Tech Check Digest - September 17, 2021

This week's Tech Check Digest feels like mostly bad news, as we see topics like bullying, surveillance and privacy abuses being covered. It's even extended to our fiction! As always, we try to push back against these digital issues and advocate for a safer, fairer and better online experience for all. 


The Wall Street Journal launches a special investigation called 'The Facebook Files' revealing damning internal documents (via WSJ). Internal Facebook documents demonstrate that Facebook knows full well the harms its platforms cause - including that Instagram is toxic for teenage girls, how a secret elite group gets exemptions and special rules, and how human traffickers and drug cartels abused the platform.

ABC anchor Leigh Sales calls out the bullying and excessive harassment she receives on Twitter (via ABC). Sales was prompted to reflect on her Twitter experience after colleague Lisa Millar decides to quit the platform. Sales recalls how she is subject to significant personal and sexist attacks on Twitter, which she believes is exacerbated by social media.

Queensland police prepare to trial AI system to identify high-risk domestic abusers (via Guardian Australia). The tool will use data from police systems to develop risk assessment analysis and predictive patterns for early intervention initiatives. Algorithmic targeting is fraught with dangers, particularly as AI systems regularly fail to account for inherited and systemic biases against certain profiles and groups (e.g. people of colour), which further reinforce those biases.

South Australia to expand use of home quarantine app using facial recognition (via InnovationAus). The home quarantine app trial aims to use regular check-ins using facial recognition for those meant to be at home to verify they are complying. This increased scope creep for COVID-related software during the pandemic highlights the dangers with lack of ethical frameworks built into initiatives. The Centre developed principles for ethical pandemic software like vaccination passports here.


Dave Eggers promotes his new dystopian novel 'The Every' in interview with Kara Swisher (via Sway podcast). Eggers' novel imagines a world in which Google and Amazon join together to form an omniscient corporate juggernaut that predicts our every move. 


UTS Vice-Chancellor's Democracy Forum explores the economics of Big Tech (via UTS). Emeritus Professor Roy Green chats to Rana Foroohar, author of Don't Be Evil: How Big Tech betrayed its founding principles and all of us.