Weekend Edition

How Amazon’s Algorithms Curated A Dystopian Bookstore [wired /34] Curation algorithms are largely amoral. They’re engineered to show us things we are statistically likely to want to see, content that people similar to us have found engaging—even if it’s stuff that’s factually unreliable or potentially harmful. On social networks, these algorithms are optimized primarily to drive engagement.

imagenet-roulette /0 Trevor Paglen Studio ImageNet Roulette uses a neural network trained on the “people” categories from the ImageNet dataset to classify pictures of people. It’s meant to be a peek into how artificial intelligence systems classify people, and a warning about how quickly AI becomes horrible when the assumptions built into it aren’t continually and exhaustively questioned. ImageNet Roulette is meant in part to demonstrate how bad politics propagate through technical systems, often without the creators of those systems even being aware of it.

YouTube fought Brie Larson trolls by changing its search algorithm [verge/41] This week, YouTube recategorized “Brie Larson” as a news-worthy search term. That does one very important job: it makes the search algorithm surface videos from authoritative sources on a subject. Instead of videos from individual creators, YouTube responds with videos from Entertainment Tonight, ABCCBSCNNand other news outlets first. (YouTube should rank ‘music videos’ higher in the recommendation mix -ed)

Pervasive real-time police surveillance is not just theoretical anymore. [reason/9] The public is already uneasy about the widespread police use of facial recognition technology. A 2018 Brookings poll found that 50 percent of Americans “believe there should be limits on the use of facial recognition software by law enforcement, 26 percent do not, and 24 percent are unsure.” Forty-two percent think that facial recognition software invades personal privacy, 28 percent do not, and 30 percent are unsure. Forty-nine percent believe the government should not compile a data base of people’s faces, 22 percent think they should, and 29 percent are unsure. The Project On Government Oversight (POGO), a nonpartisan watchdog, has just issued a report called Facing the Future of Surveillance. It starkly outlines the dangers to liberty posed by this technology, and it offers some recommendations for how to limit abuses.

You May Have Forgotten Foursquare, But It Didn’t Forget You [Wired/55] Priya Kumar, a privacy researcher and tech ethicist, says Foursquare should have been more respectful of users before rolling out a potentially controversial feature like Hypertrending. “Foursquare and the team that created this feature didn’t think about [whether] their use of this data fits the context in which the users provided it,” she says. “They should have gone back to users and let them opt in, or talked to civil society researchers who could give [Foursquare] insight on that before they even created the feature.”

Regulation of the digital world has not kept pace with its role in our lives. We need a new regulatory framework for big tech, says Lords Communications Committee. [parliament.uk/9] Recommendations for a new regulatory approach Digital Authority A new ‘Digital Authority’ should be established to co-ordinate regulators, continually assess regulation and make recommendations on which additional powers are necessary to fill gaps. The Digital Authority should play a key role in providing the public, the Government and Parliament with the latest information. It should report to a new joint committee of both Houses of Parliament, whose remit would be to consider all matters related to the digital world.

Elizabeth Warren is on the same page as the Parliaments regulatory framework as she has laid out in “Here’s how we can break up Big Tech” [Medium/1] Weak antitrust enforcement has led to a dramatic reduction in competition and innovation in the tech sector. Venture capitalists are now hesitant to fund new startups to compete with these big tech companies because it’s so easy [promarket/12] for the big companies to either snap up growing competitors or drive them out of business. The number of tech startups has slumped [axios/16], there are fewer high-growth young firms [pdf]typical of the tech industry, and first financing rounds for tech startups have declined 22% [economist/38] since 2012.

Tech Hiring a Bright Spot Amid Weaker Job Growth [wsj/37/firewall] is a tune the . tech co’s might want to focus on when it comes to regulation – Within the technology sector, which accounts for more than 40% of total IT employment, employers added 7,500 new jobs, led by technology services, custom software development and computer system design.

Four Charts That Show Why Mark Zuckerberg Is Overhauling Facebook [wsj/37/firewall] Users are posting photos and status updates to Facebook less often. In the final three months of 2018, 23% of Facebook users in the U.S. updated their status or posted a comment about what they were doing, down from 32% in the year-earlier period. And in the same three months, 28% of users in the U.S. posted a photo to Facebook, down from 37.5% a year earlier.