Facebook is considering incorporating most of its 1 billion-plus members’ profile photos into its growing facial recognition database, expanding the scope of the social network’s controversial technology.
The possible move, which Facebook revealed in an update to its data use policy on Thursday, is intended to improve the performance of its “Tag Suggest” feature. The feature uses facial recognition technology to speed up the process of labeling or “tagging” friends and acquaintances who appear in photos posted on the network.
Facebook, Google and other companies have insisted that they have never participated in any program giving the government direct access to their computer servers and that they only provide information in response to specific requests, after careful review and as required by law.
Try not to laugh at the following statements:
Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan said that adding members’ public profile photos would give users better control over their personal information, by making it easier to identify posted photos in which they appear.
“Our goal is to facilitate tagging so that people know when there are photos of them on our service,” Egan said.
She stressed that Facebook users uncomfortable with facial recognition technology will still be able to “opt out” of the Tag Suggest feature altogether, in which case the person’s public profile photo would not be included in the facial recognition database.
“Can I say that we will never use facial recognition technology for any other purposes? Absolutely not,” Egan said. But, she noted, “if we decided to use it in different ways we will continue to provide people transparency about that and we will continue to provide control.”
Microsoft and Google to sue over US surveillance requests:
Microsoft and Google are to sue the US government to win the right to reveal more information about official requests for user data. The companies announced the lawsuit on Friday, escalating a legal battle over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa), the mechanism used by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other US government agencies to gather data about foreign internet users.
Microsoft’s general counsel, Brad Smith, made the announcement in a corporate blog post which complained of the government’s “continued unwillingness” to let it publish information about Fisa requests.
Each company filed a suit in June arguing that they should be allowed to state the details under the first amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech, and in the process defend corporate reputations battered by Edward Snowden‘s revelations. Critics accused the companies of collaborating in the snooping.
“On six occasions in recent weeks we agreed with the department of justice to extend the government’s deadline to reply to these lawsuits. We hoped that these discussions would lead to an agreement acceptable to all,” Smith wrote.
The negotiations failed, he wrote, so Google and Microsoft were going to court. He did not specify when, or to which court.
“With the failure of our recent negotiations, we will move forward with litigation in the hope that the courts will uphold our right to speak more freely. And with a growing discussion on Capitol Hill, we hope Congress will continue to press for the right of technology companies to disclose relevant information in an appropriate way.”
The companies denied the NSA had “direct access” to their systems but said they were legally unable to disclose how many times they have been asked to provide information on users.
Fisa requests are granted by a special court that sits in secret and can grant the NSA permission to collect data stored by any company about a named person. In 2012, the court granted 1,856 requests and turned none down.
“We believe we have a clear right under the US constitution to share more information with the public,” said Smith’s post. “The purpose of our litigation is to uphold this right so that we can disclose additional data.”
He welcomed a government announcement earlier this week that it would begin publishing the total number of national security requests for customer data for the past 12 months.
“But the public deserves and the constitution guarantees more than this first step. For example, we believe it is vital to publish information that clearly shows the number of national security demands for user content, such as the text of an email.”
The United States spying budget is an unbelievable $52.6 billion dollars:
U.S. spy agencies have built an intelligence-gathering colossus since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but remain unable to provide critical information to the president on a range of national security threats, according to the government’s top-secret budget.
The $52.6 billion “Black Budget” for fiscal 2013, obtained by The Washington Post from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, maps a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny. Although the government has annually released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, it has not divulged how it uses the money or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress.
The summary provides a detailed look at how the U.S. intelligence community has been reconfigured by the massive infusion of resources that followed the 2001 attacks. The United States has spent more than $500 billion on intelligence during that period, an outlay that U.S. officials say has succeeded in its main objective: preventing another catastrophic terrorist attack in the United States.
The result is an espionage empire with resources and a reach beyond those of any adversary, sustained even now by spending that rivals or exceeds the levels at the height of the Cold War.
The summary describes cutting-edge technologies, agent recruiting and ongoing operations. The Post is withholding some information after consultation with U.S. officials who expressed concerns about the risk to intelligence sources and methods. Sensitive details are so pervasive in the documents that The Post is publishing only summary tables and charts online.
“The United States has made a considerable investment in the Intelligence Community since the terror attacks of 9/11, a time which includes wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab Spring, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction technology, and asymmetric threats in such areas as cyber-warfare,” Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. wrote in response to inquiries from The Post.
“Our budgets are classified as they could provide insight for foreign intelligence services to discern our top national priorities, capabilities and sources and methods that allow us to obtain information to counter threats,” he said.
Among the notable revelations in the budget summary: