Simone Browne: Surveillance in Color (Ep. 125)

Bio

Dr. Simone Browne (@wewatchwatchers) is Associate Professor in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. She teaches and researches surveillance studies and black diaspora studies.

Her first book, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness, examines surveillance with a focus on transatlantic slavery, biometric technologies, branding, airports and creative texts. You can read the Introduction to Dark Matters here.

She is an Executive Board member of HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory). She is also a member of Deep Lab, a feminist collaborative composed of artists, engineers, hackers, writers, and theorists. Along with Katherine McKittrick and Deborah Cowen she is co-editor of Errantries, a new series published by Duke University Press.

Resources

Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness by Simone Browne

Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya Noble

UT Austin Department of Sociology

AI Now Institute at New York University

Deep Lab

Danielle Deane

Sadie Barnette

News Roundup

CFPB Head Mulvaney Halts Equifax Probe

Patrick Rucker at Reuters reported on Sunday that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Acting Director, Mick Mulvaney, has been blocking the investigation into Equifax’s massive September data breach. The breach exposed the data of some 143 million Americans to hackers. But Mulvaney has been working behind the scenes by not ordering any subpoenas, seeking sworn testimony, or really anything that would suggest CFPB is doing anything to further the investigation. CFPB has also blocked other agencies such as the FDIC and Federal Reserve from even stepping in to help out with the investigation. The U.S. Court of Appeals also affirmed Mulvaney’s poltically-charged appointment.

Study finds text reminders reduced arrest warrants for those who fail to appear in court

A new University of Chicago Crime Lab and ideas42 study that was funded, in part, by the MacArthur Foundation, found that texts reminding people about court appearances in New York City, reduced Failure to Appear “FTA” arrest warrants by as much as a third. Changes to the summons form, that put the most relevant information on top, such as the date, time and place of the court appearance, plus the penalty associated with failing to appear,  translated to a reduction of FTA arrest warrants by 17,000, when the form changes were implemented system-wide.

U.S. Census Bureau to Ignore Detailed Race Classification

The U.S. Census Bureau is bowing to an apparent effort by the Trump administration to ensure that as many people as possible claim their race as “White” for census purposes. The Census Bureau released a statement on January 26th saying that the 2020 Census would ignore the Obama Administration’s recommendation to allow census respondents to check specific ethnicities along with racial categories. Instead, the Bureau will continue to emphasize the broader racial categories of White and Black, with Hispanics and Latinos only being able to write-in their heritage, but also having to choose their race as Black or White. The form also indicates “Egyptian” as an example of “White”. Additionally, the “White” racial category will continue to be listed first. But that would have been the case on the form that the Obama administration recommended as well. The Census Bureau has until March 31st to make its final determination.

PBS cries foul on YouTube content-flagging plan

YouTube’s plan to flag government-sponsored content isn’t going over so well with PBS. PBS receives some, but not all, funding from the federal government. So the powerful, non-profit broadcast network is concerned that YouTube will lump all of its content into one bucket. Hamza Shaban reports for The New York Times.

Ahead of Valentine’s Day, the FTC posts infographic warning of dating site scams

The Federal Trade Commission last week released a new infographic warning about dating site scams. Some of the things to look out for include, well, weirdos, basically – people who profess their love quickly, ask for money, or say they need help with an emergency. You know, standard stuff. The FTC says people lost $220 million from scams like these in 2016. DON’T let it happen to you.

Alphabet’s board names new Executive Chairman

Google’s parent company Alphabet has announced its new Chairman to replace outgoing Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. John Hennessy has taken the helm. Hennessy is the former President of Stanford University and he’s been an Alphabet board member since it was founded in 2015, and prior to that was a Google board member since 1997. Hennessy is a passionate defender of the DREAM Act. Schmidt remains an Alphabet board member and technical advisor to the company. He has also joined MIT as an innovation fellow.

Trump SOTU breaks Twitter record

 Twitter reports that Trump’s State of the Union Speech last week broke the Twitter record. The 3 million tweets during Trump’s speech surpassed the 2.6 million tweets Barack Obama’s garnered in 2015.