Rolling out some new Blogs
Google may have just ushered in an era of ‘quantum supremacy’
Google says that it has achieved quantum supremacy, a major milestone towards the development of quantum computers. At least, it seems to have. The announcement came in a paper that was reportedly published on the NASA website before being pulled, according to the The Financial Times which retrieved a copy before it disappeared. “To our knowledge,” Google’s paper read, “this experiment marks the first computation that can only be performed on a quantum processor.” The Google research paper was titled “Quantum supremacy using a programmable superconducting processor.”
Google’s quantum computer was reportedly able to solve a calculation — proving the randomness of numbers produced by a random number generator — in 3 minutes and 20 seconds that would take the world’s fastest traditional supercomputer, Summit, around 10,000 years. This effectively means that the calculation cannot be performed by a traditional computer, making Google the first to demonstrate quantum supremacy.
Despite hitting the milestone, it’s likely that quantum computers capable of tackling practical tasks are still years away. However, once developed, the computers are expected to have huge implications for areas as diverse as cryptography, chemistry, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Google expects the power of quantum computers to expand at a “double exponential rate,” whereas traditional computers have long been pegged to Moore’s Law, which saw power double every 18 months or so.
Google previously said that it hoped to achieve quantum supremacy by the end of 2017, however the 72-qubit system it developed proved too difficult to control. Following this, Google developed a 53-qubit design called Sycamore, which was used to achieve the recent breakthrough.
However, the significance of Google’s announcement was disputed by at least one competitor. Speaking to the FT, IBM’s head of research Dario Gil said that Google’s claim to have achieved quantum supremacy is “just plain wrong.” Gil said that Google’s system is a specialized piece of hardware designed to solve a single problem, and falls short of being a general-purpose computer, unlike IBM’s own work.
IBM is a fierce competitor of Google’s in the race to develop quantum computers. Earlier this year it unveiled the Q System One. Although it was still far from being a practical computing device, IBM’s breakthrough was to make it much more reliable than previous quantum machines. Quantum computing chips are very unstable, and prone to interference from heat and electricity. IBM’s new design was able to minimize this interference, the company said.
Others were more optimistic about the development. “Google’s recent update on the achievement of quantum supremacy is a notable mile marker as we continue to advance the potential of quantum computing,” the director of quantum hardware at Intel, Jim Clake, said. “We along with the industry are working to quickly advance all of those areas to realize the true potential of quantum computing. And while development is still at mile one of this marathon, we strongly believe in the potential of this technology.“
The University of Southern California’s Daniel Lidar also praised the way Google’s system reduced the problem of “crosstalk,” which is where a quantum computer’s qubits interfere with one another. “[Google has] demonstrated a path to scalable quantum computing,” he told the FT, “Once you have a fully error-corrected quantum computer, the sky’s the limit.”
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
October 2019, CICO writer
Diversity Trainings Usually Fail. Here’s What You Can Do To Create Lasting Changes
While diversity and inclusion trainings have been around for a considerable amount of time, the focus of these trainings and workshops has evolved and changed over time. Companies now invest millions of dollars on these trainings as well as dedicating valuable time and resources to better understand how to eradicate bias in each part of the employment process. Unconscious bias trainings have also become extremely popular in the last decade and the go-to when companies are facing public scandals; Starbucks and Sephora are just a few examples. But with the rise in popularity of these types of trainings, it’s imperative to understand how to derive the return on investment that companies are expending. Researchhas shown that many of the diversity trainings that are currently conducted are ineffective. In addition, organizations are struggling to understand how to overcome the implicit biases that impact employment procedures and processes. With greater recognition comes greater doubt and skepticism.
regarding the effectiveness of these bias trainings. There has also been a lot of pushback and resistance to these trainings. Recently, a CBS News investigation revealed that many police departments across the United States are struggling to overcome racial bias. What can be done to ensure that the trainings and workshops that are implemented to overcome bias and discrimination are actually effective? Training 4 Transformation (T4T) might be the answer. Brandon Lee is one of the founders of T4T, a company that works with government, private, civic, and non-profit sectors to foster a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion. Brandon sat down with Forbes to discuss what sparked his desire to start T4T, the unique strategies that can be used to address bias, and why he decided to write a book to help bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community.
Janice Gassam: What was the catalyst to you starting T4T?
Brandon Lee: I would have to say the catalyst would begin with…the birth of my daughters. I had a son that was born in 2012 and twin daughters that were born in 2015 but for my daughters I had the opportunity to stay home with them and at the time…there were a lot of videos on social media in regards to police-involved shootings with Black and brown community members…there was a lot going on and I remember vividly Oscar Grant because that occurred in Oakland a few years prior and then Trayvon Martin, and then Michael Brown, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, but then Sandra Bland definitely struck a chord because she was stopped on a highway next to a historically Black college, Prairie View A&M University, where my grandfather attended college and graduated…I used to drive up those same roads to college myself…because I was home with my girls, seeing women, transgender, Black and brown, Native women, being treated similarly [to] how I felt targeted growing up in Oakland, that’s what invoked me to do something.
Gassam: In your experiences, what are some best practices when conducting bias workshops and trainings?
Lee: I would have to say that many of our workshops culminate in some style of role-playing activity, depending on the topic. We focus on bringing law enforcement and community members together in what we refer to as community-conscious policing workshops. An example in a role-play—I think the two significant things are being able to participate as first the observer. So, participants in a small group can act out a real-life scenario…similar to meditation where you’re being the observer—you’re not the actor in it. You’re able to press pause and ask for collective wisdom from the group on how to navigate a certain scenario and you can do it with less emotional attachments and really glean some really useful insights that may be useful moving forward. The other piece is to actually be the role player, where you’re able to actually practice these insights that you’ve gleaned and see how someone might respond to that…I think role-playing has been really critical in helping folks see other perspectives.
Gassam: A lot of times people say it’s really hard to change deeply engrained values and long-held beliefs. How do you go about trying to shift people’s perspectives?
Lee: That’s a great question…we believe in the collective responsibility and the culture of reciprocity…what impacts one impacts another…we’re all interconnected one way or another. In that perspective, we don’t spend a lot of time with those that are on the polar ends of the spectrum, meaning folks that are so engrained in their racists ideas that they’re not open to any other perspectives. That’s not where we spend a lot of our time and energy. We’re more focused on those that we refer to as…in the middle. I’m thinking of the work of Dr. Martin Luther King and him focusing on people who are working every single day, just trying to raise their families the best they can with what they know. This is the area where we’ve found success and where we spend our time and really trying to provide the tools, the spaces, for folks to be able to challenge their own ideas and biases and ultimately we build a shared vision of community…what we found when we trained law enforcement and community together and we evaluated the evaluations: trauma was the theme that seemed to be recurring. Whether it was based on historical traumas such as racism or growing up in a house of substance abuse. So, folks were engaging with one another through these filters that really stemmed from different levels of trauma. In order to make any systemic change in these types of environments, it’s been important for us to have more of a healing-centered and multi-pronged approach. In the context of the work that we offer, with community-conscious policing workshops, we don’t just engage the community directly for the sake of doing so but we tailor the curriculum to gain their insights to then be able to go back with the leadership of law enforcement and infuse the insights that we learned from them…so that the department gets to reflect more of what the community desires.
The one [time] trainings probably aren’t going to cause a paradigm shift culturally, but we like to view it as watering seeds and there needs to be constant and regular opportunities for seeds to be watered where people can come together and confront whatever biases and heal from the trauma.
Gassam: Why do you think so many diversity trainings and workshops fail to produce long-term results?
Lee: Many diversity trainings don’t require participants to shift their approach to problem-solving…emotional intelligence is a core of 21st century leadership. Trainings need to be able to cultivate that skill in particular. Many diversity trainings…are simply outdated. They’re kind of a one-size-fits-all and I think that’s the reason why many of these don’t make an impact. They’re useful to check boxes, but when it comes to cultural paradigm shifts, I think that’s where it meets challenges. It requires an organization’s investment to sustain change over years by shifting beliefs.
I’m here to uplift not to tear down and not to take away from but I think what was really revealing to me was…I began to understand the Implicit Association Test from Harvard University, which is really at the core of many of these implicit bias trainings. It just seems as though…there was a disconnect between the intended use versus the public perception…it seemed like there was a “causal link” between implicit bias and discriminatory behavior. The more that we begin to unpack that [we find that] the causal link is actually very weak, if there at all. Researchers from the University the Wisconsin at Madison, Harvard University and the University of Virginia examined about 500 studies over 20 years, involving about 81,000 participants that have used the Implicit Association Test and other similar measures. The two things that stood out to me was that the correlation between implicit bias and discriminatory behavior appears weaker than previously thought and they also concluded that there is very little evidence that changes in implicit bias have anything to do with changes in person’s behavior…it kind of brings us back to the drawing board thinking ‘what next?’
There was a police department that had collected roughly 2,500 complaints over four or five years regarding implicit bias and not one of them had been founded out of 2,500. As someone who has run a lawsuit against a police department, I won my lawsuit because there was a violation of police misconduct. Yes, racial profiling was a part of it but that was difficult for me to prove in the court of law. These are the reasons why there is a disconnect between what is being offered and what’s needed and essentially that is the gap that we have to step up and fill.
Gassam: So, it’s clear that there is a gap in understanding that you are hoping to fill. You have a new book, Best Practices in Community Conscious Policing, that came out this past summer. Could you share with the Forbes readers a little bit more about the new book and what readers can expect?
Lee: I think what’s important about [the book] is, it’s an educational resource that culminates in 25 recommendations of what I would consider to be “best practices” in community conscious policing from around the country…and around the world. [Much] of it has to do with responding to the use of excessive force and bias in policing. What’s motivated me to write this book and to take my time to do it as best that I could was based on my own experience of being racially profiled and having to fight for my own civil rights…and also being able to transfer my energy and skills to being an advocate for others and their civil rights…being able to build bridges between community and institutions like law enforcement. The lived experience, my professional experience and my educational experience all culminates. I really hope that this effort prevents others from experiencing harm or violence…I hope that it aids in reducing trauma and providing some healing in the world.
October 2019, CICO writer Janice Gassam – Staff Reporter.
To Address Inequity, Let’s Do More Than Eliminate ‘Gifted And Talented’ Programs
New York City has an extensive network of programs for “gifted and talented” students, most of whom turn out to be white or Asian. A new report aims to make the system more equitable by getting rid of the programs, but it overlooks a root cause of the imbalance in academic achievement.
Earlier this year, there was a wave of outrage over New York’s system of selective schools when its crown jewel, Stuyvesant High School, admitted only seven black students into a freshman class of 895. (Black and Hispanic students make up nearly 70% of the city’s school system but just 10% of those admitted to any of its selective schools.) But criticism of both the selective schools and the gifted-and-talented programs that feed them had been brewing for a while. By late 2017, it was strong enough that Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed a task force—the School Diversity Advisory Group—to figure out what could be done.
This week, the SDAG released a report that is creating a fresh wave of outrage—but from a different constituency. The panel recommended that the city get rid of its screening and tracking systems, stop using the term “gifted and talented,” and create “equitable enrichment alternatives”—because, the members explained, “we believe all students deserve to be challenged.”
No one will disagree that our education system should be equitable and that all students should be challenged. But the panel’s proposed solution will inevitably enrage the students and families—admittedly, most of them white or Asian—who have counted on being able to escape the city’s many struggling public schools by winning admission to its relatively few selective ones. In the case of low-income Asian families, that escape valve has come at a high cost: parents scrimp to pay for academic afterschool programs, where their kids spend many hours each week, year after year.
Aside from the political obstacles, the SDAG’s well-intentioned prescriptions for reform are no more likely to work than another recent attempt to create educational equity by fiat. In a mirror image of the panel’s recommendation to ban gifted-and-talented programs, several high schools in the largest school district in Maryland have decided to eliminate standard courses and put all students in honors classes. The reason: the standard classes were filled with black and Hispanic students, and the honors classes with white and Asian ones. Similar imbalances are evident in school systems across the country.
In New York, gifted and talented programs begin in kindergarten, which has led to test prep for four-year-olds. The SDAG panel is right that—with the possible exception of true prodigies—young children should not be labeled and tracked in this way. But the SDAG report only denounces elementary-level tracking that “separates students by ‘academic ability’ into different classrooms (i.e., an elementary school honors program).” It overlooks a far more pervasive problem: the tracking that goes on within virtually every elementary classroom in the country. It’s particularly entrenched in New York City, home to some of its leading advocates.
This widespread system of tracking is known as leveled reading. The theory is that each child has an individual “reading level” that can be determined by testing and could be years below her grade level. Children spend hours every week reading a random variety of books at their own levels—basically, easy enough to read on their own—supposedly practicing comprehension “skills” that are largely meaningless. Sometimes children read at a low level because they haven’t been taught to decode words in a way that is likely to work; sometimes they can decode but lack the background knowledge and vocabulary that would enable them to understand what they’re reading. Often, it’s a combination of both.
Whatever the reason, the children who start out at low reading levels are generally condemned to stay there. In most elementary schools—and especially those where test scores are low—the curriculum has been narrowed to math and reading. The result is that children who are the most dependent on school to build the knowledge that is crucial to reading comprehension—children from less educated families, who are unlikely to acquire that kind of knowledge at home—are the least likely to get it there. Without an opportunity to gain knowledge, the low readers continue reading simple books, with low-level vocabulary and concepts, while the higher readers enjoy access to increasingly more sophisticated texts. In effect, the system maintains and reinforces existing inequities.
The SDAG panel dismisses the exams that determine admission to gifted and talented programs and selective high schools as though they were nothing more than arbitrary barriers erected to keep out deserving low-income children of color. Repeatedly, the report attributes the higher test scores of whites and Asians (including many from low-income families) to “test prep,” as though the tests had nothing to do with predicting students’ academic performance.
The tests may not be perfect—I haven’t seen them—and using a single test to determine admission sounds unwise (although the switch to that criterion was intended to advance equity by eliminating possible bias in teachers’ recommendations). But the reading tests presumably assess what virtually all standardized reading tests primarily measure: not general comprehension or “test prep” skills, but general knowledge and vocabulary. If students lack the knowledge to understand the passages on the tests, they can’t demonstrate their “skills.” And broad knowledge and vocabulary are crucial not only to doing well on tests but to doing well in school and, in most cases, in life.
That’s not to say that New York’s education system is fine the way it is. The SDAG panel is undoubtedly right that there are many African-American and Hispanic students in the system who would benefit from greater academic challenges and whose potential is being wasted. But the report has nothing more specific to propose than “creative, equitable enrichment alternatives” that the city’s community school districts should be encouraged to “develop” and “implement.”
“This is not about lowering the bar,” city schools chancellor Richard A. Carranza said when announcing the report on Tuesday, “it’s about giving all of our students what they need to meet the bar.” But what is that? You wouldn’t know it from the report, but the answer is pretty clear.
Despite many months of study by the panel’s 40 members and repeated claims that its recommendations are based in research, the report fails to mention the scientific evidence that reading comprehension—and, by extension, much of academic success—is largely dependent on knowledge. And the report skirts the question of why low-income Asian students often do so well on tests; if the SDAG members had looked into the afterschool programs so many of those students attend, they might have found they don’t just do test prep—they build knowledge.
While encouraging districts to create new approaches and calling for research on “enrichment curricula,” the report also fails to note that several such curricula already exist. Instead of the standard approach of focusing on largely illusory comprehension skills, these newly developed elementary literacy curricula aim to build children’s knowledge. They guide teachers to spend a couple of weeks or more on a particular topic—rather than choosing books on random topics because they lend themselves to demonstrating “skills”—giving kids a chance to absorb information and vocabulary.
Schools that have adopted such curricula have found that virtually all children—including those of color, those from low-income families, and those diagnosed with learning disabilities—blossom and thrive. Those classrooms are the very ones the report seems to be calling for, where children at a range of ability levels join in rich discussions of complex, challenging material.
There may always be a place for selective schools or accelerated programs at the high school level. Students inevitably develop different interests and abilities, and those who are ready to zoom ahead may at some point need a particular environment to allow them to do so. But if we provide all students with a solid foundation of both knowledge and skills in elementary and middle school, those from less educated families—who, in our society, are often those from black and Hispanic families—will have a fighting chance of demonstrating they would benefit from a rarefied environment in high school. And those who don’t make it into that group, or simply choose not to apply, would still be equipped to get a solid secondary education and lead fulfilling and productive lives.
September 2019, CICO writer Nathalie Wexter – Staff Reporter.
We Must Curtail Online Manipulation Before It’s Too Late: Here Are Four Things We Can Do
A new Netflix documentary called The Great Hack explores the Cambridge Analytica scandal from the perspective of several of the company’s former employees. Its title and narrative suggest we focus on how the personal information of up to 87 million Facebook users wound up in Britain at a company whose mission was to support ultra-conservative causes like Brexit and political candidates like Donald Trump. The activity was so egregious that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission levied a $5 billion dollar fine against Facebook, the largest ever for a technology company. But it’s not the hack that should concern us, but the ability of all kinds of bad actors to manipulate us in ways that are not in our best interests.
There’s a plentiful supply of such manipulators and they are working relentlessly to impose their hidden agendas. In fact, on August 1, Facebook announced that it had just removed 259 Facebook accounts, 102 Facebook Pages, five Facebook Groups, four Facebook Events and 17 Instagram accounts for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” that focused primarily on a number of countries in the Middle East. According to Facebook, the people behind this network were connected to marketing firms in Egypt and the UAE. They used compromised and fake accounts to run Pages, disseminate content, comment in Groups, impersonate public figures, pose as local news organizations in targeted countries and post frequently about local news, politics and elections. Said Facebook, “We’re constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people.”
Manipulation isn’t new. Its godfather was Edward Bernays, the “father of public relations,” an Austrian-American whose pioneering techniques for influencing public opinion and behavior date all the way back to the first decade of the 20th century. (Fittingly, he was a double nephew of Sigmund Freud.) During World War I, Bernays worked with the U.S. Committee on Public Information crafting propaganda campaigns to build support among Latin American business leaders for the war. When Bernays realized that the wartime techniques for swaying opinion could be applied in peace time, war propaganda evolved into modern public relations.
The American Tobacco Company approached Bernays to help stimulate demand among women for cigarettes at a time when smoking was considered masculine. Getting women to light up would double demand. Bernays created a campaign called “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet,” fostering the impression that smoking aided weight loss. The campaign featured images of slender women smoking cigarettes. Much to the detriment of public health for a century to come, women bought into it.
August 2019, CICO writer Derek Lidow – Staff Reporter.
What Role Should Carbon Pricing Play In Addressing Climate Change?
As the U.S. and Europe are in the midst of unprecedented summer heatwaves, forcing the toll that climate change and carbon emissions take to the forefront, a carbon tax is one of the few devices for dealing with climate change that shows any sign of garnering bipartisan U.S. support. This is the simple idea that putting a price on carbon emissions will illustrate the otherwise-intangible costs of carbon. But according to a new paper from the DC-based Center for Progressive Reform (CPR), market-driven approaches should not be the only tool for addressing climate change; the brief says that carbon pricing is essential for addressing the climate crisis, but alone, it is “insufficient.”
This analysis comes at a time when even relatively mild climate measures are failing to pass muster with lawmakers. In June, a group of Oregon state senators fled the state until Democrats retreated on a cap and trade bill, and last fall, Washington State’s ballot question on a carbon tax failed, albeit narrowly. At the same time, the need for decisive action on the climate situation is increasingly urgent, as we approach the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2030 deadline for slashing global emissions by 45% in order to avoid irreversible environmental harms.
But approaches striving for bipartisan appeal, such as those in Oregon and Washington, may actually not be the best way to garner support for climate policy, according to University of San Francisco Environmental Law Professor Alice Kaswan, the author of the recent CPR paper. Kaswan’s view is that such solutions should fall under broad-brush plans and overarching visions for a green transition, like the Green New Deal, which calls for sweeping changes in U.S. energy sources and environmental protections.
The CPR brief echoes that thought, noting that because carbon pricing deals only with the question of carbon reduction, it “misses the wide range of other considerations relevant to a clean transition.”
The answer, according to Kaswan, lies in a combination of both carbon pricing and broader policy solutions: “You have the tax humming along in the background, but then you have the policies that are going to help you move in the direction of reducing the payments [imposed by a tax or cap and trade],” she said.
“We need to have reductions and requirements,” Kaswan adds, “but we also need to provide some assistance to industries that may face significant transition costs.”
While these initiatives such as carbon pricing are important, according to Kaswan, it is most effective to group them with a broad outline for tackling climate change across sectors: “If we look at the public, people are more attracted to a vision of green transition,” she says. “It is more inspiring—it gives more of a sense that we are moving toward something.”
August 2019, CICO writer Olivia Gieger – Staff Reporter.
Communication Tactics & Tools:
Ethiopian Rappers Challenging Israel Police Through Song
In his song “Handcuffed,” rapper Teddy Neguse addresses police brutality against young Israeli men of Ethiopian descent. Although the song came out in 2017, it has recently reached new heights in the wake of street protests across the country following the killing of an Ethiopian Israeli teen by an off-duty police officer last month. This week the 23-year-old artist was invited to perform his song live on the popular news website Ynet. Neguse’s appearance on Ynet illustrates the growing Ethiopian Israeli presence in the local music scene. But it also reflects the ongoing struggles against alleged racism and discrimination, some three decades after Ethiopian Jews began arriving in Israel. Large numbers of Ethiopian Jews began arriving in Israel via secret airlifts in the 1980s. The new arrivals from a rural, developing African country struggled to find their footing in an increasingly high-tech Israel. Throughout the decades, Ethiopians have suffered discrimination. In the late 1990s, it was discovered that Israel’s health services were throwing out Ethiopian blood donations over fears of diseases contracted in Africa. Accusations have also been raised that Israel has deliberately tried to curb birth rates in its Ethiopian communities. Today there’s around 150,000 people in the Israel Ethiopian community, some 2% of the country’s 9 million citizens. While some Israelis of Ethiopian descent have made gains in areas like the military, the police force and politics, the community continues to struggle with a lack of opportunity and high poverty rate. Against this backdrop, Israeli artists of Ethiopian heritage are breaking out in the entertainment world, especially in the growing hip hop and dancehall scenes. In his music video for “Handcuffed,” Neguse is dressed up as a soldier, riding a bicycle, when he encounters two policemen. The officers then, seemingly unprovoked, beat him up. The music video depicts a 2015 incident in which two policemen were filmed beating a uniformed Ethiopian Israeli soldier, sparking mass protests. The most recent demonstrations erupted after the unarmed Solomon Teka, 18, was fatally shot by a police officer in a Haifa suburb on June 30. At the height of the unrest, protesters angrily swore at police officers, hurled firebombs, vandalized vehicles and set a car ablaze in the heart of Tel Aviv. Police say over 110 officers were wounded in the protests, and at least 150 protesters were arrested. The officer in question, who has claimed the youth was accidentally hit by a warning shot he had fired at the ground, is being investigated by internal affairs and remains under protective custody. Another up-and-coming Ethiopian Israeli musician, Yael Mentesnot, says that in the past, the community has been “restrained” and “we end up coming off a bit naive.” But this time she says the community is beginning to truly feel the despair. “All the protests, they are not orchestrated, nothing there was organised,” she said. “Everyone went to the streets frustrated and released their anger.” While most of Mentesnot’s young solo career has been filled with upbeat party songs, she said the recent events have inspired her to address the Ethiopian Israelis’ struggle. “Our whole life is a struggle, we face challenges, and we overcome them,” she said. “I want the public to see it. To understand what we feel.” Neguse said he is pleased that Ethiopian musicians are on the rise, but said the recent protests should be seen as “a call for help, a cry of an entire community.”
August 2019, CICO writer: CICO
Can We Retain Our Privacy With New Technology?
Privacy and free speech are two of the top techno-cultural issues that have been ricocheting about since the rise of the internet. Free speech has become a lynchpin for democracy advocates who wish to maintain that the US Constitution is upheld online as well as off. Yet, privacy issues are inextricably intertwined with free market capitalism as internet sales are more and more dependent upon the exchange and analysis of private data. Where is the balance between our freedom to use public spaces—both real and virtual—to include our rights to privacy and the freedoms of businesses to cull information that they deem publicly available (or at the very least made available at the end of a long clickable blurb)?
First, there is a legal grey area where companies like Checkr offer facial biometrics services along with other companies such as Berbix and Onfido. One company, Biometrica Systems, is offering what they call “Advanced Facial Recognition” which takes a customer’s photo and compares it to records in a database in order to identify anyone suspicious. More worryingly, this company uses the biometric information to provide constant criminal background checks and it will notify organizations in near real-time when an employee has potentially been arrested.
What this means, is that aside from private companies enlisting themselves in law enforcement, even tangentially, private individuals are now being inculcated into the larger structure of biodata by force. In the same way that those people who refused to get credit cards in opposition to big banking policies and high rates of interest were forced into signing up for credit cards with the onslaught of economic electronic transactions, we are facing a similar paradigm today where employment and purchasing may very well be dominated by biometric data systems.
And there is good reason for caution since the data which companies cull on private citizens falls into grey legal areas where now private companies are operating without full disclosure to those whose information they hold. Moreso, these companies act with an unofficial power, not necessarily state-granted, to pass on such data to state authorities. Additionally, there are privacy issues related to employment background checks that verge on the forced surrender of these rights in exchange for the ability to eat and pay rent. As these practices become more widespread, so too do stealth and even unethical practices such as employers fishing social media accounts for private information. Add to this the many companies operating through spam market with emails that read “Someone might have run a background check on you,” it is easy to feel insecure that not only are you being spied upon but that there is little to no legal oversight of your privacy rights.
It is easy to feel surveilled in this era of hyper-surveillance. As more users are opting to surf the internet through VPN technology, there are just as many others worried about government spying, hence many web surfers opt for services that hide IP addresses or they opt for web-based anonymizers. Privacy advocates like the ACLU have warned that such technology is encroaching on our human freedoms and these extend far beyond just the internet. There has been much discussion in recent months over the expansion of satellites used to survey private citizens beyond international spying. And the fast-paced advances in this technology is outpacing the government’s ability to regulate it. In short, the legal limitations of spying through new technology can soon mean that more privacy issues are a grey area legally speaking.