Amazon’s home security company, Ring, planned neighborhood “watch lists” built on facial recognition

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Rosenthal.  David’s comment:’See this blog post from nearly two years ago with the “Live Crime In Your Neighborhood” channel:  DLH]

Amazon’s home security company, Ring, planned neighborhood “watch lists” built on facial recognition
By Sam Biddle
Nov 26 2019

Ring, Amazon’s crimefighting surveillance camera division, has crafted plans to use facial recognition software and its ever-expanding network of home security cameras to create AI-enabled neighborhood “watch lists,” according to internal documents reviewed by The Intercept.

The planning materials envision a seamless system whereby a Ring owner would be automatically alerted when an individual deemed “suspicious” was captured in their camera’s frame, something described as a “suspicious activity prompt.”

It’s unclear who would have access to these neighborhood watch lists, if implemented, or how exactly they would be compiled, but the documents refer repeatedly to law enforcement, and Ring has forged partnerships with police departments throughout the U.S., raising the possibility that the lists could be used to aid local authorities. The documents indicate that the lists would be available in Ring’s Neighbors app, through which Ring camera owners discuss potential porch and garage security threats with others nearby.

Ring spokesperson Yassi Shahmiri told The Intercept that “the features described are not in development or in use and Ring does not use facial recognition technology,” but would not answer further questions.

This month, in response to continued pressure from news reports and a list of questions sent by Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey, Amazon conceded that facial recognition has been a “contemplated but unreleased feature” for Ring, but would only be added with “thoughtful design including privacy, security and user control.” Now, we know what at least some of that contemplation looked like.

Mohammad Tajsar, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, expressed concern over Ring’s willingness to plan the use of facial recognition watch lists, fearing that “giving police departments and consumers access to ‘watch listing’ capabilities on Ring devices encourages the creation of a digital redline in local neighborhoods, where cops in tandem with skeptical homeowners let machines create lists of undesirables unworthy of entrance into well-to-do areas.”

Legal scholars have long criticized the use of governmental watch lists in the United States for their potential to ensnare innocent people without due process. “When corporations create them,” said Tajsar, “the dangers are even more stark.” As difficult as it can be to obtain answers on the how and why behind a federal blacklist, American tech firms can work with even greater opacity: “Corporations often operate in an environment free from even the most basic regulation, without any transparency, with little oversight into how their products are built and used, and with no regulated mechanism to correct errors,” Tajsar said.

Mounting Concern About Ring

Once known only for its line of internet-connected doorbell cameras marketed to the geekily cautious, Ring has quickly turned into an icon of unsettling privatized surveillance. The Los Angeles company, now owned by Amazon, has been buffeted this year by reports of lax internal security, problematic law enforcement partnerships, and an overall blurring of the boundaries between public policing and private-sector engineering. Earlier this year, The Intercept published video of a special online portal Ring built so that police could access customer footage, as well as internal company emails about what Ring’s CEO described as the company’s war on “dirtbag criminals that steal our packages and rob our houses.”

Previous reporting by The Intercept and The Information revealed that Ring has at times struggled to make facial recognition work, instead relying on remote workers from Ring’s Ukraine office to manually “tag” people and objects found in customer video feeds. The automated approach to watch-listing described in the documents reviewed by The Intercept may seem less unsettling than that human-based approach, but it potentially allows for a litany of its own problems, like false positives and other forms of algorithmic bias.

In its public-relations efforts, Ring has maintained that only thieves and would-be criminals need to worry about the company’s surveillance network and the Neighbors app. From the way Ring’s products are designed to the way they’re marketed, the notion of “suspicion” remains front and center; Ring promises a future in which “suspicious” people up to “suspicious” things can be safely monitored and deterred from afar.

But “suspicious” is an entirely squishy concept with some very potentially dangerous interpretations, a byword of dog-whistling neighborhood racists who hope to drape garden-variety prejudice beneath the mantle of public safety. The fact remains that anyone moving past a home equipped with Ring cameras is unavoidably sucked into a tech company dragnet, potential fodder for overeager chatter among the suburban xenophobe set. To civil libertarians, privacy scholars, and anyone generally nervous about the prospect of their neighbors forming a collective, artificially intelligent video panopticon maintained by Amazon for unregulated use by police, Ring’s potential consequences for a community are clear.

Earlier this fall, Motherboard reported on a push by Ring to encourage camera owners to seek out, identify, and report to police anything and anyone they considered “unusual” in exchange for product discounts. According to the story, Ring “encouraged people to report all ‘suspicious activity,’ including loitering, ‘strange vans and cars,’ ‘people posing as utility workers,’ and people walking down the street and looking into car windows.”

Documents Show “Proactive Suspect Matching”

According to the Ring documents reviewed by The Intercept, which have not been previously reported, the company planned a string of potentially invasive new surveillance features for its product line, of which the facial recognition-based watch-list system is one part.

In addition to the facial watch lists, Ring has also worked on a so-called suspicious activity prompt feature that would alert users via in-app phone notification when a “suspicious” individual appears near their property’s video feeds. In one document, this feature is illustrated with a mockup of a screen in the Neighbors app, showing a shabbily dressed man walking past a Ring owner’s garage-mounted camera. “Suspicious Activity Suspected,” warns the app. “This person appears to be acting suspicious. We suggest alerting your neighbors.” The app then offers a large “Notify Neighbors” button. The document leaves how exactly “suspicious” is defined a mystery.


The fall and rise of a spyware empire

[Note:  This item comes from friend Jock Gill.  DLH]

The fall and rise of a spyware empire
Human rights abuse and a decimated reputation killed Hacking Team. The new owners want to rebuild.
By Patrick Howell O’Neill
Nov 29 2019

The spyware was supposed to be invisible and untraceable. Instead, the company was caught and exposed.

By the time it was a decade old in 2014, the Italian company Hacking Team had a worldwide business in surveillance. Its advanced surveillance technology, called Remote Control System (RCS), was sold to governments including some of the world’s most notorious dictatorships. It was used to surreptitiously steal data from anyone the customer targeted. When researchers finally began to uncover Hacking Team’s activities, the target list included human rights activists and journalists. 

In 2015, hackers hit Hacking Team. Data totaling over 400 gigabytes, including emails, invoices, and source code, was publicly released. The company’s own Twitter account, itself hacked, trumpeted the breach.

To the public, the company enabled repressive regimes. To industry colleagues, it was a hacking company that got hacked. Customers began to stay away, and even students were wary of working for it.

Nearly five years later, Paolo Lezzi hopes to revive the disgraced outfit, turning the disaster back into a profitable business. 

The new regime
I met Lezzi last week at a high-tech defense and military trade show in Paris. It’s been just under one year since he bought Hacking Team, changed the name, combined it with his own company, and set about the task of bringing the once mighty business back from the dead. 

My first question was an obvious one for the head of a spyware company linked to repressive regimes. 

“How do you make sure there is no abuse?” I asked.

Lezzi inhaled slowly as he considered the question. He looked up and pointed to a display of machine guns just a few feet away from where we spoke.

“Why does everyone ask us this question, but no one asks them that question?” he said, raising his eyebrows.

Lezzi is the owner of Memento Labs and its parent company, InTheCyber. Memento Labs was formed in March when Lezzi acquired Hacking Team.

The new regime
I met Lezzi last week at a high-tech defense and military trade show in Paris. It’s been just under one year since he bought Hacking Team, changed the name, combined it with his own company, and set about the task of bringing the once mighty business back from the dead. 

My first question was an obvious one for the head of a spyware company linked to repressive regimes. 

“How do you make sure there is no abuse?” I asked.

Lezzi inhaled slowly as he considered the question. He looked up and pointed to a display of machine guns just a few feet away from where we spoke.

“Why does everyone ask us this question, but no one asks them that question?” he said, raising his eyebrows.

Lezzi is the owner of Memento Labs and its parent company, InTheCyber. Memento Labs was formed in March when Lezzi acquired Hacking Team.

Faster than the law
Memento will sell only to official law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and militaries. The company asks for and requires permission from Italian export authorities—the same authorities that revoked Hacking Team’s global license in 2016 after evidence emerged that the product was used in countries like Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt and linked to human rights abuses. 

But the laws governing the industry are not good enough, says Marietje Schaake, a former member of the European Parliament who repeatedly raised alarms about surveillance technology being built and sold in Europe. She first stumbled upon the tools during the Arab Spring, a pro-democracy movement in the Middle East, when Hacking Team was implicated in selling spyware like RCS to the Egyptian dictatorship.

“I was not surprised that dictators would do anything to keep their grip on power,” Schaake says. “I was surprised that these tools were coming from democracies.”

Schaake’s decade-long career in the legislative branch of the EU was punctuated by efforts to increase legal accountability and transparency in the surveillance industry to prevent the kinds of abuses that made Hacking Team famous.

“The technology moved faster than laws,” she says. “All the laws governing exports used to come from the security field. There was not a human rights component until after events like the Arab Spring and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Italy in particular drags its feet—they are always against restrictions and sanctions. They would rather be ‘pragmatic.’”

Lezzi says Memento Labs now takes a technical step to avoid abuse: the company limits the number of software “agents” sold to governments. It’s the agent that is able to spy on and control a machine.

“If you sell thousands of agents, it could be that it’s not for law enforcement,” Lezzi explains, pointing out that some industry competitors sell exactly that kind of vast and indiscriminate spying capability. He, on the other hand, limits the number of agents sold so that Memento technology is limited to 25 or 50 infections. “It is impossible to go against human rights with only 50 agents,” he says.

However, there is no way for Memento to directly detect abuse by governments that use its surveillance tools, and so the ultimate use of the spyware is outside Lezzi’s control. 

Bill Marczak is skeptical that Memento Labs’ safeguards will work, pointing to a 2014 case where the Ethiopian government used Hacking Team’s spyware to target journalists. “Ethiopia’s government had no problem going after journalists and opposition groups with the 50 agents sold by Memento’s predecessor, Hacking Team,” he says.

Indeed, the new advertising material for RCS X also promises that “RCS Agents can be used an unlimited number of times, allowing maximum versatility in investigations”—and, it would seem, few limits on scope.


House Democrats have passed nearly 400 bills. Trump and Republicans are ignoring them.

House Democrats have passed nearly 400 bills. Trump and Republicans are ignoring them.
Legislative paralysis gripped Capitol Hill well before impeachment started.
By Ella Nilsen
Nov 29 2019

There’s a pervasive sense of legislative paralysis gripping Capitol Hill. And it’s been there long before the impeachment inquiry began. 

For months, President Donald Trump has fired off tweet missives accusing House Democrats of “getting nothing done in Congress,” and being consumed with impeachment.

Trump may want to look to the Republican-controlled Senate instead. Democrats in the House have been passing bills at a rapid clip; as of November 15, the House has passed nearly 400 bills, not including resolutions. But the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee estimates 80 percent of those bill have hit a snag in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is prioritizing confirming judges over passing bills.

Congress has passed just 70 bills into law this year. Granted, it still has one more year in its term, but the number pales in comparison to recent past sessions of Congress, which typically see anywhere from 300-500 bills passed in two years (and that is even a diminished number from the 700-800 bills passed in the 1970s and 1980s). 

Ten of those 70 bills this year have been renaming federal post offices or Veterans Affairs facilities, and many others are related to appropriations or extending programs like the National Flood Insurance or the 9/11 victim compensation fund. 

This has led to House Democrats decrying McConnell’s so-called “legislative graveyard,” a moniker the Senate majority leader has proudly adopted. McConnell calls himself the “grim reaper” of Democratic legislation he derides as socialist, but many of the bills that never see the Senate floor are bipartisan issues, like a universal background check bill, net neutrality, and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. 

“From raising the minimum wage to ensuring equal pay, we have passed legislation to raise wages. And we have passed legislation to protect and expand health coverage and bring down prescription drug prices,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said in a statement to Vox. “We continue to urge Senator McConnell to take up our bills, many of which are bipartisan.” 

McConnell is focused on transforming the federal judiciary instead, with the Senate confirming over 150 of Trump’s nominees to the federal bench. And he has refused to bring Democratic bills to the Senate floor in part to protect vulnerable Republican senators from having to take tough votes that could divide the GOP ahead of the 2020 election. Still, some Senate Republicans fear inaction could make them just as vulnerable. 

“I’m very eager to turn from nominations to legislation,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) recently told the New York Times’ Carl Hulse. “There are important issues that are pending, and I think we could produce some terrific bills that would be signed into law.”

Trump is accusing Democrats of doing nothing as he refuses to work with them

Lately, Republicans and Trump are accusing Democrats of single-mindedly pursuing impeachment at the detriment of passing bills. 

Again, the more accurate picture is that Democrats have been passing a lot of bills in addition to investigating the president. But split control of government and Trump’s fury at being investigated by Democratic committees paralyzed Washington’s legislative functions well before impeachment proceedings began in the fall. 

Way back in May, Trump was blasting Democrats for not making enough progress on infrastructure, health care, and veterans issues. His complaints intensified after an explosive White House meeting on infrastructure between Trump and Democrats the day before, which the president walked out of.

“Their heart is not into Infrastructure, lower drug prices, pre-existing conditions and our great Vets,” Trump tweeted. “All they are geared up to do, six committees, is squander time, day after day, trying to find anything which will be bad for me.”

Months later, the president’s complaints remain the same. He recently tweeted, “Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, AOC and the rest of the Democrats are not getting important legislation done, hence, the Do Nothing Democrats.”

Trump isn’t the only one with a perception that very little is happening in Congress. Congress’s approval rating is a dismal 24 percent, with 72 percent disapproval, according to Gallup. 

During the Republican-controlled Congress in 2017 and 2018, the two major legislative accomplishments McConnell, Trump, and House Speaker Paul Ryan had were a massive GOP tax cut and a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill in 2018. The very end of Ryan’s time as speaker also saw Trump launch a government shutdown that continued into Pelosi’s tenure in 2019.

Since Democrats took control of the House, the few things they’ve been able to agree with Senate Republicans on include a bill to reopen the federal government after a three-week shutdown, a resolution to end US involvement in the war in Yemen (which was vetoed by Trump), and a disaster aid agreement. But other big-ticket items Democrats hoped to achieve, like an infrastructure package and a prescription drug bill, have yet to be passed.


$1,135,000,000 ISOC .org price disclosed

[Note:  This item comes from friend Dave Burstein.  DLH]
From: Dave Burstein <>
Subject: $1,135,000,000 ISOC .org price disclosed
Date: November 29, 2019 at 9:35:56 AM EST

Dave, Dewayne

For $1.13B, it might be right for ISOC to take the money now, then use a pile of it to more than undo the harm caused, internally or externally. I’m undecided.
Note the deal can still be blocked by Pennsylvania, where the  PIR non-profit is registered, or ICANN. There is already talk of going to court.

Breaking: $1,135,000,000 to Internet Society if .org Deal Goes Down

Tim Berners-Lee, over 10,000 at, slews of reporters, 3 ISOC Chapters and almost all well-informed independents are strongly opposed to the deal. The Internet Society just revealed it would get 1.13 Billion from very rich US investors for .org. That is enough money that honorable people have decided the damage to the Internet from the deal should be overridden. The deal will die if Pennsylvania or ICANN blocks or even delays.

If I were on the board, I might have voted for the deal. I’ve been among the most skeptical, partly because the amount and many other key details were totally secret. I would have demanded much more information and public discussion. 

I’m strongly advocating ISOC now take extraordinary steps to heal the rift with the chapters and restore the public perception of ISOC. 

Ohio bill orders doctors to ‘reimplant ectopic pregnancy’ or face ‘abortion murder’ charges

[Note:  This item comes from friend Ed DeWath.  DLH]

Ohio bill orders doctors to ‘reimplant ectopic pregnancy’ or face ‘abortion murder’ charges
Ohio introduces one of the most extreme bills to date for a procedure that does not exist in medical science
By Jessica Glenza
Nov 29 2019

A bill to ban abortion introduced in the Ohio state legislature requires doctors to “reimplant an ectopic pregnancy” into a woman’s uterus – a procedure that does not exist in medical science – or face charges of “abortion murder”.

This is the second time practising obstetricians and gynecologists have tried to tell the Ohio legislators that the idea is currently medically impossible.

The move comes amid a wave of increasingly severe anti-abortion bills introduced across much of the country as conservative Republican politicians seek to ban abortion and force a legal showdown on abortion with the supreme court.

Ohio’s move on ectopic pregnancies – where an embryo implants on the mother’s fallopian tube rather than her uterus rendering the pregnancy unviable – is one of the most extreme bills to date.

“I don’t believe I’m typing this again but, that’s impossible,” wrote Ohio obstetrician and gynecologist Dr David Hackney on Twitter. “We’ll all be going to jail,” he said.

An ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition, which can kill a woman if the embryonic tissue grows unchecked.

In addition to ordering doctors to do the impossible or face criminal charges, House Bill 413 bans abortion outright and defines a fertilized egg as an “unborn child”.

It also appears to punish doctors, women and children as young as 13 with “abortion murder” if they “perform or have an abortion”. This crime is punishable by life in prison. Another new crime, “aggravated abortion murder”, is punishable by death, according to the bill.

The bill is sponsored by representatives Candice Keller and Ron Hood, and co-sponsored by 19 members of Ohio’s 99-member House.

Mike Gonidakis, the president of the anti-abortion group Ohio Right to Life, declined to comment on the bill, and said he was still reading the legislation because, it’s “approximately 700 pages long”. He said his office is “taking off the rest of the week for Thanksgiving”.

The Guardian also contacted the Susan B Anthony List, a national anti-abortion organization. The organization did not reply to a request for comment.

Keller, Hood and eight of the bill’s 19 co-sponsors did not reply to requests for comment. The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association also did not reply to a request for comment.

Ohio passed a six-week abortion ban last summer. The “heartbeat bill”, as supporters called it, banned abortion before most women know they are pregnant. Reproductive rights groups immediately sued, and the bill never went into effect. Abortion is legal in all 50 US states.

In May, researcher Dr David Grossman argued reimplanting a fertilized egg or embryo is “pure science fiction” in a Twitter thread that went viral in May, when the bill was first introduced.


Re: Schrodinger’s Cab Firm: Uber’s Existential Crisis

[Note:  This comment comes from friend Wendy Grossman.  DLH]

From: “Wendy M. Grossman” <>
Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] Schrodinger’s Cab Firm: Uber’s Existential Crisis
Date: November 29, 2019 at 9:57:34 AM EST

London’s minicab regulator, TfL,

That is a hugely inadequate description of what TfL does. Transport for
London runs the Underground, taxis, buses, trams, local trains, and the
bike hire scheme. It manages pedestrian congestion on sidewalks, plans
and builds roads and bike lanes, and runs the Congestion Charge. It is
an autonomous body answerable only to the Mayor’s office.

And, oh, yes, it sets down the operating conditions for minicabs.

One reason Uber is having so much trouble with TfL is that autonomy:
Uber can’t, as it did in some US states, bypass local regulations by
getting the state to make those regulations illegal.


Schrodinger’s Cab Firm: Uber’s Existential Crisis

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Rosenthal.  DLH]

Schrodinger’s Cab Firm: Uber’s Existential Crisis
London’s minicab regulator, TfL, has revoked Uber’s licence to operate in the British capital, one of its largest world markets. Getting that licence back may require the firm to finally confront a question it cannot afford to answer: Just what is Uber?
Nov 29 2019

In October 2016, two men nervously waited to hear the decision on their employment tribunal case. Yaseem Aslam and James Farrar were both licensed London minicab drivers. They enjoyed the work, but they also felt that they were being treated unfairly by their employer. 

What they were asking for was, they felt, simple and reasonable. They wanted a guarantee that they would earn the UK legal minimum wage and receive the minimum amount of paid annual leave required by law. That they had found themselves in court wasn’t just because their employer had refused to grant this, but because it refused to accept that they were its employees at all.

That employer was Uber…

…or was it?

Uber weren’t the men’s employer, Uber’s lawyers told the employment tribunal. Because Uber wasn’t… well… Uber. Not in the UK at least. It was, in fact, two entirely separate companies. Uber BV (UBV), a Dutch company that offered a rideshare app the men happened to use and Uber London Limited (ULL) , a TfL-licensed Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) operator based in the British capital that the men happened to have a relationship with.

The driver’s confusion, the lawyers insisted didn’t stop there. They were happy to accept that both men had a working relationship with ULL, but that didn’t mean they worked for it. At least not in any sense that would require Uber to grant them the legal rights guaranteed by the Employment Rights Act 1996, the Working Time Regulations Act 1998 or the National Minimum Wage Act 1998. 

Caddies vs pole dancers

ULL, the lawyers argued, didn’t employ any drivers. It was simply a brand umbrella under which 30,000 independently licensed minicab firms chose to operate. It was true, they admitted, that the vast majority (if not all) of that 30,000 were single-operator firms like Aslam and Farrar, but they were still independent. The tribunal was shown the contracts the men and others had signed, and drew the judges’ attention to the careful wording within them that confirmed this.

Part of the benefit for signing this contract, the lawyers explained, was that operators were granted access to UBV’s app. Not ULL’s app. On this they were clear. UBV’s app. Through that app, passengers could contact those operators directly, negotiate a ride and agree a fare. 

Neither ULL or UBV were involved in the ride itself, Uber’s lawyers were keen to stress. Yes, UBV took a small commission for facilitating the connection, but that was it. If there was a contractual arrangement, then it was solely made between passenger and operator, both of whom were free to set their own price (although yes, Uber’s lawyers admitted, the UBV app did suggest a price) and route (oh and yes, again, the UBV app did suggest an optimal route).

Uber’s lawyers argued that Aslam and Farrar (and the other 30,000 Uber drivers they indirectly represented) had misunderstood the relationship they had with Uber. They drew the judges’ attention to two previous similar examples in English case law. The two men, the lawyers argued, thought they were like golf caddies – technically independent, but so closely wedded to a golf club that they were, in effect, direct employees. Uber’s lawyers stressed that this was wrong. They had a different example in mind for the relationship between Uber and their drivers, one set by Quashie v Stringfellow.

The drivers weren’t like caddies at all, the lawyers explained. They were like pole dancers. Uber – or rather ULL and UBV separately – were simply providing them access to a space in which they could perform for money.

The judgement

When it came, the tribunal’s ruling was unanimous: Whether Aslam and Farrar were direct employees of Uber or not was unclear. This was good news for Uber, but what came next was anything but. The tribunal ruled that what was clear was that the two men did, in a more general sense, work for Uber. Certainly to a level that entitled them, and indeed all Uber drivers within England and Wales, to the minimum wage and annual leave.

“This is,” the tribunal judges explained in their ruling, “we think, an excellent illustration of the phenomenon of which Elias J warned in the Kalwak case, of ‘armies of lawyers’ contriving documents in their clients’ interests which simply misrepresent the true rights and obligations on both sides.”

From Uber’s perspective, the obvious potential costs of this ruling were bad enough. The devil, however, is always in the detail and the tribunal wasn’t done. Over the subsequent pages of their ruling they gently, but firmly, tore a gaping hole in Uber’s legal definition of itself.

“[Uber’s] general case and the written terms on which they rely do not correspond with the practical reality.” The ruling explained. 

It continued. “The notion that Uber in London is a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common ‘platform’ is to our minds faintly ridiculous.”

The judges still weren’t finished.

“It is, in our opinion, unreal to deny that Uber is in business as a supplier of transportation services.”

This was a potential disaster for Uber. What they had stumbled into, perhaps unwittingly, was something that as an American firm ‘by birth’ they may not even have realised they needed to avoid: the Duck Test.


Can An Electric Car World Handle Thanksgiving Travel?

Can An Electric Car World Handle Thanksgiving Travel?
By Brad Templeton
Nov 28 2019

Each Thanksgiving season, stories abound on travel. It isn’t actually anywhere near the top air travel period, in spite of the stories, but there is a fair bit of long distance road travel compared to other periods outside the summer. Regardless of whether Thanksgiving is the peak, there is a peak, and people have asked, “How could electric vehicles get enough charging to handle tons of people all taking a long road trip at once?” They also ask this question for things like evacuations.

AAA reports that around 50 million will take a road trip of more than 50 miles this holiday, though because it’s family travel, that means not nearly so many cars. For modern electric cars with over 200 miles of range, the more important question involves how many are taking a trip of more than that distance, thus requiring charging along the way just to get there, plus possibly a bit more at the destination.

DC Fast charging sessions run at anywhere from 50kw (200mph) for typical CCS/Chademo chargers to up to 250kw (1000mph) for Tesla’s newest superchargers. Even faster chargers are in the works and there are claims of even faster charging for newer generations of batteries. The full charging rate typically is only used when going from empty up to about 50% charged, after that most systems taper down. As a result, a typical visit to a Tesla Supercharger runs 50-70 minutes when fairly low, and 90 minutes or more for cars like the Chevy Bolt. This means that when handling cars doing long haul, each charging station can only handle 0.5 to 1.2 such cars per hour. A 2-lane freeway, however, may be passing 4,000 cars per hour in each direction.

Fast charging stations are expensive and require high current power connections. For now they can be sited where the power lines can be found. As EV adoption grows, the charge network will grow. The question is, what pays for the installation of the set of chargers that only get used on the peak demand days. With gasoline, when demand exceeds the number of pumps, people line up, but the wait is rarely very long. With chargers, a line can easily mean an unacceptable wait.

Of course, there is no such thing as “the one” charger which is used only on the peak day. Instead, providers build a bank of chargers, and can build a small bank that fills up frequently (giving up business) or a larger bank that’s much more expensive to build but rarely full. The sweet spot still will fill up on peak days unless there is a lot of competition for charging that causes a bit of overbuilding.

Here, proprietary charging networks like Tesla’s can have an advantage. Tesla doesn’t treat charging as a profit center. It builds chargers so that Teslas are more attractive cars because you know you can road trip in them. It can be motivated to build surplus chargers just to promise buyers they will not be stranded at Thanksgiving. Generic charging networks do not have that incentive, though EV vendors could do contracts with such charging networks to give priority or reservations to their particular EV at these high demand times.

One option might be to limit people to only charging from zero to 50% on peak days. As noted, most chargers slow down above 50%, reducing the efficiency of the charging. That Tesla V3 charger is able to put 120 extra miles in an empty car in just 7.2 minutes, allowing 7 cars per hour for these partial charges, significantly improving throughput. As a result, those doing very long trips would need to make two 7 minute stops instead of one 30 minute stop – less convenient, but less chance of a line. Those on the road could also get (and need to get) reserved slots. Reservations would have a large window when booked but narrow once you are on the road. Those who can’t get a reservation may need to make other plans or use a gasoline car that one day.

A 240 mile Tesla with a 120 mile 8 minute recharge could then take you over 350 miles, which probably covers a very large fraction of the Thanksgiving drive, if you time it right. In this future mostly-EV world, you can time it right because there will be charging stations at most off-ramps in that world.

Some imagine battery swap might be a solution, though that has generally been a failure. Since it’s unlikely to happen or be useful in the general situation, it’s unlikely it could be used just for the rare peaks services. This article on robocars and battery swap details why battery swap is a terrible idea, except perhaps for robocars.


Korean Go master quits the game because AI ‘cannot be defeated’

[Note:  This item comes from friend Steve Schear.  DLH]

Korean Go master quits the game because AI ‘cannot be defeated’
By James Griffiths
Nov 27 2019

Hong Kong(CNN Business) — A South Korean master of the ancient strategy game Go has announced his retirement from professional competition due to the rise of what he says is unbeatable artificial intelligence. 

The news that Lee Se-dol is bowing out comes three years after he lost in a closely watched series against Google’s AlphaGo in 2016. 

Lee managed to win one game out of five against Google’s computer program — the only time it has been beaten in competition — but was ultimately defeated. Since then, AlphaGo has become even more advanced, beating other top players around the world. 

“With the debut of AI in Go games, I’ve realized that I’m not at the top, even if I become the number one through frantic efforts,” Lee told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency this week. “Even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated.” 

Lee told the news agency that his victory in 2016 was likely down to a bug in Google’s code, after he used a move that could not be “countered straightforwardly” and the program responded in an unusual way that gave him an opening and eventually forced AlphaGo to surrender.

Software programs long ago became adept at classic board games like backgammon. Their rapid progress culminated in the historic victory of IBM’s Deep Blue computer over world chess champion Gary Kasparov in 1997. 

In Go — which dates back to ancient China — two players alternate placing white and black stones on a grid. The goal is to claim the most territory. To do so, players surround their opponent’s pieces so that they are removed from the board.

The board’s 19-by-19 grid is so vast that it allows a near infinite combination of moves, making it tough for machines to comprehend, and something of a holy grail for artificial intelligence scientists. 

Using deep-learning artificial intelligence however, programs such as AlphaGo have been able to build up their mastery over the years and draw on data from thousands of games. 

The 36-year-old Lee, who won 18 international competitions and 32 domestic tournaments, according to Yonhap, resigned from the Korea Baduk Association (KBA) this month, ending a 24-year career. Baduk is the Korean name for Go. 

While Lee is no longer playing professionally, he is helping to develop just the type of AI that pushed him out of competition. Next month, he has a match against HanDol, a South Korean AI program which has already defeated the country’s top five Go players. Lee will also start with the edge in the first match.


As Venezuela’s economy plunges, citizens turn to hacking and cybercrime for easy money

As Venezuela’s economy plunges, citizens turn to hacking and cybercrime for easy money
Nov 27 2019

Cybercrime is on a rapid rise in Venezuela as an effect of the country’s economic and political turmoil, according to a report released Thursday by IntSights, a global threat intelligence company. More and more people are being driven into the underground criminal world as it provides a lucrative alternative to make money.

IntSights analysts found sophisticated and systematic operations working to steal personal information of individuals from Latin America, such as bankers and retailers and they either sell the information online to the highest bidder or use it further to dig more data. These hacks and data gathering operations are quite profitable and remunerative for Venezuelans, as they sell it for cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, a better alternative to the drowning national currency-Venezuelan bolivar.

Venezuela, once amongst the richest countries in Latin America, with large oil reserves and gold mines has now become a mere shell of its former self as decades of corruption and socialist rule have plunged the economy. The political condition of the country is also severe as there have been ongoing protests and rebels against President Nicolás Maduro from last year. This hyperinflation in Venezuela has caused a deterioration in the national currency and thus citizens have turned to cryptocurrency.

The International Monetary Fund says inflation of the Venezuelan bolivar, the country’s currency, is expected to hit a startling 200,000 percent this year. A cup of coffee that cost 150 bolivars in November 2018 now costs 18,000 bolivars, according to Bloomberg (Quoting nbcnews).

The hackers are based in Venezuela a neighboring country, like Colombia and they don’t seem to be hiding unlike experienced hackers from Russia and China. Information about the operations, their phone numbers and where to find them is easily available.
“They don’t seem too concerned about hiding,” Charity Wright, an analyst at IntSights said. “I think it’s because they don’t sense law enforcement will do anything.”

The law enforcers have also turned a blind eye to the victims, as they are more concerned about handling the political turmoil, the reports said.

There has been heavy censorship in the country with bans on CNN, major newspapers, VPN’s. Social networks like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter, and messaging apps like WhatsApp are the major means of communication for the people. Cybercriminals can also be found easily on these platforms collaborating and looking for work.