What the EU Gets Right—and the US Gets Wrong—About Antitrust

from Wired THERE’S A GROWING bipartisan consensus in the US to rein in the massive power accumulated by dominant tech firms. From state capitals to Congress, officials have launched multiple investigations of whether the big four of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are now forces more for harm than good and whether their size and scale demand government action to curtail them or potentially break them up. US regulators have not yet shown all their cards, but they should pause before arguing that too big equals anticompetitive, or seeking to break up or substantially restructure the tech giants. Instead, they […]

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Design Of Hiring Algorithms Can Double Diversity In Firms

from Fast Company We know that algorithms can outperform humans across an expanding range of settings, from medical diagnosis and image recognition to crime prediction. However, an ongoing concern is the potential for automated approaches to codify existing human biases to the detriment of candidates from underrepresented groups. For example, hiring algorithms use information on workers they have previously hired in order to predict which job applicants they should now select. In many cases, relying on algorithms that predict future success based on past success will lead firms to favor applicants from groups that have traditionally been successful. But this […]

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Dear Congress: Platform Accountability Should Not Threaten Online Expression

from ACLU Tomorrow, the Senate Commerce Committee is holding a hearing entitled “Does Section 230 Enable Big Tech Bad Behavior?” This is just the latest attempt by Congress and the Trump administration to amend, reinterpret, or eliminate Section 230, a key provision of federal law that generally ensures online platforms, including social media, can’t be held liable for the speech and content their users post on these platforms. This law means Yelp can’t be held legally responsible every time one of its users posts a false negative review. The Bed Bug Registry doesn’t have to visit every hotel with a […]

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Amy Coney Barrett’s Judicial Philosophy Doesn’t Hold Up to Scrutiny

from The Atlantic During her confirmation hearings, Amy Coney Barrett argued that the judicial philosophy known as “originalism” should guide judges in their interpretation and application of constitutional principles. Most famously associated with the late Justice Antonin Scalia (for whom Judge Barrett clerked), this idea sounds simple and sensible: In determining what the Constitution permits, a judge must first look to the plain meaning of the text, and if that isn’t clear, then apply what was in the minds of the 55 men who wrote it in 1787. Period. Anything else is “judicial lawmaking.” In some cases, interpreting the Constitution […]

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New Report on Police Decryption Capabilities

from Schneier on Security There is a new report on police decryption capabilities: specifically, mobile device forensic tools (MDFTs). Short summary: it’s not just the FBI that can do it. This report documents the widespread adoption of MDFTs by law enforcement in the United States. Based on 110 public records requests to state and local law enforcement agencies across the country, our research documents more than 2,000 agencies that have purchased these tools, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We found that state and local law enforcement agencies have performed hundreds of thousands of cellphone extractions since […]

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House Lawmakers Condemn Big Tech’s ‘Monopoly Power’ and Urge Their Breakups

from NYTs House lawmakers who spent the last 16 months investigating the practices of the world’s largest technology companies said on Tuesday that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google had exercised and abused their monopoly power and called for the most sweeping changes to antitrust laws in half a century. In a 449-page report that was presented by the House Judiciary Committee’s Democratic leadership, lawmakers said the four companies had turned from “scrappy” start-ups into “the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons.” The lawmakers said the companies had abused their dominant positions, […]

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The Plain View

from Plaintext Like any good nonfiction writer, the Majority Staff (i.e., Democrats) of the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law has produced a long-read document distinguished by deep research and an unyielding thesis: Big Tech is too big, too bad, and fights dirty. Sixteen months ago, the subcommittee set out to expose bad behavior in Silicon Valley’s top companies. Empowered with subpoenas, it had little trouble finding it. The docket of whistle-blowing witnesses and damning exhibits uncovered a litany of bullying, self-interested, anti-competitive behavior that justified the exercise, which some thought redundant because of ongoing investigations by the […]

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After Ten Years, The Google vs Oracle API Copyright Mega-Battle Finally Hit The Supreme Court

from The Register The decade-long mega-battle between two of the world’s largest corporations, which will decide the future of software development, began its final showdown this morning. Yes, it was Google versus Oracle at the US Supreme Court, and two hours of wide-ranging, fast-paced legal argument: full of analogies, pointed questions, sharp responses, and virtually no missteps – it indicated just how much is at stake. At the heart of the case is this: Android, Google’s mobile operating system installed on billions of devices that contributes to making it one of the richest and most powerful corporations on the planet. […]

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How Internet-Connected Voter Check-In Devices Can Create Election Chaos

from ars technica A federal judge in Georgia has ordered election officials to print paper backups of voter data so that voting can proceed even if the digital system for checking in voters fails. This is a win for plaintiffs who have argued that flaws in Georgia’s electronic-poll-book (EPB) system hampered voting in the June primary and could do so again in November. Over the last 20 years, a lot of discussion has revolved around the risk that electronic voting machines pose to the security and integrity of elections. But there has been less attention paid to electronic poll books—another […]

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Section 230 Is a Government License to Build Rage Machines

from Wired Facebook has been called the “ largest piece of the QAnon infrastructure.” The app has not only hosted plenty of the conspiracy group’s dark and dangerous content, it has also promoted and expanded its audience. QAnon is hardly the only beneficiary: Facebook promotes and expands the audience of militia organizers, racists, those who seek to spread disinformation to voters, and a host of other serious troublemakers. The platform’s basic business, after all, is deciding which content keeps people most engaged, even if it undermines civil society. But unlike most other businesses, Facebook’s most profitable operations benefit from a […]

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SCOTUStalk Heads To The Ballot Box: The Supreme Court And The 2020 Election

from SCOTUSblog Ever since Bush v. Gore, the case that effectively decided the 2000 presidential race, the Supreme Court increasingly has been asked to intervene in fraught disputes over election procedures. Add in a pandemic, and the 2020 election season promises to be unprecedented. This week on SCOTUStalk, SCOTUSblog’s social media editor, Katie Barlow, joins Amy Howe to break down the court’s influence on the election. They survey major election-related rulings the justices have already handed down this summer and preview what role the court might play in the run-up to Election Day – and, potentially, the weeks afterward. Katie […]

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The Case for Dumping the Electoral College

from The New Yorker In 1961, Estes Kefauver, the crusading Democratic senator from Tennessee, denounced the Electoral College as “a loaded pistol pointed at our system of government.” Its continued existence, he said, as he opened hearings on election reform, created “a game of Russian roulette” because, at some point, the antidemocratic distortions of the College could threaten the country’s integrity. Judging from Twitter’s obsessions, at least, that hour may be approaching. The polls indicate that Donald Trump is likely to win fewer votes nationally than Joe Biden this fall, just as he won fewer than Hillary Clinton, in 2016. […]

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We Can Have Social Media As We Know It, Or We Can Have Democracy

from Fast Company In early September, President Trump retweeted a video allegedly showing an “black lives matter/antifa” activist pushing a woman into a subway car. The video is nearly a year old, and the man in question was mentally ill and had no connection to either group. As a researcher studying social media, propaganda, and politics in 2016, I thought I’d seen it all. At the time, while working at University of Oxford, I was in the thick of analyzing Twitter bot campaigns pushing #Proleave messaging during Brexit. As a research fellow at Google’s thinktank Jigsaw that same year, I […]

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Voting By Mail Is Secure, But It Has A Seriously Low-Tech Downside: Your Signature

from Fast Company By now you’ve thought seriously about voting by mail. You’ve seen the long lines of angry and/or nervous and/or bored mask-wearing people outside of polling places, as in Milwaukee during the primaries, and you don’t want that to be you. What you might not realize is that while voting by mail is widely considered to be secure, it’s still a clunky, low-tech process governed by decades-old laws. And whether or not your vote is counted could easily come down to the way you sign your ballot. One of the main reasons absentee ballots get rejected is that […]

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EU Launching Deep Probe Into Google’s Planned $2.1 Billion Fitbit Buy

from ars technica Regulators in the European Union are launching a deep investigation into Google’s proposed acquisition of wearables maker Fitbit after expressing concerns that giving Google access to Fitbit’s user data could “distort competition.” The Commission’s in-depth investigation will examine not only the potential outcomes for the advertising market if the transaction goes through, but it will also look at the effects of the deal on the digital healthcare sector and the potential for Google to lock competitors out of access to Android users. More here.

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What’s This? A Bipartisan Plan For AI And National Security

from ars technica US Reps. Will Hurd and Robin Kelly are from opposite sides of the ever-widening aisle, but they share a concern that the United States may lose its grip on artificial intelligence, threatening the American economy and the balance of world power. On Thursday, Hurd (R-Tex.) and Kelly (D-Ill.) offered suggestions to prevent the US from falling behind China, especially, on applications of AI to defense and national security. They want to cut off China’s access to AI-specific silicon chips and push Congress and federal agencies to devote more resources to advancing and safely deploying AI technology. Although […]

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Supreme Court Rules Georgia Can’t Put The Law Behind A Paywall

from ars technica A narrowly divided US Supreme Court on Monday upheld the right to freely share the official law code of Georgia. The state claimed to own the copyright for the Official Code of Georgia Annotated and sued a nonprofit called Public.Resource.Org for publishing it online. Monday’s ruling is not only a victory for the open-government group, it’s an important precedent that will help secure the right to publish other legally significant public documents. “Officials empowered to speak with the force of law cannot be the authors of—and therefore cannot copyright—the works they create in the course of their official […]

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Facial Recognition for People Wearing Masks

from Schneier on Security The Chinese facial recognition company Hanwang claims it can recognize people wearing masks: The company now says its masked facial recognition program has reached 95 percent accuracy in lab tests, and even claims that it is more accurate in real life, where its cameras take multiple photos of a person if the first attempt to identify them fails. […] Counter-intuitively, training facial recognition algorithms to recognize masked faces involves throwing data away. A team at the University of Bradford published a study last year showing they could train a facial recognition program to accurately recognize half-faces […]

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‘Scared to Death’ by Arbitration: Companies Drowning in Their Own System

from NYTs Teel Lidow couldn’t quite believe the numbers. Over the past few years, the nation’s largest telecom companies, like Comcast and AT&T, have had a combined 330 million customers. Yet annually an average of just 30 people took the companies to arbitration, the forum where millions of Americans are forced to hash out legal disputes with corporations. Mr. Lidow, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur with a law degree, figured there had to be more people upset with their cable companies. He was right. Within a few months, Mr. Lidow found more than 1,000 people interested in filing arbitration claims against […]

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