Autonomous vehicles are coming, and some are already here. Today, the US Postal Service deployed autonomous trucks in the Southwest as part of a pilot program. This comes a week after electric autonomous trucks were deployed on a public industrial road in Sweden. What does this mean for the trucking industry?
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3 weeks ago
There are now websites and apps that can take self-reported symptoms from patients and give accurate diagnoses. Researchers have developed deep-learning computers that are now comparable, if not better, than human doctors when diagnosing certain diseases and conditions. What does this mean for the future of medical professions?
4 days ago
There’s a reason that we focus on hackers, facial recognition, and data privacy at Subverse. We pay attention to the developments in emerging technologies because of the massive impact they have on society and individuals. We’re beginning to see some of the consequences of compiling massive amounts of private citizens data unfold in real time as hackers target these databases for valuable information that can be used to steal identities and generally throw a wrench of chaos into the systems of governments on local and national levels. A federal contractor’s database was recently breached, and the information was available as a free download on the dark web. Microsoft recently and quietly purged their facial recognition database, but as we all know, once something is online, it’s very difficult if not impossible, to actually scrub it from the record. And in Detroit, lawmakers and citizens are finally getting an opportunity to address the widespread use of facial recognition cameras operated in real time by law enforcement.
On Monday, US Customs officials released a statement explaining that one of their subcontractor databases had been breached by a cyber attack at the end of May. Photos of people entering and leaving one US port of entry over a month and a half were compromised, with initial reports claiming that less than one hundred thousand people were impacted. Federal officials also claimed that travel documents, passport, and identification information were not compromised. But they also claimed that none of the information had been disseminated on the dark web, however, The Register reported that a large cache of breached data from subcontractor firm Perceptics was offered as a free download on the dark web.
According to the Register, an individual using the pseudonym “Boris Bullet-Dodger” alerted them to the hack, and provided a list of files exfiltrated from Perceptics’ corporate network as proof. Perceptics makes license plate readers used by the US government and cities to identify and track citizens and immigrants. They are the sole provider of license plate readers used at land border crossing lanes in the US. According to the Register, Perceptics recently announced in a press release that is no longer on their site, they landed “a key contract by US Customs and Border Protection to replace existing LPR technology, and to install Perceptics next generation License Plate Readers (LPRs) at 43 US Border Patrol checkpoint lanes in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.”
Almost sixty-five thousand file names fit their scope of surveillance technology, including spreadsheets with locations, zip codes, image files with names of individuals, and documents associated with federal clients like ICE. Hundreds of gigabytes of data, including business plans, financial figures, and personal information was found on the dark web. At first, Customs and Border Patrol wouldn’t give information on which Subcontractor was involved, but the public statement they sent to Washington Post reporters on Monday included the name Perceptics in the title– CBP Perceptics Public Statement. CBP said that the copies of the license plate and traveler images collected by CBP were transferred to the subcontractor’s network in violation of the federal agency’s security and privacy rules.
They say no CBP systems were compromised, and the CBP spokesperson Jackie Wren was not able to confirm if Perceptics was the source of the breach. A US official who spoke to the Washington Post anonymously said that internally it was being described as a ‘major incident.’ They said that Perceptics was trying to use the data to refine their algorithms to match license plates with the faces of the vehicle’s occupants, outside of CBP’s sanctioned use. Civil rights and privacy advocates say the theft shows that these government databases are going to be major targets for cybercriminals and hackers across the world.
Senior legislative council member at the ACLU Neema Singh Guliani said, “This breach comes just as CBP seeks to expand its massive face recognition apparatus and collection of sensitive information from travelers, including license plate information and social media identifiers. This incident further underscores the need to put the brakes on these efforts and for Congress to investigate the agency’s data practices. The best way to avoid breaches of sensitive personal data is not to collect and retain it in the first place.”
The incident also stirred panic in Congress, where lawmakers have been questioning whether federal surveillance measures are threatening individuals’ constitutional rights and risking identity theft of millions of citizens. In a statement to the Washington Post, Senator Ron Wyden said, “If the government collects sensitive information about Americans, it is responsible for protecting it — and that’s just as true if it contracts with a private company. Anyone whose information was compromised should be notified by Customs, and the government needs to explain exactly how it intends to prevent this kind of breach from happening in the future.”
Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, appealed to Congress last year to take steps to manage that have what he called, “broad societal ramifications for potential abuse,” stating: “The only effective way to manage the use of technology by a government is for the government proactively to manage this use itself. And if there are concerns about how a technology will be deployed more broadly across society, the only way to regulate this broad use is for the government to do so. This, in fact, is what we believe is needed today – a government initiative to regulate the proper use of facial recognition technology, informed first by a bipartisan and expert commission.”
As we reported before, Microsoft blocked sales of facial recognition technology to law enforcement in California, but last week Microsoft deleted their database containing over ten million images of around one hundred thousand people. The database was the largest publicly available facial recognition data set in the world, used to train facial recognition systems by military researchers and other global tech firms. The people they pulled the photos from were not asked for consent because their photos were under a creative commons license online. Because of this, the individuals were considered ‘celebrities,’ and the database was called MS Celeb. Berlin-based researcher Adam Harvey, who revealed the database, runs a project called Megapixels which shows the details of these data sets. Harvey told the Financial Times, “Microsoft has exploited the term ‘celebrity’ to include people who merely work online and have a digital identity. Many people in the target list are even vocal critics of the very technology Microsoft is using their name and biometric information to build.”
He said even with the data set deleted, the contents are still being disseminated around the web. “You can’t make a data set disappear. Once you post it, and people download it, it exists on hard drives all over the world. Now it is completely disassociated from any licensing, rules or controls that Microsoft previously had over it. People are posting it on GitHub, hosting the files on Dropbox and Baidu Cloud, so there is no way from stopping them from continuing to post it and use it for their own purposes.” The Financial Times published an in-depth investigation in April on the technology and Microsoft’s role. Microsoft explained to them that the recent deletion was protocol, that the site was intended for academic purposes and was run by an employee who is no longer with Microsoft.
Amazon is following Microsoft in acknowledging the risks of their facial recognition services and is also calling for the federal government to put national regulations into place for the technology. The CEO of Amazon Web Services, Andy Jassy, told Kara Swisher at Vox’s Code 2019 conference: “Whether it’s private-sector companies or our police forces, you have to be accountable for your actions and you have to be held responsible if you misuse it.” Amazon Rekognition uses AI to identify faces in videos and photos. Eighty-five civil liberties groups have criticized Amazon for selling their system to governments and law enforcement and studies have shown that Amazon’s Rekognition has higher rates of misidentification for females with darker skin than males with lighter skin.
Although law enforcement in Florida and Oregon are already using facial recognition, Detroit and Chicago are the first cities in the US to use facial recognition technology with capabilities to work in real time. These are similar to systems the FBI and federal border agencies use at many US ports of entry. The system used in Detroit has a million dollar face-scanning system that allows law enforcement to identify and track residents on private and public high-def cameras at strategic locations. From these images, Detroit law enforcement can identify anyone at any time using their database consisting of hundreds of thousands of mug shots, driver’s licenses, and photos taken from social media.
Detroit Police slipped this system into place without any public hearings or announcements, and integrated the technology with their Project Green Light, an initiative started in 2016 using surveillance cameras at late-night gathering spots like gas stations and fast-food restaurants. Since then, they’ve expanded the system to apartments, lower-income housing, churches, parks, schools, hotels, and health clinics, including addiction treatment centers. Altogether, there are over five hundred Green Light locations. Detroit police defended their use of the technology, claiming it’s only used to track down suspects after a crime is committed.
Detroit Police Department’s Assistant Chief Dave LeValley told the Detroit Metro Times, “DPD does not use live streaming videos with facial recognition software. Videos fed into the Real Time Crime Center are used only to obtain still images of an individual suspected in a criminal offense for purposes of identifying the suspect. Those still images are used to search known databases or repositories of criminal mugshots, state driver’s license photographs, and state identification card photographs. Any images taken during a First Amendment-protected public event, activity, or affiliation would only be used under exigent circumstances that would require the express approval of the Chief or his designee and a report to the Board of Police Commissioners after such use.”
Local elected officials haven’t been very vocal about the initiative until now. The Detroit Police Commission is hosting a public hearing tomorrow to discuss the surveillance system, and privacy advocates are distributing flyers to inform the community about what’s going on. Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib has been outspoken against Facial Recognition technology during public hearings in late May and early June. She believes Detroit should be more open about their public use of these systems because of the potential for abuse and the number of misidentifications. Tlaib told the Detroit Metro Times, “I’ve heard from local groups, community members, and civil rights advocates: facial recognition technology is a flawed system riddled with privacy and constitutional concerns. I support a moratorium on its use in law enforcement. The lack of public input and transparency is alarming. The use of facial recognition with little to no real oversight or research endangers all our lives directly.” There has been a major push by local and national lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to halt the use of facial recognition until a legal framework can be worked out that protects peoples’ privacy and prevents misidentification.
As always, we will continue to keep an eye on these subjects and give you updates. Stay tuned for more videos Monday through Thursday at 7 pm eastern and be sure to follow us at minds.com/subverse where you can join our online newsroom to discuss our coverage and point out stories to us that you think need more coverage. Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you next time.
2 weeks ago
Getting back into space has been on a lot of people’s minds lately, especially world leaders. At a joint press conference in Tokyo earlier this week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Donald Trump agreed to further cooperate in space exploration, which might include sending Japanese astronauts to the moon.
During the press conference, Trump said, “I am pleased to confirm that Prime Minister Abe and I have agreed to dramatically expand our nations’ cooperation in human space exploration. Japan will join our mission to send U.S. astronauts to space. We’ll be going to the moon. We’ll be going to Mars very soon. It’s very exciting.”
A fact sheet released by the State Department noted that the two leaders “agreed on the importance of a sustained human presence on and around the Moon. Building on its International Space Station experience, Japanese astronauts will strive to join American astronauts on the Moon and destinations beyond.”
NASA is accelerating their plans to put people on the moon’s surface by 2028, setting the new goal to 2024. The major roles for NASA’s international partners will largely be deferred to the second phase, focusing on establishing a sustainable human presence after the 2024 landing. The contributions for the partners would include Gateway Modules, which give countries slots on lunar landing missions similar to the way ISS partners get crew slot on the space station.
Ken Bowersox, the deputy associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA said during an advisory council committee meeting, “Accelerating the landing date to 2024 makes it harder for us to incorporate our international partners early. We’re still looking at working with our international partners. A lot of their elements were going to come after 2024 anyway.” Bowersox added that if international partners accelerate their contributions, they’re welcome to participate in the early phases.
One of the Japanese companies looking forward to this further cooperation with the US is iSpace, which develops commercial lunar landers as part of a team led by an American company called Draper. Draper won one of nine commercial lunar payload service agreements from NASA last year to transport payloads to the surface of the moon. In a statement to SpaceNews, iSpace founder Takeshi Hakamada said, “We are thrilled to learn that the U.S. and Japan will deepen its strong relationship in space exploration through a focused effort on lunar exploration. Alongside our American partner, Draper, iSpace is well prepared and eager to support this new endeavor between the U.S. and Japan.”
Though the accelerated plan seems ambitious, much of the equipment and hardware needed for the project are already in development or will be soon. Lucky for NASA, there are a number of companies with ideas for developing lunar landers. Earlier this month, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin showed off their Blue Moon lunar lander in its current iteration. Blue Moon can carry three point six metric tons to the moon using a new rocket engine Blue Origin is developing that’s powered by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. In April, Lockheed Martin showed their concepts for lunar landers, which differed from their original lander idea. The original design was a giant single-stage reusable lander that could operate for two weeks on the moon’s surface and carry four people. Moving the deadline to 2024 forced the company to table that ambitious design for a smaller two-stage lander that could be built more quickly. The deadline shift also changed the various companies roles in the development of the landers. Before, the different companies would develop the three separate elements of the lander, the overall architecture, and integration of the components would be overseen by NASA. The new deadline puts less control in the hands of NASA and puts more of the responsibility on the companies. This gives the companies more flexibility in alternative approaches, rather than the original three-stage concept by NASA. This changes things, but it will be interesting to watch how the companies rise to the challenge. We plan on continuing our coverage on space, from the satellites orbiting our planet, to the exploration of our solar system and beyond, so stay tuned for more videos.