Inferring Urban Travel Patterns From Cellphone Data

MIT News, 8/29/2016

Researchers are using data on the locations people make calls from to model the movement patterns of Boston commuters; the system may replace or supplement surveys of residents. The article discusses the benefits of gathering and processing more data more quickly and cheaply, though students may be able to identify some disadvantages of using call data.

As FBI Warns Election Sites Got Hacked, All Eyes Are on Russia

Wired, 8/29/2016

Hackers have broken into the Illinois and Arizona state boards of elections’ records, following hacks of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign in the last couple of months. This highlights concerns about the security of voter records and even ballot integrity, including effects on U.S. citizens’ confidence in election results.

How an Algorithm Learned to Identify Depressed Individuals by Studying Their Instagram Photos

MIT Technology Review, 8/19/2016

Researchers have developed a machine-learning algorithm that achieves 70% recall in identifying depressed individuals by characteristics of their (pre-diagnosis) Instagram photo posts. This is a great example of a medical development with great potential for benefit (early diagnosis and treatment) that also raises serious concerns (privacy, misuse of the information, misprediction). It’s also an example of Mechanical Turk being used as a research platform.

How the NSA Snooped on Encrypted Internet Traffic for a Decade

Ars Technica, 8/19/2016

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has been using an exploit in Cisco firewall software to break encryption and spy on traffic in Virtual Privacy Networks (VPNs). In the Internet age, government surveillance is more about collecting torrents of data to sift through than about focused operations, which affects businesses’ standards about when they protect communications and how.

The White House Releases Policy to Help Government Agencies Go Open Source

TechCrunch, 8/8/2016

The U.S.’s Federal Source Code Policy was recently revised to require that all custom code created or commissioned by government agencies must be available to all other agencies, and that 20% of it must be released open source. This emphasizes how integral software is to government operations, and offers an opportunity to remind students about how open source software works.

Protecting Privacy in Genomic Databases

MIT News, 8/9/2016

Researchers at MIT and Indiana Univerity are developing differential privacy techniques that add a small amount of random noise to queries on large genetic databases. This means databases can be made more openly available without (as much) risking the privacy of the individuals whose genetic data is in them. Includes a description of the potential privacy attacks being mitigated, and notes the scientific consequences of having to worry about privacy-compromising attacks on health databases.

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