“Fawkes” can protect you from facial recognition online

Jason Hargrove/Flickr

Software called Fawkes “cloaks” photos to trick the deep learning computer models that power facial recognition…

The rapid rise of facial recognition systems has placed the technology into many facets of our daily lives, whether we know it or not…But thus far, people have had few protections against this use of their images—apart from not sharing photos publicly at all.

The Fawkes project provides a powerful new protection mechanism.

With enough cloaked photos in circulation, a computer observer will be unable to identify a person from even an unaltered image, protecting individual privacy from unauthorized and malicious intrusions.

Math and science wins, again.

This app will invade anyone’s privacy and the FBI loves it

Clearview AI, a small startup that was mostly unknown until a story from The New York Times called it the app to “end privacy as we know it,” lets strangers figure out your identity through the quick snap of a single photo.

Hundreds of law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are already using this facial recognition technology, despite bans on the tech in cities like San Francisco.

The app uses over three billion images to find a match. These photos were sourced from social media sites and even apps like Venmo…

These fears and disavowals of facial recognition tech come just months after two senators introduced a bipartisan bill to limit how the FBI and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency could use it.

“Facial recognition technology can be a powerful tool for law enforcement officials,” Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, said in a statement at the time. “But its very power also makes it ripe for abuse.”

Poisonally – and not too seriously – I have to think it might be useful for average Americans to experience what every insurgent activist has experienced for decades in the United States. Every decent-sized police department has a Red Squad that includes photo-recording every insurgent activist on their patch. At a minimum.

First time I recall being aware of some flavor of gumshoe snapping my photo was at a civil rights demonstration in New England prepping for the March on Washington the following year – in 1963. I don’t doubt that this went on earlier in my life as I woke up to folks rallying together against injustice. The swarm of tech and snoops has never diminished since. If you believe it has, I have a Bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

Taylor Swift used facial recognition software to detect stalkers at Rose Bowl concert

❝ The periphery of a Taylor Swift concert is as thought out as the show she presents on stage. Beyond the traditional merchandise stands, there are often dedicated selfie-staging points and staff distributing light-up bracelets. When Swift performed at the Los Angeles Rose Bowl venue on 18 May, fans could watch rehearsal clips at a special kiosk.

What they didn’t know was that a facial recognition camera inside the structure was taking their photographs and cross-referencing the images with a database held in Nashville of hundreds of Swift’s known stalkers, according to a Rolling Stone report…

❝ While some have raised privacy concerns over the ownership and storage of the images, concerts are technically private events, and Swift has no obligation to notify ticket holders that they may be surveilled. The Guardian has contacted Swift’s representatives for comment.

Swift has a number of known stalkers. In September, she got a restraining order against Eric Swarbrick, who had been harassing her with letters threatening rape and murder since September 2016. In April, 38-year-old Julius Sandrock was arrested outside her Beverly Hills home. He was wearing a mask and had a knife in his car, and told police that he had driven from Colorado to visit the singer. Swift took out a restraining order against him in May.

RTFA and don’t blame the tech. Tech, science, generally are lifetyle neutral. Use is what determines the social value – or detriment to society – at any specific time. Even that can change with societal norms. Checking out customers for known creeps and villains seems pretty useful and proper to me.

Facial recognition for cows is a Cargill thing now…

Cargill and Cainthus photo

Cargill is backing an Irish startup that uses facial recognition software to help increase the productivity of dairy cows, the latest move by the largest closely held U.S. company to bolster its agricultural-technology efforts.

Cargill has taken a minority stake in Cainthus, which harnesses machine-learning and imaging techniques to identify cows and glean information on everything from their behavior to appetite, David Hunt, president and co-founder of Cainthus, said in a telephone interview Wednesday…

Hunt said Dublin-based Cainthus chose Cargill over venture capital firms because of the U.S. company’s footprint in agriculture. Cargill is still owned by the same family that founded it 153 years ago and it’s one of the world’s largest crop traders and meat producers.

Most farmers in my extended family don’t farm on a scale that would require recognition software to aid productivity. Those with any four-footed critters on the farm know them by their first name. But, of course, I can understand the problem for larger farms and, of course, factory-style farming.

Will Cargill also take the lead in the next logical advance? Eliminate the need for humans to run the farm, run the machinery, deal with harvesting crops – whether animal or vegetable?

You know the FBI is probably looking at you in their facial recognition software – right?

The FBI has access to nearly 412 million photos in its facial recognition system — perhaps including the one on your driver’s license. But according to a new government watchdog report, the bureau doesn’t know how error-prone the system is, or whether it enhances or hinders investigations.

Since 2011, the bureau has quietly been using this system to compare new images, such as those taken from surveillance cameras, against a large set of photos to look for a match. That set of existing images is not limited to the FBI’s own database, which includes some 30 million photos. The bureau also has access to face recognition systems used by law enforcement agencies in 16 different states, and it can tap into databases from the Department of State and the Department of Defense. And it is in negotiations with 18 other states to be able to search their databases, too.

The size of the total pool of photos the bureau can access, which was not clear until the new report from the Government Accountability Office, is shocking even to those who have been paying close attention to the FBI’s growing use of biometric data, says Jennifer Lynch, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. And the degree to which the FBI has access to photos in state-owned face image databases, which contain mostly driver’s license images, has Lynch and other privacy advocates concerned…

Adding to the privacy concerns is another finding in the GAO report: that the FBI has not properly determined how often its system makes errors and has not “taken steps to determine whether face recognition systems used by external partners, such as states and federal agencies, are sufficiently accurate” to support investigations. By taking those steps, the bureau “could better ensure the data received from external partners is sufficiently accurate and do not unnecessarily include photos of innocent people as investigative leads,” the report concludes…

Our federal coppers say there is no concern. Adding in photos from a broad range of private and public sources is no different than using fingerprint info from background checks for jobs, etc.. Which is bullshit!

The point is made in the article by Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law. “I know what I touch, and I certainly know if I give fingerprints for a background check,” he says. “I don’t think there’s anyone who keeps track of every surveillance or smartphone camera.”

The NSA is collecting millions of faces – our faces – from the Web

Understand why politicians from Obama to Bloomberg to McCain hate what Snowden reveals

The National Security Agency is harvesting huge numbers of images of people from communications that it intercepts through its global surveillance operations for use in sophisticated facial recognition programs, according to top-secret documents.

The spy agency’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications, the N.S.A. documents reveal. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world, the documents show. The agency’s ambitions for this highly sensitive ability and the scale of its effort have not previously been disclosed.

The agency intercepts “millions of images per day” — including about 55,000 “facial recognition quality images” — which translate into “tremendous untapped potential,” according to 2011 documents obtained from the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. While once focused on written and oral communications, the N.S.A. now considers facial images, fingerprints and other identifiers just as important to its mission of tracking suspected terrorists and other intelligence targets, the documents show…

“Just as important” means the NSA still considers keeping an eye on all of us as mission critical.

It is not clear how many people around the world, and how many Americans, might have been caught up in the effort. Neither federal privacy laws nor the nation’s surveillance laws provide specific protections for facial images. Given the N.S.A.’s foreign intelligence mission, much of the imagery would involve people overseas whose data was scooped up through cable taps, Internet hubs and satellite transmissions.

Because the agency considers images a form of communications content, the N.S.A. would be required to get court approval for imagery of Americans collected through its surveillance programs, just as it must to read their emails or eavesdrop on their phone conversations, according to an N.S.A. spokeswoman…

Sophistry designed to protect governmental pimps who want rubber stamp approval for data mining the world.

The F.B.I. is developing what it calls its “next generation identification” project to combine its automated fingerprint identification system with facial imagery and other biometric data…The State Department has what several outside experts say could be the largest facial imagery database in the federal government, storing hundreds of millions of photographs of American passport holders and foreign visa applicants. And the Department of Homeland Security is funding pilot projects at police departments around the country to match suspects against faces in a crowd.

The N.S.A., though, is unique in its ability to match images with huge troves of private communications.

RTFA for examples of everything from individual tales of criminal penetration of privacy – through hints here and there of the abuse of technology for political ends. All liberally slathered with copouts from Congress and the usual rationales about Homeland security.

There is nothing here that dictators haven’t hungered for in the history of tyranny. Ours is the generation that awarded the freedom to spy on absolutely everyone in the Land of the Free – to the politicians in charge.

Thanks, Mike

Navy’s robot helicopters will automatically detect pirates

Helicopter drones that have already helped catch cocaine smugglers at sea could soon get much smarter about hunting modern-day pirates. The U.S. Navy plans to upgrade its robotic Fire Scouts with electronic “brains” that are able to automatically recognize small pirate boats spotted through 3D laser imaging.

The Fire Scout drones would bounce millions of laser pulses off distant objects to create a 3D “radar” image of any boats on the high seas — a technology known as LIDAR or LADAR — so that their new software could automatically compare the 3D images to pirate boat profiles on record. A first test is scheduled to take place with seven small boats off the California coast this summer…

U.S. military analysts already suffer from serious information overload on modern battlefields, given the huge amounts of data collected by military sensors and drones. Having smarter robotic helicopters could ease the workload strain for Navy sailors, who must otherwise eyeball the data coming from the new Multi-Mode Sensor Seeker (MMSS) — a sensor mix of high-definition cameras, mid-wave infrared sensors and the 3D LADAR technology.

That’s the excuse for what may be inadequate oversight and decision-making.

Such LIDAR/LADAR technology has also interested other branches of the U.S. military. U.S. Special Forces helicopters could use LADAR to create 3D maps of the battlefield in bad weather conditions and avoid deadly crashes during attempted landings. The “AlphaDog” robot has also used such technology in early testing as a robotic battlefield mule for U.S. Marines.

Understand that the basis for this research – that no doubt will be returned to once minimal battlefield requirements are satisfied – is picking likely suspects out of a crowd.

When the task comes down to killing or disabling, say, a potential assassin in a crowd greeting a political candidate – you had better hope there’s still someone making the decision to fire. And that the someone has an educated brain.

As for the pirates — go get ’em, tiger!

Automated gates allow banned criminal into UK

Bought a baby for £150 to qualify for council housing

An embarrassing failure to prevent a banned criminal from entering Britain has led to major concerns over the country’s border controls.

The breach raises questions over the effectiveness of ‘facial recognition’ scanners, installed at a cost of millions of pounds to try to prevent known criminals and terrorists from entering the country.

Earlier this year a convicted immigration offender, who had been deported at the end of her prison sentence and banned from re-entering the UK, managed to get past one of the scanners and into the country, raising fears that such abuses could be widespread.

It is the second blow in a week for the Home Office’s electronic border controls, after the department had to cancel a £750 million contract with the US company Raytheon to operate an “e-Borders” scheme.

The automated gates at the centre of the security breach were installed as a replacement for human immigration officers. They measure unique details about the traveller’s face as they pass through, and compare those measurements with details stored on a microchip within the new biometric travel documents known as e-passports.

The Home Office has installed the technology at eight airports including Gatwick and Stansted at a cost of £9 million, with plans to introduce it at Heathrow soon.

The investigation that exposed the flaw was only triggered because the woman who got past the scanner took the unusual step of going public when she appeared at an industrial tribunal, thus alerting the authorities to the fact that she had re-entered the UK.

As a long time geek, I think technology can resolve a helluva lot of questions. Proven technology.

Throwing crap hardware and equally crap software into the field – while piling gold into the coffers of connected corporations – is an exercise in futility and false hope.

We did the same in the United States with electronic monitoring of our southern border. We outsourced millions into contracts for ineffective systems. Drug smugglers probably have better apps than the coppers.

Meanwhile, over in the 51st state, you’re moving from fuzzy-minded followers who were in control of the Labour Party – to a coalition of “less foolish, we hope” beancounters. Good luck with that.

Facial, uh, recognition – sort of – for cows

No video camera needed for one of these

Australian scientists have launched technology that uses video cameras to differentiate between species. They say the “cowcam” will keep unwanted animals out of remote watering and feed points in the Australian outback and allow farmers to monitor their stock from home or office.

“We use the unique side profile that every animal has and a software program similar to facial recognition technology that allows us to identify animals to a species level,” said Neal Finch, the joint inventor of the product.

“The camera can tell the difference between sheep and cattle and feral pests such as goats, horses, pigs, kangaroos, camels and emus.”

For about $9,600 you get a lane that narrows the animals down to single file so they go through one at a time in front of the camera, the computing hardware, an electronic gate, weatherproof boxes and all the solar energy apparatus to run the system.

Aren’t RFID chips and readers cheaper? Just as reliable?

More complex means more expensive, more maintenance, more likely to break down.