Here Are All the Other Experiments Facebook Plans to Run on You

[Note:  This item comes from friend Linda Wellstein.  DLH]

Here Are All the Other Experiments Facebook Plans to Run on You
By David Auerbach
Jun 30 2014
<http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2014/06/facebook_experiments_on_users_they_ve_got_more_in_store.html>

Facebook and two outside social scientists recently published a scientific paperin which they revealed that they had manipulated users’ news feeds to tweak their emotions. Since then, there has been a growing debate over the ethics and practice of Facebook experimenting on its users, as chronicled by Slate’s Katy Waldman. In response to these concerns, this morning Facebook issued the following press release—although I seem to be the only journalist who has received it. Coming hot on the heels of Facebook’s carefully unapologetic defense of its emotion research on its users, I share the press release as a glimpse of Facebook’s future directions in its user experiments.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: FACEBOOK REVEALS OTHER EXPERIMENTS, ENCOURAGES USER OBEDIENCE

Dear Facebook Users,

Thank you for participating in our important research, which has, in the words of our researchers, “manipulated the extent to which people … were exposed to emotional expressions.” Psychology professor Susan Fiske, who edited our recently published study, “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” said she found it creepy. You may feel uncomfortable too, but rest assured we are acting with strict obedience to ethical authorities. Our own authoritative institutional review board has assured us these experiments are perfectly ethical. We are using only the soundest scientific methodologies from such respected institutions as Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and the CIA. It is absolutely essential that you continue using Facebook.

However, your feedback over the last few days has drawn our attention to the difficult matter of “informed” “consent.” While we at Facebook like to think of ourselves as living in a post-consent world, it was not fair of us to expect the rest of you to agree with our views. We now share with you other experiments in progress so you won’t be unpleasantly surprised by them after the fact.

We begin by giving you, our users, more information! We are sure you must be tired of all those fake apps that promise to tell you who has viewed your profile. Those apps, of course, have no access to that data. We do, however, and we’ve decided to stop being so selfish with it. Soon, you and other users will be able to see who has viewed your profile and how often. Every time you log in, you will now see a list of “Top Ten Profile Viewers,” to remind you who your biggest fans are! Who’s that new friend who’s checking you out 20 times a day? Maybe you two should get to know each other better!

Hypothesis: Overall increase in anxiety among Facebook users.

Historically, Facebook has not notified you when someone defriends you. For some of you, that is about to change! You may start getting notifications in your feed when erstwhile friends stop following your updates or stop sharing their updates with you. We at Facebook are sensitive to the complexities of relationships online and off-, and we will be paying close attention to your emotional language after a defriending. To this end, we are experimenting with different phrasings in order to gauge their comparative emotional impact. For example, you may see “David Auerbach is no longer seeing your updates,” or perhaps “David Auerbach is no longer your friend,” or “David Auerbach must not like you anymore.” Which is the most delicate phrasing? Only time—and experimentation—will tell.

[snip]

Movie Theaters Are Banning Google Glass Because They Don’t Understand It

Movie Theaters Are Banning Google Glass Because They Don’t Understand It

By Will Oremus
Jun 30 2014

Cinemas across the United Kingdom are banning Google Glass, theIndependent reports, out of fear that people will use it to surreptitiously record and pirate movies.

The fiat comes from the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, a trade group. “Customers will be requested not to wear these into cinema auditoriums, whether the film is playing or not,” said Phil Clapp, the group’s chief executive.

It isn’t just the Brits who are cracking down on Google’s high-tech specs. Earlier this year a Glass-wearer was hauled out of an AMC theater andinterrogated by FBI agents in Columbus, Ohio. He explained to the agents that he couldn’t just take the device off, because it was attached to his prescription lenses. That apparently didn’t stop them from detaining him for an hour and going through all his photos and personal data.

It should be apparent to anyone who has ever used Google Glass that the paranoia is unwarranted. The device can record video, but the quality is low, and the audio quality is even worse. And it can only record for 30 to 45 minutes before the battery runs out.

More importantly, as I explained last year when I called Google Glass “the world’s worst surveillance device,” there’s a red light on the front of the device that blinks on and stays lit whenever it’s recording. In a pitch-dark theater, surreptitiousness is pretty much out of the question.

In a statement about the U.K. cinema ban, Google is saying pretty much the same thing. “Broadly speaking, we think it’s best to have direct and first-hand experience with Glass before creating policies around it,” a spokesman said, semi-diplomatically. “The fact that Glass is worn above the eyes and the screen lights up whenever it’s activated makes it a fairly lousy device for recording things secretly.”

You know what does records audio and video in higher quality, doesn’t have a bright red light on the front, and could capture an entire movie? The smartphones that just about everyone carries into theaters these days.

Google Glass might be newer and therefore scarier to people than smartphones, but there’s no good reason it should be treated differently in a movie theater. Moviegoers wearing prescription Glass should simply turn their face-computers off before the film starts, the same way they do with their pocket-computers. And for those with non-prescription Glass, this shouldn’t even be an issue: You don’t need the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association to tell you that you’ll be able to see the movie better without an extra screen stuck to your head.

Re: To FCC: Try functional separation of Internet

[Note:  This comment comes from friend David Reed.  DLH]

From: dpreed@reed.com
Subject: RE: To FCC: Try functional separation of Internet
Date: June 30, 2014 at 13:56:42 EDT
To: dewayne@warpspeed.com

I don’t want to dwell on this, but Network Neutrality and an Open, Interoperable Internet have very little to do with functional separation or structural separation.

Functional/structural separation relate to vertical integration – an “antitrust” or “anticompetitive” concern. That’s an important issue, but it’s got very little to do with the whole reason the Internet succeeded, what is different about the Internet.

The Internet is not about “content” and it’s not about “infrastructure”.  It’s about universal interoperability and universal actual interoperation of autonomous networks.

In other words, it is about the fact that any device, anywhere on the Internet, of any type, can deliver bits to anywhere else anywhere, and the meaning of those bits are defined *only* by the agreed upon language of the endpoints.

I think a little thought about that will lead to an insight of why the Internet (once it reached critical mass in about 1992) created all the things it did.   That was not about solving an antitrust or anticompetitive problem (except in that Carterfone enabled users to connect modems to the phone system, one of the many types of technology that could transport Internet datagrams).

We see many attempts these days to say “forget about Net Neutrality” or the “Open Internet”, instead we will get there by creating new infrastructure or restricting infrastructure ownership, or whatever other pre-Internet idea appeals to someone.

Structural separation is not a bad idea, just as municipally owned networks are not a bad idea.  But neither focuses on the real challenge to the Internet’s success going forward: *Balkanization*.

There is no technical reason for Balkanizing the Internet into lots of little disconnected networks.  There’s little or no “security” reason, either (we have great encryption and related technologies, and with transparency we have the ability to encircle and punish those who would deny service to others).  All we have are those who would balkanize to control and limit users’ access to what they otherwise would be able to communicate with.

That does not get solved by structural separation.  It does NOTHING to prevent balkanization – all it does is change the subject, just as propaganda techniques focus on changing the subject.

Today we have some concerns about vertical integration – that is a big problem that must be wrestled when Comcast is buying up so many franchised locations, and also buying “content producers”.

But do NOT think that solving this problem will do a single thing to protect the Internet.  It won’t.

At best it will merely distract from the problem of ensuring the openness and connectivity of the Internet.  At worst, it will provide the balkanizers the opportunity to create lots of little AOL’s called cable packages and smartphone service offerings full of proprietary services, with connection to the Internet becoming second-class or even omitted entirely, on the basis that “no one wants” that Internet stuff.

To FCC: Try functional separation of Internet
By Henry Goldberg
Jun 23 2014
<http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/technology/210085-to-fcc-try-functional-separation-of-internet>

This CEO is out for blood

[Note:  This item comes from friend Steve Goldstein.  DLH]

This CEO is out for blood
Elizabeth Holmes founded her revolutionary blood diagnostics company, Theranos, when she was 19. It’s now worth more than $9 billion, and poised to change health care.
By Roger Parloff
Jun 12 2014
<http://fortune.com/2014/06/12/theranos-blood-holmes/>

In the fall of 2003, Elizabeth Holmes, a 19-year-old sophomore at Stanford, plopped herself down in the office of her chemical engineering professor, Channing Robertson, and said, “Let’s start a company.”

Robertson, who had seen thousands of undergraduates over his 33-year teaching career, had known Holmes just more than a year. “I knew she was different,” Robertson told me in an interview. “The novelty of how she would view a complex technical problem–it was unique in my experience.”

Holmes had then just spent the summer working in a lab at the Genome Institute in Singapore, a post she had been able to fill thanks to having learned Mandarin in her spare hours as a Houston teenager. Upon returning to Palo Alto, she showed Robertson a patent application she had just written. As a freshman, Holmes had taken Robertson’s seminar on advanced drug-delivery devices–things like patches, pills, and even a contact-lens-like film that secreted glaucoma medication–but now she had invented one the likes of which Robertson had never conceived. It was a wearable patch that, in addition to administering a drug, would monitor variables in the patient’s blood to see if the therapy was having the desired effect, and adjust the dosage accordingly.

“I remember her saying, ‘And we could put a cellphone chip on it, and it could telemeter out to the doctor or the patient what was going on,’ ” Robertson recounts. “And I kind of kicked myself. I’d consulted in this area for 30 years, but I’d never said, here we make all these gizmos that measure, and all these systems that deliver, but I never brought the two together.”

Still, he balked at seeing her start a company before finishing her degree. “I said, ‘Why do you want to do this?’ And she said, ‘Because systems like this could completely revolutionize how effective health care is delivered. And this is what I want to do. I don’t want to make an incremental change in some technology in my life. I want to create a whole new technology, and one that is aimed at helping humanity at all levels regardless of geography or ethnicity or age or gender.’ ”

That clinched it for him. “When I finally connected with what Elizabeth fundamentally is,” he says, “I realized that I could have just as well been looking into the eyes of a Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates.”

With Robertson’s blessing, Holmes started her company and, a semester later, dropped out to pursue it full-time. Now she’s 30, and her private, Palo Alto-based corporation, called Theranos–the name is an amalgam of the words “therapy” and “diagnosis”–has 500 employees and has raised more than $400 million from equity sales to investors who have effectively valued the company at more than $9 billion. All these numbers, confirmed to me by an outside director, are being published here for the first time. Though Theranos is largely unknown even in Silicon Valley, that is about to change.

“This is about being able to do good,” Holmes says to me about her company. “And it’s about being able to change the health care system through what we believe this country does so well, which is innovation and creativity and the ability to conceive of technology that can help solve policy challenges.”

At first glance it’s hard to see the connection between the patch that wowed Robertson and what Theranos does now. But as we will see, to Holmes they are simply different “embodiments” of the same core insights.

Theranos today is a potentially highly disruptive upstart in America’s $73 billion diagnostic-lab industry, which performs nearly 10 billion tests a year and is estimated to provide the basis for about 70% of doctors’ medical decisions. Medicare and Medicaid each pay roughly $10 billion annually on reimbursements for these tests.

[snip]

Why is Washington still protecting the secret political power of corporations?

Why is Washington still protecting the secret political power of corporations?
Regulators at the SEC could illuminate the future of campaign donations. But they aren’t interested in disclosing the truth – even though voters are
By Alexis Goldstein
<http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/30/washington-political-power-corporations-campaign-donations>

In post-Citizens United America, there is growing concern that the ability for corporations to anonymously funnel money into politics – with no need to disclose these donations to voters, election officials or their own shareholders – will corrupt the political process. Democrats have previously tried and failed to pass the Disclose Act, which would require greater disclosure of donors – but with a divided Congress, many in Washington see bringing meaningful transparency to campaign finance an utterly impossible task.

Still, there is another way to achieve the disclosure of corporate political donations that doesn’t require Congress at all: the administration could simply propose new regulations under its existing authority. Unfortunately, despite having a Democratic chair – Mary Jo White – the Securities and Exchange Commission, which could mandate such disclosures, is either too intimidated (or too captured) to act.

Despite congressional shenanigans, blame for regulatory inaction on the issue sits squarely on the shoulders of the Democrat-led SEC. After adding a political disclosure rule to its 2013 agenda, the agency quietly dropped the rule for this year. SEC spokesman John Nester implied it was a capacity issue,noting that the agenda is its “best estimate as to what would be ready for Commission consideration by fall of 2014”. But we’re already halfway through the year and the agency has made time for other “discretionary” activities: apilot program to allow some stocks to trade in 5-cent increments rather than pennies, and a roundtable considering new regulations for the companies that advise institutional investors (a priority of the pro-business Chamber of Commerce).

House Republicans, of course, have stepped in, which gives the agency a convenient excuse for their inaction.

Last May, Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee warned White not to pursue the political disclosure rule. During the hearing, Rep Scott Garrett (R-NJ) went so far as to ask her to formally commit to removing the political disclosure rule from their regulatory agenda.

It would appear White – despite claims she is “apolitical” – heard him loud and clear. No proposed rule materialized, and seven months after Rep Scott Garrett requested it, the rule was removed from the agency’s 2014 agenda.

Not content to leave the SEC any opening to consider political disclosure rules in the future, House Republicans are now tinkering with the agency’s budget in order to bury the issue forever.

Last week, the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee passed the bill to fund the SEC for $1.4bn (a figure less than the marketing budgets for many Wall Street firms, and $300m less than the budget requested by President Obama). Buried in the bill is a section that explicitly prohibits the SEC from using any funds from Congress to create political disclosure rules.

This Republican attempt to explicitly block the SEC from pursuing a political disclosure rule may seem overblown – they are essentially legislating that the dead horse must not rise again.

[snip]

Facebook reveals news feed experiment to control emotions

Facebook reveals news feed experiment to control emotions
Protests over secret study involving 689,000 users in which friends’ postings were moved to influence moods
By Robert Booth
Jun 29 2014
<http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/29/facebook-users-emotions-news-feeds>

It already knows whether you are single or dating, the first school you went to and whether you like or loathe Justin Bieber. But now Facebook, the world’s biggest social networking site, is facing a storm of protest after it revealed it had discovered how to make users feel happier or sadder with a few computer key strokes.

It has published details of a vast experiment in which it manipulated information posted on 689,000 users’ home pages and found it could make people feel more positive or negative through a process of “emotional contagion”.

In a study with academics from Cornell and the University of California, Facebook filtered users’ news feeds – the flow of comments, videos, pictures and web links posted by other people in their social network. One test reduced users’ exposure to their friends’ “positive emotional content”, resulting in fewer positive posts of their own. Another test reduced exposure to “negative emotional content” and the opposite happened.

The study concluded: “Emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods, constituting, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence for massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks.”

Lawyers, internet activists and politicians said this weekend that the mass experiment in emotional manipulation was “scandalous”, “spooky” and “disturbing”.

On Sunday evening, a senior British MP called for a parliamentary investigation into how Facebook and other social networks manipulated emotional and psychological responses of users by editing information supplied to them.

Jim Sheridan, a member of the Commons media select committee, said the experiment was intrusive. “This is extraordinarily powerful stuff and if there is not already legislation on this, then there should be to protect people,” he said. “They are manipulating material from people’s personal lives and I am worried about the ability of Facebook and others to manipulate people’s thoughts in politics or other areas. If people are being thought-controlled in this kind of way there needs to be protection and they at least need to know about it.”

A Facebook spokeswoman said the research, published this month in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US, was carried out “to improve our services and to make the content people see on Facebook as relevant and engaging as possible”.

She said: “A big part of this is understanding how people respond to different types of content, whether it’s positive or negative in tone, news from friends, or information from pages they follow.”

But other commentators voiced fears that the process could be used for political purposes in the runup to elections or to encourage people to stay on the site by feeding them happy thoughts and so boosting advertising revenues.

In a series of Twitter posts, Clay Johnson, the co-founder of Blue State Digital, the firm that built and managed Barack Obama’s online campaign for the presidency in 2008, said: “The Facebook ‘transmission of anger’ experiment is terrifying.”

[snip]

Prisons are terrible, and there’s finally a way to get rid of them

Prisons are terrible, and there’s finally a way to get rid of them
By Dylan Matthews
Jun 27 2014
<http://www.vox.com/2014/6/27/5845484/prisons-are-terrible-and-there-is-finally-a-way-to-get-rid-of-them>

In any given year, 3.2 percent of those in jail, 4.0 percent of state and federal prisoners, and 9.5 percent of juvenile detainees report having been sexually abused. A 2005 study found that the rate of physical assault was over 18 times higher for male inmates and 27 times higher for females relative to the general population.

The system that sends people to these inhumane pens where they’re likely to get beaten and raped is baldly racist. For the same crimes, black men are typically sentenced to 20 percent longer prison stays than white men.

And taxpayers are paying through the nose for all this. About 2.2 millionAmericans were incarcerated in 2012, accounting for one in every 108 adults, a figure that has more than quadrupled since 1980, leading state spending on incarceration to rise nearly as fast. America imprisons more peoplethan any other country, and has the highest incarceration rate. And this wrecks communities. Mass incarceration weakens the economy and increases teen pregnancy in areas where many residents are sent away, and harms the children of the incarcerated in ways that persist for decades, among many other damaging effects.

So why do prisons exist? In theory, because we need them. They keep bad guys off the street. They give people a reason to not commit crimes. They provide a place where violent or otherwise threatening people can be rehabilitated.

But prisons aren’t the only way to accomplish those goals. Technological advancements are, some observers say, making it possible to replace the current system of large-scale imprisonment, in large part, with alternatives that are not as expensive, inhumane, or socially destructive, and which at the same time do a better job of controlling crime. The most promising of these alternatives fits on an ankle.

Why GPS changes things

While the idea of house arrest has been around for millennia, it has always suffered from one key defect as a crime control tool: you can escape. Sure, you could place guards on the homes where prisoners are staying, but it’s much easier to secure a prison with a large guard staff than it is a thousand different houses with a guard or two apiece.

Today, we have something better than guards: satellites. The advent of GPS location tracking means it’s now possible for authorities to be alerted the second a confinee leaves their home. That not just enables swift response in the event of escape; it deters escape by making clear to detainees that they won’t get away with it.

Researchers have tested electronic monitoring as an alternative approach to parole, probation, or other criminal punishments that fall short of imprisonment — and it’s been a huge success. An Urban Institute analysis found that electronic monitoring reduces odds of re-arrest by 23.5 percent relative to traditional probation, and a randomized study in Switzerland found major advantages to electronic monitoring compared to mandated community service. Results from a Swedish trial in which prisoners were offered early release under electronic monitoring were similarly promising. The threat of electronically-enforced house arrest appears to provide a strong deterrent effect; when Santa Fe County, New Mexico started threatening drunk drivers with home confinement if they failed to install ignition interlocks (which prevent a car from starting until the driver passes a breathalyzer test), installation rates skyrocketed.

[snip]