Connect with us

Tech News

Facial Recognition thinks you might be a toaster, really

(TECH NEWS) Facial Recognition is still a log way from being perfect. Ceci n’est pas une toaster. Really. Repeat it with me: I am not a toaster.

Published

on

Facial recognition failure

Using facial recognition seems pretty seamless, think of your iPhone. Yet, a human face has actually been confused with a toaster, according to a facial recognition technology expert.

If a computer, which is thought to be highly reliable, will confuse a human face for a toaster, what might that mean for facial recognition accuracy when seeking out suspects of crimes? Possibly, not so reliable.

“Obviously, the technology has immense value in promoting societal interests such as efficiency and security but it also represents a threat to some of our individual interests, particularly privacy,” Nessa Lynch, associate professor of law at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Lynch and other experts are part of a research project that will be completed in mid-2020. The researchers presented some of their findings during a panel recently held at the university.

Some of the very first images used to test data were those of convicted felons in Florida. They had abused meth and had great cheekbones. But, that presented problems when using facial recognition on actual real folk without a meth habit.

The cheekbones are very different than the average person, which can happen when you eat food. Data from such a source was not useful when training a system to recognize normal people, said Rachel Dixon, Privacy and Data Protection Deputy Commissioner at the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner in Australia.

Companies who sell the technology products often claim they are highly reliable, but Dixon said, often they are reliable because of the environments where they are used, which may be unvarying. And, the systems are tuned for these specific environments.

“…Picking you out walking randomly down the street can be quite challenging. There’s a whole bunch of environmental factors there that go to essentially reducing the confidence level,” Dixon said in a story published on Ideasroom. “None of this is absolute. There is no one-to-one match. And by perturbing an image even a small amount you can make the machine-learning system think the person is a toaster. I’m not joking.”

If a computer recognizes a face, for example, as person of interest in a crime, it is very hard to change that perception, even if it is wrong, because humans have a hard time believing a machine can make a mistake, especially if it has said it is the correct match, Dixon explained.

In the United States, a conservative estimate is that roughly a quarter of all the 18,000 law enforcement agencies have access to facial recognition systems, particularly for the use in investigations. Yet, Georgetown Law Professor Clare Garvie said there are no laws – at the state or federal level – governing its use.

Garvie, a senior associate at the center on privacy and technology at Georgetown said, “As a result, this technology has been implemented largely without transparency to the public, without rules around auditing or public reporting, without rules around who can be subject to a search. As a result, it is not just suspects of a criminal investigation that are the subject of searches. In many jurisdictions, witnesses, victims or anybody associated with a criminal investigation can also be the subject of a search.”

Because there is little reporting and auditing of the use of the technology, it’s unclear if agencies are checking to determine if it’s being misused or if it is actually a helpful and successful tool, Garvie said. Are law enforcement officials “catching the bad guys” or is the use of the technology a waste of money, which she said she suspects it is in some jurisdictions.

Meanwhile, it may come as no surprise to some, those often caught in the crosshairs are from lower socio-economic status or marginalized populations.

In one instance, a person who was ranked 319th for being a likely match based on the algorithmic ranking, was the one police arrested. The police also failed to provide the ranking evidence to the defense lawyers.

In the United Kingdom, the technology has been used extensively and with mixed results by law enforcement and businesses in order to search for people on watch lists, according to Dr. Joe Purshouse from the School of Law at the University of East Anglia in the UK.

“The human rights implications for privacy, freedom of assembly – those are chilling, Purshouse said, adding the marginalized are caught in the middle such as, “Suspects of crime, people of lower socio-economic status who are forced to use public space and rely more heavily on public space than people who have economic advantages, perhaps.”

Mary Ann Lopez earned her MA in print journalism from the University of Colorado and has worked in print and digital media. After taking a break to give back as a Teach for America corps member and teaching science for a few years, she is back with her first love: writing. When she's not writing stories, reading five books at once, or watching The Great British Bakeoff, she is walking her dog Sadie and hanging with her cats, Bella, Bubba, and Kiki. She is one cat short of full cat lady status and plans to keep it that way.

Tech News

Failure to launch: Quibi’s short-form platform is short-lived

(TECH NEWS) Despite receiving major funding from big players, Quibi is shutting down only 6 months after launch. What led to their downfall?

Published

on

A mobile phone open to Quibi in feminine hands with decorated nails.

Only 6 short months after launching its platform, Quibi has decided to pull the plug.

The mobile-only streaming service’s vision was to create short-form videos with higher production value than that of competitors like YouTube or TikTok. Having enlisted big names such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Jennifer Lopez, and Lebron James, Quibi had high hopes for what the service could accomplish. In an open letter posted to Medium, founding company executives Jeffery Katzenberg and Meg Whitman cited timing and the idea of mobile-first premium storytelling not being strong enough as the primary reasons for shuttering.

“As entrepreneurs our instinct is to always pivot, to leave no stone unturned — especially when there is some cash runway left — but we feel that we’ve exhausted all our options.” The letter stated, “As a result we have reluctantly come to the difficult decision to wind down the business, return cash to our shareholders, and say goodbye to our colleagues with grace. We want you to know we did not give up on this idea without a fight.”

The move is somewhat surprising considering that back in March the service managed to raise an additional $750 million in funding, bringing its total fundraising to $1.75 billion. At the time, Quibi CFO Ambereen Toubassy had touted that the second-round of cash had provided the organization with “a strong cash runway,” that would give Quibi “the financial wherewithal to build content and technology that consumers embrace.”

Originally called “New TV”, the initial investors of the service included Hollywood titans Disney, NBCUniversal, and Sony Pictures Entertainment just to name a few. While the amount of money raised was minuscule compared to services like Netflix, it was still an impressive start for an untested idea.

The service did itself no favors, however, in trying to gain new subscribers. Along with being mobile-only, the service started at $4.99 per month for an ad-supported subscription, only slightly cheaper from more robust offerings like Hulu and ESPN+. While you could pay $7.99 per month to get rid of ads, you were also forbidden from taking screenshots, limiting the ability of content on the service to go viral.

Quibi was also financing content, meaning that ownership would revert back to creators after just a few short years. This means building a growing library of content owned by the service was an uphill battle from the start.

“This was flawed from the start, down to the idea of financing content and then giving it back to the creators after a few years.” Said a veteran producer who refused to work with the company, “There is anger in town right now, because it just makes it harder to raise money.”

Quibi is set to be inaccessible starting around the beginning of December, according to a post on the company’s support site. While much of the service’s content will not be missed, one still wonders what might have been had the company managed to gain some traction, or the COVID-19 pandemic had not come to pass. Either way, Quibi’s business partners may want to read up on some of these tips as they discuss where things should go from here.

Continue Reading

Tech News

Acorns launches job searching tool, but is that what job hunters need?

(TECH NEWS) When it comes to job searching, many people are able to find jobs online, it’s getting the interview where people need help.

Published

on

Woman doing a job search on laptop seated on floor

If you are currently job searching, you are likely going to sites like Indeed (250M unique visitors monthly) and LinkedIn (260M users monthly). You may also be checking out ZipRecruiter because they’ve advertised on every single podcast you’ve ever listened to. Just for fun, you might also be looking at jobs on Craigslist for your local area. This could have excited you or depressed you.

If you want an easy way to aggregate several job search sites, you may like the app Huntr that will pull in job postings (after you put in some preferences) from Glassdoor, Google, LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, GitHub, the muse, Dice, Monster, Indeed, Angel.co, Dribbble, etc. so you have them all within one place.

Acorns has joined in on the job postings board by implementing a Job Finder within their app, in an effort to help people find work which makes sense if they want more people to save through their platform. “Acorns is an American financial technology and financial services company based in Irvine, California that specializes in micro-investing and robo-investing. As of 2019, Acorns had over 4.5 million users and over $1.2 billion in assets under management.”

The article from The Press that describes it tells consumers about adding in a Job Finder to help millions of people find jobs. But really, it’s great as a positive public relations initiative (and likely will drive more visits to ZipRecruiter postings) since it’s within their app. The gesture is nice but will it really help?

“Within a few taps, Acorns customers at every tier can find millions of full-time, part-time, and remote job opportunities, set job alerts, and explore custom career development content to support their financial wellness at no additional cost. By introducing Job Finder to its financial wellness system, Acorns is looking after the financial best interests of the up-and-coming and removing a main barrier to its customers achieving their money goals.”

Most people know where to find job postings. What they don’t know is why they aren’t hearing back from their applications or how to be invited for more interviews. It would be great if companies really wanted to help make an impact on unemployment by:

  • Offering career coaching services or references to candidates that do not fit what the hiring manager or HR person is looking for.
  • Giving people access to what key skills they need on their resume within the job posting (less vague and generic descriptions).
  • Within the automated rejection letters, including a referral or resources that will help them break through the clutter or introduce them to current employees or how to get to know the company better – in case there’s a position that is a better fit.
  • Ensuring that all job postings are for real jobs and real openings – it should be made clear to candidates if the job posting is for pipelining talent and/or not going to be offered to an external candidate.
  • Bringing back some humans in to the automated process. Yes, ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) are great for the employers and companies who are fielding hundreds of applicants. They are terrible for the 40 million currently unemployed. More about ATS here from Jobscan if you are curious. They are built to knock out candidates.
  • Considering hosting webinars, educational speakers, or events where candidates can get in front of you versus solely relying on online submissions.
  • Contemplating implementing an apprentice program so that less experienced applicants may gain knowledge and learn from more experienced workers – but you would also be getting fresh ideas and new talent for growth within your organization.

There are many caring people and organizations out there so it would be great to see some more assistance for job seekers versus just more places listing job postings or the same job boards but in different formats.

There also seems to be a mismatch in looking to hire someone based on what they have done in the past – when really, the best qualified candidate may have a different background and be looking to make a switch to continue to grow and learn. The perfect match of key words in a database to a resume are not always the best way to find the right fit.

Continue Reading

Tech News

Bet you forgot about them: Yahoo Groups is shutting down

(TECH NEWS) After over a year-long process, Yahoo is finally shutting down Yahoo Groups for good, marking the end of an internet era.

Published

on

Yahoo Groups is shutting down.

For a long while, most of us forgot that Yahoo Groups still existed in a very limited way, of course. But now, it’s going to be discontinued for good. Yahoo announced that the Yahoo Groups website will be shutting down on December 15, 2020.

The removal process of Yahoo Groups is one that began in October of last year. At that time, Yahoo decided to no longer allow new content to be uploaded to the Groups site. Features that allowed for sharing files and photos, creating polls, etc. were all removed. However, users could still view and download any existing content. On its website, a statement read, “Don’t worry, though, Yahoo Groups is not going away…” But, we all knew that was never going to be the case.

In December 2019, the Yahoo Customer Care Twitter account tweeted that content on the Groups site would no longer be available or viewable. Users had until the end of January to download their data before it would be permanently deleted. All public groups became private and would require administrator approval to join. Also, admins had limited access to other administration tools, but group members could, at least, still send messages to each other.

Earlier this month, the creation of new groups was disabled. And now, the end of Yahoo Groups is on the horizon. On its site, a pop-up message reads:

Announcement: End of Yahoo Groups
We’re shutting down the Yahoo Groups website on December 15, 2020 and members will no longer be able to send or receive emails from Yahoo Groups. Yahoo Mail features will continue to function as expected and there will be no changes to your Yahoo Mail account, emails, photos or other inbox content. There will also be no changes to other Yahoo properties or services. You can find more information about the Yahoo Groups shutdown and alternative service options on this help page.

Yahoo said, “Yahoo Groups has seen a steady decline in usage over the last several years.” As a result, this is why the company decided to shut it down. “While these decisions are never easy, we must sometimes make difficult decisions regarding products that no longer fit our long-term strategy as we hone our focus on other areas of the business,” Yahoo added.

What became of Yahoo Groups isn’t even a bare-bones version of what it was during its prime. And, frankly, I don’t think it will ever be resurrected. Sometimes all good things must come to an end.

But, if you are a former Groups user and want to stay connected with your groups, the Yahoo Groups’ help page, hopefully, has all your answers.

Continue Reading

Our Great Partners

The
American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.

Emerging Stories

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!