Every day, millions of people are being unwittingly recorded by others. Every person you see walking down the street likely has a means to record your image and transmit it to billions of people at a whim. But, would you have ever expected that your Lyft or Uber ride was being broadcast across the globe for others’ entertainment? For some passengers in St. Louis, this was their reality.
If you haven’t seen Sundar Pichai’s presentation on Google Duplex, watch it. The technology is fascinating.
Google is developing software that can assist users in completing specific tasks such as making reservations by telephone. The software uses anonymized phone conversations as the basis for its neural network and in conjunction with automated speech recognition and text-to-speech software can have independent phone conversations with other people. Incredibly, the software requires no human interaction—at least by the user requesting the service—to complete its task. The result is that you can task the software to setup a haircut appointment for you, or book a table at a restaurant where it is difficult to get reservations, with no further input needed. It can also work with different scheduling options if your preferred time is not available. And importantly, the conversations seem natural—it is very difficult to tell that one of the participants in the conversation is a computer.
If there’s a golden rule for the online age we live in, it’s “Always assume anything you post online will be visible to all.” Just like the original Golden Rule, it’s a maxim ignored often enough to bear repeating and frequent illustration. With that in mind, let’s check in on recent developments regarding social media revealing details its users would rather conceal—bankruptcy edition.
Recent developments in deep learning artificial intelligence have enabled almost anyone to superimpose facial features—including an entirely different face—into a preexisting video with relatively minimal effort. Until very recently, editing facial features in a video has been incredibly difficult. Even movie studios with access to professional video editing tools have struggled with the task as recently as in 2017, when actor Henry Cavill—portraying everyone’s favorite son of Krypton—sported a mustache he was contractually unable to remove during reshoots, leading to a widely criticized post-production digital shave. Because of the inherent difficulty in convincingly manipulating video to appear realistic, the public has widely been trusting of video’s authenticity while viewing still photos more skeptically. With recent developments in artificial intelligence, this thinking must now change.
As we discussed recently, the Equifax data breach has inevitably brought a great deal of scrutiny and legal action against the credit reporting agency. Amidst the numerous brewing class actions and other reactions from government agencies and state AGs, it’s worth pointing out another front on which the company—and more importantly, individuals within the company—may face legal consequences.
Since September 7, 2017, Equifax, one of three credit rating agencies in the United States, has been dealing with the fallout from one of the largest (known) data breaches of personal information, putting 143 million Americans at risk from fraud and identity theft (roughly 44% of the U.S. population).
“Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.” Edgar Alan Poe wrote those words over a century ago, yet if he were alive today he may opt for the darker: “Believe nothing you hear and nothing you see.” Over the past decade, advances in graphics technology have provided visual effects artists the ability to create fantastical new worlds on film and to populate those worlds with people, all with an astounding amount of realism. Of particular interest in this post is the ability of this technology to create realistic digital replicas of actors that can be manipulated like puppets to deliver new cinematic performances without the need for any further input from the actor—such as when the late Peter Cushing was digitally recreated in order to reprise the character of Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
After counter-protests ended in tragedy, a small group of social media users took to Twitter to expose the identities of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis rallying in Charlottesville, Va. Since last Sunday, the @YesYoureRacist account has been calling on Twitter users to identify participants in the rally. Twitter users identified several white supremacists, including Cole White. Users revealed White’s name and place of residence and his employer reportedly fired him from his job at a restaurant in Berkeley, Calif. Several other employers fired employees identified online as attending the rally. In the wake of what will likely be just the latest incident where such behavior will be exhibited and subsequently called out on social media, it’s a good time to look at doxing and the legal environment in which it exists.
“Pleeeease?!” Buying a quick gift or giving in to your child’s pleas for a new toy is quickly becoming a more serious decision. In the age where toys can happily entertain kids by talking to them, the few precious moments those toys buy parents may not be without risk. It’s possible for anyone within an internet-connected toy’s Bluetooth range to connect to the toy and receive their audio recordings, while being up to 100 feet away. For example, in December 2015, VTech allegedly exposed the personal information of 6.4 million children, which included their names, genders and birthdays. Stealing a child’s personal information is, at the very least, concerning. However internet-connected toys come with an additional danger—localized hacking. Just look at Cayla, an internet-connected fashion doll manufactured and sold by Genesis Toys. My Friend Cayla answers fact-based questions, plays games, reads stories, and even solves math problems. Genesis uses third-party voice-recognition software by U.S.- based company, and the doll requires an iOS/Android application to use the software. The doll’s mobile application researches and supplies Cayla with factual answers to questions, but it also prompts children to set their physical location, parents’ names and school name.
Almost everyone (even my parents) has seen the Crying Michael Jordan meme popping up around the internet and social media. Crying Jordan has appeared in the standard meme form of photoshopped images and gifs but has also inspired Halloween masks and even customized Air Jordan sneakers. TMZ reports that Jordan doesn’t have a problem with it, as long as no one uses it to “promote their commercial interests.” But what if he changed his mind or someone started using it for commercial gain? Could Jordan protect himself against “unauthorized memeing”?