One of the more fascinating and horrible details in Reuters' thoroughly fascinating and horrible long-form report on Trump's cruel border policies is this nugget: ICE hacked the risk-assessment tool it used to decide whom to imprison so that it recommended that everyone should be detained.
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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.
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Ibrahim Diallo was eight months into a three year contract with a big company when its systems abruptly decided that he was fired: first it told his recruiter that he'd been let go, then it stopped accepting his pass for the parking and the turnstyles, then his logins stopped working, and at each turn, his supervisor, and that person's boss, and the HR people, were at a loss to explain or reverse the steady, automated disappearance of Ibrahim from the company.
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Designers use metrics and a/b splitting experiments to maximize engagement with their products, seeking out the phrases that trigger emotional responses in users -- like a smart scale that congratulates you on losing weight -- but these systems are context-blind, so they are unable to distinguish between people who might be traumatized by their messages (say, a woman who's just miscarried late in her pregnancy, being congratulated on her "weight loss").
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Molly Sauter (previously) describes in gorgeous, evocative terms how the algorithms in our life try to funnel us into acting the way we always have, or, failing that, like everyone else does. Read the rest
Under the cruel austerity of Michigan governor Rick Snyder -- whose policies led to the mass-poisonings of children in Flint -- any claims for unemployment insurance were vigorously investigated, with the state operating on the assumption that any worker who claimed a benefit was probably committing fraud. Read the rest
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
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
Kate Crawford (previously) takes to the New York Times's editorial page to ask why rich white guys act like the big risk of machine-learning systems is that they'll evolve into Skynet-like apex-predators that subjugate the human race, when there are already rampant problems with machine learning: algorithmic racist sentencing, algorithmic, racist and sexist discrimination, algorithmic harassment, algorithmic hiring bias, algorithmic terrorist watchlisting, algorithmic racist policing, and a host of other algorithmic cruelties and nonsense, each one imbued with unassailable objectivity thanks to its mathematical underpinnings. Read the rest
Courts around America and the world increasingly rely on software based risk-assessment software in determining bail and sentencing; the systems require the accused to answer more than a hundred questions which are fed into a secret model that spits out a single-digit "risk score" that courts use to decide who to lock up, and for how long. Read the rest
The Isis River, which flows through the English university city of Oxford, has inspired many place names that include "Isis," including "Isis Close." Read the rest
Nintendo continues its long-running campaign of legal harassment against its biggest fans: this time, they're targeting fan-videos showing gameplay from the official, licensed Mario/Minecraft mashup pack for the Wii U. Read the rest
Inbox by Gmail combs through your email looking for frequent correspondents and puts the people who email you the most in a "speed dial" sidebar (that you can't edit) that puts their names and pictures front-and-center for you every time you go to your email. Read the rest