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Paul Merrell

Microsoft Pitches Technology That Can Read Facial Expressions at Political Rallies - 1 views

  • On the 21st floor of a high-rise hotel in Cleveland, in a room full of political operatives, Microsoft’s Research Division was advertising a technology that could read each facial expression in a massive crowd, analyze the emotions, and report back in real time. “You could use this at a Trump rally,” a sales representative told me. At both the Republican and Democratic conventions, Microsoft sponsored event spaces for the news outlet Politico. Politico, in turn, hosted a series of Microsoft-sponsored discussions about the use of data technology in political campaigns. And throughout Politico’s spaces in both Philadelphia and Cleveland, Microsoft advertised an array of products from “Microsoft Cognitive Services,” its artificial intelligence and cloud computing division. At one exhibit, titled “Realtime Crowd Insights,” a small camera scanned the room, while a monitor displayed the captured image. Every five seconds, a new image would appear with data annotated for each face — an assigned serial number, gender, estimated age, and any emotions detected in the facial expression. When I approached, the machine labeled me “b2ff” and correctly identified me as a 23-year-old male.
  • “Realtime Crowd Insights” is an Application Programming Interface (API), or a software tool that connects web applications to Microsoft’s cloud computing services. Through Microsoft’s emotional analysis API — a component of Realtime Crowd Insights — applications send an image to Microsoft’s servers. Microsoft’s servers then analyze the faces and return emotional profiles for each one. In a November blog post, Microsoft said that the emotional analysis could detect “anger, contempt, fear, disgust, happiness, neutral, sadness or surprise.” Microsoft’s sales representatives told me that political campaigns could use the technology to measure the emotional impact of different talking points — and political scientists could use it to study crowd response at rallies.
  • Facial recognition technology — the identification of faces by name — is already widely used in secret by law enforcement, sports stadiums, retail stores, and even churches, despite being of questionable legality. As early as 2002, facial recognition technology was used at the Super Bowl to cross-reference the 100,000 attendees to a database of the faces of known criminals. The technology is controversial enough that in 2013, Google tried to ban the use of facial recognition apps in its Google glass system. But “Realtime Crowd Insights” is not true facial recognition — it could not identify me by name, only as “b2ff.” It did, however, store enough data on each face that it could continuously identify it with the same serial number, even hours later. The display demonstrated that capability by distinguishing between the number of total faces it had seen, and the number of unique serial numbers. Photo: Alex Emmons
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  • Instead, “Realtime Crowd Insights” is an example of facial characterization technology — where computers analyze faces without necessarily identifying them. Facial characterization has many positive applications — it has been tested in the classroom, as a tool for spotting struggling students, and Microsoft has boasted that the tool will even help blind people read the faces around them. But facial characterization can also be used to assemble and store large profiles of information on individuals, even anonymously.
  • Alvaro Bedoya, a professor at Georgetown Law School and expert on privacy and facial recognition, has hailed that code of conduct as evidence that Microsoft is trying to do the right thing. But he pointed out that it leaves a number of questions unanswered — as illustrated in Cleveland and Philadelphia. “It’s interesting that the app being shown at the convention ‘remembered’ the faces of the people who walked by. That would seem to suggest that their faces were being stored and processed without the consent that Microsoft’s policy requires,” Bedoya said. “You have to wonder: What happened to the face templates of the people who walked by that booth? Were they deleted? Or are they still in the system?” Microsoft officials declined to comment on exactly what information is collected on each face and what data is retained or stored, instead referring me to their privacy policy, which does not address the question. Bedoya also pointed out that Microsoft’s marketing did not seem to match the consent policy. “It’s difficult to envision how companies will obtain consent from people in large crowds or rallies.”
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    But nobody is saying that the output of this technology can't be combined with the output of facial recognition technology to let them monitor you individually AND track your emotions. Fortunately, others are fighting back with knowledge and tech to block facial recognition. http://goo.gl/JMQM2W
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Cloud computing is a trap, warns GNU founder | Technology | The Guardian - 0 views

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    "Web-based programs like Google's Gmail will force people to buy into locked, proprietary systems that will cost more and more over time, according to the free software campaigner "
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    "Web-based programs like Google's Gmail will force people to buy into locked, proprietary systems that will cost more and more over time, according to the free software campaigner "
Paul Merrell

US websites should inform EU citizens about NSA surveillance, says report - 0 views

  • All existing data sharing agreements between Europe and the US should be revoked, and US web site providers should prominently inform European citizens that their data may be subject to government surveillance, according to the recommendations of a briefing report for the European Parliament. The report was produced in response to revelations about the US National Security Agency (NSA) snooping on internet traffic, and aims to highlight the subsequent effect on European Union (EU) citizens' rights.
  • The report warns that EU data protection authorities have failed to understand the “structural shift of data sovereignty implied by cloud computing”, and the associated risks to the rights of EU citizens. It suggests “a full industrial policy for development of an autonomous European cloud computing capacity” should be set up to reduce exposure of EU data to NSA surveillance that is undertaken by the use of US legislation that forces US-based cloud providers to provide access to data they hold.
  • To put pressure on the US government, the report recommends that US websites should ask EU citizens for their consent before gathering data that could be used by the NSA. “Prominent notices should be displayed by every US web site offering services in the EU to inform consent to collect data from EU citizens. The users should be made aware that the data may be subject to surveillance by the US government for any purpose which furthers US foreign policy,” it said. “A consent requirement will raise EU citizen awareness and favour growth of services solely within EU jurisdiction. This will thus have economic impact on US business and increase pressure on the US government to reach a settlement.”
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  • Other recommendations include the EU offering protection and rewards for whistleblowers, including “strong guarantees of immunity and asylum”. Such a move would be seen as a direct response to the plight of Edward Snowden, the former NSA analyst who leaked documents that revealed the extent of the NSA’s global internet surveillance programmes. The report also says that, “Encryption is futile to defend against NSA accessing data processed by US clouds,” and that there is “no technical solution to the problem”. It calls for the EU to press for changes to US law.
  • “It seems that the only solution which can be trusted to resolve the Prism affair must involve changes to the law of the US, and this should be the strategic objective of the EU,” it said. The report was produced for the European Parliament committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, and comes before the latest hearing of an inquiry into electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens, due to take place in Brussels on 24 September.
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    Yee-haw! E.U. sanctuary and rewards for NSA whistle-blowers. Mandatory warnings for customers of U.S. cloud services that their data may be turned over to the NSA. Pouring more gasoline on the NSA diplomatic fire. 
Paul Merrell

Google to encrypt Cloud Storage data by default | ITworld - 0 views

  • Google said Thursday it will by default encrypt data warehoused in its Cloud Storage service. The server-side encryption is now active for all new data written to Cloud Storage, and older data will be encrypted in the coming months, wrote Dave Barth, a Google product manager, in a blog post.
  • The data and metadata around an object stored in Cloud Storage is encrypted with a unique key using 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard algorithm, and the "per-object key itself is encrypted with a unique key associated with the object owner," Barth wrote. "These keys are additionally encrypted by one of a regularly rotated set of master keys," he wrote. "Of course, if you prefer to manage your own keys then you can still encrypt data yourself prior to writing it to Cloud Storage."
  • A Google spokeswoman said via email the company does not provide encryption keys to any government and provides user data only in accordance with the law.
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    Google paints a deceptive picture of security in a new default encryption service for customer data stored on Google Cloud Storage. See Google blog article linked from the bookmarked page. ITWorld goes part way in unmasking the deception but could have been far more blunt. The claimed fact that Google does not turn encryption keys over to the NSA, et ilk, is irrelevant if Google still decrypts the customer data upon NSA/FBI demand, which it very apparently does. But the Google blog article doesn't mention that and paints a picture seemingly intended to deceive customers into not encrypting their own data before parking it on Google Cloud Storage, thus aiding the NSA/FBI, et cet., in their surveillance efforts.  Deceptive advertising is a serious legal no-no. Hopefully, Google Cloud Storage users will be perceptive enough not to be misled by Google's advertising. But it's a sign that Google managers may be getting worried about losing customers to companies operating in nations that have far stronger protection for digital privacy than the U.S.
Paul Merrell

Surveillance scandal rips through hacker community | Security & Privacy - CNET News - 0 views

  • One security start-up that had an encounter with the FBI was Wickr, a privacy-forward text messaging app for the iPhone with an Android version in private beta. Wickr's co-founder Nico Sell told CNET at Defcon, "Wickr has been approached by the FBI and asked for a backdoor. We said, 'No.'" The mistrust runs deep. "Even if [the NSA] stood up tomorrow and said that [they] have eliminated these programs," said Marlinspike, "How could we believe them? How can we believe that anything they say is true?" Where does security innovation go next? The immediate future of information security innovation most likely lies in software that provides an existing service but with heightened privacy protections, such as webmail that doesn't mine you for personal data.
  • Wickr's Sell thinks that her company has hit upon a privacy innovation that a few others are also doing, but many will soon follow: the company itself doesn't store user data. "[The FBI] would have to force us to build a new app. With the current app there's no way," she said, that they could incorporate backdoor access to Wickr users' texts or metadata. "Even if you trust the NSA 100 percent that they're going to use [your data] correctly," Sell said, "Do you trust that they're going to be able to keep it safe from hackers? What if somebody gets that database and posts it online?" To that end, she said, people will start seeing privacy innovation for services that don't currently provide it. Calling it "social networks 2.0," she said that social network competitors will arise that do a better job of protecting their customer's privacy and predicted that some that succeed will do so because of their emphasis on privacy. Abine's recent MaskMe browser add-on and mobile app for creating disposable e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and credit cards is another example of a service that doesn't have access to its own users' data.
  • Stamos predicted changes in services that companies with cloud storage offer, including offering customers the ability to store their data outside of the U.S. "If they want to stay competitive, they're going to have to," he said. But, he cautioned, "It's impossible to do a cloud-based ad supported service." Soghoian added, "The only way to keep a service running is to pay them money." This, he said, is going to give rise to a new wave of ad-free, privacy protective subscription services.
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  • The issue with balancing privacy and surveillance is that the wireless carriers are not interested in privacy, he said. "They've been providing wiretapping for 100 years. Apple may in the next year protect voice calls," he said, and said that the best hope for ending widespread government surveillance will be the makers of mobile operating systems like Apple and Google. Not all upcoming security innovation will be focused on that kind of privacy protection. Security researcher Brandon Wiley showed off at Defcon a protocol he calls Dust that can obfuscate different kinds of network traffic, with the end goal of preventing censorship. "I only make products about letting you say what you want to say anywhere in the world," such as content critical of governments, he said. Encryption can hide the specifics of the traffic, but some governments have figured out that they can simply block all encrypted traffic, he said. The Dust protocol would change that, he said, making it hard to tell the difference between encrypted and unencrypted traffic. It's hard to build encryption into pre-existing products, Wiley said. "I think people are going to make easy-to-use, encrypted apps, and that's going to be the future."
  • Companies could face severe consequences from their security experts, said Stamos, if the in-house experts find out that they've been lied to about providing government access to customer data. You could see "lots of resignations and maybe publicly," he said. "It wouldn't hurt their reputations to go out in a blaze of glory." Perhaps not surprisingly, Marlinspike sounded a hopeful call for non-destructive activism on Defcon's 21st anniversary. "As hackers, we don't have a lot of influence on policy. I hope that's something that we can focus our energy on," he said.
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    NSA as the cause of the next major disruption in the social networking service industry?  Grief ahead for Google? Note the point made that: "It's impossible to do a cloud-based ad supported service" where the encryption/decryption takes place on the client side. 
Paul Merrell

Snooper's charter has practically zero chance of becoming law, say senior MPs | UK news... - 0 views

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    Finally, acknowledgement that the growth of the cloud computing industry will likely be affected greatly by disclosures of widespread US and UK storage and surveillance of digital data. But will this be enough to turn cloud computing companies into staunch advocates of reining in the NSA and GCHQ? Note that the emerging E.U. position creates an economic advantage for cloud computing companies with their server farms located in the E.U. (likely excluding the UK). 
Paul Merrell

Spooked By Lax U.S. Data Privacy, European Firms Build Their Own Cloud Services - 2 views

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    Draconian post-9/11 U.S. government surveillance statutes will cost U.S. economy as customers shop for cloud services elsewhere.  
Paul Merrell

Emergence of Cloud Technology Raises Complex Copyright Issues, Lawyers Say | BNA - 1 views

  • NEW YORK—The emergence of cloud technology as an electronic content infrastructure in the entertainment industry raises complex copyright issues, attorneys said at a Sept. 15 panel discussion.Increased reliance on cloud-based distribution platforms and business models in the industry “creates novel and inevitably ambiguous copyright issues,” according to Daniel E. Schnapp, who moderated the discussion at a Copyright Society of the U.S.A. luncheon.At stake is the balance between copyright holders' exclusive rights to reproduce and publicly perform their works versus the ability of consumers and service providers to make lawful use of the content through emerging technologies without infringement, he suggested.
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    The recording industry is worried about cloud computing. Hollywood was probably there too. 
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    Entertainment Industry should care more about quality, accessibility and price of their productions instead of being always blaming technology and forcing restrictive legislation...
Paul Merrell

Technology News: Tech Law: Court Ruling Grants Email the Cloak of Privacy - 0 views

  • The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has handed down a ruling that delights privacy advocates and Fourth Amendment purists: In U.S. v. Warshak, it found that the government should have obtained a search warrant before seizing and searching defendant Stephen Warshak's emails, which were stored by email service providers.
  • It is an important ruling, because it is the first time a federal court of appeals has extended the Fourth Amendment to email with such careful consideration, and it is likely to be influential on both legal and practical levels
  • The decision is particularly important because the Stored Communications Act does allow the government to secretly obtain emails without a warrant in many situations, according to the EFF, which filed an amicus brief in the case.
Paul Merrell

AT&T ups the ante in speech recognition | Signal Strength - CNET News - 2 views

  • It's developed a core technology platform, known as Watson, which is a cloud-based system of services that not only identifies words but interprets meaning and context to deliver more accurate results. The system itself is built on servers that model and compare speech to recorded voices. Watson is an evolving platform that with more data is able to adapt and learn so that it continues to improve accuracy and also cross reference data to use speech as input for getting to all kinds of communication and data. "We are really on the cusp of a technology revolution in speech and language technology," said Mazin Gilbert, executive director of speech and language technology at AT&T Labs. "It's no longer about simply trying to get the words right. It's about adding intelligence to interpret what is being said and then using that to apply to other modes of communication, such as text or video."
  • The system is designed to get more accurate over time as it learns the speech patterns of large numbers of users.
Paul Merrell

Cloud-based Mobile Applications On the Rise - 4 views

  • The dominant force in mobile apps is likely to be cloud computing, according to ABI Research in its recent study, “Mobile Cloud Computing.” Cloud technologies will also make mobile apps more sophisticated, allowing them to be offered to a broader audience of mobile subscribers, ABI Research stated in its report. The research firm further forecasts that the number of mobile cloud computing subscribers worldwide will rise from 42.8 million in 2008, (approximately 1.1 percent of all mobile subscribers) to more than 998 million in 2014 (nearly 19 percent).
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    Do you having a feeling as to how this might affect mobile learning?
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    I haven't thought much about that aspect. But more powerful apps along with more access to more data would seemingly enhance rather than detract from mobile learning.
Paul Merrell

Open Government Data Initiative - 0 views

  • The Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI) is an initiative led by Microsoft Public Sector Developer Evangelism team. OGDI uses the Azure Services Platform to make it easier to publish and use a wide variety of public data from government agencies. OGDI is also a free, open source ‘starter kit’ (coming soon) with code that can be used to publish data on the Internet in a Web-friendly format with easy-to-use, open API's. OGDI-based web API’s can be accessed from a variety of client technologies such as Silverlight, Flash, JavaScript, PHP, Python, Ruby, mapping web sites, etc. Whether you are a business wishing to use government data, a government developer, or a ‘citizen developer’, these open API's will enable you to build innovative applications, visualizations and mash-ups that empower people through access to government information. This site is built using the OGDI starter kit software assets and provides interactive access to some publicly-available data sets along with sample code and resources for writing applications using the OGDI API's.
Paul Merrell

Microsoft offers free repository for agency data -- Government Computer News - 0 views

  • Microsoft has set up a repository in which government agencies may upload and store their public-facing datasets so that they can be reused by other parties. Agency developers can upload their data to this repository, called the Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI), through Microsoft's Azure, the company's cloud-computing offering.
  • Since taking the role of federal chief information officer, Vivek Kundra has urged agencies to make more of their data open to the public in easy-to-use formats. To this end, the General Services Administration, on behalf of Kundra, is setting up a repository of government feeds, to be called Data.gov. Data.gov will both serve as a repository for data and as an index for government data located elsewhere, Kundra told GCN. OGDI came about as a way to introduce Azure to the federal information technology community, said Susie Adams, Microsoft Federal chief technology officer. "The government wants to store all this data, what with Kundra talking about Data.gov. We asked if you were to use Azure as data source, [what would you need to do]?"
  • In addition to Microsoft's effort, at least one other company has volunteered to rehost government data for wider use. Amazon is offering to store public-domain datasets for users of its Elastic Compute Cloud service.
Paul Merrell

Cesar de la Torre - BLOG : Microsoft Azure Services Platform - 0 views

  • Windows Azure, previously known as “Red Dog”, is a cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting and service management  environment for the Azure Services Platform. Windows Azure provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage Internet or cloud applications.
  • Keep in mind that Windows Azure is really a 'cloud layer' over many Windows Servers (hundreds/thousands) situated in Microsoft's data centers, and those servers are really internally running Windows Server 2008 and HyperV. So, Windows Azure is not a new real/classic operating system. It is "Windows in the cloud".
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    Acknowledgment from a Microsoft software architect that Microsoft's Azure cloud service is running atop "hundreds/thousands" of Windows Server 2008 and Hyper V instances, in other words, that Windows does not scale into the cloud. But no mention that Windows Server runs atop Solaris in the Microsoft data centers, although that was the point of the 2004 Technology Sharing Agreement with Sun.
Paul Merrell

Sun, Microsoft tout fruits of cooperation - CNET News - 0 views

  • The software will be incorporated into future versions of the companies' products--likely in 2006, Ballmer said. For now, it's the most concrete example of cooperation between the companies whose fierce competition was blunted somewhat by a 2004 agreement to settle legal issues, share patents and make their software interoperable.
  • Next up will be cooperation in a number of other domains: storage software and hardware; unified systems management; Web services standards for messaging and event-tracking; and Windows terminal services that let PCs act like thin clients by leaving the heavy lifting of computing to central servers.
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    From 2005, a year after Sun and Microsoft became partners in Microsoft's assault on the Web.
Paul Merrell

Sun to Distribute Microsoft Live Search-Powered Toolbar as Part of Java Runtime Environ... - 0 views

  • Sun and Microsoft have agreed on a search distribution deal that will offer the MSN Toolbar, powered by Microsoft Live Search, to U.S.-based Internet Explorer users who download the Java Runtime Environment (JRE).
  • Sun and Microsoft have agreed on a search distribution deal that will offer the MSN Toolbar, powered by Microsoft Live Search, to U.S.-based Internet Explorer users who download the Java Runtime Environment (JRE). This agreement gives Internet Explorer users downloading Sun’s JRE the option to download the MSN Toolbar for one-click access to Live Search features, as well as news, entertainment, sports and more from the MSN network and direct access to Windows Live Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger.
  • “This agreement with Sun Microsystems is another important milestone in our strategy to secure broad-scale distribution for our search offering, enabling millions more people to experience the benefits of Live Search,” said Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of the Online Audience Business at Microsoft. “With the vast array of Java software-based Web applications that are downloaded every month, this deal will expose Live Search to millions more Internet users and drive increased volume for our search advertisers.”
Paul Merrell

Sun on open source: What doesn't kill you... | The Open Road - CNET News - 0 views

  • Open source is the very thing that has crippled Sun, yet Sun is looking to open source, to hobble its competitors and revive its future. We often talk in the technology industry about the need to cannibalize your own business before someone else does it to you. Sun may be a little late off the starting blocks, but it's fascinating to watch its race against time.
  • Having open-sourced its own Solaris operating system, Sun has now tried to corner the market in open source databases with its $1bn purchase of MySQL, the database management system. It now also has its eyes set on the storage market, with a plan to inflict the same pain on incumbents there that it has itself felt from the rise of Linux. It's a hugely gutsy move. It remains to be seen whether it will work, but with Sun's OpenStorage business growing dramatically faster than the rest of the storage industry, it just might work.
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