The Knowledge Dynasty

May to warn tech firms on terror content

Image copyright Reuters

Technology companies must go “further and faster” in removing extremist content, Theresa May is to tell the United Nations general assembly.

The prime minister will also host a meeting with other world leaders and Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter.

She will challenge social networks and search engines to find fixes to take down terrorist material in two hours.

Tech giant Google said firms were doing their part but could not do it alone – governments and users needed to help.

The prime minister has repeatedly called for an end to the “safe spaces” she says terrorists enjoy online.

Ministers have called for limits to end-to-end encryption, which stops messages being read by third parties if they are intercepted, and measures to curb the spread of material on social media.

At the general assembly on Wednesday, the prime minister will hail progress made by tech companies since the establishment in June of an industry forum to counter terrorism.

But she will urge them to go “further and faster” in developing artificial intelligence solutions to automatically reduce the period in which terror propaganda remains available, and eventually prevent it appearing at all.

 

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption Google’s general counsel Kent Walker defended its anti-terrorism efforts on BBC Radio 4’s Today

Together, the UK, France and Italy will call for a target of one to two hours to take down terrorist content wherever it appears.

Internet companies will be given a month to show they are taking the problem seriously, with ministers at a G7 meeting on 20 October due to decide whether enough progress has been made.

Kent Walker, general counsel for Google, who is representing tech firms at Mrs May’s meeting, said they would not be able to “do it alone”.

“Machine-learning has improved but we are not all the way there yet,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, in an exclusive interview.

“We need people and we need feedback from trusted government sources and from our users to identify and remove some of the most problematic content out there.”

Asked about carrying bomb-making instructions on sites, he said: “Whenever we can locate this material, we are removing it.

“The challenge is once it’s removed, many people re-post it or there are copies of it across the web.

“And so the challenge of identifying it and identifying the difference between bomb-making instructions and things that might look similar that might be perfectly legal – might be documentary or scientific in nature – is a real challenge.”

A Downing Street source said: “These companies have some of the best brains in the world.

“They should really be focusing on what matters, which is stopping the spread of terrorism and violence.”

Technology companies defended their handling of extremist content after criticism from ministers following the London Bridge terror attack in June.

Google said it had already spent hundreds of millions of pounds on tackling the problem.

Facebook and Twitter said they were working hard to rid their networks of terrorist activity and support.

YouTube told the BBC that it received 200,000 reports of inappropriate content a day, but managed to review 98% of them within 24 hours.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, Mrs May will say terrorists will never win, but that “defiance alone is not enough”.

“Ultimately it is not just the terrorists themselves who we need to defeat. It is the extremist ideologies that fuel them. It is the ideologies that preach hatred, sow division and undermine our common humanity,” she will say.

‘Mystified’

A new report out on Tuesday found that online jihadist propaganda attracts more clicks in the UK than in any other country in Europe.

The study by the centre-right think tank, Policy Exchange, suggested the UK public would support new laws criminalising reading content that glorifies terror.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption IS militants are moving to less well-known sites after being chased off mainstream social media

Google said it will give £1m to fund counter-terrorism projects in the UK, part of a $5m (£3.7m) global commitment.

The search giant has faced criticism about how it is addressing such content, particularly on YouTube.

The funding will be handed out in partnership with UK-based counter-extremist organisation the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD).

An independent advisory board will be accepting the first round of applications in November, with grants of between £2,000 and £200,000 awarded to successful proposals.

ISD chief executive Sasha Havlicek said: “We are eager to work with a wide range of innovators on developing their ideas in the coming months.”

A spokesman for the Global Internet Forum to Combat Terrorism, which is formed of tech companies, said combating the spread of extremist material online required responses from government, civil society and the private sector.

“Together, we are committed to doing everything in our power to ensure that our platforms are not used to distribute terrorist content,” said the spokesman.

‘International consensus’

Brian Lord, a former deputy director for Intelligence and Cyber Operations at UK intelligence monitoring service GCHQ, said the UN was “probably the best place” to raise the matter as there was a need for “an international consensus” over the balance between free speech and countering extremism.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “You can use a sledgehammer to crack a nut and so, actually, one can say: well just take a whole swathe of information off the internet, because somewhere in there will be the bad stuff we don’t want people to see.

“But then that counters the availability of information,” adding that what is seen as “free speech” in one country might be seen as something which should be taken down in another.

Mrs May’s appearance at the UN comes days before she is due to give a major speech on Brexit – a subject that led to repeated questions from journalists on her visit.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was accused of undermining her plans by writing a 4,000-word newspaper article setting out his own vision for Brexit.

Speaking to the Guardian, Mr Johnson said he was “mystified” by the row his article had prompted, saying he had “contributed a small article to the pages of the Telegraph” because critics had been saying he was not speaking up about Brexit.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-41327816

Russia is using facial recognition to spy on its citizens

While you’ll soon be using facial recognition to unlock your smartphone, Russia is using the technology to spy on its citizens.

Moscow is adding facial recognition software to 170,000 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras positioned throughout the capital. The city has worked on the system for close to a year alongside NTechLabs, a Russian startup that released the popular app FindFace last year. People could take pictures of strangers and the app would figure out who was in the image by linking it to a database from Russia’s largest social network, VKontakte. The app was criticized after people used it to abuse porn stars.

Use of CCTV cameras to spy on citizens is notorious in the U.K., but Russia claims it has the largest network in the world. For the last five years, Moscow has been scrapping together millions of hours of video feeds and holding them for five days after they’re captured.

“We soon found it impossible to process such volumes of data by police officers alone,” Artem Ermolaev, head of the department of information technology in Moscow, told Bloomberg. “We needed an artificial intelligence to help find what we are looking for.”

Ermolaev said the technology was somewhere between testing and finished, and that a two-month trial resulted in six arrests of criminals who “hadn’t been caught in years.” CCTVs are aimed at more than 95 percent of the capital’s apartment buildings. The surveillance cameras scan for faces stored in a government database of criminals and can even run screenshots through the facial recognition software.

Addressing concerns of hackers gaining control of huge amounts of personal information, Ermolaev says data is kept in a closed system available to a limited number of users. He says deploying the software across all 170,000 cameras would triple operating costs, which already stand at a staggering $5 billion rubles, or about $86 million. Instead, Moscow is eyeing a limited release in some of its more crime-ridden neighborhoods.

H/T Bloomberg

Read more: https://www.dailydot.com/debug/russia-cctv-facial-recognition/

 

Fury at ‘Bodega’ tech startup that aims to put corner shops out of business

Bodega, which markets glorified vending machines where users can buy groceries, boasts: “Eventually, centralized shopping locations won’t be necessary.”

Bodega co-founders

 

A tech startup called Bodega that hopes to replace mom-and-pop shops with unmanned boxes that rely on an app and artificial intelligence is facing a massive backlash from immigrant business owners and skeptics across Silicon Valley.

The company, founded by two former Google employees and launched on Wednesday, is marketing five-foot-wide pantries that users can unlock with their smartphones to pick up non-perishable items. There are no humans at the stores which are already stationed in spots like apartment buildings, offices and gyms and a computer program automatically charges customers credit cards, according to Fast Company, which first reported on the startup.

Although the boxes appear to be little more than glorified vending machines, the company’s executives have been widely mocked, and criticized for explicitly stating that their mission is to displace neighborhood corner stores and put family-owned shops out of business.

“The vision here is much bigger than the box itself,” co-founder Paul McDonald, a former Google product manager, told Fast Company. “Eventually, centralized shopping locations won’t be necessary, because there will be 100,000 Bodegas spread out, with one always 100 ft away from you.”

McDonald backtracked on Wednesday, claiming in a blogpost that he is not trying to put bodegas out of business despite his earlier statements to the contrary: “Challenging the urban corner store is not and has never been our goal.”

The goal of disrupting a long-running industry and eliminating human interaction from the process of shopping at a convenience store is embedded in the roundly ridiculed Bodega name, which appropriates a commonly used term in the US for corner stores typically run by immigrants.

“It’s sacrilegious to use that name, and we’re going to do whatever we need to do to fight this,” Frank Garcia, chair of the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, told the Guardian. “It was devastating to find out and it’s not fair to the local bodegas now that don’t have the angel investors that these guys have.”

McDonald and co-founder Ashwath Rajan have secured funding from high-profile players in the tech industry, including investors from First Round Capital, Forerunner Ventures and Homebrew and senior executives at Facebook, Google, Twitter and Dropbox, Fast Company reported.

Garcia said his grandfather was the head of the Latin Grocery Association in the 1960s and helped coin the term bodega, a name widely used for stores in New York City today.

“It’s his legacy and the legacy of these immigrants who came here with nothing to start a little grocery store, and came up with a concept to really help the community against racism,” he said, noting that existing grocers often would refuse to serve Puerto Ricans. “Don’t use our community to make a fast buck.”

McDonald claimed that the company conducted surveys in the Latin American community to understand if they felt the name was a misappropriation of that term or had negative connotations and alleged that 97% said no.

Bodega co-founders
The founders of Bodega hope there will eventually be thousands of boxes with one always 100 ft away from you. Photograph: Ellian Raffoul for Moanalani Jeffrey Photography

Bodega did not respond to an interview request and did not answer questions about the nature of the survey and how much funding the startup has raised.

In his blogpost, McDonald praised existing bodegas as fixtures of their neighborhoods for generations that stock thousands of items, far more than we could ever fit on a few shelves. He also said he was surprised by the social media outrage about the name, offering an apology to “anyone we’ve offended.”

“Rather than disrespect to traditional corner stores or worse yet, a threat we intended only admiration.”

He did not respond to a question about whether he was reconsidering the name.

Critics have also condemned Bodega as the latest example of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs attracting large sums of money to provide a service for which there is little demand, aimed at catering to a wealthy population. Juicero, a startup that raised $120m to sell $400 juicer machines that were revealed to be the equivalent of two hands squeezing a juice box, recently shut down.

McDonald told Fast Company he was unveiling 50 new locations on the west coast and plans to spread across the country, with more than a thousand Bodegas in place by the end of 2018. The boxes are supposed to use machine learning to assess which items are most in demand and adjust the supply accordingly, but some critics are already questioning whether the business model will be sustainable.

“Even if Bodega rapidly grows, many shoppers won’t want to abandon their local stores,” said Trisha Chakrabarti, senior program and policy manager at Mandela MarketPlace, a nonprofit that supports local grocery stores and is based in Oakland, California, where Bodega is headquartered.

“It’s about having neighbours in your community who know you, who have lived there and been in business for a long time, who have seen changes in the neighborhood and are responsive to customers needs,” she said. “That kind of personalization of service, you will never be able to find with an automated service.”

“Bodega is launching at a time when local bodegas are barely scraping by,” said Chakrabarti. These are marginalized business owners to begin with in places like Oakland, New York and San Francisco. Their businesses are threatened by ever increasing rents.

She said she was particularly shocked to see the startup founders openly boasting about striving to wipe out this industry: “I hope that they fail.”

“In New York, where there are a large number of Yemeni-owned corner stores, some are known for using honour systems in which they let regular customers pay at a later date if they are low on cash and have immediate needs,” said Debbie Almontaser, board president of the Muslim Community Network.

“They work with communities when they don’t have money, people living paycheck to paycheck that need milk and diapers,” she said. “All of their customers are just so grateful that they have this kind of trust in them … I can’t imagine they would want to see these manufactured little kiosks in their communities.”

Garcia said his organization would explore any legal options it may have to challenge Bodega’s name, adding that he hoped lawmakers would regulate this kind of business and not let the startup bypass government rules existing stores have to follow.

He noted that even when 7-Eleven, the chain of convenience stores, has moved into neighborhoods with small businesses, executives have met with community leaders and representatives of bodegas.

“At least they respected the community,” he said. “These guys have not.”

At one residential skyscraper in San Francisco where a Bodega box is, tenant Nripesh Koirala said he would consider shopping from one since it’s convenient, but that he didn’t think the startup would threaten retail shops.

“It’s just their arrogance if they’re saying they are going to replace stores,” said Koirala, a 23-year-old student. “At a corner store, there are a lot of things you can choose from and you can ask them questions … You can’t talk to a vending machine.”

Contact the author: sam.levin@theguardian.com

Contribute with

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/13/tech-startup-bodega-corner-stores

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Categories

Coursera

New Skills, New You: Transform your career in 2016 with Coursera

Follow us on Twitter