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Correlation and Causation

“Partial correlation analyses show that media multi-tasking specifically was mostly correlated with negative mental health, while playing video games was associated with faster responding and better mental health.”

Looking at Tik Tok and also listening to the radio is worse than playing a game.

But this is entirely and wholly correlation – these people aren’t even trying, are they?

Another tech Q

On this subject of a tablet for SWMBO.

For boring reasons we need to use ethernet to connect it. But most tablets don’t have ethernet slot.

One suggestion online is an ethernet to USB adaptor. Eh? You can feed internet in through a USB port? Rilly?

Tech question

The household – for which read she who rules it – desires a tablet. Android.

OK, so, go for the Amazon Fire 10 HD? Sadly, while that’s on sale in US and GB it ain’t here and we’ve a customs border now.

Or go for the €30 euro cheaper no name that also includes stand, keyboard, mouse etc?


Portugal should move to Azores time

Parts of Portugal are so far west that there’s a reasonable case for it not being on London time but another time zone over – the Azores one. OK, not all that strong a case, being two hours out from Spain would be odd etc.

However, using one of the major appointment reminder services (no names, no packdrill, but from a company that provides both search and email) you end up getting reminded of appointments on Azores time, not Portuguese. Some investigation (a bloke who used to drink in the same pub now works at HQ) and I find out that this time zone allocation is not in fact from that major company. It’s a step – at least – further back into the system. Some significant part of the world now has this error coded into it.

It’s not there yet but there could actually come a time when it would be sensible for Portugal to move to Azores time rather than trying to fix the coding.


Can’t change me tyre

Well, go get the spanner then:

The company said its systems were designed to audit commands to prevent mistakes, but the audit tool had encountered a bug and had failed to stop the command that caused the outage. The outage had knocked out tools that engineers would normally use to investigate and repair such outages, making the task even more difficult.

It’s me spanner that’s broke Guv’.

People make the weirdest claims

Facebook’s controversial encryption plans ‘won’t give users real privacy’, MPs have been told as they were warned it will ‘cripple’ child abuse blocking software.

A leading expert has said the company’s proposals to encrypt its Messenger service will still hand it a ‘trove of information’ on users.

The comments come as Facebook has justified its contentious plans, which mean even it won’t be able to see what its users are uploading to the platform, on the grounds it will enhance people’s privacy.

The social media giant is facing mounting criticism over encryption plans that will make it harder to detect terrorist activity and child abuse material,

So the authorities won’t be able to track your blow stuff up and kiddie fiddling ways. And yet this is not an increase in privacy?

Sure, it may not be the type of privacy we’re delighted in on national security grounds but it is privacy. For it is important to ask, well, privacy from whom?

From a PR email

Many people dream of having a consistent, lucrative passive income. I mean, who doesn’t want a little more money, right? Cash back apps, coupons, credit card rewards, these all offer a little bit of $$$, but times are changing. Monetizing your personal data could well become the most lucrative source of passive income for people.

XXX is on a mission to help people take back control of their data while making money from it.

It isn’t going to work, is it?

Two reasons.

1) The data’s not worth much. A few dollars per month per person. Because that’s the revenue that Fbook and Google get, a few dollars per month per person.

2) The individual data is worth even less than this. Because it’s the database that’s worth money. Therefore considerable amounts of the revenue flow to the people who collate, not the owners of each individual datum.

I like this as a piece of policy analysis

Let’s talk about social media functionality and how its current, virulently diseased business model might be amputated.

It’s simply implicit that social media can do good work if cut free of the abusive, predatory, American firms who use it as the lure for an adtech economy unmoored from real value or social purpose.

Social media as currently construed is terrible in truly nonlinear ways, acting as both metaphor and amplifier for the worst of late capitalism.

Just as TMFTF doesn’t have much to say about how hard-right, populist authoritarianism is deliberately wrecking intra-national capacity for the regional and global coordination needed to address climate crisis, it doesn’t seem to get how the vicious circle of hard right plus social media is hollowing out the capacity of states to fulfil the social contract that makes democracy possible.

That’s why we need to destroy Big Tech, not just because doing so might provide an (anti)-business model for emergent forms of technology-amplified cooperation. US social media companies’ business model is directly preventing people from understanding the climate crisis, and from forming the coalitions needed to work on it. It’s destroying the necessary structures of feeling and political institutions we need to get civilization through the eye of the needle that is this century. That is the problem statement. Understanding what we’re up against provides the necessary urgency and will to act radically to destroy how we currently ‘Internet’.

I know tech policy pretty well,
This work is urgent. Tech policy, like everything else, needs to serve and enable our direct responses to climate crisis. Time and again, the toxic predation of winner-takes-all monopolies, founded and run by tech bros, enable, amplify and are fundamentally conjoined with individual acts of male predation and abuse. Code is law, and that code is misogyny. We won’t get the non-patriarchal responses that TMFTF rightly describes as essential, if we permit another decade of violent regression on gender. All the people that would have the ideas, develop the projects and form the networks that our species needs are being driven out, now. We don’t have decades more of human potential to burn.

Umm, yeah.


Sorry, but social media is more damaging than TV – whatever the research may say
Lax regulation of social platforms has allowed many to become a digital Wild West of racism, sexual harassment, and pornography

So, human beings aren’t quite as polite as some thought. And?

This isn’t the platforms at fault, it’s the folks.

They’re going to jail

So devastating that the database was subpoenaed by a grand jury digging into fraud claims against Holmes and Balwani. But when investigators turned to take a copy of the database, guess what?

From the filing: “On or about August 31, 2018 – three months after a federal grand jury issued a subpoena requesting a working copy of this database – the LIS was destroyed. The government has never been provided with the complete records contained in the LIS, nor been given the tools, which were available within the database, to search for such critical evidence as all Theranos blood tests with validation errors. The data disappeared.”

Definitely, jail.

This Google Black Scientist Outrage!

Dr. Gebru is a pathbreaking scientist doing some of the most important work to ensure just and accountable AI and to create a welcoming and diverse AI research field.

I dunno really. It’s a commercial company. You know, profit matters. Perhaps working on how to make AI work would be more useful?

BTW, her earlier work on how facial recognition systems near entirely fail with black female faces – a couple of commercial systems had failure rates of 45% and the like on even guessing gender – is exactly that. Research that leads to making AI work better. Because going and telling the engineers “This is pretty shit performance, ya’ know?” is indeed making it work better.

Fighting to make it all just and welcoming isn’t quite the same thing.

So who knows who is running this Plod scheme?

Members of the public will soon be able to directly upload to the police – for the first time – doorbell video footage of crimes, according to police chiefs.

Olivia Pinkney, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for local policing, said forces were aiming to have a standard online platform by next year that would allow crime victims to submit video when they reported an incident.

The move aims to capitalise on the explosion in video technology ranging from door bell cameras and dash cams in cars to CCTV and mobile phone images to enable the public to report crimes from thefts and burglaries to dangerous driving and anti-social behaviour.

Ms Pinkney said a pilot by her force with traffic offences drew 250 submissions from the public, of which a third resulted in police action.

It’s amazing what people on this blog know at times.

I’ve a piece of software lying around which would be a useful backbone for this system. Developed for the US military it was. The aim and idea being collection and monitoring of exactly this sort of input. It actually works right now too.

So, who should I go talk to?

Indeed, quite so John

And then there was the shift in judicial thinking about antitrust triggered in the late 1970s by the prominent legal thinker Robert Bork and promulgated by the economics and law faculties of the University of Chicago. The essence of this new philosophy was that the size and dominance of corporations were only a problem if they resulted in consumer harm, inevitably measured by prices. And if the products were “free” (Google, Facebook and Twitter, say), where was the consumer harm?

Guess which argument John Naughton doesn’t try to refute in his piece here?


Carissa Véliz is associate professor in philosophy at the Institute for Ethics in AI, a fellow at Hertford College, University of Oxford, and the author of Privacy Is Power (Bantam Press, 2020)

So, we know she’s going to say something stupid but what’s it going to be?

The United Kingdom is at a crossroads. On the verge of Brexit, it has to decide where it stands in relation to privacy: will it loosen data protection regulation, moving more towards China’s model, or will it guarantee its citizens’ right to privacy, moving more towards a Californian approach and securing a data adequacy agreement with the EU? It would be a mistake to choose the former.

The Irish data commissioner has just declared that the American system of data regulation is not compatible with the EU one…..

This cannot, possibly, be right

The complaint will focus on how Google has used its dominant position in online search to harm consumers and crush upstart rivals. It processes 90 per cent of global search requests

There are languages and countries that Google doesn’t operate in, aren’t there? Like China maybe?

About time to tell ’em to bugger off

“Elevating free expression is a good thing, but it should apply to everyone,” the report says. “The prioritisation of free expression over all other values, such as equality and non-discrimination, is deeply troubling to the auditors.”

Free expression is great, say the auditors of Facebook policies, except when the expressions freed disagree with us.

Interesting question

Do Google or Apple get to tell a democratically elected government or its public health institutions what they may or may not have on an app?

Answer: Yes.

That is, Apple and Google have worked together to produce an app to facilitate contact tracing. Here’s what it does. This is what you can do with it.

Want to do more? Do it differently? Then write your own app then matey.

In the long run, however, this poses a far more fundamental question: how much can the decisions of sovereign democratic countries be overruled by technology companies?

It’s all just code. Write your own.

How super

More than half of online grooming offences recorded under a law that made it illegal to send sexual messages to children were committed on Facebook-owned apps, figures reveal.

The data, obtained by the NSPCC under freedom of information laws, show 10,019 offences of sexual communication with a child were recorded since the legislation was introduced in April 2017.

And the percentage of all online communications carried out on Facebook owned services and apps is what?

Is Facebook doing better or worse than everyone else?

Oh, tee hee

Twitter’s anti-porn filters have blocked Dominic Cummings’ name despite Boris Johnson’s chief adviser dominating British political news for almost a week, the Guardian can reveal.

As a result of the filtering, trending topics over the past five days have instead included a variety of misspellings of his name, including #cummnings, #dominiccummigs and #sackcummimgs, as well as his first name on its own, the hashtag #sackdom, and the place names Durham, County Durham and Barnard Castle.

The filter also affects suggested hashtags, meaning users who tried to type #dominiccummings were instead presented with one of the misspelled variations to auto-complete, helping them trend instead.

This sort of accidental filtering has gained a name in computer science: the Scunthorpe problem, so-called because of the Lincolnshire town’s regular issues with such censorship.

Bizarrely, the shortened hashtag #cumgate has also trended, since the first word of the sentence is not included in Twitter’s filter list,

Might be a bit of time before AIs actually rule the world….