Good Monday Morning

It’s September 11th. Google’s long awaited trial for anticompetitive behavior begins tomorrow. It’s the latest in a series of Big Tech trials that have previously targeted Microsoft, AT&T, and IBM.

Today’s Spotlight is 920 words — about 3 1/2 minutes to read.

3 Stories to Know

1. A federal judge has temporarily halted a new Arkansas law requiring parental consent for minors to create social media accounts. The injunction comes after tech trade group NetChoice, representing companies like TikTok and Meta, questioned the law’s constitutionality.

2. IBM plans to use AI to revamp programs written in COBOL, a programming language that’s over 60 years old but still crucial to many global systems. The tool aims to rewrite the code in modern programming languages since many COBOL practitioners are no longer in the workforce.

3. Google has launched its “Privacy Sandbox” feature in Chrome, which tracks users to generate ad topics for advertisers. It’s part of a digital future Google promised would not include tracking cookies. Despite widespread criticism, Google argues that this is a step toward a more private web. We’ll cover browser security in an upcoming Spotlight issue.

Displays showing car privacy data dilemma

Spotlight on Car Data Privacy Dilemma


Data privacy concerns are growing in the automotive world. As cars become more connected and feature-rich, they also become fertile ground for data collection, raising alarms among privacy advocates.

The Extent of Data Collection

A recent report from Mozilla’s Privacy Not Included project reveals a startling lack of privacy and security standards across major car brands. These modern vehicles are not just modes of transportation; they are “data-harvesting machines” that collect sensitive personal information, from the obvious like location and driving habits to the more intimate like race, weight, and even sexual activity. Brands like BMW, Ford, Toyota, Tesla, and Subaru are among those gathering this extensive range of data.

Worth noting: sexual activity is often inferred from a combination of other data such as location, time spent in the car, and other sensor data, rather than being directly observed.

Nissan & BMW Singled Out

Nissan stands out as a particularly egregious offender. The company reserves the right to sell your data to third parties, including law enforcement agencies. This raises serious questions about consent and the potential for misuse of personal information.

BMW recently dropped its controversial subscription-based heated seats to refocus on selling software services. The company’s experiment with installing physical features that unlock with subscriptions rather than digital subscriptions was met with owner outrage. While this latest move was met with relief, it underscores the industry’s broader shift toward monetizing car features, often at the expense of user privacy.

Tesla’s Onboard Cameras Worry ACLU

The ACLU has raised concerns about Tesla’s in-car cameras that capture images inside the car, adding another layer of surveillance to their already extensive data collection.

In a move toward transparency, Forbes has introduced a groundbreaking tool called Vehicle Privacy Report. This tool aims to unveil the automotive industry’s secretive data collection practices and could be a game-changer in raising consumer awareness and pushing for more transparent policies. Think of it as a burgeoning Carfax for car data privacy concerns.

Practical AI

Quotable“While some (including OpenAI) have released tools that purport to detect AI-generated content, none of these have proven to reliably distinguish between AI-generated and human-generated content.

— Newly published FAQ section at ChatGPT parent OpenAI

ChatGPT Bot Blocked: 12% of the top 1,000 websites have blocked OpenAI’s GPTBot just two weeks after OpenAI released blocking guidelines. Major sites like Amazon and Quora are among those restricting access as are news sites CNN and The New York Times.

Tool of the Week: Facebook has launched a new tool for users to manage some of how their data is used in generative AI models. The tool allows users to access, correct, or delete their third-party information used for AI training.

Did That Really Happen — CashApp is Not Bankrupt

PolitiFact debunked a claim circulating on social media that falsely said CNN claimed that Cash App was filing for bankruptcy. The claim directed people to file their claims with a bankruptcy court.

Following Up — Meta Not Following Ad Policies

We wrote just before Labor Day about the free-for-all in some political digital advertising. Shortly after that, Wired published an expose about Meta failing to follow its rules regarding PragerU ads targeting children. Some ads were removed, but many remain.

Protip — Speed Up Your Android & iPhones

Revitalize your Android phone by clearing its browser cache and cookies. Learn the quick steps for Chrome, Samsung Internet, and Firefox to boost speed and enhance privacy. Go here if you have an iPhone.

 Screening Room — Airport Dads Meet Uber Reserve

Science Fiction World — Telescopes Attacked

Two of the world’s most advanced telescopes, Gemini North in Hawaii and Gemini South in Chile, have been temporarily shut down due to cyberattacks. The nature and origin of the attacks are still under investigation. 

 Coffee Break — Rebranding Doritos & Twinkies as Health Food

Marketing guy Matt Rosenman has one of the year’s viral video series as he hilariously imagines rebranding food that is bad for us as health food. Watch a master marketer spin a pastry as good for you.

Sign of the Times

Good Monday Morning

It’s August 28th. Spotlight is off next week for Labor Day. Enjoy your long weekend plans.

Today’s Spotlight is 1,254 words — about 4 1/2 minutes to read.

 3 Stories to Know

1. Test Scores Shared: Gizmodo reports that the College Board testing service shares SAT scores and GPAs with Facebook and TikTok via advertising tracking pixels. The College Board later confirmed the practice but denied sharing personally identifiable information, a common digital advertising practice.

2.Hackers Selling Info: Personal information is available for sale according to 404 Media which reported that hackers are using Telegram to sell credit header files for $15 per person. The data, sourced from credit bureaus, is advertised in criminal chat rooms for illicit activities including swatting and violence.

3. EU Targets Tech: The EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) imposes new regulations on the 19 biggest tech companies with over 45 million monthly users in the EU. The DSA mandates the removal of posts containing illegal goods and bans targeted advertising based on sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, or political beliefs. Noncompliance risks fines of up to 6% of global revenue.

Clarifying facial recognition: Last week, we reported on six nonwhite people wrongfully arrested solely due to facial recognition. At least two were jailed for up to one week. While the technology can and should initiate investigations, it shouldn’t be the sole basis for arrest as it was in those cases.

Spotlight on Politics Online: What’s Changing


Legal, technological, and social shifts have significantly changed the online political landscape since 2020.

1. Tech Trying to Protect Against Disinformation

Recent lawsuits have put tech giants Google and YouTube, both subsidiaries of Alphabet Inc., under scrutiny. Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., filed a lawsuit against YouTube, accusing the platform of censoring his content that questions the safety of vaccines. Research has identified Kennedy as one of the nation’s top sources of vaccine disinformation.

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee (RNC) sued Google, alleging that the search engine’s email system was suppressing conservative voices. A judge recently dismissed the RNC’s claims, stating that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations of bias. 

2. AI and Political Bias

Allegations of political bias in AI technologies like ChatGPT have sparked considerable debate A recent study by Mandiant, a U.S. cyber firm owned by Google, reveals that AI is increasingly being used in online influence campaigns.

The study found that while AI can amplify messages and target audiences more effectively, its impact on changing public opinion is limited. These findings raise reasonable questions about the technology’s impartiality and ethical use. The involvement of Alphabet-owned entities in platform control, legal defenses, and research studies underscores the expansive influence of major tech players in shaping this discourse.

3. The Importance of Academia

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has been vocal in opposing a bill toughening social media speech requirements in that country by claiming it poses a threat to religious freedom. However, that organization has been implicated in a misinformation campaign targeting the Labor Party by posting false narratives to influence public opinion. This incident underscores the global challenges of combating digital misinformation and the need for effective countermeasures.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Joan Donovan, a leading expert on media manipulation and disinformation, was recently forced to leave her role at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center. Her departure came after administrative decisions ended her Technology and Social Change project. Donovan’s work has been a cornerstone in the study of online misinformation and has influenced both policy and platform moderation.

Her forced exit from Harvard raises questions about the future of academic research in this critical area, emphasizing the need for scholarly engagement to combat misinformation effectively. 

4. Meta Wants Fewer Political Posts

Meta’s Threads platform is taking steps to foster a friendlier online environment. By downgrading news and politics in its feed, the platform aims to create a space where users can connect and engage without the constant influx of divisive content.

This aligns with recent Pew Research findings that reveal Americans’ differing views on the impact of social media on U.S. democracy. The research underscores our deep ideological divide and highlights the evolving landscape of online discourse. There will be continuing changes as next year’s presidential election cycle gathers steam, and we’ll share that news as it happens.

Practical AI

Quotable“AI builders are using Hugging Face all day, every day … Maybe in five years, you’re going to have like 100 million AI builders. And if all of them use Hugging Face all day, every day, we’ll obviously be in a good position.”

Clement Delangue, Hugging Face CEO, whose company raised $235 million last week at a $4.5 billion valuation.

AI Books Flood Amazon: People are posting books for sale on Amazon that have been authored by generative AI. Biggest issues: they’re often inaccurate, cannibalize sales of human-written works, and can even falsely be identified as being written by well-known authors.

Tool of the Week: Hugging Face’s AutoTrain helps you train an AI model to learn a task. If you’re dabbling in machine learning, this no-code tool is a fine starting point.

Did That Really Happen — Dodger Stadium & Ted Cruz’s Shark

Flooding in Southern California led to many inaccurate claims. One viral photograph showed what appeared to be a flooded Dodger Stadium. A spokesperson said that the photo was an unfortunate optical illusion and that some areas of the stadium had pooled water of “maybe one inch.”

Another viral photo, an 18-year-old image of a shark superimposed on a highway, was retweeted by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Despite being told the photo was a hoax, Cruz refused to delete it and wrote, “In LA, you never know …” before expressing a hope that people stayed safe.

Following Up — Revenge (Fake) Porn 

We wrote last week about a Houston jury awarding more than $1 billion in damages to a woman who was the victim of explicit photos of her being released without her permission. 

Now there are details about a program that easily allows non-technical users to easily substitute faces into extreme porn images–using photos non-consensually scraped from online sources. Access to the very NSFW site is only $4 per month and the site’s owners claim a half-million users. (404 Media article – extreme language)

Protip — Gmail Templates

Gmail templates are one of my favorite time-savers. This ZD Net feature shows you how to set up your own.

Screening Room — Apple Helping Fit Animal Prosthetics 

Science Fiction World — Our Mars Lander Filmed Our Mars Helicopter

That would be Perseverance filming Ingenuity’s 54th flight on Mars for National Aviation Day. You can see the flight too–it lasts under one minute, which doesn’t sound impressive until you realize IT’S ON ANOTHER PLANET.

Coffee Break —  The Never-Ending Password Change

You won’t get as far as you think you might in Neal Agarwal’s latest interactive, the Password Game.  There are allegedly 35 steps. One day I hope to make it past the teens.

Sign of the Times

Good Monday Morning

It’s August 21st. Friday is the deadline to add your name to the Facebook privacy class action settlement. You qualify if you were a U.S. Facebook user between 2007 and 2022. Official website.

Today’s Spotlight is 1,175 words — about 4 1/2 minutes to read.

3 Stories to Know

1. Revenge Porn Case: A Houston jury awarded over $1 billion in a revenge porn case, possibly setting a legal precedent. The decision underscores the issue’s potential damage. A 2017 study by Data & Society Research Institute found that 1 in 25 Americans has experienced nonconsensual image sharing.

2.Musk Throttles web: Twitter, now known as X, is slowing traffic to sites including the New York Times, Facebook, and Instagram, forcing users on X to wait an additional five seconds after clicking a link. The action targets companies that have previously drawn owner Elon Musk’s ire. Some throttling has stopped, but there are lingering concerns about Musk’s influence over user access to information.

3. Time & Weather: Google’s Contacts app now displays weather and time info for your contacts’ locations. The new feature will help communications across time zones and can be a good ice breaker too.

Spotlight on What to Know About AI

Recap of Part 1

Last week, we unraveled the basics of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the groundbreaking technology reshaping our lives. From voice assistants to personalized recommendations, AI is becoming an integral part of everyday experiences. But there’s more to the story!

Mystery Behind AI Outputs

AI might seem magical, but behind the scenes, it’s a complex data science.

Think of AI as a black box where data goes in and intelligent decisions come out. What happens inside? Algorithms like decision trees sort data into categories, while neural networks, akin to a web of interconnected brain cells, process information through layers, refining it into smart actions. Human experts often check these processes to ensure fairness and accuracy.

Then there’s generative AI like ChatGPT or Google Bard, a sophisticated output that functions like an advanced autocomplete system. Curious about how machines learn? Here’s an explanation made simple.

Ethics & Controversy

Ethical controversies surround AI development and use. The litany includes bias, accountability, and ownership of the output.

Popular video conferencing platform Zoom faced significant backlash this month when it revealed plans to train AI algorithms using customer calls. The company publicly canceled those plans days later amid horrific brand damage. The incident has led to a larger conversation about consent and transparency in AI development.

Taking a bold step, the New York Times blocked AI training on its content, signifying a turning point in how organizations address AI interactions. A week later, Microsoft joined them, a remarkable move for the company that has invested $10 billion in OpenAI and ChatGPT. Their moves reflects growing concerns about how AI algorithms might misinterpret or misuse journalistic or technical content, and it has spurred other media outlets to evaluate their own policies. 

Fair compensation for source material, one of the internet’s biggest bugaboos, is at the heart of many disputes.  

Google’s approach to AI has led to several debates about ethics and fair practice. One significant controversy is their use of online content for AI training, sparking concerns about copyrights. By leveraging publicly available information without explicit permission, questions arise about intellectual property rights and fair use.

The 2020 termination of renowned AI ethicist Timnit Gebru from Google ignited a firestorm of criticism. Gebru was a prominent advocate for diversity in technology and raised critical questions about bias in AI, specifically the large language models now at the heart of Google Bard.

Her dismissal exposed underlying tensions within the tech community about freedom of speech, research integrity, and the responsible development of AI. Together, these controversies represent the complex intersection between technology, law, and ethics, with potential wide-reaching ramifications.


AI is no longer a futuristic concept — it’s here today, impacting how we live, work, and interact. The journey into AI’s world uncovers innovations, challenges, and ethical dilemmas. As AI continues to evolve, so does our understanding of this fascinating technology. 

Our Practical AI section below covers each week’s highlights and news in this explosive new field.

Practical AI

QuotableRight now, with 1,000 hours of therapy time, we can treat somewhere between 80 and 90 clients. Can you treat 200, 300, even 400 clients with the same amount of therapy hours?

— Stephen Freer, Chief Clinical Officer of Ieso that oversees 650 therapists who may use AI to help with case documentation.

Google, Universal Negotiate: Google is in talks with Universal Music Group to negotiate a licensing agreement for using Universal’s music and videos to train Google’s AI models. The negotiations mark a new approach in machine learning, using media to enhance understanding of music and visual content. This partnership could set a precedent for collaboration between tech and entertainment industries in AI development.  Artists, especially striking Hollywood writers and actors, are keenly aware of this issue.

Tool of the Week: This free infographic is one of the best I’ve seen to help guide people on using ChatGPT, Bard, or other AI chatbots.

Did That Really Happen — Maui Misinformation

Dangerous misinformation circulated falsely claiming that Maui residents accepting FEMA assistance could lose their homes or property to the federal government, a claim The Associated Press debunked.

Conspiracy theorists also falsely claimed that former President Barack Obama’s home was untouched by fires in Hawaii, stirring up conservative outrage, until others pointed out that Obama’s Hawaii home is on a different island.

Following Up — Another Abuse of Facial Recognition

We’ve told you repeatedly about law enforcement agencies misusing facial recognition. There’s news about Porcha Woodruff, a pregnant woman from Detroit, who was wrongfully arrested for robbery and carjacking after an automated facial recognition search. Despite being visibly pregnant, she was handcuffed, held for 11 hours, and had her iPhone seized as evidence. Woodruff’s is the sixth instance where a Black person has been falsely accused of a crime by police misusing facial recognition.  

Protip — Reverse Image Search

Learn how to perform a reverse image search with ease using this step-by-step guide that can help you discover how to find the original source of an image, debunk fake photos, and identify objects, people, or locations in pictures using Google, Bing, or TinEye.

Screening Room — Country Crock’s Legendary Campaigns Loves Moms

Science Fiction World — New Ocean Floor Ecosystem 

Scientists using robots have uncovered an ecosystem thriving beneath the ocean floor. This previously unseen world, located in Earth’s crust, hosts diverse microbes that play a crucial role in the planet’s cycle.

Coffee Break — Steve Ballmer’s Hysterical 1986 Ad Parody 

Steve Ballmer, the world’s 10th richest person, was about 30 years old and rallying the Microsoft troops around their new operating system called Windows, when he made this amazing commercial parody.

Sign of the Times