Here's what we emailed out the week of June 25, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.
The world’s third largest diamond was unearthed in Botswana last week. The 1,098 carat diamond — yes one thousand — is the largest ever mined by Debswana Diamond Company and was presented to the country’s President. While nothing has been determined in regards to selling it, the discovery is a big win for Botswana as nearly 80% of Debswana's income gets allocated to the government through taxes, royalties, and dividends.
Google’s Time Machine either provides comfort or creeps you out
Sat Jun 19
For years, viral tweets have spread about users finding images of their deceased loved ones on Google Maps Street View. Street View allows users to travel in time to images as old as 2007. Many have felt comfort after finding an image of their grandpa at his barn or grandmother lounging in her front yard. Others have been disturbed, such as one father who found an aerial image of his dead son’s body. While faces are blurred, there’s still the question of how such data involving the deceased should be handled. For the living, it varies between cases and jurisdictions.
Central to meeting minimum legality, though, is how the photos are obtained. For Street View:
- First, Google captures images (either through their own vehicles or contributors), taken from public spaces.
- Then they combine sensor data from the vehicle (like GPS, speed, and direction) to help reconstruct the car’s exact route.
- Adjacent cameras that took slightly overlapping photos are then stitched together to create the 360 Street View.
- Lasers on the car determine the distance between it and nearby buildings to build the best three dimensional view.
- Finally, the images are processed and filtered to weed out illegal content and auto-blur faces.
Technically, taking photos from a street isn’t illegal — even when a person is present in the frame. In the U.S., each state has its own variations of when street photography becomes unethical or an invasion of privacy, such as a photo into someone’s apartment from the outside. But a photo of, for example, Times Square, could have dozens of faces but be completely legal. Google does, however, allow users to request the blurring of human bodies, cars, or even entire houses upon request.
Some additional resources...
- Full coverage: Recode
- Man who found image of son’s dead body: BuzzFeed
- How Street View works: Google
- Viral tweets of people spotting their deceased loved ones: CNN
- Paper on legality around Google’s image database: Pittsburgh Law School
- The Wikipedia of maps: Below the Fold
South Korea’s digital sex crime epidemic
Thu Jun 17
Following the Korean War in the 1950s, South Korea became a leader in technological advances. While countries like Cuba still struggle to get online, South Korea has the world’s highest rate of adult smartphone ownership and world-class internet speeds with 99.5% of households connected to the internet. Now this technology is in wide use for digital sex crimes where women are being recorded without consent just about anywhere they go — including workplaces, public restrooms, and even their own homes.
A 2017 South Korean survey even showed that 80% of men surveyed admitted to violent acts against a partner, a sign of how such behavior has become almost common practice.
- Tiny cameras, or “spycams,” are being placed in toilets, changing rooms, hotels, coke cans, shampoo bottles, and more. One woman discovered her married male employer had been spying on her through a clock he gave her after she rejected his advances.
- The spycams secretly capture pictures and videos of women and girls, which are then sold or even freely distributed online — all without the victim's knowledge let alone consent. These sex crimes have led to real world harassment as well as long-lasting anxiety and depression.
And turning to law enforcement only worsens the trauma as they shift blame to the women or urge women to drop the case, even though illegal filming is 20% of all sex crime prosecutions (up from 4% in 2008). When prosecuted, men face lesser sentences or often walk free, but a woman in 2018 was jailed for posting a nude photo of a man online. The unequal treatment is unsurprising for a country ranked 102 out of 156 advanced countries for gender gaps in economic participation and opportunity.
While there is some legal reform following a slew of 2018 protests, many say progress will be difficult without women in government positions. The country’s current Sex Crimes Act — which makes digital sex crimes illegal — is subjective and incomplete (e.g. it omits audio recordings).
Some additional resources...
- Full coverage: Human Rights Watch
- More on the Sex Crimes Act: The Register
- 2018 protests: Human Rights Watch
- Tips on detecting hidden cameras: Forbes
ASCII OF THE WEEK
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Profits from a 1,098 carat diamond has a nice ring to it...
Art Credit: Donovan Bake