beSpacific - Accurate, Focused Research on Law, Technology and Knowledge Discovery Since 2002
MakeUseOf: “A large percentage of the LinkedIn userbase use LinkedIn as an online resume. And that’s it. Despite its social media capabilities, people don’t always make full use of its tools. One of these tools is the LinkedIn Feed, which is a robust way of keeping track of posts from people in your industry. If you want to make full use of LinkedIn, here’s how to customize your LinkedIn feed to its maximum potential. NB: We will be focusing on LinkedIn as viewed through a web browser rather than the mobile app. However, most of the tips will still apply…”
CNET – “Let me show you a magic trick. Make a choice — any choice. You’re already online, so maybe you want to read the news, check your email, surf your newsfeed, buy some food or any other number of things. Now for the trick, I’m going to tell you the companies that facilitated whatever choice you just made. It was almost certainly Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft or Facebook. OK, not much of a trick. After all, everyone knows these five tech giants control vast swaths of the internet, directly or indirectly — Amazon alone, for instance, facilitates nearly 40% of online commerce in the US and holds a whopping 23 million IP addresses thanks to its subsidiary Amazon Web Services. That online control has material ramifications. Last week, leaders of companies like Sonos and Popsockets took shots at Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook in a House antitrust hearing, arguing that the tech giants exert unfair control over their respective markets — shutting out competitors, squashing startups and exploiting smaller companies to maintain their immense power and profit. Ah, monopoly: It’s a tale as old as, well, the board game, at least. But the problem goes deeper than the economy. These massive companies might actually be making us worse people. They’re narrowing our choices online, intentionally corralling us toward behavior that benefits them. Rather than outright coercing us, though, these companies use a handful of key motivators — convenience chief among them, not to mention the “approval, attention, retweets, shares and likes” of social media — to condition us to behave in certain ways. But that conditioning has an unexpected outcome: As we practice decision-making driven more by impulse and economic self-interest than by any more deeply held values, we erode our conscience over time. In short, we’re becoming worse human beings…”
Google Blog: “Across the web, there are millions of datasets about nearly any subject that interests you. If you’re looking to buy a puppy, you could find datasets compiling complaints of puppy buyers or studies on puppy cognition. Or if you like skiing, you could find data on revenue of ski resorts or injury rates and participation numbers. Dataset Search has indexed almost 25 million of these datasets, giving you a single place to search for datasets and find links to where the data is. Over the past year, people have tried it out and provided feedback, and now Dataset Search is officially out of beta…”
Bank for International Settlement (BIS) – “Climate change poses new challenges to central banks, regulators and supervisors. This book reviews ways of addressing these new risks within central banks’ financial stability mandate. However, integrating climate-related risk analysis into financial stability monitoring is particularly challenging because of the radical uncertainty associated with a physical, social and economic phenomenon that is constantly changing and involves complex dynamics and chain reactions. Traditional backward-looking risk assessments and existing climate-economic models cannot anticipate accurately enough the form that climate-related risks will take.These include what we call “green swan” risks: potentially extremely financially disruptive events that could be behind the next systemic financial crisis.
Central banks have a role to play in avoiding such an outcome, including by seeking to improve their understanding of climate-related risks through the development of forward-looking scenario-based analysis. But central banks alone cannot mitigate climate change. This complex collective action problem requires coordinating actions among many players including governments, the private sector, civil society and the international community.
Central banks can therefore have an additional role to play in helping coordinate the measures to fight climate change. Those include climate mitigation policies such as carbon pricing, the integration of sustainability into financial practices and accounting frameworks, the search for appropriate policy mixes, and the development of new financial mechanisms at the international level. All these actions will be complex to coordinate and could have significant redistributive consequences that should be adequately handled, yet they are essential to preserve long-term financial (and price) stability in the age of climate change…”
Environmental Working Group – New Detections of ‘Forever Chemicals’ in New York, D.C., Other Major Cities – “New laboratory tests commissioned by EWG have for the first time found the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS in the drinking water of dozens of U.S. cities, including major metropolitan areas. The results confirm that the number of Americans exposed to PFAS from contaminated tap water has been dramatically underestimated by previous studies, both from the Environmental Protection Agency and EWG’s own research. Based on our tests and new academic research that found PFAS widespread in rainwater, EWG scientists now believe PFAS is likely detectable in all major water supplies in the U.S., almost certainly in all that use surface water. EWG’s tests also found chemicals from the PFAS family that are not commonly tested for in drinking water.
Of tap water samples from 44 places in 31 states and the District of Columbia, only one location had no detectable PFAS, and only two other locations had PFAS below the level that independent studies show pose risks to human health. Some of the highest PFAS levels detected were in samples from major metropolitan areas, including Miami, Philadelphia, New Orleans and the northern New Jersey suburbs of New York City…”
The Verge: “Last week, Google began rolling out a new look for its search results on desktop, which blurs the line between organic search results and the ads that sit above them. In what appears to be something of a purposeful dark pattern, the only thing differentiating ads and search results is a small black-and-white “Ad” icon next to the former. It’s been formatted to resemble the new favicons that now appear next to the search results you care about. Early data collected by Digiday suggests that the changes may already be causing people to click on more ads. The Guardian’s Alex Hern is one of many commenters to point out the problem, noting that there’s now next to no visual distinction between ads and search results. “There is still, technically, *labelling*, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that it is supposed to be difficult to spot at a glance where the adverts end,” he tweeted…”
Scientific American – Researchers who study how we use search engines share common mistakes, misperceptions and advice – “…We Google researchers know this is what many students do—they enter the first query that pops into their heads and run with the answer. Double checking and going deeper are skills that come only with a great deal of practice—and perhaps a bunch of answers marked wrong on important exams. Students often do not have a great deal of background knowledge to flag a result as potentially incorrect, so they are especially susceptible to misguided search results like this. In fact, a 2016 report by Stanford University education researchers showed that most students are woefully unprepared to assess content they find on the web. For instance, the scientists found that 80 percent of students at U.S. universities are not able to determine if a given web site contains credible information. And it is not just students; many adults share these difficulties…”
NYT Open – The News Provenance Project has been exploring how news organizations might contribute to the fight against misinformation by adding context…”We launched The News Provenance Project in mid-2019 to address the misinformation crisis through a product and reporting lens. Our goal was to contribute to the work of a growing number of organizations and projects addressing this issue. The initial idea was that publishers could contribute to creating a healthier information ecosystem by surfacing information they already have about the work that they publish. Our main hypothesis was that adding context to news photos — in the form of metadata, with information that is often contained in a caption, but gets stripped out as a photo travels beyond a news outlet’s own sites and apps — might help people make better decisions about the credibility of the images they see on social platforms and elsewhere around the internet.
Today we are publishing the results of the research we conducted, and a few examples of best practices for designs that help people better understand what they see. A key component in that research is a proof of concept, which we’re also making available today. The News Provenance Project team, working out of the New York Times R&D Lab, built it as an example of how our hypothesis might be realized, and we developed it in response to several rounds of user testing. We also explored the feasibility of publishing the data associated with each photo, from which that context is derived, on a blockchain (more on that below). As we develop plans to expand our work in 2020, we hope that sharing this research might also inspire others to build upon it…”
NYT Open – We asked 34 readers how they judge credibility of news photos. “…At The News Provenance Project, we wanted to find out how publishers can help readers make more informed, confident judgements about the credibility of news photography. To do this, we focused on how we might surface the metadata — such as descriptive captions, time and location information — that journalists embed in photography files. At the same time, we wanted to see if we could leverage the history-tracking capabilities of blockchain technology to ensure that that metadata stays embedded with news photography as it travels around the internet. We worked with IBM Garage, which built a prototype using the open-source Hyperledger Fabric platform (more on the prototype later). However, even if we could use blockchain to effectively display the history of a news photo, we still needed to understand what gives people the confidence to make informed judgements about the credibility of news photography when it matters most…Some people were more likely to trust what they perceive as fact-based reporting by news outlets they were familiar with, such as CNN and The New York Times. They were wary of sensational, outrage-based posts from individuals and lesser-known, hyper-partisan news outlets. Posts with words like “shocking” immediately triggered skepticism, compared to a matter-of-fact “newsy” stylistic tone, which they perceived as more objective.
Other people we spoke to were skeptical about the credibility of all news outlets that report on political issues. They believe all outlets are biased and cherry-pick content toward agendas under the guise of objectivity. This distrust was often applied across political lines, with outlets as different as Fox News and The New York Times being regarded with skepticism. This anti-media sentiment has been noted by previous research, such as the 2019 Poynter Media Trust Survey, which reported 53 percent of respondents as having a negative or very negative view of mainstream media institutions…”
EveryCRSReport.com – The Impeachment Process in the Senate. January 21, 2020. R46185: “After the House impeaches a federal officer, the Senate conducts a trial to determine if the individual should be removed from office. The Senate has a set of rules specific to the conduct of an impeachment trial, most of which originated in the early 19th century. The impeachment rules lay out specific steps that the Senate takes to organize for a trial. House managers (Members of the House who present the case against the impeached officer in the Senate) read the articles of impeachment on the Senate floor. The Presiding Officer and Senators take an oath to do impartial justice, and the Senate issues a “summons” to the accused and requests that a written answer be filed. The House Managers are also invited to respond to the answer of the impeached officer.
Actions after these organizing steps, however, are not specified in the impeachment rules. The impeachment rules mention some actions that are common in judicial trials, such as opening and closing statements by the parties to the case and the examination of witnesses, but provide little specific guidance. Instead, the rules allow the Senate, when sitting for a trial, to set particular procedures through the approval of “orders.” Some orders of the Senate are unanimous consent agreements, but others are proposals adopted by the Senate. If such a proposal is considered while the Senate is sitting for the trial, then debate is limited by the impeachment rules. As a result, the support of three-fifths of the Senate to invoke cloture is not necessary to reach a vote to approve a procedural proposal. In previous trials, such proposals have been subject to amendment. Senate published precedents do not provide guidance on what can or cannot be included in such an order…”
Via LLRX – Local news outlets can fill the media trust gap – but the public needs to pony up – Recent surveys found that trust in local media is higher than for national media, yet many newsrooms are struggling financially. Damian Radcliffe, Caroline S. Chambers Professor in Journalism at the University of Oregon, suggests four ways local newsrooms can forge deeper relationships with the communities they serve.
Via LLRX – Pete Recommends – Weekly highlights on cyber security issues January 18, 2020 – 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: Inspector General Warns Public About New Twist To Social Security Phone Scams; SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy is issuing this alert to urge investors to use caution before investing in so-called “initial exchange offerings” through online trading platforms; NSA Takes Step Toward Protecting World’s Computers, Not Just Hacking Them; and A Billion Medical Images Are Exposed Online As Doctors Ignore Warnings.
Via LLRX – 50 Lessons For Women Lawyers From Women Lawyers – Nicole Black recommends a recent book written by women lawyers for women lawyers. The 50 different lessons are from 50 different women lawyers with diverse career paths that inform their unique perspectives and useful advice.
ProPublica co-published with Fortune – “For years, the company has moved billions in profits to Puerto Rico to avoid taxes. When the IRS pushed it to pay, Microsoft protested that the agency wasn’t being nice. Then it aggressively fought back in court, lobbied Congress and changed the law. Eight years ago, the IRS, tired of seeing the country’s largest corporations fearlessly stash billions in tax havens, decided to take a stand. The agency challenged what it saw as an epic case of tax dodging by one of the largest companies in the world, Microsoft. It was the biggest audit by dollar amount in the history of the agency. Microsoft had shifted at least $39 billion in U.S. profits to Puerto Rico, where the company’s tax consultants, KPMG, had persuaded the territory’s government to give Microsoft a tax rate of nearly 0%. Microsoft had justified this transfer with a ludicrous-sounding deal: It had sold its most valuable possession — its intellectual property — to an 85-person factory it owned in a small Puerto Rican city. Over years of work, the IRS uncovered evidence that it believed laid the scheme bare. In one document, a Microsoft senior executive celebrated the company’s “pure tax play.” In another, KPMG plotted how to make the company Microsoft created to own the Puerto Rico factory — and a portion of Microsoft’s profits — seem “real.”
Meanwhile, the numbers Microsoft had used to craft its deal were laughable, the agency concluded. In one instance, Microsoft had told investors its revenues would grow 10% to 12% but told the IRS the figure was 4%. In another, the IRS found Microsoft had understated revenues by $15 billion. Determined to seize every advantage against a giant foe, the small team at the helm of the audit decided to be aggressive. It used special powers that the agency had shied away from using in the past. It took unprecedented steps like hiring an elite law firm to join the government’s side. To Microsoft and its corporate allies, the nature of the audit posed a dire threat. This was not the IRS they knew. This was an agency suddenly committed to fighting and winning. If the aggression went unchecked, it would only encourage the IRS to try these tactics on other corporations. “Most people, the 99%, they’re afraid of the IRS,” said an attorney who works on large corporate audits. “The other 1%, they’re not afraid. They make the IRS afraid of them.”
Microsoft fought back with every tool it could muster. Business organizations, ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to tech trade groups, rallied, hiring attorneys to jump into the fray on Microsoft’s side in court and making their case to IRS leadership and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Soon, members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, were decrying the IRS’ tactics and introducing legislation to stop the IRS from ever taking similar steps again. The outcome of the audit remains to be seen — the Microsoft case grinds on — but the blowback was effective. Last year, the company’s allies succeeded in changing the law, removing or limiting tools the IRS team had used against the company. The IRS, meanwhile, has become notably less bold. Drained of resources by years of punishing budget cuts, the agency has largely retreated from challenging the largest corporations. The IRS declined to comment for this article…”
LifeHacker: “Fortunately, we’re at a point where most of the airports in the United States offer free WiFi in some form. Yes, sometimes you have to watch an ad to get there, but it’s there. That said, sometimes you end up an airport that doesn’t have WiFi, or one that has free WiFi that’s restricted by a time limit. For times like those, the WiFox Google Map can help. With it, you can search for any airport in the world and see how to connect to the WiFi there…”
Broken Rungs on the Career Ladder: A New Analysis of Problems Encountered by Women Lawyers in Private Practice
Cynthia L. Cooper, Broken Rungs on the Career Ladder: A New Analysis of Problems Encountered by Women Lawyers in Private Practice, Perspectives (Jan. 21, 2020) – “The statistics reveal a disheartening picture. In 2018, women comprised only 19.5 percent of equity partners and 30.5 percent of nonequity partners in the nation’s 200 largest firms, according to an annual survey by the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), based in Chicago. That’s only a 3 percent increase of equity partners from 12 years earlier—“a sluggish upward trajectory,” NAWL concludes. At this rate, women will achieve gender parity in equity partnerships in 160 years, according to a 2015 analysis by The American Lawyer in its Special Report: Big Law Is Failing Women.
Male partners also make substantially more money than women do. Men earned $959,000 on average, compared to $627,000 for women partners, according to the Partner Compensation Survey of 1,390 law firms released in 2018 by legal search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa. This 53 percent gap is significantly wider than the differences calculated in four previous surveys since 2010…”
Chandan Lal Patary Author – The Agilist’s Guidebook | The Scrum Master Guidebook | Agile Coach: “…How can to discover the complexity of the organization? We can compile useful information, structured interviews or focus groups are also useful for collecting quantitative data about the intensity of complexity and qualitative information on what drives the complexity.
There could be many things which lead to complexity high, like a proliferation of products and/or services, conflicting and overlapping processes, misaligned incentives, bureaucratic hierarchical organizational structures, and inadequately articulated strategies, generally in some form of combination…”
The Atlantic – A deep dive into an archive will never be the same. “History, as a discipline, comes out of the archive. The archive is not the library, but something else entirely. Libraries spread knowledge that’s been compressed into books and other media. Archives are where collections of papers are stored, usually within a library’s inner sanctum: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s papers, say, at the New York Public Library. Or Record Group 31 at the National Archives—a set of Federal Housing Administration documents from the 1930s to the ’70s. Usually, an archive contains materials from the people and institutions near it. So, the Silicon Valley Archives at Stanford contains everything from Atari’s business plans to HP co-founder William Hewlett’s correspondence.
While libraries have become central actors in the digitization of knowledge, archives have generally resisted this trend. They are still almost overwhelmingly paper. Traditionally, you’d go to a place like this and sit there, day after day, “turning every page,” as the master biographer Robert Caro put it. You might spend weeks, months, or, like Caro, years working through all the boxes, taking extensive notes and making some (relatively expensive) photocopies. Fewer and fewer people have the time, money, or patience to do that. (If they ever did.)
Enter the smartphone, and cheap digital photography. Instead of reading papers during an archival visit, historians can snap pictures of the documents and then look at them later. Ian Milligan, a historian at the University of Waterloo, noticed the trend among his colleagues and surveyed 250 historians, about half of them tenured or tenure-track, and half in other positions, about their work in the archives. The results quantified the new normal. While a subset of researchers (about 23 percent) took few (fewer than 200) photos, the plurality (about 40 percent) took more than 2,000 photographs for their “last substantive project.”…
Is this the year that we finally admit we have no privacy? – Today’s news via ZDNet – Microsoft discloses security breach of customer support database – Microsoft disclosed today a security breach that took place last month in December 2019. In a blog post today, the OS maker said that an internal customer support database that was storing anonymized user analytics was accidentally exposed online without proper protections between December 5 and December 31. The database was spotted and reported to Microsoft by Bob Diachenko, a security researcher with Security Discovery. The leaky customer support database consisted of a cluster of five Elasticsearch servers, a technology used to simplify search operations, Diachenko told ZDNet today. All five servers stored the same data, appearing to be mirrors of each other. Diachenko said Microsoft secured the exposed database on the same day he reported the issue to the OS maker, despite being New Year’s Eve.
The servers contained roughly 250 million entries, with information such as email addresses, IP addresses, and support case details. Microsoft said that most of the records didn’t contain any personal user information. “As part of Microsoft’s standard operating procedures, data stored in the support case analytics database is redacted using automated tools to remove personal information,” Microsoft said…”