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   Non-TechBinary Hodgepodge

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From: Ron11/10/2019 9:59:33 PM
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PBS Frontline: The Age of A.I.

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From: Ron11/11/2019 4:14:18 PM
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Google’s Secret ‘Project Nightingale’ Gathers Personal Health Data on Millions of Americans
Search giant is amassing health records from Ascension facilities in 21 states; patients not yet informed
Google is engaged with one of the country’s largest health-care systems to collect and crunch the detailed personal health information of millions of Americans across 21 states.

The initiative, code-named “Project Nightingale,” appears to be the largest in a series of efforts by Silicon Valley giants to gain access to personal health data and establish a toehold in the massive health-care industry. Inc., Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are also aggressively pushing into health care, though they haven’t yet struck deals of this scope.
Google began the effort in secret last year with St. Louis-based Ascension, the second-largest health system in the U.S., with the data sharing accelerating since summer, the documents show.

The data involved in Project Nightingale encompasses lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, including patient names and dates of birth.
Neither patients nor doctors have been notified. At least 150 Google employees already have access to much of the data on tens of millions of patients, according to a person familiar with the matter and documents.

Some Ascension employees have raised questions about the way the data is being collected and shared, both from a technological and ethical perspective, according to the people familiar with the project. But privacy experts said it appeared to be permissible under federal law. That law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, generally allows hospitals to share data with business partners without telling patients, as long as the information is used “only to help the covered entity carry out its health care functions.”

Google in this case is using the data, in part, to design new software, underpinned by advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning, that zeroes in on individual patients to suggest changes to their care. Staffers across Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent, have access to the patient information, documents show, including some employees of Google Brain, a research science division credited with some of the company’s biggest breakthroughs.

In a press release issued after the Journal’s article was published, the companies said the project is compliant with federal health law and includes robust protections for patient data.

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From: Glenn Petersen11/16/2019 9:21:23 AM
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Wikipedia co-founder wants to give you an alternative to Facebook and Twitter

WT:Social will be funded by user donations, not advertising.

Christine Fisher, @cfisherwrites

Rosdiana Ciaravolo via Getty Images

Two years ago, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales launched Wikitribune, an online publication meant to combat fake news with original stories by reporters and "citizen journalists." Wikitribune never really caught on, so now, Wales is shifting gears. Wikitribune is relaunching as WT:Social, a social-networking site and news sharing platform. He hopes it will be an alternative to Facebook and Twitter.

Like those platforms, WT:Social will let users share articles. But WT:Social will be funded by donations, rather than advertising. "The business model of social media companies, of pure advertising, is problematic," Wales told Financial Times. "It turns out the huge winner is low-quality content."

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which use algorithms to bump posts with the most comments or likes to the top, WT:Social will show the newest links first. It may add an "upvote" button in the future.

WT:Social will also support small, niche communities. Those sound wholesome now (think: beekeeping), but we've seen how small communities can fester online. WT:Social promises, "We will foster an environment where bad actors are removed because it is right, not because it suddenly affects our bottom-line."

WT:Social will be free to join, but at the moment, you either have to sign up for a waitlist, donate or invite friends. Just a month old, it already has 50,000 users, Wales told FT, adding "Obviously the ambition is not 50,000 or 500,000 but 50m and 500m."

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From: Ron11/18/2019 12:40:36 PM
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‘Low-Code’ Becomes High Priority as Automation Demands Soar

CIOs are expanding the use of tools that let noncoders create applications Chief information officers, on the hook to automate manual and repetitive business processes, are increasingly turning to tools designed to create applications quickly, without the sweat of writing and debugging lines of code.

Collectively known as “low-code,” these tools have been available in some form for decades. But they have grown more popular with information-technology staff and other departments as workplace automation grows and young, mobile-savvy people join the workforce.

With low-code, employees can quickly make apps by picking, dragging and dropping from a collection of ready-made software building blocks.

Johnson Controls International PLC, an Ireland-based industrial and technology conglomerate that makes heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, tapped nontech employees like engineers to create low-code dashboards that track installations, record project metrics and manage service calls, said Chief Information Officer Nancy Berce.

The company, which has about 105,000 employees across more than 100 countries, set up guardrails so the low-code apps don’t disrupt the resiliency of its central systems, she said.

“A lot of people are creating a lot of good things; how do we start to share that and make that more available to broader users? We haven’t quite figured that one out yet. That’s the next level of maturity,” Ms. Berce said.

Freeing up staff to focus on core technology issues was one of the reasons St. Luke’s University Health Network in Pennsylvania started using low-code, said CIO Chad Brisendine.

“There’s always a bigger appetite for IT than what we’re able to provide. I see this as helping meet that demand,” Mr. Brisendine said.

IT employees turned to low-code to build more than 20 applications using Microsoft Corp. tools. None of them took more than 20 hours to create.

It took eight hours to make an app that pulls information from the hospital’s systems, including a Workday Inc. platform, to track and send reminders to staff on continuing medical training, a requirement for doctors to retain their license. The author, an analyst in the IT department, didn’t know how to code, Mr. Brisendine said.

Mr. Brisendine next year plans to expand low-code training to more business units within St. Luke’s, which has about 15,000 employees.

Companies including Siemens AG , Appian Corp. , Pegasystems Inc. and Inc. also provide low-code tools.

Forms of low-code have been around for decades, but combining it with the use of application programming interfaces, chunks of code designed to connect systems and platforms and share data, has made it easier for those not conversant in C++ or Java to create applications with a punch, said Jason Wong, senior director at research and advisory company Gartner Inc.

Gartner is projecting that low-code will account for more than 65% of application development activity by 2024.

David Hoag, CIO at Chicago-based Options Clearing Corp., a central clearinghouse serving as a backstop for trades in the options market, said making low-code applications is as easy as dragging and dropping widgets.

The company used low-code to develop a visitor-registration system as part of an “app a day” program, where technology teams work with other departments to create applications to solve pressing business problems. The system, created in less than a day, registers visitors, logs arrival and departure times, captures visitor and badge information, and helps the facilities team generate reports on visitor activity.

Similar commercial software was quoted at costing between $30,000 and $50,000 a year, Mr. Hoag said.

OCC started building low-code apps in 2015 and today uses about 30 of them. Mr. Hoag sees low-code’s use spreading beyond IT.

“More people will be entering the workforce who have the foundational skills necessary to run with these things. Even if they’re not Java and HTML and JavaScript experts, they’ll be able to implement low-code systems,” Mr. Hoag said.

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From: Ron11/19/2019 1:07:38 PM
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This could affect nonprofits:

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From: Ron11/23/2019 2:30:48 PM
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Even algorithms can be biased which often leads to errors. Scientists are working to fix that problem

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From: Glenn Petersen11/26/2019 2:44:19 PM
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From: Glenn Petersen12/8/2019 9:51:02 PM
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Musk's defamation win may reset legal landscape for social media

by Reuters
Saturday, 7 December 2019 14:58 GMT
By Tom Hals

Dec 6 (Reuters) - Elon Musk's daring has left its mark on electric cars and rockets, and now experts say the entrepreneur may have reshaped U.S. defamation law with his willingness to defend at a high-stakes trial a lawsuit over an off-the-cuff tweet.

The victory by Tesla Inc's outspoken chief executive over a Twitter message describing a British cave explorer as "pedo guy" has raised the bar for what amounts to libel online, according to some legal experts.

Musk defended his comments as trivial taunts made on a social media platform that he argued everyone views as a world of unfiltered opinion, which is protected as free speech, rather than statements of fact.

"I think this verdict reflects that there is a feeling that internet tweets and chats are more like casual conversation whether you call it opinion or rhetoric or hyperbole and should not be punished in a lawsuit," said Chip Babcock, a lawyer who defends against defamation lawsuits.

Several other attorneys who specialize in defamation cases privately expressed surprise at the outcome of what they viewed as a strong case for the cave explorer, Vernon Unsworth. They attributed it to Musk's fame and the perceived youthfulness of the jury.

But they also agreed it would shift the legal landscape, undercutting the cases that would have seemed viable before the trial while defendants would use it to try to reduce possible settlement values.

Musk's court papers cast his comments as part of the rough-and-tumble world of Twitter, which rewards and encourages emotional outbursts and sucks in readers worldwide but that no one takes seriously.

Mark Sableman, a lawyer who defends defamation cases, said the freewheeling nature of social media has inevitably changed the understanding of language and what amounts to defamatory factual statements, versus opinion.

"I think defendants in modern defamation cases are likely to point to the vitriolic no-holds-barred nature of modern social media, cable TV, and political discourse, in contending that many words and accusations formerly considered defamatory are now understood only as mere opinions, not factual assertions," he said.

In general, to prove libel, the written form of defamation, someone must show the existence of a false statement, which defendants often try to present as opinion. The plaintiff also must show it was published to a third party, it was negligent and it caused harm.

"While there is more leeway and more hyperbole online and in social media in general, courts never really accepted that argument that social media is a libel free-zone," said Lyrissa Lidsky, a professor who specializes in defamation at the University of Missouri School of Law.

Several attorneys said Unsworth appeared to have a strong case, and noted that Musk failed to convince the judge to dismiss it at an early stage. But they cautioned that anything can happen in a courtroom where factors such as the credibility of witnesses and likeability of parties can become important factors.

"Based on the court's pre-trial rulings on motions, Mr. Unsworth's case going in had the potential to underpin a substantial verdict in his favor," said John Walsh, who represents people bringing defamation cases.

Unsworth helped rescue a boys soccer team from a flooded cave in Thailand and during a TV interview criticized Musk's "PR stunt" of showing up at site with a mini-submersible, which was never used. Musk responded with several tweets to his almost 30 million followers and a damaging email to a news outlet, and the lawsuit followed.

In recent years, judges have been wrestling with social media comments and whether to consider them factual statements or protected opinions.

U.S. President Donald Trump, singer and actress Courtney Love and actor James Woods have all been embroiled in multiple libel lawsuits over tweets, with mixed results.

Trump has had success casting Twitter as a place where combatants trade demeaning messages that users understand are not defamatory statements of fact.

Judge James Otero in Los Angeles dismissed a case against the president for a tweet blasting as a "total con job" a claim by adult film actress Stormy Daniels that she was threatened for speaking about an alleged affair with Trump. Otero described the message as "rhetorical hyperbole," fired off with an incredulous tone that no reasonable person would take as factual statement about Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Unsworth's attorney, Lin Wood, warned social media is "tearing at the fabric of society" and the Musk verdict would worsen that trend.

"It is now said by this jury that insults are completely open season," he said. "Everyone should be concerned about their reputations."

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Daniel Wallis)

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (6572)12/10/2019 9:50:56 AM
From: Glenn Petersen
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In wake of Shutterstock’s Chinese censorship, American companies need to relearn American values

Danny Crichton @dannycrichton /
5:25 am CST • December 8, 2019

cameraImage Credits: Ashley Pon/Bloomberg (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

It’s among the most iconic images of the last few decades — a picture of an unknown man standing before a line of tanks during the protests in 1989 in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. In just one shot, the photographer, Jeff Widener, managed to convey a society struggling between the freedoms of individual citizens and the heavy hand of the Chinese militarized state.

It’s also an image that few within China’s “great firewall” have access to, let alone see. For those who have read 1984, it can almost seem as if “Tank Man” was dropped into a memory hole, erased from the collective memory of more than a billion people.

By now, it’s well-known that China’s search engines like Baidu censor such political photography. Regardless of the individual morality of their decisions, it’s at least understandable that Chinese companies with mostly Chinese revenues would carefully hew to the law as set forth by the Chinese Communist Party. It’s a closed system after all.

What we are learning though is that it isn’t just Chinese companies that are aiding and abetting this censorship. It’s Western companies too. And Western workers aren’t pleased that they are working to enforce the anti-freedom policies in the Middle Kingdom.

Take Shutterstock, which has come under great fire for complying with China’s great firewall. As Sam Biddle described in The Intercept last month, the company has been riven internally between workers looking to protect democratic values, and a business desperate to expand further in one of the world’s most dynamic countries. From Biddle:

Shutterstock’s censorship feature appears to have been immediately controversial within the company, prompting more than 180 Shutterstock workers to sign a petition against the search blacklist and accuse the company of trading its values for access to the lucrative Chinese market.
Those petitions have allegedly gone nowhere internally, and that has led employees like Stefan Hayden, who describes nearly ten years of experience at the company as a frontend developer on his LinkedIn profile, to resign:

The challenge of these political risks is hardly unknown to Shutterstock. The company’s most recent annual financial filing with the SEC lists market access and censorship as a key risk for the company (emphasis mine):

For example, domestic internet service providers have blocked and continue to block access to Shutterstock in China and other countries, such as Turkey, have intermittently restricted access to Shutterstock. There are substantial uncertainties regarding interpretation of foreign laws and regulations that censor content available through our products and services and we may be forced to significantly change or discontinue our operations in such markets if we were to be found in violation of any new or existing law or regulation. If access to our products and services is restricted, in whole or in part, in one or more countries or our competitors can successfully penetrate geographic markets that we cannot access, our ability to retain or increase our contributor and customer base may be adversely affected, we may not be able to maintain or grow our revenue as anticipated, and our financial results could Be adversely affected.
Thus the rub: market access means compromising the very values that a content purveyor like Shutterstock relies on to operate as a business. The stock image company is hardly unique to find itself in this position; it’s a situation that the NBA has certainly had to confront in the last few weeks:

It’s great to see Shutterstock’s employees standing up for freedom and democracy, and if not finding purchase internally with their values, at least walking with their feet to other companies who value freedom more reliably.

Unfortunately, far too many companies — and far too many tech companies — blindly chase the dollars and yuans, without considering the erosion in the values at the heart of their own business. That erosion ultimately adds up — without guiding principles to handle business challenges, decisions get made ad hoc with an eye to revenues, intensifying the risk of crises like the one facing Shutterstock.

The complexity of the Chinese market has only expanded with the country’s prodigious growth. The sharpness, intensity, and self-reflection of values required for Western companies to operate on the mainland has reached new highs. And yet, executives have vastly under-communicated the values and constraints they face, both to their own employees but also to their shareholders as well.

As I wrote earlier this year when the Google China search controversy broke out, it’s not enough to just be militant about values. Values have to be cultivated, and everyone from software engineers to CEOs need to understand a company’s objectives and the values that constrain them.

As I wrote at the time:

The internet as independence movement is 100% dead.

That makes the ethical terrain for Silicon Valley workers much more challenging to navigate. Everything is a compromise, in one way or another. Even the very act of creating value — arguably the most important feature of Silicon Valley’s startup ecosystem — has driven mass inequality, as we explored on Extra Crunch this weekend in an in-depth interview.
I ultimately was in favor of Google’s engagement with China, if only because I felt that the company does understand its values better than most (after all, it abandoned the China market in the first place, and one would hope the company would make the same choice again if it needed to). Google has certainly not been perfect on a whole host of fronts, but it seems to have had far more self-reflection about the values it intends to purvey than most tech companies.

It’s well past time for all American companies though to double down on the American values that underly their business. Ultimately, if you compromise on everything, you stand for nothing — and what sort of business would anyone want to join or back like that?

China can’t be ignored, but neither should companies ignore their own duties to commit to open, democratic values. If Tank Man can stand in front of a line of tanks, American execs can stand before a line of their colleagues and find an ethical framework and a set of values that can work.

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From: Glenn Petersen12/17/2019 8:49:19 PM
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'They’ve been blindsided’: Silicon Valley wakes up to Sacramento

12/16/2019 07:16 PM EST

SACRAMENTO — The powerful tech giants of Silicon Valley may wield some of the biggest lobbying budgets in Washington, but they have been comparatively absent in their home state’s capital — where they are now on the defensive.

California caught the world by surprise last year when it passed the nation’s strongest data privacy law, instantly making Sacramento one of the most important regulators of global tech. As members of the California legislature forged the deal on a defining challenge of the digital age, the internet companies were slow to awaken to the threat, and brought few of their considerable resources to bear.

The combined lobbying firepower of Google, Facebook and two major tech trade associations amounted to just $235,000 in the three months leading up to the vote, compared with $3 million from the four biggest oil interests. Facebook, then mired in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, spent less than $18,000 that quarter, according to disclosure records.

The business community’s recent attempts to roll back parts of the privacy law, which takes effect in January and will give consumers more control over personal data, hasn’t gone much better, further underscoring the disconnect between Silicon Valley and its powerful neighbors a two hours' drive away.

The Washington travails of Mark Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley czars are well-known, and tech companies have been grappling with aggressive European regulators eager to rein them in for years now — the European Union has the world’s most stringent privacy law. But the companies’ reluctance to plunge into California politics has hurt them, strategists say, as they grapple with proposals from state lawmakers and a ballot initiative system that has produced two data-privacy campaigns in less than three years.

“You just get the sense that they feel that Sacramento is on the other side of the moon,” said Andrew Acosta, a Democratic strategist.

That light touch looks to be changing as California dives deeper into data-privacy regulation. Facebook, Google and the trade groups TechNet and the Internet Association are on track to boost their combined lobbying spending by more than 80 percent this year and next, compared to the last two-year legislative session. Those four groups spent a combined $1.3 million to influence policymakers in the first nine months of the year. And Facebook has just hired a well-connected Sacramento insider, Mona Pasquil Rogers, to run its California policy shop.

But is it too late? Souring public sentiment about tech’s role in society and daily life may undermine companies’ efforts to shape policy in Sacramento, where even business-friendly Republicans have raised alarms. California’s ballot initiative process adds another layer of unpredictability.

This year’s tech lobbying blitz, to the surprise of many, did not yield major carveouts in the new Privacy Act. What’s more, the consumer privacy advocate behind the law, Alastair Mactaggart, said he was so concerned by such efforts to water it down that he decided to advance a second ballot initiative for 2020. The new version would add new consumer protections — and prevent the Legislature from making any changes that would weaken the Privacy Act.

That could explain why tech companies who don’t like California’s new privacy rules are leaning on Washington for regulations that would supersede state laws — an end-run on Sacramento. Last month, a tech and telecom-funded foundation helped send a delegation of California lawmakers to Washington. In meetings with their counterparts in Congress, the tech-friendly caucus discussed the flaws in California’s law and the merits of federal preemption, one of the organizers told POLITICO.

One might assume state politicians facing reelection would shiver at the thought of alienating a company worth the GDP of Argentina or Saudi Arabia. And to be sure, the sector does have friends in the Legislature. But a closer look at campaign finance records shows that Big Tech has not been a big player in candidate races.

Facebook is by far the sector’s biggest spender, with $1.7 million in contributions since 2009 (excluding those made by a former company executive to his own campaign for attorney general in 2010). Google has spent $959,000, state records show, while Apple has given just $256,000.

Compare that to $5.3 million that AT&T funneled into candidates’ coffers during that period, and $6.2 million from labor powerhouse SEIU.

In fact, strategists say, some progressive lawmakers might even welcome opposition from companies like Facebook. “If Facebook did a big independent expenditure against Buffy Wicks,” Acosta said, pointing to a first-term assemblywoman who has championed privacy rights, “Buffy Wicks would say, 'Bring it on!’”

“It’s telling that candidates running for president are now using Mark Zuckerberg in their ads and highlighting him as a negative,” he added. “Facebook’s on the ground and everyone’s kicking them.”

Facebook and Google declined to comment.

Amazon’s foray into local politics offers a cautionary tale. The company suffered a public relations backlash and electoral defeat in November after pouring nearly $1.5 million into a PAC backing business-friendly candidates for Seattle City Council.

But another veteran Sacramento strategist thinks it is even riskier for tech to remain on the sidelines. Steve Maviglio, a ballot initiative consultant, believes the industry’s ambivalence about publicly opposing the 2018 data-privacy initiative created an opening for California’s privacy law.

Maviglio was hired by a tech and telecom coalition to fight the initiative. But rather than pledge millions to defeat it, he said, the companies took a wait-and-see approach, not wanting to be the first to jump. The first contribution didn’t come until February 2018, four months after the initiative was filed, campaign records show. That April, reeling from the Cambridge Analytica fallout, Facebook announced it would no longer fight the privacy measure.

The initiative had strong polling, and in June the Legislature unanimously passed the Privacy Act as part of a deal to get it off the ballot. By passing it in the Capitol, lawmakers regained the power to make changes without going back to the voters.

“There was a fundamental misunderstanding of how the initiative system worked and what they had to do,” Maviglio said. “It was painful to try to get them engaged, and frankly, that’s one of the reasons the Privacy Act passed last year. They simply didn’t know how to engage and head it off.”

Roger Salazar, another veteran Democratic consultant, drew a contrast between the tech startups of today and the hardware and software giants like Hewlett Packard and Apple that ruled Silicon Valley in the 1980s. The valley’s first generation companies tended to hire “old school” executives, he recalled, “types of corporate managers who understood how to deal with government.”

Newer tech businesses don’t tend to have the same kinds of safeguards or relationships, he said, possibly because they’ve grown at such a dizzying rate.

“I think they’ve been blindsided,” Salazar said, “because they didn’t understand the process, they didn’t understand the environment they were operating in, they didn’t understand the political system in California.”

The tipping point for Facebook’s image — in Sacramento and just about everywhere else — was the Cambridge Analytica scandal that exploded in early 2018. The British consulting firm hired by the Trump campaign acquired data from millions of the social network’s users that had been gathered without their knowledge and used it to try to manipulate likely voters with political ads before the 2016 election.

Google’s data-gathering practices and market dominance has also been under the microscope, especially as the company expands into the personal health realm and tries to acquire Fitbit.

In early November, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra revealed an ongoing probe into Facebook’s handling of personal data stemming from Cambridge Analytica. Becerra, a former Southern California congressman, also announced he was suing the company for allegedly stonewalling his investigation.

In a sign of the company’s fall from grace, Becerra’s reelection campaign used the news as fundraising fodder.

“Xavier sued Facebook,” read the email blast. “Big Tech is no longer an infant. These corporations are running at Olympic speed. It’s time for the industry to be treated as an adult.”

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