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Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales says ICOs offer almost nothing of value to the world

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Jimmy Wales, the internet entrepreneur who is famous for cofounding the not-for-profit Wikipedia and the for-profit Wikia, has been quite outspoken over the years on the topic of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

As early as 2014, Wales tweeted that he was “playing with BTC,” and later that year Wikipedia and the rest of the Wikimedia Foundation began accepting Bitcoin as a method of donation, helping drive usage of the digital currency.

However, Wales hasn’t always been complimentary about the cryptocurrency marketplace.

As recently as October 2017, Wales told CNBC “I think blockchain is a super interesting technology, but there are a lot of fads going on right now. There are a lot of these initial coin offerings, which in my opinion are absolute scams, and people should be very wary of things that are going on in that area.”

Whether warning against ICOs or accepting donations in Bitcoin, Wales remains one of the most influential characters in blockchain, a fact that has been recognized by BlockShow, which has invited him to speak at its flagship event in Berlin on May 28 and 29.

So where does Wales stand now on cryptocurrencies? Ahead of his appearance at BlockShow Europe 2018 in Berlin, I had the opportunity to ask him whether his perspective on ICOs has softened.

“My attitude has not changed at all,” Wales told me. “Almost every ICO is offering nothing of value to the world. That doesn’t mean that the concept of an ICO is inherently bad — just that we are in a bubble where people are doing a lot of things that don’t make any rational sense outside of the bubble mentality. We’ve lived through this before during the dot-com bubble.”

It is worth pointing out that Wales is taking about ICOs here, not Bitcoin. The Wikimedia Foundation’s acceptance of BTC for donations doesn’t contradict his position, and with so many recent documented scams and collapses, his reticence could be well placed.

So it’s Wales tempted to redress the balance personally by launching his own blockchain project right now?

“No, not now, but I do keep a close eye on things and am looking for good ideas,” Wales said.

Wales will expand on his views of blockchain, cryptocurrencies, ICOs, and how Wikipedia and Wikia use cryptocurrency technologies at BlockShow Berlin.

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Few Rules Govern Police Use of Facial-Recognition Technology

4 min read

They call Amazon the everything store—and Tuesday, the world learned about one of its lesser-known but provocative products. Police departments pay the company to use facial-recognition technology Amazon says can “identify persons of interest against a collection of millions of faces in real-time.”

More than two dozen nonprofits wrote to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to ask that he stop selling the technology to police, after the ACLU of Northern California revealed documents to shine light on the sales. The letter argues that the technology will inevitably be misused, accusing the company of providing “a powerful surveillance system readily available to violate rights and target communities of color.”

The revelation highlights a key question: What laws or regulations govern police use of the facial-recognition technology? The answer: more or less none.

State and federal laws generally leave police departments free to do things like search video or images collected from public cameras for particular faces, for example. Cities and local departments can set their own policies and guidelines, but even some early adopters of the technology haven’t done so.

Documents released by the ACLU show that the city of Orlando, Florida worked with Amazon to build a system that detects “persons of interest” in real-time using eight public-security cameras. “Since this is a pilot program, a policy has not been written,” a city spokesperson said, when asked whether there are formal guidelines around the system’s use.

“This is a perfect example of technology outpacing the law,” says Jennifer Lynch, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “There are no rules.”

Amazon is not the only company operating in this wide open space. Massachusetts based MorphoTrust provides facial-recognition technology to the FBI, and also markets it to police departments. Detroit police bought similar technology from South Carolina’s Data Works Plus, for a project that looks for violent offenders in footage from gas stations.

The documents released Tuesday provide details about how Orlando, and the sheriff’s department of Oregon’s Washington County use Amazon’s facial recognition technology. Both had previously provided testimonials about the technology for the company’s cloud division.

Orlando got free consulting from Amazon to build out its project, the documents show. In a prior testimonial, Orlando’s chief of police John Mina said that the system could improve public safety and “offer operational efficiency opportunities.” However a city spokesperson told WIRED that “this is very early on and we don’t have data to support that it does or does not work.” The system hasn’t yet been used in investigations, or on imagery of members of the public.

Washington County uses Amazon’s technology to help officers search a database of 300,000 mugshots, using either a desktop computer or a specially built mobile application. Documents obtained by the ACLU also show county employees raising concerns about the security of placing mugshots into Amazon’s cloud storage, and the project being perceived as “the government getting in bed with big data.”

There’s no mention of big data in the US Constitution. It doesn’t provide much protection against facial recognition either, says Jane Bambauer, a law professor at the University of Arizona. Surveillance technology like wiretaps are covered by the Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure, but most police interest in facial recognition is in applying it to imagery gathered lawfully in public, or to mugshots.

State laws don’t generally have much to say about police use of facial recognition, either. Illinois and Texas are unusual in having biometric privacy laws that can require companies to obtain permission before collecting and sharing data such as fingerprints and facial data, but make exceptions for law enforcement. Lynch of EFF says hearings by the House Oversight Committee last year showed some bipartisan interest in setting limits on law enforcement use of the technology, but the energy dissipated after committee chair Jason Chaffetz resigned last May.

Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties director at the ACLU of Northern California, says the best hope for regulating facial recognition for now is pressuring companies like Amazon, police departments, and local communities to set their own limits on use of the technology. “The law moves slowly, but a lot needs to happen here now that this dangerous surveillance is being rolled out,” she says. She says Amazon should stop providing the technology to law enforcement altogether. Police departments should set firm rules in consultation with their communities, she says. In a statement, Amazon said all its customers are bound by terms requiring they comply with the law and “be responsible.” The company does not have a specific terms of service for law enforcement customers.

Some cities have moved to limit use of surveillance. Berkeley, California, recently approved an ordinance requiring certain transparency and consultation steps when procuring or using surveillance technology, including facial recognition. The neighboring city of Oakland recently passed its own law to place oversight on local use of surveillance technology.

Washington County has drawn up guidelines for its use of facial recognition, which the department provided to WIRED. They include a requirement that officers obtain a person’s permission before taking a photo to check their identity, and that officers receive training on appropriate use of the technology before getting access to it. The guidelines also state that facial recognition may be used as investigative tool on “suspects caught on camera.” Jeff Talbot, the deputy spokesperson for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, said the department is not using the system for “public surveillance, mass surveillance, or for real-time surveillance.”

Ozer and others would like to see more detailed rules and disclosures. They’re worried about evidence that facial recognition and analysis algorithms have been found to be less accurate for non-white faces, and not accurate at all in law enforcement situations. The FBI disclosed in 2017 that its chosen facial-recognition system only had an 85 percent chance of identifying a person within its 50 best guesses from a larger database. A system tested by South Wales Police in the UK during a soccer match last year was only 8 percent accurate.

Lynch of EFF says she believes police departments should disclose accuracy figures for their facial recognition systems, including how they perform on different ethnic groups. She also says that despite the technology’s largely unexamined adoption by local police forces, there’s reason to believe today’s free for all won’t last.

Consider the Stingray devices that many police departments began to quietly use to collect data from cellphones. Amid pressure from citizens, civic society groups, and judges, the Department of Justice and many local departments changed their policies. Some states, such as California, passed laws to protect location information. Lynch believes there could soon be a similar pushback on facial recognition. “I think there is hope,” she says.

Louise Matsakis contributed to this article.


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Luminaries from across Israel’s tech ecosystem are joining us onstage in Tel Aviv – TechCrunch

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Tickets are going fast for our inaugural Tel Aviv event and no one should miss out on the opportunity to see some the nation’s rising stars discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead for mobility technologies.

Hear from some of the architects and creators of Israel’s latest technology marvels like Orit Nissan Messing, the co-founder and Chief Architect of Iguazio. And government officials like Anat Lea Bonshtien, the chairman and director of the Fuel Choices and Smart Mobility Initiative in the Prime Minister’s Office, who are driving mobility technologies forward.

Fiona Darmon, the Chief Operating Officer of one of Israel’s pre-eminent venture funds, JVP, will join us alongside Natalie Refuah, a partner with the growth capital investment firm Viola Growth, to discuss how businesses can scale and make the right moves as they navigate their inevitable international expansion.

They’re all part of a stellar line up that we’ve put together to take the pulse of one of the hottest trends in tech and one that’s increasingly reliant on Israeli technology companies to fulfill the promise of its potential.

These phenomenal speakers will be sharing insights that no one would want to miss, and they’ll be exclusively available to our audience in Tel Aviv.

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Sleep Tight pits kids against monsters from under the bed on July 26

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When the creepy-crawlies come out from under the bed, some kids might pull the covers over their heads. But not the ones in Sleep Tight. In this twin-stick shooter, you fight back against the bogeyman by building forts and arming yourself with an arsenal of toy weapons. It’s developer We Are Fuzzy’s debut game, and it launches July 26 on PC and Nintendo Switch.

To fight off waves of nighttime monsters, players can choose from a roster of 12 kids, each of whom has their own special perk. For instance, Lynn sports a star-studded astronaut outfit. She just came back from space camp, and she researches new skills faster than others. Wyatt, on the other hand, takes his inspiration from cowboys on the range, and he starts with a buckshot to fend off enemies. Players who prefer to beef up defense can select Rosie the engineer, whose perk enables her to build tougher pillow fort walls.

The new indie studio has triple-A roots, and its team has individually worked on games like Far Cry 5 and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. It also recruited Disney illustrator Dylan Ekren, who contributed to Wreck-It Ralph and Zootopia. The veteran talent shows in Sleep Tight’s new trailer, which is brimming with character and polish.

Sleep Tight seems to feature a lot of strategic gameplay and fast-paced shooting, and it’s neat that it has gone for a colorful, Pixar-like aesthetic rather than something gritty or blood-splattered.



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