Rwanda First To Create Nationwide DNA Database

Rwanda has a grotesque history of multiple genocides. Allowing it to collect DNA on every citizen should be flatly denied by the world community. However, Technocrats will sell technology to anyone without any moral or ethical consideration. ⁃ TN Editor

Rwanda has proposed the world’s first country-wide DNA database, a project that will involve collecting samples from all of the country’s 12 million citizens in an effort to crack down on crime.

The scheme has prompted concerns from human rights campaigners who believe the database could be misused by the government and violate international human rights laws.

Plans for the database were announced by Rwanda’s Minister for Justice and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye.

Speaking in the country’s capital, Kigali, he said the project would help to fight crimes like rape and murder.

He said: “We think we have the technical basis now to launch into the development of a DNA database. That said, it is first of all a legal process.

“We will examine global best practice on the issue, propose appropriate law and implement accordingly.”

He added: “I want to assure you that the ultimate goal is to have all the necessary equipment and technical know-how to provide accurate information about who is responsible for crime”.

Officials still need to secure a budget for the project and push legislation through parliament to permit the creation of the database, according to the Rwandan daily The New Times.

Human rights organisations are wary of the new scheme as they believe that the government could potentially misuse DNA data, which can reveal a broad range of intimate medical and genetic details.

Alexandrine Pirlot de Corbion, global programme lead at the charity Privacy International, said: “There is an inherent risk that this kind of database could be misused in the future.”

“Around the world we have seen instances where large sets of data have been misused for repression – allowing authorities to identify and profile groups in society that a government might want to locate.”

The retention of this data is also problematic from a legal point of view and, depending on its implementation, could violate legislation set out in the International Bill of Human Rights, according to the UK-based law reform group Justice.

Rwanda is still suffering from tensions in the wake of the 1994 genocide when 800,000 Rwandans were killed in just a hundred days, after the country’s Hutu political elite directed the mass murder of the country’s Tutsi population.

It is estimated that 70 per cent of the country’s Tutsi population were killed in the genocide.

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driver's license

Privacy Breach: Say ‘No’ To Digital Driver’s Licenses

You are normally obligated to show your driver’s license upon request by police. However, if your license is digital on your smart phone, your entire phone may be searched without a warrant, breaching your 4th Amendment protections. ⁃ TN Editor

For years the push to replace physical drivers licenses with digital drivers licenses has relied one one thing; privacy.

But all of the “fake news” the public has been fed about their privacy is about to come “crashing” down, literally.

A Nevada bill if passed would allow police to search everyone’s smartphones.

Nevada bill AB200 allows police to search the phones of everyone involved in a car crash.

“An act relating to motor vehicles; authorizing a peace officer at the scene of a traffic crash to use technology to determine if a driver was using a handheld wireless communications device at the time of the crash; requiring the suspension of the driver’s license of a driver who refuses a request by a peace officer to use such technology; providing penalties; and providing other matters properly.”

Does anyone still believe that once a cop uses a CellBrite to spy on your phone or discovers your smartphone’s unique MAC address that they will not track you in the future? If retail stores can track customers MAC address’s without a warrant don’t you think police will too.

Motorists give up their rights by driving in Nevada

The bill states that motorists give up their rights simply by driving in Nevada.

“Section 1 further provides that any person who operates a vehicle in this State is deemed to have given consent to the use of an investigate technology device on the handheld wireless communications device when requested by a peace officer at the scene of a crash. If a person refuses such a request,the peace officer is required to seize the driver’s license or permit of the person and issue an order suspending the license or permit for 90 days.”

What does this mean?

If you are granted the privilege to drive by the government you agree to give up your Fourth Amendment right against being searched without probable cause. Do you still think America is the land of the free?

Gemalto got one thing right, digital drivers licenses are a “Utopia” for police and governments.

According to Merriam Webster, Utopia is “an imaginary place; a place of ideal perfection especially in laws and government.”

If you think U.S. police will respect motorists rights and only search your phone for just your drivers license information you are living in an imaginary place.

Defenders of digital licenses will say Nevada’s police are only trying to determine if a phone was being used prior to the accident and that is it.

“When using an investigative technology device on a handheld wireless communications device pursuant to this section, a peace officer may access and view only evidence of use of the handheld wireless communications device which violates NRS 484B.165 and shall not intentionally access or view any other content on the handheld wireless communications device.”

But I say horse pucky, would you willingly hand your phone to a stranger and let them walk away with it for 5-10 minutes? Would you trust a complete stranger (police officer) not to search your smartphone?

Trusting law enforcement with your phone is a horrible idea as an article in the Huffington Post warns.

“By unlocking the license, phone owners could expose their data to whoever is checking it, Chad Marlow, a senior counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union in New York said. And, he added, while an officer normally would need a warrant to search a phone, in the real world, drivers who don’t know the law could be pressured into handing over the phone, allowing access to everything from contacts to text messages.”

House Bill 200 goes on to explain that if you refuse to hand your smartphone to ‘Officer Friendly’ your privilege to drive will be suspended and good luck trying to get a temporary drivers license.

“The scope of the hearing conducted pursuant to subsection 6 must be limited to whether the person refused the request of the peace officer to use an investigative technology device on the handheld wireless communications device in the possession of the person at the time of the crash pursuant to this section. Upon an affirmative finding on this issue, the Department shall affirm the order of suspension.”

If you are given a choice between handing over your phone or losing your license and getting a ticket, what would you do?

That is not much of a choice is it?

Being coerced into giving a government employee your personal information means law enforcement has essentially been turned into the TSA. In the coming years we can expect every state to pass laws allowing police to search motorists smartphones.

Do we really need anymore proof that storing our drivers license and personal life on a smartphone is a terrible idea?

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In-Store Cameras Spot Shoplifters Before They Steal

Vaak’s website claims to “Analyze more than 100 person feature quantities such as face, clothes, movement direction, attribute and estimate behavior and purpose.” Basically, it tags you ‘guilty’ before you commit a crime. ⁃ TN Editor

It’s watching, and knows a crime is about to take place before it happens. Vaak, a Japanese startup, has developed artificial intelligence software that hunts for potential shoplifters, using footage from security cameras for fidgeting, restlessness and other potentially suspicious body language.

While AI is usually envisioned as a smart personal assistant or self-driving car, it turns out the technology is pretty good at spotting nefarious behavior. Like a scene out of the movie “Minority Report,” algorithms analyze security-camera footage and alert staff about potential thieves via a smartphone app. The goal is prevention; if the target is approached and asked if they need help, there’s a good chance the theft never happens.

Vaak made headlines last year when it helped to nab a shoplifter at a convenience store in Yokohama. Vaak had set up its software in the shop as a test case, which picked up on previously undetected shoplifting activity. The perpetrator was arrested a few days later.

“I thought then, ‘Ah, at last!’” said Vaak founder Ryo Tanaka, 30. “We took an important step closer to a society where crime can be prevented with AI.”

Shoplifting cost the global retail industry about $34 billion in lost sales in 2017 — the biggest source of shrinkage, according to a report from Tyco Retail Solutions. While that amounts to approximately 2 percent of revenue, it can make a huge difference in an industry known for razor-thin margins.

The opportunity is huge. Retailers are projected to invest $200 billion in new technology this year, according to Gartner Inc., as they become more open to embracing technology to meet consumer needs, as well as improve bottom lines.

“If we go into many retailers whether in the U.S. or U.K., there are very often going to be CCTV cameras or some form of cameras within the store operation,” said Thomas O’Connor, a retail analyst at Gartner. “That’s being leveraged by linking it to an analytics tool, which can then do the actual analysis in a more efficient and effective way.”

Because it involves security, retailers have asked AI-software suppliers such as Vaak and London-based Third Eye not to disclose their use of the anti-shoplifting systems. It’s safe to assume, however, that several big-name store chains in Japan have deployed the technology in some form or another. Vaak has met with or been approached by the biggest publicly traded convenience-store and drugstore chains in Japan, according to Tanaka.

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Oh Canada: Police Are Tracking ‘Negative’ Behavior In A ‘Risk’ Database

“Hello. I’m from the government and I’m here to help you. What you say will probably be used against you.” This is an element of ‘predictive policing’, or pre-crime, which seeks to determine where a crime will occur in advance. ⁃ TN Editor

Police, social services, and health workers in Canada are using shared databases to track the behaviour of vulnerable people—including minors and people experiencing homelessness—with little oversight and often without consent.

Documents obtained by Motherboard from Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS) through an access to information request show that at least two provinces—Ontario and Saskatchewan—maintain a “Risk-driven Tracking Database” that is used to amass highly sensitive information about people’s lives. Information in the database includes whether a person uses drugs, has been the victim of an assault, or lives in a “negative neighborhood.”

The Risk-driven Tracking Database (RTD) is part of a collaborative approach to policing called the Hub model that partners cops, school staff, social workers, health care workers, and the provincial government.

Information about people believed to be “at risk” of becoming criminals or victims of harm is shared between civilian agencies and police and is added to the database when a person is being evaluated for a rapid intervention intended to lower their risk levels. Interventions can range from a door knock and a chat to forced hospitalization or arrest.

Data from the RTD is analyzed to identify trends—for example, a spike in drug use in a particular area—with the goal of producing planning data to deploy resources effectively, and create “community profiles” that could accelerate interventions under the Hub model, according to a 2015 Public Safety Canada report.

Saskatchewan and Ontario officials say data in the RTD (sometimes called the “Hub database” in Saskatchewan) is “de-identified” by removing details such as people’s names and birthdates, though experts Motherboard spoke to said that scrubbing data so it may never be used to identify an individual is difficult if not impossible.

A Motherboard investigation—which involved combing through MCSCS, police, and city documents—found that in 2017, children aged 12 to 17 were the most prevalent age group added to the database in several Ontario regions, and that some interventions were performed without consent. In some cases, children as young as six years old have been subject to intervention.

The Hub model seeks to connect police with community members in order to evaluate potentially at-risk people for interventions.

For example, a police officer may be called to respond to someone’s disruptive but non-criminal behaviour time and again. Under the Hub model, the officer can bring the person’s situation to the Hub—which may include staff from child welfare, addictions, or housing assistance agencies—and ask if other agencies can intervene.

During the ensuing evaluation, information about the person is shared between the participants and entered into the RTD. The person’s identity can be known to local law enforcement, social workers, and health workers, but when their information is added to the RTD, details that might identify the person are not supposed to be included. If agencies collectively decide the person is at an “acutely elevated” level of risk, an intervention is deployed. Interventions can occur without consent if Hub practitioners feel a person is at a high risk of harm.

More than 100 Hubs are now operating in cities and towns across Canada and the US, with 37 in Ontario (where Hubs are usually called Situation Tables) contributing to the Risk-driven Tracking Database as of April 2018, according to MCSCS documents. In total, 55 are expected to be contributing by the end of this year.

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U.S. Post Office Spying On Everyone Who Sends Mail

The U.S. Post Office is a loose cannon when it comes to spying on Americans: it answers to no-one and can perform warrantless collection of data on every single piece of mail. Furthermore, it can and will give any data to other federal agencies who request it. ⁃ TN Editor

It’s called the “Mail Cover Program” and it’s run by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Yes, even the Post Office is spying on us, writes John Kiriakou.

You may remember that last year some nut was arrested for mailing bombs to prominent Democrats, media outlets, and opponents of Donald Trump. Less than a week after the bombs went out, a suspect was arrested. Almost immediately, video turned up of him at a Trump rally, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hate and chanting for the camera. He was soon tried, convicted, and jailed. End of story.

But it wasn’t the end of the story. The investigation into the bomb incidents focused attention on an almost unknown federal surveillance program—one that poses a direct threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of every American. It’s called the “Mail Cover Program” and it’s run by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Yes, even the Post Office is spying on us.

The Mail Cover Program allows postal employees to photograph and send to federal law enforcement organizations (FBI, DHS, Secret Service, etc.) the front and back of every piece of mail the Post Office processes. It also retains the information digitally and provides it to any government agency that wants it—without a warrant.

In 2015, the USPS Inspector General issued a report saying that, “Agencies must demonstrate a reasonable basis for requesting mail covers, send hard copies of request forms to the Criminal Investigative Service Center for processing, and treat mail covers as restricted and confidential…A mail cover should not be used as a routine investigative tool. Insufficient controls over the mail cover program could hinder the Postal Inspection Service’s ability to conduct effective investigations, lead to public concerns over privacy of mail, and harm the Postal Service’s brand.”

Return to Sender

Not only were the admonitions ignored, the mail cover program actually expanded after the report’s release. Indeed, in the months after that report was issued, there were 6,000 requests for mail cover collection. Only 10 were rejected, according to the Feb. 2019 edition of Prison Legal News (P.34-35) .

I have some personal experience with the Mail Cover Program. I served 23 months in prison for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s illegal torture program. After having been locked up for two months, I decided to commission a card from a very artistically-inclined prisoner for my wife’s 40th birthday. I sent it about two weeks early, but she never received it. Finally, about four months later, the card was delivered back to me with a yellow “Return to Sender – Address Not Known” sticker on it. But underneath that sticker was a second yellow sticker. That one read, “Do Not Deliver. Hold For Supervisor. Cover Program.”

Why was I under Postal Service Surveillance? I have no idea. I had had my day in court. The case was over. But remember, the Postal Service doesn’t have to answer to anybody – my attorneys, my judge, even its own Inspector General. It doesn’t need a warrant to spy on me (or my family) and it doesn’t have to answer even to a member of Congress who might inquire as to why the spying was happening in the first place.

The problem is not just the sinister nature of a government agency (or quasi-government agency) spying on individuals with no probable cause or due process, although those are serious problems. It’s that the program is handled so poorly and so haphazardly that in some cases surveillance was initiated against individuals for no apparent law enforcement reason and that surveillance was initiated by Postal Service employees not even authorized to do so. Again, there is no recourse because the people under surveillance don’t even know that any of this is happening.

Read full story here…

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

Banned from plains and trains

China’s Social Credit System Now Bans Millions From Trains, Planes

When China said that it was ‘turning on’ its social credit scoring system, it poured on the coal. Already 17 million are banned from flying and 5.5 million cannot purchase high-speed train tickets. Offenders are shamed by exposing their data to the public. ⁃ TN Editor

Millions of Chinese individuals and businesses have been labelled as untrustworthy on an official blacklist banning them from any number of activities, including accessing financial markets or travelling by air or train, as the use of the government’s social credit system accelerates.

The annual blacklist is part of a broader effort to boost “trustworthiness” in Chinese society and is an extension of China’s social credit system, which is expected to give each of its 1.4 billion citizens a personal score.

The social credit system assigns both positive and negative scores for individual or corporate behaviour in an attempt to pressure citizens into behaving.

Human rights advocates, though, worry that the arbitrary system does not take into account individual circumstances and so often unfairly labels individuals and firms as untrustworthy.

Over 3.59 million Chinese enterprises were added to the official creditworthiness blacklist last year, banning them from a series of activities, including bidding on projects, accessing security markets, taking part in land auctions and issuing corporate bonds, according to the 2018 annual report released by the National Public Credit Information Centre.

The centre is backed by the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planner, to run the credit rating system.

According to the report, the authorities collected over 14.21 million pieces of information on the “untrustworthy conduct” of individuals and businesses, including charges of swindling customers, failing to repay loans, illegal fund collection, false and misleading advertising, as well as uncivilised behaviour such as taking reserved seats on trains or causing trouble in hospitals.

About 17.46 million “discredited” people were restricted from buying plane tickets and 5.47 million were restricted from purchasing high-speed train tickets, the report said.

Besides restrictions on buying tickets, local authorities also used novel methods to put pressure on untrustworthy subjects, including preventing people from buying premium insurance, wealth management products or real estate, as well as shaming them by exposing their information in public.

Read full story here…


American DNA Scanning Technology Helps China Track Citizens

Technology transfer between West and East goes back as far as the Bolshevik Revolution, as proven definitively by the late Professor Antony Sutton. This is just a continuation of this pattern of collusion. ⁃ TN Editor

The authorities called it a free health check. Tahir Imin had his doubts.

They drew blood from the 38-year-old Muslim, scanned his face, recorded his voice and took his fingerprints. They didn’t bother to check his heart or kidneys, and they rebuffed his request to see the results.

“They said, ‘You don’t have the right to ask about this,’” Mr. Imin said. “‘If you want to ask more,’ they said, ‘you can go to the police.’”

Mr. Imin was one of millions of people caught up in a vast Chinese campaign of surveillance and oppression. To give it teeth, the Chinese authorities are collecting DNA — and they got unlikely corporate and academic help from the United States to do it.

China wants to make the country’s Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, more subservient to the Communist Party. It has detained up to a million people in what China calls “re-education” camps, drawing condemnation from human rights groups and a threat of sanctions from the Trump administration.

Collecting genetic material is a key part of China’s campaign, according to human rights groups and Uighur activists. They say a comprehensive DNA database could be used to chase down any Uighurs who resist conforming to the campaign.

Police forces in the United States and elsewhere use genetic material from family members to find suspects and solve crimes. Chinese officials, who are building a broad nationwide database of DNA samples, have cited the crime-fighting benefits of China’s own genetic studies.

To bolster their DNA capabilities, scientists affiliated with China’s police used equipment made by Thermo Fisher, a Massachusetts company. For comparison with Uighur DNA, they also relied on genetic material from people around the world that was provided by Kenneth Kidd, a prominent Yale University geneticist.

On Wednesday, Thermo Fisher said it would no longer sell its equipment in Xinjiang, the part of China where the campaign to track Uighurs is mostly taking place. The company said separately in an earlier statement to The New York Times that it was working with American officials to figure out how its technology was being used.

Dr. Kidd said he had been unaware of how his material and know-how were being used. He said he believed Chinese scientists were acting within scientific norms that require informed consent by DNA donors.

China’s campaign poses a direct challenge to the scientific community and the way it makes cutting-edge knowledge publicly available. The campaign relies in part on public DNA databases and commercial technology, much of it made or managed in the United States. In turn, Chinese scientists have contributed Uighur DNA samples to a global database, potentially violating scientific norms of consent.

Cooperation from the global scientific community “legitimizes this type of genetic surveillance,” said Mark Munsterhjelm, an assistant professor at the University of Windsor in Ontario who has closely tracked the use of American technology in Xinjiang.

Swabbing Millions

In Xinjiang, in northwestern China, the program was known as “Physicals for All.”

From 2016 to 2017, nearly 36 million people took part in it, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency. The authorities collected DNA samples, images of irises and other personal data, according to Uighurs and human rights groups. It is unclear whether some residents participated more than once — Xinjiang has a population of about 24.5 million.

In a statement, the Xinjiang government denied that it collects DNA samples as part of the free medical checkups. It said the DNA machines that were bought by the Xinjiang authorities were for “internal use.”

China has for decades maintained an iron grip in Xinjiang. In recent years, it has blamed Uighurs for a series of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China, including a 2013 incident in which a driver struck two people in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

In late 2016, the Communist Party embarked on a campaign to turn the Uighurs and other largely Muslim minority groups into loyal supporters. The government locked up hundreds of thousands of them in what it called job training camps, touted as a way to escape poverty, backwardness and radical Islam. It also began to take DNA samples.

In at least some of the cases, people didn’t give up their genetic material voluntarily. To mobilize Uighurs for the free medical checkups, police and local cadres called or sent them text messages, telling them the checkups were required, according to Uighurs interviewed by The Times.

“There was a pretty strong coercive element to it,” said Darren Byler, an anthropologist at the University of Washington who studies the plight of the Uighurs. “They had no choice.”

Read full story here…


FBI Plotting To Keep DNA Of Entire US Population

All 17 Intel agencies in the U.S, including the FBI. are captive to Technocrats who are on a rampage for data. All data. Once a national DNA database is built, it will leak to corporate giants who are already lusting to get their hands on it. In the meantime, a police state and Scientific Dictatorship are forming right before our eyes. ⁃ TN Editor

The FBI is creating a “nation of suspects” by putting every American citizen’s DNA on file, according to shocking claims by a US think tank.

President Donald Trump has signed the Rapid DNA Act into law which means the police can routinely take DNA samples from people who are arrested but not yet convicted of a crime.

The law, which was signed in 2017 and comes into effect this year, will require several states to connect Rapid DNA machines to Codis – the national DNA database controlled by the FBI.

These machines, which are portable and about the same size as a desktop printer, are expected to become as routine a process as taking fingerprints.

But John W. Whitehead from The Rutherford Institute believes it is a sinister development which will make everyone a suspect.

Speaking to Daily Star Online, he said: “The fact of the matter is that these machines are not full-proof.

“But we could look at a situation in which someone could be arrested, have their mouth swabbed and then be charged within hours after generating a DNA profile.

“We are looking at the erosion of the concept of innocent before proven guilty because it will allow police to go on fishing expeditions.

“When you sit on a park bench, you shed DNA. That is now up for grabs by police who could swab it, and run it through a DNA database. If they find a match, or if misconduct occurred anywhere in the vicinity where your DNA was found, you might find yourself charged with a crime you never committed merely because you happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“Even people who aren’t charged with major crimes could have their DNA put on file.

“People who are just seen as suspicious could have their genetic makeup stored in a criminal database.”

John added that until recently the government was required to adhere to certain restrictions on how, when and where it could access someone’s DNA.

But now it has been changed with the US Supreme Court ruling and heralds in a loss of privacy, he claims.

Read full story here…

william barr

AG Nominee William Barr Promotes Surveillance State

Trump nominee for AG, William Barr, is no friend of the U.S. Constitution. His record on warrantless surveillance will encourage mass government surveillance of innocent American citizens, gutting the protections of the Fourth Amendment.  ⁃ TN Editor

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced on Monday that he will oppose President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William Barr, decrying him as the “chief advocate for warrantless surveillance.”

Paul is right. Sadly, Barr is expected to soon pass his confirmation vote with near-unanimous Republican support and some support from Democrats, showing that the evisceration of the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure has been normalized. After all, Barr has a troubling record on civil liberties: He played a crucial role in the creation of the modern surveillance state and has long advocated the unjust seizure of property through civil asset forfeiture. His history reveals a contempt for essential civil liberties protected by the Constitution.

While serving as attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush in 1992, Barr directed the Drug Enforcement Administration to collect bulk phone data on millions of people, most of whom weren’t even suspected of a crime. This program laid the groundwork for the National Security Agency’s phone record collection authorized by the PATRIOT Act a decade later. All this led the American Civil Liberties Union to dub Barr “The Godfather” of the NSA’s bulk data collection program.

Barr continued to be a cheerleader for warrantless surveillance even after the PATRIOT Act’s passage. During congressional testimony in 2003, he called the bill a “major step forward.” He went on to say that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the law that authorizes foreign surveillance and has been abused to surveil, “remains too restrictive” because it “still requires that the government establish probable cause that an individual is either a ‘foreign power’ or an ‘agent of a foreign power.’” In other words, Barr objects to the idea that the government should need a warrant before it can spy on citizens.

When grilled by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on whether or not his views on the Fourth Amendment have evolved in the wake of last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling in Carpenter v. United States, Barr said he hadn’t read the ruling. Carpenter held that collecting cell-site records, including location data on a citizen, without a warrant, was unconstitutional. Barr’s apparent ignorance on this case is particularly relevant because he has supported the “third party doctrine,” which argues that Americans have no expectation of privacy in records held by third parties, such as cellphone providers.

Barr hasn’t just run afoul of the Constitution on the Fourth Amendment; he’s also bumped up against the Fifth and Eighth Amendments through his support for civil asset forfeiture. Civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement agencies to seize someone’s property without convicting them of a crime.

AI Deep Learning ‘Godfather’ Yoshua Bengio Alarmed Over Use In China To Dominate Society

A principal inventor of AI, Bengio says “This is the 1984 Big Brother scenario”. Bengio and his fellow Technocrat scientists should have thought about this way before now, but it reflects their Pollyanna-ish view of humanity. ⁃ TN Editor

Yoshua Bengio, a Canadian computer scientist who helped pioneer the techniques underpinning much of the current excitement around artificial intelligence, is worried about China’s use of AI for surveillance and political control.

Bengio, who is also a co-founder of Montreal-based AI software company Element AI, said he was concerned about the technology he helped create being used for controlling people’s behavior and influencing their minds.

“This is the 1984 Big Brother scenario,” he said in an interview. “I think it’s becoming more and more scary.”

Bengio, a professor at the University of Montreal, is considered one of the three “godfathers” of deep learning, along with Yann LeCun and Geoff Hinton. It’s a technology that uses neural networks — a kind of software loosely based on aspects of the human brain — to make predictions based on data. It’s responsible for recent advances in facial recognition, natural language processing, translation, and recommendation algorithms.

Deep learning requires a large amount of data to provide examples from which to learn — but China, with its vast population and system of state record-keeping, has a lot of that.

The Chinese government has begun using closed circuit video cameras and facial recognition to monitor what its citizens do in public, from jaywalking to engaging in political dissent. It’s also created a National Credit Information Sharing Platform, which is being used to blacklist rail and air passengers for “anti-social” behavior and is considering expanding uses of this system to other situations.

“The use of your face to track you should be highly regulated,” Bengio said.

Bengio is not alone in his concern over China’s use-cases for AI. Billionaire George Soros recently used a speech at the World Economic Forum on Jan. 24, to highlight the risks the country’s use of AI poses to civil liberties and minority rights.

Unlike some peers, Bengio, who heads the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (Mila), has resisted the temptation to work for a large, advertising-driven technology company. He said responsible development of AI may require some large technology companies to change the way they operate.

The amount of data large tech companies control is also a concern. He said the creation of data trusts — non-profit entities or legal frameworks under which people own their data and allow it be used only for certain purposes — might be one solution. If a trust held enough data, it could negotiate better terms with big tech companies that needed it, he said Thursday during a talk at Amnesty International U.K.’s office in London.

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