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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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)


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

Why did it take a private foundation to do public science right?


Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen funded the Allen Brain Observatory, a detailed, rich data-set derived from parts of a mouse-brain: what's striking is that the Allen Institute released all the data into the public domain, at once, as soon as it was available, which is exactly what you'd want the publicly funded alternatives to do, and what they almost never do. Read the rest

Monopoly power and the decline of small business: big business vs democracy, growth & equality


In the 15 years between 1997 and 2012: 72,000 small US manufacturers shut down; as did 108,000 local retailers and 13,000 community banks (fully half of America's complement of small banks!). The number of US startups has dropped by 50% since 1970. These statistics are not the result of the changing times: they're due to massive, monopolistic corporations stacking the deck against small competitors through unfair and corrupt practices, to the detriment of American growth, equality and democracy. Read the rest

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


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

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