Class action suit: smart sex toys spy on their owners and transmit their masturbation habits

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An anonymous woman has filed a class action suit against Standard Innovation, a company that makes We-Vibe "smart" sex toys that record exactly how their owners masturbate and transmit detailed dossiers, along with personally identifying information, back to the company. Read the rest

Weapons of Math Destruction: invisible, ubiquitous algorithms are ruining millions of lives

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I've been writing about the work of Cathy "Mathbabe" O'Neil for years: she's a radical data-scientist with a Harvard PhD in mathematics, who coined the term "Weapons of Math Destruction" to describe the ways that sloppy statistical modeling is punishing millions of people every day, and in more and more cases, destroying lives. Today, O'Neil brings her argument to print, with a fantastic, plainspoken, call to arms called (what else?) Weapons of Math Destruction.

Mysterious medical research consortium: we should own volunteers' clinical trial data for 5 years

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The "International Consortium of Investigators for Fairness in Trial Data Sharing" -- a group that appears to have just been formed, backed by 282 researcher in 33 countries -- has objected to a plan to limit exclusivity over clinical trial data derived from medical volunteers, insisting instead that the fair thing to do is to lock up this uncopyrightable, factual data for up to five years. Read the rest

White House plan to use data to shrink prison populations could be a racist dumpster fire

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The US imprisons more people than any other country in history, both as a total number and as a proportion of its population; a White House data-mining effort proposes to set free prisoners who are "low risk," which is something we can all get behind. Read the rest

Watch: Fascinating panel on legal and privacy concerns for Big Data and the Internet of Things

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In "It's a brave new world: Avoiding legal, privacy, and security snafus with big data and the IoT" -- a panel from last week's Strata+Hadoop World conference in San Jose, Alysa Z. Hutnik, a lawyer who specializes in consumer protection in privacy, data security, and advertising and Kristi Wolff, whose legal practice is on liability in food, dietary supplements, medical devices, and emerging health/wearable technology and privacy issues, present an extremely digestable and fascinating look into the lay of the regulatory land for data-collection and user privacy. Read the rest

UPDATED Race, income and outcomes: how rich does a black criminal have to be to get treated like a white one?

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Lawyer-turned-data-scientist David Colarusso analyzed 2.2 million sentencing records from Virginia to determine the relationship between race, income and treatment in the criminal justice system. Read the rest

Can a sexbot be a murderer?

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Paolo Bacigalupi's new short story "Mika Model" is a detective tale about a murdering sexbot. Read the rest

Crimefighting for fun and profit: data-mining Medicare fraud and likely whistleblowers

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John Mininno is an ex-malpractice lawyer who raised money from a Wall Street angel and founded the National Healthcare Analysis Group, which uses public data sources to uncover Medicare fraud, then does further data-mining to predict which current or ex-employees will turn whistleblower, cold calls them, and splits the bounty the government offers for whistleblowing with them. Read the rest

Listen: podcast about the alleged "data" collected by wearable devices

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Rachel "Datapunk" Kalmar is a brilliant data scientist with a background in neuroscience, connected devices, sensors, and wearables. Read the rest

NSA and GCHQ's crappy Big Data techniques may be killing thousands of innocents

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Researchers have taken a second look at the NSA SKYNET leaks, as well as the GCHQ data-mining problem book first published on Boing Boing, and concluded that the spy agencies have made elementary errors in their machine-learning techniques, which are used to identify candidates for remote assassination by drone. Read the rest

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.

Read the rest

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

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