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FAA, Boeing and the pitfalls of facial recognition technology: The Morning Rundown

The Federal Aviation Administration says it's OK for U.S. airlines to still fly the Boeing jet model involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
Image: Man holds passengers' passports found at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, near Addis Ababa
A man holds passengers' passports found at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines crash. Eight Americans, including two California brothers and a former U.S. serviceman were among the victims. Baz Ratner / Reuters

Good morning, NBC News readers.

The FAA has made a call on Boeing jets after Sunday's crash. We take a look at the pitfalls of facial recognition technology. And one man is incredibly grateful he was running late the other day.

Here's what we're watching today.

FAA: It's OK for U.S. airlines to fly Boeing model that crashed twice in less than six months

The Federal Aviation Administration said it has no plans to ground the type of Boeing aircraft that has been involved in two deadly crashes in less than six months.

The FAA's decision comes despite the fact that several other countries — including Australia, China, Indonesia, Mexico and Argentina — have suspended operation of the Boeing 737 Max 8 and 737 Max 9 jets in the wake of an Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people on Sunday.

"All data will be closely examined during this investigation, and the FAA will take appropriate action if necessary," the agency said in a statement.

We're beginning to learn more about some of the victims of the deadly crash. A serviceman with a special interest in researching his family's African roots and two Californian brothers are among the Americans killed.

But one Greek man is incredibly thankful he was running late on Sunday: He was stopped at the gate from boarding the doomed flight.

"I'm slowly coming to terms with what happened and how close it came," Antonis Mavropoulos said in an interview with a Greek broadcaster. "On the other hand, I'm also very upset — I'm shattered — for those who were lost."

Image: American Antoine Lewis, who died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash
Antoine Lewis, an American serviceman who died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, was remembered as "awesome big brother." Facebook

A U.N. panel is looking into what North Korean arms dealers are up to in Iran

The United Nations is investigating two North Korean arms companies suspected of operating in Iran in possible violation of international sanctions.

Two North Korean arms firms — which are both blacklisted by the United Nations — are “extremely active in Iran now,” Hugh Griffiths, coordinator of the U.N. panel of experts assessing sanctions on North Korea, told NBC News in an exclusive television interview.

“There's an active investigation into who exactly is at the North Korean Embassy in Tehran and what they're doing there,” Griffiths said.

Meanwhile, according to a top secret U.S. military assessment, North Korea keeps busting sanctions by evading U.S.-led sea patrols.

'It seems a little sketchy': Millions of online photos scraped without consent are fueling facial recognition technology

Facial recognition researchers are sweeping up online photos by the millions on social media and categorizing them by age, gender, skin tone and dozens of other metrics, in an effort to make facial recognition systems more accurate for a wider diversity of faces.

But the researchers generally don’t get people’s consent before using the photos, raising concerns that individuals' faces could be used to power technology that could eventually be used surveil them, legal experts and civil rights advocates say.

“This is the dirty little secret of AI training sets. Researchers often just grab whatever images are available in the wild,” NYU School of Law professor Jason Schultz said.

Photo illustration of face recognization dots on Flickr photos.
"It seems a little sketchy that IBM can use these pictures without saying anything to anybody," said Greg Peverill-Conti, a Boston-based PR executive who has more than 700 photos in IBM’s "training dataset." Erik Carter for NBC News / Source photography courtesy Greg Peverill-Conti


The Church of Safe Injection has a 'radical' mission

What is the gospel according to the Church of Safe Injection? People will use drugs anyway, so society should make sure they do so safely. Church members travel the streets of Maine at night, distributing fresh needles to people who use drugs.

Science + Tech = MACH

Skipper? What skipper? Here's how one busy port is developing robot ships.


Are eggs good for you or not? We unscramble the truth by talking to a nutritionist.

Quote of the day

"I felt the ground disappear under my feet."

Antonis Mavropoulos on learning that he was the only passenger who did not board the Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed within minutes of takeoff, killing all 157 people on board.

One fun thing

There was a hole in the heart of Billy's donuts — the shop had all the ingredients for success, except customers.

A Cambodian refugee's cream-filled American dream was in jeopardy, until his son’s tweet about his "sad Dad" went viral. Now the donuts are selling like hotcakes.

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