technology

Everywhere erriff you went and every bung you arver dropped into, in cit or suburb or in addled areas, the Rose and Bottle or Phoenix Tavern or Power’s Inn or Jude’s Hotel or wherever you scoured the countryside from Nannywater to Vartryville or from Porta Lateen to the lootin quarter

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On Monday, the Justice Department announced that it was charging four members of China’s People’s Liberation Army with the 2017 Equifax breach that resulted in the theft of personal data of about 145 million Americans.

Using the personal data of millions of Americans against their will is certainly alarming. But what’s the difference between the Chinese government stealing all that information and a data broker amassing it legally without user consent and selling it on the open market? Both are predatory practices to invade privacy for insights and strategic leverage. […]

Equifax is eager to play the hapless victim in all this. […] “The attack on Equifax was an attack on U.S. consumers as well as the United States,” [Equifax’s chief executive] said. […]

According to a 2019 class-action lawsuit, the company’s cybersecurity practices were a nightmare. The suit alleged that “sensitive personal information relating to hundreds of millions of Americans was not encrypted, but instead was stored in plain text” and “was accessible through a public-facing, widely used website.” Another example of the company’s weak safeguards, according to the suit, shows the company struggling to use a competent password system. “Equifax employed the username ‘admin’ and the password ‘admin’ to protect a portal used to manage credit disputes,” it read.

Though the attack was quite sophisticated — the hackers sneaked out information in small, hard to detect chunks and routed internet traffic through 34 servers in over a dozen countries to cover their tracks — Equifax’s apparent carelessness made it a perfect target.

According to a 2019 class-action lawsuit, the company’s cybersecurity practices were a nightmare. The suit alleged that “sensitive personal information relating to hundreds of millions of Americans was not encrypted, but instead was stored in plain text” and “was accessible through a public-facing, widely used website.” Another example of the company’s weak safeguards, according to the suit, shows the company struggling to use a competent password system. “Equifax employed the username ‘admin’ and the password ‘admin’ to protect a portal used to manage credit disputes,” it read.

The takeaway: While almost anything digital is at some risk of being hacked, the Equifax attack was largely preventable.

{ NY TImes | Continue reading }

related { The End of Privacy as We Know It? }

related { The FBI downloaded CIA’s hacking tools using Starbuck’s WiFi }

’setting foward the doomsday clock a little bit because i saw a guy with yakuza tattoos knifing the shit out of a mattress’ –@dril

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{ Google Maps utilizes GPS and location data from mobile devices to determine if there is traffic congestion on a particular street. The app will then redirect users to less trafficked streets to avoid traffic. Using a hand cart filled with 99 active cell phones connected to Google Maps, artist Simon Weckert showed how he could create fake traffic jams in Google Maps simply by walking around the streets of Berlin. | Bleeping Computer | Continue reading }

Just bees and things and flowers

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{ Khi Solar One, the first solar thermal tower power plant on the African continent }

Axe on thwacks on thracks, axenwise. One by one place.

Several delivery services, including Postmates, Seamless, Grubhub, and DoorDash, offer food from restaurants without their explicit permission. The delivery apps pull up restaurant menus listed online, from which customers make their selections, and couriers working for the apps place orders on their behalf. The process essentially inserts third-party apps as middlemen into a service many restaurants say they want control over, or wish to opt out of entirely.

{ Eater | Continue reading }

Plato’s Republic though was hardly ever referenced by classical Latin authors like Juvenal, and it has been noted that it simply disappeared from literary awareness for a thousand years except for traces in the writings of Cicero and St. Augustine.

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Old emails, photos and files from years past sit undisturbed, awaiting a search […] The problem is that all those messages require energy to preserve them. […]

Right now, data centers consume about 2 percent of the world’s electricity, but that is expected to reach 8 percent by 2030. Moreover, only about 6 percent of all data ever created is in active use today, according to research from Hewlett Packard Enterprise. That means 94 percent is sitting in a vast “landfill” with a massive carbon footprint.

“It’s costing us the equivalent of maintaining the airline industry for data we don’t even use”

{ Japan Times | Continue reading }

“If everything on earth were rational, nothing would happen” —Dostoevsky

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The latest research, published on Friday by two psychology professors, combs through about 40 studies that have examined the link between social media use and both depression and anxiety among adolescents. That link, according to the professors, is small and inconsistent. […]

In most cases, [most researchers] say, the phone is just a mirror that reveals the problems a child would have even without the phone. […]

“The current dominant discourse around phones and well-being is a lot of hype and a lot of fear,” Mr. Hancock said. “But if you compare the effects of your phone to eating properly or sleeping or smoking, it’s not even close.”

Mr. Hancock’s analysis of about 226 studies on the well-being of phone users concluded that “when you look at all these different kinds of well-being, the net effect size is essentially zero.”

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

image { Diagram from a 1923 Japanese typewriting manual }

how paisibly eirenical, all dimmering dunes and gloamering glades

Army researchers have developed an artificial intelligence and machine learning technique that produces a visible face image from a thermal image of a person’s face captured in low-light or nighttime conditions. This development could lead to enhanced real-time biometrics and post-mission forensic analysis for covert nighttime operations.

{ DSIAC | Continue reading }

Is there ever a day that mattresses are not on sale?

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The prospect of data-driven ads, linked to expressed preferences by identifiable people, proved in this past decade to be irresistible. From 2010 through 2019, revenue for Facebook has gone from just under $2 billion to $66.5 billion per year, almost all from advertising. Google’s revenue rose from just under $25 billion in 2010 to just over $155 billion in 2019. Neither company’s growth seems in danger of abating.

The damage to a healthy public sphere has been devastating. All that ad money now going to Facebook and Google once found its way to, say, Conde Nast, News Corporation, the Sydney Morning Herald, NBC, the Washington Post, El País, or the Buffalo Evening News. In 2019, more ad revenue flowed to targeted digital ads in the U.S. than radio, television, cable, magazine, and newspaper ads combined for the first time. It won’t be the last time. Not coincidentally, journalists are losing their jobs at a rate not seen since the Great Recession.

Meanwhile, there is growing concern that this sort of precise ad targeting might not work as well as advertisers have assumed. Right now my Facebook page has ads for some products I would not possibly ever desire.

{ Slate | Continue reading | Thanks Tim }

related { Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says his company is developing a set of laws to regulate facial recognition technology that it plans to share with federal lawmakers. }

A gull. Gulls. Far calls.

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Facebook said on Friday that it had removed hundreds of accounts with ties to the Epoch Media Group. […] Researchers said the profiles used photos generated by artificial intelligence. […]

The people behind the network of 610 Facebook accounts, 89 Facebook Pages, 156 Groups and 72 Instagram accounts posted about political news and issues in the United States, including President Trump’s impeachment, conservative ideology, political candidates, trade and religion. “This was a large, brazen network that had multiple layers of fake accounts and automation that systematically posted content with two ideological focuses: support of Donald Trump and opposition to the Chinese government,” Mr. Brookie said in an interview. […]

The people behind the network used artificial intelligence to generate profile pictures, Facebook said. They relied on a type of artificial intelligence called generative adversarial networks. These networks can, through a process called machine learning, teach themselves to create realistic images of faces, even though they do not belong to a real person. […] This A.I. technique did not actually make it harder for the company’s automated systems to detect the fakes, because the systems focus on patterns of behavior among accounts. […] Facebook said the accounts masked their activities by using a combination of fake and authentic American accounts to manage pages and groups on the platforms. 

{ NYTimes | Continue reading }

photo { Ian Strange, SOS, 2015-2017 }

Growth in the fragrance industry is lagging behind cosmetics and skincare products. Why? ‘You can’t smell a selfie.’

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Drunk shopping could be a $45bn /year industry, and only 6% of people regret their drunk purchases.

[…]

In 2017 Google and Facebook lost $100 million between them to one scammer who sent them fake invoices.

[…]

Using machine learning, researchers can now predict how likely an individual is to be involve in a car accident by looking at the image of their home address on Google Street View.

[…]

Drug names are changing: X and Z names (Prozac, Seroxat) are giving way to names ending in O or A (Natesto, Qsymia) which are more appealing to speakers of Romance languages in Europe and South America.

{ Fluxx studio | Continue reading }

Yeast consumes the sugar in the grapes and converts it to ethanol, carbon dioxide, and heat. Different varieties of grapes and strains of yeasts produce different styles of wine.

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[We] discovered at least 450 websites in a network of local and business news organizations, each distributing thousands of algorithmically generated articles and a smaller number of reported stories. Of the 450 sites we discovered, at least 189 were set up as local news networks across ten states within the last twelve months by an organization called Metric Media. […]

Titles like the East Michigan News, Hickory Sun, and Grand Canyon Times have appeared on the web ahead of the 2020 election. These networks of sites can be used in a variety of ways: as ‘stage setting’ for events, focusing attention on issues such as voter fraud and energy pricing, providing the appearance of neutrality for partisan issues, or to gather data from users that can then be used for political targeting. […]

Some of these mysterious, partisan local news sites publish physical newspapers and many have minimal social media presence. At first, they do not  appear to be owned by the same network or organization, but a number of clues suggest that they are intimately linked. Our analysis demonstrates the links between the networks by identifying shared markers, such as unique analytics tokens, server IP addresses, and even shared design templates and bylines on articles. Further, the Privacy Policy and Terms of Service for many of these websites—but not all—suggest they are part of Locality Labs, LLC. 

{ Columbia Journalism Review | Continue reading }

still { Martin Kersels, Pink Constellation, 2001 }

Three quarks for Muster Mark!

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In 2016, London-based DeepMind Technologies, a subsidiary of Alphabet (which is also the parent company of Google), startled industry watchers when it reported that the application of artificial intelligence had reduced the cooling bill at a Google data center by a whopping 40 percent. What’s more, we learned that year, DeepMind was starting to work with the National Grid in the United Kingdom to save energy throughout the country using deep learning to optimize the flow of electricity.

Could AI really slash energy usage so profoundly? In the three years that have passed, I’ve searched for articles on the application of AI to other data centers but find no evidence of important gains. What’s more, DeepMind’s talks with the National Grid about energy have broken down. And the financial results for DeepMind certainly don’t suggest that customers are lining up for its services: For 2018, the company reported losses of US $571 million on revenues of $125 million, up from losses of $366 million in 2017. Last April, The Economist characterized DeepMind’s 2016 announcement as a publicity stunt, quoting one inside source as saying, “[DeepMind just wants] to have some PR so they can claim some value added within Alphabet.” […]

Many of McKinsey’s estimates were made by extrapolating from claims made by various startups. For instance, its prediction of a 10 percent improvement in energy efficiency in the U.K. and elsewhere was based on the purported success of DeepMind and also of Nest Labs, which became part of Google’s hardware division in 2018. In 2017, Nest, which makes a smart thermostat and other intelligent products for the home, lost $621 million on revenues of $726 million. That fact doesn’t mesh with the notion that Nest and similar companies are contributing, or are poised to contribute, hugely to the world economy.

{ IEEE Spectrum | Continue reading }