The coronavirus is strengthening the case for free internet access

The rise of social-distancing and self-isolation spawned by the coronavirus has reignited calls to make free internet access to be considered as a human right and universal entitlement. Among the proponents is Citizens Online, a charity that campaigns against digital exclusion, which has urged the UK government to make the internet free for everyone in the country during the pandemic. The organization argues that older people were already more likely to experience digital inequality prior to the outbreak. More than a third of people over 65 and more than half of those over 75 had either never used the internet…
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ACLU sues US government over its use of facial recognition at airports

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the US government over its failure to reveal details about the use of facial recognition at airports. On Thursday, the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to order a range of federal agencies to hand over their records about the tech’s usage at airports. The lawsuit centers on concerns that the government can use facial recognition to track our movements, and has refused to provide details about what it’s doing with the tech. To find out more, the ACLU is seeking details on the…
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White House asks Silicon Valley for AI solutions to coronavirus

White House officials called on the tech sector to help combat the coronavirus with AI in a meeting with Silicon Valley heavyweights on Wednesday. During the teleconference, US Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios previewed a new database of coronavirus-related literature that the government plans to release in the coming days, and challenged the tech community to use AI to find insights from the data. In a statement, Kratsios said: Cutting edge technology companies and major online platforms will play a critical role in this all-hands-on-deck effort. Today’s meeting outlined an initial path forward and we intend to continue this important conversation.…
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Vatican’s AI ethics plan lacks the legal restrictions it needs to be effective

Microsoft and IBM have added a divine touch to their AI ethics efforts by signing a new pledge endorsed by his holiness the Pope. The so-called “Rome Call for AI Ethics” promises to develop technologies that protect the planet and all its people by honoring six principles: transparency, inclusion, responsibility, impartiality, reliability, and security and privacy. These noble values are already common in corporate AI ethics initiatives, including Microsoft’s own. But critics argue that these programs are designed to avoid government regulation by showing that tech giants can police themselves through volunteering to follow codes of practice that they’ve come up with themselves. The…
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Eric Schmidt says big tech needs government help to keep up with China

Eric Schmidt has called on the US government to “get back in the game in a serious way” so that the country can maintain its lead over China in the AI arms race. In an op-ed for the New York Times, the former CEO of Google argued that Americans had put “too much faith in the private sector” to drive technological advances — giving China the chance to catch up. Schmidt said his time as chairman of both the National Security Commission on AI and the Defense Innovation Board had shown him how this would have “profound ramifications for our…
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Scientists propose new regulatory framework to make AI safer

Scientists from Imperial College London have proposed a new regulatory framework for assessing the impact of AI, called the Human Impact Assessment for Technology (HIAT). The researchers believe the HIAT could identify the ethical, psychological and social risks of technological progress, which are already being exposed in a growing range of applications, from voter manipulation to algorithmic sentencing. They based their idea on the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), which has been used to evaluate the environmental effects of proposed developments for 50 years. Like environmental impact, the human impact of AI is difficult to model and often produces unforeseen results. Software is often easy to…
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Pentagon unveils toothless ethical principles for using AI in war

The Pentagon has announced five ethical principles for the use of AI by the US military. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the guidelines would accelerate the adoption of lawful and ethical uses of the technology by both combat and non-combat operations, but the hazy proposals contain little detail about how they’ll be applied to the battlefield. The first principle calls for servicepeople to “exercise appropriate levels of judgment and care” when using AI systems, a requirement that is open to numerous interpretations. It sets the tone for the ambiguous language that follows throughout the guidelines. The Department of Defense (DOD) states that all AI capabilities…
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UK police are using AI to predict who could become violent criminals

Police in the UK are using AI to identify future criminals in a pilot of a system that the government wants to roll out nationwide. The system uses a machine learning algorithm to predict which low-level offenders on a database of 200,000 criminals are likely to commit “high harm” crimes in the future. Risk scoring is already used operationally to assess the probability of individuals reoffending. The new system “seeks to do so in a far more rigorous and reliable way,” reads the minutes from a 2019 meeting of the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner’s Ethics Committee. The model is…
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Leak shows EU police aim to create an international facial recognition database

EU police forces plan to build a network of national police facial recognition databases that spans across every member state, according to internal documents obtained by The Intercept. The report from national police forces of 10 EU member states, led by Austria, called for new EU legislation that would enable this interconnected database to be created “as quickly as possible.” The document was circulated among officials last November. The Intercept reports that preparatory work on the legislation is already underway. The report was produced as part of discussions to add facial images to the remit of the Prüm Convention, which currently…
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What if we fuck up the Moon too?

US Vice President Mike Pence yesterday gave a speech at NASA’s Langley research center in Virginia where he told employees that President Donald Trump was committed to putting humans back on the Moon by 2024 through “any means necessary.” We’re not sure exactly what that means. It was likely intended to be an inspirational quip indicating that the employees of NASA have the President‘s full support. But it feels a bit ominous coming from the administration that had to be convinced that we should figure out how to safely get humans back to the Moon before we shoot them off…
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