Alert: #Iran’s largest mobile network operators including MCI, Rightel and IranCell have fallen offline as of 6:00 pm (14:30 UTC) amid worsening internet shutdowns as protests intensify #IranProtests

Microsoft hires Eric Holder to audit AnyVision over use of facial recognition on Palestinians

Microsoft has hired former United States Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct an audit of facial recognition company AnyVision to determine whether it complies with Microsoft’s ethical principles on how the biometric surveillance technology should be used.

Microsoft’s venture capital arm, M12, invested in AnyVision as part of a $74 million Series A funding round in June. Under the terms of the deal, Microsoft stipulated that AnyVision should comply with its six ethical principles to guide its facial recognition work: fairness, transparency, accountability, nondiscrimination, notice and consent, and lawful surveillance.

The last principle states, “We will advocate for safeguards for people’s democratic freedoms in law enforcement surveillance scenarios and will not deploy facial recognition technology in scenarios that we believe will put these freedoms at risk.”

AnyVision, headquartered in Israel, sells an “advanced tactical surveillance” software system, Better Tomorrow. It lets customers identify individuals and objects in any live camera feed, such as a security camera or smartphone, and then track targets as they move between different feeds.

NBC News reported in October that according to five sources familiar with the matter, AnyVision’s technology has powered a secret military surveillance project that has monitored Palestinians in the West Bank. The project was so successful that AnyVision won Israel’s top defense price in 2018 for preventing “hundreds of terror attacks” using “large amounts of data.”

Human rights activist argued that AnyVision’s work monitoring Palestinians in the West Bank was incompatible with its public statements about ethical standards for facial recognition technology.

“AnyVision’s facial recognition technology is not being used for surveillance in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, and AnyVision would not allow its technology to be used for that purpose,” said AnyVision in a statement issued to NBC News last month.

CONTINUE @ CNBC

Startpage Search owner changes raise serious questions

Startpage announced on September 28, 2019 on the official Startpage blog that Privacy One Group Ltd has made an investment in Startpage.com. The announcement revealed that the relationship between the two groups started in January 2019 and that Startpage will continue to deliver “quality, unbiased search results while respecting online privacy and never storing consumer data” going forward.

The Internet has little information about Privacy One Group Ltd.  A Limited companies search returns no hits and most information that is available online has been published after the Startpage announcement.

startpage privacy one group

Startpage revealed in the press release that Privacy One Group Ltd is owned by System1; that fact and the lack of information surrounding Privacy One Group Ltd caused uncertainty and confusion.

A search for System1 returns more information. The company operates out of London and it becomes clear quickly that it is an advertising company.

At System1 we use behavioural and marketing science to help brands and marketers achieve profitable growth with zero waste. Our systems produce outcomes, not just insights, and our solutions are based in the fast and easy decisions people make every day.

To summarize: an advertising company (System1) has a “separate operating unit” that focuses on user privacy (Privacy One Group) that acquired a stake (how much) of the privacy focused search engine Startpage.

It is clear that such a scenario would raise questions. What is Privacy One Group Ltd all about? How much control do the original owners of Startpage still have over the company and the decision making processes? Does System1 benefit in any way?

These questions have not been answered.

Privacytools.io delisted Startpage after trying to get answers; this means that the service no longer recommends Startpage. PrivacyTools notes in the announcement that it has no evidence of Startpage violating its privacy policies and that the decision was based on a number of unanswered questions and Startpage’s evasive behavior in regards to these questions.

In particular, PrivacyTools wants to know:

  • The percentage of stakes that System1 / Privacy One Group Ltd acquired from Surfboard Holding B.V.
  • The current percentage of ownership by System1.
  • Information about Privacy One Group Ltd including its corporate structure, country of registration and operation.
  • Data flow diagrams to indicate which data flows to outside organizations.

CONTINUE @ GH HACKS

1 in 5 CEOs are psychopaths…

“For psychopaths,  it [corporate success] is a game and they don’t mind if they violate morals. It is about getting where they want in the company and having dominance over others.”

The global financial crisis in 2008 has prompted researchers to study workplace traits that may have allowed a corporate culture in which unethical behaviour was able to flourish.

Mr Brooks’s research, conducted with a colleague from Australia’s Bond University and a researcher from the University of San Diego, was based on a study of corporate professionals in the supply chain management industry across the US.

The findings, presented on Tuesday at the Australian Psychological Society Congress in Melbourne, are due to be published in the European Journal of Psychology.

The researchers have been examining ways to help employers screen for potential psychopaths.

“We hope to implement our screening tool in businesses so that there’s an adequate assessment to hopefully identify this problem – to stop people sneaking through into positions in the business that can become very costly,” Mr Brooks said.

CONTINUE @ TELEGRAPH

Facial-recognition protesters put smartphones on their heads to scan the faces of 13,000 Washington, DC, inhabitants

Activists from Fight for the Future mounted the protest in Washington, DC, on Thursday.

Three protesters wearing white jumpsuits bearing signs saying “Facial Recognition in Progress” scanned the faces of passersby using smartphones mounted on their heads. They used Amazon’s commercially available facial-recognition software, called Rekognition.

The protesters were making the point that facial recognition remained unregulated in the US. Private companies and the US government are increasingly adopting the technology, prompting fears of surveillance creep.

The protesters focused on the halls of Congress as well as busy metro stops, and they were looking in particular for members of Congress, journalists, and Amazon lobbyists, according to a press release.

The protest was livestreamed, and a tally was kept of how many people they scanned. The final count was 13,740, including 25 lobbyists, seven journalists, and one congressman, Democratic Rep. Mark DeSaulnier of California.

The website where the protest was livestreamed allows people to upload their picture to check whether they were among the 13,740 faces scanned. Fight for the Future says it will delete all the photos and data after two weeks.

“This should probably be illegal, but until Congress takes action to ban facial-recognition surveillance, it’s terrifyingly easy for anyone — a government agent, a corporation, or just a creepy stalker — to conduct biometric monitoring and violate basic rights at a massive scale,” Fight for the Future’s deputy director, Evan Greer, said in a statement. “We did this to make a point.”

CONTINUE @ BI

How hackers could use Wi-Fi to track you inside your home

As connected devices such as voice assistants, security cameras, and smart appliances grow in popularity, the homes and offices where they are installed become increasingly filled with a dense web of Wi-Fi signals.

new study from University of Chicago and University of California, Santa Barbara researchers finds that external attackers can use inexpensive technology to turn these ambient signals into motion detectors, monitoring activity inside a building without being detected themselves.

With only a small, commercially available Wi-Fi receiver, an attacker from outside the target site can measure the strength of signals emitted from connected devices and monitor a site remotely for motion, sensing whether a room is occupied. The research, led by leading UChicago computer scientists Heather Zheng and Ben Zhao, reveals the technique of these attacks as well as potential defenses.

“It’s what we call a silent surveillance attack,” said Zheng, a Neubauer Professor of Computer Science at the University of Chicago and expert on networking, security and wireless technologies. “It’s not just about privacy, it’s more about physical security protection. By just listening to existing Wi-Fi signals, someone will be able to see through the wall and detect whether there’s activity or where there’s a human, even without knowing the location of the devices. They can essentially do a monitoring surveillance of many locations. That’s very dangerous.”

The research builds upon earlier findings that exposed the ability to “see through walls” using Wi-Fi signals. However, previous methods detected indoor activity by sending signals into the building and measuring how they are reflected back to a receiver, a method that would be easy to detect and defend against. The new approach requires only “passive listening” to a building’s existing Wi-Fi signals, does not need to transmit any signals or break encryption, and grows more accurate when more connected devices are present, raising significant security concerns.

CONTINUE @ CHICAGO.EDU

Researchers develop an AI system with near-perfect seizure prediction

We’ve seen a smart arm bracelet that can predict nightly seizures, but now a pair of researchers have created something even more promising: an AI system that can predict epileptic seizures with 99.6-percent accuracy. Even better, it can do so up to an hour before they occur. As IEEE Spectrum reports, that gives people enough time to prepare for the attack by taking medication. Around 50 million people around the world currently have epilepsy, according to the World Health Organization, and 70 percent of those patients can control their seizures with medication.

While it’s not a complete fix, the new AI system, developed by Hisham Daoud and Magdy Bayoumi of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, is a major leap forward from existing prediction methods.

CONTINUE @ ENGADGET

Trump asked Tokyo for $8 billion to keep U.S. troops in Japan

U.S. President Donald Trump has asked Japan to quadruple annual payments for U.S. forces stationed there to around $8 billion, Foreign Policy reported, part of Washington’s efforts to press its allies to increase their defense spending.

The current agreement that covers the 54,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan expires in March 2021.

The demand was made to Japanese officials during a trip to the region in July by John Bolton, at that time Trump’s national security adviser, and Matt Pottinger, who was then the Asia director for the National Security Council, the U.S. global affairs magazine said, citing unidentified former U.S. officials.

A Japanese foreign ministry spokesman said the report was incorrect and no U.S.-Japan negotiations on a new agreement have taken place.

CONTINUE @ REUTERS

More than 60% of Americans think it’s impossible to go through daily life without being tracked by companies or the government

More than 60% of Americans think it’s impossible to go through daily life without being tracked by companies or the government, according to a new Pew Research study. The results provide important context on the long-running question of how much Americans really care about privacy.

Read the room: It’s not just that Americans (correctly) think companies are collecting their data. They don’t like it. About 69% of Americans are skeptical that companies will use their private information in a way they’re comfortable with, while 79% don’t believe that companies will come clean if they misuse the information.

When it comes to who they trust, there are differences by race. About 73% of black Americans, for instance, are at least a little worried about what law enforcement knows about them, compared with 56% of white Americans. But among all respondents, more than 80% were concerned about what social-media sites and advertisers might know.

Despite these concerns, more than 80% of Americans feel they have no control over how their information is collected.

The small print: Very few people read privacy policies, the survey shows. That’s understandable. A review of 150 policies from major websites found that the average one takes about 18 minutes to read and requires at least a college-level reading ability. Few people have time for that—and even if they did, most people are forced to agree anyway if they really need the service.

How did we get here? It’s understandable that Americans are concerned. Ever since the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal, there has been a constant parade of stories about how data is collected and monitored. Apps know our location and don’t keep it secret.

CONTINUE @ MIT

Party City’s October sales a ‘disaster’ with Halloween stores down 21%

  • Party City reported a “disappointing” third quarter on Thursday, in the words of CEO James Harrison. Revenue was down 2.3% year over year, to $540.2 million, and retail sales down 1.7%. Comp sales were down 2.6% in Q3, which ended Sept. 30.
  • Worse, the party retailer reported in the same press release that its October sales — with the all-important Halloween holiday — fell 7% to $432.6 million, while retail sales fell 8%. Comps were down 4.9% for the month despite a 15.3% increase in e-commerce. Halloween City sales per store decreased 20.8% from the prior year.
  • The company’s earnings announcement, which included reduced sales and profit estimates for the year, led to a sell off of Party City stock, with share prices down by as much as 67% since Wednesday. Sustained declines throughout the year in the company’s market cap — a measure of its total value on the stock market — led the company to post a $259.1 million write-off in goodwill during Q3.

Dive Insight:

Debtwire retail analyst Philip Emma described the market’s perception of Party City’s performance as “a disaster” in an emailed client note. Along with the precipitous drop-off in stock price, market prices for the company’s debt are also “down substantially,” Emma noted.

CONTINUE @ RETAIL DIVE

Doomed: Millennial Suing His Pension Fund For Not Being “Green” Enough

Bored with just plain old protests and interrupting political events to force their climate change virtue signaling onto the world, environmentalists are now using the legal system to harass those who don’t agree with their world view or aren’t “green” enough for their liking.

That’s what Mark McVeigh, a 24 year old environmental scientist from Australia has done: he is suing the $57 pension fund he is invested in with his retirement savings for “not adequately disclosing or assessing the impact of climate change on its investments,” according to Bloomberg.

The case will determine whether or not funds are in breach of fiduciary duties by failing to make investments that mitigate climate change.

Prior to filing the suit, McVeigh had asked Retail Employees Superannuation Trust, his pension fund, how it was “ensuring his savings were future proofed against rising world temperatures”. He didn’t like the answer he was given, so now he is suing.

McVeigh said:

 “I see climate change as a huge risk that dwarfs a lot of other things — it’s such a big physical impact on the planet, and the economy.”

The fund says that climate change is one of the variety of factors it has to consider when investing on behalf of its 2 million members. Australia’s pension pool, which stands at about $2.9 trillion, is watching the case closely to see if the outcome will make it more difficult for funds to meet their already legislated minimum return targets.

Ian Patrick, chief investment officer at Sunsuper Pty, which manages A$70 billion, said: “Looking after the best financial interests of our members requires us to be conscious of the risks, but not exclude a whole segment of the economy that’s going to be very meaningful for a period of time. Right now, the interests of our members — the sole purpose of super — is what wins out.”

Other firms are also starting to act accordingly. One study by State Street Global Advisors showed that “fiduciary duty is one of the main ‘push factors’ for financial institutions to adopt environmental, social and governance principles.”

Other funds in Australia have employed “responsible investment teams” to try and mix environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors into their portfolios. They have joined global investor initiatives like United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment and have used their stakes in large companies to advocate for change.

Remember the days when you used to just choose your own investments, before the government told you what you had to invest in?

Mary Delahunty, head of impact at HESTA, said: “As soon as you remove capital, they don’t have to have a conversation with you anymore.”

Pension funds are also trying to mitigate climate risk using debt. Some funds have written loans to gas companies in the Permian Basin instead of taking equity stakes and bearing the risk of being junior on the capital structure.

Patrick continued: “Those loans deliver double-digit returns over periods of up to 10 years while the world shifts to a cleaner energy mix. It’s why we prefer debt and why we think about the tenor of that debt quite deeply. Relative to holding long-term equity in an energy asset, that addresses the risk quite substantially.”

Activism is still on the rise and banks are still shying away from investing in environmentally damaging projects, but the Australian government has moved in the other direction. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is instead “considering new laws to prevent activists like environmental lobby group Market Forces from stymieing commercial decisions and threatening economic growth.”

REST recently appointed a responsible investment manager and in June and took control of a wind farm in Western Australia.

“Specific climate-related issues which we engage with our investment managers on include carbon foot printing, stranded assets, climate-related scenario analysis and exposure to lower carbon assets,” a REST spokesperson said.

Michael Gerrard, a professor of environmental, climate change and energy law at Colombia University, said: “Success in litigation breeds imitation, so if McVeigh wins, people will take a close look. People are so desperate at the failure of governments to act adequately on climate change that they’re looking for litigation targets.”

The McVeigh case makes its way to court on November 22 for a preliminary hearing.

SOURCE: ZERO HEDGE

‘I live on the street now’: how Americans fall into medical bankruptcy

It’s been over a dozen years since Susanne LeClair of West Palm Beach, Florida was first diagnosed with cancer and she’s been fighting ever since. Now she, like many other Americans facing life-threatening illness, is bankrupt despite having health insurance.

Before her first cancer-related surgery, LeClair was told by the hospital they accepted her employer-based health insurance.

“I paid my $300 copay. After the surgery, I started receiving all these invoices and came to find out the only thing covered was my bed because the hospital was out of network,” said LeClair. “My bills were hundreds of thousands of dollars, so I had no choice but to file bankruptcy.”

LeClair is on the verge of having to file for bankruptcy a second time due to the mounting medical debt she has accrued for additional cancer-related surgeries, regular appointments, medications and supplies related to her recovery, despite having health insurance and paying as much as she can out of pocket for copays, deductibles and premiums to maintain insurance.

“My medical bills are at $52,000. I’ve done everything from credit cards to consolidation loans, I just keep simply paying one credit card with another interest-free one until I can pay the next one,” LeClair added. “It’s the side of cancer most people don’t understand or know about and it’s never-ending. It just keeps adding up and adding up and before you know it you’re back in debt that you can’t believe again.”

Bankruptcy can also make it difficult to find employment given that many employers will disqualify a candidate with a bankruptcy filing found from a background check.

According to a study published in February 2019, about 530,000 bankruptcies filed annually are because of debt accrued due to a medical illness. The study found that even the Obama administration’s landmark Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare) has failed to change the proportion of bankruptcies caused by medical debts, with poor health insurance cited as one of the main culprits.

Republicans and Democrats are currently at loggerheads over Trump administration plans to further weaken Obamacare by making it easier for states to opt out of certain requirements and offer cheaper plans that could further exacerbate the situation. And health insurance has emerged as one of the signature issues of the 2020 election, and the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination with senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren promising a total overhaul and Joe Biden and others pledging milder reforms. What all sides admit is that the current system is broken.

CONTINUE @ THE GUARDIAN

PayPal abruptly cuts off Pornhub…

Pornhub said on Wednesday that PayPal would no longer support payments to Pornhub performers (via Vice). In a blog post, Pornhub said that it was “devastated” by the decision, which cuts off the primary way it pays “over a hundred thousand performers.”

In a statement given to Vice, PayPal said that the company discovered that “Pornhub has made certain business payments through PayPal without seeking our permission. We have taken action to stop these transactions from occurring.” PayPal’s acceptable use policy also forbids “certain sexually oriented materials or services,” which, as Vice points out, is murky enough phrasing to give PayPal leeway to make decisions like this.

Pornhub tells The Verge that the decision affects performers who are part of Pornhub’s Model Program, which lets individuals upload their own videos and earn advertising revenue from those videos. The company is pointing performers toward its other payment options including check, direct deposit, the Paxum e-wallet, and the Verge cryptocurrency (no relation to The Verge). Pornhub tells us that it will “continue to add more sex worker-friendly” ways to get paid and that it’s exploring more crypto options as well.

It seems like a reach to expect the hundred thousand performers to switch over to a single type of cryptocurrency for their paychecks, though, and direct deposit may also be dicey for some: a number of banks refuse to serve sex workers, according to this list compiled by Survivors Against SESTA. Pornhub explained last year that PayPal was a key alternative to banks: “PayPal specifically is a method of payment that many people, who may not have the luxury of a bank account, rely on to get paid,” the company wrote.

CONTINUE @ THE VERGE

Merry Christmas: Sears is laying off hundreds of corporate employees after announcing 96 store closings

Sears is laying off hundreds of corporate workers less than a week after announcing a new round of store closures, the company confirmed to Business Insider.

The layoffs impacted workers at Sears’ headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, as well as the company’s offices in San Francisco. The total number of laid-off employees is fewer than 300, according to a source with direct knowledge of the staffing changes.

Some employees were informed of the layoffs in a group meeting.

At the company’s San Francisco office, about two dozen employees were called into a room on Wednesday, where representatives announced that they would all lose their jobs, according to someone who attended the meeting and requested anonymity.

“It was a group layoff,” this person said. “There was a heartfelt apology, but that was it. … It was very abrupt, very quick.”

No individual meetings were held because “everyone was in the same boat,” this person said.

Sears’ parent company, Transformco, which also owns Kmart stores, confirmed the layoffs in a statement to Business Insider.

CONTINUE @ BI