How-to

Privacy

  • Just one of the many reports on this: Fitness tracking app Strava gives away location of secret US army bases.

    Sensitive information about the location and staffing of military bases and spy outposts around the world has been revealed by a fitness tracking company.

    The details were released by Strava in a data visualisation map that shows all the activity tracked by users of its app, which allows people to record their exercise and share it with others.

    The map, released in November 2017, shows every single activity ever uploaded to Strava – more than 3 trillion individual GPS data points, according to the company. The app can be used on various devices including smartphones and fitness trackers like Fitbit to see popular running routes in major cities, or spot individuals in more remote areas who have unusual exercise patterns.

  • Unintended Consequences Of EU's New Internet Privacy Rules: Facebook Won't Use AI To Catch Suicidal Users. Techdirt's quoting The New York Times, but I link this one because the comments on this site are sometimes good. The relevant paragraph from the original article:

    Last November, for instance, the company unveiled a program that uses artificial intelligence to monitor Facebook users for signs of self-harm. But it did not open the program to users in Europe, where the company would have had to ask people for permission to access sensitive health data, including about their mental state.

Tech

  • The Voynich manuscript pops up its head from time to time. It's never the last one. Artificial Intelligence May Have Cracked Freaky 600-Year-Old Manuscript.

    Since its discovery over a hundred years ago, the 240-page Voynich manuscript, filled with seemingly coded language and inscrutable illustrations, has confounded linguists and cryptographers. Using artificial intelligence, Canadian researchers have taken a huge step forward in unraveling the document’s hidden meaning.

    [...] For Greg Kondrak, an expert in natural language processing at the University of Alberta, this seemed a perfect task for artificial intelligence. With the help of his grad student Bradley Hauer, the computer scientists have taken a big step in cracking the code, discovering that the text is written in what appears to be the Hebrew language, and with letters arranged in a fixed pattern. To be fair, the researchers still don’t know the meaning of the Voynich manuscript, but the stage is now set for other experts to join the investigation.

  • Austerity is an algorithm. I've just discovered this magazine, Logic, and it looks promising. This article is another reminder that social issues cannot and perhaps should not be solved using only technological means.

    The methodology of the algorithm itself was riddled with flaws. It calculates the average of an individual’s annual income reported to the Australian Tax Office by their employer over twenty-six fortnightly periods and compares it with the fortnightly earnings reported to Centrelink by the welfare recipient. All welfare recipients are required to declare their gross earnings (income accrued before tax and other deductions) within this fourteen-day period. Any discrepancy between the two figures is interpreted by the algorithm as proof of undeclared or underreported income, from which a notice of debt is automatically generated.

    Previously, these inconsistencies would be handled by Centrelink staff, who would call up your employer, confirm the amount you received in fortnightly payments, and cross-index that figure with the one calculated in the system. But the automation of the debt recovery process has outsourced authority from humans to the algorithm itself.

    It’s certainly efficient: it takes the algorithm one week to generate 20,000 debt notices, a process that would take up to a year if done manually. But it’s not a reliable method of fraud detection. It’s blunt, unwieldy, and error-prone. It assumes that variations in the data sets are deliberate, and that recipients have received more than what they are entitled to. What’s more, the onus is on the welfare recipient to prove their income has been reported correctly and that the entitlements they have received are commensurate within twenty-one days.

  • A.I. Has Arrived in Investing. Humans Are Still Dominating.. Hacker News comments here. And here's the quote if you want to follow it for the next months.

    Machines are starting to take the place of the people who flip burgers, drive across town and, lately, manage stock portfolios.

    Artificial intelligence is taking on a bigger role in making investment decisions.

    A.I., including an ability to analyze data and actually learn from it, is considered useful in executing certain investing models, such as high-frequency trading, and in helping fund managers with tasks that rely on gathering and interpreting reams of information. Going a step further, an exchange-traded fund introduced in October uses A.I. algorithms to choose long-term stock holdings.

Visualizations


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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