A Computer-Repair Expert Takes on Big Tech

Rossmann Group’s Louis Rossmann has made a name for himself calling out tech companies’ seemingly anti-consumer practices while producing increasingly popular DIY-computer-repair instructional videos from his New York City small business. National Review’s Luther Abel spoke with Rossmann recently to better understand what the “Right to Repair” is and isn’t, to discuss Right to Repair regulatory efforts, and to consider whether conservative- and libertarian-leaning people should back or resist his activism.

Luther Abel: What does Right to Repair mean? How does your description of Right to Repair differ from that of its detractors?

Louis Rossmann: Well, there are a few points that detractors will make, which is that Right to Repair is me saying, “I want you [the manufacturer] to design the device very specifically to be repairable, regardless of technological progress. I want phones to weigh two pounds. I want everything to be modular, everything to

Read More

Big Companies Freeze Sale of Facial Recognition Technology to US Police Departments

Facial recognition technology takes advantage of modern computers’ ultra-high speeds to filter through a database of images and help identify a person. The technology is commonly used on a small scale in order to allow employees entry into their building, but it can also be used on a much larger scale, like in the movies when the audience waits in suspense while the CIA uses a computer to refine search results of a suspect before dramatically revealing a match. For that and many other reasons, this new tech has been met with a great deal of controversy — which is exactly why the newest generation of facial recognition has been put on the back burner, for now.

Graphic depicting advanced facial recognition tech being used on a young woman.
Graphic depicting advanced facial recognition tech being used on a young woman.

Major tech companies including IBM, Amazon, and Microsoft have agreed to stop selling facial recognition systems to law enforcement until

Read More

Wary of big tech’s bottom line, activists greet facial recognition pledges with skepticism

Over the course of four days last week, three of America’s largest technology companies — IBM, Amazon and Microsoft — announced sweeping restrictions on their sale of facial recognition tools and called for federal regulation amid protests across the United States against police violence and racial profiling.

In terms of headlines, it was a symbolic shift for the industry. Researchers and civil liberties groups who have been calling for strict controls or outright bans on the technology for years are celebrating, although cautiously.

They doubt, however, that much has changed. The careful wording of the public pledges leaves plenty of room for oppressive uses of the technology, which exacerbate human biases and infringe on people’s constitutional freedoms, critics say.

“It shows that organizing and socially informed research works,” said Meredith Whittaker, co-founder of the AI Now Institute, which researches the social implications of artificial intelligence. “But do I

Read More