WUHAN, China (AP) — Since the coronavirus outbreak, life in China is ruled by a green symbol on a smartphone screen.
Green is the “health code” that says a user is symptom-free and it’s required to board a subway, check into a hotel or just enter Wuhan, the central city of 11 million people where the pandemic began in December.
The system is made possible by the Chinese public’s almost universal adoption of smartphones and the ruling Communist Party’s embrace of “Big Data” to extend its surveillance and control over society.
Walking into a Wuhan subway station Wednesday, Wu Shenghong, a manager for a clothing manufacturer, used her smartphone to scan a barcode on a poster that triggered her health code app. A green code and part of her identity card number appeared on the screen. A guard wearing a mask and goggles waved her through.
If the code had been red, that would tell the guard that Wu was confirmed to be infected or had a fever or other symptoms and was awaiting a diagnosis. A yellow code would mean she had contact with an infected person but hadn’t finished a two-week quarantine, meaning she should be in a hospital or quarantined at home.
Wu, who was on her way to see retailers after returning to work this week, said the system has helped reassure her after a two-month shutdown left the streets of Wuhan empty.
People with red or yellow codes “are definitely not running around outside,” said Wu, 51. “I feel safe.”
Intensive use of the health code is part of the efforts by authorities to revive China’s economy while preventing a spike in infections as workers stream back into factories, offices and shops.
Most access to Wuhan, the manufacturing hub of central China, was suspended Jan. 23 to fight the coronavirus. The lockdown spread to surrounding cities in Hubei province and then people nationwide were ordered stay home in the most intensive anti-disease controls ever imposed. The final travel controls on Wuhan are due to be lifted April 8.
Other governments should consider adopting Chinese-style “digital contact tracing,” Oxford University researchers recommended in a report published Tuesday in the journal Science. The virus is spreading too rapidly for traditional methods to track infections “but could be controlled if this process was faster, more efficient and happened at scale,” the researchers wrote.
Once aboard the subway, Wu and other commuters used their smartphones to scan a code that recorded the number of the car they rode in case authorities need to find them later.
An attendant carried a banner reading “Please wear a mask throughout your trip. Do not get close to others. Scan the code before you get off the train.” Seats were marked with dots denoting where passengers were to sit to stay far enough away from each other.
Visitors to shopping malls, offices buildings and other public places in Wuhan undergo a similar routine. They show their health codes and guards in masks and gloves check them for fever before they are allowed in.
The health codes add to a steadily growing matrix of high-tech monitoring that tracks what China’s citizens do in public, online and at work: Millions of video cameras blanket streets from major cities to small towns. Censors monitor activity on the internet and social media. State-owned telecom carriers can trace where mobile phone customers go.
A vast, computerized system popularly known as social credit is intended to enforce obedience to official rules. People with too many demerits for violations ranging from committing felonies to littering can be blocked from buying plane tickets, getting loans, obtaining government jobs or leaving the country.
A statement by the city government of Tianjin, a port city of 16 million people adjacent to Beijing, said the health codes were temporary but offered no indication when use might end.
The codes are issued through the popular WeChat messaging service of internet giant Tencent Ltd. and the Alipay electronic payments service of Alibaba Group, the world’s biggest e-commerce company.
Some 900 million people use the system on WeChat, according to the newspaper Beijing Youth Daily and other outlets. No total for Alipay has been reported.
Obtaining a health code is simple: Users fill out an electronic form with their identity details, address and whether they have a cough or fever. The system includes no steps to confirm whether a user is healthy.
Authorities have threatened that violators will be “dealt with severely,” though detailed penalties have yet to be announced.
Regulations say people who try to travel with a red health code will be marked down in the social credit system.
“Fraud, concealment and other behaviors” carry penalties that “will have a huge impact on their future life and work,” a statement by the government of Heilongjiang province in the northeast said.
Associated Press producer Olivia Zhang in Wuhan, China, and AP writer Joe McDonald and researcher Yu Bing in Beijing contributed to this story.
Facebook removes nearly 200 accounts tied to hate groups
By DAVID KLEPPER Associated Press
Facebook has removed nearly 200 social media accounts linked to white supremacy groups that planned to encourage members to attend protests over police killings of black people — in some cases with weapons, company officials said Friday.
The accounts on Facebook and Instagram were tied to the Proud Boys and the American Guard, two hate groups already banned on the platforms. Officials were already monitoring the accounts in preparation for removing them when they saw posts attempting to exploit the ongoing protests prompted by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“We saw that these groups were planning to rally supporters and members to physically go to the protests and in some cases were preparing to go with weapons,” said Brian Fishman, Facebook’s director of counterterrorism and dangerous organizations policy.
The company did not divulge details of the account users — such as their specific plans for protests or where in the U.S. they live. It said “approximately” 190 accounts were removed overall.
Both the Proud Boys and American Guard had been banned from Facebook for violating rules prohibiting hate speech. Facebook said it will continue to remove new pages, groups or accounts created by users trying to circumvent the ban.
Earlier this week, Facebook announced the removal of a “handful” of other accounts created by white supremacists who had been posing on Twitter as members of the far-left antifa movement.
Facebook announced two other actions on Friday to root out networks of fake accounts used in attempts to manipulate public opinion in Africa and Iraq:
— Hundreds of fake Instagram and Facebook accounts created in Tunisia in an alleged effort to influence elections in that country and other French-speaking nations in sub-Saharan Africa:
The accounts and related pages were used to impersonate local citizens, politicians and news organizations. More than 3.8 million accounts followed one or more of the pages, and more than 171,000 people had followed one of the fake Instagram accounts.
The network of fake accounts and pages was uncovered by the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. In their report, researchers at the DFRL said they’ve noticed more and more PR firms dabbling in misinformation and online manipulation.
— Facebook also deactivated another network of 102 fake Instagram and Facebook accounts used to impersonate local politicians and news organizations in the Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Company officials said the fake accounts, which appeared to target domestic audiences in Kurdistan, were linked to Kurdish intelligence services.
Study: Autonomous vehicles won’t make roads completely safe
By TOM KRISHER AP Auto Writer
DETROIT (AP) — A new study says that while autonomous vehicle technology has great promise to reduce crashes, it may not be able to prevent all mishaps caused by human error.
Auto safety experts say humans cause about 94% of U.S. crashes, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study says computer-controlled robocars will only stop about one-third of them.
The group says that while autonomous vehicles eventually will identify hazards and react faster than humans, and they won’t become distracted or drive drunk, stopping the rest of the crashes will be a lot harder.
“We’re still going to see some issues even if autonomous vehicles might react more quickly than humans do. They’re not going to always be able to react instantaneously,” said Jessica Cicchino, and institute vice president of research and co-author of the study.
The IIHS studied over 5,000 crashes with detailed causes that were collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, separating out those caused by “sensing and perceiving” errors such as driver distraction, impaired visibility or failing to spot hazards until it was too late. Researchers also separated crashes caused by human “incapacitation” including drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs, those who fell asleep or drivers with medical problems. Self-driving vehicles can prevent those, the study found.
However, the robocars may not be able to prevent the rest, including prediction errors such as misjudging how fast another vehicle is traveling, planning errors including driving too fast for road conditions and execution errors including incorrect evasive maneuvers or other mistakes controlling vehicles.
For example, if a cyclist or another vehicle suddenly veers into the path of an autonomous vehicle, it may not be able to stop fast enough or steer away in time, Cicchino said. “Autonomous vehicles need to not only perceive the world around them perfectly, they need to respond to what’s around them as well,” she said.
Just how many crashes are prevented depends a lot on how autonomous vehicles are programmed, Cicchino said. More crashes would be stopped if the robocars obey all traffic laws including speed limits. But if artificial intelligence allows them to drive and react more like humans, then fewer crashes will be stopped, she said.
“Building self-driving cars that drive as well as people do is a big challenge in itself,” IIHS Research Scientist Alexandra Mueller said in a statement. “But they’d actually need to be better than that to deliver on the promises we’ve all heard.”
Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, a group with many self-driving vehicle companies as members, said Thursday that the study incorrectly assumes superior perception and lack of distraction are the only ways autonomous vehicles can drive better than humans.
Autonomous vehicles, for instance, can be programmed to never break traffic laws, which the study blames for 38% of crashes. “The assumption that these behaviors could be altered by passengers in ways that so dramatically reduce safety is inconsistent with what our members tell us about the culture they bring to AV development,” said a statement from the group, which includes Ford, General Motors, Waymo, Lyft, Daimler, Volkswagen and others.
Study numbers show autonomous vehicles would prevent 72% or crashes, the group said, but the vehicles are so complex that the ultimate impact is only a guess.
Yet Missy Cummings, a robotics and human factors professor at Duke University who is familiar with the study, said preventing even one-third of the human-caused crashes is giving technology too much credit. Even vehicles with laser, radar and camera sensors don’t always perform flawlessly in all conditions, she said.
“There is a probability that even when all three sensor systems come to bear, that obstacles can be missed,” Cummings said. “No driverless car company has been able to do that reliably. They know that, too.”
Researchers and people in the autonomous vehicle business never thought the technology would be capable of preventing all crashes now caused by humans, she said, calling that “layman’s conventional wisdom that somehow this technology is going to be a panacea that is going to prevent all death.”
IIHS researchers reviewed the crash causes and decided which ones could be prevented, assuming that all vehicles on the road were autonomous, Cicchino said. Even fewer crashes will be prevented while self-driving vehicles are mixed with human driven cars, she said.
Virginia-based IIHS is a nonprofit research and education organization that’s funded by auto insurance companies.
More than 60 companies have applied to test autonomous vehicles in California alone, but they have yet to start a fully-robotic large-scale ride-hailing service without human backup drivers.
Several companies including Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo and General Motors’ Cruise had pledged to do it during the past two years, but those plans were delayed when the industry pulled back after an Uber automated test vehicle hit and killed a pedestrian in March 2018 in Tempe, Arizona.
Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk last year promised a fleet of autonomous robotaxis would start operating in 2020. But recently he has said he hopes to deploy the system with humans monitoring it in early 2021, depending on regulatory approval.
Germany, France hope cloud data project to boost sovereignty
By GEIR MOULSON Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) — Germany and France on Thursday launched a project to set up a European cloud computing platform that they hope will enhance European economic sovereignty in the wake of the coronavirus crisis and break the continent’s dependence on U.S. and Chinese companies.
The platform, entitled GAIA-X, is meant to be up and running — at least in prototype form — at the beginning of next year and be open to users from outside Europe that commit to adhere to European standards. German Economy Peter Altmaier said that the aim is “nothing less than a European moonshot in digital policy.”
Germany and France will set up a non-profit association to coordinate and organize the data infrastructure, Altmaier said. Conceived last year and initially announced in October, GAIA-X follows on the heels of an existing push by the European Union’s two biggest economies to set up a car battery consortium aimed at catching up with Asian rivals.
The cloud computing project “could not have been more timely” as Europe tries to dig itself out of a deep recession caused by the coronavirus crisis, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said.
“With the COVID crisis, companies massively shifted to teleworking. This makes the need for (a) secure and European cloud solution all the more urgent,” Le Maire told a news conference by video link from Paris.
“The crisis also showed that the giant tech companies are the winners … the European digital space has to be protected,” he added, pledging that the new platform “will ensure the application of policy rules based on EU values and standards.”
“We are not China, we are not the United States — we are European countries with our own values and our own economic interests that we want to defend,” Le Maire said. He stressed the importance of “interoperability,” allowing companies to switch easily to the new system without losing any data.
The two ministers said the project has brought together 22 companies in France and Germany, including Dassault Systemes, Orange, Siemens, SAP, Robert Bosch and Deutsche Telekom. They didn’t give financial details. Le Maire called on “all other European companies and countries” to join the initiative.
Beyond that, “the idea is that we invite companies across the world providing their cloud services according to European standards and rules,” Altmaier said. “Everyone who wants to have the label of GAIA-X will have to respect and to satisfy several sets of rules,” including on interoperability and data migration.
He said that the project’s success “will be crucial for Germany, for France and for Europe as far as our economic strength, our competitivity and our sovereignty are concerned.”
Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest news every week.
FCC decision: A challenge for the telecom industry
Facebook removes nearly 200 accounts tied to hate groups
iBio to develop second vaccine platform against COVID-19
Fintech – Advancing financial services provide more equality and opportunity
Mountasser Hachem – He Who Dares Wins
5 Reasons Why… Telecoms is Important in Society
Telecom Sales Strategies that will Bring You Success in 2020
Huawei Mate X Foldable 5G Device – Is it Worth the Investment?
Interview with Richard Brandon, VP of Marketing at RtBrick
Interview with Razan Itani – Monty Mobile
Interview with Peter Clarke – WND UK
Mountasser Hachem – He Who Dares Wins
Press Releases3 weeks ago
Exploiting the Edge: Research reveals $17 billion in market opportunity for service providers
Case Studies3 weeks ago
African Mobile Operator Group CEO Steps down
TechMED2 weeks ago
New COVID-19 Detection System for infected patients
Feature Articles4 weeks ago
COVID-19 and the shift in consumer behavior
Feature Articles2 weeks ago
E-commerce – social networks facilitating online shopping activity
Feature Articles1 day ago
The 5G debate continues: a detriment to health or not?
Feature Articles3 weeks ago
Sending a job application over the Internet? Think again!
Feature Articles2 weeks ago
Covid-19 Medical Advisory Clinic to be launched by Doctor Anywhere