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This EU-funded AI rates how hideous your face is — for society’s sake

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Facial recognition is permeating our everyday lives, but the tech is fraught with errors, biases, and privacy concerns.

A new website called How Normal Am I? aims to shed light on the risks by using algorithms to judge your age, attractiveness, BMI, life expectancy, and gender.

Sharing your photo and all these sensitive inferences might appear a little reckless. But as the site promises to not collect any personal data or use any cookies, I naively gave it a go.

After agreeing to the terms and conditions — which, of course, I read in great depth — I’m welcomed to the site by Tijmen Schep, the artist-in-residence at SHERPA, an EU-funded project that explores how AI impacts ethics and human rights.

[Read: Amsterdam and Helsinki become first cities to launch AI registers explaining how they use algorithms]

The site then displays some images of apparently innocent doggies (more on those devious pups later) while the system loads up, before asking me to face my webcam so it can rate my looks from 0-10. 

Credit: European Union
Beware of the dog.

Schep explains that dating apps such as Tinder use similar algorithms to match people it thinks are equally attractive, while social media platforms including TikTok have deployed them to promote content by good-looking people.

The algorithms are typically trained on thousands of photos that have been manually tagged with attractiveness scores, often by university students. As beauty standards can vary between countries and cultures, their perceptions can be embedded in the algorithms.

Schep explained on Hacker News that the main algorithm his site uses is FaceApiJS, a JavaScript API for face detection and recognition.

“In my own experience it’s doesn’t vary as wildly if you’re a white male,” he said. “With other ethnicities, the predictability levels can drop, especially if you’re Asian.”

As a white male, I should be relatively easy to assess. But I significantly boosted my score by moving closer to the camera. However, my attempts at a coquettish smile saw my looks brutally marked down.

These variations show the system is far from precise and open to manipulation — which is the whole point of the project.

“If you have a low score, it might just be because the judgment of these algorithms is so dependent on how they were trained,” explained Schep. “Of course, if you got a really high score, that’s just because you are incredibly beautiful.”

AI creep continues

The next algorithm judges your age. Schep says companies use these tools to learn more about shoppers, or to guess if someone’s lying about their age on dating sites. Again, the system proved simple to deceive: I knocked a decade off my age just by giving my head a shake.

The website goes on to infer my gender, another calculation that can vary depending on where the algorithm was developed. It then predicts your BMI, using the only algorithm Schep trained himself, which he did by feeding it a diet of 50% Chinese celebrities and 50% American arrest records. This estimate is made by measuring proportions of your face, such as the space above your eyes, so raising your eyebrows can lead your BMI to plummet.

The one consistent result I got was a ludicrously optimistic life expectancy of 81. Clearly, the algorithm can’t see my lungs and liver. But insurance agencies still use similar models to price their policies as they’re seen as better than nothing.

Finally, the system showed me my “face print,” a digital identifier that the likes of lovable Clearview AI use to match your photo to a vast repository of images.

Credit: European Union
Yay.

Schep then revealed the truth about those dogs: they were used to infer my emotional state by analyzing my facial expressions as I watched them. Recruitment-tech firm HireVue uses a similar technique to rank job applicants, by scanning their voices, facial expressions, and vocabulary — another example of how AI can make life-changing decisions.

“As face recognition technology moves into our daily lives, it can create this subtle but pervasive feeling of being watched and judged all the time,” said Schep. “You might feel more pressure to behave ‘normally’, which for an algorithm means being more average. That’s why we have to protect our human right to privacy, which is essentially our right to be different. You could say that privacy is a right to be imperfect.”

Using these tools can seem convenient and useful in the short-term. But are the long-term risks to us as individuals and a society worth the potential benefits?

I don’t think so. Now, excuse me while I update my dating profile pictures.

Published October 6, 2020 — 15:12 UTC

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Buy the AirPods Pro for $200 Before This Rare Offer Disappears

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

Apple AirPods Pro | $200 | Amazon
Apple AirPods Pro | $200 | B&H Photo

If you’re an iPhone user with some cash to blow, skip the pretenders and even the lesser AirPods to go for something better. The AirPods Pro stepped the game up with rubber tips, noise cancellation, and better overall audio quality. They’re a bit expensive and the price has dropped bit by bit over time, leading up to today’s opportunity to save $50 on a pair of your own, complete with a wireless charging case. With active noise canceling, automatic pairing on iPhones and iPads, and water/sweat resistance, picking ‘em now is a no-brainer if you were already in the market for them.

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We saw these drop just before Amazon Prime Day, and the price has held steady since. However, B&H Photo has a similar offer that’s set to expire October 30, which may be a signal that the opportunity is about to pass. Be sure to get your order in while there’s still time!

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This story was originally published by Quentyn Kennemer on 5/1/2020 and updated by Gabe Carey with new information on 10/27/2020.


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The 10 Best Deals of October 29, 2020

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Gif: Juliana Clark

Best Deals of the DayBest Deals of the DayThe best deals from around the web, updated daily.

Thursday’s Best Deals | Kinja Deals

It’s October 29, and we at Kinja Deals are here to bring you the top 10 deals of the day. Protect your data by purchasing a plan from NordVPN. Snag that 55″ Smart TV you’ve been saving up for from TCL. Get started on those DIY home repairs with the RYOBI One+ 3-Tool Combo Kit.

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And if you’re still looking for more savings, take a look at Thursday’s best deals overall.

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In his roundup of the best VPNs at Gizmodo, Andrew Couts called NordVPN “fast and easy to use,” citing accessibility and affordability as reasons to subscribe. Though it’s almost always marked down from its $287 list price, the 2-year plan is nonetheless the cheapest option to get started with the service and continue using it long-term. For a limited time only, though, it’s not only 68% off, bringing your total to just $89 for 730 days, but it also comes with an extra plan on top of that—chosen at random by the Nordic gods. Couts says in his abbreviated review:

No matter what you pay, you’ll get access to more than 5,400 servers in more than 60 countries, a bunch of features you may or may not want, and, because the company is based in Panama, assurances that your data—or lack of data, as the case may be—is outside of U.S. and European jurisdictions. Like every other VPN on this list, NordVPN claims to have a “strict no-logs policy,” so most of your data isn’t collected, the company says. It does still collect your email address, payment information, and the timestamp of the last time you launched the VPN.

But NordVPN isn’t without its downsized. “…some researchers have found that it sends your email address and Google Ad ID to a marketing company when you register through the Android app and contains some trackers,” Couts explains. “Another downside is that some of NordVPN’s servers are rented, which means another company you need to trust is in the mix. And yes, one of those servers got hacked in 2018.”

Still, if you want the one of the most reliable VPN clients, with the budget to support its robust infrastructure, you can’t go wrong with NordVPN. Plus, with availability on virtually every platform you can think of—from macOS to Android TV—it’s equal parts ubiquitous and acclaimed. Endorsed by PCMag, Wired, CNET, Business Insider, and more, it may be time to board the Nord hype train if you’re somehow unwedded to a VPN already.

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This deal was originally published by Gabe Carey.

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Best Buy has an insane deal going for a brand new 55″ 4K TCL smart TV. It’s the S434, which is pretty baseline for TCL’s lineup, but at just $200, there’s little to complain about. TCL’s panels are plenty sharp and accurate, and with this set, you’ll get HDR10 compliance for enhanced color and brightness in supported games and video content. This model has Android TV onboard for all your app needs, and with an included voice remote, all your favorite content is just a shout away with the help of Google Assistant.

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This deal was originally published by Quentyn Kennemer.

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For a short time, you can grab an Eight Sleep Pod Pro Cover for $1359+. Here’s the deets from one of our wonderful writers, Chaya:

Ranging from $1,445 to $1,745 depending on the size of your bed (or $175 off using our exclusive promo code KINJA175), the Pod Pro Cover from popular mattress brand Eight Sleep turns ANY mattress into a five-star sleeping experience. In short, Eight Sleep took the very best technology from their mattress and turned it into what is essentially a cover that transforms any bed into a smart bed. The encasement is placed on top of your current mattress and appends bed cooling and heating technology, a virtually silent vibration alarm system, sleep tracking, and a whole lot more. The cover is a two-part system: the encasement, which retrofits your mattress for a “PerfectFit TM” and the Active Grid cover, which adheres securely to the encasement to make your new smart bed manageable by app. A water hose and small hub connected to the Active Grid make the whole thing possible so that you can keep the rest of the bedding you’ve already got—no unnecessary spending or excess waste required.

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Grab it before it’s gone!

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This deal was originally published by Ignacia Fulcher.

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If you’re planning on getting your hands dirty with a DIY project at home, now is arguably the best time to do it since, well, you’re stuck there most of the time anyway. But, of course, in order to pull it off successfully, you’ll need the right tools for the job. Fortunately, the RYOBI One+ three-tool combo kit includes everything you’ll need to start cutting and drilling your way through the pain. For $99—a whopping 64% off—you can fetch a cordless drill, circular saw, and reciprocating saw with a single 1.5Ah battery to share between the three. An 18W charger keeps your power tools revved up and ready to go whenever you need ‘em most. To sweeten the deal, a carry bag can also be found in the box.

Save $177 on this versatile, multi-purpose kit today and get three essential utilities for the price of one. At The Home Depot, discounts like these don’t last long, so jump on it before stock runs out!

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This deal was originally published by Gabe Carey.

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Sony’s new WH-1000XM4 headphones are leading the way in their noise-cancellation technology, alongside the gestures that come with these new models. They were down to $298 during Prime Day and $284 at Newegg just a couple of weeks ago, but BuyDig is piledriving the competition with a $278 sticker price today.

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They will pause the track once it detects you’re speaking, and will also switch off the noise-cancellation when a hand is put on the right-cup. They feature fantastic sound and are able to be paired for up to two devices, so you can switch between your phone and your tablet with ease.

This deal was originally posted by Daryl Baxter.

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Though they’re mostly for keeping things clean, even towels get dirty eventually. Sure, it might’ve started as a way to rinse off after a shower karaoke sesh, but eventually that white will start to fade and might not look as nice hanging up. Or maybe after a few too many pup accidents in the house, it’s just time for a new set of linens.

Huckberry’s Turkish towels usually sell for a bit over $40, but right now they’re down to just below $30, and you’re getting some pretty fancy looking towels for your money. The striped towels come in plenty of variants to match your decor, and their unique design will certainly earn a few compliments if we’re ever safe to have people over.

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This deal was originally published by Jordan McMahon.

Echo Auto | $20 | Amazon

Echo Auto | $20 | Amazon
Graphic: Ignacia Fulcher

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If you want all your Alexa tunes playing in your car then you’re in luck! For $20, which is a good 60% off the original list price, you can connect to the Alexa app on your phone and play music through your vehicle’s speakers via auxiliary or Bluetooth. The Echo Auto has eight microphones so it can hear your voice through loud noises throughout the duration of your trip. You’ll also be able to stream Amazon music, Apple Music, Spotify, and other services with just the sound of your voice. I would grab this deal before it is gone!

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This deal was originally published by Ignacia Fulcher. 

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I don’t know about you, but as a tangental Star Wars fan, I only made it through the first season of The Mandalorian because of Baby Yoda. Luckily, the masses have done us all a favor and gave us what we all need—a plush of our favorite character for a decent $18. You can cuddle with him when the new season drops in a few days. Thank me later.

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This deal was originally published by Ignacia Fulcher.

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons is all about vibing out and literally minding your business, so why not hop on a themed Nintendo Switch for $270? It’s refurbished via Best Buy Geek Squad, so there’s a 90-day warranty if things go wrong. You’ll get the Joy-Cons in those calming colors which just set up a mood of relaxation. And while you’re at it, if you still haven’t bought it, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is only $50, $10 off its original list price. What are you waiting for? That weird owl thing is waiting for you.

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This deal was originally published by Ignacia Fulcher.

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If you’re an iPhone user with some cash to blow, skip the pretenders and even the lesser AirPods to go for something better. The AirPods Pro stepped the game up with rubber tips, noise cancellation, and better overall audio quality. They’re a bit expensive and the price has dropped bit by bit over time, leading up to today’s opportunity to save $50 on a pair of your own, complete with a wireless charging case. With active noise canceling, automatic pairing on iPhones and iPads, and water/sweat resistance, picking ‘em now is a no-brainer if you were already in the market for them.

We saw these drop just before Amazon Prime Day, and the price has held steady since. However, B&H Photo has a similar offer that’s set to expire October 30, which may be a signal that the opportunity is about to pass. Be sure to get your order in while there’s still time!

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This deal was originally published by Quentyn Kennemer.


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Through the End of the Week, Get an Extra Plan Free When You Sign up for 2 Years of NordVPN

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

2 Years + One Free Plan | $89 | NordVPN

In his roundup of the best VPNs at Gizmodo, Andrew Couts called NordVPN “fast and easy to use,” citing accessibility and affordability as reasons to subscribe. Though it’s almost always marked down from its $287 list price, the 2-year plan is nonetheless the cheapest option to get started with the service and continue using it long-term. For a limited time only, though, it’s not only 68% off, bringing your total to just $89 for 730 days, but it also comes with an extra plan on top of that—chosen at random by the Nordic gods. Couts says in his abbreviated review:

No matter what you pay, you’ll get access to more than 5,400 servers in more than 60 countries, a bunch of features you may or may not want, and, because the company is based in Panama, assurances that your data—or lack of data, as the case may be—is outside of U.S. and European jurisdictions. Like every other VPN on this list, NordVPN claims to have a “strict no-logs policy,” so most of your data isn’t collected, the company says. It does still collect your email address, payment information, and the timestamp of the last time you launched the VPN.

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But NordVPN isn’t without its downsized. “…some researchers have found that it sends your email address and Google Ad ID to a marketing company when you register through the Android app and contains some trackers,” Couts explains. “Another downside is that some of NordVPN’s servers are rented, which means another company you need to trust is in the mix. And yes, one of those servers got hacked in 2018.”

Still, if you want the one of the most reliable VPN clients, with the budget to support its robust infrastructure, you can’t go wrong with NordVPN. Plus, with availability on virtually every platform you can think of—from macOS to Android TV—it’s equal parts ubiquitous and acclaimed. Endorsed by PCMag, Wired, CNET, Business Insider, and more, it may be time to board the Nord hype train if you’re somehow unwedded to a VPN already.

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