Google has launched a global advisory council to offer guidance on ethical issues relating to artificial intelligence, automation and related technologies.
The panel was announced at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Digital, a conference organised by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The panel, consisting of eight people, will consider some of Google’s most complex challenges.
Google has come under intense criticism – internally and externally – over how it plans to use emerging technologies. In June 2018 the company said it would not renew a contract it had with the Pentagon to develop AI technology to control drones. Project Maven, as it was known, was unpopular among Google’s staff, and prompted some resignations. In response, Google published a set of AI “principles” it said it would abide by. They included pledges to be “socially beneficial’ and “accountable to people”.
The Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) will meet for the first time in April. In a blog post, Google’s head of global affairs, Kent Walker, said there would be three further meetings in 2019.
It will discuss recommendations about how to use technologies such as facial recognition. Last year, Google’s then-head of cloud computing, Diane Greene, described facial recognition tech as having “inherent bias” due to a lack of diverse data.
In a highly-cited thesis entitled Robots Should Be Slaves, Ms Bryson argued against the trend of treating robots like people.
“In humanising them,” she wrote, “we not only further dehumanise real people, but also encourage poor human decision making in the allocation of resources and responsibility.”
In 2018 she argued that complexity should not be used as an excuse to not properly inform the public of how AI systems operate.
“When a system using AI causes damage, we need to know we can hold the human beings behind that system to account.”
www.bbc.co.uk/technews (26th March 2019)
Twitter has issued a warning to users to ignore a hoax suggesting an alternative colour scheme will appear if they change their birth year to 2007. Instead users who fall for the scam will be locked out of their accounts because Twitter prohibits anyone under the age of 13 from using the site.
A spokesman for Twitter declined to confirm how many people have succumbed to the hoax so far. The hoax has been circulating for a few days, with one tweet promoting it having received nearly 20,000 retweets since it was posted on Monday. Many appear to have been taken in by the hoax, with some expressing dismay at having lost access to their accounts.
In another recent scam, verified Twitter accounts were taken over by hackers and used to spread fake links offering free Bitcoin to users.
www.bbc.co.uk/technews (27th March 2019)
According to Facebook, malicious quiz apps were used to harvest thousands of users’ profile data. Anyone who wants to take the quizzes are asked to install browser extensions, which then lift data ranging from names and profile pictures to private lists of friends. Facebook reported that these were installed about 63,000 times between 2016 and October 2018.
The quizzes, with titles such as ‘What does your eye colour say about you?’ and ‘Do people love you for your intelligence or your beauty?’, gained access to this information via the Facebook Login system – which enables connections between third party apps and Facebook profiles. While the system is intended to verify that such connections are secure, in this case, Facebook says users were falsely told the app would retrieve only a limited amount of public data from their profiles.
www.bbc.co.uk/technews (11th March 2019)
The team behind the pocket-sized Raspberry Pi computer is opening its first high street store in the city it was invented – Cambridge. The firm will also offer a new starter kit of parts. Ebden Upton, the founder, hopes the shop will attract customers who are ‘curious’ about the brand.
The store will offer merchandise and advice on the use of the computer which measures 3.4 inches by 2.1 inches and is designed to encourage people to try coding and programming. The computer was the brainchild of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, established by a group of Cambridge scientists in 2006 and launched in 2012. The Raspberry Pi resembles a motherboard with ports and chips exposed, used principally as an educational tool for programming. It has now sold 25 million units globally and remains the best selling British computer.
www.bbc.co.uk/technews (7th February 2019)
The European Commission has ordered the recall of a children’s smartwatch because it leaves them open to being contacted and located by attackers. The Commission said that the Enox Safe-Kid-One device posed a serious risk as data sent to and from the watch was unencrypted allowing data to be easily taken and changed. The recall is believed to be the first issued because a product does not protect user data.
‘A malicious user can send commands to any watch making it call another number of his choosing, can communicate with the child wearing the device or locate the child through GPS,’ wrote the Commission in its alert notice.
Enox has said that the decision was excessive. Ole Anton Bieltvedt, the founder of Enox, said that the watch had passed tests carried out by German regulators last year allowing it to be sold. The version the Commission tested was no longer on sale, he added.
www.bbc.co.uk/technews (5th February 2019)
WhatsApp is limiting all its members to forwarding any single message up to five times in an effort to tackle the spread of false information on the platform. This policy was introduced in India six months ago after a number of mob lynchings that were blamed on fake reports spread via the service.
WhatsApp announced the decision at an event in Jakarta, Indonesia. ‘ This will keep WhatsApp focused on private messaging with close contacts. The forward limit will significantly reduce forwarded messages around the world.’
Users could previously forward messages up to twenty times and there can be up to 256 users enrolled in a WhatsApp group. This meant that a single user could forward a message to up to 5,120 people, with the changes this figure is now 1,280. There is nothing, however, to stop those on the receiving end each forwarding the message up to five times themselves.
The restriction comes at a time WhatsApp and Facebook’s other services are under scrutiny for their role in the spread of propaganda and other untruths online. Last week, Facebook announced it had removed 500 pages and accounts allegedly involved in peddling fake news in Central Europe, Ukraine and other Eastern European nations. It also recently announced that it had employed a UK-fact-checking service to flag content on its main platform. However, the use of end-to-end encryption by WhatsApp means its messages can only be read by their senders and recipients, limiting the firm’s ability to spot false reports.
(www.bbc.co.uk/technews 22nd January 19)