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Friday Cyber News, November 27 2015

Cyber technology-related news and links from around the web, for the week of 11/21 - 11/27:

1. Will artificial intelligence be a net positive or a net negative for society? Explore the Future of Humanity Institute, the Singularity Institute, Google and IBM headquarters, and Arthur C Clarke's predictions for humanity--not to spoil the ending, but the jury is still out. The ethics of automation are being researched from all sides, but some problems we won't understand until we're living with the new technology. [New Yorker; Berkeley Science Review]

2. Do they call them push notifications because they're like a drug pusher? The internet has been engineered to be addictive: notifications, likes, tweets, and emails replicate the kinds of unpredictable stimuli that Skinner studied with birds and rats to demonstrate their addictive capabilities. (Skinner's pigeons could also be trained, though, and pigeons can now identify breast cancer, in images of stained tissue and cells, as well as humans do. Is a pigeon + image server an intelligent cyber system?) [Aeon; BBC]

3. Getting a Dell on Black Friday used to be a fun surprise, but if you have a Dell now, watch out for misuse of the eDellRoot certificate on your machine, which can be reverse-engineered to act as a certificate for any website, illegitimately. Part of the problem is that Dell shipped the private key together with the certificate--but the private key should be kept private, like a password. Some browsers, like Firefox, will still recognize a misused eDellRoot certificate, so keep an eye out for browser privacy warnings. [Fortune]

4. Technology can be used to provide information about voters, through surveillance and analysis of their commercial data and media viewing practices. It can also be used to manipulate voter preference, as explored in the latest episode of Raw Data, on cyber technologies and democracy. [Queens U, Canada; Soundcloud]

5. Hotels are the latest group to face a wave of cyber crime, attacking their point-of-sale systems, as hackers catch on that the average visitor to a Ritz-Carlton probably has good credit. I also have bad news for you about the security of hotel wifi. Even the kind you have to pay for. [Financial Times]

6. The average person values her personal data at about $5,000. Advertisers place a much lower value on demographic and consumer statistics. Are people acting rationally to preserve that value, or merely estimating the cost of restoring stolen electronics? [Telegraph]

7. How does Hollywood research a movie about a hack? Go behind the scenes on the Snowden biopic, and hear what it was like to be inside Sony during their hack, as well as the history of Hollywood being, itself, hacked, starting with Lawrence Fishburne's cell phone. (P.S. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Snowden--what, was Ryan Gosling busy?) [Medium Backchannel]

8. I think we can put this in the "positive" column for cyber technology: fitness tracking apps have increased the popularity of running, and more than half of all runners track their runs using an app or wearable fitness device. More than half a million people ran a marathon this year, and soon we'll be able to connect those fitness trackers to heart health trackers to judge the effects. [Atlantic]

9. The danger of privately-controlled data sets is that they stifle certain types of research: data mining research, which the UCSC Genome Browser relies on, and which can identify fabrications in published articles, is often blocked by paywalled databases like Elsevier's. Using automated technologies to do research can be difficult to distinguish from using automated technology to evade copyright protections, as with other "dual-use" technologies. [Nature]

10. The history of privacy indicates Vint Cerf may have been correct about privacy being an anomaly. The driving factors behind greater privacy were communicable illness, like the plague; church-mandated confessions, that popularized silent reading; and heating and plumbing that required more internal walls in our houses. Is the internet, then, the most recent in a long line of privacy-promoting technologies? [Medium]

P.S. In the Bay Area on Dec. 7th? Join us for our last Cyber Seminar of the quarter, 4-5 pm at the Huang Engineering Center's Mackenzie Room (3rd floor), to hear Cyber Initiative co-Director Professor Dan Boneh and author, researcher, and philosopher Jaron Lanier discuss the science, economics, and ethics of personal, corporate, and government data ownership. Jaron's most recent book, "Who Owns the Future?" addresses these issues, which are complicated by end-to-end encryption, tracking technologies, and differing international laws on data ownership. RSVP here:


Stanford Cyber Initiative

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