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🗞 News

Apparently, the US government will fine Facebook ~$5bn for past privacy failures. Not existential, but painful. Link

France will levy a revenue tax on foreign (read US) internet companies that operate there. It's easy to see this as envy/protectionism, but it's also legitimate to ask why a company with billions of dollars of revenue in a country should not pay any tax there. Link

Amazon announced a training program for 100k US logistics staff to learn tech/programming/machine learning. You can see this as a retention/recruiting aid, or solving a skills need, or corporate responsibility or, if you're cynical, as political positioning. Either way, Amazon is buying a lot of warehouse robots. Link

The UK's privacy regulator, the ICO, has used the new GDPR powers to fine Marriott $120m and British Airways $250m for separate security breaches that led to people's private information being leaked. In both cases there were suggestions that security best practices hadn't been followed: this will rather concentrate minds in the board room. Note also that these fines (based on a percentage of global revenue) only relate to the UK citizens involved in the breaches - the number of citizens of other EU countries will presumably be larger (especially for Marriott) and so there are potentially more and bigger fines coming from other EU countries. We tend to think of GDPR as being mostly about ad-tech, but it's turned into a significant security cudgel as well. Links: Marriott, British Airway

Apparently, there has been a bunch of turnover in the Tesla autonomy team, again, again, again. This is hard: no-one has autonomy working yet, and declaring that you want it to work doesn't mean your team can make it happen. Link ($)

Decoding Linear B with machine learning: a Google Brain research project may be able to decode dead and lost languages. Link

🔮 Reading

NY Times piece on the way that most face recognition research projects use vast numbers of images scraped from all sorts of places, without the people those faces belong to necessarily knowing. Some interesting issues here: by and large the projects don't know (and aren't affected by) who those faces are - they're 'just' samples of feature configurations to train a statistics model. And, that attitude to data reflects ML's roots in academia. But, we think about privacy differently now, and face recognition is emerging as a centre of concern more generally about both ML and privacy. Link

There does not appear to be any actual evidence that 'screen time' is a problem for children. Link

Tesla's Andrej Karpathy on the current state of their ML autonomy project. Link

Instagram is making a bunch of interesting tweaks to the product design to try to curb bullying. Link

A nice summary of why Amazon is terrible at browsing and product discovery. Link

A manifesto for 'Micromobility' (scooters etc) from Volkswagen. Interesting, but more interesting that it comes from VW. Link

New York City is discussing a bailout of taxi drivers who mortgaged themselves to the hilt to buy 'medallions' whose value has now collapsed - partly due to on-demand services but also because the prices were themselves unsustainable. Easy to say 'caveat emptor', but the city has been accused of being complicit in manipulating the prices while condoning predatory lending, so one could also argue this would be disgorgement. Link

Good summary of the Indian startup market, or rather markets. Link

McKinsey on the future of work - ML and automation, amongst other things. Link

😮 Other reading

San Francisco conducted its biennial point-in-time homelessness survey. The numbers are up sharply. Two observations: first, most people are from SF, not (contrary to myth) from elsewhere; and second, there are more people sleeping on the street in San Francisco (population: 870k) than in the whole of the UK (population: 66m). Link

📊 Statistics

Long and detailed survey of the Chinese internet from the SCMP. Link

Ericsson Mobility Report June 2019 - check out where India sits on the data consumption charts. Link

Close to 40% of American couples now meet through online dating apps. Link

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