(TMU) — Ring, the home security system developed by Amazon, is planning to build a database of neighborhood watchlists using facial recognition technology.
Documents obtained by the Intercept revealed that the company is working with law enforcement on a system that will identify people who are considered “suspicious,” and let Ring owners know when these individuals are near their home, using the facial recognition software built into the security system’s cameras.
The software will also give the Ring owner the ability to notify police or call in the suspicious activity on their own.
According to the documents, the watchlists would be connected to Ring’s Neighbors app, where owners of the system communicate with their neighbors about packages being stolen from doorsteps and other potential security breaches. While this may sound innocent—or even helpful—critics worry that this technology may empower the kind of neighborhood snitches that call the cops on anyone who they find “suspicious,” typically based on their own prejudices.
In fact, a Ring employee, speaking to the Intercept under the condition of anonymity, admitted that “all it is is people reporting people in hoodies.”
While these plans are explicit in the documents, Ring spokesperson Yassi Shahmiri insisted that “the features described are not in development or in use and Ring does not use facial recognition technology.”
However, Amazon was later forced to admit that the facial recognition system is currently a “contemplated but unreleased feature” for Ring, in a response to a formal inquiry by Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey.
Mohammad Tajsar, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said that “‘watchlisting’ capabilities on Ring devices encourages the creation of a digital redline in local neighborhoods, where cops in tandem with skeptical homeowners let machines create lists of undesirables unworthy of entrance into well-to-do areas.”
Many of the questionable features proposed in the documents involve the identification of “suspicious” individuals, but the standards that are used to determine who is suspicious and who is not are unclear. However, if artificial intelligence is being used along with information is being crowdsourced by neighbors, there is a high likelihood that the inherent bias, both on the part of the algorithm and on neighborhood busybodies, will contribute to an overall bias in the artificial intelligence system.
An article published last year in Nature explores the ethical framework of technology like self-driving cars. The article notes that the ethics of self-driving cars are based on the trolley problem, an ethical lifeboat scenario that would prove extremely unlikely in the real world. According to the ethics of self-driving cars, informed by the trolley problem, the lives of old people are less valuable than those of younger generations, and the life of an athlete is likewise more valuable than a “large” woman or homeless person. Other studies have shown racial and gender bias “accidentally” coded into facial recognition systems.
— World Economic Forum (@wef) November 3, 2018
The documents went into detail about a variety of the features that are currently being “contemplated” by the company, including phone notifications about “suspicious” individuals who may have been spotted in the area, which even allows the Ring user to notify their neighbors. Another feature identified in the documents is something called “proactive suspect matching,” and while the documents were unclear about how this would function, it seems like a program that would cross-reference faces that walked by a Ring user’s house with a police database of potential suspects.
“Ring appears to be contemplating a future where police departments can commandeer the technology of private consumers to match ‘suspect’ profiles of individuals captured by private cameras with those cops have identified as suspect—in fact, exponentially expanding their surveillance capabilities without spending a dime,” Tajsar said.
These features are not unprecedented for Ring or Amazon. Earlier this year, Motherboard reported that Ring was encouraging its users to snitch on their neighbors in exchange for discounts and free products.
Amazon’s Ring has set up more than 500 partnerships with law enforcement agencies to convince communities to spy on themselves through doorbell cameras and its social app, Neighbors. The company is moving recklessly fast with little regard for the long-term risks of this mass surveillance technology. Join EFF in challenging Ring spokesman Shaq to rethink Ring’s privacy-invasive partnerships with law enforcement. #NothingButDragnet https://eff.org/ring
Posted by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on Wednesday, November 20, 2019
FBI Seizes Capitol Building LEGO Set From Alleged Rioter’s House
Many of us know, either from our childhood or even our adulthood, that building and collecting LEGO can be a fun hobby that allows us to tap into our creativity in a relaxing, stress-free way.
But what if someone’s LEGO hobby is something much more nefarious – or even seditious in the eyes of the government?
Such may have been the case when special agents with the FBI confiscated a fully completed LEGO set of the U.S. Capitol Building from the home of Robert Morss, 27, whom they allege participated in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, according to court documents published by The Smoking Gun.
The large LEGO set is comprised of 1,032 pieces and was released in 2016 and is no longer available for retail. The agents seized the finished set along with other items matching those they believe Morss had in his possession when he allegedly stormed the building – including a neck gaiter, a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, a military-style satchel, a black tourniquet, and military battle dress uniforms.
The documents also note that he “had three different firearms including a handgun, a shotgun and a rifle” in his possession.
According to LEGO, the United States Capitol Building set “focuses on the structure’s neoclassical style facade, steps and lawns” and is “finished with a decorative ‘US Capitol’ nameplate.” In 2019, the product was “retired” – which has less to do with politics and more to do with the limited availability of the company’s unique product lines.
Morss, who is from Pennsylvania, was arrested last month on a range of federal charges. According to the Department of Justice, his alleged crimes “include assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers; obstruction of an official proceeding; civil disorder; and robbery of personal property of the United States.”
An FBI investigator’s affidavit notes that Morss joined rioters in direct confrontations with officers guarding the Lower West Terrace doors of the Capital in “an intense and prolonged clash between rioters and law enforcement.”
Law enforcement officers claim that they also found a notebook in Morss car that had instructions on a “Step by Step to Create Hometown Militia” that included a list of names, equipment, and sections on “ambush,” “battle drills,” and “formations.” The notebook also contained notes that said “bring assault rifle,” “4 magazines,” and “bring kit/body armor.”
However, the court documents do not indicate whether the LEGO set was deployed in tactical drills prior to the botched uprising.
The DOJ says that roughly 465 individuals have been arrested on charges related the events of Jan. 6.
Neptune, the Roman God of Water, ‘Emerges’ From Waves in Photo During UK Storm
If we were to believe our eyes, it would seem that the ancient Roman god of water himself made an appearance on the shores of New Haven, England, on a day of especially rough surf.
What appears to be the “face” of Neptune was captured on Tuesday when photographer Jeff Overs of the BBC was taking photos of waves crashing over the harbor wall in the port city.
Of course, one is free to believe that the ferocious deity emanated from the depths of the sea to remind us puny humans of his wrath.
But alas, it was likely a simple example of pareidolia – the phenomenon of seeing faces and figures in otherwise random or ambiguous everyday objects.
The photographer snapped the shot amid high tide and winds exceeding 50 miles per hour (80km/h), namely because of the violent nature of the shore.
“It’s become a popular location for photographers because the sea ‘boils’ in high wind against the sea wall,” Overs explained.
“The waves splash into the high wind and when blown back occasionally make patterns that look like ghoulish faces.”
Overs added that one of the small foreground waves even resembles a hand – albeit a pareidolic one.
“It’s a straight shot and I haven’t manipulated the image at all,” he added.
Lunar New Deal: GOP Lawmaker Suggests Altering Moon & Earth’s Orbit to Stop Climate Change
Texas Republican Congressman Louise Gohmert raised the eyebrows of his Congressional colleagues on Tuesday after seemingly suggesting that climate change could be combatted by changing the orbit of the moon, or even altering “Earth’s orbit around the sun.”
Gohmert, who has been decried as the “dumbest member of Congress” for his past absurdly anti-scientific comments regarding the ongoing pandemic and a number of other issues, has been a vocal opponent of progressive legislators’ attempts to put a “Green New Deal” on the government’s agenda.
However, his apparent suggestion of a “Lunar New Deal” to mitigate global warming could take the cake as his most hare-brained idea yet.
The comments came during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on four pending bills while questioning Jennifer Eberlien of the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, reports NBC.
“I understand, from what’s been testified to the Forest Service and the B.L.M. [Bureau of Land Management], you want very much to work on the issue of climate change,” the Texas congressman began.
“I was informed by the immediate past director of NASA that they’ve found that the moon’s orbit is changing slightly and so is the Earth’s orbit around the sun,” he continued.
“We know there’s been significant solar flare activity,” Gohmert said. “And so, is there anything that the National Forest Service or B.L.M. can do to change the course of the moon’s orbit or the Earth’s orbit around the sun?”
“Obviously that would have profound effects on our climate,” the lawmaker added.
Responding, Eberlein said with a smile: “I would have to follow up with on you on that one, Mr. Gohmert.”
“If you figure out there’s a way in the forest service you could make that change, I’d like to know,” Gohmert responded, without any trace of irony.
Longtime critics of the conservative legislator were besides themselves with bewilderment and mockery over the out-of-this-world suggestion.
On the opposite side of the aisle California Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu suggested that perhaps Marvel Comics superheroine Captain Marvel was up to the task.
“She can alter planetary orbits with her superpowers. I’m going to work on a bipartisan resolution asking for her help,” Lieu wrote on Twitter.
According to NASA, the Earth’s climate has changed throughout history for various reasons, including small variations in the planet’s orbit.
However, the agency’s website notes that this doesn’t discount the fact that anthropogenic or human-caused activities are the culprit of the current warming.
“The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over millennia,” the site says.