San Francisco becomes the first US city to ban facial recognition by government agencies

Colin Lecher at The Verge: “In a first for a city in the United States, San Francisco has voted to ban its government agencies from using facial recognition technology.

The city’s Board of Supervisors voted eight to one to approve the proposal, set to take effect in a month, that would bar city agencies, including law enforcement, from using the tool. The ordinance would also require city agencies to get board approval for their use of surveillance technology, and set up audits of surveillance tech already in use. Other cities have approved similar transparency measures.“

The plan, called the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance, was spearheaded by Supervisor Aaron Peskin. In a statement read ahead of the vote, Peskin said it was “an ordinance about having accountability around surveillance technology.”

“This is not an anti-technology policy,” he said, stressing that many tools used by law enforcement are still important to the city’s security. Still, he added, facial recognition is “uniquely dangerous and oppressive.”

The ban comes amid a broader debate over facial recognition, which can be used to rapidly identify people and has triggered new questions about civil liberties. Experts have raised specific concerns about the tools, as studies have demonstrated instances of troubling bias and error rates.

Microsoft, which offers facial recognition tools, has called for some form of regulation for the technology — but how, exactly, to regulate the tool has been contested. Proposals have ranged from light regulation to full moratoriums. Legislation has largely stalled, however.

San Francisco’s decision will inevitably be used as an example as the debate continues and other cities and states decide whether and how to regulate facial recognition. Civil liberties groups like the ACLU of Northern California have already thrown their support behind the San Francisco plan, while law enforcement in the area has pushed back….(More)”.

How AI could save lives without spilling medical secrets

Will Knight at MIT Technology Review: “The potential for artificial intelligence to transform health care is huge, but there’s a big catch.

AI algorithms will need vast amounts of medical data on which to train before machine learning can deliver powerful new ways to spot and understand the cause of disease. That means imagery, genomic information, or electronic health records—all potentially very sensitive information.

That’s why researchers are working on ways to let AI learn from large amounts of medical data while making it very hard for that data to leak.

One promising approach is now getting its first big test at Stanford Medical School in California. Patients there can choose to contribute their medical data to an AI system that can be trained to diagnose eye disease without ever actually accessing their personal details.

Participants submit ophthalmology test results and health record data through an app. The information is used to train a machine-learning model to identify signs of eye disease in the images. But the data is protected by technology developed by Oasis Labs, a startup spun out of UC Berkeley, which guarantees that the information cannot be leaked or misused. The startup was granted permission by regulators to start the trial last week.

The sensitivity of private patient data is a looming problem. AI algorithms trained on data from different hospitals could potentially diagnose illness, prevent disease, and extend lives. But in many countries medical records cannot easily be shared and fed to these algorithms for legal reasons. Research on using AI to spot disease in medical images or data usually involves relatively small data sets, which greatly limits the technology’s promise….

Oasis stores the private patient data on a secure chip, designed in collaboration with other researchers at Berkeley. The data remains within the Oasis cloud; outsiders are able to run algorithms on the data, and receive the results, without its ever leaving the system. A smart contractsoftware that runs on top of a blockchain—is triggered when a request to access the data is received. This software logs how the data was used and also checks to make sure the machine-learning computation was carried out correctly….(More)”.

Artificial Intelligence and Digital Repression: Global Challenges to Governance

Paper by Steven Feldstein: “Across the world, artificial intelligence (AI) is showing its potential for abetting repressive regimes and upending the relationship between citizen and state, thereby exacerbating a global resurgence of authoritarianism. AI is a component in a broader ecosystem of digital repression, but it is relevant to several different techniques, including surveillance, censorship, disinformation, and cyber attacks. AI offers three distinct advantages to autocratic leaders: it helps solve principal-agent loyalty problems, it offers substantial cost-efficiencies over traditional means of surveillance, and it is particularly effective against external regime challenges. China is a key proliferator of AI technology to authoritarian and illiberal regimes; such proliferation is an important component of Chinese geopolitical strategy. To counter the spread of high-tech repression abroad, as well as potential abuses at home, policy makers in democratic states must think seriously about how to mitigate harms and to shape better practices….(More)”

The future of work? Work of the future!

European Commission: “While historical evidence suggests that previous waves of automation have been overwhelmingly positive for the economy and society, AI is in a different league, with the potential to be much more disruptive. It builds upon other digital technologies but also brings about and amplifies major socioeconomic changes of its own.

What do recent technological developments in AI and robotisation mean for the economy, businesses and jobs? Should we be worried or excited? Which jobs will be destroyed and which new ones created? What should education systems, businesses, governments and social partners do to manage the coming transition successfully?
These are some of the questions considered by Michel Servoz, Senior Adviser on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and the Future of Labour, in this in-depth study requested by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker….(More)”.

Digital inequalities in the age of artificial intelligence and big data

Paper by Christoph Lutz: “In this literature review, I summarize key concepts and findings from the rich academic literature on digital inequalities. I propose that digital inequalities research should look more into labor‐ and big data‐related questions such as inequalities in online labor markets and the negative effects of algorithmic decision‐making for vulnerable population groups.

The article engages with the sociological literature on digital inequalities and explains the general approach to digital inequalities, based on the distinction of first‐, second‐, and third‐level digital divides. First, inequalities in access to digital technologies are discussed. This discussion is extended to emerging technologies, including the Internet‐of‐things and artificial intelligence‐powered systems such as smart speakers. Second, inequalities in digital skills and technology use are reviewed and connected to the discourse on new forms of work such as the sharing economy or gig economy. Third and finally, the discourse on the outcomes, in the form of benefits or harms, from digital technology use is taken up.

Here, I propose to integrate the digital inequalities literature more strongly with critical algorithm studies and recent discussions about datafication, digital footprints, and information privacy….(More)”.

How Technology Could Revolutionize Refugee Resettlement

Krishnadev Calamur in The Atlantic: “… For nearly 70 years, the process of interviewing, allocating, and accepting refugees has gone largely unchanged. In 1951, 145 countries came together in Geneva, Switzerland, to sign the Refugee Convention, the pact that defines who is a refugee, what refugees’ rights are, and what legal obligations states have to protect them.

This process was born of the idealism of the postwar years—an attempt to make certain that those fleeing war or persecution could find safety so that horrific moments in history, such as the Holocaust, didn’t recur. The pact may have been far from perfect, but in successive years, it was a lifeline to Afghans, Bosnians, Kurds, and others displaced by conflict.

The world is a much different place now, though. The rise of populism has brought with it a concomitant hostility toward immigrants in general and refugees in particular. Last October, a gunman who had previously posted anti-Semitic messages online against HIAS killed 11 worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Many of the policy arguments over resettlement have shifted focus from humanitarian relief to security threats and cost. The Trump administration has drastically cut the number of refugees the United States accepts, and large parts of Europe are following suit.

If it works, Annie could change that dynamic. Developed at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, Lund University in Sweden, and the University of Oxford in Britain, the software uses what’s known as a matching algorithm to allocate refugees with no ties to the United States to their new homes. (Refugees with ties to the United States are resettled in places where they have family or community support; software isn’t involved in the process.)

Annie’s algorithm is based on a machine learning model in which a computer is fed huge piles of data from past placements, so that the program can refine its future recommendations. The system examines a series of variables—physical ailments, age, levels of education and languages spoken, for example—related to each refugee case. In other words, the software uses previous outcomes and current constraints to recommend where a refugee is most likely to succeed. Every city where HIAS has an office or an affiliate is given a score for each refugee. The higher the score, the better the match.

This is a drastic departure from how refugees are typically resettled. Each week, HIAS and the eight other agencies that allocate refugees in the United States make their decisions based largely on local capacity, with limited emphasis on individual characteristics or needs….(More)”.

How to Argue with an Algorithm: Lessons from the COMPAS ProPublica Debate

Paper by Anne L. Washington: “The United States optimizes the efficiency of its growing criminal justice system with algorithms however, legal scholars have overlooked how to frame courtroom debates about algorithmic predictions. In State v Loomis, the defense argued that the court’s consideration of risk assessments during sentencing was a violation of due process because the accuracy of the algorithmic prediction could not be verified. The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the consideration of predictive risk at sentencing because the assessment was disclosed and the defendant could challenge the prediction by verifying the accuracy of data fed into the algorithm.

Was the court correct about how to argue with an algorithm?

The Loomis court ignored the computational procedures that processed the data within the algorithm. How algorithms calculate data is equally as important as the quality of the data calculated. The arguments in Loomis revealed a need for new forms of reasoning to justify the logic of evidence-based tools. A “data science reasoning” could provide ways to dispute the integrity of predictive algorithms with arguments grounded in how the technology works.

This article’s contribution is a series of arguments that could support due process claims concerning predictive algorithms, specifically the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (“COMPAS”) risk assessment. As a comprehensive treatment, this article outlines the due process arguments in Loomis, analyzes arguments in an ongoing academic debate about COMPAS, and proposes alternative arguments based on the algorithm’s organizational context….(More)”

Report on Algorithmic Risk Assessment Tools in the U.S. Criminal Justice System

Press release: “The Partnership on AI (PAI) has today published a report gathering the views of the multidisciplinary artificial intelligence and machine learning research and ethics community which documents the serious shortcomings of algorithmic risk assessment tools in the U.S. criminal justice system. These kinds of AI tools for deciding on whether to detain or release defendants are in widespread use around the United States, and some legislatures have begun to mandate their use. Lessons drawn from the U.S. context have widespread applicability in other jurisdictions, too, as the international policymaking community considers the deployment of similar tools.

While criminal justice risk assessment tools are often simpler than the deep neural networks used in many modern artificial intelligence systems, they are basic forms of AI. As such, they present a paradigmatic example of the high-stakes social and ethical consequences of automated AI decision-making….

Across the report, challenges to using these tools fell broadly into three primary categories:

  1. Concerns about the accuracy, bias, and validity in the tools themselves
    • Although the use of these tools is in part motivated by the desire to mitigate existing human fallibility in the criminal justice system, this report suggests that it is a serious misunderstanding to view tools as objective or neutral simply because they are based on data.
  2. Issues with the interface between the tools and the humans who interact with them
    • In addition to technical concerns, these tools must be held to high standards of interpretability and explainability to ensure that users (including judges, lawyers, and clerks, among others) can understand how the tools’ predictions are reached and make reasonable decisions based on these predictions.
  3. Questions of governance, transparency, and accountability
    • To the extent that such systems are adapted to make life-changing decisions, tools and decision-makers who specify, mandate, and deploy them must meet high standards of transparency and accountability.

This report highlights some of the key challenges with the use of risk assessment tools for criminal justice applications. It also raises some deep philosophical and procedural issues which may not be easy to resolve. Surfacing and addressing those concerns will require ongoing research and collaboration between policymakers, the AI research community, civil society groups, and affected communities, as well as new types of data collection and transparency. It is PAI’s mission to spur and facilitate these conversations and to produce research to bridge such gaps….(More)”

AI & Global Governance: Robots Will Not Only Wage Future Wars but also Future Peace

Daanish Masood & Martin Waehlisch at the United Nations University: “At the United Nations, we have been exploring completely different scenarios for AI: its potential to be used for the noble purposes of peace and security. This could revolutionize the way of how we prevent and solve conflicts globally.

Two of the most promising areas are Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing. Machine Learning involves computer algorithms detecting patterns from data to learn how to make predictions and recommendations. Natural Language Processing involves computers learning to understand human languages.

At the UN Secretariat, our chief concern is with how these emerging technologies can be deployed for the good of humanity to de-escalate violence and increase international stability.

This endeavor has admirable precedent. During the Cold War, computer scientists used multilayered simulations to predict the scale and potential outcome of the arms race between the East and the West.

Since then, governments and international agencies have increasingly used computational models and advanced Machine Learning to try to understand recurrent conflict patterns and forecast moments of state fragility.

But two things have transformed the scope for progress in this field.

The first is the sheer volume of data now available from what people say and do online. The second is the game-changing growth in computational capacity that allows us to crunch unprecedented, inconceivable quantities data with relative speed and ease.

So how can this help the United Nations build peace? Three ways come to mind.

Firstly, overcoming cultural and language barriers. By teaching computers to understand human language and the nuances of dialects, not only can we better link up what people write on social media to local contexts of conflict, we can also more methodically follow what people say on radio and TV. As part of the UN’s early warning efforts, this can help us detect hate speech in a place where the potential for conflict is high. This is crucial because the UN often works in countries where internet coverage is low, and where the spoken languages may not be well understood by many of its international staff.

Natural Language Processing algorithms can help to track and improve understanding of local debates, which might well be blind spots for the international community. If we combine such methods with Machine Learning chatbots, the UN could conduct large-scale digital focus groups with thousands in real-time, enabling different demographic segments in a country to voice their views on, say, a proposed peace deal – instantly testing public support, and indicating the chances of sustainability.

Secondly, anticipating the deeper drivers of conflict. We could combine new imaging techniques – whether satellites or drones – with automation. For instance, many parts of the world are experiencing severe groundwater withdrawal and water aquifer depletion. Water scarcity, in turn, drives conflicts and undermines stability in post-conflict environments, where violence around water access becomes more likely, along with large movements of people leaving newly arid areas.

One of the best predictors of water depletion is land subsidence or sinking, which can be measured by satellite and drone imagery. By combining these imaging techniques with Machine Learning, the UN can work in partnership with governments and local communities to anticipate future water conflicts and begin working proactively to reduce their likelihood.

Thirdly, advancing decision making. In the work of peace and security, it is surprising how many consequential decisions are still made solely on the basis of intuition.

Yet complex decisions often need to navigate conflicting goals and undiscovered options, against a landscape of limited information and political preference. This is where we can use Deep Learning – where a network can absorb huge amounts of public data and test it against real-world examples on which it is trained while applying with probabilistic modeling. This mathematical approach can help us to generate models of our uncertain, dynamic world with limited data.

With better data, we can eventually make better predictions to guide complex decisions. Future senior peace envoys charged with mediating a conflict would benefit from such advances to stress test elements of a peace agreement. Of course, human decision-making will remain crucial, but would be informed by more evidence-driven robust analytical tools….(More)”.

LAPD moving away data-driven crime programs over potential racial bias

Mark Puente in The Los Angeles Times: “The Los Angeles Police Department pioneered the controversial use of data to pinpoint crime hot spots and track violent offenders.

Complex algorithms and vast databases were supposed to revolutionize crime fighting, making policing more efficient as number-crunching computers helped to position scarce resources.

But critics long complained about inherent bias in the data — gathered by officers — that underpinned the tools.

They claimed a partial victory when LAPD Chief Michel Moore announced he would end one highly touted program intended to identify and monitor violent criminals. On Tuesday, the department’s civilian oversight panel raised questions about whether another program, aimed at reducing property crime, also disproportionately targets black and Latino communities.

Members of the Police Commission demanded more information about how the agency plans to overhaul a data program that helps predict where and when crimes will likely occur. One questioned why the program couldn’t be suspended.

“There is very limited information” on the program’s impact, Commissioner Shane Murphy Goldsmith said.

The action came as so-called predictive policing— using search tools, point scores and other methods — is under increasing scrutiny by privacy and civil liberties groups that say the tactics result in heavier policing of black and Latino communities. The argument was underscored at Tuesday’s commission meeting when several UCLA academics cast doubt on the research behind crime modeling and predictive policing….(More)”.