Internet Security

Can predictive analytics be made safe for humans?

Massive-scale predictive analytics is a relatively new phenomenon, one that challenges both decades of law as well as consumer thinking about privacy. As a technology, it may well save thousands of lives in applications like predictive medicine, but if it isn’t used carefully, it may prevent thousands from getting loans, for instance, if an underwriting…


Massive-scale predictive analyticsis a relatively new phenomenon, one that challenges both decades of law as well as consumer thinking about privacy.

As a technology, it may well save thousands of lives in applications like predictive medicine, but if it isn’t used carefully, it may prevent thousands from getting loans, for instance, if an underwriting algorithm is biased against certain users.

I chatted with Dennis Hirsch a few weeks ago about the challenges posed by this new data economy. Hirsch is a professor of law at Ohio State and head of its Program on Data and Governance. He’s also affiliated with the university’s Risk Institute.

“Data ethics is the new form of risk mitigation for the algorithmic economy,” he said. In a post-Cambridge Analytica world, every company has to assess what data it has on its customers and mitigate the risk of harm. How to do that, though, is at the cutting edge of the new field of data governance, which investigates the processes and policies through which organizations manage their data.

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“Traditional privacy regulation asks whether you gave someone notice and given them a choice,” he explains. That principle is the bedrock for Europe’s GDPR law, and for the patchwork of laws in the U.S. that protect privacy. It’s based around the simplistic idea that a datum — such as a customer’s address — shouldn’t be shared with, say, a marketer without that user’s knowledge. Privacy is about protecting the address book, so to speak.

The rise of “predictive analytics,” though, has completely demolished such privacy legislation. Predictive analytics is a fuzzy term, but essentially means interpreting raw data and drawing new conclusions through inference. This is the story of the famous Target data crisis, where the retailer recommended pregnancy-related goods to women who had certain patterns of purchases. As Charles Duhigg explained at the time:

Many shoppers purchase soap and cotton balls, but when someone suddenly starts buying lots of scent-free soap and extra-big bags of cotton balls, in addition to hand sanitizers and washcloths, it signals they could be getting close to

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Internet Security

Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes, calls for Facebook to be broken up

The latest call to break up Facebook looks to be the most uncomfortably close to home yet for supreme leader, Mark Zuckerberg. “Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American,” writes Chris Hughes, in an explosive op-ed published in The New York Times. “It is time to break up Facebook.” It’s a long read, but worth indulging…


The latest call to break up Facebooklooks to be the most uncomfortably close to home yet for supreme leader, Mark Zuckerberg.

“Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American,” writes Chris Hughes,in an explosive op-ed published in The New York Times. “It is time to break up Facebook.”

It’s a long read, but worth indulging for a well-articulated argument against the market-denting power of monopolies, shot through with a smattering of personal anecdotes about Hughes’ experience of Zuckerberg — who he at one point almost paints as “only human,” before shoulder-dropping into a straight thumbs-down that “it’s his very humanity that makes his unchecked power so problematic.”

The tl;dr of Hughes’ argument against Facebook/Zuckerberg being allowed to continue its/his reign of the internet knits together different strands of the techlash zeitgeist, linking Zuckerberg’s absolute influence over Facebook, and therefore over the unprecedented billions of people he can reach and behaviourally reprogram via content-sorting algorithms, to the crushing of innovation and startup competition; the crushing of consumer attention, choice and privacy, all hostage to relentless growth targets and an eyeball-demanding ad business model; the crushing control of speech that Zuckerberg — as Facebook’s absolute monarch — personally commands, with Hughes worrying it’s a power too potent for any one human to wield.

“Mark may never have a boss, but he needs to have some check on his power,” he writes. “The American government needs to do two things: break up Facebook’s monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people.”

His proposed solution is not just a break up of Facebook’s monopoly of online attention by re-separating Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp— to try to reinvigorate a social arena it now inescapably owns — he also calls for U.S. policymakers to step up to the plate and regulate, suggesting an oversight agency is also essential to hold internet companies to account, and pointing to Europe’s recently toughened privacy framework, GDPR, as a start.

“Just breaking up Facebook is not enough. We need a new agency, empowered by Cong

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Internet Security

Facebook hit with three privacy investigations in a single day

Third time lucky — unless you’re Facebook . The social networking giant was hit Thursday by a trio of investigations over its privacy practices following a particularly tumultuous month of security lapses and privacy violations — the latest in a string of embarrassing and damaging breaches at the company, much of its own doing. First…


Third time lucky — unless you’re Facebook.

The social networking giant was hit Thursday by a trio of investigations over its privacy practices following a particularly tumultuous month of security lapses and privacy violations — the latest in a string of embarrassing and damaging breaches at the company, much of its own doing.

First came a probe by the Irish data protection authority looking into the breach of “hundreds of millions” of Facebook and Instagram user passwords that were stored in plaintext on its servers. The company will be investigated under the European GDPR data protection law, which could lead to fines of up to four percent of its global annual revenue for the infringing year — already some several billions of dollars.

Then, Canadian au

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Internet Security

How to handle dark data compliance risk at your company

Lisa Hawke Contributor Share on Twitter Lisa Hawke is VP of Security and Compliance at Everlaw, and Vice Chair of Women in Security and Privacy. Slack and other consumer-grade productivity tools have been taking off in workplaces large and small — and data governance hasn’t caught up. Whether it’s litigation, compliance with regulations like GDPR…


Slack and otherconsumer-grade productivity tools have been taking off in workplaces large and small — and data governance hasn’t caught up.

Whether it’s litigation, compliance with regulations like GDPR or concerns about data breaches, legal teams need to account for new types of employee communication. And that’s hard when work is happening across the latest messagin

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Internet Security

Facebook needs a white hat Cambridge Analytica

Rob Blackie Contributor Share on Twitter Rob Blackie is a Digital Strategist based in London, England, who has contributed to The Guardian and The Independent newspapers. Mike Butcher Contributor More posts by this contributor Consolidation in Africa as classifieds player Jiji acquires their main competitor OLX Wayve claims ‘world first’ in driving a car autonomously…


Facebook has hada terrible couple of years. Fake news. Cambridge Analytica. Charges of anti-Semitism. Russia hacking the 2016 election. Racist memes, murders and lynchings in India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.  

And Facebook is just the tech company with the longest list of scandals.There’s Google, YouTube and Twitter’s well-documented roles in radicalization to consider, not to mention growing global health crises caused by medical misinformation spread on all the major platforms.

Investors are rightly beginning to worry. If tech companies and their investors can’t foresee and stop these problems, it will likely lead to damaging regulation, costing them billions.

The rest of us are increasingly unhappy that internet giants refuse to take responsibility. The argument that the problem lies with third-party abuse of their tools is wearing thin, not just with the media and politicians, but increasingly with the public as well.

If the tech giants don’t want regulators to step in and police, they need to do much more to predict, and stop the abuse, before it even happens.

One hundred cardboard cutouts of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stand outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, April 10, 2018. Advocacy group Avaaz is calling attention to what the groups says are hundreds of millions of fake accounts still spreading disinformation on Facebook. (Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

The common factor in social media scandals

The problems mentioned above weren’t caused by anybody breaking existing social network rules. Nor

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