Links for 2017-05-05

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Links for 2017-05-04

  • The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI – MIT Technology Review

    ‘The mysterious mind of [NVidia’s self-driving car, driven by machine learning] points to a looming issue with artificial intelligence. The car’s underlying AI technology, known as deep learning, has proved very powerful at solving problems in recent years, and it has been widely deployed for tasks like image captioning, voice recognition, and language translation. There is now hope that the same techniques will be able to diagnose deadly diseases, make million-dollar trading decisions, and do countless other things to transform whole industries. But this won’t happen—or shouldn’t happen—unless we find ways of making techniques like deep learning more understandable to their creators and accountable to their users. Otherwise it will be hard to predict when failures might occur—and it’s inevitable they will. That’s one reason Nvidia’s car is still experimental. Already, mathematical models are being used to help determine who makes parole, who’s approved for a loan, and who gets hired for a job. If you could get access to these mathematical models, it would be possible to understand their reasoning. But banks, the military, employers, and others are now turning their attention to more complex machine-learning approaches that could make automated decision-making altogether inscrutable. Deep learning, the most common of these approaches, represents a fundamentally different way to program computers. “It is a problem that is already relevant, and it’s going to be much more relevant in the future,” says Tommi Jaakkola, a professor at MIT who works on applications of machine learning. “Whether it’s an investment decision, a medical decision, or maybe a military decision, you don’t want to just rely on a ‘black box’ method.”’

    (tags: ai algorithms ml machine-learning legibility explainability deep-learning nvidia)

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Links for 2017-05-03

  • Prior Exposure Increases Perceived Accuracy of Fake News

    In other words, repeated exposure to fake news renders it believable. Pennycook, Gordon and Cannon, Tyrone D and Rand, David G., _Prior Exposure Increases Perceived Accuracy of Fake News_ (April 30, 2017):

    Collectively, our results indicate familiarity is used heuristically to infer accuracy. Thus, the spread of fake news is supported by persistent low-level cognitive processes that make even highly implausible and partisan claims more believable with repetition. Our results suggest that political echo chambers not only isolate one from opposing views, but also help to create incubation chambers for blatantly false (but highly salient and politicized) fake news stories.
    (via Zeynep Tufekci) See also: http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/perspectives/PE100/PE198/RAND_PE198.pdf , _The Russian “Firehose of Falsehood” Propaganda Model_, from RAND.

    (tags: propaganda psychology fake-news belief facebook echo-chambers lies truth media)

  • How your selfie could affect your life insurance

    Noping so hard. Imagine the levels of algorithmic discrimination inherent in this shit.

    “Your face is something you wear all your life, and it tells a very unique story about you,” says Karl Ricanek Jr., co-founder and chief data scientist at Lapetus Solutions Inc. in Wilmington, N.C. Several life insurance companies are testing Lapetus technology that uses facial analytics and other data to estimate life expectancy, he says. (Lapetus would not disclose the names of companies testing its product.) Insurers use life expectancy estimates to make policy approval and pricing decisions. Lapetus says its product, Chronos, would enable a customer to buy life insurance online in as little as 10 minutes without taking a life insurance medical exam.

    (tags: discrimination computer-says-no algorithms selfies face lapetus photos life-insurance life-expectancy)

  • After years of warnings, mobile network hackers exploit SS7 flaws to drain bank accounts • The Register

    Experts have been warning for years about security blunders in the Signaling System 7 protocol – the magic glue used by cellphone networks to communicate with each other. […] O2-Telefonica in Germany has confirmed to Süddeutsche Zeitung that some of its customers have had their bank accounts drained using a two-stage attack that exploits SS7. In other words, thieves exploited SS7 to intercept two-factor authentication codes sent to online banking customers, allowing them to empty their accounts. The thefts occurred over the past few months, according to multiple sources.

    (tags: o2 telefonica germany ss7 mobile 2fa security hacks cellphones)

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Links for 2017-05-02

  • explainshell.com

    This is pretty excellent work — paste a UNIX command line and it’ll contextually inline manual page snippets to match, highlighting the matching part of the command line.

    (tags: cli unix documentation explainshell shell scripting syntax manual-pages)

  • Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell Live on Vimeo

    the entire concert set. This was the highlight concert for me in 2015

    (tags: music video sufjan-stevens concerts 2015)

  • Exclusive: The Leaked Fyre Festival Pitch Deck Is Beyond Parody | Vanity Fair

    This is the worst future ever.

    As the pitch deck claims, within the first 48 hours of the social-media blitz, the Fyre Starters had reached “300 million social impressions”—impressions being the kind of dumb synonym one uses instead of the word “people,” in the same way someone at a bar tries to sound smart by saying he is “inebriated” instead of “drunk.” (And to be fair, an impression isn’t even a sentient person. It’s essentially reaching a person when they aren’t paying attention.) To pull off the 300 million impressions, McFarland and Ja Rule partnered with a P.R. agency, a creative agency, and Elliot Tebele, a once-random nobody who has created a social-media empire by siphoning other people’s jokes into the Instagram account @FuckJerry. One of the biggest deceits of the entire media campaign was that almost all of the 400 influencers who shared the promotional videos and photos never noted they were actually advertising something for someone else, which the Federal Trade Commission requires. This kind of advertising has been going on for years, and while the F.T.C. has threatened to crack down on online celebrities and influencers deceitfully failing to disclose that they are paid to post sponsorships, so far those threats have been completely ignored.

    (tags: fyre fail grim influencers instagram ftc pr advertising festivals)

  • Towards true continuous integration – Netflix TechBlog – Medium

    Netflix discuss how they handle the eternal dependency-management problem which arises with lots of microservices:

    Using the monorepo as our requirements specification, we began exploring alternative approaches to achieving the same benefits. What are the core problems that a monorepo approach strives to solve? Can we develop a solution that works within the confines of a traditional binary integration world, where code is shared? Our approach, while still experimental, can be distilled into three key features: Publisher feedback?—?provide the owner of shared code fast feedback as to which of their consumers they just broke, both direct and transitive. Also, allow teams to block releases based on downstream breakages. Currently, our engineering culture puts sole responsibility on consumers to resolve these issues. By giving library owners feedback on the impact they have to the rest of Netflix, we expect them to take on additional responsibility. Managed source?—?provide consumers with a means to safely increment library versions automatically as new versions are released. Since we are already testing each new library release against all downstreams, why not bump consumer versions and accelerate version adoption, safely. Distributed refactoring?—?provide owners of shared code a means to quickly find and globally refactor consumers of their API. We have started by issuing pull requests en masse to all Git repositories containing a consumer of a particular Java API. We’ve run some early experiments and expect to invest more in this area going forward.
    What I find interesting is that Amazon dealt effectively with the first two many years ago, in the form of their “Brazil” build system, and Google do the latter (with Refaster?). It would be amazing to see such a system released into an open source form, but maybe it’s just too heavyweight for anyone other than a giant software company on the scale of a Google, Netflix or Amazon.

    (tags: brazil amazon build microservices dependencies coding monorepo netflix google refaster)

  • acksin/seespot: AWS Spot instance health check with termination and clean up support

    When a Spot Instance is about to terminate there is a 2 minute window before the termination actually happens. SeeSpot is a utility for AWS Spot instances that handles the health check. If used with an AWS ELB it also handles cleanup of the instance when a Spot Termination notice is sent.

    (tags: aws elb spot-instances health-checks golang lifecycle ops)

  • cristim/autospotting: Pay up to 10 times less on EC2 by automatically replacing on-demand AutoScaling group members with similar or larger identically configured spot instances.

    A simple and easy to use tool designed to significantly lower your Amazon AWS costs by automating the use of the spot market. Once enabled on an existing on-demand AutoScaling group, it launches an EC2 spot instance that is cheaper, at least as large and configured identically to your current on-demand instances. As soon as the new instance is ready, it is added to the group and an on-demand instance is detached from the group and terminated. It continuously applies this process, gradually replacing any on-demand instances with spot instances until the group only consists of spot instances, but it can also be configured to keep some on-demand instances running.

    (tags: aws golang ec2 autoscaling asg spot-instances ops)

  • Rule by Nobody

    ‘Algorithms update bureaucracy’s long-standing strategy for evasion.’

    The need to optimize yourself for a network of opaque algorithms induces a sort of existential torture. In The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy, anthropologist David Graeber suggests a fundamental law of power dynamics: “Those on the bottom of the heap have to spend a great deal of imaginative energy trying to understand the social dynamics that surround them — including having to imagine the perspectives of those on top — while the latter can wander about largely oblivious to much of what is going on around them. That is, the powerless not only end up doing most of the actual, physical labor required to keep society running, they also do most of the interpretive labor as well.” This dynamic, Graeber argues, is built into all bureaucratic structures. He describes bureaucracies as “ways of organizing stupidity” — that is, of managing and reproducing these “extremely unequal structures of imagination” in which the powerful can disregard the perspectives of those beneath them in various social and economic hierarchies. Employees need to anticipate the needs of bosses; bosses need not reciprocate. People of color are forced to learn to accommodate and anticipate the ignorance and hostility of white people. Women need to be acutely aware of men’s intentions and feelings. And so on. Even benevolent-seeming bureaucracies, in Graeber’s view, have the effect of reinforcing “the highly schematized, minimal, blinkered perspectives typical of the powerful” and their privileges of ignorance and indifference toward those positioned as below them.

    (tags: algorithms bureaucracy democracy life society via:raycorrigan technology power)

  • Reverse engineering the 76477 “Space Invaders” sound effect chip from die photos

    Now _this_ is reversing:

    Remember the old video game Space Invaders? Some of its sound effects were provided by a chip called the 76477 Complex Sound Generation chip. While the sound effects1 produced by this 1978 chip seem primitive today, it was used in many video games, pinball games. But what’s inside this chip and how does it work internally? By reverse-engineering the chip from die photos, we can find out. (Photos courtesy of Sean Riddle.) In this article, I explain how the analog circuits of this chip works and show how the hundreds of transistors on the silicon die form the circuits of this complex chip.

    (tags: space-invaders games history reverse-engineering chips analog sound-effects)

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Links for 2017-04-28

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Links for 2017-04-26

  • Put Down the Pink Dumbbell

    So, ladies, let’s first put down the two-pound, pink dumbbells. We have been sold a false story about fitness, health (and its connection to weight loss). I was exercised by wolves. And I’m going to tell you all the secrets and tricks I learned by avoiding the fitness-industrial complex. Most of what I’ll say applies to men, but I have discovered that most of the outrageously wrong advice is given to women. […] So, here: truth number one. Very few of us consider strength-training as essential exercise, but it is. It is especially crucial as one ages, because a natural part of the aging process is losing muscle. Women, especially, need to lift weights, and the trick to lifting weights is stressing muscles. And that weight has to be a real weight, progressively increased, and barring health issues, an average woman should not even bother with two pound weights because that won’t stress your muscles enough to benefit you. Exercise industry is surely partially to blame for why people don’t exercise regularly: they promise the wrong thing (weight loss) and then don’t push/guide people to do the right thing.

    (tags: exercise health fitness weight-loss zeynep-tufekci strength aging weights training)

  • ECJ rules sale of multimedia player enabling streaming of illegal content onto TV screen breaches copyright

    via Simon McGarr

    (tags: via:tupp_ed piracy streaming dodgyboxes tv ecj eu)

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Links for 2017-04-25

  • Ireland’s Content Pool

    Bring your content to life with our free resource for positive tourism related purposes. Our image, video and copy collections show people, landscapes and the Irish lifestyle across a range of experiences including festivals, activities, cities, rural life and food.
    Interesting idea — but the licensing terms aren’t 100% clear. This would have been much easier if it was just CC licensed!

    (tags: open-data licensing ireland tourism via:damienmulley landscapes photos pictures content failte-ireland)

  • Here’s Why Juicero’s Press is So Expensive – Bolt Blog

    Our usual advice to hardware founders is to focus on getting a product to market to test the core assumptions on actual target customers, and then iterate. Instead, Juicero spent $120M over two years to build a complex supply chain and perfectly engineered product that is too expensive for their target demographic. Imagine a world where Juicero raised only $10M and built a product subject to significant constraints. Maybe the Press wouldn’t be so perfectly engineered but it might have a fewer features and cost a fraction of the original $699. Or maybe with a more iterative approach, they would have quickly found that customers vary greatly in their juice consumption patterns, and would have chosen a per-pack pricing model rather than one-size-fits-all $35/week subscription. Suddenly Juicero is incredibly compelling as a product offering, at least to this consumer.

    (tags: juicero design electronics hardware products startups engineering teardowns)

  • AWS Greengrass

    AWS Greengrass is software that lets you run local compute, messaging & data caching for connected devices in a secure way. With AWS Greengrass, connected devices can run AWS Lambda functions, keep device data in sync, and communicate with other devices securely – even when not connected to the Internet. Using AWS Lambda, Greengrass ensures your IoT devices can respond quickly to local events, operate with intermittent connections, and minimize the cost of transmitting IoT data to the cloud. AWS Greengrass seamlessly extends AWS to devices so they can act locally on the data they generate, while still using the cloud for management, analytics, and durable storage. With Greengrass, you can use familiar languages and programming models to create and test your device software in the cloud, and then deploy it to your devices. AWS Greengrass can be programmed to filter device data and only transmit necessary information back to the cloud. AWS Greengrass authenticates and encrypts device data at all points of connection using AWS IoT’s security and access management capabilities. This way data is never exchanged between devices when they communicate with each other and the cloud without proven identity.

    (tags: aws cloud iot lambda devices offline synchronization architecture)

  • Immunotherapy Pioneer James Allison Has Unfinished Business with Cancer – MIT Technology Review

    On the discovery and history of ipilimumab (trade named Yervoy), one of the first immunotherapy drugs

    (tags: ipilimumab cancer yervoy immunotherapy medicine melanoma)

  • FactCheck: No, the reported side effects of the HPV vaccine do NOT outweigh the proven benefits

    The Journal FactCheck team take a shortcut through Regret.ie’s bullshit

    (tags: hpv antivaxxers gardasil safety vaccination health medicine fact-checking)

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Links for 2017-04-24

  • Unroll.me sold your data to Uber

    ‘Uber devoted teams to so-called competitive intelligence, purchasing data from Slice Intelligence, which collected customers’ emailed Lyft receipts via Unroll.me and sold the data to Uber’. Also: ‘Unroll.me allegedly “kept a copy of every single email that you sent or received” in “poorly secured S3 buckets”‘: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14180463 Unroll.me CEO: ‘felt bad “to see that some of our users were upset to learn about how we monetise our free service”.’ https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/24/unrollme-mail-unsubscription-service-heartbroken-sells-user-inbox-data-slice

    (tags: uber unroll.me gmail google privacy data-protection lyft scumbags slice-intelligence)

  • Capturing all the flags in BSidesSF CTF by pwning Kubernetes/Google Cloud

    good exploration of the issues with running a CTF challenge (or any other secure infrastructure!) atop Kubernetes and a cloud platform like GCE

    (tags: gce google-cloud kubernetes security docker containers gke ctf hacking exploits)

  • How To Add A Security Key To Your Gmail (Tech Solidarity)

    Excellent how-to guide for Yubikey usage on gmail

    (tags: gmail yubikey security authentication google)

  • Ethics – Lyrebird

    ‘Lyrebird is the first company to offer a technology to reproduce the voice of someone as accurately and with as little recorded audio. [..] Voice recordings are currently considered as strong pieces of evidence in our societies and in particular in jurisdictions of many countries. Our technology questions the validity of such evidence as it allows to easily manipulate audio recordings. This could potentially have dangerous consequences such as misleading diplomats, fraud and more generally any other problem caused by stealing the identity of someone else. By releasing our technology publicly and making it available to anyone, we want to ensure that there will be no such risks. We hope that everyone will soon be aware that such technology exists and that copying the voice of someone else is possible. More generally, we want to raise attention about the lack of evidence that audio recordings may represent in the near future.’

    (tags: lyrebird audio technology scary ethics)

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Links for 2017-04-22

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Links for 2017-04-21

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Links for 2017-04-20

  • Amazon DynamoDB Accelerator (DAX)

    Amazon DynamoDB Accelerator (DAX) is a fully managed, highly available, in-memory cache for DynamoDB that delivers up to a 10x performance improvement – from milliseconds to microseconds – even at millions of requests per second. DAX does all the heavy lifting required to add in-memory acceleration to your DynamoDB tables, without requiring developers to manage cache invalidation, data population, or cluster management.
    No latency percentile figures, unfortunately. Also still in preview.

    (tags: amazon dynamodb aws dax performance storage databases latency low-latency)

  • I Just Love This Juicero Story So Much

    When we signed up to pump money into this juice company, it was because we thought drinking the juice would be a lot harder and more expensive. That was the selling point, because Silicon Valley is a stupid libertarian dystopia where investor-class vampires are the consumers and a regular person’s money is what they go shopping for. Easily opened bags of juice do not give these awful nightmare trash parasites a good bargain on the disposable income of credulous wellness-fad suckers; therefore easily opened bags of juice are a worse investment than bags of juice that are harder to open.

    (tags: juicero juicebros techbros silicon-valley funny dystopia fruit bags juice)

  • Zeynep Tufekci: Machine intelligence makes human morals more important | TED Talk | TED.com

    Machine intelligence is here, and we’re already using it to make subjective decisions. But the complex way AI grows and improves makes it hard to understand and even harder to control. In this cautionary talk, techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci explains how intelligent machines can fail in ways that don’t fit human error patterns — and in ways we won’t expect or be prepared for. “We cannot outsource our responsibilities to machines,” she says. “We must hold on ever tighter to human values and human ethics.”
    More relevant now that nVidia are trialing ML-based self-driving cars in the US…

    (tags: nvidia ai ml machine-learning scary zeynep-tufekci via:maciej technology ted-talks)

  • ‘Mathwashing,’ Facebook and the zeitgeist of data worship

    Fred Benenson: Mathwashing can be thought of using math terms (algorithm, model, etc.) to paper over a more subjective reality. For example, a lot of people believed Facebook was using an unbiased algorithm to determine its trending topics, even if Facebook had previously admitted that humans were involved in the process.

    (tags: maths math mathwashing data big-data algorithms machine-learning bias facebook fred-benenson)

  • Build a Better Monster: Morality, Machine Learning, and Mass Surveillance

    We built the commercial internet by mastering techniques of persuasion and surveillance that we’ve extended to billions of people, including essentially the entire population of the Western democracies. But admitting that this tool of social control might be conducive to authoritarianism is not something we’re ready to face. After all, we’re good people. We like freedom. How could we have built tools that subvert it? As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” I contend that there are structural reasons to worry about the role of the tech industry in American political life, and that we have only a brief window of time in which to fix this.

    (tags: advertising facebook google internet politics surveillance democracy maciej-ceglowski talks morality machine-learning)

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Links for 2017-04-13

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Links for 2017-04-12

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Links for 2017-04-11

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Links for 2017-04-10

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Links for 2017-04-07

  • Research Blog: Federated Learning: Collaborative Machine Learning without Centralized Training Data

    Great stuff from Google – this is really nifty stuff for large-scale privacy-preserving machine learning usage:

    It works like this: your device downloads the current model, improves it by learning from data on your phone, and then summarizes the changes as a small focused update. Only this update to the model is sent to the cloud, using encrypted communication, where it is immediately averaged with other user updates to improve the shared model. All the training data remains on your device, and no individual updates are stored in the cloud. Federated Learning allows for smarter models, lower latency, and less power consumption, all while ensuring privacy. And this approach has another immediate benefit: in addition to providing an update to the shared model, the improved model on your phone can also be used immediately, powering experiences personalized by the way you use your phone.
    Papers: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1602.05629.pdf , https://arxiv.org/pdf/1610.05492.pdf

    (tags: google ml machine-learning training federated-learning gboard models privacy data-privacy data-protection)

  • /r/ireland map

    The denizens of /r/ireland have put together a map of their favourite tourist spots around the country. Some slightly odd choices but definitely a few that may be worth a visit. Thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/ireland/comments/5b0634/i_am_starting_a_rireland_recommended_map_for/

    (tags: ireland tourist tourism attractions reddit)

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Links for 2017-04-06

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Links for 2017-04-05

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Links for 2017-04-04

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Links for 2017-04-03

  • Introducing the Faves & Flags roleplaying system | MetaTalk

    awesome D&D-spoofing April Fool from MeFi

    (tags: metafilter funny dungeons-and-dragons community spoofs rpg 1970s)

  • Watching the hearings, I learned my “Bernie bro” harassers may have been Russian bots

    However, the rest of the abuse came from accounts purporting to be supporters of Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders. And these were “people” with whom I believed I shared common values and policy interests. Almost all of the accounts presented as men — mostly young and white — and used sexist and misogynistic tones and words. I was called “mom” and “grandma” as epithets by these “young men.” I was called every vile sexualized name you can imagine. For some reason that I did not understand at the time, they liked to call me a “vagina.” (I now believe non-native English — i.e. Russian — speakers wrote the algorithms controlling these bots and perhaps imagined “vagina” to be the equivalent of the c-word when hurled at a woman.) Not being conversant in the mechanisms of Russian psychological warfare techniques at the time, it never occurred to me that, like the #MAGA bots, these “Bernie Bro” accounts were actually bots too. And the abuse from these accounts was much harder to dismiss. It went in further, emotionally speaking. The vitriol of the attacks felt like a painful betrayal. After all, “we” probably shared 99 percent of our political perspective; we just supported different candidates — which is something I said repeatedly in my attempts to appeal to reason with some of the attackers over the course of those long months. Nonetheless, even the mildest criticism of Sanders or comment of support for Clinton would bring out a swarm of these “Bernie Bro” accounts spouting off with abusive language and mockery.

    (tags: bernie-bros abuse twitter russia security bots elections hilary-clinton)

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Links for 2017-03-31

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Links for 2017-03-30

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Links for 2017-03-28

  • Automated unemployment insurance fraud detection system had a staggering 93% error rate in production

    Expect to see a lot more cases of automated discrimination like this in the future. There is no way an auto-adjudication system would be allowed to have this staggering level of brokenness if it was dealing with the well-off:

    State officials have said that between Oct. 1, 2013, when the MiDAS [automated unemployment insurance fraud detection] system came on line, and Aug. 7, 2015, when the state halted the auto-adjudication of fraud determinations and began to require some human review of MiDAS findings, the system had a 93% error rate and made false fraud findings affecting more than 20,000 unemployment insurance claims. Those falsely accused of fraud were subjected to quadruple penalties and aggressive collection techniques, including wage garnishment and seizure of income tax refunds. Some were forced into bankruptcy. The agency is now reviewing about 28,000 additional fraud determinations that were made during the relevant period, but which involved some human review. An unknown number of those fraud findings were also false.

    (tags: fraud broken fail michigan detroit social-welfare us-politics computer-says-no automation discrimination fraud-detection)

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Links for 2017-03-27

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Links for 2017-03-26

  • American Snoper – Medium

    The grugq on Putin vs France:

    How modern conflicts play out in the informatics sphere, what I mean when I talk about cyber war, is happening in France. After France there will be Germany, then the Scandinavian countries have their elections. There is no chance that Putin attempting to shape the world to best suit Russian interests will abate. Currently, the strongest area that he can contend in is the informatics sphere, the cyber realm, where human perception of reality is shaped.

    (tags: putin france elections russia cyber-war hacking security wikileaks)

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Links for 2017-03-24

  • That thing about pwning N26

    Whitehat CCC hacker thoroughly pwns N26 bank — there’s a lot of small leaks and insecurities here. Sounds like N26 are dealing with them though

    (tags: ccc hacks exploits n26 banks banking security)

  • ‘For decades, the transaction concept has played a central role in database research and development. Despite this prominence, transactional databases today often surface much weaker models than the classic serializable isolation guarantee—and, by default, far weaker models than alternative,“strong but not serializable” models such as Snapshot Isolation. Moreover, the transaction concept requires the programmer’s involvement: should an application programmer fail to correctly use transactions by appropriately encapsulating functionality, even serializable transactions will expose programmers to errors. While many errors arising from these practices may be masked by low concurrency during normal operation, they are susceptible to occur during periods of abnormally high concurrency. By triggering these errors via concurrent access in a deliberate attack, a determined adversary could systematically exploit them for gain. In this work, we defined the problem of ACIDRain attacks and introduced 2AD, a lightweight dynamic analysis tool that uses traces of normal database activity to detect possible anomalous behavior in applications. To enable 2AD, we extended Adya’s theory of weak isolation to allow efficient reasoning over the space of all possible concurrent executions of a set of transactions based on a concrete history, via a new concept called an abstract history, which also applies to API calls. We then applied 2AD analysis to twelve popular self-hosted eCommerce applications, finding 22 vulnerabilities spread across all but one application we tested, affecting over 50% of eCommerce sites on the Internet today. We believe that the magnitude and the prevalence of these vulnerabilities to ACIDRain attacks merits a broader reconsideration of the success of the transaction concept as employed by programmers today, in addition to further pursuit of research in this direction. Based on our early experiences both performing ACIDRain attacks on self-hosted applications as well as engaging with developers, we believe there is considerable work to be done in raising awareness of these attacks—for example, via improved analyses and additional 2AD refinement rules (including analysis of source code to better highlight sources of error)—and in automated methods for defending against these attacks—for example, by synthesizing repairs such as automated isolation level tuning and selective application of SELECT FOR UPDATE mechanisms. Our results here—as well as existing instances of ACIDRain attacks in the wild—suggest there is considerable value at stake.’

    (tags: databases transactions vulnerability security acidrain peter-bailis storage isolation acid)

  • Scientists made a detailed “roadmap” for meeting the Paris climate goals. It’s eye-opening. – Vox

    tl;dr: this is not going to happen and we are fucked.

    (tags: climate environment global-warming science roadmap future grim-meathook-future)

  • HyperBitBit

    jomsdev notes: ‘Last year, in the AofA’16 conference Robert Sedgewick proposed a new algorithm for cardinality estimation. Robert Sedgwick is a professor at Princeton with a long track of publications on combinatorial/randomized algorithms. He was a good friend of Philippe Flajolet (creator of Hyperloglog) and HyperBitBit it’s based on the same ideas. However, it uses less memory than Hyperloglog and can provide the same results. On practical data, HyperBitBit, for N < 2^64 estimates cardinality within 10% using only 128 + 6 bits.'

    (tags: algorithms programming cs hyperloglog estimation cardinality counting hyperbitbit)

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Links for 2017-03-23

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Links for 2017-03-22

  • Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware

    DRM working as expected:

    To avoid the draconian locks that John Deere puts on the tractors they buy, farmers throughout America’s heartland have started hacking their equipment with firmware that’s cracked in Eastern Europe and traded on invite-only, paid online forums. Tractor hacking is growing increasingly popular because John Deere and other manufacturers have made it impossible to perform “unauthorized” repair on farm equipment, which farmers see as an attack on their sovereignty and quite possibly an existential threat to their livelihood if their tractor breaks at an inopportune time.
    (via etienneshrdlu)

    (tags: hacking farming drm john-deere tractors firmware right-to-repair repair)

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Links for 2017-03-21

  • Don’t Get Trampled: The Puzzle For “Unicorn” Employees

    ‘One of my sad predictions for 2017 is a bunch of big headline-worthy acquisitions and IPOs that leave a lot of hard working employees at these companies in a weird spot. They’ll be congratulated by everyone they know for their extraordinary success while scratching their heads wondering why they barely benefited. Of course, the reason is that these employees never understood their compensation in the first place (and they were not privy to the terms of all the financings before and after they were hired).’

    (tags: share-options shares unicorns funding employment jobs compensation)

  • GitHub’s new Balanced Employee IP Agreement (BEIPA) lets workers keep the IP when they use company resources for personal projects — Quartz

    Huh, interesting development:

    If it’s on company time, it’s the company’s dime. That’s the usual rule in the tech industry—that if employees use company resources to work on projects unrelated to their jobs, their employer can claim ownership of any intellectual property (IP) they create. But GitHub is throwing that out the window. Today the code-sharing platform announced a new policy, the Balanced Employee IP Agreement (BEIPA). This allows its employees to use company equipment to work on personal projects in their free time, which can occur during work hours, without fear of being sued for the IP. As long as the work isn’t related to GitHub’s own “existing or prospective” products and services, the employee owns it.

    (tags: github law tech jobs work day-job side-projects hacking ip copyright)

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Links for 2017-03-20

  • Segment.com on cost savings using DynamoDB, autoscaling and ECS

    great post. 1. DynamoDB hot shards were a big problem — and it is terrible that diagnosing this requires a ticket to AWS support! This heat map should be a built-in feature. 2. ECS auto-scaling gets a solid thumbs-up. 3. Switching from ELB to ALB lets them set ports dynamically for individual ECS Docker containers, and then pack as many containers as will fit on a giant EC2 instance. 4. Terraform modules to automate setup and maintainance of ECS, autoscaling groups, and ALBs

    (tags: terraform segment architecture aws dynamodb alb elb asg ecs docker)

  • atlassian/localstack: A fully functional local AWS cloud stack. Develop and test your cloud apps offline!

    LocalStack provides an easy-to-use test/mocking framework for developing Cloud applications. Currently, the focus is primarily on supporting the AWS cloud stack. LocalStack spins up the following core Cloud APIs on your local machine: API Gateway at http://localhost:4567; Kinesis at http://localhost:4568; DynamoDB at http://localhost:4569; DynamoDB Streams at http://localhost:4570; Elasticsearch at http://localhost:4571; S3 at http://localhost:4572; Firehose at http://localhost:4573; Lambda at http://localhost:4574; SNS at http://localhost:4575; SQS at http://localhost:4576 Additionally, LocalStack provides a powerful set of tools to interact with the cloud services, including a fully featured KCL Kinesis client with Python binding, simple setup/teardown integration for nosetests, as well as an Environment abstraction that allows to easily switch between local and remote Cloud execution.

    (tags: aws emulation mocking services testing dynamodb s3)

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Links for 2017-03-19

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Links for 2017-03-16

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Links for 2017-03-15

  • Artificial intelligence is ripe for abuse, tech researcher warns: ‘a fascist’s dream’ | Technology | The Guardian

    “We should always be suspicious when machine learning systems are described as free from bias if it’s been trained on human-generated data,” Crawford said. “Our biases are built into that training data.” In the Chinese research it turned out that the faces of criminals were more unusual than those of law-abiding citizens. “People who had dissimilar faces were more likely to be seen as untrustworthy by police and judges. That’s encoding bias,” Crawford said. “This would be a terrifying system for an autocrat to get his hand on.” […] With AI this type of discrimination can be masked in a black box of algorithms, as appears to be the case with a company called Faceception, for instance, a firm that promises to profile people’s personalities based on their faces. In its own marketing material, the company suggests that Middle Eastern-looking people with beards are “terrorists”, while white looking women with trendy haircuts are “brand promoters”.

    (tags: bias ai racism politics big-data technology fascism crime algorithms faceception discrimination computer-says-no)

  • ASAP: Automatic Smoothing for Attention Prioritization in Streaming Time Series Visualization

    Peter Bailis strikes again. ‘Time series visualization of streaming telemetry (i.e., charting of key metrics such as server load over time) is increasingly prevalent in recent application deployments. Existing systems simply plot the raw data streams as they arrive, potentially obscuring large-scale deviations due to local variance and noise. We propose an alternative: to better prioritize attention in time series exploration and monitoring visualizations, smooth the time series as much as possible to remove noise while still retaining large-scale structure. We develop a new technique for automatically smoothing streaming time series that adaptively optimizes this trade-off between noise reduction (i.e., variance) and outlier retention (i.e., kurtosis). We introduce metrics to quantitatively assess the quality of the choice of smoothing parameter and provide an efficient streaming analytics operator, ASAP, that optimizes these metrics by combining techniques from stream processing, user interface design, and signal processing via a novel autocorrelation-based pruning strategy and pixel-aware preaggregation. We demonstrate that ASAP is able to improve users’ accuracy in identifying significant deviations in time series by up to 38.4% while reducing response times by up to 44.3%. Moreover, ASAP delivers these results several orders of magnitude faster than alternative optimization strategies.’

    (tags: dataviz graphs metrics peter-bailis asap smoothing aggregation time-series tsd)

  • When the Children Crashed Dad’s BBC Interview: The Family Speaks – WSJ

    Mr. Kelly describes his reaction as a mixture of surprise, embarrassment and amusement but also love and affection. The couple says they weren’t mad and didn’t scold the children. “I mean it was terribly cute,” Mr. Kelly said. “I saw the video like everybody else. My wife did a great job cleaning up a really unanticipated situation as best she possibly could… It was funny. If you watch the tape I was sort of struggling to keep my own laughs down. They’re little kids and that’s how things are.” “Yes I was mortified, but I also want my kids to feel comfortable coming to me,” Mr. Kelly said.
    aww!

    (tags: cute family bbc interviews funny viral kids hippity-hoppity robert-kelly)

  • UN privacy watchdog says ‘little or no evidence’ that mass surveillance works | ZDNet

    The United Nations’ special rapporteur on privacy has lambasted a spate of new surveillance laws across Europe and the US, saying that there is “little or no evidence” that mass monitoring of communications works. In a report published this week, Prof. Joseph Cannataci, the first privacy watchdog to take up the post, said he was neither convinced of the effectiveness or the proportionality “of some of the extremely privacy-intrusive measures that have been introduced by new surveillance laws.” He also said that bulk records collection, such as call and email metadata, runs the risk of “being hacked by hostile governments or organized crime.” Cannataci singled out recently-passed laws in France, Germany, the UK and the US, all of which have pushed through new legislation in the wake of the threat from the so-called Islamic State. He said that the passed laws amount to “gesture-politics,” which in his words, “have seen politicians who wish to be seen to be doing something about security, legislating privacy-intrusive powers into being — or legalize existing practices — without in any way demonstrating that this is either a proportionate or indeed an effective way to tackle terrorism.” A rise in public support of increased surveillance powers is “predicated on the psychology of fear,” he said, referring to the perceived threat of terrorism.

    (tags: surveillance law privacy un joseph-cannataci watchdogs terrorism fear fud)

  • The Lord British Postulate

    One of the most famous attributes of Lord British is that he is almost invincible. In every Ultima game in which he has appeared, he is designed to be almost impervious to a player’s character predations. However, there are ways for a player thinking outside the box to assassinate him. This phenomenon is the origin of the Lord British Postulate which states: “If it exists as a living creature in an MMORPG, someone, somewhere, will try to kill it.”[7] Virtually every MMO game displays numerous instances of this, with players attempting to kill (or, in the case of friendly NPCs, cause the death of) virtually every NPC or monster, howsoever powerful, meek, friendly, or ethereal.

    (tags: npcs gaming games lord-british murder rules mmorpgs)

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Links for 2017-03-14

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Links for 2017-03-13

  • Dinosaur Escape – BoardGameGeek

    good kid’s board game — age 4+, 2-4 players.

    The object of Dinosaur Escape is to get all three dinosaurs safely to Dinosaur Island before the volcano erupts! Work together to move the dinosaur movers around the board and uncover the matching dinosaurs under the fern tokens. On your turn, roll the die. If you roll a number, move any dinosaur mover the indicated number of spaces any direction on the path. Then turn over one fern token anywhere on the board. If you reveal rocks, bones or other items, flip the token back over. If you reveal a dinosaur, and the dinosaur mover of the same species is in the same habitat area, move the dinosaur moved and matching token to Dinosaur Island. You just helped a dinosaur escape! If you reveal a dinosaur but the dinosaur mover of the same species is not in the same habitat as the token, flip the token back over. Dinosaur movers and matching tokens must be in the same habitat to help a dinosaur escape! If you turn over the T-Rex, RUN! Move each of the dinosaur movers in play back to a start space. If you roll a volcano, place volcano piece number 1 in the stand on the board. If you can find and help all three lost dinosaurs escape to Dinosaur Island before completing the 3D volcano puzzle, you all win!

    (tags: boardgames reviews kids children co-op games gaming)

  • Fides Raising Gamers (age 2 – 5) | BoardGameGeek

    some good boardgame reviews

    (tags: games gaming boardgames kids children reviews)

  • [1606.08813] European Union regulations on algorithmic decision-making and a “right to explanation”

    We summarize the potential impact that the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation will have on the routine use of machine learning algorithms. Slated to take effect as law across the EU in 2018, it will restrict automated individual decision-making (that is, algorithms that make decisions based on user-level predictors) which “significantly affect” users. The law will also effectively create a “right to explanation,” whereby a user can ask for an explanation of an algorithmic decision that was made about them. We argue that while this law will pose large challenges for industry, it highlights opportunities for computer scientists to take the lead in designing algorithms and evaluation frameworks which avoid discrimination and enable explanation.
    oh this’ll be tricky.

    (tags: algorithms accountability eu gdpr ml machine-learning via:daveb europe data-protection right-to-explanation)

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Links for 2017-03-12

  • Tim Berners-Lee calls for tighter regulation of online political advertising | Technology | The Guardian

    “Targeted advertising allows a campaign to say completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups. Is that democratic?” Berners-Lee said.

    (tags: politics trump law elections polling advertising facebook micro-advertising)

  • ctop

    Top for containers (ie Docker)

    (tags: docker containers top ops go monitoring cpu)

  • Communications data errors: UK police incriminating the wrong people due to data retention system screwups

    It seems there have been 34 with serious consequences since 2008. Causes include:

    – Omission of an underscore when transcribing an e-mail address led to the wrong subscriber information being provided and a search warrant being executed at the premises of an individual unconnected with the investigation. – A CSP’s data warehouse system change affected how GMT and British Summer Time were treated. This was not communicated to staff using the data retention disclosure system. This led to a one hour error in subscriber information disclosed in relation to IP address usage. Of 98 potential disclosure errors identified, 94 were in fact incorrect and four returned the same results when re-run. Of the 94 incorrect disclosures, in three cases a search warrant was executed at premises relating to individuals unconnected with the investigation (and one individual was arrested). – Due to a technical fault causing a time zone conversion to be out by seven hours, a CSP voluntarily disclosed an incorrect IP address to a public authority.  That led to a search warrant being executed at premises relating to individuals unconnected with the investigation.
    In other words, timezones largely screw up everything, yet again.

    (tags: timezones uk law data-retention errors bst)

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Links for 2017-03-10

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Links for 2017-03-09

  • Colm O’Gorman, on societal responsibility for Mother & Baby Homes, Magdalene Laundries & various other church atrocities in Ireland

    Excellent twitter thread on the topic. Pasted:

    It is often said that everyone knew what was happening in such places, or about the rape of children by priests. That is not true. It is true that deep veins of knowledge existed across Irish society, at all levels, but not everyone knew. Or were allowed to know. Just like is always the case, the terrible things that were done were possible only because they were tolerated. They went unchecked. They were tolerated by those in positions of authority who either dared not, or did not wish to, challenge the power strictures that existed They were tolerated by those without power or position because they feared what speaking up might do to them and to their families That was an Ireland where challenging such vile abuse by power would see you become its victim. It was brutal and vicious. If you did not, or could not, conform to the demands of the powerful, you were in real danger. At best, ostracisation and excommunication. But many experience far worse than that. They found themselves in the very places we now acknowledge as hell holes. Locked up in institutions I always remember the late, great Mary Rafferty exposing the scale of such abusive institutionalisation. She pointed out that at one point in our relatively recent history, we led the world in one regard. Per capita, we locked up more people in psychiatric institutions than any other country on the planet. Only the Soviet Union came a distant second to us. That was how Ireland treated dissent or difference That what was happened to many who could not conform to a brutal demand to be somehow ‘acceptable’ to dogma & unaccountable power And it wasn’t some ancient Ireland either. The last laundry closed in 1996. In 2002, when fighting for inquiries into child rape by priests and it’s cover up by bishops, cardinals and popes, those same princes declared themselves above the rule of the law of this Republic insisting that the law of their church was superior to the law of this state. And their position was taken seriously by many. It took months of dogged battle by me and others to get past that bullshit. For our political and legal system to assert itself. The Ireland where the lives of women & children were controlled & brutalised by people who felt they had a God given right to do so is not some other country that existed back in some other time. It is this Ireland. We have changed a lot – but it is still this Ireland. The difference now is that we ALL know. That the truth is out, and that more is being revealed. And yes, undoubtedly there is more to come. So it is NOT true all past members of society, or even anything close to a majority, colluded with such abuses. That is a falsehood. It is also a falsehood to suggest that the church did what the state would not do, and provided as best it could. That is a lie. The Catholic Church captured control of what should have been arms of the state. Health, education and social care. And it exploited them. It used them to drive its own agendas, to enforce its own dogma. And at every turn it resisted any ‘intrusion’ into those realms by others. including the state. Look at the Mother & Child Scheme for eg, or the response to the first multi-denominational schools, and much more. Catholic orders defended themselves against accusations of appalling abuse of children in their institutions by claiming that the state did not give them enough money to feed, clothe and properly care for the children they detained in those places. This was a lie. in the same institutions where children went starving, clergy were well fed and housed. They went for nothing. Funded by the state and the forced labour of the children or women they detained. The Ryan Report debunked that lie in its entirety. Ryan found that religious orders maintained “bloated congregations” by bringing in more and more children, and therefore more and more money And now we know. Now the threat of brutal reprisal is lifted. Now is the time for truth, to own what has been done to so many vulnerable people in our Republic. To learn from it and ensure we identify how that same corrupting tendency manifests today. Because it does of course It may not be quite as vicious, but it prevails.Look at how power still treats a reasonable demand for accountability: Maurice McCabe for eg Look at how our education and health systems still allow religious dogma to exert extraordinary power over people’s lives. We are a different Ireland, but are we different enough?

    (tags: mother-and-baby-homes tuam ireland catholic-church abuse colm-o-gorman twitter history priests)

  • Chatbot that overturned 160,000 parking fines now helping refugees claim asylum | Technology | The Guardian

    The original DoNotPay, created by Stanford student Joshua Browder, describes itself as “the world’s first robot lawyer”, giving free legal aid to users through a simple-to-use chat interface. The chatbot, using Facebook Messenger, can now help refugees fill in an immigration application in the US and Canada. For those in the UK, it helps them apply for asylum support.

    (tags: government technology automation bots asylum forms facebook)

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Links for 2017-03-07

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Links for 2017-03-06

  • A Programmer’s Introduction to Unicode – Nathan Reed’s coding blog

    Fascinating Unicode details — a lot of which were new to me. Love the heat map of usage in Wikipedia:

    One more interesting way to visualize the codespace is to look at the distribution of usage—in other words, how often each code point is actually used in real-world texts. Below is a heat map of planes 0–2 based on a large sample of text from Wikipedia and Twitter (all languages). Frequency increases from black (never seen) through red and yellow to white. You can see that the vast majority of this text sample lies in the BMP, with only scattered usage of code points from planes 1–2. The biggest exception is emoji, which show up here as the several bright squares in the bottom row of plane 1.

    (tags: unicode coding character-sets wikipedia bmp emoji twitter languages characters heat-maps dataviz)

  • Martin Fowler’s First Law of Distributed Object Design: Don’t

    lol. I hadn’t seen this one, but it’s a good beatdown on distributed objects from back in 2003

    (tags: distributed-objects dcom corba history martin-fowler laws rules architecture 2003)

  • Spammergate: The Fall of an Empire

    Featuring this interesting reactive-block evasion tactic:

    In that screenshot, a RCM co-conspirator describes a technique in which the spammer seeks to open as many connections as possible between themselves and a Gmail server. This is done by purposefully configuring your own machine to send response packets extremely slowly, and in a fragmented manner, while constantly requesting more connections. Then, when the Gmail server is almost ready to give up and drop all connections, the spammer suddenly sends as many emails as possible through the pile of connection tunnels. The receiving side is then overwhelmed with data and will quickly block the sender, but not before processing a large load of emails.
    (via Tony Finch)

    (tags: via:fanf spam antispam gmail blocklists packets tcp networking)

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