UK Surveillance Law Marks a “Worse Than Scary” Shift

CNET, 11/29/2016

The Investigatory Powers Act, recently passed in the UK, will require telecom companies to store records of phone calls and websites visited for up to a year, and give authorities access to the latter without a warrant. It also legalizes bulk data collection by the British government. Groups like the Open Rights Group and Privacy International are openly critical of this law, calling it draconian.

Machine-Learning Algorithm Can Show Whether State Secrets Are Properly Classified

MIT Technology Review, 11/14/2016

Researchers from Columbia University and a Brazilian think tank have developed a machine-learning algorithm to predict whether now-declassified U.S. State Department cables from the 1970’s were unclassified, limited official use, confidential, or secret, based on contents and metadata such as sender and recipient. The study provides insight into how the information was classified, but also carries potential national security implications by highlighting trends in erroneous information classification — and systematic gaps where secret cables should have been declassified.

AI Predicts Outcomes of Human Rights Trials

University College London/UCL News, 10/24/2016

Artificial intelligence has recently been used to predict (past) judicial decisions in the European Court of Human Rights to a surprising degree of accuracy. This method could potentially be used to automatically identify cases that are likely to involve human rights violations, and is also an interesting example of how artificial intelligence can quantify and even predict human behavior based on pattern recognition.

Quantifying Urban Revitalization

MIT News, 10/24/2016

Researchers have developed a system that estimates how safe visitors will perceive an area to be based on photographs of the area. The researchers began with a crowdsourcing effort to build an initial database of images and safety ratings of the area in the image. Over 1.4 million responses have then been used to train a machine-learning algorithm to identify these aspects automatically.

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.

Contract Expiration to End U.S. Authority Over Internet IP Addresses

The Washington Post, 9/30/2016

The contract that specified the U.S. government’s oversight over Internet address assignment has expired and ICANN (an international NGO) now has full control. ICANN holds the responsibility to protect the integrity, freedom, and security of the domain name system and IP address assignment. ICANN’s decisions thus have the potential to affect the communications of Internet users around the world.

Was New York’s Mass-Text Manhunt Really Unprecedented?

The Verge, 9/20/2016

New York City police used the Wireless Emergency Alert system recently to send out a “Wanted” text message about a bombing suspect, and they plan to use the system for similar purposes in future. However, they have received heavy criticism, mainly saying that the short, pictureless message may have encouraged mass racial profiling, and that overuse of the system might lead to people ignoring it.