Law and Legal

Computers have an unlikely origin story: the 1890 census

FastCompany – David Lindsay Roberts – “The inventor of punched cards, which led to the first computers and companies like IBM, was aiming to solve a gnarly problem at the time: data collection for the census…The U.S. Constitution requires that a population count be conducted at the beginning of every decade. This census has always been charged with political significance and continues to be. That’s clear from the controversy over the conduct of the upcoming 2020 census. But it’s less widely known how important the census has been in developing the U.S. computer industry, a story that I tell in my new book, Republic of Numbers: Unexpected Stories of Mathematical Americans Through History.

On September 23, 1884, the U.S. Patent Office recorded a submission from the 24-year-old Hollerith, titled “Art of Compiling Statistics.” By progressively improving the ideas of this initial submission, Hollerith would decisively win an 1889 competition to improve the processing of the 1890 census. The technological solutions devised by Hollerith involved a suite of mechanical and electrical devices. The first crucial innovation was to translate data on handwritten census tally sheets to patterns of holes punched in cards. As Hollerith phrased it, in the 1889 revision of his patent application, “A hole is thus punched corresponding to person, then a hole according as person is a male or female, another recording whether native or foreign born, another either white or colored, &c.”…

Categories: Law and Legal

10 Free Internet TV Channels You Can Watch Online

MakeUseOf.com: “We all know about the various streaming services that let you watch live TV. But what about standalone TV channels? Is it possible to watch free internet TV channels from around the world? In this article we’ll help you find the best free TV channels on the web. Every channel on the list has a legal source, which means you’re not going to get in trouble with your ISP or the law…”

Categories: Law and Legal

BYU Law creates language database to help interpret Constitution

The Daily Universe: “The Constitution is America’s central legal document. However, it was written a long time ago, and language has since evolved. Changing language can make the law difficult for lawyers and judges to interpretWhat does it really mean to “bear arms?” How should readers understand the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors?” BYU Law created a database to help answer questions like this. This database is called the Corpus of Founding Era American English, also known as COFEA. “Corpus” refers to a collection of written texts on a particular subject. The corpus holds founding-era documents that can be used by legal professionals for free as a tool to make educated legal decisions. BYU linguistics professor Mark Davies creates various corpora for the linguistics department and was involved in the beginning stages of the corpus.  “We have all these words in the Constitution — words and phrases that, 200-250 years later, we don’t really know what they meant at that time. We can’t go in a time travel machine … to go back 240 years, but what we can do is scoop in hundreds of millions worth of text from that time and say, oh well, when people were using a word or phrase, they were using it in this context,” Davies said.

Categories: Law and Legal

How Amazon.com moved into the business of U.S. elections

Reuters: “The expansion by Amazon Web Services into state and local elections has quietly gathered pace since the 2016 U.S. presidential vote. More than 40 states now use one or more of Amazon’s election offerings, according to a presentation given by an Amazon executive this year and seen by Reuters. So do America’s two main political parties, the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and the U.S. federal body charged with administering and enforcing federal campaign finance laws. While it does not handle voting on election day, AWS – along with a broad network of partners – now runs state and county election websites, stores voter registration rolls and ballot data, facilitates overseas voting by military personnel and helps provide live election-night results, according to company documents and interviews…

In the fullest public picture yet of Amazon’s strategic move into U.S. election infrastructure, Reuters reviewed previously unreported company presentations and documents, and conducted more than two dozen interviews with lawmakers, election administrators, and heads of election security and technology in nearly a dozen states and counties that use Amazon’s cloud…”

Categories: Law and Legal

New study pinpoints and maps the places most at risk on a warming planet

Grist: “As many as five billion people will face hunger and a lack of clean water by 2050 as the warming climate disrupts pollination, freshwater, and coastal habitats, according to new research published last week in Science. People living in South Asia and Africa will bear the worst of it.
Climate activists have been telling us for a while now that global warming isn’t just about the polar bears, so it’s hardly breaking news that humans are going to suffer because nature is suffering. But what is new about this model is the degree of geographic specificity. It pinpoints the places where projected environmental losses overlap with human populations who depend on those resources and maps them with a nifty interactive viewer. This model identifies not just the general ways climate change harms the environment and how people will feel those changes, but also where these changes will likely occur, and how significant they’ll be. It’s an unprecedented degree of detail for a global biodiversity model…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Wayback Machine: Fighting Digital Extinction in New Ways

Internet Archive Blogs: Extinction isn’t just a biological issue. In the 21st century, it’s a technical, even digital one, too. The average web page might last three months before it’s altered or deleted forever. You never know when access to the information on these web pages is going to be needed. It might be three months from now; it might be three decades. That’s how the Wayback Machine serves—making history by saving history. Now, the Wayback Machine is fighting digital extinction in brand new ways. As the Internet Archive prepares for its anniversary celebration on Oct. 23, our Wayback Team is unveiling some new features to make what some call “the memory of the web” even more detailed and responsive. Try out some of our new Wayback Machine Features, including:

  • Changes: a new service enabling users to select two different versions of a given URL and compare them side by side. Differences in the text of the content are highlighted in yellow and blue…”
Categories: Law and Legal

The Little-Known ‘Slow Fire’ That’s Destroying All Our Books

LitHub: “…It’s called a “slow fire,” this continuous acidification and subsequent embrittlement of paper that was created with the seeds of its own ruin in its very fibers. In a 1987 documentary on the subject, the deputy Librarian of Congress William Welsh takes an embrittled, acid-burned book and begins tearing pages out by the handful, crumbling them into shards with an ease reminiscent of stepping on a dried-up insect carcass.

The destruction is inevitable. Depending on how a book was made and how it’s been stored, embrittlement can happen in as little as 30 to 100 years. Already, books have been lost, and the methods of preservation are too limited, time-consuming, and expensive to address the scale of the problem. Mass deacidification, where an alkaline neutralizing agent is introduced via a spray or solution applied to paper, once seemed like the golden solution; but while it can be used to prevent slightly acidified paper from deteriorating, it doesn’t reverse the effects of prior damage. The fallback is digitization—a fancy way to say mass-scanning, and the most used method of saving the content of a text, but not the book itself. In an article about the Library of Congress’ digitization efforts, Kyle Chayka reports that it would take literally decades of scanning to preserve the institution’s over 160 million object collection. At our existing technology’s current scanning pace, preserving the prints and photographs division alone would take about 300 years…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Peel back the layers of Twitter with this freshly updated tool

Poynter – A person or organization’s social media account reveals two layers of information – “The first is, obviously, the contents of the posts themselves. The second — much harder to obtain at a glance — is the structure and patterns contained within those messages. The latter can often enhance or, more common than you’d think, negate the former. A football star, for example, may say that he’s working hard and sleeping well and focusing on getting prepped for The Big Game. But a quick analysis of his Twitter account may reveal that he’s tweeting at all hours of the day and night (including during practice) about a variety of topics that have nothing to do with his team. Normally, this bird’s eye view (I know, cliché, but I can’t resist a Twitter pun) of information is interred in Twitter’s API, available only to those adept at coding and analysis, or to those willing to navigate the myriad tools that claim to be the best at extracting useful information from the site. But data analyst Luca Hammer just relaunched his Account Analysis tool, a longtime favorite of mine, to make it even easier to explore Twitter accounts on macro and micro scales.

Account Analysis (sign-in required, pro plans optional) uncloaks a ton of great information about any public Twitter account, including daily rhythms; frequency of tweets by specific dates and days of the week; and data about languages, interfaces, most common URLs shared and more. I like to tell people that we should look at digital tools as we do physical tools in our toolboxes at home: ready and available when you need them, out of the way when you don’t. It’s appropriate, then, that Account Analysis comes from a man whose last name is Hammer — probably the most useful tool there is…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Bird populations have crashed. Here’s what you can do to help.

Washington Post – “…A study by ornithologists and other scientists released last month told us bird populations have crashed. Since 1970, the United States and Canada have lost nearly 3 billion, close to 30 percent fewer individuals. The losses are across habitats and species, though hardest hit are birds that inhabit the grasslands from Texas north into the Canadian prairie. The suspected causes? Habitat loss, more intensive agriculture and greater use of pesticides that kill the insects birds eat….The greatest value of bird feeding is to bring wild birds in proximity to us, so that we can develop an affinity for them.

Not all mixes are equal; striped sunflower, for example, is not favored by as many bird species as black-oil sunflower or hulled or chipped sunflowers, according to a three-year study, Project Wildbird. Project FeederWatch (feederwatch.org) has put together an infographic on common feeder birds and what their preferences are. Placement of feeders can be important — near shrub cover, but not where a stalking cat can hide, and close to a window, which will actually minimize window-strikes when birds seek cover from a swooping hawk, Greig said. If you really want to help birds, though, the way to do it is to mindfully develop your garden as a habitat where birds can find what they need to nest and raise young: food, cover and water year-round. One element of this is to not use pesticides. Another is to reduce the area of lawn in favor of bird-friendly plants…”

Categories: Law and Legal

An AI that writes convincing prose risks mass-producing fake news

MIT Technology Review – Fed with billions of words, this algorithm creates convincing articles and shows how AI could be used to fool people on a mass scale – “…The researchers set out to develop a general-purpose language algorithm, trained on a vast amount of text from the web, that would be capable of translating text, answering questions, and performing other useful tasks. But they soon grew concerned about the potential for abuse. “We started testing it, and quickly discovered it’s possible to generate malicious-esque content quite easily,” says Jack Clark, policy director at OpenAI. Clark says the program hints at how AI might be used to automate the generation of convincing fake news, social-media posts, or other text content. Such a tool could spew out climate-denying news reports or scandalous exposés during an election. Fake news is already a problem, but if it were automated, it might be harder to tune out. Perhaps it could be optimized for particular demographics—or even individuals…”

Clark says it may not be long before AI can reliably produce fake stories, bogus tweets, or duplicitous comments that are even more convincing. “It’s very clear that if this technology matures—and I’d give it one or two years—it could be used for disinformation or propaganda,” he says. “We’re trying to get ahead of this.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Germany’s cyber-security agency recommends Firefox as most secure browser

ZDNet – “Firefox is the only browser that received top marks in a recent audit carried out by Germany’s cyber-security agency — the German Federal Office for Information Security (or the Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik — BSI). The BSI tested Mozilla Firefox 68 (ESR), Google Chrome 76, Microsoft Internet Explorer 11, and Microsoft Edge 44. The tests did not include other browsers like Safari, Brave, Opera, or Vivaldi. The audit was carried out using rules detailed in a guideline for “modern secure browsers” that the BSI published last month, in September 2019. The BSI normally uses this guide to advise government agencies and companies from the private sector on what browsers are safe to use. The German cyber-security agency published a first secure browser guideline in 2017, but reviewed and updated the specification over the summer…” [Note – as a long term user of Firefox, be prepared to encounter regular warnings about insecure sites when you open embedded URLs from emails, articles and reports. Users are given the option to continue – I resist the urge to do so and often use the strategy of searching DuckDuckGo for alternative, safer links with the same/similar information.]

Categories: Law and Legal

It’s Not Just the Glass Ceiling — Career Barriers for Women Start at the Management Level

New York Public Radio – “For women climbing the corporate ladder, the “glass ceiling” may not be the primary barrier keeping women out of top spots in leadership.  A new report from LeanIn.org and McKinsey and Company says women actually run into the most significant barrier to their success early in their careers: the first step up to manager. It’s called the “broken rung” on the corporate ladder, and it affects women of color even more than their white counterparts. Rachel Thomas, CEO and co-founder of LeanIn.Org, joins The Takeaway to talk about the “broken rung” and what we can do to fix it. Click on the ‘Listen’ button above to hear this segment. Don’t have time to listen right now? Subscribe for free to our podcast via iTunesTuneInStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts to take this segment with you on the go…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Inside TurboTax’s 20-Year Fight to Stop Americans From Filing Their Taxes for Free

ProPublica – Using lobbying, the revolving door and “dark pattern” customer tricks, Intuit fended off the government’s attempts to make tax filing free and easy, and created its multi-billion-dollar franchise.

“…Intuit’s QuickBooks accounting product remains a steady moneymaker, but in the past two decades TurboTax, its tax preparation product, has driven the company’s steadily growing profits and made it a Wall Street phenom. When Smith took over in 2008, TurboTax was a market leader, but only a small portion of Americans filed their taxes online. By 2019, nearly 40% of U.S. taxpayers filed online and some 40 million of them did so with TurboTax, far more than with any other product. But the success of TurboTax rests on a shaky foundation, one that could collapse overnight if the U.S. government did what most wealthy countries did long ago and made tax filing simple and free for most citizens…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Census Bureau asks states for driver’s license records to produce citizenship data

WHYY – “The Census Bureau is asking states to voluntarily share driver’s license records as part of the Trump administration’s efforts to produce detailed data about the U.S. citizenship status of every person living in the country. According to a statement the bureau released Tuesday, the requests are in response to an executive order President Trump issued in July after courts blocked his administration from adding a citizenship question to 2020 census forms…” [h/t Pete Weiss] Note – if you are not aware, all states have sent notifications to residents requiring that they provide – by February 2020, in person at DMV, their respective PII – including original Social Security Card, Birth Certificate, Passport and utility bills, or risk cancellation of drivers license.
  • Example – Having a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or ID card will be necessary to board commercial aircraft or gain access to federal facilities. To be considered REAL ID compliant, you must have the required documents on file with the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA)…
Categories: Law and Legal

Planning an in Person Professional Gathering Just Got Easier With LinkedIn Events

News release: “One of the most important aspects of building professional relationships for our members is being able to meet face to face. Whether at a local networking meet-up, a workshop or an alumni gathering, in-person interactions can help you create and foster deeper professional relationships. In fact, our data says that the chances of people accepting connection requests on LinkedIn increase 2X if they have attended a face-to-face meeting. To help you plan your next face-to-face professional gathering, we’re launching LinkedIn Events for members across the globe. With LinkedIn Events, you’ll be able to seamlessly create and join professional events, invite your connections, manage your event, have conversations with other attendees, and stay in touch online after the event ends…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Best Small and Medium Workplaces

“To determine the Best Small & Medium Workplaces of 2019, Fortune partnered with global people analytics firm Great Place to Work to analyze feedback representing more than 127,000 U.S. employees. Take a look at the best small workplaces…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Artificial Intelligence, Legal Change, and Separation of Powers

Michaels, Andrew C., Artificial Intelligence, Legal Change, and Separation of Powers (September 24, 2019). 88 University of Cincinnati Law Review _ (2020, Forthcoming). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3459069
“A number of prominent contemporary legal scholars have recently argued in favor of replacing human legal decision-making with Artificial Intelligence, assuming that AI technology improves to a level they deem appropriate. I disagree, particularly as regards Article III judges, for four main reasons. First, human judges must strike a delicate balance between respect for precedent (the past), and adapting the law to unforeseen circumstances (the present/future), thus playing an important role in shaping the law that those arguing for robot judges do not adequately account for. Second, arguments for AI judges often seem inherently formalist in stating that robot judges would make fewer errors, overlooking the teachings of legal realism that not all cases have a clear right answer. Third, the loss of human judges would lead to a loss or diminishment of the human legal community, such that fewer people would be paying attention to the law, leaving the law more susceptible to being co-opted. Fourth, Article III judges play an important role as a check on the other two branches, a role which AI seems ill-equipped to replace and those arguing for AI judges do not account for. In short, proposals to automate the judiciary both under-appreciate and undervalue the human aspects of law, and the degree to which a human legal system contributes to the sense that we as a society govern ourselves. The potential benefits of an automated judiciary are better achieved in other ways, and do not justify the risks.”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Law & Politics of Cyberattack Attribution

Eichensehr, Kristen, The Law & Politics of Cyberattack Attribution (September 15, 2019). UCLA Law Review, Vol. 67, (2020, Forthcoming); UCLA School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 19-36. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3453804

“Attribution of cyberattacks requires identifying those responsible for bad acts, prominently including states, and accurate attribution is a crucial predicate in contexts as diverse as criminal indictments, insurance coverage disputes, and cyberwar. But the difficult technical side of attribution is just the precursor to highly contested legal and policy questions about when and how to accuse governments of responsibility for cyberattacks. Although politics may largely determine whether attributions are made public, this Article argues that when cyberattacks are publicly attributed to states, such attributions should be governed by legal standards. Instead of blocking the development of evidentiary standards for attribution, as the United States, United Kingdom, and France are currently doing, states should establish an international law requirement that public attributions must include sufficient evidence to enable cross-checking or corroboration of the accusations. This functionally defined standard harnesses both governmental and non-governmental attribution capabilities to shed light on states’ actions in cyberspace, and understanding state practice is a necessary precondition to establishing norms and customary international law to govern state behavior…”

Categories: Law and Legal

How Britain’s backyard bird feeders are shaping evolution

World Economic Forum – “Britain’s love affair with garden birds is reshaping its avian population. Several species have grown in number and overall diversity has increased, according to new research that explores the impact of the nation’s obsession with bird feeders. With at least half of all British households catering for the birds in their gardens, the report enhances our understanding of the ecological and evolutionary repercussions. “There is a multi-billion dollar global industry dedicated to feeding wild birds in residential gardens,” researchers, including Kate Plummer and Kate Risely, wrote in the paper. “We found that the number of feeders provided in a garden had a greater influence on species richness and diversity than either winter temperature or local habitat.”

Gardens account for around one-quarter of all urban land cover in Britain, and support 133 types of bird, more than half the country’s species. An uptick in the range was one of the key findings, with birds that previously rarely appeared in gardens now commonplace. In contrast, no population increases were seen in species that do not visit feeders. Two of the biggest beneficiaries were goldfinch and wood pigeon, with sightings jumping to more than 80% from less than 20% in 1973. In the 1970s, bird feeders were dominated by house sparrows and starlings, and they are still among the most frequently seen, according to the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2019…”

Categories: Law and Legal

What Your Personal Information is Worth to Cybercriminals

Bleeping Computer -“Cybercriminals have multiple markets to get illicit goods and prices on these underground forums are likely driven by supply and demand, just like in the legal economy. Offerings found on deep and dark web (DDW) markets include anything that can be monetized in one way or another. Common goods cover any financial information that can be used for bank fraud. Full info packages – A typical assortment of products and services comprises personally-identifiable information, payment card data, credentials, access to compromised systems, distributed denial-of-service, forged documents, credentials, and access to compromised services. Many of the underground sites that provided the data are no longer active, some because law enforcement brought them down. Nevertheless, the data is still a good indicator of the value of stolen data to cybercriminals. Full packages of data that can be used to steal a US victim’s identity sell for $4-$10, the researchers say. These are called ‘fullz’ and include at least the name, Social Security number, date of birth, and account numbers. The price seems low but it can get as high as $65 when accompanied by financial information, such as credit scores. The better the credit score, the higher the price. A score of 700, for instance, increased the fullz’ value to $40….”

Categories: Law and Legal

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