Good Monday morning. It’s July 22nd. Sixty thousand Scouts converge on West Virginia today. Temperatures there will be a positively enjoyable high 70s, a twenty degree respite from the heatwave that has baked much of the country.
2. News To Know Now
1. Google made 3,234 changes to its search systems in 2018, according to SEO liaison Danny Sullivan. This is the perfect time to tell you that we now have a new, free SEO audit tool on our website. Simply enter the domain name you want checked. A free automated report will be sent to you fast.
2. Security researchers invented a universal software remote for all Medtronic insulin pumps to prove to the company that its technology is vulnerable. Anyone with the app could withhold insulin from a user or cause an overdose. Calling it a “key fob for an insulin pump,” one of the hackers said that it was the only way Medtronic would take them seriously. (Wired)
3. Adobe users can now edit video automatically with their software. The video below shows this spring’s release “Content Aware Fill” in After Effects. If you remove a person or car and there are trees nearby, the software automatically adds the trees to the video. There are now free open source versions available too.
3. Facial Recognition Update
First things first. In Debugging below, you’ll learn that the auto-aging FaceApp didn’t send your phone’s entire photo history to Vladimir Putin.
But there’s plenty of facial recognition news you should know, including privacy expert complaints that the FBI and ICE are among the federal law enforcement agencies using facial recognition software with driver’s license photographs as the gallery. This data aggregation is new. Law enforcement used arrest mugshots and similar data, but not a photographic database of Americans. This news came after NBC News reported that app maker Ever created a photo repository for users and then created its own facial recognition software using the images that people uploaded.
Fight for the Future has a remarkable interactive map showing where facial recognition surveillance is occuring in airports for flight check-ins, on city streets, or in police departments partnering with door camera services like Ring.
4. Tracking Your Digital Footprints
“God mode for the Internet” is what a company pitched when they tried to sell us software that could look into how competitors’ websites were performing in near-real time. Plenty of companies build those data models but security researcher Sam Jadali has found that this company was purchasing data from browser extension software companies that often included links to shared work files, travel itineraries, and even financial information.
Sam published his extensively documented report after informing the companies about these “data leaks”. Right now, you’ll want to check and see if you’re using any of these Chrome or Firefox extensions:
Hover Zoom, SpeakIt!, SuperZoom, SaveFrom.net Helper, FairShare Unlock, Panel Measurement, Branded Surveys, Panel Community Surveys
These extensions did not have to be used in preparing the documents, but only installed on the same browser to “leak” the information to the data collection aggregators. The software wasn’t the problem. Bad actors using the software to check for tax files and other information is the problem–a misuse of the application to be sure, but a predictable one.
Read Sam’s report here, but only after you verified that you’re not using those extensions.
We also learned last week that people visiting pornographic websites aren’t safe from tracking. A research paper from Cornell found third party tracking code on 93% of 22,484 porn websites they investigated. Nearly half “expose or suggest gender/sexual identity or interest likely to be linked to the user.” Those tracking companies include Google (74% of sites checked), Oracle (24%), and Facebook (10%). The company you buy Internet access from (Comcast, Verizon, etc.) also can track that data.
Pornhub, one of the biggest sites online, publishes robust analytics information, and says that they got 92 million daily visits last year and are well over 100 million daily visits now. Your browser’s Incognito Mode works on your computer, not theirs, and you’re easily tracked whether you’re using a computer or phone.
Oh, and that software company bundling leaked data stuff? Sure, they would have access to the porn traffic too.
5. Debugged: FaceApp
FaceApp, which has now gone viral twice in two years for the same trick, allows users to automatically age a picture of someone. Then the Internet realized that the company’s terms and conditions were far too loose-goosey for anyone’s liking and included permission to review all photos on the device. With a Russian developer at the company’s helm, people began sounding the alarm.
The Russians are coming for your selfies.
Except not really. The best explanation we read was from Axios’ Joe Uchill:
“It appears to be a legitimate case of a wrong conclusion being drawn from various data points…[It’s] no more a risk than any other app on your phone. But no less a risk, either.”
6. Also in the Spotlight
- Amazon “indefinitely” stores the recordings of users speaking to Alexa, the company acknowledged in a response to Delaware Senator Chris Coons. They can be deleted upon customer request. Probably. Maybe. There’s a process for it.
- Tennessee officials are working with driving app Waze to improve the state’s auto crash-prediction model. The ability to preposition emergency resources is believed to improve traffic flow and injury outcomes. (Wired)
- Google’s Parrotron AI program allows people with significant speech impediments to have their words translated by a computer and clearly spoken. The “word error rate” for understanding dropped from 89% to 32% among test subjects. This is worthy of your time–including audio and video samples.
7. Food for Thought: Instagram Like Counts
We’ve told you before that Instagram and other social media companies realize that the tiny jolt of dopamine people receive from likes and other reactions has a lot to do with the explosion of social media over the last decade.
Facebook’s Instagram unit is expanding a test to eliminate displaying the number of likes on a post.
Talk it over: how would this affect your organization’s investment in social media if it were expanded? And what about your personal use?
8. Protip: Logitech USB receivers
As a brand-loyal Logitech peripherals person who loves their trackball, wireless mouse, and other equipment, I have all the signals connecting through a single USB dongle. No more wires!
And now apparently you need to update the device drivers fast. Researchers have shown that they can break into a computer without ever needing to touch it. They send some code to the signal that your mouse is using (think about the insulin pumps above) and can take over the whole device.
Logitech has done a horrible job of explaining this. Read The Verge instead.
9. Great Data: Big Data
Visual Capitalist has updated its “Every Minute” infographic that shows what’s going on in the ether every sixty seconds. It’s bananas: 180 million emails, 8,600 GrubHub orders, half-a-million tweets, and 4.5 million Google searches.
10. Coffee Break: The Apollo AR App
Man, this is my favorite of all the Apollo media this week. Want to watch an Apollo liftoff from your desk or your kitchen counter via augmented reality? The Smithsonian has you covered: