Facial recognition, a weapon?

File this under “Sigh! We knew this was coming.”

The story is breaking that protesters are being tracked down by facial recognition software in several cities. But more alarming is how in Hong Kong, which is erupting right now, police are seeking out protesters, then grabbing their phones, and attempting to use the facial recognition software on the phones to unlock their phones.

Hong Kong was a colony of Britain until 1997, but is now a ‘special administrative region’ of China.

“Oh, how neat!” some people thought, when Hong Kong announced that it has facial recognition software in the airport so that passengers could pass through immigration and security smoothly. Likewise so many now use door bell cameras (such as Nest and Hello) that have facial recognition, not realizing the vulnerabilities they could bring.

Facial recognition is a short stop from racial and social profiling. Why is it that few people seem to care?

Do you trust Apple? Or buy it’s half-baked PR?

Many, many years ago I decided I would no longer support or use Apple products, however ‘convenient’ and cool they were. Most iPhones and Macs before that were overpriced; we as a family decided against them. (My first PC was an Mac. Today I could by three fast PCs for the price of that Mac I owned up to 1996.)

So now, as Apple products come under withering scrutiny, such as the ‘speed throttling’ or battery issue, I wonder why people still put up with a terribly unethical company. There have been plenty of scandals that signaled to customers something was awry  – from the iPad Chinese scandal, to the more recent one that smells of ‘Planned Obsolescence’ (an old marketing ruse).

Transparency is not its strong suit – secrecy is is built into its DNA after all. Including workplace secrecy. But Apple seems to understand human psychology, and knows that a shiny new object is enough to deflect bad business practice. If you read the company’s disingenuous apology, it sounds like it was hammered out by a group of ghost-writers in a tavern filled with corporate lawyers. So while there will be lawsuits and pressure from governments, it could ride this out.

So my question is, if you’re an Apple user do you ‘like‘ the company, and distrust the brand? Or is it the other way around?

Was Apple v Justice iPhone battle feigned?

So, did Tim Cook win? Or did law enforcement fight a fake battle over a back-door to an iPhone? A few weeks ago I wondered why they even bothered asking Apple.

Given that there are dozens of websites that provide back-door services, and there being ‘ethical hackers’ who could unlock phones, I’m surprised no one has offered to do it for Apple, thereby freeing them of the PR nightmare.

A lawyer for the ACLU seems to think the battle is far from over. As a friend mentioned in response to this post, this legal tussle could have been a set-up, just to cover the fact that the surveillance program can snoop into phones – locked or otherwise.

But no worries, 60 governments already do it, as reported in Wired magazine two years ago.

Quotes for the week ending 9 Jan, 2010

“…we’re not saying you’re evil, Google–you just sometimes make us want to wear a tin hat.”

Kit Eaton at Fast Company, on Google’s Near Me Now app on its Android phones and the iPhone that he says  will make “a lot of location-based App Makers” furious.

“Yes, I’m serious…there are plenty of companies that still insist on running every single tweet through multiple PR teams to make sure the messaging is spot on.”

Matt Singley, on the 6 things you need to know about social media.

“your diaphragm changes — your voice comes across very differently.”

Nancy Duarte, CEO of Duarte Design and author of slide:ology, on presenting to remote audiences.

“Jay Leno is one of the most compelling entertainers in the world today … It has, however, presented some issues for our affiliates.”

NBC statement on its decision to move the time slot of Leno’s show.

“Seamless connectivity and rich social experience offered by web 2.0 companies are the very antithesis of human freedom.”

Web 2.0 Suicide Machine, a web site that claims it can erase a person’s presence from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace.

Are we unready for the mobile interface?

Someday the phone in your pocket will be less and less of a talking instrument, and more and more of a remote, a news conduit, a personal carbon footprint calculator, a gaming device, a…

You get the point.

But the fact is, many of our organizations are lagging in making much of our communication:

(a) Platform agnostic –a fancy way of saying it should be accessible on a Mac, PC, Windows Media device, Blackberry or iPhone

(b) Interactive –letting our visitors and audiences do something with the information, such as tagging, annotating, commenting, forwarding etc

(c) Portable –moving an applet from a web to a phone for instance.

I brought this up at a meeting recently where the topic of social networks came up. I am not a huge fan of creating one more cooler-than-yours social network, because we are all dealing with social network fatigue and it will only get worse. Making content portable to me is one way to solve it.

If we’re all going to gravitate toward “cloud computing” the mobile device might be the cloud’s best friend.

To get back to the ‘other’ functions of our mobile device, I just met with my good friend and marketing thinker, Steve England, who showed me some mind-blowing mobile applications. Granted, his phone is smarter than mine –I caught him ‘following’ Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki in a coffee shop! Steve’s working with a company that can print a bar code (like the one on the left) that could be scanned with any camera phone.

From an end-user perspective, these bar-codes are not only for consumer products but can act as visual cues that lead a person (like breadcrumbs?) from offline to online seamlessly, bypassing logins, account verification etc.

From a Communicator’s or Marcom manager’s perspective, these codes/icons could be even used on a touch-screen to deploy timely information to a niche opt-in group. On a wider scale, it’s being touted for emergency –and even ‘minor emergency’ alerts .

Right now, it’s probably a challenge for you to even read a PDF I send you on a phone, right? Coming soon, I may be able to reach you, even if you’ve accidentally left your phone at home, via a digital panel on a bus.

Now that would be  truly ‘mobile!’

“Rumor” about Jobs, a symptom of things to come

Steve Jobs brushed it off with a slide. He used the Mark Twain line to note that the rumor of his death had been greatly exaggerated.

The rumor, was not a rumor but a publishing mistake –going live with a story that should have been behind a firewall. Bloomberg is not the first to make this new-media error.

The copy had the usual safeguards: “HOLD FOR RELEASE – DO NOT USE – HOLD FOR RELEASE – DO NOT USE.” There were placeholders such as “IF STOCK DROPS” leading into a sentence “…The decline is no surprise to investors…” All good intentioned.

But in the rush to do things to meet unforgiving deadlines, to hit the newsstands, and sate the digital newsfeeds, publishing must take these risks. Are we moving too fast, where we might accidentally push the button that could affect the stock price of a company?

Rumors –especially the online kind– are nothing new. United Airlines’ stock was a victim of a rumor just this week, while Yahoo! (temporarily) benefitted from the Microsoft takeover rumor that turned out to be more than a rumor.

Rumor is being slipped into the PR toolbox because it goes well with viral. Recently, there was one about the –ready for this?- Apple Nano iPhone. If you replace “rumor” with “forecast” a lot of this might make sense. The Nano iPhone story was based on a “forecast” using “unnamed sources in the supply channel.”

As we accelerate our marketing, our PR and how we generate news about organizations we represent, news, forecasting and speculating could begin to blur.

Dan Lyons, who once created the now-retired Fake Steve blog, didn’t mince his words describing Gawker, which republished the Bloomberg gaffe as “filthy hacks,” ending also with “Great work, Bloomberg. You dopes.”

10 things we obsessed about in 2007

Here’s what I will remember about 2007 from the perspective of marketing, social media and communications. We obsessed about these stories in PR, marketing and social media.

1. Facebook made us rethink what social networking could do for one-to-one communications.

2. Network neutrality became a debate that not just the geeks and telcos were interested in.

3. Short codes gained popularity as the new URLs, as text messaging took off. Sadly, it took the shootings at Virginia tech for universities to realize the value of this kind of messaging.

4. Mashups became more entertaining than the original. Think: the “1984″ spoof ‘commercial‘ about Hillary Clinton, viewed over 3 million times.

5. It was the year micro-blogging (with Twitter and Jaiku) got taken seriously,

6. This was the year email spam (in the form of “co-worker spam” and “PR spam”) hit a tipping point, forcing communicators to take a good hard look at databases, and how to try to target better. Not convinced? See the rumpus Wired editor, Chris Anderson’s “sorry people you’re blocked” post did.

7. A new, intriguing search engine called Mahalo (made possible by humans, not just algorithms!), the future of Wikipedia, and whether “amateurish” knowledge is helping or hurting us.

8. The toy for grown ups: the iPhone, what else?

9. Beacon, Facebook’s daring experiment with something called “social ads.”

10. Obama-mania, both here and abroad.

(cross posted from ValleyPRblog)