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The Rise of Facial Recognition Should Scare Us All

It seems the sleeping masses are finally waking to the privacy dangers posed by the rise of facial recognition technology.

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It seems the sleeping masses are finally waking to the privacy dangers posed by the rise of facial recognition technology.

(TMU) — In the last ten years, our world has been completely transformed thanks to the exponential growth of digital technology. Technological advances with computer processors and the internet have quickly advanced our world into one that resembles some of the most well known sci-fi films and novels. Not a single day passes without a report on an emerging technology or new feature in an already existing product. The last ten years alone have seen rapid growth in information technology, encryption, the medical industry and 3D printing technology, just to name a few.

Unfortunately, as technology is a tool, there are equally frightening developments taking place in the first two decades of the 21st century. Specifically, the ability for governments and private actors to monitor and spy on the activity of the average person has nearly become accepted as the norm. In fact, it has become commonplace to hear Americans respond to warnings of Orwellian futures with the timeless trope, “If you’re not doing anything wrong, there’s nothing to hide!” This is what makes it all the more surprising to see a surplus of recent reports examining the dangers and implications of a world where facial recognition technology is commonplace.

Here’s a small sample of the current headlines related to facial recognition:

Even the Washington Post published a warning titled “Don’t smile for surveillance: Why airport face scans are a privacy trap.”

Questions surrounding the emerging technology have reached enough of a tipping point that just this week, House Democrats questioned the Department of Homeland Security over the use of facial recognition tech on U.S. citizens. The Hill reported that more than 20 House Democrats sent a letter on Friday to the DHS over the Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) use of facial recognition technology at U.S. airports. The Border Patrol claims that they are rolling out the facial recognition program at a number of airports under a congressional mandate and with an executive order from President Donald Trump. Lawmakers say the program was supposed to focus on foreign passengers, not Americans.

The group of lawmakers wrote:

We write to express concerns about reports that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is using facial recognition technology to scan American citizens under the Biometric Exit Program.”

The letter to DHS comes shortly after a representative with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) the House Oversight and Reform Committee said that the FBI has access to hundreds of millions of photos that are used for facial recognition searches. Gretta Goodwin, a representative with the GAO, said the FBI uses expansive databases of photos—including from driver’s licenses, passports and mugshots—to search for potential criminals. Goodwin noted that the FBI has a database of 36 million mugshots and access to more than 600 million photos, including access to 21 state driver’s license databases.

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio reminded Ms. Goodwin that the FBI has access to more photos than there are people in the country. “There are only 330 million people in the country,” Jordan stated.

The TSA was also questioned about their use of facial recognition at airports. Austin Gould, the TSA’s assistant administrator on Requirements and Capabilities Analysis, said the facial recognition program has been helpful for travelers. However, critics say the potential benefits of saved time and reducing passenger volume should not override the greater risk to privacy. The TSA plans to have facial recognition tech at the top 20 airports for international travelers by 2021 and at all airports by 2023. The TSA has also previously expressed their desire to scan the face of every single American who enters the airport.

The push back against facial recognition—and biometric technology in general—has moved beyond words in some areas. Most recently, San Francisco became the first city to ban government use of facial recognition. Due to the success in San Francisco, California lawmakers are considering AB 1215, a bill that would extend the ban across the entire state. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) spoke in favor of the bill, stating that the technology has been shown to have disproportionately high error rates for women, the elderly, and people of color. EFF also warned about the dangers of combining face recognition technology with police body cameras.

The editorial board of the Guardian also recently spoke out about the privacy threats, calling the technology “especially inaccurate and prone to bias.” The editorial board also noted that a recent test of Amazon’s facial recognition software by the American Civil Liberties Union found that it falsely identified 28 members of Congress as known criminal. Although the technology is currently dangerous due to its inaccuracy, the Guardian warns:

It may be too late to stop the collection of this data. But the law must ensure that it is not stored and refined in ways that will harm the innocent and, as Liberty warns, slowly poison our public life.”

It’s clear that the debate on the benefits and threats of facial recognition technology is not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s up to us as individuals to educate ourselves and inform our peers about the threats to privacy and freedom that are becoming increasingly more apparent everyday.

By Derrick Broze | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Animals

Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida

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A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.

In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.

“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.

Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.

Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.

Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.

Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.

However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.

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Animals

Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son

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A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.

The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.

The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.

“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.

“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.

The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.

The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.

“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.

The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.

The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.

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Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter

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The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.

However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.

In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.

It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.

The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.

Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.

The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.

Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.

The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.

The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.

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