Cybersecurity, algorithmic fairness and accountability, mass surveillance and the ill effects of digital devices on your health: this week’s roundup isn’t exactly jolly. Nevertheless, here are the stories we are following this week:
Doomed to repeat our mistakes: Despite the role that hacked emails played in deciding the 2016 Presidential election in the United States, TechCrunch reports that a cybersecurity research firm has confirmed that “just one presidential hopeful — Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren — uses domain-based message authentication, reporting, and conformance policy — or DMARC,” and thus the rest of the field is open to potential attacks such as spearphishing.
Backdoors and trapdoors: Bloomberg reported on Monday that Vodafone confessed to security concerns regarding Huawei equipment going back several years. Such potential backdoors might give malicious actors to unauthorized access to telecom networks. But a day later, Vodafone denied the report. The saga over Huawei and whether the company can be trusted by Western governments continues.
Speaking of Chinese exports: The New York Times reports that Chinese mass surveillance systems are increasingly popular across the world. In Ecuador, the government has installed “4,300 cameras across the country. The high-powered cameras send what they see to 16 monitoring centers in Ecuador that employ more than 3,000 people.” The Times posits surveillance may be one of China’s most popular exports.
AI and Criminal Justice: High tech authoritarianism isn’t just a problem in China. In the United States, a consortium of organizations called the Partnership for AI that is concerned about the development and implementation of artificial intelligence has released a report on “the serious shortcomings of risk assessment tools in the U.S. criminal justice system, most particularly in the context of pretrial detentions,” as well as other implementations of AI systems for “purposes such as probation and sentencing.” From “concerns about the validity, accuracy, and bias in the tools themselves” to “questions of governance, transparency, and accountability,” the report should give pause to policymakers hoping to implement artificial intelligence in such crucial processes.
How will we study AI? A new paper from MIT Media Lab suggests we may need to create a new field, borrowing on disciplines well beyond computer science and mathematics, to include psychology, economics and other social sciences. One researcher quoted says AI should be studied “not solely as products of engineering and computer science but additionally as a new class of actors with their own behavioral patterns and ecology.”
Put your phone down. No really, it may be killing you. Researchers suggest the evidence is piling up that the more time we spend with mobile devices, the worse it is for our health. Mobile device engagement causes levels of cortisol to increase in the body, which can lead to a number of ailments.