Profits Over Promises: IBM Sells Facial Recognition Tech to British Government

September 18, 2023

Just three years after it swore off any involvement in facial recognition software, IBM has made an about-face. The Verge reports, “IBM Promised to Back Off Facial Recognition—Then it Signed a $69.8 Million Contract to Provide It.” Amid the momentous Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, IBM’s Arvind Krishna wrote a letter to Congress vowing to no longer supply “general purpose” facial recognition tech. However, it appears that is exactly what the company includes within the biometrics platform it just sold to the British government. Reporter Mark Wilding writes:

“The platform will allow photos of individuals to be matched against images stored on a database — what is sometimes known as a ‘one-to-many’ matching system. In September 2020, IBM described such ‘one-to-many’ matching systems as ‘the type of facial recognition technology most likely to be used for mass surveillance, racial profiling, or other violations of human rights.'”

In the face of this lucrative contract IBM has changed its tune. It now insists one-to-many matching tech does not count as “general purpose” since the intention here is to use it within a narrow scope. But scopes have a nasty habit of widening to fit the available tech. The write-up continues:

“Matt Mahmoudi, PhD, tech researcher at Amnesty International, said: ‘The research across the globe is clear; there is no application of one-to-many facial recognition that is compatible with human rights law, and companies — including IBM — must therefore cease its sale, and honor their earlier statements to sunset these tools, even and especially in the context of law and immigration enforcement where the rights implications are compounding.’ Police use of facial recognition has been linked to wrongful arrests in the US and has been challenged in the UK courts. In 2019, an independent report on the London Metropolitan Police Service’s use of live facial recognition found there was no ‘explicit legal basis’ for the force’s use of the technology and raised concerns that it may have breached human rights law. In August of the following year, the UK’s Court of Appeal ruled that South Wales Police’s use of facial recognition technology breached privacy rights and broke equality laws.”

Wilding notes other companies similarly promised to renounce facial recognition technology in 2020, including Amazon and Microsoft. Will governments also be able to entice them into breaking their vows with tantalizing offers?

Cynthia Murrell, September 18, 2023

Can Smart Software Get Copyright? Wrong?

September 15, 2023

It is official: copyrights are for humans, not machines. JD Supra brings us up to date on AI and official copyright guidelines in, “Using AI to Create a Work – Copyright Protection and Infringement.” The basic principle goes both ways. Creators cannot copyright AI-generated material unless they have manipulated it enough to render it a creative work. On the other hand, it is a violation to publish AI-generated content that resembles a copyright-protected work. As for feeding algorithms a diet of human-made media, that is not officially against the rules. Yet. We learn:

“To obtain copyright protection for a work containing AI-generated material, the work must have sufficient human input, such as sufficient modification of the AI output or the human selection or arrangement of the AI content. However, copyright protection would be limited to those ‘human-made’ elements. Past, pending, and future copyright applications need to identify explicitly the human element and disclaim the AI-created content if it is more than minor. For existing registrations, a supplementary registration may be necessary. Works created using AI are subject to the same copyright infringement analysis applicable to any work. The issue with using AI to create works is that the sources of the original works may not be identified, so an infringement analysis cannot be conducted until the cease-and-desist letter is received. No court has yet adopted the theory that merely using an AI database means the resulting work is automatically an infringing derivative work if it is not substantially similar to the protectable elements in the copyrighted work.”

The article cites the Copyright Registration Guidance: Works Containing Material Generated by Artificial Intelligence, 88 Fed. Reg. 16,190 (March 16, 2023). It notes those guidelines were informed by a decision handed down in February, Zarya v Dawn, which involved a comic book with AI-generated content. the Copyright Office sliced and diced elements, specifying:

“… The selection and arrangement of the images and the text were the result of human authorship and thus copyrightable, but the AI-generated images resulting from human prompts were not. The prompts ‘influenced,’ but did not ‘dictate,’ the resulting image, so the applicant was not the ‘mastermind’ and therefore not the author of the images. Further, the applicant’s edits to the images were too minor to be deemed copyrightable.”

Ah, the fine art of splitting hairs. As for training databases packed with protected content, the article points to pending lawsuits by artists against Stability AI, MidJourney, and Deviant Art. We are told those cases may be dismissed on technical grounds, but are advised to watch for similar cases in the future. Stay tuned.

Cynthia Murrell, September 15, 2023

Regulating Smart Software: Let Us Form a Committee and Get Industry Advisors to Help

September 1, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

The Boston Globe published what I thought was an amusing “real” news story about legislators and smart software. I know. I know. I am entering oxymoron land. The article is “The US Regulates Cars, Radio, and TV. When Will It Regulate AI? A number of passages received True Blue check marks.

8 26 stone age mobile

A person living off the grid works to make his mobile phone deliver generative content to solve the problem of … dinner. Thanks, MidJourney. You did a Stone Age person but you would not generate a street person. How helpful!

Let me share two passages and then offer a handful of observations.

How about this statement attributed to Microsoft’s Brad Smith. He is the professional who was certain Russia organized 1,000 programmers to figure out the SolarWinds’ security loopholes. Yes, that Brad Smith. The story quotes him as saying:

“We should move quickly,” Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft, which launched an AI-powered version of its search engine this year, said in May. “There’s no time for waste or delay,” Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, has said. “Let’s get ahead of this,” said Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D.

Microsoft moved fast. I think the reason was to make Google look stupid. Both of these big outfits know that online services aggregate and become monopolistic. Microsoft wants to be the AI winner. Microsoft is not spending extra time helping elected officials understand smart software or the stakes on the digital table. No way.

The second passage is:

Historically, regulation often happens gradually as a technology improves or an industry grows, as with cars and television. Sometimes it happens only after tragedy.

Please, read the original “real” news story for Captain Obvious statements. Here are a few observations:

  1. Smart software is moving along at a reasonable clip. Big bucks are available to AI outfits in Germany and elsewhere. Something like 28 percent of US companies are fiddling with AI. Yep, even those raising chickens have AI religion.
  2. The process of regulation is slow. We have a turtle and a hare situation. Nope, the turtle loses unless an exogenous power kills the speedy bunny.
  3. If laws were passed, how would one get fast action to apply them? How is the FTC doing? What about the snappy pace of the CDC in preparing for the next pandemic?

Net net: Yes, let’s understand AI.

Stephen E Arnold, September 1, 2023.

The statement aligns with my experience.

Calls for AI Pause Futile At this Late Date

August 29, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Well, the nuclear sub has left the base. A group of technology experts recently called for a 6-month pause on AI rollouts in order to avoid the very “loss of control of our civilization” to algorithms. That might be a good idea—if it had a snowball’s chance of happening. As it stands, observes ComputerWorld‘s Rob Enderle, “Pausing AI Development Is a Foolish Idea.” We think foolish is not a sufficiently strong word. Perhaps regulation could have been established before the proverbial horse left the barn, but by now there are more than 500 AI startups according to Jason Calacanis, noted entrepreneur and promoter.

8 27 sdad sailor

A sad sailor watches the submarine to which he was assigned leave the dock without him. Thanks, MidJourney. No messages from Mother MJ on this image.

Enderle opines as a premier pundit:

“Once a technology takes off, it’s impossible to hold back, largely because there’s no strong central authority with the power to institute a global pause — and no enforcement entity to ensure the pause directive is followed. The right approach would be to create such an authority beforehand, so there’s some way to assure the intended outcome. I tend to agree with former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates that the focus should be on assuring AI reliability, not trying to pause everything. … There simply is no global mechanism to enforce a pause in any technological advance that has already reached the market.”

We are reminded that even development on clones, which is illegal in most of the world, continues apace. The only thing bans seem to have accomplished there is to obliterate transparency around cloning projects. There is simply no way to rein in all the world’s scientists. Not yet. Enderle offers a grain of hope on artificial intelligence, however. He notes it is not too late to do for general-purpose AI what we failed to do for generative AI:

“General AI is believed to be more than a decade in the future, giving us time to devise a solution that’s likely closer to a regulatory and oversight body than a pause. In fact, what should have been proposed in that open letter was the creation of just such a body. Regardless of any pause, the need is to ensure that AI won’t be harmful, making oversight and enforcement paramount. Given that AI is being used in weapons, what countries would allow adequate third-party oversight? The answer is likely none — at least until the related threat rivals that of nuclear weapons.”

So we have that to look forward to. And clones, apparently. The write-up points to initiatives already in the works to protect against “hostile” AI. Perhaps they will even be effective.

Cynthia Murrell, August 16, 2023

The Age of the Ideator: Go Fast, Ideate!

August 28, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I read “To De-Risk AI, the Government Must Accelerate Knowledge Production.” The essay introduces a word I am not sure I have seen before; that is, “ideator.” The meaning of an ideator, I think, is a human (not a software machine) able to produce people “who can have outsized impact on the world.” I think the author is referring to the wizard El Zucko (father of Facebook), the affable if mercurial Elon Musk, or the AI leaning Tim Apple. I am reasonably certain that the “outsized influence” moniker does not apply to the lip smacking Spanish football executive, Vlad Putin, or or similar go-getters.

8 28 share info you crazy

Share my information with a government agency. Are you crazy? asks the hard charging, Type A overachiever working wonders with smart software designed for autonomous weapons. Thanks, MidJourney. Not what I specified but close enough for horse shoes.

The pivotal idea is good for ideators. These individuals come up with ideas. These should be good ideas which flow from ideators of the right stripe. Solving problems requires information. Ideators like information, maybe crave it? The white hat ideators can neutralize non-white hat ideators. Therefore, white hat ideators need access to information. The non-white hat ideator won’t have a change. (No, I won’t ask, “What happens when a white hat ideator flips, changes to a non-white hat, and uses information in ways different from the white hat types’ actions?”)

What’s interesting about the essay is that the “fix” is to go fast when it comes to making information and then give the white hat folks access. To make the system work, a new government agency is needed. (I assume that the author is thinking about a US, Canadian, or Australian, or Western European government agency.)

That agency will pay the smart software outfits to figure out “AI alignment.” (I must admit I am a bit fuzzy on how commercial enterprises with trade secrets will respond to the “alignment.”) The new government agency will have oversight authority and will publish the work of its professionals. The government will not try to slow down or impede the “alignment.”

I have simplified most of the ideas for one reason. I want to conclude this essay with a single question, “How are today’s government agencies doing with homelessness, fiscal management, health care, and regulation of high-technology monopolies?”

Alignment? Yeah.

Stephen E Arnold, August 28, 2023

A Meta Canada Event: Tug of War with Life or Death Table Stakes

August 23, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid. By the time this essay appears in Beyond Search, the impasse may have been removed. If so, be aware that I wrote this on August 19, 2023. The dinobaby is not a real-time guy.

I read “As Wildfires Spread, Canadian Leaders Ask Meta to Reverse Its News Ban.” The article makes it clear that a single high technology company has become the focal point of the Canadian government. The write up states:

Meta began blocking news links for Facebook and Instagram users in Canada in June after the country passed a law that allows news organizations to negotiate with tech giants to receive payment for articles shared on their platforms. The ban by Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, has rankled Canadian authorities trying to share evacuation information this week across a remote swath of the country where social media is key to disseminating news.

The fires will kill some people and ravage wildlife unable to flee.

8 19 tug of war

A county fair tug of war between the Zuckbook and Canadian government officials is taking place. Who will win this contest? How many will die as the struggle plays out? MidJourney, you are struggling. I said, “without sepia” and what do I get, “Grungy sepia.” Where is the elephant ears food cart?

On one side is the Canadian law requiring the Zuckbook to pay publishers for articles shared on the Zuck properties. I do understand the motive for the law. Traditional publishers are not equipped to deal with digital media platforms and the ways users of those platforms disseminate and create information. The Zuckbook — like it or not — is perceived by some to be a public utility, and the company should have the management expertise to serve the public and meet the needs of its stakeholders. I know it sound as if I want a commercial enterprise to consider the idea of compromise, ethical ideas, and react in a constructive manner during a time of crisis. Like death.

On the other side is the Zuckbook. The big Zuck has built a successful company, considered the equivalent of a fight in the grade school playground, and taken the view that paying for certain content is not part of the company’s playbook. The Canadian government is perceived by the Big Zuck as adversarial. Governments which pass a law and then beg a US publicly traded company to stop complying with that law are more than an annoyance. These behaviors are little more than evidence that the Canadian government wants to have a fresh croissant delivered by the Zuck minions and say, “Absolutement.”

How will this tug of war end? Will both sides tumble to their derrières? Will the Zuckbook roll over and say, “Certainment”? Will the Canadian government convene a Parliamentary quorum and reverse the law — temporarily, of course.

Several observations:

  1. Neither the Zuckbook nor the Canadian government is “right.” Compromise perhaps?
  2. The management approach of the Zuckbook has been and seems to be at this time taken from the famous manual “High School Science Club Management Methods: Superior Beings Can Keep Lesser Being in Their Rightful Place.”
  3. People will die. A US company and the Canadian government make clear the gulf that exists between commercial enterprises and government expectations.

Remarkable but not surprising.

Stephen E Arnold, August 23, 2023

India Where Regulators Actually Try or Seem to Try

August 22, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I read “Data Act Will Make Digital Companies Handle Info under Legal Obligation.” The article reports that India’s regulators are beavering away in an attempt to construct a dam to stop certain flows of data. The write up states:

Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar on Thursday [August 17, 2023] said the Digital Personal Data Protection Act (DPDP Act) passed by Parliament recently will make digital companies handle the data of Indian citizens under absolute legal obligation.

What about certain high-technology companies operating with somewhat flexible methods? The article uses the phrase “punitive consequences of high penalty and even blocking them from operating in India.”

8 18 eagles

US companies’ legal eagles take off. Destination? India. MidJourney captures 1950s grade school textbook art quite well.

This passage caught my attention because nothing quite like it has progressed in the US:

The DPDP [Digital Personal Data Protection] Bill is aimed at giving Indian citizens a right to have his or her data protected and casts obligations on all companies, all platforms be it foreign or Indian, small or big, to ensure that the personal data of Indian citizens is handled with absolute (legal) obligation…

Will this proposed bill become law? Will certain US high-technology companies comply? I am not sure of the answer, but I have a hunch that a dust up may be coming.

Stephen E Arnold, August 22, 2023

Google: Most But Not Every Regulatory Outfit Is Googley

August 22, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

When Google started it earned its revenue by selling advertising. While Alphabet Inc. diversified its portfolio, a large portion of its profit is still generated by advertising via Google. Unfortunately Torrent Freak explains that many of these ads are “pirate” links: “Google Search Asked To Remove One Billion ‘Pirate’ Links In 9 Months.” From the beginning, Google faced issues with copyright holders and it developed policies to be a responsible search engine. The easiest way Google and users address copyright infringements are DMCA takedown notices.

Google records its DMCA requests and began publishing them in 2012 in its Transparency Report. In August 2023, Google posted its seven billionth DMCA takedown notice and it is less than a year after its six billionth request. It took twice as long for Google to jump from five to six billion requests. Most of the DMCA takedowns were from a single copyright holder to stop a specific pirate operation. Who is the main complainer?

“Around the start of the year MG Premium began to increase its takedown efforts. The company is an intellectual property vehicle of the MindGeek conglomerate, known for popular adult sites such as P*rnHub. One of MG Premium’s main goals is to shut down ‘unlicensed’ sites or at least make when unfindable. Last year, MG Premium scored a multi-million dollar damages win in a U.S. federal court against pirate ‘tube site’ Daftsex . This order also took down the main .com domain, but that didn’t stop the site. Daftsex simply continued using alternative domains which remain available to this day.”

MG Premium has a vendetta against pirate links and is nursing a DMCA takedown never before witnessed in history. MG Premium averages more than two million requests per day.

While MG Premium is the biggest reporter of the moment, there are more complainers. Google sells ad space to anyone with the funds but the even bigger question is who is buying ad space on these pirated Web sites? Google automates most of its advertising sales but where are the filters to prevent pirate links?

Whitney Grace, August 22, 2023

The ISP Ploy: Heck, No, Mom. I Cannot Find My Other Sock?

August 16, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Before I retired, my team and I were doing a job for the US Senate. One day at lunch we learned that Google could not provide employment and salary information  to a government agency housed in the building in which we were working. The talk, as I recall, was tinged with skepticism. If a large company issues paychecks and presumably files forms with the Internal Revenue Service, records about who and wages were available. Google allowed many people to find answers, but the company could not find its employment data. The way things work in Washington, DC, to the best of my recollection, a large company with considerable lobbying help and a flock of legal eagles can make certain processes slow. As staff rotate, certain issues get pushed down the priority pile and some — not everyone, of course — fade away.

8 16 cant find it mom

A young teen who will mature into a savvy ISP tells his mom, “I can’t find my other sock. It is too hard for me to move stuff and find it. If it turns up, I will put it in the laundry.” This basic play is one of the keys to the success of the Internet Service Provider the bright young lad runs today. Thanks, MidJourney. You were back online and demonstrating gradient malfunctioning. Perhaps you need a bit of the old gain of function moxie?

I thought about this “inability” to deliver information when I read “ISPs Complain That Listing Every Fee Is Too Hard, Urge FCC to Scrap New Rule.” I want to focus on one passage in the article and suggest that you read the original report. Keep in mind my anecdote about how a certain big tech outfit handles some US government requests.

Here’s the snippet from the long source document:

…FCC order said the requirement to list “all charges that providers impose at their discretion” is meant to help broadband users “understand which charges are part of the provider’s rate structure, and which derive from government assessments or programs.” These fees must have “simple, accurate, [and] easy-to-understand name[s],” the FCC order said. “Further, the requirement will allow consumers to more meaningfully compare providers’ rates and service packages, and to make more informed decisions when purchasing broadband services. Providers must list fees such as monthly charges associated with regulatory programs and fees for the rental or leasing of modem and other network connection equipment,” the FCC said.

Three observations about the information in the passage:

  1. The argument is identical to that illustrated by the teen in the room filled with detritus. Crap everywhere makes finding easy for the occupant and hard for anyone else. Check out Albert Einstein’s desk on the day he died. Crap piled everywhere. Could he find what he needed? According to his biographers, the answer is, “Yes.”
  2. The idea that a commercial entity which bills its customers does not have the capacity to print out the little row entries in an accounting system is lame in my opinion. The expenses have to labeled and reported. Even if they are chunked like some of the financial statements crafted by the estimable outfits Amazon and Microsoft, someone has the notes or paper for these items. I know some people who could find these scraps of information; don’t you?
  3. The wild and crazy government agencies invite this type of corporate laissez faire behavior. Who is in charge? Probably not the government agency if some recent anti-trust cases are considered as proof of performance.

Net net: Companies want to be able to fiddle the bills. Period. Printing out comprehensive products and services prices reduces the gamesmanship endemic in the online sector.

Stephen E Arnold, August 16, 2023

Will the US Take Action against Google? Yes, Just Gentle Action It Seems

August 15, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

After several years of preparation, the DOJ has finally gotten its case against Google before the US District Court for DC only to have the judge drastically narrow its scope.

8 12 boy confronts dinosaur

A brave young person confronts a powerful creature named Googzilla. The beastie just lumbers forward. MidJourney does nice dinosaurs.

Ars Technica reports, “In Win for Google, Judge Dismisses Many Claims in DOJ Monopoly Case.” We learn:

“In his opinion unsealed Friday, Judge Amit Mehta dismissed one of the more significant claims raised in the case brought by the Justice Department and the attorneys general from 38 states that alleges that Google rigged search results to boost its own products over those of competitors like Amazon, OpenTable, Expedia, or eBay. Mehta said that these claims were ‘raised only by the Colorado plaintiffs’ and failed to show evidence of anticompetitive effects, relying only on the ‘opinion and speculation’ of antitrust legal expert Jonathan Baker, who proposed a theory of anticompetitive harm.”

Hmm, interesting take. Some might assert the anticompetitive harm is self-evident here. But wait, there’s more:

“On top of dropping claims about the anticompetitive design of Google search results, the court ‘also dismissed allegations about Google’s Android Compatibility Agreements, Anti-Fragmentation Agreements, Google Assistant, Internet of Things Devices, and Android Open Source Project,’ Google’s blog noted.”

So what is left? Just the allegedly anticompetitive agreements with Android and certain browsers to make Google their default search engine which, of course, helped secure a reported 94 percent of the mobile search market for the company. Despite Judge Mehta’s many dismissals, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is just pleased Google was unable to stop the case altogether. Now all that remains to be seen is whether Google will receive a slap on the wrist or a pat on the back for its browser shenanigans.

Cynthia Murrell, August 15, 2023

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