2020 list


Click the links below to read more about each issue and get links to news stories and other resources. 

AI and gamification in hiring: This deep learning goes a little too deep
Companies are touting their use of AI algorithms to find patterns in employment data to determine the best candidates to fill their positions. But can machines really do a better job of determining a “good fit” for a company than humans can?

Class Dojo and classroom surveillance: Does scoring and ranking the behavior of children really help them?
Critics are not only concerned about children’s privacy but the psychological effects that constant measurement and surveillance may have on them. Should we trust software to reinforce good behavior? Is this yet another insidious tool in our new surveillance culture as well as our obsession with the quantification of the self?

Student tracking software: Do you like us? Do you REALLY like us?
Colleges can track your interest in attending their school before you even apply. For those with thousands of applicants, knowing who is most likely to accept an offer can save time and money. But how much do you want a school to know about you that’s not in your application?

The pseudoscience of skincare: No matter how much you spend, you’re still going to get old
Fueled by concern over both premature aging and skin diseases (and, of course, a good dose of vanity), more and more people are willing to shell out hundreds of dollars to closely monitor and treat their skin. But many of these devices have little or no reliable scientific evidence to back them up. So how do we become more intelligent consumers when we’re so easily duped by pseudoscientific claims?

Deepfakes: And you thought “fake news” was bad
But people are justifiably concerned about their potential to do great harm in the near future. From ruining marriages to interfering with democratic elections, the creation of these fakes can have major consequences. Part of the problem is that people seek out and believe things that justify their worldview, so even if someone calls out a deepfake video or audio recording, there are people bound to still believe in them.

Predatory journals: Spreading pseudoscience for a quick buck
Predatory journals lack ethical editorial practices such as peer review and have such low publishing standards that they’ll publish just about anything. Researchers estimate that there are roughly 8000 of these journals and they exist in every field, providing fodder for further research and headlines for stories that we’re all duped into believing even though the evidence doesn’t hold. Do you know how to tell if an article or journal is legitimate?

The corruption of tech ethics: Now everyone’s an expert
Everyone from philosophers who want to get their name in the news, to journalists throwing out “should we or shouldn’t we?” questions and calling it tech ethics, to lawyers who confuse ethics with legality, plenty of people are claiming they’re “tech ethicists” these days. We should always be encouraging people to ask questions, but we need experts in charge of the answers.

The HARPA Safehome proposal: What fresh hell is this?
Estimated to cost $40-60 billion, SAFEHOME would employ tracking software to detect signs of mental instability that could foreshadow mass shootings. If this sounds like pseudoscience, that’s because it is. Just because we have AI and machine learning that can process massive amounts of behavioral data doesn’t mean it actually works. Neurobehavioral technology is still in its infancy.

Project Nightingale: Does Google have your medical data?
When it was announced that Google was developing software to compile, store, and search medical records in partnership with Ascension (the second largest healthcare system in America) and that both companies had signed a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) agreement, the goal was clear – Ascension was going to transfer their health records to the Google Cloud. But neither doctors nor patients had been informed.

GrinchBots: The bots that stole Christmas
Online entities use cyberbots to snap up popular goods as soon as they hit the market or went on sale for Black Friday. The goal is to increase demand and control the supply for everything from children’s toys to event tickets and make money by jacking up their resale prices on sites like eBay. Now cybercriminals are determining the prices of your favorite things.