The Gates Foundation spent $775m on a Big Data education project that was worse than useless

Kudos to the Gates Foundation, seriously: after spending $775m on the Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching, a Big Data initiative to improve education for poor and disadvantaged students, they hired outside auditors to evaluate the program's effectiveness, and published that report, even though it shows that the approach did no good on balance and arguably caused real harms to teachers and students. Read the rest

The most interesting thing about the "Thanksgiving Effect" study is what it tells us about the limits of data anonymization

Late last year, a pair of economists released an interesting paper that used mobile location data to estimate the likelihood that political polarization had shortened family Thanksgiving dinners in 2016. Read the rest

Syllabus for a course on Data Science Ethics

The University of Utah's Suresh Venkatasubramanian and Katie Shelef are teaching a course in "Ethics in Data Science" and they've published a comprehensive syllabus for it; it's a fantastic set of readings for anyone interested in understanding and developing ethical frameworks for computer science generally, and data science in particular. Read the rest

Palantir has figured out how to make money by using algorithms to ascribe guilt to people, now they're looking for new customers

In 2009, JP Morgan Chase's "special ops" guy was an ex-Secret Service agent called Peter Cavicchia III, and he retained Palantir to spy on everyone in the company to find "insider threats"; even getting the bank to invest in Palantir. Read the rest

UC Berkeley offers its Foundations of Data Science course for free online

Berkeley's "Foundations of Data Science" boasts the fastest-growing enrollment of any course in UC Berkeley history, and now it's free on the university's Edx distance-education platform. Read the rest

Facebook insists that Cambridge Analytica didn't "breach" data, but "misused" it, and they're willing to sue anyone who says otherwise

Yesterday's bombshell article in the Guardian about the way that Cambridge Analytica was able to extract tens of millions of Facebook users' data without their consent was preceded by plenty of damage control on Facebook's part: they repeatedly threatened to sue news outlets if they reported on the story and fired the whistleblower who came forward with the story. Read the rest

Vendor lock-in, DRM, and crappy EULAs are turning America's independent farmers into tenant farmers

"Precision agriculture" is to farmers as Facebook is to publishers: farmers who want to compete can't afford to boycott the precision ag platforms fielded by the likes of John Deere, but once they're locked into the platforms' walled gardens, they are prisoners, and the platforms start to squeeze them for a bigger and bigger share of their profits. Read the rest

Hey, Wellington! I'm headed your way!

I've just finished a wonderful time at the Adelaide Festival and now I'm headed to the last stop on the Australia/New Zealand tour for Walkaway: Wellington! Read the rest

An incredibly important paper on whether data can ever be "anonymized" and how we should handle release of large data-sets

Even the most stringent privacy rules have massive loopholes: they all allow for free distribution of "de-identified" or "anonymized" data that is deemed to be harmless because it has been subjected to some process. Read the rest

Fitness app releases data-set that reveals the location of sensitive military bases, patrol routes, aircrew flightpaths, and individual soldiers' jogging routes

Strava is a popular fitness route-tracker focused on sharing the maps of your workouts with others; last November, the company released an "anonymized" data-set of over 3 trillion GPS points, and over the weekend, Institute for United Conflict Analysts co-founder Nathan Ruser started a Twitter thread pointing out the sensitive locations and details revealed by the release. Read the rest

The Australian health authority believed it had "anonymised" a data-set of patient histories, but academics were easily able to unscramble it

The Australian government's open data initiative is in the laudable business of publishing publicly accessible data about the government's actions and spending, in order to help scholars, businesses and officials understand and improve its processes. Read the rest

Case study of LAPD and Palantir's predictive policing tool: same corruption; new, empirical respectability

UT Austin sociologist Sarah Brayne spent 2.5 years conducting field research with the LAPD as they rolled out Predpol, a software tool that is supposed to direct police to places where crime is likely to occur, but which has been shown to send cops out to overpolice brown and poor people at the expense of actual crimefighting. Read the rest

A (flawed) troll-detection tool maps America's most and least toxic places

The Perspective API (previously) is a tool from Google spinoff Jigsaw (previously) that automatically rates comments for their "toxicity" -- a fraught business that catches a lot of dolphins in its tuna net. Read the rest

Big data + private health insurance = game over

Once big data systems agglomerate enough data about you to predict whether you are likely to get sick or badly injured, insurers will be able to deny coverage (or charge so much for it that it amounts to the same thing) to anyone who is likely to get sick, forcing everyone who might ever need insurance into medical bankruptcy, and turning Medicaid into a giant "high-risk pool" that taxpayers foot the bill for. Read the rest

Algorithms try to channel us into repeating our lives

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

Business is booming for the surveillance state

Surveillance companies like Axon hope to turn every law enforcement officer into a data-gathering drone for a bodycam surveillance database they privately control. Now ShotSpotter, a listening technology that triangulates gunfire in "urban, high-crime areas," announced a planned IPO. Read the rest

The next iteration of Alexa is designed to watch you while you get dressed

The Echo Look is the next version of the Alexa appliance: it has an camera hooked up to a computer vision system, along with its always-on mic, and the first application for it is to watch you as you dress and give you fashion advice (that is, recommend clothes you can order from Amazon). Read the rest

More posts