Wolfcom, Body Cameras, and Facial Recognition

April 5, 2020

Facial recognition is controversial topic and is becoming more so as the technology advances. Top weapons and security companies will not go near facial recognition software due to the cans of worms it would open. Law enforcement agencies want these companies to add it. Wolfcom is actually adding facial recognition to its cameras. Techdirt has the scoop on the story, “Wolfcom Decides It Wants To Be The First US Body Cam Company To Add Facial Tech To Its Products.”

Wolfcom makes body camera for law enforcement and they want to add facial recognition technology to their products. Currently Wolfcom is developing facial recognition for its newest body cam, Halo. Around one thousand five hundred police departments have purchased Wolfcam’s body cameras.

If Wolfcom is successful with its facial recognition development, it would be the first company to have body cameras that use the technology. The technology is still in development according to Wolfcom’s marketing. Right now, their facial recognition technology rests on taking individuals’ photos, then matching them against a database. The specific database is not mentioned.

Wolfcom obviously wants to be an industry leader, but it is also being careful about no making false promises or drumming up bad advertising:

“About the only thing Wolfcom is doing right is not promising sky high accuracy rate for its unproven product when pitching it to government agencies. That’s the end of the “good” list. Agencies who have been asked to beta test the “live” facial recognition AI are being given free passes to use the software in the future, when (or if) it actually goes live. Right now, Wolfcom’s offering bears some resemblance to Clearview’s: an app-based search function that taps into whatever databases the company has access to. Except in this case, even less is known about the databases Wolfcom uses or if it’s using its own algorithm or simply licensing one from another purveyor.”

Wolfcom could eventually offer realtime facial recognition technology and that could affect some competitors.

Whitney Grace, April 5, 2020

Facial Recognition: Those Error Rates? An Issue, Of Course

February 21, 2020

DarkCyber read “Machines Are Struggling to Recognize People in China.” The write up asserts:

The country’s ubiquitous facial recognition technology has been stymied by face masks.

One of the unexpected consequences of the Covid 19 virus is that citizens with face masks cannot be recognized.

“Unexpected” when adversarial fashion has been getting some traction among those who wish to move anonymously.

The write up adds:

Recently, Chinese authorities in some provinces have made medical face masks mandatory in public and the use and popularity of these is going up across the country. However, interestingly, as millions of masks are now worn by Chinese people, there has been an unintended consequence. Not only have the country’s near ubiquitous facial-recognition surveillance cameras been stymied, life is reported to have become difficult for ordinary citizens who use their faces for everyday things such as accessing their homes and bank accounts.

Now an “admission” by a US company:

Companies such as Apple have confirmed that the facial recognition software on their phones need a view of the person’s full face, including the nose, lips and jaw line, for them to work accurately. That said, a race for the next generation of facial-recognition technology is on, with algorithms that can go beyond masks. Time will tell whether they work. I bet they will.

To sum up: Masks defeat facial recognition. The future is a method of identification that can work with what is not covered plus any other data available to the system; for example, pattern of walking and geo-location.

For now, though, the remedy for the use of masks is lousy facial recognition and more effort to find innovations.

The author of the write up is a — wait for it — venture capital professional. And what country leads the world in facial recognition? China, according to the VC professional.

The future is better person recognition of which the face is one factor.

Stephen E Arnold, February 21, 2020

Easy Facial Recognition

February 11, 2020

DarkCyber spotted a Twitter thread. You can view it here (verified on February 8, 2020). The main point is that using open source software, an individual was able to obtain (scrape; that is copying) images from publicly accessible services. Then the images were “processed.” The idea was identify a person from an image. Net net: People can object to facial recognition, but once a technology migrates from “little known” to public-available, there may be difficulty putting the tech cat bag in the black bag.

Stephen E Arnold, February 11, 2020

The Clearview Write Up: A Great Quote

January 20, 2020

DarkCyber does not want to join in the hand waving about the facial recognition company called Clearview. Instead, we want to point out that the article is available without a pay wall from this link: https://bit.ly/2TO26H1

Also, the write up contains a great quote about technology like facial recognition. Here it is:

It’s creepy what they’re doing, but there will be many more of these companies. There is no monopoly on math.—Al Gidari, a privacy professor at Stanford Law School

DarkCyber wants to point out that a number of companies have gathered collections of images from a wide range of sources. The write up points to investors who may or may not be the power grid behind this particular technology application.

The inventor fits a stereotype: College drop out, long hair, etc.

The write up also identifies officers who allegedly found the database of images and the services helpful.

The New York Times continues to report on specialized technology. There are upsides and downsides to the information. One upside is that the write ups inform people about technology and its utility. The downside is that the information presented may generate a situation in which individuals can be put at risk or a negative tint given to something that is applied math and publicly accessible data.

It is interesting to consider combining services; for example, brand monitoring and image search. Perhaps that is another story for the New York Times?

Stephen E Arnold, January 20, 2020

New Chinese Facial Recognition Camera Reduces False Positives

January 19, 2020

In a move that should surprise nobody, China has created the ultimate facial recognition hardware. The Telegraph reports, “China Unveils 500 Megapixel Camera that Can Identify Every Face in a Crowd of Tens of Thousands.” Researchers revealed the “super camera,” which can see four times more detail than the human eye, at China’s International Industry Fair. Of course, no surveillance tech is complete without an AI; writer Freddie Hayward tells us:

“The camera’s artificial intelligence will be able to scan a crowd and identify an individual within seconds. Samantha Hoffman, an analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told the ABC that the government has massive databases of people’s images and that data generated from surveillance video can be ‘fed into a pool of data that, combined with AI processing, can generate tools for social control, including tools linked to the Social Credit System’.”

Yes, the Social Credit System. China is no stranger to spying on its people, and this development will only make their current practices more effective. We learn:

“China currently has an estimated 200 million CCTV cameras watching over its citizens. For the past few years the country has been building a social credit system that will generate a score for each citizen based upon data about their lives, such as their credit score, whether they donate to charity, and their parenting ability. Punishments and rewards that citizens will receive based upon their score include access to better schools and universities and restricted travel. The current CCTV network is a central tool in gathering data about its citizens, but the cameras aren’t always powerful enough to take a clear picture of someone’s face in a crowd. The new 500 megapixel, or 500 million pixel, camera will help to remedy this.”

Indeed it will. I suppose if you are going to build a social system around snooping on the people, it should be as accurate as possible. You wouldn’t want to keep one citizen out of a good school because someone who looked like them was caught littering.

Cynthia Murrell, January 19, 2020

From the Desk of Captain Obvious: How Image Recognition Mostly Works

July 8, 2019

Want to be reminded about how super duper image recognition systems work? If so, navigate to the capitalist’s tool “Facebook’s ALT Tags Remind Us That Deep Learning Still Sees Images as Keywords.” The DarkCyber teams knows that this headline is designed to capture clicks and certainly does not apply to every image recognition system available. But if the image is linked via metadata to something other than a numeric code, then images are indeed mapped to words. Words, it turns out, remain useful in our video and picture first world.

Nevertheless, the write up offers some interesting comments, which is what the DarkCyber research team expects from the capitalist tool. (One of our DarkCyber team saw Malcolm Forbes at a Manhattan eatery keeping a close eye on a spectacularly gaudy motorcycle. Alas, that Mr. Forbes is no longer with us, although the motorcycle probably survives somewhere unlike the “old” Forbes’ editorial policies.

Here’s the passage:

For all the hype and hyperbole about the AI revolution, today’s best deep learning content understanding algorithms are still remarkably primitive and brittle. In place of humans’ rich semantic understanding of imagery, production image recognition algorithms see images merely through predefined galleries of metadata tags they apply based on brittle and naïve correlative models that are trivially confused.

Yep, and ultimately the hundreds of millions of driver license pictures will be mapped to words; for example, name, address, city, state, zip, along with a helpful pointer to other data about the driver.

The capitalist tool reminds the patient reader:

Today’s deep learning algorithms “see” imagery by running it through a set of predefined models that look for simple surface-level correlative patterns in the arrangement of its pixels and output a list of subject tags much like those human catalogers half a century ago.

Once again, no push back from Harrod’s Creek. However, it is disappointing that new research is not referenced in the article; for example, the companies involved in Darpa Upside.

Stephen E Arnold, July 8, 2019

The Middle East and Facial Recognition

June 12, 2019

How many times has science fiction been called stuff and nonsense, but the genre has actually predicted many things that are commonplace today? One thing that used to be make believe is facial recognition technology. US right advocates have successfully banned the technology in some parts of the country, but facial recognition developers are taking their creations to “friendlier” locals. Buzz Feed News shares where in the article, “Facial Recognition Technology Is Facing A Huge Backlash In The US. But Some Of The World’s Biggest Tech Companies Are Trying To Sell It In The Gulf.”

While the US is saying no way, Chinese and American facial recognition purveyors take their wares to Dubai. The biggest sellers are IBM, Hikvision, and Huawei. In the US, opposers to the technology state it could be used for social control, but Dubai is located in the United Arab Emirates where citizens are more under the government’s thumb. Hacking software is already used to spy on political dissidents, potential criminals, and journalists. While Dubai is heralded as a futuristic city, it is still in the heart of fundamentalist Islam territory. Theocracies are not known to be tolerant of “unreligious” behaviors.

“Police in Dubai have begun rolling out an ambitious program, dubbed Oyoon, the Arabic word for “eyes,” that will implement facial recognition and analysis driven by artificial intelligence across the city. Police say the program will reduce crime as well as traffic accidents. An analysis of hundreds of government procurement and regulatory documents make clear the scope of Dubai’s high-tech policing ambitions, showing the police have sought video analytics platforms meant to record and analyze people’s faces, voices, behavior, and cars in the time it takes to do a Google search. And a review of dozens of company marketing materials and interviews with officials show global tech giants are eager to provide the police with the technology they are seeking.”

Dubai police favor facial and voice recognition technology and use it to monitor potential threats through a central command center. There have already been three hundred arrests with the technology. Several UAE government agencies support using the technology to monitor its citizens. Like any sort of technology, it can be used for good or bad.

Dubai has the most political prisoners per capita I the world and the UAE prides itself on keeping order.

“‘They focus on preventative surveillance,’ said Joe Odell, a campaigner at the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE. It’s about control to prevent street mobilizations through establishing a wide-reaching surveillance state, where they can nip anything in the bud before it even happens. They’ve spent millions of pounds on that.’”

The UAE does not like anyone that opposes its government and goes after even the most peaceful protesters. It is an authoritarian government armed with technology that is so strange it can only be true. Here is some advice: do not do anything stupid to anger the UAE if you visit.

Whitney Grace, June 12, 2019

Facial Recognition: In China, Deployed. In the US, Detours

April 9, 2019

Amazon faces push back for its facial recognition system Rekognition. China? That is a different story.

Chinese authorities seem to be fond of re-education camps and assorted types of incarceration facilities. China is trying to become the recognized (no pun intended) technology capital of the world. Unlike Chile and Bolivia which have somewhat old school prison systems, the Chinese government is investing money into its prison security systems. Technode explains how Chinese upgraded its security system in, “Briefing: Chinese VIP Jail Uses AI Technology To Monitor Prisoners.”

One flagship for facial recognition is China’s Yancheng Prison, known for imprisoning government officials and foreigners. The facility has upgraded its security system with a range of surveillance technology. The new surveillance system consists of a smart AI network with cameras and hidden sensors that are equipped with facial recognition, movement analysis The system detects prisoners’ unusual behavioral patterns, then alerts the guards and it is included in daily reports.

Yancheng Prison wants to cut down on the number of prison breaks, thus the upgrade:

“Jointly developed by industry and academic organizations including Tianjin-based surveillance technology company Tiandy, the system is expected to provide blanket coverage extending into every cell, rendering prison breaks next to impossible. The company is also planning to sell the system to some South American countries for jails with histories of violence and security breaches. The use of technology to monitor prisoners prompted concern over negative effects on prisoners’ lives and mental state from one human behavior expert who also suggested that some prisoners may look find ways to exploit the AI’s weaknesses.”

China continues to take steps to put technology into use. The feedback to the engineers who develop these systems can make adjustments. Over time, China may become better at facial recognition than almost any other country.

Whitney Grace April 9, 2019

Observation from Orbit: Gaining Traction

February 11, 2019

The day has arrived. ZeroHedge tells us the “‘Largest Fleet of Satellites in Human History’ Set to Revolutionize Space-Based Spying.” Writer Tyler Durden tells us about Planet Labs, an aerospace firm out of San Francisco that has launched almost 300 satellites for the express purpose of imaging specified sections of the Earth, on demand. We observe that Amazon is also into satellites now, and Google Alphabet and its Loon unit are making “we love satellites too” noises.

Though most of Planet Labs’ customers are currently agricultural companies seeking snapshots of their immense fields, the NGA is a noteworthy exception. We’re told:

“Their most important customer is the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) – the government body responsible for analyzing satellite photos from its 2.7 million square-foot headquarters south of Washington D.C. staffed with 14,500 employees. ‘I’m quite excited about capabilities such as what Planet’s putting up in space,’ says NGA director Robert Cardillo. …

We also noted:

“NGA’s capabilities are of course top secret, however they have been collecting the bulk of their images from three multi-billion dollar satellites the size of a city bus, according to satellite tracker Ted Molczan- who uses giant binoculars.”

Contrast that description to that of Planet’s satellites, which are the size of a loaf of bread. If you’re curious, navigate to the article for that image. (You can also see a photo of those giant binoculars in action.) Is the world ready for this level of satellite surveillance? In my humble opinion, anyone surprised by this development has not been paying close attention. Founded in 2010, Planet Labs was organized by former NASA scientists.

Amazon’s edged toward satellite management services. Perhaps there is a connection?

Cynthia Murrell, February 11, 2019

FBI Photo Recognition: Mixed Views

January 31, 2019

Get used to debates like this in the future: law enforcement agencies develop new technology that helps track criminals more efficiently, but the courts and the public doubt its validity. This is not a new argument, but seems to be entering into a new arena, as we discovered from a recent ProPublica story, “The FBI Says its Photo Analysis is Scientific Evidence—Scientists Disagree.”

The story has several interesting spins:

“FBI examiners have tied defendants to crime pictures in thousands of cases over the past half-century using unproven techniques, at times giving jurors baseless statistics to say the risk of error was vanishingly small. Much of the legal foundation for the unit’s work is rooted in a 22-year-old comparison of bluejeans.”

From bluejeans to facial recognition software, this is the latest frontier for collecting evidence and it is healthy that it is met with skepticism. We are reminded of how fingerprints were disregarded as not being scientific evidence in the 1800s. Over time, thanks to rigorous testing and patience, the world at large began to trust this evidence. We foresee that being the case with photo analysis, once it is able to meet the standards of the scientific community.

Patrick Roland, January 31, 2019

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