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Last Week Online #39 – Hacker or soldier, where do you draw the line?

Anna Loverus
Anna Loverus
2 min read

Why ask nicely if you can trick the most vulnerable group to "help" you?

Iranian hackers try to target Trumps 2020 campaign

On Friday, Microsoft said that Iranian hackers, backed by the government, had more than 2700 attempts to identify email connected to the 2020 elections. It was accounts of current and former US government officials, political journalists and presidential campaign employees. Microsoft wouldn't recognise the presidential campaign, but sources with knowledge of the hacking said it was President Trump's.

According to Microsoft, the attacks occurred over 30 days in August and September – shortly after the Trump administration announced further sanctions against Iran. This happens more than a year after President Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal with Tehran settled in 2015.

Additionally, according to security researchers and intelligence officials, hackers from Russia and North Korea are targeting companies working with presidential candidates. The sanctions, intended to strangle the country's oil profits, have rushed the Iranian economy into a recession.

PayPal drops out of Facebooks cryptocurrency project

Facebook cryptocurrency-initiative Libra is dependent on a coalition of companies participating. On Friday, PayPal said they are no longer part of the collaboration.

After Facebook launching Libra with a big bang back in June, the social network has struggled with the outside world getting on board. The idea with Libra was to create a cryptocurrency well suited for international exchange, which could trade freely inside the Facebook emporium, like Messenger and WhatsApp.

At launch, Facebook said more than 27 corporate partners, including PayPal, Mastercard and Uber, had promised to support the project. Amanda Coffee, a spokesperson for PayPal, said in an email: "PayPal has made the decision to forgo further participation in the Libra Association at this time and to continue to focus on advancing our existing mission and business priorities." Facebook has not responded to any questions.

Google asked a contractor to targeted black homeless people to improve facial-recognition technology

To improve Google's facial-recognition technology, a company hired by Google sent contractors to target black people and scan their faces. A former contractor said that the effort included finding black homeless people because they were less prone to speak to the media. There was also questionable disclosure towards participants about what the app was doing. One source said workers were told to say something like "We have a new app, try it and get $5".

Atlanta's city attorney later sent a letter to Kent Walker, Google's legal and policy chief, asking for an explanation. "The possibility that members of our most vulnerable populations are being exploited to advance your company's commercial interest is profoundly alarming for numerous reasons."

There are legitimate reasons for Google to make sure its new facial recognition feature works just as well for people of colour. Bias is often a problem due to skewed training data. Apple had to take similar actions before they launched their FaceID feature while back. But biometric data is a sensitive topic, even when you collaborate with willing and well-briefed participants. But when actively targeting those who are the least likely to object, it is all pretty distasteful.

Tool of the week: Good On You

This weeks tool is a little different than usual. So, have you ever wished it was simpler to make more sustainable choices in life? Shopping is sometimes hard to avoid and becomes a lot more fun when you can do it without feeling (as) bad for the climate.

Good On You is a search engine for sustainable brands. I have it on my phone, and when I have to buy something, I can look for the most sustainable option. It's almost effortless. Now I have my favourite go-to brands for most things, and I know choosing them is as good as it gets for the planet.

Last Week Online

Anna Loverus Twitter

Thinker and doer. Loves running, wine, and human behaviour.

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