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Last Week Online #9 – A week dominated by Jeff Bezos's personal life and Amazon in general.

Anna Loverus
Anna Loverus
3 min read

Amazon asked Congress to regulate the use of facial recognition technology

Civil rights groups have pressured Amazon after tests by academics, and the ACLU found that their image analysis technology and face recognition functions are less accurate for black people. Also, when the ACLU tested Amazon’s face recognition service using images of congress members, the service - incorrectly - found matches for 28 of them in a collection of mugshots. The false positives were disproportionately people of colour.

Amazon has pushed back on those studies. Still, Amazon asked Congress to regulate the use of facial recognition technology in a blog post this Thursday. This show that the company appears to recognise there is a cause for concern.

A bill under consideration in Washington state (that has support from Microsoft) would ban the use of facial recognition on surveillance feeds in the absence of a warrant except in emergencies, while a bill proposed in Massachusetts would impose a temporary moratorium on the technology until new regulations are in place. Amazon declined to comment on the proposed Washington state law. A member of San Francisco’s board of supervisors wants to ban city agencies from using the technology altogether.

Targeting on income is once again available on Facebook

Facebook adds a new layer of ad targeting with the introduction of household income by U.S. ZIP code. The feature will allow advertisers to target ads to U.S. Facebook users based on the average income levels in the ZIP code in which they say they reside. The function does not identify specific income ranges but lets advertisers choose income levels based on where the user’s household income falls percentage-wise.

Facebook’s ad targeting interface notes that the income level data is public information. The company also clarifies on an info page that they have worked to build the segments “…in a way that considers your needs while helping protect people’s privacy and guard against potential misuse.” As with all ads, advertisers using household income targeting must comply with Facebook’s non-discrimination policy.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos got blackmailed and created a debate about sextortion

The Amazon CEO alleged that the representatives from the National Enquirer threatened to publish intimate photos of him unless he stopped an investigation into the tabloid’s reporting on him. Bezos refused. “If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion,” he wrote, “how many people can?”

Instantly, Bezos became the most famous and influential person to claim to be a victim of sextortion; the term often used to describe cases of extortion using intimate or sexually explicit photographs or videos. Experts quickly praised Bezos for the way he handled the situation, calling it a “textbook” example of how best to respond to extortion.

Loosely defined, sextortion is when someone threatens to share intimate images of a person against their will in exchange for a payout. It’s different from revenge porn, where the aggressor shares images to be cruel.

New Instagram stickers will make it easy to give money to charities.

Later this year, friends, family, and followers will get the chance to donate to organisations directly through Instagram. Users will be able to raise funds for a nonprofit through an Instagram Stories "donation stickers".

The donation sticker will only be used to benefit registered charitable organisations, so no one will be able to use it to solicit money for themselves. Like on Facebook, there won't be a processing fee, and the full amount of the donation goes toward the nonprofit organisation.

Tool of the week: Sheety

Sheety makes it possible to turn any Google sheet into an API instantly for free. This functionality is great for prototyping or automating simple manual asks. Basically, when you need to get your spreadsheet data from one place to another.

With a simple installation, it's possible to power websites, apps, or whatever you like, directly from a Google Spreadsheet - and changes to your spreadsheet update your API in real-time.

It works well, but the Sheety team themselves say that it might be a bad idea to use it as a base for nuclear power plants and such. So please don't.

Last Week Online

Anna Loverus Twitter

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


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