Transparency, USDA Records,, More: Thursday Buzz, February 9, 2017


Wired: A Heroic AI Will Let You Spy on Your Lawmakers’ Every Word. ” Digital Democracy is like YouTube for local government hearings, bolstered with a splash of artificial intelligence. Bots create transcripts of lawmakers’ every official utterance at the state house and use face recognition software to keep track of who’s speaking. Voters can search the transcripts by speaker and subject while at the same time getting a glimpse of legislators’ financial ties. The non-profit effort launched in California back in 2015, and today, it’s expanding to New York.”


Motherboard: This Blog Is Republishing All the Animal Welfare Records the USDA Deleted. “The records were typically used by animal welfare groups to keep tabs on how well these laws were being enforced, but were also used by the general public to research the inspection records of everything from dog breeders to circuses and zoos. One type of file included in the deleted database was annual reports on animal experimentation. In order to get authorization to experiment on live animals, research facilities have to file annual reports to the USDA. On Tuesday, [Russ] Kick published thousands of these reports, which he had downloaded last summer. ”

From the blog: New Options Available to Visualize CDC Data. “Now, we have launched CDC’s NCHHSTP AtlasPlus. This update has significant enhancements that empower users to explore 2015 HIV, STD, and TB data at the national, state, or county level. They can easily access 2014 data for hepatitis as well. Disease rates can be analyzed by demographic variables, transmission categories, year, and trends over time. In this new version, users can create 2 side-by-side maps or charts, e.g., state-level maps can compare HIV diagnoses among White and African American MSM.”

Politico: Ireland to get social media watchdog. “Minister for Communications Denis Naughten will meet with ministerial colleagues next week to discuss the establishment of a new watchdog to monitor social media like Facebook and Twitter in their efforts to remove abusive content, bullying and harassment, the Irish Independent reported Tuesday.”

Washington Post:
Facebook cracks down on ads that discriminate
. “The company said Wednesday that its policies now say that ads cannot discriminate against people based on attributes such as race, gender, sexual orientation or medical or genetic condition, said Steve Satterfield, manager of privacy and public policy at Facebook. It also expressly forbids ads that have discriminatory content — i.e. ones that say certain types of people ‘need not apply.'”


The Guardian: Google Chrome: six tips to make it suck less battery power. “Google’s Chrome browser is used by over 62% of the world’s PC users, but it’s a notorious battery hog that if left to run rampant can reduce your laptop or tablet to just a couple of hours of life. But it doesn’t have to be like that, as Google is making efforts to improve it. In the meantime, here are some tips to get Chrome’s battery usage under control without sacrificing functionality.”

Make Tech Easier: How to Monitor Web Page Changes Using VisualPing. “If you’ve ever waited for a webpage to update with vital information you need, you know it can be a real chore to keep tabs on it. Perhaps you refresh the page every so often. Maybe you even go so far as to install an auto-refresher. But what if you could use a tool that would let you know when the webpage updates instead?” I use VisualPing for both work and ResearchBuzz. It’s not cheap but it’s worked well for me. This is not a paid endorsement: I pay for the service and they don’t know me from Adam’s greengrocer.


SBS: Denmark to appoint ambassador to Google, Apple and Microsoft. “Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen will appoint an “ambassador” to global tech giants such as Google, Apple, IBM and Microsoft. ‘These companies have become a kind of new nations, which we have to deal with,’ Foreign Minister Samuelsen told Danish newspaper Politiken.”

MIT Technology Review: Why Snap Is Worried About Net Neutrality. “Smaller wireless streaming video providers like Snap are among those with the most to lose if the Open Internet rules are rolled back. In its filing for the Securities and Exchange Commission, Snap warned that if they are modified or removed, ‘mobile providers may be able to limit our users’ ability to access Snapchat or make Snapchat a less attractive alternative to our competitors’ applications.'”


Wikimedia: Algorithms and insults: Scaling up our understanding of harassment on Wikipedia. “Early last year, the Wikimedia Foundation kicked off a research collaboration with Jigsaw, a technology incubator for Google’s parent company, Alphabet, to better understand the nature and impact of harassment on Wikipedia and explore technical solutions. In particular, we have been developing models for automated detection of toxic comments on users’ talk pages applying machine learning methods. We are using these models to analyze the prevalence and nature of online harassment at scale. This data will help us prototype tools to visually depict harassment, helping administrators respond.”

Very cool article from The Hearing Review: Connecting Smart Hearing Aids to the Internet via IFTTT. “Admittedly, hearing aids have not previously met the criteria to be referred to as ‘smart devices’ and, to be fair, traditional hearing aids have not been associated with vast Internet connectivity. However, the introduction of Oticon’s Opn in May 2016, featuring the Velox™ platform’s TwinLink™ technology, represents the first hearing aid technology to offer both Bluetooth and Near Field Magnetic Induction (NFMI) wireless connectivity—and is designed to interact with the innovative and exciting ‘If This Then That’ service (”


Wow! From PetaPixel: This Hyperlapse Was Made from 3,305 Google Maps Screenshots. “Today is Google Maps’ 12th birthday, and graphic design student Matteo Archondis is paying the platform homage in a really cool way. A fan of timelapse and hyperlapse techniques, Archondis created a visual hyperlapse tour of the world using only screenshots taken within Google Maps.” Good morning, Internet…

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