Weekly Axis Of Easy #135
Last Week’s Quote was “An era can be considered over when its basic illusions have been exhausted” by Arthur Miller. Nobody got it.
This Week’s Quote: “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.” …by ????
THE RULES: No searching up the answer, must be posted to the blog
The Prize: First person to post the correct answer gets their next domain or hosting renewal on us.
Listen to the podcast here:
- Chinese facial recognition can now identify people even when wearing masks
- New Chinese facial recognition cameras on buses also take your temperature and report anomalies
- In Hangzhou your smartphone must have an app that determines your quarantine status
- US ICE agency ran warrantless facial recognition queries against state drivers license DB
- Facial recognition company that partners with LEAs has entire client list stolen
- Musicians use MIDI sequencer to generate every melody in existence, then open source it
- UK’s MI5 wants unprecedented backdoor access to encryption
- Why the sudden push to control “trusted sources” of news in Canada?
- Coronavirus has turned into a battle for narrative control
Well, that accelerated quickly. It was only two weeks ago that we reported how China was trying to clamp down on non-official Coronavirus information (a recurring theme of late, and not just in China, see below). Part of the problem was that they were having a hard time spotting persons of interest in public because widespread adoption of face masks, which was even made mandatory in some provinces, was hampering the state’s facial recognition systems.
A Chinese facial recognition company called SenseTime has already fine tuned its systems so that they can identify people using facial recognition even when they are wearing protective masks. They can even screen through people wearing scarves or otherwise disguising their faces with fake beards. Work on Disguised Face Recognition (DFI) has been going on since at least 2017.
China is testing facial recognition cameras that also take your temperature on two bus routes in south China. “Installed at the bus entrance, the thermometer scans a passenger’s face, targeting the forehead area to take the temperature. It can handle a large flow of people as the check is done in less than 1 second, the bureau said.”
I hadn’t even finished writing the above item when a reader forwarded me this piece in the New York Times about how users in Hangzhou province in China are mandated by state authorities to install an app on their phones that reports their locations in realtime to state authorities while determining whether the user should be admitted to public spaces, like subways and malls. The app is “Alipay Health Code” which is made by Ant Financial’s Alipay, a sister company to Alibaba (in China, it seems that pretty well all the big companies are state enterprises, see the Kyle Bass channel on Realvision about this).
The NYTimes examined the software and found that “as soon as a user grants the software access to personal data, a piece of the program labeled ‘reportInfoAndLocationToPolice’ sends the person’s location, city name and an identifying code number to a server”. The app generates a QRCode in one of three colours: green to allow unrestricted movement, yellow recommends a seven-day self isolation, and red signalling mandatory two-week quarantine.
Continuing on a theme, we have reports that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has been found to be accessing at least one state’s DMV database and running facial recognition scans for targets against the repository of drivers license photos. The state in question in this instance is Maryland, where state legislators want to put some requirements around ICE’s ability to remotely access their DMV database without a warrant. At the moment, any credentialed law enforcement officer can access the state’s facial recognition database without said warrants, and ICE had done so on at least 42 occasions in 2019.
Here’s where the drumroll ends and the MC delivers the punchline: all this activity around facial recognition underscores the need for a) due process and b) protection of privacy. Just a few weeks ago in #AxisOfEasy 129 we reported on Clearview AI, the creepy new data broker that scraped billions of pictures from social media profiles, compiled them into a facial recognition database, and then partners with Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA) worldwide to provide AI-enabled facial recognition abilities to identify people spotted out in the real world.
Well, Clearview got their asses hacked and along with it, their entire client list. It turns out, they weren’t just partnering with LEA, unless you count Macy’s, Wal-mart, the NBA, Kohl’s and Rite Aid as law enforcement agencies, ’cause all of the aforementioned, and more, were using Clearview AI for God knows what reasons. Story originally broken by Buzzfeed and I have to grudgingly admit their coverage of this issue is pretty good.
(Filed under “Not sure if it will hold up in court” dept).
A pair of musicians have used a MIDI sequencer to generate all possible melodies in existence, copyrighted the aggregate and then released it to the public domain. Their goal is to emancipate musicians from being sued for having similar melodies which are later found to be infringing, à la Robin Thicke, or Huey Lewis and Ray Parker Jr (I can’t remember which one sued which in that one) and numerous others. Led Zeppelin’s has been through protracted legal actions around their perennial hit Stairway to Heaven.
The director of the UK’s domestic spy agency is mystified at why the government can’t simply access the unencrypted communications of anybody they suspect is a terrorist whenever they want, “MI5’s director general Andrew Parker has called on technology companies to find a way to allow spy agencies ‘exceptional access’ to encryption.” He goes on to call out the usual “four horsemen of the internet apocalypse” to rationalize why the citizenry should have zero privacy safeguards against their own governments.
I wrote an op-ed for The Post Millennial wherein I look at how both the BTLR and the media group spearheaded by the CBC are pushing for government legislation to regulate “trusted sources” of news on the internet. My issue with so-called “trusted sources” of news, especially with regard to the pressing issue of the day, namely Coronavirus, is that the non-official, independent, alternative media sources I’ve been following are doing a far better job at reporting the facts, analysis and implications of the virus.
If there is a dominant theme in this week’s edition of #AxisOfEasy, you could call it Coronavirus and the lengths governments worldwide are going to in order to control the population and as part of that, control the narrative around the spread of COVID-19.
Relax, I’m not entertaining any conspiracy theories that Coronavirus is some kind of a Chinese plot to institute a police state. I do suspect that governments, in China, are very much acting within the spirit of “never let a good crisis go to waste”. And we’ve got a doozy here. While here in the West, in the US especially, they are acting out of some kind of denial which they are hoping will cause the epidemic to go away, so that way the stock market will keep going up. It’s a weird dynamic, but in both cases, governments want to be firmly in charge of the narratives around Coronavirus.
Chris Martenson, as I mentioned last week is by far the most insightful analysis I’ve come across. Last week I gave an outdated URL for his video feed, the most current one being his YouTube Channel. Unsurprisingly, Martenson is facing some headwinds, like his Wikipedia page was deleted after 10 years around the time he started his Coronavirus coverage. And lately YouTube has been inexplicably unsubscribing users from his channel (Martenson, it seems, has not read my book on how to mitigate against this, and I’ve been trying to get a copy into his hands via mutual friends).
If you follow Martenson’s coverage you come to the inescapable conclusion that the US has somewhat missed the boat on getting out in front of this. VP Pence was put in charge of the task force (that also contains the treasury secretary and a stock promoter), and among his first acts was to require all health officials to clear all messaging through his office. It does rather seem like the emphasis is on spin and maintaining a stock market bubble rather than actually doing something about this.
I came across some chatter on Twitter about analysis of the strain (those people have sequenced the genome of the Washington samples of COVID-19 and posted it online) and the implications are that there are probably more infections in the US right now than are being officially reported.