Award-winning security research reveals a host of never-seen, currently unblockable web-tracking techniques

Who Left Open the Cookie Jar? A Comprehensive Evaluation of Third-Party Cookie Policies won the Distinguished Paper prize at this year's Usenix Security Conference; its authors, researchers at Belgium's Catholic University in Leuven, revealed a host of devastating, never-seen tracking techniques for identifying web-users who were using privacy tools supplied by browser-vendors and third-party tracking-blocking tools. Read the rest

Predatory journals aren't just a scam: they're also how quacks and corporate shills sciencewash their bullshit

Inside the Fake Science Factory (German/English subtitles) documents Svea Eckert and team's years of investigation into predatory journals and the criminals behind them. Read the rest

English and Welsh local governments use "terrorism" as the excuse to block publication of commercial vacancies

Gavin Chait is an "economist, engineer, data scientist and author" who created a website called Pikhaya where UK entrepreneurs can get lists of vacant commercial properties, their advertised rents, and the history of the businesses that had previously been located in those spaces -- whether they thrived, grew and moved on, or went bust (maybe because they had a terrible location). Read the rest

Stylistic analysis can de-anonymize code, even compiled code

A presentation today at Defcon from Drexel computer science prof Rachel Greenstadt and GWU computer sicence prof Aylin Caliskan builds on the pair's earlier work in identifying the authors of software and shows that they can, with a high degree of accuracy, identify the anonymous author of software, whether in source-code or binary form. 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

"Meaningless rituals" boost self-control

Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (paywalled, no Sci-Hub mirror) describes a fascinating experimental outcome in which subjects were asked to enact "meaningless rituals" ("knocking the table with their knuckles, closing their eyes and counting, among other things") before being confronted with a self-control challenge (eating two carrots, then deciding between a third carrot and a chocolate truffle). Read the rest

When should the press pay attention to trolls, lies and disinformation?

Whitney Phillips (previously), a researcher at the "think/do tank" Data & Society (previously) has prepared a snappy, short report on the paradox of covering disinformation campaigns, trolling, and outright lies? Read the rest

The worse your town was hit by austerity, the more likely you were to vote for Brexit

After the Brexit vote, a lot of people pointed out that the areas that voted most heavily in favour of separating from the EU were also the areas that relied most heavily on EU subsidies, and wondered why British voters would decide to slit their own throats. Read the rest

Joi Ito's dissertation, The Practice of Change: using networks, not markets, to solve problems

Joi Ito (previously) is the Director of MIT's Media Lab, an appointment that raised a few eyebrows because Joi never got an undergrad degree, much less a doctorate. Read the rest

Voice assistants suck, but they suck worse if you have an "accent"

Research into the shittiness of voice assistants zeroed in on a problem that many people were all-too-aware of: the inability of these devices to recognize "accented" speech ("accented" in quotes because there is no one formally correct English, and the most widely spoken English variants, such as Indian English, fall into this "accented" category). Read the rest

Half a billion IoT devices inside of businesses can be hacked through decade-old DNS rebinding attacks

In 2008, a presentation at the RSA conference revealed the existence of "DNS rebinding attacks," that used relatively simple tactics to compromise browsers; a decade later, Berkeley and Princeton researchers announced a paper on DNS rebinding attacks against consumer devices (to be presented at August's ACM SIGCOMM 2018 Workshop on IoT Security and Privacy), while independent researcher Brannon Dorsey published similar work. Read the rest

Voice assistants suck (empirically)

New research from legendary usability researchers The Nielsen (previously) Norman (previously) Group finds that voice assistants are basically a hot mess that people only use because they are marginally better than nothing. Read the rest

Higher ed and Wikipedia go great together

The Chronicle of Higher Education profiles LiAnna Davis, Wikipedia Education's director, who forges alliance with colleges and their faculty. Read the rest

China uses sewage surveillance to detect drugs in urine and feces

Across China, local governments have implemented mass surveillance of urine and feces in city sewers to detect drug use; in drug hotspots like Zhongshan, longitudinal assays of drug residues in human waste are used to evaluate the efficacy of anti-drug programs. Read the rest

Venmo's "public by default" transactions reveal drug deals, breakups, more

Because Venmo defaults to making all payments public, privacy researcher Hang Do Thi Duc was able to download and analyze 208,000,000 transactions, whose notes and other metadata revealed a wealth of personal, compromising information, including drug deals and breakups. Read the rest

Sky blue, water wet, porn filters don't work

In Internet Filtering and Adolescent Exposure to Online Sexual Material, two researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute reveal their empirical findings on the efficacy of porn filters -- the online systems that are supposed to stop users from seeing sexual images, videos, and text. Read the rest

Yale's most popular course ever: Happiness

When Yale psych professor Laurie Santos offered a course in how to be happy -- based on the latest peer-reviewed science -- she hoped that a reasonable number of students would sign up (after all, the literature suggested that there is an epidemic of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation among US college students); the course was the most successful in Yale's history, with one in four students enrolling Read the rest

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