1. FaceTime is Watching You
On Monday, Apple announced an extremely alarming FaceTime bug. The breach, enabling users to listen in and view their friends on the other line through their front cameras without them ever answering the call request, invades iPhone user privacy. When activated, the bug allows initiators of FaceTime calls to eavesdrop with live audio of the recipient’s phone while the recipient’s phone displays no indication of the violation. The initiator may also have access to a live video of the recipient when volume buttons are pushed to decline the call. A 14-year-old boy starting a group FaceTime with his friends to discuss Fortnite strategies may have been the first to discover this bug. His mother, Michele Thompson, tweeted their findings on Jan. 20th, stating, “My teen found a major security flaw in Apple’s new iOS. He can listen in to your iPhone/iPad without your approval.”
After multiple attempts at contacting Apple about the issue, the mother received no response until Apple later asked her to file a bug report on Jan. 25th. It is still unknown if Apple had been aware of the issue before their report on Monday, as it is surprising that no action was taken for prevention once first discovered by users. Apple will reportedly release a new iOS update in the next few days to rectify the bug, but in the meantime, Apple has disabled group FaceTiming completely.
2. Amazon Expands into Middle East
Amazon is taking its world takeover one step further as it plans to launch a new marketplace in the Middle East. The efforts are in hopes to receive a wider coverage of consumers in Middle Eastern countries, specifically Saudi Arabia and the UAE. These movements may appear surprising given Amazon’s purchase of Dubai-based online retailer Souq.com for $580M in 2017, one of its largest purchases internationally. The company has instructed its sellers in North America to withhold from signing up to sell on Souq.com because all of the inventory will also be available on Amazon’s native site. Amazon touts, “Our program is simple, straightforward and allows you to expand your selection to a new base of Amazon buyers.” The sellers have indicated that Amazon appears extremely interested in beauty products and electronics, two of the Middle East’s most prominent economies. Amazon’s new marketplace will likely mirror their other international sites, like Amazon Germany and Amazon U.K. The company describes the project as “groundbreaking” so it appears that Amazon has a lot in store for these efforts.
3. IBM’s Realistic Representation of World
To reduce bias in facial recognition, IBM has taken steps to try to create a more realistic representation of the world. The company has encoded 1M new faces into their database to include different varieties of people. Since facial recognition is becoming so prominent in technology from cell phones to home security, it is important for these systems to be accurate. “For the facial recognition systems to perform as desired — and the outcomes to become increasingly accurate — training data must be diverse and offer a breadth of coverage,” said IBM’s John Smith. “The images must reflect the distribution of features in faces we see in the world.” The bias in AI is undeniable. Just last week, studies revealed that Amazon’s Recognition technology falsely identified women with dark skin tones and made numerous mistakes recognizing gender. According to IBM, with so many different skin tones, ages, and genders existing, it is difficult for technology to accurately identify everyone. IBM’s new data set, Diversity in Faces, includes varieties of forehead heights, head lengths, gender, facial ratios, and more in 10 coding schemes to combat this issue. The 1M new faces in the data set are now available to researchers across the globe.