FTC reportedly hits Facebook with record $5 billion settlement — from wired.com by Issie Lapowsky and Caitlin Kelly

Excerpt:

AFTER MONTHS OF negotiations, the Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook a record-setting $5 billion on Friday for privacy violations, according to multiple reports. The penalty comes after an investigation that lasted over a year, and marks the largest in the agency’s history by an order of magnitude. If approved by the Justice Department’s civil division, it will also be the first substantive punishment for Facebook in the US, where the tech industry has gone largely unregulated. But Washington has taken a harsher stance toward Silicon Valley lately, and Friday’s announcement marks its most aggressive action yet to curb its privacy overreaches.

 

Also see:

 

 

Reflections on “Clay Shirky on Mega-Universities and Scale” [Christian]

Clay Shirky on Mega-Universities and Scale — from philonedtech.com by Clay Shirky
[This was a guest post by Clay Shirky that grew out of a conversation that Clay and Phil had about IPEDS enrollment data. Most of the graphs are provided by Phil.]

Excerpts:

Were half a dozen institutions to dominate the online learning landscape with no end to their expansion, or shift what Americans seek in a college degree, that would indeed be one of the greatest transformations in the history of American higher education. The available data, however, casts doubt on that idea.

Though much of the conversation around mega-universities is speculative, we already know what a mega-university actually looks like, one much larger than any university today. It looks like the University of Phoenix, or rather it looked like Phoenix at the beginning of this decade, when it had 470,000 students, the majority of whom took some or all of their classes online. Phoenix back then was six times the size of the next-largest school, Kaplan, with 78,000 students, and nearly five times the size of any university operating today.

From that high-water mark, Phoenix has lost an average of 40,000 students every year of this decade.

 

From DSC:
First of all, I greatly appreciate both Clay’s and Phil’s thought leadership and their respective contributions to education and learning through the years. I value their perspectives and their work.  Clay and Phil offer up a great article here — one worth your time to read.  

The article made me reflect on what I’ve been building upon and tracking for the last decade — a next generation ***PLATFORM*** that I believe will represent a powerful piece of a global learning ecosystem. I call this vision, “Learning from the Living [Class] Room.” Though the artificial intelligence-backed platform that I’m envisioning doesn’t yet fully exist — this new era and type of learning-based platform ARE coming. The emerging signs, technologies, trends — and “fingerprints”of it, if you will — are beginning to develop all over the place.

Such a platform will:

  • Be aimed at the lifelong learner.
  • Offer up major opportunities to stay relevant and up-to-date with one’s skills.
  • Offer access to the program offerings from many organizations — including the mega-universities, but also, from many other organizations that are not nearly as large as the mega-universities.
  • Be reliant upon human teachers, professors, trainers, subject matter experts, but will be backed up by powerful AI-based technologies/tools. For example, AI-based tools will pulse-check the open job descriptions and the needs of business and present the top ___ areas to go into (how long those areas/jobs last is anyone’s guess, given the exponential pace of technological change).

Below are some quotes that I want to comment on:

Not nothing, but not the kind of environment that will produce an educational Amazon either, especially since the top 30 actually shrank by 0.2% a year.

 

Instead of an “Amazon vs. the rest” dynamic, online education is turning into something much more widely adopted, where the biggest schools are simply the upper end of a continuum, not so different from their competitors, and not worth treating as members of a separate category.

 

Since the founding of William and Mary, the country’s second college, higher education in the U.S. hasn’t been a winner-take-all market, and it isn’t one today. We are not entering a world where the largest university operates at outsized scale, we’re leaving that world; 

 

From DSC:
I don’t see us leaving that world at all…but that’s not my main reflection here. Instead, I’m not focusing on how large the mega-universities will become. When I speak of a forthcoming Walmart of Education or Amazon of Education, what I have in mind is a platform…not one particular organization.

Consider that the vast majority of Amazon’s revenues come from products that other organizations produce. They are a platform, if you will. And in the world of platforms (i.e., software), it IS a winner take all market. 

Bill Gates reflects on this as well in this recent article from The Verge:

“In the software world, particularly for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets.

So it’s all about a forthcoming platform — or platforms. (It could be more than one platform. Consider Apple. Consider Microsoft. Consider Google. Consider Facebook.)

But then the question becomes…would a large amount of universities (and other types of organizations) be willing to offer up their courses on a platform? Well, consider what’s ALREADY happening with FutureLearn:

Finally…one more excerpt from Clay’s article:

Eventually the new ideas lose their power to shock, and end up being widely copied. Institutional transformation starts as heresy and ends as a section in the faculty handbook. 

From DSC:
This is a great point. Reminds me of this tweet from Fred Steube (and I added a piece about Western Telegraph):

 

Some things to reflect upon…for sure.

 

10 things we should all demand from Big Tech right now — from vox.com by Sigal Samuel
We need an algorithmic bill of rights. AI experts helped us write one.

We need an algorithmic bill of rights. AI experts helped us write one.

Excerpts:

  1. Transparency: We have the right to know when an algorithm is making a decision about us, which factors are being considered by the algorithm, and how those factors are being weighted.
  2. Explanation: We have the right to be given explanations about how algorithms affect us in a specific situation, and these explanations should be clear enough that the average person will be able to understand them.
  3. Consent: We have the right to give or refuse consent for any AI application that has a material impact on our lives or uses sensitive data, such as biometric data.
  4. Freedom from bias: We have the right to evidence showing that algorithms have been tested for bias related to race, gender, and other protected characteristics — before they’re rolled out. The algorithms must meet standards of fairness and nondiscrimination and ensure just outcomes. (Inserted comment from DSC: Is this even possible? I hope so, but I have my doubts especially given the enormous lack of diversity within the large tech companies.)
  5. Feedback mechanism: We have the right to exert some degree of control over the way algorithms work.
  6. Portability: We have the right to easily transfer all our data from one provider to another.
  7. Redress: We have the right to seek redress if we believe an algorithmic system has unfairly penalized or harmed us.
  8. Algorithmic literacy: We have the right to free educational resources about algorithmic systems.
  9. Independent oversight: We have the right to expect that an independent oversight body will be appointed to conduct retrospective reviews of algorithmic systems gone wrong. The results of these investigations should be made public.
  10. Federal and global governance: We have the right to robust federal and global governance structures with human rights at their center. Algorithmic systems don’t stop at national borders, and they are increasingly used to decide who gets to cross borders, making international governance crucial.

 

This raises the question: Who should be tasked with enforcing these norms? Government regulators? The tech companies themselves?

 

 

From LinkedIn.com today:

 


Also see:


 

From DSC:
I don’t like this at all. If this foot gets in the door, vendor after vendor will launch their own hordes of drones. In the future, where will we go if we want some piece and quiet? Will the air be filled with swarms of noisy drones? Will we be able to clearly see the sun? An exaggeration..? Maybe…maybe not.

But, now what? What recourse do citizens have? Readers of this blog know that I’m generally pro-technology. But the folks — especially the youth — working within the FAANG companies (and the like) need to do a far better job asking, “Just because we can do something, should we do it?”

As I’ve said before, we’ve turned over the keys to the $137,000 Maserati to drivers who are just getting out of driving school. Then we wonder….”How did we get to this place?” 

 

If you owned this $137,000+ car, would you turn the keys of it over to your 16-25 year old?!

 

As another example, just because we can…

just because we can does not mean we should

 

…doesn’t mean we should.

 

just because we can does not mean we should

 

 

Addendum on 4/20/19:

Amazon is now making its delivery drivers take selfies — from theverge.com by Shannon Liao
It will then use facial recognition to double-check

From DSC:
I don’t like this piece re: Amazon’s use of facial recognition at all. Some organization like Amazon asserts that they need facial recognition to deliver services to its customers, and then, the next thing we know, facial recognition gets its foot in the door…sneaks in the back way into society’s house. By then, it’s much harder to get rid of. We end up with what’s currently happening in China. I don’t want to pay for anything with my face. Ever. As Mark Zuckerberg has demonstrated time and again, I don’t trust humankind to handle this kind of power. Plus, the developing surveillance states by several governments is a chilling thing indeed. China is using it to identify/track Muslims.

China using AI to track Muslims

Can you think of some “groups” that people might be in that could be banned from receiving goods and services? I can. 

The appalling lack of privacy that’s going on in several societies throughout the globe has got to be stopped. 

 

 


Example articles from the Privacy Project:

  • James Bennet: Do You Know What You’ve Given Up?
  • A. G. Sulzberger: How The Times Thinks About Privacy
  • Samantha Irby: I Don’t Care. I Love My Phone.
  • Tim Wu: How Capitalism Betrayed Privacy

 

 

Check out the top 10:

1) Alphabet (Google); Internet
2) Facebook; Internet
3) Amazon; Internet
4) Salesforce; Internet
5) Deloitte; Management Consulting
6) Uber; Internet
7) Apple; Consumer Electronics
8) Airbnb; Internet
9) Oracle; Information Technology & Services
10) Dell Technologies; Information Technology & Services

 

Why AI is a threat to democracy — and what we can do to stop it — from technologyreview.com by Karen Hao and Amy Webb

Excerpt:

Universities must create space in their programs for hybrid degrees. They should incentivize CS students to study comparative literature, world religions, microeconomics, cultural anthropology and similar courses in other departments. They should champion dual degree programs in computer science and international relations, theology, political science, philosophy, public health, education and the like. Ethics should not be taught as a stand-alone class, something to simply check off a list. Schools must incentivize even tenured professors to weave complicated discussions of bias, risk, philosophy, religion, gender, and ethics in their courses.

One of my biggest recommendations is the formation of GAIA, what I call the Global Alliance on Intelligence Augmentation. At the moment people around the world have very different attitudes and approaches when it comes to data collection and sharing, what can and should be automated, and what a future with more generally intelligent systems might look like. So I think we should create some kind of central organization that can develop global norms and standards, some kind of guardrails to imbue not just American or Chinese ideals inside AI systems, but worldviews that are much more representative of everybody.

Most of all, we have to be willing to think about this much longer-term, not just five years from now. We need to stop saying, “Well, we can’t predict the future, so let’s not worry about it right now.” It’s true, we can’t predict the future. But we can certainly do a better job of planning for it.

 

 

 

The real reason tech struggles with algorithmic bias — from wired.com by Yael Eisenstat

Excerpts:

ARE MACHINES RACIST? Are algorithms and artificial intelligence inherently prejudiced? Do Facebook, Google, and Twitter have political biases? Those answers are complicated.

But if the question is whether the tech industry doing enough to address these biases, the straightforward response is no.

Humans cannot wholly avoid bias, as countless studies and publications have shown. Insisting otherwise is an intellectually dishonest and lazy response to a very real problem.

In my six months at Facebook, where I was hired to be the head of global elections integrity ops in the company’s business integrity division, I participated in numerous discussions about the topic. I did not know anyone who intentionally wanted to incorporate bias into their work. But I also did not find anyone who actually knew what it meant to counter bias in any true and methodical way.

 

But the company has created its own sort of insular bubble in which its employees’ perception of the world is the product of a number of biases that are engrained within the Silicon Valley tech and innovation scene.

 

 

Why Facebook’s banned “Research” app was so invasive — from wired.com by Louise Matsakislo

Excerpts:

Facebook reportedly paid users between the ages of 13 and 35 $20 a month to download the app through beta-testing companies like Applause, BetaBound, and uTest.


Apple typically doesn’t allow app developers to go around the App Store, but its enterprise program is one exception. It’s what allows companies to create custom apps not meant to be downloaded publicly, like an iPad app for signing guests into a corporate office. But Facebook used this program for a consumer research app, which Apple says violates its rules. “Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked, which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data.” Facebook didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Facebook needed to bypass Apple’s usual policies because its Research app is particularly invasive. First, it requires users to install what is known as a “root certificate.” This lets Facebook look at much of your browsing history and other network data, even if it’s encrypted. The certificate is like a shape-shifting passport—with it, Facebook can pretend to be almost anyone it wants.

To use a nondigital analogy, Facebook not only intercepted every letter participants sent and received, it also had the ability to open and read them. All for $20 a month!

Facebook’s latest privacy scandal is a good reminder to be wary of mobile apps that aren’t available for download in official app stores. It’s easy to overlook how much of your information might be collected, or to accidentally install a malicious version of Fortnite, for instance. VPNs can be great privacy tools, but many free ones sell their users’ data in order to make money. Before downloading anything, especially an app that promises to earn you some extra cash, it’s always worth taking another look at the risks involved.

 

The information below is per Laura Kelley (w/ Page 1 Solutions)


As you know, Apple has shut down Facebook’s ability to distribute internal iOS apps. The shutdown comes following news that Facebook has been using Apple’s program for internal app distribution to track teenage customers for “research.”

Dan Goldstein is the president and owner of Page 1 Solutions, a full-service digital marketing agency. He manages the needs of clients along with the need to ensure protection of their consumers, which has become one of the top concerns from clients over the last year. Goldstein is also a former attorney so he balances the marketing side with the legal side when it comes to protection for both companies and their consumers. He says while this is another blow for Facebook, it speaks volumes for Apple and its concern for consumers,

“Facebook continues to demonstrate that it does not value user privacy. The most disturbing thing about this news is that Facebook knew that its app violated Apples terms of service and continued to distribute the app to consumers after it was banned from the App Store. This shows, once again, that Facebook doesn’t value user privacy and goes to great lengths to collect private behavioral data to give it a competitive advantage.The FTC is already investigating Facebook’s privacy policies and practices.As Facebook’s efforts to collect and use private data continue to be exposed, it risks losing market share and may prompt additional governmental investigations and regulation,” Goldstein says.

“One positive that comes out of this story is that Apple seems to be taking a harder line on protecting user privacy than other tech companies. Apple has been making noises about protecting user privacy for several months. This action indicates that it is attempting to follow through on its promises,” Goldstein says.

 

 

A landmark ruling gives new power to sue tech giants for privacy harms — from fastcompany.com by Katharine Schwab

Excerpt:

A unanimous ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court says that companies that improperly gather people’s data can be sued for damages even without proof of concrete injuries, opening the door to legal challenges that Facebook, Google, and other businesses have resisted.

 

 

Facebook’s ’10 year’ challenge is just a harmless meme — right? — from wired.com by Kate O’Neill

Excerpts:

But the technology raises major privacy concerns; the police could use the technology not only to track people who are suspected of having committed crimes, but also people who are not committing crimes, such as protesters and others whom the police deem a nuisance.

It’s tough to overstate the fullness of how technology stands to impact humanity. The opportunity exists for us to make it better, but to do that we also must recognize some of the ways in which it can get worse. Once we understand the issues, it’s up to all of us to weigh in.

 

Google, Facebook, and the Legal Mess Over Face Scanning — finance.yahoo.com by John Jeff Roberts

Excerpt:

When must companies receive permission to use biometric data like your fingerprints or your face? The question is a hot topic in Illinois where a controversial law has ensnared tech giants Facebook and Google, potentially exposing them to billions in dollars in liability over their facial recognition tools.

The lack of specific guidance from the Supreme Court has since produced ongoing confusion over what type of privacy violations can let people seek financial damages.

 

Also see:

 

 

From DSC:
The legal and legislative areas need to close the gap between emerging technologies and the law.

What questions should we be asking about the skillsets that our current and future legislative representatives need? Do we need some of our representatives to be highly knowledgeable, technically speaking? 

What programs and other types of resources should we be offering our representatives to get up to speed on emerging technologies? Which blogs, websites, journals, e-newsletters, listservs, and/or other communication vehicles and/or resources should they have access to?

Along these lines, what about our judges? Can we offer them some of these resources as well? 

What changes do our law schools need to make to address this?

 

 

 

 

 

From DSC:
Thanks to Mike Matthews for his item on LinkedIn for this.

 

 

 

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