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Doing An Ethics | The Cat Herder, Volume 3, Issue 47

Iron rule #1: Google is always seeking more data to slurp. Facial recognition vendors attempt a pivot
December 6 · Issue #111 · View online
The Cat Herder
Iron rule #1: Google is always seeking more data to slurp. Facial recognition vendors attempt a pivot, and what might the Sideshow Bob Rake Department be planning to do with its extremely dodgy database of faces?

According to Wikipedia Nintendo has shipped in excess of 68 million Switch units. That’s a nice extra chunk of personal data for Google’s machines to inhale.
Elsewhere in the Googleplex a leading ethics researcher was fired after, as someone put it on Twitter, “doing an ethics”. With a certain amount of reading between the lines, it seems Timnit Gebru was removed for writing a research paper that said ‘maybe we shouldn’t be doing this?’ and being unwilling to let the company spike publication of the paper.
But, says the introduction to the paper, “we ask whether enough thought has been put into the potential risks associated with developing them and strategies to mitigate these risks.”
We read the paper that forced Timnit Gebru out of Google. Here’s what it says | MIT Technology Review
Bonus fun fact: last April Google shut down its AI Ethics Board less than two weeks after it was launched.
New opportunities for surveillance tech vendors emerge.
Our analysis of 26 of the most popular employee monitoring companies revealed the following:
81% offer keystroke logging
61% provide Instant Messaging monitoring
65% send User Action Alerts
38% are capable of remote control takeover

Employee Surveillance Software Demand up 51% Since Start of Pandemic
But far from being a hiccup, Mr Moore argues the pandemic will ultimately accelerate the rollout of facial recognition, particularly for authentication purposes.
In October, his firm announced it had won a contract to install facial recognition access control systems at two US Air Force bases - a move designed specifically to reduce contact between people at the bases, for example, via touchpads and surfaces. Mr Moore thinks venues open to the public, including sports stadiums, will also turn to “contactless” identify verification.

Why Covid may mean more facial recognition tech - BBC News
As pointed out at the end of this piece, the second part of the Data Protection Commission’s investigation into the Public Services Card / MyGovID system is overdue. Until that’s published all we can do is continue to marvel at the Sideshow Bob Rake Department’s not-at-all-childish timewasting in court as it disputes the findings of the first part of the report and the seeming irregularities and peculiarities in its tender processes.
A company contracted by the Government to design and implement facial image matching software for the public services card had previously objected to a tender process for the manufacture of the public services card as being unfair.
Gemalto, a Dutch company and then world leader in the production of security cards and SIM technology with more than €3bn in turnover in 2017, secured the €383,000 contract for the design of the image-matching software in August 2018.
Public services card contractor objected to previous tender process
As this department is probably the public sector data controller which processes the largest volume of personal data in the state, we’d be very interested in knowing what amount of algorithmic decision-making the department has deployed to date, and what its future plans are. One for the to-do list for next year …
Algorithms now decide which children enter foster care, which patients receive medical care, which families get access to stable housing. Those of us with means can pass our lives unaware of any of this. But for low-income individuals, the rapid growth and adoption of automated decision-making systems has created a hidden web of interlocking traps.
The coming war on the hidden algorithms that trap people in poverty | MIT Technology Review
Oh yes we did
Oh yes we did
Fusus, which goes a step further than other surveillance systems by allowing police real-time access to home security systems, does not “offer or integrate with” facial recognition technology, Merchant said. But Fusus does work with other kinds of artificial intelligence-powered video analytics, including software that tracks people by their clothing, behavior and car, Merchant said.
Police in Jackson, Mississippi, want access to live home security video, alarming privacy advocates
The DPC put out a statement clarifying the two judicial reviews which are underway in the wake of the CJEU Schrems II decision earlier in the year. This appears to have been prompted by some people’s unhappiness with the result of them having initiated a procedure turning out to be the following of said procedure ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
According to the ICO has not yet managed to collect 68% of the fines it has issued since January 2019. See below for another mention of the enforcement gap.
  • “The high level message from the Commission now is that ‘GDPR enforcement is vital for democracy. But it’s national data supervisors which are responsibility for enforcement. So unless that enforcement gap can be closed it’s not clear how the Commission’s action plan can fully deliver the hoped for democratic resilience. Media literacy is a worthy goal but a long slow road vs the real-time potency of big-data fuelled adtech tools.” Natasha Lomas, from ‘Europe to put forward rules for political ads transparency and beef up its disinformation code next year’ for Techcrunch.
  • “Google’s acquisition of Fitbit would give the company access to a vast new dataset containing the intimate, biometric data of almost 30 million people. It raises alarm bells that this data could be cross-matched with the gargantuan amount of data that Google already has about its users from its dominance across a whole range of services (Search, Ads, Android, Gmail, YouTube, Pay and Maps to name a few). The scale of the data Google holds means that you don’t have to be a Fitbit user to feel concerned about what the deal will mean for you.” Amnesty International’s director of technology Tanya O'Carroll in ‘Google, Fitbit and a big decision for EU Commission’ for the EU Observer.
  • “We said yes to more efficient marketing. What we got was a system of mass surveillance that produces an enormous amount of waste and shows no evidence of being better than what we had in a pre-programmatic world.” From ‘Yes, the adtech bubble is going to burst anytime now’ in the BRANDED newsletter by Nandini Jammi and Claire Atkin.

Endnotes & Credits
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