A new interactive documentary "How Normal Am I?" helps reveal the shortcomings of facial recognition technology.
- The website is part of SHERPA, a European Union-funded "project which analyses how AI and big data analytics impact ethics and human rights."
- The interactive documentary uses your webcam to analyze your face, predicting metrics like age, attractiveness, gender, body mass index and life expectancy.
- Despite the shortcomings of facial recognition, there's currently no set of national laws regulating the use of the technology by governments or private companies.
An interactive facial recognition experience<p>Want to see for yourself how well these systems work? Check out a new interactive mini-documentary called <a href="https://www.hownormalami.eu/" target="_blank">"How Normal Am I?"</a>, created by Tijmen Schep, a technology critic and privacy designer. </p><p>The documentary is part of <a href="https://www.project-sherpa.eu/" target="_blank">SHERPA</a>, a European Union-funded "project which analyses how AI and big data analytics impact ethics and human rights." To experience it, you'll need to grant the website permission to access your webcam, though "no personal data is collected." (You can also access the website and then disconnect your computer from the internet; it should still work fine.)<br></p>
hownormalami.eu<p>"How Normal Am I?" uses facial recognition to predict your age, attractiveness, <a href="https://www.sherpapieces.eu/overview/predicting-your-bmi-from-a-just-photo-a-github-safari" target="_blank">body mass index</a>, life expectancy and gender. Don't get upset if you get a low attractiveness or a high age score: Tilting your head, moving closer to the camera, or just running the program a second time can produce different results.<br></p><p>And that's sort of the point: If facial recognition technology is unreliable on a broad range of measures, to what extent should governments and the private sector be using it? Even if it does become reliable, to what extent should governments be allowed to use it on citizens?</p>
The future of facial recognition technology<p>In a <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2019/09/05/more-than-half-of-u-s-adults-trust-law-enforcement-to-use-facial-recognition-responsibly/" target="_blank">2019 Pew Research Center survey</a>, a majority of U.S. respondents said it's acceptable for law enforcement agencies to use facial recognition to scan for threats in public spaces. However, far fewer said it's acceptable for advertisers to use facial recognition to do things like analyze how people respond to commercials in real time.<br></p><p>What could change how facial recognition operates in the U.S. is a set of national laws, which currently don't exist. (Although, some states and <a href="https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/facial-recognition" target="_self">cities do regulate the technology</a>.) There are currently more than a <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/13/tech/facial-recognition-policy/index.html" target="_blank">dozen bills</a> addressing facial recognition technology, ranging from legislation that would outlaw warrantless usage of facial recognition, to banning federal agencies from <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/3875/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22%5C%22facial+recognition%5C%22+-uyghur%22%5D%7D&r=2&s=8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">using it altogether.</a></p>
The Labour Economics study suggests two potential reasons for the increase: corruption and increased capacity.
Cool hand rebuke<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQyMTIyNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NjY1NTYyOH0.0MCPKN3If94mYCNf3mMNrnTvJXjXN_bKLhgk9203EXk/img.jpg?width=917&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=453" id="1627b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6d76421ba1ea0de4b09956b97e80c384" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A chart showing prison population rates (per 100,000 people) in 2018. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world.
Who profits with for-profit prisons?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="97ac37e6c7f6f22ec130ea2d56871701"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dB78NV2WpWc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The Labour Economics study suggests that privately-run prisons do convicts a few favors at the moment of sentencing. However, proponents of private prisons often point to other benefits when making their case. Specifically, they argue that private prisons reduce operating costs, stimulate innovation in the correctional system, and reduce recidivism—the rate at which released prisoners are rearrested and return to prison.</p><p>In regard to recidivism, the research is mixed. <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0011128799045001002" target="_blank">One study</a> compared roughly 400 former prisoners from Florida, 200 released from private prisons and 200 from state-run facilities. It found the private-prison cohort maintained lower rates of recidivism. However, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1745-9133.2005.00006.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">another Florida study</a> found no significant rate differences. And two other studies—one from <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0011128799045001002" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Oklahoma</a> and another out of <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0734016813478823" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Minnesota</a>, both comparing much larger cohorts than the first Florida study— found that prisoners leaving private prisons had a greater risk of recidivism.</p><p>The research is also inconclusive regarding cost savings. <a href="https://www.hamiltonproject.org/assets/files/economics_of_private_prisons.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A Hamilton Project analysis</a> noted that such comparisons are difficult because private prisons, like all private companies, are not required to release operational details. In comparing what studies were available, the authors estimate the costs to be comparable and that "in practice the primary mechanism for cost saving in private prisons is lower salaries for correctional officers"—about $7,000 less than their public peers. They add that competition-driven innovation is lacking as the three largest firms control nearly the entire market.</p><p>"We aren't saying private prisons are bad," Galinato said. "But states need to be careful with them. If your state has previous and regular issues with corruption, I wouldn't be surprised to see laws being more skewed to give longer sentences, for example. If the goal is to reduce the number of incarcerated individuals, increasing the number of private prisons may not be the way to go."</p>
Stewart is supporting a new bill that aims to extend health care and disability benefits to veterans who served alongside burn pits.
- Thousands of American veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan were exposed to burn pits, which may have caused diseases like asthma and cancer.
- Burn pits were used as a crude way to dispose of waste, including plastics, body parts, dead animals, and hazardous chemicals.
- Despite gaps in the research linking exposure to medical conditions, advocates say the benefit of the doubt should go to veterans.
A lack of evidence?<p>Conclusive research on the links between burn-pit exposure and medical conditions is lacking. </p><p>But after the Vietnam War, there was also a lack of research on the health effects of exposure to Agent Orange. In 1991, Congress passed the <a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/agent-orange-act-was-supposed-to-help-vietnam-veterans-but-many-still-dont-#:~:text=In%201991%2C%20Congress%20passed%20the,the%20vet%20eligible%20for%20benefits." target="_blank">Agent Orange act</a>, which extended health benefits to Vietnam veterans suffering from conditions linked to exposure. There was also an <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/07/911-cancer-study-pits-scientists-vs-first-responders/353352/" target="_blank">initial lack of evidence</a> showing that 9/11 first-responders developed conditions like cancer after inhaling pulverized dust at Ground Zero.</p><p>While scientists continue to study the effects of burn-pit exposure, advocates say lawmakers should err on the side of extending health care to ailing veterans.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If people were injured or affected and there's a plausible relationship or explanation for what's going on, the benefit of the doubt needs to go to the veteran," former V.A. Secretary Dr. David Shulkin said at the event on Tuesday. "To simply let people suffer and go without help from their government is not a satisfactory response."</p>
"Our data should be ours no matter what platforms and apps we use," Yang said.
- In November, Californians will vote to pass Proposition 24, which aims to expand data privacy laws in the state.
- Proposition 24 aims to strengthen the California Consumer Privacy Act, which went into effect this year.
- However, some privacy advocates say Proposition 24 doesn't go far enough, and in some cases actually erodes the CCPA.
Critiques of Prop. 24<p>Still, some advocates say even these additions to the CCPA don't go far enough, including organizations like the ACLU of California, the Consumer Federation of California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).</p><p>Calling it a "mixed bag of partial steps backwards and forwards," the EFF <a href="https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2020/07/why-eff-doesnt-support-cal-prop-24" target="_blank">said</a> it wouldn't support Proposition 24 because (to name a few reasons) it:</p><ul><li>Would expand "<a href="https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2019/02/payoff-californias-data-dividend-must-be-stronger-privacy-laws" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pay for privacy</a>" schemes by allowing a company to withhold discounts unless consumers in loyalty clubs allow it to harvest certain data. This could lead to a society of privacy "haves" and "have-nots," wrote the EFF.</li><li>Fails to establish an "opt-in" model of data collection. Under the CCPA, consumers have to opt-out of collection, which places the burden on consumers to protect privacy. "Privacy should be the default," the EFF wrote.</li><li>Would expand the power of companies to refuse a consumer's request to delete their data.</li></ul>
(Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)<p>As for Yang? It's unclear what the former presidential hopeful, whose campaign was based in part on data privacy, thinks of these critiques. But in a recent interview with <a href="https://www.ksro.com/2020/09/02/interview-andrew-yang-on-prop-24/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">KSRO</a>, Yang said the U.S. lags far behind European nations in terms of data privacy laws, and that Proposition 24 would be a huge step towards our data dignity. He added that other states beyond California would likely follow suit if the proposal passes.</p>
The Data Dividend Project<p>Yang is also spearheading the <a href="https://www.datadividendproject.com/" target="_blank">Data Dividend Project</a>, a "movement dedicated to establishing and enforcing data property rights and to getting you compensated when companies monetize your data." The project, which operates under the laws established by the CCPA, aims to tax tech companies when they use consumer data, and to support new data privacy legislation across the country. (Some critics have <a href="https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/935358/andrew-yangs-data-dividend-isnt-radical-its-useless" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">questioned the efficacy of the project</a>.)</p><p>In an op-ed about his data dividend proposal published in the <a href="https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-06-23/andrew-yang-data-dividend-tech-privacy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Los Angeles Times</a>, Yang wrote: </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If Congress and other states adopt legislation like the CCPA, millions more would be able to band together with even greater bargaining power to hold tech companies accountable and, ultimately, demand that they share some of the revenue generated from consumers' personal data."</p>
Mexico City, already progressive, takes more steps to protect its LGBT+ citizens.
- Mexico City has just issued a ban protecting its citizens from "conversion therapy."
- "Conversion therapy" is a loose term covering a wide variety of "treatments" which claim to alter a person's sexuality.
- With the law, Mexico City joins a small club of countries, provinces, and municipalities with such a law.
The ashes in the dustbin of history, examined.<p>Conversion therapy refers to a wide array of procedures that ostensibly alter a person's sexual orientation. These can include anything from trying to "pray the gay away" to aversion therapies that border torture. Variations of the idea of curing homosexuality have been around since the dawn of modern psychology. The amount of acceptance that the concept enjoyed waxed and waned as our understanding of sexuality evolved.</p><p>Sigmund Freud famously declared homosexuality "nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation" in a letter to the mother of a gay man who sought his help in "curing" her son. In the same letter, Freud expressed doubt that any therapy could reliably alter human sexuality in a meaningful <a href="http://www.openculture.com/2014/09/freud-letter-on-homosexuality.html" target="_blank">way</a>. </p><p>His daughter, an influential psychologist in her own right, felt differently, suggesting that such a treatment could exist and describing homosexual tendencies in terms of neurotic illness. In the United States, several psychologists argued that such behavior could be "cured" through a variety of procedures, such as electroshock treatment, lobotomy, aversive conditioning, and confrontational therapy often indistinguishable from <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversion_therapy#United_States" target="_blank">abuse</a>. </p><p>After <a href="https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/5-times-rioting-worked" target="_blank">Stonewall </a>and the rise of modern views of human sexuality, most psychologists and their associations stopped considering homosexuality as a disease. </p><p>In the 21<sup>st</sup> century, the American Psychological Association asked its members to "avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts by promoting or promising change in sexual orientation when providing assistance to individuals distressed by their own or others' sexual orientation." Similar actions have taken place around the world. Recently, the United Nations' expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identify called for a global ban on the <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1066652" target="_blank">practice</a>. </p><p>Despite these efforts and others like them, some forms of conversion therapy continue to exist, and a few people still preach its benefits.</p><p>This is rather dangerous. While no widely accepted study demonstrates the effectiveness of conversion therapy, credible studies show its adverse outcomes. People who undergo these discredited treatments are at a higher risk of suicide, anxiety, depression, and <a href="https://doi.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0735-7028.33.3.249" target="_blank">drug use</a>. </p>
Who isn’t as progressive as Mexico City yet? Where is progress being made?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyMjQ0NC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMTY0NTc0NH0.9gotuBiC6Yc63J7V5YTdaeS8XOHcIOHn1jqQci1L0MA/img.png?width=1245&coordinates=83%2C-1%2C84%2C1&height=700" id="b7b0c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dc3fed01a9cad38a35633e2ef0fccec3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Areas in dark blue have issued bans on conversion therapy. Light blue signifies a case by case ban. Areas in yellow are/have considered bans. The grey areas offer no protections against conversion therapy.
By Stinger20 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66533359<p>The above map shows the various places around the world where conversion therapy is banned, legal, or being challenged. Many of the locations shown in yellow are making significant progress towards a ban of this harmful group of procedures. As you might expect, the details of the laws in effect vary by location. Some of the prohibitions are <em>de facto </em>rather than explicit, some only apply to medical professionals carrying out these procedures, and some are enforced not by law but by the mutual agreement of psychologists.</p><p>The United Kingdom has taken substantial steps towards a ban, with the NHS and the major psychological and counseling associations of the UK condemning the practice. The government has promised to study the issue in detail before moving forward with legislation that could end the practice. Several organizations <a href="https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2020/06/30/religion-lgbt-homophobia-conversion-therapy-ozanne-foundation-islam-christianity-judaism/" target="_blank">continue to advocate</a> for law immediately settling the matter.</p><p>In India, Prince <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manvendra_Singh_Gohil" target="_blank">Manvendra Singh Gohil</a> revealed that he had endured <a href="https://www.out.com/news/2020/7/27/gay-indian-prince-was-subjected-electroshock-conversion-therapy" target="_blank">electroshock therapy</a> as a young man after coming out to his less than supportive parents. Since coming out in 2006, he has worked with various charities to help LGBT+ individuals and even <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/prince-manvendra-singh-gohil-palace-lgbt-people-a8146491.html" target="_blank">opened up his palace grounds</a> for those who were forced out of their families for who they are. His opening up comes alongside protests in India against the <a href="https://theconversation.com/lgbtq-conversion-therapy-in-india-how-it-began-and-why-it-persists-today-140316" target="_blank">practice</a>. <br> <br> In the United States, discussions of a ban have taken place in many areas not currently protected by one. LGBT+ organizations in those states without bans are <a href="https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-involved/trevor-advocacy/50-bills-50-states/about-conversion-therapy/" target="_blank">actively campaigning for them</a><a href="https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-involved/trevor-advocacy/50-bills-50-states/about-conversion-therapy/" target="_blank"></a>. The state of Minnesota attempted to pass legislation to that effect last year, but that portion of the bill was cut out. Activists have taken to the local level as they prepare to try <a href="https://mspmag.com/arts-and-culture/the-fight-to-ban-conversion-therapy-in-minnesota/" target="_blank">again</a>. </p><p>Mexico City's ban is entirely in character for a city with a reputation of a protector of LGBT+ rights. In 2009, it was the first place in Mexico to legalize gay marriage and institute a variety of legal <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20100102102038/http:/www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34514521/ns/world_news" target="_blank">equalities</a>. Gay Rights have been slower to gain respect in the rest of <a href="https://www.borderreport.com/regions/mexico/baja-california-state-congress-says-no-to-gay-marriage/" target="_blank">Mexico</a>, though its Supreme Court stands ready to protect the rights of LGBT+ individuals in states that have dragged their feet on adopting federal law equalizing <a href="https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/mexicos-legal-battle-to-establish-same-sex-marriage-may-finally-be-coming-to-a-head/" target="_blank">marriage</a>. </p>