Mozilla's Internet Health Report: discriminatory AI, surveilling smart cities, ad-tech

Every year, the Mozilla Foundation releases a massive "Internet Health Report" summarizing the ways in which the internet is being used to both support and subvert human thriving; though these reports cover a wide range of topics, every year the foundation chooses a small number of themes to focus on. This year, they are Let's Ask More of AI; The Power of Cities and Rethinking Digital Ads. Read the rest

The Safe Face Pledge: an ethical code of conduct for facial recognition scientists and developers

The Safe Face Pledge launched last month as a "pledge to mitigate abuse of facial analysis technology," with four themes: "Show Value for Human Life, Dignity, and Rights;" "Address Harmful Bias"; "Facilitate Transparency"; and "Embed Commitments into Business Practices" (SAFE). Read the rest

Good news: California ends cash bail! Bad news: It's been replaced with a black-box algorithm.

Cash bail has turned American jails into debtors' prisons, where the wealthy can go about their business while awaiting trial, and the poor can languish for months or even years in jail because they can't make bail (in practice, they generally plead guilty, regardless of their innocence). Read the rest

Voice assistants suck, but they suck worse if you have an "accent"

Research into the shittiness of voice assistants zeroed in on a problem that many people were all-too-aware of: the inability of these devices to recognize "accented" speech ("accented" in quotes because there is no one formally correct English, and the most widely spoken English variants, such as Indian English, fall into this "accented" category). Read the rest

Facebook forced to drop "feature" that let advertisers block black people, old people and women

It's illegal to discriminate based on "protected classes," including "men and women on the basis of sex; any group which shares a common race, religion, color, or national origin; people over 40; and people with physical or mental handicaps" but from the earliest days of its self-serve ad platform, Facebook gave advertisers the ability to exclude people from ads for jobs, financial products, housing and other necessities based on these categories. Read the rest

Thanks to 2016's trade secret law and algorithmic justice, America's courts have become AI-Kafka nightmares

In 2014, the Alice decision made it much harder to patent software in the USA; in 2016, Congress passed the Defend Trade Secrets Act, creating the first federal trade secrets statute: the result of these two developments is that software companies aggressively switched from patents to trade secrets as a means of controlling competition and limiting inspection and criticism of their products. Read the rest

Garbage In, Garbage Out: machine learning has not repealed the iron law of computer science

Pete Warden writes convincingly about computer scientists' focus on improving machine learning algorithms, to the exclusion of improving the training data that the algorithms interpret, and how that focus has slowed the progress of machine learning. Read the rest

How machine learning engineers can detect and debug algorithmic bias

Ben Lorica, O'Reilly's chief data scientist, has posted slides and notes from his talk at last December's Strata Data Conference in Singapore, "We need to build machine learning tools to augment machine learning engineers." Read the rest