What Happened with Heartbleed?

Posted in laptop, Tech news  by Carol
August 24th, 2016

heartbleedWith all the talk about the NSA’s access to zero-day exploits, it may be time for a refresher on what happened with the Heartbleed vulnerability back in 2014. After all, this is the first time the public has turned its attention back to VEP’s since the fateful day that a major security flaw was discovered in the OpenSSL encryption software and the NSA allegedly had known about it beforehand.

The OpenSSl flaw created a backdoor through its encryption, a security service used by a majority of websites and a multitude of other pieces of internet infrastructure. While the NSA denied these claims, two anonymous sources came forward to Ars Tecnica and disclosed that the NSA had known about the bug for “at least two years.”
“When Edward Snowden warned that the NSA is ‘setting fire to the future of the internet,’ this is presumably the kind of thing he was talking about,” explained Jamell Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union. “If this report is true, then the NSA is making hundreds of millions of people around the world more vulnerable to hacking and identity theft, and it’s compromising the trust that allows the internet to function. The NSA has lost sight of its mission, and it has lost sight of the values of the society it’s supposed to be protecting,” he continued.
heartbleed2NSA spokesperson Vanee Vines reputed any claims that the NSA was knowledgeable of the attacks, saying in an official statement that the “NSA was not aware of the recently identified vulnerability in OpenSSL, the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability, until it was made public in a private-sector security report. Reports that say otherwise are wrong.”
In response to the Bloomberg story that published the revelations of the two anonymous sources, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s Public Affairs Office issued a direct denial:
“Reports that NSA or any other part of the government were aware of the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability before April 2014 are wrong… The Federal government relies on OpenSSL to protect the privacy of users of government websites and other online services. This Administration takes seriously its responsibility to help maintain an open, interoperable, secure an reliable internet. If the Federal government, including the intelligence community, had discovered this vulnerability prior to last week, it would have been disclosed to the community responsible for OpenSSL.”
heartbleed3The ODNI went on to explain that it would have been in the Federal government’s best interest to fix any such bug: “It is in the national interest to responsibly disclose the vulnerability rather than hold it for an investigative or intelligence purpose.”
Perhaps in this particular case, the Heartbleed bug really would have been too dangerous for the government to quietly exploit. That said, it’s difficult to understand exactly what the situation was since there’s little to no transparency when it comes to the NSA’s dealings. Perhaps now that it’s possible to hack the NSA, the general public will be able to learn more about what exactly the “No Such Agency” gets up to.

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Be Wary of the KeySniffers

Posted in Digital Data, laptop  by Carol
August 3rd, 2016

Cyber security company Bastille recently reported a vulnerability in inexpensive wireless keyboards that allows for hackers to steal private data. According to the experts, the vulnerability lets nomadic hackers use a new attack that the firm has called “KeySniffer,”

keysnifferKeySniffer makes it possible for hackers to eavesdrop on anything a victim types; cyber criminals can capture every keystroke typed from up to 250 feet away. The stolen data is then rendered in clear text, making it possible for hackers to search through it for credit card information, bank account usernames and passwords, answers to security questions, network access passwords, and basically any data typed into a document or email.

“Almost all access credentials have value to hackers,” explained vice president of marketing at Gurucul Tome Clare. “Hijacked or compromised access credentials to the corporate cloud are the keys to the kingdom.”

Bastille’s Mark Newlin explained the dangerous sophistication of the new hacking method:

KeySniffer demonstrates that as many as two third of the lower-cost wireless keyboards currently on the market implement no encryption whatsoever, leaving them vulnerable to passive keystroke sniffing and injection.”
keysniffThe keyboards in question are made by major companies including HP, Toshiba, Kensington, Insignia, Radio Shack, Anker, General Electric and EagleTec.

It may seem unlikely for hackers to be able to detect the presence of one of the cheap keyboards, especially if the keyboards have to be within 250 feet of the hacker. However, the vulnerable keyboards are easily located through the detection of the USB dongles that they use; these dongles transmit synchronization packets that make it possible for the keyboard to find them regardless of whether the keyboards are in use. If the dongle is plugged into the computer, the hacker can detect that the keyboard is within range.

Once a hacker has connected to the keyboard, he or she can not only steal data but also inject keystrokes or type remotely onto a vulnerable keyboard, potentially installing malware directly onto the device or stealing data.

keyWhile there has been a recent rise in these incidents, this method of hacking is by no means new. Wireless keyboard sniffing has been around since 2009, when researchers at Remote Exploit developed KeyKeriki and open sourced the project that allowed for users to decode Microsoft wireless keyboards.

Just two years ago, hacker Samy Kamkar developed KeySweeper, a proof-of concept hardware/software keystroke logger disguised as a USB wall charger that could attack any nearby Microsoft wireless keyboard.

Since keyboard sniffing has become a thing, the FBI has issued a warning about the devices that no one paid any attention to.

According to Newlin, high-end keyboards aren’t vulnerable to these hacking techniques because they “frequently use transceivers from Nordic Semiconductor which have built-in support for 128-bit AES encryption,” he explained. “Whether or not the encryption is used is up to each vendor, but in general [it is].”

Bluetooth keyboards aren’t susceptible either, as Bluetooth encrypts all data trnasmitted over the air.

“If security is a concern, make sure the keyboard you buy uses an encrypted connection,” explained Michael Jude, program manager at Stratecast.

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Nomadic Tech

Posted in laptop  by Carol
July 13th, 2016

A storm is brewing that looks to fundamentally change the way we interact with society and the way we set ourselves up for whatever is next. For many years we have felt the obligation or pull to be intimately centered in a singular location and have access to the same means of information and tech in an attempt to make our lives more easily lived and closer to fray of existence and the support networks we surround ourselves with. Today that is all changing and the idea of work and home are becoming more fundamentally changed in 2016 than at any other period in human history. From the tiny home movement, or the nomadic movement, down to the very concept of working virtually, people have the freedom in their hands like never before to explore their world and still be able to live a happy and peaceful existence with a steady income and relative level of consistency. Not to mention the support of your friends and family are always only a single Skype or call away. Because of this or as a result of this people are developing some very interesting apps and mobile and wireless integrations that are really making this a lot easier to do. There is a common line of reasoning that concludes with the notion that if you are a proportionate and user of daily tech then it will result in your life being less free, not more. No doubt this can be the case, but it does not necisarily have to follow. When we look at our relationship to tech and the way we use it, we see that it is like any other tool. It all depends on the weight and attention we give to it, and the need we have to utilize it. Here isshway youresjustgay a look at some of the apps that have a big buzz around them and are changing the game of free living. First up is one called If this then that or (IFTTT) This is a super convenient app and will totally free up a lot of time you use and ultimately save you from the effort of using “recipes” to connect to different apps and various servers. It all works with more than 300 apps so the system is robust to say the least. The beauty is its simplicity to set up. All you need to do is define “if this, then that” mechanism to make a recipe. For example we can save your insta photos to dropbox, and have your Android phone automatically muted when you arrive at work, get notifications from ESPN with your favorite teams and scores, and thus automatically Tweet your Facebook status updates and much, much more. Another one that is having a lot of buzz around it is the app called Dark Sky. It takes the local weather and plays a pretty significant role in our daily lives as a result of its ability to coordinate various data points from our lives. This is one that has a lot of upside potential moving forward.

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Google Develops ‘Common-Sense’ AI Engine

Posted in Digital Data, laptop, Tech news  by Carol
June 21st, 2016

ai2Google is currently expanding its efforts to develop artificial intelligence using a new European research center that is dedicated to advancing computing technology.

The research center is based in Zurich and the team associated with advancing AI initiatives will be focusing on three major arenas: machine learning, natural language understanding and general computer perception. According to Emmanuel Mogenet, who has been assigned to be the head of the unit, said that the research will be focused on teaching machines “common sense.”

According to Mogenet, there will be “no limit” on how big the team becomes.

“We are very ambitious in terms of growth,” Mogenet continued. “The only limiting factor will be talent.”

Machine learning has been called the “secret sauce” in Google products, allowing the tech mogul to excel in services involving internet searches, spam filters, translation and content removal. Newer products engineered with machine learning include virtual helper Google Assistant messaging app Allo and even self-driving cars.

“We are on the brink of a brand new era of computing,” Mogenet announced to a group of journalists. The key focus will set “common sense” as its target.

google android“A four-year-old child learns about the world through their senses so they know that cows don’t fly without being told this. Computers need to understand some obvious things about the world so we want to build a common-sense database.”

A second key focus will include improving human/machine dialogue:

“Google has always been in the business of natural language because that is how people search but we have never really understood the question. We have just matched keywords with content and rank that content smartly,” Mogonet stated.

“The next stage is to truly understand what people are asking,” he continued. That means researchers will have to try to figure out “how machines learn and why deep learning works so well.”

Deep learning is such a new technology that its extreme success remains somewhat of a mystery even to its creators. The learning process involves the integration of enormous amounts of data that are themselves mind-boggling, and the processes by which computers make their own perceptual categories remain obscure.

ai3Google is known best for its AI team DeepMind. DeepMind is based in London and has a larger intention to “solve intelligence.” The DeepMind project recently attracted controversy when it recently came up that DeepMind had received the healthcare data of millions of patients as part of a partnership with the NHS to develop an alert system for kidney disease. The patients were apparently unaware that their information was going to be given to DeepMind and disconcerted by the revelation of their medical history.

DeepMind research scientist Thore Graepel attended the Zurich event and gave an update on its other high-profile project, one in which a computer program made to play the ancient Chinese game of Go (called AlphaGo) beat the world’s best human Go player, ultimately winning four out of five games.

Go players around the world have been biting at the bit to try their hands against the new AlphaGo program ever since it beat the world champion.

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Twitter CEO Says Company is on Slow Rebound

Posted in Tech news  by Carol
May 31st, 2016

The Twitter Inc. logo is displayed on a mobile device for a photograph in New York, U.S., on Monday, Sept. 16, 2013. Twitter Inc., which announced plans last week for an initial public offering, is still deciding whether to list on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq Stock Market, setting off a horse race for the high-profile deal. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Jack Dorsey is perhaps one of the most successful and influential San Francisco tech executives currently operating, and that’s given the fact that he splits his time between two goliath projects: Twitter and Square.

Unfortunately for Dorsey, Twitter hasn’t been doing so well. Stock and popularity have been declining for the tech mogul, which is why the board at Twitter decided to give Dorsey power over the company even though they’d have to share him. That was almost a year ago, but Dorsey’s main initiative is still to fix Twitter.

“We’re making progress,” Dorsey stated, then added that he believes the most crucial thing for Twitter’s survival is the company’s ability to devise, develop and release updates to the service. “That’s going very well, but you know, things take time to change.”

Unfortunately for Dorsey and the fix Twitter advocates, their users don’t take well to change. The recent attempt to change an icon from a star to a heart angered millions. Dorsey has to engage in a balancing act between revising Twitter so that it’s simpler and easier to use, while not alienating the service’s band of loyal users.

twitter usersThere are some success stories that have come out of this new act. “New” tweets in which users can add photos and videos without using up the 140 character limit seem to be a popular addition to the service without changing up too much of its classic appeal.

“We’re not giving up Twitter being in the moment,” Dorsey reiterated. “That concept of brevity, that concept of speed. Being able to just think of something and put it out to the world.” Dorsey knows better than to sacrifice the key feature of what makes Twitter unique.

Unfortunately, the best thing about Twitter can sometimes be the worst thing about Twitter. There’s not a lot of room for filters in a world of instantaneous communication, and accordingly Twitter has become a place of online abuse along with more positive thoughts. Twitter’s anonymity caters even further to the service’s use for hateful speech and cyber bullying.

“I don’t think the negativity and the abuse and harassment is unique to Twitter,” Dorsey stated. “I think it’s an industry-wide, internet-wide issue that we all need to solve. And we did make it a priority for the company.”

Twitter has developed its own process for blocking and reporting abusive users, but some users at the receiving end of online abuse have wondered how in a decade of existence no Twitter engineer has devised a way of keeping the abuse from ever being received as opposed to reacting after the fact.

twitter stockOn the other hand, free speech advocates may take issue with Twitter’s efforts to censor opinions on a media that has become such a medium of social activism and political discussion. Still, Twitter’s use by terrorist organizations to recruit new followers has convinced many that at least some censorship and guidance is necessary for the good of everyone.

At the end of the day, Dorsey hopes to work through these problems with the help of his team and user feedback.

“We’re focused on making Twitter amazing and making something people want to use every single day,” Dorsey stated. “We’re focused on building our service.”

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Network Neutrality and the State of the Union

Posted in Tech news  by Carol
May 18th, 2016

With the new election cycle heating up and becoming ready to come to a close it is more important than ever that we have politicians aligned with policies and ideas that will ensure the free flow and strength of both the internet and the cyber security we should expect living in the United States. The problem is what we expect as rights of any citizen is not always the case and in fact has been pretty bleak since the internet first appeared. With such a major issue getting little attention in the Current election cycle it is important that you are aware of the stance the remaining 3 presidential candidates have in this regard, and how to best plan for the coming election cycle.

The FCC proposed some rules last year regarding what would classify broadband as a public neutrality and thus give the government more power to ensure a neutral web. However, the proposed rules have not been totally implemented and are still facing hard opposition from large ISPs.


Hillary Clinton:

First among the remaining presidential candidates is Hillary Clinton. Hillary supported the new rules and has gone on record as saying that she wants to ensure that the FCC has the legal power to punish large companies that violate them. She also wrote in a recent Quartz op-ed “Closing these loopholes and protecting other standards of free and fair competition like enforcing strong net neutrality rules and preempting state laws that unfairly protect incumbent business will keep more money in consumers wallets enable startups to challenge the status quo and allow small business to thrive.” What is one thing that is scary about Hillary may also be a useful thing in this regard. What I mean by that is that she is constantly changing her stance for what is more politically favorable at the time, so in this regard if the majority of people made it seem untenable for certain aspects of this to go through and that we wanted a more open internet she may at the very least support it in interviews. Whether or not that translates to real life remains to be seen.

Bernie Sanders:

Bernie has been one the harshest critics of what he refers to as the anti-competitive practices of Comcast and Verizon, and has called for strong criticism of Internet “fast lanes.” The senator has also called for the Title II classification of broadband well before the FCC announced its new rules. In fact, Sanders introduced such a bill way back in 2006, 2007 and then 2015. That would prevent said “fast lanes.”

Donald J Trump:

What will probably not come as a surprise is that Donald Trump hasn’t made any public statements suggesting that he correctly understand the concept of net neutrality. Which is fairly funny considering he has made a lot of statements with
those words in them. Republicans tend to be against increased regulation of any kind, but Trump’s stated reasons for opposing the new net rules is that he fears they would lead to the censorship of conservative media which is frankly absurd.

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What is Done with Discarded Computers?

Posted in Digital Data, laptop, mobile app, Tech news  by Carol
April 27th, 2016

disc comp bWhen it comes to technology, planned obsolescence has been the name of the game for over a decade. Cell phones, laptops, desktop computers and even wearable processors like Fitbits are not meant to last forever; they’re meant to hit the market in pre-planned iterations. When a new version of a particular model comes out, it’s normal for manufacturers to have engineered them with the sales for future versions in mind; that means it’s good if that version breaks in time for a new sales quarter.

So where does discarded technology go after it’s disposed of? What is it about electronic waste that makes it so important to sort it and keep it from normal landfills? What is done to adjust for the disposal needs specific to electronics? Read on to find out.

The major disposal issue that old electronics present is rooted in the elements of which they are created. A typical personal computer (which contains many circuit boards) may contain up to eight pounds of lead, along with lower but significant levels of mercury, arsenic, cadmium, beryllium, and other toxic materials. Electronics also tend to use some member of a common but poisonous family of flame-retardant chemicals. All these materials are all toxic at varying exposure levels (though there is no safe level at which a person can be exposed to lead). They can cause major health problems, and in some cases death, in the event of a severe enough exposure.

disc comp1If all of these materials were to collect in a landfill, it’s not hard to understand how damage to human health could ensue. Unfortunately, no imagining is truly necessary; studies have found that in America, e-waste accounts for anywhere up to four percent of the total trash. That’s an extremely significant number, especially because e-waste is so heavy in lead. Given that four percent trash rate, e-waste becomes responsible for forty percent of the lead found in landfills. It accounts for whopping seventy percent of the other heavy and poisonous metals in landfills.

Luckily, most landfills are purposefully placed in locations where the soil and water contamination of the surrounding area can be contained and kept away from crops and water used by communities. Still, just the presence of that much hazardous waste on the surface of the ground can create problems.

This all seems to be a rather strong argument for the proper disposal of e-waste at locations meant to handle such strong and poisonous materials. Unfortunately, the sad fact remains that many so-called recycling centers in the United States and abroad are more of collection points than entities that have the intention of properly disposing of hazardous chemicals. E-waste is often sold to scrap brokers, who then ship the cargo to developing nations for deconstruction.

disc compDeconstruction entails the extremely chemically dangerous process of laborers smashing devices and harvesting them for their core components. Often the process by which the devices are opened causes toxic chemicals to be released in large amounts.

Luckily, many computer manufacturers are starting to make computers with fewer hazardous materials in them in the first place. However, this will not be enough to alleviate the problems caused by non-properly-disposed e-waste; major legislative change on a global level will have to happen.

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Microsoft Playing The Long Game With A.I.

Posted in Tech news  by Carol
March 31st, 2016

Microsoft on Wednesday outlined a plan that it is going to be putting out an array of a chat bot referred to as Tay which will go down in history as one of the biggest PR blunders of all time. What started out as a bright opportunity for Microsoft to display its A.I. chops in a fun cute way through the voice of an innocent teen girl quickly a very dark pro nazi sex crazed robot that they couldn’t pull the reins on until it was way too late. Tay had put out hunders on Tweets in the manner of one day that got progressively darker and more offensive. Not only did this look bad for the fact that they content was truly abhorrent, but it revealed the fact that they did not know what the hell they were doing, it revealed an arrogance and blind spot inherent to the A.I game. The reach is going across borders.

Mr.Nadella a developer of Tay said “We quickly realized that it was not up to this mark and so we’re back to the drawing board while we continue to incubate Xiaoice and Rinnan in China and Japan and wonder why it is that social bots work there differently.” jn

Microsoft is going to still hedge its bets in this regard because frankly, they are atleast the first to fail in this areana which is itself a kind of liberating and inspired notion. no one has yet steped to the fore and said anything, its easy to critique and even harder to do. In addition to this there is a general consistence that A.I. is going to be the future and the thing is that it does not need to follow the trajectory of the form many assume. For instance Human language is the new UI [user interface] layer…Bots are the new apps. Digital assistants are like … the new browsers, and intelligence is infused into all your interactions.”

The take away of this is that anything that is going to be solving complex problems and considering an array of data to give a conses and coherent comment to a time and location on the most bare bones level is going to be considered intelligent in the widest definition of the term today. This may be the wrong approach entirely however. What some jlkjjresearchers are starting to allude to is the notion of habitual intelligence or H.I. This deals with the concept that if we are going to start with making an intelligence, we start with working with ourselves. In doing so we think of ourselves as masters of reason and deduction with the capacity to take large matters of data and reduce them to workable terms. This is wrong. When we consider what makes humans truly unique or at least what makes us, as a manner of speaking us is our capacity to fulfill habits and carry out rituals that are time and person specific that matter to us and that we matter to. In so doing we are much more likely to create and intelligence that reflects our own, everything else is vague.


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Google Strategy Moving Forward

Posted in Tech news  by Carol
March 10th, 2016

googleGoogle, you know it people love it, it seems like they can do no wrong as a company for gods sake when someone says they are going to search for something of the internet they say they are going to google it. This has led to the politicization of the tech company, as it became possible for it to store massive quantities of information about searches and, in the eyes of politicians, potential voters.

But as we have seen just as the band aid brand does not have a choke hold on the adhesive bandage market or how Reynolds wrap is not the largest seller when it comes to aluminum foil we can see that name recognition and even synonymous nature to the product or service in question does not ensure that you will grow. Every company even google needs to continue to grow and develop with RandD and integrated dynamic data solutions for the future for the highest level of synergy they can possibly conceive of, so if they’re going to do this, you better be sure they are going to do it right and roll out the A-team of tech to make sure they do not go quietly into that night but rather… well you know the rest.lets take a look at some of the goodness on the the bright horizon for the one they call Google. it all starts with the patents which Everyone can find a prior art for everything. So the new trick is to get judges to block devices country by country. It’s bad for innovation”.

One shot in the dark for google is their attempt to make social networking updates by comic strips. this photographic style although new for google one could argue is the oldest means of transmitting information as represented in physical form. from the caves of glasco to the hyrogliphics of mighty Egypt. Google is trying to put you in the seat as the charter an in a sense when you are like a bitmoji but on steroids it will chris angelunderstand you dispositions and expectations to responses to various stimuli, but like bitmoji the only way it will have this is by asking you to do so in response to yourself and like bitmoji we see a weird state of  self denial and personal d illusion so maybe google should go back to the drawing board. but there is something there which at the heart of all man attempts to place ourselves at the center of a narrative, and not just that a good narrative. maybe this is the most fundamental of our phenomenological relationship to ourselves. as I sit here i am thinking of myself set in a reality,  a time with dispositions, with fears ambitions and shortcomings, but in all this I at least hope to see myself in a way that is more heroic or better than I obviously am. If i could see myself at the center of an actual narrative I worry google will find that most people aren’t very interesting or at least will not be self assured of their position in the world and will result in the age old angst which is a real problem form tech.

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Tech Opportunities Missed in the US Presidential Campaigns

Posted in Digital Data, Tech news  by Carol
February 15th, 2016

tech electionBarack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns both became testaments to the way the American political arena has changed over the past decade or so; the internet age and the rise of social media have revised the focus of the public eye, and Obama is credited with being the first to figure out exactly how to ride that change instead of being left behind by it.

However, this election year it seems that many to most candidates have failed to learn the lesson of Obama’s success; political races are won through the effective use of technology.

What exactly does effective use of technology look like in political contexts? It has to do with a mix of analytics and social networking, and it definitely saved Obama’s reelection from his negative approval ratings. Unfortunately for Hillary Clinton, she never figured out exactly how he did this.

But how do analytics and social media actually allow for a candidate to win? Well, according to the CIO in Obama’s election and re-election campaigns, Hillary Clinton and John McCain didn’t even know what analytics were. Mitt Romney understood better that kind of response he was looking for, but his plan was so poorly executed that his background successes in business became somewhat of a surprise.

Some argue that Obama’s social media presence and success owe in large part to the fact that Google got behind him… and now basically owns him. Consider this: Google’s billionaire executives are the only private citizens in the country who enjoy the benefit of having their personal/executive corporate jet fleet land, take-off, hanger and refuel at the Federal Government facility, Moffett Federal Airfield. The airfield is only a few miles from Google’s Mountain View headquarters. The Google executives have crafted a very generous 60-year lease, and are filling up on government subsidized jet fuel. Just a fun fact.

googleAnother weird thing that happened: Google was publicly credited with helping Obama’s re-election campaign, and just two weeks after Obama won the Presidential election, the U.S. Department of Justice appointed the former Google anti-trust counsel employee Renata Hesse to be Acting Chief of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, which allowed her to leapfrog over four other DOJ Antitrust Division Deputies with more seniority at the time. This then allowed for Google to skirt the most serious antitrust allegations against it that the government was previously investigating.

So Obama and Google clearly carved out a mutually beneficial little agreement there. Where did, say, Carly Fiorina go wrong? Well, not that she had to know how to make her own computer, but she never understood the technology of her own tech company, HP, plus, she wasn’t loyal to her people, who in turn weren’t loyal to her. She regularly used layoffs as a financial management tool, which of course led everyone to hate her.

This and the fact that she squandered her potential appeal to women by choosing Planned Parenthood selling fetus body parts as an issue (a choice that would have been easily proven ill-advised by proper analytics) led Fiorina to fail.

In the end, Analytics allow us to use a data-rich tool that makes it possible to force people (and ourselves) to stop favoring information that already validates our opinions and instead look at the facts of an issue.

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