Cambridge Analytica, the firm that consulted on Trump's 2016 campaign and mined the data of 87 million Facebook users without their permission, has shut its doors. Same goes for the company's UK counterpart SCL. From Wired
The decision to close the company's doors internationally was announced to employees during a town hall meeting in the firm's New York City offices Wednesday. One source says that NYC employees were told to pack up and leave immediately....
Just yesterday, Cambridge Analytica's official Twitter account tweeted out a link to a website refuting the waves of bad press the company has received with the caption, "Get the Facts Behind the Facebook Story."
(image by Mark Frauenfelder) Read the rest
AC-- on Reddit used IMDB's dataset to create a good old-fashined word cloud of the most common words in movie titles. The inevitable Vader movie should clearly be titled "One Big Black Love: Sex and Blood on the Death Star" [via] Read the rest
Using DNA to store digital data has been a classic forecast in infotech futurism for more than two decades. The basic concept is that you could synthesize strands of DNA encoded with digital information and then decode it with DNA sequencing techniques. While several amazing experiments have demonstrated that DNA data storage is possible, it's mostly been thought of as too expensive and impractical. But as researchers continue to make technical strides in the technology, and the price of synthesizing and sequencing DNA has dropped exponentially, systems for backing up to the double helix may actually be closer than you think. From IEEE Spectrum:
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Even as our data storage needs surge, traditional mass-storage technologies are starting to approach their limits. With hard-disk drives, we’re encountering a limit of 1 terabyte—1,000 GB—per square inch. Past that point, temperature fluctuations can induce the magnetically charged material of the disk to flip, corrupting the data it holds. We could try to use a more heat-resistant material, but we would have to drastically alter the technology we use to read and write on hard-disk drives, which would require huge new investments. The storage industry needs to look elsewhere....
It still may not match other data storage options for cost, but DNA has advantages that other options can’t match. Not only is it easily replicated, it also has an ultrahigh storage density—as much as 100 trillion (1012) GB per gram. While the data representing a human genome, base pair by base pair, can be stored digitally on a CD with room to spare, a cell nucleus stores that same amount of data in a space about 1/24,000 as large.
The Eviction Lab is a collaboration between Princeton University and Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City Paperback; the lab's team gathered the court records of ever landlord-tenant proceeding in every court in every county in America for the past 16 years.
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As #DeleteFacebook sweeps across the web in the wake of data misuse, some users are resisting because their account contains valuable information they don't want to lose. Saving all your data is easy to do and may make the decision easier. Read the rest
It's not for the public ("accessible in the Yale library"), but researchers are working on a "universal translator" for old computer files that might otherwise be lost to obsolescence. Jessica Leigh Hester, at Atlas Obscura:
When one CCA visitor wanted to take a look at a CD-ROM-based “multimedia website” produced in conjunction with a 1996 exhibition of work by the architect Benjamin Nicholson, Walsh needed to wind back the clock. He tracked down an old license for Windows NT and installed Netscape Navigator and an old version of Adobe Reader. This all enabled decades-old functionality on a two-year-old HP tower.
This strategy works, but it has drawbacks. “These environments are time-intensive to create, will only run on a local computer, and they typically require a lot of technical know-how to set up and use,” Walsh says. Ad hoc emulation is not for the novice or the busy.
Researchers at Yale are working to solve this problem by creating a kind of digital Rosetta Stone, a universal translator, through an emulation infrastructure that will live online. “A few clicks in your web browser will allow users to open files containing data that would otherwise be lost or corrupted,” said Cochrane, who is now the library’s digital preservation manager. “You’re removing the physical element of it,” says Seth Anderson, the library’s software preservation manager. “It’s a virtual computer running on a server, so it’s not tethered to a desktop.”
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Equifax, a company that specializes in disseminating unsecured user information, upped its game. Despite having already loosed the personal data of around 143 million people into the wild, Equifax still felt that they could do better. After much effort, they've managed to pinch off the data of 2.4 million more people for identity fraud aficionados to leverage. What an amazing achievement!
According to Reuters, despite their zest for massive security breaches, the company has framed its latest efforts with a good deal of humility:
The company said the latest batch of consumers affected had their names and driver’s license information stolen, but noted less information was taken because it did not include home addresses, driver’s license states, dates of issuances, or expiration dates.
Oh, you should know that the company sometimes dabbles in providing credit score information, too. In a statement to the media, Equifax promised that they'll be reaching out to their newly affected millions to inform them of the breach as soon as possible.
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Anna Rosling Rönnlund, co-founder of the Gapminder Foundation, asked Swedish students where they thought they fell on the global income spectrum. They guessed somewhere in the middle; they were wrong. After having 264 homes photographed in 50 countries and collecting 30,000 photos, she made this tool to help everyone understand the world – and how they fit in – a little better.
Want to see how people at your income level live in other countries? Of course you do.
It's the perfect antidote to Instagram-induced envy. Actually, I'd like to see someone curate a Selby or Apartmento-style lookbook from these images. Anyone? Read the rest
David McCandless meticulously charted dog breeds by six scores: intelligence, costs, longevity, grooming, ailments, and appetite. The big loser: bulldogs. Read the rest
Google is way ahead of the competition when it comes to the detail and complexity of its maps, writes Justin O’Beirne, and its thanks to a relentless program of turning satellite and street view imagery into accurate 3D models of buildings. It knows where your rooftop AC units are, and it's showing them to the world. And it's now calculating the most interesting groups of buildings and depicting them as algorithmically-generated "areas of interest."
And as we saw in “A Year of Google & Apple Maps”, Google has been using computer vision and machine learning to extract business names and locations from its Street View imagery. In other words, Google’s buildings are byproducts of its Satellite/Aerial imagery. And some of Google’s places are byproducts of its Street View imagery......so this makes AOIs a byproduct of byproducts. This is bonkers, isn’t it?
Google is creating data out of data.
It appears the competition (Apple, Microsoft) are so far behind they don't even have the data they need to create the data that Google has. Read the rest
If you hadn't noticed, Trump tweets constantly during Fox and Friends, a fact more apparent as his presidency continues, but subsiding during times of intense travel (such as his recent tour of Asia).
It's as if he lounges in the mornings watching Fox and dinking around on his phone. [via] Read the rest
John Lemon AKA Ben conducted a statistical analysis of self-mentions by popular rappers to determine who among them was most interested in themselves. Mr. West doesn't even make the top 5; the winner was Ms. Minaj.
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1st: Nicki Minaj (11.5% of all words)
Three albums. 17,665 words. 2026 explicit references to herself
A self-reference every 8.78 words
42.87 self-references per song
An average of 371.55 words per song
On "Right By My Side" she referenced herself every 3.5 words, or 28% of the song
Her most word-laden song is "All Things Go", at 718 words, with 67 self-references
American households throw away a lot of food: sometimes it's spoiled, sometimes it's past its "sell-by" date (but still good), sometimes it's blemished, and sometimes it's just an unappetizing leftover.
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The Federal Reserve's just-published 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances reveals that income inequality is rising in the USA, with the top decile now controlling 77.1% of the nation's wealth; wealth that is increasingly retained through intergenerational bonds, meaning that wealth is apportioned by accident of birth rather than merit; and (unsurprisingly, given the foregoing), the browner you are, the less you have. Read the rest
Colin Morris at The Pudding analyzed the repetitiveness of a dataset of 15,000 songs that charted on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1958 and 2017. It's true: pop music lyrics are increasingly repetitive. Read the rest
Jan Fröjdman used HiRISE satellite data from Mars to create this beautiful and detailed flyby of the planet. Liz Stinson writes that stitching it together took months.
For Fröjdman, creating the flyover effect was like assembling a puzzle. He began by colorizing the photographs (HiRISE captures images in grayscale). He then identified distinctive features in each of the anaglyphs—craters, canyons, mountains–and matched them between image pairs. To create the panning 3-D effect, he stitched the images together along his reference points and rendered them as frames in a video. “It was a very slow process,” he says.
When I was a kid, my mind was blown by Isaac Asimov's VHS wonder, Voyage to the Outer Planets and Beyond, which (at least in some versions, if not the one you can find on YouTube), included the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab's 1980s Mars flyover animation: my first encounter with the glitchy, transfixing, uncanny quality of real data from another world. How far we have come, yet not gone.
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Adult tube site xHamster released its first comprehensive survey of porn viewership in 2016. According to them the most visited category moved from MILFs to Matures (women in their 40s and 50s). They also found that searches for "Melania" beat out "Donald Trump" and "Hillary Clinton" combined. Read the rest