from the world's big
This platform utilizes unique AI to help you decide what photos work best.
- Stock photography companies emerged a century ago to help newspapers source images.
- The internet created an increased demand for captivating imagery to accompany articles.
- Finding images that catch a reader's eye is now one of the most important considerations of content companies, bloggers, and magazines.
The programming giant exits the space due to ethical concerns.
- IBM sent a latter to Congress stating it will no longer research, develop, or sell facial recognition software.
- AI-based facial recognition software remains widely available to law enforcement and private industry.
- Facial recognition software is far from infallible, and often reflects its creators' bias.
In what strikes one as a classic case of shutting the stable door long after the horse has bolted, IBM's CEO Arvind Krishna has announced the company will no longer sell general-purpose facial recognition software, citing ethical concerns, in particular with the technology's potential for use in racial profiling by police. They will also cease research and development of this tech.
While laudable, this announcement arguably arrives about five years later than it might have, as numerous companies sell AI-based facial recognition software, often to law enforcement. Anyone who uses Facebook or Google also knows all about this technology, as we watch both companies tag friends and associates for us. (Facebook recently settled a lawsuit regarding the unlawful use of facial recognition for $550 million.)
It's worth noting that no one other than IBM has offered to cease developing and selling facial recognition software.
Image source: Tada Images/Shutterstock
Krishna made the announcement in a public letter to Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Representatives Karen Bass (D-CA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). Democrats in Congress are considering legislation to ban facial-recognition software as reported abuses pile up.
IBM's letter states:
"IBM firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any technology, including facial recognition technology offered by other vendors, for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms, or any purpose which is not consistent with our values and Principles of Trust and Transparency. We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies."
Prior to their exit entirely from facial recognition, IBM had a mixed record. The company scanned nearly a million Creative Commons images from Flickr without their owners' consent. On the other hand, IBM released a public data set in 2018 in an attempt at transparency.
Image source: Best-Backgrounds/Shutterstock
Privacy issues aside — and there definitely are privacy concerns here — the currently available software is immature and prone to errors. Worse, it often reflects the biases of its programmers, who work for private companies with little regulation or oversight. And since commercial facial recognition software is sold to law enforcement, the frequent identification errors and biases are dangerous: They can ruin the lives of innocent people.
The website Gender Shades offers an enlightening demonstration of the type of inaccuracies to which facial recognition is inclined. The page was put together by Joy Buolamwini and Timnit Gebru in 2018, and doesn't reflect the most recent iterations of the software it tests, from three companies, Microsoft, the now-presumably-late IBM Watson, and Face++. Nonetheless, it's telling. To begin with, all three programs did significantly better at identifying men than women. However, when it came to gender identification — simplified to binary designations for simplicity — and skin color, the unimpressive results were genuinely troubling for the bias they reflected.
Amazon's Rekognition facial recognition software is the one most frequently sold to law enforcement, and an ACLU test run in 2018 revealed it also to be pretty bad: It incorrectly identified 28 members of Congress as people in a public database of 28,000 mugshots.
Update, 6/11/2020: Amazon today announced a 12-month moratorium on law-enforcement use of Rekognition, expressing the company's hope that Congress will in the interim enact "stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology."
In 2019, a federal study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology reported empirical evidence of bias relating to age, gender, and race in the 189 facial recognition algorithms they analyzed. Members of certain groups of people were 100 times more likely to be misidentified. This study is ongoing.
Facial rec's poster child
Image source: Gian Cescon/Unsplash
The company most infamously associated with privacy-invading facial recognition software has to be Clearview AI, about whom we've previously written. This company scraped identification from over 3 billion social media images without posters' permission to develop software sold to law enforcement agencies.
The ACLU sued Clearview AI in May of 2020 for engaging in "unlawful, privacy-destroying surveillance activities" in violation of Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act. The organization wrote to CNN, "Clearview is as free to look at online photos as anyone with an internet connection. But what it can't do is capture our faceprints — uniquely identifying biometrics — from those photos without consent." The ACLU's complaint alleges "In capturing these billions of faceprints and continuing to store them in a massive database, Clearview has failed, and continues to fail, to take the basic steps necessary to ensure that its conduct is lawful."
The longer term
Though it undoubtedly sends a chill down the spine, the onrush of facial recognition technologies — encouraged by the software industry's infatuation with AI — suggests that we can't escape being identified by our faces for long, legislation or not. Advertisers want to know who we are, law enforcement wants to know who we are, and as our lives revolve ever more decisively around social media, many will no doubt welcome technology that automatically brings us together with friends and associates old and new. Concerns about the potential for abuse may wind up taking a back seat to convenience.
It's been an open question for some time whether privacy is even an issue for those who've grown up surrounded by connected devices. These generations don't care so much about privacy because they — realistically — don't expect it, particularly in the U.S. where very little is legally private.
IBM's principled stand may ultimately be more pyrrhic than anything else.
Researchers tracking the migration of words to digital spaces have uncovered some surprising facts.
- Beyond Zoom and email, channels like social chat and real-time gaming communities are surging.
- These days, brands don't wait for us to find them online – they're coming to us on social media.
- Switching to airplane mode and spending some time in the real world every now and then can be good for both body and mind.
1. Too much time online is bad for your health.<p>Whether we like it or not, most of us are addicted to our mobile devices, with the average American checking his or her phone <a href="https://www.asurion.com/connect/tech-tips/are-you-addicted-to-your-phone/" target="_blank">80 times a day</a>. About 63 percent take our phones into the bathroom, and 70 percent of people fall asleep each night with their phone in reach.</p><p>But your phone compulsion could be doing more damage than you think. From <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4734149/" target="_blank">causing sleep deprivation</a>, to "<a href="http://nextshark.com/holding-your-smartphone-like-this-could-lead-to-a-deformed-pinky-warns-cell-phone-company/" target="_blank">text claw</a>," researchers are uncovering <a href="https://www.pcmag.com/news/11-reasons-to-stop-looking-at-your-smartphone" target="_blank">myriad ways</a> that our phone addictions are bad for our health. Switching to airplane mode and spending some time in the real world every now and then can be good for both body and mind. <br></p>
2. You need to write shorter emails.<p>It's likely that the phone addiction is to blame, but studies have shown that humans have a<a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/03/12/humans-have-shorter-attention-span-than-goldfish-thanks-to-smart/" target="_blank"> shorter attention span than goldfish</a>. Apparently, we can hold a thought for an average of just eight seconds.</p><p>So, if you're one of those people who has a tendency to write essays over email, the chances are that your recipient isn't reading all the way to the end. Experts <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/07/the-number-one-mistake-people-make-when-writing-work-emails.html" target="_blank">also suggest</a> that long emails send an unwritten message that you don't know your audience, or at least that you don't care so much about the recipient's time. </p>
3. Good grammar could help your love life.<p>Bad spelling and grammar are widely regarded as a professional no-no. But chances are, you never considered that it could be damaging other areas of your life. A <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0265407519878787" target="_blank">Dutch study</a> of online dating site users found that error-free language is generally linked to attractiveness, meaning that potential dates may find bad grammar off-putting before you ever get the opportunity to dazzle them in person.</p> <p>Online tools such as <a href="https://www.google.com/aclk?sa=l&ai=DChcSEwiArqrw1OXpAhVXhdUKHYIYCwsYABAAGgJ3cw&sig=AOD64_0bRYOnmDdJ2lyfncMh7J0C_J-Wog&q=&ved=2ahUKEwjWwaTw1OXpAhUKkxQKHUPXBxIQ0Qx6BAgcEAE&adurl=" target="_blank">Grammarly</a> can help polish up your written communications, and also integrate with your web browser along with word processing software. They'll help spot the kind of spelling and grammar mistakes that often slip through when you're multitasking and typing at speed, helping to polish your written communications. <br><br></p>
4. You probably communicate more with brands via social media than their own websites.<p>These days, brands don't wait for us to find them online – they're coming to us on social media. According to <a href="https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics" target="_blank">HubSpot</a>, Facebook is the primary content distribution channel for marketers in 2020, taking precedence even over their own websites. However, marketers are also maximizing their footprints across other channels, including Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat.</p><p>This isn't simply one-way communication, either. According to reports from Social Bakers, in April, PlayStation drew the <a href="https://www.socialbakers.com/resources/reports/united-states/2020/april" target="_blank">most interactions</a> of any brand on Twitter with 1.6 million, while Netflix took the top spot on Facebook with nearly 2.5 million likes, comments, and shares.</p>
5. Your emails might be more negative than you realize.<p>The "passive-aggressive" email trope has spawned <a href="https://www.boredpanda.com/passive-aggressive-email-phrases-meaning/" target="_blank">many a meme</a>. But as the old adage goes, it's funny because it's true. While the memes are amusing, the reality of receiving negative emails is less likely to make anyone laugh. In fact, <a href="https://www.biospace.com/article/negative-emails-at-work-could-be-seriously-affecting-your-personal-life/#:~:text=According%20to%20a%20new%20study,at%20home%20and%20at%20work." target="_blank">researchers have found</a> that email "incivility" is a cause of stress in the workplace that many people end up taking home with them, transferring it to their loved ones.</p> <p>AI can help. Tools such as <a href="https://www.boomeranggmail.com/insights/" target="_blank">Boomerang Insights</a> can scan your emails for tone, identifying positive and negative language and even drilling down into how you communicate with individual contacts.</p>
6. For online video presentations, desktop still trumps mobile.<p>From online courses and training sessions to product demonstrations and remote business meetings, webinars have proven to be a lifeline to many companies and employees affected by the pandemic.</p> <p>More than 8.5 million people attended some kind of webinar in 2019 on the ClickMeeting platform alone, <a href="https://blog.clickmeeting.com/webinar-report" target="_blank">according to the company</a>. Given the events of 2020, it's likely we'll see that number skyrocket this year. </p>
7. Slack could very well defeat work emails.<p>Slack just might end up being the work communication tool of choice that so many predicted back when it was first getting popular. Even before most of us had heard of it, Slack was the <a href="https://www.businessinsider.fr/us/fastest-companies-to-reach-a-2-billion-valuation-2015-5" target="_blank">fastest-growing</a> B2B company in history. By the time the company went public in 2019, it had over 10 million users sending more than <a href="https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1764925/000162828019007428/slacks-1a3.htm#sC9C346D78943772D97FB567D8BF6BBDD" target="_blank">a billion</a> messages each week.</p> <p>What's more, users of Slack are highly engaged. Slack's IPO papers filed with the SEC state that "paid customers averaged nine hours connected through at least one device and spent more than 90 minutes actively using Slack." </p> <p>Part of its popularity is the fact that Slack does away with the ceremony associated with email. This includes things like a formal greeting, or the expectation of a reply, which are a hangover from the days of letter-writing. In the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/mar/25/slack-butterfield-emoji-chat-nasa-harvard-silicon-valley" target="_blank">words</a> of Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, "It's radical collaboration, a different way of working and thinking."</p>
8. WhatsApp is bigger than China.<p>If WhatsApp users were the population of a country, it would be <a href="https://news.canningspurple.com.au/dont-shoot-the-messenger-our-world-relies-on-it/#:~:text=The%20rise%20and%20rise%20of%20WhatsApp%20is%20representative%20of%20a,America%20and%20much%20of%20Africa." target="_blank">bigger than China</a>. We send <a href="https://www.oberlo.com/blog/whatsapp-statistics" target="_blank">60 billion messages</a> per day on the <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/071515/how-whatsapp-killing-sms-texting.asp" target="_blank">SMS-killer</a>. It's used for everything from organizing family gatherings to brand communications, to Netflix recommendations. </p>
9. Video chat is going through the roof in 2020.<p>Due to the coronavirus keeping office workers at home, it's perhaps unsurprising that video chat is having a moment. While there are plenty of platforms now offering this feature, including Skype, Google Hangouts, and text favorite WhatsApp, Zoom is the tool of choice among the American WFH set. The company grew to <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-zoom-video-commn-encryption/zoom-says-it-has-300-million-daily-meeting-participants-not-users-idUSKBN22C1T4" target="_blank">300 million meeting participants</a> in April, up from just <a href="https://venturebeat.com/2020/04/02/zooms-daily-active-users-jumped-from-10-million-to-over-200-million-in-3-months/" target="_blank">10 million</a> in December 2019.</p> <p>However, this growth hasn't been without controversy. Zoom has <a href="https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/1/21202584/zoom-security-privacy-issues-video-conferencing-software-coronavirus-demand-response" target="_blank">come under fire</a> from security and privacy advocates for failing to cover various vulnerabilities in its software. These include having default settings that don't include a password, and allowing any participant to share their screen, even if they've gatecrashed the meeting – a practice known as "<a href="https://www.howtogeek.com/667183/what-is-zoombombing-and-how-can-you-stop-it/" target="_blank">zoombombing</a>."</p>
10. You’re probably spending hours every day on chat apps.<p>We're spending an insane amount of time online these days – close to seven hours a day. Of that, we spend around <a href="https://wearesocial.com/blog/2020/01/digital-2020-3-8-billion-people-use-social-media" target="_blank">two hours</a> each day communicating via messaging and social apps on our phones. </p> <p>This means that these platforms account for the same time spent online on our phones as all other mobile activities combined.</p>
11. Social gaming has become a major force.<p>Online social gaming has become a massive industry, worth around <a href="https://www.statista.com/topics/2965/social-gaming/" target="_blank">$2.4 billion</a>. <a href="https://discord.com/company" target="_blank">Discord</a>, the messaging app that was designed for gamers, now handles around 963 million messages per day, with over 10 million players online at peak times. </p><p>Sure, that's a fraction of the message volume that WhatsApp sees in a day, but it's still eye-opening in terms of the power of the social, conversational layer to the gamer's experience.</p><p>Furthermore, the stereotypical gamers aren't kids in their bedrooms. According to the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/3-surprising-facts-about-the-gaming-industry-and-why-you-should-start-paying-attention/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>, the average U.S. gamer is 35 years old, with players over 50 accounting for 13 percent of the total in both male and female groups. With an audience of 665 million, more people watch video gameplay than major table networks and subscription TV services.</p>
Changing norms for communication<p>With social distancing likely to remain a norm for months, if not years, to come, online communication is only set to keep growing. Thankfully, the popularity of video and voice chat gives us a means of keeping human contact more present during these times.</p> <p>However, the question is, when things go back to normal, will physical face time (as opposed to FaceTime) ever hold the same value again? Only time will tell. </p>
Got any embarrassing old posts collecting dust on your profile? Facebook wants to help you delete them.
- The feature is called Manage Activity, and it's currently available through mobile and Facebook Lite.
- Manage Activity lets users sort old content by filters like date and posts involving specific people.
- Some companies now use AI-powered background checking services that scrape social media profiles for problematic content.
Social media background checks<p><br></p><p>Now, the feature could bring users some peace of mind. After all, the platform currently has more than <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/#:~:text=How%20many%20users%20does%20Facebook,network%20ever%20to%20do%20so." target="_blank">2.6 billion monthly active users</a>, and some of these users created accounts in their teens, around the time Facebook became widely available in 2006. As these veteran users get older, it seems likely that many would want to delete years-old posts, whether because content is embarrassing, outdated or professionally jeopardizing.</p><p>Some employers now use automated or <a href="https://www.goodegg.io/blog/is-this-legal-and-other-social-media-screening-faqs" target="_blank">third-party background</a> checks that scrape candidates' social media accounts. These checks can search for content that's racist, sexually explicit, criminal or otherwise offensive. </p><p>But they're not always accurate. One AI-powered background service called <a href="https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/5/11/21166291/artificial-intelligence-ai-background-check-checkr-fama" target="_blank">Checkr has even faced lawsuits</a> from people who claim the company's algorithms made mistakes that cost them job opportunities.</p>
How to use Manage Activity<iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Ffacebookapp%2Fvideos%2F707969696627907%2F&show_text=0&width=560" width="560" height="353" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe><p>It's unclear when Manage Activity will become available on desktop. But to learn how to use it on mobile or Facebook Lite, check out this instructional video from Facebook.</p>
Mathematicians studied 100 billion tweets to help computer algorithms better understand our colloquial digital communication.
- A group of mathematicians from the University of Vermont used Twitter to examine how young people intentionally stretch out words in text for digital communication.
- Analyzing the language in roughly 100 billion tweets generated over eight years, the team developed two measurements to assess patterns in the tweets: balance and stretch.
- The words people stretch are not arbitrary but rather have patterned distributions such as what part of the word is stretched or how much it stretches out.
Balance and Stretch<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM2NTg3My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMTEwMjM4NH0.P2pcKvbcsKKi8_0RTsDrsIABnxSHybXZYOLxHYT-KZk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=6%2C0%2C6%2C0&height=700" id="df914" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ddc7d5797ec2a42182452a971813111e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo credit: Dole777 / Unsplash<p>Over the last two decades, social media has provided scientists with a trove of free information about human behavior and language. A group of mathematicians from the University of Vermont used Twitter to examine how young people intentionally stretch out words in text for digital communication. They created a method to essentially quantify the semantic nuances in between stretched words, like "right" vs. "riiiiiight," with the aim to teach future AI algorithms human digital colloquialisms.</p><p>"Written communication has recently begun encoding new forms of expression, including the emotional emphasis delivered by stretching words out," <a href="https://www.techrepublic.com/article/sayyy-whatttt-researchers-analyze-strange-human-tweets-to-build-better-ai/" target="_blank">said Chris Danforth</a>, professor of Mathematics & Statistics in the Vermont Complex Systems Center and member of the research team behind the study.</p><p>In their study, published last week in the journal PLOS One, the team analyzed the language in roughly 100 billion tweets generated from 2008 to 2016. They developed two measurements to assess patterns in the tweets: balance and stretch. For example hahahaha would be considered a stretched world high on balance while a term like wtffffff has stretch but little balance as only one letter, f, contributes to the stretchiness. This means to put emphasis on the world abbreviated by the letter "f". </p><p>"With so much communication happening electronically these days, we're all trying to find ways to convey emotion through text. Emojis are helping, but the visual effect of 30 consecutive vowels in a curse word turns a bland profanity into a form of art," Danforth said.</p><p>Interestingly, the use of elongated words was found across languages. For example, "kkkkkkk" signifies laughter in Brazilian Portuguese while "wkwkwkwkwkwk" expresses it in Indonesian, according to the researchers. </p>