Big Data Ethics: racially biased training data versus machine learning

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Writing in Slate, Cathy "Weapons of Math Destruction" O'Neill, a skeptical data-scientist, describes the ways that Big Data intersects with ethical considerations. Read the rest

Weapons of Math Destruction: how Big Data threatens democracy

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I was hugely impressed with Cathy "Mathbabe" O'Neil's talk at Personal Democracy Forum 2015, "Weapons of Math Destruction," in which she laid out the way that the "opaque, unregulated, and uncontestable" conclusions of Big Data threaten fairness and democracy.

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Ted Cruz campaign hires dirty data-miners who slurped up millions of Facebook users' data

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Cambridge Analytica is an obscure data-mining company funded by hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer (Cruz's main financial backer). Cambridge Analytica created "psychographic profiles" of millions of Facebook users by scraping their personal data without their knowledge or permission. Read the rest

Racist algorithms: how Big Data makes bias seem objective

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The Ford Foundation's Michael Brennan discusses the many studies showing how algorithms can magnify bias -- like the prevalence of police background check ads shown against searches for black names. Read the rest

Ironically, modern surveillance states are baffled by people who change countries

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Scott Smith and his family moved from the USA to the Netherlands and discovered that despite living in the most heavily surveilled moment in human history, neither his old country nor his new one can figure out how to relate to them. Read the rest

Big Data refusal: the nuclear disarmament movement of the 21st century

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James Bridle's new essay (adapted from a speech at the Through Post-Atomic Eyes event in Toronto last month) draws a connection between the terror of life in the nuclear shadow and the days we live in now, when we know that huge privacy disasters are looming, but are seemingly powerless to stop the proliferation of surveillance. Read the rest

Big Data's religious faith denies the reality of failed promises, privacy Chernobyls

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Maciej Ceglowski (previously) spoke to a O'Reilly's Strata Big Data conference this month about the toxicity of data -- the fact that data collected is likely to leak, and that data-leaks resemble nuclear leaks in that even the "dilute" data (metadata or lightly contaminated boiler suits and tools) are still deadly when enough of them leak out (I've been using this metaphor since 2008). Read the rest

Data is a liability, not an asset

Programmers know it, management reject it: code is a liability, not an asset. Read the rest

Dear Internet of Things: human beings are not things

My new Locus column is What If People Were Sensors, Not Things to be Sensed? Read the rest

My Stolen Life

My handbag was stolen two months ago. It happened in seconds in a mall in Turin, Italy. I never saw the thief, and neither did my husband, sitting two meters from the scene of the crime a fast food Japanese restaurant.

How is such criminal skill even possible? There was almost nobody around. Now, after two months, I do vaguely remember though a nice young woman, sitting with a child, next to my table. Was it she who grabbed my bag off the back of a chair and escaped with it?

A week later, I read that a gang of four women, convicted of serial handbag thefts in Italy, was finally put behind the bars. Even though found guilty several times, they were always released from custody because they had either small children or were pregnant. So maybe they relied on the handbags of other women to feed their numerous children?!

But that would be a topic for a novel, and not what I want to write about. I will focus on this accident from a different angle. Because it can only be compared to an accident, a personal disaster, as if a truck ran over me. No use asking, was it my fault? Should I blame myself for leaving my chair to order a second beer to go with my sushi? And why on earth did I center my earthly life inside one rather small handbag? Why did I visit a shopping mall taking with me all of my traveling documents, credit cards, checkbook, USB backup, health insurance card, Iphone, address book, prescriptions, etc. Read the rest

WATCH: More private companies gather license plate data

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It's no secret that license plate data is big business. Here's a demo of how these companies gather data as they troll parking lots and public streets gathering indiscriminate license plate info, looking for matches on other databases. Read the rest

On Big Data's shrinking returns

In my new Guardian column, I point out that the big-data-driven surveillance business model is on the rocks. Read the rest

Mapping the disciplined ranks of anti-vax Twitter

Anti-vax Twitter consists of several thousand vaccine denialists whose present project is stopping California's mandatory vaccine bill, through campaigns of lockstep tweeting to lawmakers, workplace and home-based harassment of dissenters, and coordinated SEO campaigns that muddy the waters for concerned parents who try to research the subject. Read the rest

Social graph of mysterious twitterbots

Terence Eden has mined the social graphs of thousands of mysterious, spammy twitterbots, which may or may not be the same larval spambots I wrote about. Read the rest

Imaginary ISIS attack on Louisiana and the twitterbots who loved it

Gilad Lotan has spotted some pretty sophisticated fake-news generation, possibly from Russia, and possibly related to my weird, larval twitterbots, aimed at convincing you that ISIS had blown up a Louisiana chemical factory. Read the rest

I Think You'll Find It's a Bit More Complicated Than That

Over the past decade, pharma-fighting Dr Ben Goldacre has written more than 500,000 words of fearlessly combative science journalism.

Thousands of Americans got sub-broadband ISP service, thanks to telcoms shenanigans

Measurement Lab, an open, independent analysis organization devoted to measuring the quality of Internet connections and detecting censorship, technical faults and network neutrality violations, has released a major new report on how ISPs connect to one another, and it's not pretty. Read the rest

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