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Europeans are arguing over whether robots should have rights

European lawmakers are trying to sort out the legal future of AI and robots. Easier said than done. Background: A 2017 European Parliament report suggested that advanced robots could be granted “electronic personalities.” This status could give robots access to certain kinds of insurance normally reserved for people and let them be held liable if they damage property or even “go rogue.”

Not so fast: In a letter to the European Commission due out today, over 150 experts from 14 EU countries warn that granting robots legal personhood would be “inappropriate” from a “legal and ethical perspective.” They argue that doing so would let manufacturers off the hook. Legalese: Eventually, liability laws where the owner, the manufacturer, or both are responsible for accidents will need a refresh when truly autonomous robots come online. But that should be a long way off.

In the meantime, one lawyer quoted in the Politico story says that giving robots similar legal rights to those held by companies could solve the problem.

Facebook temporarily blocks new apps from joining its platform

Facebook paused its app review process last week to “implement new changes,” the company quietly announced yesterday. Facebook’s move to momentarily prevent new apps and chatbots onto its platform comes after the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal that’s unfolded over the last two weeks. The ongoing situation has embroiled the company in an existential crisis of unprecedented magnitude after up to 50 million Facebook users profiles’ were compromised by a third-party app.

Last week, Facebook said it will further limit developers’ access to user data.

Now, Facebook appears to be reevaluating how it approves apps due to how easily the third-party survey app, called “thisisyourdigitallife,” was able to mine data and sell it with little to no oversight from Facebook, and for Cambridge Analytica to retain that data even after claiming to the company that it had deleted it. “To maintain the trust people place in Facebook when they share information, we are making some updates to the way our platform works,” writes Ime Archibong, Facebook’s vice president of partnerships. “We know these changes are not easy, but we believe these updates will help mitigate any breach of trust with the broader developer ecosystem.”

Archibong also outlines the changes Facebook will make in the coming weeks, including an “in-depth review of our platform” that involves a full audit of any app with suspicious activity, and a process to inform users if an app they’ve given access to was removed for data misuse, among other protective measures.

One co-founder of a digital agency took to Facebook to complain about the sudden pause, as spotted by Mashable. “Imagine hundreds of hours of work, tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment capital, and dozens of clients disappearing at any given moment at the whim of a few lines of code,” Troy Osinoff wrote, as he set his status to “thinking about the meaning of life.”

The Verge has reached out to Facebook regarding when the app review process will be resumed.

We’ll update this story when we hear back.

Up to 40% of consumer DNA tests might give bogus results

A new study has found that up to 40 percent of direct-to-consumer genetic tests, like those marketed by 23andMe,, Family Tree DNA, and MyHeritage, deliver inaccurate results. Data dump: Most of these tests use a technique called genotyping to provide information about a person’s ancestry, risk of developing certain disorders, or status as a carrier of specific diseases. Some companies also make the raw genotyping data available to customers upon request in case they want to pursue additional testing.

Lost in interpretation: Scientists at Ambry Genetics, a diagnostics company that also interprets data from consumer DNA tests, looked at this raw genotyping data from 49 people. They found that two out of five reported genetic variants were false positives–that is, they indicated that a particular genetic variant was present when it wasn’t. Buyer beware: Unlike clinical genetic tests that require a physician’s sign-off, direct-to-consumer tests are not meant to provide a diagnosis, and they offer risk information for only a limited number of conditions.

If a consumer DNA kit uncovers a surprising or noteworthy genetic variant, the authors advise people to seek out doctor-ordered genetic tests to confirm the results.

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