David Cameron wants social media companies to invent a terrorism-detection algorithm and send all the "bad guys" it detects to the police -- but this will fall prey to the well-known (to statisticians) "paradox of the false positive," producing tens of thousands of false leads that will drown the cops.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg -- the problems implicit in using Kafkaesque algorithms to determine guilt are myriad (and well-explained in this Guardian piece by James Ball).
Data strategist Duncan Ross set out what would happen if someone could create an algorithm that correctly identified a terrorist from their communications 99.9% of the time – far, far more accurate than any real algorithm – with the assumption that there were 100 terrorists in the UK.
The algorithm would correctly identify the 100 terrorists. But it would also misidentify 0.1% of the UK’s non-terrorists as terrorists: that’s a further 60,000 people, leaving the authorities with a still-huge problem on their hands. Given that Facebook is not merely dealing with the UK’s 60 million population, but rather a billion users sending 1.4bn messages, that’s an Everest-sized haystack for security services to trawl.
'You're the bomb!' Are you at risk from the anti-terrorism algorithms? [James Ball/The Guardian]
(Image: Haystacks, John Pavelka, CC-BY)
America's commitment to market-based broadband -- fueled by telcom millions pumped into campaigns against public broadband provision -- has left rural Americans without access to the broadband they need to fully participate in twenty-first century life, with students among the hardest-hit victims of broadband deprivation.
My latest Locus Magazine column is What the Internet Is For: it describes the revolutionary principle (end-to-end communications) and technologies (general purpose computers, strong cryptography) that undergird the net, but also cautions that these are, themselves, not sufficient to revolutionize the world.
A user called FBSaler is offering personal data for Facebook users at $0.10 each, claiming to have account data from 120,000,000 users to offer; to prove that they have the goods, they've dumped the private messages sent by 81,000 Facebook users; and account data from 176,000.
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Note-taking just caught up to the digital age. For most of us, writing freehand is quicker and more convenient than pecking away on a tablet, but what to do when you need those scribbles on file? Grab a Rocketbook Everlast Reusable Notebook, which seamlessly fuses analog and digital notes. Just jot down your thoughts, journals […]
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