mfioretti: control* + big data*

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  1. Some entries are ambiguous. Take Microsoft, under the “operational services” category. PayPal apparently supplies the tech company with an image of a customer–a photo or video–or their image from an identity document for the purposes of “facial image comparison for fraud protection” and “research and testing as to appropriateness of new products.” The former sounds like some kind of facial recognition system that PayPal uses to look for fraud. But the latter is uneasily broad. What kind of research is Microsoft doing using pictures of PayPal users’ faces? PayPal did not comment on this specific question.
    https://www.fastcodesign.com/90157501...ource=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
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  2. no serious scholar of modern geopolitics disputes that we are now at war — a new kind of information-based war, but war, nevertheless — with Russia in particular, but in all honesty, with a multitude of nation states and stateless actors bent on destroying western democratic capitalism. They are using our most sophisticated and complex technology platforms to wage this war — and so far, we’re losing. Badly.

    Why? According to sources I’ve talked to both at the big tech companies and in government, each side feels the other is ignorant, arrogant, misguided, and incapable of understanding the other side’s point of view. There’s almost no data sharing, trust, or cooperation between them. We’re stuck in an old model of lobbying, soft power, and the occasional confrontational hearing.

    Not exactly the kind of public-private partnership we need to win a war, much less a peace.

    Am I arguing that the government should take over Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple so as to beat back Russian info-ops? No, of course not. But our current response to Russian aggression illustrates the lack of partnership and co-ordination between government and our most valuable private sector companies. And I am hoping to raise an alarm: When the private sector has markedly better information, processing power, and personnel than the public sector, one will only strengthen, while the latter will weaken. We’re seeing it play out in our current politics, and if you believe in the American idea, you should be extremely concerned.
    https://shift.newco.co/data-power-and-war-465933dcb372
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  3. Similarly, GOOG in 2014 started reorganizing itself to focus on artificial intelligence only. In January 2014, GOOG bought DeepMind, and in September they shutdown Orkut (one of their few social products which had momentary success in some countries) forever. The Alphabet Inc restructuring was announced in August 2015 but it likely took many months of meetings and bureaucracy. The restructuring was important to focus the web-oriented departments at GOOG towards a simple mission. GOOG sees no future in the simple Search market, and announces to be migrating “From Search to Suggest” (in Eric Schmidt’s own words) and being an “AI first company” (in Sundar Pichai’s own words). GOOG is currently slightly behind FB in terms of how fast it is growing its dominance of the web, but due to their technical expertise, vast budget, influence and vision, in the long run its AI assets will play a massive role on the internet. They know what they are doing.

    These are no longer the same companies as 4 years ago. GOOG is not anymore an internet company, it’s the knowledge internet company. FB is not an internet company, it’s the social internet company. They used to attempt to compete, and this competition kept the internet market diverse. Today, however, they seem mostly satisfied with their orthogonal dominance of parts of the Web, and we are losing diversity of choices. Which leads us to another part of the internet: e-commerce and AMZN.

    AMZN does not focus on making profit.
    https://staltz.com/the-web-began-dying-in-2014-heres-how.html
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  4. A snap decision by Google has begun to reshape the drug treatment industry, tilting the playing field toward large conglomerates — the precise opposite outcome Google had hoped to achieve.

    The fateful decision was made September 14. Google faced pressure from an exposé in The Verge released a week earlier, documenting how shady lead generators game its AdWords system. High-cost ads based on rehab keywords referred users to phone hotlines that gave the impression of being independent information services, but were actually owned by treatment center conglomerates. Representatives, who reap large fees based on how many patients they sign up, employ high-pressure sales tactics to push people into their favored facilities, whether or not that facility is the right one for the patient.

    This deceptive marketing can lead to substandard treatment and massive overbilling. It also made lots of money for Google, which was shown in the story actively courting addiction treatment advertisers.

    And so Google made a quick call: It effectively stopped running ads from treatment facilities. At first blush, that may look like a happy alignment of the public good and a company’s need for good public relations, with Google taking a hit to make the world a better place in the midst of an epidemic.

    But the problem of economic concentration is so deep in the United States today that peeling back one layer merely reveals another. Without ads, addicts or their parents are left only with the organic search results.
    https://theintercept.com/2017/10/17/google-search-drug-use-opioid-epidemic
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-10-30)
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  5. Imagine a world where many of your daily activities were constantly monitored and evaluated: what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are and how you interact with them; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not). It's not hard to picture, because most of that already happens, thanks to all those data-collecting behemoths like Google, Facebook and Instagram or health-tracking apps such as Fitbit. But now imagine a system where all these behaviours are rated as either positive or negative and distilled into a single number, according to rules set by the government. That would create your Citizen Score and it would tell everyone whether or not you were trustworthy. Plus, your rating would be publicly ranked against that of the entire population and used to determine your eligibility for a mortgage or a job, where your children can go to school - or even just your chances of getting a date.

    A futuristic vision of Big Brother out of control? No, it's already getting underway in China, where the government is developing the Social Credit System (SCS) to rate the trustworthiness of its 1.3 billion citizens. The Chinese government is pitching the system as a desirable way to measure and enhance "trust" nationwide and to build a culture of "sincerity". As the policy states, "It will forge a public opinion environment where keeping trust is glorious. It will strengthen sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity and the construction of judicial credibility."
    http://www.wired.co.uk/article/chines...-social-credit-score-privacy-invasion
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-10-26)
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  6. Speaking as a statistician, it is quite easy to identify people in anonymous datasets. There are only so many 5'4" jews living in San Francisco with chronic back pain. Every bit of information we reveal about ourselves will be one more disease that we can track, and another life saved.

    If I want to know whether I will suffer a heart attack, I will have to release my data for public research. In the end, privacy will be an early death sentence.

    Already, health insurers are beginning to offer discounts for people who wear health trackers and let others analyze their personal movements. Many, if not most, consumers in the next generation will choose cash and a longer life in exchange for publicizing their most intimate details.

    What can we tell with basic health information, such as calories burned throughout the day? Pretty much everything.

    With a rudimentary step and calorie counter, I was able to distinguish whether I was having sex or at the gym, since the minute-by-minute calorie burn profile of sex is quite distinct (the image below from my health tracker shows lots of energy expended at the beginning and end, with few steps taken. Few activities besides sex have this distinct shape)
    https://medium.com/the-ferenstein-wir...rs-of-history-in-50-images-614c26059e
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  7. Shortly after The Guardian published its 2015 article, Facebook contacted Global Science Research and requested that it delete the data it had taken from Facebook users. Facebook’s policies give Facebook the right to delete data gathered by any app deemed to be “negatively impacting the Platform.” The company believes that Kogan and SCL complied with the request, which was made during the Republican primary, before Cambridge Analytica switched over from Ted Cruz’s campaign to Donald Trump’s. It remains unclear what was ultimately done with the Facebook data, or whether any models or algorithms derived from it wound up being used by the Trump campaign.

    In public, Facebook continues to maintain that whatever happened during the run-up to the election was business as usual. “Our investigation to date has not uncovered anything that suggests wrongdoing,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Intercept.

    Facebook appears not to have considered Global Science Research’s data collection to have been a serious ethical lapse. Joseph Chancellor, Kogan’s main collaborator on the SCL project and a former co-owner of Global Science Research, is now employed by Facebook Research. “The work that he did previously has no bearing on the work that he does at Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Intercept.

    Chancellor declined to comment.

    Cambridge Analytica has marketed itself as classifying voters using five personality traits known as OCEAN — Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism — the same model used by University of Cambridge researchers for in-house, non-commercial research. The question of whether OCEAN made a difference in the presidential election remains unanswered. Some have argued that big data analytics is a magic bullet for drilling into the psychology of individual voters; others are more skeptical. The predictive power of Facebook likes is not in dispute. A 2013 study by three of Kogan’s former colleagues at the University of Cambridge showed that likes alone could predict race with 95 percent accuracy and political party with 85 percent accuracy. Less clear is their power as a tool for targeted persuasion; Cambridge Analytica has claimed that OCEAN scores can be used to drive voter and consumer behavior through “microtargeting,” meaning narrowly tailored messages. Nix has said that neurotic voters tend to be moved by “rational and fear-based” arguments, while introverted, agreeable voters are more susceptible to “tradition and habits and family and community.”

    Dan Gillmor, director of the Knight Center at Arizona State University, said he was skeptical of the idea that the Trump campaign got a decisive edge from data analytics. But, he added, such techniques will likely become more effective in the future. “It’s reasonable to believe that sooner or later, we’re going to see widespread manipulation of people’s decision-making, including in elections, in ways that are more widespread and granular, but even less detectable than today,” he wrote in an email.
    https://theintercept.com/2017/03/30/f...harvested-by-trump-campaign-affiliate
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  8. It’s totally legal for a US Customs and Border Patrol officer to ask you to unlock your phone and hand it over to them. And they can detain you indefinitely if you don’t. Even if you’re a American citizen.

    The border is technically outside of US jurisdiction, in a sort of legal no-man’s-land. You have very few rights there. Barring the use of “excessive force,” agents can do whatever they want to you.
    https://medium.freecodecamp.com/ill-n...er-should-you-e9289cde0e5f#.n3wtgqogo
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-02-15)
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  9. I have no illusions about what Facebook has figured out about me from my activity, pictures, likes, and posts. Friends have speculated about how algorithms might effectively predict hook-ups or dating patterns based on bursts of "Facebook stalking" activity (you know you are guilty of clicking through hundreds of tagged pictures of your latest crush). David Kilpatrick uncovered that Facebook "could determine with about 33 percent accuracy who a user was going to be in a relationship with a week from now." And based on extensive networks of gay friends, MIT's Gaydar claims to be able to out those who refrain from listing their sexual orientation on the network. When I first turned on Timeline, I discovered Facebook had correctly singled out that becoming friends with Nick was a significant event of 2007 (that's when we met and first started dating, and appropriately enough, part of why he joined Facebook).

    Since our engagement, there have been enough mentions of "engagement" and "wedding" in mine and my friends' comments littered throughout my profile to suggest to Facebook's keyword crawlers to deduce that we've got something big planned. The fact that he's tagged in my cover photo, we have numerous albums taken in remote locations where we're the only two people tagged, and that we both currently live in Chongqing, China, all should make it obvious to Facebook's relationship-weighing algorithms that we're pretty important to each other.

    friends 2007.png

    So shouldn't it also be obvious to Facebook that I "know him well" and he's "one of my best friends?" We wouldn't be tagged in so many pictures together (70) if it weren't true. And could there be any chance at all that "I don't know him" given these data points? Though Facebook isn't outright asking me if we're in a relationship, it sure sounds like that's what they are getting at. Moreover, why hasn't Facebook asked me the same question about someone like Jen Hudon? I share more mutual friends (121) and am tagged in almost as many photos (67) with Jen as I am with Nick, and her wall posts feature prominently in my Timeline. (Facebook might interpret these data points and suggest I choose her as one of my bridesmaids, which I have done). No, Facebook has us figured out: we went to High School together and she's "one of my best friends."

    Watson Hudon.png

    So why does Facebook care to know more about the nature of my relationship to Nick? The short answer is that Facebook wants to know as much as it can about my relationships, even though Facebook's current policy is not use information from user questions like this one for advertising.

    My response to the relationship question would act as an important input into the algorithms deciding what shows up in my feed. If I said Nick is "one of my best friends," Facebook might weight his posts more heavily than they already do. For example, my feed has recently been inundated with more posts about my cousins' wife's pregnancy now that I've confirmed him as a family member (though I hide it on my profile for security reasons).

    But what happens if I don't want these relationships to alter my feed? This is a "Filter Bubble" problem, where Facebook's personalization algorithm is opaque to us as users. I don't know what I'm missing, but I can tell that I'm seeing more of certain people as a result of declaring a certain kind of relationship to them. But there's no master switch board for us to tweak the dials on our social filters; if I'm seeing too many of a certain friend's posts, I have only the binary choice of turning them on or off, and I have to alter that detail on a person by person basis. Any other input into the algorithm requires a fair amount of proactive and clever gaming of the system (like declining family member requests to avoid filtration). And who wants to explain to Aunt Joan that's why you can't confirm she's your aunt?

    And if I did change my relationship status to engaged -- not just answer the question Facebook posed to me -- the company could then target ads based on that information. We've seen how pregnancies are a pivotal marketing opportunity for companies like Target. Marriage is another big life event where habits, loyalties, and purchasing behaviors change. And then there's the brief but highly lucrative wedding planning and purchasing period itself; it's a critical and fleeting moment that marketers are eager to pin down. It comes as no surprise that Facebook and its advertisers would want to know what stage of life I'm in right at this moment. They want to know if they could be making more money showing me engagement ring, registry, or mortgage advertisements. For the most part, that targeting is harmless, but it's gold to Facebook and advertisers to know that I've shifted demographic categories. I imagine that my literal value in terms of price per click might even go up as I enter into the "engaged" category.

    ***

    And even though the pairing of the carefully phrased question and advertising were coincidental, it's as if Facebook is saying, "I know you guys have been together for a while now, shouldn't you be thinking about getting engaged soon?" Hint hint, nudge nudge. And then it comes off as a sassy girlfriend shouting over martinis, "Girl, when's he gonna put a ring on it?" So Facebook isn't outright asking me if I'm engaged. But I find myself reading for subtext as I would an aunt's pointed but tactfully indirect question.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/technology...hy-is-it-asking-about-my-fianc/254479
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  10. While Bethany Howell napped on the couch last week, her daughter Ashlynd, 6 years old, used her mother’s thumb to unlock her phone and open the Amazon app. “$250 later, she has shopped for all her Christmas presents on Amazon,” said Ms. Howell, of Little Rock, Ark.

    After Ashlynd’s parents received 13 order confirmations for Pokémon items, they initially thought they’d been hacked, then they figured Ashlynd had bought them unintentionally. “No, Mommy, I was shopping,” Ms. Howell said her daughter told her. “But don’t worry—everything that I ordered is coming straight to the house.” Ms. Howell added: ”She is really proud of herself."

    The Howells could return only four of the items. So Ms. Howell came up with a solution and told Ashlynd, “Well, Santa found out and that is what Santa is going to bring you for Christmas.”

    Zeke Tischler, a 30-year-old social-media professional from Northridge, Calif., had the same sort of gift problem outside of the Christmas season. Ads for engagement rings began popping up in his Facebook news feed after he searched for rings online last year.

    One evening, as his girlfriend was looking over his shoulder, an ad for opal engagement rings—her favorite gemstone—popped up on his Facebook news feed. Mr. Tischler said he tried to pass it off as a glitch.

    Several weeks later, however, when he got down on one knee and presented the opal engagement ring, his girlfriend presented her own ring for him. Online ads ”ruined one of the largest surprises in my life,” Mr. Tischler said. His fiancée, he added, “thinks it’s pretty hilarious.”
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    http://www.wsj.com/articles/those-ads...rnet-are-ruining-christmas-1482507745
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