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


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


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


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

Wouldn't it be great if a billboard could actually read your mind?

Said no one, ever. Except, apparently not: the "data scientists" of Posterscope are excited that EE -- a joint venture of T-Mobile and Orange -- will spy on all their users' mobile data to "give profound insights...that were never possible before" Read the rest

Mercilessly pricking the bubbles of AI, Big Data, machine learning

Michael I Jordan is an extremely accomplished computer scientist who is also deeply skeptical of claims made by Big Data advocates as well as people who believe that machine intelligence, AI and machine vision are solved, or nearly so. Read the rest

Ontario police's Big Data assigns secret guilt to people looking for jobs, crossing borders

There are no effective legal limits on when and to whom police can disclose unproven charges against you, 911 calls involving mental health incidents, and similar sensitive and prejudicial information; people have been denied employment, been turned back at the US border and suffered many other harms because Ontario cops send this stuff far and wide. Read the rest

Microsoft says it won't use contents of emails to target ads

Alan sez, "Microsoft is pushing out an update to its privacy policies." Read the rest

Big Data should not be a faith-based initiative

Cory Doctorow summarizes the problem with the idea that sensitive personal information can be removed responsibly from big data: computer scientists are pretty sure that's impossible.

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