What about apps in Google’s Play Store that track children?

Thousands of apps may be tracking the online activity of children in ways that violate US privacy laws, according to a recent survey of Android apps available on the Google Play store.

Using an “automatic evaluation of the privacy behaviors of Android apps,” a team of university researchers and computer scientists concluded that of 5,855 apps in the Play Store’s Designed for Families program, 28 percent “accessed sensitive data protected by Android permissions” and 73 percent of the applications “transmitted sensitive data over the internet.” Though the survey noted that simply collecting that information did not necessarily violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a federal law limiting data collection on children under 13, “none of these apps attained verifiable parental consent” as required under the law since their automated tool was able to activate them.

Among the most concerning findings was that approximately 256 apps collected geolocation data, 107 shared the device owner’s email address, and 10 shared phone numbers.

1,100 shared persistent identifiers, which can be used for behavioral advertising techniques that are banned for use on children by COPPA. 2,281 transmitted Android Advertising IDs…in a method that could “completely negate” AAID privacy protections. That means those apps appear to be in violation of Google policy.

Do no harm, eh?

AI diagnosis to make medical decisions is just about here


AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

❝ The US Food and Drug Administration approved this week the first software powered by artificial intelligence that replaces the need for a specialized doctor to interpret medical imagery.

The software is called IDx-DR, made by diagnostic AI startup IDx, and specifically analyzes images of the retina to detect whether a person with diabetes has a complication from the disease called diabetic retinopathy…

❝ Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes where blood sugar damages the back of the eye, according to the FDA, and is the main cause of the loss of vision for those with diabetes…

By allowing this software to be marketed in the US, the FDA is setting a bar for the accuracy needed in order for AI to take over for human doctors. When validating that the AI system worked, the FDA used images from 900 US patients. The software correctly detected more than mild diabetic retinopathy 87.4% of the time, and identified when patients did not have more than mild retinopathy 89.5% of the time. Accuracy for humans naturally varies from doctor to doctor, but for the FDA to approve the technology it “must provide for more effective treatment or diagnosis of a life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating disease or condition.”

No doubt a predictable percentage of Americans will demonstrate fear of this technology to a greater degree than any other educated nation. Part of that education and, more important, political processes, electoral politics, religious folderol, come together to work harder than anywhere else – to keep citizens from modernizing their lives and thinking. Why – we might even question authority.

US Military scientists getting close to autonomous soft robotics


Under The Skinwritten by Michael Faber

U.S. Army-funded researchers at Brandeis University have discovered a process for engineering next-generation soft materials with embedded chemical networks that mimic the behavior of neural tissue. The breakthrough material may lead to autonomous soft robotics, dual sensors and actuators for soft exoskeletons, or artificial skins.

The research lays the foundations for futuristic soft active matter with highly distributed and tightly integrated sensing, actuation, computation and control, said Dr. Samuel Stanton…

Our Fake President will love this. No doubt he’ll ask for his own test fleet of autonomous – but obedient – hooker-bots.