Reimagining justice-based digital ID

Feb 18, 2021
Chris Burt
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A new joint project has announced by The Engine Room and Open Society Foundations “to reimagine what digital ID systems rooted in justice can look like.”

The Engine Room carried out a comprehensive research project in 2019 on the real-life experiences of people in five developing nations in Africa and Asia in the hopes of exposing issues needing more attention from authorities. The concerns around digital ID systems have increased, between general digitization and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Similar to the Cyrilla report and Dr. Ramanathan’s comments, The Engine Room suggests that marginalized communities have been particularly harmed by digital ID systems that are not designed for them.

The groups intend to engage with other civil society organizations to “imagine and craft” better digital ID systems.

BioCatch reaches 57 patents for its behavioral biometrics, targets mule accounts

Feb 18, 2021
Ayang Macdonald
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BioCatch’s method of verifying an individual’s identity and detecting fraud using behavioral biometrics based on mobile device usage patterns has earned it a U.S. registered patent, bring the company’s total number of patents to 57 since it began operations in 2011.

FintechNews reports that this development comes after a year in which the company announced the opening of an office in Singapore for the APAC region, extended its presence to five continents with over 40 customers and 175 employees.

BioCatch has a database of over 200 million behavioral biometric profiles, allowing it to analyze over two billion digital sessions every month.

“We continue to enhance our platform and find new ways to protect financial institutions and their customers from fraud and cybercrime. Surpassing 50 patents is a major milestone and a testament to our innovative strength and leadership in the industry,” FintechNews quoted Avi Turgeman, BioCatch founder, CTO and Vice President of Business Development, as saying.

“We have a very strong IP portfolio in the behavioral space and in the cybersecurity field, and we intend to continue to expand it to address the needs of our customers and to help protect consumers,” he added.

FintechNews also recalled that BioCatch recently sealed a deal with Suncorp Bank to put behavioral biometrics in place for mule account detection, which during a trial process helped the Australian financial company close down 90 per cent of mule accounts before fraud was carried out.

Aadhaar motivated by profit, biometrics work poorly in India, activist argues

Feb 18, 2021
Chris Burt
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Biometrics do not work well in India, and their use in Aadhaar is posing an ongoing barrier to essential services access, according to the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU School of Law.

In an interview with Dr. Usha Ramanathan and a corresponding blog post, the CHR & GJ’s Digital Welfare State and Human Rights Project pans Aadhaar as having failed to live up to lofty promises, and alleges the project is motivated by the desire for private profit more than to improve the inclusion of society’s underprivileged.

Research over the last decade has shown the number of manual laborers and the hot, humid environments make fingerprint biometrics unreliable in the country,

Ramanathan, who called Aadhaar an “anti-people project” as far back as 2014, also takes aim at the nominee system for cases in which the individual’s biometrics are not recognized, saying it makes one person’s identity dependent on another’s biometric.

Civil society groups question legitimacy of digital ID inclusivity claims

Feb 18, 2021
Chris Burt
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A variety of factors prevent the inclusivity promise of digital ID systems in Sub-Saharan Africa from being fulfilled, and governments should address legal, administrative and physical barriers to bring in marginalized communities, according to a new report from Cyrilla.

Cyrilla is an initiative looking into legal frameworks for digital environments with a particular focus on the Global South.

The collaborative’s report ‘Analysing the Impact of Digital ID Frameworks on Marginalised Groups in Sub-Saharan Africa’ is authored by Kenya Ministry of ICT, Innovation, and Youth Affairs Legal Advisor Rose Mosero, and compares the digital ID systems that have been established in Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa as case studies.

Many of digital ID systems Sub-Saharan African countries are adopting do not adequately protect people’s rights, or meet their ID needs, according to Mosero.

The 44-page report delves into regulatory and technical challenges to digital ID systems, and finds the failings and discrimination experienced by marginalized groups in the physical world are often replicated in the digital world.

The report recommends legislative reviews and reforms, an inter-sectoral approach governed by a single agency, and preservation of means of accessing public services without a digital ID, among eight items to help governments improve their identity frameworks.

As Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

By John W. Whitehead
Nisha Whitehead
February 17, 2021
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The glaring fallacy that always lies at the heart of pro-censorship sentiments is the gullible, delusional belief that censorship powers will be deployed only to suppress views one dislikes, but never one’s own views… Facebook is not some benevolent, kind, compassionate parent or a subversive, radical actor who is going to police our discourse in order to protect the weak and marginalized or serve as a noble check on mischief by the powerful. They are almost always going to do exactly the opposite: protect the powerful from those who seek to undermine elite institutions and reject their orthodoxies. Tech giants, like all corporations, are required by law to have one overriding objective: maximizing shareholder value. They are always going to use their power to appease those they perceive wield the greatest political and economic power.

Techno-Censorship: The Slippery Slope from Censoring ‘Disinformation’ to Silencing Truth

By John W. Whitehead
Nisha Whitehead
February 17, 2021
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“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”― George Orwell

This is the slippery slope that leads to the end of free speech as we once knew it.

In a world increasingly automated and filtered through the lens of artificial intelligence, we are finding ourselves at the mercy of inflexible algorithms that dictate the boundaries of our liberties.

Once artificial intelligence becomes a fully integrated part of the government bureaucracy, there will be little recourse: we will be subject to the intransigent judgments of techno-rulers.

Martin Niemöller’s warning about the widening net that ensnares us all still applies.

By John W. Whitehead
Nisha Whitehead
February 17, 2021
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“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

In our case, however, it started with the censors who went after extremists spouting so-called “hate speech,” and few spoke out—because they were not extremists and didn’t want to be shamed for being perceived as politically incorrect.

Then the internet censors got involved and went after extremists spouting “disinformation” about stolen elections, the Holocaust, and Hunter Biden, and few spoke out—because they were not extremists and didn’t want to be shunned for appearing to disagree with the majority.

By the time the techno-censors went after extremists spouting “misinformation” about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, the censors had developed a system and strategy for silencing the nonconformists. Still, few spoke out.

Eventually, “we the people” will be the ones in the crosshairs.

At some point or another, depending on how the government and its corporate allies define what constitutes “extremism, “we the people” might all be considered guilty of some thought crime or other.

More actions on mule account detection anticipated

Feb 18, 2021
Ayang Macdonald
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Meanwhile, BioCatch in a recent blog post examined the issues around mule account fraud and how the problem has been able to surge since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mule accounts are generally used to collect money through fraud, before passing it on to another account.

The post observes that although the phenomenon has been on an upward trend, partly also because of the lack of adequate industry mechanisms to check it, behavioral biometrics technology such as that of BioCatch has been able to help put a check on the growth in account opening fraud.

Only 6 percent of financial institutions are currently investing in mule detection capabilities, however.

To better handle the situation, BioCatch projects that anti-money laundering (AML) practices relating to mule detection will soon go through some changes, especially as regulators become keener on questions around practice.

BioCatch thus notes, using the U.S. as an example, that it anticipates changes in legislation which will prompt stronger responsive action against mule account fraud; that companies will be joining forces to develop industry best practices and standards for identifying mule accounts; and that progressive technologies including behavioral biometrics will be implemented to be able to nip mule account fraud in the bud.

Bill Gates’ nuclear venture looks for new test partner as regulations nix China collab – report

2 Jan, 2019 04:29
Updated 10 months ago
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TerraPower, the nuclear energy company founded by Microsoft’s Bill Gates, is reportedly looking for a new partner nation to help test its reactor technology as new US regulations bar it from working with China.

The company’s existing deal with China National Nuclear Corp to build an experimental nuclear reactor has effectively been nullified by new restrictions imposed in October by the US Department of Energy preventing most nuclear business deals with China. Meanwhile, Gates says, US laws are too “restrictive” to allow the prototype to be built at home, meaning a third country must be found, or US laws changed.

“We’re regrouping,” TerraPower CEO Chris Levesque told the Wall Street Journal. “Maybe we can find another partner.” TerraPower has been working with China on the project, which would have seen a prototype reactor built south of Beijing, for three years.

The new Energy Department regulations don’t prohibit all nuclear deals with China, but they do require a solid guarantee that the technology won’t be used for unauthorized purposes, specifically military. Energy Secretary Rick Perry claimed at the time that China was not only ramping up efforts to militarize nuclear technology but was also diverting it to other countries.

There are few countries that would be suitable partners for developing a prototype reactor, which costs about $1 billion. The nation would have to already be funding nuclear energy development and have a government amenable to a partnership with a US company. Gates plans to lobby for changes to US regulations that would allow him to build the reactor there.

“The world needs to be working on lots of solutions to stop climate change,” he wrote on his website, adding that nuclear power is “the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day” and that the US can only regain its leadership in the nuclear arena if it “commits new funding, updates regulations, and shows investors that it’s serious.”

The “traveling-wave reactor” TerraPower hoped to build south of Beijing is fueled by depleted uranium, which is reportedly much cheaper and safer than the enriched uranium which powers typical nuclear plants. Gates’ company has been developing the technology for the last decade.