Amazon faced backlash to day as news that it has given law enforcement agencies access to its Rekognition technology — image-recognition software that employs deep learning and can be used to track faces, among other things. From "The Next Web":
The bottom line: Facebook’s involvement in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, and Google’s inexplicable choice to help the US military develop image recognition AI, are fairly small potatoes compared to this. Amazon has essentially chosen to help the US government institute a big brother state to rival China’s. It’s a sad day for democracy.
Scientists have been using RF technology to monitor and track wildlife species for a long time, but the internet of things has kicked the practice into overdrive, as it has become easier than ever to outfit animals with increasingly sophisticated sensors. This provides a researchers with tremendous amount of data, but some worry there may be unintended consequences. As one historian of science puts it, "Humanity [is] bringing to the project of conserving nature the exact same control, and dominating urges, that they brought to the project of destroying nature."
Seven months after Hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged much of the Carribbean, over 20,000 people are still without electricity in Puerto Rico.
While regulators report that more than 98 percent of utility customers have their power back, the remaining 2 percent of customers represents more than 22,000 people that can’t turn on the lights, refrigerate food, or run water pumps. That so many Americans have languished so long without electricity is a national embarrassment.With Hurricane Season's official start date less than two weeks away, many on the island are wondering not only how they will rebuild the electrical grid that was damaged last year, but also what will happen in the storms to come.
A leaked Google design video depicts a dark and disturbing vision of data collection and social engineering. The video, produced by former head of design at X — Google's semi-secret R&D studio — seems to place the value of data above human agency, and asks viewers to consider themselves "not as the owners of this information but as custodians, transient carriers, or caretakers." For their part, Google insists that the leaked video was a speculative design exercise, and was intended to be disturbing.
The Senate has voted 52-47 to overturn the FCC's controversial plan of repealing Net Neutrality, the set of Obama-era regulations intended to protect consumers from blocking, throttling, and paid "fast-lane" policies at the hands of internet service providers. While the Senate vote is encouraging, many believe the victory may be merely symbolic; "the House does not intend to take similar action."
The Basic Income Earth Network reports that Washington DC has released a policy analysis based on research into providing a minimum income for district residents. One conclusion of the study that stood out to us: according to their metrics, a single adult with no children would need $36,988 annually to meet their basic needs. In order to make this amount, a worker would have to earn $17.78 per hour (pre-tax, presumably). The current minimum wage in Washington DC is $11.50 per hour. On July 1 of this year, the minimum wage will be increased to $12.50 per hour.
Researchers have found an exploit in PGP and S/MIME, to of the most common and widely-used email encryption protocols. This security flaw allows hackers to inject malicious code into emails, potentially compromising a user's entire inbox. The Verge reports:
"If an email encrypted using [affected] clients is intercepted in transit, an attacker could use the new vulnerability modify the email, adding malicious HTML code before sending it to the target. When the target opens the new email, the malicious code could be used to send back the plaintext of the email."
In a blog post published this week, tech writer and cultural critic Nicholas Carr takes on the growing tension between technology users and the tech platforms that collect and profit from users' data.
"If I am a data mine, then I am essentially a chunk of real estate, and control over my data becomes a matter of ownership... [But] the factory metaphor makes clear what the mining metaphor obscures: We work for the Facebooks and Googles of the world, and the work we do is increasingly indistinguishable from the lives we lead."Carr's metaphor offers a way to think about our evolving relationship with data, surveillance, and ownership in familiar terms. The whole piece is worth a read (H/T Imperica)
Cell phone cameras have radically decentralized the power to record and disseminate videos of police brutality. By documenting these incidents, ordinary people are challenging the official narratives, but also risking retaliation from law enforcement.
"While their videos have sparked protests and community action, people behind other high-profile videos of police killings of Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Philando Castile, and Alton Sterling have also alleged retaliation from police for filming them. Like Moore, each of them told me stories of false arrests, intimidation, physical violence, doxxing, and illegal confiscation of their phones after filming or sharing videos of police misconduct."
Bitcoin's early developers conceived of it as an alternative currency that could operate independently of the financial establishment, and eventually replace it. Yesterday, The New York Times reported that the Intercontinental Exchange, parent company of the NYSE, is looking into creating "an online trading platform that would allow large investors to buy and hold Bitcoin."
Aaron Traywick, the (in)famous biohacker and proponent of DIY medical research was found dead yesterday in a sensory deprivation tank. The Atlantic writes:
"While Traywick’s life tested the limits of DIY science, his death symbolizes a crossroads for the movement. Will it continue to push the limits of self-experimentation or will it take steps to ensure safety?"
New coders and veteran developers alike depend on Stack Overflow as a decentralized resource for computer programming. But although the website is incredibly popular, the community has a reputation for being just a tad pedantic, if not outright hostile. SO acknowledged as much on its blog last week:
"Stack Overflow is intended to be an inclusive place where every programmer can participate... But it’s built on mechanics and norms that push people away if they don’t know the ins-and-outs...As of last week, we’re prioritizing this and staffing it with talented employees from our Executive, Community, Data, Design, Research, and Engineering teams. We’re listening to our community and those sharing their experiences."
Contrary to rumors circulating on social media and elsewhere, the Finnish government announced that it has no plans to prematurely terminate its experiment in Universal Basic Income, which began in January 2017. “The experiment is proceeding according to plan and will continue until the end of 2018,” says Professor Olli Kangas in press release from Kela, the Social Insurance Institute of Finland.
Rapper, producer, and all-around gilded gadfly Kanye West has been lighting up Twitter recently, but one tweet in particular caught our attention:
No, we don't know what he means by that either.
decentralize— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) April 25, 2018
According to the MIT Technology Review, a refugee camp in Jordan is implementing "one of the first uses of blockchain for humanitarian aid."
If the man behind the project, WFP executive Houman Haddad, has his way, the blockchain-based program will do far more than save money. It will tackle a central problem in any humanitarian crisis: how do you get people without government identity documents or a bank account into a financial and legal system where those things are prerequisites to getting a job and living a secure life?
In an effort to prevent third-parties from servicing their products, Apple has made a habit of threatening independent electronics repair shops with legal action for fixing iPhones and other Apple products. The owner of a small repair shop in Norway decided to fight back -- and won.
Remember Tom from Myspace? Mark Zuckerberg doesn't. When senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked Zuck who Facebook's biggest competitor is, the CEO floundered. According to The Verge: "Zuckerberg tried to give a longer answer about how the 'average American uses eight different apps' to connect with their friends, attempting to frame Facebook as just one of many apps." Top 8 indeed.