Tag Archives: Google

Microsoft Invests in STEM for Young Black Girls

Kimberly Bryant

Microsoft, the world’s biggest maker of computer software, announced a partnership with Black Girls Code and the Technology Access Foundation to bring STEM education to students of color. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the $500,000 partnership.  (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.)

Black Girls Code provides programming and technology education to young and pre-teen girls of color. The curriculum is provided through clubs  and taught by women engineers of color. BGC can be found in 13 cities across the U.S. and, with the funding from Microsoft, will launch their 14th chapter in Seattle.

Founder of Black Girls Code, Kimberly Bryant, explains her mission;  “By launching Black Girls Code, I hope to provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.”

Trish Millines Dziko

  Technology Access Foundation provides STEMbyTAF. Former Microsoft executive Trish Millines Dziko founded STEMbyTAF in 1997. The program is an out-of-school program that teaches technology skills, provides internships and college prep to students of color in the Seattle area.

Since its launch TAF has opened its own school and become a model for creating learning environments that erase racial disparity in academic achievement. STEMbyTAF is focused on duplicating their successful formula in other schools. TAF has partnerships with Amazon, Comcast, Expedia, Google and Boeing.

Black Girls Code also has partnerships with several of Silicon Valley’s top technology companies including Google, Oracle, Adobe, Verizon and AT&T.

 

Black Woman to Lead Diversity at Lyft

Nilka Thomas

Lyft, the chief rival to Uber in the ride sharing market, has named Nilka Thomas as its new Vice President of Talent and Inclusion. Thomas will  oversee recruiting, inclusion, diversity and employee relations.

Thomas is a native of  Anchorage, Alaska and attended the University of Oregon where she was an All-American in track and field. She graduated with a degree in psychology and sociology. Prior to joining Lyft Thomas worked as the Director of Global Diversity, Inclusion and Governance at Google. Thomas is now the highest-ranking member of the Lyft team focused on inclusion and diversity.

Lyft wrote in its blog that “Nilka will lead efforts to source and hire top talent, and ensure that inclusion and diversity efforts are seamlessly integrated from the earliest candidate touch points.”

Thomas is following in the steps of other black women who have taken on the challenge of diversity in the work place. At Apple Denise Young Smith was charged with improving diversity. At Twitter Candi Castleberry-Singleton has been named Vice President of Inclusion and Diversity. Neilsen Holdings, an audience measurement company,  named Angela Talton as its new Chief Diversity Officer.  At  Pinterest Candice Morgan was named as the Diversity Chief.

See also: Black Women Leading Corporate Diversity Programs

Tech Addiction is Real!

We have a problem. We are addicted to our technology. Its that feeling you get when you can’t find your cellphone? Or you can’t get your computer or tablet to connect to the Internet? Or when you have not checked your Facebook page in a few hours or days? Tech addiction is real!

Black parents make the mistake of permitting unsupervised use of technology by children and teens. Far too many parents, black and white, use phones and tablets to babysit young children and ignore a teenager who is constantly on his or her cellphone. That is the start of tech addiction in our children. According to Psychology Today troubling studies have connected delayed cognitive development in children with extended exposure to electronic media.

Apple, the most successful consumer tech company on earth is feeling the heat. Two of Apple’s biggest investors, controlling $2 billion in Apple shares, are pushing the company to curb growing smartphone addiction among children.   The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalsTRS)  and Jana Partners LLC, sent an open letter to Apple urging the company to take a  “defining role” in turning the tech industry’s attention toward the health and development of the next generation of tech users. The group said the move is “both good business and the right thing to do.”  In the letter the group said, “There is a developing consensus around the world, including Silicon Valley, that the potential long-term consequences of new technologies needs to be factored in at the outset, and no company can outsource that responsibility.”

According to a report from Common Sense Media 50 percent of teens age, 12 to 18, reported feeling addicted to their mobile devices. Fifty-nine percent of parents agreed their teens were addicted. 

The is most frightening fact about tech addiction is that designers and software developers intentionally designed these products to be as addictive as possible. A model they may have picked up from cigarette makers.

Tech and social media addiction works very much like any other addictive drug on the brain. When using chemical drugs the brain’s pleasure centers are stimulated causing the user to want more until the body becomes dependent on the drug to feel normal. Researchers at the UCLA brain mapping center performed tests on teens using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner to monitor brain activity when using social media. Researchers found certain regions of the brain became activated by “likes.” The fMRI scans revealed that the part of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens, or the brain’s reward circuitry, was especially stimulated when teens were shown that their photos received a high number of likes. Scientist believe that this could inspire them to use social media more often.

 

Apple’s chief design officer, Jony Ive, has admitted that using your iPhone too much could be considered “misuse.”

 

According to research by Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, trends in teenage mental health began to appear in 2011 and 2012 as smartphones became  commonplace among teens.  “There was a doubling in the suicide rate and tripling in emergency room admissions of self-harm among young girls,” Twenge said. “And there was a 50 percent increase in the clinical depression rate.”

Social media addiction is another serious threat to mental health.  Tech executives and the people who practically invented social media have spoken out in recent months about the dangers and harmful effects of what has become an age of Internet junkies. This group of former Apple, Facebook and Google employees have banded together to form an anti-tech addiction coalition called the Center for Humane Technology.

Since 2014 the center has been working to raise awareness of tech addiction. Aptly named “The Truth About Tech,” the campaign is designed to educate parents, teachers and students about the harmful and addictive effects of technology. The coalition is especially focused on the endless hours teens and children spend with their eyes glued to a glowing screen. This obsession  can lead to to anxiety, depression, shortened attention spans, sleep deprivation and negatively affect a healthy social development of teens who are already in the grips of adolescent insecurity.

Social media addiction is not just a young person’s addiction. Far from it. Plenty of adults have become addicted to constant texting and wasting hours on Facebook. So much so that Facebook and social media has become a workplace issue. Employees have been found out and terminated for sexually harassing co-workers on social media, sharing company secrets or criticizing their supervisors. Not to mention wasting millions of hours annually.

According to research performed by CareerBuilder technology is the leading cause of lost productivity in the workplace. The poll revealed that 24 percent of workers admitted spending at least an hour a day on personal email, texts and personal calls. According to the poll the biggest time wasters are doing the following;

  • Talking on the cell phone and texting – 50%
  • Gossiping – 42%
  • On the Internet – 39%
  • On social media – 38%

Like all addictions it makes it way into the homes of those affected. According to Common Sense Media 36 percent of parents and teens argue about the use of technology. 

According to AddictionsExperts.com these are the symptoms of technology addiction;

  • The need to be on a piece of technology during all waking hours. An addict may even take a phone to bed at night, or use a mobile device while in the bathroom.
  • Talking incessantly about technology and spending copious amounts of money on the latest equipment. For technology addicts, having new technology is more important than paying the mortgage.
  • Using technology to avoid social situations. The technology addict may reduce the amount of time he or she deals with people by focusing on technology instead.
  • Playing games online for hours and hours, even if your family members and friends are begging you to stop. When you don’t play the games, you feel like you’re missing something.
  • Constantly checking social media pages for updates, as well as making updates about even mundane, day-to-day activities.
  • Feeling “left out” when technology isn’t available, and borrowing others’ devices to check in.

 

 

 

 

Congress, the Courts and Net Neutrality

The war for net neutrality has moved to the halls of Congress and the courtroom. Attorneys generals from 21 states and the District of Columbia have filed suit to overturn the FCC‘s new rules on net neutrality. But the battle is not just the states against the FCC. Technology companies and public interest groups have also filed law suits. Firefox browser maker Mozilla, the public-interest group Free Press and New America’s Open Technology Institute have all taken up the battle for net neutrality. Other major tech-industry companies including Facebook, Google and Netflix are getting in the fight along with other lobbying groups. 

The lawsuit, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was kicked off in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The petition asks the court to overturn the the FCC’s decision claiming the rule is “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion” under the law. The suit also argues that the the FCC improperly reclassified broadband as a Title I information service, rather than a Title II service, because of  “an erroneous and unreasonable interpretation” of communications law. Title II services, also known as common carriers, are subject to greater regulation.

An example of a Title II service would be the U.S. Postal Service. The post office can’t deny service to people sending letters it disagrees with. Another example is the phone company. The phone company can’t refuse service to people based on their religious views. Everyone has the same right to pay to use the service. Until now ISPs were considered common carriers.

The lawsuits are a multi-faceted battle to preserve net-neutrality. In congress Democrats are working to undo the new rule. Democrats in the Senate announced that they were just one vote shy of winning a vote to restore Obama era net neutrality rules. All 49 Democrats have agreed to vote for the repeal of the new Internet regulations. On the Republican side Senator Susan Collins of Maine supports the action.  That leaves Democrats searching for the final Republican to cross the party line and join them. The idea is not so far fetched since the net neutrality issue is a hot button issue for young people and the mid-term elections are approaching.

“Given how quickly we have gotten 50, we have a real chance of succeeding,” said Senator minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York in a statement.

Even if the Democrats succeed in getting the votes the rules does not automatically change. The same bill would have to be introduced and passed in the House of Representatives. That body is controlled by the Republicans and House Speaker Paul Ryan could simply refuse to bring it to the floor for a vote.

Finally, there is Donald Trump. He has to sign the bill to reverse the FCC action. Although the White House has publicly said it supports the the FCC move Trump has never been sure what he wants to do about net neutrality.

According to his own tweets Trump was all in for net neutrality in 2014. Trump criticized Obama for attacking the Internet, and defended net neutrality as “the Fairness Doctrine.” Now that has changed and he is all for the new rules.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net Neutrality: The War is Not Over!

The war for net neutrality is not over. Far from it, it’s just beginning. The latest move by the FCC, headed by Ajit Pai, is just the latest battle in a war that will eventually end up in the Supreme Court.

Pai and Republican members of the FCC voted to repeal Obama era rules meant to keep the Internet free and open to all. This is a critical moment in the history of the Internet.  The commoditization of information has taken a step forward. Pai and other pro-business Republicans claim the Obama administration had hijacked the Internet hindering innovation. The new FCC rules mean what you can access now depends how how much Internet you can afford. But defenders of the open Internet have taken up the call for battle.

States get involved.

Already one state has begun to fight for net neutrality within its borders. California, the home of Silicon Valley, has begun the process to enforce in-state net neutrality. State Senator Scott Wiener announced plans to introduce California’s own net neutrality rules. Wiener is considering the best regulatory options with plans to introduce a law early next year. Wiener wrote in Hackernoon, “By repealing net neutrality requirements, the Trump-controlled FCC is allowing Internet service providers to decide which websites will be easily accessible and which won’t. Providers are now free to manipulate web traffic on their networks, which means they can speed up or slow down traffic to certain sites and even block access.”

Weiner is contemplating requiring cable companies to accept state net neutrality laws as part of their agreement for doing business in California. California is one the world’s biggest economies and his action, if passed in a powerfully Democratic state, would force ISPs to accept net neutrality laws.

New York is also joining the battle. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced that he will sue the FCC to stop the new net neutrality laws. Schneiderman tweeted; “ll be leading a multi-state lawsuit bringing the resources of AGs across the country to bear in the fight to protect the Internet and the millions of Americans who rely on it.”

It’s unknown how many other states will be joining Schneiderman but several states joined a letter calling for a delay of the vote due to evidence of fake comments during the public feedback process. That letter included the signatures of 18 attorneys general from the states of Virginia, Delaware, Hawaii, California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, Oregon, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Washington, Vermont and the District of Columbia. Schneiderman says he is expecting others to join that group.

Congress may act.

Member of congress could take action as well to stop the rule change. Under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Congress is empowered to issue a resolution of disapproval that overrules the FCC’s decision. But don’t expect that to happen quickly if at all. The CRA only gives Congress a 60 day window in which to act. Any action must have presidential support or backing from two-thirds of the House and Senate. That has yet to be seen and Trump can’t decide if he likes net neutrality or not.

Democratic legislators Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusettes  and Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania have introduced a resolution of disapproval after the FCC vote. Markey has already followed through with the support of 17 other Senators. Doyle said in statement, “I’ve tried repeatedly to convince Chairman Pai to abandon his plans to dismantle the Open Internet Order, most recently by organizing a letter from 118 Members of Congress urging him not to take this vote. And now that the FCC has voted to kill net neutrality and give ISPs a green light to control access to the Internet, I will introduce legislation under the Congressional Review Act to overturn the order and restore net neutrality.”

Doyle is not the only member of Congress that Pai simply ignored before voting to repeal net neutrality. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Angus King, an Independent also from Maine  sent a last-minute letter asking Pai to cancel the net neutrality vote. “Repealing the FCC’s net neutrality rules will undermine long-standing protections that that have ensured the open internet as a powerful and transformative platform of innovation and economic opportunity,” they wrote. “We respectfully ask that the commission cancel the vote on the proposed order as scheduled and give Congress and the FCC the time to hold public hearings in 2018.” As you know Pai went ahead with the vote.

Not all Republicans are on board with the new net neutrality rules. Of the 239 Republicans in the House 107 have voiced their support for ending net neutrality. The position of the remaining members is not currently known. Some Republican lawmakers have been critical about the FCC’s process without specifically calling for a delay. Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota believes net neutrality belongs in the hands of lawmakers, not the FCC.

Next Battle Field: The Courts.

This battle is headed for the courts. Several advocacy groups, lacking faith in a Republican controlled Congress, are plotting their strategies to take on Pai and the FCC.

Critics claim they have a number of reasons to sue. These groups may argue that because the rule change comes only two years after Obama put them in place the decision is arbitrary.

Supporters of net neutrality are also arguing that ISPs should continue to be treated as Internet pipes or conduit that only carry data. This data includes movies and videos from major content providers like Netflix and Facebook updates. Advocates also argue that the FCC is wrong to categorize ISPs as as content providers, which are far less regulated. At least three public interest groups, Public Knowledge, Common Cause and FreePress are preparing to sue.

The Internet Association, a trade group and that counts Alphabet Inc., parent company of Google, Facebook Inc., and Pandora Media Inc. as members said it was reviewing Pai’s order “and weighing our legal options.”

Senior Vice President of Public Knowledge Harold Feld argues that Pai’s plan to re-categorize ISPs from common carriers, regulated as a public utility, to more lightly regulated “information services” will fail in court. Feld believes that the primary role of ISPs is delivering content. As carriers of data they are not offering email or online storage.”Their description of how the Internet service provider works is …. not true,” said Feld.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The War for Net Neutrality! Breaking It Down

The FCC voted along party lines to end the Obama administration’s rules on net neutrality. This war for a free and open Internet has been going on for some time. This is just the latest battle.  This decision is by no means the end of it. But what is happening and what does it mean for Black Internet users?

 

 

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the idea that all data carried over the Internet is treated the same. That means that whether you’re streaming Netflix, shopping online, playing games or just reading the news, all the data is the same. Same speed and same price. For users of the Internet that meant that you could access any website and use as much data as you wanted. Before the change Internet service providers or ISPs like Comcast or Verizon could not deliberately speed up or slow down Internet traffic from specific websites or apps. But they did. The practice was known as throttling. The net neutrality rules, put in place by the Obama administration in 2015, were intended to keep the Internet open and fair. If you really want to understand how this works imagine sitting in traffic while those willing to pay whiz by you in the express lane. That is the basic idea behind the new rules of the Internet. 

How does that affect Black people?

People using the Internet, schools, small businesses and others are now subject to a potential new way of using the Internet and paying for it. You could be charged for high-speed streaming like Netflix. You could also be charged more for using data from some websites or apps over others. The rules used to say that ISPs could not favor one website over another for its content, the aptly named fast lane/slow lane Internet. Those rules just went out the window. Expect more throttling and slower web speeds and loading. Businesses with numerous computers and heavy data consumption could end up paying more. Start up businesses, especially minority owned, could be stifled by high data costs. According to MIT the repeal of net neutrality could be harmful to innovation. The exact opposite of what FCC chairman Ajit Pai claims.

Where this hurts black people, other minorities and the poor, is that just getting Internet could be costly. Already we are dealing with a lack of high speed Internet in poor and minority schools. As matter of fact the United States is already behind in both wireless and fixed wire Internet speeds.

Poor and minority children are already dealing with poor public education. That situation could be further eroded further by a lack of adequate access to the Internet. Classroom instruction will suffer as they fall further behind more affluent school districts. The digital divide is going to grow along with an under-educated under-class that is the source of poverty.

In some cities high speed Internet is nearly non-existent. Detroit for example is one of the worst cities in the country for high speed Internet especially for poor people. Repealing net neutrality is not going to help this situation.

Black people are avid users of mobile technology. The use of mobile devices could become more expensive. Shopping online, banking and other online activities could be slowed down or throttled. Another area of concern for black people is social and political activism.  A free and open Internet meant that no matter who you are you could get your message to the masses. These new rules could make it expensive for, or even censor, groups like #Black Lives Matter. Many believe that the Internet is key to free speech and the right of the public to know. 

Who is benefitting from this rule change?

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

Most people would agree that the telecom companies are benefitting the most from this rule change. FCC Chairman Pai, an Obama appointment and promoted to chairman by Trump, has claimed that the new rules will not affect a free and open and Internet. Pai has been a critic of the net neutrality rules and believes that the rules of the Obama administration allowed the government to “micro-manage the Internet.”

The telecom industry approves of Pai’s plan. Pai argued that earlier regulation was a drag on broadband investment and innovation. In a blog post, Comcast downplayed concerns, saying customers “will continue to enjoy all of the benefits of an open Internet today, tomorrow, and in the future. Period.” Yet at the same time it appears that Comcast is already planning to charge you for more Internet speed.

According to the Los Angeles Times  several companies have also been preparing for this moment for some time and the profits of priority handling of Internet content. These companies will not say what they consider a free and open Internet is nor will they promise to treat all data the same. Basically they are keeping quiet.

Telecommunications companies like AT&T, Charter Communications and Comcast have run full page ads in the Washington Post claiming to preserve an “open Internet.” These practices supposedly include “no blocking of legal content,” “not throttling” data speeds and “no unfair discrimination.” They never said you wouldn’t have to pay for it. 

Another winner of the repeal are the big content providers. Netflix, Google and other large content providers also have the money and the leverage of millions of subscribers to negotiate deals with ISPs. This would allow them access to the Internet fast lanes and potentially get a competitive advantage. Any deal that Netflix, Google or YouTube cuts with the ISPs could mean a price increase for the consumer. You lose.

Supporters of net neutrality believe that consumers could be charged extra to stream certain content if they don’t want to be hampered by network congestion or throttling. Others are warning that consumer choices of Internet service providers could shrink and prices of broadband service could increase due to lack of competition.

What is actually happening is that the FCC, under the Trump administration, has declared that information is free. Access to it is not. The Internet, until now, was regulated as a utility. This brings that to an end. Now the Internet belongs to private industry and they are willing to make you pay for access because that is what they do. They couldn’t care less about your business needs, your child’s education or your need to know…period. They have the capability to keep the ignorant ignorant, the poor poor and the the competition from competing.. They can slow down information or cut it off completely if you don’t pay. Corporations have scored a victory but the war is far from over. 

Next: The Net Neutrality War is Not Over!

 

 

National Cyber Security Awareness Month – Mobile Security and Accounts

Mobile security of your smartphone or tablet, is not rocket science. You can take simple steps to secure your devices and online accounts that protects you from being an easy target. Let’s start with your passwords.

Passwords

You need to change them and do so on a regular basis. Please don’t be lazy about this simple task. Anyone who knows anything about you can probably guess your password. Especially if you d0 something stupid like use you dog’s name, the street you live on, your favorite shoe designer or sports team. People do these things and, to make it worse, they keep the same password for years. Or, dumber still, they use this same password on all their online accounts. So anyone who guesses it can then take over your life. How do hackers know you well enough to guess your passwords? Facebook! Never, ever, use the same password for multiple online accounts!

Change you passwords at least every six months. Use a lot of numbers and special characters and mix them up good. Your password should look something like this “L*gg46&#wEvF?.” Ugly huh?  And hard to remember too. Well try a password manager. They are easy to use and free. CheckThe Best Free Password Managers of 2017from PC Magazine.com.

Device safety

Do you know what your device is doing? It does all kind of things when you are using it, and when you’re not. Practicing good cyber security means understanding what your device is doing and how to spot trouble and stop it. Take the time to learn all about your mobile device.

Make sure you update your phone’s operating system and apps regularly. Companies are always finding flaws and security issues and they issue updates and patches when they do.

Online accounts

Consider this, any account you have online can be monitored to see what recent activity has occurred.  Ok, so who does not have a Facebook or social media account of some kind?To see what’s happening with your Facebook account click here.  Facebook offers all its users a page that will tell them if someone has been accessing their accounts. If you have a Twitter account click here, for Google click here.  These links will take you to the pages you need to monitor your account activity. Do yourself a favor and bookmark them for future use. It doesn’t take long to check these sites for unusual activity. And check them regularly.

You will also find ways to block any unauthorized activity on your accounts. Some apps and services allow you to set up alerts that come to you via a text message or email when something funny is happening to your accounts. They will also alert you when you log in from a new device or from a different location.

Check your apps

Another thing you need to do is check the app permissions on your phone or tablet. Apps communicate with their maker regularly. Most of the time its things like performance reports if the app crashes or updates. But trust me, it is communicating. You need to understand what your phone is doing and what permissions it has to access your data. Apps can do things like monitor your position using GPS, copy your text messages, access your contacts and spy on you using the on-board camera. Most people don’t realize how much data their phone and the associated apps give away.  Don’t just click on the “accept” link when an app asks for permission to access your phone’s features.  Investigate and ask yourself, why?

 Apps from third party vendors are a good source of trouble. Games, shopping apps, email apps, any app can be malicious. Hackers count on you not looking at the app too closely, especially the part about permissions to access things like your email, camera or GPS. Think it can’t happen to you? Think again!

You should also be aware of a new threat that is hitting mobile devices, it is known as ad and click fraud. It is a direct result of clicking on a link in an email or text message. Clicking on mysterious links is a s good way to introduce malware into your device.

Free Wi-Fi

Set up your phone to ask permission to join open wi-fi networks like you find at Starbucks. These open networks, or free wi-fi, are havens for hackers. When you are traveling make sure you know what the hotel or airport wi-fi name is. A new tactic for hackers is to set up their own wi-fi networks close to or inside the hotel. They give their wi-fi a name similar to that of the hotel’s. If you are not paying attention you might get on a hacker’s wi-fi. Hackers can see everything you do if you are on their phony network and that could be big trouble. Learn to you use a VPN or tether your device to your smartphone for secure Internet access. Better yet, get your own wi-fi hotspot. Many of the major cellphone service providers offer them.

Now you know.

 

National Cyber Security Awareness Month – Smartphones

African-Americans have embraced mobile technology.  According to Pew Research African-Americans are more likely to use mobile technology, smartphones and tablets, to access the Internet than whites. So we should be more aware of how to secure these devices.

I don’t have to tell you that your smartphone is the most valuable and sensitive piece of technology you own. To put it simply; it contains your life. Everyone you know is inside that device. All your passwords are probably saved there along with other sensitive data such as payment information, pictures, banking information and apps, social media apps, email, calendars and schedules and sensitive text messages. Because of all this data your phone is an attractive target to hackers.

Know Where Your Phone is at All Times.

Use the technology available to you to locate you phone or tablet if it should come up missing. Apple users make sure you use theFind My iPhone/Find My iPadfeature of the device. This feature can show you on a map exactly where you device is within a few feet. If you have an Android phone then Google offers  theFind My Deviceservice that can also pinpoint the location of your phone. There are also numerous app that can be used to track your device.

If you realize that your phone is gone for good then you can erase all the data on the device using the “Find My iPhone/Find My iPad” feature and lock the device from anyone using it. The same can be done for Android devices. Lets hope this is never the case but be prepared by knowing how to use these features and backing up your data so it can be easily downloaded to your new device.

The first most important thing you need to do is to keep control of your device at all times. No doubt you have experienced the feeling of losing it if only for a few minutes. Make sure you keep track of it at all times. “Nuff said there.

Be Paranoid!

Did you know that your phone can be hacked? As a matter of fact you probably already have been. First of all, anything that can connect to the Internet can be hacked…period! What makes your phone so vulnerable is that it has the capability to connect to anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time. You need to fear this capability. Be paranoid!

Most phones are hacked by connecting to a wi-fi network. Do you know your phone settings? Is your phone set to connect to any open wi-fi network? If so then you are vulnerable to a hacker. Make sure your phone is set to “Ask” to join an open wi-fi. Think about that when you walk into a Starbucks or Panera Bread or anyplace that offers free wi-fi. Those places are hangouts for hackers. Be paranoid!

Should you have to connect to an open wi-fi avoid doing any sensitive business such as banking. This is what the hacker is waiting for. Any password or credit card information transmitted over an open wi-fi is fair game. Anyone close enough to pick up that open wi-fi signal can be a hacker. Be paranoid!

If your phone is out of date it is vulnerable. Keep your iOS and Android operating system up to date. This means your apps too. Apps and programs that have not updated are a vulnerable. Be paranoid about apps that request unusual permissions. These suspicious apps could ask for access to your camera or your email. Ask yourself why? Keep your phone updated. Do not download apps offered to you via email or text massage. Avoid third party app stores. Don’t respond to unknown text message or click on any links you are not absolutely sure of. This is a form of  social engineering where someone convinces you to do something you shouldn’t.  Be paranoid!

Don’t let strangers use your phone. There is an attack that occurs just by dialing a certain number. Here is the scenario; a stranger approaches you and claims his or her phone is broken or the battery is dead. They have a child or elderly parent waiting to hear from them and they ask to use your phone for a minute. Being the angel you are you allow them. They dial a number and then punch in a code and download malware or app that takes over your phone, monitors your activity and steal your data. Hey, it happens. Don’t be a victim. Be paranoid!

Now you know, October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

Racism Online: Social Media Companies Target Ads to Racists

The web’s biggest social media companies have been targeting ads to racists. Facebook, Google and Twitter have allowed advertisers to target groups expressing interests in topics such as “Jew hater,” How to burn jews” and “why jews ruin the world.” Facebook’s advertising algorithm went even further by suggesting other racist and hate interests to advertisers including search terms like “Hitler did nothing wrong.”  After being notified by ProPublica Facebook removed the antisemitic categories.

But that did not solve the problem entirely. Online magazine Slate used Facebook’s ad targeting to create ads targeting those interested in “Ku-Klux-Klan,” and other white nationalist interests.

ProPublica first attempted to purchase three ads, or “promoted posts,” using Facebook’s targeting tool. At first they were rejected. But not for the reason you might think. The ad placement was rejected because the number of Facebook users searching the racist terms was beneath a pre-programmed number of users. ProPublica then added a larger category to “Jew hater” and the others. Facebook’s ad tool then said the selected audience was “great!” Fifteen minutes later the company’s ad system had approved all three ads.

Facebook is not alone. BuzzFeed discovered Google, the world’s largest advertising platform,  also had problems in its ad targeting. Google’s ad targeting allowed advertisers to target people searching phrases such as “black people ruin everything” and “jews control the media.”

Like Facebook, Google’s algorithm auto-suggested similar phrases, such as “the evil jew.” To confirm their findings BuzzFeed ran the ads and verified the ads did indeed appear on the web.

After BuzzFeed’s report Google disabled the keyword searches used in the ad buy. However, according to BuzzFeed,  the search term “blacks destroy everything,” remained.

Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s senior vice president of advertising, in an email.”We’ve already turned off these suggestions and any ads that made it through, and will work harder to stop this from happening again.” 

Twitter too was found to have algorithms that played into racism. According to the Daily Beast  Twitter allowed the targeting of ads to racist. Twitter’s algorithm allowed advertisers to target millions of customers searching terms like “wetback” and “nigger.” The Daily Beast was also able to successfully placed the ads online.  And, like Facebook and Google, Twitter generated suggestions in response to racist terms.

According to Twitter  it fixed its algorithm that permitted marketers to target racist.
The Daily Beast reported that Twitter Ads returned 26.3 million users who may respond to the term “wetback,” 18.6 million to “Nazi,” and 14.5 million to “nigger.”

Facebook appears to be dealing with a recurring problem. That is racist ad targeting. In 2016  AACR reported that advertisers were using the social media platform ad targeting to exclude people of color from seeing ads for housing and other services. Facebook uses the term “affinity marketing” but it is also known as “red lining.” This is the practice of denying certain groups access to homes, jobs and other service based on race.

Are these companies undercover racists or is something else happening here? Technology is supposed to be color blind but these issues keep popping up, especially for Facebook.

According to Facebook, algorithms select categories based on what users list as employment or education. People have used terms such as “Jew Hater,” as their jobs and listed employers as  “Jew Killing Weekly Magazine.”  Or as education they list “Threesome Rape.”  As a result Facebook’s algorithm, which is not designed to understand the meaning of these terms, create target market categories.

Some experts believe that many algorithms that are programmed to make decisions are programmed on data sets that do not include a diverse range of people.

Graphic designer Johanna Burai created the World White Web project after she searched for an image of human hands. Her search on Google resulted in images of millions of hands almost exclusively white.

Google responded by saying its image search results are “a reflection of content from across the web, including the frequency with which types of images appear and the way they’re described online” and are not connected to its “values”.

Joy Buolamwini, a postgraduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched The Algorithmic Justice League (AJL) in November 2016.
Buolamwini, a dark skin African-American, was attempting to use facial recognition software for a project but the program could not process her face.

“I found that wearing a white mask, because I have very dark skin, made it easier for the system to work. It was the reduction of a face to a model that a computer could more easily read.”
It was not the first time Buolamwini experienced the problem. Once before she had to ask a lighter-skinned room-mate to help her.

“I had mixed feelings. I was frustrated because this was a problem I’d seen five years earlier was still persisting,” she said. “And I was amused that the white mask worked so well.”

But is technology and these algorithms really racist? Maybe not so much as some would have us to believe. Algorithms are programs and programs are created by people who program computers. So it is not unthinkable that racism and biases creep into programs.