Computing in the news – roundup and retrospective #1 ^JB

Here are some articles I’ve saved / bookmarked to read later and one or two I’ve previously read (which I was reminded of while collecting these). There’s a mix of dystopian and more cheering stories.

Do let me know if you know of others @JoBrodie on Twitter or, thanks!



1. Tencent obtains patent for digital asset inheritance (14 July 2021) Eurogamer
Tencent, the Chinese technology conglomerate, has obtained a patent for the inheritance of digital items – ie, you die, what happens to your online stuff? Article also references Apple’s Digital Legacy.

2. Top U.S. Catholic Church official resigns after cellphone data used to track him on Grindr and to gay bars (20 July 2021) Washington Post [archived:]
“A mobile device correlated to [the phone’s owner] emitted app data signals from the location-based hookup app Grindr on a near-daily basis during parts of 2018, 2019, and 2020 — at both his church office and his church-owned residence, as well as during church meetings.”

3. Communications and Digital Committee publishes report on freedom of expression online (22 July 2021) Parliament UK
The Communications and Digital Committee publishes its report ‘Freedom for all? Freedom of expression in the digital age’.

Main finding
“The Committee says that the Government’s plans to address ‘legal but harmful’ online content threaten freedom of speech and would be ineffective. Instead, existing laws should be enforced properly and any serious harms not already illegal should be criminalised.

The Committee welcomes Online Safety Bill proposals to oblige digital platforms to remove illegal content and protect children from harm but warns that the draft legislation is “flawed” in relation to keeping children off porn sites and says that platforms must ensure they do not over-remove content.”

4. Social Media: how to use it safely (24 January 2019, reviewed 21 April 2021) National Cyber Security Centre
Background information on using privacy settings on several different social media platforms to manage your digital footprint.

5. Instagram makes under-16s’ accounts private by default (27 July 2021) BBC News
New accounts will be private by default, and targeted ads will be based on “age, gender, and location, rather than interests and web-browsing habits.”

6. What is a warrant canary? (5 April 2016) BBC News
A loophole against secret requests for user data. Organisations can be asked, by governments or law enforcement warrant, to release user data. This may come with the requirement that the request cannot be publicly acknowledged. Several organisations have attempted to get round this by maintaining, at all times, a statement (the ‘warrant canary’) on their website (or, for example posted on a noticeboard if the organisation is a library) that they have NOT been subject to any such requests. If the warrant canary is removed then users can infer that the organisation has been subject to such a request. It’s not clear how legal warrant canaries actually are.

7. To Junior Devs: Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know or understand something (21 July 2021) Reddit
A discussion in the Reddit CSCareerQuestions board.

8. Success is 90% luck (23 July 2021) Reddit
As above.

9. The Jessica Simulation: Love and loss in the age of A.I. (23 July 2021) The San Francisco Chronicle
“The death of the woman he loved was too much to bear. Could a mysterious website allow him to speak with her once more?”, see also Grieving boyfriend uses chatbot to emulate dead girlfriend’s texts (26 July 2021) The Independent ‘Intellectually, I know it’s not really Jessica … but your emotions are not an intellectual thing.’

10. ‘Let’s give people reason to trust good data and good AI’ (29 June 2020) Jisc blog
“The word ‘algorithm’ is no longer just understood by data geeks; all around the world, people’s awareness of data is growing – as is the volume of information being collected about organisations, communities and individuals.”


Pic credit: Browser Internet Tab New image by 200 Degrees from Pixabay