Can we trust tech giants with our faces? Google, Amazon and Microsoft can’t agree on how to protect us


“A top Google executive recently sent a shot across the bow of its competitors regarding face surveillance. Kent Walker, the company’s general counsel and senior vice president of global affairs, made it clear that Google — unlike Amazon and Microsoft — will not sell a face recognition product until the technology’s potential for abuse is addressed.


Amazon’s statements and actions provide a stark contrast with Google’s approach. While Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos acknowledged his company’s products might be put to “bad uses,” he said the solution was to wait for society’s eventual “immune response” to take care of the problems. This is a shocking abdication of responsibility, not to mention a convenient blindness to the “response” that Rekognition has already engendered.


In a blog post, Microsoft President Brad Smith correctly identifies the threats the technology poses to privacy, free speech and other human rights, observing that today’s technology makes a surveillance state possible.

But then, after outlining those grave threats to democracy, Smith proposes relying on inadequate safeguards that have failed in the past with technologies far less dangerous than face surveillance. He expresses excessive faith in notifying people of face surveillance systems — but what good is that in a world where face recognition is so widespread that nobody can opt out?”

Google Brain Built a Translator so AI Can Explain Itself

“Show Your Work

A Google Brain scientist built a tool that can help artificial intelligence systems explain how they arrived at their conclusions — a notoriously tricky task for machine learning algorithms.


Tools like TCAV are in high demand as AI finds itself under greater scrutiny for the racial and gender bias that plagues artificial intelligence and the training data used to develop it.”

Former Google Exec: AI Will Replace 40 Percent of Jobs in 15 Years

“Artificial intelligence, whether it’s an application of machine learning or some new technology altogether, is poised to shatter the global economy.

Kai-Fu Lee, a venture capitalist who used to develop artificial intelligence for both Microsoft and Google, told CBS’ 60 Minutes that AI will displace 40 percent of the world’s workers within 15 years.

“I believe [AI] is going to change the world more than anything in the history of mankind,” Lee told CBS. ‘More than electricity.'”

Microsoft, Google Use Artificial Intelligence to Fight Hackers

  • “Machine learning is a very powerful technique for security—it’s dynamic, while rules-based systems are very rigid,” says Dawn Song, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley’s Artificial Intelligence Research Lab. “It’s a very manual intensive process to change them, whereas machine learning is automated, dynamic and you can retrain it easily.”
  • “We will see an improved ability to identify threats earlier in the attack cycle and thereby reduce the total amount of damage and more quickly restore systems to a desirable state,” says Amazon Chief Information Security Officer Stephen Schmidt.
  • A Microsoft system designed to protect customers from fake logins had a 2.8 percent rate of false positives
  • To do a better job of figuring out who is legit and who isn’t, Microsoft technology learns from the data of each company using it, customizing security to that client’s typical online behavior and history. Since rolling out the service, the company has managed to bring down the false positive rate to .001 percent. “

A New York City lawmaker is taking on companies that mine your face -FastCompany

[Photo: Randallbritten/Wikimedia Commons]

  • “Amazon has lately courted controversy with its Rekognition service, a facial scanning software used by law enforcement agencies like ICE, as well as many of its other cloud customers. Facebook is well known for its facial recognition algorithm, allowing the company to identify users and target ads at them accordingly.
  • Last month, Microsoft’s president called for rules around face recognition, while Google said it would not yet sell facial recognition services for the time being, given the ongoing privacy and ethical concerns.
  • In March, the same month that the Times described MSG’s technology, the ACLU asked 20 of America’s top retailers if they used facial recognition on their customers.
  • All but two of the companies refused to confirm or deny. One company, Ahold Delhaize–a brand that owns supermarkets Food Lion, Stop & Shop, Giant, and Hannaford–responded they did not use face recognition, while the hardware company Lowes said it does use face recognition technology to identify shoplifters.
  • “Since there is no regulation, since there is not even the most basic standards of transparency, we don’t know how widespread the use of facial recognition technology is in New York City or elsewhere in the country–we just don’t know,” he says. ‘Businesses are under no obligation to report on the use of facial recognition technology. I think that is part of the purpose of the bill: to shed light on a world of biometric technology that has historically been hidden from public view.'”

AI Weekly: 2018 in machine learning – Khari Johnson

  • “On the AI assistant front, we saw Alexa and Cortana begin to work together.
  • We documented how this fall Google, Facebook, and Amazon simultaneously fought major scandals while at the same time entering full pitch mode for smart displays, and we looked at the need for trust in AI assistant adoption.
  • One of my favorites from Kyle Wiggers is about the danger that too much focus on apocalyptic AGI scenarios of the future will distract from pressing problems we face now.
  • My favorite from former AI staff writer Blair Hanley Frank analyzed the way tech companies market AI solutions and proclaimed that Sensei, Watson, and Einstein must die.”

ai – A day in my life

How many times will I interact with ai today?

This is a question that has been on my mind, but I haven’t had the time to monitor, document and track the interactions. So, yesterday December 29th, was my opportunity. It was Saturday, in the midst of the New Year holiday weekend. The kids would be with Grandma for the majority of the day, and my wife had plans filled with errands and a nap.

So here we go…

Saturday 12/29

  • Woke up, grabbed coffee and turned on my Amazon Fire TV with Netflix and shows recommended for me. Usually it’s spot-on but my wife has been using my account so I have the “The Great British Baking Show” and “Windsor” 🙂

  • Opened FlipBoard to check for new stories and read the section “For You” including articles on unplugging, exercise tips, AI, sports and investing. These are well targeted. There are usually more stories on hiking, camping and backpacking but I’ve been more focused on ai in recent weeks.

  • I loaded a couple of Amazon gift cards from the holiday into my account and checked out deals recommended for me. There’s one that interesting….a Yeti cooler lock. Don’t judge 🙂 it seems like an odd product but those coolers aren’t cheap, and I don’t want someone to throw mine in their truck while we’re away from our tent hiking.

  • It’s interesting though, even Amazon has plenty of room for improvement in their ai image recognition. Example, I was shopping at Academy (local sporting goods store) a couple days after Christmas and wanted to see if Amazon had a better deal on the lock. So, I opened the Amazon app, clicked on the “search by image” tool, and it failed to correctly identify the image below in my hand as the very same product displayed in a slightly different product images (see below).

  • Meanwhile my wife was doing the grocery shopping online. She selected an avocado and promptly received recommendations for peppers and tomatillos. I now have her helping with the experiment.

  • Next, I’m sitting in my recliner and the house feels chilly today so I decided to check the temperature…brrrrr…it has dipped down into the 40’s – that’s cold for Texas!!

  • While in the app I receive an advertisement for a Google Home mini. Unfortunately, I already have the large Google home device. Note: It’s an ok device but I just don’t use that often. It was frequently “turning on” unprompted and disrupting work related phone calls. It now has a semi-permanent home in the hall closet.
  • Back to the temperature…what I need, and have been watching prices for, is a Nest thermostat. I was really surprised over the holiday. I checked the price nearly every day from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday and the Nest was never discounted…at least never more than a few pennies. So it remains on my wish list…sigh.

  • While watching the Peach Bowl (Michigan 10 v. Florida 13 at the half) I decided to send a thank you note to my brother for the Christmas gift cards. Gmail now uses ai to help predict what you’re writing and offers quick and easy auto-fill.

  • Time to check Facebook to see what friends and family are up to this weekend. The result…memories, updates and targeted offers…delivered by ai.

  • I’m still watching the Peach Bowl, but not really concerned with the outcome since I’m an alum of Purdue and Butler. However, will someone PLEASE develop an ai system that replaces referees/officials/umpires. There were TWO officials standing on top of this play and completely missed the call.

  • Grandma and the kids just arrived from Austin where they used Google maps to navigate, and my wife just returned from HEB – the local grocery store. Both had to use GPS since we’re at the lake on vacation for the holiday.

  • We’re a bit of a sports family so this is our setup for the afternoon: Purdue Basketball, Butler Basketball and Cotton Bowl powered by 3 Amazon Fire enabled TVs. I’m confident all of this is being captured and added to my profile in Amazon’s version of “the graph” to power further ai based recommendations.

  • Throughout the course of the day I witnessed my kids on: Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram…all of which are powered by ai for content, personalization and recommendations.

  • This evening I posted about a new publication titled “HBRs 10 Must Reads – On AI, Analytics, and the New Machine Age. Amazon says that the hard-back and paper-back versions won’t be available until Feb 12th, but I was able to download the digital version to my kindle app within minutes.
  • I’ve only read the first two chapters: 1) Artificial Intelligence for the Real World and 2) Stitch Fix’s CEO on Selling Personal Style to the Mass Market. The total purchase price was $44.83 and I already believe it was money well spent.

  • I’m a little disappointed. I was hoping to fly our drone today, but we didn’t get it charged up in time. It was a gift to kids last Christmas, but the newness has warn off so I’m quasi taking it over. It is simply AMAZING and chalk full of ai. From the way it self-balances for hovering, self-lands to prevent crashes and follows you based on GPS. The technology is impressive, especially when you consider it’s built into an affordable “toy”.

  • Well, it has been a fun-filled day and time to turn-in for the night. As I set the alarm I wonder what ai is built into the monitoring and detection capabilities.

So that’s it…or is it? What else may have been impacting my life without even realizing the fact.

  • Has my electric company begun using ai to monitor and deliver power?
  • Did my bank utilize ai to protect my accounts while I was watching basketball?
  • Is the US post office utilizing ai that resulted in the delivery of my mail or packages?

Night all…

Forget Go, Google helps AI learn to book flights on the Web

“Researchers at Google’s AI labs created a couple of novel neural networks that can succeed in navigating Web forms, such as an online flight-booking site. Although baby steps at the moment, the program succeeds as well or better than some models trained using human demonstrations of pointing and clicking.

“As an example, in the flight-booking environment the number of possible instructions/tasks can grow to more than 14 millions, with more than 1700 vocabulary words and approximately 100 Web elements at each episode.

The first, “QWeb,” is a Deep Q-Network that is enhanced by breaking up the webpage into rewards for each step in a travel booking exercise, such as entering the date of a flight. That tends to increase the rewards that the neural net receives as it goes along. 

The second, called “INET,” is another Deep Q-Network that gets rewards as it properly generates instructions for QWeb to follow. It’s the INET’s job to digest the Web page, in the form of a “document-object model,” or “DOM,” and come up with the steps QWeb should take to make choices in the Web form, such as picking an airport code from a drop-down list of “destinations” in the form.”

AI hits the mainstream

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications can now tackle several of marketing’s time-consuming and repetitive tasks, such as market segmentation, content curation and predictive analysis. As AI applications become more sophisticated, they are beginning to take on tasks which require creativity, affording marketers more time to focus on perfecting campaigns and coming up with new ideas. For example, Narrative Science has created a program called Quill that can analyze data and facts and create insightful, natural language text for ads. Another company, EyeEm, has developed AI-based image curation software that helps companies find high-quality images from a database of photos and designs. The software selects photos related to a business’ brand and messaging, then figures out which ones will best suit a particular audience.

In addition, AI is becoming more accessible to the average business, thanks to major players like Facebook and Google. These companies have invested heavily in AI marketing tools, some of which can now be used by advertisers at no cost, thus lowering the barriers to entry for AI applications and democratizing the playing field. By leveraging accessible and cost-free tools, small businesses can find out for themselves if they want to invest more in AI marketing technology.

Although the rapid development of AI is exciting, this technology is by no means perfect. Even as AI applications start to take on progressively more complex tasks, human input will undoubtedly remain the most important part of the creative design process. But markets that succeed in combining the powerful precision of AI with human imagination will be able to create ads that are better received and more powerful than ever. Here, marketers need to find a balance between process optimization and customer desire for human interaction to avoid creating content which seems overly robotic.”

Google Shopping Website Launched In India With AI-Powered Suggestions, Hindi Support

“The battle of ecommerce in India has taken a new turn, as World’s largest Internet company: Google has officially launched their shopping website in India.

Powered with Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning, this new Shopping Website promises stunning deals and customized offer.

And, the best part? Hindi language is supported.”

“Initially, the shopping website shall be available across 4 formats:

• Web version of Google. Checkout this:

• Google Lens via Style Search

• Google App on mobile: A new tab of Shopping will be visible when you search for any product, say Nike shoes.

• For entry level smartphones, Google Shopping will be available via Progressive Web App (PWA)”