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Investors call for ethical approach to facial recognition technology

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By Simon Jessop and Ross Kerber

LONDON (Reuters) – A group of 50 investors managing more than $4.5 trillion in assets is calling on companies involved in the development and use of facial recognition technology, such as Amazon and Facebook, to do so in an ethical way.

The investor group, which is led by asset manager Candriam, a European division of U.S. financial services company New York Life, said in a statement the technology could infringe on an individual’s privacy rights, given the lack of consent of those being identified, and that there is often no official oversight.

The initiative shows how fund managers are increasingly taking up policy issues that were once considered fringe subjects for shareholders as retail investors pour billions of dollars into funds focused on ethical and sustainability criteria.

Human rights advocates say face recognition technology, which can be used to unlock smart phones or verify bank accounts, also has the potential to be used by governments to track citizens and suppress political dissent.

The investor group said it would begin a two-year process of engagement with companies developing or using the technology. It said it considers 34 companies to be leaders in facial recognition, including Amazon, Facebook, and Asian tech companies Alibaba and Huawei.

An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment. The other companies did not immediately comment when contacted by Reuters.

Amazon told Reuters last month it was extending a moratorium it imposed on police use of its facial recognition technology. Civil liberties groups have warned inaccurate matching could lead to unjust arrests.

“For investors to be able to fulfil our own responsibility to respect human rights, we call on companies to proactively assess, disclose, mitigate and remediate human rights risks related to their facial recognition products and services,” said Rosa van den Beemt, Responsible Investment Analyst at BMO Global Asset Management, one of the investors that has signed up to the initiative.

The facial recognition technology market is set to grow to around $10 billion in 2020, Candriam said in a report published in March, citing a 2018 survey by Allied Market Research.

Among those to sign up to the investor initiative were Britain’s Aviva Investors, Royal London Asset Management, Canada’s BMO Global Asset Management, Dutch-based NN Investment Partners and Norway’s KLP.

“The increasing deployment and use of facial recognition technologies have human rights implications which are not fully being considered by companies,” said Louise Piffaut, Senior ESG analyst at Aviva Investors.

Candriam said there was currently no global framework governing the collection and use of biometric data, but the European Union has proposed its first ever legal framework and China has published a draft standard.

The European Union’s privacy watchdog said in April the technology should be banned in Europe because of its “deep and non-democratic intrusion” into people’s private lives.

(Editing by Jane Merriman)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/investors-call-ethical-approach-facial-recognition-technology/15241

Big Data

Biden tells Putin certain cyberattacks should be ‘off-limits’

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By Vladimir Soldatkin and Humeyra Pamuk

GENEVA (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday that certain critical infrastructure should be “off-limits” to cyberattacks, but analysts said his efforts were unlikely to be more successful than previous attempts to carve out safe zones online.

Biden wasn’t explicit about which areas he wanted out of bounds, but spoke of 16 kinds of infrastructure – an apparent reference to the 16 sectors designated as critical by the U.S. Homeland Security Department, including telecommunications, healthcare, food and energy.

“We agreed to task experts in both our countries to work on specific understandings about what is off-limits,” Biden said following a lakeside summit with Putin in Geneva. “We’ll find out whether we have a cybersecurity arrangement that begins to bring some order.”

A senior administration official said that the proposal was focused on “destructive” hacks, as opposed to the conventional digital espionage operations carried out by intelligence agencies worldwide.

Putin’s response to the idea wasn’t immediately clear. In a separate press conference, he said the two leaders had agreed to “begin consultations” on cybersecurity issues but didn’t directly refer to Biden’s proposal.

The threat of destructive hacks aimed at critical infrastructure, a staple of disaster movies where renegade hackers trigger blackouts and mayhem, have long worried experts.

The United States had its first serious taste of what that might mean last month, when ransom-seeking cybercriminals briefly triggered the closure of a major U.S. pipeline network, interrupting gasoline deliveries and sparking panic-buying up and down the East Coast.

Earlier cyberattacks aimed at the Ukrainian power grid and a Saudi petrochemical plant have also drawn concern.

In all those cases, the hackers involved are accused by the United States of either working directly for the Russian government or from Russian territory.

Russian officials have repeatedly denied carrying out or tolerating cyberattacks, and Putin on Wednesday made no concessions on the issue.

“We need to throw out all kinds of insinuations, sit down at the expert level and start working in the interests of the United States and Russia,” Putin told reporters.

He then made an insinuation of his own, saying that Russian officials had tracked malicious digital activity coming from the United States.

“We certainly see where the attacks are coming from. We see that this work is coordinated from U.S. cyberspace,” Putin said.

Experts were skeptical that Biden’s proposal would be taken seriously by Putin.

“There’s no indication at all that he actually went along with it,” said Keir Giles, a Russia expert with the London-based Chatham House think tank.

Giles said that grappling with the cyber threat emerging from Russia would require “an outbreak of honesty” on the Kremlin’s side.

“There’s no indication – at least from Putin’s public comments so far – that that outbreak has begun,” Giles said.

The fate of a similar agreement between former U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping is not encouraging, said Stefan Soesanto, a researcher at the Center for Security Studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

The 2015 agreement theoretically banned the theft of intellectual property for commercial gain, but many cyber experts that track Chinese hacking say Beijing eventually reneged on the deal.

“Will Biden fare better than Obama/Xi? I don’t think it will,” Soesanto said.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Steve Holland; writing by Raphael Satter, Andrey Ostroukh, Alexander Marrow and Christopher Bing; editing by Andrew Osborn, Mary Milliken and Sonya Hepinstall)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/biden-tells-putin-certain-cyberattacks-off-limits/15529

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Big Data

Biden tells Putin certain cyberattacks should be ‘off-limits’

Published

on

By Vladimir Soldatkin and Humeyra Pamuk

GENEVA (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday that certain critical infrastructure should be “off-limits” to cyberattacks, but analysts said his efforts were unlikely to be more successful than previous attempts to carve out safe zones online.

Biden wasn’t explicit about which areas he wanted out of bounds, but spoke of 16 kinds of infrastructure – an apparent reference to the 16 sectors designated as critical by the U.S. Homeland Security Department, including telecommunications, healthcare, food and energy.

“We agreed to task experts in both our countries to work on specific understandings about what is off-limits,” Biden said following a lakeside summit with Putin in Geneva. “We’ll find out whether we have a cybersecurity arrangement that begins to bring some order.”

A senior administration official said that the proposal was focused on “destructive” hacks, as opposed to the conventional digital espionage operations carried out by intelligence agencies worldwide.

Putin’s response to the idea wasn’t immediately clear. In a separate press conference, he said the two leaders had agreed to “begin consultations” on cybersecurity issues but didn’t directly refer to Biden’s proposal.

The threat of destructive hacks aimed at critical infrastructure, a staple of disaster movies where renegade hackers trigger blackouts and mayhem, have long worried experts.

The United States had its first serious taste of what that might mean last month, when ransom-seeking cybercriminals briefly triggered the closure of a major U.S. pipeline network, interrupting gasoline deliveries and sparking panic-buying up and down the East Coast.

Earlier cyberattacks aimed at the Ukrainian power grid and a Saudi petrochemical plant have also drawn concern.

In all those cases, the hackers involved are accused by the United States of either working directly for the Russian government or from Russian territory.

Russian officials have repeatedly denied carrying out or tolerating cyberattacks, and Putin on Wednesday made no concessions on the issue.

“We need to throw out all kinds of insinuations, sit down at the expert level and start working in the interests of the United States and Russia,” Putin told reporters.

He then made an insinuation of his own, saying that Russian officials had tracked malicious digital activity coming from the United States.

“We certainly see where the attacks are coming from. We see that this work is coordinated from U.S. cyberspace,” Putin said.

Experts were skeptical that Biden’s proposal would be taken seriously by Putin.

“There’s no indication at all that he actually went along with it,” said Keir Giles, a Russia expert with the London-based Chatham House think tank.

Giles said that grappling with the cyber threat emerging from Russia would require “an outbreak of honesty” on the Kremlin’s side.

“There’s no indication – at least from Putin’s public comments so far – that that outbreak has begun,” Giles said.

The fate of a similar agreement between former U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping is not encouraging, said Stefan Soesanto, a researcher at the Center for Security Studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

The 2015 agreement theoretically banned the theft of intellectual property for commercial gain, but many cyber experts that track Chinese hacking say Beijing eventually reneged on the deal.

“Will Biden fare better than Obama/Xi? I don’t think it will,” Soesanto said.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Steve Holland; writing by Raphael Satter, Andrey Ostroukh, Alexander Marrow and Christopher Bing; editing by Andrew Osborn, Mary Milliken and Sonya Hepinstall)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/biden-tells-putin-certain-cyberattacks-off-limits/15529

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U.S. push for self-driving cars faces union, lawyers opposition

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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday again rejected attempts to lift regulations to allow for the deployment of thousands of autonomous vehicles as union groups and attorneys campaign against the legislative proposal.

The committee rebuffed the bid by Republican Senator John Thune to attach measures lifting regulations on autonomous vehicles to a $78 billion surface transportation bill after he sought last month to attach it in May to a bill on China tech policy.

Thune has proposed granting the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the power to grant exemptions for tens of thousands of self-driving vehicles per manufacturer from safety standards written with human drivers in mind.

The surface bill, which would boost funding for Amtrak and other transportation needs, was approved by the committee on a 25-3 vote.

Thune and other lawmakers have sought for nearly five years to win approval.

The senator argued autonomous vehicles could help eliminate numerous deaths due to human error like distracted or impaired drivers.

Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, cited recent Tesla crashes and other recent incidents involving driver assistance systems in her response.

“It seems like every other week we’re hearing about a new vehicle that crashed when it was on Autopilot” Cantwell said. “I do think this is legislation that we can complete by the end of this year… These last issues are very thorny as it relates to legal structure.”

“Democrats have yielded to pressure from special interests against the best interests of our economy and the American people,” Thune said. “Are we really going to continue to ignore the enormous safety benefits of these vehicles?”

Thune said that the “Teamsters and trial lawyers” are opposed to self-driving legislation and they “seem to own lock, stock and barrel the Democrats on this committee.”

The Teamsters did not immediately comment. The American Association for Justice, which represents plaintiffs lawyers said it “will continue to oppose any legislation that exempts the driverless car industry from basic safety standards, and allows auto and tech companies to avoid being held accountable through the use of forced arbitration clauses.”

The Self-Driving Coalition, which represents Ford Motor Co, Alphabet Inc’s Waymo, Volvo Cars and others said “the exclusion of AV legislation from current surface transportation reauthorization bills reflects yet another missed opportunity to save lives” but it vowed to work with lawmakers.

Last month, Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Department for the AFL-CIO, told U.S. lawmakers that autonomous vehicles place “millions of jobs at risk” and any self-driving legislation should not apply to commercial trucks.

Reuters reported in May that Waymo and rival Cruise, a unit of General Motors, have applied for permits to start charging for rides and delivery using autonomous vehicles in San Francisco.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/us-push-self-driving-cars-faces-union-lawyers-opposition/15528

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Big Data

U.S. push for self-driving cars faces union, lawyers opposition

Published

on

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday again rejected attempts to lift regulations to allow for the deployment of thousands of autonomous vehicles as union groups and attorneys campaign against the legislative proposal.

The committee rebuffed the bid by Republican Senator John Thune to attach measures lifting regulations on autonomous vehicles to a $78 billion surface transportation bill after he sought last month to attach it in May to a bill on China tech policy.

Thune has proposed granting the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the power to grant exemptions for tens of thousands of self-driving vehicles per manufacturer from safety standards written with human drivers in mind.

The surface bill, which would boost funding for Amtrak and other transportation needs, was approved by the committee on a 25-3 vote.

Thune and other lawmakers have sought for nearly five years to win approval.

The senator argued autonomous vehicles could help eliminate numerous deaths due to human error like distracted or impaired drivers.

Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, cited recent Tesla crashes and other recent incidents involving driver assistance systems in her response.

“It seems like every other week we’re hearing about a new vehicle that crashed when it was on Autopilot” Cantwell said. “I do think this is legislation that we can complete by the end of this year… These last issues are very thorny as it relates to legal structure.”

“Democrats have yielded to pressure from special interests against the best interests of our economy and the American people,” Thune said. “Are we really going to continue to ignore the enormous safety benefits of these vehicles?”

Thune said that the “Teamsters and trial lawyers” are opposed to self-driving legislation and they “seem to own lock, stock and barrel the Democrats on this committee.”

The Teamsters did not immediately comment. The American Association for Justice, which represents plaintiffs lawyers said it “will continue to oppose any legislation that exempts the driverless car industry from basic safety standards, and allows auto and tech companies to avoid being held accountable through the use of forced arbitration clauses.”

The Self-Driving Coalition, which represents Ford Motor Co, Alphabet Inc’s Waymo, Volvo Cars and others said “the exclusion of AV legislation from current surface transportation reauthorization bills reflects yet another missed opportunity to save lives” but it vowed to work with lawmakers.

Last month, Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Department for the AFL-CIO, told U.S. lawmakers that autonomous vehicles place “millions of jobs at risk” and any self-driving legislation should not apply to commercial trucks.

Reuters reported in May that Waymo and rival Cruise, a unit of General Motors, have applied for permits to start charging for rides and delivery using autonomous vehicles in San Francisco.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/us-push-self-driving-cars-faces-union-lawyers-opposition/15528

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