In The New York Times, Gina Kolata writes that a team of scientists has proven a method of identifying specific individuals from "anonymous" data sets.
Scientists at Imperial College London and Université Catholique de Louvain, in Belgium, reported in the journal Nature Communications that they had devised a computer algorithm that can identify 99.98 percent of Americans from almost any available data set with as few as 15 attributes, such as gender, ZIP code or marital status.
Even more surprising, the scientists posted their software code online for anyone to use. That decision was difficult, said Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, a computer scientist at Imperial College London and lead author of the new paper.
They had to publish because to do the research is to realize that criminals and governments already did the research. Read the rest
In 2018, Steve Bannon teamed up with a group called Catholicvote to acquire mobile phone location-tracking data to identify people in Iowa who'd visited a Catholic church and target them with political ads. Read the rest
For years, libraries across America have paid to subscribe to lynda.com for online learning content; four years ago, lynda.com became a division of Linkedin, and this year, the company has informed libraries that they're migrating all lynda.com users to Linkedin Learning, which would be fine, except Linkedin only allows you to access Linkedin Learning if you create and connect a Linkedin profile to the system. Read the rest
The next version of Chrome will patch a bug that lets websites detect users who are in incognito mode by by probing the Filesystem API; they've also pledged to seek out and block any other vulnerabilities that will let servers detect users in incognito mode. Read the rest
If you only look at porn with your browser in incognito mode, your browser will not record your porn-viewing history; but the porn sites themselves overwhelmingly embed tracking scripts from Google and Facebook in every page: 93% of 22,484 porn sites analyzed in a New Media & Society paper had some kind of third-party tracker, with Google in the lead, but also including trackers from some of the worst privacy offenders in Silicon Valley, like Oracle. Read the rest
Evan Greer from Fight for the Future writes, "Facial recognition might be the most invasive and dangerous form of surveillance tech ever invented. While it's been in the headlines lately, most of us still don't know whether it's happening in our area. My organization Fight for the Future has compiled an interactive map that shows everywhere in the US (that we know of) facial recognition being used -- but also where there are local efforts to ban it, like has already happened in San Francisco, Oakland, and Somerville, MA. We've also got a tool kit for local residents who want to get an ordinance or state legislation passed in their area." Read the rest
Microsoft has a history of attempting to give Microsoft das boot (yes, I know boots in German is stiefel, but work with me here...) Read the rest
There are several proposals at the state and federal level to force the Big Tech platforms to disclose how much our data is worth to them -- with the hopes that this will curb their abuses of our privacy and even offer an income-stream that could benefit low-income users. Read the rest
Axciom buys records from Florida's DMV (which include non-driver IDs) at $0.01/each. Read the rest
After the Snowden revelations, US-based Big Tech companies raced to reassure their non-US customers that the NSA wasn't raiding their cloud-based data, moving servers inside their customers' borders and (theoretically) out of reach of the NSA; then came the Cloud Act (Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act), in which the US government claimed the right to seize data held on overseas servers and the companies began consolidating their servers back in the USA. Read the rest
After Bloomberg revealed that Amazon secretly sent recordings from Alexa to subcontractors all over the world in order to improve its speech-recognition systems, a whistleblower leaked recordings from Google Home to investigative reporters from VRT, revealing that Google, too, was sending audio clips from its voice assistant technology to pieceworkers through the Crowdsource app. Read the rest
In Social Connectedness in Urban Areas (Sci-Hub mirror), a group of business and public policy researchers from Facebook, NYU and Princeton study anonymized, fine-grained location data from Facebook users who did not disable their location history, and find that the likelihood that New Yorkers will remain friends is well correlated with the ease of commuting between their respective homes on public transit. Read the rest
If you think your V is for Vendetta mask will hide your identity, think again. The Pentagon has a laser device that "can pick up on a unique cardiac signature from 200 meters away, even through clothes," reports MIT Technology Review.
A new device, developed for the Pentagon after US Special Forces requested it, can identify people without seeing their face: instead it detects their unique cardiac signature with an infrared laser. While it works at 200 meters (219 yards), longer distances could be possible with a better laser. “I don’t want to say you could do it from space,” says Steward Remaly, of the Pentagon’s Combatting Terrorism Technical Support Office, “but longer ranges should be possible.”