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Friday Cyber News, January 8 2016

Cyber technology-related news and links from around the web, for the week of 1/2 - 1/8:

1. An in-depth exploration of how Facebook's news feed works shows the choice online content aggregators face between using generalized statistics (how popular a story is among all users, for example) and individualized statistics (how much you in particular might like a story). Pair with a scientific model of how echo chambers arise and propagate on Facebook. [Slate; PNAS]

2. Following last week's news of Google's partnership with Ford to develop self-driving cars, Google reminds us that it has no intention to mass-produce its own vehicles, despite the adorable gumdrop-shaped versions we've seen in Mountain View. On the one hand, this makes financial sense: Google isn't in the position to become an automaker. On the other hand, they might produce a product with better-integrated technology than a traditional automaker. In the same market, Lyft and GM are teaming up to make their own self-driving cars, and although GM has promised not to sue hackers for disclosing vulnerabilities, similar concerns around each company's focus apply. [The Drive; NPR; Ars Technica]

3. Mike Rogers, James Clapper, and Jim Comey are meeting in San Jose today with tech companies including Apple, Microsoft, and Dropbox: they want to know how they can better combat ISIS and other extremists online. Encryption is part of the agenda explicitly, but so are ways to publish and amplify online content to "undercut ISIL". [Guardian]

4. The UK's draft Investigatory Powers bill addresses government surveillance of encrypted communication, strengthening the ability of authorities to request access while not strictly requiring it. US companies operating in the UK, such as Facebook, are critical of the bill's effects on their technology. [BBC]

5. The online economy, whether you call it sharing, crowdsourcing, or "artificial artificial intelligence", is producing trends in the labor market including the externalization of investment costs (e.g., you need your own car to drive for Uber) and an increase in logged labor (e.g., as tasks like payroll and quality reporting become standardized and coordinated online, they become the individual worker's responsibility). These labor trends may be crowding out the innovation necessary to sustain the system. [Jacobin]

6. The FTC has reached a settlement in its complaint against Dentrix, makers of dental software. The software for storing patient data claimed to offer strong encryption, but in reality did not; Dentrix owes $250,000, and the case serves as a warning against other peddlers of crypto snake oil. [The Register]

7. Facebook, having reached a stage in its relationship with users where it wants to test boundaries, repeatedly attacked its own app with errors causing it to crash. The intentional denial of service was to test users' loyalty, reportedly, and users just kept crawling back: many switched to using Facebook on a mobile browser rather than through the app, but maintained typical patterns of usage. [Verge]

8. How Medicare and Medicaid rules will shape the future of our digital health landscape. We're bullish on smart insulin pumps and connected diabetes monitoring tools, and bearish on Uber-for-house-calls. [TechCrunch; Quartz]

9. You should consider what happens to your medical data when you die. Data donation, like organ donation, could ensure researchers' access to information. [EMBO reports]

10. Security researchers found vulnerabilities in the websites of UK financial institutions. These findings don't indicate actual attacks, but underscore how difficult it is for a large business to get security completely right. [Xiphos Research]


Stanford Cyber Initiative

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