Digitally Literate #208


Data Rights are Human Rights
Digitally Lit #208 – 8/3/2019

Hi all, my name is Ian O’Byrne and welcome to issue #208 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.


Rules for civil engagement: How to talk with someone unlike yourself (2:49)

Some practical ways to disagree and get along with someone at the same time from Jonathan Zimmerman. Zimmerman is Professor of History of Education at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. His latest book is The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools.

  • Statements like, “You’re a blankety-blank” close discussions rather than open them. Instead, say, “You know, that’s interesting. That’s not the way I see it. Tell me more about why you think that.”
  • Being more open about your intentions can help, too. Tell the person that you see the issue from a different angle, and ask them what they think of your view.
  • A key rule for civil discourse, especially in this political climate, is to recognize the difference between emotion and argument. The depth of conviction with which something is said is not a substitute for argument quality or truth.

Read more here.


A new bill aims to protect US voters from the next Cambridge Analytica

A US lawmaker, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill this week, the Voter Privacy Act, that would regulate how political parties use voters’ data in federal elections. This legislation is the first to directly respond to Cambridge Analytica, which used Facebook to harvest the data of 87 million voters, often without permission, in hopes of influencing their behavior.

Thankfully, many are starting to have a discussion about basic data rights. Data rights are fundamentally human rights.

David Carroll provides a great review of the five basic rights that do not exist yet in the US.

  • Right to Know
  • Right to Own
  • Right to Review
  • Right to Remove
  • Right to Refuse

Capital One hacked, over 100 million customers affected

Capital One disclosed that they were hacked. The breach was first discovered on July 19th.

In a somewhat related story, education software maker Pearson indicated a data breach affected thousands of accounts in the US. The Wall Street Journal reports that the data breach happened in November 2018 and Pearson was notified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in March. The perpetrator is still unknown.

Another day, another data breach. After we didn’t do anything about Equifax, these events will now be inevitable.

Matt Blaze indicates that perhaps we should handle data in the same way that we handle radioactive waste. “Best practice for protecting it is not to collect it in the first place, with potentially unlimited liability for those who mishandle it.”

Across the great divide: How today’s college students engage with the news

This research reports results from a mixed-methods study about how college students engage with news when questions of credibility and “fake news” abound in the U.S. Findings are based on 5,844 online survey responses, one open-ended survey question (N=1,252), and 37 follow-up telephone interviews with students enrolled at 11 U.S. colleges and universities.

Results shed light on the information seeking behaviors of young adults. Of interest to me is the social life of news, most respondents got news during the past week through discussions with peers (93 percent) whether face-to-face or online via text, e-mail, or using direct messaging on social media. The majority of respondents had news consumption habits that were multimodal (text, images, video, audio, etc.). Participants gave extra credibility to the source of the info…if it was shared by a professor in this case.

A new tool uses AI to spot text written by AI

We’re quickly approaching…if we haven’t already arrived…in a place where the machines are just talking to one another.

AI algorithms can generate text convincing enough to fool the average human—potentially providing a way to mass-produce fake news, bogus reviews, and phony social accounts. Thankfully, AI can now be used to identify fake text, too.

Researchers from Harvard University and the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab have developed a new tool for spotting text that has been generated using AI. Called the Giant Language Model Test Room (GLTR), it exploits the fact that AI text generators rely on statistical patterns in text, as opposed to the actual meaning of words and sentences. In other words, the tool can tell if the words you’re reading seem too predictable to have been written by a human hand.

Interested? Try it here.

4 steps to stop the spread of disinformation online

While preserving democratic and economic institutions in the digital era will require more action from governments and platforms, we the people also need to recognize our responsibilities in these new spaces.

Here are four simple ways to do your part in fighting back:

  • Know your algorithm
  • Retrain your newsfeed
  • Scrutinize your news sources
  • Consider not sharing

How to get things done when the news cycle is so depressing

The emotionally draining news cycle doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. A clinical psychologist shares her thoughts on staying grounded—and productive.

This post shares insight about dealing with the “news.” I think this provides good advice for dealing with social media in general.

  • Recognize the psychological effects of negative news exposure
  • Consider the importance of self-care & channeling your frustrations
  • Set boundaries when your job requires you to engage with the news
  • Get yourself in the right headspace
  • Know when to ask for help
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You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.

Daniel Keys Moran

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This week we noticed a trend in #datarightsarehumanrights. That is fundamentally a good thing. Want to dig in a bit more? This resource from the Data & Society project is a great start.

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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