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China’s New 500-megapixel ‘Super Camera’ Can Instantly Recognize You In A Crowd.



China is already home to extensive facial recognition technology, using it to identify criminals, monitor students’ attention, and even let citizens purchase train tickets.

Now, in an attempt to enrich its surveillance arsenal, reseachers from the country have developed a 500 megapixel facial recognition camera capable of capturing “thousands of faces at a stadium in perfect detail and generate their facial data for the cloud while locating a particular target in an instant.”

The AI-based cloud camera service was developed in collaboration between Shanghai-based Fudan University and Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Changchun, according to Global Times.

The “super camera” is also said to have the ability to shoot panoramic photos with a clear image of every single human face, something that can be put to use in extremely crowded public spots.

The facial recognition system has been designed keeping national defense, military and public security in mind, the report said, adding it could “serve as a watchdog at military bases, satellite launch bases and national borders to prevent suspicious people and objects from entering or exiting.”

Boosting its Social Credit System

The development comes as facial recognition tech has been the subject of a growing debate among civil liberty groups and lawmakers across the world, not to mention raising privacy concerns in a country well-known for its entrenched surveillance of its citizens.

It’s no secret that China has been hard at work designing a nationwide Social Credit System that employs a reputation-based behavioral ranking methodology to assess its 1.4 billion people and millions of businesses.

In addition, it has trained its sophisticated facial recognition-enabled mass surveillance system to target the oppressed Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang province.

Earlier this month, China announced plans to expand this controversial practice for a corporate ranking system of over 30 million companies in the nation.

The system, which rewards good behavior with extra prvileges and bans those with lower scores from traveling, or getting government jobs, is expected to be rolled out officially next year. The technology is made possible by a fleet of surveillance cameras equipped with facial recognition, body scanning, and geo-tracking to exert digital control and monitor individuals’ whereabouts.

Viewed in this light, the new 500 megapixel camera could make the process a lot more efficient.

Not just China

Elsewhere, Amazon and Palantir’s deals with law enforcement agencies in the US have attracted scrutiny, while a UK high court recently ruled in favor of police using automatic facial recognition technology to search for people in crowds. San Francisco has banned police from using it altogether.

India, meanwhile, has invited bids to build a system in order to centralize facial recognition data captured through surveillance cameras across the country and match them against a national criminal database.

Complicating the matter is the lack of oversight and data protection regulations to prevent exploitation of such sensitive data for dubious purposes.

“A system that can identify criminals is invaluable — facial recognition is a powerful tool,” said Nilabh Kishore, deputy inspector general of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police told Bloomberg last week. “But human intentions are also very important. You can make the best of technology, but if human intentions are wrong it can be a tool for misuse.”

(Source: Ravie Lakshmanan)


APPLE RECOMMENDS: Best Apps For Work And Play



Apple has held an event to crown its favorite iPhone, iPad and Mac games of the last year. If you’ve been swiping around your home screen looking for something fresh to cheer-up your gadget, this could be the perfect time to download a new application to make you more productive, or an award-winning game to help pass the time on your commute.

Apple has decided to highlight a number of different apps, from stylish games – like Sayonara Wild Hearts on iPhone – to practical workhorses – like Affinity Publisher on Mac. Although there isn’t anything controversial here, the judges’ picks should throw the spotlight on smaller developers who might not crack the Top Ten on the App Store, but that millions of iPhone, iPad and Mac owners might find useful or entertaining to use every single day.

The App Store is a serious phenomenon. The digital store, which is used to download all applications and games on iPhone and iPad hardware, has earned developers $120 billion worldwide. Although Mac users can download software from other sources, there is still a curated App Store where the applications are vetted by Apple’s famously strict rules. Apple Watch owners recently gained the ability to search their own dedicated App Store and download and install apps from their wrist following the launch of watchOS 6.

Arch-rival Google recently announced its own picks of the Best Apps of the year. Although there is a lot of crossover between the App Store and the Google Play Store (the equivalent for Android smartphones and tablets), both have a number of popular exclusives.

Apple has also published a definitive list of the most popular apps downloaded from its App Store over the last 12 months, too. This allows some of the most widely-downloaded software – like Facebook, WhatsApp, TikTok, and more – that wasn’t fortunate enough to get a spot on the podium during Apple’s awards can still get some recognition.

And speaking of awards, Apple has just hosted its first-ever Apple Music awards. The show was designed to celebrate the best musical talent that has been streamed on the music service, which directly competes with Spotify and is available on all Apple hardware as well as Android smartphones and tablets.

Here is the full list of the winners of the Best Apps Of The Year, as chosen by Apple:

iPhone App of the Year: Spectre Camera
iPad App of the Year: Flow by Moleskine
Mac App of the Year: Affinity Publisher
Apple TV App of the Year: The Explorers
iPhone Game of the Year: Sky: Children of the Light
iPad Game of the Year: Hyper Light Drifter
Mac Game of the Year: GRIS
Apple TV Game of the Year: Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap
Apple Arcade Game of the Year: Sayonara Wild Hearts

Top Free iPhone Apps

YouTube: Watch, Listen, Stream
TikTok – Make Your Day
Gmail – Email by Google
Google Maps – Transit & Food
Amazon – Shopping made easy

Top Paid iPhone Apps

Dark Sky Weather
The Wonder Weeks
AutoSleep Tracker for Watch
Afterlight – Photo Editor
Procreate Pocket
Sky Guide
Toca Hair Salon 3

Top Free iPad Apps

YouTube: Watch, Listen, Stream
Amazon Prime Video
Google Chrome
Hulu: Watch TV Shows & Movies
Gmail – Email by Google
TikTok – Make Your Day

Top Paid iPad Apps

GoodNotes 5
Duet Display
Toca Hair Salon 3
Toca Life: Neighborhood
PDF Expert 7: PDF Editor
Affinity Designer

Top Free iPhone Games

Mario Kart Tour
Color Bump 3D
Call of Duty: Mobile
BitLife – Life Simulator
Polysphere – art of puzzle
Roller Splat!
Top Paid iPhone Games

Heads Up!
Plague Inc.
Bloons TD 6
Geometry Dash
Rebel Inc.
The Game of Life
Stardew Valley
Bloons TD 5
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Speaking about the awards, Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller said: “Developers around the world inspire us all with innovative apps that have the power to influence culture and change our lives, and this year that is as true as ever.

“The 2019 App Store Best Apps and Games winners reflect our global desire for connection, creativity and fun.

“We are excited to announce such a diverse group of 2019 App Store winners, showing that great design and creativity comes from developers large and small, and from every corner of the world. We congratulate all the winners and thank them for making 2019 the best year yet for the App Store.”

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How The Streaming Era Is Changing Music.



The music industry is enjoying a renaissance. After 15 years of declining revenue, Recorded Music New Zealand achieved double digit growth in 2015 and again in 2016.

The renewed upward trend is largely thanks to streaming, which now makes up 50 per cent of local music industry revenue.

As consumers, we're all grateful for the huge variety of music we have easy access to these days. But what impact is streaming having on how music is made?

One thing's for sure: in the streaming era, music producers have access to a wealth of data thanks to Spotify and its competitors. They know which songs are skipped after a few seconds, which songs in a playlist get the most listens, and what styles – even what type of drum beat – is most likely to catch your attention.

Pop songs in the streaming era tend to have very catchy beginnings and a hook-filled opening thirty seconds. That's because of our short attention spans and the need to get us hooked quickly. According to music site Pitchfork, "in order for a stream to count toward chart tallies and, reportedly, for royalty payouts, a given song must be played for at least 30 seconds".

Of course, popular music has always been defined by the prevailing format of the time. From the 7-inch records of the 1950s and 1960s, to the visually appealing pop and hair metal bands of the MTV 1980s, to the early digital era of the iPod when playlists became so important.

In the streaming era, playlists have become even more critical – with one key difference. It's likely you don't create them yourself now. They're either automated for you using algorithms that examine your listening habits, or they're curated by tastemakers employed by the streaming companies.

New Zealand's own Zane Lowe has been a big beneficiary of the playlist trend. Since 2015, he's been a DJ on Apple Music's streaming radio station, Beats 1. If you're a 1990s tragic like me, you may remember him from the band Breaks Co-Op or his stint on Auckland music station Max TV. But now his audience is global and vastly bigger, as his 724,000 Twitter followers attest.

Indeed, Lowe is so influential in the music industry now that Elton John cold calls him regularly.

So for music producers, the keys to pop music success in the streaming era include cramming your hooks into the first thirty seconds of your songs and getting the attention of tastemakers like Lowe. But that doesn't help the majority of musicians, who often struggle to make a living from meagre streaming revenues.

As with any artistic endeavour in the age of social media, it's incredibly difficult to get attention for your work. As an author of books, I can vouch for that. But at least musicians have access to Bandcamp, an independent music platform where they can sell their songs and albums direct to consumers.

As a music fan, Bandcamp is like a mix between Spotify and the iTunes Store. That's because you can both stream and purchase digital downloads.

New Zealand artist Aldous Harding sold her self-titled debut album directly on Bandcamp (which is where I bought it). So it's a great platform to find new artists, especially thanks to Bandcamp's own curated playlists.

Bandcamp shows that digital downloads are still relevant in the streaming era, although every year they're declining. According to Recorded Music New Zealand, downloads made up 29 per cent of revenue in 2014. But just two years later, that figure was down to 13 per cent.

The reality is that many of us don't buy CDs or download digital albums anymore. There's no need to, when Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming apps have the back catalogue of most of your favourite artists. If indeed you even listen to albums anymore.

As for the current generation of kids, they're much more likely to discover and consume music on YouTube than on Spotify. In a recent music consumption report, the IFPI stated that 85 per cent of 13-15 year olds stream music and nearly 8 in 10 kids use a video service like YouTube for that purpose.

According to the IFPI, across all age groups YouTube accounts for 46 per cent of time spent listening to on-demand music. That's more than all the music streaming apps combined.

The streaming era in music is far from perfect. Some artists complain about the minuscule royalties they receive from the likes of Spotify, while the music industry continues to battle YouTube over repeated copyright infringements.

As for us music fans, when we can listen to all of The Beatles' back catalogue on Spotify and discover new artists on Bandcamp, we can't complain.

That said, I like having a personal music collection. Partly because I want to support the artists I love by buying their music.

I still use iTunes as my music hub, but it gets buggier every year. And while I could upload my music files into Spotify, I've found the user experience to be lacking.

So I'd love a better way to store my Aldous Harding albums. Other than that, viva la streaming revolution.

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Twitter Finally Makes An Important Security Change.



Twitter recently announced that users can disable SMS-based two-factor authentication, a requirement the company has held onto despite the increased security risk of receiving 2FA codes via SMS.

Two-factor authentication, widely considered a best practice when it comes to keeping your online accounts secure, adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts by requiring a six-digit number after you've entered the correct password for your account. Originally, two-factor codes were delivered primarily via text message, but that's proven to be problematic. For example, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's account was hacked in August.

The person(s) who had control of his account posted hateful messages before they were deleted. They were able to gain access to his account and get around two-factor authentication by switching the SIM card linked to his phone number and then receiving the SMS two-factor authentication code in a practice commonly referred to as SIM swapping.

With Twitter dropping the requirement, you can now opt to receive its 2FA codes strictly through third-party apps or a dedicated security key. Not only is this more secure, but you'll also be able to access your codes even if your phone can't receive text messages, like on a long flight. If you already have 2FA enabled on your Twitter account, or you've been holding out until the company ditched the SMS requirement, here's what you need to know.

a screenshot of a cell phone

Twitter lets you hide replies, Google makes it easier to get movie tickets.

Set up 2FA for your Twitter account

If you haven't taken the time to set up two-factor authentication for your Twitter account, now is as good a time as any. It only adds a few seconds to the login process, but goes a long way toward keeping your account secure. We're going to cover setting up 2FA with an authentication app like Google Authenticator or 1Password. If you aren't sure which app to use, we have a guide of the top password managers, most of which include authentication features.

a screenshot of a cell phone: You're no longer required to leave text message 2FA codes turned on. Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Visit the Account section of your account on
  2. With the Account tab selected, click on Security.
  3. Next, click on Two-factor authentication.
  4. You'll be shown three different options: Text message, Authentication app and Security key. Select Authentication app.

The rest of the process will vary depending on which app you're using but generally consists of scanning a QR code created by Google that will allow the app to create your 2FA codes. After scanning the QR code, you'll be asked to enter the six-digit number displayed in your app to verify it's set up correctly.

Going forward, anytime you log into your Twitter account, you'll be asked for your 2FA code after entering your password. Again, it adds a couple of seconds to the process, but it's worth it.

a hand holding a cell phone: Ditch the text message codes. You're safer for doing so. Jason Cipriani/CNET

Stop Twitter from sending text message 2FA codes

If you already have two-factor authentication set up on your account and use an authenticator app, it's a good idea to disable text message codes. This will prevent the possibility of someone gaining access to your account via SIM swapping.

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Visit the Account section of your account on
  2. With the Account tab selected, click on Security.
  3. Next, click on Two-factor authentication.
  4. Remove the checkmark in the box next to Text message, and accept the change if prompted.

Twitter isn't the only website that uses 2FA. Apple, Google and Facebook each offer the added layer of security. Even Fortnite has 2FA. Remember, the added layer of security is for your own protection, and yes, it's a slight inconvenience, but at the end of the day that's far less than the amount of time and headaches you'll have to deal with if someone gains access to your accounts.

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The First Troublesome Signs For Netflix May Be Emerging Following The Launch Of Disney+.



The commentariat seems to be coalescing around two schools of thought at the moment when it comes to the hottest two streaming rivals right now, Disney+ and Netflix.

One assumption is that Netflix’s pre-eminence as the king of the streaming hill remains assured, with Disney+ reportedly having amassed an audience so far that’s only a sliver of Netflix’s. Analysts have noted in recent days that the launch of Disney+ also doesn’t seem to have interrupted the normal cadence of Netflix app downloads, and there’s also an assumption that the streaming landscape is plenty big enough for more than one major provider of content.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings himself has kept his public remarks about Disney+ mostly diplomatic, insisting at one point in recent days that Disney is the rival that Netflix “has the most to learn from.” Meanwhile, the other school of thought is that the first worrying signs for Netflix may nevertheless be starting to emerge.

That is, if the results of this new survey offer a hint of things to come.

According to a survey recently conducted by Kill the Cable Bill of 1,000 people who’ve recently cancelled their Netflix subscriptions, most of them cited Netflix’s somewhat regular price hikes (and the departure of content from the service, which includes the imminent loss of favorites like Friends and The Office).

Among the survey’s findings:

Most of the cancellers had been with Netflix for more than a year. After that, the next largest group had been subscribed for between 7 and 12 months.

25% of those who cancelled said they won’t be re-upping with Netflix anytime soon. 17% said they’d return for sure, and almost 60% said they weren’t certain whether they’d ever come back or not. (Former Amazon Studios executive Matthew Ball once told me statistics like these aren’t the slam dunk that outlets sometimes think they are, since there tends to be a sizeable disconnect in the streaming industry between people’s preferences and what they say they’ll do versus what they actually end up doing.)

Also worth noting, the survey found that for about half of the Netflix subscribers who cancelled, they decided that the service had become too expensive. That’s after Netflix raised prices earlier this year, the largest in the company’s history, which pushed the most popular plan up to $12.99 a month from $10.99.

Granted, there’s a lot to pick apart here if you still count yourself a Netflix bull, and I’m certainly in the category of people who think Netflix doesn’t have any reason to worry anytime soon. I took a deeper look just a few days ago at how Disney+ has had little effect on Netflix so far, and November alone has some of Netflix’s most hotly-anticipated debuts. The Crown season 3 was added to the service in recent days, and Martin Scorsese’s Netflix-exclusive The Irishman arrives on the service next week. And yet another much-anticipated new Netflix series, The Witcher, is coming in December.

All of which is to say: Be wary of attempts to use the launch of Disney+ to write an early obituary for Netflix. The service has proven itself resilient enough by now to weather tough competition, changing consumption habits, and more, all while it’s shown over and over again that it can correctly anticipate future challenges like the shift away from DVDs and the need for original programming, to name just a few.

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