New Zealand Law, Facebook, Google, More: Thursday Buzz, November 24, 2016


Now available: an online database of historic bills of New Zealand. “Legal researchers, historians and anyone interested in past legislation can now access all available bills from 1854 to 2008 in the NZ Historical Bills collection on the New Zealand Legal Information Institute (NZLII) website. Bills that became Acts and those that were not passed are included in this important collection.”


Facebook seems to be testing a feature to show you nearby WiFi. “Not long ago, Facebook started asking Pages to list Wi-Fi locations at their physical addresses. It seems this is the backbone that the information is built on, but it might also lend itself to some inaccurate results.”

A little update to the ProtonMail story from a couple months ago. It is very, very weird. “Many of your probably read the Search Risk – How Google Almost Killed ProtonMail story from a month ago – it has been something I’ve been tracking since August. In August, I spotted a message from Matt Cutts on Twitter that sparked my interest. Matt responded to ProtonMail’s tweets of Google intentionally hiding them from the Google search results because it competes with Gmail. Matt is on leave, has been for years and he responds to that tweet? But I didn’t see anything much since and kept it in my archives to file for some time.”


Ugh. I don’t take tons of these things but I’m now going to start lying when I do (if I do. Reading this article put me off.) From the New York Times: The Secret Agenda of a Facebook Quiz. “For several years, a data firm eventually hired by the Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica, has been using Facebook as a tool to build psychological profiles that represent some 230 million adult Americans. A spinoff of a British consulting company and sometime-defense contractor known for its counterterrorism ‘psy ops’ work in Afghanistan, the firm does so by seeding the social network with personality quizzes. Respondents — by now hundreds of thousands of us, mostly female and mostly young but enough male and older for the firm to make inferences about others with similar behaviors and demographics — get a free look at their Ocean scores. Cambridge Analytica also gets a look at their scores and, thanks to Facebook, gains access to their profiles and real names.”

Oh boy. From TechCrunch: Reddit CEO admits he secretly edited comments from Donald Trump supporters. “Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has admitted that he modified comments about him left on the site from supporters of Donald Trump. Huffman said he changed mentions of him in some of the messages inside the site’s largest forum for the President-elect, but not the messages themselves. But, in doing so, he dredges up past concerns that Reddit remains unable to work with its community.” I have no way to assess the comments that were left, but when you’re CEO of a site and you mess with users’ content like this, you’re so far out of line you’re off the map.

It makes you wonder just what the heck is going on with Twitter when it accidentally suspends its own CEO’s account. “…on Tuesday, Twitter brought the ban hammer down on someone very surprising: its own co-founder and chief executive, Jack Dorsey. Dorsey’s account disappeared for about 15 minutes on Tuesday night. Even when it reappeared, it took a while for the executive’s millions of followers to show up again; at one point, the account showed as few as 142.”

Facebook is having some drone problems. “Facebook may have been beaming with pride when it completed the first full test of its Aquila internet drone on June 28th, but that ‘structural failure’ near the end? US officials aren’t so happy about that. The National Transportation Safety Board has revealed that it’s investigating the incident, which it considers ‘substantial’ enough to be treated as an accident. The exact circumstances aren’t available, but there wasn’t any damage on the ground.”

Digiday: Scale-hungry Facebook video publishers are in trouble if they don’t think long term. “Ad revenue from Facebook through its suggested videos product is still incredibly small, publishing sources say, and user-generated clips aren’t a format that can be licensed to different platforms and territories. Which means as soon as the video is finished, it gets lost in the growing sea of content on Facebook, never to be thought of again. And that’s the ugly truth in the age of Facebook video: publishers that chase quick scale without an eye toward establishing a long-term video business are in for a lot of trouble.”


Looks like the latest data leak was at HUD. “Personal information for roughly 480,000 people was exposed in two separate privacy incidents earlier this year involving the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website. The two incidents occurred on Aug. 29 and Sept. 14, the department said in a statement posted to its website Monday. HUD mailed letters to affected individuals in early November apologizing for the incidents and detailing the steps the agency is taking to address them. The letters were signed by the department’s executive secretary and senior agency official for privacy, Helen Goff Foster.” The headline says “breach” but the story reads like these were two data leaks, not hacking incidents.

Don’t be surprised if you get a $15 check from Facebook. “Some background: In April 2011, a class-action lawsuit against the social network alleged that it used users’ names and faces in ‘Sponsored Story’ ads without their consent. Five plaintiffs accused Facebook of improperly creating promotional material based on their “liking” companies’ pages or content, but the class-action extended to anyone whose likeness had appeared in an ad without their permission.”


University of Central Florida: UCF Research Finds Google Glass Technology May Slow Down Response Time. “Heads-up display technology – think Google Glass – offers lots of information to users in seconds, literally in front of their eyes. Access to information is critical in today’s fast-paced world, but new research at the University of Central Florida indicates that the multitasking needed to process that readily available information may slow down the brain’s response time.”

Wow, Google’s DeepMind AI is getting really good at lip-reading. “Artificial intelligence is getting its teeth into lip reading. A project by Google’s DeepMind and the University of Oxford applied deep learning to a huge data set of BBC programmes to create a lip-reading system that leaves professionals in the dust. The AI system was trained using some 5000 hours from six different TV programmes, including Newsnight, BBC Breakfast and Question Time. In total, the videos contained 118,000 sentences.” Good morning, Internet…

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