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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Lasers could beam messages directly to a listener’s ear ‘like whispering secret from afar’

This is the first time this technique has been used safely around humans, scientists say.

It’s hoped the directed sounds could one day be used for headphone-free TV watching without disturbing others.

Or they could warn people of danger discreetly in situations like an active shooter attack.

The laser will not cause burns to eyes or skin due to scientists finding the exact wavelength level that allows it to be risk-free.

Researchers tested out the setup on themselves in a laboratory, putting their ears near the beam to pick up the sound, reported Science News.

Physicist Charles Wynn said: “You move your head around, and there’s a couple-inch zone where you go ‘Oh, there it is!’… It’s pretty cool.”

Microphones were also used to capture the sounds that were being produced.

WHISPERING FROM AFAR

The photoacoustic effect, in which pulses of light are converted into sound when absorbed by a material, allows the unprecedented phenomenon to take place.

Researchers tested out two different techniques in order to achieve the sounds.

The first technique involves rapidly ramping the intensity of the laser beam up and down, which transmitted voices and songs.

Physicist Ryan Sullenberger said: “You can hear the music really well; you can understand what people are saying.”

The second method involved using a rotating mirror while researchers swept the laser beam in an arc.

The noise was heard only at the distance along the beam where the light passed by at the speed of sound.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/8335749/lasers-could-beam-messages-directly-to-a-listeners-ear-like-whispering-secret-from-afar-scientists-say/

Hackers Threaten To Reveal Secret Data Linked To 9/11 Attacks

A hacker group has threatened to reveal “secret” data related to September 11 attacks in the US after claiming to have got access to a large cache of confidential files.

In its announcement published on Pastebin, the group known as The Dark Overlord pointed to several different insurers and legal firms, claiming specifically that it hacked Hiscox Syndicates Ltd, Lloyds of London, and Silverstein Properties, the Motherboard reported on Tuesday.

“Hiscox Syndicates Ltd and Lloyds of London are some of the biggest insurers on the planet insuring everything from the smallest policies to some of the largest policies on the planet, and who even insured structures such as the World Trade Centers,” the group said in the announcement.

The group threatened to reveal the documents unless the victims pay them an undisclosed ransom fee in Bitcoin.

While it is not clear what exact files the group has got access to, it is trying to capitalise on conspiracy theories around the 9/11 attacks.

“We’ll be providing many answers about 9.11 conspiracies through our 18.000 secret documents leak,” the group tweeted on Monday.

A spokesperson for the Hiscox Group confirmed to Motherboard that the hackers had breached a law firm that advised the company, and likely stolen files related to litigation around the 9/11 attacks.

The hacking group published a small set of letters, emails and other documents that mention various law firms, as well as the Transport Security Administration (TSA) and Federal Aviation Administration in the US, according to the Motherboard report.

The group has threatened to release more documents.

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FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/9-11-attacks-september-11-attack-hackers-threaten-to-reveal-secret-data-linked-to-9-11-attacks-1971754

Michael Savage, facing death threats, heads to secret location

City, state and federal agencies are taking a look at a vicious, hateful email sent a restaurant frequented by talk radio icon Michael Savage that threatens to shoot up the establishment if he’s not denied future service.

Remember back in November when Fox News host Tucker Carlson and his family were targeted and threatened by protesters? This is worse.

Portions of the email sent to the restaurant state, in all caps, “I DEMAND THAT YOU REFUSE TO ALLOW MICHAEL SAVAGE … IN YOUR F-ING RESTAURANT AGAIN. HE IS A RACIST WHITE SUPREMACIST PIECE OF SH— … DONT WANT TO LISTEN TO ME? WELL I GUESS YOURE ALL GONNA F—ING DIE THEN CUZ I AM WAITING FOR THE MOTHAF— AND I WILL WAIT AND WATCH YOUR F—ING BUSINESS AND WHEN I SEE HIM GO IN THERE IM GOING TO START SHOOTING EVERY BODY I CAN FIND.”

The suspect then gets very specific.

“I OWN 3 GUNS AND I CAN DO SOME SERIOUS F—ING DAMAGE,” the email went on. “I WILL KILL AS MANY OF YOU RACIST-SUPPORTING/ENABLING WHITE SUPREMACISTS AS I F—ING CAN.”

Savage, in a telephone interview, said he has “changed location,” but he didn’t elaborate.

Read more

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.infowars.com/michael-savage-facing-death-threats-heads-to-secret-location/

Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy, sources say

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, the Guardian has been told.

Sources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 – during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s push for the White House.

It is unclear why Manafort would have wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last apparent meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

A well-placed source has told the Guardian that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.

Manafort, 69, denies involvement in the hack and says the claim is “100% false”. His lawyers declined to answer the Guardian’s questions about the visits.

In a series of tweets WikiLeaks said Assange and Manafort had not met. Assange described the story as a hoax.

Manafort was jailed this year and was thought to have become a star cooperator in the Mueller inquiry. But on Monday Mueller said Manafort had repeatedly lied to the FBI, despite agreeing to cooperate two months ago in a plea deal. According to a court document, Manafort had committed “crimes and lies” on a “variety of subject matters”.

His defence team says he believes what he has told Mueller to be truthful and has not violated his deal.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/nov/27/manafort-held-secret-talks-with-assange-in-ecuadorian-embassy

Iran Had Secret Plans to Build Five Nuclear Warheads

A new bombshell report based on a secret trove of seized Iranian nuclear documents shows the Islamic Republic had concrete plans to manufacture and build at least five nuclear weapons and that it was much further along in this scheme than previously known by the international community.

Iran’s contested nuclear weapons program was much further along than the international community thought, according to a report based on scores of secret Iranian plans seized by Israel and publicly disclosed for the first time earlier this year.

Information obtained in this raid on Iran’s secretive nuclear files has revealed that Tehran was well along the path to building several nuclear weapons by around 2003, including the complex infrastructure needed to produce such weapons, according to a new report from the Institute for Science and International Society, a nuclear watchdog group that has exposed in the past the extent of Iran’s nuclear works.

The report is being viewed as a bombshell revelation on Capitol Hill and is seen as validating critics of the Obama administration who alleged the former White House has underestimated the extent of Iran’s nuclear weapons progress.

“Iran intended to build five nuclear warheads, each with an explosive yield of 10 kilotons and able to be delivered by ballistic missile,” the group disclosed in a new report that shows Iran has retained much of its nuclear infrastructure and could continue using it to clandestinely conduct weapons work in violation of the landmark nuclear accord.

“Iran’s initial plans show that it had achieved much more than feasibility and scientific studies relating to nuclear weapons, as the IAEA assessed in late 2015, as the Iran nuclear deal was being implemented,” according to the group, which based its report on access it was granted to the seized Iranian nuclear documents, which show the regime allocated millions of dollars to the purchase of nuclear materials, including uranium, the key component in a bomb.

“Iran had put in place by the end of 2003 the infrastructure for a comprehensive nuclear weapons program,” according to the report. “The evidence supports that Iran was preparing to conduct an underground test of a nuclear weapon, if necessary. The end goal was to have tested, deliverable nuclear weapons, and Iran made more progress toward that goal than known before the seizure of the archives.”

Iran hawks on Capitol Hill say the report confirms warnings from many that the Obama administration downplayed Iran’s nuclear activities in a bid to ink the nuclear pact with Iran.

“Republicans have long known that the Obama administration lied to the country about the Iran deal,” said one senior Republican congressional official familiar with the report. “Just a few months ago PSI published documents showing they lied to Congress about enforcing sanctions and giving dollar access.”

The latest disclosures are fueling the push in Congress for the Trump administration to reimpose greater economic sanctions on Iran, a portion of which went back into effect earlier this month. Some in Congress have called on the Trump administration to go further in its actions, including by fully cutting off Iran’s oil exports and access to international financial markets.

“Now this report shows they also lied about Iran’s nuclear weapons work,” the source said. “You can expect congressional Republicans to increase pressure on the Trump administration to implement maximum pressure on Iran, which they still aren’t doing.”

Iran was poised to construct at least five nuclear warheads based on its weapons work at the time, according to the new report, which also found that Tehran’s nuclear infrastructure was far more sophisticated than previously believed.

“Iran made far more progress toward its goal of manufacturing five nuclear weapons than known before the seizure of the archives,” according to the watchdog group.

Information about Iran’s nuclear activities, although far less complete, was kept hidden from the public as the Obama administration pressed the international community to support the nuclear agreement.

“It must be acknowledged that at that time, the IAEA and the JCPOA parties, appeared to be downplaying the Iranian nuclear weapons program so as not to stand in the way of starting the implementation of the JCPOA in January 2016,” the report found, noting that international nuclear inspectors have yet to take a stance on the new information.

“Today, the IAEA has in its possession much of the content from the Iranian archive; it should be expected to act on this information, something that is not yet visible, after six months of examining the new information.

This nuclear infrastructure remains intact, further fueling concerns about what Iran has been hiding from nuclear inspectors, who must give Iran advance notice of any inspections and refrain from entering the country’s contested military sites.

“The continued existence of the Iranian nuclear archive and warehouse reinforces that the Iranian nuclear program’s remains, and likely some activities, may have continued up to today,” the group said.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://freebeacon.com/national-security/iran-secret-plans-build-five-nuclear-warheads/

Operation Temperer Exposed: UK Army’s Secret Plan For Martial Law If ‘No Deal’ Brexit

The first time we heard about the British government’s “Operation Temperer” was shortly after the dreadful terrorist explosion in Manchester in June 2017, when Prime Minister Theresa May declared “enough is enough”, and demanded a review of the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy.

As Brandon Smith noted at the time, the deployment of over 5000 British troops at strategic locations by Theresa May is all part of a plan established in 2015 called “Operation Temperer”. The plan calls for the deployment of troops within the UK border in response to “major terrorist threats”. As The Mail on Sunday uncovered at the time:

Whitehall officials had kept it under wraps because it contained such sensitive information.

Theresa May, who made the decision, makes her the first Prime Minister to use a new plan for a show of force in the face of major terrorist threats.

Mrs May said it would be the decision of police chiefs to decide where to deploy the military, though they are most likely to be used to guard top tourist attractions, airports and railway stations and sporting venues.

David Cameron had opposed controversial power because he didn’t want the UK to appear like it had lost control and was imposing martial law.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.infowars.com/operation-temperer-exposed-uk-armys-secret-plan-for-martial-law-if-no-deal-brexit/

Trump Assassination Plot Foiled After ISIS Operative Tweets Plan: Secret Service Reveals

The US Secret Service foiled an assassination plot against President Trump last November, after an ISIS operative in the Philippines issued a credible threat amid a series of violent Jihadist videos released prior to the ASEAN 50 summit, according to the Daily Beast.

There is credible information that an incident could occur during ASEAN,” says Special Agent Gibson, leading the Secret Service’s personnel brief in Manila. Pointing to a map of ISIS and ISIS-affiliated threat actors, she adds, “As of this week, the Philippines has escalated to a critical threat level.” (Days before the president’s visit, ISIS issued a series of threats—via video—that featured a picture of the president filled with bullets, and a message urging jihadists to “lie in wait” and “ambush” POTUS in the Philippines.)

Prior to President Trump’s arrival on Air Force One, a PID agent informs Special Agent Gibson that he’s come across a credible threat against POTUS—in the form of a tweet reading, “Gonna be in Manila the same time as Trump… I’ll take one for the team lads,” accompanied by a mugshot of Lee Harvey Oswald. And on his Instagram, they find a photo of the male suspect wielding a copy of the book How to Kill: The Definitive History of the Assassin. The PID agents then track his IP address and discover that the man is indeed located in downtown Manila, kilometers away from the president’s hotel, and his social media posts reveal that he is traveling in the direction of the president’s hotel. They continue to monitor him. –Daily Beast

“With social media, there’s software that can scroll through all of [the threats] at a much faster rate than any human can do it, so in some regards it makes it easier. But the bread and butter of what we do is the human element—and the people that work the mission—and that’s never going to change,” Special Agent Gibson told the Daily Beast.

The situation grew tense – as the Secret Service still wasn’t sure of the operative’s pinpoint location 20 minutes prior to Air Force One touching down in Manilla. “What is going on proactively to track this guy down?” Special Agent Ragan shouted into a phone. “I need an update. Now.”

The operative was eventually tracked down to Luneta Park – situated around a mile north of Trump’s hotel, where the suspect is reportedly with “an associate.” After the Secret Service informed the Philippine National Police (PNP), the suspects were apprehended.

“With technology, that was one of the things that was a blessing for us, because we were able to know that he was moving close to us, where he was, and track him. That was a huge piece of stopping the threat,” Special Agent Ragan tells me.

He adds, “Of course, we had a lot of help from the locals—and that’s an essential key to it that can’t be understated, is how great these foreign governments are, or even locals. If we go to Topeka, Kansas, the local law enforcement is such a help. We get so much support from the host committee, or the host country.” –Daily Beast

“If you’re wanting a movie to really know what it’s like to work as a member of the Secret Service on a daily basis, watch Guarding Tess,” says Special Agent Ragan. “There’s a lot of truth to that. They’re guarding the first lady and there’s a lot of tedium, and that’s a big part of what the job is. There’s a lot of standing around, a lot of waiting, a lot of hoping that nothing bad happens, but then you’ve gotta be prepared if it does.”

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.infowars.com/trump-assassination-plot-foiled-after-isis-operative-tweets-plan-secret-service-reveals/

Secret, direct talks underway between US and North Korea

The United States and North Korea have been holding secret, direct talks to prepare for a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, a sign that planning for the highly anticipated meeting is progressing, several administration officials familiar with the discussions tell CNN.

Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo and a team at the CIA have been working through intelligence back-channels to make preparations for the summit, the officials said. American and North Korean intelligence officials have spoken several times and have even met in a third country, with a focus on nailing down a location for the talks.
Although the North Korean regime has not publicly declared its invitation by Kim Jong Un to meet with Trump, which was conveyed last month by a South Korean envoy, several officials say North Korea has since acknowledged Trump’s acceptance, and Pyongyang has reaffirmed Kim is willing to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula

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FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/07/politics/north-korea-us-talks/index.html

Defense Agency To Begin Moving Classified Data to Amazon’s Secret Cloud After Protest

For the first time, the Defense Department will begin moving classified data and applications to Amazon Web Services’ Secret Region—the same cloud environment developed for the CIA and intelligence community several years ago.

U.S. Transportation Command—the part of the department responsible for moving troops and equipment around the globe—announced its intentto make use of AWS’ Classified Secret Commercial Cloud Services in December after the company expanded its capabilities and availability to non-intelligence agencies.

The Defense Department’s sole-source decision—a contract awarded without a full and open competition—was protested by Microsoft, which itself offers a variety of cloud services to the federal government. The company withdrew itsprotest March 8, allowing TRANSCOM to begin migrating data to the AWS Secret Region. In a statement to Nextgov, Microsoft said it withdrew its protest “because the issues involved were resolved” to the company’s satisfaction.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

http://www.nextgov.com/it-modernization/2018/03/defense-agency-begin-moving-classified-data-amazons-secret-cloud-after-protest/146619/