Not just Yemen: Canadian cyberarms dealer Netsweeper also helped censor the net in Bahrain

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Netsweeper is a litigious cyberarms dealer that threatened to sue the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab when its researchers outed the company for its work in helping Yemen's despotic regime censor the internet; later, the company dropped its lawsuit. Read the rest

Free trade lowers prices -- but not on things poor people need (and it pushes up housing prices)

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Part of the economic argument for free trade deals is that they benefit workers by producing cheaper goods -- even if you lose your manufacturing job, you can buy stuff a lot cheaper with the next job you get. Read the rest

Design fiction, the Internet of Women's things, and futurism

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Jasmina Tesanovic (previously) and Bruce Sterling did a residency at The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UCSD, working with the students on design fiction and futurism. Read the rest

Listen: Hacker Anthropologist Biella Coleman on the free software movement and big business

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Gabriella Coleman, the anthropologist whose first book, Coding Freedom, explained hacking culture better than any book before or since; and whose second book, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy, told the inside story of Anonymous with technical and social brilliance, appeared on the Theory of Everything podcast (MP3) to discuss the ways that free software hackers and the more business-friendly open source world have fought, reconciled and fought again. Read the rest

Machine learning system can descramble pixelated/blurred redactions 83% of the time

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A joint UT Austin/Cornell team has taught a machine learning system based on the free/open Torch library to correctly guess the content of pixellated or blurred redactions with high accuracy: for masked faces that humans correctly guess 0.19% of the time, the system can make a correct guess 83% of the time, when given five tries. Read the rest

6.8 million teens & tweens are hungry in America, girls are trading sex for food

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The nonprofit Urban Institute's new study, Impossible Choices: Teens and Food Insecurity in America used paired, single-gender focus groups in 10 urban communities to learn about the hunger and food strategies of children aged 10 to 17 whose families received food assistance (the total sample size was 193). Read the rest

We need a new science of measurement to figure out when AI is working and why it fails

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Writing on Medium, AI researcher Kate Crawford (previously) and Simply Secure (previously) co-founder Meredith Whittaker make the case for a new scholarly discipline that "measures and assesses the social and economic effects of current AI systems." Read the rest

Autocratic regimes systematically deny internet access to opposition ethnic groups

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In Digital discrimination: Political bias in Internet service provision across ethnic groups (Sci-hub mirror), a new paper in Science, political scientists from the University of Konstanz and elsewhere document the practice of "ethnic favoritism" in internet provision, through which autocratic regimes use telcoms policies to discriminate against opposition groups. Read the rest

Universities fought unionization's 'one-size-fits-all' using identical arguments

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The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that grad students working at private universities can form unions, something that the universities themselves have fought tooth-and-nail for years, with elite universities posted FAQs explaining why trade unionism was a bad match for academic institutions: that each academic institution was unique, and so unlike any other place, that collective bargaining just couldn't work. Read the rest

5 years after Texas GOP's attack on women's reproductive health, TX leads developed world in maternal mortality

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Remember when Texas governor Rick Perry and the GOP state government led an unprecedented assault on women's reproductive health in the name of preventing abortions, using dirty tricks to pass an unconstitutional law that led to a boom in unsafe home abortions and a black market for day-after pills, while ending Planned Parenthood's vital cancer-screening program, before defunding Planned Parenthood altogether? Read the rest

Predictive policing predicts police harassment, not crime

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In Chicago, the "Heat List" system is used to direct policing resources, based on data-mining of social media to identify potential gang-members; the model tells the cops where to go and who to arrest, and is supposed to reduce both violent crime and the likelihood that suspects themselves will be killed -- but peer-reviewed analysis (Scihub mirror) of the program shows that while being on the Heat List increases your chances of being harassed and arrested by Chicago PD, it does not improve crime rates. Read the rest

UC Davis Chancellor spent $400K+ to scrub her online reputation after pepper-spray incident

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Back in April, we learned that UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi had hired a sleazy "reputation-management" company to scrub her reputation and that of the university after the 2011 incident in which university police lieutenant John Pike hosed down peaceful protesters with pepper spray, jetting chemical irritant directly into their open mouths and eyes. Read the rest

What life is like when you really understand advanced mathematics

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An anonymous Quora commenter has written an exhaustive and fascinating response to the question, "What is it like to understand advanced mathematics?" Read the rest

It's pretty easy to hack traffic lights

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Researchers from the University of Michigan EE/Computer Science Department (previously) presented their work on hacking traffic signals at this year's Usenix Security Symposium (previously), and guess what? It's shockingly easy to pwn the traffic control system. Read the rest

UK/EU security researchers: tax-free stipend to study privacy and authentication

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UC London's offering a tax-free stipend for UK/EU students to work on designing and evaluating new approaches for continuous authentication, based on a solid theoretical underpinning so as to give a high degree of confidence that the resulting decisions match expectations and requirements" as well as "ways to preserve user privacy by processing behavioural measurements on the user’s computer such that sensitive information is not sent to the online service." (Image: LordHarris, CC-BY-SA) (Thanks, William!) Read the rest

Cash grants to people with unexpected bills successfully prevents homelessness

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In The impact of homelessness prevention programs on homelessness (Scihub mirror), a group of academic and government economists show that giving an average of $1,000 to people in danger of losing their homes due to unexpected bills (for example, emergency medical bills) is a successful strategy for preventing homelessness, which costs society a lot more than $1,000 -- more importantly, these kinds of cash grants do not create a culture of "dependency" that leads to recklessness, nor does it have a merely temporary effect. Read the rest

100 million VWs can be unlocked with a $40 cracker (and other cars aren't much better)

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In Lock It and Still Lose It—On the (In)Security of Automotive Remote Keyless Entry Systems, a paper given at the current Usenix Security conference in Austin, researchers with a proven track record of uncovering serious defects in automotive keyless entry and ignition systems revealed a technique for unlocking over 100,000 million Volkswagen cars, using $40 worth of hardware; they also revealed a technique for hijacking the locking systems of millions of other vehicles from other manufacturers. Read the rest

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