facial recognition

Cities Take Lead On Blocking Facial Recognition Tech

Because there are no federal regulations to limit the spread of facial recognition technology, local activists across the nation are demanding action from cities, counties and states to stop it. ⁃ TN Editor

Cities and states are leading the crackdown on using facial recognition as lawmakers in Congress struggle to find a path to address concerns over the emerging technology.

Privacy and civil rights advocates have castigated facial recognition as overly invasive and potentially discriminatory. But with Washington appearing slow to act, critics are now targeting their efforts at the state and local level, where they believe legislation to restrict the technology can move faster and tougher action is likelier.

Their campaign has been bolstered by a series of wins in recent weeks. San Francisco last month became the first city to ban local government agencies from using facial recognition technology, followed last week by Somerville, Mass.

Meanwhile, several states are weighing proposals that would limit or temporarily halt the government’s use of the sensitive tech.

“The value of cities, and states as well, is that they are the laboratories of democracy,” Jacob Snow, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told The Hill in a phone interview. “It’s been heartening to see that right now they are leading the charge to limit face surveillance.”

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers have pledged they will offer bipartisan legislation on facial recognition technology sometime this year, but so far the most substantive action has been limited to a series of House Oversight Committee hearings.

“Congress is still in the early stages of educating itself about facial recognition,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has been raising concerns over the technology for years, said in a statement to The Hill. “And I fear by the time it does, the train will have left the station.”

Activists are hoping to ultimately direct the local grassroots passion toward Congress as they push for a temporary ban or at least more regulation.

Facial recognition technology, which scans people’s faces for the purpose of identifying them, has swept across the country in recent years without any government regulation or oversight. There is no federal law that provides safeguards on face scanning, a form of biometric surveillance.

While it’s difficult to determine how many law enforcement agencies currently use facial recognition technology, a 2016 study by the Georgetown Center on Privacy and Technology found that at least one on in four police agencies can run facial recognition searches. And according to market research firm Grand View Research, the government “facial biometrics” market is expected to spike from $136.9 million in 2018 to $375 million by 2025.

Skeptics of the government’s use of the technology – a coalition that includes civil liberties and civil rights activists and some leading tech companies – warn that it can provide authorities with unprecedented access to the daily lives of every person in the U.S., opening the door to a litany of privacy violations that could erode freedoms and raise the specter of constant surveillance.

And multiple studies have shown that some facial recognition technology is more likely to misidentify women and people of color, an issue that emerges when the software is trained on datasets of largely white men.

As airlines set up face scanners and police officers deploy the technology to find criminals, critics uniformly are calling for a halt.

“If we don’t act quickly and harness the growing backlash to this technology … and get real restrictions in place at both the local, state and federal level, then I think this technology will spread very quickly,” Evan Greer, deputy director of digital rights group Fight for the Future, said. “And that will normalize a type of surveillance that is incredibly invasive.”

Activists have launched a number of grassroots campaigns over the past year in states including Washington, California, and Massachusetts to push for local and state crackdowns, tallying up wins despite pushback from law enforcement and some tech trade groups.

Massachusetts is considering a bill that would bar state government agencies from obtaining or using facial recognition technology until the legislature passes regulations.

And in California, legislation that would bar the installation of facial recognition software in police body cameras is making its way through the Senate.

“By adding facial recognition software to police body cams, you are deploying thousands of cameras in California immediately and surveilling ordinary citizens 24 hours a day,” California Assemblyman Phil Ting told The Hill, explaining the impetus behind the bill. “I don’t know that ordinary citizens like [that surveillance].”

There are no states actively considering all-out bans, largely due to a delicate strategy employed by the coalition of privacy activists across the country, driven by the ACLU. They have targeted cities for bans while calling for a temporary pause, also known as a moratorium, at the state and federal level.

“States and the federal government can do things that cities can’t do in terms of setting up regulatory frameworks,” Ben Ewen-Campen, the city council member who introduced Somerville’s facial recognition ban, told The Hill. “The state has control of our criminal justice system in a way that cities never can.”

San Francisco and Somerville are offering a model for other cities, including Oakland and Berkley, which are considering their own bans.

Ewen-Campen, who cited national polls indicating most voters are skeptical of facial scanning, said he believes cities are acting in the vacuum left by Congress.

“Cities have no choice,” Ewen-Campen said. “Given the fact that right now, there are no regulations at the state or federal level and the technology is light years ahead of any kind of regulation, I don’t see another option.”

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr., 120 Others Blast Vaccinations At Statehouse

Yes, it’s that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., son of the late Robert “Bobby” Kennedy, who is leading the national anti-vaccine movement. Big Tech routinely censors him, his followers and anyone who writes critically of vaccines. ⁃ TN Editor

Cara Hathaway left her job as a speech therapist because she said she couldn’t work in a hospital and speak out against the vaccine manufacturers she believes are doing more harm than good.

A bad reaction to the vaccine for human papilomavirus and a miscarriage after she was vaccinated for the flu motivated Hathaway to learn more about what has become a heated national debate over whether vaccinations should be required for school children and adults in some work places.

Public health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are clear: vaccines are safe and effective. Still, fears of side effects and chronic illness have stoked a vocal anti-vaccination movement that came to the Ohio Statehouse on Wednesday.

About 120 activists, many of them wearing red, listened in the atrium as a panel of speakers described the ways they believe regulators and pharmaceutical companies are hiding the truth about the damage vaccines cause.

The anti-vaccine event’s headliner was Robert F. Kennedy Jr., founder of Children’s Health Defense, who has become the celebrity face of the national anti-vaccine movement.

“We have the most aggressive vaccine schedule in the world and we have the sickest children in the developed world,” Kennedy said at the event, chastising pharmaceutical companies, regulators and lawmakers.

Rep. Ron Hood, R-Ashville, is sponsoring a bill that would prevent employers from taking adverse action against workers who refuse to be vaccinated for medical reasons or “reasons of conscience,” including religious beliefs.

Similar proposals targeting flu shots have fizzled in committee in previous sessions of the General Assembly.

Listen to the latest Buckeye Forum politics podcast:

The Ohio Hospital Association is “concerned that this legislation threatens the health and safety of patients, employees and the community,” said John Palmer, the organization’s spokesman, in an email.

The American Medical Association earlier this month adopted a policy to expand its policy to advocate for regulation and policies to incentivize states to eliminate non-medical exemptions from mandated pediatric immunizations.

Supporters lauded Hood’s bill and spoke out against an amendment in the Senate version of the state budget that would remove a religious and philosophical exemption for vaccinations of children at private schools.

Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said has not delved deeply into vaccination policy, but is willing to discuss it with House leadership and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.

“If you are a private institution, you also have rights to decide what the rules are for attending those institutions,” Obhof said of the budget provision affecting private schools.

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Anatomy Of A Failed Solar Power Project: A ‘Large Taxpayer-Funded Pile Of Scrap’

The world will be littered with failed solar and wind projects like this one that are pointedly unable to ever deliver on their utopian promises. Meanwhile, taxpayers get hosed while fat-cat Technocrats get paid hefty salaries. ⁃ TN Editor

It was supposed to supply cheaper, greener energy to up to 5000 homes but after six years and tens of millions of dollars, a cutting-edge solar energy project has produced nothing other than a large taxpayer-funded pile of scrap.

Three thousand solar panels sit unused on a concrete pad after the pioneering Kogan Creek Solar Boost project was shelved due to rusting pipes and “rapidly moving clouds”.

Now the site’s manager alleges the Commonwealth and Queensland governments breached their contractual requirements by never inspecting the doomed $105 million project.

Run by French nuclear group Areva for Queensland state-owned power utility CS Energy, the project was designed to increase efficiency and reduce carbon emissions at the coal-fired Kogan Creek power station near Chinchilla.

The plan had been to use thousands of mirrors to focus solar energy to pre-heat steam used to drive power-generating turbines. The technology’s inventor, Australian scientist Dr David Mills, in 2014 received an Order Of Australia for his work on solar power from the Abbott government.

But CS Energy scrapped the unfinished scheme last year, blaming “technical and contractual problems”. It won’t reveal exactly how much it cost, but recorded a $70 million impairment in its 2016 accounts because of the scheme.

Half that amount came from the Queensland Government’s Carbon Reduction Program.

Commonwealth body the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) was to put up an additional $35 million in funding, although it told Fairfax Media it ended up handing over only $6.4 million.

The plan had been to use thousands of mirrors to focus solar energy to pre-heat steam used to drive power-generating turbines. The technology’s inventor, Australian scientist Dr David Mills, in 2014 received an Order Of Australia for his work on solar power from the Abbott government.

But CS Energy scrapped the unfinished scheme last year, blaming “technical and contractual problems”. It won’t reveal exactly how much it cost, but recorded a $70 million impairment in its 2016 accounts because of the scheme.

Half that amount came from the Queensland Government’s Carbon Reduction Program.

Commonwealth body the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) was to put up an additional $35 million in funding, although it told Fairfax Media it ended up handing over only $6.4 million.

Meanwhile, a shipment of steel Areva imported from China was of such poor quality it had to be buried as scrap; then a company in Newcastle making another key component went into administration.

He said at one stage Areva flew 40 workers to the site from the US but they arrived without appropriate safety gear or training.

“They had no safety boots, they thought it was alright to go on site with normal shoes. I said: ‘Pack them back on the plane’.”

Mr Canham estimated that Areva received between $45 million and $48 million for the project but spent as much as $95 million, representing a loss to the company of nearly $50 million.

According to Mr Canham, the head contract required regular site visits by the funding bodies.

“ARENA never came to the site,” he said.

“They were supposed to come every three months. They were really into this solar thing and they never came once.

“With the state government – the same thing. Never saw anyone.”

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Leaked: How Facebook Determines ‘Hate Agent’ Status

The reason that Big Tech censorship seems so disjointed is because it is. Facebook gathers data about you from online and offline sources, determines all your associations, what posts you share, who you interview, who you ‘Like’ and then slaps you with a hate score. Once tagged as a ‘Hate Agent’, the designation will blacklist you for years to come. Once shared with other Big Tech companies, your blacklisting will become universal. ⁃ TN Editor

Facebook monitors the offline behavior of its users to determine if they should be categorized as a “Hate Agent,” according to a document provided exclusively to Breitbart News by a source within the social media giant.

The document, titled “Hate Agent Policy Review” outlines a series of “signals” that Facebook uses to determine if someone ought to be categorized as a “hate agent” and banned from the platform.

Those signals include a wide range of on- and off-platform behavior. If you praise the wrong individual, interview them, or appear at events alongside them, Facebook may categorize you as a “hate agent.”

Facebook may also categorize you as a hate agent if you self-identify with or advocate for a “Designated Hateful Ideology,” if you associate with a “Designated Hate Entity” (one of the examples cited by Facebook as a “hate entity” includes Islam critic Tommy Robinson), or if you have “tattoos of hate symbols or hate slogans.” (The document cites no examples of these, but the media and “anti-racism” advocacy groups increasingly label innocuous items as “hate symbols,” including a cartoon frog and the “OK” hand sign.)

Facebook will also categorize you as a hate agent for possession of “hate paraphernalia,” although the document provides no examples of what falls into this category.

The document also says Facebook will categorize you as a hate agent for “statements made in private but later made public.” Of course, Facebook holds vast amounts of information on what you say in public and in private — and as we saw with the Daily Beast doxing story, the platform will publicize private information on their users to assist the media in hitjobs on regular American citizens.

Breitbart News has already covered some of the individuals that Facebook placed on its list of potential “hate agents.” Paul Joseph Watson eventually was categorized as “hateful” and banned from the platform, in part, according to the document, because he praised Tommy Robinson and interviewed him on his YouTube channel. Star conservative pundit Candace Owens and conservative author and terrorism expert Brigitte Gabriel were also on the list, as were British politicians Carl Benjamin and Anne Marie Waters.

The Benjamin addition reveals that Facebook may categorize you as a hate agent merely for speaking neutrally about individuals and organizations that the social network considers hateful. In the document, Facebook tags Benjamin with a “hate agent” signal for “neutral representation of John Kinsman, member of Proud Boys” on October 21 last year.

Facebook also accuses Benjamin, a classical liberal and critic of identity politics, as “representing the ideology of an ethnostate” for a post in which he calls out an actual advocate of an ethnostate.

In addition to the more unorthodox signals that Facebook uses to determine if its users are “hate agents,” there is also, predictably, “hate speech.” Facebook divides hate speech into three tiers depending on severity and considers attacks on a person’s “immigration status” to be hate speech.

Here’s how “hate speech” — both on and off Facebook — will be categorized by the platform, according to the document:

Individual has made public statements, or statements made in private and later made public, using Tier 1, 2, or 3 hate speech or slurs:

3 instances in one statement or appearance = signal
5 instances in multiple statements or appearances over one month = signal

If you’ve done this within the past two years, Facebook will consider it a hate signal.

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Study: Solar And Wind Generation Makes Electricity More Expensive

The renewable industry will howl and whine about this authoritative study from the University of Chicago, but the facts are in: Renewables drive energy costs UP, not down as claimed.  ⁃ TN Editor

Solar panels and wind turbines are making electricity significantly more expensive, a major new study by a team of economists from the University of Chicago finds.

Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) “significantly increase average retail electricity prices, with prices increasing by 11% (1.3 cents per kWh) seven years after the policy’s passage into law and 17% (2 cents per kWh) twelve years afterward,” the economists write.

The study, which has yet to go through peer-review, was done by Michael Greenstone, Richard McDowell, and Ishan Nath. It compared states with and without an RPS. It did so using what the economists say is “the most comprehensive state-level dataset ever compiled” which covered 1990 to 2015.

The cost to consumers has been staggeringly high: “All in all, seven years after passage, consumers in the 29 states had paid $125.2 billion more for electricity than they would have in the absence of the policy,” they write.

Last year, I was the first journalist to report that solar and wind are making electricity more expensive in the United States — and for inherently physical reasons.

Solar and wind require that natural gas plants, hydro-electric dams, batteries or some other form of reliable power be ready at a moment’s notice to start churning out electricity when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining, I noted.

And unreliability requires solar- and/or wind-heavy places like Germany, California, and Denmark to pay neighboring nations or states to take their solar and wind energy when they are producing too much of it.

My reporting was criticized — sort of — by those who claimed I hadn’t separated correlation from causation, but the new study by a top-notch team of economists, including an advisor to Barack Obama, proves I was right.

Previous studies were misleading, the economists note, because they didn’t “incorporate three key costs,” which are the unreliability of renewables, the large amounts of land they require, and the displacement of cheaper “baseload” energy sources like nuclear plants.

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Where Technocrats Play: U.S. Department Of Energy

Ex-Governor of Texas Rick Perry was appointed Secretary of Energy by President Donald Trump on March 2, 2017.

Even though President Trump has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord on global warming, apparently Secretary Perry has not gotten word, for the Department of Energy’s web page on Climate Change is still present on the Energy.gov website, which prominently states, 

Addressing the effects of climate change is a top priority of the Energy Department. As global temperatures rise, wildfires, drought, and high electricity demand put stress on the nation’s energy infrastructure. And severe weather — the leading cause of power outages and fuel supply disruption in the United States — is projected to worsen, with eight of the 10 most destructive hurricanes of all time having happened in the last 10 years.

To fight climate change, the Energy Department supports research and innovation that makes fossil energy technologies cleaner and less harmful to the people and the environment. We’re taking responsible steps to cut carbon pollution, develop domestic renewable energy production and win the global race for clean energy innovation. We’re also working to dramatically increase the efficiency of  applianceshomes, businesses and vehicles.

The Climate Change page presents a map of “How Climate Change Threatens America’s Energy Infrastructure in Every Region.” Then it displays a globe with the heading, “Energy Exascale Earth System Model” (E3SM) and explains that, 

E3SM is a modeling, simulation, and prediction project that optimizes the use of DoE laboratory resources to meet the science needs of the nation.

Even in light of this, it is still puzzling to some why the world’s most powerful supercomputer is being created by the DoE to realize the “full potential of AI.”  According to an article in The Next Web,

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has announced it’s setting aside $600 million to build the world’s fastest supercomputer called Frontier. It will be jointly developed by AMD and Seattle-based supercomputer specialist Cray.

The Frontier supercomputer will be capable of completing more than 1.5 quintillion calculations per second, and will join Aurora to become the second of the two exascale systems planned by US DoE for 2021.

This must somehow be reconciled to the DoE’s very simple Mission Statement also displayed on its website: 

The mission of the Energy Department is to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.

Certainly the Frontier project is “transformative”, but why on earth does the DoE need the fastest AI computer in the world? And, what does it intend to do with it?

Enter Smart Grid. We know from the above that the DoE is “working to dramatically increase the efficiency of applianceshomes, businesses and vehicles.” The continuous and personal data stream collected from the nation’s grid is the perfect input for such an AI super-computer to control the whole system from a single location. When President Obama (a Democrat) unleashed the Smart Grid program in 2009, the goal of micro-managing the country’s energy usage was in plain view, and it soon may be finally realized in practice, with Secretary Rick Perry (a Republican ) taking the credit.

The origin of the entire Smart Grid concept is found in the DoE’s Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), created in 1937 and located in Pacific Northwest. Historically, the BPA was saturated with early Technocrats because of its deep involvement with hydroelectric power. In the early 1990s, the BPA took credit for having coined the term, “Energy Web”, which later became “Smart Grid”.

The 1934 Technocracy Study Course, principally authored by Technocracy, Inc. co-founder M. King Hubbert, clearly specified control over energy in its seven-point requirements list: 

  • Register on a continuous 24 hour-per-day basis the total net conversion of energy
  • By means of the registration of energy converted and consumed, make possible a balanced load.

The Trans-Texas Corridor Fiasco

Another globalist project that Rick Perry took credit for dates back to his tenure as Governor of Texas, when he tried to force the so-called Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) into existence between 2001 and 2010 as part of the North American Union (NAU) initiative engineered by President George Bush, Mexican President Vincente Fox and Canadian Premier Paul Martin. 

The NAU was a springboard from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to create a continental area comparable in design to the European Union. The TTC was to be a super-corridor 1,200 feet wide that carried tollways, rail and utility lines, stretching from the Mexican border to Oklahoma and ultimately to Kansas City. 

The TTC was envisioned as an extensive network of Public-Private Partnerships that would have allowed global corporations to charge tolls for transit of not only freight delivered up by rail from Mexico, but also for services such as water, electricity, natural gas and fiber optic lines. It would have been one of the largest eminent domain land-grabs ever conducted, with the ultimate seizure of 584,000 acres of land held privately, mostly by ranchers and farmers.

After the plan was exposed to the American public, the uproar and protest was so great that the entire TTC project was ultimately terminated along with the NAU. Much of the credit went to Oklahoma as its legislature refused to let the super-corridor pass into its territory from Texas.

Although Governor Perry tried to dodge the political bullet for the whole episode, Texas Department of  Transportation documents released in 2002 stated that,

Governor Rick Perry wrote Transportation Commission Chairman John W. Johnson on January 30, 2002 to outline his vision for the Trans Texas Corridor. The governor asked the three-member commission to assemble the Texas Department of Transportation’s top talent to create and deliver a Trans Texas Corridor implementation plan in 90 days.

This is the same Rick Perry who today, as Secretary of Energy, is attempting to build the world’s fastest super-computer to realize the “full potential of AI.” Although Frontier will undoubtedly be shared with other government agencies, NGOs and private researchers, Technocrats within the DoE will have the ultimate tool to assert total control over all energy converted and consumed in the United States. 



Feds Seek Permanent Renewal Of NSA Phone Surveillance Law

Even though the NSA itself has scrapped a large part of its phone spying/data collection operation because of abysmal usefulness, the Trump Admin is seeking to make its authority to collect the data permanent. ⁃ TN Editor

The Trump administration has signaled in recent weeks that it may seek the permanent renewal of a surveillance law that has, among other things, enabled the National Security Agency to gather and analyze Americans’ phone records as part of terrorism investigations, according to five U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

The White House, these officials said, was prepared to issue a public statement calling on Congress to reauthorize in full Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which in the past has been the focus of heated debate over the acceptable bounds of government surveillance. The plan to issue a statement was put on hold, officials said, but it illustrates nonetheless where the administration stands on the contested issue of national security authority.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an issue that remains deeply sensitive.

A White House spokeswoman declined to comment or explain why the statement was not issued, saying only that the matter is still under deliberation.

Section 215 was last revised in 2015 as part of the USA Freedom Act after a former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, exposed how the government was collecting vast quantities of Americans’ phone logs to be able to scan them for clues to terrorist plots. This “metadata” denoted the calls’ time, date and duration, and who called whom, but did not include the conversations’ content. The ensuing uproar led Congress to impose restraints, and last year, the NSA reportedly suspended the program because of technical issues that put Americans’ privacy at risk.

The statute expires in mid-December, and the reported suspension of the phone records program had raised questions about whether the Trump administration would seek to renew it. National security officials widely expect the administration to call for Congress to reauthorize the law without changes.

But the statute, which dates to 1998, empowers more than just the phone logs program. Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress expanded the law to enable agencies investigating suspected espionage and terrorism to request court permission to gather data not just from a narrow set of businesses – such as hotels, warehouses and car rental agencies – but also from any third party. And they could seek data related not just to “agents of a foreign power” but also to anyone whose information would be “relevant” to an ongoing investigation.

Allowing the law to lapse would “reset the clock back to 1998 and gut much more than the phone data aspect,” said Robert Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “It would set the general document collection power back to a highly narrow authority limited to a handful of industries.”

Moreover, analysts note, the NSA might want to restart the phone logs program in the future if it can figure out how to make such data collection viable without violating citizens’ privacy rights. Preserving the full authority would permit that.

It remains a polarizing issue, however. Last May, the NSA purged hundreds of millions of call and text records after officials noted “technical irregularities” in data received from phone companies. Some was material it was “not authorized to receive,” the NSA reported. The program’s utility also is in question as terrorists have largely moved to secure communications that don’t always leave metadata, analysts said.

“While I have doubts about reauthorizing the [phone data] program, I’m certainly open to hearing from the intelligence community about all the authorities set to expire near the end of 2019,” said Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat. He wrote in March to Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and NSA Director Paul Nakasone, asking them to “make the case for keeping Section 215,” but has not received a reply, he said. “I imagine it’s going to be a tough case for the administration to make when they cannot seem to get their act together to even ask for an extension.”

Nakasone said at a conference recently that the NSA was in discussions with other agencies and the White House about the path forward on Section 215. It would likely be “a little bit of time” before a decision is made, he said.

Section 215 “remains a relatively useful authority and is probably not objectionable given the reforms made to it in 2015,” said one congressional aide, who was not authorized to speak on the record. But, the aide said, the administration should expect lawmakers from both parties to object to its permanent renewal. And civil liberties advocates likely will seek to strengthen the law’s privacy protections.

In 2017, NSA collected more than 500 million records from phone companies for just 40 terrorism suspects, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. That’s a staggering number, considering they were gathered under the ‘reform’ version of the program that was supposed to protect Americans’ privacy rights,” said Neema Singh Guliani, senior legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union. Last year, the number was 434 million for 11 targets, according to a report ODNI issued Tuesday. That was despite the program reportedly having been suspended for part of the year.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has called for Congress to strip from Section 215 the authority to collect phone logs. “It is increasingly clear to me that the NSA’s implementation of reforms to the phone records dragnet has been fundamentally flawed,” he said in a statement.

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The FBI Has Gone Rogue With Its Facial Recognition Systems

Technocrats at the FBI are driven to collect unending streams of data on any and all citizens. Any oversight or attempts to regulate are ignored or passively resisted. Other Intel agencies have followed the same pattern.  In the meantime, Americans are being corralled into a Total Surveillance Society scenario similar to China.

[Go Rogue: “To cease to follow orders; to act on one’s own, usually against expectation or instruction. To pursue one’s own interests.” (Urban Dictionary)] ⁃ TN Editor

The FBI still has not assessed whether its facial recognition systems meet privacy and accuracy standards nearly three years after a congressional watchdog—the Government Accountability Office—raised multiple concerns about the bureau’s use of the tech.

Since 2015, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have used the Next Generation Identification-Interstate Photo System, which uses facial recognition software to link potential suspects to crimes, pulling from a database of more than 30 million mugshots and other photos.

In May 2016, the Government Accountability Office recommended the FBI establish checks to ensure the software adhered to the Justice Department’s privacy and accuracy standards, but according to a report published Wednesday, the bureau has yet to implement any of the six proposed policy changes.

GAO added every measure to the Justice Department’s list of “priority open recommendations,” though DOJ officials previously disputed whether four of the six policies are necessary.

“By addressing these issues, DOJ would have reasonable assurance that their [facial recognition] technology provides accurate information that helps enhance, rather than hinder, criminal investigations,” Gretta Goodwin, GAO’s director of justice and law enforcement issues, told Nextgov. “Even more, DOJ would help ensure that it is sufficiently protecting the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. citizens.”

Auditors recommended the bureau test the accuracy and effectiveness of the NGI-IPS system at least once a year and make improvements as necessary, but FBI officials said such reviews were unnecessary because “no users have expressed concerns” with the system. However, annual operational assessments are mandatory under FBI, Justice Department and Office of Management and Budget policy, regardless of user feedback, auditors said.

GAO also urged the bureau to test the system’s false positive rate—how often it incorrectly identifies someone as a potential suspect—but officials have yet to do so. The FBI also relies on a handful of facial recognition systems developed by other state and federal law enforcement agencies to conduct investigations, but GAO found the bureau still isn’t measuring whether those tools meet its accuracy standards either.

“Until FBI officials can assure themselves that the data they receive from external partners are reasonably accurate and reliable, it is unclear whether such agreements are beneficial to the FBI, whether the investment of public resources is justified, and whether photos of innocent people are unnecessarily included as investigative leads,” auditors wrote.

The bureau also failed to implement a pair of GAO recommendations for improving the transparency of its facial recognition operations and determining whether its practices respect individuals’ privacy rights.

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NYMTA Denies Facial Recognition, But 4,500 Cameras Watch NY Subway

The NYMTA says it wants to catch fare evaders so it installs monitors with traveller pictures dynamically framed with yellow boxes, with a bold “recording in progress” message at the top of the screen; but they adamantly deny the use of facial recognition software. ⁃ TN Editor

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority has denied suggestions that it’s putting facial recognition cameras in the subway, saying that a trick designed to scare fare-dodgers was misinterpreted. “There is no capability to recognize or identify individuals and absolutely no plan” to do so with NYC subway cameras, says MTA spokesperson Maxwell Young.

Young was responding to a photo taken in the Times Square subway station by New York Times analyst Alice Fung, which shows a prominently placed monitor with the words “RECORDING IN PROGRESS” and “Please Pay Your Fare” superimposed on a video feed. “Hey @MTA, who are you sharing the recordings with?” Fung asked.

The monitor featured the name Wisenet, a security company that prominently advertises facial recognition capabilities, and the video feed traced squares around subjects’ faces. (Wisenet’s parent company, Hanwha Techwin, did not respond to an email requesting comment.) “While privacy advocates and tech giants are debating how face surveillance should be regulated, [MTA and Port Authority Bus Terminal] just put up a real-time face recognition screen in the Times Sq subway,” tweeted Natasha Singer, another Times staff member.

Young says that the recordings aren’t being monitored to identify individuals in the footage, though. “There is absolutely no facial recognition component to these cameras, no facial recognition software, or anything else that could be used to automatically identify people in any way, and we have no plans to add facial recognition software to these cameras in the future,” he tells The Verge. “These cameras are purely for the purpose of deterring fare evasion — if you see yourself on a monitor, you’re less likely to evade the fare.”

The cameras can supposedly detect motion and recognize that a human is on-screen, which is a feature that’s common in security cameras as well as general purpose photography and video equipment. “But again, there is no capability to recognize or identify individuals and absolutely no plan to,” says Young. New York’s subway system is already heavily surveilled; the MTA contracted with Lockheed Martin and others to install 1,000 cameras and 3,000 motion sensors across the system in 2005, and in 2015, the MTA said there were 4,500 cameras watching the subways. Police also conduct random bag checks in subway stations.

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Alternative Energy Sources Cause Huge Increases In Utility Prices

Are American consumers and businesses willing to pay 200-300 percent more for wind and solar power-generated energy? Since all economic activity is directly enabled by energy, what will shock prices do to the economy? ⁃ TN Editor

Renewable energy has certainly been in the news of late, with a number of states announcing efforts to ramp up wind and solar power. Minnesota is now joining this green movement, thanks to legislation introduced by Sen. Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato, and Rep. Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis. The two are hoping to raise Minnesota’s renewable-energy standard to at least 80 percent by 2035, with a full shift to 100 percent by 2050.

Essentially, Frentz and Long are aiming Minnesota toward a future built mostly on wind and solar power within the next 30 years. Is this practical? And what might it cost?

Right now, Minnesota generates almost 40 percent of its electricity from coal-fired power plants, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. And the state’s nuclear power units account for another 23 percent of net generation. Unlike many states, Minnesota doesn’t use a lot of natural gas-fired power. But its wind farms generated almost 11 million megawatt hours of electricity in 2017 — about as much as its nuclear output. Minnesota ranks eighth in the nation for net wind generation.

The proposed shift away from this balanced mix of resources, along with the security and reliability currently provided by the state’s coal fleet, should give pause. The potential costs of such a transition could be significant.

Residential electricity in Minnesota currently costs 12.47 cents per kilowatt hour, roughly the national average, the Energy Information Administration reports. Germany offers a helpful comparison, since it has been incorporating a similar renewable-energy effort for more than a decade. While Germany has embraced wind and solar power, its electricity costs have skyrocketed to 30 cents per kilowatt hour, the highest in Europe, according to Energy Transition. Even with massive subsidies, Germany’s wind turbines and solar panels still provide only 29 percent of the country’s total electricity generation.

It’s not just rising surcharges pushing up Germany’s electricity prices. There’s also a fundamental inefficiency. Wind and solar perennially require back-up systems for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. According to the Department of Energy, the most advanced wind turbines reach their full capacity only 42.5 percent of the time. The highest-performing solar panels — ones in the southwestern U.S. that feature sun-tracking motors — reach their full capacity at an even lower 30 percent of the time. Such intermittency issues explain why Germany still relies on coal plants to generate additional power when needed, as Forbes has reported.

Extended weather disturbances can also drastically reduce the output of renewables. During this winter’s polar vortex, utilities were forced to shut down wind turbines in the face of bitter cold that can freeze gears and shatter turbine blades. Bloomberg News reported that many utilities were forced to meet escalating power demands by ramping up existing coal and natural-gas plants. Minnesota is acutely familiar with such conditions, since the northern part of the state can experience freezing temperatures practically year-round.

Many wind and solar advocates are now looking to battery storage as an all-purpose solution to fill the gaps when wind and solar aren’t available. But the best market-ready grid-scale battery technologies can only provide hours of backup. And that’s simply not enough to compensate during days — and even weeks — of low wind and solar output.

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