Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Migration as a Shock to Established Systems

I recently revisited a .famvin  post “Without Migration there is no Christianity.” It set me thinking about the changes brought about by migration.
I am by no means an expert in studies of the impact of migration on a country. However, I am certainly aware of the fears of many around the world have about its impact on the “system” in which they currently live.
In America, we celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving rooted in the tradition of earliest migrants to this land. However, I also wonder how the descendants of the once thriving native population view the shock to their system was the years passed. There is also the question of whether there would be such a country as the United States if the original inhabitants had been able to effectively keep out successive waves of immigrants. Lots of questions!
But here’s a thought from the earlier post… “Everything must be rethought in terms of migration. Without migration there is no Christianity.”
Dr. Peter Phan offered this thought in a presentation “Deus Migrator/God the Migrator: Migration of Theology and the Theology of Migration”
Fr. Greg former Superior General the Vincentians introduced the theme for our Vincentian Family jubilee year, “Welcome the Stranger,” saying that all branches of the Vincentian Family will look to see how we welcome strangers: immigrants, refugees, and others. He asked, “What are we doing to welcome the stranger?”
One thing we might do educate ourselves to see the current politically charged issues in broader perspective.
“Since World War II, migration has become a phenomenon of unimaginable complexity,” Dr. Phan says. At the end of 2015, there were 65.3 million displaced people, refugees, increased from 59.5 million just 12 months earlier. “That’s 24 refugees per minute,” he added.
So when asked what the topic of the next Vatican Council might be, he answers “migration.” It is a dramatic phenomenon we cannot ignore, he continued. The United Nations and others study it; Pope Francis says “welcome”; yet anti-immigrant sentiment rises globally.
There are three points to consider, Phan says, that we must not ignore:
  • The American Catholic Church does not exist except for migrants.
  • Christianity as such itself would not exist without migration.
  • Without migration, there is no God—God is the primordial migrant, on the move, not static.
Phan elaborated on each of these points. The Church here must be seen as a migrant, he said, if we are to understand our own faith position. It was migration that brought Catholics into the New World, migration that increased their numbers. “The American Catholic Church would not exist except for migrants. We must make people aware of this.
Those who attended his presentation have high praise. You can judge for yourself by viewing the video recording of his presentation.
He is the first non-Anglo to be elected President of the Catholic Theological Society of America. In 2010 he was given the John Courtney Murray Award, the highest honor of the Catholic Theological Society of America, in recognition for outstanding and distinguished achievement in theology.
For very brief but enlightening overview of the 6 major phases of migration over the course of history visit the summary from the June 2016 Assembly by  Donna B. Doucette, Executive Director AUSCP:

source famvin

“It’s not that we don’t trust you… but”

ECO senses that Parties got stuck in the narrative: “it’s not that we don’t trust you… but” and haven’t been able to get past the “but.”
How can we can move towards more ambition if there is no trust among parties?
ECO believes that a common sense of trust is the only way that parties will be able to move forward, toward a successful COP23.
At COP18, developed countries were asked to submit information, alongside their strategies and approaches, on how they intended to respect their commitment of scaling up finance to reach the US$100 billion per year goal by 2020. The following year, they agreed to communicate bi-annual ex-ante qualitative and quantitative information on how they would provide funds from 2014 to 2020, further confirmed in 2015 via Article 9.5 of the Paris Agreement.
In Marrakech, Parties were asked to identify as many possible matters related to the implementation of the work programme of the Paris Agreement they thought were not properly addressed — one of which was Article 9.5 of the Paris Agreement.
In Paris, under COP, all countries agreed “to initiate, at its twenty-second session, a process to identify the information in accordance with Article 9.5 of the Paris Agreement’’. The mandate under the APA is clearer; it reflects on the creation of possible modalities to communicate this information. ECO has notices the issue, under the APA and under COP, is not moving forwards.
Countries in need of support need to know what financing they can count on. Essentially, it’s a ‘’let me know what you’ll provide and I’ll be able to tell you what more I can do, beyond what I already have planned’’.
To ensure predictability, a process needs to be established allowing developed countries to provide quantified estimates. Such a process needs to be discussed and agreed upon. ECO wonders why developed countries are afraid of speaking about this properly. After all, transparency is in everyone’s interests.
ECO would like to propose one way forward. The APA could recommend to the COP that the APA takes the COP Item 10f and be mandated to work on the modalities.
Then, this COP item would be closed and under one single item parties would discuss about the information and the modalities to be provided under Article 9.5 of the Paris Agreement.

Friday, November 17, 2017

FPF Joins Leading Civil Society Groups, Academics and Companies to Participate in the Work of the Partnership on AI

FPF has been invited to join the Partnership on AI, an organization started by the world’s leading AI researchers. In this capacity, we will work with companies and civil society stakeholders to define and advance a shared vision of AI that benefits people and society. FPF is proud to join this organization and help drive this important work forward.
“The Partnership on AI is a unique organization that is directly engaging with the most important issues that arise from the increasingly sophisticated capabilities of artificial intelligence systems,” said Brenda Leong, FPF Senior Counsel. “As AI technologies advance, fair information practices, data ethics, and new methods of transparency will be essential to shaping AI uses that benefit society. FPF looks forward to sharing our expertise with the Partnership and supporting responsible implementation of artificial intelligence.”
Established last year, the Partnership on AI seeks to:
  • Develop and Share Best Practices;
  • Provide an Open and Inclusive Platform for Discussion and Engagement;
  • Advance Public Understanding; and
  • Identify and Foster Aspirational Efforts in AI for Socially Beneficial Purposes.
The Partnership includes forward thinking commercial companies, nonprofit organizations, and other leaders who are developing a diverse, balanced, and global set of perspectives on AI.  The Partnership hopes to address issues including “fairness and inclusivity, explanation and transparency, security and privacy, values and ethics, collaboration between people and AI systems, interoperability of systems, and of the trustworthiness, reliability, containment, safety, and robustness of the technology.”
In light of FPF’s experience and knowledge of digital privacy across a broad variety of technology platforms, we are eager to contribute to the Partnership and explore critical questions – how can we apply good privacy strategies to AI? Are there unique challenges in the future that will require new applications of privacy standards?
We join the Partnership and support our partners’ shared goals: advancing public understanding and awareness of AI, including writing and other communications on core technologies, potential benefits, and costs; and acting as trusted and expert points of contact as questions, concerns, and aspirations arise from the public and others in the area of AI.
source fpf

Putin rewards Armenian philanthropist Ara Abrahamyan

PanARMENIAN.Net - Russian president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, November 15 has rewarded president of the Union of Armenians Ara Abrahamyan with theorder "For Merit to the Fatherland".
The medal is awarded for an individual's contribution to the strengthening of peace, friendship and cooperation.
Abrahamyan is a prominent philanthropist, social activist, and businessmen, living in Russia.
source panarmenian

Sunday, November 12, 2017

DHS expanding national biometrics database to hold details on over 500 million people, including many US citizens

We’ve just written about China’s ambitious plans to add voiceprints to its existing national biometrics databases. Given the country’s long record of keeping a close watch on its citizens, it’s easy to see this as part of China’s surveillance exceptionalism – the common belief that it is “different”, and that its experiences don’t have much relevance for Western nations. But that would be a mistake.
In many ways, China is not different, just in the vanguard. Ideas that are tried out first in China, where there is little hope of organizing resistance to them, have a habit of turning up later in Western countries, despite local and vocal protests. The main difference is that China is generally not shy about announcing ever-more surveillance of its people, on the grounds that it will supposedly make society safer, whereas Western governments do it surreptitiously, for example by gradually extending the reach of systems that they initially present as mainly aimed at foreigners. That’s been the case for the mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden, where local laws were sidestepped on the grounds that the spying took place abroad, or only targeted those in other countries. Something similar now seems to be happening with the main biometrics database in the US:
“The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has contracted one of the world’s largest arms companies to manage a huge expansion of its biometric surveillance programme.
According to a presentation seen by Privacy International, the new system, known as Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART), will scoop up a whopping 180 million new biometric transactions per year by 2022.”
The $95 million contract awarded to Northrop Grumman envisages two stages of implementation, reported here by Defense Daily:
“Increment 1 of HART is scheduled to take 18 months to complete and includes migrating the current biometric capabilities of IDENT [the current Automated Biometric Identification System used by the DHS]. These include storage and matching of fingerprint, face and iris images, as well as latent fingerprint matching, a new data architecture, and a new system development and testing environment. IDENT has limited face and iris matching capabilities.”
The second phase will also last 18 months, and requires improvements in the system’s face and iris matching capabilities, as well as “a biometric fusion element that will produce stronger matching results when multiple biometrics are used in a search query”. Future development may introduce additional biometrics such as DNA and voice recognition, as well as distinctive features, including scars and tattoos.
The chief architect of the earlier IDENT system, Mark Crego, says it was designed to store the fingerprints of up to 200 million people, and support up to 250,000 identification transactions per day. But the system now has over 240 million identities and is conducting over 300,000 transactions per day, while simultaneously adding in face and iris biometric matching technologies. As a result, he says:
“DHS must upgrade how the system manages and makes identity determinations that include face, iris and fingerprints simultaneously while scaling to at least 500 million identities in its database. In addition, the system must support at least 500,000 daily transactions, most in less than 10 seconds, to support border processing.”
Many of those half a billion identities are likely to belong to US citizens. An earlier post on Privacy News Online explained how the proposed Building America’s Trust Act would require facial recognition to be deployed at US airports “to the greatest extent practicable”, while a “biometric exit system” would be established at the busiest airports, seaports and land crossings. The bill would also allocate $125 million to upgrade the automatic license plate readers used by US Customs and Border Protection. These systems will inevitably capture information about millions of Americans.
The huge holdings of the new HART database will be widely available to US government agencies. The DHS, which is responsible for Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Transport Security Administration, can share this data with other US agencies including the FBI and Department of Defense. Perhaps even more troubling is the sharing of highly-personal biometric data about citizens between governments. Privacy International points out that the US exchanges biometric data with authorities in the other ‘Five Eyes‘ countries – the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Other regions too are increasing the sharing of sensitive information:
“The EU is also planning to centralise its biometrics verification system in order to easier share data across the Union, while Russia and China also share biometric data through regional security cooperation agreements. Biometrics and behaviour data amassed by industry will also continue to be an irresistible intelligence target for government agencies through sharing requirements and surveillance programmes.”
We are fast approaching a world where vast national biometrics databases are the norm. A post by Edin Omanovic, head of Privacy International’s state surveillance program warns where this could take us:
“Soon, it could be a requirement to verify your identity using biometrics to go into a government building, take public transport, set foot in a shopping centre, or go into an upmarket area of town. For public health reasons, it will be possible to track, stop, or punish people buying fast food, putting on a bet, or buying alcohol and cigarettes.
Automated analysis techniques can be used to identify suspicious movements and patterns, assign risk ratings to people, and add people to watchlists - some of which already contain more than a million people – without any significant human intervention.”
The use of biometrics for purposes such as securing a nation’s border is certainly legitimate. The problem, once again, arises from moving beyond the proportionate use of targeted, small-scale biometrics databases, to massive, nationwide systems that encompass a large proportion of the population. The shift is happening in part because digital technology has advanced so much that such systems are not just possible, but relatively affordable. When it comes to routine mass surveillance by the state, we are all in China now.