Category: radio

Digital Human Podcast

Digital Human Podcast:

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Alexa wants children to say please

Alexa wants children to say please:

Amazon’s smart assistant Alexa can now be made to encourage children to say: “Please,” and: “Thank you,” when issuing it voice commands.

The new function addresses some parents’ concerns that use of the technology was teaching their offspring to sound officious or even rude.

In addition, parents can now set time limits on when requests are responded to, and can block some services.

The move has been welcomed by one of Alexa’s critics.

In January, the research company ChildWise published a report warning that youngsters that grew up accustomed to barking orders at Alexa, Google Assistant or some other virtual personality might become aggressive in later dealings with humans.

“This is a very positive development,” research director Simon Leggett told the BBC.

“We had noticed that practically none of the children that we had talked to said they ever used the words ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ when talking to their devices.

"Younger children will enjoy having the added interactivity, but older children may be less likely to use it as they will be more aware it’s a robot at the other end.”

Digital Human: Series 15, Ep 5 – Subservience

I Don’t Date Men Who Yell at Alexa

I Don’t Date Men Who Yell at Alexa:

One thing that is already clear: The way people speak to Alexa, Cortana, and Siri already changes the way I see them. It matters how you interact with your virtual assistant, not because it has feelings or will one day murder you in your sleep for disrespecting it, but because of how it reflects on you. Alexa is not human, but we engage with her like one. We judge people by how they interact with retail and hospitality workers—it supposedly says a lot about a person that they are rude to wait staff. Of course, waiters are more deserving of respect than robots—you could make or break a worker’s mood with your thoughtlessness, while Alexa doesn’t have moods (she only cares about yours). But the underlying revelation is the same: Who are you when in a position of power, and how do you treat those beneath you?

Digital Human: Series 15, Ep 5 – Subservience

When DNA Implicates the Innocent

When DNA Implicates the Innocent:

In December 2012 a homeless man named Lukis Anderson was charged with the murder of Raveesh Kumra, a Silicon Valley multimillionaire, based on DNA evidence. The charge carried a possible death sentence. But Anderson was not guilty. He had a rock-solid alibi: drunk and nearly comatose, Anderson had been hospitalized—and under constant medical supervision—the night of the murder in November. Later his legal team learned his DNA made its way to the crime scene by way of the paramedics who had arrived at Kumra’s residence. They had treated Anderson earlier on the same day—inadvertently “planting” the evidence at the crime scene more than three hours later. The case, presented in February at the annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences meeting in Las Vegas, provides one of the few definitive examples of a DNA transfer implicating an innocent person and illustrates a growing opinion that the criminal justice system’s reliance on DNA evidence, often treated as infallible, actually carries significant risks.

As virtually every field in forensics has come under increased scientific scrutiny in recent years, especially those relying on comparisons such as bite-mark and microscopic hair analysis, the power of DNA evidence has grown—and for good reason. DNA analysis is more definitive and less subjective than other forensic techniques because it is predicated on statistical models. By examining specific regions, or loci, on the human genome, analysts can determine the likelihood that a given piece of evidence does or does not match a known genetic profile, from a victim, suspect or alleged perpetrator; moreover, analysts can predict how powerful or probative the match is by checking a pattern’s frequency against population databases. Since the mid-1990s the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal organization based in New York City, has analyzed or reanalyzed available DNA to examine convictions, winning nearly 200 exonerations and spurring calls for reform of the criminal justice system.

Like any piece of evidence, however, DNA is just one part of a larger picture. “We’re desperately hoping that DNA will come in to save the day, but it’s still fitting into a flawed system,” says Erin E. Murphy, a professor of law at New York University and author of the 2015 book Inside the Cell: The Dark Side of Forensic DNA. “If you don’t bring in the appropriate amount of skepticism and restraint in using the method, there are going to be miscarriages of justice.” For example, biological samples can degrade or be contaminated; judges and juries can misinterpret statistical probabilities. And as the Anderson case brought to light, skin cells can move.

Digital Human: Series 15, Ep 1 – Jigsaw

Once your smart devices can talk to you, who…

Once your smart devices can talk to you, who else are they talking to? Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu wanted to find out – so they outfitted Hill’s apartment with 18 different internet-connected devices and built a special router to track how often they contacted their servers and see what they were reporting back. The results were surprising – and more than a little bit creepy. Learn more about what the data from your smart devices reveals about your sleep schedule, TV binges and even your tooth-brushing habits – and how tech companies could use it to target and profile you. (This talk contains mature language.)

Digital Human: Series 15, Ep 1 – Jigsaw

How Facebook let a friend pass my data to Camb…

How Facebook let a friend pass my data to Cambridge Analytica:

There is an unwitting mole amongst my friends. Without my permission, they passed my personal information to a Facebook app called “This Is Your Digital Life”, which eventually ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica, the company famed for using questionable tactics in an effort to influence election campaigns.

Facebook won’t say for certain exactly what happened, nor which friend was involved. Only 270,000 people ever used the This Is Your Digital Life (TIYDL) app, but Facebook estimates that data from 87 million people ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica this way.

As a result, Facebook’s boss Mark Zuckerberg spent last week being grilled by the US congress. In the UK, a legal team is gathering claimants to take Facebook to court for mishandling their data. Where did it all go wrong?

Personal information can sound so vague, so let’s be specific. People who used the TIYDL app gave it permission to access their friend’s Facebook public profile page, date of birth, current city and pages they had liked. Facebook also says that “a small number of people” gave permission to share their own timeline and private messages too, meaning that posts or correspondence from their friends would have been scooped up as well.

Digital Human: Series 15, Ep 1 – Jigsaw

You sent spit for private DNA analysis. How lo…

You sent spit for private DNA analysis. How long before the police get it?:

In 2014, police in Idaho Falls, Idaho, were trying to solve a cold case from 1996, in which a young woman was murdered in her apartment. Police obtained DNA from the scene, but could not match it in criminal databases. So they went to a then-public database started by the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, which held results for roughly 100,000 DNA tests and had recently been purchased by Ancestry.

That analysis and other matches led police to question a man named Michael Usry Jr., a New Orleans filmmaker. But after police took a sample of his DNA, they found — many weeks later — it did not match the sample found at the crime scene.

Murphy cites the false match as a cautionary tale. On the one hand, she said, DNA absolved Usry of murder. But before that, it put him under a cloud of suspicion for weeks. “Imagine what that would be like,” she said. “Imagine what that would mean if an employer, or a girlfriend, found out.”

Following that case, Ancestry put the Sorenson database behind a firewall and took other measures to tighten up its privacy policies, and other big consumer genetics companies followed suit. In response to the East Area Rapist case on Thursday, 23andMe went further than Ancestry by stating it is “our policy to resist law enforcement inquiries to protect customer privacy.”

Digital Human: Series 15, Ep 1 – Jigsaw

Find out what Dr. Sandra Wachter, Lawyer &am…

Find out what Dr. Sandra Wachter, Lawyer & Researcher in Data Ethics at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, Research Fellow at The Turing Institute has to say about the Data Privacy, Data Ethics & GDPR.

Who murdered Idaho teen Angie Dodge?

Who murdered Idaho teen Angie Dodge?:

Nearly two decades after 18-year-old Angie Dodge was brutally murdered in her Idaho Falls, Idaho, apartment, police were still hunting for the killer who left his DNA at the crime scene, while a man who did not match the DNA was serving a 30-year sentence for participating in the crime.

In 2014, police took a new and very controversial approach to try to find a match to that DNA. They searched a public DNA database owned by Ancestry.com, hoping to find someone related to Angie’s killer. They got a close enough match to make them think they had found the killer’s family tree – and there they found what they believed to be their man: a young New Orleans filmmaker who happened to have produced a short film about a girl’s brutal death.

But was he?

“Nobody every thinks that they’re gonna get picked up by the police and taken into an interrogation room and questioned about a murder,” filmmaker Michael Usry Jr. told “48 Hours.” “When it happens to you, it’s definitely a game changer.”

Digital Human: Series 15, Ep 1 – Jigsaw

Domesday: on the record and on the road

Domesday: on the record and on the road:

Although Domesday had a permanent home at Westminster, it did still travel occasionally. Medieval kings travelled a great deal around the kingdom, and there is evidence that, on occasion, Domesday (and other treasured documents) went with them. During the plague years in the reign of Elizabeth I, Domesday accompanied Exchequer officials who relocated temporarily to Hertford. And in September 1666 it was taken to Nonsuch to escape the Great Fire of London. Fire was again a menace in 1834, when much of the Palace of Westminster was engulfed in flames. The fire was caused by the burning of wooden tallies, notched pieces of wood that had been used in historical accounting procedures. Domesday was being kept in the Chapter House, and the keeper of the Chapter House, the historian and scholar Sir Francis Palgrave, asked the Dean of Westminster to be allowed to move Domesday and other historical records to the Abbey for safekeeping. Astonishingly, the Dean refused, saying that he first needed a warrant from the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne. Fortunately the fire did not spread to the Chapter House and Domesday survived.

An accounting roll for the removal of the ‘Receipt of the Exchequer’ to Nonsuch because of the ‘late dreadful fire’ (AO 1/865/1).

This appalling fire was one of the factors used to promote the foundation of a new Public Record Office – an institution where government records could be brought together from the various places where they were stored, and kept safely and securely, with their conditions carefully monitored. This was certainly necessary for Domesday: a report to the Royal Commission on Public Records in the early 19th century states that Domesday had to be rebound as the wooden boards which protected it were being attacked by woodworm. The Public Record Office (PRO) was eventually founded in 1838, and Domesday moved in in 1859. (We can also note that the tallies which survived the Westminster conflagration were later also transferred to the new PRO where they could cause no further harm!)

Report on the rebinding of Domesday in 1819 due to danger from worms (PRO 36/7, p.237).

One might think that its arrival at the PRO would have put an end to Domesday’s peregrinations. But this was not quite the case. In the late 1850s the head of the Ordnance Survey Department, Sir Henry James, had developed a new photographic technique called photozincography and was determined to prove its worth by reproducing medieval documents. In 1861 he was able to convince the various officials with responsibility for Domesday, including the aforementioned Sir Francis Palgrave (by now Deputy Keeper of the PRO) to allow him to reproduce it using his new technique. This involved disbinding Domesday and taking it, a few counties at a time, to Southampton, where the folios were photozincographed in the open air on the South Downs. By 1863, the whole of Great and Little Domesday had been reproduced in this way. The whole enterprise was extremely expensive, and documents held at The National Archives include all sorts of wrangling about which government departments should pay for what. The project was supported throughout by the raising of subscriptions and by the sale of the bound volumes of the reproductions. Although taking this ancient record onto the South Downs for this escapade sounds rather reckless to us, the resulting photozincograph edition was a great achievement, and did much to bring Domesday to wider public attention. 4

Digital Human: Series 15, Ep 1 – Jigsaw