Assorted links for Thursday

A new research study suggests that the use of wearable video cameras by police officers is associated with a 3.64% increase in shooting-deaths of civilians by the police. The study also found that “found that body cameras were associated with a larger increase in shooting deaths of African Americans and hispanics than whites and Asians”.

Ford promises “a fully automated driverless vehicle for commercial ride-sharing in 2021”.

Wintel Rides Again: Intel and Microsoft are teaming up to bring Virtual Reality to ordinary folks.

Anti-trust’s blind spot – swallowing your start-up competitors before they can really get going. All the digital giants are doing it. They hate competition, you see.

“The Generations of Economic Journalism”. Great essay on the significance of Walter Lippmann.

Assorted links for Wednesday

The Wall Street Journal is tweaking its firewall. Intelligently.

How a (daft) conspiracy theory about the Clintons has gone viral in China. Interesting for those of us who study conspiracy theories.

Why Monday was a very bad day for the NSA. (And it’s not something to cheer about.)

Puzzled by Virtual Reality’s potential? Me too. But Ben Evans’s The VR Idea Maze is insightful and persuasive.

Data-mining shows that Donald Trump’s most angry or intemperate tweets come from an Android phone. The less contentious tweets come from an iPhone.

Werner lost in the Internet maze

Hmmm… On the basis of this trailer I’m not sure it’ll be worth the journey. It looks like famous-director-who-knows-nothing-about-the Net goes round talking to famous geeks who blind him with tech and say silly things.

Assorted links for Tuesday

Werner Herzog has made a documentary, Lo and behold, about the internet and its implications which premieres this week. He’s done an interview with TechCrunch about it.

The IBM PC – the machine that made personal computers acceptable to chartered accountants – was launched 35 years ago this month.

27,000 computers in London’s Metropolitan Police are still running Windows XP. Here are some reasons why.

Google plans to obliterate Flash from its Chrome browser from next month.

Joe Nye on the fragmentation of the Internet.

How the tech industry differs from the automobile business

Reading a fascinating WashPo interview with Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, I was struck by this:

We’re a bit larger today, so we can do a bit more than we could do 10 years ago or even five years ago. But we still have, for our size, an extremely focused product line. You can literally put every product we make on this table. That really is an indication of how focused it is. I think that’s a good thing. Regardless of who you are, there’s only so many things that you can do at a very high-quality and deep, deep level — personally and in business. And so we’re not going to change that. That’s core to our model and way of thinking.

This seems very different to the way most successful modern companies operate. With them, the game appears to be to provide a product to match every discernible market niche.

Take Mercedes, for example. I’m perpetually baffled by the various Mercedes model I see on our roads. So I went to the company’s site to try and get a handle on the range.

Here’s what I found. Mercedes sell 28 different types of consumer vehicle in the UK (I’ve ignored the commercial stuff), to wit:

  • 3 types of hatchback
  • 4 types of saloon
  • 4 types of estate car
  • 6 different coupés
  • 4 different models of cabriolet/roadster
  • 6 SUV models
  • 1 MPV

My guess (I haven’t checked) that the BMW range is just as diverse/confusing. It must be a hell of a challenge to maintain some level of coherence in this profusion. How do Mercedes sales personnel keep up? Maybe they instantly categorise every customer who comes in the door. As in: Here comes an estate-car customer. Oh, bet she’s a coupé type. He’s definitely S-class material. And so on.

Maybe the contrast between Mercedes and Apple is emblematic of the cultural differences between the tech and the auto industries. In that sense, Elon Musk’s approach to the Tesla range seems much closer to Apple’s.

Review of ‘The Cyber Effect’

My Observer review of Maria Aiken’s new book.

Note the doctorate after the author’s name; and the subtitle: A Pioneering Cyberpsychologist Explains How Human Behaviour Changes Online; and the potted bio, informing us that “Dr Mary Aiken is the world’s foremost forensic cyberpsychologist” – all clues indicating that this is a book targeted at the US market, another addition to that sprawling genre of books by folks with professional qualifications using pop science to frighten the hoi polloi.

This is a pity, because The Cyber Effect is really rather good and doesn’t need its prevailing tone of relentless self-promotion to achieve its desired effect, which is to make one think about what digital technology is doing to us…

Read on

Foreign interference in voting systems is a national security issue

Good WashPo OpEd piece by Bruce Schneier on the implications of (i) Russian hacking of the DNC computer systems and (ii) the revelations about the insecurity if US voting machines:

Over the years, more and more states have moved to electronic voting machines and have flirted with Internet voting. These systems are insecure and vulnerable to attack.

But while computer security experts like me have sounded the alarm for many years, states have largely ignored the threat, and the machine manufacturers have thrown up enough obfuscating babble that election officials are largely mollified.

We no longer have time for that. We must ignore the machine manufacturers’ spurious claims of security, create tiger teams to test the machines’ and systems’ resistance to attack, drastically increase their cyber-defenses and take them offline if we can’t guarantee their security online.

Longer term, we need to return to election systems that are secure from manipulation. This means voting machines with voter-verified paper audit trails, and no Internet voting. I know it’s slower and less convenient to stick to the old-fashioned way, but the security risks are simply too great.