Being discreet online

I know some friends that have closed their Facebook accounts because they supposedly don’t want to leave any kind of information for Facebook to track, however I believe they are a bit too late. Facebook has already used their information to train their algorithms and keep on using its user’s information.

As detailed by this article written by Zeynep Tufekci, these algorithms can already make accurate predictions through the use of previously available data in order to gain more information about you. Even though your profile is gone, most of the information Facebook gathered about you is probably still stored in their servers and was used to make predictions and create a more accurate profile of you.

The amount of users Facebook has allows their platform to use these algorithms to create profiles of their users so that they can possibly be targeted by advertisers. The article even mentions the possibility of Facebook targetting young teenagers that may suffer depression or “need a confidence boost”. These can lead to serious ethical issues, I mean, all these data gathering seems pretty unethical in the first place, but now targetting your depressed users with special ads for them seems borderline illegal and abusive. A lot of people say “lmao just get off the internet”, however young people today, including myself, have become quite dependent on the internet, be it to stay connected to our friends, to do homework, etc. so it can actually be a bit difficult to “just get off the internet”. There are also people literally addicted to social media, the attention and dopamine they get from people reacting to their new pictures and submissions.

Tufekci suggests as a solution to create mobile devices that are more privacy oriented. However if the companies selling you these smartphones are the same ones that want to collect all of your information, I don’t see a reason for these companies to actually go ahead and do it if they aren’t forced to. There needs to be a government regulation of how much access companies have to our devices and our information.

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My One Assignment

One assignment to finish it all, One assigment to stress them; One assignment to bring them all and to graduation guide them.

This semester I had a course about Smart Cities, which I then discovered was better named Smart Citizens, according to my professor Ken Bauer. I could not agree more, making a city smart while keeping the citizens dumb sounds like a very unfortunate dystopia for us citizens. Having a smart city doesn’t do too much good if their citizens are not actually smart.

Talking a little bit more about the class, at the beginning my team, which is Hermes, Miguel and I, were supposed to work with a team from the University of Alberta in a joint project, however we came into a disagreement because all we were going to do was the front-end part of their project, which we didn’t really feel like doing and the three of us weren’t very familiarized with front-end developing.

With this I learned about the differences there can be when working as a team in the professional environment, of course in this case our professor Ken was nice enough to support us in our decision of not working with the UA team, however in other circumstances or perhaps with another professor, things could have been different. If this was a project the company we work at put us in charge of doing we probably could not have said no that easily, we may have even been fired for refusing to work on the project, since it is supposed to be our job. I hope I don’t get stuck in a job working with technologies I am not even interested in using, although I believe it is quite possible it happens at one point or the other of my professional career.

Since this happened, we decided to work on our project which still involved gamification, which was the aspect the UA team wanted to work with from the beginning, but focused for the Tec community. What we decided to was an app where Tec students can earn badges for assisting to events and participating in sports team and cultural activities, creating a resume of extracurricular activities. Since there are a lot of companies that look forward to applicants having passions other than academic stuff, we believe this could be useful. We would also like to get Tec involved for possible rewards to outstanding students.

Something that makes me sad is that when thinking about smart citizens is that when I think about a citizen being smart, I think about a citizen being smart enough to not be taken advantage of, be it by other citizens or by the government in charge of the city. This semester I wrote an essay about the ethical aspects of government surveillance in the modern days through the use of technology, particularly in communications, including phone calls and internet traffic. In it I talk about how government surveillance has become a necessary evil to mantain national security in this complex world we live in, however a limit must exist in how much of our privacy we are willing to give up and check if all these surveillance is really giving the results we would expect in exchange for the constant breaches to the privacy of millions of people. External institutions that regulate how much access the government has to our private information must exist in order to try and preserve as much of our privacy as possible, you can read my essay (in spanish) here.

Related to surveillance, we also talked about how data is now everywhere and used by everyone, our own data is used without our permission by big corporations in order to gain more profits. “Digital intelligence is neither inherently virtuous nor corrupt; however, as efficient as these technologies may be, we must continue to critically reflect upon the type of city we want.” This is very tied to the lack of ethics in the current tech industry, most programmers, I must say that including myself, view users as some kind of dumb entity that will be interacting with our system, granting us some input for us to process and spurting out something for them. I feel there needs to be a class specifically dedicated to professional ethics in the software industry, because there are some classes that do show some code of ethics, like the ACM one, but they just turn into another topic in the course that will be forgotten by students the next semester. Companies need to realize that algorithms making decisions that affect the life of millions of people greatly, need some kind of regulation to ensure their effectiveness, as well as some kind of control that prevents bias, because no matter how impartial one as a developer tries to be, we all have biases and preferences that have grown into us as we have grown up. We must really take into account the ethical dilemma of creating new technologies that may affect the lives of people these days, as new technologies becoming more and more entangled in our daily lives.

Internet freedom is at risk, every day, tech companies gather our information left and right, they supposedly do so to make our experience using their services better, but what happens when the government orders these companies to give them full access to all of their user’s data? Privacy is violated.

I believe that there is lack of ethics in general, not only in the software community, but in all the industry that is in charge of handling user data and possibly sensitive information.

“The most overarching and important is the Kantian idea of respect for the dignity of the person. When the self can be technologically invaded without permission and even often without the knowledge of the person, dignity and liberty are diminished.”  (Marx, 1998, 21).

In the last classes we also talked about surveillance and data privacy a lot, I believe this class was very focused on this and I really liked it since I had other classes where I was also talking about these topics. I also wrote about the US government surveilling its arab communities and about how Facebook can already predict a lot of your data without having it directly available with a fair amount of accuracy.

References:

AI used to unredact FBI documents

Internet Freedom in a Surveillance World

Marx, G. (1998). An Ethics for The New Surveillance.The Information Society, MIT. Obtained from: http://web.mit.edu/gtmarx/www/ncolin5.html

Smart Surveillance

Smart Citizens – Week 8

Should This Exist? – A question the software industry should must ask itself

 

AI used to unredact FBI documents

On this blog I will talk about how AI is being used to reveal information hidden by the FBI of a decades-long program of spying on US Muslims. There is a countless amount of evidence of the US government not being held accountable for unethical and illegal practices they incur into when they spy on their own citizens. After Assia Boundaoui won a lawsuit against the FBI, they were forced to release 30,000 documents that detail operation Vulgar Betrayal, which is focused on the surveillance of the Illinois arab community. However, as she received the documents, she realized that more than 70% of the document’s contents were redacted for the sake of “national security”.

It should come with no surprise that the US government is spying on its own citizens, it is something they have been doing for quite a long time, however people seem to be okay with being watched all the time these days. They feel like the information they post online is not very important, while it can actually be taken advantage of.

People need to be aware that nowadays they are always being watched, every bit of activity they do online, or that has anything to do with modern devices, is likely being tracked. Just carrying your cellphone around with you even without you using it, makes you leave a digital footprint of things you were doing and places you were at.

Talking a bit more about the article, since most of the documents are redacted, an AI is being used to try and “decrypt” these documents. Through the analysis of previous documents based on race surveillance and other FBI documents, there are hopes that we can get more information contained in the documents than the government wants us to see. This all helps to have a more transparent government. Having a government that is more transparent, at least in my opinion, makes the people trust the government a bit more, since we can actually know what they are doing and if anything they do is actually threatening any of us.

Week 9 – Python Unit Testing

  • Screenshot image of your annotation left (using Hypothes.is with your login) on the document “Simple Smalltalk Testing: With Patterns“. PLEASE include a tc3045 tag in the annotation. See my example at the end of this document.
    • Note that you will need to login to Hypothes.is (Enlaces a un sitio externo.)Enlaces a un sitio externo. and most likely by using the Chrome browser with this. A previous assignment in the course had you set this up.
    • Note that this is on the WayBackMachine site. What is this and how is it important? Can you find an old (90s) version of a popular company and view that version of their website? Take a screenshot to include in your submission.

WayBackMachine is a website which periodically stores a website’s content for future revision, it can store many versions of the same page as years pass. It allows us to see how websites were before and view any information previously stored there in the case that in the future it is no longer there, or the website is no longer there, like it happened with the SmallTalk testing article.

hypothesis.PNG

 

  • Your evidence (again screenshots) of using PyCharm with pyunit.

pytest.png

  • Your evidence in the form of review/comments on the course in LinkedIn.

linkedin.PNG

Internet Freedom in a Surveillance World

Internet freedom is at risk, every day, tech companies gather our information left and right, they supposedly do so to make our experience using their services better, but what happens when the government orders these companies to give them full access to all of their user’s data? Privacy is violated.

“The most overarching and important is the Kantian idea of respect for the dignity of the person. When the self can be technologically invaded without permission and even often without the knowledge of the person, dignity and liberty are diminished.”  (Marx, 1998, 21).

Violating someone’s privacy is literally violating their human rights, dignity and liberty. They are no longer allowed to act, think, or learn in a private environment, everything is recorded. This creates a passive society which agrees with the government in fear of creating a conflict and being seen as a potential threat. The people fear their own government, the government they elected to represent them, is feared by the same voters who put them there, crazy isn’t it?

“The return to a similarly controversial situation in which intelligence services continue to obtain information through ethically questionable or illegal methods poses serious challenges for democracies. Yet the reaction of the public to the more recent scandals has been quite nuanced. While there has been clear outrage among civil society groups and certain segments of the public, the perceived terrorist threat seems to have also led to a surprisingly muted reaction. Polls indicate that members of the public in several countries support mass surveillance as an acceptable method of intelligence collection. Additional surveys even indicate acceptance of enhanced interrogation techniques.” (Martin, 2016, 19).

Governments perform this massive surveillance in the name of safety, however there must be a limit set to how much of our freedom and privacy we are willing to give up in the sake of this “national security”. This information gatherings are already morally questionable and potentially illegal. The government is not applying its own laws to itself, it  is allowed to act as a free entity that can do with its population as it pleases, and people seem to be fine with it, as long as they are not too affected by the goverment’s activities. If you play nice, you get treated nice, nice meaning the way the goverment likes it.

It is sad to see the indifference society has with all their information being available to corporations and governments, see that Aaron Swartz work may not have the impact he expected it to have, most people seem to just not mind being so exposed and watched these days. Being a public person is very common, however we all like some privacy, and this privacy is diminished more and more every day with the frequent privacy breaches. As a society we must fight for our privacy rights and not give way for more and more abuse from part of the government, as we know, information is power, and we do not want to give more power to an entity that is already trying to know everything about us and potentially control our lives.

Martin, S. (2016). Spying in a Transparent World: Ethics and Intelligence in the 21st Century. Geneva Centre for Security Policy. Obtained from: https://www.gcsp.ch/News-Knowledge/Publications/Spying-in-a-Transparent-World-Ethics-and-Intelligence-in-the-21st-Century

Marx, G. (1998). An Ethics for The New Surveillance.The Information Society, MIT. Obtained from: http://web.mit.edu/gtmarx/www/ncolin5.html

Should This Exist? – A question the software industry should must ask itself

Each day we see new technological advancements being made that blow our minds out. Recently, Elon Musk has been surprising us with SpaceX’s unmanned rockets landing back on Earth for reuse. This is great! Space exploration can truly mark the future of humanity and take us to another level. You can also talk about electric cars becoming more and more popular, with Tesla releasing all its patents in an effort to fight climate change.

However there are some technologies that just get us closer to a futuristic dystopia of surveillance, corporation governments and unnecessary technology.

If you have seen Tom Cruise’s Minority Report (2002) or read the book it is based on by Phillip K. Dick, you may remember that it is a story where PreCrime, a specialized police department, apprehends criminals based on foreknowledge provided by three psychics called “precogs”. This system is all about determinism (all events are determined completely from previous causes) versus free will.

Now this same systems are being implemented in countries like China, where massive surveillance and facial recognition systems allow the government to keep an eye on their citizens very closely, coming as close to rating their support for the government and giving them benefits according to their political views, as well as restricting them access to certain things like travel if the government realizes that the citizen’s views are not aligned with the government’s interests. A system like the one in Minority Report would suggest that if I search up about terrorism, bomb attacks, serial killers or similar, I may be a threat to my community or government. We can imagine a Smart City where the police has to do little work and most work is done by a surveillance system that captures every one of our move, while police is only dispatched when the system has decided that there is an event of importance going down that needs the intervention of the authorities. Should this exist?

Not really, letting algorithms decide wether someone is guilty or is about to commit is a crime completely removes the innocent until proven guilty status that democracies are popular for. The system assumes you are guilty even before committing the crime and decides that you should be imprisoned for an act you supposedly have yet to commit. We must really take into account the ethical dilemma of creating new technologies that may affect the lives of people these days, as new technologies becoming more and more entangled in our daily lives.

 

Secret Life of Bugs

bug1

Bugs are a pain in the ass for most developers. Most of a developer’s time is probably spent fixing bugs they created themselves (if they did not create them multiply that pain by a hundred). What is very interesting is the pattern we sometimes take when solving a bugs, it is almost like the five stages of grief:

DENIAL – I CAN’T BELIEVE IT DOES NOT COMPILE
ANGER – F*CK YOU FOR NOT COMPILING, EVEN IF THAT IS MY FAULT
BARGAINING – LET ME TRY AND FIND SOME WORKAROUND
DEPRESSION -DAMN, THIS IS GONNA BE A PAIN IN THE ASS TO FIX
ACCEPTANCE – OH WELL, BETTER GET WORKING ON IT

This process can happen in a matter of minutes, hours or days, it all depends on how serious the bug is and how much time and resources we are willing to spend fixing it.

The paper The Secret Life of Bugs notes that:

  • Some bugs in the records are not bugs in strict sense.
  • Some bugs have duplicate records
  • Some bugs exhibit symptoms that are initially seen as different bugs and recorded separately
  • Some bugs do not always die when they are marked as closed
  • Some bugs basic field in the records are incorrect
  • Some bugs have wrong status.
  • Some life of bugs will never be understood without a face to face or personal investigation.

All of these factors affect how fast a bug is fixed, something in common with all these factors is that they all involve human error to some degree, and in the end, most bugs are caused by human error, mistakes in tracking bugs is also caused by human error, and how much time is spent fixing it depends on humans as well, so we better get good at bugfixing.