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New Bill Banning Facial Recognition Technology in Public Housing Aims to Protect Vulnerable Communities

Emily McPhie

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WASHINGTON, July 24, 2019 — As concern about smart home technology grows, three progressive representatives are planning to introduce a bill this week to ban facial recognition technologies from public housing.

“Surveillance technology is often used to track and control vulnerable communities, particularly communities of color,” wrote Reps. Yvette Clarke, D-NY, Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., in a letter asking for co-sponsors. “The installation of biometric technologies on public housing properties poses an acute risk to those already on the margins.”

The legislation will prohibit the use of facial recognition technology in most public and assisted housing funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

It will also require the department to submit a report to Congress describing any known instance of these technologies already in use in public housing units, the purpose and impact of these technologies, and the demographic information of impacted tenants.

Bipartisan critics have raised concerns over the biases present in facial recognition technologies, which have proven in the past to disproportionately misidentify women and people of color.

“Using this flawed technology as the basis for everything from building access to potential arrest for perceived trespassing thus poses a unique risk to these groups,” the congresswomen wrote. “This unregulated and under-researched technology should be banned in public housing units until additional oversight of its development and deployment is possible.”

Many fear that widespread implementation of such technology also poses a significant threat to privacy. In May, a large group of tenants in New York filed a legal opposition to their landlord’s proposal to install a facial recognition entry system.

“The ability to enter your home should not be conditioned on the surrender of your biometric data, particularly when the landlord’s collection, storage, and use of such data is untested and unregulated,” said attorney Samar Katnani, who represented the tenants.

Proponents of facial recognition technology argue that it offers residents convenience and safety while keeping down costs for landlords. “Rather than lock out low-income Americans from the latest innovations, Congress should welcome the availability of technology that prevents them from getting locked out of their homes,” said Daniel Castro, vice president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, in a statement responding to the bill.

However, the proposed ban has gained significant support from politicians and outside groups on both sides of the aisle.

“Facial recognition surveillance should be banned everywhere, but keeping it out of public housing is an excellent start,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of digital civil rights group Fight for the Future. “If public housing units become a panopticon of automated face scanning and monitoring, it will mean more people in prison, more police abuse, and more families torn apart.”

(Image by Mike MacKenzie used with permission.)

Emily McPhie was Assistant Editor with Broadband Breakfast. She studies communication design and writing at Washington University in St. Louis, where she is a news editor for campus publication Student Life. She is a founding board member of Code Open Sesame, an organization that teaches computer skills to underprivileged children in six cities across Southern California.

Artificial Intelligence

Staying Ahead On Artificial Intelligence Requires International Cooperation

Benjamin Kahn

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Screenshot from the webinar

March 4, 2021—Artificial intelligence is present in most facets of American digital life, but experts are in a constant race to identify and address potential dangers before they impact consumers.

From making a simple search on Google to listening to music on Spotify to streaming Tiger King on Netflix, AI is everywhere. Predictive algorithms learn from a consumer’s viewing habits and attempt to direct consumers to other content an algorithm thinks a consumer will be interested in.

While this can be extremely convenient for consumers, it also raises many concerns.

Jaisha Wray, associate administrator for international affairs at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, was a panelist at a conference hosted Tuesday by the Federal Communications Bar Association.

Wray identified three key areas of interest that are at the forefront of AI policy: content moderation, algorithm transparency, and the establishment of common-ground policies between foreign governments.

In addition to all the aforementioned uses for AI, it also has proven to be an indispensable tool for websites like Facebook, Alphabet’s Youtube, and myriad other social media platforms in auto-moderating their content. While most social media platforms employ humans to review various decisions made by AI (such as Facebook’s Oversight Board), most content is first handled by AI moderators.

According to Tubefilter, in 2019 more than 500 hours of video content were uploaded to Youtube every minute; in less than 20 minutes, a year’s worth of content is uploaded.

Content moderation, algorithm transparency, foreign alignment

On this scale, AI is necessary to police the website, even if it not a perfect system. “[AI] is like a thread that’s woven into every issue that we work on and every venue,” Wray explained. She described how both governments and private entities have looked to AI to not only moderate somewhat mundane things such copyright issues, but also national security issues like violent extremist content.

Her second point pertained to algorithm transparency. She outlined how entities outside of the U.S. have sought to address this concern by providing consumers with the opportunity to have their content reviewed by humans before a final decision is made. Wray pointed to the European General Protection Regulation, “which enshrines the principle that every person has the right not to be subject to a decision solely based on automated processing.”

Her final point raised the issue of coordinating these efforts between different international jurisdictions—namely the U.S. and its allies. “We’re really trying to hone-in on where our values align and where we can find common ground.” She added that coordination does not end with allies, however, and that it is key that the U.S. also coordinate with authoritarian regimes, allied or otherwise.

She said that the primary task facing the U.S. right now is simply trying to determine which issues are worth prioritizing when it comes to coordinating with foreign governments—whether that is addressing the spread of AI, how to police AI multilaterally, or how to address the use of AI by adversarial authoritarian regimes.

Technology needs to be built with security in mind

One of Wray’s co-panelists, Evelyn Remaley, who is the associate administrator for the NTIA’s Office of Policy Analysis and Development, said all multilateral cybersecurity efforts related to AI must be approached from a position of what she called a “zero-trust model.” She explained that this model operates from the presupposition that technology should not and cannot be trusted.

“We have to build in controls and standards from the bottom-up to make sure that we are building in the security layer by layer,” Remaley said. “It’s really that premise of ensuring that we realize that we’re always going to have vulnerabilities within this technical development space.”

Remaley said that increasing competition and collaboration can only be safely achieved with a zero-trust mindset.

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Artificial Intelligence

Connectivity Will Need To Keep Up With The Advent Of New Tech, Says Expert

Samuel Triginelli

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Screenshot from the webinar

February 24, 2021 – It used to be that technology had to keep up with the deployment of the growing ubiquity of broadband innovations. But the pace of technological advancements in the home is starting a conversation about whether connectivity can keep up.

That’s according to Shawn DuBravac, an accountant and author of a book about how big data will transform our everyday lives, who argues that the pandemic has illustrated the need for broader connections in the home to meet the need of future technologies. He was speaking on Tuesday at the conference of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association.

Emerging consumer technologies, such as Samsung’s robots, which will perform tasks including loading a dishwasher, serving wine, and setting a dinner table, are redefining the conversation about how connectivity at home will manage them, DuBravac argues.

Health companies are also introducing “companion robots” focused on interacting with seniors. With its artificial intelligence and sensors, these robots develop a personality to adapt to the needs of consumers so social distancing does not become a disadvantage for care.

As such, the pandemic has grown the telehealth industry. With more people avoiding going to hospitals, the creation of watches, belts, scales that are connected to share information with medical professionals is further requiring better broadband connectivity to keep up.

But it’s not like the industry isn’t paying attention. Mesh network technologies, which utilize multiple router-like devices to enhance coverage inside the home, have started to emerge just as smart-home technologies illustrated the need for broader connectivity that better enhanced coverage as Wi-Fi signals experienced degradation through walls.

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Artificial Intelligence

AI the Most Important Change in Health Care Since Introduction of the MRI, Say Experts

Samuel Triginelli

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Screenshot from the webinar

February 7, 2021 – Artificial Intelligence is the most important technological change in health care since the introduction of the MRI, experts said at a Thursday panel discussion about European tech sponsored by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

AI will not be replacing doctors and nurses, but empowering decision-maker with new resources, according to those participating in the discussion on “How Can Europe Enhance the Benefits of AI-Enabled Health Care?”

For example, pharmaceutical companies are using AI for the speedy development of vaccines, panelists said. Additionally, AI is helping address the uneven ratio of skilled doctors to patients, assist health-care professionals in complex procedures, and deliver personalized health care to patients.

Yet, for AI technologies to reach their potential, European Union actors need to create regulations governing transparency, they said.

How AI works in healthcare

AI works through big collections of data that validate algorithms. These help explain certain solutions and detect anomalies in the data set of patients.

But algorithm-creation needs to be held to higher standards than they are currently. Systemic errors can easily enter in on a large scale, said Elmar Kotter, chairperson of the eHealth and Informatics Subcommittee of the European Society of Radiologists.

AI should have been used more during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Maria Manuel Marques, on the Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age.

AI helps treat more patients at a faster rate, and with consistency and agility, said Chris Walker, chair of the working group on digital health for the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations. It helps provide new insights and improve treatment by allowing early-stage treatment of diseases.

Europe faces great challenges because of people’s misconception of what AI can do, panelists said. It is not to replacing doctors and nurses, but empowering with decision-making resources.

More trust would come if companies would conduct safe experimentation by testing and showing examples of how AI can improve the life of health care workers and patients, said Marques.

Regulations of data is crucial for hospitals to trust the products. Moreover, patients must have privacy with their information. Regulations will help them understand what’s been done in the manufacture of AI system, and to what use data will be put.

Ander Elustondo Jauregui, policy officer for Digital Health, added that data quality was an important indicator of the maturity of an AI system. That providing assurances for doctors, he said.

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