Posts Tagged ‘‘Politics Live’’

Surveillance Britain: Police Using Massively Inaccurate Facial Recognition Technology on Ordinary Brits

May 20, 2019

Here’s another piece of news that should further worry anyone concerned that Britain is slowly sliding down the tubes towards a surveillance state. The rozzers have launched a pilot scheme for a facial recognition system. They’re testing it out by photographing the fizzogs of ordinary British citizens walking down the streets. And it’s already resulted in one extremely dubious arrest. One man didn’t want to be photographed by the cops, and so he hid his face. The rozzers then pounced and fined him for ‘disorderly conduct’. This was filmed by the Beeb’s Politics Live. It’s completely disgraceful. The man had committed no crime, except to protect his own privacy against the state.

Mike in his article on this points out that there have been a couple of incidents where attempts to compile information on ordinary members of the public have resulted in disastrous mistakes, or deeply worrying infringements of personal freedom. For example, there were the innocent people, who suddenly found themselves with criminal records when their prospective employers started making background checks. Many of them were wrongly left without jobs because of this. And then there’s the DNA genetic database scandal, in which genetic material obtained from the public has been kept by the police, some of which was then illegally passed on for use in genetic research.

Mike also shows how this technology is also massively inaccurate. It had a failure rate of 96 per cent in eight trials in London between 2016 and 2018 according to the Independent. The software gave false positives, wrongly identifying innocent people as crims. It was also deployed twice in a shopping centre outside Stratford last year, where it had a failure rate of 100 per cent. This resulted in people being wrongly identified, including a 14 year old Black schoolboy, who was fingerprinted. The cops also stopped people for covering their faces and wearing hoods, and one man was fined for doing so in  Romford. The Independent found that shoppers were unaware their photos were being taken, despite the rozzers’ claim that the tests were overt, and campaigners have said that it’s being rolled out by stealth.

But despite its dangers and massive inaccuracy, the scheme is being defended by the Tories. Police Minister Nick Hurd has said that the technology offers ‘real opportunities’, said we are not a surveillance state, and that they have no intention of becoming one, and so the new technology must be used in a way that is sensitive to their impact on privacy, and proportionate.

To which Mike comments

Fail. It’s not sensitive to privacy and its use isn’t proportionate. But the Tories – and the police – won’t withdraw it, so we can only conclude that we do – indeed – live in a police surveillance state.

Police state Britain: Failed facial recognition pilot leads to fine for disorderly conduct. WTF?

This is precisely the type of information gathering that Privacy International and other campaigners were warning about in the ’90s. When DNA evidence first began to be collected, there were fears that it would be used to set up a national DNA database. In one incident, all the men in a small town where a rape had been committed were asked to supply samples of their DNA. There were concerns about what would happen to it afterwards, and that the material would be retained, even though the men were innocent. There were also fears that the collection of such samples would go from being simple requests to demands, and that anyone who refused, would automatically come under suspicion, even though they may be innocent.

It also reminds of the way the police also started compiling records in the 1980s of people they considered suspicious, as revealed in the Beeb documentary, Secret State. Perfectly innocent people suddenly had police files opened on them and their movements recorded for reasons that reflected the prejudices of the cops, rather than anything they’d done. Like being punks. One teenage girl was marked down as a potential suspect simply because she was pregnant and there was no father.

I am also not surprised by the massive failure rate of the technology at the moment. It seems par for the course that any and all information technology adopted by the state should be seriously flawed. Like all the computer systems supplied to local authorities in the 1990s by outsourcing companies like Crapita.

Black people are particularly at risk from these systems. The I newspaper a few weeks ago reported on the concerns about the massive under-representation of women and ethnic minorities in the computer industry. Only four per cent of employees in one of the big American tech giants came from ethnic minorities. As a result, the pattern recognition system they developed misidentified Black people as gorillas. Which makes you wonder who programmed this wretched system. The Klan?

As for not becoming a surveillance society, privacy campaigners have warned repeatedly about the dangers of ‘function creep’. Once one innovation or strategy is adopted, other agencies will want to use it, and so it will expand. Also, other forms have surveillance have become normalised. There were serious concerns about the use of CCTV cameras when they first appeared. Alan Moore deliberately wrote them into his depiction of a Fascist Britain in the V for Vendetta comic. He thought at the time that this would really shock people. Niall Ferguson shared his fears. He was also alarmed at how ubiquitous CCTV cameras had become here after he returned from a visit to China. But he was also astonished at how his concerns were not shared by anyone else.

And with the campaign by the IT and automobile industries, I wonder how long it will be before we get the repressive police state and its robots described by the great SF writer Ray Bradbury in his short story, ‘The Pedestrian’. In this tale, a man is stopped by a robotic police car simply for taking a walk in the middle of the night.

It’s SF as the ‘literature of warning’. It’s not meant to be prophetic. But somehow that seems to be the future these technologies are leading to.

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Ofcom Now Investigating BBC for Bias

March 8, 2019

Yesterday Mike posted up a piece reporting that the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, was investigating the Beeb for bias, and it wasn’t looking good for Auntie.

Mike began his article with his tweets criticising Jo Coburn of Politics Live for continuing describing the attack on Corbyn as an egging, when in reality the Labour leader had been punched in the head. He also noted the contradictions in its reporting of the anti-Semitism witchhunt in the Labour party. On the one hand he was being berated for his lack of leadership and doing too little, while on the other he was supposed to be personally interfering. These two assertions together violate one of the fundamental laws of logic discovered by Aristotle, the Law of Non-Contradiction. But logic and reason don’t matter a jot to the right-wing media.

The broadcasting regulator has said that its investigating the Beeb because people are worried about fake news on the internet. The Beeb has a central role in providing trusted news, but people feel that the beeb’s television and radio news is less impartial than its other news output. And so Ofcom is examining in detail the Corporation’s delivery of its first Public Purpose, the first point of which is

“to provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them. The BBC will provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world.”

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/03/07/ofcom-is-investigating-the-bbc-for-bias-and-its-looking-bad-for-auntie/

The BBC has a very long history of right-wing bias. During the miners’ strike in the 1980s they reversed footage of the police attack on the picket line at Orgreave to make it appear to show the miners’ attacking the police. The Kushners in their book Who Needs the Cuts show how the Corporation marginalises those politicians, trade unions and activists, who reject austerity in favour of its promoters. When dissenting voices do appear, they will be talked over or shouted down by the presenter. Studies by Scots academics have also shown that the Corporation prefers to interview Conservative politicians, bankers and industrialists about the economy than Labour politicians and trade unionists. And the Corporation’s coverage of the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn has been massively one-sided.

None of this is remotely surprising, considering how the Beeb’s newsroom is stuffed with Tories, like the Macclesfield Goebbels Nick Robinson, who was head of the Tory association at Manchester University.

The Beeb should face some tough questioning over its bias, and it’ll be very interesting what Ofcom concludes.

 

Daily Mail Labeled ‘Fake News’ by Microsoft News Software

January 23, 2019

Ho ho! Another fascinating story Mike put up today is a piece reporting that Microsoft Newsguard, a piece of plug-in software designed to warn users if the news website they’re looking at is unreliable, has flagged up the Daily Mail’s Mail Online as fake news. If you onto the Daily Mail while using the software, you get a message telling you that

“this website generally fails to maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability” and “has been forced to pay damages in numerous high-profile cases”.

Mike quotes the Guardian on the software, which says that it is run by veterans of the news industry, who are trying to establish industry-standard benchmarks for judging how trustworthy news sites are. It employs experts to analyse sites to see if they meet certain journalistic standards. It makes all its judgments public and invites news outlets to respond to criticism and improve their standards.

So how bad is the Fail? Well, according to the site Tabloid Corrections, it’s pretty terrible. In fact, it’s worse even than the Scum. It was sanctioned 28 times by the press regulator, IPSO, last year, 2018. The Times was second with 18 sanctions. Behind the Times came the Scum, with 16, the Mirror with 10, the Express and Torygraph with 7, and the Star with 4. Still, the Fail has improved. In 2017 it violated journalistic rules 50 times.

Mike comments that this probably won’t affect the Daily Mail, as most people regard it more as a comic. They only read it to laugh at the nonsense inside. And, sadly, some probably read it only to ogle the scantily clad women in the very sexist newsroll on the right of its webpage. I’m not so sure about this. Years ago a friend of mine said that he thought the Mail was more dangerous than the Scum, because while the people who read the Scum treated it as a joke, those who read the Heil take it seriously. I think he’s partly right, but even this is far too optimistic. Yes, the Scum and the Mail are viewed with contempt by very many people, with more sophisticated tastes and attitudes to the news and journalism, at the same time I’m sure that their readers do take them absolutely seriously.

Mike also states that the Beeb’s Politics Live has also been discussing fake news, but hasn’t mentioned the Mail, concentrating instead on a piece about the UK parliament but which confuses it with the American political system.

Mike concludes

The issue is one that This Site has highlighted recently – that anyone claiming to quote facts about political issues must provide proof, usually in the form of references to their sources. Then readers can check those sources.

If there aren’t any references then you assume the claim isn’t true – and draw your own conclusions about the person or organisation making it.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/01/23/daily-mail-website-flagged-as-fake-news-by-microsoft-mobile-web-browser/

Mike’s piece is interesting not just because of what it says about the Heil, but about the rest of the UK media. The Heil is Britain’s worse paper for misreporting, but the second and third worse are the Murdoch papers the Times and the Scum. The Scum will be no surprise to anyone. But the Times prides itself on being Britain’s paper of record. This shows how vacuous and spurious that claim is. And I don’t regard its sister paper, the Sunday Times, as any better. Not after the repeated way it has libeled Labour party leaders and members, like Michael Foot and Mike himself. It’s not up there on the list, but it still slanders and smears decent people simply for the benefit of the Tories, big business, and in Mike’s case, for New Labour and the Israel lobby.

It will also be interesting to see if Private Eye reports this in their ‘Street of Shame’ column. It’s always reported the findings of press regulators, particularly when one of the most notorious rags has been claiming that it is the paragon of journalistic standards and has never made anything up or libeled anyone ever. And Private Eye is now casting its critical gaze over the alternative news sites. Last issue, for the 11-24 January 2019, it carried the article ‘Skwawk-boxed’, reporting that ‘Britain’s sole state-approved press regulator’, Impress, had made its eighth ruling against the Skwawkbox because it misrepresents or distorts the facts, and confuses fact with comment. It claims the regulator oversees 111 titles, but over the past two years has been called in to deal with 15 complaints. More than half of these have been against the same publication, and at least five have been upheld. This is against the Skwawkbox, which it describes as

‘the ultra-partisan Corbynite website run by Labour activist Steve Walker, which specializes in paranoid conspiracy theorizing and simultaneous attacks on the “MSM” for fake news.’

I dare say that this piece is correct, as far as it goes, and its criticism of the failure of journalistic standards in the Skwawkbox is probably correct. But I trust the Skwawkbox far more than I trust mainstream news. The MSM does present appallingly slanted news, including the Beeb, which it hypocritically maintains is objective, trustworthy fact. The massively biased coverage of Corbyn and the Labour party is a case in point. The media has smeared him and his supporters as Trotskyites, misogynists and anti-Semites, when the opposite is true. And there are organisations with very hidden agendas manipulating both the news and government policy. These are the various intelligence agencies, right-wing thinktanks, and industry groups trying to manipulate official policy to promote the neoliberal agenda of privatization, poor wages, destruction of the welfare state and workers’ rights and the invasion and exploitation of the Middle East under the pretense of combating terrorism. You can read about this over at Lobster, Counterpunch, and in the books of and website of Greg Palast and the now sadly departed William Blum and his Anti-Empire Report. Walker might have to tighten up his journalistic performance, but I don’t doubt that there’s more truth in what he writes than in the Fail or the rest of the mainstream media.

And he and the other left-wing news sites supporting Corbyn and genuine socialism in the Labour party clearly are frightening Private Eye along with the rest of the old media. Otherwise the Eye wouldn’t have published this, and another story attacking the excellent the Canary. The genuine left-wing news sites are catching up on the old media very quickly. It’ll be interesting to see if next fortnight’s Eye includes this story, as it did the piece on the Skwawkbox.