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source: dallasnews.com

The CES gadget show this year is all-in on surveillance technology, from the face scanner that will check in some attendees to the cameras-everywhere array of digital gadgets

From the face scanner that will check in some attendees to the cameras-everywhere array of digital products, the CES gadget show is all-in on surveillance technology — whether it calls it that or not.

Nestled in the “smart home” and “smart city” showrooms at the sprawling Las Vegas consumer tech conference are devices that see, hear and track the people they encounter. Some of them also analyze their looks and behavior. The technology on display includes eyelid-tracking car dashboard cameras to prevent distracted driving and “rapid DNA” kits for identifying a person from a cheek swab sample.

All these talking speakers, doorbell cameras and fitness trackers come with the promise of making life easier or more fun, but they’re also potentially powerful spying tools. And the skeptics who raise privacy and security concerns can be easily drowned out in the flashy spectacle of “Many, many horrible stories have come out of consumer electronics,” said Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who is speaking on a CES panel about the future of internet-connected devices. “It’s often about hyping the next thing you can buy and not considering the trade-offs.”

CES runs Tuesday through Friday after two days of media previews. The annual showcase is where big companies and startups unveil and promote their latest gadgets, many of them infused with microphones, cameras and artificial intelligence. Though weighted toward the consumer market, much of what’s on display may also be useful to law enforcement, not to mention prying employers or heavy-handed governments.

source: nytimes.com

A little-known start-up helps law enforcement match photos of unknown people to their online images — and “might lead to a dystopian future or something,” a backer says.

Until recently, Hoan Ton-That’s greatest hits included an obscure iPhone game and an app that let people put Donald Trump’s distinctive yellow hair on their own photos.

Then Mr. Ton-That — an Australian techie and onetime model — did something momentous: He invented a tool that could end your ability to walk down the street anonymously, and provided it to hundreds of law enforcement agencies, ranging from local cops in Florida to the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security.

His tiny company, Clearview AI, devised a groundbreaking facial recognition app. You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared. The system — whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites — goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants.

 

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source: technologyreview.comn

One of the most popular antivirus companies in the world sells people’s sensitive data in a way that can put their privacy at risk, according to new reports.

The culprit: Avast is a multibillion-dollar computer security company based in the Czech Republic. Its software is used by an estimated 400 million people around the world. Last year it emerged that the company was sucking up user behavior data and selling it—and now the extent of that effort has been laid out in new reports from Vice and PCMag.

Eavesdropping on browsing: 2019 Forbes report first outlined how Avast and subsidiary AVG use browser extensions to watch everything their customers do. That data is then sold to corporate customers as “insights” through a subsidiary company called Jumpshot. Each deal is worth millions of dollars, and clients include Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, and McKinsey.

The data is “anonymized,” but studies have repeatedly shown that de-anonymizing this kind of data is possible.

Wyden calling: Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon known widely as a hawk on privacy issues, has been in contact with Avast since December 2019 about the selling of user browser data.   

The increasingly bright spotlight on the company has already had some consequences. As of last week, Avast users must now affirmatively opt in to data collection and sale. 

It’s not clear what will happen to all the data that had already been sucked up , however. Wyden insists the company should delete the data collected before it asked for consent from its customers. Avast did not respond to a request for comment.