Notes On Camp

Tech we could trust; the deep-fake panic; ghost kitchens and camp spooks; and more.

  • This is civic tech: A collective of tech CEOS, activists, change-makers and workers calling themselves Build Tech We Trust is calling on the industry to stop allowing “white supremacy, hate and violence” to spread unchecked on tech platforms. The group is led by Y-Vonne Hutchinson of ReadySet and Kalra Monterroso of Code 2040 and includes Anil Dash of Glitch and Ellen Pao of Project Include.

  • Very related: It’s worth the time to read Natasha Tiku‘s cover story in Wired on the awakening of employee activism inside Google, but the quick-and-dirty is this: if in the past, Google executives knew how to keep their famously rambunctious workers happy, the worm has turned. Now many Googlers have more adversarial views of their bosses, and the results are playing out in a series of confrontations over gender, race, labor rights and tech ethics that may have ripple effects at many other leading tech companies.

  • Several hundred Google employees have signed a petition calling on the company to publicly commit to not support US Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Office of Refugee Resettlement “with any infrastructure, funding, or engineering resources, directly or indirectly, until they stop engaging in human rights abuses.”

  • Apply: Johns Hopkins University Centers for Civic Impact is looking to hire a director for its GovEx Academy.

  • Information disorder: Here’s First Draft’s Claire Wardle (or is it Adele?), explaining the problem of deep fake videos for The New York Times video oped page. She says the “panic around them is overblown and the alarmist hype about them is possibly more dangerous than the technology itself.” She’s got a point!

  • Tech and politics: With billionaire impeachment activist Tom Steyer close to hitting the 130,000 donors needed to get into the next round of the Democratic National Committee’s official primary debates, Edward-Isaac Dovere makes the case in the Atlantic that the ability to do (and pay for) sophisticated digital targeting has replaced authentic popularity as a way to get on the debate stage.

  • Related: Republicans may be gaming the Democratic presidential primary by pumping donations to fringe candidates like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Andrew Yang, and Marianne Williamson, insuring they stay in the debates. Writing for The Week, Matthew Walther hints at the possibility. Live by a gameable metric, die by it.

  • Evgeny Morozov writes for The Guardian about a little-noticed split between America’s rightwing populists and their allies in the rest of the world: the Americans, like Steve Bannon, hate Big Tech while their allies are in love with platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

  • What sharing economy? Platforms like Uber Eats, DoorDash and GrubHub are galvanizing the rise of “virtual restaurants” and “ghost kitchens” which are nothing more than sources of prepared food that exist solely inside of an app, with no physical restaurant as a corollary, Mike Isaac and David Yaffe-Bellany report for The New York Times. As they note, this is undermining the connection between diners and chefs. Not explained: what about health inspections of these non-restaurants?

  • Privacy, shmivacy: “Hundreds of summer camps across the United States have tethered their rustic lakefronts to facial-recognition software, allowing parents an increasingly omniscient view into their kids’ home away from home,” Drew Harwell reports for The Washington Post. One company, Bunk1, claims more than 160,000 parents use its software every summer. Camp directors report that they are fielding far more phone calls from parents than every before, worried why little Jimmy was missing from the big group shot by the lake. He went to the bathroom, Mom, ok?!

  • Apparently this boom in anxious parents—who unlike their children are too emotionally dependent to cut the umbilical cord—is leading to a full-employment economy for summer camp photographers. CampGroup employs 35 photographers across its 14 summer camps, and its president told Harrell “there’s pretty much nothing that doesn’t get photographed.” One 21-year-old photographer said she walks about 13 miles a day trying to make sure she gets every kid on camera. She regularly reminds kids not to frown in the photos she takes since their parents are all watching. (At this point in reading this article you may throw up a little in your mouth; I know I did.)

  • But wait, there’s more! “Some of that heavy monitoring, camp directors note, is financially motivated: Parents shelling out $10,000 for an eight-week summer camp tend to want to see where that money has gone. But there is a competitive element, too, the directors said: Some parents race to share the photos on social media as a way to curate their kids’ childhood and offer visual evidence that their family is worth envying.”

  • Food for thought: Part 2 of Jerry Michalski‘s unfolding essays on why “designing from trust” makes counter-intuitive sense. Unlike facial recognition at summer camp.

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