Google may be a master at data wrangling, but one of its products has been making bogus data-driven predictions. A study of Google's much-hyped flu tracker has consistently overestimated flu cases in the US for years. It's a failure that highlights the danger of relying on big data technologies.
Evan Selinger, a technology ethicist at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, says Google Flu's failures hint at a larger problem with the algorithmic approach taken by technology companies to deliver services we all want to use. The problem is with the assumption that either the data that is gathered about us, or the algorithms used to process it, are neutral.
wabrandsma (2551008) writes "What goes around comes around – quite literally in the case of smog. The US has outsourced many of its production lines to China and, in return, global winds are exporting the Chinese factories' pollution right back to the US." Link to Original Source top
wabrandsma (2551008) writes "Two Israeli computer scientists say they may have uncovered a puzzling financial link between Ross William Ulbricht, the recently arrested operator of the Internet black market known as the Silk Road, and the secretive inventor of bitcoin, the anonymous online currency, used to make Silk Road purchases." Link to Original Source top
Reprogrammed bacterium speaks new language of life
wabrandsma (2551008) writes "From NewScientist: A bacterium has had its genome recoded so that the standard language of life no longer applies. Instead, one of its words has been freed up to impart a different meaning, allowing the addition of genetic elements that don't exist in nature. The work has been described as the first step towards a new biology because the techniques used should open the door to reinventing the meaning of several genetic words simultaneously, potentially creating new types of biomaterials and drugs." Link to Original Source top
Matchstick-sized sensor can record your private chats
wabrandsma (2551008) writes "From NewScientist: A sensor previously used for military operations can now be tuned to secretly locate and record any single conversation on a busy street.
Now, a Dutch acoustics firm, Microflown Technologies, has developed a matchstick-sized sensor that can pinpoint and record a target's conversations from a distance.
Known as an acoustic vector sensor, Microflown's sensor measures the movement of air, disturbed by sound waves, to almost instantly locate where a sound originated. It can then identify the noise and, if required, transmit it live to waiting ears.
wabrandsma (2551008) writes "The patent company Personal Audio of James Logan has closed a licensing agreement with SanDisk. The company says that now "between a third and two thirds of all mp3 audio players" is made by the companies to which its patents have been licensed, including LG, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Blackberry and Amazon.
The digital civil rights movement Electronic Frontier Foundation wants to fight Personal Audio's podcasting patent at the US Patent and Trademark Office.
The money for the procedure, about 30,000 dollars, was brought in earlier this year through crowdfunding." Link to Original Source top
The NSA's next move: silencing university professors?
A Johns Hopkins computer science professor blogs on the NSA and is asked to take it down.
A professor in the computer science department at Johns Hopkins, a leading American university, had written a post on his blog, hosted on the university's servers, focused on his area of expertise, which is cryptography. The post was highly critical of the government, specifically the National Security Agency, whose reckless behavior in attacking online security astonished him.
On Monday, he gets a note from the acting dean of the engineering school asking him to take the post down and stop using the NSA logo as clip art in his posts. The email also informs him that if he resists he will need a lawyer.
Why would an academic dean cave under pressure and send the takedown request without careful review, which would have easily discovered, for example, that the classified documents to which the blog post linked were widely available in the public domain?" Link to Original Source top
Schneier: The US government has betrayed the internet. We need to take it back.
The NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. We engineers built the internet – and now we have to fix it
Government and industry have betrayed the internet, and us.
This is not the internet the world needs, or the internet its creators envisioned. We need to take it back.
And by we, I mean the engineering community.
Yes, this is primarily a political problem, a policy matter that requires political intervention.
But this is also an engineering problem, and there are several things engineers can – and should – do." Link to Original Source top
Apple has received a patent on providing different levels of user access
wabrandsma (2551008) writes "A future version of iOS may feature a unique security method that recognizes different gesture inputs to open specific sets of apps, allowing for greater control over user access.
The technology, detailed in a patent awarded to Apple on Tuesday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, deals with so-called "access inputs" that determine what apps, device services and functions can be accessed by a user.
Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,528,072 for a "Method, apparatus and system for access mode control of a device," describes a system that creates user access modes guarded by predetermined gesture inputs." Link to Original Source top
Microsoft forces German Windows-backdoor article offline
Microsoft is forcing through the courts to take a controversial article offline on internal concerns of the German government about Windows 8 and Trusted Computing. ZEIT Online is fighting the court order.
Microsoft has an ex-parte injunction enforced by the court of Munich on an article by ZEIT Online. This piece is about the dangers of Windows 8 and the Trusted Platform Module 2.0. This publication last week did stir dust worldwide. Monday the article was taken offline, but the publisher will defend itself against this provisional judgment.
You probably remember the online outrage over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) copyright enforcement proposal. Last week, the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force released a report on digital copyright policy that endorsed one piece of the controversial proposal: making the streaming of copyrighted works a felony.
As it stands now, streaming a copyrighted work over the Internet is considered a violation of the public performance right. The violation is only punishable as a misdemeanor, rather than the felony charges that accompany the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted material." top
The Bradley Manning case continues a trend of government prosecutions that use familiarity with digital tools and knowledge of computers as a scare tactic and a basis for obtaining grossly disproportionate and unfair punishments, strategies enabled by broad, vague laws like the CFAA and the Espionage Act. Let's call this the "hacker madness" strategy. Using it, the prosecution portrays actions taken by someone using a computer as more dangerous or scary than they actually are by highlighting the digital tools used to a nontechnical or even technophobic judge." top
Though so far, cyber-attacks have not lead to immediate deaths or large-scale destruction, when talking about cyber security, it is important to know what it is we seek to defend: digital freedoms and our open societies. We need to defend democratic principles not only against outside attacks, but also against erosion from within. Too often freedom is compromised for alleged security or by a focus on a misperceived threat.
Digital freedoms and fundamental rights need to be enforced, and not eroded in the face of vulnerabilities, attacks, and repression. In order to do so, essential and difficult questions on the implementation of the rule of law, historically place-bound by jurisdiction rooted in the nation-state, in the context of a globally connected world, need to be addressed. This is a matter for the EU as a global player, and should involve all of society." Link to Original Source top
Time to halt our massive waste of food – here's how
wabrandsma writes "As much as half of our food goes to waste even as nearly a billion people remain underfed in poorer countries. What measures and technologies could help us get on top of the problem? How much perfectly edible food do you chuck away? If about half ends up in the bin, it would echo the results of a study published today. It estimates that of the 4 billion metric tons of food we produce each year, between 1.2 and 2 billion tons never gets eaten. The best, fastest and simplest solution to all this waste is for consumers in rich countries to buy less food and make better use of what they do buy, throwing less away. Developing and poorer countries should work towards better transport links and adopt technologies that raise yields and prevent waste in harvesting and storage. "The potential to provide 60 to 100 per cent more food by simply eliminating losses, while simultaneously freeing up land, energy and water resources for other use, is an opportunity that should not be ignored." Time to halt our massive waste of food – here's how." Link to Original Source top
Most fundamental clock ever could redefine kilogram
wabrandsma writes "Imagine ditching the bathroom scales and instead weighing yourself with a watch. That's now possible, in principle at least, following the creation of the first clock with a tick that depends on the mass of a single atom. The physicists behind it say it's the most fundamental clock ever invented, and that it could help to re-define the mass of the kilogram. Using a Compton clock." Link to Original Source top
wabrandsma (2551008) writes "The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in Oslo awarded Szemerédi the one million dollar prize today for "fundamental contributions to discrete mathematics and theoretical computer science". His specialty was combinatorics, a field that deals with the different ways of counting and rearranging discrete objects, whether they be numbers or playing cards.
The theorem solved is known as Szemerédi's theorem, a piece of mathematics that answered a question first posed by the mathematicians Paul Erds and Pál Turán in 1936 and that had remained unsolved for nearly 40 years." Link to Original Source