Monday, January 25, 2016

Things That Make You Look Over Your Shoulder

Two articles well worth your time to read:
  • It turns out Donald Trump's father was the racist landlord Woody Guthrie hated
    I admit I am a fan of Woody Guthrie (I wish I could truthfully say "This Keyboard Kills Fascists," as Guthrie often labeled his "machine" [guitar]), and not so much a fan of Donald Trump or landlords in general, but based on this article, Fred Trump was worse than the lot regarding racial discrimination. Like father, like son? I wouldn't go that far, but things one learns in youth about interaction with other people tend to last a lifetime, and a racist parent makes me nervous about the child.
  • U.S. will use facial recognition at airports
    I no longer fly because I do not like undergoing invasive searches without a warrant, but these machines, however well they appear to work, make me very uncomfortable. What happens if you're a close match (as the device reckons) with a terrorist? Are your happy urban life, your career, your relationships personal and business, etc. immediately over? I wouldn't bet against it. It's the no-fly list writ large. ("No-live list"?)

    And then there's the fact that these machines work, um, badly. Here's the ACLU on the subject:
    A study by the government's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), for example, found false-negative rates for face-recognition verification of 43 percent using photos of subjects taken just 18 months earlier, for example. And those photos were taken in perfect conditions, significant because facial recognition software is terrible at handling changes in lighting or camera angle or images with busy backgrounds. The NIST study also found that a change of 45 degrees in the camera angle rendered the software useless. The technology works best under tightly controlled conditions, when the subject is starting directly into the camera under bright lights - although another study by the Department of Defense found high error rates even in those ideal conditions. Grainy, dated video surveillance photographs of the type likely to be on file for suspected terrorists would be of very little use.
    Does that give you a lot of confidence?
(I'm afraid I didn't log the sources of these links. If you published one or both, and you are on my blogroll, please accept my thanks.)

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