Tag: Ars Technica (page 1 of 4)

Facial recognition and the morality police

As this article points out, before 1979 removal of the traditional hijab was encouraged as part of Iran’s modernisation agenda. Once a theocracy came to power, however, the ‘morality police’ started using any means at their disposal to repress women.

Things have come to a head recently with high-profile women, for example athletes, removing the hijab. It would seem that the Iranian state is responding to this not with discussion, debate, or compassion, but rather with more repression -this time in the form of facial recognition and increasingly levels of surveillance.

We should be extremely concerned about this, as once there is no semblance of anonymity anywhere, then repression by bad actors (of which governments are some of the worst) will increase exponentially.

After Iranian lawmakers suggested last year that face recognition should be used to police hijab law, the head of an Iranian government agency that enforces morality law said in a September interview that the technology would be used “to identify inappropriate and unusual movements,” including “failure to observe hijab laws.” Individuals could be identified by checking faces against a national identity database to levy fines and make arrests, he said.

Two weeks later, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman named Jina Mahsa Amini died after being taken into custody by Iran’s morality police for not wearing a hijab tightly enough. Her death sparked historic protests against women’s dress rules, resulting in an estimated 19,000 arrests and more than 500 deaths. Shajarizadeh and others monitoring the ongoing outcry have noticed that some people involved in the protests are confronted by police days after an alleged incident—including women cited for not wearing a hijab. “Many people haven’t been arrested in the streets,” she says. “They were arrested at their homes one or two days later.”

Although there are other ways women could have been identified, Shajarizadeh and others fear that the pattern indicates face recognition is already in use—perhaps the first known instance of a government using face recognition to impose dress law on women based on religious belief.

Source: Iran to use facial recognition to identify women without hijabs | Ars Technica

The (surprising) oldest full sentence in the Canaanite language in Israel

Apparently this comb has an inscription on it which reads “May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard.” It was made from an imported elephant tusk!

The comb measures just 3.5 by 2.5 centimeters (roughly 1.38 by 1 inches), with teeth on both sides, although only the bases remain; the rest of the teeth were likely broken long ago. One side had thicker teeth, the better to untangle knots, while the other had 14 finer teeth, likely used to remove lice and their eggs from beards and hair. Further analysis showed noticeable erosion at the comb’s center, which the authors believe was likely due to someone’s fingers holding it there during use.

The authors also used X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, and digital microscopy to confirm that the comb is made of ivory from an elephant tusk, suggesting it was imported. The team sent a sample from the comb to the University of Oxford’s radiometric laboratory, but the carbon was too poorly preserved to accurately date the sample.

The inscription consists of 17 letters (two damaged) that together form a complete seven-word sentence. The letters aren’t well-aligned, per the authors, nor are they uniform in size; the letters become progressively smaller and lower in the first row, with letters running from right to left. When whoever engraved the comb reached the edge, they turned it 180 degrees and engraved the second row from left to right. The engraver actually ran out of room on the second row, so the final letter is engraved just below the last letter in that row. Still, said engraver had to be fairly skilled, given the small size of the lettering.

Source: Ancient wisdom: Oldest full sentence in first alphabet is about head lice | Ars Technica

Chrome OS Flex

About 18 months ago, Google acquired Neverware, a company who took the open source version of Chrome OS and customised it for the schools market.

The new version of Chrome OS, called ‘Flex’, can be installed on pretty much any device and also includes Linux containers. Interesting!

Google is positioning Chrome OS Flex as an answer to old Mac and Windows PCs that might not be able to handle the latest version of their native OS and/or that might not be owned by folks with budgets to replace the devices. Rather than buying new hardware, consumers or IT departments could install the latest version of Chrome OS Flex.

Source: Google turns old Macs, PCs into Chromebooks with Chrome OS Flex | Ars Technica