Jul 3, 2018

Axios PM

Good afternoon, and happy Independence Day Eve. I'll be sending PM as normal tomorrow, hopefully helping you more comfortably disconnect and enjoy the day with friends and family.

1 big thing: Facial recognition's bridge too far

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech companies that focus on AI-powered computer vision "are struggling to balance business opportunities with difficult moral decisions that could turn off customers or their own workers," the AP's Matt O'Brien reports.

Why it matters: It’s part of a growing wave of concern about how AI technology is used, especially involving facial recognition, Axios' Ina Fried emails.


  • A CIA-backed venture capital fund was spurned by Boston startup Affectiva, which makes face scanning tech.
  • CEO Rana el Kaliouby told the AP "it’s not hard to imagine using real-time face recognition to pick up on dishonesty — or, in the hands of an authoritarian regime, to monitor reaction to political speech in order to root out dissent."
  • The CIA's venture arm also approached facial recognition firm Kairos, CEO Brian Brackeen told Axios' Kaveh Waddell.
  • "As the black chief executive of a software company developing facial recognition services, I have a personal connection to the technology, both culturally and socially," Brackeen wrote in an op-ed.

Between the lines: China is apparently avidly investing in, and developing facial recognition tech, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva emails.

  • "Facial recognition — and more broadly, image recognition — has a range of applications, so everyone from tech giants like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, to startups have been working on it."
  • That includes "auto-recognition of Facebook photos, image search, detecting road elements, scanning documents — all kinds of applications."

Go deeper: IBM releases image data to improve facial recognition AI

2. What you missed

The U.S. flag at half staff at the White House. President Trump reversed himself today, ordering the flags to be lowered in honor of the five killed in an Annapolis newsroom. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

  1. There is no well-defined wildfire season anymore in vast stretches of the American West. Instead, fires are now popping up at almost any time of year, even during passing warm spells in the winter. Go deeper.
  2. The Trump administration plans to tell schools not to consider race as a factor for admissions standards, discontinuing a policy that the Obama administration adopted as an attempt to increase diversity at colleges and high schools. Go deeper.
  3. China is looking to ally with the European Union vs. the U.S. ahead of the Sino-European summit in Beijing in mid-July, reports Reuters.
  4. Scoop: U.S. and Israel formed joint team to internally pressure Iran regime. Go deeper.
  5. Imran Awan pleaded guilty to bank fraud after reaching a plea deal on Tuesday morning. Awan is a former House IT staffer at the center of right-wing conspiracies. Go deeper.
  6. Former Ohio State University wrestlers are accusing Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the university's assistant wrestling coach from 1986 to 1994, of ignoring or failing to act against accusations of sexual abuse against the team's doctor, NBC News' Corky Siemaszko reports.
3. Oprah quotes du jour
"In that political structure — all the non-truths, the bulls---, the crap, the nastiness, the backhanded backroom stuff that goes on — I feel like I could not exist. I would not be able to do it. It's not a clean business. It would kill me.”
— Oprah to Vogue UK on running for office
"People talk about 'these are such dark times', but what if we shift the paradigm? Because I see it differently,” she asserts. “I see, 'Isn't this remarkable that we're waking up?' For years, women have endured craziness. This is what's happening to people. They're allowing themselves to not just become corroded, but to become hysterical. You've got to lean to the happiness."
— Oprah on Vogue UK on #MeToo