How-to

Privacy

For some, Facebook is able to come to conclusions about your political leanings easily, if you mention a political party on your page. For those that are less open about politics on social media, Facebook makes assumptions based on pages you like.

As The New York Times explained, if you like Ben and Jerry's Facebook page and most of the other people that like that page identify as liberal, Facebook might assume you, too, are liberal.

The number of third parties sending information to and receiving data from popular websites each time you visit them has increased dramatically in the past 20 years, which means that visitors to those sites may be more closely watched by major corporations and advertisers than ever before, according to a new analysis of Web tracking.

A team from the University of Washington reviewed two decades of third-party requests by using Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. They found a four-fold increase in the number of requests logged on the average website from 1996 to 2016, and say that companies may be using these requests to more frequently track the behavior of individual users.

[...] even the most significant recent breaches had very little impact on the company's stock price. Industry analysts have inferred that shareholders are numb to news of data breaches. A widely accepted notion goes that there are only two types of companies: those that have been breached and those that don't know they have. It is true that that breaches are expected and have become a regular cost of doing business, but there are deeper reasons for the market's failure to respond to these incidents.

Tech

The spreadsheet software Microsoft Excel, when used with default settings, is known to convert gene names to dates and floating-point numbers. A programmatic scan of leading genomics journals reveals that approximately one-fifth of papers with supplementary Excel gene lists contain erroneous gene name conversions.

[...] smart phones track where you go, who you talk to, how you interact with those people, and all the things you do—and do not—do. With the right permissions, soon psychiatrists might use GPS, microphones, and other sensors to get real insights into a person's mental wellbeing.

The UC Berkeley Urban Analytics Lab collected, validated, and analyzed 11 million Craigslist rental listings to discover fine-grained patterns across metropolitan housing markets in the United States.

Machine learning is nipping at the heels of conventional physical modeling of air quality predictions in more and more places. The latest is Johannesburg, South Africa, where computer engineer Tapiwa M. Chiwewe at the newly opened IBM Research lab is adapting IBM's air quality prediction software to local needs and adding new capabilities. The work is an expansion of the so-called Green Horizons initiative, in which IBM researchers partnered with Chinese government researchers and officials, starting two years ago.

Legalist is a Silicon Valley startup that was developed in the Y Combinator incubator offering “data-backed litigation financing” using algorithms to “analyze millions of court cases to source, vet, and finance commercial litigation.” It's the latest in a series of companies that allow third parties to "invest" in the success of a lawsuit, by funding said lawsuit.

The idea is that, using historical lawsuit data, the outcome of a lawsuit can be predicted before it's even filed. If you can predict which lawsuits will succeed, you can ensure big financial returns for people who invest in litigation. Similarly, to increase the probability of a lawsuit's success, would-be litigants should file their cases in districts with judges who are notoriously favorable to that type of case.

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