(TMU) — Recent reports indicate that data gathered by automakers and tech companies could be the next front in the battle over digital privacy.
In early January, companies at the CES 2020 displayed their plans for making use of the surprising amounts of data gathered by newer model vehicles. Amazon, Intel, Qualcomm, and Blackberry were among the companies seeking partnerships with automakers who are also searching for methods to monetize the data gathered by their vehicles.
Bloomberg reports that “modern cars roll out of factories packed with cellular connections, powerful processors and growing suite of sensors, including cameras, radar and microphones. That’s turning them into the next information goldmine, rivaling the data-creating capabilities of smartphones.”
Bloomberg also notes that Intel announced a new stage of its Mobileye technology which allows for driver-assistance and Intel to gather data from cameras, chips, and sensors within the vehicle. Intel says this anonymous information is used to create detailed maps to enhance vehicle navigation systems. Intel has estimated that data gathered by vehicles will be worth as much as $3.5 billion by 2030. Bloomberg reports that consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimates that “up to $750 billion of value would created from car-related data by 2030.”
As the financial incentive for automotive data increases more companies will seek to enter this emerging marketplace. However, there are already serious privacy concerns related to the data being gathered by the vehicles. In December 2019 the Washington Post investigated how much information is gathered by one single computer in a 2017 Chevy Volt. The Post writes:
“In the 2020 model year, most new cars sold in the United States will come with built-in Internet connections, including 100 percent of Fords, GMs and BMWs and all but one model Toyota and Volkswagen. (This independent cellular service is often included free or sold as an add-on.) Cars are becoming smartphones on wheels, sending and receiving data from apps, insurance firms and pretty much wherever their makers want. Some brands even reserve the right to use the data to track you down if you don’t pay your bills.”
To determine just how much data was being collected, the Post worked with automotive technology expert Jim Mason to catch a glimpse of what vehicle manufacturers are capable of seeing. The Post and their expert learned that the vehicle was collecting a wide range of data including vehicle location and phone call records. Mason noted that any time you plug a smart phone into a vehicle the vehicle will likely copy personal data.
“Among the trove of data points were unique identifiers for my and Doug’s phones, and a detailed log of phone calls from the previous week. There was a long list of contacts, right down to people’s address, emails and even photos,” the Post reported. The vehicle also collected information on “acceleration and braking style, beaming back reports to its maker General Motors over an always-on Internet connection,” the Post added. “Coming next: face data, used to personalize the vehicle and track driver attention.”
Chevrolet does not currently have a policy of informing drivers about the data being recorded and the owner’s manual does not mention data collection. A spokesman for Chevrolet owner General Motors declined to offer specific details on data collection. However, the spokesman did note that data gathered by GM falls into three categories: vehicle location, vehicle performance, and driver behavior.
Unsurprisingly, the Post notes that with the coming 5G cellular network that promises to link cars to the internet, wireless connections will get cheaper, data more valuable, and “anything the car knows about you is fair game.”
Data collection by smart vehicles is only one of a myriad of privacy concerns related to the coming 5G Smart Grid where cities, vehicles, phones, streetlights, and clothes are fitted with sensors as part of the Internet of Things. It’s important to become educated about the threats posed by these emerging “smart devices.”
Only by actively fighting for and defending privacy can we hope to maintain any semblance of it.
Florida Set to Release a Billion Genetically Modified Mosquitoes in “Nightmare” Experiment
Environmentalists and Florida residents voiced concern and outrage Monday as state government officials and the biotechnology giant Oxitec announced plans to move ahead this week with a pilot project that involves releasing up to a billion genetically engineered mosquitoes in Monroe County over a two-year period.
Presented by local authorities as an effort to control the population of Aedes aegypti—a mosquito species that can carry both the dengue and yellow fever virus—critics warn that the effort’s supposed benefits and its potential negative consequences have not been sufficiently studied.
Responding to news that the first boxes of genetically modified mosquitos are set to be placed in six locations in Monroe County this week, Friends of the Earth noted in a press release that “scientists have raised concerns that GE mosquitoes could create hybrid wild mosquitoes which could worsen the spread of mosquito-borne diseases and could be more resistant to insecticides than the original wild mosquitoes.”
Dana Perls, food and technology program manager at Friends of the Earth, called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—which approved the project last May—to “halt this live experiment immediately.”
“This is a dark moment in history,” said Perls. “The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes puts Floridians, the environment, and endangered species at risk in the midst of a pandemic. This release is about maximizing Oxitec’s profits, not about the pressing need to address mosquito-borne diseases.”
The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District and Oxitec said late last week that “less than 12,000 mosquitoes are expected to emerge each week” in Monroe Country over a duration of around three months, the initial phase of the experiment.
The stated goal of the project is for Oxitec’s genetically altered, non-biting male mosquitos to mate with the local biting female population, producing female offspring that die in the larval stage before they can spread disease.
As the Miami Herald explained earlier this year: “A ‘death mechanism’ designed into mosquitoes is meant to ensure no viable female offspring will result from the mating, according to Oxitec. The male offspring will pass on the ‘self-limiting gene’ to half of their offspring, said company spokesman Ross Bethell.”
“My family’s bodies, blood, and private property are being used in this trial without human safety studies or my consent,” Mara Daly, a resident and local business owner in Key Largo, Florida, said in a statement Monday.
Barry Wray, executive director of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition, added that the “EPA has set the lowest possible bar for approving genetically engineered insects and has opened Pandora’s Box for future experiments that will slide through with little investigation.”
“Everyone should be writing the White House to stop this release until there are regulations and standards that truly protect us,” Wray said.
Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons
SpaceX Starship Had “Near Collision” With Unknown Flying Object, NASA Confirms
On Friday, NASA was able to successfully deliver four astronauts into orbit on board a SpaceX Crew Dragon starship, marking the first time that a manned mission took place using a reused rocket and spacecraft.
While the launch was a historical success, with the four astronauts from the United States, Japan and France reaching the International Space Station without any complications, there was a tense moment when they were warned of a potential collision with an unidentified flying object, or literal “UFO.”
While there was no time to perform an avoidance maneuver to avoid colliding with an object, the crew was informed that they should get into their pressurized suits to mitigate any harm in case of a collision, reports Futurism.
“The NASA/SpaceX team was informed of the possible conjunction by US Space Command,” said NASA spokesperson Kelly Humphries. “The object being tracked is classified as ‘unknown.’
“The possibility of the conjunction came so close to the closest approach time that there wasn’t time to compute and execute a debris avoidance maneuver with confidence, so the SpaceX team elected to have the crew don their pressure suits out of an abundance of caution,” Humphries added.
The space agency was notified by the Pentagon about the potential collision roughly seven hours after the launch of the spacecraft, according to U.S. Space Command spokesman Erin Dick.
“After further analysis, the 18th Space Control Squadron quickly determined there was no conjunction threat, all aboard are safe and the spacecraft was not at risk,” Dick said.
While the “UFO” hasn’t been precisely identified, the most likely explanation was that it was a piece of space junk – or one of a growing number of human-made pieces of junk like chunks of rockets and dead satellites that have been the subject of increasing concern over the years, with the European Space Agency hosting a major conference on space debris just last week.
Humphries notes that the object only came as close as 45 kilometers from the spacecraft, posing “no real danger to the crew or the spacecraft.”
Nevertheless, the small scare illustrates the potential havoc that could be caused by the increasingly litter-strewn low-Earth orbital space.
Scientists Create First-Ever Embryos With Monkey and Human Cells
For the first time, scientists have created embryos in a lab that contain the cells of both humans and monkeys.
Scientists hope that by creating chimeric embryos – embryos containing cells from two distinct species – they might be able to create organs for people who desperately need transplants.
Over 100,000 people in the United States lone are currently on a waiting list for organ transplants crucial to saving their lives, but the supply of donor organs has dropped significantly since the pandemic began unfolding.
Researchers have attempted to inject human stem cells into the embryos of pigs and sheep in recent years in hopes of growing organs for transplants, but this hasn’t yielded positive results. Scientists are hoping that by turning to macaque monkeys, which share a greater genetic similarity to humans, they may have more success.
In a study published Thursday in the journal Cell, researchers in the U.S. and China injected 25 pluripotent stem cells from humans into embryos from macaque monkeys.
After one day, the researchers detected human cells beginning to grow in 132 of the embryos. They embryos ultimately survived for 19 days.
However, bioethicists have raised concerns about the potential for abusing medical regulations that currently govern the treatment of animal and human subjects, as well as the possibility that a rogue scientists might potentially spike living creatures with human cells.
“My first question is: Why?” Kirstin Matthews, a science and technology fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, told NPR. “I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we’re just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do.”
Researchers insist that the study serves purely humanitarian goals that could save countless lives in the future.
“This work is an important step that provides very compelling evidence that someday when we understand fully what the process is we could make them develop into a heart or a kidney or lungs,” said University of Michigan professor Jeffrey Platt, who was not involved in the study.