Category: internet

Survival in the digital age Stephanie Hankey o…

Survival in the digital age Stephanie Hankey offers a guide to safe online activism.:

Digital Human: Series 15, Ep 1 – Jigsaw

‘People You May Know:’ A Controversial Faceboo…

‘People You May Know:’ A Controversial Facebook Feature’s 10-Year History:

In May 2008, Facebook announced what initially seemed like a fun, whimsical addition to its platform: People You May Know.

“We built this feature with the intention of helping you connect to more of your friends, especially ones you might not have known were on Facebook,” said the post.

It went on to become one of Facebook’s most important tools for building out its social network, which expanded from 100 million members then to over 2 billion today. While some people must certainly have been grateful to get help connecting with everyone they’ve ever known, other Facebook users hated the feature. They asked how to turn it off. They downloaded a “FB Purity” browser extension to hide it from their view. Some users complained about it to the U.S. federal agency tasked with protecting American consumers, saying it constantly showed them people they didn’t want to friend. Another user told the Federal Trade Commission that Facebook wouldn’t stop suggesting she friend strangers “posed in sexually explicit poses.”

In an investigation last year, we detailed the ways People You May Know, or PYMK, as it’s referred to internally, can prove detrimental to Facebook users. It mines information users don’t have control over to make connections they may not want it to make. The worst example of this we documented is when sex workers are outed to their clients.

When lawmakers recently sent Facebook over 2,000 questions about the social network’s operation, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) raised concerns about PYMK suggesting a psychiatrist’s patients friend one another and asked whether users can opt out of Facebook collecting or using their data for People You May Know, which is another way of asking whether users can turn it off. Facebook responded by suggesting the senator see their answer to a previous question, but the real answer is “no.”

Facebook refuses to let users opt out of PYMK, telling us last year, “An opt out is not something we think people would find useful.” Perhaps now, though, in its time of privacy reckoning, Facebook will reconsider the mandatory nature of this particular feature. It’s about time, because People You May Know has been getting on people’s nerves for over 10 years.

Digital Human: Series 15, Ep 1 – Jigsaw

No, Your Phone Isn’t Secretly Recording You

No, Your Phone Isn’t Secretly Recording You:

It’s the smartphone conspiracy theory that just won’t go away: Many, many people are convinced that their phones are listening to their conversations to target them with ads. Vice recently fueled the paranoia with an article that declared “Your phone is listening and it’s not paranoia,” a conclusion the author reached based on a 5-day experiment where he talked about “going back to uni” and “needing cheap shirts” in front of his phone and then saw ads for shirts and university classes on Facebook.

(For what it’s worth, I also frequently see ads for shirts on Facebook, but I’m past the age of the target audience for back-to-school propaganda.)

Some computer science academics at Northeastern University had heard enough people talking about this technological myth that they decided to do a rigorous study to tackle it. For the last year, Elleen Pan, Jingjing Ren, Martina Lindorfer, Christo Wilson, and David Choffnes ran an experiment involving more than 17,000 of the most popular apps on Android to find out whether any of them were secretly using the phone’s mic to capture audio. The apps included those belonging to Facebook, as well as over 8,000 apps that send information to Facebook.

Sorry, conspiracy theorists: They found no evidence of an app unexpectedly activating the microphone or sending audio out when not prompted to do so. Like good scientists, they refuse to say that their study definitively proves that your phone isn’t secretly listening to you, but they didn’t find a single instance of it happening. Instead, they discovered a different disturbing practice: apps recording a phone’s screen and sending that information out to third parties.

Digital Human: Series 15, Ep 1 – Jigsaw

How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You’ve Ever …

How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You’ve Ever Met:

In real life, in the natural course of conversation, it is not uncommon to talk about a person you may know. You meet someone and say, “I’m from Sarasota,” and they say, “Oh, I have a grandparent in Sarasota,” and they tell you where they live and their name, and you may or may not recognize them.

You might assume Facebook’s friend recommendations would work the same way: You tell the social network who you are, and it tells you who you might know in the online world. But Facebook’s machinery operates on a scale far beyond normal human interactions. And the results of its People You May Know algorithm are anything but obvious. In the months I’ve been writing about PYMK, as Facebook calls it, I’ve heard more than a hundred bewildering anecdotes:

  • A man who years ago donated sperm to a couple, secretly, so they could have a child—only to have Facebook recommend the child as a person he should know. He still knows the couple but is not friends with them on Facebook.
  • A social worker whose client called her by her nickname on their second visit, because she’d shown up in his People You May Know, despite their not having exchanged contact information.
  • A woman whose father left her family when she was six years old—and saw his then-mistress suggested to her as a Facebook friend 40 years later.
  • An attorney who wrote: “I deleted Facebook after it recommended as PYMK a man who was defense counsel on one of my cases. We had only communicated through my work email, which is not connected to my Facebook, which convinced me Facebook was scanning my work email.”

Connections like these seem inexplicable if you assume Facebook only knows what you’ve told it about yourself. They’re less mysterious if you know about the other file Facebook keeps on you—one that you can’t see or control.

Behind the Facebook profile you’ve built for yourself is another one, a shadow profile, built from the inboxes and smartphones of other Facebook users. Contact information you’ve never given the network gets associated with your account, making it easier for Facebook to more completely map your social connections.

Digital Human: Series 15, Ep 1 – Jigsaw

A shed the size of a town: what Britain’s gian…

A shed the size of a town: what Britain’s giant distribution centres tell us about modern life:

Simple as they may look, distribution centres are sophisticated structures. The machinery that moves stuff around is constantly evolving. Their playing field-sized floors have to be exceptionally level, as small unevenness could cause the high fork-lift trucks they use to lean unacceptably at the top. Years of competition have made their structure as spare and economical as can be. Architects such as Chetwoods have to reconcile all this with the wishes of users (who might want something tailored to their needs) and of investors, who will want a structure to be adaptable to future users.It is tempting to say that these buildings make the internet visible, except that their visibility is strictly limited. Sometimes they get into the news when reporters, posing as warehouse workers, bring news of working conditions inside. You can get a glimmer on Google, for example from employee reviews of Primark’s warehouse, which sits like an acropolis on a raised earthwork in Northamptonshire: “they’re treating a people like nothing,” says one in imperfect English; “they beautiful lied on induction how much they cares about worker, don’t believe them.” The buildings, however, remain notably blank, giving almost no clue of their busy inner lives.

Some users and owners are dismissive of press inquiries to a degree unusual in big, public relations-conscious companies. Tesco refused a request to see inside their Dirft base, which was possibly not surprising, but also to answer simple questions, such as: what are its dimensions?

For the writer Carolyn Steel, whose book Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Livesexamines the relationship of society to food, this secrecy is the antithesis of the more public processes by which food once progressed from field to market to kitchen to plate. “The exchange of food used to bring people together,” she says. “Now the process is designed to exclude the human”. But distribution centres manifest the world we have chosen and had chosen for us, in return for efficiency and convenience, in which a product appears in the home by ever more inscrutable magic.

Their scale and growth are a consequence of the fact that all that physicality and volume that the virtual world displaces has to go somewhere. It’s welcome that architects and developers should try to make something of them and to mitigate their impact with woods, ponds and indeed coloured bands. But, short of a dramatic restructuring of the economic, technical and social basis of the modern world, these uncompromising building types will only become more essential to our lives. The contrast between what was previously thought of as natural and urban landscape will only become more stark.

Digital Human: Series 10, Episode 1 – Sublime

We’re a little closer to texting from our brai…

We’re a little closer to texting from our brains, thanks to birds:

Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley this year set themselves an audacious new goal: creating a brain-reading device that would allow people to effortlessly send texts with their thoughts.

In April, Elon Musk announced a secretive new brain-interface company called Neuralink. Days later, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared that “direct brain interfaces [are] going to, eventually, let you communicate only with your mind.” The company says it has 60 engineers working on the problem.

It’s an ambitious quest—and there are reasons to think it won’t happen anytime soon. But for at least one small, orange-beaked bird, the zebra finch, the dream just became a lot closer to reality.

That’s thanks to some nifty work by Timothy Gentner and his students at the University of California, San Diego, who built a brain-to-tweet interface that figures out the song a finch is going to sing a fraction of a second before it does so.

“We decode realistic synthetic birdsong directly from neural activity,” the scientists announced in a new report published on the website bioRxiv. The team, which includes Argentinian birdsong expert Ezequiel Arneodo, calls the system the first prototype of “a decoder of complex, natural communication signals from neural activity.” A similar approach could fuel advances towards a human thought-to-text interface, the researchers say.

The Digital Human, Series 13, Episode 6 – Oracle

Some divination methods are more intimate than…

Some divination methods are more intimate than others :/

5 Amazing Things Big Data Helps Us To Predict …

5 Amazing Things Big Data Helps Us To Predict Now — Plus What’s On The Horizon:

Big data is predicting things about your life almost every minute of your day — whether you’re aware of it or not.

Amazon is predicting what else you might like to buy every time you shop. Netflix is predicting what you might want to watch. Google is predicting how you will respond to your emails. And Match.com and other dating sites are even trying to predict who you might fall in love with.

These predictions have become so ubiquitous that we don’t always even notice them any more. But data analysts are working on predicting much more important outcomes than the next show you’ll binge watch, with some very exciting results…

The Digital Human, Series 13, Episode 6 – Oracle

Forecasting the fashion future: Big Data comes…

Forecasting the fashion future: Big Data comes to rescue fashion designers! – Big Data Made Simple – One source. Many perspectives.:

For years, fashion industry has had previous data and intuition at its disposal to predict customer demands which is now becoming quite irrelevant considering the fast-changing fashion trends and the tough competition in the market. More so, with more and more people getting brand conscious, it is becoming tougher for aspiring fashion designers to make a place on the mannequins. But they need not worry; Big Data is here to save the budding talent!

Unbelievable but true, Big Data is becoming an important part of one of the most intuition-based and unpredictable industry. In a world where clothes become outdated with the release of a new movie or the latest fashion week, even biggies like Burberry and Ralph Lauren have resorted to Big Data analysis. The runway at the fashion week, the latest edition of Cosmopolitan — are all losing their charm; designers these days release photos of their exclusive collections on Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest) which helps them know the trends and people’s response much before the curtain-raiser. Sentiment analysis through collection of the responses (likes, shares, comments, re-tweets) helps the industry to analyse every aspect of consumers demand— from the most loved colour to the most acceptable fit…

The Digital Human, Series 13, Episode 6 – Oracle

Unanimous A.I. Uses Human Swarms to Make Scary…

Unanimous A.I. Uses Human Swarms to Make Scary-Accurate Predictions:

If ants, birds, fish, and bees can pool their collective intelligence to make decisions, why can’t humans? The collective intelligence manifests itself in colonies, flocks, schools, and swarms, something that biologists refer to as “swarm intelligence.” So, why can’t humans form their swarms? That’s the question that guides Louis Rosenberg, founder and CEO of Unanimous A.I.

The basic technology that underlies the platform is what we call swarm A.I., because it’s modeled after swarms in nature. There are two forms of intelligence in nature: There’s neurological intelligence, and there’s swarm intelligence. Neurological intelligence is a system of neurons where an intelligence emerges that’s way smarter than any of the single neurons, and a swarm intelligence is one level up. It’s a system of brains that work together and are smarter than any of the individual participants. We model systems after how swarms work in nature and we enable groups of people to amplify their intelligence by thinking together as a system.

The Digital Human, Series 13, Episode 6 – Oracle