Miss a day, miss a lot. Subscribe to The Defender's Top News of the Day. It's free.

Amazon Sued for Not Telling New York Store Customers About Facial Recognition

NBC News reported:

Amazon did not alert its New York City customers that they were being monitored by facial recognition technology, a lawsuit filed Thursday alleges.

In a class-action suit, lawyers for Alfredo Perez said that the company failed to tell visitors to Amazon Go convenience stores that the technology was in use. Thanks to a 2021 law, New York is the only major American city to require businesses to post signs if they’re tracking customers’ biometric information, such as facial scans or fingerprints.

The lawsuit says that Amazon only recently put up signs informing New York customers of its use of facial recognition technology, more than a year after the disclosure law went into effect. Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. For Amazon Go to successfully track its customers and the items they take, it has to continuously monitor their bodies, the lawsuit says.

“To make this ‘Just Walk Out’ technology possible, the Amazon Go stores constantly collect and use customers’ biometric identifier information, including by scanning the palms of some customers to identify them and by applying computer vision, deep learning algorithms, and sensor fusion that measure the shape and size of each customer’s body to identify customers, track where they move in the stores, and determine what they have purchased,” it says.

COVID and Kids’ Mental Health: Financial Hardship Took a Big Toll

Fox News reported:

It’s well-known that COVID-19 protocols caused financial hardship — particularly among lower- and middle-class families — and now a new study highlights the toll those struggles took on children’s mental health.

A new study led by researchers from Columbia University and Weill Cornell Medicine, both in New York, suggests that family economic hardship was the biggest driver of “stress, sadness and COVID-related worry” among kids.

Researchers analyzed data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health. That study surveyed 6,030 children between 10 and 13 years old in 21 U.S. cities between 2020 and 2021.

Dr. Michael Roeske, a licensed clinical psychologist and senior director of the Newport Healthcare Center, which is headquartered in California, was not involved in the study but said he was not surprised that financial struggles impacted kids’ mental health.

Your Brain May Not Be Private Much Longer

Vox reported:

Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are working on brain-computer interfaces that could pick up thoughts directly from your neurons and translate them into words in real time, which could one day allow you to control your phone or computer with just your thoughts.

Some of these technologies can offer very valuable help to people who need it. Brain-computer interfaces, for example, are already helping some paralyzed people. But neurotechnology can also seriously threaten privacy and freedom of thought. In China, the government is mining data from some employees’ brains by having them wear caps that scan their brainwaves for anxiety, rage or fatigue.

Lest you think other countries are above this kind of mind-reading, police worldwide have been exploring “brain-fingerprinting” technology, which analyzes automatic responses that occur in our brains when we encounter stimuli we recognize. The claim is that this could enable police to interrogate a suspect’s brain; his brain responses would be more negative for faces or phrases he doesn’t recognize than for faces or phrases he does recognize.

The tech is scientifically questionable, yet India’s police have used it since 2003, Singapore’s police bought it in 2013, and the Florida State Police signed a contract to use it in 2014.

‘I’m Not a Doctor Just FYI’: The Influencers Paid to Hawk Drugs on TikTok

The Guardian reported:

A young TikTok user has long wavy hair, glowing makeup and a radiant smile. She’s slim and wants you to know exactly why: she’s using Wegovy, a prescription drug originally developed to treat diabetes that’s become a popular drug for weight loss.

She’s what’s called a patient influencer. They have no medical training and claim that they’re simply sharing their personal experiences with their TikTok and Instagram followers. But in this quickly growing and largely unregulated arena, it’s gotten harder to tell when influencing crosses legal and ethical lines.

In exchange for hawking a health product or service, a patient influencer can expect to earn anywhere from “the low hundreds to a few thousand dollars” per social media post, depending on the health condition and the size of their online following, according to Amrita Bhowmick, the chief community officer at Health Union, a marketing firm that bought Wego in 2021.

Patient influencers can do this thanks to some of the world’s most permissive laws on prescription drug marketing. The U.S. is one of two countries (the other is New Zealand) that allow direct-to-consumer (DTC) ads for prescription drugs.

DeSantis Says He Prevented ‘Faucian Dystopia’

The Hill reported:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Thursday touted his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that his willingness to buck the advice of federal health officials in some of the darkest days of the outbreak prevented his state from becoming a “Faucian dystopia.”

“I think we were one of the first states to see the experts were getting it wrong, and we resolved to charge a different course,” he continued. “We are not going to let this state descend into a Faucian dystopia, not on our watch.”

While he ordered a statewide lockdown shortly after the onset of the pandemic in 2020, he eventually carved out a national reputation as a fierce critic of many of the COVID-related restrictions pushed by federal health officials like Anthony Fauci, the former head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Speaking alongside state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo on Thursday, DeSantis rehashed his long-running beef with the federal response to the outbreak, proclaiming that the “experts that designed” many of the pandemic-era policies — school and business closures, mask mandates and the like — “were wrong about almost everything.”

Parents Group Demands Meeting With Meta and TikTok Over Child Suicide

Gizmodo reported:

A family advocacy group called Parents Together published an open letter Thursday demanding a meeting with the heads of Meta and ByteDance, arguing that the companies knowingly expose children to a variety of dire threats, including the risk of suicide, and that they refuse to address these problems in lieu of growth and profit.

The open letter describes a number of horror stories from families who say their children fell victim to the harms posed by social media, including suicides, accidental deaths from viral “challenges,” hospitalizations from eating disorders, sexual abuse, and more.

Meta and ByteDance, the parent companies of Facebook and TikTok, respectively, “have imposed on unwitting children and families — anxiety and depression, cyberbullying, sexual predators, disordered eating, dangerous challenges, access to drugs, addiction to your platforms, and more — every single day,” Parents Together Action said in the letter. The companies “have chosen your profits, your stockholders, and your company over children’s health, safety, and even lives over and over again.”

Parents Together Action says it wants to bring Meta and TikTok together for a meeting with the parents whose children fell victim to social media harm, resulting in emotional trauma, dangerous eating disorders, and even death by suicide.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Says AI Will Reshape Society, Acknowledges Risks: ‘A Little Bit Scared of This’

ABC News reported:

The CEO behind the company that created ChatGPT believes artificial intelligence technology will reshape society as we know it. He believes it comes with real dangers, but can also be “the greatest technology humanity has yet developed” to drastically improve our lives.

“We’ve got to be careful here,” said Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI. “I think people should be happy that we are a little bit scared of this.” Altman sat down for an exclusive interview with ABC News’ chief business, technology and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis to talk about the rollout of GPT-4 — the latest iteration of the AI language model.

In his interview, Altman was emphatic that OpenAI needs both regulators and society to be as involved as possible with the rollout of ChatGPT — insisting that feedback will help deter the potential negative consequences the technology could have on humanity. He added that he is in “regular contact” with government officials.

GPT-4 is just one step toward OpenAI’s goal to eventually build Artificial General Intelligence, which is when AI crosses a powerful threshold that could be described as AI systems that are generally smarter than humans.

Private Company NewsGuard on Defense in GOP Crackdown on Big Tech Censorship

The Washington Times reported:

Republican lawmakers probing Big Tech censorship say one of their next targets must be NewsGuard, an operation that bills itself as an “anti-misinformation” warrior but which conservatives say is another avenue for silencing voices on the right.

NewsGuard is one of a web of private companies that purports to police the news business, delivering verdicts on which publications can be trusted and which cannot. It bills its work as “apolitical,” but critics say it consistently finds fault with reporting done by news outlets seen as conservative while excusing similar reporting by liberal outlets.

The New York-based company came under new scrutiny after witnesses told a House hearing this month that NewsGuard had collected nearly $750,000 from the Pentagon for its work.

Use of Meta Tracking Tools Found to Breach EU Rules on Data Transfers

TechCrunch reported:

Austria’s data protection authority has found that the use of Meta’s tracking technologies violated EU data protection law as personal data was transferred to the U.S. where the information was at risk from government surveillance.

The finding flows from a swathe of complaints filed by European privacy rights group noyb, back in August 2020, which also targeted websites’ use of Google Analytics over the same data export issue. A number of EU DPAs have since found the use of Google Analytics to be unlawful — and some (such as France’s CNIL) have issued warnings against the use of the analytics tool without additional safeguards. But this is the first finding that Facebook tracking tech breached the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

All the decisions follow a July 2020 ruling by the European Union’s top court that struck down the high-level EU-US Privacy Shield data transfer agreement after judges once again identified a fatal clash between U.S. surveillance laws and EU privacy rights. (A similar finding, back in 2015, invalidated Privacy Shield’s predecessor: Safe Harbor.)

We’re About to Find Out Whether AI Might Replace Those 200,000 Laid-off Tech Workers as Silicon Valley Prioritizes Efficiency

Insider reported:

The biggest cull of workers in the tech industry’s history, combined with big leaps forward in the development of artificial intelligence means we’ll soon have an answer to a pressing question: Whether AI will replace jobs and make a bunch of us kind of … redundant at work.

There’s also the rise of rich, influential CEOs saying a bunch of these redundant folks just did “fake work” and should never have been hired. And tech leaders are weighing up the potential of AI to be a technological panacea, one that could solve the problems of a bloated workforce.

Certainly, techies are thinking about what this means for humanity. GPT-4’s release immediately hit the top of the techie forum Hacker News. One top commenter wrote: “… It’s essentially a consultant that works for pennies per hour.” Another commented that the tool, right now, could replace junior lawyers, who are often given repetitive reading and summarizing tasks. (Others, it should be noted, were very skeptical that the model can replicate human quality.)

This confluence of factors may see the 200,000 or so highly paid humans who just lost their jobs in tech fully or partially replaced by machines. There are clear signs that this is going to happen as AI creeps into our daily lives.

New Zealand to Ban TikTok From Government Devices

The Guardian reported:

New Zealand’s parliament will ban TikTok from all parliamentary devices, amid mounting international security concerns surrounding the app.

The country’s MPs were informed by the parliamentary service on Friday that the Chinese-owned video-sharing app would be blocked from all parliamentary devices at the end of the month, and were told via email that “the Service has determined that the risks are not acceptable in the current New Zealand parliament environment.”

New Zealand’s decision follows similar rulings by some of its major western allies. Earlier in the week, the U.K. government announced that TikTok would be banned, effective immediately, from ministers’ and civil servants’ mobile phones. The U.S., Canada, and the European Commission already had a ban in place.