• Barcelona is leading the fightback against smart city surveillance.

    [...] As citizens lived their lives, data was continuously harvested and funnelled into city hall and private sector partners where it was analysed for insight into how the city could be run more efficiently — or used to develop services and products for sale.

    Now, that data infrastructure is being repurposed. “We are reversing the smart city paradigm,” says Bria. “Instead of starting from technology and extracting all the data we can before thinking about how to use it, we started aligning the tech agenda with the agenda of the city.”

  • Amazon is selling facial recognition tech to law enforcement.

    The ACLU and a coalition of civil rights groups are calling on Amazon chief Jeff Bezos to stop offering Rekognition facial detection system to government customers after learning that the company is actively helping law enforcement implement the potentially invasive technology. Police in multiple regions have partnered with Amazon on surveillance projects, including an Orlando proof-of-concept that lets Amazon search for "people of interest" through city cameras as well a Washington County, Oregon initiative that lets officers scan people to see if they turn up in a mugshot database.

  • Big Brother Goes Digital.

    The new ubiquity of these devices [wearable devices] has “raised concerns,” as the social scientists Gina Neff and Dawn Nafus write in their recent book Self-Tracking—easily the best book I’ve come across on the subject—“about the tremendous power given to already powerful corporations when people allow companies to peer into their lives through data.” But the more troubling sorts of wearables are those used by companies to monitor their workers directly. This application of ubiquitous computing belongs to a field called “people analytics,” or PA, a name made popular by Alex “Sandy” Pentland and his colleagues at MIT’s Media Lab.

  • Woman says her Amazon device recorded private conversation, sent it out to random contact.

    A Portland family contacted Amazon to investigate after they say a private conversation in their home was recorded by Amazon's Alexa -- the voice-controlled smart speaker -- and that the recorded audio was sent to the phone of a random person in Seattle, who was in the family’s contact list.

  • Yes, Alexa is recording mundane details of your life, and it’s creepy as hell.

    Since last year I’ve had a smart speaker in my living room—an Echo Dot. My family uses it mostly to ask Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa, to play music. But after I saw a report that an Alexa-enabled speaker owned by a family in Portland, Oregon, had recorded a conversation and sent it to a contact, I started wondering: what is it picking up on at my house when we’re not talking to it directly?

    So I checked my Alexa history (you can do that through the “settings” portion of the Amazon Alexa smartphone app) to see what kinds of things it recorded without my knowledge.

    That’s when the hairs on the back of my neck started to stand up.

    People actually pay to have spy devices at home, and then they're surprised when they spy on them.


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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