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List of police, govt, uni orgs in Clearview AI’s facial-recognition trials • The Register

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In brief Clearview AI’s controversial facial-recognition system has been trialed, at least, by police, government agencies, and universities around the world, according to newly leaked files.

Internal documents revealed by BuzzFeed News show that Clearview offered its technology to law enforcement agencies, governments, and academic institutions in 24 countries, including the UK, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia, on a try-before-you-buy basis.

The facial-recognition biz scraped billions of photos from public social media profiles, including Instagram and Facebook, and put them all into a massive database. Clearview’s customers can submit pictures of people and the system will automatically try to locate those people in the database, using facial recognition, and return any details picked up from their personal pages if successful. Thus, the police can, for example, give the service a CCTV camera still of someone, and if it matches a face in the database, the system will report back their information, such as their name, social media handles, and so on.

Canada, for one, cracked down on the operation. Meanwhile, in Britain, the Metropolitan Police, the Ministry of Defence, and the National Crime Agency, as well as police in North Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, Suffolk, and Surrey, plus a university tested or were given access to Clearview’s face-recognition algorithms, according to BuzzFeed.

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A state court of Illinois this week denied Clearview’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought against it by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Illinois law is quite tough on collecting data for biometric applications, including facial recognition. The state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) requires companies to obtain written consent from people to collect and store data that can be used to identification purposes.

The ACLU sued Clearview in May 2020, claiming it had violated BIPA. Clearview tried to get the case thrown out by saying its business practices were protected under the First Amendment. But an Illinois court didn’t agree; Judge Pamela Meyerson dismissed [PDF] the startup’s claims and the lawsuit will go ahead.

“Today’s decision shows that it is still possible for individuals to take control of their personal information from Big Tech, and legislation like BIPA is the key,” Rebecca Glenberg, senior staff counsel with the ACLU of Illinois, said in a statement. “We must continue to fight for the right to protect our privacy through control of our personal information.”

Waymo expands autonomous taxi fleet to select SF residents, kills off Lidar business

Google self-driving car spinoff Waymo has launched its Waymo One Trusted Tester program in San Francisco.

The program allows a selected group of people in the California city to hail rides in Waymo’s white electric Jaguar I-PACE vehicles running on the upstart’s fifth-generation Waymo Driver software through a smartphone app. Ideally, the car is able to use computer vision to drive itself throughout the whole journey with no hiccups. A human driver, or “autonomous specialist,” will be behind the wheel to take over at any point, however.

Waymo has also decided to stop selling its lidar sensors known as the Laser Bear Honeycomb, to other companies, according to The Information. The components were touted to people making robots and suchlike, though now Waymo is keeping all production in house.

Mortgage application algorithms favor White applicants over people of color

Algorithms used by mortgage brokers in the US were 80 per cent more likely to reject Black applicants looking to own homes compared to their White counterparts, according to a probe by The Markup.

A team of reporters analyzed data from more than two million mortgage applications across America in 2019. They controlled 17 factors, such as income, so that “the prospective borrowers of color looked almost exactly the same on paper as the White applicants, except for their race.”

They found that lenders were more likely to deny loans to Latino people by 40 per cent, Asian Pacific Islanders by 50 per cent, Native Americans by 70 per cent, and Black people by 80 per cent compared to White people. The gap also varies by city.

The investigation was long and complicated. Reporters could only probe the algorithms’ effects from public data, and their inner-workings are proprietary and secret. The study was criticized by bank and lender associations for not taking into account people’s credit scores. The Markup said it couldn’t access people’s private credit scores to analyze.

A play written by GPT-3 to be shown in London

A play, imaginatively titled AI, is set to feature a team of human actors on stage and another group interacting with OpenAI’s GPT-3 behind the scenes. The software will generate text based on prompts written by humans, and the actors will then improvise and play out the scene described by GPT-3, Time reported.

Large language models capable of generating text are unpredictable; they can often say things that are offensive due to biases picked up in training data. GPT-3 was trained on swathes of text scraped from the internet, so the play script written by the neural network may contain racist and sexist themes.

The performance art show will run in London’s Young Vic theater for three nights starting next week. ®

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Chinese could hack data for future quantum decryption, report warns | Hacking

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Chinese hackers could target heavily encrypted datasets such as weapon designs or details of undercover intelligence officers with a view to unlocking them at a later date when quantum computing makes decryption possible, a report warns.

Analysts at Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm, say Chinese hackers could also steal pharmaceutical, chemical and material science research that can be processed by quantum computers – machines capable of crunching through numbers at unprecedented speed.

In a report titled “Chinese threats in the quantum era”, the consultancy says encrypted data could be stolen by “Chinese threat groups”. It says quantum-assisted decryption will arrive faster than quantum-assisted encryption, giving hackers an edge.

“Encrypted data with intelligence longevity, like biometric markers, covert intelligence officer and source identities, social security numbers, and weapons’ designs, may be increasingly stolen under the expectation that they can eventually be decrypted,” the report says. It says “state-aligned cyber threat actors” will start to steal or intercept previously unusable encrypted data.

However, it adds there is a “very small” likelihood that quantum computing could break the latest encryption methods before 2030. The analysts say quantum computing’s advantages over classical computing – the computing used in everything from laptops to mobile phones – are at least a decade away.

“Although quantum computers’ current abilities are more demonstrative than immediately useful, their trajectory suggests that in the coming decades quantum computers will likely revolutionize numerous industries – from pharmaceuticals to materials science – and eventually undermine all popular current public-key encryption methods,” the report says.

Quantum computing is viewed as an exciting development. For example, experts say it could predict accurately what a complex molecule might do and thus pave the way for new drugs and materials.

China is already a strong player in the field, and Booz Allen Hamilton says it expected the country to surpass Europe and the US – where IBM recently made the most powerful quantum processor – in quantum-related research and development.

“Chinese threat groups will likely soon collect encrypted data with long-term utility, expecting to eventually decrypt it with quantum computers,” the report says. “By the end of the 2020s, Chinese threat groups will likely collect data that enables quantum simulators to discover new economically valuable materials, pharmaceuticals and chemicals.”

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UK Space Agency asks kids to make a logo for first launches • The Register

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Good news for those in the UK with primary school-aged kids and wondering what to do when the next bout of home-schooling hits: design a logo for the first UK satellite launches.

2022 could be a big year for launching satellites from Blighty’s shores as the first launchers gear up for a historic blast-off. Assuming the facilities have been built and all the necessary consents given and boxes ticked.

There are currently seven possible spaceport sites across the UK, from Cornwall in England through Llanbedr in Wales and up to the Western Isles in Scotland. Cash has been lobbed Cornwall’s way to support a horizontal launch by Virgin Orbit from Spaceport Cornwall and more toward Scotland for Orbex’s ambitions to launch vertically from Sutherland.

Should all the approvals happen and construction be completed, there is every chance the UK might host its first launch at some point in 2022.

Hence the need for a logo and thus a competition aimed at inspiring kids to consider a career in the space industry. And, of course, it is all worthy stuff: “Logo designs,” intoned the UK Space Agency, “should reflect how data from small satellites can help inform solutions to climate change as well as generate a source of pride in the UK’s space ambitions.”

What, we wondered, could possibly go wrong?

We put this question to Rob Manuel, one of those behind web stalwart B3ta has a long history of (among other things) image challenges, the results of which tend to pop up, often unattributed, in timelines around the world. Now heading into its third decade, the site continues to push out a weekly Friday newsletter to email subscribers.

In terms of how to engage participants, Manuel said: “If anyone asks me, and they rarely do, I encourage competitions to be as open as possible – publish the results as they’re coming in. Try and create a buzz that something is happening rather than everything going in the bin.”

“As for things going wrong,” he went on, “well, there’s always an element who’ll want to subvert it.”

The competition is open to children aged 4-11 and will run until 11 March 2022. There are two age categories (4-7 and 7-11) over 12 regions in the UK. Designs can be drawn, painted, or created on a computer and either submitted on the site or via post. Some basic questions also need to be answered, and children can work on their own or in a team of up to four.

We asked the UK Space Agency if it would take Manuel’s advice and post entries ahead of the competition close. We will update should it respond. ®

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Video analytics platform RugbySmarts named ‘most investable’ at SportX

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The Galway tech start-up was one of two winners at the sport-focused pre-accelerator programme.

A start-up developing real-time video analytics for sports has been named ‘most investable’ at SportX, a new pre-accelerator in Ireland for founders with sports and wellness business ideas.

RugbySmarts took the title at the inaugural SportX showcase last week, securing a cash prize.

The Galway-based start-up aims to automate and simplify sports analytics using AI,  machine learning and computer vision, helping coaches to improve player and team performance with a platform that could also be transferred to other sports.

RugbySmarts was founded last year by CTO William Johnstone, who has previously worked with Connacht Rugby, and CEO Yvonne Comer, who is a former Ireland international rugby player.

Meanwhile, the award of ‘best impact on sport’ was given to TrojanTrack. This start-up, founded in 2021 by Dublin-based Stephen O’Dwyer, is looking to combine quantitative biomechanical analysis with deep neural network tech in the equine industry.

The aim is to gain feedback on a horse’s injury or gait imbalance without using invasive technology, such as motion-tracking software that requires markers to be attached to the animal’s skin.

‘Next-gen sports-tech entrepreneurs’

SportX was launched earlier this year by advisory firm Resolve Partners, Sport Ireland and ArcLabs – the research and innovation centre at Waterford Institute of Technology.

The aim of the pre-accelerator programme was to build on tech and business ideas for the sport and wellness industries, giving founders access to academic, clinical and commercial resources.

The six-week programme involved workshops and engagement with advisers, entrepreneurs, subject experts and investors. Participants also had the opportunity to pitch to the US-based Techstars Sports Accelerator.

At the SportX showcase last week, nine teams had five minutes each to pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges.

The two winners were selected by the panel, which featured Gary Leyden of the ArcLabs Fund 1 GP, Sport Ireland’s Benny Cullen and Niall McEvoy of Enterprise Ireland.

At the launch of SportX earlier this year, Leyden said the goal of the programme was to find “the next generation of sports-tech entrepreneurs who can leverage the amazing enterprise and sports-related supports within the south-east of Ireland”.

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