Nyah Nyah

The unaccountability of Equifax; Zuckerberg should testify under oath; and more.


  • Future, Imperfect: In the run-up to Irma, Tesla remotely upgraded Floridian Teslas to increase their mileage capacity so their owners would have an easier time evacuating, but Jalopnik reporter Justin T. Westbrook is far more interested in what would have happened if they hadn’t, or if they don’t in the future. “But the issue boils down to the company having complete control over when it gets to remotely intervene in extreme situations with virtually no accountability to its owners,” Westbrook writes. “In the Tesla scenario, Tesla only acted after a Florida resident reached out and inquired about unlocking the extra capability, which Tesla then generously applied to the rest of the appropriate vehicles. As vehicles become more advanced and reliant on software systems that can be tweaked instantly, from anywhere, owner control and access diminishes and is yielded back to the company.”

    Remember when Facebook was criticized for activating Safety Check after terrorist attacks in Paris but not in Beirut? It’s like that, but with immediate, tangible, real-world consequences.

  • From Facebookistan With Love: Ben Collins, Kevin Poulsen, and Spencer Ackerman report for The Daily Beast that Russians used Facebook to remotely organize an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rally in Idaho as well as other political events. The Idaho rally coincided with a series of stories about immigrants taking over Twin Falls published by Breitbart, InfoWars, and WorldNetDaily, the reporters note.

  • The Intercept’s Sam Biddle goes through the many things we still don’t know about Facebook’s role in the 2016 election, and calls for Mark Zuckerberg to testify under oath before Congress on Facebook’s ability to influence the political process.

  • Spain’s data protection authority fined Facebook 1.2 million euros for breaking the country’s privacy laws, Mark Scott reports for Politico.

  • This is civic tech: I report for Civicist on a new citizen science tool launched by the nonprofit SkyTruth to monitor pollution after Harvey and Irma. The Spill Tracker collects pollution reports filed during and after the storm in one place, maps them (it’s built on the Ushahidi platform), and makes the information available to the relevant authorities as well as the public.

  • Entrepreneurs for Houston, a new group founded in Houston after Harvey, is raising $10 million to go towards a “Disaster Recovery Toolkit” to be developed by Sketch City and Station Houston, and to aid in the city’s recovery and rebuilding, Angela Shah reports for Xconomy.

  • The Congressional Management Foundation has announced that they are launching the Democracy Awards for non-legislative achievement in the congressional office. There are ten awards in total, one each for a Republican and a Democrat in four categories, including “Innovation,” and two additional awards for a Member of Congress and a congressional staffer for “Lifetime Achievement.”

  • In her latest for The New York Times, Zeynep Tufekci asks why individuals shoulder so much risk and corporations like Equifax shoulder so little. “Today, almost every piece of software comes with a disclaimer on its user license that basically says that the product may not work as intended and that its maker may stop supporting it at any time, and that’s the user’s problem,” she writes. “It’s a wonder companies don’t insert “nyah nyah nyah nyah” into the tiny-print legalese.”

    She adds: “Perhaps the most maddening part of the Equifax breach is that the credit-rating industry is itself unforgiving in its approach to even the smallest error. I’m still dealing with the damage to my credit rating that resulted when I forgot to return a library book and a collection agency was called in (for a paltry sum). The Equifax executives who let my data be stolen will probably suffer fewer consequences than I will for an overdue library book. Even if they do get fired, it is likely that they will be sent off with millions of dollars in severance, which is common practice for executives. (I would like to note that I am available for such punishment any time.)”

  • Zhen Jinghua, the director of the anti-censorship website Across The Great FireWall, has been arrested by police in China and has been held since September 1 in an unknown location, according to Reporters Without Borders.

  • Job: VoteRiders is looking for an executive director to oversee its work on voter identification. Learn more here.