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All this and much more is discussed in the latest edition of the award-winning “Smashing Security” podcast by computer security veterans Graham Cluley and Carole Theriault.
Microsoft asks Congress to regulate facial recognition technology to protect human rights
Facial recognition technology is commonly used as a method of authentication across devices and organizations. While the technology that recognizes a person’s face from a photo or through a camera offers a wealth of uses, it at the same time can be abused too.
Citing fears of misuse, Microsoft on Friday called upon U.S. Congress to regulate the use of facial recognition technology to protect human rights like privacy and freedom of expression. The Seattle-based software giant argued that regulation is necessary as it would lay down laws for governing acceptable uses of facial technology by the U.S. government and protect citizens against constant surveillance that the technology could facilitate.
While a lot of activist groups and smaller companies in the past have requested for similar regulation to avoid abuse of the tech, Microsoft is the first tech giant to do so.
Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, wrote in a blog post, “The only effective way to manage the use of technology by a government is for the government proactively to manage this use itself. If there are concerns about how a technology will be deployed more broadly across society, the only way to regulate this broad use is for the government to do so. This in fact is what we believe is needed today – a government initiative to regulate the proper use of facial recognition technology, informed first by a bipartisan and expert commission.”
To start with, Mr. Smith cited a number of positives that the technology can bring. “Imagine finding a young missing child by recognizing her as she is being walked down the street. Imagine helping the police to identify a terrorist bent on destruction as he walks into the arena where you’re attending a sporting event. Imagine a smartphone camera and app that tells a person who is blind the name of the individual who has just walked into a room to join a meeting.”
However, he also pointed the negatives of the facial recognition technology that raises significant human rights and privacy concerns.
“Imagine a government tracking everywhere you walked over the past month without your permission or knowledge. Imagine a database of everyone who attended a political rally that constitutes the very essence of free speech. Imagine the stores of a shopping mall using facial recognition to share information with each other about each shelf that you browse and product you buy, without asking you first. This has long been the stuff of science fiction and popular movies – like “Minority Report,” “Enemy of the State” and even “1984” – but now it’s on the verge of becoming possible,” he added.
Basically, Mr. Smith pointed that while the technology can be used for good, it can also be abused.
“We live in a nation of laws, and the government needs to play an important role in regulating facial-recognition technology,” Smith wrote, noting that “a world with vigorous regulation of products that are useful but potentially troubling is better than a world devoid of legal standards.”
“It may seem unusual for a company to ask for government regulation of its products, but there are many markets where thoughtful regulation contributes to a healthier dynamic for consumers and producers alike,” Mr. Smith said.
“It seems especially important to pursue thoughtful government regulation of facial recognition technology, given its broad societal ramifications and potential for abuse.”
According to Mr. Smith, fears about misuse prompted Microsoft to “move deliberately” with facial recognition consulting or contracting.
“This has led us to turn down some customer requests for deployments of this service where we’ve concluded that there are greater human rights risks,” he added.
Mr. Smith calls on governments to create a “common regulatory” framework for facial recognition and potentially create standards so that companies themselves wouldn’t have to be self-regulate. While acknowledging that tech companies have a role to play, it needs governments to enact regulations, as not all companies are likely to put in place their own ethics rules, mainly in a competitive environment.
Simultaneously, Microsoft will be talking with customers, academics and human rights groups that deal with facial recognition, Mr. Smith said.
“This work will take up to a few months, but we’re committed to completing it expeditiously,” he wrote.
Microsoft also used this blog post as an opportunity to defend the company’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that caused a huge public outcry, saying that it doesn’t involve face recognition as thought by many. It instead involves “legacy email, calendar, messaging and document management workloads.”
Mr. Smith said, “These issues are not going to go away. Facial recognition is the technology of the moment, but it’s apparent that other new technologies will raise similar issues in the future. This makes it even more important that we use this moment to get the direction right.”
The post Microsoft wants the government to regulate use of facial recognition technology appeared first on TechWorm.
We all hear about privacy, but do we really understand what this means? According to privacy law expert Robert B. Standler, privacy is “the expectation that confidential personal information disclosed in a private place will not be disclosed to third parties when that disclosure would cause either embarrassment or emotional distress to a person of reasonable sensitivities.”
It’s important to remember that privacy is about so much more than money and advertisements — it ties directly to who we are as individuals and citizens.
What Is the Price of Convenience?
Most users willingly volunteer personal information to online apps and services because they believe they have nothing to hide and nothing to lose.
When I hear this reasoning, it reminds me of stories from World War II in which soldiers sat on the sideline when the enemy was not actively pursuing them. When the enemy did come, nobody was left to protect the soldiers who waited around. That’s why it’s essential for all users to take a stand on data privacy — even if they’re not personally affected at this very moment.
Some folks are happy to disclose their personal information because it makes their lives easier. I recently spoke to a chief information security officer (CISO) and privacy officer at a major unified communications company who told me about an employee who willingly submitted personal data to a retail company because it streamlined the online shopping experience and delivered ads that were targeted to his or her interests.
This behavior is all too common today. Let’s dive deeper into some key reasons why privacy should be top of mind for all users — even those who think they have nothing to hide.
How Do Large Companies Use Personal Data?
There is an ongoing, concerted effort by the largest technology companies in the world to gather, consume, sell, distribute and use as much personal information about their customers as possible. Some organizations even market social media monitoring tools designed to help law enforcement and authoritarian regimes identify protesters and dissidents.
Many of these online services are free to users, and advertising is one of their primary sources of revenue. Advertisers want high returns per click, and the best way to ensure high conversion rates is to directly target ads to users based on their interests, habits and needs.
Many users knowingly or unknowingly provide critical personal information to these companies. In fact, something as simple as clicking “like” on a friend’s social media post may lead to new ads for dog food.
These services track, log and store all user activity and share the data with their advertising partners. Most users don’t understand what they really give up when technology firms consume and abuse their personal data.
Advanced Technologies Put Personal Data in the Wrong Hands
Many DNA and genomics-analysis services collect incredibly detailed personal information about customers who provide a saliva-generated DNA sample.
On the surface, it’s easy to see the benefit of submitting biological data to these companies — customers get detailed reports about their ancestry and information about potential health risks based on their genome. However, it’s important to remember that when users volunteer data about their DNA, they are also surrendering personal information about their relatives.
Biometrics, facial recognition and armed drones present additional data-privacy challenges. Governments around the world have begun using drones for policing and crowd control, and even the state of North Dakota passed a law in 2015 permitting law enforcement to arm drones with nonlethal weapons.
Facial recognition software can also be used for positive identification, which is why travelers must remove their sunglasses and hats when they go through immigration control. Law enforcement agencies recently started using drones with facial recognition software to identify “potential troublemakers” and track down known criminals.
In the U.S., we are innocent until proven guilty. That’s why the prospect of authorities using technology to identify potential criminals should concern us all — even those who don’t consider privacy to be an important issue in our daily lives.
Who Is Responsible for Data Privacy?
Research has shown that six in 10 boards consider cybersecurity risk to be an IT problem. While it’s true that technology can go a long way toward helping organizations protect their sensitive data, the real key to data privacy is ongoing and companywide education.
According to Javelin Strategy & Research, identity theft cost 16.7 million victims $16.8 billion in the U.S. last year. Sadly, this has not been enough to push people toward more secure behavior. Since global regulations and company policies often fall short of protecting data privacy, it’s more important than ever to understand how our personal information affects us as consumers, individuals and citizens.
How to Protect Personal Information
The data privacy prognosis is not all doom and gloom. We can all take steps to improve our personal security and send a strong message to governments that we need more effective regulations.
The first step is to lock down your social media accounts to limit the amount of personal information that is publicly available on these sites. Next, find your local representatives and senators online and sign up to receive email bulletins and alerts. While data security is a global issue, it’s important to keep tabs on local legislation to ensure that law enforcement and other public agencies aren’t misusing technology to violate citizens’ privacy.
Lastly, don’t live in a bubble: Even if you’re willing to surrender your data privacy to social media and retail marketers, it’s important to understand the role privacy plays in day-to-day life and society at large. Consider the implications to your friends and family. No one lives alone — we’re all part of communities, and we must act accordingly.
The post Think You’ve Got Nothing to Hide? Think Again — Why Data Privacy Affects Us All appeared first on Security Intelligence.