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Recode Daily: Hong Kong protesters are setting precedents in the age of AI-powered mass surveillance

Plus: An “Amazon’s Choice” label isn’t necessarily an indication of a high-quality product. 

Hong Kongers protest over China’s extradition law.
Hong Kongers protest over China’s extradition law.
Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Protesters in Hong Kong are finding novel ways to avoid surveillance and identification. As hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of protesters have filled the streets of Hong Kong in recent days to protest a proposed bill that would permit the extradition of Hong Kong citizens to mainland China, they’ve organized on an unprecedented level to deter government identification and punishment. “Protesters used only secure digital messaging apps such as Telegram and otherwise went completely analogue in their movements: buying single-ride subway tickets instead of prepaid stored-value cards, forgoing credit cards and mobile payments in favor of cash and taking no selfies or photos of the chaos,” the Washington Post reports. The protesters’ coordinated efforts reflect growing concerns that China’s government will wield its vast surveillance powers against Hong Kong residents, as it already does on the mainland.
[Shibani Mahtani / Washington Post]

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An “Amazon’s Choice” label isn’t necessarily an indication of a high-quality product. Products labeled as “Amazon’s Choice” that appear in search results on the e-commerce giant are not guaranteed to be the best choice among the myriad options for sale on the marketplace. In fact, Amazon does not directly choose these products at all; rather, they are marked with “a label automatically awarded to listings by an algorithm based on customer reviews, price, and whether the product is in stock,” BuzzFeed News reported. A survey of items with this designation revealed several that were plagued with customer complaints, including a baby thermometer, a security padlock, and a breathalyzer.
[Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News]

A law enforcement contractor bragged it can unlock any iOS device. The Israeli forensics firm Cellebrite, which markets some of its services to law enforcement agencies around the world, said on Friday that a new version of its “Universal Forensic Extraction Device” product has the ability to unlock all iOS devices and many difficult-to-crack Android devices. Wired reports this is the first time a company has publicly claimed such wide-ranging capabilities. “The move signals not only another step in the cat and mouse game between smartphone makers and the government-sponsored firms that seek to defeat their security, but also a more unabashedly public phase of that security face-off,” Wired wrote.[Andy Greenberg / Wired]

Amazon’s chief technology officer says it’s not the company’s job to determine how its controversial facial recognition tech is used. In an interview with the BBC, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels shared a perspective mirroring what Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy has also said to address wide-ranging concerns about its Amazon Rekognition software’s potential to enable civil rights abuses. “This technology is being used for good in many places. It’s in society’s direction to actually decide which technology is applicable under which conditions,” Vogels told the BBC. He went on to call for policymakers to make decisions regulating Rekognition and compared the technology to a steel mill, which has the potential to create both baby incubators and guns. Last week, while being interviewed onstage at Recode’s Code Conference, Jassy compared Rekognition to other things with good and bad applications, such as email and a knife.
[Dave Lee / BBC]

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