Welcome to the Mozilla News Beat, a glance at the internet news of the week in order of best-to-worst. Enjoy!
A plane full of pups. That’s what you can expect to see in this viral video, showing 27 dogs that were likely saved from being euthanized. If you’ve ever wondered what an airplane cabin full of puppy smiles and paws everywhere looked like, look no further.
Your social media activity could be blowing your chances of getting a loan. Bonkers, you say? Well, welcome to the wild world of data brokers — the shadowy groups that collect information about your online activity and sell it to the highest bidder. In our latest Mozilla Explains video, fellow in residence Anouk Ruhaak describes how the info collected about you could end up affecting your finances. Check it out below and watch the whole series on YouTube.
Shatner In Space
Trekkies will want to pay extra special attention to this one. Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, was sent up into space by Jeff Bezos’s company Blue Origin. The 10-minute flight makes Shatner the oldest person to travel to space, breaking the record Wally Funk set a few months ago. Billionaires with space companies continue to find new ways to flaunt their money and one-up each other so we guess it’s your move, Elon.
Facebook Whistleblower Sophie Zhang
Last week’s newsletter focused entirely on Frances Haugen and her blowing the whistle on Facebook’s practices. Before Haugen was Zhang, another Facebook whistleblower who spoke out about the company back in April, and who has agreed to also testify in front of Congress. The former Facebook data scientist made waves when she released a memo criticizing the company’s failure to combat political manipulation.
Recognizing Face Recognition’s Faults
It seems like nowadays there are more ways than ever for us to be tracked. Europe may be taking steps to limit that. The European Parliament is calling for a ban on police use of facial recognition in public spaces, and private facial- recognition databases. It also expressed support for the European Commission’s AI Act bill, which would ban social scoring systems like those used in China, in which things like jaywalking or playing loud music on a train can affect certain rights like being able to book a flight and much more.
When Facebook went down for five hours that fateful Monday, different people experienced the outage in different ways. While some were unable to scroll through Instagram, others across the globe couldn’t use WhatsApp to interact with essential services, businesses, and publications that exist solely via the messaging app. The Atlantic reminds us how Facebook’s services, particularly WhatsApp, serve as the backbone of many underserved countries.
More surveillance is coming to the streets of Singapore. The robots, equipped with four wheels and seven cameras, will travel the streets seeking out “undesirable social behavior,” which could include improperly locking up your bike, smoking in a no-smoking area or even not properly social distancing. The robots are named “Xavier” (much to the dismay of News Beat’s lead writer).
Math + Race
Two prominent medical groups are recommending that doctors cease using a person’s race as one of the factors to determine how well their kidney filters waste out of their body. Many doctors still rely on software that employs a risk calculator first developed in 1973 that uses race as one of the variables. As WIRED puts it, “It’ll need researchers to not just believe, but act on the knowledge that race is not biology.”