Dhaka, June 20 (UNB) - Facebook is working closely with key non-profit and research partners to use artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to address large-scale social, health and infrastructure challenges in Asia and accelerate achievement of the sustainable development goals.
The latest map for Bangladesh can be downloaded on Facebook’s page on Humanitarian Data Exchange.
Facebook is applying the processing muscle of its compute power, its extensive data science skills and its expertise in AI to create the world’s most detailed and accurate maps of local populations.
Facebook also partners with Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN (http://www.ciesin.org/)) to ensure that this effort leverages the best available administrative data for all countries involved, said a media release on Thursday.
By combining these publicly and commercially available datasets with Facebook’s AI capabilities, Facebook has created population maps that are 3X more detailed than any other source.
The high resolution population density maps will show an estimate of the number of people living within 30-meter grid tiles, and include the number of children under five, as well as the number of women of reproductive age, and other helpful demographics.
“Facebook’s population density maps can improve how nonprofits do their work, how researchers learn, and how policies are developed. Building data products from non-personal data sources like satellite imagery and census data allows Facebook to share its data science and compute power with the world while protecting privacy,” said the spokesperson.
High-resolution satellite imagery already exists for much of the world.
However, prior to Facebook’s mapping project, it would have required countless hours for volunteers to comb through millions of square miles of pictures to identify which contained a tiny town or remote village.
The Facebook team used AI to solve that problem, efficiently crunching through data at a petabyte scale.
For X country, for example, the computer vision system examined 11z.5 billion individual images to determine whether they contained a building. The team found approximately 110 million building locations in just a few days.
“Since I first started my humanitarian career in the Peace Corps up until just a few weeks ago speaking with experts at the 2019 World Health Assembly in Geneva, a common need is accurate population data,” says Alex Pompe, a research manager at Facebook.
“These maps showcase the power of collaboration between Facebook and top research institutions like Columbia University to combine public data sources and machine learning to empower more data-driven humanitarian projects around the globe.”
Using its machine learning capabilities, Facebook started developing population density maps to provide better tools to support connectivity efforts around the world.
No Facebook data is used in the project and the census and satellite data used contain no personally identifiable information.
To learn more about Facebook’s work on high resolution population density maps and other efforts in data for good, please visit the project website here.
Humanitarian Open Street Map has used the high resolution population density maps in a number of countries to support their work on the Missing Maps project.
“Facebook’s high-resolution population maps have supported Humanitarian OpenStreetMap and Missing Maps’ mission of putting the world’s most at-risk places on the map,” says Tyler Radford, executive director of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, which participates in the Missing Maps project.
“The maps from Facebook ensure we focus our volunteers’ time and resources on the places they're most needed, improving the efficacy of our programs.”
Crisis event management software vendor Kontur is also using population density maps in its Disaster Ninja platform to help the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team to be able to make faster decisions during times of natural disasters.
Darafei Praliaskouski, Head of Product from Kontur says, “When you're deploying a team of disaster responders to crisis site, you want to provide them with a map of the area they'll be operating in, especially in vulnerable regions throughout Asia. We've made Disaster Ninja with Facebook Population Density maps so that mappers don't have to manually inspect thousands of square kilometers and focus on mapping the AI-highlighted buildings and roads right away.”
Washington, June 20 (AP/UNB) — Cold War era spy satellite images are showing scientists that glaciers on the Himalayas are now melting about twice as fast as they used to.
The Asian mountain range, which includes Mount Everest, has been losing ice at a rate of about 1% a year since 2000, according to a study Wednesday in the journal Science Advances .
“The amount of ice (lost) is scary but what is much more scary is the doubling of the melt rate,” said Josh Maurer, a glacier researcher at Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory and lead author of the study.
The Himalayas, part of an area that is referred to as “The Third Pole” because it has so much ice, has only 72% of the ice that was there in 1975. It has been losing about 8.3 billion tons (7.5 billion metric tons) of ice a year, compared 4.3 billion tons (3.9 billion metric tons) a year between 1975 and 2000, according to the study.
The Himalayan melt doesn’t contribute much to sea level rise, Mauer said, because it is dwarfed by melting in Greenland and Antarctica. But the loss of the ice means current and future disruptions of water supplies — both surges and shortages — for the hundreds of millions of people in the region who rely on it for hydropower, agriculture, and drinking, said study co-author Jorg Schaefer, a climate geochemistry professor at Columbia.
“Disaster is in the making here,” Schaefer said.
Scientists lacked some critical data on ice in the Himalayas until Maurer found once-classified 3D images from U.S. spy satellites that had been put online. Those images allowed Maurer to calculate how much ice was on the Himalayas in 1975. He then used other satellite data to measure ice in 2000 and then again in 2016.
Past research looked at individual Himalayan glaciers over short time periods, but this is the first to look at the big picture — 650 glaciers over decades, Schaefer said.
For years, scientists have looked at many possible causes for melting glaciers, including pollution and changes in rainfall. But when the team was able to see trends using long-term data, they found the major culprit: “it’s clear it’s temperature and everything else doesn’t matter as much,” Schaefer said.
Maurer double-checked that conclusion by feeding the data into a computer model. It “predicted” the same type of ice melt that happened over the four decades.
NASA climate scientist Josh Willis, who wasn’t part of the study, said it provided important confirmation of what scientists suspected and what models showed.
“As a scientist it’s nice to hear that we’re right, but then again as a civilian it’s sometimes a little scary to hear that we’re right,” Willis said.
Dhaka, June 20 (UNB) - Gambling ads that appeared on an app "appealing to under 18s" have been banned by the advertising watchdog, reports BBC.
The ads for LottoGo EuroMillions, William Hill Vegas, Betfair Bingo and Dunder came up in the Looney Tunes World of Mayhem app in February.
All four firms say they have since stopped working with affiliate company Tapjoy, which placed ads on the app.
The ASA ruled the ads must not be used again without limiting the risk of children being exposed to them.
In its ruling, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said Tapjoy acknowledged the Looney Tunes app had been mistakenly categorised with a "mature-gambling" setting.
And Scopely, the publisher of Looney Tunes World of Mayhem, told the ASA it did not target its games to children, and noted that individuals under the age of 16 in the EU are not permitted to play the games.
The game has a rating of PEGI 7 in the UK Google Play app store, meaning it was suitable for players aged seven and above.
It allowed users to build worlds and situations based on the Looney Tunes cartoons and collect characters to "battle" each other.
The ASA said: "Given the use of cartoon characters, cartoonish violence and the relatively simple nature of the game, we considered it was likely to appeal to many under-18s.
"However, we acknowledged that the characters would be well known to older players, and the game was likely to have more general appeal."
William Hill told the ASA it is conducting a full review into work with its affiliates to prevent the issue happening again.
Alaska, June 20 (AP/UNB) — It's not America's Top 40, but it's a cutting edge song.
Federal marine biologists for the first time have recorded singing by one of the rarest whales on the planet, the North Pacific right whale.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers used moored acoustic recorders to capture repeated patterns of calls made by male North Pacific right whales.
It's the first time right whale songs in any population have been documented, said NOAA Fisheries marine biologist Jessica Crance on Wednesday from Seattle. She spoke to southern right whale and North Atlantic right whale experts to confirm that singing had not previously been documented.
Researchers detected four distinct songs over eight years at five locations in the Bering Sea off Alaska's southwest coast, Crance said.
Only about 30 of the animals remain. Whalers nearly wiped out the slow-moving whales, which remain buoyant after they are killed.
Humpback, bowhead and other whales are known for their songs. During a field survey in 2010, NOAA Fisheries researchers first noted weird sound patterns they could not identify.
"We thought it might be a right whale, but we didn't get visual confirmation," Crance said.
The researchers reviewed long-term data from acoustic recorders and noted repeating sound patterns. Seven years of frustration followed, Crance said, as they could never positively confirm that the sounds were coming from the scarce right whales.
The breakthrough came in 2017. Crance and her team heard one of the whale songs in real time from the acoustic recorders on buoys. Researchers can receive sound from up to four buoys at once and point them toward the source. That allowed them to triangulate the position of the whale making the song. From previous surveys and genetic studies, they identified it as a male right whale.
"It was great to finally get the confirmation when we were out at sea that yes, it is a right whale, and it's a male that's singing," Crance said.
Right whales make a variety of sounds. A predominant call sounds like a gunshot. They also make upcalls, downcalls, moans, screams and warbles.
To be a song, the sounds have to contain rhythmically patterned series of units produced in a consistent manner to form clearly recognizable patterns, Crance wrote in a paper for the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.
"It's a series of sounds that are reproduced in a stereotyped, regular manner that are repeated over and over," she said.
Structurally, in timing and number of sounds, right whale songs resemble those of the Atlantic walrus, she said. Both are filled with impulses, with walruses substituting knocking sounds for gunshot sounds.
The discovery almost raises more questions than answers, Crance said.
"Is it the only population to sing or does it occur in other species and populations?" she asked.
"It could be that there are so few of them left, they feel the need to call more frequently or sing," Crance said. "This is entirely speculation, but perhaps they're copying humpbacks, a little bit. Our right whales are frequently seen associating with humpbacks."
The remote Bering Sea makes studying right whales a challenge. Their range remains unknown. Some years NOAA Fisheries researchers see no right whales on their summer voyages. They spotted what they believe was a juvenile in 2017 but the last Bering Sea mother-calf pairing was seen in 2004, Crance said.
A singing male may be trying to attract a female, she said.
"With only 30 animals, finding a mate must be difficult," Crance said.
San Francisco, June20 (AP/UNB) — Facebook is getting a taste of the regulatory pushback it will face as it creates a new digital currency with corporate partners.
Just hours after the social media giant unveiled early plans for the Libra cryptocurrency, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire insisted that only governments can issue sovereign currencies. He said Facebook must ensure that Libra won't hurt consumers or be used for illegal activities.
"We will demand guarantees that such transactions cannot be diverted, for example for financing terrorism," he said on Europe-1 radio.
Facebook unveiled its much-rumored currency Tuesday and said it will launch publicly early next year with such partners as Uber, Visa, Mastercard and PayPal.
Libra could open online purchasing to millions of people who do not have access to bank accounts and could reduce the cost of sending money across borders. It's easy to see how attractive an alternative like Libra could be to people in countries beset with hyperinflation such as Venezuela.
But Facebook already faces scrutiny over its poor record on privacy and its dominance in social media, messaging and related businesses.
Libra poses new questions for the social network: Given that cryptocurrency is lightly regulated now, if at all, how will financial regulators oversee Facebook's plan? And just how much more personal data will this give the social media giant, anyway?
A 'rude awakening' over regulation?
The financial industry is more heavily regulated than internet companies — especially in the U.S., where tech companies have often been given free rein.
Companies creating Libra are in for a "rude awakening" if they expect the same model of light regulation, said Karen Shaw Petrou, managing partner of Federal Financial Analytics in Washington.
She expects Libra will fall under U.S. regulations adopted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Which agency will oversee the venture will depend on what the currency system does, she said.
France's Le Maire said he asked central bank chiefs from the G-7 countries to produce a report by mid-July laying out "guarantees that we must set ... to assure us that there are no risks of illicit financing or for the consumer."
In the U.S., the head of the House Financial Services Committee wants Facebook to suspend plans for a new currency until Congress and regulators are able to study it more closely.
In asking Facebook to put the Libra currency plans on hold, Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, said Facebook "is continuing its unchecked expansion and extending its reach into the lives of its users."
The senior Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee said Facebook's new digital currency will give the tech giant unfair competitive advantages in collecting data on financial transactions as well as control over fees.
"Facebook is already too big and too powerful," said Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
Brown and Waters both called on financial regulators to examine the new currency project closely.
In a statement, Facebook said, "We look forward to responding to lawmakers' questions as this process moves forward."
One hurdle Facebook and its partners will face is the potential for criminals to use it for money laundering and fraud, given the pseudo-anonymous nature of Libra and other digital currencies.
Facebook said it will comply with all existing financial regulations, though it has not offered many details. The company said its wallet app for using Libra will walk people through a verification process to ensure they are who they say they are.
Still, Facebook is sure to face an onslaught of liability concerns when it comes to anti-money laundering and identity verification, said Nicholas Weaver, a senior researcher at the International Computer Science Institute.
"I am shocked they have decided to go ahead," he said.
Facebook has been dogged with questions about users' personal data, especially since the Cambridge Analytica scandal hit last year.
That appears to be part of the reason Facebook created a nonprofit oversight association to govern Libra. It also created a subsidiary, Calibra, to work on the technology, separately from its main social media business.
"We've heard loud and clear that you don't want social and financial data commingled," Calibra head David Marcus wrote on Twitter, addressing Facebook users. "We understand we will have to earn your trust."
In some ways, privacy is the enemy in the battle against money laundering and other crimes, Weaver said. You want to know who is making transactions to keep them secure and legal, he said.
Facebook is "going to get access to a lot of financial data," Forrester analyst Aurelie L'Hostis said. "What are they going to do with that information and what are they going to put in place to safeguard that information?"
Cryptocurrencies such as Libra store all transactions on a widely distributed, encrypted ledger known as the blockchain. Libra is designed so transaction amounts are visible, but transaction participants can be anonymous — at least until they move money into real-world accounts.
Facebook said people can keep their individual transactions from appearing on the blockchain by using Calibra's wallet app, though in that case, Calibra itself would have people's data.
Calibra said it won't use financial data to target ads on Facebook. It also said it won't share financial data with Facebook, though there are exceptions that haven't been fully spelled out, including situations where data sharing would "keep people safe."
Antitrust red flags?
Congress has launched an inquiry into whether Big Tech giants such as Facebook and Google have gotten too big. Regulatory bodies including the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department are said to be considering investigations.
Adding another major business will make Facebook bigger — if Libra takes off as intended — but it may not raise major antitrust red flags, said New York University law professor Eleanor Fox.
"It is a grass-roots entry into a new field and can actually reflect an increase in innovation," she said.
Still, she said, people could be alarmed because of Facebook's use of data in the past. And Justice Department officials have hinted they may take a broader view of harm to competition to go well beyond whether a company's dominance leads to higher prices.
Sarah Miller, deputy director of Open Markets Institute, which advocates against monopolies, said it was "insanity" to trust Facebook to launch a global cryptocurrency when it is already facing regulatory scrutiny around the world over data privacy.
"The FTC needs to rein in Facebook before the corporation puts our financial information and currency systems at risk, too," she said.