Controversial Reads 042321

The Court ruled that Google did not violate copyright law when it included parts of Oracle’s Java programming code in its Android operating system—ending a decade-long multibillion dollar legal battle.

Today, however, choice is fast becoming an empty mantra as consumers face the iron law of compatibility. Forced to “opt in,” users submit to a relentless schedule of upgrades and updates among the ever-proliferating gadgets and technologies that bring us so much while governing our lives more and more.

I like my colleagues, but I’ve never met them in person. I found my own doctor; I cook my own food. My manager is 26 — too young for me to expect any parental warmth from him. When people ask me how I feel about my new position, I shrug: It’s a job.

Another day, another horrific Facebook privacy scandal. We know what comes next: Facebook will argue that losing a lot of our data means bad third-party actors are the real problem that we should trust Facebook to make more decisions about our data to protect against them.

Cookies are dying, and the tracking industry is scrambling to replace them. Google has proposed Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), TURTLEDOVE, and other bird-themed tech that would have browsers do some of the behavioral profiling that third-party trackers do today.

When we think about environment problems, we naturally imagine huge smokestacks turning the sky dark and coating the trees with soot. But glitzy high tech stuff like cloud computing and cryptocurrency use a lot of energy too.

From fitness trackers to connected cars, IoT (“Internet of Things”) devices have made our lives easier and more convenient. Despite their nifty features, many harbor poor design when it comes to security and privacy of the data they collect (and often transmit) about you and your habits.

At Cisco Live 2021, Cisco announced enhancements to People Insights, a feature in its Webex platform. The enhancements monitor employee behavior in meetings and inter-office collaboration. The goal, according to Cisco, is to “increase and promote personal well-being.”

Several U.S. banks have started deploying camera software that can analyze customer preferences, monitor workers and spot people sleeping near ATMs, even as they remain wary about possible backlash over increased surveillance, more than a dozen banking and technology sources told Reuters.

In some contexts, such as employment, decision making based on arbitrary criteria is legal, and in others such as criminal sentencing, it is not. As algorithms replace human deciders, what are the considerations and consequences for decisions that are made at scale? And what are the moral or ethical implications?

Are tech giants really damned if they do and damned if they don’t (protect our privacy)?

Social media companies don’t fit into the framework of Section 230. Pushing the false dichotomy of “platform” versus “content creator” gives these companies more power. They can hide behind their status as platforms, claiming their filtering is perfectly neutral, undermining free speech all the while.

World-class chess, Go, and Jeopardy-playing programs are impressive, but they prove nothing about whether computers can be made to achieve AGI.