DataDownload: Remembering Dan Kaminsky, the digital Paul Revere A weekly summary of all things Media, Data, Emerging Tech View this email in your browser
Daniel Kaminsky died this week. He was an internet innovator, and he was 42. What isn’t as widely known is that he died from diabetes. It was, as we now so often hear, a ‘preexisting condition.’ That phrase was used to explain early deaths from COVID-19, and to battle get American’s decent health care coverage. But the simple fact is, most everyone you know has something. It’s time to acknowledge that improving heath care is a national priority for everyone.
Then we have good news — lots of it in fact. A great piece on the innovations at Spotify. The growth of Crypto among migrant workers. Congress getting schooled on algorithmic misinformation. And some surprising data in who’s reading news platforms (hint, Google isn’t at the top of the list).
This week, don’t miss our Podcast recommendation — This American Life’s episode called: The Herd. It’s a brilliant, chilling look at vaccine hesitancy — and how hard it is to combat it.
And, the big news is our amazing panel on NFTs and the future of Art and Artists. It’s a can’t miss event. And we’re co-sponsoring the WSJ Future of Everything Festival. We have tix, so grab ’em fast.
That’s this week. It’s May — already. So buckle up for a busy spring and summer.
The NYC Media Lab Must-Read Daniel Kaminsky, Internet Security Savior, Dies at 42
It’s sad that the unsung heroes of the internet are really only sung about when they’ve passed on. Daniel Kaminsky, who had taught himself how to code by the age of 5 and got through the Pentagon’s defenses by 11, recently died at the age of 42. In 2008, Kaminsky alerted the Department of Homeland Security, executives at Microsoft and Cisco, and other internet security experts about a fundamental flaw of the internet. He discovered that the Domain Name System, or DNS, protocol had a flaw that would allow hackers to manipulate traffic so that “a person typing the website for a bank would instead be redirected to an impostor site that could steal the user’s account number and password.” Upon discovering the flaw, Kaminsky quickly called Paul Vixie, an Internet Hall of Famer who has deployed several DNS protocol extensions in use throughout the internet today.
“‘I remember calling people and telling them, I’m not at liberty to tell you what it is, but there’s this thing and you will need to get on a plane and meet us in this room at Microsoft on such-and-such date,’ Mr. Vixie said. Over several days they cobbled together a solution in stealth, a fix that Mr. Vixie compared to dog excrement. But given the threat of internet apocalypse, he recalled it as being the best dog excrement ‘we could have ever come up with.’ By the time Mr. Kaminsky took the stage at Black Hat that August, the web had been spared.”
NY Times / 8 min read Read More He’s Shaping the Future of Spotify, One Moonshot Idea at a Time
“What’s happening now is you’re collapsing the concept of linear radio into digital. It’s becoming multidimensional and becoming more interactive. I’m a believer that technology opens doors to creativity.” — Máuhan “M” Zonoozy
CNN spoke with Spotify’s first head of innovation Máuhan Zonoozy on his unique role and the future of audio, not just as entertainment, but as something woven into our daily lives.
On audio context as a factor in personalization: “The scary context example is speakers listening, but I think there’s so much more that can be done around it. You saw it in ad tech probably first. There’s so much personalization driven by location, past history, weather. I’m interested to see how media, especially when media starts to become more live and immediate, starts to leverage context as a way to become smarter about either delivery or creation of content.”
On social audio: “I think the social audio space is super cool. I was early on with some of these platforms, and I remember texting all of my friends: ‘This is a wave.’ I think Locker Room and Spotify’s acquisition of Locker Room is going to be incredible and going to be here to stay. What we’re seeing on these platforms right now is early interpretation of what that content could be and what those experiences can be like.”
CNN / 5 min read
Read more Tech+Media The New Wave of Crypto Users: Migrant Workers
“It’s much better to save your money in cryptocurrency, since our local currency, the bolivar has devalued [on average] between 10% and 20% every month.” Alberto Alarcón, founder at BitcoinBall, a crypto exchange based in Venezuela
A growing number of Latin Americans are sending crypto to relatives back home, and are part of a new wave of users “who are not tech enthusiasts or white-collar financiers but rather working-class people whose livelihoods depend on a technology.” Migrants using bitcoin pay fees that are a fraction of what they used to pay with Western Union or MoneyGram. Crypto-remittance adoption has accelerated due to both regional instability and the pandemic, which had shut down traditional exchanges. Mexican crypto exchange Bitso already processes a billion dollars of remittances going to Mexico per year.
Rest of World / 7 min read Read More Congress Is Way Behind on Algorithmic Misinformation
While lawmakers at a recent Senate hearing were more interested in a “listening session” with Big Tech on the impact of algorithmic misinformation, subject experts like Shorenstein Center’s Joan Donovan warned that “the biggest problem facing our nation is misinformation-at-scale.” After the hearing, Donovan decried the government’s lackadaisical attitude towards the subject: “We could have also gone deeper into the role that political advertising and source hacking plays on our democracy, or the need for curatorial models for information integrity.”
“Still, the overall impression was that the federal government’s approach to algorithms hasn’t developed much since 2016, and it doesn’t seem likely to move faster anytime soon. ‘We are still talking about conversations that we’ve had four years ago about spread of misinformation,’ said Tristan Harris, co-founder and president of the Center for Humane Technology.”
The Verge / 4 min read Read More Can Chinese Tech Save American News?
AI-powered hyperlocal news app News Break brings in more downloads than The New York Times, BBC, and even Google News apps and has 45M active users, yet it’s not rooted in any of the communities it serves news for. Headquartered in Mountain View, California, with offices in Seattle, Beijing, and Shanghai, News Break started life in 2015 as the brainchild of Jeff Zheng, a former Yahoo executive.
News Break’s algorithmic approach was pioneered by ByteDance’s China-based Toutiao app. While China is one of the world’s “most controlled news environments,” its algorithmic serving practices have become a dominant method of personalizing news and entertainment not just in China and the US, but in Africa and Europe, through apps like Opera News (owned by Beijing Kunlun Tech) and Scooper News (based in Shenzhen).
“But aggregators like News Break won’t replace local newspapers rooted in their readers’ communities, said Joseph Lichterman, editorial and communication director at the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, a local, journalism-focused nonprofit based in Philadelphia. News Break ‘lacks an independent and original voice as well as a sense of community, which is critical for local news,’ Lichterman told Protocol.”
Protocol / 6 min read
Read More What We’re Watching Apple’s Craig Federighi Explains iOS 14.5’s Privacy Features
“The latest update to the iPhone’s operating system features a new privacy feature called App Tracking Transparency. WSJ’s Joanna Stern spoke exclusively with Apple’s Craig Federighi about the decisions behind the feature.”
WSJ (YouTube) / 8 min watch
Watch Now What We’re Listening To Podcast: The Herd
“You can’t get herd immunity until you deal with the herd, and get enough of them moving together in the same direction. That’s been difficult this past year, in a way it’s never been during any other epidemic in our history. Host Ira Glass talks with medical historian Howard Markel.”
This American Life
Listen Now Virtual Events
Free Event: Can NFTs Fund the Future for Artists?
Date: May 13, 12PM-1PM EDT
NFTs have taken the Metaverse by storm and are shaping up to be the defining technology of this era. But what do NFTs mean for copyright law? And climate change? Can NFTs fund the digital future for artists? Join NYC Media Lab as we discuss what the future of NFTs means for ownership, creativity, and legacy with artists, innovators, and creators. Register Here.
Free Event: The Wall Street Journal’s Future Of Everything Festival
Date: May 11–13
Join the most revolutionary minds in business, technology, culture, and more to explore the ideas forming what comes next at The Wall Street Journal’s Future Of Everything Festival. Speakers include: Rachael Ray, Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade, Bill Ackman, Ray Dalio, Barry Jenkins, and many more. Special complimentary tickets just for DataDownload readers — $695 Value (!) Register Here. A Deeper Look We Were Promised Strong AI, but Instead We Got Metadata Analysis
Search is a hard problem — and even Google’s massive AI backbone can’t magically serve up the appropriate page from one of the world’s 1.7B websites — at least not without copious help from metadata. As for today’s AI-metadata-hybrid results, software engineer Cal Paterson has resorted to doing something we’re all familiar with…
“My own personal experience is that they are now often comprised of superficial commercial ‘content’ from sites that are experts in setting their page metadata correctly and the other dark arts required to exploit the latest revision of Google’s algorithm…. Perhaps the best measure of this problem is how often I have to append the search terms ‘reddit’ or ‘site:reddit.com’ to a query. Increasingly this is the only way to find the opinions of people who aren’t being paid to give them.”
This reliance on metadata extends beyond search — after all, simpler is often better: “When your elected government snoops on you, they famously prefer the metadata of who you emailed, phoned or chatted to the content of the messages themselves. It seems to be much more tractable to flag people of interest to the security services based on who their friends are and what websites they visit than to do clever AI on the messages they send. Once they’re flagged, a human can always read their email anyway.”
Cal Paterson / 10 min read
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