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Big Brother News Watch

Apr 30, 2021

New EU Law Makes Tech Companies Delete ‘Terrorist Content’ Within 1 Hour + More

The EU Adopted a Law Making Tech Companies Delete ‘Terrorist Content’ Within One Hour

Business Insider reported:

The EU has adopted a new, controversial law that requires tech companies to delete what authorities deem “terrorist content” within an hour, or risk a fine.

The European Parliament formally adopted the law on Wednesday even as lawmakers and experts warned that it would not be practical to implement and could harm people’s privacy and free-speech rights.

‘A Perfect Positive Storm’: Bonkers Dollars for Big Tech

The New York Times reported:

The U.S. economy is cranking back from 2020, when it contracted for the first time since the financial crisis. But for the tech giants, the pandemic hit was barely a blip. It’s a fantastic time to be a titan of U.S. technology — as long as you ignore the screaming politicians, the daily headlines about killing free speech or dodging taxes, the gripes from competitors and workers, and the too-many-to-count legal investigations and lawsuits.

America’s technology superpowers aren’t making bonkers dollars in spite of the deadly coronavirus and its ripple effects through the global economy. They have grown even stronger because of the pandemic. It’s both logical and slightly nuts.

A False Facial Recognition Match Sent This Innocent Black Man to Jail

CNN reported:

According to a police report obtained by CNN, the evidence presented by the police officers that led to Parks’ arrest was a “high profile comparison” from a facial recognition scan of a photo from what was determined to be a fake ID left at the crime scene that witnesses connected to the suspect. The facial recognition match was enough for prosecutors and a judge to sign off on his arrest.

… While facial recognition technology has become increasingly accurate, research has shown it is drastically more prone to error when trying to match the faces of darker skinned people. And because no federal guidelines exist to limit or standardize the use of facial recognition by law enforcement, states  — and, more often, municipalities  — are left to decide for themselves what, if anything, to do to control its use. Virginia recently became the fifth state to curtail the use of the facial recognition by police, while Portland, San Francisco, Oakland and Boston are among the cities outlawing it.

‘A Tough Call’: Biden Considering Mandatory COVID Vaccines for U.S. Troops

Politico reported:

President Joe Biden said he has not ruled out requiring all U.S. troops to get the coronavirus vaccine after the shots win final clearance from federal regulators, but cautioned that such a decision would be a “tough call.”

“I don’t know. I’m going to leave that to the military,” Biden told NBC News’ Craig Melvin in an interview that aired Friday, in response to a question on whether he would mandate the vaccine for U.S. service members once it is fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

EU Says Apple’s App Store Breaks Anti-Trust Rules as Court Showdown With Epic Games Looms

ZeroHedge reported:

A long-awaited legal showdown between Apple and “Fortnite” maker Epic Games will start May 3, when a federal judge will hear arguments as Epic alleges that Apple’s control of the iOS app store, and the fees it charges developers, makes it an illegal monopoly, the EU’s anti-trust czar Margrethe Vestager (who has a reputation for attacking American tech giants on anti-trust grounds) has just launched a similar crusade of her own.

Via a charge sheet issued Friday, Vestager and the EU have determined that Apple is guilty of antitrust violations for allegedly abusing its control of its app store when it comes to music-streaming apps like Spotify, a European company that competes against Apple’s “Apple Music” with its popular music-and-podcast streaming app, and which complained to Vestager about Apple.

Apr 28, 2021

Chicago Looking at ‘Vax Pass’ for Concerts and Other Events + More

Chicago Looking at ‘Vax Pass’ for Concerts and Other Events, Public Health Commissioner Says

Chicago Tribune on MSN News reported:

Chicago’s top public health official on Tuesday said she expects the city to debut a form of a vaccination passport requirement next month for access to events geared toward young adults.

Chicago public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady gave few details about the initiative, but said it will be dubbed “Vax Pass” and roll out in May as a means to encourage vaccination particularly in younger people in exchange for attendance at concerts or other events as the second pandemic summer begins.

“You get a vaccine, you’ll be able to get into a concert or get into an event,” Arwady said. “(We’re) really thinking, particularly for younger people, how can we make vaccine something that people are excited about getting?”

Connecticut Lawmakers Vote to Repeal Religious Exemptions to Vaccines, Health Freedom Advocates Vow Legal Challenge

The Defender reported:

Connecticut lawmakers Tuesday voted to repeal the religious exemption for vaccines for all Connecticut students, from daycare through higher education.

House Bill 6423, “An Act Concerning Immunization,” passed by a vote of 22 – 14 after about nine hours of debate. The bill passed almost along party lines, with all but two Democrats in favor of removing the exemption, and all Republicans against. Two lawmakers, both Democrats, abstained.

The bill includes an amendment which allows students who had exemptions on file prior to the bill passing to remain in school. However future Connecticut students of any age will now be required to be fully vaccinated per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended schedule.

Mass Legal Action Against Google Would ‘Open the Floodgates,’ Supreme Court Told

Glasgow Times reported:

A billion-pound legal action against Google over claims it secretly tracked millions of iPhone users’ internet activity would “open the floodgates” to mass data protection claims if it is allowed to go ahead, the Supreme Court has heard.

Former Which? director Richard Lloyd, supported by campaign group Google You Owe Us, wants to bring a “representative action” against the US-based tech giant on behalf of around 4.4 million people in England and Wales.

He claims Google “illegally misused the data of millions of iPhone users”, through the “clandestine tracking and collation” of information about internet usage on iPhones’ Safari browser, known as the “Safari workaround.”

Your Tech Devices Want to Read Your Brain. What Could Go Wrong?

The Washington Post on MSN News reported:

As a PhD student at the University of Michigan in 2015, he developed a brain-computer interface that would allow people to control software and physical objects with their thoughts. Today, that interface is behind plans by a Boston-based start-up, Neurable, to begin shipping a set of brain-sensing headphones to let you know when you’re poised for peak productivity.

Using your thoughts to make things happen in the real world was once a thing of science fiction. Now, it’s moving into reality, and Neurable’s interface is just one of the products companies are trying to develop that would usher in a consumer revolution in electronics. 

Already, brain tech allows players to manipulate avatars in video games by concentrating on parts of the screen. And Facebook last month revealed plans to interpret your intent to move a finger to trigger digital commands.

Washington Post Quits Fact-Check Database 100 Days Into Biden Presidency

Washington Examiner reported:

The Washington Post is ending its presidential fact-check database just 100 days into President Joe Biden’s administration after four years of rigorously investigating former President Donald Trump.

“We’ve been comparing Biden (67 false or misleading claims) to Trump’s first 100 days (511 claims.)” Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler tweeted Tuesday. “But past is no prologue. In the last 100 days before the 2020 election, we counted 8,859 claims made by Trump. It was a wild ride.”

Google Owner Sees Record Profits as Lockdown Boom Continues

BBC News reported:

Google owner Alphabet saw its earnings soar in the first quarter as people stuck at home in the pandemic used more of its services.

Net profit jumped by 162% to a record $17.9bn in the three months to March as advertising revenue swelled by a third. 

It comes as the tech giant faces increased scrutiny over its power and the pandemic has people turning to the internet more than ever.

The firm credited “elevated consumer activity online” for its results.

Apple Fined $12M by Russian Regulator Over App Store Monopoly Abuse

The Verge reported:

Russia’s antitrust regulator, the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS), has fined Apple $12 million over complaints it unfairly cracked down on third-party parental control apps, the regulator has announced. The FAS started its investigation after receiving a complaint from Kaspersky Lab in March 2019, which claimed Apple had forced it to limit the functionality of its Safe Kids app shortly after Apple added the Screen Time feature to iOS 12.

The fine comes in the same week that EU regulators are expected to issue charges of their own against Apple. These come in response to a complaint from Spotify in March 2019 about the 30 percent cut Apple takes for in-app purchases, which it said gives Apple’s own services an unfair advantage. As well as Spotify, parental control apps Kidslox and Qustodio also complained to European regulators, The New York Times reported in April 2019.

Apr 27, 2021

Players ‘Free To Make Their Own Choices’ After Pitcher’s Anti-Vaccine Post, GM Says + More

Indians Players ‘Free To Make Their Own Choices and Decisions’ After Pitcher’s Anti-Vaccine Post, GM Says

Fox News reported:

Cleveland Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said Monday he spoke with pitcher James Karinchak about his anti-coronavirus vaccine stance, and while he defended the player’s right to speak out he said he told him the organization did not agree.

Antonetti addressed Karinchak’s social media post from early April.

“The vast majority of our players and staff opted for the vaccine and continue to follow the protocols around mask wearing, and that’s something we’ll continue to encourage and support. But in the end, people are free to make their own choices and decisions,” Antonetti said.

U.S. Army Used Virtual Town Hall to Convert — and Coerce — Vaccine Skeptics

The Defender reported:

The U.S. Army leadership is persuading soldiers to put blind faith in an EUA drug using miraculous claims even the manufacturers do not make about their products.

The six-person town hall panel consisted of Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) Michael Grinston; Dr. Steven Cersovsky, science advisor to the U.S. Army Medical Command; three U.S. Army service members; and a moderator.

The one-hour session addressed three main concerns about the COVID vaccine among military members: infertility, variants of the virus and the speed with which the vaccines were developed.

Trust, Johnson & Johnson Shot Key to Vaccinating Homeless People

U.S. News and World Report reported:

This Friday, Fajama’s buddies were getting their second doses of the Moderna vaccine, provided at a site that was also open to walk-ups who were experiencing homelessness and not currently in a shelter program. Similar efforts have been ongoing elsewhere in the U.S. as well, as health officials and providers are trying to vaccinate their unhoused populations, whose members are often transient and hard to reach. They also may be at greater risk of contracting COVID-19

“They have limited opportunities to practice social distancing, to wash their hands, even to wear masks,” says Bobby Watts, chief executive officer of the Tennessee-based National Health Care for the Homeless Council. “If you’re living out on the streets, it’s hard to keep a mask.”

Legislature Passes Measure Restricting Vaccine Requirements

The Independent Record reported:

Despite Montana’s health care industry warning that masks and visitation restrictions at medical facilities could become permanent, House Republicans passed a bill Monday that would prevent hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities from requiring any type of immunizations for staff, visitors or patients.

While indicating they had read House Bill 702 as doing just that, two influential GOP lawmakers in the House stood up to speak in favor of the bill, saying they had gotten assurances from the office of Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte that the concerns brought by medical providers were overblown.

Beijing’s ‘Big Tech’ Crackdown Continues With Anti-Trust Probe Into Food-Delivery Giant

ZeroHedge reported:

Two weeks after China’s State Administration for Market Regulation — Beijing’s paramount anti-trust regulator — fined Alibaba a record $2.8 billion for abusing its market dominance, capping off the country’s first major anti-trust action to rein in one of the tech giants dominating the Chinese domestic economy, the CCP has just launched its next major anti-trust investigation.

The SCMP reported that China’s antitrust regulator on Monday officially launched a probe into food-delivery service provider Meituan, citing alleged monopolistic business practices like forcing merchants to “pick one from two” – that is, forcing merchants to either pick its platform as its exclusive distribution channel, or find themselves banned.

State Lawmakers Opposed to COVID Vaccine Mandates Have Filed a Flurry of Bills This Session. Some Worry About the Message They Send.

USA TODAY reported:

Sponsors of such measures say it’s a question of freedom of choice. They object to any requirement a person be vaccinated in order to work or enter venues like sports arenas or music events, arguing to do so would be government overreach.

“It goes back to personal liberties,” said Indiana state Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn. He and others argue businesses or the government shouldn’t be telling people what to put in their bodies.

Apr 26, 2021

Twitter Under Fire Over Deletion of Critical COVID Tweets in India + More

Twitter Under Fire Over Deletion of Critical COVID Tweets in India

The Guardian reported:

The removal of dozens of tweets seen to be critical of the Indian government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic is putting people’s health at risk and quashing dissent, according to lawmakers and human rights activists.

Twitter withheld some tweets after a legal request by the Indian government, a company spokesperson told Reuters on Saturday. These included tweets from a lawmaker, a minister in the state of West Bengal, and a film-maker.

“Suppression of information and criticism of government is not only dangerous for India but it is putting people around the world at risk,” said Mirza Saaib Beg, a lawyer whose tweets were among those withheld.

The Ease of Tracking Mobile Phones of U.S. Soldiers in Hot Spots

The Wall Street Journal reported:

In 2016, a U.S. defense contractor named PlanetRisk Inc. was working on a software prototype when its employees discovered they could track U.S. military operations through the data generated by the apps on the mobile phones of American soldiers.

At the time, the company was using location data drawn from apps such as weather, games and dating services to build a surveillance tool that could monitor the travel of refugees from Syria to Europe and the U.S., according to interviews with former employees. The company’s goal was to sell the tool to U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence officials.

But buried in the data was evidence of sensitive U.S. military operations by American special-operations forces in Syria. The company’s analysts could see phones that had come from military facilities in the U.S., traveled through countries like Canada or Turkey and were clustered at the abandoned Lafarge Cement Factory in northern Syria, a staging area at the time for U.S. special-operations and allied forces.

This Researcher Says AI Is Neither Artificial nor Intelligent

Wired reported:

Technology companies like to portray  artificial intelligence as a precise and powerful tool for good. Kate Crawford says that mythology is flawed. In her book Atlas of AI, she visits a lithium mine, an Amazon warehouse, and a 19th-century phrenological skull archive to illustrate the natural resources, human sweat, and bad science underpinning some versions of the technology. Crawford, a professor at the University of Southern California and researcher at Microsoft, says many applications and side effects of AI are in urgent need of regulation.

Despite Virus, Global Military Spending Grew In 2020, Led by U.S.

Al Jezeera reported:

Global military expenditure rose by 2.6 percent to $1.98 trillion last year even as some countries reallocated their defence funds to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in a report issued on Monday.

The five biggest spenders in 2020, which together accounted for 62 percent of military spending worldwide, were the United States, China, India, Russia and the United Kingdom, in that order, according to the Sweden-based body.