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Can Facebook’s Smart Glasses Be Smart About Security And Privacy?

Facebook
Is he looking at you or looking at personal information about you? CSA Images via Getty Images

Facebook’s smart glasses ambitions are in the news again. The company has launched a worldwide project dubbed Ego4D to research new uses for smart glasses.

In September, Facebook unveiled its Ray-Ban Stories glasses, which have two cameras and three microphones built in. The glasses capture audio and video so wearers can record their experiences and interactions.

The research project aims to add augmented reality features to smart glasses using artificial intelligence technologies that could provide wearers with a wealth of information, including the ability to get answers to questions like “Where did I leave my keys?” Facebook’s vision also includes a future where the glasses can “know who’s saying what when and who’s paying attention to whom.”

Several other technology companies like Google, Microsoft, Snap, Vuzix and Lenovo have also been experimenting with versions of augmented or mixed reality glasses. Augmented reality glasses can display useful information within the lenses, providing an electronically enhanced view of the world. For example, smart glasses could draw a line over the road to show you the next turn or let you see a restaurant’s Yelp rating as you look at its sign.

However, some of the information that augmented reality glasses give their users could include identifying people in the glasses’ field of view and displaying personal information about them. It was not too long ago that Google introduced Google Glass, only to face a public backlash for simply recording people. Compared to being recorded by smartphones in public, being recorded by smart glasses feels to people like a greater invasion of privacy.

As a researcher who studies computer security and privacy, I believe it’s important for technology companies to proceed with caution and consider the security and privacy risks of augmented reality.

Smartphones vs. smart glasses

Even though people are now used to being photographed in public, they also expect the photographer typically to raise their smartphone to compose a photo. Augmented reality glasses fundamentally disrupt or violate this sense of normalcy. The public setting may be the same, but the sheer scale and approach of recording has changed.

Such deviations from the norm have long been recognized by researchers as a violation of privacy. My group’s research has found that people in the neighborhood of nontraditional cameras want a more tangible sense of when their privacy is being compromised because they find it difficult to know whether they are being recorded.

Absent the typical physical gestures of taking a photo, people need better ways to convey whether a camera or microphone is recording people. Facebook has already been warned by the European Union that the LED indicating a pair of Ray-Ban Stories is recording is too small.

In the longer term, however, people might become accustomed to smart glasses as the new normal. Our research found that although young adults worry about others recording their embarrassing moments on smartphones, they have adjusted to the pervasive presence of cameras.

Smart glasses as a memory aid

An important application of smart glasses is as a memory aid. If you could record or “lifelog” your entire day from a first-person point of view, you could simply rewind or scroll through the video at will. You could examine the video to see where you left your keys, or you could replay a conversion to recall a friend’s movie recommendation.

Our research studied volunteers who wore lifelogging cameras for several days. We uncovered several privacy concerns – this time, for the camera wearer. Considering who, or what algorithms, might have access to the camera footage, people may worry about the detailed portrait it paints of them.

Who you meet, what you eat, what you watch and what your living room really looks like without guests are all recorded. We found that people were especially concerned about the places being recorded, as well as their computer and phone screens, which formed a large fraction of their lifelogging history.

Popular media already has its take on what can go horribly wrong with such memory aids. “The Entire History of You” episode of the TV series “Black Mirror” shows how even the most casual arguments can lead to people digging through lifelogs for evidence of who said exactly what and when. In such a world, it is difficult to just move on. It’s a lesson in the importance of forgetting.

Psychologists have pointed to the importance of forgetting as a natural human coping mechanism to move past traumatic experiences. Maybe AI algorithms can be put to good use identifying digital memories to delete. For example, our research has devised AI-based algorithms to detect sensitive places like bathrooms and computer and phone screens, which were high on the worry list in our lifelogging study. Once detected, footage can be selectively deleted from a person’s digital memories.

X-ray specs of the digital self?

However, smart glasses have the potential to do more than simply record video. It’s important to prepare for the possibility of a world in which smart glasses use facial recognition, analyze people’s expressions, look up and display personal information, and even record and analyze conversations. These applications raise important questions about privacy and security.

We studied the use of smart glasses by people with visual impairments. We found that these potential users were worried about the inaccuracy of artificial intelligence algorithms and their potential to misrepresent other people.

Even if accurate, they felt it was improper to infer someone’s weight or age. They also questioned whether it was ethical for such algorithms to guess someone’s gender or race. Researchers have also debated whether AI should be used to detect emotions, which can be expressed differently by people from difference cultures.

Augmenting Facebook’s view of the future

I have only scratched the surface of the privacy and security considerations for augmented reality glasses. As Facebook charges ahead with augmented reality, I believe it’s critical that the company address these concerns.

[Over 115,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.]

I am heartened by the stellar list of privacy and security researchers Facebook is collaborating with to make sure its technology is worthy of the public’s trust, especially given the company’s recent track record.

But I can only hope that Facebook will tread carefully and ensure that their view of the future includes the concerns of these and other privacy and security researchers.

This article has been updated to clarify that future Facebook augmented reality glasses will not necessarily be in the Ray-Ban Stories product line and that, while the company’s goals include identifying people, the Ego4D research data was not collected using facial recognition technology.The Conversation

Apu Kapadia, Professor of Computer Science, Indiana University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Can Gaming Transform The Way We Learn?

Generation Z
Professor Barry Dwolatzky

Generation Z are rapidly stepping onto the world stage. They are graduating from high school, entering the workforce and studying at tertiary education institutions. Referred to as digital natives, this generation grew up with technology and have no knowledge of life without it. They are globally connected, incredibly mobile, entrepreneurial and crave autonomy – especially when it comes to education where they want flexibility on how, where and when they learn.

Are our South African universities equipped to engage with and stimulate these digitally immersed learners? Wits University’s Emeritus Professor Barry Dwolatzky, who serves on the Computer Science Advisory Board of University of the People (UoPeople), a tuition-free, online university, says that conventional education models are starting to become superfluous in our modern age as more learners go online.

“The brick-and-mortar style of tertiary education is set to be disrupted in the near future with a move towards virtual learning. With so much material available through technology anytime, anywhere, it is no longer necessary to physically attend a lecture with hundreds of people. Learners can watch and learn online from the comfort of their homes,” he says.

But can digital learning be as effective and engaging as in-person education? Teaching by traditional methods with a blackboard and the teacher’s voice as focal point – or ‘chalk and talk’ – is already making way for more online learning spurred on by the global pandemic, while a more informal and interactive approach that allows learners to study at their own pace has long been acknowledged to inspire more effective learning.

This is where gamification comes in. By blending the online method with interactive learning techniques, a new way of learning is created, integrating game elements and game thinking in activities that are not games. Technology, then, becomes a tool for active, instead of passive, learning. Using game-based mechanics, aesthetics and critical thinking to engage people, it promotes studying and increases motivation.

While South Africa is not quite there yet with gamified education, with the digital divide a stumbling block to including lower income learners in online learning, University of the People is opening up opportunities with its tuition-free model and is on the right path to making gamification in higher education a reality. This is critically important for a country such as South Africa where unemployment among the youth is at a record high and which is in dire need of jobseekers with tertiary certificates or degrees. 

Prof. Dwolatzky sees huge merit in gamifying learning and believes disruptors in the education sector should tap into this method of learning to keep students motivated and minimise dropout rates.

“There is a lot to be learnt from gaming. There is no penalty for failure – if you lose you start again, taking the lessons learnt with you into the next game. There is no stigma attached to failure – it is seen as part of progressing. People play in virtual multinational groups and learn to collaborate and communicate with players from different cultures in order to jointly solve problems,” he explains.

World renowned game designer, author and researcher Jane McGonigal asserts that gamification works because gaming triggers emotions such as joy, excitement, curiosity and pride, among others. Gamification is being used in business with good results, offering hope. McGonigal believes that these techniques could be applied to revolutionise the ways through which higher education is delivered or assessed.

Gamification perfectly aligns with the flipped classroom concept, where traditional ideas about classroom activities are reversed, transforming learning into a hands-on, differentiated and even personalised learning experience. The theory is that students learn best when they have goals, targets and achievements to reach for in a way they perceive as fun. So, using game-based elements, such as virtual currency or point scoring, problem solving activities, peer competition, teamwork, score tables and advancements to higher levels help learners assimilate new information and test their knowledge.

As a computer science advisor to the online University of the People, Dwolatzky has insight into how students respond to online learning and what keeps them motivated. “Universities that recognise the connection between digital engagement and student experience will be ahead of the curve in educating online learners.”

At UoPeople, learners participate in online discussion forums, peer review groups and graded quizzes, all of which improve attitudes towards learning, Dwolatzky says. This is echoed by UoPeople President Shai Reshef: “Thanks to our strong online community, students make connections from all around the world. This is a resource for sharing information, wisdom and support as well as for building a vibrant, international network.”

President Reshef concludes: “When implemented correctly, online education is the solution to the crisis in higher education. It is not just putting lectures on Zoom; rather, there is an entire pedagogy involved. You need to build in meaningful interactions and create virtual resources for students to make a positive change in student behaviour.”

Mandela Remembrance Walk & Run Open To The World Again This Year

Mandela
Mandela-Logo

As an increasingly vaccinated world starts fighting its way back to a semblance of normality, it’s almost time again for the eagerly-anticipated annual Mandela Remembrance Walk and Run (MRWR), taking place this year on Sunday 5 December 2021.

The event, which honours and remembers iconic global statesperson Nelson Mandela, will again take place in hybrid fashion, with the physical form at Tshwane’s Union Buildings for a restricted number of 1000 people, and the virtual form being open to participants globally who wish to take part in this special event.

COVID restrictions forced the bulk of the event to take place virtually last year, which did however give participants from over 22 countries the chance to be part of the MRWR.

Entrants to the event – which has the options of a virtual 5 kilometre walk or 10 and 21 kilometre run – in 2020 came from as far afield as India, Kenya, Nigeria, Portugal, United States, Netherlands, Finland, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Guatemala and Sudan.

Sello Hatang, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF), is hoping that the event will continue to attract entrants from far and wide this year.

“Madiba was of course a global citizen, and it’s a bittersweet irony that the COVID global pandemic has allowed participants from all across the world to take part in this very special event honouring his life. This period has called on everyone to continue to be resilient and brave and we hope that as many people as possible will choose, safely, to end their year with us at this year’s Mandela Remembrance Walk and Run. It is always an event we eagerly look out for on the calendar and we encourage people to register,” said Hatang.

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela

The Nelson Mandela Foundation hosts the annual event in partnership with the Gauteng Provincial Government, with all proceeds going to support the work of the Foundation, which continues the social justice work of Madiba.

Started to commemorate Madiba’s passing on 5 December 2013, the popular annual event hosted from Tshwane’s Union Buildings will be held for the eighth time this year.

Participants for the walk and run can enter online at www.mandelawalkandrun.com.

It’s a social event for the fit, the not so fit and the completely unfit, so register and complete the event entry forms, walk or run your choice of distance  and you will be awarded a physical medal for taking part at the Union Buildings or a unique virtual medal and certificate to confirm your participation if you took part anywhere in the rest of South Africa or around the world.

Participants who choose to take part virtually can walk or run in their local surroundings, or at any number of sites which are significant to Madiba’s life – around the Union Buildings, to the Victor Verster Prison in Paarl where Madiba was released, Robben Island, or the Grand Parade in Cape Town where he made his first speech as a free person.

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela

Or people can run to Parliament, or in Soweto, Mvezo in the Eastern Cape, Houghton in Johannesburg, or the Howick site where he was captured in KwaZulu-Natal.

And there are of course many countries around the world which Madiba visited or in which he has been commemorated, which have a special place in his history and journey.

“Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we urge society to join this year’s Mandela Remembrance Walk and Run on our virtual platforms. The event remains a proud project we are part of, and remain committed in honouring our late President Mandela. As we celebrate his memory, may we pause and reflect on the massive contribution and impact he and his generation have had in shaping our current reality, and be inspired to carry on, from where they left off so we may grow our country” said Gauteng MEC for Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, Mbali Hlophe.

Entry fees for the Mandela Remembrance Walk and Run are as follows:

  • 10 km = R60
  • 5,10 or 21km Virtually = R60
  • US$5 – Runners from the rest of the African continent (all distances)
  • US$10 – International runners from the rest of the world (all distances)

All proceeds raised will be donated to the Nelson Mandela Foundation to continue promoting Madiba’s legacy.

No Load Shedding Expected Ahead Of Local Government Elections

eSKOM
Eskom

Eskom Chief Operating Officer (COO),  Jan Oberholzer, has assured the country that load shedding is not expected to be implemented during the upcoming Local Government Elections.

He was speaking during the power utility’s state of the system briefing on Monday.

The assurances from the COO come after concerns that the country may face power cuts during this weekend’s elections following two consecutive weekends of load shedding this month.

This as special votes are set to be cast on Saturday and Sunday, ahead of Election Day on Monday, 1 November 2021.

Oberholzer said he expects that the power utility will have enough generation capacity.

“We are confident that the way that we manage the system at this point in time is that we make use of some of the emergency [reserves] during the day but we recover it at night [which] assists us to reduce load shedding to a minimum. We have also had a good look at some of the opportunistic maintenance to see how we can plan that.

“Our distribution colleagues are working closely with the IEC [Electoral Commission] to make sure that electricity will be available. I have spoken to the generation, transmission and distribution colleagues to be on standby as from the end of this week until after the voting has taken place to make sure that wherever we do have challenges, Eskom will assist. We have emergency generators available, which will assist wherever we can. We are extremely committed as Eskom, to make sure that there are no electricity challenges going through the elections that are around the corner,” he said.

Maintenance of assets

Turning to longer-term sustainability, Oberholzer said Eskom is currently carrying out its maintenance plans even though this may add constraint to the power system and risk load shedding in the shorter term.

The utility has doubled the amount of maintenance it has carried out since 2019/2020 and will ramp it up as peak maintenance season hits in the summer. The maintenance plan has managed to reduce the amount of days that load shedding has been implemented.

However, Oberholzer has warned that a slowdown in this plan will impact the long term reliability of Eskom’s assets but that taking all generating units off the grid is not a viable option either.

“[This is] to make sure that what we have available [is in equilibrium to the demand].This is why we have decided – although it has a negative impact on available capacity – we will continue with the reliability programme.

“What makes it extremely difficult is the capacity that we have available on the constrained system and the demand of the country…that’s making it difficult for us to take more units off and maintain them properly,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za

Four African Apps Win In Huawei’s Apps UP 2021 Competition

Huawei
Huawei Apps UP winners i

Huawei has announced the winners of the 2021 edition of the Huawei HMS App Innovation Contest (Apps UP), with four African Apps being recognised and celebrated. Coresthetics walked away with one of the Best App Awards in the Middle East and Africa region, along with $15,000 in prize money.

UniAPS bagged an Excellent Student Award, with $5,000 prize money, while Droppa and Secura received Honourable Mention Awards, which each come with $3,000 prize money.

“The Apps UP contest is a great initiative from Huawei, and I hope that we continue to encourage app developers to make apps that are beneficial to society.  One advice that I have for developers would be to think more about your onboarding experience, and let users test it out to see what the app does and understand the problems they may face,” said Ahmad Abugosh, an Apps UP MEA judge and Director of Marketing & Learning Programs, AstroLabs Middle East & Africa.

Other award winners include Real Car Race Game 3D: Fun New Car Games 2020, LittleAstro, and Scary Teacher 3D, each winning a Best Game Award, while Blind Assistant, Limit, and Emergency Buddy conquered the Best Social Impact App Award category. These winners will each be rewarded with $15,000.

The 2021 edition attracted more than 4,000 teams from over 200 countries entering the Huawei HMS App Innovation Contest (Apps UP). All submissions were carefully evaluated based on their innovation, social value, business value, and User Experience (UX) by a jury consisting of leading industry experts. The competition concluded on October 10 with the public voting stage; public votes accounted for 10% of the final results.

The winners of the eight categories were:

  • Best App Award ($15,000 each): WashyWash, Handyman Calculation, and Coresthetics.
  • Best Game Award ($15,000 each): Real Car Race Game 3D: Fun New Car Games 2020, LittleAstro, and Scary Teacher 3D.
  • Best Social Impact App Award ($15,000 each): Blind Assistant, Limit, and Emergency Buddy.
  • Excellent Student Award ($5,000 each): Handyman Calculator, UniAPS, and The Muslim Diary
  • Honourable Mention Award ($3,000 each): Quran University an Educational Online Learning, STEPPI, Droppa, Secura, and MyTV+.
  • Tech Women’s Award ($5,000 each):
  • Best HMS Core Innovation Award ($5,000 each): Blind Assistant, Limit, and Mobile Gamepad.
  • All-Scenario Coverage Award ($5,000 each):

Adam Xiao, Managing Director, HMS and Consumer Cloud Service for HUAWEI Consumer Business Group MEA, said, “Creating functional, smooth, and intelligent applications is not an easy task, and through Huawei HMS App Innovation Contest (Apps UP), we aim to reward the developer industry for their outstanding contribution. This year’s competition was extraordinary due to the quality of apps submitted, and the new categories added garnered tremendous interest, particularly the Women’s Tech Award that saw over 600 submissions globally. We want to congratulate all the winners for their impressive submissions that aim to benefit our societies in different areas.”

The 2021 edition of the Huawei HMS App Innovation Contest (Apps UP) was launched in June and lasted more than 100 days. Submissions came in from all regions including China, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. The competition’s total compensation summed up to US$1 million, with a reward of US$200,000 in cash prizes for each participating region.

The winners were announced at Huawei’s flagship annual developer conference, HDC, which saw a line-up of sessions exploring HarmonyOS, smart homes, smart offices, HMS Core and more on Huawei’s efforts in building a new ecosystem of limitless possibilities. By the end of September 2021, the number of developers in Huawei’s ecosystem has reached 5.1 million, and the number of apps integrated with HMS Core has exceeded 173,000.

Jo’burg In About-Turn, Load-Shedding Is Back

load-shedding
load-shedding

Eskom has strong-armed the City of Johannesburg to agree to implement load-shedding from Monday night after initially refusing to do so.

At the weekend City Power – the City of Johannesburg’s power utility – refused to implement the load-shedding schedule imposed by Eskom.

Johannesburg’s new Mayor Mpo Moerane boldly declared he was “prepared to go the legal route to halt Eskom’s blanket heavy-handedness”.

But in an about-turn on Monday Eskom and City Power said they have agreed to work together in the national interest and to protect the national grid.

“City Power will follow and implement the directive of the System Operator, and implement load-shedding on its customers in the City of Johannesburg as required,” said a joint statement from the two entities.

“The collective understanding by both entities is to protect the national power grid while reducing the impact of load-shedding.

“Eskom and City Power will continue searching for a lasting technical solution which would result in City Power customers in the City of Johannesburg being partially excluded from load-shedding.”

City Power has entered into a power purchase agreement with the Kelvin Power Station, which will enable it to draw additional capacity to offset the first two stages of load-shedding.

“After concluding the transaction, City Power wrote to Eskom a few days ago requesting to be excluded from load-shedding at Stages 1 and 2,” said Isaac Mangena, the City Power spokesperson.

“Technical teams from both Eskom and City Power will continue to consider the technical aspects of the Kelvin Power Station and verify the additional capacity that can be added to the national grid.

“The teams will also explore technical possibilities that may see the City of Johannesburg partially or fully shielded from load-shedding in future.”

City Of Jo’burg Refuses To Load-Shed Residents

Eskom
Eskom. Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay

The new mayor of Johannesburg Mpho Moerane has refused to implement Eskom’s load-shedding that was supposed to kick in on Saturday night.

Shortly after Eskom announced it was implementing load-shedding to beef up reserve capacity, Moerane issued a statement rejecting the schedule.

Only in the job for a few weeks, Mayor Moerane has put his foot down and refused to implement Eskom’s impromptu load-shedding schedule..

The mayor said Eskom’s load-shedding move was “an unwarranted decision that can not be left unchallenged.”

Eskom said it was implementing Stage 2 load-shedding from 21:00 Saturday until 05:00 on Monday in order to replenish emergency generation reserves for the week ahead.

For this to happen in Johannesburg, Eskom needed the city to do the actual switching on an off, but the mayor refused to do so.

“It looks like Eskom has no intention of serving the people of Johannesburg better after we as a municipality have done everything within our reach to ensure security of power supply,” said the mayor, just days ahead of the 1 November local government elections.

“We have recently gone as far as assisting Eskom after the national utility claimed it had some mini substations and transformers unrepaired for months in mostly poor communities in Johannesburg because it was out of stock.”

The mayor said the City of Johannesburg was “prepared to go the legal route to halt Eskom’s blanket heavy-handedness”.

SA Government To Intervene in Temporary Spectrum Impasse

ICASA
ICASA

The South African government plans to intervene in the impasse between mobile network operators and the country’s communications watchdog, ICASA, over the expiry of the temporary spectrum.

 “The minister [Khumbudzo Ntshavheni] is engaging with all parties to find an amicable solution in the matter,” Communications department spokesperson Tlali Tlali told the Business Times.

He added that “the department’s view is that the courts should be an option of last resort to be explored only in the event all other efforts do not yield desirable outcomes”.

The temporary radio frequency spectrum was first assigned by means of an expedited ITA during April 2020 on the initial declaration of the National State of Disaster, which in turn was occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

ICASA has since twice extended the duration of the temporary radio frequency spectrum assignment, with the last expiry date being 31 August 2021.

South Africa’s operators are expected to give back temporary radio frequency spectrum assignments.

The country’s communications watchdog said in August that it had resolved that the temporary radio frequency spectrum assigned to licensees would now have to be returned by no later than 30 November 2021.

But this month, Telkom, joined by MTN, filed court papers in a bid to stop Icasa from withdrawing all the temporary spectrum, arguing that the country is still under a state of disaster regulations and warning that if the temporary arrangement is terminated it will disadvantage consumers as there will be network interruptions.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and businesses have been calling on the regulator to expedite the permanent licensing of spectrum as it is critical to SA’s economic growth.

For more read: Government intervenes in temporary spectrum standoff

Ex-Cop Found Guilty Of Six Murders For Insurance

Rosemary Ndlovu
Ex-Cop Found Guilty Of Six Murders For Insurance

Former cop Nomia Rosemary Ndlovu was on Friday found guilty of six counts of murder of her relatives and lover whom she had clandestinely insured with herself as a benefactor.

Judge Ramarumo Monama pronounced his guilty ruling in the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court, Johannesburg, after a lengthy judgment.

He said in the last 79 years South Africa had not known such a murder streak.

Judge Monama also found Ndlovu guilty of attempted murder and defrauding the insurance of about R1.4 million.

All the while the 46-year-old accused made facial expressions suggesting she was in pain or struggling to stay awake.

Occasionally she adjusted the grey shoulder wrap she wore, rubbed her earring, or simply bent her head to the side.

Recounting the deadly chicanery Ndlovu was up to, Judge Monama said in one instance the accused telephoned a relative that she did not see regularly.

Ndlovu told her farmworker relative she wanted to send her R200 to buy a birthday cake and needed to know her date of birth.

Using this information Ndlovu was able to open insurance on the life of the relative, who is now one of the six deceased.

She collected the insurance money as she did in all the six instances when her relative and her lover, Maurice Mabasa, were murdered at different times.

Ndlovu is also accused of the murders of her sister, Audrey, and nephew, Brilliant, for an insurance payout of more than R1 million.

The accused was arrested after an alleged hitman, Njabulo Kunene, had a change of heart and reported Ndlovu to the police.

Ndlovu had allegedly recruited Kunene to kill her sister and children by setting alight their house in Bushbuckridge.

A subsequent police sting recorded Ndlovu on video plotting the murders of her sister and five children. The video was played in court during the trial.

Ndlovu, who was also accused of plotting to kill seven more relatives with the hopes of claiming insurance money, now faces life behind bars.

The accused will be sentenced at a later date.