Applications for Facial Recognition Increase as Technology Matures

From shopping centers and airports to concert venues and mobile phones, facial recognition technology can now be used in all of them due to advances in technology. 

Countries including China and the United States are developing, testing and using facial recognition technology. At the Los Angeles International Airport, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, has been trying out several security devices, including a facial recognition technology that takes a picture of the passenger and compares it to the passport picture just before he or she goes through airport security. 

“We’re always looking at technology, processes, even doctrine changes on how to better our security at an airport,” said Steve Karoly, acting assistant administrator with the TSA’s Office of Requirements and Capabilities Analysis.

If any one of the technologies being tested is implemented in the future, it will take two to three years for the TSA to install them in U.S. airports.

 

It is just one way facial recognition technology can be used for security.

Software to aid authorities

U.S. company FaceFirst has developed facial recognition software that can help police. Officers can take a picture of a suspect with a smartphone. The photo then can be compared to a database to see whether the person has a criminal history. The software can also be used in a private facility or store.

“We install a complete solution that allows our customers to be able to match people who are entering a facility against a database that already exists of bad people and so if there is a match that occurs, we’re able to send an alert to a mobile device like an iPhone or an Android phone in near real time,” said Peter Trepp, FaceFirst’s chief executive officer.

Beijing start-up Horizon Robotics showed off its facial recognition applications at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year by showing a crowded street in China as well as a store where faces are being captured.

“For surveillance, you can catch the face in the public and find what you want to find, and for the commercial use, you can find VIPs [very important persons] when they come to the store, and so you can have special service for them,” said Hao Yuan Gao of Horizon Robotics.

Strides in facial recognition technology

 

Facial recognition technology has made great advances in recent years. 

 

“That has a lot to do with – computers are finally fast enough. We have GPUs (graphics processing units) and hardware that is fast enough to process all the data that we need to process,” said FaceFirst’s Trepp.

 

Machines can now match faces that are not in a controlled environment with good lighting and a full shot. A side shot or moving image of the face may be enough for artificial intelligence to make a match.

“Where this is going is very exciting. We think about everyday items that we have that are going away. Our house keys, our car keys, our ATM cards, our passwords are all starting to go away and instead, we’re going to be using facial recognition. Smartphones, of course are now using facial recognition. Laptops have facial recognition on them,” Trepp said.

“I think the fact that you can use this in uncontrolled environments makes it a much more interesting technology commercially,” said Prem Natarajan, research professor of computer science and the Michael Keston executive director at the University of Southern California Information Sciences Institute.

The idea of privacy

The ability to capture an image of a person without consent is a gray area when it comes to privacy, especially when many smartphones now have facial recognition in them so photos taken by the phone can pull up faces of friends with a timestamp and location information. On social media, such as Facebook, faces can be tagged. It is technology widely accepted and used by many people.

“There is visual of you, who you’re with, so it’s no longer just about your privacy. Whoever you’re with, the photos you’re taking of them, it’s like secondhand smoking – everybody you take a selfie with, etc., you’ve compromised as an individual their privacy, too, in some sense and we’re not seeking consent from any of them,” Natarajan said.

However, the idea of privacy has evolved for the younger generation, who have grown up with the internet and social media.

“The new generation, I think, has a different perspective on privacy than we do. My kids, your kids, all of our kids are growing up in a much more shared experience world,” Natarajan added. “My biggest privacy concern is actually not the government, it’s the big companies where there are really no limits on how they can share data, what they can use it for, how they can exploit it.”

 

“It’s a powerful tool and with power comes responsibility,” Trepp said.

FaceFirst designed privacy into its software. The company says as the default setting, its surveillance footage of unknown people is automatically purged from the system at regular intervals.

Facial recognition researchers say a social framework should be created to guide the use of this technology so it can be used safely to benefit society and not exploit it.

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Washington Braces for Possible Trump-Induced Trade War

Washington is bracing for the start of a possible trade war between the United States and its closest allies and biggest commercial partners and a radical departure from America’s trading posture of the last seven decades. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the Trump administration is not backing down from last week’s announcement of looming tariffs on foreign-made steel and aluminum, with further details expected in coming days

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Washington Braces for Possible Trump-Induced Trade War

Washington is bracing for the start of a possible trade war between the United States and its closest allies and biggest commercial partners and a radical departure from America’s trading posture of the last seven decades. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the Trump administration is not backing down from last week’s announcement of looming tariffs on foreign-made steel and aluminum, with further details expected in coming days

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China Doesn’t Want Trade War, but Says It Will Respond if Necessary

China has added its voice to a growing chorus of concern about the rising threat of a trade war and tariffs that U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to impose on steel and aluminum imports later this week.

 

A top Chinese diplomat says that while Beijing does not want a trade war with Washington, it will defend its interests if necessary.

 

Speaking at a press conference ahead of China’s annual legislative meetings, Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui also gave assurances that the rise of world’s second largest economy and a rise in military spending was no cause for alarm.

 

“China does not want a trade war with the Untied States, but we will absolutely not sit idly by and watch as China’s interests are damaged,” Zhang said.

 

Tit for tat

Last week, the U.S. president announced plans to slap tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports.

 

China is a key country Washington is aiming to target with the tariffs, but the decision also has sparked a global backlash with leaders of other affected nations such as Canada and Europe, which are warning they, too, are prepared to take countermeasures.

 

Analysts have said that if President Trump follows through on his pledges to get tough with China on trade, Beijing could respond by targeting the airline and agricultural sectors, even focusing on communities in the United States where support for the president was strong during the 2016 election.

 

Zhang, who also is serving as the rotating spokesperson of the National People’s Congress (NPC) said the best way to improve trade is to open up markets further and expanding the “pie of cooperation.”

 

“If policies are made on the basis of mistaken judgments or assumptions, it will damage bilateral relations and bring about consequences that neither country wants to see,” Zhang said.

 

Rising concerns about a trade war are likely to be a hot topic during the annual political meetings. China’s Premier Li Keqiang will deliver a government work report on Monday to the NPC during its opening session. That speech may highlight Beijing’s concerns as it forecasts the government outlook for the economy in 2018.

 

Moderate increase

The report also will provide details about another closely watched item, China’s military spending.

 

Zhang said China will see a moderate increase in its military budget this year, but argued that was to make up for a shortfall from previous years, upgrade equipment, and improve training and living conditions at the grassroots level for troops, among other reasons.

Zhang did not say how much of a percentage increase China might see this year in its defense spending, but he stressed that the country’s military does not threaten anyone.

 

Analysts tell VOA that spending could grow by about 10 percent, but they note that the real figure is perhaps much larger.

 

“China’s defense budget takes up a smaller share of its gross domestic product [GDP] and national fiscal expenditure than other major world countries. Its military spending per capita is also lower than other major countries,” he said.

 

Last year, China disclosed that it spent nearly $165 billion on its military about one-fourth of what the United States plans to spend on defense this year.

 

China model

Despite assurances, China’s broader strategic intentions are still something that Washington and other countries in the region watch closely.

 

Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China has begun assuming a bigger role on the global stage and has launched several initiatives of its own, including a massive trillion-dollar trade and infrastructure project called the “Belt and Road” initiative.

During this year’s annual meetings, China’s communist party aims to solidify its self-proclaimed position as the only political organization qualified to rule the country, with the passage of 21 constitutional amendments.

 

One key amendment in the package is a proposal to scrap restrictions regarding the number of terms the president can serve in office. The proposal paves the way for Xi to become China’s president indefinitely, although state media denies Xi will be granted tenure for life.

When asked, Zhang did not respond to the question of whether the changes would give Xi lifelong tenure. He only said that the amendments would help unify the country’s leadership under Xi as China’s “core leader.”

 

The proposal, along with China’s growing ambitions to showcase what it calls the China model or “China Solution” has led to concerns that Beijing’s communist leaders will seek to spread their model of rule.

 

Zhang said that each country has its own development path and model, and Beijing will not import models from other countries, nor will it export its own.

 

“We will not ask other countries to copy China’s practices, but of course if some countries are interested in learning China’s experiences and practices, we are ready and willing to share our experiences with them,” Zhang said.

 

Zhang added that China will not impose anything on others and has no intention of overthrowing the existing international order or trying to start again.

 

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China Doesn’t Want Trade War, but Says It Will Respond if Necessary

China has added its voice to a growing chorus of concern about the rising threat of a trade war and tariffs that U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to impose on steel and aluminum imports later this week.

 

A top Chinese diplomat says that while Beijing does not want a trade war with Washington, it will defend its interests if necessary.

 

Speaking at a press conference ahead of China’s annual legislative meetings, Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui also gave assurances that the rise of world’s second largest economy and a rise in military spending was no cause for alarm.

 

“China does not want a trade war with the Untied States, but we will absolutely not sit idly by and watch as China’s interests are damaged,” Zhang said.

 

Tit for tat

Last week, the U.S. president announced plans to slap tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports.

 

China is a key country Washington is aiming to target with the tariffs, but the decision also has sparked a global backlash with leaders of other affected nations such as Canada and Europe, which are warning they, too, are prepared to take countermeasures.

 

Analysts have said that if President Trump follows through on his pledges to get tough with China on trade, Beijing could respond by targeting the airline and agricultural sectors, even focusing on communities in the United States where support for the president was strong during the 2016 election.

 

Zhang, who also is serving as the rotating spokesperson of the National People’s Congress (NPC) said the best way to improve trade is to open up markets further and expanding the “pie of cooperation.”

 

“If policies are made on the basis of mistaken judgments or assumptions, it will damage bilateral relations and bring about consequences that neither country wants to see,” Zhang said.

 

Rising concerns about a trade war are likely to be a hot topic during the annual political meetings. China’s Premier Li Keqiang will deliver a government work report on Monday to the NPC during its opening session. That speech may highlight Beijing’s concerns as it forecasts the government outlook for the economy in 2018.

 

Moderate increase

The report also will provide details about another closely watched item, China’s military spending.

 

Zhang said China will see a moderate increase in its military budget this year, but argued that was to make up for a shortfall from previous years, upgrade equipment, and improve training and living conditions at the grassroots level for troops, among other reasons.

Zhang did not say how much of a percentage increase China might see this year in its defense spending, but he stressed that the country’s military does not threaten anyone.

 

Analysts tell VOA that spending could grow by about 10 percent, but they note that the real figure is perhaps much larger.

 

“China’s defense budget takes up a smaller share of its gross domestic product [GDP] and national fiscal expenditure than other major world countries. Its military spending per capita is also lower than other major countries,” he said.

 

Last year, China disclosed that it spent nearly $165 billion on its military about one-fourth of what the United States plans to spend on defense this year.

 

China model

Despite assurances, China’s broader strategic intentions are still something that Washington and other countries in the region watch closely.

 

Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China has begun assuming a bigger role on the global stage and has launched several initiatives of its own, including a massive trillion-dollar trade and infrastructure project called the “Belt and Road” initiative.

During this year’s annual meetings, China’s communist party aims to solidify its self-proclaimed position as the only political organization qualified to rule the country, with the passage of 21 constitutional amendments.

 

One key amendment in the package is a proposal to scrap restrictions regarding the number of terms the president can serve in office. The proposal paves the way for Xi to become China’s president indefinitely, although state media denies Xi will be granted tenure for life.

When asked, Zhang did not respond to the question of whether the changes would give Xi lifelong tenure. He only said that the amendments would help unify the country’s leadership under Xi as China’s “core leader.”

 

The proposal, along with China’s growing ambitions to showcase what it calls the China model or “China Solution” has led to concerns that Beijing’s communist leaders will seek to spread their model of rule.

 

Zhang said that each country has its own development path and model, and Beijing will not import models from other countries, nor will it export its own.

 

“We will not ask other countries to copy China’s practices, but of course if some countries are interested in learning China’s experiences and practices, we are ready and willing to share our experiences with them,” Zhang said.

 

Zhang added that China will not impose anything on others and has no intention of overthrowing the existing international order or trying to start again.

 

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EU Aims to Tax Internet Giants at ‘Two to Six Percent’: France

The EU will soon unveil a plan for taxing major internet companies like Amazon and Facebook by imposing a levy of two to six percent on revenues in every country where they operate, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said Sunday.

“The range will be from two to six percent; but closer to two than to six,” Le Maire told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

The European Commission has said it will present by end March an overhaul of its tax rules, which currently allow US digital economy giants to report their income from across the bloc in any member state.

That leads them to pick low-tax nations like Ireland, the Netherlands or Luxembourg, depriving other nations of their share of the revenue even though they may account for more of a company’s earnings.

“The heads of these companies know themselves that this system can’t continue,” Le Maire said.

Critics say the tax-avoidance strategies used by the tech titans known as GAFA — Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple — deprive EU governments of billions of euros while giving them an unfair advantage over smaller rivals. 

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says such strategies cost governments around the world as much as $240 billion (195 billion euros) a year in lost revenue, according to a 2015 estimate.

Asked if the proposed rate might be criticised as too low, Le Maire said: “I would rather have a law that can be implemented quickly instead of drawn-out negotiations.”

American tech giants appear to believe the European tax revamp is in the cards, with several already announcing pledges to pay more in each country where they operate as governments step up their fiscal demands.

Amazon said last month that it had settled a major tax claim in France and that it would start declaring all its earnings in the country.

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Trump Puts Aside Feud With Media For Annual Dinner

President Donald Trump engaged in a good-natured duel of one-liners with political rivals and the press at the annual Gridiron Dinner this weekend, largely putting aside his ongoing criticism of the media for a night.

Trump dished out sharp one-liners throughout his comments Saturday night, occasionally lapsing into recurring themes about the 2016 election and media bias.

“Nobody does self-deprecating humor better than I do. It’s not even close,” said Trump, who skipped last year’s dinner. He also said: “I was very excited to receive this invitation and ruin your evening in person. That’s why I accepted.”

The annual dinner of the Gridiron Club and Foundation, now in its 133rd year, traced its history to 1885, the year President Grover Cleveland refused to attend. Every president since has come to at least one Gridiron.

“Rest assured, Mr. President, this crowd is way bigger than Cleveland’s,” Club President David Lightman, congressional editor for McClatchy News, told the white-tie audience at the Renaissance Washington Hotel. The organization said the event attracted about 660 journalists, media executives, lawmakers, administration officials and military officers.

Members of the Washington press corps sharpened their wits for musical and rhetorical takedowns of the president, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama. Trump’s speech lasted more than a half hour and included plenty of one-liners.

A sampling:

— On his son-in-law: “We were late tonight because Jared could not get through security.”

— On Vice President Mike Pence: “He is one of the best straight men you’re ever going to meet … he is straight. Man.” Trump also said, “I really am proud to call him the apprentice ”

— On Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “I offered him a ride over and he recused himself. What are you going to do?”

— On The New York Times: “I’m a New York icon. You’re a New York icon. And the only difference is I still own my buildings.”

— On former chief strategist Steven Bannon: “That guy leaked more than the Titanic.”

— On the first lady: Trump said he doesn’t understand why everyone says #Freemelania. He said she’s actually having a great time.

Toward the end of his comments, Trump couldn’t resist some of his favorite themes, revisiting his election night victory and chiding reporters to be fair.

He closed by saying: “I just want to say this, this is one of the best times I’ve had with the media — this might be the most fun I’ve had since watching your faces on election night.”

He recalled the close race in Michigan, saying the media wouldn’t call it for him, even though he had a good margin of victory. And he accused some reporters of not being impartial in their coverage.

For much of the night he was a good sport — laughing and applauding at times during the evening’s entertainment. Hours earlier, Trump had fired off a sharp tweet at the national press:

“Mainstream Media in U.S. is being mocked all over the world. They’ve gone CRAZY!” He linked to a story by a conservative pundit saying Trump and his family are victims of “unparalleled” press attacks.

The major political parties found themselves skewered in parody songs in musical skits. By Gridiron tradition, comments came from one Republican, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and one Democrat, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Cotton made light of what he called the source of his personality: the common touch of Harvard, the sensitivity of the Army, and the personal touch of Dick Cheney. On the Russia investigation, he said, “Everyone knows the Trump campaign couldn’t collude with the RNC in Pennsylvania.” The only senator in his 30s says he’s looking for a role model and “the search continues.”

With an eye on the president, Landrieu said: “We’re both overweight and balding. I just have an easier time admitting it.” Noting that Trump had a lonely job, the mayor remarked, “I understand lonely because I’m a Democrat from the South.” The New Orleans official also observed, “No matter how many times we say it, we don’t drain the swamps either.”

The Gridiron Dinner’s reputation as a night of bipartisan mirth was evidenced by those who accepted invitations, including last year’s headliner, Vice President Pence. Also accepting invitations were at least eight members of Trump’s Cabinet, six senators, four House members, and presidential relatives-turned-advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the foundation said in a statement.

By tradition, the evening’s musical entertainment revolved around musical skits and takeoffs of well-known songs performed by journalists pretending to be newsmakers.

A cast member playing House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi turned to “I’m Against It,” a song from the Marx Brothers film “Duck Soup,” to explain her attitude toward Trump: “I don’t know what Trump has to say/It makes no difference anyway/Whatever it is, we’re against it/Even if our own side once professed it/We’re against it.”

A cast member playing Hillary Clinton offered her version of the song “You’re So Vain,” the title referring to her, but the lyrics aimed at the president: “You walked into my West Wing/My White House or so I thought/Your tie strategically dropped below your belt/Your hair it was apricot.”

A charitable organization, the Gridiron Club and Foundation contributes to college scholarships and journalistic organizations. Active membership is limited to 65 Washington-based journalists.

Trump wrapped up the evening on an upbeat note.

“I want to thank the press for all you do to support and sustain our democracy,” he said in closing.

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