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Archive → November 29th, 2017

Privacy is dead

Privacy is dead

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Law enforcement agencies throughout the United States are increasingly relying on predictive policing technologies which combine traditional video surveillance equipment with artificial intelligence. Proponents say the new technologies are going to make Americans safer. But is the cost to privacy too high?

Reason magazine released a very interesting video report last week detailing how government agencies are teaming up with Silicon Valley to build what could eventually become “infrastructure for a police state.”

The Reason report focuses on Palantir, a Palo Alto tech company which bills itself as a threat intelligence firm.

The company analyzes the troves of content Americans willingly turn over to tech companies every day along with other publicly available data to produce what has been billed as pre-crime intelligence.

Palantir’s biggest clients are currently the FBI, SEC and the CIA. And it’s doing big business.

As GS Early wrote in February 2016:

It is certainly a tool that law enforcement and our intelligence services would find valuable to root out potential terrorists or groups that are planning some terrorist act. It is also useful to find people who are attempting to elude authorities. And being able to get ahead of the some of the more devious players on Wall Street and their illegal trading schemes would be nice.

But you can see where this could be turned on Americans, just as easily as the NSA turned its endeavors on to less than righteous paths.

Palantir is raising eyebrows in the epicenter of digital startups because most companies, once they reach a certain size, move out of Palo Alto and build a campus in some surrounding town.

Not Palantir. It now owns about 10-15 percent of all the available space in Palo Alto, more than 250,000 square feet. It is the fourth most valuable venture backed company in the world.

Palantir is just one part of a booming tech sector currently working to use predictive technology to identify possible criminals before they perpetrate crimes.

A second report out in AFP over the weekend detailed how other firms are working to create surveillance video monitoring capable of identifying criminal activity in real time.

From the report:

US-based startup Deep Science is using the same technology to help retail stores detect in real time if an armed robbery is in progress, by identifying guns or masked assailants.

Deep Science has pilot projects with US retailers, enabling automatic alerts in the case of robberies, fire or other threats.

The technology can monitor for threats more efficiently and at a lower cost than human security guards, according to Deep Science co-founder Sean Huver, a former engineer for DARPA, the Pentagon’s long-term research arm.

The technology works by cataloging identifying information and behavior patterns gleaned from video footage.

Again from the report:

Israeli startup Briefcam meanwhile uses similar technology to interpret video surveillance footage.

“Video is unstructured, it’s not searchable,” explained Amit Gavish, Briefcam’s US general manager. Without artificial intelligence, he says, ”you had to go through hundreds of hours of video with fast forward and rewind.”

“We detect, track, extract and classify each object in the video. So it becomes a database.”

This can enable investigators to quickly find targets from video surveillance, a system already used by law enforcement in hundreds of cities around the world, including Paris, Boston and Chicago, Gavish said.

Used together with law enforcement biometric databases, including facial recognition information, this means being in public will soon mean having your every moved tracked by government surveillance.

Welcome to the future, comrade.

Source: Will County News

Homer Township Fire District Receives Grant For New Safety Vests

Homer Township Fire District Receives Grant For New Safety Vests

HOMER GLEN, IL — The Homer Township Fire Protection District will be purchasing new safety vests for firefighters thanks to a grant from Illinois American Water. According to a release, the IAW 2017 Firefighter Grant Program provides financial assistance to fire and emergency organizations serving communities in its service areas.

This year, approximately $75,000 will be awarded to 78 Illinois fire departments. Since the program was created in 2010, over 425 grants totaling over $417,000 has been awarded, according to a release.

“We are proud to partner with our local firefighters. Illinois American Water tests and operates every fire hydrant annually. We also maintain all of the hydrants, over 29,000 across the state, in our service areas,” Bruce Hauk, Illinois American Water President, said in a release. “We know the critical role water plays in protecting homes and businesses and we also know resources for our local heroes often runs short. Through this grant program, we are able to partner on another level and further support our local heroes.”

Illinois American Water’s Firefighter Grant Program awards grants to provide personal protective gear, communications equipment, firefighting tools, water handling equipment, training materials and classroom programs.

Homer Township Fire Chief Chris Locacius thanked Illinois American Water during the check presentation.

“The Homer Township Fire Protection District and Board of Trustees would like to thank Illinois American Water for awarding us this grant,” Locacius said in a release. “The safety vests that will be purchased will help keep the firefighters visible and safe while out protecting the community.”

Source: Will County News

Facebook insider warns of social media threat

Facebook insider warns of social media threat

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A former top Facebook employee is sounding the alarm about the social media company’s efforts to gather up endless amounts of user data with little regard for how the billions of people using the social network will be affected.

Sandy Parakilas, a former platform operations manager for Facebook, portrays the social network as a dystopian corporate data farm which views users as product in a recent op-ed published by The New York Times.

She writes:

Facebook knows what you look like, your location, who your friends are, your interests, if you’re in a relationship or not, and what other pages you look at on the web. This data allows advertisers to target the more than one billion Facebook visitors a day. It’s no wonder the company has ballooned in size to a $500 billion behemoth in the five years since its I.P.O.

The more data it has on offer, the more value it creates for advertisers. That means it has no incentive to police the collection or use of that data — except when negative press or regulators are involved. Facebook is free to do almost whatever it wants with your personal information, and has no reason to put safeguards in place.

And, according to Parakilas, if Facebook is handing your personal information over to bad actors, you aren’t likely to know. That’s because the social media platform is the primary source of news information for millions of its users– and it controls what news is allowed to spread on the platform.

Parakilas explains:

At a company that was deeply concerned about protecting its users, this situation would have been met with a robust effort to cut off developers who were making questionable use of data. But when I was at Facebook, the typical reaction I recall looked like this: try to put any negative press coverage to bed as quickly as possible, with no sincere efforts to put safeguards in place or to identify and stop abusive developers. When I proposed a deeper audit of developers’ use of Facebook’s data, one executive asked me, “Do you really want to see what you’ll find?”

The message was clear: The company just wanted negative stories to stop. It didn’t really care how the data was used.

The former Facebook insider says the social media company “needs to be regulated more tightly, or broken up so that no single entity controls all of its data.”

This is the second warning about Facebook’s major threat to privacy to come from a former company insider in recent weeks.

Former Facebook executive Sean Parker, warned that social media companies invest major resources into making their platforms as addictive as possible for users.

In an interview with Axios, Parker, the founding president of Facebook, said the top concern of social network design is determining: “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’”

“I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and … it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other … It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” he told the website.

Source: Will County News

Honey can heal your heart

Honey can heal your heart

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honey nuts

Is honey really that much better for you than regular sugar?

Yes. A thousand times, yes. Honey is the original sugar, and the original healer. It’s been used by the oldest system of medicine on earth, Ayurveda from India, for more than 5,000 years.

One of reasons honey is so much better is because it’s a more complex sugar. This means for your body to break it down, it will have to expend much more energy. That means your body is left to deal with far fewer calories.

Honey also contains trace elements — mineral and vitamins — gathered by bees when travelling from plant to plant. Because honey is not processed, these nutrients can actually benefit you nutritionally.

And the clinical benefits of honey are mounting.

Consider Tualang honey, named for the trees where the bees make their nests. In Malaysia, where the harvesters risk their lives getting the honey from nests because the trees grow as high as 300 feet, Tualang in considered a healing tonic.

Researchers at the School of Medical Sciences at the Universiti Sains in Malaysia designed a study to look at the heart-protective effects of Malaysian Tualang honey against heart attacks in animals.

In all the animals they pre-treated with Tualang honey, it had “significant protective effects on all of the investigated biochemical parameters.”

That’s a scientific way of saying that not only did no animal die of a heart attack, but when they tried to induce heart attacks in the animals, the honey protected them.

Even better, if your doctor is constantly hounding you about cholesterol, just eat Tualang honey. In the study I just mentioned, honey restored all the animals’ cholesterol to normal.

Honey appears to increase bile cholesterol excretion and lowers plasma cholesterol levels.

In another study done outside the U.S. realm of cholesterol orthodoxy, where only drugs are used to cut off cholesterol instead of keeping it healthy and normal, researchers added honey to the diets of 70 people at the Army Medical College in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Natural honey consumption not only blocked a rise in blood sugar (great for diabetics) but “significantly” decreased LDL and triglycerides and increased HDL in young healthy adults.

That makes honey more than just a cure for a sweet tooth.

I happen to keep a jar of raw, organic Manuka honey in my pantry because it has high levels of methylglyoxal, the antimicrobial that protects against infections and colds. But really, any of the darker honeys are good. The Journal of Apicultural Research found that darker honey has less water and more antioxidants than light-colored honey.

It’s also a good idea to buy locally produced honey. It will contain pollen spores picked up by the bees from local plants. According to the journal International Archives of Allergy & Immunology, this can increase your immunity to locally induced allergies by building up your natural immunity against them.

One tip for buying pure, unadulterated honey that you will not learn at any grocery store is to look at HMF (Hydroxymethylfurfural) level. Honey with too much HMF can mean it is adulterated with inverted sugars — i.e. white sugar or fructose.

These processed sugars are heated with acid, and industry then calls them “inverted sugars.” The heating creates HMF. Foods with added sugar or high fructose corn syrups can have levels of HMF up to 1,000 mg/kg. Look for a dark honey with less than 100 mg/kg of HMF.

Source: Will County News