The RISKS Digest
Volume 31 Issue 86

Sunday, 24th May 2020

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator

Contents

Map Reveals Distrust in Health Expertise Is Winning Hearts, Minds Online
GW Today
A Vote-by-Mail Nightmare
WSJ
Cannonball Run record is broken seven times over five weeks after illegal racers took to the empty streets during coronavirus lockdown to drive from NYC to LA in under 26 hours
Daily Mail
The Fate of Elevators in the Post-Pandemic City
CityLab
Risks of immunity passports
The New Yorker
Can We Track COVID-19 and Protect Privacy at the Same Time?
The New Yorker
Re: A Case for Cooperation Between Machines and Humans
Richard Stein
Re: The ultimate Turing test
Amos Shapir
Re: Satellites and spacecraft malfunction as Earth's magnetic field mysteriously weakens
David Lesher
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Map Reveals Distrust in Health Expertise Is Winning Hearts, Minds Online (GW Today)

ACM TechNews <technews-editor@acm.org>
Fri, 22 May 2020 12:12:07 -0400 (EDT)

GW Today, 12 May 2020 via ACM TechNews, Friday, May 22, 2020

Researchers at George Washington University (GW), the University of Miami, Michigan State University, and Los Alamos National Laboratory have found that communities on Facebook that distrust establishment health guidance are more effective than government health agencies and other reliable health groups at reaching and engaging “undecided” individuals. During the height of the measles outbreak in 2019, the team tracked the vaccine conversation among 100 million Facebook users. The resulting “battleground” map shows how distrust in public health guidance could dominate online conversations over the next decade, a phenomenon that could jeopardize public health efforts to protect populations from Covid-19 and future pandemics. Said GW's Neil Johnson, “Instead of playing whack-a-mole with a global network of communities that consume and produce (mis)information, public health agencies, social media platforms and governments can use a map like ours and an entirely new set of strategies to identify where the largest theaters of online activity are and engage and neutralize those communities peddling in misinformation so harmful to the public.” https://orange.hosting.lsoft.com/trk/click?ref=3Dznwrbbrs9_6-2545fx2227ebx067062&


A Vote-by-Mail Nightmare (WSJ)

the keyboard of geoff goodfellow <geoff@iconia.com>
Sun, 24 May 2020 06:58:57 -1000

*Trump or Biden by a whisker, with a million ballots thrown out*

Roughly 100 million Americans voted in the flesh during the 2016 elections, mingling at 117,000 polling places with 918,000 staff, many of whom were seniors. Given how fast Covid-19 has spread without this kind of national mixer, it's easy to see why an epidemiologist might dread November.

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an order this month ensuring that every registered voter in his state will receive a mail-in ballot this fall. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Tuesday that every voter there will be sent an application to cast a ballot by mail. Other states will probably expand their absentee options. This is understandable in a pandemic, but it's worth keeping in mind what can go wrong.

In 2016 almost a quarter of votes were carried by the post, according to the federal Election Assistance Commission. But roughly 1% of submitted absentee ballots were rejected. About half of the time, the voter's signature was missing or didn't match the John Hancock on file. Another quarter of these ballots arrived after the deadline. All in all, 319,000 votes were thrown out.

Black and Hispanic mail voters in Florida had rejection rates in 2018 that were twice as high: 2% and 2.1%, compared with 0.9% for whites, according to a study <https://www.aclufl.org/sites/default/files/aclu_florida_-_report_on_vote-by-mail_ballots_in_the_2018.pdf?mod=3Darticle_inline> by the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. In several counties the minority rejection rates passed 3% or 4%. Among first-time voters, 3.1% of ballots were thrown out. That call is often made by local officials, who are simply eyeballing the voter's signature against the version on record. […] https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-vote-by-mail-nightmare-11590189749?shareToken=3Dste0c5e9b690614029b514e99ef1af6597


Cannonball Run record is broken seven times over five weeks after illegal racers took to the empty streets during coronavirus lockdown to

geoff goodfellow <geoff@iconia.com>
Sun, 24 May 2020 07:01:55 -1000

EXCERPT:

The Cannonball Run record has been broken seven times over a five-week period after illegal road racers took to the empty streets during coronavirus lockdown to drive from New York City to Los Angeles.

The newest record holders, who have not been named, completed the 2,800-mile cross-country journey in less than 26 hours, beating last month's record of 26 hours and 38 minutes.

Not much is known about the latest champions, including the car they drove or the actual time, but the team reportedly averaged a speed of 120mph, according to 2013 record breaker Ed Boilan.

Boilan, whose record is 28 hours and 50 minutes, revealed more drivers have been taking up the challenge after coronavirus lockdowns cleared roadways across the country.

‘Certainly, we had some over 110[mph] averages through states, they were over 120[mph] through several states,’ he said on his YouTube channel last week.

‘They had over 30 spotters, an amazingly well-prepared car, and everything just went about as well as they could have hoped.’

It comes after a team of three people set a new speed record last month, taking off from Red Bull Garage - the traditional race start point - in New York City around 11:15pm on April 4.

Just a little over one day later, the team arrived at the traditional finish line at the Portofino Hotel & Marina in Redondo Beach, California <https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/california/index.html>. They have not publicly disclosed which route they took. […]

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8350745/Cannonball-Run-record-broken-SEVEN-times-five-weeks.html


The Fate of Elevators in the Post-Pandemic City (CityLab)

Dave Farber <farber@gmail.com>
Sat, 23 May 2020 04:47:13 +0900

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2020/05/elevator-anxiety-coronavirus-health-risks-design-history/611032/


Risks of immunity passports (The New Yorker)

Monty Solomon <monty@roscom.com>
Sun, 24 May 2020 11:22:53 -0400

https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/immunity-passports-and-the-perils-of-conferring-coronavirus-status


Can We Track COVID-19 and Protect Privacy at the Same Time? (The New Yorker)

Monty Solomon <monty@roscom.com>
Sun, 24 May 2020 11:42:59 -0400

https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/can-we-track-covid-19-and-protect-privacy-at-the-same-time


Re: A Case for Cooperation Between Machines and Humans (RISKS-31.85)

Richard Stein <rmstein@ieee.org>
Sat, 23 May 2020 13:02:57 +0800

Per the NY Times essay, “Since then, Dr. Shneiderman has argued that designers run the risk not just of creating unsafe machines but of absolving humans of ethical responsibility of the actions taken by autonomous systems, ranging from cars to weapons.”

Ethical responsibility seldom restrains corporate conduct, especially as it pertains to promoting products that endanger public health and safety. See “Profit Without Honor” by Pontell, et.al.

Product liability insurance would serve an important role should widespread commercial autonomous machine deployment materialize.

Historically, software licenses typically state indemnification terms which, when agreed to by the customer, hold the manufacturer or supplier harmless against damages arising from licensed use. One expects to find analogous terms for driverless vehicle deployment. Before hailing a driverless taxi, check the app terms and conditions carefully.

Mandatory product liability ownership for vehicle manufacturer and fleet operators will alter corporate profit/loss risk curves. Carbon-free, autonomous machine deployment should not mean fault-free if or when incidents arise.


Re: The ultimate Turing test (RISKS-31.84)

Amos Shapir <amos083@gmail.com>
Sun, 24 May 2020 11:09:54 +0300

10 years ago I was hired over the phone by a big international company for remote working. (I could have worked from home, but preferred a local office.) During the entire 2 years of employment, I met my boss in person only once, and have never met any other members of my team; I even have no idea what they look like (there was no Zoom then).

The problem of “virtual employees” is not new either. In one famous case an IT service guy was working in parallel at two companies, across the street from each other. He managed this by always being available on call, and was caught only when his manager at one company visited a friend at the other company.

Another infamous case happened in Germany in the 1970's (AFAIR). A soldier clerk employed by a military paymaster unit got bored and made up a fake recruit, filed all the necessary reports to promote him through the ranks, all the while collecting the virtual soldier's pay checks. He managed to get away with it for a few years, I think that by the time he was caught he was managing a whole virtual company of fake servicemen.


Re: Satellites and spacecraft malfunction as Earth's magnetic field mysteriously weakens (RISKS-31.85)

David Lesher <wb8foz@panix.com>
Sat, 23 May 2020 12:55:37 -0400

Unmentioned is this article is a potential second issue.

Some/many satellites use magnatorquers; electromagnetic coils energized to work against the planet's field to rotate/stabilize the satellite in all 3 dimensions, necessary to optimize antenna and solar cell aiming. Unlike thrusters, magnatorquers have an ongoing fuel supply.

However, when the earth's field weakens, it will take more current through the coils to get the same torque. That in turn impacts the energy budget.

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