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All new cell phone users in China must now have their face scannedThe news: Customers in China who buy SIM cards or register new mobile-phone services must have their faces scanned under a new law that came into effect yesterday. China’s government says the new rule, which was passed into law back in September, will “protect the legitimate rights and interest of citizens in cyberspace.”A controversial step: It can be seen as part of an ongoing push by China’s government to make sure that people use services on the internet under their real names, thus helping to reduce fraud and boost cybersecurity. On the other hand, it also looks like part of a drive to make sure every member of the population can be surveilled.How do Chinese people feel about it? It’s hard to say for sure, given how strictly the press and social media are regulated, but there are hints of growing unease over the use of facial recognition technology within the country. From the outside, there has been a lot of concern over the role the technology will play in the controversial social credit system, and how it’s been used to suppress Uighur Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang.Knock-on effect: How facial recognition plays out in China might have an impact on its use in other countries, too. Chinese tech firms are helping to create influential United Nations standards for the technology, The Financial Times reported yesterday. These standards will help shape rules on how facial recognition is used around the world, particularly in developing countries.ShareLinkImageGettyShareLinkImageGettyQuantum computingDecember 2How suspicions of spying threaten cross-border scienceAn intelligence startup warns that China is exploiting Western quantum scientists for military ends. The evidence is thin but tensions are rising.Artificial IntelligenceNov 29This is how Facebook’s AI looks for bad stuffThe context: The vast majority of Facebook’s moderation is now done automatically by the company’s machine-learning systems, reducing the amount of harrowing content its moderators have to review. In…So, what are we seeing here? The company has been training its machine-learning systems to identify and label objects in videos—from the mundane, such as vases or people—to the dangerous, such as guns or knives. Facebook’s AI uses two main approaches to look for dangerous content. One is to employ neural networks that look for features and behaviors of known objects and label them with varying percentages of confidence (as we can see in the video above).Training in progress: These neural networks are trained on a combination of pre-labeled videos from its human reviewers, reports from users, and soon, from videos taken by London’s Metropolitan Police. The neural nets are able to use this information to guess what the entire scene might be showing, and whether it contains any behavior or images that should be flagged. It gave more details on how its systems work at a press briefing this week.Then what? If the system decides that a video file contains problematic images or behavior, it can remove it automatically or send it to a human content reviewer. If it breaks the rules, Facebook can then create a hash—a unique string of numbers—to denote it and propagate that throughout the system so that other matching content will be automatically deleted if someone tries to re-upload it. These hashes can be shared with other social-media firms so they can also take down copies of the offending file.“These [Metropolitan Police] videos are incredibly useful for us. Terrorist events are rare, thankfully, but it means the amount of training data is so small,” engineering manager Nicola Bortignon said on a call.One weak spot: Facebook is still struggling to automate its understanding of the meaning, nuance, and context of language. That’s why the company relies on people to report the overwhelming majority of bullying and harassment posts that break its rules: just 16% of these posts are identified by its automated systems. As the technology advances, we can expect to see that figure increase. However, getting AI to truly understand language remains one of the field’s biggest challenges.The bigger picture: In March, a terrorist killed 49 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. He live-streamed the massacre on Facebook, and videos of it circulated around the site for months afterwards. It was a wake-up call for the industry. If it happened again now, there is a better chance it would be caught and removed more quickly.ShareLinkImageFacebookExpandComputingNov 29Underwater fiber-optic cables have spotted unknown faults in the ocean floorThe big idea: The same fiber-optic cables we use to get online are being repurposed to detect earthquakes and study the ocean floor. The technique has been used to find a previously unknown cluster of…How they did it: The researchers temporarily turned 20 kilometers of undersea fiber-optic cable into the equivalent of 10,000 seismic stations along the ocean floor. They used a technique known as distributed acoustic sensing, in which short pulses of light are sent down the cable, and the backscattering created as the cable moves and stretches is analyzed. This method let the team get a better idea of the topography of the surrounding earth, and any seismic activity. Researchers usually observe the ocean floor using expensive conventional seismometers, but this method is cheaper and potentially more practical, as it repurposes existing infrastructure. The results: During a four-day experiment in Monterey Bay, the researchers recorded a 3.5 magnitude quake from an underwater fault zone which had occurred 45 kilometers away and used the seismic waves from it to discover a new underwater fault system. The system also successfully detected storm waves, all of which matched measurements taken by buoys and on land. Next steps: So-called dark fiber cables, ones that are no longer being used by internet firms, could be repurposed to study the sea floor in this way, and look for earthquake danger zones or even likely sources of useful minerals and other resources. But if they’re to piggyback on existing fiber-optic cables, scientists need to show they can ping laser pulses down them without disrupting the transfer of data.Sign up here to our daily newsletter The Download to get your dose of the latest must-read news from the world of emerging tech.ShareLinkImageAssociated PressExpandCybersecurityNovember 29The fall and rise of a spyware empireHuman rights abuse and a decimated reputation killed Hacking Team. The new owners want to rebuild.Humans and TechnologyNov 28Twitter has to figure out what to do with dead peopleTwitter said it would shut down any account that hasn’t logged in for six months, starting from December 11. It wasn’t ready for the backlash.Read moreSponsoredBreakthrough-to-ImpactThe next wave of digital transformation is here. Demand for seamless end user experiences and the need to build new business models coupled with the rise of exponential technologies such as cloud, AI, 5G, blockchain and quantum, amongst others, is reshaping business platforms and architectures.Read moreClimate ChangeNov 27Why we should be far more afraid of climate tipping pointsScientists argue we may cross the point of no return for some ecosystems in a little more than a decade.How heat from the sun could help clean up steel and cementLogjams aren’t really jammed at all, say geoscientistsSign up for The Download — your daily dose of what’s up in emerging technologyAlso stay updated on MIT Technology Review initiatives and events?YesNoSpaceNov 27A falling rocket booster just completely flattened a building in ChinaDespite how easy it is to prevent, China continues to allow launch debris to rain down on rural towns and threaten people’s safety.