Mother Jones


Facebook Admits Millions More People Were Impacted by Cambridge Analytica Breach Than Previously Known

Mother Jones

Facebook said Wednesday that personal data for up to 87 million people--tens of millions more than originally thought--may have been "improperly shared" with Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm that worked for Donald Trump's 2016 campaign. Most of those affected were in the United States, the company said. Facebook included the disclosure in the second-to-last paragraph of a company statement that also described new measures to restrict third-party access to user data. Recent stories in the New York Times and the British Observer cited a former Cambridge Analytica employee, Christopher Wylie, who said that the Facebook data of more than 50 million people had been harvested and provided to Cambridge Analytica in 2014. The data was acquired, Wylie said, in the hopes of building personality-based models to target and influence voters in US elections.


How 5 Large Mega-Gyres Helped Create a "Galaxy of Garbage" in the Pacific

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This story was originally published by CityLab and appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. What's 1.6 million square kilometers, weighs 80,000 metric tons, and is three times the size of continental France? That would be the Great Pacific Garbage Patch--the enormous collection of detritus that floats in the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Hawaii and California. Also known as the "GPGP," the patch's sprawl has made it notoriously difficult to measure. But a new study in the journal Scientific Reports has gathered the most comprehensive measurement yet.


"We Made Mistakes": Zuckerberg Finally Weighs In On Facebook Data Scandal

Mother Jones

Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday issued a statement on the growing controversy around Cambridge Analytica's acquisition and use of tens of millions of people's personal Facebook data. In the 935-word statement, Zuckerberg reassures users that "the good news is that most important actions to prevent this from happening again" were already taken in 2014, when the company limited the amount of data that could be acquired by third-party apps on the social media platform. While the statement acknowledged the company "made mistakes," it avoided an explicit apology or the word "sorry." Zuckerberg's move comes four days after the New York Times reported that Cambridge Analytica, a company that provides political operators detailed information on millions of voters, obtained data on more than 50 million American Facebook users from a University of Cambridge researcher named Aleksandr Kogan. Cambridge Analytica's connections to Republican megadonor Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon, an ex Trump campaign chairman and a senior White House adviser, may have allowed the Trump campaign to access and use the data to target potential voters, according to the Times.


Climate Change Pushes Ticks Into Canada, Bringing Lyme Disease (and Confusion) With Them

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This story was originally published by Undark and appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. Joanne Seiff, a resident of Manitoba, contracted Lyme disease a couple of years ago but didn't remember pulling off the tick that bit her; nor did she have the telltale bullseye rash of a tick bite. Her husband Jeff Marcus, who grew up in New York's Hudson Valley, about an hour and a half from the eponymous town of Lyme, Connecticut, recognized her symptoms immediately because Lyme disease was common there. Canadian doctors, however, were not convinced. "Even though we had been telling people for months that she had Lyme disease and that all she needed was about four weeks of antibiotics, we were seeing specialist after specialist, and getting the same run-around," Marcus says.


Using Data From Fracking Country, Scientists Train a Neural Network to Detect Earthquakes

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As earthquakes grow more frequent in the central United States--driven at least in part by the fracking boom--researchers have been working on sophisticated new tools, including satellites, underwater seismic sensors, and software to detect temblors and hopefully even predict them.


A Convicted Sex Offender Was the Face of a New Trump Dating Site

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A new dating site intended for Trump-admirers seeking other Trump-admirers for romance, Trump.Dating, up until the last few days featured the image of a convicted sex offender, Barrett Riddleberger, alongside his wife Jodi on its homepage, wearing his-and-hers hats reading "Trump" and "Make America Great Again."


Good Luck Recruiting Top Talent, America

Mother Jones

The Trump White House has devoted much of its first year to putting America first, cracking down on who can come into this country--from promising a wall along the US-Mexico border and the deportation of thousands of undocumented immigrants, to numerous attempts at a travel ban blocking entrance for people from several Muslim-majority countries. But under the America First banner, the administration has been quietly but vastly increasing hurdles in another area: for foreign nationals looking to live and work legally in the US. Since the spring, the Trump administration has introduced a number of administrative changes aimed specifically at increasing scrutiny on work visa applications. Issued through policy memoranda from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency tasked with handling and adjudicating work and citizenship applications, the revisions have largely flown under the radar, as many of them have been incremental or seem innocuous on the surface. What's more, because a large number of the changes are adjustments to existing department policies or guidance, many have been able to go into effect immediately, without needing to undergo a formal rule proposal process or public comment period.


What Siri Says When New Zealanders Ask About Sex

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"Is it OK to put a jade egg in my vagina?" A team of New Zealand researchers posed these questions and 47 others to digital assistants to determine how effectively Siri et al. could answer questions on sex. The informal study, which was not peer-reviewed, was published online Wednesday by the medical journal BMJ. Three researchers used laptops to type out questions to Google.co.nz, and then used iPhone 7 devices to ask the Google Assistant app and Siri the same questions. The responses were rated by quality, with expert sources like universities and hospitals ranked most highly.


Study: AI Really Could Be a Breakthrough for Cancer Detection

Mother Jones

If you haven't lost your job to a computer yet, you probably will. Experts predict that robots will be folding laundry for us in the next five years, driving trucks in the next 10, and performing surgery in the next 40. And, they predict, they'll be doing it better than humans. This could lead to a massive shift in our economy, setting off an "era of mass joblessness and mass poverty," as Mother Jones' Kevin Drum recently reported.


A Lot of "Ethical Consumers" Are Going to Make Really Unethical Shopping Choices

Mother Jones

As a person living in the 21st century, it's almost inevitable that you've had the seamless, fast, and hassle-free experience of shopping online: a few clicks and you're done without ever needing to interact with anyone, and then your items can show up at your door in as little as a day. But as the holiday season ramps up, it's a good time to remember that there's actually a whole lot of human labor behind that fast and easy click. While we at Mother Jones recently reported on how robots will one day take these jobs, they haven't taken over just yet. Just consider a great story last week from Gizmodo's Bryan Menegus shedding light on a mysterious program known as Amazon Flex: a "nearly invisible workforce" of independent contractors charged with delivering the "last mile" of Amazon orders from a local storage facility to the customer's door. As Menegus explains, "It's a network of supposedly self-employed, utterly expendable couriers enrolled in an app-based program which some believe may violate labor laws."