buildings that are open, as well as at early education centers.
Facial Recognition and Beyond: Journalist Ventures Inside China’s ‘Surveillance State’. NPR reported:
Strittmatter’s new book, “We Have Been Harmonized: Life in China’s Surveillance State,” examines the role of surveillance in China’s authoritarian state. He warns that Chinese President Xi Jinping, who came to power in 2012, has embraced an ideological rigidity unknown since the days of Mao Zedong.
Strittmatter says the Chinese state has amassed an astonishing amount of data about its citizens, which it uses to punish people for even minor deviations from expected norms.
“People sometimes ask me, ‘Do we need to fear China?’” Strittmatter says. “My answer really is, in the end, we don’t need to fear China. What we need to fear — if we need to fear anything — is actually ourselves. It’s our fatalism, our resignation. We need to get up and we need to fight for our values and for our system, because I do believe it’s still the best we’ve got.”
Vaccinating the World Against COVID is Off to a Slow Start. These Firms Think A.I. and Blockchain Could Help. Fortune reported:
Once people have received inoculations, the vaccine makers and government health agencies will need to monitor these people for signs of unusual side effects or rare complications. While the vaccines have been tested on tens of thousands of people during clinical trials, there may be side effects or safety issues that only become apparent when millions receive injections. Many governments require doctors and pharmaceutical companies to file reports for any unusual symptoms patients experience after being given a drug. Even for medicines given to far smaller numbers of people, these rules can result in a large number of “adverse event” reports being submitted. The vast majority of these usually end up being false alarms, with the symptoms either unrelated to the drug in question or not an indication of any danger. But sometimes they do point to a critical safety issue that wasn’t picked up previously. Because the COVID-19 vaccine is being given to so many people, the volume of these reports is likely to be massive—far too many for humans to review fast enough to pick up any signs of a serious problem before it’s too late.
That’s why some governments are turning to A.I. to help. The British health regulator has contracted with Genpact to deploy machine learning software that can screen its official “yellow card” reports—which doctors and patients use to report unusual side effects that could be a cause for concern. The system Genpact built, which went live in December, takes in plain text and automatically codifies it, and searches for patterns that could be indicative of an emerging safety issue, flagging this to the regulator for further investigation, Sandor says.
January 5, 2021
NY Bill Says Governor Could ‘Order the Removal’ of People With ‘Contagious Disease.’ DailyWire reported:
A bill introduced by a member of the New York State Assembly would amend the public health law, permitting the governor of the state to order the removal and/or detention of a person deemed to be a “suspected case, contact or carrier of a contagious disease” who would “pose an imminent and significant threat to the public health.” The person in question then would be “detained in a medical facility or other appropriate facility or premises designated by the governor.”
Instagram’s New Shopping Feature Exploits Users, Promotes Surveillance Capitalism. The Defender reported:
Instagram users can be as young as 13, the age required to open an account. How does personalization work for children? How does this feature affect the experience of individuals with low socioeconomic status? What principles and values is the platform adhering to in designing these recommendation algorithms, “Staff Picks” and other means of presenting products?
A major consideration is when people get recommendations to purchase items during vulnerable moments. Sharing or seeking information about a difficult, personal experience on a social media platform and then having the platform capitalize on an algorithmic understanding of the experience — which might or might not be accurate — is problematic.
Big Brother In Disguise: The Rise of a New, Technological World Order. Eurasia Review reported:
In our case, the blue pill — a one-way ticket to a life sentence in an electronic concentration camp — has been honey-coated to hide the bitter aftertaste, sold to us in the name of expediency and delivered by way of blazingly fast Internet, cell phone signals that never drop a call, thermostats that keep us at the perfect temperature without our having to raise a finger, and entertainment that can be simultaneously streamed to our TVs, tablets and cell phones.
Yet we are not merely in thrall with these technologies that were intended to make our lives easier. We have become enslaved by them.
Third National Lockdown Announced in England Amid Coronavirus Surge Driven by Variant Strain. Washington Post reported:
Under the new lockdown, everyone in England will be asked to stay at home except in special circumstances. Schools and universities will close for in-class learning with immediate effect.
In his televised address, Johnson said: “I want to stress that the problem is not that schools are unsafe for children — children are still very unlikely to be severely affected by even the new variant of COVID.
“The problem is that schools may nonetheless act as vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households.”
French Bill Could Ban the Unvaccinated From Public Transport. France24 reported:
Prime Minister Jean Castex on Monday got his cabinet’s backing for a bill that is designed to provide a legal framework for dealing with health crises, including the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the text, which will now be submitted to parliament, a negative COVID test or proof of a “preventative treatment, including the administration of a vaccine” could be required for people to be granted “access to transport or to some locations, as well as certain activities.”
According to opinion polls, 55 percent of French people say they will not get a COVID shot, one of the highest rates in the European Union.
Italian Doctors Are Disciplined for Anti-Vaccination Propaganda. The BMJ reported:
Antonio Magi, president of the Ordine dei Medici di Roma (Rome Doctors Guild), said that inquiries into 10 medics accused of unwarranted criticism of vaccinations had been completed, with punishments ranging from warnings to two month suspensions. The other three investigations were ongoing, he told the Ansa news agency. The disciplinary procedures followed complaints from other doctors and members of the public.
The three medics still under investigation will be asked to justify claims they have made online, on television, and on radio, to a special commission of the guild.
One of the three is Mariano Amici, who practices in Ardea, 30 km south of Rome. He describes himself as a practitioner of general medicine. He says that he is not against vaccinations as such, despite having some misgivings about the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine that is now being given in Italy. On his website he says that he is “perplexed” about the health risks from such mRNA vaccines and questions whether they are appropriate for fighting a disease that he claims has a death rate of only one in 2000.1 Most estimates put the mortality rate 10 times higher.
How Vaccine Passports Will Actually Work. MSN reported:
As we turn the corner into 2021, “the role of digital health credentials will be key to enable cross-border travel at scale,” says Christoph Wolff, head of mobility at the World Economic Forum, which has partnered with Swiss-based nonprofit the Commons Project to develop a digital health pass called CommonPass.
CommonPass is among several tech-enabled solutions that have emerged during the pandemic that will likely serve as a “vaccine passport” of sorts once proof of a COVID-19 vaccine becomes a requirement for entry into countries, onto planes, or into events.
Germany to Extend Curbs Amid Criticism Over Vaccine Rollout. Bloomberg reported:
Chancellor Angela Merkel is consulting with regional officials and health experts on Monday and Tuesday to decide on prolonging the restrictions, which include closing schools and non-essential stores. She will announce the outcome of the talks at a news conference likely sometime on Tuesday afternoon in Berlin.
Authorities have agreed to extend the curbs until Jan. 31, Bild newspaper reported, without identifying the source of the information.
Guess where Professor Lockdown Got His Ideas … China’s Police State. Daily Mail reported:
Every country that has locked down has failed to control the disease and keeps doing the same thing over and over again in the hope of getting a different result.
If lockdown is an effective policy, then the guillotine is a good cure for a headache (except that the guillotine probably does cure a headache).
The shame of it is that the lockdown fanatics did ‘get away with it’, and continue to do so. That is, quite simply, because most of the responsible people in our society did not stand up for wisdom and freedom but allowed themselves to be swept away in a flood of State-sponsored fear, like so many pawns.
Facts — Not Fear — Will Stop the Pandemic. The Hill reported:
The media relish negative news. “If it bleeds it leads” still holds, and perhaps it’s never been truer than in the COVID-19 era. Every day the news highlights the spread of the virus and tells the sad stories of some of its victims.
And yet, much of the media does not pay sufficient attention to the good news regarding improved treatments and survival of patients with the coronavirus. In contrast with the international media, the American press has been unrelentingly negative in its COVID coverage, even when there is good news to tell. That negativity is part of what fuels a culture of fear that affects local, state and federal politicians and the decisions they make.
The World of Surveillance: Who Does ‘Big Brother’ Answer to? Al Jazeera reported:
In this episode of “UpFront,” we discuss the surveillance industry and how it is operating unchecked with Ron Deibert, the director of Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity watchdog group in Canada and Luis Fernando Garcia, the director of R3D, a digital rights organisation in Mexico.
December 22, 2020
Proof of Vaccination Will Be Very Valuable — and Easy to Abuse. Washington Post reported:
“Since the coronavirus pandemic began, bioethicists have warned about the dangers of “immunity passports”: documents attesting that a person has contracted the coronavirus in the past and therefore might carry antibodies that make them immune. The risk is that a system of passports would lead employers and others to discriminate against people who lack them — and that their value would produce perverse incentives (to contract the virus to get a job, for example). No such formal passport system has yet arisen. But the arrival of coronavirus vaccines under emergency authorization in Europe and the United States raise the issue anew.
“Until a vaccine is fully approved and widely available, we should not — except in the rarest of cases — make participation in society depend on immunity status. And yet the vaccination cards that will be issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health agencies worldwide will make enforcing that norm a challenge.”
Eric Clapton and Van Morrison Release Their Anti-Mask Anthem. Vanity Fair reported:
“’Stand and Deliver,’” written by Morrison and sung by Clapton, includes couplets like ‘Do you wanna be a free man / Or do you wanna be a slave? / Do you wanna wear these chains / Until you’re lying in the grave?’
“It continues ‘Magna Carta, Bill of Rights/The constitution, what’s it worth?/You know they’re gonna grind us down/Until it really hurts/Is this a sovereign nation/Or just a police state?/You better look out, people/Before it gets too late.’”
Federal Prosecutors Accuse Zoom Executive of Working With Chinese Government to Surveil Users and Suppress Video Calls. Washington Post reported:
“The case is a stunning blow for Zoom, one of the most popular new titans of American tech, which during the pandemic became one of the main ways people work, socialize and share ideas around the world. The California-based company is now worth more than $100 billion.
“But the executive’s work with the Chinese government, as alleged by FBI agents in a criminal complaint unsealed Friday in a Brooklyn federal court, highlights the often-hidden threats of censorship on a forum promoted as a platform for free speech. It also raises questions about how Zoom is protecting users’ data from governments that seek to surveil and suppress people inside their borders and abroad.”
American Teen Was Sentenced To 4 Months In Prison For Breaking COVID-19 Quarantine In The Cayman Islands. Buzzfeed News reported:
“Mack flew to Grand Cayman on Nov. 27 to visit her boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, a 24-year-old resident who was participating in a Jet Ski competition, their attorney, Jonathon Hughes, told BuzzFeed News. She tested negative for COVID-19 on arrival, according to a Cayman Islands Government press release.
“As per the Caribbean nation’s regulations, Mack was required to self-isolate for 14 days at a residential address upon her arrival. She was fitted with a geofencing wristband and issued a cellphone to monitor her movements during the isolation period, Hughes said. She also signed a document that forbade her from removing her wristband and leaving her residence during the 14-day period.
“But two days after she arrived, Mack removed her geofencing bracelet and left her residence to watch Ramgeet compete at the crowded Jet Ski event.”
What Big Tech and Big Tobacco Research Funding Have in Common. VentureBeat reported:
“Amid declining sales and evidence that smoking causes lung cancer, in the 1950s tobacco companies undertook PR campaigns to reinvent themselves as socially responsible and to shape public opinions. They also started funding research into the relationship between health and tobacco. Now, Big Tech companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google are following the same playbook to fund AI ethics research in academia, according to a recently published paper by University of Toronto Center for Ethics Ph.D. student Mohamed Abdalla and Harvard Medical School student Moustafa Abdalla.
“The co-authors conclude that effective solutions to the problem will need to come from institutional institutional or governmental policy changes. The Abdalla brothers argue Big Tech companies aren’t just involved with, but are leading, ethics discussions in academic settings.”
December 18, 2020
Ex-Facebook Exec Suggests Everyone Who Gets Vaccinated Should Wear a Certain Color Mask. Fox Business reported:
“Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya suggested in a tweet on Friday that everyone who gets vaccinated should ‘all wear a mask of a special design or color’ in order to let other people around them know that they have been vaccinated.
“The idea did not sit well with many on social media, who quickly blasted the idea, comparing it to Nazi Germany’s use of the Star of David.”
Here’s why some McDonald’s restaurants are putting cameras in their dumpsters. CNN reported:
“’We’ve found that most businesses and people have the right intentions about recycling, but oftentimes they just don’t know what the proper way to recycle is,’” Gates, CEO of Compology, told CNN Business’ Rachel Crane.
“To help them do it correctly, Compology puts trash-monitoring cameras and sensors inside industrial waste containers. The cameras take photos several times each day and when the container is lifted for dumping. An accelerometer helps trigger the camera on garbage day.”
United Launches Contact Tracing Initiative With CDC. Travel + Leisure reported:
“Beginning Dec. 15, Delta will ask passengers flying to the U.S. from abroad to voluntarily provide their full name, email address, address in the U.S., and two phone numbers to aid in contact tracing and public health follow-up efforts.
“The airline will then pass the information onto the CDC via U.S. Customs and Border Protection, allowing the CDC to quickly access the information and cut down the amount of time it takes to alert a passenger they may have been exposed to the virus. The reduced time could help reduce further cases of potential exposure.”
Vaccinated Israelis Will Get ‘Green Passports’ Waiving Lockdown Constraints. The Times of Israel reported:
“Among the rights for holders will be access to cultural events and eating at restaurants, and the right to not quarantine after exposure to a diagnosed virus-carrier, they said. It will be issued two weeks after a person gets the second of the two shots required for the coronavirus.
“Polls have shown that anywhere from 50 percent and 75% of Israelis say they will refuse to get the coronavirus vaccine shot, apparently out of fears that the rush to produce an inoculation may have compromised its safety. Israel is readying to begin a mass inoculation program next week, with the first vaccinations reportedly to be administered this coming Sunday, December 20.”
Why Big Tech Wants (Some) Facial Recognition Rules. Bloomberg reported:
“The world’s biggest technology companies can usually be counted on to oppose rules reining in new products, but some are making an exception for facial recognition software. The European Union and cities and states across the U.S. are taking up a wide range of ideas for restrictions or outright bans on this branch of the rapidly expanding field of artificial intelligence, including many that go further than the tech companies want. One question is whether regulation can protect innovation while preventing what Microsoft Corp. calls “a commercial race to the bottom.” Another is whose vision of privacy and security will prevail, as China pushes to export facial recognition systems capable of tracking citizens through much of their waking hours.”
Vaccine-Tracking Dashboard Launches in Ohio. Mercola reported:
“Since the vaccines are administered in two separate doses a few weeks apart, states will use various electronic tracking systems and digital registries to monitor individuals who take the shots, to make sure they get the second, and that their second dose is from the same manufacturer as the first. Some states may also choose to hand out vaccination cards to help patients keep track of their status.”
Will I Need Proof of Vaccination if I Get a COVID-19 Vaccine? WKOW27 reported:
“Anit Mukherjee of the Center for Global Development, a Washington, DC-based think tank, said ID requirements will almost certainly be needed for a return to normal, according to WISN-TV.
“’There would be gatekeepers as I call them, at different places, be it at your workplace or your office when you go in, or a stadium to watch the Bucks play, they would require some form of assurance that you have been vaccinated,’ Mukherjee told WISN.”
Big Brother is Watching; Nanjing’s Ultimate Street Surveillance. Nanjing News reported:
“Watch your step, Nanjingers! Our city has become first in China to roll out the ultimate in street surveillance; a monitoring system that gives warnings to traffic-law violators, everyone from jaywalking pedestrians to e-bike riders not wearing a helmet.“Making its recent debut in Jianye District on the streets around the Nanjing International Youth Culture Centre, the 5G-powered system’s impressive capabilities are well demonstrated in a promotional video published yesterday by the Yangtze Evening News.”
December 14, 2020
Amazon’s New Health Band Is Most Invasive Tech We’ve Ever Tested. Washington Post reported:
“The Halo collects the most intimate information we’ve seen from a consumer health gadget — and makes the absolute least use of it. This wearable is much better at helping Amazon gather data than at helping you get healthy and happy.”
Google to Add COVID-19 Vaccine Information Panels to Search. TechCrunch reported:
“Google announced today it’s introducing a new search feature that will surface a list of authorized vaccines in users’ locations, as well as informational panels about each individual vaccine. The feature is first being launched in the U.K., which earlier this month gave emergency authorization to the BioNTech/Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. The company says the feature will roll out to other countries as their local health authorities authorize vaccines.
“The feature itself will appear at the top of Google .com searches for COVID-19 vaccines and will present the authoritative information in a box above the search results, linking to the health authority as the source. The panel will also have two tabs. One will be the overview of the vaccine, which appears above Top Stories and links to Local and National resources, like government websites. The other will organize news related to the vaccine under a separate section.”
Huawei Worked on Several Surveillance Systems Promoted to Identify Ethnicity, Documents Show. Washington Post reported:
“Huawei has worked with dozens of security contractors to develop surveillance products, some of which were touted as being able to identify a person’s ethnicity or to help suppress potential protests, according to company marketing documents that shed light on a little-publicized corner of one of China’s most valuable tech empires.
“The revelation this week of Huawei’s role in testing artificial-intelligence surveillance technology — including a face-scanning camera system that could send a ‘Uighur alarm’ to police if it detected a member of the minority group — has sparked an international backlash against the tech giant, including from a French soccer star who publicly ended his work as a Huawei brand ambassador and urged the company to ‘condemn this mass repression.’
Federal Database for COVID-19 Vaccination Info Raises Concerns About Privacy and Vaccine Uptake. CNN reported:
“As Operation Warp Speed prepares to give the first Americans the coronavirus vaccine, states are set to turn over varying levels of non-identifiable information about vaccine recipients in order to help the federal government track the effort to eradicate the virus.
Google Launches Health Research App. TheVerge reported:
“Google announced Wednesday that it is launching a new research app for Android phones, which would allow anyone with a device to participate in medical studies. The first study run through the app, called Google Health Studies, will look at respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVID-19.
“Participants in the study will use the app to report any respiratory symptoms, the precautions they’re taking to prevent disease, and whether they’ve been tested for COVID-19 or the flu. The app will collect demographic data, like age, gender, and race as well. “Researchers in this study can examine trends to understand the link between mobility (such as the number of daily trips a person makes outside the home) and the spread of COVID-19,” Google wrote in a press release.”
Sci-Fi Surveillance: Europe’s Secretive Push Into Biometric Technology. The Guardian reported:
“Patrick Breyer didn’t expect to have to take the European commission to court. The softly spoken German MEP was startled when in July 2019 he read about a new technology to detect from facial “micro-expressions” when somebody is lying while answering questions.
“Even more startling was that the EU was funding research into this virtual mindreader through a project called iBorderCtrl, for potential use in policing Europe’s borders. In the article that Breyer read, a reporter described taking a test on the border between Serbia and Hungary. She told the truth, but the AI border guard said she had lied.
“A member of the European parliament’s civil liberties committee and one of four MEPs for the Pirate party, Breyer realised that iBorderCtrl’s ethical and privacy implications were immense. He feared that if such technology – or as he now calls it, “pseudo-scientific security hocus pocus” – was available to those in charge of policing borders, then people of colour, women, elderly people, children and people with disabilities could be more likely than others to be falsely reported as liars.”
What Is a ‘COVID-19 Passport’? Concept Raises Both Hope and Concern. NBC Today reported:
“People who get the two required doses of a COVID-19 vaccine may be given a “WHO-CDC type of card” through their clinic to serve as proof of vaccination — very similar to the paper “yellow card” currently issued after someone receives the yellow fever vaccine, Adalja said.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has so far unveiled a vaccine record card meant to serve as a reminder when the second shot is due, but is not intended to be used as a “vaccine passport.”
Coronavirus: NHS COVID-19 App Starts Offering Self-Isolate Payments. BBC reported:
“’People are not isolating because they can’t afford to or because they don’t realise that they have to – the whole system is not working,’ Paul Hunter, professor of health protection at the University of East Anglia, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“’I think there is ample evidence that many people who should be isolating don’t feel they can for whatever reason, and I think that has to be fixed if this is going to be effectively controlled until we’ve had adequate rollout of the vaccine.’”
Paper Beats App: Vaccine Verification Will Likely Be Proven Offline. Here’s Why. NBC News reported:
“It’s an intuitive idea: an app that provides proof that a person has received a coronavirus vaccine.
“Plenty of technologists are working to make it a reality. Companies of all sizes have been pouring in resources: Microsoft, major airlines, Ticketmaster, prominent nonprofits, security companies, tech startups and blockchain companies are all taking hacks at what some call vaccine passports. Apple and Google have participated in discussions about how to create digital COVID-19 vaccine certificates, experts said, but they haven’t announced plans.
“But behind the scenes, the realities of medical records, privacy concerns and the virus itself mean such products are unlikely to be widely available in the coming months, experts said.”
December 9, 2020
CDC Call for Data on Vaccine Recipients Raises Alarm Over Privacy. New York Times reported:
“The Trump administration is requiring states to submit personal information of people vaccinated against COVID-19 — including names, birth dates, ethnicities and addresses, raising alarms among state officials who fear that a federal vaccine registry could be misused.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is instructing states to sign so-called data use agreements that commit them for the first time to sharing personal information in existing registries with the federal government. Some states, such as New York, are pushing back, either refusing to sign or signing while refusing to share the information.
New Smartphone Tool to Track COVID Vaccine Side Effects Vulnerable to Manipulation. Washington Post reported:
“A new smartphone technology designed to provide real-time warnings of side effects in the first Americans vaccinated against the coronavirus may be vulnerable to manipulation, raising concerns malicious actors could gain access to the system to undermine confidence in the shots, federal and state health officials say.
“The text-messaging system, called v-safe, is intended to provide early indications about possible adverse reactions from the vaccines. Using the messaging program, people who have received the shots can report symptoms and other health effects, such as missed work. Their responses could prompt phone calls from a team of safety professionals.”
‘Immunity Passports’ Are Already Here. But They Come With Warnings. CNN reported:
“The World Health Organization advised against immunity passports in April. ‘There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,’ read its scientific brief.
“On Thursday, the WHO confirmed it has not changed its position, but Regional Advisor Dr. Siddhartha Sankar Datta said it was looking to help countries implement electronic vaccination certificates. Other experts have also raised concerns about immunity passports.”
Big Brother Is Watching and Will Profit From Mexicans Personal Data. The Yucatan Times reported:
“This new service is based on an amendment to Article 17-F of the Federal Fiscal Code that hurts fundamental rights, such as the right to protect personal data, and therefore, unconstitutional. Taxpayers submitted their biometric data to the SAT as an obligation to pay taxes, without the option to refuse or exercise the right to oppose the processing of their personal information. The design of a different treatment based on the commercial exploitation of such personal data sounds like extortion, is unfair, and lacking in responsibility.
“The service would open the door to an indiscriminate and more intense treatment of personal data protected by SAT. It would create new risks for the protection and responsible handling of information susceptible to be used for identity theft and other crimes with a strong impact on the moral and patrimonial rights of taxpayers.”
“A new executive order went into effect over the weekend. It will fine businesses for not following CDC guidelines. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said that it is his way to get businesses to follow CDC guidelines and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
China’s Big Brother Camera Network Complete, Computer Vision Growth to Come From Business. Biometric Update reported:
“It is a sobering development not for the fact that the West continues to debate the ethics and merits of digital surveillance and public face biometrics. China’s authoritarian surveillance model is reason enough to avoid rushing things, even in troubled democracies like the United States.
“More amazing is that a population of 1.4 billion is surveilled — not in segments, demographics or regions, but in total.
Big Brother Is Watching You; Actually Your Face. Down to Earth reported:
“Even more awe-inspiring are the technological interventions that are trying to replicate this biological process. And as it usually happens with many other technologies, these are being deployed to create and sustain a surveillance system that has never been seen before.
Our facial features — scanned through every possible source — are being converted into a gigantic data pool. Using algorithms, millions of these faces can be compared and assessed to identify or verify a person if s/he is a culprit, a dreaded terrorist under disguise, a visitor in a protected area or a rioter. At our individual level, this technology has already been deployed to connect us better with our wider virtual world.”
December 4, 2020
Facebook Says It Will Remove Coronavirus Vaccine Misinformation. New York Times reported:
“Facebook on Thursday said it would remove posts that contain claims about COVID-19 vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts, as the social network acts more aggressively to bat down coronavirus misinformation while falsehoods run rampant.
“The move goes a step beyond how Facebook had handled misinformation about other kinds of vaccines. The company had previously made it more difficult to find vaccine misinformation that was not related to the coronavirus by “downranking” it, essentially making it less visible in people’s news feeds.”
Time To Rein In Government’s Pandemic Overreach — Starting With CDC’s Eviction Ban. The Hill reported:
“When the history of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 is written, it will need a section on the most counterproductive and overreaching government responses. That list should include the nationwide ban on residential rental evictions imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in September.
“That’s right, public health officials have decided to claim regulatory authority over the residential real estate market. The CDC doesn’t have the authority for such a sweeping declaration, which goes far beyond the agency’s statutory mission to fight infectious diseases.”
‘Immunity Cards’ to Be Issued to All Americans; Enable CDC to Track COVID-19 Vaxx Status In Database. ZeroHedge reported:
“’Everyone will be issued a written card that they can put in their wallet that will tell them what they had and when their next dose is due,’ says Dr. Kelly Moore, associate director of the Immunization Action Coalition. ‘Let’s do the simple, easy thing first. Everyone’s going to get that.’”
Mexico: López Obrador Says Pandemic Lockdowns Are the Tactic of Dictators. Guardian reported:
“Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador suggested on Wednesday that politicians who impose lockdowns or curfews to limit Covid-19 are acting like dictators.
“The comments came as López Obrador once again fended off questions about why he almost never wears a face mask, saying it was a question of liberty.”
Supreme Court Backs California Ministry on COVID Restrictions, Returns Case to Lower Court. National Review reported:
“The Supreme Court sided with a California ministry against Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday in a dispute over coronavirus restrictions.
“The Harvest Rock International Ministry had alleged that Newsom’s restrictions on church capacity were “draconian and unconscionable,” challenging those restrictions in a lawsuit. California attorney general Xavier Becerra stated in court papers that “temporary interference is justified by the State’s interest in limiting the transmission of COVID-19 through tailored, evidence-based policies.”
A New Technology That Will Dangerously Expand Government Spying on Citizens. Counterpunch reported:
“If you’re worried about the capability of government to conduct surveillance of citizens engaged in political assembly and protest, or even just personal activity, then you should be aware the technological capability of government surveillance is about to expand exponentially.
“The US Air Force’s Research Lab (yes, it has its own lab) has recently signed a contract to test new software of a company called SignalFrame, a Washington DC wireless tech company. The company’s new software is able to access smartphones, and from your phone jump off to access any other wireless or bluetooth device in the near vicinity.”
Delta Partners with CDC for International Traveler Contact Tracing. USA Today reported:
“Delta Air Lines has announced that it will begin coronavirus contact tracing for travelers arriving in the United States.
“The airline, which announced the news Thursday in a press release, is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the launch, which is aimed at keeping ‘international customers informed of potential COVID-19 exposure.’
“‘Along with our nine global airline partners, we are working with government agencies, health officials and aviation authorities to offer safer travel at every point in your journey,’ the news release said.”
December 2, 2020
Microsoft’s Creepy New ‘Productivity Score’ Gamifies Workplace Surveillance. Gizmodo reported:
“Microsoft rolled out its new “Productivity Score” feature this month, which lets bosses track how their employees use Microsoft’s suite of tools. If that sounds like an Orwellian nightmare in the making to you, you’re not alone — privacy experts are criticizing the company for essentially gamifying workplace surveillance.”
Vaccine Minister Suggests Those Who Don’t Get COVID Jabs Could Face Restrictions From Sports Events and Cinemas. Evening Standard reported:
“But he told BBC Radio 4’s the World At One that service providers will likely want people to prove that they have been vaccinated.”
Give the Coronavirus App Bonus Benefits to Increase Downloads, German State Says. Thomson Reuters Foundation reported:
“Many in privacy-conscious Germany are wary of the app, with critics warning that it could become effectively compulsory if shops and restaurants insisted on seeing it for entry, while some regard the storing of location data to establish where contacts took place and trace infection chains as intrusive.
“By offering incentives, [North Rhine-Westphalia] aims to reverse that logic in the hope that more people can be encouraged to install it.”
EFF Urges Federal Appeals Court to Rehear Case Involving Unconstitutional Baltimore Aerial Surveillance Program. Electronic Frontier Foundation reported:
“In May, the Baltimore Police Department launched its Aerial Investigation Research (AIR) Pilot Program. For six months, three surveillance aircrafts operated by a private company called Persistent Surveillance Systems flew over Baltimore — covering about 90 percent of the city — for 12 hours every day. The planes produced images that even at a resolution of “one pixel per person” allowed the police to track individual’s movements over multi-day periods, especially when combined with the police’s networks of more than 800 ground-based surveillance cameras and automated license plate readers.”
Privacy Rights Groups Criticize EU Aid in Developing Countries, Claiming Funds Pay for Government Surveillance. CPO Magazine reported:
“The European Union provides annual financial aid to many different developing countries around the world. Various privacy groups, chief among them Privacy International, are raising alarms about some of these EU aid programs. Funds, equipment and training are reportedly going to the intelligence agencies of repressive governments and being used explicitly for domestic surveillance; examples include training seminars that taught participants how to perform “man in the middle” WiFi attacks and monitor dissidents on social media.”
Police in Jackson, Mississippi, Want Access to Live Home Security Video, Alarming Privacy Advocates. NBC News reported:
“Strapped for cash and facing a sharp rise in homicides, city leaders here are expanding police surveillance powers to allow residents and business owners to send live feeds from many types of security cameras — including popular doorbell cameras — directly to the city’s real-time command center.
“The new use of this livestreaming technology by police, which is undergoing a final legal review in Jackson, is drawing interest from other small cities that don’t have the resources to build their own surveillance systems. But some have opted out, citing concerns about privacy violations. Civil liberties advocates say those concerns are valid, warning that the technology could lead to increased police scrutiny of people’s everyday activities and more arrests for low-level offenses.”
November 25, 2020
Secret Amazon Reports Expose the Company’s Surveillance of Labor and Environmental Groups. Vice reported:
“A trove of more than two dozen internal Amazon reports reveal in stark detail the company’s obsessive monitoring of organized labor and social and environmental movements in Europe, particularly during Amazon’s “peak season” between Black Friday and Christmas.
“The reports, obtained by Motherboard, were written in 2019 by Amazon intelligence analysts who work for the Global Security Operations Center, the company’s security division tasked with protecting Amazon employees, vendors, and assets at Amazon facilities around the world.”
We Should Be Able to Use a Dating App Without Fear of Winding Up in a Military Database. New York Times reported:
“This is the ultimate example of what’s broken in digital life: The locations of people who used apps to pray and hang their shelves wound up in U.S. military databases.
“Vice’s Motherboard publication this week reported that data on people’s movements collected by seemingly innocuous apps passed through multiple hands before being bought by U.S. defense contractors and military agencies. It’s not clear what the military is doing with the information.”
Qantas Airways Moves to Require COVID-19 Vaccine for Air Travel. Forbes reported:
“A widespread vaccine for COVID-19 hasn’t reached the public yet, but already, airlines are planning for how to handle travelers with and without immunity. On Monday, Alan Joyce, the CEO of Australian flag carrier Qantas Airways, shared that his airline would eventually only allow for vaccinated travelers to board its flights. The move would essentially lock down the spread of the virus through air travel and allow for travelers to move around the globe unhindered by quarantines, though it would only open up the carrier to the select population that had received the vaccine.”
Stars Ridicule Californian ‘Emperor’ Gov. Newsom’s ‘Ridiculous’ Thanksgiving Crackdown That Bans Singing and Limits the Holiday to a Two-Hour Outdoor Event. The Daily Mail reported:
“Celebrities have taken to social media to slam California Governor Gavin Newsom’s ‘ridiculously unenforceable’ Thanksgiving crackdown that bans singing and shouting and limits the holiday to a two-hour outdoor event.
“’If my Aunt comes over, can I throw her a slice of turkey from the window?’ mocked actor Rob Schneider as he blasted the ‘Emperor Newsom.’
“Newsom announced new safety guidelines earlier this month for all private gatherings just as Californians were gearing up for the Thanksgiving holiday.”
China’s Surveillance State Sucks Up Data. U.S. Tech Is Key to Sorting It. New York Times reported:
“The computers inside the complex, known as the Urumqi Cloud Computing Center, are among the world’s most powerful. They can watch more surveillance footage in a day than one person could in a year. They look for faces and patterns of human behavior. They track cars. They monitor phones.
“The Chinese government uses these computers to watch untold numbers of people in Xinjiang, a western region of China where Beijing has unleashed a campaign of surveillance and suppression in the name of combating terrorism.
“Chips made by Intel and Nvidia, the American semiconductor companies, have powered the complex since it opened in 2016.”
Britons Who Test Negative for COVID Twice in a Week Set to Receive ‘Freedom Pass’ Under Government Scheme to Allow Them to Live Normal Life. Daily Mail reported:
“The details of the scheme are still being ironed out by officials in Whitehall, who hope it will allow the country to get back to normal next year.
“To earn the freedom pass, people will need to be tested regularly and, provided the results come back negative, they will then be given a letter, card or document they can show to people as they move around.”
Airlines Push for ‘COVID-Free Passports’ as Vaccine Race Heats Up. Axios reported:
Per a statement from Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president of airport, passenger, cargo and security, the app would ‘get people traveling again safely,’ as the airline industry seeks to recover from the pandemic.
“’In the immediate term, that means giving governments confidence that systematic COVID-19 testing can work as a replacement for quarantine requirements,’ Careen said. “And that will eventually develop into a vaccine program.”
State, Federal Antitrust Lawsuits Likely to Challenge Facebook for Buying Rivals and Weaponizing Data. The Washington Post reported:
“As the state and federal probes enter their final phases, investigators have explored how Instagram and WhatsApp changed in the years after Facebook purchased them, according to the three people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a law enforcement proceeding. Government antitrust watchdogs have weighed whether to contend in lawsuits that these transactions have left users with worse services — and fewer privacy protections — than they might have had if the companies had remained independent, the sources said.”
Local Company Plays Part in Georgia Tech’s COVID-19 Surveillance Testing Program. Georgia Tech News Center reported:
“A saliva-based COVID-19 surveillance testing program developed by Georgia Tech’s researchers and aided by the ingenuity of a local company, has helped stem transmission of the virus on the Institute’s Atlanta campus.
“Omni International, a Kennesaw-based manufacturer and distributor of laboratory homogenizers, DNA purification kits, and other products used in the pharmaceutical, food, and forensics industries, has been instrumental in helping Tech implement the ambitious testing program.”
Forget Bias, the Real Danger Is Big Tech’s Overwhelming Control Over Speech. CNN reported:
Too much control over the marketplace of ideas is antithetical to democracy. That’s why America has long had rules that limit such power, like media ownership limits that prohibit the same corporation from owning a TV station and newspaper in the same place. (Trump’s Federal Communications Commission, incidentally, is currently trying to roll back those rules.) The government failed to limit consolidation and allowed Facebook and Google to morph into monopoly monsters. Big Tech didn’t simply grow by being the best; the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee’s recent 450-page report details just how extensive their anticompetitive behavior has been.”
China Wants Passenger Tracking System for Global Travel Coronavirus Reset. Breitbart reported:
“Chinese Communist President Xi Jinping wants travelers to adopt a global QR code system to help determine their health status and travel “permissions” in a post-coronavirus pandemic travel reset.
“During the virtual G20 summit on Saturday, Xi called for a coronavirus “global mechanism” which involves international recognition of health certificates in the form of QR codes to allow people to travel freely, according to state media.”
November 18, 2020
Klaus Schwab: Great Reset Will ‘Lead To Fusion Of Our Physical, Digital, & Biological Identity.’ ZeroHedge reported:
“The globalist hails the arrival of ‘implanted devices (that) will likely also help to communicate thoughts normally expressed verbally through a ‘built-in’ smartphone, and potentially unexpressed thoughts or moods by reading brain waves and other signals.’
“So in other words, the ‘fusion of our physical, digital and biological identity’ relates to the transhumanist singularity and a future where people have their every movement tracked and every thought read by an implantable microchip.”
Sen. Hawley Presses Zuckerberg on Whistleblower Complaint Alleging Facebook Coordination With Twitter, Google. Fox News reported:
“Hawley said a former Facebook employee ‘with direct knowledge of the company’s content moderation practices” contacted his office about an “internal platform called Tasks that Facebook uses to coordinate projects, including censorship.’
“’The platform reflects censorship input from Google and Twitter, as well,’ Hawley alleged. ‘ …Facebook censorship teams communicate with their counterparts at Twitter and Google and then enter those companies’ suggestions for censorship onto the Task platform so that Facebook can follow up with them and effectively coordinate their censorship efforts.’”
Don’t Blame Section 230 for Big Tech’s Failures. Blame Big Tech. Electronic Frontier Foundation reported:
“If lawmakers are concerned about large social media platforms’ outsized influence on the world of online speech, they ought to confront the lack of meaningful competition among those platforms and the ways in which those platforms fail to let users control or even see how they’re using our data. Undermining Section 230 won’t fix Twitter and Facebook; in fact, it risks making matters worse by further insulating big players from competition and disruption.”
Coronavirus Vaccine Rollout Could Benefit From ‘Hyperlocal Surveillance System,’ Expert Says. Fox News reported:
“A solid surveillance system at the local level would ease a distribution process that sets out to prioritize those at highest risk and most vulnerable, though, as previously mentioned, this has yet to be definitely determined.
“‘You want to make sure you have good hyperlocal surveillance systems in place where you can see, where are the areas that have a higher burden of disease and then [the] highest prevalence of COVID-19,’ she continued.”
How Cities Are Defining the Rules of Engagement for Emerging Technology. Cities Today reported:
“Technology offers great benefits to cities and citizens and will remain critical to helping tackle other challenges such as economic recovery and climate change. However, the use of algorithms, contact-tracing apps and video surveillance during the coronavirus crisis has also brought important debates into focus about not only the balance between public health/benefits and privacy but also how these systems actually work. Further, COVID-19 has laid bare the digital divide and inequalities in who benefits from – and can be disadvantaged by – technology.”
November 13, 2020
‘Unfair Surveillance’? Online Exam Software Sparks Global Student Revolt. Thomson Reuters Foundation News reported:
“As COVID-19 restrictions force students to take remote exams, universities around the world are relying on proctoring software like Examplify. But many students are wary of the technology, including mass data collection and bias in facial recognition.”
The Post Covid World, The WEF’s Diabolical Project: ‘Resetting the Future of Work Agenda’ — After ‘The Great Reset.’ A Horrifying Future. Global Research reported:
“They call ‘Resetting the Future’ a White Paper, meaning it’s not quite a final version. It is a draft of sorts, a trial balloon, to measure people’s reactions. It reads indeed like an executioner’s tale. Many people may not read it — have no awareness of its existence. If they did, they would go up in arms and fight this latest totalitarian blueprint, offered to the world by the WEF.
“It promises a horrifying future to some 80%-plus of the (surviving) population. George Orwell’s “1984” reads like a benign fantasy, as compared to what the WEF has in mind for humanity.”
How Artificial Intelligence May Be Making You Buy Things. BBC News reported:
“‘Our AI system tracks people’s behaviour patterns rather than their purchases, and the more you shop the more the AI knows about what kinds of products you like,’ he says.
“’The AI module is designed not only to do the obvious stuff, but it learns as it goes along and becomes anticipatory. It can start to build a picture of how likely you are to try a different brand, or to buy chocolate on a Saturday.’”
On U.S. Digital Rights, Biden Presidency Could Be ‘a Real Opportunity.’ Thomson Reuters Foundation News reported:
“U.S. President-elect Joe Biden should move fast to protect digital rights by curbing the use of facial recognition and surveillance, regulating big tech and tackling discrimination perpetuated by algorithms, campaigners said this week.
“As the Democratic former vice president lays the groundwork for his administration, 10 U.S.-based digital rights and racial justice groups signed a statement setting out their policy proposals for his first 100 days in office.”
November 12, 2020
How Ticketmaster Plans to Check Your Vaccine Status for Concerts. Billboard reported:
“Here’s how it would work, if approved: After purchasing a ticket for a concert, fans would need to verify that they have already been vaccinated (which would provide approximately one year of COVID-19 protection) or test negative for coronavirus approximately 24 to 72 hours prior to the concert. The length of coverage a test would provide would be governed by regional health authorities — if attendees of a Friday night concert had to be tested 48 hours in advance, most could start the testing process the day before the event. If it was a 24-hour window, most people would likely be tested the same day of the event at a lab or a health clinic.”
San Diego City Council backs surveillance technology ordinances. Cities Today reported:
“The move comes after San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer recently ordered sensors and cameras on the city’s 3,200 smart streetlights to be deactivated until an ordinance is in place. The Smart Streetlight Program, which originally aimed to save costs and use data to improve mobility, public safety and more, faced mounting criticism over privacy and surveillance and additional controversy recently relating to San Diego police accessing video footage from streetlights to help solve crimes.”
Contact Tracing Apps Were Big Tech’s Best Idea for Fighting COVID. Why Haven’t They Helped? Time reported:
“‘Concern about privacy is one of the things that’s suppressing adoption,” says Christian Sandvig, director of the Center for Ethics, Society, and Computing at the University of Michigan. That’s despite the fact that the Google-Apple protocol — which doesn’t track or share users’ locations or identities — represents the ‘gold standard’ for privacy protection, Sandvig says . . .
“But many users may not see it that way, especially in an era when Americans’ trust in Big Tech is eroding and technology firms are catching flak from all sides of the political spectrum. In some instances, privacy concerns are even killing contact-tracing apps in the cradle — South Carolina, for instance, announced plans in May to deploy a Google-Apple powered contact-tracing app, only to shelve the plan the next month after lawmakers banned such software over privacy concerns.”
Video Greatly Enhances Contact Tracing at Chicago Juvenile Detention Center. Infection Control Today reported:
“Video surveillance isn’t available in most healthcare settings, at least not the sort of video surveillance employed at a juvenile detention center. The use of video surveillance greatly increased the ability of administrators and medical personnel to contact trace at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) in Chicago, according to a preprint study in the American Journal of Infection Control.”
Compliance Revolution: Digital ID Apps to Exceed 6.2 Billion By 2025 Says Research. Finance Feeds reported:
“A new study from Juniper Research has found that the number of digital identity apps in use will exceed 6.2 billion in 2025, from just over 1 billion in 2020. The research found that civic identity apps, where government-issued identities are held in an app, will account for almost 90% of digital identity apps installed globally in 2025; driven by the increasing use of civic identity in emerging markets and the lasting impact of the pandemic.”