BBC’s role in data-led services

Public Service Internet

Two good blog posts outlining the BBC’s ambitions were posted to various BBC blogs on this week.

First Matthew Postgate (CTPO of the BBC) looks at the BBC’s future role in  a data-led landscape. He mentions the BBC box which then links to work we’ve been researching in BBC R&D around the databox project.

Gizmodo started to unpick this a little, The BBC is Doing Cloud Storage and Wants You to Have Full Control Over Your Data. The interest is a good thing of course…

It was clear to me back when I first spoke to Nottingham University about the databox project, it was something different, a possible way forward following the newly established HDI principles. It was tricky to understand (and you get that sense in the Gizmodo piece) but the box infrastructure kept everything honest. If you told me 4 years later after I first published the ethics of data videos.. I’d be debating with Tim Burners-Lee about the merits of Databox vs Solid at Mozfest 2018… I wouldn’t have believed you.

I look forward to seeing where things go next with Databox/BBC Box, this for me is the BBC embracing the change and doubling down on its public service. But lets not forget the other experiments using databox at their heart as they are also part of the change.

Flight shaming is taking off?

Flight shaming is taking off (nice pun), can travel be more ethical? Is something I read and think about quite a bit (the flying bit of course).

I’m guilty of flying a lot, for example a few months ago I flew to Amsterdam and back in the same day. Besides it being a bloody long day, I did spare a thought about my carbon mileage for the day. I did fly on one of those e propeller planes there and back, which I gather is better than a jet airplanes? But the flight shaming isn’t going away.

I think its a balance of understanding and conscious decisions. I agree with the writer of the guardian piece, that a family of 4 on a train to Spain isn’t at all practical and I personally can’t think of a better way to get there with kids. Yes going somewhere local is a nice idea but thats ignoring the cultural benefits of going to other countries.

Weirdly enough this came up in Re:publica, which I need to blog about fully. Johan Rockstorm’s talk was super sobering and someone asked him how it got to Berlin for the conference (maybe consciously or non-cons iosuly) flight shaming him.

He’s reply was good and balanced.

…so how can you get you know the world to transport itself in a sustainable way I think that the that the solutions is therefore not to go out and simply say stop flying I mean that that would be like the only message because I think that that just just creates a deeper rift between the aware environmental movement and everyone who just says oh no I’m not gonna I’m not gonna sacrifice that and therefore I rather put my head in the sand and and create my own little fake news story of something that will somehow make this not happen so therefore I think the solution for us to succeed to really have even the in does indifferent majority to surf along with us is to you know show that sustainability is the entry point for a better life that we can achieve better quality of life not just through by consuming and unnecessarily flying when we don’t need to yeah of course of course as in all forms of excessive consumption…

Familiar stranger and wellness

milgram familiar stranger

Theres been so many times in the past when I blogged about the breakdown of social bonds between strangers. One of my favourite books is Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together, I still need to read reclaiming conversations. The smartphone is a easy target to point at when thinking about this all.

The thing I hadn’t really considered is the effect of the mental ill/wellness epidemic maybe slightly caused by loneliness.

This is why I find things like Uber quiet ride pretty scary when you take the long view. Which of course Uber isn’t, as they try and make public transport redundant as its not convenient enough for our lives.

You can outsource pretty much every aspect of irritation in your lives. But you can’t outsource loneliness, or pain. Like a dystopian sci-fi plotline, we are allowing Silicon Valley to make our lives as convenient and seamless as possible.

But there’s an app for everything now, which means no more phone calls to the pizza shop, no chit-chat while waiting for the bus. The little white earbuds, and their more aggressive, noise-cancelling cousins, are shielding us from this terrible outside world.

And we are lonelier than ever. Our communities are disintegrating, whether it’s the corner store bought by a billionaire developer or churches being replaced by Instagram or the fact that I have never met or even seen my nextdoor neighbour. We are at a crisis point.

You could easily point the finger at Airbnb too, something which was about people sharing homes with strangers; now is about hotel like experiences. Airbnb haven’t helped things wither with their plus listings. Don’t get me wrong I understand, but airbnb originally was different.

I keep saying it but noticed I don’t think I have ever wrote about it so directly.

Public transport along with lots public services could be the decider between a epidemic of loneliness. I mean where else are you going to experience familiar stranger and that essential head nod. Rubbing shoulders with strangers clearly is good thing in the long run, you wonder why more people are flocking to our over crowded cities? I think there is something in the social object theory and I’m not the only one. Bonding with strangers builds friendships, builds neighbourhoods, building communities, which builds societies?

The data is still not 100% but I think this is essential research material.

Death of conversation

smartphone addiction illustrations cartoons with couple at cafe dinner

I found the piece with 57 Images Of How Smartphones Take Over Our Lives, a fun but also slightly tragic read.

Modern technology has undoubtedly improved our lives in many ways – from curing what used to be terminal illnesses to space explorations, we all must agree that life without technologies seems quite impossible now. Though the technologies make living more comfortable, they are also the culprit of many social issues, with smartphone addiction being the top one.

Its something I’ve written about in the past quite a bit… Smartphones are the new cigarettes, tips for deadling with your smartphones Tamagotchi where the future went wrong? and more…

Manufacturing algorithmic good behaviour?

Taxi sign

I read that Uber is now going to start punishing users with low scores by cutting them off.

Uber is now requiring the same good behavior from riders that it has long expected from its drivers. Uber riders have always had ratings, but they were never really at risk of deactivation — until now. Starting today, riders in the U.S. and Canada are now at risk of deactivation if their rating falls significantly below a city’s average.

“Respect is a two-way street, and so is accountability,” Uber Head of Safety Brand and Initiatives Kate Parker wrote in a blog post. “Drivers have long been required to meet a minimum rating threshold which can vary city to city. While we expect only a small number of riders to ultimately be impacted by ratings-based deactivations, it’s the right thing to do.”

For drivers, they face a risk of deactivation if they fall below 4.6, according to leaked documents from 2015. Though, average ratings are city-specific. Uber, however, is not disclosing the average rider rating, but says “any rider at risk of losing access will receive several notifications and opportunities to improve his or her rating,” an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch.

This is another example of the insanity of  algorithmic telling off and the secrecy is stupid.

Airbnb telling off
Airbnb telling off for my 4.8 rating

Airbnb is still telling me off/trying to help with my score of 4.8/5 with 34 Total reviews and 76% 5 star reviews.

Mainly because I don’t accept most people into my flat. There’s no understanding about timing, workload, etc. In the algorithms view, everyone should be maximizing the amount of people using the flat. They keep trying to push auto-booking on me. I expect it will become a requirement one day and I’ll leave Airbnb as its completely unsuitable for me.

The whole idea of perfection is flawed and humans are never perfect. Sure Douglas Rushkoff has lots to say about this in #Teamhuman.

Update June 2nd

Talking of Uber, there was interesting piece in the Guardian around the same time, which could apply to Airbnb too. What is Uber? Forget the sharing economy – it’s just a libertarian scam.

 

What do the general public think about the internet?

https://vimeo.com/331179758

We (BBC R&D) helped NESTA to explore what the general public think about the internet. It was during a bitterly cold day but me, Rhia and Vicky took to the streets of Manchester to ask the public in a series of vox-pox interviews.

The results surprised me, as it was clear most were concerned and have serious but diverse reasons. Some gave short and some in-depth detailed experiences. The video only scratches the surface.

Over the past few decades, the internet has become the most important infrastructure of our time, radically rewiring how our societies work and how we interact. We asked the BBC to find out how ordinary people feel about these changes – watch their varied answers in the video below.

The video is a small part of NESTA’s Visions for the future internet work.

In March 2019, the World Wide Web turned thirty, and October will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the internet itself. These anniversaries offer us an important opportunity to reflect on the internet’s history, but also a chance to ponder its future.

Massive thanks to the people of Manchester who answered our questions even with the weather at close to zero degrees!

Climate disaster is just around the corner

I have nothing but respect for the people who are taking part in the Extinction Rebellion, its about time! I had hoped Al Gore’s inconvenient truth would be the start of this? But it wasn’t. You can blame the media, trump, etc but the fact is we are running out of time.

Extinction Rebellion - Rebel for life
Its unbelievable and downright scary to hear mainly older peoples views on “kids” truanting from school and blocking London. I understand the worry about legal and illegal protest, however each and everyone of them understand how much of a knife edge humanity is on.

I was listening to Episode 127 of TeamHuman “All Hands On Deck” Extinction Rebellion with Gail Bradbrook and Clare Farrell. Although I thought they were interesting its their pulling people together which is most important. Always reminded of Eric Nehrlich’s find the others post.

I found this cartoon quite powerful by the way.

 

The s*** storm which is Brexit

There is a really good opinion piece I read recently in open democracy from a leave voter. Who although holds on to her believes why she voted to leave but can’t bear to see the massive s*** storm which is about to tear the United Kingdom (ha!) apart.

The economic arguments for Brexit have been destroyed by a series of shattering blows

Take the deal, or maybe its pride which stops the UK from doing so?

So I argue, as a Brexiteer, that we need to take a long deep breath. We need to swallow our pride, and think again. Maybe it means rethinking the Brexit decision altogether.

Certainly it means a delay when we can think about it all in a period of calm. Europe is offering us this opportunity. President Tusk is ready to offer a year’s extension. I say: grab it with both hands.

I’ve been thinking for a long while its time to stop this craziness with a 2nd vote but those who voted leave will cry fowl or say we have undermined democracy. However deep down I think there are some critical reasons why this must happen…

The author pretty much writes the reasons in her post.

  1. Independence is it really worth the battle?

I respect those who say yes, all this is worth it to pursue a dream of independence. It is a noble dream. I share it. It is founded on Britain’s historic role as a proud nation that has repeatedly fought for freedom and liberty. I, too, am conscious of our magnificent history. In the 18th century we stood against the Bourbon dream of European hegemony. We liberated Europe from the Napoleonic domination of continental Europe at the start of the 19th century. And faced up to Nazi Germany in 1940.

But this is not 1939 or the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. History gets made and remade all the time. The European Union is not a dictatorship, as contemptuous of national identity as Napoleonic France. Nor can it be compared to Nazi Germany – a foolish analogy which has become an ugly cliché and displays an unforgivable failure to understand the true horror of recent European history. Nor is it any longer a socialist project as envisaged by Jacques Delors, let alone an evil empire, as some have characterised it.

Of course our looming privations and national isolation would be thoroughly worthwhile if we were confronting such a continental menace. Let others call us ridiculous: we would have a duty to stand alone. But is such language appropriate in a century when all our EU partners are democracies, and none poses the remotest threat of taking up arms against us? Donald Tusk, who will lead the EU heads of government when they meet next week to decide Britain’s future inside the union, is not Hindenberg. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, is a genial, shrewd elderly man who (like me) enjoys the occasional drink.

I readily accept that the European Union is a dysfunctional body beset by all manner of problems. But the lesson of the last two years is that we are much better off working inside the EU (where we are greatly respected; it was British civil servants, remember, who wrote the rules of the single market) for reform and not as a hostile neighbour.

2. Will there be a United Kingdom left?

Moreover, there is a second reason for why I have changed my mind. The threat to the United Kingdom. This hits me like a massive punch in the stomach. When I cast my vote in 2016 I believed that the European Union was, if anything, a threat to our own union…

Like almost everybody else I underestimated the importance of the Good Friday Agreement

But I did not foresee that Brexit would threaten the continued existence of our kingdom as a union. I reckoned without the separatists within our nation who would push us apart, and seize on Brexit (as the Scottish nationalists are doing) as a reason to break up.

3. The vote was illegally and heavily manipulated – FACT

My third unhappiness concerns the integrity of some leading Brexiteers. We are learning more and more about the deceit and illegal tactics which accompanied the Leave campaign. Late last month, on a busy news day, Vote Leave dropped its appeal against a £61,000 fine for electoral offences committed during the referendum.

Allegations of illegal overspending are deeply worrying. Britain’s data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office, fined Leave. EU and Eldon Insurance, an insurance company run by Leave’s Arron Banks, a total of £120,000 for breaking electoral marketing laws. The National Crime Agency is still investigating suspicions of criminal offences committed by the unofficial Brexit campaign during the referendum. Banks’ alleged links to Russian money are even more worrying. There have not yet been serious enough attempts to answer these questions.

Everyday I can’t watch the news to see the s*** storm getting darker and darker. I’m sure in many years things will get better but I currently estimate it will be 15-20 years.

IBM DIF project removes my flickr urls


Hopefully the final follow up from my post about facial recognitions dirty little secret millions of online photos scraped without consent. and the update.

Thank you for your prompt response. We confirm that we have deleted from the DiF dataset all the URLs linked to your Flickr ID and associated annotations. We have also deleted your Flickr ID from our records. IBM will require our research partners to comply with your deletion request and provide IBM with confirmation of compliance.

Best regards,

IBM Research DiF team

End of the matter, although part of me wants to contact everybody in the photos and tell them what happened. Not sure what that would achieve however?

Waking up to the fire, Zucked…

Its been interesting to hear and read about Roger McNamee and his new book Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe.

I’ve listened to a few podcasts with him talking away and I find it insightful.

I took him talking with a massive bucket of salt being a investor in Facebook in the past and even now. To be fair I heard about Roger before in previous articles such as An Apology for the Internet — From the Architects Who Built It, The Ugly Unethical Underside of Silicon Valley and Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia

Roger McNamee, a venture capitalist who benefited from hugely profitable investments in Google and Facebook, has grown disenchanted with both companies, arguing that their early missions have been distorted by the fortunes they have been able to earn through advertising.

He identifies the advent of the smartphone as a turning point, raising the stakes in an arms race for people’s attention. “Facebook and Google assert with merit that they are giving users what they want,” McNamee says. “The same can be said about tobacco companies and drug dealers.”

That would be a remarkable assertion for any early investor in Silicon Valley’s most profitable behemoths. But McNamee, 61, is more than an arms-length money man. Once an adviser to Mark Zuckerberg, 10 years ago McNamee introduced the Facebook CEO to his friend, Sheryl Sandberg, then a Google executive who had overseen the company’s advertising efforts. Sandberg, of course, became chief operating officer at Facebook, transforming the social network into another advertising heavyweight.

McNamee chooses his words carefully. “The people who run Facebook and Google are good people, whose well-intentioned strategies have led to horrific unintended consequences,” he says. “The problem is that there is nothing the companies can do to address the harm unless they abandon their current advertising models.”

Thanks to Herb who recommended links to me.

Updated….

I knew I heard him 3 times in recent times and thanks to Eastmad for reminding me he was on Team Human too. I actually recommended him to Herb.

https://twitter.com/cubicgarden/status/1108643229833015302

IBM Dif project returns the full list of photos scraped without consent

Then I got a further 2 replies from IBM. One of them is IBM asking if I want my GDPR data for everything regarding IBM? But the 2nd one is from IBM Diversity in faces project.
Thank you for your response and for providing your Flickr ID. We located 207 URLs in the DiF dataset that are associated with your Flickr ID. Per your request, the list of the 207 URLs is attached to this email (in the file called urls_it.txt). The URLs link to public Flickr images.
For clarity, the DiF dataset is a research initiative, and not a commercial application and it does not contain the images themselves, but URLs such as the ones in the attachment.
Let us know if you would like us to remove these URLs and associated annotations from the DiF dataset. If so, we will confirm when this process has been completed and your Flickr ID has been removed from our records.
Best regards,
IBM Research DiF Team

So I looked up how to Wget all the pictures from the text file they supplied. and downloaded the lot, so I can get a sense of which photos were public/private and if the licence was a conflict. I think hiding behind the notion of the link is a little cheeky but theres so much discussion about hyperlinking to material.

Most of the photos are indeed public but there are a few which I can’t find in a public image search. If they are private, then somethings wrong and I’ll be beating IBM over the head with it.

Is everything public on social media fair game?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/xdxd_vs_xdxd/6829374609/

Of course I would say not exactly, especially in the face of the  IBM’s Diversity in Faces project which I wrote about here and got a initial reply here. But its a interesting question which prompts the post, scientists like me are studying your tweets are you ok with that?

“Public” is the magic word when it comes to research ethics. “But the data is already public.” That was the response from Harvard researchers in 2008, when they released a data set of college students’ Facebook profiles, and from Danish researchers in 2016, when they released a data set scraped from OKCupid. The regulatory bodies that oversee research ethics (like institutional review boards at U.S. universities) usually don’t consider “public” data to be under their purview. Many researchers see these review boards as the arbiters of what’s ethical; if it’s not something that the boards care about, then it can’t be unethical, right?

Whether the data is public or not is important for ethical decision-making — in fact, it’s necessary.

There is a old-school hacker thing, that anything public is public and if you don’t want it public don’t put it online. But to be fair that idealistic view before the likes of cloud services broke the notion badly.

However there is a question for research which upholds its self above the likes of commercial companies.  I know being in the research field myself, research and the ethics boards are really strict with this all. To be fair I’m glad of this because I’ve seen too many bad uses of public data including semi-public (dating site data for example) and heck private data!

As researchers, we have a responsibility to acknowledge that factors like the type of data, the creator of that data, and our intended use for the data are important when it comes to using public information. These factors must inform the decisions we make about whether and how to collect data and to report findings. I hope the work that my collaborators and I are doing will help to inform best practices, so that, in the end, we can continue to contribute great science to the world while also respecting the people who share their data with us every day.

Absolutely!

Now can some tell IBM this too?

Reply from IBM about my online photos scraped without consent

Diversity in Faces(DiF)

Following my post about facial recognitions dirty little secret millions of online photos scraped without consent. I got a reply from Flickr and IBM’s Diversity in Faces project.
First Flickr’s automated email…

Hi ian,

Thanks for reaching out to us!

We’ve received your message and will be responding as quickly as possible. In the meantime, do visit the Flickr Help Forum and our Help Center as the answer to your question may be found there.

We look forward to connecting and will be in touch soon.

Cheerfully,
The Flickr Team

Already Pro? Then expect a response shortly, because you are already in our VIP queue! (Make sure to write to us using the email address on your Pro account.)

Dear Ian,
Thank you for your email.
The Diversity in Faces (DiF) project, referenced in your request below, is a non-commercial, research initiative. The DiF dataset includes a list of URLs (but not the images themselves), linking to publicly available images on Flickr under certain creative commons licenses, along with associated annotations. We have taken great care to ensure that the DiF dataset does not include Flickr IDs or any other Flickr identifiers of individuals.
In order to respond to your request, we will need to locate the URLs in the DiF dataset that are linked to your Flickr ID (if any). To do this, we will need your Flickr ID, along with your express consent to use it for the sole purpose of locating such URLs and responding to your request.  Separately, if you would like us to, we can remove any URLs of images linked to your Flickr ID from the DiF dataset.  Please confirm this by reply.
After conducting our search, we will delete your Flickr ID from our records, and if you so request, we will also remove any URLs and associated annotations from the DiF dataset connected to your Flickr ID. We will confirm when this process has been completed.
With respect to your request to access your personal data processed by IBM outside the DiF project, you will be contacted separately by the IBM Data Subject Rights Operations Team (Email at ibm.com) to proceed with your request.
Let us know if you have any questions or how we can further assist you with your request.
IBM Research DiF Team

Talent is universal, but opportunity is not

Tanitoluwa Adewumi

I do love the story of Tanitoluwa Adewumi and the New York times has it right on the button – Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.

In a homeless shelter in Manhattan, an 8-year-old boy is walking to his room, carrying an awkward load in his arms, unfazed by screams from a troubled resident. The boy is a Nigerian refugee with an uncertain future, but he is beaming.

He can’t stop grinning because the awkward load is a huge trophy, almost as big as he is. This homeless third grader has just won his category at the New York State chess championship.

“It’s an inspiring example of how life’s challenges do not define a person,” said Jane Hsu, the principal of P.S. 116, which held a pep rally to celebrate Tani’s victory. Hsu noted that while Tani lacks a home, he has enormously supportive parents dedicated to seeing him succeed.

Tani’s mom can’t play chess but takes him every Saturday to a three-hour free practice session in Harlem, and she attends his tournaments. His dad lets Tani use his laptop each evening to practice. And although religion is extremely important to the family, the parents let Tani miss church when necessary to attend a tournament.

Theres a silverlineing to Tanitoluwa Adewumi’s success too.

 

The race pay gap deserves the same attention as the gender pay gap

I wanted to annotate the original Pearn Kandola article with some links…

In 2018, the gender pay gap took up a lot of column inches. Whether it be large businesses having to publicly declare their pay discrepancies, or well-known figures like Jodie Whittaker confirming that she’ll receive the same pay for her role as Doctor Who as her male predecessors, the pressure has been rising and change seems to have begun.

But gender is not the only cause of pay discrepancy; there’s another pay gap just as damaging that hasn’t received anywhere near as much media attention

There’s a long history of BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) people being paid less than their white colleagues. Analyses of pay by race have been carried out in many countries, and the similarity of the results is striking. Generally speaking, in every walk of life, in every craft and profession, minorities are consistently paid less than white people.

In November 2017, the BBC found itself at the centre of a significant gender pay gap scandal. Whilst its race pay gap was just as, if not more, prevalent, far less attention was given to it. The average white male earned:

  • four and a half times more than the highest earning white female
  • seven and a half times more than the highest paid minority male
  • nine times more than the highest paid minority female

The BBC is by no means a lone example, though. Independent Television News (ITN) IN 2018 revealed mean ethnicity pay gap of 16% which rose to 66% for bonus payments

The lack of attention given to the race pay gap is highlighted when one looks at organisations’ responses to dealing with it. Global professional services firm, PwC, also revealed a pay gap of 13% between its BAME and white staff. This gap is almost as substantial as the firm’s gender pay gap of 14%.

Its sad and sobering to read and hear. Why it wasn’t picked up by the mainstream press is a whole different question. Like I seen elsewhere, its much easier to focus on diversity in the form of binary male & female. But the honest truth is diversity is never that binary.

Reporting and transparency around the BAME pay gap is the best way to making this all viable.

The pay gap is a symptom of a wider culture in which black and ethnic minority workers are undervalued and underpromoted.