Big Tech &
Apple contractors 'regularly hear confidential details' on Siri recordings (4 minute read)
Apple outsources its quality control for the Siri voice assistant. The contractors' role is to grade the recordings to see whether the voice activation was deliberate or accidental, whether the query was something Siri could handle, and whether Siri's response was appropriate. Less than one percent of recordings are used for quality control, but contractors report regularly hearing confidential details. Accidental voice activation occurs most on the Apple Watch and HomePods. While the recordings are anonymized prior to being sent out, there are few controls over the data once it reaches the contractor. There is no mention that customer recordings may be sent to third parties in Apple's privacy policies.
The YouTubers Union Is Not Messing Around (5 minute read)
The YouTubers Union has joined forces with IG Metall, Europe's largest trade union, and launched FairTube. Due to demands by advertisers, YouTube has demonetized or removed videos from channels due to unclear rules about content. YouTube has been inconsistent with its rules and its communications to content creators. Content creators are now making less money, have less stability, and risk being demonetized for putting out the wrong type of content. FairTube is asking for fairness, transparency, better communication, and for YouTubers to have a say when it comes to decision making. FairTube plans to use Europe's General Data Protection Regulation and establish that the categorizations for creators constitute personal data in order to make YouTube agree to their requests.
Strange Forest 'Superorganism' Is Keeping This Vampire Tree Alive (2 minute read)
A leafless stump of a kauri tree continues to stay alive in a forest as its roots share resources with other trees in the forest. By grafting its roots on to its neighbor's roots, the tree stump is able to continue to receive nutrients even though it doesn't have any green tissue of its own. Scientists attached sensors to measure the movement of water and sap on the stump and its closest neighbors and found that the trees were drinking up water from the ground at different times, with the stumps taking up water at night and its leafy neighbors working during the day. The interconnectedness of the forest may mean that it should be viewed as a superorganism rather than a collection of individual organisms. While resources can be shared more effectively by combining roots, it may also mean that some diseases may spread faster through the network.
Japan approves first human-animal embryo experiments (3 minute read)
Human-animal embryos have been made before in the United States, but have never been brought to term. Until March, Japan had explicitly banned the growth of animal embryos containing human cells beyond 14 days, but new laws now allow human-animal embryos to be transplanted into surrogate animals and brought to term. In previous research, mouse induced pluripotent stem cells were introduced into a rat embryo that was unable to produce a pancreas, which resulted in the rat growing a pancreas made entirely of mouse cells. Experiments using human iPS cells in sheep have not been successful due to the genetic distance between humans and sheep. Hiromitsu Nakauchi, who leads teams at the University of Tokyo and at Stanford University, plans to introduce human iPS cells at different stages of growth in animal embryos in order to overcome the problems in previous experiments caused by the genetic difference between humans and other animals.
Programming, Design & Data Science
A Message to GitHub (GitHub Repo)
GitHub has restricted Iranian accounts from contributing to the community due to pressure from the US government, revoking access to private repositories without warning and banning any users who have previously accessed GitHub through an Iranian IP. Iranian developers are asking GitHub to allow them to access their data, to not restrict users based on their nationality, and to apologize for their actions. This repository allows people to spread the message and show support.
Premium eBook free for Geeks (GitHub Repo)
Book Excerpt: Inside Spotify’s Ill-Fated Flirtation With TV and Hardware (7 minute read)
A book published by Swedish journalists Sven Carlsson and Jonas Leijonhufvud, 'Spotify Untold', has material from over 70 interviews conducted with former top Spotify executives and investors, record company heads, and competitors. It reveals the story of Spotify's rise from a tiny start-up to the biggest streaming music company in the world. Included in the book are stories about how Spotify considered entering into the streaming video market between 2011 to 2015, Spotify's almost acquisitions of Tidal and SoundCloud, how Microsoft, Google, and Tencent all offered to buy Spotify, and more.