Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Is the CFAA Masking Systematic Discrimination?

Masking-Discrimination

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging a key computer crime law, arguing that it violates the Constitution and specifically prevents researchers from identifying systemic discrimination, such as those related to housing and job searches.

The group is backing several anti-discrimination researchers and First Look Media — publishers of the Intercept — in a legal challenge filed Wednesday. At issue is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). This law, among other things, makes it a jailable offense to break the terms of service of any Internet company. (That means that, technically, using a pseudonym on Facebook or lying to let a 12-year-old create a Google account breaks the law.)

The researchers and journalists say that breaking those rules can be necessary for research, and argue that simply violating websites' rules shouldn't carry such a heavy penalty. In particular, the lawsuit says that those looking to investigate whether housing and job sites discriminate against applicants often must create several fake accounts to test how sites' algorithms view similar candidates.

"The law has long protected such socially useful misrepresentation in the offline world," the complaint reads.  "In the online world, however, conducting the same kind of audit testing generally violates websites’ terms of service," the filing notes, which in turn violates the CFAA.

The complaint also argues that researchers must be able to scrape sites — using tools to pull massive amounts of information from them — to collect the datasets they need to conduct their research. Companies tend not to like this, as it pulls what they may consider proprietary data from the businesses they've built.

The researchers and the ACLU argue that the CFAA, as written, violates the First and Fifth amendments by preventing news organizations and researchers from conducting their investigations without fear of harsh punishment. They also argue that the law puts too much power in the hands of companies, which can change their terms at any time — and, in doing so, criminalize any number of behaviors.

The CFAA has been sharply criticized in the past for being overly broad, poorly defined and disproportionately harsh. The debate came to the fore after the 2013 suicide of noted programmer Aaron Swartz, who was facing jail time for scraping information from the academic site JSTOR.

A reform law, called Aaron's Law, was introduced some months later, and proposed that those who violate terms of service should be punished for any damage caused, rather than simply for breaking the rules. The bill has languished in Congress ever since.

By highlighting how the CFAA specifically prevents further research into housing and job discrimination, the ACLU and researchers have found a way to use the government's own priorities against itself. The Obama administration has repeatedly called for close study of whether companies use big data in a discriminatory way. The Federal Trade Commission, for example, asked explicitly whether the use of big data is inclusive or exclusive. And the White House itself released a major report last month cautioning that, used poorly, big data can perpetuate damaging stereotypes.

"Without deliberate care, these innovations can easily hardwire discrimination, reinforce bias, and mask opportunity," the report's authors — including U.S. chief technology officer Megan Smith — said in a blog post.

Read Article (name | domain | 03/11/2016)

Agreements or contracts are binding to both parties. But it appears that companies are exempt from penalties of violating said agreements or contracts. To quote a comment of the article: “If breaking the terms of service is a crime, then when an Internet company does not fulfill their 'unlimited speed' or bandwidth agreement, their CEO should also go to jail.”

Master Level High-Tech Webinars

How Brexit Affects Global Technology Industry

Brexit-Affects

Brexit has officially happened, and the implications of the vote to leave the European Union has raised many questions for the global technology industry.

In Britain, a majority of tech firms were against leaving the E.U. A technology industry group survey found that 87 percent of British technology firms wanted to stay in the European Union, and that 70 percent of them worried a vote to leave would damage London’s reputation as a technology hub. Global companies with offices in Britain, such as Microsoft, also campaigned against the move.

Now that the votes have been cast, here are some major issues facing the tech industry in Britain and abroad, in light of the decision.

Data flow and data privacy: The U.S. and the E.U. are in the process of making the final adjustments to their latest data privacy agreement, which governs the flow of data between U.S. and Europe. With a major player in the E.U. now backing out of the coalition, there are obviously some questions about what happens to data flowing in and out of Britain from the U.S. and elsewhere.

Despite the referendum results, however, things in this area will remain with the status quo — for now.

“The Data Protection Act remains the law of the land irrespective of the referendum result,” confirmed the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office, but added that the Brexit does mean that the U.K. will not be subject to upcoming reforms the E.U. is planning to make around data protection.

However, Britain is unlikely to deviate from the policies of the E.U. in this particular area, simply because E.U. standards have become basically standard around the world. Should Britain shy away from those regulations, experts said, it would face dire consequences.

“It will be left out of the group of progressive and forward looking countries with suitable safeguards for personal data,” wrote privacy law expert Eduardo Ustaran ahead of the vote.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the Brexit will have no effect on the world’s data economy. There is also a sense, now that Britain has voted to leave the E.U., that the counterweight it provided against privacy-heavy countries such as Germany and France will also disappear. Germany and France have been leading the charge against major American tech firms -- notably Google, with the “right to be forgotten” ruling.

“This will help strengthen calls from the E.U. member states more concerned about protecting privacy rights,” said privacy advocate Jeff Chester, director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

Some are optimistic that, with fewer E.U. regulations, British companies would thrive. But the uncertainty in the immediate aftermath of the vote makes some uneasy.

“Europe is such an important economy, it would be a shame if this and some existing policy proposals by some in the E.U. came into effect in a way that dampened the ability to use technology and grow their economies,” said Ed Black, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association.

Funding: One of the key reasons that many British technology firms said they were against a British exit from the E.U. was that it would be more difficult for them to secure funding for start-ups. London’s technology industry has been on the rise for the past several years.

Britain benefits in large part from funds such as the European Investment Fund, which backs an estimated 41 percent of venture capital investments in Europe. Its majority investor is the European Investment Bank.

But if Britain is no longer a part of Europe, that dries up a source of funding just as questions about how a U.K. shorn of its E.U. ties will regulate health tech, financial tech and other technology industries.

For its part, the EIF has said that it will continue business as usual for the time being. But the vote has injected a note of uncertainty into the start-up market, as Britain will now have to make its own negotiations with the fund.

“The European Investment Fund takes note, with regret, of the vote of the British people to leave the European Union,” the group said in a statement. “EIF will actively engage with the EIB and relevant European institutions to define the EIF’s activity in the UK as part of the broader discussions to determine the future relationship of the UK with Europe and European bodies."

Others also have financial concerns. For example, the video game industry in particular has said that it's worried that the new tax environment won't be as favorable to it as the E.U.'s has been.

Immigration: British tech firms — and technology firms from around the globe with offices there — have also raised concerns that the Brexit will fundamentally harm the tech industry’s ability to fill positions for highly skilled workers. Without the E.U.’s allowances to let workers move freely between countries, British companies are now worried about a shortage of qualified workers. That might be something that gets ironed out in a later agreement. But right now, there are plenty of expat workers in and outside of Britain that are raising questions about how Brexit affects their lives.

The concerns echo the talking points of the tech industry’s calls for immigration reform in the U.S. right now. The tech industry has repeatedly said that it needs to be able to recruit highly skilled foreign-born workers from across the globe in order to meet its labor demands.

Todd Schulte, president of the U.S. immigration group FWD.us, said that while the situations between the U.S. and Britain are obviously different, the need for support for a foreign-born workforce is not.

“In a globalized economy, when you’re trying to sell to the world, a diverse workforce is an asset,” he said.

There are also worries that companies that looked to London as an ideal place to start a company will now look elsewhere. Some start-ups have already begun to evaluate whether London is still the right place for their offices.

"To us, it was obvious to have London as a headquarters for all of Europe," said Allan Martinson, chief operating officer of the delivery startup Starship Technologies. "Today we may need to look for another location if we're working with continental Europeans."

Read Article (Hayley Tsukayama | washingtonpost.com | 06/24/2016)

Leading countries in the digital era have prospered through the sharing of methodologies, agreements and policies. To suddenly stand-apart, exposes one’s self to unknown ramifications.

We can only hope that nothing negative results from this decision.

Master Level High-Tech Webinars

AI: We’re Children Playing with a Bomb (1 of 4)

Playing-with-a-Bomb-1

You’ll find the Future of Humanity Institute down a medieval backstreet in the center of Oxford. It is beside St Ebbe’s church, which has stood on this site since 1005, and above a Pure Gym, which opened in April. The institute, a research faculty of Oxford University, was established a decade ago to ask the very biggest questions on our behalf. Notably: what exactly are the “existential risks” that threaten the future of our species; how do we measure them; and what can we do to prevent them? Or to put it another way: in a world of multiple fears, what precisely should we be most terrified of?

When I arrive to meet the director of the institute, Professor Nick Bostrom, a bed is being delivered to the second-floor office. Existential risk is a round-the-clock kind of operation; it sleeps fitfully, if at all.

Bostrom, a 43-year-old Swedish-born philosopher, has lately acquired something of the status of prophet of doom among those currently doing most to shape our civilization: the tech billionaires of Silicon Valley. His reputation rests primarily on his book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, which was a surprise New York Times bestseller last year and now arrives in paperback, trailing must-read recommendations from Bill Gates and Tesla’s Elon Musk. (In the best kind of literary review, Musk also gave Bostrom’s institute £1m to continue to pursue its inquiries.)

The book is a lively, speculative examination of the singular threat that Bostrom believes – after years of calculation and argument – to be the one most likely to wipe us out. This threat is not climate change, nor pandemic, nor nuclear winter; it is the possibly imminent creation of a general machine intelligence greater than our own.

The cover of Bostrom’s book is dominated by a mad-eyed, pen-and-ink picture of an owl, drawn by the philosopher himself. The owl is the subject of the book’s opening parable. A group of sparrows are building their nests. “We are all so small and weak,” tweets one, feebly. “Imagine how easy life would be if we had an owl who could help us build our nests!” There is general twittering agreement among sparrows everywhere; an owl could defend the sparrows! It could look after their old and their young! It could allow them to live a life of leisure and prosperity! With these fantasies in mind, the sparrows can hardly contain their excitement and fly off in search of the swivel-headed savior who will transform their existence.

There is only one voice of dissent: “Scronkfinkle, a one-eyed sparrow with a fretful temperament, was unconvinced of the wisdom of the endeavor. Quote he: ‘This will surely be our undoing. Should we not give some thought to the art of owl-domestication and owl-taming first, before we bring such a creature into our midst?’” His warnings, inevitably, fall on deaf sparrow ears. Owl-taming would be complicated; why not get the owl first and work out the fine details later? Bostrom’s book, which is a shrill alarm call about the darker implications of artificial intelligence, is dedicated to Scronkfinkle.

Bostrom articulates his own warnings in a suitably fretful manner. He has a reputation for obsessiveness and for workaholism; he is slim, pale and semi-nocturnal, often staying in the office into the early hours. Not surprisingly, perhaps, for a man whose days are dominated by whiteboards filled with formulae expressing the relative merits of 57 varieties of apocalypse, he appears to leave as little as possible to chance. In place of meals he favors a green-smoothie elixir involving vegetables, fruit, oat milk and whey powder. Other interviewers have remarked on his avoidance of handshakes to guard against infection. He does proffer a hand to me, but I have the sense he is subsequently isolating it to disinfect when I have gone. There is, perhaps as a result, a slight impatience about him, which he tries hard to resist.

In his book he talks about the “intelligence explosion” that will occur when machines much cleverer than us begin to design machines of their own. “Before the prospect of an intelligence explosion, we humans are like small children playing with a bomb,” he writes. “We have little idea when the detonation will occur, though if we hold the device to our ear we can hear a faint ticking sound.” Talking to Bostrom, you have a feeling that for him that faint ticking never completely goes away.

“Machine learning and deep learning [the pioneering ‘neural’ computer algorithms that most closely mimic human brain function] have over the last few years moved much faster than people anticipated,” he says. “That is certainly one of the reasons why this has become such a big topic just now. People can see things moving forward in the technical field, and they become concerned about what next.”

Read Article (Tim Adams | theguardian.com | 06/12/2016)

Since the evolution Artificial Intelligence is being driven by business interests the public must be vigilant and inquisitive about its progress. This process requires the public to monitor these activities, just in case we need to intervene.

But Technology, in all its wonder, will continue to evolve, with or without you. Which is to say, everyone should also evolve their tech skills. If for no other reason, just so you are aware of the world around you and how to take advantage of Technologies benefits.

Some of these benefits are quickly becoming standards and if you’re not in the know you could be at a disadvantage, such as jobs. Please support our efforts so we can assist in improving your tech skills.

Master Level High-Tech Webinars

Prognosis of Digital Literacy Going Forward

Digital-Literacy

As the Digital Era pushes on pass the success of the ubiquitous smartphone to whatever device is next on the horizon. So who’s to blame for this widespread lack of Digital Literacy results?

Is it the mobile industry as a whole? Is it government programs? Is it specific mobile device manufacturers? Or does it actually come down to the individual members of society?

Digital Literacy is effecting you and everyone in society at this very moment, to some degree. Just as mobile technology changed the very fabric of our daily lives so will Digital Literacy.

Technological Unemployment

Technological change doesn’t have to increase overall unemployment, even though some types of workers may temporarily lose their jobs.

For example, in 1800, the majority of British workers were employed in agriculture. Labor saving technology meant that food could be produced with less workers and so some agricultural laborers lost their jobs as farms used more machines.

However, as jobs were lost in agriculture, new jobs were created in producing machines.

Similarly, advances in computers and robots meant that firms could produce manufactured goods with fewer workers. The increased productivity in manufactured goods meant that the relative cost fell, giving more opportunities for people to work in the service sector.

Healthcare

Between 2010 and 2050, the senior population is expected to reach 88.5 million, or 20 percent of the U.S. population, greatly increasing the need for senior care.  Home health care will then become an even more significant element of the continuum of care.

The same technologies that revolutionized the commerce, transportation, and finance industries are bearing down on the $3 trillion healthcare industry, promising to simultaneously improve care while reducing costs. The scope of revolutionary technologies includes diagnostics and monitoring, wearable devices, telehealth, medical modeling, smart devices, data management, tracking and delivery, and much more.

But innovators won’t find the solutions without completely understanding the problem.

Hacking

We may have a new ally against the treat of hacking.  Watson, IBM's computer brain, has a lot of talents. It mastered "Jeopardy!," it cooks, plays chess, and even tries to cure cancer. But now, it’s training for a new challenge: Hunting hackers.

On Tuesday, IBM Security announced a new cloud-based version of the cognitive technology, dubbed “Watson for Cybersecurity.” In the fall, IBM will be partnering with eight universities to help get Watson up to speed by flooding it with security reports and data. If successful, the Digital Era would simply blossom.

Terrorism

Technology has proved to be a double-edge sword in the war on terror. Though it has aided the security forces in detecting and thwarting terrorist operations, it has, at the same time, helped terrorists wreak their evil handiwork. The fact is, to be effective terrorists must be digitally literate. A trait society must gain in order to identify and protect itself.

There are some things in life that one should be proactive about, the new entry in this list is Digital Literacy. This isn’t something you can refer to as “Just like riding a bike”, oh no, this requires continuous learning. For those that consider themselves tech-savvy today, may not be tomorrow.

What you know today, may be obsolete tomorrow (along with you!).

Master Level High-Tech Webinars

Verizon And Unions Reach a ‘Tentative Agreement’

Verizon-And-Unions

The largest strike in five years may soon be over. Labor Secretary Tom Perez said Friday that telecom giant Verizon and two unions representing its workers reached a tentative agreement that will end a massive, six-week strike.

In a statement, Perez said the parties had resolved their remaining issues “in principle,” but were still hammering out the contract language. Once that is done, the unions — the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — will submit the contract to membership for ratification.

“This tentative resolution is a testament to the power of collective bargaining,” Perez said. “I commend the leadership of Verizon, CWA, and IBEW for their commitment to resolving these difficult issues in the spirit of constructive engagement.”

Verizon technicians and customer service reps for the company’s wireline phone business first walked off the job in mid-April. By modern U.S. standards, the work stoppage is huge — including some 37,000 workers, stretching from the Northeast through the mid-Atlantic. It is the largest U.S. strike in five years and has begun to hurt business for Verizon, which owns AOL, The Huffington Post’s parent company.

The two sides had already resolved questions over pay and benefits for workers, but were hung up on contract language that would enable Verizon to outsource work. The unions were adamantly opposed to giving the company that ability. It isn’t clear yet how that issue plays in the tentative agreement.

A spokeswoman for IBEW confirmed that the tentative agreement was reached, but couldn’t immediately comment on the contract language.

Lonnie R. Stephenson, IBEW’s president, called the deal “mutually beneficial” in a statement, and said leadership would be providing the details to members in the coming days. CWA said that the contract accomplished “our major goals” and that the union would be ending its picket lines.

CWA said the deal with Verizon includes a first contract for a group of Verizon Wireless workers represented by the union. The wireless side of the company is overwhelmingly union-free, so the new contract would offer CWA an important toehold in a growing business for Verizon.

A Verizon spokesman declined to comment on the tentative agreement, saying only that Perez’s announcement “speaks for itself.”

Read Article (Dave Jamieson | huffingtonpost.com | 05/27/2016)

Internet availability and access is important without a doubt, but knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself, is an issue just as important if not more.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

Master Level High-Tech Webinars