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Facebook Built a Facial Recognition App That Let Employees Identify People: Report

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Battling several privacy issues, Facebook experimented with a face recognition app among its employees that allowed them to identify their colleagues and friends by pointing smartphone cameras at them. The social networking platform admitted it built such an app which was never released publicly, and argued against its use to identify people.

Business Insider first reported on this, saying the app was developed between 2015 and 2016 but has since been discontinued.

“As a way to learn about new technologies, our teams regularly build apps to use internally. The app described here were only available to Facebook employees, and could only recognise employees and their friends who had face recognition enabled,” a company spokesperson told CNet on Friday.

The app highlights how Facebook experimented with features that could heighten the anxiety of people worried about their privacy.

Facebook has received criticism for using facial recognition in the past.

There were reports in October this year that Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) research team has developed a tool that tracks the facial recognition system to wrongly identify a person in a video.

The “de-identification” system, which also works in live videos, uses machine learning to change key facial features of a subject in a video.

“Face recognition can lead to loss of privacy and face replacement technology may be misused to create misleading videos,” reads a paper explaining the company’s approach.

“Recent world events concerning advances in, and abuse of face recognition technology invoke the need to understand methods that deal with de-identification. Our contribution is the only one suitable for video, including live video, and presents a quality that far surpasses the literature methods,” said the paper.

Facebook is facing a $35 billion class-action lawsuit for alleged misuse of facial recognition data in Illinois. A US court has denied Facebook’s request to quash the lawsuit.



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China’s tech giants promise speculation-free NFTs – TechCrunch

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The future of non-fungible tokens is getting more clarity in China as the country’s tech giants come together to formulate standards for the nascent industry.

The China Cultural Industry Association, along with Tencent, Ant Group, Baidu, and others, jointly issued a “self-disciplined development proposal” for the “digital collectible industry,” a rebranded term for NFT in China to do away with the technology’s financial aspects.

While industry associations do not have regulatory power, they can be conducive to developing standards and best practices within an industry. The China Cultural Industry Association was founded with permission from the State Council and counts Alibaba and Tencent among its members, according to information on its website.

China’s NFT enthusiasts have been watching out for regulatory directions from the top. After China outlawed cryptocurrency trading, the speculation was that NFTs in their purest form — traded with cryptocurrencies on global, public blockchains, freely and anonymously — would not be allowed in the country.

That looks to be the case. In April, China’s financial associations proposed that NFTs must not be used for securitization or transacted in cryptocurrencies.

China’s NFT industry may be a step closer to regulation with the country’s largest platform operators taking a stance. Digital collectible platforms, according to the proposal issued by Tencent, Ant Group, and others, should hold relevant regulatory permits, ensure the security of underlying blockchain technologies, enforce user real-identity checks, step up intellectual property protection, resolutely ban financial speculations, and promote rational consumption among users.

Tech firms in China have been testing the waters before NFT regulations set in. Behemoths from Tencent, Ant Group to Baidu have all launched their digital collectible marketplaces built on private, consortium chains. Users can only make purchases with the Chinese fiat currency RMB, and secondary trading is widely prohibited to prevent price gouging.

One company decided to take its ambition beyond China to explore the full scope of NFTs. In April, Bilibili, China’s top user-generated video streaming site, commissioned a Singapore-based company to launch an Ethereum-based NFT collection inspired by the site’s brand assets.

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Instagram tests ditching video posts in favor of Reels – TechCrunch

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Instagram is testing a change that turns video posts into Reels, the company confirmed to TechCrunch. The company says the change, which is currently being tested with select users around the world, is part of Instagram’s plan to simplify video on the app.

“We’re testing this feature as part of our efforts to simplify and improve the video experience on Instagram,” a spokesperson from Meta said in an email.

A screenshot posted on Twitter by social media consultant Matt Navarra shows that people who are part of the test will see an in-app message that says “video posts are now shared as Reels.”

The message indicates that if your account is public and you post a video that ends up being turned into a Reel, anyone can discover your Reel and use your original audio to create their own Reel. If your account is set to private, your Reel will only be visible to your followers. The message also notes that once you post a Reel, anyone can create a remix with your Reel if your account is public. However, you can prevent people from remixing your Reels in your account settings.

As with any other test, it’s unknown when or if Instagram plans to roll out the change more widely. If the change does become permanent, it may pose some challenges. For example, it could be difficult to post a horizontal video if it gets uploaded in a vertical Reels format. In addition, Instagram did not say how this change will affect current videos on Instagram.

The test comes as Meta has been betting big on Reels. As part of its Q1 2022 earnings, the company revealed that Reels now make up more than 20% of the time that people spend on Instagram. It’s not surprising that Instagram is looking to expand Reels even more by replacing video posts altogether. If the company does end up making this change permanent, it could boast about people spending even more time viewing Reels. 

Last year, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said the app was “no longer a photo-sharing app,” noting the company was prioritizing a shift into video amid significant competition from TikTok and YouTube. The company then took a step toward its larger goal of making video a more central part of the Instagram experience by combining IGTV’s long-form video and Instagram Feed videos into a new format simply called “Instagram Video.”

If Instagram decides to turn all video uploads into Reels, it would consolidate the company’s video elements even further. Last year, when Mosseri laid out Instagram’s priorities for 2022, he said the company would double down on video and focus on Reels. He even hinted that Instagram would consolidate all of its video products around Reels and continue to grow the short-form product, which indicates that this change may have always been the plan.

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Crypto wants its own iPhone – TechCrunch

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Image Credits: TechCrunch

Apple’s relative hostility to the desires of crypto developers hasn’t gone unnoticed, and as the industry buckles down for a bear market, some of its proponents are pushing forward plans to rebuild the iPhone with their own industry’s best interests at heart.

Hello and welcome back to the Chain Reaction podcast, where we unpack and explain the latest crypto news, drama and trends, breaking it down block by block for the crypto curious.

This week, my co-host Anita was off, so I was joined by TC+ Senior Crypto Reporter Jacquie Melinek, who discussed some of the wild happenings in crypto, including FTX’s flirtations with Robinhood and the latest drama at Celsius.

We also talked about the big surprise announcement of the week: the Solana-backed Saga smartphone. The new device will operate with crypto capabilities baked into its silicon while serving as a regular Android-based smartphone as well. The device doesn’t ship until next year, allegedly, and Jacquie and I had plenty of thoughts, so listen along above!

Our guest: Doodles CEO Julian Holguin

This week, I chatted with Julian Holguin, who is the CEO of the NFT project Doodles. The collection of 10,000 NFT profile pictures is one of the most popular crypto projects on the web and Holguin just banked funding from Alexis Ohanian to push the startup behind the art even further.

Chain Reaction podcast episodes come out every Thursday at 12:00 p.m. PDT. Subscribe to us on Apple, Spotify or your alternative podcast platform of choice to keep up with us every week.

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