Category Archives: Technology

silicon valley & technology news

Microsoft Rejected Some Sales of Facial-Recognition Software

Microsoft recently rejected a California law enforcement agency’s request to install facial recognition technology in officers’ cars and body cameras because of human rights concerns, company President Brad Smith said Tuesday.

Microsoft concluded it would lead to innocent women and minorities being disproportionately held for questioning because the artificial intelligence has been trained on mostly white, male pictures.

AI has more cases of mistaken identity with women and minorities, multiple research projects have found.

“Anytime they pulled anyone over, they wanted to run a face scan” against a database of suspects, Smith said without naming the agency. After thinking through the uneven impact, “we said this technology is not your answer.”

Prison contract accepted

Speaking at a Stanford University conference on “human-centered artificial intelligence,” Smith said Microsoft had also declined a deal to install facial recognition on cameras blanketing the capital city of an unnamed country that the nonprofit Freedom House had deemed not free. Smith said it would have suppressed freedom of assembly there.

On the other hand, Microsoft did agree to provide the technology to an American prison, after the company concluded that the environment would be limited and that it would improve safety inside the unnamed institution.

Smith explained the decisions as part of a commitment to human rights that he said was increasingly critical as rapid technological advances empower governments to conduct blanket surveillance, deploy autonomous weapons and take other steps that might prove impossible to reverse.

‘Race to the bottom’

Microsoft said in December it would be open about shortcomings in its facial recognition and asked customers to be transparent about how they intended to use it, while stopping short of ruling out sales to police.

Smith has called for greater regulation of facial recognition and other uses of artificial intelligence, and he warned Tuesday that without that, companies amassing the most data might win the race to develop the best AI in a “race to the bottom.”

He shared the stage with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who urged tech companies to refrain from building new tools without weighing their impact.

“Please embody the human rights approach when you are developing technology,” said Bachelet, a former president of Chile.

Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw declined to name the prospective customers the company turned down.

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Microsoft Rejected Some Sales of Facial-Recognition Software

Microsoft recently rejected a California law enforcement agency’s request to install facial recognition technology in officers’ cars and body cameras because of human rights concerns, company President Brad Smith said Tuesday.

Microsoft concluded it would lead to innocent women and minorities being disproportionately held for questioning because the artificial intelligence has been trained on mostly white, male pictures.

AI has more cases of mistaken identity with women and minorities, multiple research projects have found.

“Anytime they pulled anyone over, they wanted to run a face scan” against a database of suspects, Smith said without naming the agency. After thinking through the uneven impact, “we said this technology is not your answer.”

Prison contract accepted

Speaking at a Stanford University conference on “human-centered artificial intelligence,” Smith said Microsoft had also declined a deal to install facial recognition on cameras blanketing the capital city of an unnamed country that the nonprofit Freedom House had deemed not free. Smith said it would have suppressed freedom of assembly there.

On the other hand, Microsoft did agree to provide the technology to an American prison, after the company concluded that the environment would be limited and that it would improve safety inside the unnamed institution.

Smith explained the decisions as part of a commitment to human rights that he said was increasingly critical as rapid technological advances empower governments to conduct blanket surveillance, deploy autonomous weapons and take other steps that might prove impossible to reverse.

‘Race to the bottom’

Microsoft said in December it would be open about shortcomings in its facial recognition and asked customers to be transparent about how they intended to use it, while stopping short of ruling out sales to police.

Smith has called for greater regulation of facial recognition and other uses of artificial intelligence, and he warned Tuesday that without that, companies amassing the most data might win the race to develop the best AI in a “race to the bottom.”

He shared the stage with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who urged tech companies to refrain from building new tools without weighing their impact.

“Please embody the human rights approach when you are developing technology,” said Bachelet, a former president of Chile.

Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw declined to name the prospective customers the company turned down.

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Google Blocks Chinese App TikTok in India After Court Order

Google has blocked access to the hugely popular video app TikTok in India to comply with a state court’s directive to prohibit its downloads, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

The move comes hours after a court in southern Tamil Nadu state refused a request by China’s Bytedance Technology to suspend a ban on its TikTok app, putting its future in one of its key markets in doubt.

The state court had on April 3 asked the federal government to ban TikTok, saying it encouraged pornography and made child users vulnerable to sexual predators. Its ruling came after an individual launched a public interest litigation calling for a ban.

The federal government had sent a letter to Apple and Google to abide by the state court’s order, according to an IT ministry official.

The app was still available on Apple’s platforms late Tuesday, but was no longer available on Google’s Play store in India.

Google said in a statement it does not comment on individual apps but adheres to local laws. Apple did not respond to requests for comment, while TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Google’s move.

TikTok, which allows users to create and share short videos with special effects, has become hugely popular in India but has been criticized by some politicians who say its content is inappropriate.

It had been downloaded more than 240 million times in India, app analytics firm Sensor Tower said in February. More than 30 million users in India installed it in January 2019, 12 times more than in the same month last year.

Jokes, clips and footage related to India’s thriving movie industry dominate the app’s platform, along with memes and videos in which youngsters, some scantily clad, lip-sync and dance to popular music.

Challenge to court’s ban

Bytedance challenged the state court’s ban order in India’s Supreme Court last week, saying it went against freedom of speech rights in India.

The top court had referred the case back to the state court, where a judge on Tuesday rejected Bytedance’s request to put the ban order on hold, said K. Neelamegam, a lawyer arguing against Bytedance in the case.

TikTok earlier said in a statement that it had faith in the Indian judicial system and was “optimistic about an outcome that would be well received by millions” of its users. It did not comment further on the judge’s decision.

The company, however, welcomed the decision to appoint a senior lawyer to assist the court in upcoming proceedings.

The state court has requested written submissions from Bytedance in the case and has scheduled its next hearing for April 24.

Salman Waris, a technology lawyer at TechLegis Advocates & Solicitors, said the legal action against Bytedance could set a precedent of Indian courts intervening to regulate content on social media and other digital platforms.

In its Supreme Court filing, Bytedance argued that a “very minuscule” proportion of TikTok content was considered inappropriate or obscene.

The company employs more than 250 people in India and had plans for more investment as it expands the business, it said.

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Google Blocks Chinese App TikTok in India After Court Order

Google has blocked access to the hugely popular video app TikTok in India to comply with a state court’s directive to prohibit its downloads, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

The move comes hours after a court in southern Tamil Nadu state refused a request by China’s Bytedance Technology to suspend a ban on its TikTok app, putting its future in one of its key markets in doubt.

The state court had on April 3 asked the federal government to ban TikTok, saying it encouraged pornography and made child users vulnerable to sexual predators. Its ruling came after an individual launched a public interest litigation calling for a ban.

The federal government had sent a letter to Apple and Google to abide by the state court’s order, according to an IT ministry official.

The app was still available on Apple’s platforms late Tuesday, but was no longer available on Google’s Play store in India.

Google said in a statement it does not comment on individual apps but adheres to local laws. Apple did not respond to requests for comment, while TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Google’s move.

TikTok, which allows users to create and share short videos with special effects, has become hugely popular in India but has been criticized by some politicians who say its content is inappropriate.

It had been downloaded more than 240 million times in India, app analytics firm Sensor Tower said in February. More than 30 million users in India installed it in January 2019, 12 times more than in the same month last year.

Jokes, clips and footage related to India’s thriving movie industry dominate the app’s platform, along with memes and videos in which youngsters, some scantily clad, lip-sync and dance to popular music.

Challenge to court’s ban

Bytedance challenged the state court’s ban order in India’s Supreme Court last week, saying it went against freedom of speech rights in India.

The top court had referred the case back to the state court, where a judge on Tuesday rejected Bytedance’s request to put the ban order on hold, said K. Neelamegam, a lawyer arguing against Bytedance in the case.

TikTok earlier said in a statement that it had faith in the Indian judicial system and was “optimistic about an outcome that would be well received by millions” of its users. It did not comment further on the judge’s decision.

The company, however, welcomed the decision to appoint a senior lawyer to assist the court in upcoming proceedings.

The state court has requested written submissions from Bytedance in the case and has scheduled its next hearing for April 24.

Salman Waris, a technology lawyer at TechLegis Advocates & Solicitors, said the legal action against Bytedance could set a precedent of Indian courts intervening to regulate content on social media and other digital platforms.

In its Supreme Court filing, Bytedance argued that a “very minuscule” proportion of TikTok content was considered inappropriate or obscene.

The company employs more than 250 people in India and had plans for more investment as it expands the business, it said.

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Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Tackles Visitors’ Color Blindness

The vibrant colors and hues that make up Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings soon will be on full display for color blind visitors

The vibrant colors and hues in Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings soon will be on full display for color blind visitors.

The Santa Fe museum announced Monday it’s teaming up with California-based EnChroma to expand the gallery experience through special glasses.

Starting May 3, visitors with red-green color blindness can borrow glasses to see O’Keeffe’s work in the way that she intended. 

One of the museum’s curators, Katrina Stacy, says O’Keeffe in her later years developed visual impairment from macular degeneration and turned her attention to sculpture. 

Stacy says the project with EnChroma has ties to that part of the artist’s story.

EnChroma co-founder Andrew Schmeder says O’Keeffe juxtaposed colors from nature in ways that evoked emotion and seeing that relationship between colors has been challenging for people with color blindness.

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Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Tackles Visitors’ Color Blindness

The vibrant colors and hues that make up Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings soon will be on full display for color blind visitors

The vibrant colors and hues in Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings soon will be on full display for color blind visitors.

The Santa Fe museum announced Monday it’s teaming up with California-based EnChroma to expand the gallery experience through special glasses.

Starting May 3, visitors with red-green color blindness can borrow glasses to see O’Keeffe’s work in the way that she intended. 

One of the museum’s curators, Katrina Stacy, says O’Keeffe in her later years developed visual impairment from macular degeneration and turned her attention to sculpture. 

Stacy says the project with EnChroma has ties to that part of the artist’s story.

EnChroma co-founder Andrew Schmeder says O’Keeffe juxtaposed colors from nature in ways that evoked emotion and seeing that relationship between colors has been challenging for people with color blindness.

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Israeli Nonprofit Vows New Moon Mission After 1st Crashes

The Israeli start-up behind last week’s failed lunar landing has vowed to create a second mission to steer a privately funded spacecraft onto the moon.

Morris Kahn, Israeli billionaire and chairman of SpaceIL, the nonprofit that undertook the botched lunar mission, says he’s already formed a task force of engineers and donors that will build another spacecraft. He called the new mission a lesson in persistence for “the younger generation.”

 

SpaceIL confirmed Monday that the crew will convene in the coming weeks to figure out how to fix the technical glitches that caused the first mission to crash, while still keeping the venture relatively fast and cheap.

 

The crash ended an ambitious eight-year effort to make Israel the fourth nation to land on the moon.

 

 

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Israeli Nonprofit Vows New Moon Mission After 1st Crashes

The Israeli start-up behind last week’s failed lunar landing has vowed to create a second mission to steer a privately funded spacecraft onto the moon.

Morris Kahn, Israeli billionaire and chairman of SpaceIL, the nonprofit that undertook the botched lunar mission, says he’s already formed a task force of engineers and donors that will build another spacecraft. He called the new mission a lesson in persistence for “the younger generation.”

 

SpaceIL confirmed Monday that the crew will convene in the coming weeks to figure out how to fix the technical glitches that caused the first mission to crash, while still keeping the venture relatively fast and cheap.

 

The crash ended an ambitious eight-year effort to make Israel the fourth nation to land on the moon.

 

 

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Tech Program Turns Low Income S. Africa Girls Into High Achievers

Women are woefully underrepresented in technology, science, engineering and mathematics jobs in South Africa. But for the last decade, a homegrown, UNICEF-supported program has worked to bring 11,000 lower-income high school girls into these industries.

Among those students was Raquel Sorota.

Sorota has come a long way from her humble upbringing in Johannesburg’s Tembisa township. She now works as a risk engineer at a top South African insurance company.

She was those one of those South African high school girls who went through the UNICEF-supported TechnoGirls program, which started in 2005. She was selected for the program in 2009.

Now 24, she says it changed her life.

“My life has literally never been the same again,” she said. “So, before the program, I wanted to be a doctor and today I’m an engineer, through that program. So I think a lot of what I think I took from that program was how it exposed me to the world of engineering. I think for the longest time I never knew how broad that world was and that I could have a place in that world, most importantly.”

Bright, disadvantaged girls

The program selects bright high school girls from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, gives them exposure to professions in science, technology, engineering and math, pairs them with mentors, and follows them through their university studies.

The program’s founder, Staff Sithole, says this is about much more than creating a new crop of workers. This, she says, is about changing the world — and who runs it.

“It is more an instrument, or a program, which is contributing towards gender equality. So rather than just running advocacy programs, let’s come with something that can change the circumstances, can be a purposeful targeted intervention of contributing towards gender equality,” she said.

Challenging obstacles

For high school students Gugulethu Zungu and Queen Makaile, the obstacles are more than just lack of opportunity. Both are physically challenged; they were both born with different, rare genetic defects that have affected their appearance and their health. Both were chosen to participate in the program this year for their high grades in math and science.

Zungu says the program led her to identify her dream career — forensics — but also to expand her horizons.

“I like investigating and solving mysteries. And it actually makes me believe that, indeed, nothing is impossible. You just have to think out of the box,” she said.

Makaile, who has struggled with hearing and vision problems as a result of her rare defect that has also given her asymmetrical facial features, says she now wants to be come a journalist, to show the world that her thoughts matter more than her looks.

For these girls, nothing, they say, will stand in their way.

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Tech Program Turns Low Income S. Africa Girls Into High Achievers

Women are woefully underrepresented in technology, science, engineering and mathematics jobs in South Africa. But for the last decade, a homegrown, UNICEF-supported program has worked to bring 11,000 lower-income high school girls into these industries.

Among those students was Raquel Sorota.

Sorota has come a long way from her humble upbringing in Johannesburg’s Tembisa township. She now works as a risk engineer at a top South African insurance company.

She was those one of those South African high school girls who went through the UNICEF-supported TechnoGirls program, which started in 2005. She was selected for the program in 2009.

Now 24, she says it changed her life.

“My life has literally never been the same again,” she said. “So, before the program, I wanted to be a doctor and today I’m an engineer, through that program. So I think a lot of what I think I took from that program was how it exposed me to the world of engineering. I think for the longest time I never knew how broad that world was and that I could have a place in that world, most importantly.”

Bright, disadvantaged girls

The program selects bright high school girls from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, gives them exposure to professions in science, technology, engineering and math, pairs them with mentors, and follows them through their university studies.

The program’s founder, Staff Sithole, says this is about much more than creating a new crop of workers. This, she says, is about changing the world — and who runs it.

“It is more an instrument, or a program, which is contributing towards gender equality. So rather than just running advocacy programs, let’s come with something that can change the circumstances, can be a purposeful targeted intervention of contributing towards gender equality,” she said.

Challenging obstacles

For high school students Gugulethu Zungu and Queen Makaile, the obstacles are more than just lack of opportunity. Both are physically challenged; they were both born with different, rare genetic defects that have affected their appearance and their health. Both were chosen to participate in the program this year for their high grades in math and science.

Zungu says the program led her to identify her dream career — forensics — but also to expand her horizons.

“I like investigating and solving mysteries. And it actually makes me believe that, indeed, nothing is impossible. You just have to think out of the box,” she said.

Makaile, who has struggled with hearing and vision problems as a result of her rare defect that has also given her asymmetrical facial features, says she now wants to be come a journalist, to show the world that her thoughts matter more than her looks.

For these girls, nothing, they say, will stand in their way.

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