Facial recognition’s ‘dirty little secret’: Millions of online photos scraped without consent

Facial recognition can log you into your iPhone, track criminals through crowds and identify loyal customers in stores.

The technology — which is imperfect but improving rapidly — is based on algorithms that learn how to recognize human faces and the hundreds of ways in which each one is unique.

To do this well, the algorithms must be fed hundreds of thousands of images of a diverse array of faces. Increasingly, those photos are coming from the internet, where they’re swept up by the millions without the knowledge of the people who posted them, categorized by age, gender, skin tone and dozens of other metrics, and shared with researchers at universities and companies.

As the algorithms get more advanced — meaning they are better able to identify women and people of color, a task they have historically struggled with — legal experts and civil rights advocates are sounding the alarm on researchers’ use of photos of ordinary people. These people’s faces are being used without their consent, in order to power technology that could eventually be used to surveil them.

That’s a particular concern for minorities who could be profiled and targeted, the experts and advocates say.

“This is the dirty little secret of AI training sets. Researchers often just grab whatever images are available in the wild,” said NYU School of Law professor Jason Schultz.

The latest company to enter this territory was IBM, which in January released a collection of nearly a million photos that were scraped from the photo hosting site Flickr and coded to describe the subjects’ appearance. IBM promoted the collection to researchers as a progressive step toward reducing bias in facial recognition.

But some of the photographers whose images were included in IBM’s dataset were surprised and disconcerted when NBC News told them that their photographs had been annotated with details including facial geometry and skin tone and may be used to develop facial recognition algorithms. (NBC News obtained IBM’s dataset from a source after the company declined to share it, saying it could be used only by academic or corporate research groups.)

“None of the people I photographed had any idea their images were being used in this way,” said Greg Peverill-Conti, a Boston-based public relations executive who has more than 700 photos in IBM’s collection, known as a “training dataset.”

“It seems a little sketchy that IBM can use these pictures without saying anything to anybody,” he said.

John Smith, who oversees AI research at IBM, said that the company was committed to “protecting the privacy of individuals” and “will work with anyone who requests a URL to be removed from the dataset.”

Despite IBM’s assurances that Flickr users can opt out of the database, NBC News discovered that it’s almost impossible to get photos removed. IBM requires photographers to email links to photos they want removed, but the company has not publicly shared the list of Flickr users and photos included in the dataset, so there is no easy way of finding out whose photos are included. IBM did not respond to questions about this process.

To see if your Flickr photos are part of the dataset, enter your username in a tool NBC News created based on the IBM dataset:

IBM says that its dataset is designed to help academic researchers make facial recognition technology fairer. The company is not alone in using publicly available photos on the internet in this way. Dozens of other research organizations have collected photos for training facial recognition systems, and many of the larger, more recent collections have been scraped from the web.

Some experts and activists argue that this is not just an infringement on the privacy of the millions of people whose images have been swept up — it also raises broader concerns about the improvement of facial recognition technology, and the fear that it will be used by law enforcement agencies to disproportionately target minorities.

“People gave their consent to sharing their photos in a different internet ecosystem,” said Meredith Whittaker, co-director of the AI Now Institute, which studies the social implications of artificial intelligence. “Now they are being unwillingly or unknowingly cast in the training of systems that could potentially be used in oppressive ways against their communities.”

HOW FACIAL RECOGNITION HAS EVOLVED

In the early days of building facial recognition tools, researchers paid people to come to their labs, sign consent forms and have their photo taken in different poses and lighting conditions. Because this was expensive and time consuming, early datasets were limited to a few hundred subjects.

With the rise of the web during the 2000s, researchers suddenly had access to millions of photos of people.

Amazon Rekognition enables users to track people through a video even when their faces are not visible.Amazon

“They would go into a search engine, type in the name of a famous person and download all of the images,” said P. Jonathon Phillips, who collects datasets for measuring the performance of face recognition algorithms for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. “At the start these tended to be famous people, celebrities, actors and sports people.”

As social media and user-generated content took over, photos of regular people were increasingly available. Researchers treated this as a free-for-all, scraping faces from YouTube videos, Facebook, Google Images, Wikipedia and mugshot databases.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/internet/facial-recognition-s-dirty-little-secret-millions-online-photos-scraped-n981921

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Phone app can diagnose anaemia from photos of fingernails

A smartphone app can diagnose anaemia by analysing the colour of a person’s fingernails in a photograph.

Anaemia – a condition in which people have low levels of haemoglobin or not enough healthy red blood cells – affects over two billion people worldwide. If untreated, it can cause severe fatigue, heart problems and complications in pregnancy.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

http://www.newscientist.com/article/2187194-phone-app-can-diagnose-anaemia-from-photos-of-fingernails/

Travel Photos, Ex-BF Sworn Statement Seal Ford’s Fate As A Liar

Ford had already moved 3,000 miles from Maryland, where she alleges the assault by Judge Brett Kavanaugh took place, to California, but upon learning Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court, her husband claimed she was thinking about moving to New Zealand.

“She was like, ‘I can’t deal with this. If he becomes the nominee, then I’m moving to another country. I cannot live in this country if he’s in the Supreme Court,’” her husband said. “She wanted out.”

A newly surfaced letter by Ford’s ex-boyfriend also directly refutes Ford’s claims, saying she “never expressed a fear of close quarters, tight spaces, or places with only one exit,” which were supposedly at the crux of her fear of flying.

“While visiting Ford in Hawaii, we traveled around the Hawaiian Islands including one time on a propeller plane. Dr. Ford never indicated a fear of flying. To the best of my recollection Dr. Ford never expressed a fear of close quarters, tight spaces, or places with only one exit. I assisted Dr. Ford with finding a place to live in [redacted] California. She ended up living in a very small, 500 sq. ft. house with one door,” the ex-boyfriend said in the letter.

Additionally, sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell also confirmed Ford traveled extensively for surfing trips despite her supposed fear of flying during her sworn testimony.

Mitchell had asked Ford how she got to Washington D.C., to which Ford replied, “In an airplane.”

“I ask that because its been reported by the press that you would not submit to an interview with the committee because of your fear of flying. Is that true?” Mitchell asked.

“That was certainly what I was hoping to avoid getting on an airplane. But I eventually was able to get up the gumption with the help of some friends and get on the plane,” Ford said.

“You fly fairly frequently for your hobbies and you’ve had to fly for your work. Is that true?” Mitchell asked.

“Correct. Unfortunately,” Ford said.

Mitchell then listed all the destinations Ford has traveled for surfing, which included Hawaii, Costa Rica, South Pacific Islands and French Polynesia.

And Ford’s letter to Diane Feinstein also mentioned that she was in the Mid-Atlantic for vacation.

The evidence continues to pile up, not against Kavanaugh, but against Ford’s sworn statements.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.infowars.com/travel-photos-ex-bf-sworn-statement-seals-fords-fate-as-a-liar/

Photos Of Obama’s Illegal Alien Facilities The Media Refuses To Show You

The media and political class become more and more outraged over the Trump administration’s decision to detain and prosecute immigrants illegally crossing the border.

Lost in the debate is any acknowledgement that President Obama’s administration also used detention facilities.

Current U.S. immigration laws, when enforced, have the consequence of temporarily separating families that arrive with children into separate detention facilities in order to prosecute the adults. The policy of prosecuting immigrants for crossing the border illegally has been in place for multiple administrations. The Obama administration prosecuted half a million illegal immigrantsand similarly separated families in the process. So did the Bush administration. Personal accountsfrom immigration lawyers tell a tale of Obama being equally concerned about unaccompanied minors traveling to the border and wanting to create a deterrent.

Photos of border detention facilities from the Obama-era, taken during 2014, look nearly identical to the ones taken during the Trump era.

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OLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

Photos Of Obama’s Illegal Alien Facilities The Media Refuses To Show You

The media and political class become more and more outraged over the Trump administration’s decision to detain and prosecute immigrants illegally crossing the border.

Lost in the debate is any acknowledgement that President Obama’s administration also used detention facilities.

Current U.S. immigration laws, when enforced, have the consequence of temporarily separating families that arrive with children into separate detention facilities in order to prosecute the adults. The policy of prosecuting immigrants for crossing the border illegally has been in place for multiple administrations. The Obama administration prosecuted half a million illegal immigrantsand similarly separated families in the process. So did the Bush administration. Personal accountsfrom immigration lawyers tell a tale of Obama being equally concerned about unaccompanied minors traveling to the border and wanting to create a deterrent.

Photos of border detention facilities from the Obama-era, taken during 2014, look nearly identical to the ones taken during the Trump era.

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OLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

Facebook Scans All Photos and Links You Send on Messenger

Facebook Inc. scans the links and images that people send each other on Facebook Messenger, and reads chats when they’re flagged to moderators, making sure the content abides by the company’s rules. If it doesn’t, it gets blocked or taken down.

The company confirmed the practice after an interview published earlier this week with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg raised questions about Messenger’s practices and privacy. Zuckerberg told Vox’s Ezra Klein a story about receiving a phone call related to ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. Facebook had detected people trying to send sensational messages through the Messenger app, he said.

“In that case, our systems detect what’s going on,” Zuckerberg said. “We stop those messages from going through.”

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-04/facebook-scans-what-you-send-to-other-people-on-messenger-app

New photos show China is nearly done with its militarization of South China Sea

Aerial photographs obtained by Inquirer.net from a source show that China is almost finished transforming seven reefs claimed by the Philippines in the Spratly archipelago into island fortresses, in a bid to dominate the heavily disputed South China Sea.

Most of the photos, taken between June and December 2017, were snapped from an altitude of 1,500 meters and they showed the reefs that had been transformed into artificial islands in the final stages of development as air and naval bases.

Shown the photographs, Eugenio Bito-onon Jr., the former mayor of Kalayaan town on Pag-asa Island, the largest Philippine-occupied island in the Spratlys and internationally known as Thitu Island, recognized new facilities on the man-made isles.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

Read more: http://www.inquirer.net/specials/exclusive-china-militarization-south-china-sea#ixzz56NdH5EyI
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http://www.inquirer.net/specials/exclusive-china-militarization-south-china-sea