Facial Recognition, Military Technology, Google Docs, More: Sunday Buzz, February 18, 2018


Nextgov: Defense Department (Re)Launches Open Source Software Portal. “The Defense Department launched the website on Tuesday, a new, streamlined portal for its similarly named initiative, a collaborative approach to meeting the government’s open source policy. The new website was designed to give a more straightforward user experience. The site features a suite of new tools, including checklists that links to offer guidance, and represents ‘an evolution of the project,’ according to Ari Chivukula, policy wrangler for the Defense Digital Service.”

Sky News: Only dozens of images deleted from police database. “Only dozens in hundreds of thousands of photos held in a controversial police facial recognition database have been deleted, new figures reveal. Despite being told by the High Court that innocent people’s biometric details were being unlawfully held on the database, the numbers are continuing to grow, according to the biometric commissioner.”


Joyce Valenza: Google Docs and Drive Add-ons for CC0 images. “If you use Google Docs and Slides to create and communicate, you may be interested in how easy it now is to incorporate free, copyright-friendly images into your projects without having to leave your document to search for them. I was surprised to discover my very favorite image portals were available in the form of add-ons.” Quick roundup but so useful if you do a lot of writing in Google Docs / Google Drive!

Attention North Carolina archivists and librarians! Check out this post from the State Archives of North Carolina: Do You Need Help Digitizing Your Collections?. “A grant awarded to the State Historical Records Advisory Board and the State Archives of North Carolina provides for the transport, scanning, and online publishing of North Carolina historical records and archival materials through partnership with the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center at UNC-Chapel Hill University Library. As part of this program, workshops will be offered that teach the basics of preparing collections to be scanned.”


Los Angeles Times: The goal was espionage. The tactics were social media 101. “If a brand today wants to promote a new product, it would order its social media team to tailor posts that resonate with its audience, buy targeted ads to reach impressionable eyeballs, and closely monitor the performance of its messaging to ensure it reaches, and influences, as many viewers as possible. If a Russian troll farm wanted to disrupt an American election and amplify discord in an open society, it would apparently do the exact same things.”

The Daily Beast: Russian Troll Factory Alum Selling Social Media Mobs for $299 a Month. “Ever wished your personal or corporate Facebook account had the same polish and verve as the legion of fake accounts created by Russia’s election trolls? Then here’s good news. The newly indicted Internet Research Agency, or a former worker at the St. Petersburg troll factory, may be getting into the social media management business.”


Bloomberg Quint: Google’s Firing of Damore in `Monoculture’ Case Found Legal. “Google’s firing of an engineer over his controversial memo criticizing its diversity policies and ‘politically correct monoculture’ didn’t violate U.S. labor law, a federal agency lawyer concluded.”

Hollywood Reporter: Judge Rules News Publishers Violated Copyright by Embedding Tweets of Tom Brady Photo. “In a huge surprise, a New York federal judge on Thursday delivered a blow to nine news organizations defending their use of a Tom Brady photo. The judge’s decision is sure to be controversial and could prove quite consequential, too, potentially disrupting the way that news outlets use Twitter and causing many in technology to re-examine ubiquitous practices from embedding to linking.” Whoa.

Wired: Don’t Trust The VPN Facebook Wants You To Use. “THIS WEEK, REPORTS have percolated that Facebook is testing a new menu item, called “Protect,” in its iOS app. The feature sports a blue shield icon, and tapping it redirects you to the App Store listing for Facebook-owned VPN app Onavo Protect. But while Onavo does claim to offer some tools that make the web safer, in practice it falls far short of the privacy protections that VPN users reasonably expect.”


WPTV: Social Media Is Important For Politicians, But How Well Does It Work?. “Politicians are spending more and more money on social media — but is it worth it? Last year, research firm Borrell Associates estimated political campaigns spent more than $1.4 billion on digital advertising in 2016. That includes ads for video, mobile, email, social media and online searches. And Hamid Bendaas, press secretary for U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, offered some insight on how effective social media is.” Video and written story.

TechCrunch: How ad-free subscriptions could solve Facebook. “At the core of Facebook’s ‘well-being’ problem is that its business is directly coupled with total time spent on its apps. The more hours you pass on the social network, the more ads you see and click, the more money it earns. That puts its plan to make using Facebook healthier at odds with its finances, restricting how far it’s willing to go to protect us from the harms of over use.” I would pay to set myself free from Facebook’s algorithmic choices.

Northwestern: Unprecedented study of Picasso’s bronzes uncovers new details. “The international research team of scientists, art conservators and curators used the portable instruments and a robust database of alloy ‘fingerprints’ to non-invasively analyze a priceless group of 39 bronzes (cast between 1905 and 1959) and 11 painted sheet metal sculptures (from the 1960s) in the Musée national Picasso-Paris’ collection.” Good morning, Internet…

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