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Chinese Commuters Use Facial Recognition to Pay for Subway Tickets

China is leveraging the power of 5G technology and facial recognition to improve its transportation infrastructure. At Shenzhen's Futian station, commuters will be able to use their face to pay for subway tickets. The ultra-fast 5G network provides a high quality network connection while lowering the cost of the subway equipment. This innovation allows the city's subway riders to "scan their faces on a tablet-sized screen mounted on the entrance gate and have the fare automatically deducted from their linked accounts." The new system is expected to increase the efficiency of the city's subway network as it handles up to 5 million rides per day. Chinese cities have become digitally savvy and its residents are ditching cash in favor of electronic payments with a smartphone. Chinese consumers pay for fried chicken at KFC with its "Smile to Pay" facial recognition system. Huawei Technologies backed the innovation laboratory that developed the technology.

"To use facial ticketing in the future, passengers will also need preregistration of their facial information and link their payment methods to their accounts, just like them making payments at the KFC restaurant," said a staff member at the Futian station's demonstration area in Shenzhen. Passers-by at the demonstration area in Futian station will see their information displayed on a big screen, including their facial photos captured by surveillance cameras, their gender, age, and the length of stay in the area.

Posted by cageymaru March 15, 2019 10:10 AM (CDT)

Flickr Photos Were Used to Train IBM Facial Recognition

IBM, and a number of other researchers and institutions, have made extensive use of a Yahoo!-curated Flickr database for their facial recognition development efforts, and according to a recent report from NBC, this is raising concerns among privacy experts and the subjects within those photos. While IBM says they'll remove photos from the database upon receiving a request, they don't provide an easy way to tell if a particular user's photos are contained within the database, hence NBC has set up a tool to do exactly that. While the report largely focuses on the privacy and social issues surrounding IBM's database, it also touches on another big issue in the world of AI training: licensing. Machine learning algorithms can require huge datasets to effectively train, and many of the images in datasets I've seen are scraped from the web without much thought about their associated restrictions. That's already a legal and ethical issue for researchers, but it becomes even more problematic when those neural networks start showing up in commercial software, which happens more and more every day.

Academics often appeal to the noncommercial nature of their work to bypass questions of copyright. Flickr became an appealing resource for facial recognition researchers because many users published their images under "Creative Commons" licenses, which means that others can reuse their pictures without paying license fees... Experts note that the distinction between the research wings and commercial operations of corporations such as IBM and Facebook is a blurry one. Ultimately, IBM owns any intellectual property developed by its research unit... Holzer was concerned that a company like IBM - even its research division - had used photos he published under a noncommercial license. "Since I assume that IBM is not a charitable organization and at the end of the day wants to make money with this technology, this is clearly a commercial use," he said.

Posted by alphaatlas March 13, 2019 10:57 AM (CDT)

How China's Social Credit System Affects Its Citizens and Businesses

We have previously documented China's social credit system, but a recent report from the National Public Credit Information Centre documents the effect it has had on Chinese citizens and businesses in 2018. The Chinese government has "discredited" 17.46 million people from purchasing plane tickets to travel and restricted another 5.47 million from purchasing high-speed train tickets. In addition to those restrictions, authorities have blocked individuals from "buying premium insurance, wealth management products or real estate, as well as shaming them by exposing their information in public." This pressure to conform encouraged 3.51 million individuals and businesses to pay off taxes, fines, and debts. Some cities rank their citizens on a AAA to D scale where everyone starts out with 1,000 points. There are more than 200 ways to gain or lose points. AAA rated individuals get free medical checkups, free water and other perks. In villages, "information gatherers" document free labor that is performed by fellow villagers. Spending 8 hours to install a new basketball hoop will net an individual 2 points, while donating a TV to the village meeting room is worth 30 points. Another villager has a son serving in the army which is worth 10 points. These points are accumulated and added to the person's "credit score" and are rewarded with extra "rice, cooking oil and cash rewards from the village committee and are lauded on village bulletin boards as role models." Not taking care of elderly parents or littering will deduct points from their credit scores.

In the lobby of Rongcheng People's Hospital, senior staff member Wang Shuhong said she drove more carefully now because traffic infringements cost not just money but also social credit points. "Many from the general public may not know about it, but we public servants do know. It does have a binding effect on us," she said. According to Wang, applicants must have a ranking of A or above to be hired for permanent positions at public institutions. For contractors, such as security guards, B is a minimum. Over 3.59 million Chinese enterprises were added to the official creditworthiness blacklist last year, banning them from a series of activities, including bidding on projects, accessing security markets, taking part in land auctions and issuing corporate bonds, according to the 2018 annual report released by the National Public Credit Information Centre.

Posted by cageymaru February 22, 2019 11:08 AM (CST)

China Freezes New Game Applications Again

Last year, China stopped approving new video games in an effort to (this is a direct translation) "protect children's eyesight," which created quite a bit of anxiety in the gaming industry. Eventually, the government started approving games again, but the pace was relatively slow, and many worried that the government wouldn't be able keep up with the sheer volume of games coming to market. Now, it appears that those fears have been realized. The eloquently named "State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television of the People's Republic of China" released a new batch of approved games 5 days ago, but like the previous releases, I don't see any major titles from Tencent or western publishers in the list. I spotted a few console and PC titles, but it's largely dominated by a wave of mobile releases which, according to a report by Reuters, may be too much for the government to handle. Reuters' sources claim that the Chinese government stopped approving new games to work through their existing backlog. While investors in Chinese gaming companies will undoubtedly lose sleep over this, China is the world's largest gaming market by a considerable margin, so this freeze is also bad news for outside publishers that want to expand into the booming market. Ironically, it might also be good news for Valve, as much of their existing library is still accessible in the country.

"The regulator asked local authorities to stop submitting applications because there is too much of a backlog for it to deal with at the moment," said one of the people, whose company was informed about the matter by its local authority. The person said the request was made to local authorities nationwide. The regulator approved 1,982 domestic and foreign online games during January-March last year before the freeze, government data showed. That came after approving 9,651 domestic and foreign online games in all of 2017. GAPP has approved 538 games since December. It is likely to approve just 2,000 to 3,000 titles in 2019, said Jefferies analyst Karen Chan in a note to clients. "Generally speaking the whole industry is frightened. There is no sign that regulators will loosen their control, said Beijing-based tech analyst Li Chengdong. "Investors are worried about the red line and risks here."

Posted by alphaatlas February 20, 2019 10:10 AM (CST)

San Francisco May Be the First City in the Nation to Ban Facial Recognition

There already exists some degree of pushback regarding the use of facial recognition technologies by law enforcement and other agencies in San Francisco, as demonstrated by legislation mandating board approval before such surveillance may be used. City supervisor Aaron Peskin doesn’t think current ordinance is enough, however, having proposed a new law that would place "an outright ban on facial recognition technology." If passed, the "Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance" would make San Francisco the first in the country to make facial recognition illegal.

Civil rights groups have raised concerns about the threat to privacy and safety posed by facial recognition, as well problems with accuracy. "We know that facial recognition technology, which has the biases of the people who developed it, disproportionately misidentifies people of color and women," Peskin said Tuesday. "This is a fact." BART officials came under fire over the summer when they began exploring the implementation of a surveillance system and former BART board member Nick Josefowitz expressed interest in facial recognition software that could help identify specific individuals, such as those with arrest warrants.

Posted by Megalith February 03, 2019 3:00 PM (CST)

Second Apple Hardware Engineer Charged with Stealing Trade Secrets for China

An Apple hardware engineer working in the top secret "Project Titan" autonomous vehicle division has been arrested for stealing trade secrets. A fellow Apple employee witnessed Jizhong Chen taking unauthorized pictures of the vehicle. He also neglected to tell Apple that he had been hired by an autonomous vehicle company in China. He was caught when he tried to board a flight to China. When confronted, he admitted to backing up 2,000 files containing manuals and schematics from the project to his personal hard drive. This is the second Apple engineer caught trying to board a plane to China with Apple autonomous vehicle trade secrets. Thanks @TheCommander !

Apple said disclosure of the data taken by Chen would be "enormously damaging," according to prosecutors. Among the photos seized by the government: an image stamped Dec. 19 diagramming Apple's autonomous driving architecture. Another from June 2018 depicts an assembly drawing of a wire harness for an autonomous vehicle. The engineer later told Apple he intended to travel to China to visit his ill father, but was arrested last week before he could board his direct flight. He was released from federal custody after posting $500,000 in cash and property on Jan. 25.

Posted by cageymaru January 30, 2019 5:30 PM (CST)

Bing Appears to be Blocked in China

NPR reports that Microsoft's search engine, Bing, appears to be blocked in China. Until Wednesday, Bing was one of the few foreign search engines that still worked inside the country, but NPR's Rob Schmitz confirmed that the site is no longer accessible, while noting that "China's internet regulator has yet to comment on the issue." The report notes that Facebook, Google, and Twitter are already blocked in China, and that the Chinese government even hacks into some Twitter accounts that try to circumvent the ban.

Bing had been allowed to operate in the country because it censored search results, Schmitz reports. Microsoft is also part of the Internet Society of China, "a government-linked body whose members refrain from establishing links to websites that contain information deemed harmful by China's Communist Party," Schmitz says. The Financial Times cites "two sources familiar with the government's order," who confirmed that China had blocked the search engine.

Posted by alphaatlas January 24, 2019 11:47 AM (CST)

The Ora R1 Is a $8,600 Electric Car from China

The Ora R1 is an ultra cheap, electric car from the Great Wall Motor company in China. It has a price range of $8,640 - $11,293, a max range of 194 miles and is designed to appeal to the "urban youth." The car awakens by saying "Hello Ora" and comes in 5 colors. Car buyers in China purchase 400,000 small electric cars a year, but the central government wants its citizens to buy 3 million electric vehicles a year. BMW has signed a deal with Great Wall Motors to manufacture MINI electric vehicles in China. The company has set a goal to sell its electric cars in the European market.

"We have the vision to become a market leader in the electric vehicles segment in China," said Ning, who is also general manager of Ora. "Our cars are designed and built in compliance with international standards and we definitely set our sights on international markets including Europe."

Posted by cageymaru January 21, 2019 4:50 PM (CST)

Polish Police Arrest Huawei Executive on Suspicion of Spying for China

Suspicion toward Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei is continuing to grow globally, as another of the company’s executives, sales director Stanislaw Wang, has been arrested on suspicion of spying for China: "The government has evidence that the two suspects ‘cooperated with the Chinese services’ as they conducted espionage against Poland." He could be imprisoned for 10 years if convicted.

It's the latest high-profile criminal case involving Huawei, coming after the arrest in Canada of its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the telecom equipment company's founder. Meng was detained at the request of the US on suspicion that she had been seeking to circumvent sanctions on Iran. The US has also been pushing to try to curtail Huawei's influence, warning about the company's possible ties to Chinese intelligence and calling on countries to exclude the company as they build new 5G networks.

Posted by Megalith January 13, 2019 1:10 PM (CST)

China Releases Footage of First Far Side Moon Landing

China successfully made humanity's first soft landing on the far side of the Moon earlier this year. Fortunately, it's 2019, and we have cameras and transmitters far better than the ones bolted onto Apollo-era spacecraft, so China's National Space Administration just released a video of the Moon probe's approach and touchdown. Check it out below:
Transmitting data from the far side of the Moon is even more difficult than usual, as the moon itself blocks direct radio transmissions, which means this video presumably had to be transmitted to a spacecraft in orbit before being relayed back to Earth. Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas January 11, 2019 12:05 PM (CST)

China Approves 84 New Games

The Chinese government halted all new game approvals last year, which pummeled the stock prices of Chinese developers like Tencent while making international developers hoping to enter the Chinese market anxious. After releasing a small initial batch approved games late last year, the Chinese government recently approved 84 more. Some media outlets are painting this as a positive development, as the time between approvals suggests the government is picking up the pace, but an expert speaking to the Financial Times notes that the recently approved games "are not hardcore games," which are seemingly more difficult to approve. Big titles from Tencent still haven't made the list, and I don't see any AAA games from international developers either. Mobile apps aside, I think the Chinese gaming market is going to be a tough one to enter for the foreseeable future, which could have some unintended consequences.

The freeze on new approvals had spooked companies in the world's largest gaming market, where an estimated 620 million players spent $37.9 billion last year, mostly on mobile and PC games, according to gaming market research firm Newzoo.

Posted by alphaatlas January 10, 2019 8:44 AM (CST)

China Completes Successful Soft Landing on the Far Side of the Moon

The Chang'e-4 team from China has successfully soft landed a combination lander-rover on the far side of the moon. Because the far side of the moon's view is blocked from Earth, a Queqiao relay satellite was launched in May 2018 to pass information from Chang'e-4 to Earth. The mission carried an international payload of instruments to measure various features found in the environment on the far side of the moon. The landing site used for the mission is the Von Karman crater which spans an area of 112 miles within the larger South Pole-Aitken impact basin. The South Pole-Aitken impact basin is over 1,553 miles wide and is known as the oldest feature on the moon. It is 6 times deeper than the Grand Canyon as its depths reach nearly 8 miles in some areas. This area is important for scientific study because it exposes the deepest parts of the lunar crust.

"Congratulations to China's Chang'e 4 team for what appears to be a successful landing on the far side of the moon. This is a first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment!" NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said via Twitter Wednesday night, after word of the milestone began circulating on social media.

Posted by cageymaru January 03, 2019 11:50 AM (CST)