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DataScan: Issue #25

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Is it easier to hack an election than eBay? Why should users care about protecting data from being co
 

DataScan

April 2 · Issue #25 · View online
Curated digest on the world of data.

Is it easier to hack an election than eBay? Why should users care about protecting data from being collected and sold? Why is it vital to protect encryption? Are algorithms sprawling out of our control? How can facial recognition software stop toilet paper bandits? Is this the most magical surveillance state on Earth?
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Is it easier to hack an election than eBay? Sergei Pavlovich, one of the Russian-speaking world’s most notorious hackers, thinks so. 😳 Without explicitly commenting on the US election allegations, Pavlovich claims that “it is getting easier to access government organisations across the world thanks to the help of new apps being developed every day” –  and that everything created by a human can be destroyed
This comes alongside Senate Intelligence Committee’s Mark Warner claiming that “Russia hired 1,000 people to create anti-Clinton ‘fake news’ in key US states during election”. 😳 A CBS poll conducted earlier in the year showed that over half of Americans think Russia tried to interfere in the presidential election to help Trump. Scary.
Congress voted to eliminate ISP privacy rules - so browsing histories and other private information can be sold on the open market, for example to advertisers. The legislation now just needs Trump’s signature. 😐 But why should users care about privacy, and protecting data from being collected and sold by third parties? Luke Mulks discusses his opinion on the bigger implications of the Congress vote:

ISPs and telecoms are just two examples of your privacy being owned by default from the highest level, the connection itself. We haven’t even gotten into what’s actually being being collected, shared, sold, or how methods intended to empower and protect your control over these services are ultimately a farce.
For every major company violating user privacy that you may have heard of, there are several that you’ve likely never heard of. They each game the system in one way or another, because the system itself is essentially a loose confederation of businesses, associations and initiatives with no real regulatory body to enforce or keep up with standard practices.
Know this: Ads on the web are no longer ads, they are surveillance masquerading as ads. The data collected from calls made to request ads can often be more valuable than whether or not the ad served is actually seen by the user.
Time to start using a VPN? Or, start “making some noise” to muddy your online identity - then advertisers can’t accurately target you. 🙊  –> Encryption WON’T stop your ISP from spying on you. 😦
UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd accused WhatsApp of giving terrorists “a secret place to hide” and requested backdoor access - suggesting a hazy grip on encryption. Danvers Baillieu summarised:
The problem is that we either have secure encryption or we do not – there is no halfway house, because the moment a back door exists, the encryption is no longer secure. What we need is perfect encryption that can only be cracked by people who are properly authorised. The technology to enable this does not currently exist, but perhaps it is more urgent that effort from the tech sector is put in this direction.
Strong encryption makes us all safer. Unlocking such data would make it vulnerable to other parties, such as criminals and foreign spies, and terrorists would “quickly use other secure methods of communicating” instead anyway. ⛔
Are algorithms sprawling out of our control? THOUGHT PROVOKING opinion piece by Marc Aspinall - questioning how artificial intelligence and machine learning can be applied and regulated so we can “reap the benefits and minimise potential harms”. Highly recommend! ✅ ✅ 
Miscellaneous
Tableau visualisation of a day in the life of the tube. Interesting. 🚅
To fight toilet paper bandits, Beijing authorities have installed “high-tech toilet paper dispensers equipped with facial recognition software in several restrooms”. 🙄 The machine dispenses one two-foot sheet per person - and will not dispense a second roll to the same person for nine minutes:
Facial scanner dispensing toilet paper, via NY Times.
The most magical surveillance state on Earth? 🤔 Adam Clark Estes dissects Disney’s wearable MagicBand:
Disney World is supposed to be a fantasy land, where everything is effortless and the outside world doesn’t matter. Disney wants you to think that these all-access MagicBands work like magic, when really the system is just a bunch of wires, antennas, databases, and algorithms. Connected devices like these are the future—a future that requires people to sacrifice privacy for convenience.
Hobbyist plotter Michael Fogleman discusses programming plotters to do their plotting efficiently. Neat:
“Tree Rings” — drawn with a Makeblock XY Plotter, via Michael Fogleman.
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