pipeline

‘The way in which the other presents himself, exceeding the idea of the other in me, we here name face.’ –Emmanuel Levinas

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His tiny company, Clearview AI, devised a groundbreaking facial recognition app. You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared. The system — whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites — goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants. […]

Tech companies capable of releasing such a tool have refrained from doing so; in 2011, Google’s chairman at the time said it was the one technology the company had held back because it could be used “in a very bad way.” Some large cities, including San Francisco, have barred police from using facial recognition technology.

But without public scrutiny, more than 600 law enforcement agencies have started using Clearview in the past year, according to the company, which declined to provide a list. The computer code underlying its app, analyzed by The New York Times, includes programming language to pair it with augmented-reality glasses; users would potentially be able to identify every person they saw. The tool could identify activists at a protest or an attractive stranger on the subway, revealing not just their names but where they lived, what they did and whom they knew.

And it’s not just law enforcement: Clearview has also licensed the app to at least a handful of companies for security purposes. […]

In addition to Mr. Ton-That, Clearview was founded by Richard Schwartz — who was an aide to Rudolph W. Giuliani when he was mayor of New York — and backed financially by Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist behind Facebook and Palantir.

{ NY Times | 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 }

‘When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’ –Conan Doyle

You might think that lawyers representing abuse victims would want to publicly expose such information to bolster their clients’ claims. But that is not how the legal industry always works. Often, keeping things quiet is good business.

One of the revelations of the #MeToo era has been that victims’ lawyers often brokered secret deals in which alleged abusers paid to keep their accusers quiet and the allegations out of the public sphere. Lawyers can pocket at least a third of such settlements, profiting off a system that masks misconduct and allows men to abuse again.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

Casper: Come with me if you want to live.

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About 30% of the world’s population is possessed by ghosts. […]

The main reason behind the gay orientation of some men is that they are possessed by female ghosts.

{ Spiritual Research Foundation | Continue reading }

Intelligence and education do not protect against superstition. […] I was an astrologer – here’s how it really works, and why I had to stop.

{ The Guardian | Continue reading }

image { Fund|Befund }

And the dneepers of wet and the gangres of sin in it!

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Across four studies participants (N = 818) rated the profoundness of abstract art images accompanied with varying categories of titles, including: pseudo-profound bullshit titles (e.g., The Deaf Echo), mundane titles (e.g., Canvas 8), and no titles.

Randomly generated pseudo-profound bullshit titles increased the perceived profoundness of computer-generated abstract art, compared to when no titles were present (Study 1).

Mundane titles did not enhance the perception of profoundness, indicating that pseudo-profound bullshit titles specifically (as opposed to titles in general) enhance the perceived profoundness of abstract art (Study 2).

Furthermore, these effects generalize to artist-created abstract art (Study 3).

Finally, we report a large correlation between profoundness ratings for pseudo-profound bullshit and “International Art English” statements (Study 4), a mode and style of communication commonly employed by artists to discuss their work.

{ Judgment and Decision Making | Continue reading }

We are advised the waxy is at the present in the Sweeps hospital and that he may never come out!

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Ethos Capital, a new commercial investment firm founded in the past few months in Boston, has 2 staff and only one major investment: a deal to acquire the 501c3 non-profit [Public Interest Registry] that currently runs the .org domain (valued at a few $B), for an undisclosed sum.

This was initiated immediately after ICANN decided in May, over almost universal opposition, to remove the price cap on .org registrations with no meaningful price protections for existing or future registrants.

{ The Longest Now | Continue reading }

Internet Society (ISOC) has sold the .org registry Public Interest Registry (PIR) to private equity company Ethos Capital. […] PIR generated $101 million in revenue in 2018 and contributed nearly $50 million to Internet Society. […]

Ethos Capital is a new private equity firm lead by Erik Brooks. Brooks was at Abry Partners until earlier this year. Abry Partners acquired Donuts and installed former ICANN President of Global Domains Akram Atallah in the top spot there. […] The other person at Ethos is former ICANN Senior Vice President Abusitta-Ouri.

{ Domain Name Wire | Continue reading }

Are we someone else when we lie?

[Google CEO] Eric Schmidt continued: “Our business is highly measurable. We know that if you spend X dollars on ads, you’ll get Y dollars in revenues.” At Google, Schmidt maintained, you pay only for what works.

Karmazin was horrified. He was an old fashioned advertising man, and where he came from, a Super Bowl ad cost three million dollars. Why? Because that’s how much it cost. What does it yield? Who knows. […]

In 2018, more than $273bn dollars was spent on digital ads globally, according to research firm eMarketer. Most of those ads were purchased from two companies: Google ($116bn in 2018) and Facebook ($54.5bn in 2018). […]

Picture this. Luigi’s Pizzeria hires three teenagers to hand out coupons to passersby. After a few weeks of flyering, one of the three turns out to be a marketing genius. Customers keep showing up with coupons distributed by this particular kid. The other two can’t make any sense of it: how does he do it? When they ask him, he explains: “I stand in the waiting area of the pizzeria.” […] Economists refer to this as a “selection effect.” It is crucial for advertisers to distinguish such a selection effect (people see your ad, but were already going to click, buy, register, or download) from the advertising effect (people see your ad, and that’s why they start clicking, buying, registering, downloading). […]

The online marketing world has the same strategy as Luigi’s Pizzeria and the flyer-handling teens. The benchmarks that advertising companies use – intended to measure the number of clicks, sales and downloads that occur after an ad is viewed – are fundamentally misleading. None of these benchmarks distinguish between the selection effect (clicks, purchases and downloads that are happening anyway) and the advertising effect (clicks, purchases and downloads that would not have happened without ads).

It gets worse: the brightest minds of this generation are creating algorithms which only increase the effects of selection. Consider the following: if Amazon buys clicks from Facebook and Google, the advertising platforms’ algorithms will seek out Amazon clickers. And who is most likely to click on Amazon? Presumably Amazon’s regular customers. In that case the algorithms are generating clicks, but not necessarily extra clicks.

{ The Correspondent | Continue reading }

typography can save the world just kidding

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Google is engaged with one of the country’s largest health-care systems to collect and crunch the detailed personal health information of millions of Americans across 21 states.

The initiative, code-named “Project Nightingale,” appears to be the biggest in a series of efforts by Silicon Valley giants to gain access to personal health data and establish a toehold in the massive health-care industry. […] Google began the effort in secret last year with St. Louis-based Ascension, the second-largest health system in the U.S., with the data sharing accelerating since summer, the documents show.

The data involved in Project Nightingale encompasses lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, including patient names and dates of birth.

Neither patients nor doctors have been notified. At least 150 Google employees already have access to much of the data on tens of millions of patients, according to a person familiar with the matter and documents.

Some Ascension employees have raised questions about the way the data is being collected and shared, both from a technological and ethical perspective, according to the people familiar with the project. But privacy experts said it appeared to be permissible under federal law. That law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, generally allows hospitals to share data with business partners without telling patients, as long as the information is used “only to help the covered entity carry out its health care functions.”

Google in this case is using the data, in part, to design new software, underpinned by advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning, that zeroes in on individual patients to suggest changes to their care.

{ Wall Street Journal | Continue reading }

oil on panel { Mark Ryden, Incarnation, 2009 | Work in progress of the intricate frame for Mark Ryden’s painting Incarnation }

How do we make use of this life that we still have?

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Several weeks ago, I met up with a friend in New York who suggested we grab a bite at a Scottish bar in the West Village. He had booked the table through something called Seated, a restaurant app that pays users who make reservations on the platform. We ordered two cocktails each, along with some food. And in exchange for the hard labor of drinking whiskey, the app awarded us $30 in credits redeemable at a variety of retailers. […]

To throw cash at people every time they walk into a restaurant does not sound like a business. It sounds like a plot to lose money as fast as possible. […]

If you wake up on a Casper mattress, work out with a Peloton before breakfast, Uber to your desk at a WeWork, order DoorDash for lunch, take a Lyft home, and get dinner through Postmates, you’ve interacted with seven companies that will collectively lose nearly $14 billion this year. […]

The meal-kit company Blue Apron revealed before its public offering that the company was spending about $460 to recruit each new member, despite making less than $400 per customer. […] since Blue Apron went public, the firm’s valuation has crashed by more than 95 percent. […]

{ The Atlantic | Continue reading }

photo { Detroit Science Center, 1979 }

unrelated { Apple announces $2.5 billion plan to ease California housing crisis }