The Compound Eye – Transgender Bill, Facial Recognition Systems and GITA

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 was passed by the Indian Parliament on 26th November despite considerable opposition by members of the Rajya Sabha and the transgender community.

In 2014, the supreme court in a landmark judgement in the case of National Legal Services Authority versus the Union of India recognised the rights of transgender persons and their right to decide on their gender identity.

Then in 2015, DMK MP Tiruchi Siva introduced a Private Member’s Bill asking for transgender rights in the Rajya Sabha. Though the Bill was passed by Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha never took it up for discussion. (Read more)

The Price of Tea

Chaayos – the multi-city tea cafe chain – has landed itself in hot soup. The chain has been accused of using facial recognition system on their customers, allegedly without consent.

The issue was brought to fore by the founder of the Indian media watchdog MediaNama, Nikhil Pahwa on social media. He tweeted out a video of the facial recognition system beginning a scan on its own, without asking for customer consent or offering an opt-out option. The technology has been integrated into the chain’s ‘loyaltea programme’ that earns customers points for every visit and lets them encash them for free tea. Earlier the programme required customers to type in an OTP, but this has been replaced by facial recognition. The system claims there is no need to type in numbers, when Chaayos can just identify you.  (Read more)

GITA turns 8: 

Yesterday marked the 8th Foundation day of Global Innovation and Technology Alliance (GITA).  GITA is a “not–for–profit” Section-8 Public Private Partnership (PPP) company promoted jointly by the Technology Development Board (TDB), Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The vision for GITA is to strengthen India’s innovation ecosystem through supporting and enabling technology and innovation driven enterprises.The theme of the event was ‘Making India Future Ready’. (Read more)

Meanwhile, Things Just Got Weird:

Cows wearing VR headsets might produce better milk: Cows in confined fields in Moscow have been fitted with custom-made VR kits to see if this improved their mood and milk production. Preliminary results suggest the cows to have reduced anxiety, but the impact on milk production remains to be assessed. Imagine that, next time you drive down an Indian road and see a cow, she might be wearing a VR set and really be thinking she is in a field.

An 18000 year old puppy: A two-month canine from 18,000 years back has been discovered in the near-perfect preserved condition in the Siberian permafrost. Genetic studies are on, but scientists still cannot tell if the puppy is a dog or wolf or a an evolutionary link in the middle.

And we are bad at telling artificial faces from real ones: A study has found some hyper-realistic masks more believable than human faces. Researchers asked participants to look at pairs of photographs and decide which showed a normal face and which showed a person wearing a mask. Surprisingly, participants made the wrong call in one in five cases. Looks like we could do with improved biological facial recognition systems ourselves!