• Zuckerberg's Letter And Will Facebook Make Minority Report's 'Precrime' A Reality?.

    This past November the New York Times reported that Facebook has been investing heavily in both political and technological fronts in an attempt to finally tap into China's more than 1.4 billion citizens. From a technology standpoint, it has allegedly "quietly developed software to suppress posts from appearing in people’s news feeds in specific geographic areas" in which a Chinese partner would have access to the real-time list of trending topics and stories and could block those posts from ever appearing to Chinese citizens (rather than deleting them after they have already been posted and spread). The Times emphasizes that while Mark Zuckerberg himself has allegedly personally “supported and defended” the program, it has not yet been deployed in any fashion and remains at this time only a technology prototype. Its existence and the fact that Facebook was focusing specific effort on tools that would allow governments to censor what their citizens could see was so concerning to several employees involved with the project that they left the company, according to the Times.

  • German Government Classifies Doll as Illegal Spyware.

    The My Friend Cayla doll, which is manufactured by the US company Genesis Toys and distributed in Europe by Guildford-based Vivid Toy Group, allows children to access the internet via speech recognition software, and to control the toy via an app.

    But Germany's Federal Network Agency announced this week that it classified Cayla as an "illegal espionage apparatus". As a result, retailers and owners could face fines if they continue to stock it or fail to permanently disable the doll's wireless connection.


  • An Algorithm Is Replacing Bail Hearings in New Jersey.

    Guidelines for how judges set bail vary across the country, but generally use a combination of a bail schedule, which prices out fees for specific offenses, and their own assessment of whether the defendant will appear at their hearing or commit a crime before their trial. If you can't pay up, you stay in jail until your trial date, sometimes for up to a month.

    On January 1, New Jersey replaced its bail system with an algorithm designed to mathematically assess the risk of defendants fleeing or committing a crime—particularly a violent one—before their trial date. The algorithm, called the Public Safety Assessment, was designed by the Texas-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation, a nonprofit that tries to fund innovative solutions to criminal justice reform.

Data Links is a periodic blog post published on Sundays (specific time may vary) which contains interesting links about data science, machine learning and related topics. You can subscribe to it using the general blog RSS feed or this one, which only contains these articles, if you are not interested in other things I might publish.

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