OSINT Forest Area Tracker, Google Chrome, Hawaii Wildfires, More: Saturday Afternoon ResearchBuzz, August 19, 2023


Bellingcat: A New Tool Shows What War Has Done to Ukraine’s Forests. “We’ve launched the ‘OSINT Forest Area Tracker’, hosted on Google Earth Engine. Our tool compares data collected by Sentinel-2, a satellite which detects changes in infrared wavelengths and can be used to study the health of forests. The tool reveals the scale and intensity of anomalous changes on land. This narrows down search areas for researchers working on environmental damage in Ukraine.”


XDA: Google Chrome will soon enforce HTTPS by default . “Currently, Chrome shows warnings if you visit websites which leverage HTTP, but many people ignore them. As such, the company has now decided that it will be taking more aggressive steps towards enforcing HTTPS in an effort to change behavior both in web authors and their audience.”

CNBC: Google’s plan to purge inactive accounts isn’t sitting well with some users. “Google said in May that, starting in December, it would begin purging inactive accounts, a warning sign of sorts to people who use multiple logins. Recently, Google has been nudging people over email to remind them what will happen to those stagnant accounts. Critics of Google’s strategy are making their voices heard.”


The Messenger: Wildfire Conspiracy Theories Burn on Social Media as Maui Smolders. “Conspiracy theories are circulating on online social media platforms that seek to blame the wildfires in Hawaii on various organizations and individuals, including the World Economic Forum and Oprah Winfrey.”

Texas Tribune: Gen Z influencers, quietly recruited by a company with deep GOP ties, rally to impeached Ken Paxton’s aid. “In late June, about a dozen conservative Gen Z influencers converged on Fort Worth for a few days of right-wing networking. They hit local night spots, posed for group photos and met a far-right Texas billionaire and Donald Trump’s former campaign chair. And then they took to social media to rally their many followers behind a new, controversial film about human trafficking before turning their support to impeached Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.”


University of Wisconsin-Madison: Down the tubes: Common PVC pipes can hack voice identification systems. “One type of security system that is gaining popularity is automatic speaker identification, which uses a person’s voice as a passcode. These systems, already in use for phone banking and other applications, are good at weeding out attacks that try to fake a user’s voice through digital manipulation. But digital security engineers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison have found these systems are not quite as foolproof when it comes to a novel analog attack. They found that speaking through customized PVC pipes — the type found at most hardware stores — can trick machine learning algorithms that support automatic speaker identification systems.”

The Register: South Korea ‘puts the brakes’ on Google’s app store dominance. “South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission today commenced monitoring of Google’s app store operations – an action that follows its April decision to fine the advertising and mobile OS giant for its competition-crimping activities.”


Mashable: Elon Musk’s X follower count bloated by millions of new, inactive accounts. “Of the 153,209,283 X accounts following Musk at the time the data was collected, around 42 percent of Musk’s followers, or more than 65.3 million users, have zero followers on their own account. Just over 72 percent, or nearly 112 million, of these users following Musk have less than 10 followers on their account.”

University of Calgary: Researcher works to eliminate barriers to eye exams using artificial intelligence and virtual reality. “RetinaLogik leverages the power of artificial intelligence and virtual reality by creating a portable eye test using virtual reality glasses that improve patient insights and vision screening for everyone everywhere. Not only does the platform aim to reduce misdiagnosis, improve portability and make eye exams more affordable, but the platform was designed to make it more engaging and comfortable for patients.”

Tech Policy Press: The Value of News Content to Google is Way More Than You Think. “The study, conducted by FehrAdvice & Partners AG on behalf of the SWISS MEDIA publishers’ association with oversight by leading academics, assessed the value of journalistic content on the Google search engine in Switzerland and its impact on user behavior and satisfaction, concluding that the market share of Google searches that use media content results in an estimated revenue of about $440 million per year. It suggests that if Google did not have a dominant monopoly position in web search and faced serious competition, fair compensation for the value that media content provides to Google search would amount to about 40% of total revenue, or approximately $176 million per year in Switzerland alone.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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