This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.
The walls are closing in on Clearview AI
Controversial facial recognition company Clearview AI has been fined more than $10 million by the UK’s data protection watchdog for collecting the faces of UK citizens from the web and social media. The firm was also ordered to delete all of the data it holds on UK citizens.
The move by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the latest in a string of high-profile fines against the company as data protection authorities around the world eye tougher restrictions on its practices.
Clearview AI boasts one of the world’s largest databases of 20 billion images of people’s faces that it has scraped off the internet from publicly available sources, such as social media, without their consent. Clients such as police departments pay for access to the database to look for matches.
But data protection authorities around the Western world have found this to be a clear violation of privacy. Now they are beginning to work together to clamp down—and fines may just be the beginning. Read the full story.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Production of the smallpox vaccine is being ramped up
Dozens of countries have inquired about supplies of the shot, which protects against monkeypox. (WSJ $)
+ The US has more than 100 million doses stockpiled. (NYT $)
+ Conspiracy theories blaming the US for the outbreak are circulating in China. (Bloomberg $)
+ There’s no evidence to suggest the monkeypox virus is becoming more infectious. (NYT $)
2 Data’s wild west era is coming to an end
While countries are divided on how widely it should be shared, everyone agrees on its value. (NYT $)
+ GDPR hasn’t stopped data brokers from hoarding our information. (Wired $)
3 Mark Zuckerberg’s grand plan to appear politically neutral backfired
His $419 million donation fueled the false theory that the 2020 election was rigged. (Protocol)
+ He’s also being sued over the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. (WP $)
+ Meta will give researchers more information on political ad targeting. (NYT $)
+ Facebooktroll farms reached 140 million Americans a month before the election. (<a href="https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/09/16/1035851/facebook-troll-farms-report-us-2020-election/?truid=<<Link%20ID%3E%3E&utm_source=the_download&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=the_download.unpaid.engagement&utm_term=<MIT Technology Review)
4 Marshes are struggling against rising water levels
While some plants are suffering, others will thrive—for now, at least. (Wired $)
+ How rising groundwater caused by climate change could devastate coastal communities. (<a href="https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/12/13/1041309/climate-change-rising-groundwater-flooding/?truid=<<Link%20ID%3E%3E&utm_source=the_download&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=the_download.unpaid.engagement&utm_term=<MIT Technology Review)
5 Maybe we’re spreading disinformation about disinformation
The phrase has become such a catch-all, we’re losing sight of what it actually means. (Slate $)
+ How Facebook and Google fund global misinformation. (<a href="https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/11/20/1039076/facebook-google-disinformation-clickbait/?truid=<<Link%20ID%3E%3E&utm_source=the_download&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=the_download.unpaid.engagement&utm_term=<MIT Technology Review)
6 Facebook’s customer service is notoriously terrible
Leaving disgruntled users with no way to seek help for their problems. (WSJ $)
7 Humans aren’t going extinct any time soon
But our ability to adapt and learn from mistakes is crucial to our future survival. (CNET)
8 Mexico City’s gig economy is helping medical workers treat patients
Allowing them to carry out tests and vaccinations at home. (Rest of World)
9 It’s time to break up with email
“If it’s important, they’ll get back to me” is a good philosophy to adopt. (WSJ $)
10 Google’s text-to-image AI is pretty impressive
But it isn’t quite as advanced as OpenAI. (TechCrunch)
+ This horse-riding astronaut is a milestone in AI’s journey to make sense of the world. (MIT Technology Review)
Quote of the day
“You can totally make a fortune in crypto. I would never say you can’t, but you are betting that you are going to be a better shark than all the sharks that built the shark pool.”
—David Gerard, author, explains to Wired why the volatile nature of crypto means the odds are generally stacked against investors.
We can still have nice things
A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)
+ A Nintendo DS has been spotted filming at a My Chemical Romance concert, though the footage it captured is…not great.
+ Did you hate Matrix Resurrections? Here’s an explanation why.
+ I love working out which tracks a song has sampled—this website is a comprehensive library explaining who’s sampled who.
+ This Twitter user poses an excellent question.
+ While this video of a seagull stealing an entire pizza is amazing, the behind the scenes is even better.
+ A child actor who starred in Jaws has become a police chief on the Massachusetts island where most of the movie was filmed.
+ This journey inside one of the deepest caves in the world is awe-inspiring, if a bit scary.