Category Archives: IEEE Spectrum

Europe Expands Virtual Borders To Thwart Migrants

IT WAS AFTER MIDNIGHT in the Maltese search-and-rescue zone of the Mediterranean when a rubber boat originating from Libya carrying dozens of migrants encountered a hulking cargo ship from Madeira and a European military aircraft. The ship’s captain stopped the engines, and the aircraft flashed its lights at the rubber boat. But neither the ship nor the aircraft came to the rescue. Instead, Maltese authorities told the ship’s captain to wait for vessels from Malta to pick up the migrants. By the time those boats arrived, three migrants had drowned trying to swim to the idle ship.

Read the rest of this feature at IEEE Spectrum: [html] [pdf].

Too Perilous For AI? EU Proposes Risk-Based Rules

As part of its emerging role as a global regulatory watchdog, the European Commission published a proposal on 21 April for regulations to govern artificial intelligence use in the European Union.

The economic stakes are high: the Commission predicts European public and private investment in AI reaching €20 billion a year this decade, and that was before the additional earmark of up to €134 billion earmarked for digital transitions in Europe’s Covid-19 pandemic recovery fund, some of which the Commission presumes will fund AI, too. Add to that counting investments in AI outside the EU but which target EU residents, since these rules will apply to any use of AI in the EU, not just by EU-based companies or governments.

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Countries Debate Openness of Future National IDs

Kenya’s High Court ruled Thursday that a recent amendment requiring citizens to register for a national biometric digital identification system overreached on some counts, such as allowing for links to DNA or GPS records, and failed to guarantee sufficient inclusion of Kenyan residents. 

The ID system, called the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), was a homegrown answer to India’s pioneering Aadhaar system, which two years ago faced its own Indian Supreme Court ruling that upheld some components while modifying others. 

More than half of African countries are developing some form of biometric or digital national ID in response to major international calls to establish legal identification for the almost 1 billion people who now lack it. But this ID boom, also taking place outside Africa, often gets ahead of data protection laws, as occurred in Kenya. 

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Rural Co-ops Deliver High-Speed Internet

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission proposed a rule update in April that would make it easier for people to install wireless repeater antennas—also known as signal boosters. In some rural regions, Wi-Fi can be the best way to extend the reach of fiber-optic networks at broadband speeds and at affordable prices.

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), the lobbying group that proposed the change, argues that it’s necessary to keep up with market forces that are driving networks toward smaller hubs operating over shorter ranges. The update would also make it easier for communities to build more of their own Internet infrastructure. Already, despite rules in 26 U.S. states that create obstacles for community networks, some 3 million Americans, mostly rural, get their Internet that way.

Read the rest of this news story in the June IEEE Spectrum: [html] [pdf].