Sharing privately with friends on Facebook — may have been very public

❝ As many as 14 million Facebook users who thought they were posting items they only wanted their friends or smaller groups to see may have been posting that content publicly, the company said Thursday.

According to Facebook, a software bug — which was live for 10 days in May — updated the audience for some users’ posts to “public” without any warning. Facebook typically lets users select the audiences who get to see posts; that setting is “sticky,” which means it remains the default until it is manually updated.

And then there’s a school of thought that believes there never was a bug. Just a switch clicked or left switched on – accidentally.

Protect free speech rights for bots?

❝ Do you have a right to know if you’re talking to a bot? How about the bot? Does it have the right to keep that information from you? Those questions have been stirring in the minds of many since well before Google demoed Duplex, a human-like AI that makes phone calls on a user’s behalf, earlier this month.

Bots — online accounts that appear to be controlled by a human, but are actually powered by AI — are now prevalent all across the internet, specifically on social media sites. While some people think legally forcing these bots to “out” themselves as non-human would be beneficial, others think doing so violates the bot’s right to free speech. Yes, they believe bots have the same First Amendment rights as humans in America.

RTFA. Standard copout piece pretty much avoiding rational science-based discussion of philosophical questions. I expect there are plenty of handy bots slipping through the fog of the Web already advancing petit bourgeois rationales for Bot Freedoms – generated by owners profiting from their bots. Or hoping to.

But, you might want to interfere with morning coffee [or tea] enough to – at a minimum – develop your own opinion on the topic.

“Bird Hunting” – a profitable pastime


That’s right. We don’t suggest hunting your neighborhood feathered friends.

❝ Bird is a scooter-sharing company that launched in 2017 and has been dubbed the “Uber of scooters.” Its goal is to alleviate congestion and allow people an easy way to travel quickly for short distances of just a few miles. Riders can locate and unlock scooters using the company’s smartphone app, and after paying the $1 unlocking fee are charged 15 cents per minute during use.

Birds are available in a growing number of American cities including Austin, Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Scottsdale, Arizona; Washington D.C.; and Atlanta. The scooters are all battery-powered and dockless, so they can be picked up or dropped off anywhere.

❝ But when night falls, what most riders don’t realize is that the scooters themselves are charged by a contract workforce. These people are known as “Bird hunters” or “chargers,” and they’re growing exponentially in number.

You don’t punch a time-card. Probably don’t need an alarm clock to tell you when to get to work. Not a bad gig.

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

What’s happening to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot?

❝ Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is perhaps the most iconic feature of any planet in our Solar System. It’s instantly recognizable, and the massive cyclone has been swirling for so long that we’ve taken for granted that it’ll always be there. Recent observations have shown that, unfortunately, that’s not the case. The storm is dying — the latest data from the Juno spacecraft suggests it might actually be gone within our lifetimes — and a new research paper by scientists at NASA suggests that it’s actually changing in both shape and color as it enters its twilight years…

The Great Red Spot is still great. It can still swallow the entire Earth whole, which is a pretty impressive feat for any weather feature, but it’s definitely less impressive than it once was. As NASA notes, a century and a half ago it was so wide that you could fit four Earths inside of its footprint, so it’s clearly losing a lot of steam…

RTFA. Construct your own fiction; but, take the time to learn fact, as well.

When Did Silicon Valley Become Brotopia?

❝ In engineering circles, some refer to Lena as “the first lady of the internet.” Others see her as the industry’s original sin, the first step in Silicon Valley’s exclusion of women. Both views stem from an event that took place in 1973 at a University of Southern California computer lab, where a team of researchers was trying to turn physical photographs into digital bits. Their work would serve as a precursor to the JPEG, a widely used compression standard that allows large image files to be efficiently transferred between devices. The USC team needed to test their algorithms on suitable photos, and their search for the ideal test photo led them to Lena.

❝ According to William Pratt, the lab’s co-founder, the group chose Lena’s portrait from a copy of Playboy that a student had brought into the lab. Pratt, now 80, tells me he saw nothing out of the ordinary about having a soft porn magazine in a university computer lab in 1973. “I said, ‘There are some pretty nice-looking pictures in there,’ ” he says. “And the grad students picked the one that was in the centerfold.” Lena’s spread, which featured the model wearing boots, a boa, a feathered hat, and nothing else, was attractive from a technical perspective because the photo included, according to Pratt, “lots of high-frequency detail that is difficult to code.”…To this day, some engineers joke that if you want your image compression algorithm to make the grade, it had better perform well on Lena…

❝ “When you use a picture like that for so long, it’s not a person anymore; it’s just pixels,” Jeff Seideman told the Atlantic in 2016, unwittingly highlighting the sexism that Needell and other critics had tried to point out.

“We didn’t even think about those things at all when we were doing this,” Pratt says. “It was not sexist.” After all, he continues, no one could have been offended because there were no women in the classroom at the time. And thus began a half-century’s worth of buck-passing in which powerful men in the tech industry defended or ignored the exclusion of women on the grounds that they were already excluded.

Uh-huh…RTFA, please.

US soldiers reveal their location by jogging, working out

❝ An interactive map posted on the Internet that shows the whereabouts of people who use fitness devices such as Fitbit also reveals highly sensitive information about the locations and activities of soldiers at U.S. military bases, in what appears to be a major security oversight.

The Global Heat Map, published by the GPS tracking company Strava, uses satellite information to map the locations and movements of subscribers to the company’s fitness service over a two-year period, by illuminating areas of activity.

❝ Most parts of the United States and Europe, where millions of people use some type of fitness tracker, show up on the map as blazes of light because there is so much activity.

In war zones and deserts in countries such as Iraq and Syria, the heat map becomes almost entirely dark — except for scattered pinpricks of activity. Zooming in on those areas brings into focus the locations and outlines of known U.S. military bases, as well as of other unknown and potentially sensitive sites — presumably because American soldiers and other personnel are using fitness trackers as they move around.

❝ The U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State said on Monday it is revising its guidelines on the use of all wireless and technological devices on military facilities as a result of the revelations.

You can file this under: barn door, horse already gone

Golly gee! I’m banned at a website…

I’ve managed to be banned by The Verge. Discovered this when trying to comment on their review of Apple’s Homepod…which would’ve been “Predictable, short-sighted, useless critique.”

Occasionally useful in the past, they offer little in terms of info about tech (or life, death, etc.). They were in my Apple News feed as a choice I tried when starting up with Apple News.

My tradition when I walkaway from a “source” – or BITD, a customer – is to wish them well. A few times, I said nothing. This is one of those. Let the market rule!

BTW, for a useful review, go read Om Malik’s opinion of the Homepod.