How big is the market for DRM-Free?

It's the Day Against DRM, and EFF is celebrating by publishing the first public look at How Much Do Consumers Value Interoperability? Evidence from the Price of DVD Players, a scholarly economics paper that uses clever techniques to reveal some eye-popping number on the strangled market for DRM-free gadgets. Read the rest

Limn 8: a social science journal issue devoted to hacking

Gabriella Coleman is the hacker anthropologist whose work on the free software movement, Anonymous and the Arab Spring, the politicization of hacking, and the true role of alt-right dank memes in the 2016 elections are critical reading for the 21st century. Read the rest

Industrial robotics security is really, really terrible

Researchers from Politecnico di Milano and Trend Micro conducted an audit of the information security design of commonly used industrial robots and found that these devices are extremely insecure: robots could be easily reprogrammed to violate their safety parameters, both by distorting the robots' ability to move accurately and by changing the movements the robots attempt to perform; hacked robots can also be made to perform movements with more force than is safe; normal safety measures that limit speed and force can be disabled; robots can be made to falsify their own telemetry, fooling human operators; emergency manual override switches can be disabled or hidden; robots can be silently switched from manual to automatic operation, making them move suddenly and forcefully while dangerously close to oblivious, trusting humans; and of course, robots can be caused to manufacture faulty goods that have to be remanufactured or scrapped. Read the rest

Republicans are the primary beneficiaries of gerrymandering

As the Supreme Court makes ready to rule on the blatant gerrymandering in Wisconsin, the AP has conducted a study using "a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage" to analyze "the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year" and report "four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones." Read the rest

A non-scientist's guide to reading scientific papers

Jennifer Raff -- a bioanthropologist and geneticist who researches and teaches at U Kansas and U Texas -- provides some excellent advice and context on how to read a scientific paper, from figuring out which papers and journals are worthy of your attention to understanding the paper in its wider context in the relevant field. Read the rest

Quantifying the influence of 4chan's alt-right trolls on normies' discourse

In a proceedings paper presented at a Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence social media conference, a team of British, Italian, and Cypriot academics who worked with a Telefonica researcher presented their work analyzing 8,000,000 comments from 4chan's "politically incorrect" (AKA /pol/) boards, a hive of alt-right racism and hate. Read the rest

How hackers can steal your 2FA email account by getting you to sign up for another website

In a paper for IEEE Security, researchers from Cyberpion and Israel's College of Management Academic Studies describe a "Password Reset Man-in-the-Middle Attack" that leverages a bunch of clever insights into how password resets work to steal your email account (and other kinds of accounts), even when it's protected by two-factor authentication. Read the rest

American regions with high immigration enjoy persistent, long-term higher incomes and lower unemployment

If you're an American who's lucky enough to live somewhere that received large influxes of immigrants during the "Age of Mass Migration" (1860 to 1920), congratulations! The immigrants who came to your territory brought along higher incomes, lower unemployment, higher levels of educational attainment -- and no reduction in social cohesion! Read the rest

Leaked tax-haven data shows that the super rich are way, way richer than suspected

When Thomas Piketty and his team undertook their landmark study of wealth inequality in the world, they had to rely on the self-reported income of the super rich to see just how income was distributed -- by definition, they couldn't directly measure the unreported income hidden in tax havens (though they did estimate it, with what was eventually shown to be pretty good precision). Read the rest

Journalism After Snowden: essays about a free press in a surveillance state

Journalism After Snowden: The Future of the Free Press in the Surveillance State is a new essay collection from Columbia Journalism Review Books with contributions from Ed Snowden, Alan Rusbridger (former editor-in-chief of The Guardian); Jill Abramson (former New York Times executive editor; Glenn Greenwald, Steve Coll (Dean of Columbia Graduate School of Journalism), Clay Shirky, Cass Sunstein, and Julia Angwin. Read the rest

Fundraising for Diego Gómez, grad student who faced criminal charges for sharing a scientific paper

Timothy from Creative Commons writes, "A few weeks ago Diego Gómez, the former Colombian student who's been prosecuted for sharing a research paper online, was acquitted of criminal charges.

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A comic that profiles Columbia University's first-ever comics curator

Nick Sousanis is the comics creator who broke ground in 2015 by being the first doctoral candidate to submit a dissertation in comics form and ever since, he's been doing wonderful nonfiction work in the form, on subjects ranging from entropy to climate change to elections. Read the rest

Stanford Libraries post digital archive of drafts of Allen Ginsberg's HOWL

Ginsberg's HOWL isn't merely a masterwork of poetry, nor is it merely a classic; it is also an indelible part of American free speech jurisprudence: when US Customs seized copies of the poem on their way into New York from the British printer's presses, the resulting obscenity trial made history. Read the rest

Wardriving for Stingrays with rideshare cars

Well, there's a second-decade-of-the-21st-century headline for you! Read the rest

Algorithmic decision-making: an arms-race between entropy, programmers and referees

Nesta's Juan Mateos-Garcia proposes that "entropic forces" make algorithmic decision-making tools worse over time, requiring that they be continuously maintained and improved (this is also a key idea from Cathy O'Neil's Weapons of Math Destruction: a machine-learning system is only honest if someone is continuously matching its predictions to reality and refining its model based on the mistakes it makes). Read the rest

Wildlife tourists who mistake aggression for kissy-faces in danger of monkey-bites

A University of Lincoln researcher on holiday in Morocco noticed that wildlife tourists were mistaking macaques' aggressive facial expressions for kissy faces and responding "by imitating the monkey's facial expression, which generally ended by either aggression by the monkey towards the tourists or the monkey leaving the interaction" -- which leads to monkey bites. Read the rest

A taxonomy of algorithmic accountability

Eminent computer scientist Ed Felten has posted a short, extremely useful taxonomy of four ways that an algorithm can fail to be accountable to the people whose lives it affects: it can be protected by claims of confidentiality ("how it works is a trade secret"); by complexity ("you wouldn't understand how it works"); unreasonableness ("we consider factors supported by data, even when you there's no obvious correlation"); and injustice ("it seems impossible to explain how the algorithm is consistent with law or ethics"). Read the rest

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