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
Redditors' convention of tagging their sarcastic remarks is a dream come true for machine learning researchers hoping to teach computers to recognize and/or generate sarcasm. Read the rest
Greyball is Uber's codename for a program that tries to predict which new signups are secretly cops, regulators or investigators who could make trouble for the company, deployed in "Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China and South Korea" where the company was fighting with the authorities. Read the rest
Twitter is a great place for bots. Botherders like Shardcore produce amazing, politics, artistic bots that mine Twitter, inject useful information into Twitter, or just frolic on Twitter, making it a better place. Twitterbots produce entries in imaginary grimoires, conduct sociological research, produce virtual model railroads, alert the public when governments try to make bad news disappear, and much, much more. Read the rest
On August 6, artist Todd Vaziri observed that all of Trump's angry tweets come from the Twitter client for Android, while the more presidential, less batshit ones come from an Iphone; Vaziri speculated that the latter were sent by a staffer. Read the rest
In Evaluating the privacy properties of telephone metadata, a paper by researchers from Stanford's departments of Law and Computer Science published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors analyzed metadata from six months' worth of volunteers' phone logs to see what kind of compromising information they could extract from them. Read the rest
Today we travel to a future full of spreadsheet approved lives. A future where everything we do is tracked and quantified: calories, air quality, sleep, heart rate, microbes, brain waves, finances, happiness, sadness, menstrual cycles, poops, hopes and dreams. Everything.
Flash Forward: RSS | iTunes | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Patreon
This episode is longer than our usual 20 minute jaunts to the future, because the future of quantified self is so huge. We cover everything from biased algorithms, to microbiomes (again), to the future of the calorie, and more.
▹▹Full show notes
Check out all the great podcasts that Boing Boing has to offer! Read the rest
John Mininno is an ex-malpractice lawyer who raised money from a Wall Street angel and founded the National Healthcare Analysis Group, which uses public data sources to uncover Medicare fraud, then does further data-mining to predict which current or ex-employees will turn whistleblower, cold calls them, and splits the bounty the government offers for whistleblowing with them. Read the rest
Writing in Slate, Cathy "Weapons of Math Destruction" O'Neill, a skeptical data-scientist, describes the ways that Big Data intersects with ethical considerations. Read the rest
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is an EU-US "trade agreement" that will allow corporations to sue governments in secret tribunals to force them to repeal their safety, environmental and labor laws. Read the rest
Gaffer is a graph database "optimised for retrieving data on nodes of interest" developed by the notorious UK spy agency GCHQ, and now you can download, run and improve it because they've posted it to Github under the permissive, free/open Apache license. Read the rest
When electronics retailer Radio Shack filed for bankruptcy, the chain proposed selling customers' personal data to raise cash and repay creditors. That's not gonna happen, and the news is seen as a win for the right to privacy. Read the rest
James Siddle has analysed the voting records of the incumbent MPs in the UK parliament to see how often they rebel against the party line, and who they side with then they do. Read the rest
UK sex-toy retailer Lovehoney allowed researcher Jon Millward to data-mine its huge database of over 1,000,000 sex-toy purchases and 45,000 reviews, in order to see what he could infer about Britons' sexual proclivities from the things they bought. Read the rest
Michael Rigley created this beautiful animation, titled "Network," for his BFA design thesis project at the California College of Art. It's about personal data captured by cell phone providers and is quite relevant this week. Read the rest
In the New York Times, Charles Duhigg takes a creepy look at how Target mines its customer data to predict major life-changes, like pregnancy, so that they can send coupons that guide customers into thinking of Target as the go-to place for all their prenatal and child-rearing needs. The researcher quoted (who was later silenced by his employer) describes the measures the company takes to keep the wily pregosaurs from figuring out that they're being tracked and categorized, tricking them into thinking that the flood of prenatal coupons in the post were just a coincidence. It's grounded in some neuroscience research and the theory is that if you can be guided or coerced into forming automatic "shopping habits" that involve Target, you'll buy things there literally without thinking about it.
Read the rest
One Target employee I spoke to provided a hypothetical example. Take a fictional Target shopper named Jenny Ward, who is 23, lives in Atlanta and in March bought cocoa-butter lotion, a purse large enough to double as a diaper bag, zinc and magnesium supplements and a bright blue rug. There’s, say, an 87 percent chance that she’s pregnant and that her delivery date is sometime in late August. What’s more, because of the data attached to her Guest ID number, Target knows how to trigger Jenny’s habits. They know that if she receives a coupon via e-mail, it will most likely cue her to buy online. They know that if she receives an ad in the mail on Friday, she frequently uses it on a weekend trip to the store.
Heather Brooke is the American-trained "data journalist" who upended British politics when she moved to the UK and began to use the UK's Freedom of Information law to prise apart the dirty secrets of power and privilege, most notably by exposing the expense cheating by Members of Parliament. Brooke's latest book is The Revolution will be Digitised: Dispatches from the Information War, a history of her involvement in the Wikileaks cable-dumps and a meditation on the meaning and role of data-driven journalism in the coming years, as governments ramp up their attempts to lock down the Internet, and journalists, hackers, and activists attempt to open things further.
Brooke is uniquely situated to produce this analysis as someone who was both part of the Cablegate dump and someone who reported on it. She documents her odd and sometimes unpleasant dealings with Assange as well, but the Assange story isn't the most important aspect of Cablegate or this book, and Brooke's focus is thankfully on the broader narrative. This isn't another book that treats the Wikileaks phenomenon as a cult-of-personality story revolving around one person.
Brooke journeys to the hacker scenes in Berlin, San Francisco and Boston, and the radicalized halls of power in Iceland, and spins a story that does a good job of explaining what, exactly, happened with Cablegate: how the cables got out, the intrigues and infighting amongst the players (media, hackers, activists) and the governmental spin in response.
Here is one place where Brooke really opened my eyes: there are many people who make blanket assertions about the US government's manipulation of the press. Read the rest