New iPhone brings face recognition (and fears) to the masses

Various models of iPhone are displayed during a preview event at an Apple Michigan Avenue store, in this Oct. 19, 2017 photo, in downtown Chicago. (AP)
Updated 29 October 2017
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New iPhone brings face recognition (and fears) to the masses

WASHINGTON: Apple will let you unlock the iPhone X with your face — a move likely to bring facial recognition to the masses, along with concerns over how the technology may be used for nefarious purposes.
Apple’s newest device, set to go on sale November 3, is designed to be unlocked with a facial scan with a number of privacy safeguards — as the data will only be stored on the phone and not in any databases.
Unlocking one’s phone with a face scan may offer added convenience and security for iPhone users, according to Apple, which claims its “neural engine” for FaceID cannot be tricked by a photo or hacker.
While other devices have offered facial recognition, Apple is the first to pack the technology allowing for a three-dimensional scan into a hand-held phone.
But despite Apple’s safeguards, privacy activists fear the widespread use of facial recognition would “normalize” the technology and open the door to broader use by law enforcement, marketers or others of a largely unregulated tool.
“Apple has done a number of things well for privacy but it’s not always going to be about the iPhone X,” said Jay Stanley, a policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union.
“There are real reasons to worry that facial recognition will work its way into our culture and become a surveillance technology that is abused.”
A study last year by Georgetown University researchers found nearly half of all Americans in a law enforcement database that includes facial recognition, without their consent.
Civil liberties groups have sued over the FBI’s use of its “next generation” biometric database, which includes facial profiles, claiming it has a high error rate and the potential for tracking innocent people.
“We don’t want police officers having a watch list embedded in their body cameras scanning faces on the sidewalk,” said Stanley.
Clare Garvie — the Georgetown University Law School associate who led the 2016 study on facial recognition databases — agreed that Apple is taking a responsible approach but others might not.
“My concern is that the public is going to become inured or complacent about this,” Garvie said.

Widespread use of facial recognition “could make our lives more trackable by advertisers, by law enforcement and maybe someday by private individuals,” she said.
Garvie said her research found significant errors in law enforcement facial recognition databases, opening up the possibility someone could be wrongly identified as a criminal suspect.
Another worry, she said, is that police could track individuals who have committed no crime simply for participating in demonstrations.
Shanghai and other Chinese cities have recently started deploying facial recognition to catch those who flout the rules of the road, including jaywalkers.
Facial recognition and related technologies can also be used by retail stores to identify potential shoplifters, and by casinos to pinpoint undesirable gamblers.
It can even be used to deliver personalized marketing messages — and could have some other potentially unnerving applications.
Last year, a Russian photographer figured out how to match the faces of porn stars with their social media profiles to “doxx” them, or reveal their true identities.
This type of use “can create huge problems,” said Garvie. “We have to consider the worst possible uses of the technology.”
Apple’s system uses 30,000 infrared dots to create a digital image which is stored in a “secure enclave,” according to a white paper issued by the company on its security. It said the chances of a “random” person being able to unlock the device are one in a million, compared with one in 50,000 for its TouchID.

Apple’s FaceID is likely to touch off fresh legal battles about whether police can require someone to unlock a device.
FaceID “brings the company deeper into a legal debate” that stemmed from the introduction of fingerprint identification on smartphones, according to ACLU staff attorney Brett Max Kaufman.
Kaufman says in a blog post that courts will be grappling with the constitutional guarantees against unreasonable searches and self-incrimination if a suspect is forced to unlock a device.
US courts have generally ruled that it would violate a user’s rights to give up a passcode because it is “testimonial” — but that situation becomes murkier when biometrics are applied.
Apple appears to have anticipated this situation by allowing a user to press two buttons for two seconds to require a passcode, but Garvie said court battles over compelling the use of FaceID are likely.
Regardless of these concerns, Apple’s introduction is likely to bring about widespread use of facial recognition technology.
“What Apple is doing here will popularize and get people more comfortable with the technology,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, who follows the sector.
“If I look at Apple’s track record of making things easy for consumers, I’m optimistic users are going to like this.”
Garvie added it is important to have conversations about facial recognition because there is little regulation governing the use of the technology.
“The technology may well be inevitable,” she said.
“It is going to become part of everyone’s lives if it isn’t already.”


Aston Martin unveils ‘sports car for the skies’ at Farnborough Airshow

Updated 18 July 2018
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Aston Martin unveils ‘sports car for the skies’ at Farnborough Airshow

  • The Volante Vision Concept design has vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities and will be able to hit speeds of around 200mph
  • Aston Martin believes it could corner the market for luxury flying vehicles in the future

FARNBOROUGH: James Bond would love it. Aston Martin, maker of the luxury sports cars favored by the fictional British spy, has now come up with a futuristic personal aircraft it has dubbed “a sports car for the skies.”
Aston Martin unveiled the three-seater hybrid-electric vehicle this week at the Farnborough Airshow and, though the concept remains for now the stuff of science fiction, believes it could help one day to revolutionize travel.
The Volante Vision Concept design has vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities and will be able to hit speeds of around 200 miles per hour (322 kph), “so you can go from the center of Birmingham to the center of London in about 30 minutes,” Aston Martin’s Simon Sproule told Reuters.
Aviation and technology leaders are working to make electric-powered flying taxis a reality, including Airbus, US ride-sharing firm Uber and a range of start-ups including one backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, called Kitty Hawk.
Aston Martin believes it could corner the market for luxury flying vehicles in the future.
“The same way that you have Uber and you have an Aston Martin, you’ll have ‘Uber in the skies’ and you’ll have ‘Aston Martin in the skies’,” said Sproule, adding that such an aircraft won’t come cheap.
“This is clearly a luxury object — it’s a sports car for the skies — so pricing is going to be commensurate with that, so certainly into the seven figures.”

“FEELS LIKE A FIGHTER JET”
The company has partnered with Cranfield University, Cranfield Aerospace Solutions and British jet engine maker Rolls-Royce to develop the concept vehicle, including artificial intelligence-powered autonomous capabilities.
“It feels like a fighter jet but at the same time it has the Aston Martin luxury,” said David Debney, chief of future aircraft concepts at Rolls-Royce.
Commenting on how to pilot the vehicle, Cranfield’s Helen Atkinson said: “You’ve got to detect what’s going on in the external environment and then turn that around incredibly quickly in the computer system with the artificial intelligence built in to actually achieve the necessary level of autonomy.”
Separately at Farnborough, Rolls-Royce unveiled plans for a flying taxi — an electric vertical take-off and landing (EVTOL) vehicle which could carry four to five people at speeds of up to 250 miles (400 km) per hour for approximately 500 miles.
The company said it was starting a search for partners to help develop a project it hopes could take to the skies as soon as early next decade.