Huawei conspiring with North Korea? #1383



Huawei has some very serious allegations that it is facing in providing export-controlled gear to North Korea and if found to be true would be a very serious issue. What say you? I am headed back to Michigan tomorrow so I look forward to working on the new studio.

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Microsoft Invests in and Partners with OpenAI



Microsoft has formed a multiyear partnership with OpenAI. Microsoft has invested $1 billion and will focus on building a platform that OpenAI will use to create new AI technologies.

Microsoft Corp., and OpenAI, two companies thinking deeply about the role of AI in the world and how to build secure, trustworthy and ethical AI to serve the public, have partnered to further extend Microsoft Azure’s capabilities in large-scale AI systems. Through this partnership, the companies will accelerate breakthroughs in AI and power OpenAI’s efforts to create artificial general intelligence (AGI). The resulting enhancements to the Azure platform will also help developers build the next generation of AI applications.

The partnership covers the following:

  • Microsoft and OpenAI will jointly build new Azure AI supercomputing technologies
  • OpenAI will port its services to run on Microsoft Azure, which it will use to create new AI technologies and deliver on the promise of artificial general intelligence
  • Microsoft will become OpenAI’s preferred partner for commercializing new AI technologies

The press release states that Microsoft and OpenAI will build a computational platform in Azure which will train and run increasingly advanced AI models, include hardware technologies that build on Microsoft’s supercomputing technology, and adhere to the two companies’ shared principals on ethics and trust. Their intent appears to be to create the foundation of advancements in AI to be implemented in a safe, secure and trustworthy way.

OpenAI states that they and Microsoft have a mission to ensure that artificial general intelligence (AGI) benefits all of humanity. This requires ensuring that AGI is deployed safely and securely; that society is well-prepared for its implications; and that its economic upside is shared.

I’m willing to believe that OpenAI and Microsoft are being honest in their motivations. My concern is that they may be unable to prevent the problem of having biased data unintentionally seeping into their AGI. I’m very curious to see precisely how the economic upside of their AGI is shared and who it is shared with.


Equifax Will Pay $575 Million as Part of Settlement With FTC



The Federal Trade Commission announced that Equifax Inc. has agreed to pay at least $575 million, and potentially up to $700 million, as part of a global settlement with the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and 50 states and territories, which alleged that the credit reporting company’s failure to take reasonable steps to secure its network led to a data breach in 2017 that affected approximately 147 million people.

As you may recall, Equifax discovered a data breach on July 29, 2017, but did not announce it until September of 2017. Hackers were able to access files that included personal information including dates of birth, Social Security numbers, addresses, and credit card numbers.

This is a nightmare scenario for not only a credit bureau, but also all the people who trusted Equifax to keep their personal information safe and secure. The FTC alleges that Equifax failed to patch its network after being alerted in March 2017 to a critical security vulnerability affecting its ACIS database. That is the database which handles inquires from consumers about their personal credit data.

The proposed settlement:

  • Equifax will pay $300 million to a fund that will provide affected consumers with credit monitoring services. The fund will also compensate consumers who bought credit or identity monitoring services from Equifax and paid other out-of-pocket expenses as a result of the 2017 data breach.
  • Equifax will add up to $125 million to the fund if the initial payment are not enough.
  • Beginning in January of 2020, Equifax will provide all U.S. consumers with six free credit reports each year for seven years – in addition to the one free annual credit report that all credit bureaus offer.
  • Equifax will pay $174 million to 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, as well as $100 million to CFPB in penalties.
  • The settlement also requires Equifax to obtain third-party assessments of its information security program every two years.

The European Commission Opened Investigation About Amazon



The European Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation to assess whether Amazon’s use of sensitive data from independent retailers who sell on Amazon’s marketplace is in breach of EU competition rules.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “European consumers are increasingly shopping online. E-commerce has boosted retail competition and brought more choice and better prices. We need to ensure that large online platforms don’t eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behavior. I have therefore decided to take a very close look at Amazon’s business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer, to assess its compliance with EU competition rules.”

The Commission will look into:

  • The standard agreements between Amazon and marketplace sellers, which allow Amazon’s retail business to analyze and use third party seller data. In particular, the Commission will focus on whether and how the use of accumulated marketplace seller data by Amazon as a retailer affects competition.
  • The role of the data in the selection of the winners of the “Buy Box” and the impact of Amazon’s potential use of competitively sensitive marketplace seller information on that selection. The “Buy Box” is displayed prominently on Amazon and allows customers to add items from a specific retailer directly into their shopping carts. Winning the “Buy Box” seems key for marketplace sellers as a vast majority of transactions are done through it.

The Commission states that there is no legal deadline for bringing and antitrust investigation to an end, and that it has informed Amazon and the competition authorities of Member States that it has opened proceedings in this case.

The Verge reported that the antitrust announcement happened on the same day that Amazon announced changes to its third-party seller service agreement in response to a separate antitrust investigation by German regulators.

It appears that we won’t know how the European Commission’s antitrust investigation will affect Amazon until the investigation ends. It is unclear how Amazon’s changes, made to appease German regulators, will affect the European Commission’s ruling.


Is FaceApp Storing Users’ Photos?



You’ve probably seen images of celebrities who have used FaceApp to see what they will look like when they are older. Before you give FaceApp a try, you should be aware of concerns about what the app could be doing with people’s photos.

The Guardian spoke with the FaceApp CEO, Yaroslav Goncharov, who said that only a single picture specifically chosen by the user would be uploaded from a phone and the app did not harvest a user’s entire photo library. The Guardian said this claim was backed by researchers.

Goncharov said the data was never transferred to Russia and was instead stored on US-controlled cloud computing services provided by Amazon and Google. The developer insisted that users had the right to request their photographs be removed from the server. Goncharov said his company does not share any user data with any third parties.

The Guardian rightly pointed out: “However, users ultimately have to rely on the word of the developer that the images are being removed from the system.”

CNN reported that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sent a security alert to 2020 presidential campaigns not to use FaceApp. Bob Lord, the DNC’s chief security officer, recommended “campaign staff and people in the Democratic ecosystem” should not use the app. He added “If you or any of your staff have already used the app, we recommend that they delete the app immediately.”

The Independent reported part of FaceApp’s terms of service:

“You grant FaceApp a perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform, and display your User Content and any name, username, or likeness provided in connection with your User Contenting in all media formats and channels now known or later developed without compensation to you.”

In addition, the Independent reported that FaceApp’s privacy policy “makes it clear that it is able to collect and store information from your phone and that it might be used for ads or other forms or marketing.”

It does not appear that the photos you give it are being harvested by Russia. That said, I personally don’t feel like FaceApp is making it clear to users how their photos will be used, or what information it can glean from their phones. This bothers me enough to steer clear of the app.


Back in Blubrry Studio #1382



I am back in the Blubrry studio and excited to get started putting it together to be able to do video in the next couple of weeks. Lots of work to make that happen and make it look good but I am excited that I am getting close to that reality. Work on the Michigan studio will begin in earnest mid-next week. Hope you enjoy the show lot’s to cover.

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Pluribus AI Bot Beat Pros in Six-Player Poker



Pluribus is the first AI bot capable of beating human experts in six-player no-limit Hold’em, the most widely played poker format in the world. It makes me think of AlphaZero, an AI system that taught itself how to master chess, shogi, and Go. AlphaZero was created by DeepMind.

Pluribus is a new AI bot that was created in a collaboration between Facebook and Carnegie Mellon University. In recent years, new AI methods have been able to beat top humans in poker if there is only one opponent. But developing an AI system capable of defeating elite players in full-scale poker with multiple opponents at the table was widely recognized as the key remaining milestone.

Pluribus has defeated pro poker players in both a “five AIs + one human player” format and a “one AI + five human players” format.

If each chip was worth a dollar, Pluribus would have won an average of about $5 per hand and would have made about $1,000/hour playing against five human players. These results are considered a decisive margin of victory by poker professionals.

There is a lot of detail in the Facebook post about Pluribus, including the AI bot’s blueprint strategy and information about how it stacked up against humans in the poker games. The post also includes some comments from the human professional poker players who share their thoughts about playing against Pluribus.

It has been said that robots are coming to take our jobs. In some industries, they already have pushed out the human workers. Should we now start to worry that robots may someday replace humans players in games? I suppose it might be possible that, in the future, AI bots will have replaced all the humans on eSports teams. That might be fun to watch once, but I think it would get really boring after that.