How (and why) to become a tech policy activist

Caroline McCarthy is a journalist and ex-googler who now works as an ad-tech exec for a startup that Fox bought and they transfered to Disney when the two companies merged; in this great, impassioned Tedx talk, she lays out the case for being a "tech policy activist" and explains how the field of tech policy, though neglected by politicians and pollsters, is vital to many aspects of our daily lives, and how it fails to decompose neatly on left-right lines and nevertheless demands our close attention lest it be formulated in ways that disappoint or even harm us. It's a great talk, akin in some ways to Schneier's plea for "public interest technologists." Read the rest

"Out of Home Advertising": the billboards that spy on you as you move through public spaces

Outdoor advertising companies are tapping location data brokers like Placeiq (which aggregates location data leaked by the spying dumpster-fire that is your phone's app ecosystem) and covertly siting Bluetooth and wifi sniffers in public space to gather data on the people who pass near to billboards: "gender, age, race, income, interests, and purchasing habits." Read the rest

AK-3DP: 3D printed AK receiver

I've been semi-seriously joking about "AK-3DPs" (3D printed assault rifles) for years, and while the attempts to limit the spread of 3D printed guns have been sloppy and poorly formulated (as have the Trump admin's attempt to roll them back) the state of the art is still progressing. Read the rest

How to recognize AI snake oil

Princeton computer scientist Arvind Narayanan (previously) has posted slides and notes from a recent MIT talk on "How to recognize AI snake oil" in which he divides AI applications into three (nonexhaustive) categories and rates how difficult they are, and thus whether you should believe vendors who claim that their machine learning models can perform as advertised. Read the rest

High prices and debt mean millennials don't plan to stop renting, and that's before their parents retire and become dependent on them

The percentage of millennials planning to "always rent" is up about 25% from last year, to 12.3%, based on Apartment List's annual survey; the factors behind this are primarily high house prices and high levels of indebtedness, driven primarily by student debt. Read the rest

Why do new psychotherapies work, and then stop?

On Slate Star Codex, psychiatrist Scott Alexander offers a "book review of "All Therapy Books", which is a jumping-off point for asking how it is that psychotherapy is periodically rocked by new therapies that seem to perform incredibly well, but whose confirmed efficacy shelves off over time. Read the rest

Consumer Reports Labs is hiring 8 staffers: technologists, journalists and wonks

Consumer Reports' Digital Lab does groundbreaking privacy research: they're hiring for eight positions including technologists ("resident hacker," "digital standard manager," "information security researcher," "program manager, security and testing," and "privacy testing project leader"); journalists ("digital content manager"); policy and comms ("senior researcher, digital competition" and "associate director, strategic communications — technology and privacy"). Most of the positions are NYC or SF or DC based, several allow for remote workers. (Thanks, Ben)!) Read the rest

Mayor Pete: Obama should have left Chelsea Manning to rot in prison for 35 years

Here's a spicy take! South Bend, Indiana Mayor and would-be Democratic presidential nominee Pete Buttigieg told CBS that he was "troubled" that Obama extended clemency to the whistleblower Chelsea Manning, freeing her from the prison where she had been tortured and incarcerated for upholding her oath to defend the Constitution by revealing evidence of US war crimes. Read the rest

In an age of disappearing prison libraries, jail profiteers provide "free" crapgadget tablets that charge prisoners by the minute to read Project Gutenberg ebooks

The past couple years has seen a rise in prison profiteers who strike deals with state corrections departments to provide "free" tablets to prisoners (these being the flimsiest, cheapest, least reliable hardware imaginable), and then profiting by charging exorbitant sums for prisoners to send emails (selling "digital postage stamps" that have to be affixed to each "page" of email), videoconference with family members, and provide media, charging prisoners for music that they lose every time a prison changes suppliers. Read the rest

Stephen King-themed, anti-Susan Collins merch from the Maine Democrats

The Maine Democratic Party has teamed up with the progressive sticker-and-more company Bumperactive (previously) to produce a line of Stephen King-themed, anti-Susan Collins merch, with proceeds going to unseat the Republican Senator whose repeated acts of cowardice (especially during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings) demonstrated that she had no commitment to either her stated principles or the people of Maine. There are four graphics in all: "Trump as Pennywise the Clown, Susan Collins in 'Debt Sematary', Susan as Jack Nicholson from The Shining, and of course, Stand By ME," available as tees ($30), posters ($25 or $45 for four) and vinyl stickers ($4 for 2 or all four for $15). Read the rest

DoJ to scrap the Paramount antitrust rule that prohibits movie studios from buying or strong-arming movie theaters

Through the 1940s and 1950s, the DoJ went to war on the "studio system" -- a system whereby studios locked up actors in exclusive contracts and then bought or strong-armed all the movie theaters in America so that they'd screen whatever the studios made, freezing out independent productions from movie companies that might offer their talent a better, less restrictive deal. Read the rest

When Republicans say "How will you pay for Medicare for All?" Democrats should answer: "Mexico will pay for it"

The "pay-for game" is that gotcha game that Conservatives like to play, wherein the ridiculous boondoggles favored by the right (billions for Trump's wall, more than a trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy, massive increases in Pentagon and intelligence agency spending, even a $16 million bomb used for no military reason) can be financed with infinite amounts of deficit spending, while any program that benefits the majority of America needs has to be "fully funded," generally by making cuts in other programs that benefit the majority of America -- something that the idiotic Democratic establishment has bought into. Read the rest

Twitter censures UK Tory Party for changing its blue-check account name to "FactCheckUK" during the prime ministerial debates

The UK is having an election in less than a month, and last night, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn debated Tory archclown Boris Johnson for a televised debate in which Johnson had to defend his record as a lying, racist, philandering, cowardly failure of a human being, and of a leader to his party and the nation. Read the rest

DJ Earworm: 100 songs from the past decade in one mashup

Ten years, 100 songs, three minutes. Sheer. Fucking. Genius. Watch it before a Youtube copyright enforcement bot deletes it and DJ Earworm's channel with it. (via Metafilter) Read the rest

Terabytes of data leaked from an oligarch-friendly offshore bank

The Distributed Denial of Secrets Twitter account has published links to terabytes of data identified as raw data from the Cayman National Bank and Trust; Phineas Fisher (previously), the public-interest hacker(s) behind the Hacking Team breach, is credited with the leak. Read the rest

Quiet Rooms: Illinois schools lead the nation in imprisoning very young, disabled children in isolation chambers

20 years ago, Illinois was rocked by a scandal after the widespread practice of locking schoolchildren, especially those with disabilities or special needs, in small, confining boxes was revealed. The teachers who imprisoned these children argued that they did so out of the interests of safety -- that of the imprisoned students, of the other students, and of school staff. Read the rest

"Softbody Tetris": what if tetronimoes were made of jello?

C4D4U's SOFTBODY TETRIS V16 is (as the name implies), the latest in a series of "softbody" simulations of Tetris, in which the tetronimoes are rubbery, jelly-like solids that glisten as they wobble into place. It's an incredibly soothing thing to watch (C4D4U calls them "ASMR for my eyes") and part of a wider genre of softbody sims. JWZ argues that this "becomes intolerable" upon the "realization that completed rows don't liquify" but if that's your thing, you need SOFTBODY TETRIS V9. Read the rest

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