Tech Beat by Namecheap – 8 September 2023
In 2015, scientists, AI researchers, and tech leaders signed the “Open Letter on Artificial Intelligence,” emphasizing AI’s potential benefits and existential risks. At that time, AI’s public existence was mostly limited to smart devices and autocomplete. However, with the advent of technologies like DALL-E, Midjourney, and ChatGPT, AI seems to be everywhere, leading to increased scrutiny and calls for regulation. AI can be categorized into generative AI, which remixes existing content; Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), which can reason similarly to humans; and sentient AI, which believes it possesses human-like consciousness.
Most AI, including ChatGPT, hasn’t achieved AGI or sentience. While some claim that AGI is imminent, most experts believe it’s still years away. However, as AI continues to evolve, there’s a consensus on the need for governance and regulation. Learn more about the future of AI — and whether or not it’s something to fear — in this week’s lead article.
In tech news:
- SAG-AFTRA union calls for video game voice actor strike. SAG-AFTRA, the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, is urging its members to say no to working on video games made by certain companies. Gizmodo reported that the union wants better working conditions and more pay for video game creators. The union’s board gave the green light for a strike if needed. This is a big deal because the gaming industry is a huge part of entertainment today, raking in billions of dollars each year. The move puts pressure on the companies to listen to the demands and make changes. Right now, it’s a waiting game to see who blinks first.
- FBI population DNA profile collection rivals China’s. The FBI’s DNA database now has 21.7 million DNA profiles, roughly 7% of the US population. The Intercept gleaned this information from reviewing FBI data in a recent report. In April this year, the FBI requested nearly double its DNA collection budget of $56.7 million, with an additional $53.1 million to process the rapidly increasing number of samples. Currently, the FBI processes 90,000 samples a month, but the bureau expects it to grow to 120,000 a month, amounting to 1.5 million new DNA samples annually. Until recently, the US had even more DNA profiles collected than China, which launched its own DNA collection program in 2017, regularly utilizing the information to crack down on dissent and for surveillance purposes.
- NYPD drones spying over Labor Day gatherings. The late summer holiday should have been all about barbecues and fun in the sun, but there might have been an unexpected flying guest. According to Gizmodo, the New York Police Department was planning to use drones to monitor potential disturbances on Labor Day weekend this year in response to both priority and non-priority calls, which means it wasn’t just for emergencies. New York Mayor Eric Adams said the drones would respond to things like music complaints and assess whether police teams need to be sent. Addressing claims that the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act (POST) had been breached, he said that it’s not that Big Brother is watching you, but protecting you. Whether or not people actually felt safer in the presence of drones remains to be seen.
- US spy agency plans to use wearable ePANTS. The Intercept reported that the federal government is putting $22 million into the development of “smart” clothing with capabilities for recording audio, video, and geolocation data. Smart Electronically Powered and Networked Textiles Systems is the full name for Smart ePANTS. These are Active Smart Textiles that can potentially be pants, shirts, underwear, or socks and are intended to be washable. The project is being run by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), which expects the materials to be useful for surveillance and data collection.
- End-to-End Encryption: 1, UK’s Online Safety Bill: 0. Tech companies and privacy activists celebrated a significant concession by the British government regarding the “spy clause” in the UK’s Online Safety Bill. This clause would have effectively made end-to-end encryption impossible to use within the UK. As Wired reported, the government acknowledged that technology doesn’t yet exist that can securely scan encrypted messages for child sexual abuse material (CSAM) without infringing on user privacy. Secure messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Signal had threatened to exit the UK market if the bill passed in its original form. Although the government has decided not to enforce this controversial aspect of the bill, the clause remains within the legislation, leading to concerns that encryption-breaking surveillance could be introduced in the future. The decision by the UK government is seen as significant, potentially influencing global discussions on encryption and privacy.
Previously in Tech Beat:
The rise of AI in various industries is undeniable, with a whopping 80% of US companies harnessing its power. But here’s the catch: AI’s decisions can sometimes be skewed by hidden biases, and its code might have unexpected glitches or security gaps. From healthcare to housing and even news media, AI’s influence is vast and can be a double-edged sword. For brands to truly win over consumers, they need to pull back the curtain on their AI practices. After all, in today’s digital age, transparency isn’t just a buzzword—it’s the key to trust and brand loyalty. Learn more about this topic in our article, Can AI be trusted? The need for transparency.
Tip of the week: Remove some of your personal info from Google
This week, a lot of our news focuses on privacy concerns. In a bit of good news, Google has launched a new tool called “Results about you” that allows users to remove personal information from search results. According to Wired, this tool aims to address the issue of private information being indexed and displayed publicly on the Internet. Previously, users had to manually find and report websites hosting their personal data, but now they can set up alerts for their email, home address, and phone number appearing on Google.
It’s easy to use the tool.
- Initiate the process. After visiting the Results about you page while logged into your Google account, tap on the “Get started” button.
- Enter your personal information. Follow the prompts by tapping “Next” twice. You can enter your name, home address, phone number, and email.
- Confirm information ownership. Confirm that the information you provided belongs to you by checking the corresponding box. On the last page, you’ll choose how you’d like to receive notifications.
- Wait for the scan. Submit your information and wait patiently. Typically, it may take up to an hour or more, but your experience may vary.
- Review and take action. In the “Results to review” section, you can check when the tool last performed a scan. Review the results and take appropriate action if you find any information you want to remove.
It’s important to note that Google’s review team may choose to do nothing, partially remove the result, or completely remove it. While Google can remove search results, users may need to contact the webpage owner or hosting service to completely scrub the data.
This update from Google is seen as a step towards more streamlined privacy controls and less burdensome user responsibilities.
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