Daily Archives: June 10, 2011

Facebook now knows what you look like as it rolls out face recognition by stealth


Tag your friends: Facebook’s new facial recognition technology has raised the hackles of privacy campaigners

dailymail.co.uk | Jun 9, 2011

By Damien Gayle

Facebook is at the centre of another privacy row after bringing in facial recognition technology to automatically identify users in pictures.

The world’s leading social network has begun rolling out new technology that automatically identifies and ‘tags’ people in photos uploaded to the website.

The feature has been expanded from a limited test run in the U.S. to be widened across all of the States and ‘most countries’, Facebook said on its official blog yesterday – and, by default, it’s turned on.

Facebook’s ‘Tag Suggestions’ feature is designed to speed up the process of labeling friends in photos posted on Facebook.

If a friend ‘tags’ you in one photo, the technology will automatically scan your face and then try and find matches among all their pictures.

It will then suggest that they ‘tag’ these photos of you as well.

The sudden implementation of the feature, without warning, has sparked concerns among privacy campaigners.

Daniel Hamilton, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘Facebook users will rightly be alarmed to hear that their private information will be used in this way. This is yet another nail in the coffin for online privacy.

‘Websites like Facebook owe it to their users to respect their privacy, not to scan their photo albums with facial recognition software.’

And not all commentators are convinced that opting out will do you any good.

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal, of PC World magazine, said: ‘Opting out won’t keep Facebook from gathering data and recognizing your face – it’ll just keep people from tagging you automatically.’

She also warns: ‘Facial recognition technology will ultimately culminate in the ability to search for people using just a picture.

‘And that will be the end of privacy as we know it–imagine, a world in which someone can simply take a photo of you on the street, in a crowd, or with a telephoto lens, and discover everything about you on the internet.’

Internet security consultant firm Sophos first reported the change yesterday, after Facebook users reported that the site had enabled the facial recognition option in the past few days without giving users any notice.

‘Yet again, it feels like Facebook is eroding the online privacy of its users by stealth,’ wrote Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos, in a blog post.

Facebook, which announced in December that it planned to introduce the service in the U.S., acknowledged that the feature was in fact now more widely available.

When asked about the Sophos blog post, a spokesman for the company conceded that they ‘should have been more clear with people during the roll-out process’.

They made clear that tag suggestions would only be made to friends of those pictured, and that the users can switch off the feature to stop their names being put forward.

But Marc Rotenberg, President of the non-profit privacy advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center, noted that other companies had offered more users more control when implementing facial recognition features.

He highlighted Apple’s iPhoto software, which let users decide whether or not to use the technology with their personal photo collections.

Facebook’s technology, by contrast, operates independently, analysing faces across a broad swathe of newly uploaded photos.

Mr Rotenberg said such a system raised questions about which personally identifiable information, such as email addresses, would become associated with the photos in Facebook’s database.

He also criticised Facebook’s decision to automatically enable the facial-recognition technology for Facebook users.

‘I’m not sure that’s the setting that people would want to choose. A better option would be to let people opt in,’ he said.


Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, pictured in April, argued last year that privacy is no longer a ‘social norm’

A serious concern intially expressed over Facebook and other social networks is the ability to publish photographs online without any express permission from those pictured.

Although it is possible for users to ‘de-tag’ themselves, those pictured cannot demand photographs removed.

The new feature will raise fears among those who have photographs they would prefer do not come to light.

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal suggests as well as switching off facial recognition that users post random pictures of trees and stuffed animals and tag them with their name.

A spokesman from Facebook said: ‘We launched Tag Suggestions to help people add tags of their friends in photos; something that’s currently done more than 100 million times a day.

‘Tag Suggestions are only made to people when they add new photos to the site, and only friends are suggested.’

It emerged last week that Google recently decided to hold back a similar application that would have let someone snap a picture of a person’s face using a smartphone, then use the internet to find out who that person is.

Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt told a conference he believed it was the first time his company’s engineers had completed a project and shelved it for privacy reasons, CNN reported.

Last year the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint about Facebook’s privacy practices with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which Mr Rotenberg said was still pending.

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Jared Loughner’s lawyers: He can’t tell us about Tucson rampage

“It is our understanding that FMC Springfield staff will encourage Mr. Loughner to take psychotropic medications, many of which have serious and possibly permanent side effects, as well as the potential for far-reaching impact on Mr. Loughner’s ability to assist in his defense.”

In court documents, they say he’s unable to help with critical elements of defense

NBC News | Jun 10, 2011

By Pete Williams

WASHINGTON — The man charged with the Tucson shootings that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords severely wounded in January has been unable to tell his lawyers about the rampage, according to newly filed court documents that shed further light on his mental state.

Lawyers for Jared Loughner indicate that he also hasn’t been able to tell them about his first stay at the prison hospital in Springfield, Mo., where he was evaluated after the shooting.

“Mr. Loughner is unable to communicate rationally with counsel not only about his case, but also about information provided to him by” the prison hospital staff, they say, citing what they call “the pervasive nature of Mr. Loughner’s illness and its severe impact on his rational understanding and ability to communicate.”

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Their observations come in a renewed request that they be notified and given a chance to go to court, if necessary, if the hospital seeks to administer drugs.

“It is our understanding that FMC Springfield staff will encourage Mr. Loughner to take psychotropic medications, many of which have serious and possibly permanent side effects, as well as the potential for far-reaching impact on Mr. Loughner’s ability to assist in his defense,” they say.

And while the lawyers recognize that the doctors have an obligation to talk with Loughner about the benefits and risks of medications, they say it’s questionable whether he has the ability to give informed consent.

The judge has not yet ruled on their request.
Story: Ariz. shooting spree suspect incompetent for trial

Loughner is charged with in the Jan. 8 shooting rampage that killed six people, including a federal judge, and wounded 13 others in Tucson, Ariz. The attack came at a meeting with constituents held by Giffords, who was shot in the head but survived and is undergoing rehabilitation therapy.

A judge last month declared Loughner mentally incapable of participating in his defense and sent him to the same federal facility in Springfield, Mo., where they will try to treat his condition and make it possible to put him on trial.

Genetically engineered fluorescent fish glow to show feminising chemicals in the water


Oestrogen-infused waters (Image: Vitargent Biotechnology LTD)

newscientist.com | Jun 10, 2011

FOR people worried about the feminising effect of oestrogen-like chemicals in the water there is now a modern-day equivalent of the canary in the coal mine: a genetically modified fish in a bowl.

Male fish exposed to oestrogen have delayed sperm development and grow smaller testes. Some industrial chemicals, such as bisphenol A, mimic oestrogen, but little is known about how the effects of different oestrogen-like chemicals add up in water.

To find out, Xueping Chen and colleagues at Vitargent, a biotechnology company in Hong Kong, have created a genetically engineered fish that glows green when it is exposed to oestrogen-like chemicals. Chen’s team took the green fluorescent protein gene from jellyfish and spliced it into the genome of the medaka fish, Oryzias melastigma, next to a gene that detects oestrogen. Chemicals that have oestrogen-like activity cause the fish to express the modified gene, making them glow.

When the team tested the fish at eight sites around Hong Kong, they found that some chemicals that showed weak or no oestrogenic activity, including UV filters used in sunscreen, had combined in water to amplify or create an oestrogenic effect. The work is as yet unpublished.

William Price of the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia, warns the approach does not detect a biological response.

Is this the checkpoint of the future?


The International Air Transport Association’s “Checkpoint of the Future” would direct travelers into one of three lanes

They would then be directed to one of three lanes: “Known Traveler,” “Normal” and “Enhanced Security.”

CNN | Jun 7, 2011

By A. Pawlowski

(CNN) — Billing it as a way to end the one-size-fits-all approach to airport security, the International Air Transport Association on Tuesday unveiled a mock-up of what it called the “Checkpoint of the Future.”

Instead of a single screening procedure applied to all fliers, the group envisions that passengers would be divided into risk categories based on the information available about them.

They would then be directed to one of three lanes: “Known Traveler,” “Normal” and “Enhanced Security.”

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The first — and quickest — lane would only be available to fliers who have registered and undergone background checks with their governments.

Normal screening in the second lane would apply to the majority of travelers. New technology would allow them to walk through without having to take off their clothes or shoes, or unpack their bags.

Passengers for whom less information is available, who are randomly selected or who are deemed to be an “elevated risk,” would receive more screening in the third lane.

Checkpoint of the future

The system would focus resources on passengers who pose the greatest threat while reducing the hassle for the vast majority of travelers who are low risk, said the International Air Transport Association, which represents the world’s major airlines.

“Today’s checkpoint was designed four decades ago to stop hijackers carrying metal weapons. … It is time to rethink everything,” Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director general and CEO, said at the World Air Transport Summit in Singapore.

“That means moving from a system that looks for bad objects to one that can find bad people,” Bisignani said.

Security Briefing

A biometric identifier in your passport would determine which lane you go through based on a risk assessment performed before you arrive at the airport.

Nineteen governments, including the United States, are working to define standards for a Checkpoint of the Future, IATA said. The group estimated it could be a reality in about five to seven years.

The U.S. Travel Association called for a similar plan earlier this year. In a report, titled “A Better Way,” it suggested creating a trusted traveler program that would allow fliers who volunteer certain information about themselves to go through less rigorous security before their flight.

In March, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the government was working on an “airport checkpoint of tomorrow,” designed to make the passenger experience quicker and less intrusive while still maintaining security.

The International Air Transport Association said it is coordinating closely with the U.S. government on the program.

David Kelly – what is behind the conspiracy theories? Plenty…


Dr David Kelly Photo: PA

An inquest ruled that Dr David Kelly, who was found dead after being identified as the defence source who cast doubt over the claim in a government dossier that Saddam Hussein could fire nuclear weapons at 45 minutes’ notice, committed suicide. But conspiracy theorists remain unconvinced – here are some of their reasons.

Telegraph | Jun 9, 2011

By Nick Collins

Blood loss

According to the official inquest into his death, Dr Kelly died from loss of blood. But last year nine doctors wrote an open letter claiming that it was “extremely unlikely” that he could have lost enough blood to kill him – about 2,700ml (nearly five pints) – through a severed ulnar artery in one wrist.

The doctors described the initial inquest as “unsatisfactory” and called for a new investigation, also citing a lack of blood where the body was discovered as evidence that Dr Kelly did not die from blood loss.

The cut

As well as questions over whether the cut to Dr Kelly’s wrist was sever enough to kill him, there are also bones of contention among conspiracy theorists over the mechanics of how it was made.

Friends claimed Dr Kelly had injured his right arm to such an extent that he could barely cut steak, raising questions as to how and why he cut his left wrist. In addition cutting one’s own wrist would usually sever the radial rather than the ulnar artery due to the direction of the cut, prompting some to believe it was made by someone else.

Finally, despite the fact Dr Kelly was not wearing gloves there were no fingerprints on either the knife or the bottle of tablets.

Painkillers

The Hutton report claimed that an overdose of painkillers taken by Dr Kelly would have been a contributing and accelerating factor in his death, following a post-mortem examination which showed he had heart problems he had been unaware of.

But other doctors disagreed, claiming the dose of Co-proxamol taken by Dr Kelly was not strong enough to kill him, with blood tests showing the concentration of dextropropoxyphene – one of the two drugs that makes up Co-proxamol – was at the lower end of the scale for a successful suicide dose.

Stress

Another factor in Lord Hutton’s suicide verdict was evidence from psychologists who claimed that, based on interviews with his family and analysis of his correspondence and evidence leading up to his death Dr Kelly had been burdened by a significant amount of pressure.

However, other experts claimed Dr Kelly had shown no signs of wishing to end his life and that in any other case, coroners would have reached an open verdict due to insufficient evidence. They particularly pointed to the fact Dr Kelly had arranged to meet his daughter Rachel on the evening of his death, but did not leave her a note.

The investigation

The fact that Lord Hutton ordered the post-mortem documents to be kept secret for 70 years was just one incident that caused conspiracy theorists to distrust those with access to the evidence.

Other curious aspects of the case include why Graham Coe, the detective who came across Dr Kelly’s body, did not initially tell the inquest there was a third man at the scene along with himself and his partner, DC Colin Shields, and why he refused to name him.

There are also questions over why the body was not detected by a helicopter equipped with heat-seeking technology which flew over the area shortly after Dr Kelly died.

The ‘book’

Evidence seized by intelligence officers from Dr Kelly’s home included his computers which were rumoured to contain a book he had written, which was to disclose sensitive information from the biological weapons expert’s experience working with British and Foreign defence and intelligence agencies.

As well as the notion that spy agencies may have orchestrated Dr Kelly’s death to prevent the publication of secret and possibly incriminating information, some conspiracy theorists point to the fact that a number of other microbiology experts including five Russians working on a weapons project had died in the past decade, some in circumstances deemed to be suspicious.

‘A continuing cover-up’: Fury as Attorney General refuses full inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly

Campaigners now expected to seek judicial review over ‘deeply-flawed’ decision

Government ‘complicit in a determined and concerted cover-up’

‘No possibility that at an inquest a verdict of anything other than suicide could be returned’ – Attorney General

Daily Mail | Jun 10, 2011

No inquest: The events surrounding Dr David Kelly's death have been the subject of intense scrutiny and accusations of a cover-up

A group of doctors yesterday threatened to take the Attorney General to court – after he ruled out a full inquest into the death of David Kelly.

To the fury of campaigners, Dominic Grieve said there was ‘no evidence’ to back an application to the High Court for an inquest into the death of the Government weapons scientist in 2003.

He called for an end to the ‘conspiracy theories’ which have surrounded the case for years.

Dr Kelly was found dead in the woods near his Oxfordshire home in 2003, shortly after he was outed as the source of claims that Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell had ‘sexed up’ the notorious dossier on Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction in order to make the case for war.

Mr Grieve told MPs that fresh reviews by an independent pathologist and toxicologist showed there was ‘overwhelming strong’ evidence that Dr Kelly had killed himself by overdosing on painkillers and cutting his left wrist.

He also published a raft of new documents designed to address every point raised by those who believe Dr Kelly was murdered.

Doctors campaigning for an inquest, however, complained of a cover-up.

Dr Stephen Frost said Dr Kelly had suffered ‘one of the gravest miscarriages of justice to occur in this country’.

He added: ‘Our lawyers intend to judicially review the Attorney General’s decision with vigour.’

Dr Frost accused the Government of being ‘complicit in a determined and concerted cover-up’.

Norman Baker, the Lib Dem Transport Minister who took a year out from front-line politics to write a book on Dr Kelly’s death, indicated he had not changed his mind that a full inquest should be held. His book concluded that Dr Kelly had been murdered.

Dr Michael Powers, another of those campaigning for an inquest, said only a full hearing would allow the evidence to be scrutinised properly.

Dr Powers said: ‘The questions which have been raised by the doctors have either not been answered or if they have they have not been subject to the rigours of a coroner’s inquest.’

In a highly unusual move Dr Kelly’s death was considered by the Hutton Inquiry into the build-up to the Iraq war rather than being the subject of a separate inquest.

Critics claim the move was part of a conspiracy designed to cover up a number of disturbing unanswered questions about his death.

They claim that Lord Hutton spent only half a day of his 24-day inquiry looking at the circumstances of his death – leaving key questions unanswered.

Last month, David Cameron suggested a full inquest was unnecessary, saying the Hutton report into Mr Kelly’s death had been ‘fairly clear’.

But Dr Frost said ‘no coroner in the land’ would have returned a suicide verdict based on the evidence heard at the Hutton Inquiry.

Yesterday he condemned Mr Grieve’s ‘political’ decision to rule out an inquest and suggested he should resign. He said: ‘Four successive governments have sought to obscure the truth of what happened. The cover-up could not be more obvious.’

Dr Frost said campaigners would now seek a judicial review of the Attorney’s decision.

Mr Grieve yesterday said it was ‘very normal’ for people to have raised concerns about Dr Kelly’s death because of the way it was wrapped up in the controversy about the Iraq war.

But he dismissed detailed claims about the manner of Dr Kelly’s death and suggestions that his body might have been moved.

He told MPs: ‘Dr Kelly died where he was found and from the causes determined. There is no evidence I’ve seen that would suggest any other explanation, or that would suggest any cover-up or conspiracy whatsoever.’

Mr Grieve said the case could be reconsidered in the ‘unlikely’ event that fresh evidence came to light. But he suggested he would resist any attempt now to overturn his decision in court.

He said it was time to ‘draw a line’ under the affair and leave Dr Kelly’s family in peace. And he urged those with doubts about the scientist’s death to study the newly published material.

Earlier, Tony Blair told the BBC Breakfast programme that as far as he knew the questions surrounding Dr Kelly’s death had been answered by the Hutton report and that he ‘frankly’ doubted that the Attorney General had different information.

Alastair Campbell was not available for comment.

Blairite Labour MP Tom Harris welcomed Mr Grieve’s ruling and said it should bring an end to ‘nutcase conspiracy theories’.

The Kelly family declined to comment yesterday.

Hillary Clinton eager to become head of World Bank

Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State, has been in discussions with the White House about stepping down from her foreign policy job next year to becoming head of the World Bank, it has been reported.

Telegraph | Jun 9, 2011

By Toby Harnden, Washington

Mrs Clinton, the former First Lady, Senator for New York and rival to Mr Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary race, is said to be eager to become the first female president of the World Bank should the post become vacant next year.

“Hillary Clinton wants the job,” a source close to Mrs Clinton told Reuters, which broke the news of the possible move.

Robert Zoellick, a former Bush administration official, is believed to be ready to step down as president at the end of his term in the middle of next year.

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Mrs Clinton has made clear she does not want to remain US Secretary of State, a gruelling job demanding months of world travel each year, beyond Mr Obama’s first term.

Another source told Reuters that Mr Obama supported her taking the helm at the World Bank, which is traditionally led by an American.

Once formally nominated for the post by Mr Obama, Mrs Clinton’s appointment would require approval by the 187 member countries of the World Bank.

Philippe Reines, a spokesman for Mrs Clinton, issued a strong denial, releasing as statement saying: “Secretary Clinton has not had any conversations with the president, the White House or anyone about moving to the World Bank. She has expressed absolutely no interest in the job. She would not take it if offered.”

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, also denied that Mrs Clinton was interested in the role.

Taking over the World Bank could be seen as an end to Mrs Clinton’s domestic political ambitions.

If she served out a five-year term, that would take her beyond the 2016 election, when she would be aged 69.

On the other hand, if she stepped down early from the World Bank she could enter the 2016 race for the White House with historically unparalleled experience in foreign policy, economic policy, on Capitol Hill and as First Lady.

Discussions about the next president of the World Bank would be a natural part of talks about who should replace Dominique Strauss Kahn as head of the International Monetary Fund. The Frenchman resigned after being accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid in new York.

The head of the IMF has always been a European and the World Bank presidency has always been held by an American, though this is now being challenged by some countries with emerging economies. The Obama administration is expected to back Christine Lagarde, the French Minister, for the IMF.

As Secretary of State, Mrs Clinton has been outspoken on global development issues, particularly the need to improve the economic circumstances of females in developing countries.

The World Bank provides billions of dollars in development funds to the poorest countries and is also at the centre of issues such as climate change, post-conflict reconstruction and transitions to democracy.