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The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots

By Cesar Chelala | CounterPunch | October 9, 2015

The development of “killer robots” is a new and original way of using human intelligence for perverse means. Human directing machines to kill and destroy in a scale not yet imagined is a concept that not even George Orwell could have imagined. In the meantime, the leading world powers continue their un-merry-go-round of destruction and death -mostly of innocent civilians- without stopping to consider the consequences of their actions.

Killer robots are fully autonomous weapons that can identify, select and engage targets without meaningful human control. Although fully developed weapons of this kind do not yet exist, the world leaders such as the U.S., the U.K, Israel, Russia, China and South Korea are already working on creating their precursors.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that in 2012, 76 countries had some kind of drones, and 16 countries already possessed armed ones. The U.S. Department of Defense spends $6 billion every year on the research and development of better drones.

South Korea is presently using the Samsung Techwin security surveillance guard robots, which the country uses in the demilitarized zone it shares with North Korea. Although these units are currently operated by humans, the robots have an automatic feature that can detect body heat and fire a machine gun without human intervention.

Israel is developing an armed drone called Harop that could select targets with a special sensor. Northrop Grumman has also developed an autonomous drone called the X-47B which can travel on a preprogrammed flight path while being monitored by a pilot on a ship. It is planned to enter into active service by 2019. China is also moving rapidly in this area. In 2012 it already had 27 armed drone models, one of which is an autonomous air-to-air supersonic combat aircraft.

Killer robots follow the generation of drones and, as with drones, their potential use is also creating a host of human rights, legal and ethical issues. Military officials state that this kind of hardware protects human life by taking soldiers and pilots out of harm’s way. What they don’t say, however, is that the protected lives are those of the attacking armies, not those of the mostly civilians who are their targets, whose untimely deaths are euphemistically called collateral damage.

According to Denise Garcia, an expert in international law, four branches of internationally law have been used to limit violence in war: the law of state responsibility, the law on the use of force, international humanitarian law and human rights law. As currently carried out, U.S. drone strikes violate all of them.

From the ethical point of view, the use of these machines presents a moral dilemma: by allowing machines to make life-and death decisions we remove people’s responsibility for their actions and eliminate accountability. Lack of accountability almost ensures future human rights violations. In addition, many experts believe that the proliferation of autonomous weapons would make an arms race inevitable.

As the United Nations is trying to negotiate the future use of autonomous weapons, the U.S. and U.K. representatives want to support weaker rules that would prohibit future technology but not killer robots developed during the negotiating period. That delay would allow existing semi-autonomous prototypes to continue being used.

The need for a pre-emptive ban on the development and use of this kind of weapon is urgent. As Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions stated recently, “If there is not a pre-emptive ban on the high-level autonomous weapons, then once the genie is out of the bottle it will be extremely difficult to get it back in.”


Dr. Cesar Chelala is an international public health consultant. He recently received the Cedar of Lebanon Gold Medal from the House of Lebanon in Tucuman, Argentina.

October 9, 2015 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Facebook’s Internet.org, the Anti-Net Neutrality in Action

By Steve Straehley | AllGov | April 26, 2015

The idea sounds great—provide Internet access for the millions of people in developing areas that don’t have it. But in the process of putting that knowledge at the fingertips of that under-served community, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org has drawn a bright line between the haves and have-nots.

Zuckerberg’s plan, developed with manufacturers such as Nokia, Ericsson, Qualcomm and Samsung, allows free access via mobile phones in developing areas only to certain parts of the Internet. Surprise—Facebook is one of the applications able to be reached by way of the Internet.org app. Wikipedia is also available as are weather and a few other sites. But if you want to go to a site not on the app, you must either pay a fee or you’re out of luck.

Latin American leaders, such as Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, have applauded the Internet.org strategy, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). But others, including Carolina Botero, executive director of the Karisma Foundation in Bogotá, have reservations. Karisma supports the positive use of technology as it pertains to human rights. Botero said: “We have serious concerns that Internet.org is presented as a public policy strategy for universal access to the Internet. This initiative compromises everyone’s rights and blurs the government’s obligation to reduce the digital divide for its citizens for compromised access to certain applications. No matter how interesting they are, these services are associated with a commercial interest of a multinational which the state is directly supporting.”

Zuckerberg claims that because Internet.org doesn’t specifically block sites or charge sites more to run faster, the app conforms with net neutrality principles. But more businesses are starting to see it the other way and are opting out of the program, among them a group of Indian publishers.

“We support net neutrality because it creates a fair, level playing field for all companies—big and small—to produce the best service and offer it to consumers,” The Times Group, one of the publishers that withdrew from Internet.org, said in a statement. Other Indian companies to opt out of Internet.org are travel website Cleartrip and information site Newshunt. “What started off with providing a simple search service has us now concerned with influencing customer decision-making by forcing options on them, something that is against our core DNA,” Cleartrip said in a statement, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“The problem runs deeper than simply which sites to which poor users should have subsidized access,” wrote EFF’s David Boagado and Katitza Rodriguez. “It lies in the very concept that Facebook and its corporate partners, or governments, should be able to privilege one service or site above another. Despite the good intentions of Facebook and the handful of allied companies, Internet.org effectively leaves its users without a real Internet in the [Latin American] region.”

The result is “having access to only a sliver of what is supposed to be the worldwide web,” wrote Issie Lapowsky at Wired. “As we’ve said before, this creates ‘an Internet for poor people.’”

Zuckerberg’s response, basically, is that half a loaf is better than none. “Arguments about net neutrality shouldn’t be used to prevent the most disadvantaged people in society from gaining access or to deprive people of opportunity,” he wrote April 17 in a Facebook post. “Eliminating programs that bring more people online won’t increase social inclusion or close the digital divide. It will only deprive all of us of the ideas and contributions of the two thirds of the world who are not connected.”

To Learn More:

Does Internet.org Leave Latin Americans Without A Real Internet? (by David Bogado and Katitza Rodriguez, Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Mark Zuckerberg Can’t Have It Both Ways on Net Neutrality (by Issie Lapowsky, Wired )

Indian Companies Pull Out of Internet.org amid Battle over Net Neutrality (by Aditi Malhotra, Wall Street Journal )

Supreme Court Upholds Cyber Freedom in India (by Karan Singh, AllGov India )

April 26, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Careful what you say: Your Samsung TV might be listening

RT | February 9, 2015

Samsung has come under fire from privacy campaigners after it emerged the company’s new smart TVs are capable of listening to your conversations.

Viewers hoping to take advantage of the voice activation feature have been warned by Samsung not to disclose personal information because voice recordings can be captured and transmitted to unidentified third parties.

Privacy campaigners have compared the TV sets to ‘telescreens’ – televisions which also act as surveillance cameras in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. Electronic Frontier Foundation activist Park Higgins compared Samsung’s privacy policy to the famous book in a tweet on Sunday. It has already received 14,000 retweets.

Samsung insists it takes consumer privacy seriously, but did not name the third party which translates speech to text.

The issue was first highlighted by the Daily Beast, which warned readers not to talk about incriminating matters such as “tax evasion” and “drug use” in front their TV sets.

Hidden away in Samsung’s privacy policy is a single sentence which may change the way you behave in front of your TV: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.”

The privacy policy goes on to warn: “In addition, Samsung may collect and capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features.”

The technology is designed to enable viewers to control their TV by using only their voice.

Even viewers who do not activate the voice recognition feature are still at risk of being snooped on, as the machine continues to collect data through its microphones. The only way to stop a Samsung smart TV from eavesdropping on your conversation is to disable voice recognition data collection in the settings menu.

Samsung claims it collects transcribed voice data in order to improve the technology’s features.

An investigation last year by consumer magazine Which? found that smart TVs made by LG, Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, and Toshiba track people’s viewing habits – something consumers agree to when they accept the TV’s terms and conditions.

Users who choose not to accept their TV’s terms and conditions may end up reverting to a not-so-smart television. While Toshiba and LG block internet access and apps, Samsung reportedly stops customers from using the TV at all.

Sony is the only manufacturer which blocks the tracking of television usage without restricting other functions.

Samsung has responded to the public backlash against its privacy policy, claiming it takes such concerns “very seriously.”

“If a consumer consents and uses the voice recognition feature, voice data is provided to a third party during a requested voice command search. At that time, the voice data is sent to a server, which searches for the requested content then returns the desired content to the TV,” the company said.

February 9, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Taken under control’: GPS sites in Russia can’t be used now for ‘military purposes’

RT | June 1, 2014

Russia has “taken under control” the operation of 11 American GPS sites and ensured they cannot be used for military purposes, as Washington and Moscow show no progress in negotiations on setting up Russian GLONASS stations on US territory.

May 31 was the last day when Russia and the US could have reached a deal on the issue.

“In compliance with the Russian government’s instruction, Roscosmos and the Federal Agency for Scientific Organizations implemented measures on June 1, 2014, which excluded the use of information from global seismographic network stations working on signals from the GPS system and located on the territory of the Russian Federation for purposes not stipulated by the existing agreements, including for military purposes,” Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) said on Sunday morning.

The statement referring to agreements between Russia and the US, which date back to 1993 and 2001, stirred up some confusion in the media with some outlets reporting GPS stations work has been suspended, while others said they continued to work. Russia’s deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, the official behind the move elaborated: “We have worked out and implemented measures that exclude the use of these [GPS] stations for military purposes. Now they are under our full control,” Rogozin, who is in charge of space and defense industries, wrote in his Twitter micro blog.

The Differential GPS ground stations located on Russia’s soil will continue to operate under existing agreements to fulfill civil purposes. The so-called DGPS provides differential corrections to a GPS receiver in order to improve position accuracy.

The correction is received by the roving GPS receiver via either a radio signal or a satellite signal, depending on whether a source is land-based or satellite-based, and applied to the position it is calculating.

According to Rogozin, Moscow has initiated talks with the United States on GLONASS deployment on the US territory.

If agreement is reached by the August-31 deadline, “new decisions will be taken.”

“We hope that by the end of summer, these talks will bring a solution that will allow our cooperation to be restored on the basis of parity and proportionality,” Rogozin said back on May 13, the day when he first announced plans to shut down 11 American correctional GPS stations.

The development of the GLONASS global navigation system began in the Soviet Union, which put the very first satellite of the system into orbit on October 12, 1982. The system was officially commissioned on September 24, 1993.

Today GLONASS is supported on products from world-leading handheld device producers, such as Samsung, Nokia, Apple, Motorola and others, simultaneously with GPS.

So far there are 14 monitor stations in Russia, one in Brazil and one in Antarctica at Russia’s Bellingshausen station.

More GLONASS stations are expected to be built in the near future: eight in Russia, two in Brazil, one in Australia, Cuba, Indonesia, Spain, Vietnam and an additional station in the Antarctic.

June 1, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment