After 35 days, the Shutdown finally ended, although the Congressional Budget Office on Monday estimated the economic cost at $11 billion. Between that, and the Polar Vortex, a chill is being felt in DC. But, as always, tech issues are heating up, and here are just a few of the stories we’re following this week:
US charges Huawei with sanctions violations. The ongoing saga between US authorities and Chinese telecom giant Huawei may have long term implications for US-China trade. And while many hands of China hawks in the Trump administration behind moves against Huawei, there is bipartisan support for more pressure on the company. Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat and the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, noted after the announcement of sanctions that “it has been clear for some time that Huawei poses a threat to our national security, and I applaud the Trump administration for taking steps to finally hold the company accountable.”
Worries about high-tech authoritarianism are growing. Wired’s David Samuels reckons Big Brother is emerging in China, even as in the United States no one is frightened enough of the possibility that corporate tech will merge with the state to create a public-private panopticon. Elsewhere in Wired George Soros frets over AI in the hands of powerful authoritarian regimes, calling it a ‘mortal danger’.
New Intelligence Strategy Identifies Emerging Tech as Major Threat. Director of National Intelligence Daniel R. Coats unveiled the 2019 National Intelligence Strategy. This marks the fourth iteration of the plan, and focuses on providing intelligence to counter cyber threats, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and the threat from foreign intelligence operations. “Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, automation, and high performance computing are advancing computational capabilities that can be economically beneficial, however these advances also enable new and improved military and intelligence capabilities for our adversaries,” the strategy states.
The Pentagon is working hard to identify deepfakes. CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan explores the dangers of deepfakes in a notable interactive piece, chronicling the state of the art in a set of related technologies that make it possible to generate realistic video and audio that is not authentic. The piece refers to efforts by DARPA and SRI International to develop technologies to spot deepfakes. “For more than a century, audio and video have functioned as a bedrock of truth. Not only have sound and images recorded our history, they have also informed and shaped our perception of reality.” Perhaps not for long, if the neural networks win.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right about algorithmic bias. After the progressive New York freshman congresswoman was dragged by a right wing journalist for stating that human bias is expressed in systems governed by algorithms, a paper by MIT and University of Toronto researchers adds to a mountain of evidence that is indeed the case.
Facebook Plans on Merging It’s Messaging Apps Across 3 of Its Properties. Late last week, Facebook announced its plans consolidate the messaging services across Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The NY Times has reported that the work to merge the messaging technologies across each of the Facebook owned properties has already begun, and may be completed as early as the end of 2019. This would create a common platform, allowing a Facebook user to communicate directly with someone who only has a WhatsApp account. This proposal has drawn attention from international data watchdogs, with the Irish Data Protection Commission is asking Facebook for “an urgent briefing on what is being proposed.”