Computing

What does Google know about me?

A lot. Here’s a story I wouldn’t believe if it didn’t happen to me. Google knew I was going to break up with my girlfriend a month before I did.

About 5 years ago I was dating a girl. Well, being 35 years old I should call her a woman. And we weren’t just dating, we lived together along with her 5 year old son from a previous marriage. I was happy (I thought). I was looking to settle down and she checked all the boxes. Pretty, open minded, came from an unbroken family, and wasn’t constantly trying to change me. It had been a year and I was ready to make it official. I asked her father for permission. I had saved for a down payment on a ring, so a Christmas proposal was eminent.

Then one day all of Google’s ads for wedding rings were replaced with ads for Ashley Madison, porn, and dating sites. I was beyond weirded out as I hadn’t searched for anything like that. Maybe it was something in my conversations with friends I reasoned. Google somehow knew I wasn’t happy and inside I was ready to get out. Other than constant accusations me of being unfaithful we got along OK, but just OK. She wasn’t an intellectual. The only books she owned were Peanuts comics. She thought about my exes 10x more than I ever did, comparing her looks with each of them. Link

Don’t look now

Ekman has developed a method to identify minute facial expressions and map them on to corresponding emotions. This method was used to train “behavior detection officers” to scan faces for signs of deception.

But when the program was rolled out in 2007, it was beset with problems. Officers were referring passengers for interrogation more or less at random, and the small number of arrests that came about were on charges unrelated to terrorism. Even more concerning was the fact that the program was allegedly used to justify racial profiling.

Ekman tried to distance himself from Spot, claiming his method was being misapplied. But others suggested that the program’s failure was due to an outdated scientific theory that underpinned Ekman’s method; namely, that emotions can be deduced objectively through analysis of the face.

In recent years, technology companies have started using Ekman’s method to train algorithms to detect emotion from facial expressions. Some developers claim that automatic emotion detection systems will not only be better than humans at discovering true emotions by analyzing the face, but that these algorithms will become attuned to our innermost feelings, vastly improving interaction with our devices.

But many experts studying the science of emotion are concerned that these algorithms will fail once again, making high-stakes decisions about our lives based on faulty science. Link

Google’s Earth: how the tech giant is helping the state spy on us

Uber, Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Tinder, Apple, Lyft, Foursquare, Airbnb, Spotify, Instagram, Twitter, Angry Birds – if you zoom out and look at the bigger picture, you can see that, taken together, these companies have turned our computers and phones into bugs that are plugged in to a vast corporate-owned surveillance net-work. Where we go, what we do, what we talk about, who we talk to, and who we see – everything is recorded and, at some point, leveraged for value. Google, Apple and Facebook know when a woman visits an abortion clinic, even if she tells no one else: the GPS coordinates on the phone don’t lie. One-night stands and extramarital affairs are a cinch to figure out: two smartphones that never met before suddenly cross paths in a bar and then make their way to an apartment across town, stay together overnight, and part in the morning.

They know us intimately, even the things that we hide from those closest to us. In our modern internet ecosystem, this kind of private surveillance is the norm. It is as unnoticed and unremarkable as the air we breathe. But even in this advanced, data-hungry environment, in terms of sheer scope and ubiquity, Google reigns supreme. Link

Word processor pioneer Evelyn Berezin dies aged 93

The woman who created and sold what many recognise as the world’s first word processor has died aged 93. Evelyn Berezin called the device the Data Secretary when, in 1971, her company Redactron launched the product. She grew Redactron from nine employees to close to 500 and was named one of the US’s top leaders by BusinessWeek magazine in the year she sold it, 1976. She had earlier built one of the original computerised airline reservation systems. The innovation – which matched customers and available seats – was tested by United Airlines in 1962. According to the Computer History Museum, it had a one-second response time and worked for 11 years without any central system failuresThe technology vied with the rival Sabre system, developed by American Airlines, for being the first of its kind. Link

Alternatives To Google Products

Let’s face it: Google makes it easy to use their applications and services.

First, they’re free. Second, they’re available wherever you are through almost any internet-connected device. Third, well: we’re back to the free thing again.

But why are Google’s products and services free? How can they afford to maintain all of those servers and pay all of those thousands of employees by giving away their products? To be honest, Google doesn’t give away their products – or, at least, their most important product: … You!

Google’s entire business model is based on their users’ willingness to allow the online search company to watch their every online move. Google apps and services monitor how you use them, where you go online and more.

Google uses the information they glean to build a user profile, which is then used for various purposes, not the least of which is targeted advertising.

Even if you’re not logged into your Google account, they can still track your travels around the web via:

  • Google AdSense. They’re responsible for many of those banner ads you see generously included on most websites you visit.
  • Google Analytics. This aids website owners in determining which content their visitors access the most, how long they spend reading it and other site usage information. The information also helps track the performance of Google AdSense campaigns.

In addition to using the information they collect from you to sell advertising, the company has also been known to share the data they collect with government agencies.

Can you say PRISM, boys and girls? I knew you could.

Bill Hess Link to article

China’s social credit

China’s social credit system, a big-data system for monitoring and shaping business and citizens’ behaviour, is reaching beyond China’s borders to impact foreign companies, according to new research.

The system, which has been compared to an Orwellian tool of mass surveillance, is an ambitious work in progress: a series of big data and AI-enabled processes that effectively grant subjects a social credit score based on their social, political and economic behaviour.

People with low scores can be banned or blacklisted from accessing services including flights and train travel; while those with high scores can access privileges. The Chinese government aims to have all 1.35 billion of its citizens subject to the system by 2020. Link

Robots are learning how to run outside and navigate autonomously

Boston Dynamics’ robots look more natural and more amazing with each video, and today the company posted two more clips to its YouTube channel showing the latest progress of its Atlas and SpotMini robots.

The clips don’t reveal much we haven’t seen before, but they both show how naturally these robots are able to move around. In one video, Atlas, the humanoid robot, goes for a jog in a grassy yard that appears to be sloped here and there. Link

Warning on Cyberattacks Includes Private Homes

The United States and Britain on Monday issued a first-of-its-kind joint warning about Russian cyberattacks against government and private organizations as well as individual homes and offices in both countries, a milestone in the escalating use of cyberweaponry between major powers.

Although Washington and London have known for decades that the Kremlin was trying to penetrate their computer networks, the joint warning appeared to represent an effort to deter future attacks by calling attention to existing vulnerabilities, prodding individuals to mitigate them and threatening retaliation against Moscow if damage was done. Link

How to use Facebook while giving it the minimum amount of personal data

Facebook has found itself embroiled in yet another colossal controversy related to how its sprawling, multibillion-person social network has been abused by bad actors. This time, the culprit is Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm used by President Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2016 US election to target election ads on Facebook. It turns out, Cambridge Analytica misused the user data of as many as 50 million Facebook users via its affiliated behavior research firm Strategic Communication Laboratories, which violated Facebook’s terms of service by acquiring said data from a third-party app and reportedly lying about when that data was deleted and how it was used. Link

“Big brother is already watching you …”

U staat op een zwarte lijst” … Mensen worden massaal afgewezen voor telefoon- en internetabonnementen. Energiebedrijven Nuon, Oxxio, Qurrent en E.On laten klanten met een slechte score tot achthonderd euro extra borg betalen of wijzen hen simpelweg de deur. Ook woningcorporaties hebben de kredietcheck ontdekt. Mensen met een slechte score krijgen een kleinere woning of een kortlopend huurcontract. Woningcorporatie De Woningstichting uit Wageningen gaat nog een stap verder. Daar kun je een sociale huurwoning mislopen als je score niet goed is. Pakt de score van een potentiële huurder slecht uit, dan heeft hij precies twee dagen de tijd om aan te tonen dat de score onterecht is. Jaarlijks wijst de Woningstichting, die de helft van alle woningen in de stad beheert, zeker vijf kandidaten af.

Het vrijwel onbekende maar invloedrijke Focum bestaat pas acht jaar en heeft nu al informatie over een kleine tachtig procent van alle volwassenen in Nederland. Jarenlang heeft het moederbedrijf, incassobureau Vesting Finance, gegevens verzameld over mensen met schulden. ‘Onder strenge wetgeving maakt Focum gebruik van betalingservaringen van onder andere Vesting Finance, waaronder ook namen van personen en hun adressen’, schrijft het bedrijf in een advies aan woningcorporaties. Link

Free Proton VPN

ProtonVPN was born from our mission to safeguard privacy in the digital age. After creating the world’s largest secure email provider, we’ve repeatedly witnessed the increasing infringement on user privacy on the Internet, and we built ProtonVPN in order to counteract this, and ensure that the Internet remains a force for freedom everywhere. Link

22 Best Mac security tips and tricks

Maintaining privacy and keeping data secure are hugely important for any Mac user. Yet many of use give it scant attention and do little more than the bare minimum, if anything at all to ensure that hackers, opportunists and, yes, even the authorities are able to access as little of our personal data as possible.

Yet, macOS makes securing your data very simple, thanks to a host of tools in System Preferences and Safari, and several third party apps.

There are two places threats to your data are likely to come from: over a network like the internet, or from someone with direct access to your Mac. Taking steps to protect yourself will minimise both. Link

Consider yourself a Mac power-user? Or do you aspire to take your place amongst such privileged ranks? Here’s a selection of classic yet simple tricks taken fromMac Kung Fu: Second Edition to help you on your way. Link

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