Archive for February 28, 2020

RCMP Cops To Using Clearview AI Facial Recognition Tech

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 28, 2020 by itnerd

You might recall that I posted a story on Toronto Police being ordered by their chief to stop using facial recognition tech from a controversial company named Clearview AI. This is a company who has a massive database of faces that they’ve scraped from places like Facebook and Twitter, violating those platforms terms of service in the process. Well, it now turns out the RCMP has been using this software too according to the CBC:

The RCMP acknowledged use of Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology in a statement Thursday, detailing its use to rescue children from abuse.

The force said it has used the technology in 15 child exploitation investigations over the past four months, resulting in the identification and rescue of two children.

The statement also mentioned that “a few units in the RCMP” are also using it to “enhance criminal investigations,” without providing detail about how widely and where. 

“While the RCMP generally does not disclose specific tools and technologies used in the course of its investigations, in the interest of transparency, we can confirm that we recently started to use and explore Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology in a limited capacity,” the statement said. 

“We are also aware of limited use of Clearview AI on a trial basis by a few units in the RCMP to determine its utility to enhance criminal investigations.”

CBC News has requested further details of where else the force is using Clearview AI, but has yet to receive a response. 

Fortunately, there appears to be some scrutiny coming to this issue. The Privacy Commissioner is investigating the company, and the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics is going to have a look as well. Seeing as Canada has some of the more strict privacy laws on the planet, with the exception of the EU of course, there’s a real chance that the use of this software could be curtailed. Seeing as the company behind it appears to have stolen images for its database, and software like this tends to misidentify racialized groups with alarming frequency, and is a significant invasion of your privacy, that would be a good thing.

Review: 2020 Hyundai Tucson Preferred – Part 5

Posted in Commentary on February 28, 2020 by itnerd

I’ve come to the end of my time with the Hyundai Tucson Preferred. This is a good value for those who want a decent amount of safety gear, tech and other goodies for a more than decent price. In fact, I feel that this should be the trim level that most Tucson shoppers should buy because it has the features that you need with nothing extra.

My final fuel economy was 9.0L/100 KM in mixed city and highway driving which is great for a compact SUV. One thing that I will note is that on the highway I noted that it got as low as 7.4L/100 KM.

The 2020 Hyundai Tucson Preferred goes for $28,249 with all wheel drive. That’s only marginally higher than then $26,049 starting price. If you want to cross shop it, the Mazda CX-5, the Ford Escape, the Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV4, and the Kia Sportage are clear competitors to look at. But as I mentioned before, there’s a lot of value that comes as part of the Hyundai Tucson Preferred that merits you paying a visit to your local Hyundai dealer for a test drive.

 

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses Internet Censorship Around The World And The Real Reasons Behind Online Restrictions [Infographic]

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 28, 2020 by itnerd

The internet outage around the world has become the norm with the latest news about the Iranian government shutting off the internet for nearly all of its population of more than 80 million. The authorities say this was done to silence protests over rising gasoline prices. But sometimes official motives for switching off the internet may be different from the actual ones.

“Governments block internet content for three main reasons: to maintain political stability, protect national security, and impose traditional social values,” says Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. According to the expert, the reasons vary from country to country. In fact, states with the most severe online censorship rely on all three motives at once.

The infographic below takes a look at the countries with the heaviest internet censorship. It also lists their motives for cutting down access to global websites.

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For example, North Korea has the highest level of online restrictions in the world, with only 4% of the nation having access to the internet. The limited access that exists is controlled and censored by the government. The main motive behind this is to avoid the outside influence and information leak.

China is another example of severe internet censorship. The country uses advanced technologies to block IP addresses, obstruct access to various websites, and block search engines, such as Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, and others. This blockade is usually called the “Great Firewall of China.”

Saudi Arabia stands out among the most censored countries. It puts a strong emphasis on imposing its social and religious values. Saudi Arabia has blocked more than a million websites that contain any contradiction to Islamic beliefs. Any threat to Islamic social and political principles is also filtered and blocked.

According to research provided by the #KeepItOn campaign, there were 196 internet shutdowns across the world in 2018. 134 of them were in India, and the rest occurred in a wide range of Asian, African, and Middle-Eastern countries.

The report states that official and actual causes of the internet shutdowns were different. In most cases (91), the blackouts were justified as a way to maintain public safety. Other reasons include national security protection (40), sabotage (2), stopping fake news and hate speech (33), and school exams (11). Six internet shutdowns happened for no reason, while the motives remained unknown in 13 cases.

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However, the actual causes differed from their official explanations. Government justifications rarely matched the causes reported by the media, civil society organizations, and free speech activists. The majority of shutdowns occurred in response to militant or terrorist activity (especially in the Kashmir area of India) (53), protests (45), communal violence (40), elections (12), maintaining information control (11), preventing cheating during school exams period (11), and other events, including religious holidays (16). The reasons for eight internet shutdowns were unknown.

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“Governments usually claim to be responding to public safety issues when they shut down the internet. The real reason, however, is often to suppress protests. By limiting access to the internet, they limit people’s ability to organize demonstrations,” claims Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. Similarly, shutdowns that are reported as fake news prevention may actually be the authorities‘ responses to elections, community violence, or militant activities.

Daniel Markuson says that “no matter what grounds are used to justify internet shutdowns, they violate human rights and our freedom of speech and expression.” Luckily, there are tools that help people in need of secure connections.

A VPN (virtual private network) securely bypasses online restrictions and helps keep communications away from prying eyes. For example, NordVPN advocates for digital freedom by providing open access to the internet and securing people’s private data. The service sends internet traffic through an encrypted tunnel, which makes it almost impossible to hijack. It hides IP addresses and real locations. By connecting to another country’s server, users can set their location to virtually anywhere in the world.