Want to Avoid Vendor Lock-In? Software-Defined Storage Could Be the Answer

Computing, 11/28/2016

At a Computing IT Leaders Forum, panelists discussed the potential of software-defined storage (SDS) to help companies avoid vendor lock-in and allow more flexibility in planning — an issue given how quickly data storage technology changes. The article also mentions how SDS provides an alternative to cloud storage, as the latter raises concerns about data security.

Large DDoS Attacks Cause Outages at Twitter, Spotify, and Other Sites

TechCrunch, 10/21/2016

A recent large scale DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack on DNS provider Dyn caused many sites to become temporarily inaccessible, including Twitter, Spotify, and a number of other important social media, e-commerce, news, and code-sharing sites. The attack was coordinated using a large group of compromised devices known as a “botnet”. Rather than computers, much of this botnet consisted of infected IoT (Internet of Things) devices such as security cameras.

Big Data Help CIA Predict Social Unrest 5 Days Before It Begins

Tech Times, 10/7/2016

The CIA and their new Directorate of Digital Innovation are working on “anticipatory intelligence” to predict future events. The Deputy Director says that they can sometimes forecast outbreaks of unrest up to five days ahead. These predictions are made by using classified information as well as open source data; commentators speculate that much of the data comes from massive social media surveillance.

Google Open-Sources Show and Tell, a Model for Producing Image Captions

Venture Beat, 9/22/2016

With the help of crowdsourced data, Google AI’s image recognition algorithms are achieving greater accuracy. Objects in photographs are now more accurately described, and are interrelated with other objects in auto-generated captions. With the increase in photo-captioning accuracy, more questions arise about privacy online and on social media.

Google Weakens Allo Privacy Promises

Naked Security, 9/21/2016

Google’s new messaging app, Allo, has been criticized because the default settings provide substantially less privacy than Google had previously announced they would. In part, this is to provide more training data for a “smart reply” feature that generates suggested responses. When messages are stored, law enforcement agencies will be able to access them with warrants.

The Ad-Blocking Browser That Pays the Sites You Visit

Wired, 9/1/2016

The Brave web browser (released earlier this year) allows only ads that don’t track users from site to site; it has now added a feature to record how much time users spend on different sites and allow them to send micropayments to those publishers. The article raises examples of how the web has impacted the economics of media and publishing, and also touches on online tracking, data anonymization and de-anonymization, and even Bitcoin.

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.