I tried to access my secret consumer data. Their facial recognition software told me to smile.

In early November, the New York Times published an article called "I Got Access to My Secret Consumer Score. Now You Can Get Yours, Too." Naturally, this struck my curiosity, and I decide to try and navigate the various labyrinthine processes to try and find out what kind of information the conglomerates have on me, and how I can potentially get rid of it.

One of the main databrokers featured in the article is a company named Sift. They're reportedly easy enough to get your information from, and they're said to have a lot of it, too. I sent in my initial request, and they wrote back, saying they just needed to confirm my identity. Makes sense, I guess. I clicked the link, and they asked me to upload a photo of my Driver's License and scan the barcode on the back. Okay, fine; so I did it.

The next step required me to confirm my identity with a selfie. I assume that I am giving them more data to feed their facial recognition algorithms, which in turn will be sold to other companies to use for who-knows-it. But again, I went along with it. I took my hat off, smoothed out my greasy bedhead, and took a selfie:

Notice that little red alert at the bottom of the screen: "Make sure you are looking joyful or happy and try again."

I think I look pretty "joyful" here, all things considered. Besides, I'm not smiling in my driver's license photo; in fact, I was specifically told not to smile. Read the rest

Beatings—er, bonuses will continue at Palantir until morale improves

Morale is so bad at Palantir, they're slashing their stock price. In addition to cheaper stock options, the data-mining company is also handing out more internal bonuses, after a succession of shareholder writedowns and political controversies tied to company co-founder and Gawker sue-er Peter Thiel. Read the rest

A machine learning system trained on scholarly journals could correct Wikipedia's gendered under-representation problem

Quicksilver is a machine-learning tool from AI startup Primer: it used 30,000 Wikipedia entries to create a model that allowed it to identify the characteristics that make a scientist noteworthy enough for encyclopedic inclusion; then it mined the academic search-engine Semantic Scholar to identify the 200,000 scholars in a variety of fields; now it is systematically composing draft Wikipedia entries for scholars on its list who are missing from the encyclopedia. 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

Train your AI with the world's largest data-set of sarcasm, courtesy of redditors' self-tagging

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

Uber uses data-mining to identify and block riders who may be cops, investigators or regulators

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

Researchers discover hundreds of thousands of unsuspected, Star Wars-themed twitterbots hiding in plain sight

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

Trump only writes the angry tweets, the nice ones are written by a staffer with an Iphone

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

Study shows detailed, compromising inferences can be readily made with metadata

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

How to live a spreadsheet approved life

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

Crimefighting for fun and profit: data-mining Medicare fraud and likely whistleblowers

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

Big Data Ethics: racially biased training data versus machine learning

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

Revealed: the hidden web of big-business money backing Europe and America's pro-TTIP "think tanks"

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

UK spy agency posts data-mining software to Github

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

Radio Shack bankruptcy update: most customer data will be destroyed, not sold to pay creditors

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

Which UK MPs rebel against the party, and with whom do they ally?

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

Uncovering sexual preferences by data-mining sex-toy sales [NSFW]

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

More posts