ArchiTECHt Daily: The double-edged sword of Facebook's big data

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ArchiTECHt Daily: The double-edged sword of Facebook's big data
By ARCHITECHT • Issue #20
If you’re enjoying this newsletter, the podcast or the website, please feel free to share it via social media or good, old-fashioned word of mouth.
Like most people, I don’t have a good answer to the question of what Facebook should do about issue filter bubbles, privacy, harassment or any of the other issues currently facing the company. But, like most people, I also have an opinion.
I bring this up, of course, because the company on Thursday published an opus by Mark Zuckerberg addressing a wide range of issues for which the company has been dogged over the past couple years. Cade Metz at WIRED also had a good story detailing a recent conversation with Zuckerberg on these issues. In both of these, Zuckerberg presents artificial intelligence as a potential solution to some of these issues.
Also on Thursday, Facebook Research published a blog post from a data scientist there expounding on the value of diversity, as well as some of the humanitarian projects she’s been able to work on.
What I know for sure about Facebook is that the company’s work (and open spirit) in the fields of data infrastructure, data science and, now, artificial intelligence have been hugely beneficial to the technology community. To the extent its technologies and practices are adopted outside of Facebook and used in beneficial ways, it has made a difference well beyond the four walls of its platform. Some of the advances Facebook has helped spur in deep learning, for example, could literally save lives when applied in health care.
I also know that Facebook has been a truly useful tool in certain crisis situations—from protests to natural disasters—and that its work with projects like, while controversial in some aspects, is also very promising. I also tend to believe Zuckerberg still thinks Facebook can make the world a better place, and that he isn’t just blowing hot air.
However, Facebook’s problems are also real, and I don’t think the company can just data science or artificial intelligence, if you will, its way out of them. Indecent and criminal images and posts? Sure. Harassment? Sure. 
Privacy? Not likely. Filter bubbles and an increasingly polarized society? No way. Those are the types of issues that data science and AI arguably helped to create. Facebook is able to continuously tweak its algorithms to give people more of what and who they want to see. It’s able to tag people and activities in images with remarkable accuracy.
On the one hand, these capabilities make the platform more engaging for users. On the other hand … 
But short of dialing down the algorithms and turning back the clock on Facebook’s features by a decade—making investors’ heads explode in the process—it’s hard to see how some of these problems will be resolved. Users, apparently, cannot be trusted to police themselves or even apply common sense in many cases.
Perhaps there is a clever way to engineer a solution, but perhaps adding more data or more algorithms will only make things worse. 

Facebook's data center in Sweden
Facebook's data center in Sweden
Around the web: Cloud and infrastructure
This takes a broad definition of cloud—think Twilio rather AWS—but is still worth a read if you’re investing or thinking of starting a business in the world of SaaS and cloud services.
Speaking of Facebook’s mounting issues (although legal ones are usually easier to resolve). From a PR perspective, this looks like a “Stairway to Heaven” situation—maybe something happened but, you know, we like the result …
Color me surprised that a Google-owned property is running across GCP and AWS. Also, this is a nice shoutout to startup Spinnaker.
Not a huge story in and of itself, but the bigger picture is the Seattle area’s ascent into a tech hub that might be able rival Silicon Valley at some point. 
AWS included. But what happens when the U.S. government (rightly or wrongly) demands EU-stored data nonetheless?
This is a pretty cool application of AWS’s “serverless” framework, I must say.
I’ve seen a couple of companies in this space raise money lately, which makes me think maybe the problem is not solved. I would have guess the market for monitoring cloud usage was saturated.
Around the web: Artificial intelligence
This dives deeper into some of the topics I covered with Baidu’s Andrew Ng in the recent podcast.
Speaking of Baidu, it is working to own the smart home market in China.
Is there any industry more guilty of this than security software? The promise is certainly real, but you’d think the world would be breach-free given all the claims of security vendors.
Around the web: All things data
Like many folks, I’m always tempted to write off IBM (flying press to an office opening doesn’t help). But sometimes there’s just enough there there.
This is a deeper dive into the SparkOnTensorFlow work I covered here a few issues ago. There’s a small but probably not insignificant (and eventually) growing market for deep learning on Hadoop outside of Yahoo, too.
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