Week in Review: March 10, 2016

by Muira McCammon

China: Government Building Platform to Facilitate Predictive Policing

Chinese authorities are reportedly developing advanced software to predict criminal activity. Patrick Tucker of Defense One wrote, “Beijing is building software to predict instability before it arises, based on volumes of data mined from Chinese citizens about their jobs, pastimes, and habits.” Wu Manqing, a representative of the company hired to build the predictive policing software, explained that it would create a “unified information environment.” Manqing, an engineer at China Electronics Technology, revealed that the program would flag a range of suspicious behavior. For example, if a resident of a poor rural village with no overseas relatives received a substantial sum of money, the software would detect the deposit. The aim of the platform according to Chinese authorities would be to identify terrorists before they strike. Critics of the software have already compared it to the technology used in the 2002 Hollywood film Minority Report.

Google: The Company Extends the Right to be Forgotten to Google.com

In the aftermath of a European Court of Justice ruling in 2014, Google opted to remove some links from its sites in the European Union, such as Google.co.uk and Google.de. However, the company did not waiver in its unwillingness to incorporate the Right to Be Forgotten in its maintenance of Google.com. Last Friday, March 4, 2016, the company indicated that it would change its policy and use geolocation signals (i.e. IP addresses) to restrict access to delisted URLs on all of Google’s search domains, including Google.com. Peter Fleischer, legal counsel to Google, explained how the decision in a blog post: “So for example, let’s say we delist a URL as a result of a request from John Smith in the United Kingdom. Users in the UK would not see the URL in search results for queries containing [john smith] when searching on any Google Search domain, including google.com. Users outside of the UK could see the URL in search results when they search for [john smith] on any non-European Google Search domain." 

Russia: Government’s Content Removal Requests According to Twitter

The latest transparency report released by Twitter indicates that the number of Russian requests to take down content grew more than 25 times in the second half of 2015. In the report, Twitter disclosed the following information: “We received 1,729 removal requests from the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) regarding content determined to violate Russian laws, such as Federal Law 149-FZ. We withheld 14 accounts and 82 individual Tweets (pertaining to 74 accounts), which included content reported for promoting suicide and content posted by the controversial group known as Right Sector.” Russia had the second highest number of removal requests with Turkey maintaining its lead with 1,761 requests. Twitter noted that it did not withhold content in a number of situations, when Russian authorities requested that the company intervene: “We did not take action on reports of Tweets linking to YouTube videos criticizing the Russian government, including a Tweet from a prominent figure from a Russian opposition party. We also did not take action on reports of content related to the Charlie Hebdo Twitter account, Tweets supporting the band Pussy Riot, or on a Tweet citing a book criticizing Lenin and Stalin.”

South Korea: Google’s Artificial Intelligence Machine Defeats World-Renowned Go Player

On Wednesday, March 2016, Lee Sedol, a highly-acclaimed South Korean player of Go, was defeated by his opponent, an artificial-intelligence (AI) program designed by Google. Go isn’t played much in the United States, but it has gained popularity in the past decade. Two players take turns putting tiles on a tabletop board; their primary aim is to gain territory by arranging their tiles in specific patterns. After his defeat, Sedol admitted, “I didn’t know AlphaGo would play such a perfect game.” This was not AlphaGo’s first upset: it had defeated a European Go champion in October 2015. “History is really being made here,” said commentator Chris Garlock, as the first game in the series started. Researchers spent the last two years developing AlphaGo in an AI lab in London. The match will extend through next Tuesday, as AlphaGo and Lee Sedol will face off in a total of five games. “This is a lot more attention than Go usually gets,” reflected one of the match’s English language commentators, Michael Redmond. The story has been covered extensively in [FR], [UK], [IT], and other media outlets.

United Nations: High Commissioner for Human Rights Weighs in on Apple-FBI Standoff

On June 16, 2014, member states of the United Nations General Assembly unanimously approved Prince Zeid Raad Zeid al-Hussein of Jordan as the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, but many human rights activists worried that he would not work as a staunch advocate of the freedom of expression. This week Zeid, high commissioner for human rights at the United Nations took a position that has surprised many proponents of encryption: he expressed support for Apple. “In order to address a security-related issue related to encryption in one case, the authorities risk unlocking a Pandora’s Box that could have extremely damaging implications for the human rights of many millions of people, including their physical and financial security,” the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights remarked in a statement Friday. He added, “The FBI deserves everyone’s full support in its investigation into the San Bernardino killings. This was an abominable crime, and no one involved in aiding or abetting it should escape the law. But this case is not about a company – and its supporters -- seeking to protect criminals and terrorists, it is about where a key red line necessary to safeguard all of us from criminals and repression should be set.”