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EFF: Google Should Not Help the US Military Build Unaccountable AI Systems

EFF: Google Should Not Help the US Military Build Unaccountable AI Systems

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Peter Eckersley writes: Yesterday, The New York Times reported that there is widespread unrest amongst Google’s employees about the company’s work on a U.S. military project called “Project Maven.” Google has claimed that its work on Maven is for “non-offensive uses only,” but it seems that the company is building computer vision systems to flag objects and people seen by military drones for human review. This may in some cases lead to subsequent targeting by missile strikes. EFF has been mulling the ethical implications of such contracts, and we have some advice for Google and other tech companies that are considering building military AI systems. The EFF lists several “starting points” any company, or any worker, considering whether to work with the military on a project with potentially dangerous or risk AI applications should be asking: 1. Is it possible to create strong and binding international institutions or agreements that define acceptable military uses and limitations in the use of AI? While this is not an easy task, the current lack of such structures is troubling. There are serious and potentially destabilizing impacts from deploying AI in any military setting not clearly governed by settled rules of war. The use of AI in potential target identification processes is one clear category of uses that must be governed by law.

2.Is there a robust process for studying and mitigating the safety and geopolitical stability problems that could result from the deployment of military AI? Does this process apply before work commences, along the development pathway and after deployment? Could it incorporate the sufficient expertise to address subtle and complex technical problems? And would those leading the process have sufficient independence and authority to ensure that it can check companies’ and military agencies’ decisions?

3.Are the contracting agencies willing to commit to not using AI for autonomous offensive weapons? Or to ensuring that any defensive autonomous systems are carefully engineered to avoid risks of accidental harm or conflict escalation? Are present testing and formal verification methods adequate for that task?

4.Can there be transparent, accountable oversight from an independently constituted ethics board or similar entity with both the power to veto aspects of the program and the power to bring public transparency to issues where necessary or appropriate? For example, while Alphabet’s AI-focused subsidiary DeepMind has committed to independent ethics review, we are not aware of similar commitments from Google itself. Given this letter, we are concerned that the internal transparency, review, and discussion of Project Maven inside Google was inadequate. Any project review process must be transparent, informed, and independent. While it remains difficult to ensure that that is the case, without such independent oversight, a project runs real risk of harm.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, eff
The EFF Hosts a 'John Perry Barlow Symposium' Next Saturday

The EFF Hosts a 'John Perry Barlow Symposium' Next Saturday

An anonymous reader writes:
The EFF is announcing “a celebration of the life and leadership of the recently departed founder of EFF, John Perry Barlow,” to be held next Saturday at the Internet Archive in San Francisco from 2:00 to 6:00. The event will also be streamed live on the Internet Archive’s YouTube channel.
Confirmed speakers include Edward Snowden, Cory Doctorow, EFF co-founders John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor, and Shari Steele, the executive director of the Tor Project (and a former EFF executive director).

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Posted by amiller in Blog, eff
North Carolina Police Obtained Warrants Demanding All Google Users Near Four Crime Scenes

North Carolina Police Obtained Warrants Demanding All Google Users Near Four Crime Scenes

An anonymous reader quotes the public records reporter from North Carolina TV station WRAL:
In at least four investigations last year — cases of murder, sexual battery and even possible arson at the massive downtown fire in March 2017 — Raleigh police used search warrants to demand Google accounts not of specific suspects, but from any mobile devices that veered too close to the scene of a crime, according to a WRAL News review of court records… The demands Raleigh police issued for Google data [in two homicide cases] described a 17-acre area that included both homes and businesses… The account IDs aren’t limited to electronics running Android. The warrant includes any device running location-enabled Google apps, according to Raleigh Police Department spokeswoman Laura Hourigan…
On March 16, 2017, a five-alarm fire ripped through the unfinished Metropolitan apartment building on West Jones Street… About two months later, Raleigh police obtained a search warrant for Google account IDs that showed up near the block of the Metropolitan between 7:30 and 10 p.m. the night of the fire… In addition to anonymized numerical identifiers, the warrant calls on Google to release time stamped location coordinates for every device that passed through the area. Detectives wrote that they’d narrow down that list and send it back to the company, demanding “contextual data points with points of travel outside of the geographical area” during an expanded timeframe. Another review would further cull the list, which police would use to request user names, birth dates and other identifying information of the phones’ owners.

“Do people understand that in sharing that information with Google, they’re also potentially sharing it with law enforcement?” asks a former Durham prosecutor who directs the North Carolina Open Government Coalition at Elon University. And Stephanie Lacambra, criminal defense staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, also criticized the procedure. “To just say, ‘Criminals commit crimes, and we know that most people have cell phones,’ that should not be enough to get the geo-location on anyone that happened to be in the vicinity of a particular incident during a particular time.” She believes that without probable cause the police department is “trying to use technology as a hack for their job… It does not have to be that we have to give up our privacy rights in order to participate in the digital revolution.”

Nathan Freed Wessler, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, put it succinctly. “At the end of the day, this tactic unavoidably risks getting information about totally innocent people.”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, eff
New Bill In Congress Would Bypass the Fourth Amendment, Hand Your Data To Police

New Bill In Congress Would Bypass the Fourth Amendment, Hand Your Data To Police

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Medium: Lawmakers behind a new anti-privacy bill are trying to sneak it through Congress by attaching it to the must-pass government spending bill. The CLOUD Act would hand police in the U.S., and other countries, extreme new powers to obtain and monitor data directly from tech companies instead of requiring a warrant and judicial review. Congressional leadership will decide whether the CLOUD Act gets attached to the omnibus government spending bill sometime this week, potentially as early as tomorrow… If passed, this bill would give law enforcement the power to go directly to tech companies, no matter where they or their servers are, to obtain our data. They wouldn’t need a warrant or court oversight, and we’ll be left with no protections to ensure law enforcement isn’t violating our rights. A recent report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains how the CLOUD Act circumvents the Fourth Amendment. “This new backdoor for cross-border data mirrors another backdoor under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, an invasive NSA surveillance authority for foreign intelligence gathering,” reports the EFF. “That law, recently reauthorized and expanded by Congress for another six years, gives U.S. intelligence agencies, including the NSA, FBI, and CIA, the ability to search, read, and share our private electronic messages without first obtaining a warrant. The new backdoor in the CLOUD Act operates much in the same way. U.S. police could obtain Americans’ data, and use it against them, without complying with the Fourth Amendment.”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, eff
EFF Urges US Copyright Office To Reject Proactive 'Piracy' Filters

EFF Urges US Copyright Office To Reject Proactive 'Piracy' Filters

TorrentFreak: As entertainment companies and Internet services spar over the boundaries of copyright law, the EFF is urging the US Copyright Office to keep “copyright’s safe harbors safe.” In a petition just filed with the office, the EFF warns that innovation will be stymied if Congress goes ahead with a plan to introduce proactive ‘piracy’ filters at the expense of the DMCA’s current safe harbor provisions. […] “Major media and entertainment companies and their surrogates want Congress to replace today’s DMCA with a new law that would require websites and Internet services to use automated filtering to enforce copyrights. “Systems like these, no matter how sophisticated, cannot accurately determine the copyright status of a work, nor whether a use is licensed, a fair use, or otherwise non-infringing. Simply put, automated filters censor lawful and important speech,” the EFF warns.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, eff
EFF Founder John Perry Barlow Has Died At Age 70

EFF Founder John Perry Barlow Has Died At Age 70

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that its founder, John Perry Barlow, has passed away quietly in his sleep this morning. He was 70 years old. From the report: It is no exaggeration to say that major parts of the Internet we all know and love today exist and thrive because of Barlow’s vision and leadership. He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance. Barlow was sometimes held up as a straw man for a kind of naive techno-utopianism that believed that the Internet could solve all of humanity’s problems without causing any more. As someone who spent the past 27 years working with him at EFF, I can say that nothing could be further from the truth.

Barlow knew that new technology could create and empower evil as much as it could create and empower good. He made a conscious decision to focus on the latter: “I knew it’s also true that a good way to invent the future is to predict it. So I predicted Utopia, hoping to give Liberty a running start before the laws of Moore and Metcalfe delivered up what Ed Snowden now correctly calls ‘turn-key totalitarianism.'” Barlow’s lasting legacy is that he devoted his life to making the Internet into “a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth… a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, eff
Troll With 'Stupid Patent' Sues EFF.  EFF Sues Them Back

Troll With 'Stupid Patent' Sues EFF. EFF Sues Them Back

“The Electronic Frontier Foundation has sued an Australian company that it previously dubbed as a ‘classic patent troll’ in a June 2016 blog post entitled: Stupid Patent of the Month: Storage Cabinets on a Computer.” An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica:
Last year, that company, Global Equity Management (SA) Pty. Ltd. (GEMSA), managed to get an Australian court to order EFF to remove its post — but EFF did not comply. In January 2017, Pasha Mehr, an attorney representing GEMSA, further demanded that the article be removed and that EFF pay $750,000. EFF still did not comply. The new lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday, asks that the American court declare the Australian ruling unenforceable in the U.S.

GEMSA’s attorneys reportedly threatened to have the EFF’s post de-indexed from search engine listings — on the basis of the Australian court order — so now the EFF “seeks a court order declaring the Australian injunction ‘repugnant’ to the U.S. Constitution and unenforceable in the United States.”

The Register reports that GEMSA has already sued 37 companies, “including big-name tech companies Airbnb, Uber, Netflix, Spotify, and eBay. In each case, GEMSA accused the company’s website design of somehow trampling on the GUI patent without permission.” But things were different after the EFF’s article, according to Courthouse News. “GEMSA said the article made it harder to enforce its patents in the United States, citing its legal opponents’ ‘reduced interest in pursuing pre-trial settlement negotiations.'”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, eff
London Police Ink Shadowy Deal With Industry On Website Takedowns

London Police Ink Shadowy Deal With Industry On Website Takedowns

AmiMoJo writes: The EFF is warning about unregulated activity against websites by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) of the City of London Police. A program called RogueBlock accepts notifications from IP holders, which the PIPCU then acts on, giving private companies legal jurisdiction over the entire internet, with appeals in the case of malicious reports and mistakes being extremely difficult to make. For example, Spanish sports streaming site Rojadirecta had its domain name seized by the U.S. government for over a year, despite the site being lawful in its native Spain. The EFF terms this kind of activity “Shadow Regulation.”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, eff
EFF Issues April Fool's Day Newsletter

EFF Issues April Fool's Day Newsletter

An anonymous reader writes:

There were some surprises in today’s edition of the EFF’s “EFFector” newsletter. Noting that it’s their sqrt(-1)th issue, they report that the EU will protect the privacy of its data by building a 30-foot wall around the United States. “Only U.S. tech companies that comply with EU privacy restrictions and prohibit U.S. government access to their data will be given fiber optic grappling hooks to transport Europeans’ data across the Atlantic, over the wall, and back to their U.S.-based servers.”
The newsletter also reports that the bipartisan leaders of the U.S. House and Senate Intelligence Committees “apologized during a press conference this morning for failing to provide rigorous supervision of the intelligence community.” And the newsletter also reports that Deadpool won an Oscar after PricewaterhouseCoopers mistakenly handed the presenters an envelope with a list of the most-frequently torrent-ed movie of 2016. But perhaps its most unexpected headline is “Comcast to Assimilate with the Borg.”
The Borg said the deal would increase its market share, nationwide reach, and overall reputation for evil — while Comcast claimed that the deal would boost competition.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, eff