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What Zuck said, and what he didn’t

Facebook’s CEO finally broke his media silence with a string of interviews about his firm’s data scandal last night. But what did he really have to say? Backstory: Facebook is embroiled in a huge scandal because of the way its users’ data was shared with Cambridge Analytica, a firm that provided data to the Trump election campaign in 2016.

Mea culpa? Kinda: In a Facebook post yesterday, Zuck said the debacle was “a breach of trust” between Facebook and its users, but also passed blame to Cambridge Analytica. He also announced a set of audits and investigations to discover other data offences, and plans to introduce policies to stop similar problems in future.

What Zuck said: The CEO then went on a media offensive, giving interviews to the likes of CNN, the New York Times, and Wired. Here’s what he had to say. On social media regulation: “I’m not sure we shouldn’t be regulated,” Zuckerberg said to CNN. “There are things like ad transparency regulation that I would love to see.”

On Facebook’s business model: “I don’t think the ad model is going to go away,” he told the New York Times, “because I think fundamentally, it’s important to have a service like this that everyone in the world can use, and the only way to do that is to have it be very cheap or free.” On testifying to Congress: “if it is ever the case that I am the most informed person at Facebook in the best position to testify, I will happily do that,” he told Wired. On a user exodus: I don’t think we’ve seen a meaningful number of people act on [#DeleteFacebook], but, you know, it’s not good,” he told the Times.

On resources to fix things: “We’ll have more than 20,000 people working on security and community operations by the end of the year,” he told the Times. And to Recode he said that the fixes will cost “many millions of dollars.” What Zuck didn’t say: An overwhelming message from Zuck’s interviews was an insistence Facebook is doing the best it can to keep up in a fast-changing world.

That’s debatable, and he didn’t really explain how the firm could try to take a more proactive approach. He also didn’t fully articulate why we didn’t find out about this mess–which he first heard of in 2015–sooner. Just the start: Zuck shouldn’t expect his media appearances to draw any kind of line under events.

He’ll still be pursued by governments, lawyers, and critics over the “breach of trust.” And the firm continues to hurt financially: its stock still keeps sliding.

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Google lends its machine-learning tool to fight deforestation

Google’s machine-learning tool is being used to detect and combat illegal deforestation The news: Rainforest Connection, a San Francisco nonprofit, has developed a cheap, rigorous acoustic monitoring system made from modified cell phones and solar panels. An app on the so-called Guardian devices, which can be hidden in trees throughout forests, continuously listens for the telltale signs of illegal logging and animal poaching.

On March 21, the organization announced that it will be using Google’s TensorFlow, a free tool that makes it simpler for other companies and groups to develop machine-learning software (see “Google stakes its future on a piece of software“). Rainforest Connection says it will enable the organization to more accurately detect troubling sounds in the uploaded audio, such as chainsaws, vehicles, and gunshots. Why does it matter? Deforestation reduces biodiversity, increases erosion, and promotes desertification.

Felled trees also release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, accounting for around 10 percent of global emissions driving climate change, according to an earlier NASA study.

Between 50 percent and 90 percent of all logging in tropical countries is done illegally, according to a 2012 report by the UN and Interpol.

The final word: “When fighting deforestation, every improvement can mean one more saved tree,” Rainforest Connection said in a blog post.

Source:Image credit:

  • Rainforest Connection