How George Soros came to be blamed for...everything
In this article at Buzzfeed, Emily Tamkin untangles the mythology surrounding George Soros and explains how he came to be internationally vilified despite his significant philanthropy. Tamkin blames three 2000s incidents for starting the process: Open Society's support for Mikheil Saakashvili in the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia, which attracted Vladimir Putin's attention; Soros's 2004 election cycle aggregated donations of $27 million to campaigns opposing then-US President George W. Bush; and the return to power in Hungary of former Soros scholarship student Viktor Orbán, who began attacking Soros in 2015 during the Syrian refugee crisis.
Soros  opensociety  civilsociety 
5 weeks ago
Digital photocopiers loaded with secrets
Inside almost all photocopiers made since 2002 is a hard drive that stores a copy of everything the machine scans, copies, or emails. Few know it's one deletes the data.
security  cached  data 
may 2018
Banking's legacy of dark code
This piece discusses the hundreds of millions of lines of computer code, a lot of it written in older languages like COBOL and Fortran, that runs our banking systems. They've been patched, updated, and added to over the decades. They were once systems people understood; now they are systems people used to understand; soon, they will be systems no one has ever understood.
banks  old  code  computing  risks 
may 2018
TSB IT crash was predicted a year ago
The Guardian studies the week-long TSB IT crash and finds many causes: IT systems "bodged" together from many mergers and acquisitions, then forced apart by regulatory action after the financial crisis; inadequate time, lack of sufficient testing, plus the lack of preparedness for what happens when such a system ceases to function.
banks  risks  computer  systems  TSB 
april 2018
The Supreme Court could give tech giants more power...
SCOTUS considers a case that considers the credit card companies as multi-sided markets...which means the eventual ruling would arguably be applicable to GAFA and give them greater immunity to antitrust law.
antitrust  gafa  scotus 
march 2018
Bob McDill
Discussion of Bob McDill, an extraordinarily disciplined songwriter who worked at songwriting like a 9 to 5 job for 30 years, writing dozens of hits and well-known songs for dozens of performers, who has just donated his songwriting notebooks to the Nashville Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. "Organize or perish," says McDill.
february 2018
Google Translate adds a zero...
...and the Norwegian Olympic team gets 15,000 eggs instead of the 1,500 they meant to order.
AI  machine  translation  Google 
february 2018
Unilever threat is #MeToo moment for digital advertising
Unilever CEO Keith Wood has threatened to pull the company's advertising from Facebook and Google because of the inappropriate content that surrounds it. The companies believe the threat is temporary; but the Guardian wonders if it could be more significant than they think.
advertising  Unilever 
february 2018
Facial recognition is accurate - if you're a white guy
Study of facial recognition software conducted by Jyo Buolamwini at the MIT Media Lab finds that the darker the skin of the subject the more errors arise - up to 35% for darker-skinned women. At Georgetown Law School, researchers estimate that 117 million American adults are in face recognition networks used by law enforcement. African-Americans are disproportionately represented in mugshot databases.
biometrics  facial  recognition  race  fairness 
february 2018
Russian nuclear scientists arrested for 'Bitcoin mining plot'
Russian scientists working at a nuclear facility have been arrested after trying to mine bitcoin on the facility's supercomputer, the largest in Russia. The alert seems to have been sounded when they tried to connect it to the internet.
Russia  cryptocurrencies  security  stupidity 
february 2018
Why You Cannot Quit Amazon Prime
Geoffrey Fowler discusses the habit-forming quality of subscribing to Amazon Prime, which slowly but surely locks out competitors.
amazon  retail  lockin 
february 2018
How big is Google Maps' moat?
Analysis of recent improvements in Google Maps (as of 12/2017): park sheds, and even subway steps have been added, at least in outline.
google  maps  navigation 
january 2018
The secret lives of students who mine cryptocurrency in their dorm rooms
In this article at Quartz, Karen Hao discusses the phenomenon of "dorm room miners" - that is, students who mine cryptocurrencies in their dorm rooms, where the electricity bills are footed by their universities. Bitcoin is too processor-intensive, but alternative currencies such as ethereum and dogecoin can be mined on ordinary PCs, although the process generates a lot of heat. The result, says Hao, is the creation of a new generation of cryptocurrency experts
bitcoin  cryptocurrencies  nextgen 
january 2018
Song and the working class movement
Scottish folk musician Dick Gaughan discusses song, the working class movement, and the purpose of music.
folk  music 
december 2017
It takes just $1,000 to track someone's location with mobile ads
This Wired story summarizes the Exploring ADINT: Using Ad Targeting for Surveillance on a Budget report.
surveillance  advertising  media 
november 2017
Notes on an emergency
At re:code, Maliejk Cengowski discusses the feudal internet, and argues that having ceded the internet to five huge US companies (GAMFA), Europe should take it back.
june 2017
How Trump Used Facebook to Win
Sue Halpern reviews Prototype Politics: Technology-Intensive Campaigning and the Data of Democracy (by Daniel Kreiss,
Oxford University Press) and Hacking the Electorate: How Campaigns Perceive Voters (by Eitan D. Hersh, Cambridge University Press)
facebook  elections 
may 2017
The Facebook president and Zuck's racist rulebook
Engadget reviews the Facebook files and asks just who Facebook is safe for.
may 2017
Google links offline credit card spending to online ads...
All those little silos of data in apps, credit card trails, etc? They're running together like the melting bits of liquid metal man in Terminator 2.
google  bigdata  advertising 
may 2017
Snap election expands reach of "gagging" law for charities
The Guardian reports that the Electoral Commission is writing to charities to warn them that the law limiting their political campaigning applies retroactively to a year before the snap election called by Theresa May.
civilsociety  elections 
may 2017
How Google Took Over the Classroom
The New York Times studies Google's rise in education over the last five years.
education  google  microsoft  apple 
may 2017
The Sorceror's Code: a profile of Richard Stallman
A lengthy profile of free software pioneer Richard Stallman, whose GNU project provided everything needed except the kernel for the operating system commonly known as Linux.
may 2017
4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump
This lengthy history of 4chan discusses its hidden influence on politics and culture, including the emergence of Anonymous, Scientology protests, Gamergate, Trump's election, and much more. Those who have been on the Net a generation longer will note a bunch of behavior dating back to Usenet, such as raids on other online fora, and hostility to anything smacking of politeness or manners.
4chan  socialmedia 
february 2017
Amanda Todd's alleged "sextortionist" on trial
The Daily Beast describes the trial against the man accused of extortionate tactics to get Amanda Todd and many other victims to post nude photos, perform via webcam, etc. Todd committed suicide at 15.
children  onlinesafety 
february 2017
Crash: How computers are setting us up for disaster
Tim Harford draws lessons from "mode confusion" in aviation - drawn from analyses of the Air France flight 447 crash - to apply to council bureaucracy, self-driving cars, and other systems where humans become so reliant on computers they lose the ability to exert control directly.
automation  robots  ai 
october 2016
How algorithms rule our working lives
In the Guardian, Cathy O'Neil discusses the impact of automated testing on how prospective job candidates are winnowed out, tracing today's systems, which ensure that 72% of CVs are not seen by US recruiters, back to their 1970s origins at MIT. Questionnaires and data mining allow employers to seek answers to questions they would not be permitted to ask directly under legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
algorithmicliving  work 
september 2016
Google Maps seems to delete Palestine
In fact, it's more complicated than that.
google  maps  geography 
august 2016
Internet trolls are even more hostile when using their real names
Not surprised by this; there's a well-documented history of quite nasty abuse even on mailing lists where people's employers are clearly known. (CFP had a panel on this in 2007.) The only real answer to trolls is human moderators who stomp on misbehavior and small communities where there's a communal agreement on what standards of behavior should be.
internetgovernance  anonymity  virtualcommunities 
july 2016
Carol Highsmith files a $1bn copyright claim against Getty Images
Photographer Carol Highsmith, who has donated all her images to the Library of Congress so the public may use and access them, is suing Getty Images for $1bn. Getty not only sent Highsmith and others notices that they were infringing copyright, but continues to sell licenses to Highsmith's images.
copyright  getty  law 
july 2016
Google's Nest closing smart home company Revolv, bricking devices
Google is to close its acquisition, Revolv, rolling its staff into Nest - and as part of the process will also not only cease updating Revolv devices but rendering them completely non-operational.
google  smartliving  risks 
april 2016
Angola's Wikipedia pirates...
Motherboard reports that Angolans are proving extremely clever about using their free access (ie outside their data plans) to Wikipedia and Facebook to trade and share copyrighted music, films, etc. The situation poses a real conundrum for Wikipedia, which bans copyright violations from its site: its editors are sick of cleaning up the unwanted material, but don't want to block Angolans from editing entirely.
wikipedia  facebook  copyright  piracy 
march 2016
Law enforcement seeks out private DNA databases
Companies that do ancestry research report that law enforcement have begun to demand individuals' genetic information they store.
dna  privacy 
march 2016
Microsoft's Tay AI chatbot gets a crash course...
The Guardian's take on the Tay AI Twitterbot that was retired after 18 hours of Twitter experience turned it racist and sexist.
ai  microsoft  twitter 
march 2016
Google puts Boston Dynamics up for sale
Bloomberg Business reports that Alphabet has apparently decided to sell robot-maker Boston Dynamics, which Google bought in 2014. The move seems surprising, given Google's big push into AI, neural networking, and self-driving cars.
google  robots 
march 2016
A Facebook Experiment
Above Avalon studies Facebook by giving up the service for six months. Among the lessons: Facebook has replaced the functions of the local daily newspaper but not personal connections with family and friends; its curated version of the web can be replaced by another put together via different apps and social networks; and its addition of algorithms and news content has turned its users from active contributors to passive consumers.
facebook  advertising 
march 2016
Princeton publishes bitcoin textbook
The Freedom-to-Tinker folks have published the first draft of their bitcoin textbook for download and comment.
february 2016
A look back at Willow Garage
Business Insider recounts the history and influence of Willow Garage, whose ROS (Robot Operating System) now permeates the growing industry.
robots  research 
february 2016
Videos from Schmoocon
These videos are the presentations from the 2016 edition of the security conference Schmoocon.
february 2016
The end of parking: self-driving cars
This lengthy Mother Jones piece investigates the potential urban impact of self-driving cars: less congestion, less pollution, and millions of square feet of land that can be reclaimed for pedestrians and other uses.
robots  UAVs  smartliving  cities 
february 2016
Bayesian Imputation for Anonymous Visits in CRM Data
Researchers from IBM Watson, Drexel, and Wharton Business School examine ways to identify anonymous website users for the purpose of targeting advertising.
adtech  ibm  anonymity 
february 2016
Secret memo details broader US strategy to crack phones
Bloomberg analyzes government phone-cracking capability and the US's longer-term plans.
Apple  crypto  surveillance  hacking 
february 2016
The Fall and Rise and Rise and Rise of Chat
Ars Technica reviews the history of public chatrooms from Talk and CompuServe to WhatsApp and the latest, Telegram. All without ever mentioning IRC (whose functioning global networks have watched the others come and go).
virtualcommunities  technologyhistory 
february 2016
Police surveillance: threat scores
The Washington Post examines the use of "threat scores" generated by billions of data points crunched by Intrado's Beware software by local police. One of the earliest adopters: Fresno, California, which regards it as poviding safety for its officers. Intrado claims the software's workings are trade secrets.
sccoring  police  lawenforcement  tradesecrets 
january 2016
The facts on China's social credit systems
This piece analyzes the inner workings of Sesame credit.
China  scoring 
january 2016
Meet "Sledgehammer Shannon", the lawyer who is Uber's worst nightmare
Mother Jones outlines the career of Boston labor lawyer Lisa Shannon. Among her successes is blocking restaurants from skimming waitstaff's tips. She is now behind several class action suits to get "sharing economy" companies to class their workers as employees, not "contractors".
sharingeconomy  uber  law 
january 2016
The Fare Game
In this comic, Al Jazeera considers the implications of services like Uber that live and die by mutual ratings - and the consequences for trust and privacy. Not so much the sharing economy as the rating economy.
uber  sharingeconomy  reputation 
december 2015
Internet Freedom Is Actively Dissolving in America
At Vice, Jason Koebler argues that internet freedom depends on access - and that access in the US is losing ground as poorer people, facing tough financial choices, drop their broadband in favor of mobile data.
access  usa 
december 2015
Techno-skeptics' objection growing louder
The Washington Post's Joel Achenbach writes about the November 2015 NYC event to take back/reinvent the Net. Features docuumentary filmmaker Astra Taylor, Jaron Lanier, Robert Atkinson.
takebackthenet  privacy  technoskepticism 
december 2015
Vinyl makes more money for UK music labels than YouTube
At Ars Technica, Mark Walton reports from the Music Futures conference that BPI claimss that its revenues from sales of vinyl - £12.1 million in 2013 - were worth more than YouTube's 14 billion streams. Google does not break out regional labels, but claims it has paid more than $3 billion to music labels to date and the number continues to grow. The article includes a note that IFPI is suing Soundcloud for unpaid royalties.
music  copyright  streaming  google  bpi 
november 2015
Ads that use inaudible sound to link devices
At Ars Technica, Dan Goodin writes that several companies supply technology that allows TV ads and ads displayed in computer browsers to play an inaudible (to humans) sound that enables cross-device tracking of individuals. Consumers use up to five devices a day, and these were unlinked siloes of data - until now.
adtech  advertising  privacy 
november 2015
Copyright and Anne Frank's diary
At Torrentfreak, Rick Falkvinge angrily reports that the foundation that owns the copyright to Anne Frank's diary is actively seeking to prevent its entry into the public domain (Anne Frank died in 1945) by newly claimimng her father, Otto Frank, is not its editor, as previously styled, but its co-author, which would keep the work in copyright until 2050. It's well known that Otto Frank expurgated many passages; it's only in recent years that the public has seen the full text of what she wrote. BoingBoing ( calls it "copyfraud".
copyright  publicdomain 
november 2015
What we know about the computer formulas making decisions in your life
Pro Publica studies what happens when big data is bad data and algorithms can't tell the difference. In a previous article (linked) it also reports on a study of Uber's dynamic pricing.
algorithmicliving  bigdata 
november 2015
Convicted by Code
At Slate, Rebecca Wexler discusses the issues surrounding proprietary code that makes decisions with deep impact on our lives, including one case where a defendant accused of a 1977 "cold case" murder based solely on DNA evidence interpreted by a proprietary program, was denied the right to inspect the source code by the manufacturer.
opensource  socialjustice  internetofthings 
october 2015
Internet Advertising Bureau launches "LEAN" advertising
IAB comes to grips with how much online ads have alienated consumers. Can they come up with ads that are a better user experience?
advertising  adtech 
october 2015
MOOCs haven't lived up to the hype looks at the failure of MOOCs to reach successfully beyond the demographic of males from industrialized countries. Completion rates remain low, and professors express their frustration at watching students fail in the absence of systems to provide support to those coming from poorer educational backgrounds.
bigdata  education  moocs 
october 2015
Drone makers cautious about Obama plans for registration
Debates about registering commercial and domestic drones have begun, as this Bloomberg piece discusses. Opponents argue that registration is unworkable because of the myriad devices that can be built from readily available parts and their constantly changing nature.
october 2015
Inside Corporate America's Campaign to Ditch Worker's Compensation
Pro Publica reports on Texas lawyer Bill Minick's bright idea to allow large companies to opt out of state laws intended to ensure support for injured workers. Texas has already passed such a law; South Carolina and Tennessee are considering it, and companies such as Wal-Mart, Nordstrom, and Lowe's are campaigning to extend the idea to a dozen other states.
socialjustice  corpUSA 
october 2015
Inside China's plan to give every citizen a character score
New Scientist reports on China's new big data scoring system, which includes everything from points on your driver's license to what you buy. James Seng provides some additional background at
bigdata  scoring  china 
october 2015
The porn business isn't anything like you think it is
At Wired, Cade Metz explains life in the modern online porn industry: thin margins with audiences eaten away by social media and mobile, and losing access to cutting-edge technology. All our ideas about its wealth and audience size are outdated.
porn  socialnetworks  mobile 
october 2015
IBM Watson's perfect data and goodbye, privacy
Computerworld discusses the capabilities of IBM Watson, released to developers in a broad array of applications.
ibm  bigdata  watson 
october 2015
Mapping the spread of Tor
This article shows how widespread and global the Tor network has become. Leading the world with the biggest number of nodes is Germany, with the US a close second.
privacy  anonymity  tor 
october 2015
Stop Googling, Let's Talk
Sherry Turkle discusses the ways phones and always-on are causing a generation to fail to acquire the ability to talk to one another.
turkle  mobile  psychology  virtualcommunities 
october 2015
Facebook blocks ads for articles about marijuana legislation
An editor at The Atlantic tells the story of trying to use a paid ad campaign to promote and article about a cannabis derivative that gives no high and helps children with severe epilepsy. Facebook blocked the campaign on the basis that the product was illegal. (The product in fact is the article, not the oil, but never mind.)
censorship  facebook 
october 2015
Zurich Insurance: cyber costs threaten to overwhelm cyber benefits
The rising cost of cyber security and data breaches...well, like the headline says.
security  cba 
september 2015
Why the Internet of Things favours dominance
Maria Farrell argues that we are not opting into the Internet of Things; it's being forced on us, turning us from citizens to pools of data for harvesting.
privacy  internetofthings  balanceofpower 
september 2015
The surprising predictability of Android lock patterns
Just as humans overwhelmingly flock to a few obvious passwords, they also tend to choose the same lock patterns on their smartphones. Not surprisingly, really: the grid is small, and many human fingers aren't.
security  passwords 
august 2015
Australian academics challenge "web of avarice" in scientific publishing
The Guardian reports on a group of Australian academics' efforts to challenge the dominance of a few publishers over scientific publishing that sees institutions paying as much as $19,000 (Elsevier) to $21,000 (Springer) for a single journal subscription.
openaccess  sciencepublishing 
august 2015
Inside Amazon
This NY Times story takes a hard look at Amazon's bruising employment practices. While other tech companies hand out family leave, free food and gym access, and work/life balance, Amazon favors tough employment.
Amazon  labor 
august 2015
We'll see you, anon
The Economist looks at privacy issues with respect to big data and cites Cynthia Dwork's work at Microsoft on differential privacy - techniques for protecting privacy while retaining the data's usefulness.
privacy  bigdata 
august 2015
Gang of Transnational Crime Organizations Roll Out Own Encrypted Communication System
Marcy Wheeler writes about Symphony, a system of communications tools for the financial services sector that "prevent government spying" and have "no backdoors".
banks  finance  surveillance  organizedcrime 
august 2015
Trade dispute about Dental Devices Could End up Changing the Future of the Entire Internet
In the process of stopping ClearCorrect from infringing on patents held by InvisAlign, both makers of clear braces, the International Trade Commission has ruled importing digital files is illegal. This is the first time the agency has taken action against virtual, rather than physical action. The Court of Appeals in Washington, DC will hear arguments on August 11. Briefs have been filed by the Internet Association, EFF, and Public Knowledge.
copyright  patent  intellectualproperty  dentistry 
august 2015
Websites: please stop blocking password managers
This Wired article asks a number of major companies why they block password managers, which help users create and manage strong passwords instead of weak ones, and gets a range of answers.
security  passwords 
july 2015
Why the Internet of Things encourages dominance
In this Guardian article, Julia Powles and Jat Singh argue that the complexity of IoT systems will of necessity reinforce hierarchies and centralized dominance.
internetofthings  centralization 
july 2015
The world's first hack: the telegraph and the invention of privacy
In the Guardian, Thomas McMullan follows in Tom Standage's footsteps and invokes the telegraph as prior art, recounting the capture of murderer John Tawell, Nevil Maskelyne's hack of Marconi's demonstration (recounted by Paul Marks in New Scientist in 2011), and the use of codes and ciphers to protect text.
telegraph  hacking 
july 2015
When algorithms discrminate
In the NY Times, Claire Cain Miller examines the widely held belief that algorithms are neutral, reviewing research from CMU (that showed that men were more frequently shown ads for high-paying executive jobs than women). Deirdre Mulligan suggests what coded discrimination is tolerated in such cases is a matter of public policy.
advertising  CMU  google  algorithmicliving  bigdata  discrimination  Mulligan 
july 2015
The case of the amazing gay-marriage data
Science of Us reports on the efforts of graduate student David Broockman to stand up - and eventually expose fraud in - a study that appeared to show that personal canvassing works to change hearts and minds about gay marriage when the canvasser themselves is gay.
science  sciencefraud 
june 2015
There's an Uber for everything now
While Uber faces regulatory issues in various locations, the Wall Street Journal reports that in San Francisco, at least temporarily, there's a service for almost everything - many of them more useful than it might first appear.
apps  sharingeconomy 
may 2015
Screen time versus play time: what tech leaders won't let their own kids do
The Guardian interviews a number of tech leaders to find out how they approach technology with their kids. Many favor Waldorf schools (which limit screen time) and other techniques to let their kids explore the physical world rather than the virtual world.
education  children 
may 2015
Tiny updates to tech can present obstacles for disabled people
Paul Kotler, who struggles with autism and apraxia, writes in Wired about the opportunities and challenges tech presents. Both are largely by-products of mass market design.
access  disabilities 
may 2015
EFF's 404 Report on copyright
EFF examines the 2014 report of the US Trade Representative under S301 - the one under which USTR dubs nations like Canada "rogue nations" for not enacting the copyright laws the US wants. EFF counters with short case studies from myriad countries about the chilling effects of copyright extremism.
EFF  copyright  UStrade 
may 2015
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