Law and Legal
“Gizmodo has acquired data over the past month connected to nearly 65,800 individual posts shared by users of the Neighbors app. The posts, which reach back 500 days from the point of collection, offer extraordinary insight into the proliferation of Ring video surveillance across American neighborhoods and raise important questions about the privacy trade-offs of a consumer-driven network of surveillance cameras controlled by one of the world’s most powerful corporations. And not just for those whose faces have been recorded. Examining the network traffic of the Neighbors app produced unexpected data, including hidden geographic coordinates that are connected to each post—latitude and longitude with up to six decimal points of precision, accurate enough to pinpoint roughly a square inch of ground.
Neighbors, which has millions of users, is advertised as a way to receive “real-time crime and safety alerts” from local law enforcement and other Neighbors users nearby. A Ring camera isn’t required to use the app. In cities where police have partnered with Ring, police officers have access to a special law enforcement portal, through which the officers can request access to Ring footage. They can choose a date, a time, and a location on a map, and Neighbors users with cameras in the vicinity are alerted. Ring says police aren’t told which specific camera owners receive the requests, ostensibly to ensure there are no repercussions for refusing to cooperate. The users’ exact locations are obfuscated, Ring says, unless they choose to impart that information to police. Nevertheless, using the hidden coordinates, Gizmodo was able to produce detailed maps depicting the locations of tens of thousands of Ring cameras across 15 U.S. cities with varying degrees of accuracy. Selected as a representative sample, the cities include Los Angeles, Houston, Seattle, Oakland, Boston, and Chicago, among others…”
Merriam-Webster – They, plus quid pro quo, crawdad, exculpate, and 7 more of our top lookups of 2019 – “Our Word of the Year for 2019 is they. It reflects a surprising fact: even a basic term—a personal pronoun—can rise to the top of our data. Although our lookups are often driven by events in the news, the dictionary is also a primary resource for information about language itself, and the shifting use of they has been the subject of increasing study and commentary in recent years. Lookups for they increased by 313% in 2019 over the previous year…
It’s no surprise that impeach is among the top words of 2019, with the largest single spike following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement of an impeachment inquiry on September 24th. Overall, the word had a 129% increase in lookups over last year. Impeach is defined in several ways, including “to charge with a crime or misdemeanor” and “to cast doubt on.” The former of these carries the additional specific meaning of “to charge (a public official) before a competent tribunal with misconduct in office”; the latter is often narrowed as well, with the meaning “to challenge the credibility or validity of.” Although frequently thought of as meaning “to remove from office,” impeach has a precise legal use in cases such as this, in which the action describes a step in removing an official from office, but does not refer to the removal itself. Impeach came to English from the French word empecher (“to impede”), itself from the Latin word impedicare (“to fetter”)—which is also the root of the English word impede…”
Columbia Journalism Review – Has our investment in debunking worked? “…Outside newsrooms, money is pouring in to set up new types of organizations to combat misinformation. There is now a sector of fact-checking philanthropy, fueled by Google, Facebook, and nonprofit foundations. As a result, the Duke count noted, last year forty-one out of forty-seven fact-checking organizations were part of, or affiliated with, a media company; this year, the figure is thirty-nine out of sixty. In other words, the number of fact-checking organizations is growing, but their association with traditional journalism outlets is weakening…”
“NOAA’s 14th Arctic Report Card recounts the numerous ways that climate change continued to disrupt the polar region during 2019, with near-record high air and ocean temperatures, a massive melt of the Greenland ice sheet, record low sea-ice extents, and major shifts in the distribution of commercially valuable marine species. The Arctic Report Card is an annual volume of original, peer-reviewed environmental observations and analysis of a region undergoing rapid and dramatic change. Compiled by 81 scientists from 12 nations, the 2019 report card tracks a number of environmental indicators to inform decisions by local, state and federal leaders, as Arctic residents confront the challenges and opportunities presented by a rapidly changing climate and ecosystem. It was released today at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco. “The speed and trajectory of the changes sweeping the Arctic, many occurring faster than anticipated, makes NOAA’s continued investment in Arctic research and activities all the more important,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet, Ph.D., deputy undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere at NOAA, who led the news conference where the report card was released. “We need the best scientific information to support NOAA’s efforts to better understand how environmental change is affecting the Arctic and weather around the globe, to support adaptation and economic opportunities in the region, and to sustain our ocean-based Blue Economy.”Full press release | Arctic Report Card
OCLC – Thomas Padilla – “Responsible Operations is intended to help chart library community engagement with data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) and was developed in partnership with an advisory group and a landscape group comprised of more than 70 librarians and professionals from universities, libraries, museums, archives, and other organizations. This research agenda presents an interdependent set of technical, organizational, and social challenges to be addressed en route to library operationalization of data science, machine learning, and AI. Challenges are organized across seven areas of investigation:
- Committing to Responsible Operations
- Description and Discovery
- Shared Methods and Data
- Machine-Actionable Collections
- Workforce Development
- Data Science Services
- Sustaining Interprofessional and Interdisciplinary Collaboration
The New York Times – See How the World’s Most Polluted Air Compares With Your City’s – “We visualized the damaging, tiny particles that wreak havoc on human health. From the Bay Area to New Delhi, see how the world’s worst pollution compares with your local air. …Outdoor particulate pollution was responsible for an estimated 4.2 million deaths worldwide in 2015, with a majority concentrated in east and south Asia. Millions more fell ill from breathing dirty air. This fine pollution mainly comes from burning things: Coal in power plants, gasoline in cars, chemicals in industrial processes, or woody materials and whatever else ignites during wildfires. The particles are too small for the eye to see — each about 35 times smaller than a grain of fine beach sand — but in high concentrations they cast a haze in the sky. And, when breathed in, they wreak havoc on human health. PM2.5 can evade our bodies’ defenses, penetrating deep into the lungs and even entering the bloodstream. It has been shown to exacerbate asthma and other lung disorders, and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. This microscopic pollution, named because each particle is smaller than 2.5 micrometers across, has also been linked to developmental problems in children and cognitive impairment in the elderly, as well as premature labor and low birth weights. Under high levels of particulate pollution, “you can’t function, you can’t thrive,” said Alexandra Karambelas, an environmental analyst and research scientist affiliated with Columbia University. “Having access to clean air is kind of a basic human right.”….
Center for Data Innovation: “Researchers from FiscalNote Research, a technology firm based in Washington, DC, have released a dataset of U.S. Congressional and California state bills to advance the development of systems that can summarize legislation. The dataset contains more than 22,000 U.S. Congressional bills and summaries from 1993 through 2018 and more than 1,200 California state bills and summaries from 2015-2016. While the Congressional Research Service summarizes federal bills, summaries for many state and local bills are not available. ”
The New York Times – Despite Big Tech’s attempts to combat manipulation, companies that sell clicks, likes and followers on social media are easy to find. “Companies like Facebook and Twitter are poorly policing automated bots and other methods for manipulating social media platforms, according to a report released on Friday by researchers from the NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence. With a small amount of money, the researchers found, virtually anyone can hire a company to get more likes, comments and clicks. The group, an independent organization that advises the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, tested the tech companies’ ability to stop paid influence campaigns by turning to 11 Russian and five European companies that sell fake social media engagement. For 300 euros, or about $330, the researchers bought over 3,500 comments, 25,000 likes, 20,000 views and 5,000 followers, including on posts from prominent politicians like Ms. Vestager and Ms. Jourova…”
- See NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence – How Social Media Companies are Failing to Combat Inauthentic Behaviour Online, November 2019
Book Riot – “It’s the season of best of lists, and with the bonus of this being the end of a decade, we’re being treated to double the number of best of lists this year. What shouldn’t be overlooked among those lists are the incredible book covers that graced shelves this year. Works of art in and of themselves, it’s an outdated belief that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The reality is we do and that we should. In honor of that, let’s take a peek at the best book covers of 2019. Finding information about the designers and artists behind book covers isn’t always possible. I’ve done my best to track down that information. In places where that is missing, any leads would be appreciated…”
Postreproductive killer whale grandmothers improve the survival of their grandoffspring [full text – no paywall]. Stuart Nattrass, Darren P. Croft, Samuel Ellis, Michael A. Cant, Michael N. Weiss, Brianna M. Wright, Eva Stredulinsky,Thomas Doniol-Valcroze, John K. B. Ford, Kenneth C. Balcomb, and Daniel W. Franks. PNAS first published December 9, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1903844116
“Why humans and some species of whales go through menopause remains an evolutionary puzzle. In humans, postreproductive females gain genetic benefits by helping family members—particularly increasing their number of surviving grandoffspring. The extent to which these grandmother benefits are important in the evolution of menopause in whales remains unclear. Here, we test the grandmother effect in resident killer whales, where females can live for decades after their last reproductive event. We show that grandmothers increase the survival of their grandoffspring, and these effects are greatest when grandmothers are no longer reproducing. These findings can help explain why killer whales have evolved the longest postreproductive life span of all nonhuman animals.”
Hyperallergic – “At a time when women were seen as incapable of serious creative or intellectual activity, Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana gained international renown for their exceptional bodies of work…The Museo del Prado’s A Tale of Two Women Painters: Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana is a rare revival of these women’s long-overlooked careers, featuring an impressive collection of 65 exquisite and innovative paintings. After centuries of obscurity — when their works were frequently misattributed to Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Paolo Veronese, and other male artists — A Tale of Two Women Painters shows us just how much we’ve been missing out on…”
Via LLRX – Pete Recommends – Weekly highlights on cyber security issues December 7, 2019 – Privacy and security issues impact every aspect of our lives – home, work, travel, education, health and medical records – to name but a few. On a weekly basis Pete Weiss highlights articles and information that focus on the increasingly complex and wide ranging ways technology is used to compromise and diminish our privacy and security, often without our situational awareness. Four highlights from this week: 50 countries ranked by how they’re collecting biometric data and what they’re doing with it; Facebook Asks Supreme Court to Review Face Scan Decision; The United States House Has Approved a New Anti-Robocall Bill; and Do our algorithms have enough oversight?
ComputerWorld – “As blockchain gains credibility in the marketplace, it’s being piloted for uses never before considered. But the nascent technology will need to mature, both technically and as a part of a more complete ecosystem, before seeing widespread adoption…” – Looking ahead:
- Defeating fake news
- Blockchain for digital securities exchanges
- China likely to take the blockchain lead, leave the U.S. in the rearview
- Blockchain for identity
Gartner: “Technologies from AI to cryptocurrency and online shopping are changing how we live and what it means to be human. CIOs and IT leaders must help their organizations adapt in this changing world. In Japan, one restaurant is exploring artificial intelligence (AI) robotics technology to enable paralyzed employees to remotely pilot robotic waiters. JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft and Ford are hosting virtual career fairs tailored to the needs of neurodiverse candidates. Enterprise Rent-A-Car integrated braille-reader technology into its reservations system for blind employees. Using AI to increase accessibility at work is one of the Gartner Top 10 strategic predictions for 2020 and beyond. The predictions examine how technology is changing the definition of what it means to be human, and IT leaders must be prepared to adapt in a changing environment.
Technology, and its applications, are poised to affect every aspect of what we call humanity. “As the digital age progresses, assumptions around the fixed nature of ‘what’ humans are is beginning to be challenged,” said Daryl Plummer, Distinguished VP Analyst, & Gartner Fellow at Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo 2019 in Orlando, Florida. “Technology, and its applications, are poised to affect every aspect of what we call humanity and the conditions in which humans must live.”…
Records Not Revenue [‘Records, Not Revenue’ is a non-partisan project coordinated by an ad hoc group of genealogists, historians, and records access advocates] – Speak Out Now to Preserve Public Access to Genealogy Records! – On 14 November 2019, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) proposed a sudden and unprecedented 492% increase in fees required to access historical records held by the USCIS Genealogy Program. Many of these records should already be publicly accessible under the law. USCIS is essentially holding them hostage, demanding individuals pay exorbitant and unjustifiable fees to access documents of our immigrant ancestors. All researchers should care about the issues involved, even if your research does not include these historical records. What can be done to one type of record can be done to others!..Don’t delay, submit your comments about the proposed fee hike today! The deadline is December 16, 2019!..”
maketecheasier – “If you’re copying and pasting things off webpages and manually putting them in spreadsheets, you either don’t know what data scraping (or web scraping) is, or you do know what it is but aren’t really keen on the idea of learning how to code just to save yourself a few hours of clicking. Either way, there are a lot of no-code data-scraping tools that can help you out, and Data Miner’s Chrome extension is one of the more intuitive options. If you’re lucky, the task you’re trying to do will already be included in the tool’s recipe book, and you won’t even have to go through the point-and-click steps involved in building your own…”
- For many many other resources and tools to extract data from web pages – please see 2020 Guide to Web Data Extractors – This guide by Marcus P. Zillman is a comprehensive listing of web data extractors, screen, web scraping and crawling sources and sites for the Internet and the Deep Web. These sources are useful for professionals who focus on competitive intelligence, business intelligence and analysis, knowledge management and research that requires collecting, reviewing, monitoring and tracking data, metadata and text.
Ithaka S+R: “Earlier [on December 5, 2019], news began leaking out that Ex Libris will purchase Innovative Interfaces, one of its largest competitors. The deal, which is expected to close in early 2020, further cements Ex Libris as the leader in the library systems marketplace and can be expected to put added pressure on OCLC. It will also raise concerns about Ex Libris’s dominant market position. Ex Libris’s core business is in library systems, including its flagship cloud-based platform Alma. Ex Libris’s strengths have been in higher education globally, and in recent years it has been moving into adjacent spaces such as supporting course readings and the research enterprise (in the latter area, S+R provided them with some facilitation and advisory services earlier this year). Ex Libris is owned by ProQuest, which has a variety of content businesses, including aggregations of journals, books, theses, and primary source material, with an audience quite a bit larger than higher education. Innovative provides a number of library systems, currently marketing both Sierra and Polaris. Its strengths have been with public, special, and smaller academic libraries. This sale represents an exit for its private equity owners…”
The Guardian UK – “…On [December 2, 2019], the Electronic Frontier Foundation published a 17,000-word report on this topic. Behind the One-Way Mirror: A Deep Dive Into the Technology of Corporate Surveillance, by Bennett Cyphers and Gennie Gebhart, covers both online privacy problems and the growth of real-word surveillance. BOWM, for short, explains how personal data is gathered, brokered, and used to serve targeted advertisements. In theory, users should prefer useful adverts to irrelevant ones. In reality, it provides a stream of data to anyone who wants it. Most of us, I suspect, don’t object to the ads as much as to the vast infrastructure used to deliver them. Non-targeted ads are fine with me. As the report points out, when you visit a website, data associated with your online identity will be sent to anyone interested in bidding in an auction to show you a targeted advertisement. A data-snorting company can just make low bids to ensure it never wins while pocketing your data for nothing. This is a flaw in the implied deal where you trade data for benefits. You can limit what you give away by blocking tracking cookies. Unfortunately, you can still be tracked by other techniques. These include web beacons, browser fingerprinting and behavioural data such as mouse movements, pauses and clicks, or sweeps and taps. Data brokers can try to connect whatever information they get to data that you are giving away in other areas. This might include your email address, mobile phone number, location, credit card and store card numbers, your car’s number plate and face recognition data. Some of this information may have been purchased from third parties..
As BOWM points out, real-world identifiers can last a lot longer than your browsers or even your devices. Your main email address, phone number, credit card number and car number plate don’t change very often. Good luck changing, or disguising, your fingerprint and face recognition data. “Gait recognition” is already being used in China. You can run but you can’t hide. Today, we are past the stage where it’s a technology problem. Only governments can protect our privacy by banning the collection of data and giving us the rights both to prevent its collection without explicit permission, and to delete data that has already been collected…”
This site is paywalled, but if you have online access – do visit the Financial Times Best Books of 2019 – the extensive subject matter annotated list includes: economics, health, history, art, mysteries, thrillers, fiction, non-fiction, technology, sport, poetry, science, art, gardens, and more – well done.
The Guardian UK – Nestlé cannot claim bottled water is ‘essential public service’, court rules. “Michigan’s second-highest court has dealt a legal blow to Nestlé’s Ice Mountain water brand, ruling that the company’s commercial water-bottling operation is “not an essential public service” or a public water supply. The court of appeals ruling is a victory for Osceola township, a small mid-Michigan town that blocked Nestlé from building a pumping station that doesn’t comply with its zoning laws. But the case could also throw a wrench in Nestlé’s attempts to privatize water around the country.
If it is to carry out such plans, then it will need to be legally recognized as a public water source that provides an essential public service. The Michigan environmental attorney Jim Olson, who did not represent Osceola township but has previously battled Nestlé in court, said any claim that the Swiss multinational is a public water utility “is ludicrous”…”