As the judge discusses "SyRI", someone’s iPhone goes off in the courtroom. It’s Siri springing to action.
It’s a little confusing, this lawsuit on 5 February 2020. It’s not about Apple’s voice assistant, but the Dutch Government’s System Risk Indication: a tool that analyses all kinds of data to predict welfare fraud.
It’s ironic that just now, in a lawsuit about privacy, a smartphone is listening in. Just last year, it came to light that Apple contractors listened in on Siri recordings, from sex to visits to the doctor.
Anyway, back to that lawsuit. I wrote about it earlier, in the context of the "digital welfare state". Today, in my follow-up article, I talk about "strategic litigation" – a type of litigation that is about more than the case itself: it’s about legal, political or social change.
The SyRI case nicely shows what steps you can take to make such a lawsuit a success. It’s about much more than just calling in some good lawyers.
When I started looking into the case, I found a story full of interesting people and smart actions. I found it worth writing down, which is what I did today in this piece: How a small group of activists put Big Brother on trial – and won.
The Leipzig Book Fair was supposed to take place this week. I was supposed to be there, but it was cancelled because of the coronavirus.
Speaking of corona, some of you approached me to see if I could write a piece about the numbers relating to the disease. I haven’t got to that yet, but I do have some reading tips.
I highly recommend that you keep an eye on Our World in Data, a reliable and up-to-date source of data on coronavirus and many other topics. This resource provides a good explanation of all the uncertainties surrounding the figures.
I think that the most important thing to remember is a lot is still unclear. For example, the exact mortality rate (case fatality rate, CFR, to be precise) is difficult to calculate, because there are many corona cases that are not tested, or that are too mild to ever appear on the authorities’ radars.
The CFR can also differ per time, place and person, because it depends not only on the disease but also on the context. What treatment will a patient receive? And are they, for example, old or young?
Of course, this uncertainty does not mean we have to sit on our hands. That’s what I find admirable about epidemiologists: their profession consists of grappling with uncertain data, making sure to strike the right balance between alertness and wait and see.
If you want to know more about the statistical models that are used, I can highly recommend this piece (it’s from 14 February, so it doesn’t take into account the latest developments). It deals with the variables that are included, and an alternative that is better but also costs more computing power.
Do you have any reading tips on corona counting? Don’t hesitate to share them.
Now to something completely different: Saturday is Pi day! 14 March, 3/14. And 3, 1 and 4 are the first three digits of the number pi. You may remember Pi from calculating circles – the circumference is equal to Pi times the diameter.
The number has – literally – endless digits:
An approximation of this number is 22 divided by 7. That is why 22 July is also Pi Approximation day 🎈.
If you need a little more spice, take a look at this classic by Tom Hiddleston. Pi has never been sexier.
Before you go ...
... Eliza Anyangwe interviewed women who fight bias in big data algorithms.