Law and Legal

Should Researchers Be Allowed to Use YouTube Videos and Tweets?

Slate – A new paper used YouTubers’ voices to guess what they looked like. We’re going to see more of this. “There’s a lot you might guess about a person based on their voice: their gender, their age, perhaps even their race. That’s your brain making an educated guess about the identity of a speaker based on what you’ve experienced, but sometimes, those guesses are wrong. (People I talk to on the phone who don’t know my name often assume I’m white because I speak English without an accent. They frequently express surprise to learn I’m Asian.) In a recent paper, a group of MIT researchers set out to investigate what a computer can guess about a person’s appearance from their voice…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Worried About the Future of the Monograph? So Are Publishers

The Chronicle of Higher Education interview with the president of the Association of University Presses (AUPresses), Jennifer Crewe: “…Our biggest challenge remains the low sales of scholarly monographs, such as revised dissertations or scholarly books with a narrow focus in a small field. Libraries share copies, and individuals don’t purchase the new books in their fields as they did 20 years ago. We want to publish these books. They are the building blocks of our own reputation and they are often groundbreaking, field-changing works. We’re looking for publishing grants to support them, and we try each season to publish enough profitable books to cover the losses on monographs. But today’s model isn’t sustainable. There are a number of experiments under way to figure out how to publish specialized monographs in a freely available open-access format. But open access doesn’t mean “free,” except to the end user. Someone still has to pay the upfront costs of curation, peer review, editing, design, discoverability, publicity — plus promotion, to make sure people notice the book when its published. Those costs are actually much higher than the paper, printing, and binding costs that you save when you publish in digital format only. Publishers need grants up front to cover those costs, and right now there is no established system for that. I should also point out that tenure committees, reviewers, and authors still prefer print books for the most part, so I don’t see the system changing right away…”

Categories: Law and Legal

New video editing technology raises disinformation worries

Washington Post – A new algorithm developed by Stanford University engineers is putting the spotlight on advances in video editing that could make it more difficult to separate fact from fiction online. “A team of researchers has developed new technology allowing editors to alter the words of anyone who appears on video in an image from the shoulders up, making doing so as easy as typing changes into a word processing program. In practice, this could be a talking head, a politician, a news anchor or any other person who influences political discourse. The researchers say this technology could be used to adapt instructional videos or quickly make edits to movies — but experts warn it could have more sinister effects if applied to politics. It raises serious ethical concerns because it could make it far easier for bad actors to manipulate videos from typically trusted sources.

Here’s how the new technology works: Editors can simply delete or add words to a transcript, and the application will assemble the right word or speech motions from another point in the video and use machine learning to edit the video version of the transcript in a way that appears seamless to the natural eye. Jack Clark, policy director at San Francisco artificial intelligence research center OpenAI, warned that if the technology were widely released, it could make it far cheaper to spread propaganda…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Why Have Americans Stopped Moving?

SafeHaven: “A new study identifies powerful psychological factors that connect people to places, and mean more to them than money. Mobility in the United States has fallen to record lows. In 1985, nearly 20 percent of Americans had changed their residence within the preceding 12 months, but by 2018, fewer than ten percent had. That’s the lowest level since 1948, when the Census Bureau first started tracking mobility. The decline in Americans’ mobility has been staggering, as the chart below shows. Mobility rates have fallen for nearly every group, across age, gender, income, homeownership status, and marital status. Declining mobility contributes to a host of economic and social issues: less economic dynamism, lower rates of innovation, and lower productivity. By locking people into place, it exacerbates inequality by limiting the economic opportunities for workers…

A wide range of explanations have been offered to account for these substantial declines in mobility. Many consider the culprit to be the economic crisis, which locked people into declining-value homes; others attribute it to the huge differential in the housing prices in expensive cities. Some economists contend that job opportunities have become similar across places, meaning people are less likely to move for work; others see rising student debt as a key factor that has kept young Americans in their parents’ basements…”

Categories: Law and Legal

World’s largest plant survey reveals alarming extinction rate

Nature – Since 1900, nearly 3 species of seed-bearing plants have disappeared per year ― 500 times faster than they would naturally. “The world’s seed-bearing plants have been disappearing at a rate of nearly 3 species a year since 1900 ― which is up to 500 times higher than would be expected as a result of natural forces alone, according to the largest survey yet of plant extinctions.

The project looked at more than 330,000 species and found that plants on islands and in the tropics were the most likely to be declared extinct. Trees, shrubs and other woody perennials had the highest probability of disappearing regardless of where they were located. The results were published on 10 June in Nature Ecology & Evolution1.

The study provides valuable hard evidence that will help with conservation efforts, says Stuart Pimm, a conservation scientist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. The survey included more plant species by an order of magnitude than any other study, he says. “Its results are enormously significant.”..”

Categories: Law and Legal

Pennsylvania identity theft case trends

PA Courts: “Over the last five years, Pennsylvania has seen a gradual decrease in identity theft cases. Identity theft is defined as the fraudulent use of another person’s identifying information (social security number, bank account, birth certificate etc.). The infographic below highlights key data including defendant demographics, identity theft case counts and outcomes as well as county-level data where identity theft is most prevalent (also see editor’s note).   A high-resolution file of the graphic is available for download here.” [h/t Pete Weiss]

Categories: Law and Legal

NASA dataset includes more than a Trillion precise measurements of Earth’s height at various locations

Center for Data Innovation: “NASA has released a dataset that includes more than a trillion precise measurements of the Earth’s height at various locations, including the height of glaciers and the height of the canopy of forests. NASA gathered the data, which includes the exact latitude and longitudes for a corresponding elevation, by shooting photons from a satellite 310 miles in space and recording how long it takes for the photon to bounce off the Earth and return to the satellite. This data can help researchers track the effects of the Earth’s warming climate and the health of forests…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The United States Now Has a Federal Data Strategy

“Government agencies will implement the Federal Data Strategy through steps identified in annual government-wide Action Plans. These plans will identify priority Action Steps for a given year, incrementally build from year to year, and complement as needed requirements of new statute and policy. The priority of the draft 2019-2020 Federal Data Strategy Action Plan (hereinafter Year-1 Action Plan) is to align existing efforts and establish a firm basis of tools, processes, and capacities to leverage data as a strategic asset. The draft Year-1 Action Plan describes the steps that are viewed as fundamental during the first year to execute the full breadth of the Federal Data Strategy over time. They are informed by and built upon previous efforts, align with ongoing Federal Government programs and policies, and complement new statutory requirements.

The goal of the draft Year-1 Action Plan is to begin to implement the Federal Data Strategy through a set of fundamental actions. Specifically:

  • Designated entities will develop and share government-wide resources and/or tools for implementing the Federal Data Strategy related to governance, ethical data management and use, data protection, workforce training, streamlined access to federal data assets, and the establishment of data inventories and data cataloging.
  • Specific federal communities will improve the management and use of specific data asset portfolios including geospatial data and financial management data.
  • Federal agencies will begin working across silos to determine how they can better support their missions and serve stakeholders by making better use of the Federal Government’s full portfolio of data assets. Agencies will be investing in necessary infrastructure improvements, including workforce training and improvements related to data protection and access…”
Categories: Law and Legal

AI deepfakes are now as simple as typing whatever you want your subject to say

The Verge: “In the latest example of deepfake technology, researchers have shown off new software that uses machine learning to let users edit the text transcript of a video to add, delete, or change the words coming right out of somebody’s mouth. The work was done by scientists from Stanford University, the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, Princeton University, and Adobe Research, and shows that our ability to edit what people say in videos and create realistic fakes is becoming easier every day.
You can see a number of examples of the system’s output below, including an edited version of a famous quotation from Apocalypse Now, with the line “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” changed to “I love the smell of french toast in the morning.” This work is just at the research stage right now and isn’t available as consumer software, but it probably won’t be long until similar services go public. Adobe, for example, has already shared details on prototype software named VoCo, which lets users edit recordings of speech as easily as a picture, and which was used in this research…”

Categories: Law and Legal

NY Legislature Passes Bill that would require prevailing wage at brownfield sites.

The New York States Senate and Assembly have passed bills that would require developers to use prevailing wages on projects using state financial assistance. Since the bill would apply to projects that receive tax credits, it could apply to projects enrolled in the brownfield cleanup program (BCP). If signed into law, this bill could have a devastating impact on BCP projects-especially affordable housing projects.

The text of the Assembly bill is available at:

The post NY Legislature Passes Bill that would require prevailing wage at brownfield sites. appeared first on Schnapf Environmental Law.

Categories: Law and Legal

Many Americans Say Made-Up News Is a Critical Problem That Needs To Be Fixed

Pew – Politicians viewed as major creators made-up news, but journalists seen as the ones who should fix it – “Many Americans say the creation and spread of made-up news and information is causing significant harm to the nation and needs to be stopped, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of 6,127 U.S. adults conducted between Feb. 19 and March 4, 2019, on the Center’s American Trends Panel. Indeed, more Americans view made-up news as a very big problem for the country than identify terrorism, illegal immigration, racism and sexism that way. Additionally, nearly seven-in-ten U.S. adults (68%) say made-up news and information greatly impacts Americans’ confidence in government institutions, and roughly half (54%) say it is having a major impact on our confidence in each other.

U.S. adults blame political leaders and activists far more than journalists for the creation of made-up news intended to mislead the public. But they believe it is primarily the responsibility of journalists to fix the problem. And they think the issue will get worse in the foreseeable future. The vast majority of Americans say they sometimes or often encounter made-up news. In response, many have altered their news consumption habits, including by fact-checking the news they get and changing the sources they turn to for news. In addition, about eight-in-ten U.S. adults (79%) believe steps should be taken to restrict made-up news, as opposed to 20% who see it as protected communication…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Automated Authorship Verification: Did We Really Write Those Blogs We Said We Wrote?

Wolfram Blog – May 28, 2019Daniel Lichtblau, Symbolic Algorithms Developer, Algorithms R&D – “Several Months Ago – I wrote a blog post about the disputed Federalist Papers. These were the 12 essays (out of a total of 85) with authorship claimed by both Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Ever since the landmark statistical study by Mosteller and Wallace published in 1963, the consensus opinion has been that all 12 were written by Madison (the Adair article of 1944, which also takes this position, discusses the long history of competing authorship claims for these essays). The field of work that gave rise to the methods used often goes by the name of “stylometry,” and it lies behind most methods for determining authorship from text alone (that is to say, in the absence of other information such as a physical typewritten or handwritten note). In the case of the disputed essays, the pool size, at just two, is as small as can be. Even so, these essays have been regarded as difficult for authorship attribution due to many statistical similarities in style shared by Hamilton and Madison.S ince late 2016 I have worked with a coauthor, Catalin Stoean, on a method for determining authorship from among a pool of candidate authors. When we applied our methods to the disputed essays, we were surprised to find that the results did not fully align with consensus. In particular, the last two showed clear signs of joint authorship, with perhaps the larger contributions coming from Hamilton. This result is all the more plausible because we had done validation tests that were close to perfect in terms of correctly predicting the author for various parts of those essays of known authorship. These validation tests were, as best we could tell, more extensive than all others we found in prior literature.

Clearly a candidate pool of two is, for the purposes at hand, quite small. Not as small as one, of course, but still small. While our method might not perform well if given hundreds or more candidate authors, it does seem to do well at the more modest (but still important) scale of tens of candidates. The purpose of this blog post is to continue testing our stylometry methods—this time on a larger set of candidates, using prior Wolfram Blog posts as our data source…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Americans May Be Ingesting Thousands of Microplastics Every Year

Smithsonian – A new study found that we consume between 74,000 and 121,000 plastic particles annually—and that’s likely an underestimate – “Microplastics are everywhere in our environment: oceans, soils, the air, the bodies of animals. It’s hardly surprising, then, that the tiny fragments have also been found in humans. But a new study is shining troubling light on the quantity of microplastics Americans are consuming each year—as many as 121,000 particles, per a conservative estimate. Measuring less than five millimeters in length, microplastics derive from a variety of sources, including large plastics that break down into smaller and smaller pieces. Many studies have looked at microplastics in the marine environment, but much remains unknown about the prevalence of these materials within the human body, as well as their impact on human health. Hoping to fill in some of these gaps, a research team led by Kieran Cox, a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria and a former Link Fellow at the Smithsonian Institute, looked at 26 papers assessing the amount of microplastics in commonly consumed food items, among them seafood, sugars, salts, honey, alcohol and water. The team also evaluated the potential consumption of microplastics through inhalation using previously reported data on microplastic concentrations in the air and the Environmental Protection Agency’s reported respiration rates. To account for factors like age and sex, the researchers consulted dietary intakes recommended by the U.S. Health Department.

Based on this data, the researchers calculated that our annual consumption of microplastics via food and drink ranges between 39,000 and 52,000 particles, depending on age and sex. Female children consume the least and male adults consume the most, the team reveals in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. When microplastics ingested through inhalation are taken into account, the range jumps from 74,000 to 121,000 particles per year…Collectively, the food and drink that the researchers analyzed represent 15 percent of Americans’ caloric intake. The team could not account for food groups like fruits, vegetables, meat and grains because there simply is not enough data on their microplastic content…”


Categories: Law and Legal

Amazon’s helping police build a surveillance network with Ring doorbells

cnet – Its popular Ring smart doorbells mean more cameras on more doorsteps, where surveillance footage used to be rare. “If you’re walking in Bloomfield, New Jersey, there’s a good chance you’re being recorded. But it’s not a corporate office or warehouse security camera capturing the footage — it’s likely a Ring doorbell made by Amazon.  While residential neighborhoods aren’t usually lined with security cameras, the smart doorbell’s popularity has essentially created private surveillance networks powered by Amazon and promoted by police departments.

Police departments across the country, from major cities like Houston to towns with fewer than 30,000 people, have offered free or discounted Ring doorbells to citizens, sometimes using taxpayer funds to pay for Amazon’s products. While Ring owners are supposed to have a choice on providing police footage, in some giveaways, police require recipients to turn over footage when requested. Ring said Tuesday that it would start cracking down on those strings attached…”

Categories: Law and Legal

How China Is Planning to Rank 1.3 Billion People

Bloomberg: ” China has a radical plan to influence the behavior of its 1.3 billion people: It wants to grade each of them on aspects of their lives to reflect how good (or bad) a citizen they are. Versions of the so-called social credit system are being tested in a dozen cities with the aim of eventually creating a network that encompasses the whole country. Critics say it’s a heavy-handed, intrusive and sinister way for a one-party state to control the population. Supporters, including many Chinese (at least in one survey), say it’ll make for a more considerate, civilized and law-abiding society.

Is this for real? Yes. In 2014, China released sweeping plans to establish a national social credit system by 2020. Local trials covering about 6% of the population are already rewarding good behavior and punishing bad, with Beijing due to begin its program by 2021. There are also other ways the state keeps tabs on citizens that may become part of an integrated system. Since 2015, for instance, a network that collates local- and central- government information has been used to blacklist millions of people to prevent them from booking flights and high-speed train trips…”

Categories: Law and Legal

LLRX – Articles for April and May 2019

Articles for April – May 2019® – the free web journal on law, technology, knowledge discovery and research for Librarians, Lawyers, Researchers, Academics, and Journalists. Founded in 1996.

Categories: Law and Legal

How to Teach with JSTOR Text Analyzer

JSTOR Text Analyzer provides students with an additional resource for finding scholarly material – Rachel Hermann – “Many first year undergraduates enter university not knowing how to manage their time. They have extra-curricular activities. Or jobs at the local grocery store. And then there are all those assignments—they always seems to be due at once! My students, I’ve found, need help learning how much time to spend researching, writing, and editing their assignments—and help locating the appropriate tools to do so. One of the most rewarding aspects of first year teaching is helping them develop these skills, and I’ve tried to do so especially in teaching my History in Practice class, which focuses on research methods. It’s essentially “how to be a historian” for history majors. In teaching History in Practice, I’ve used JSTOR Text Analyzer, a research tool built by JSTOR Labs, to help students hone their researching and editing abilities. The easiest way to describe Text Analyzer is that it lets you upload files you’ve read or are working on, then uses the data in this file to provide additional reading recommendations…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Ditch the GPS. It’s ruining your brain.

Washington Post – “It has become the most natural thing to do: get in the car, type a destination into a smartphone, and let an algorithm using GPS data show the way. Personal GPS-equipped devices entered the mass market in only the past 15 or so years, but hundreds of millions of people now rarely travel without them. These gadgets are extremely powerful, allowing people to know their location at all times, to explore unknown places and to avoid getting lost. But they also affect perception and judgment. When people are told which way to turn, it relieves them of the need to create their own routes and remember them. They pay less attention to their surroundings. And neuroscientists can now see that brain behavior changes when people rely on turn-by-turn directions.

In a study published in Nature Communications in 2017, researchers asked subjects to navigate a virtual simulation of London’s Soho neighborhood and monitored their brain activity, specifically the hippocampus, which is integral to spatial navigation. Those who were guided by directions showed less activity in this part of the brain than participants who navigated without the device. “The hippocampus makes an internal map of the environment and this map becomes active only when you are engaged in navigating and not using GPS,” Amir-Homayoun Javadi, one of the study’s authors, told me. The hippocampus is crucial to many aspects of daily life. It allows us to orient in space and know where we are by creating cognitive maps. It also allows us to recall events from the past, what is known as episodic memory. And, remarkably, it is the part of the brain that neuroscientists believe gives us the ability to imagine ourselves in the future…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Putting AI to the Test with Chatbot Track for Summer Associates

Xiumei Dong, Wilson Sonsini Putting AI to the Test with Chatbot Track for Summer Associates, LawTech News (June 6, 2019) – “As part of a new program, a group of summer associates at Wilson Sonsini is partnering with the firm’s senior attorneys and technical staff to create automated chatbots for clients to use.”
Categories: Law and Legal

Chrome Extension to block search results from specific sites

uBlacklist blocks specific sites from appearing in Google search results. This Chrome extension prevents blacklisted sites from appearing in Google search results. The same function is already provided by Personal Blocklist (by Google). However, sites blocked by Personal Blocklist appear in search results for a moment and then disappear, which annoys me. uBlacklist prevents blacklisted sites from appearing in search results as far as possible. You can add rules on search result pages, or on sites to be blocked by clicking the toolbar icon. Rules can be specified either by match patterns (e.g. *://**) or by regular expressions (e.g. /example\.(net|org)/)…”

Categories: Law and Legal


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