Digitally Literate #206


Lose Yourself
Digitally Lit #206 – 7/20/2019

Hi all, my name is Ian O’Byrne and welcome to issue #206 of Digitally Literate.

In this newsletter I distill the news of the week in technology into an easy-to-read resource. Thank you for reading. Please subscribe if you haven’t already.

This week I worked on a number of things in the background. More info coming soon.


Testimony from Jessikka Aro about Russian Disinformation Attacks on Elections

Jessikka Aro is a Finnish investigative journalist, who has faced down death threats and harassment over her work exposing Russia’s propaganda machine long before the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

In this short clip she elaborates on what she has learned, and the risks that she has endured.


FaceApp’s viral success proves we will never take our digital privacy seriously

The FaceApp meme that is going around is a big risk to your data and privacy. You should avoid it if you haven’t already jumped on board. In truth, most things you already do online, especially in Facebook is a bad idea.

If you do share your photos, it probably won’t destroy society, but the privacy trade-off is still shady as hell. You’re giving up data (your photos) to an unknown party…forever. If I asked you to send me a bunch of photos of yourself, I’d hope you’d think twice.

I have a feeling that what is happening is they’re using your content to train machine learning engines. That is to say that the content is being used to not only make you look older or younger…but the data around that is much more important.

The machines learn from the images you select, your reactions to these images, and the reactions from those in your network. All of that is gold for training these systems.

How U.S. tech giants are helping to build China’s surveillance state

The OpenPower Foundation — a nonprofit led by Google and IBM executives with the aim of trying to “drive innovation” — has set up a collaboration between IBM, Chinese company Semptian, and U.S. chip manufacturer Xilinx. Together, they have worked to advance a breed of microprocessors that enable computers to analyze vast amounts of data more efficiently.

Shenzhen-based Semptian is using the devices to enhance the capabilities of internet surveillance and censorship technology it provides to human rights-abusing security agencies in China, according to sources and documents. A company employee said that its technology is being used to covertly monitor the internet activity of 200 million people.

How 13 Became the Internet’s Age of Adulthood

When we bring technology into the lives of youth, there is an understanding that the terms of use often is guided by the age of the child.

This post from the Wall Street Journal gives the inside story of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a law from the early days of e-commerce that is shaping a generation and creating a parental minefield.

“Across the board, parents and youth misinterpret the age requirements that emerged from the implementation of COPPA,” BKC researchers wrote in a 2010 publication. “Except for the most educated and technologically savvy, they are completely unaware that these restrictions have anything to do with privacy.”

Video games can teach life lessons

While the internet has its perils with privacy breaches & fake news, a whole generation of youth have been teaching themselves skills in leadership & community-building, according to a new UC Davis study.

Self-governing internet communities, in the form of games, social networks or informational websites such as Wikipedia, create their own rule systems that help groups of anonymous users work together. They build hierarchies, create punishments, & write, enforce home-grown policies. Along the way, participants learn to avoid autocrats & find leaders that govern well

AI’s next ethical challenge: how to treat animals

There is plenty of research dedicated to figuring out how to make Artificial Intelligence human-friendly, but what about making sure AI is built to keep animals safe?

The closest ally creatures have come from animal-computer interaction (ACI), a discipline that officially launched seven years ago with a manifesto that laid out three goals: to enhance animals’ quality of life and general well-being; to support animals in the functions assigned to them by humans; and to foster the relationship between humans and beasts.


Lose yourself in a good…video game

Losing yourself in virtual worlds can have good as well a negative effects.

Video games could be less sedentary as you have to physically interact with your environment. Video games would fight isolation as they would be inherently social experiences.

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Common sense has much to learn from moonshine.

Philip Pullman

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Enjoying the great Security with Sam blog by Sam Jadali after reading this post about browser extensions you need to erase.

Digitally Literate is a summary of all the great stuff from the Internet this week in technology, education, & literacy. Say hey with a note at or on the social network of your choice.

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