Hashtag Trending Jun.30-U.S govt. buying citizens’ data on the open market; Writers launch a class action against OpenAI; Dutch govt. joins the US in restricting China’s use of chip making equipment

Ah summer. Just the time to sit with a good book. Or maybe a podcast about a guy who has brought back book stores in this digital age. I interview the CEO of Barnes and Noble on Hashtag Trending, the Weekend Edition.”

Who has to spy on you? The government can just buy your info on the open market.  Writers launch a class action against Open AI. The Dutch government joins with the US in restricting China’s use of chip making equipment and they’ve figured it out. Nobody wants to come into the office on Friday – and Monday’s not a favourite either. That and that continuing war of Reddit with its moderators on Hashtag Trending and Tech News Day. 

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I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and Tech News Day in the US.

Numerous U.S. government agencies, including the FBI, Department of Defense, National Security Agency, Treasury Department, Defense Intelligence Agency, Navy, and Coast Guard, have been found to be purchasing vast amounts of U.S. citizens’ personal information from commercial data brokers. This was revealed in a partially declassified, internal Office of the Director of National Intelligence report released on June 9, 2023. We covered it on the show.

The report highlights the invasive nature of the consumer data market and the risks it poses to privacy and civil liberties. The data purchased includes not only location and connections but also personal beliefs and predictive behavior. The report calls for the intelligence community to adopt internal guidelines to address these issues.

This information is available commercially, combined with decision-making artificial intelligence and generative AI like ChatGPT, significantly increases the threat to privacy and civil liberties. This is because it provides the government with access to sensitive personal information beyond what it could collect through court-authorized surveillance.

The report also warns that the increasing volume and widespread availability of commercially available information pose “significant threats to privacy and civil liberties.” It increases the power of the government to surveil its citizens outside the bounds of law, and it opens the door to the government using that data in potentially unlawful ways.

The report underscores the urgent need for data privacy laws and AI regulation to protect citizens’ privacy and prevent potential misuse of data by government agencies. 

Sources include: Tech Xplore

And speaking of potential misuse of data – it appears that a class action complaint has been filed against OpenAI. Two plaintiffs, Paul Tremblay and Mona Awad have filed a suit against Open AI for “infringement, vicarious copyright infringement and violations of the US Digital Millenium Copyright Act, unjust enrichment and violations of California and common law unfair competition.

The plaintiffs state “Though a large language model is a software program, it is not created the way most software programs  are—that is, by human software engineers writing code. Rather, a large language model is “trained” by copying massive amounts of text from various sources and feeding these copies into the model. 

Much of the material in OpenAI’s training datasets, however, comes from copyrighted works—including books written by Plaintiffs—that were copied by OpenAI without consent, without credit, and without compensation.”

Moreover, these plaintiffs are able to use research papers as evidence. 

For instance, in its June 2018 paper introducing GPT-1 (called “Improving Language Understanding by Generative Pre-Training”), OpenAI revealed that it trained GPT-1 on a collection of “over 7,000 unique unpublished books from a variety of genres  on a site called Smashwords.com that hosts unpublished novels that are available to readers at no cost. Those novels, however, are largely under copyright. They were copied into the BookCorpus dataset without consent, credit, or compensation to the authors.

In the July 2020 paper introducing GPT-3 (called “Language Models are Few-Shot Learners”), OpenAI disclosed that 15 per cent of the enormous GPT-3 training dataset came from “two internet-based books corpora” that OpenAI  simply called “Books1” and “Books2”. 

OpenAI has never revealed what books are part of the Books1 and Books2 datasets but the suit maintains that possibility that these datasets are what it terms “flagrantly illegal shadow libraries.”

And in case the other large language models are breathing a sigh of relief that the suit names only OpenAI, there is an ominous warning. Hundreds of large language models have been trained on BookCorpus, according to the lawsuit, including those made by OpenAI, Google, Amazon, and others. 

All we can say at this point is – this could be interesting. I hope they did it “by the book.”

Sources include: Tremblay vs. AI

It’s a one-two punch from the US and… the Dutch?

The United States and the Netherlands are preparing to further restrict sales of chipmaking equipment to China’s chipmakers, in a move aimed at preventing their technology from being used to strengthen China’s military. This comes as part of the countries’ ongoing efforts to control the flow of technology to China.

The Dutch government plans to announce new regulations on Friday, introducing a licensing requirement for the top tier of ASML’s second-best product line, deep ultra violet (DUV) semiconductor equipment. ASML’s most sophisticated machines — extreme ultraviolet “EUV” lithography machines — are already restricted and have never been shipped to China.

The U.S., on the other hand, is expected to go one step further. It plans to introduce a new rule that will allow the U.S. to restrict foreign equipment with even a small percentage of U.S. parts to specific Chinese facilities. This rule, which may be published by late July, will require licenses to export equipment to about half a dozen Chinese facilities, including a fab operated by SMIC, China’s largest chipmaker. Licenses to ship the equipment to those facilities will likely be denied.

These moves underscore the escalating tensions in the global tech industry and the increasing efforts by Western countries to curb China’s technological advancement.

Sources include: Reuters

Reddit is reportedly at the end of its tether with the ongoing subreddit protest of 2023. The company is now issuing notices to the largest subreddits that remain private, setting a Thursday deadline for them to propose a reopening plan. The consequences of non-compliance are not explicitly stated, but the company has hinted at “further action.”

The protest was sparked by Reddit’s plans to charge for the use of its site tools, which led to many subreddits going private in opposition. Reddit CEO Steve Huffman (smooth talking devil) has previously criticized moderators for this move, suggesting that their views do not represent the entire Reddit community and even threatening to replace them.

However, the protest seems to have had a significant impact on Reddit’s engagement numbers. Data from Similarweb indicates that traffic decreased nearly 5 per cent on June 12 at the start of the protests, and while it has since recovered to near-normal levels, the time spent on the site declined by 16 per cent from June 12 through 13. This has also affected visits to the site’s ad portal, leading to a decline in ad traffic.

Despite these challenges, Reddit is pushing forward, directly threatening subreddit moderators to reopen their communities. The outcome of this standoff remains to be seen. But has anybody actually thought, “these guys are volunteers.”

Sources include: Gizmodo

In a cybersecurity misstep that can only be described as “doh!” , Oak Park and River Forest (OPRF) High School in Illinois changed every students’ passwords to “Ch@ngeme!” but it had a very clever @ sign for the a so it’s very secure. Following an unexpected system reset during a cybersecurity audit. This gave every student the ability to hack into any other student’s account.

The school, which has around 3,000 students, informed parents of the password change and advised them to have their children update the password as soon as possible. Needless to say this is far from the standard procedure for a forced password reset, and I’m amazed I have to explain it, which typically involves logging out every user and prompting them to change their password upon their next login.

The school’s decision was met with criticism from parents, with one pointing out that it invited every student’s account to be hacked. Indeed, some students found they could access their peers’ Google accounts, gaining access to emails, classwork, and any content saved on Google Drive.

Recognizing the error, the school later informed parents that a unique password process would be emailed to them. 

Now does anybody else picture some poor security staffer (and I do feel sorry for him) pulling a “Bart Simpson” I can just see him at the board –  I will not change passwords to change me. I will not change passwords…you got it.

Sources include: TechCrunch

And in another story labelled, “you’re just figuring this out?” Steven Roth, the chairman of Vornado Realty Trust, one of New York’s biggest private landlords told investors that office work on Fridays was likely “dead forever,” and even Mondays are “touch-and-go.”

The latest data on return-to-office trends in a report from Placer.ai found that office visits in the US are about 60 per cent of what they were in 2019, with people more likely to visit the office in the middle of the week. Office visits on Mondays and Fridays were just half of what they were in 2019.

Despite this trend, some companies are insisting on employees returning to the office. Amazon and Meta have announced that workers will be required to come into the office at least three days a week. Disney CEO Bob Iger has told workers that they would need to return to the office four days a week starting in March.

However, many workers continue to resist returning full-time to an office, and the push towards hybrid work seems to be gaining momentum. Let’s see who wins on this one. 

Sources include: Business Insider

That’s the top tech news stories for today.  

Links to all of the stories can be found in the text version of this podcast at itworldcanada.com/podcasts 

Hashtag Trending goes to air five days a week with a special weekend interview episode called Hashtag Trending, the Weekend Edition.  You can follow us on Google, Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. 

We’re also on YouTube five days a week with a video newscast only there we are called Tech News Day. And if you are there, please check us out. Give us a like? We need a boost. 

We love to hear your comments.  You can find me on Linked In, Twitter or on our Mastodon site technews.social where I’m @therealjimlove.

Or if that’s too much to remember, just go to the article at itworldcanada.com/podcasts and you’ll find a text version with additional links and references.  Click on the x if you didn’t like it, or the check mark if you did, and tell us what you think. 

We did the show on Thursday night, so we won’t be in the office on Friday. 

But we do have two great interview shows for you this weekend. Enjoy them on the dock.

Reminder that we have the Canadian long weekend so our next daily news is on Tuesday morning.

And whether you’re at home or in the office, Have a Fantastic Friday!

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Jim Love
Jim Lovehttp://www.itworldcanada.com/
I've been in IT and business for over 30 years. I worked my way up, literally from the mail room and I've done every job from mail clerk to CEO. Today I'm CIO of a great company - IT World Canada - Canada's leading ICT publisher.

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