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Apple Tells Lawmakers iPhones Are Not Listening In On Consumers
Posted by News Fetcher on August 08 '18 at 05:30 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's privacy-concerns department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Apple told U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday that its iPhones do not listen to users without their consent and do not allow third-party apps to do so either, after lawmakers asked the company if its devices were invading users' privacy. Representatives Greg Walden, Marsha Blackburn, Gregg Harper and Robert Latta wrote to Apple's chief executive Tim Cook and Alphabet chief executive Larry Page in July, citing concerns about reports that smartphones could "collect 'non-triggered' audio data from users' conversations near a smartphone in order to hear a 'trigger' phrase, such as 'Okay Google' or 'Hey Siri.'"

In a letter to Walden, an Oregon Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Apple said iPhones do not record audio while listening for Siri wakeup commands and Siri does not share spoken words. Apple said it requires users to explicitly approve microphone access and that apps must display a clear signal that they are listening.

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Women Die More From Heart Attacks Than Men -- Unless the ER Doc Is Female
Posted by News Fetcher on August 08 '18 at 02:50 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's skipping-a-beat department:
Women who suffer from heart attacks may be at a higher risk of death in the emergency room if they see a male physician rather than a female one, a new study suggests. The study doesn't jump to conclusions, but doctors and cardiologists have a few theories. There could be a systematic bias where male physicians are not listening to female patients' complaints as readily as [those of] a man, or there could be a bias that favors men in the medical literature, leading to misdiagnoses in women. It may also be that female doctors do a better job than their male counterparts. "In the new study everyone was more likely to survive if they saw a female physician, and a study published last year [...] indicated all patients of female physicians had lower mortality and hospital readmission rates," reports Scientific American. From the report: Heart disease is the number-one killer of both men and women, but the latter are significantly less likely to survive heart attacks. According to 2016 American Heart Association statement, 26 percent of women will die within a year of a heart attack compared with just 19 percent of men. The gap widens with time: By five years after a heart attack almost half of women die, compared with 36 percent of men. The reason has eluded researchers for years, but the authors of the new study point to the disparity in male and female representation in emergency doctors as a potential source of answers. The researchers analyzed a Florida Agency for Health Care Administration database containing every heart attack case from every ER in the state (excluding Veterans Affairs hospitals) between 1991 and 2010. The researchers divided 500,000-plus cases into four categories: male doctors treating men; male doctors treating women; female doctors treating men; and female doctors treating women. "All of those are statistically indistinguishable except for male doctor -- female patient," says Brad Greenwood, an author on the study and a data scientist at the University of Minnesota. If a heart attack patient is a woman and her emergency physician is a man, he says, her risk of death suddenly rises by about 12 percent. Put another way, a heart attack patient dies in the ER about 11.9 percent of the time overall -- but the research team found women with heart attacks will die about 12.4 percent of the time if their cases are handled by male doctors. This means approximately one out of every 66 women with heart attacks dies in the emergency room if she sees a male doctor rather than a female one.

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Oracle Challenges Pentagon's $10 Billion Cloud Computing Contract
Posted by News Fetcher on August 08 '18 at 12:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's JEDI-mine-trick department:
Oracle has filed an official complaint with the U.S. government over plans to award the Pentagon's lucrative cloud contract to a single vendor. Rebecca Hill writes via The Register: The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, which has a massive scope, covering different levels of secrecy and classification across all branches of the military, will run for a maximum of 10 years and is worth a potential $10 billion. In spite of this pressure from vendors and the tech lobby -- as well as concerns from Congress -- the US Department of Defense (DoD) refused to budge, and launched a request for proposals (RFP) at the end of last month. Oracle is less than impressed with the Pentagon's failure to back down, and this week filed a bid protest to congressional watchdog the Government Accountability Office asking for the RFP to be amended.

In the protest, the database goliath sets out its arguments against a single vendor award -- broadly that it could damage innovation, competition, and security. Reading between the lines, it doesn't want either of Amazon or Microsoft or Google to get the whole pie to itself, and thus endanger Oracle's cosiness with Uncle Sam. Summing up its position in a statement to The Register, Oracle said that JEDI "virtually assures DoD will be locked into legacy cloud for a decade or more" at a time when cloud technology is changing at an unprecedented pace.

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The Internal Report Proving the FCC Made Up a Cyberattack
Posted by News Fetcher on August 07 '18 at 08:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's make-believe department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: An investigation carried out by Federal Communication Commission's own inspector general officially refutes controversial claims that a cyberattack was responsible for disrupting the FCC's comment system in May 2017, at the height of the agency's efforts to kill off net neutrality. The investigation also uncovered that FCC officials had provided congressional lawmakers with misleading information regarding conversations between an FCC employee and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's cybercrime task force. A report from the inspector general's office (OIG) released Tuesday afternoon states that the comment system's downtime was likely caused by a combination of "system design issues" and a massive surge in traffic caused when Last Week Tonight host John Oliver directed millions of TV viewers to flood the FCC's website with pro-net neutrality comments.

< article continued at Slashdot's make-believe department >

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Cities' Offers For Amazon Base Are Secrets Even To Many City Leaders
Posted by News Fetcher on August 07 '18 at 06:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's top-secret department:
The location for Amazon's second headquarters is shrouded in secrecy, so much so that many city leaders are unaware of the financial incentives their cities used to entice Amazon (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). The New York Times reports: Across the country, the search for HQ2, as the project has been nicknamed, is shrouded in secrecy. Even civic leaders can't find out what sort of tax credits and other inducements have been promised to Amazon. And there is a growing legal push to find out, because taxpayers could get saddled with a huge bill and have little chance to stop it. A primary reason for the information blackout is that, in many cases, the bids were handled by local private Chamber of Commerce affiliates or economic development groups that aren't required to make their negotiations public. Many of the groups are also not covered by Freedom of Information Act or state open-records requests. But another reason is gamesmanship. Some cities say they want their Amazon proposals to remain confidential to avoid showing their hand to rivals. And Amazon required the finalists to sign nondisclosure agreements that forbid the local groups to release proprietary information about the company. With so much secrecy -- and bids like Austin's that involve unelected officials making promises -- there is the risk that taxpayers and their civic leaders will be forced to accept the proposed terms or live with turning down an enormously lucrative opportunity. Amazon, which is expected to make $235 billion in revenue this year, promises to bring the winning location up to 50,000 high-paying jobs and a $5 billion investment in construction.

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Plan To Replicate 50 High-Impact Cancer Papers Shrinks To Just 18
Posted by News Fetcher on August 07 '18 at 05:30 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's copy-+-paste department:
Five years ago, researchers set out to replicate experiments from 50 high-impact cancer biology papers. Now, due to various challenges relating to a lack of funding and expertise, the project only expects to complete just 18 studies. Science Magazine reports: The Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology (RP:CP) began in October 2013 as an open effort to test replicability after two drug companies reported they had trouble reproducing many cancer studies. The work was a collaboration with Science Exchange, a company based in Palo Alto, California, that found contract labs to reproduce a few key experiments from each paper. Funding included a $1.3 million grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, enough for about $25,000 per study. Experiments were expected to take 1 year.

Costs rose and delays ensued as organizers realized they needed more information and materials from the original authors; a decision to have the proposed replications peer reviewed also added time. Organizers whittled the list of papers to 37 in late 2015, then to 29 by January 2017. In the past few months, they decided to discontinue 38% or 11 of the ongoing replications, Errington says. (Elizabeth Iorns, president of Science Exchange, says total costs for the 18 completed studies averaged about $60,000, including two high-priced "outliers.") One reason for cutting off some replications was that it was taking too long to troubleshoot or optimize experiments to get meaningful results... So far, the project has published replication results for 10 of the 18 studies. "Five were mostly repeatable, three were inconclusive, and two studies were negative, but the original findings have been confirmed by other labs," reports Science Magazine. "In fact, many of the initial 50 papers have been confirmed by other groups, as some of the RP:CB's critics have pointed out."

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Hacker Posts Snapchat Source Code To GitHub
Posted by News Fetcher on August 07 '18 at 05:30 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's marked-as-read department:
tacarat shares a report from The Next Web with the caption, "Oops": A GitHub with the handle i5xx, believed to be from the village of Tando Bago in Pakistan's southeastern Sindh province, created a GitHub repository called Source-Snapchat. At the time of writing, the repo has been removed by GitHub following a DMCA request from Snap Inc, so we can't take a closer look and see what it contains. That said, there are a few clues to its contents. The repository has a description of "Source Code for SnapChat," and is written in Apple's Objective-C programming language. This strongly suggests that the repo contained part or whole of the company's iOS application, although there's no way we can know for certain. It could just as easily be a minor component to the service, or a separate project from the company.

The most fascinating part of this saga is that the leak doesn't appear to be malicious, but rather comes from a researcher who found something, but wasn't able to communicate his findings to the company. According to several posts on a Twitter account believed to belong to i5xx, the researcher tried to contact SnapChat, but was unsuccessful. "The problem we tried to communicate with you but did not succeed In that we decided [sic] Deploy source code," wrote i5xx. The account also threatened to re-upload the source code. "I will post it again until you reply :)," he said. A Snap spokesperson said in a statement: "An iOS update in May exposed a small amount of our source code and we were able to identify the mistake and rectify it immediately. We discovered that some of this code had been posted online and it has been subsequently removed. This did not compromise our application and had no impact on our community." According to Motherboard, some researchers appear to be trading the data privately.

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TCP Flaw Lets Remote Attackers Stall Devices With Tiny DoS Attack
Posted by News Fetcher on August 07 '18 at 04:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's remote-control department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Security researchers are warning Linux system users of a bug in the Linux kernel version 4.9 and up that could be used to hit systems with a denial-of-service attack on networking kit. The warning comes from Carnegie Mellon University's CERT/CC, which notes that newer versions of the Linux kernel can be "forced to make very expensive calls to tcp_collapse_ofo_queue() and tcp_prune_ofo_queue() for every incoming packet which can lead to a denial of service (DoS)".

It lists a number of network-equipment vendors, PC and server manufacturers, mobile vendors, and operating-system makers that may be affected but notes that it hasn't confirmed whether any of them actually are. But, given the widespread use of Linux, the bug could affect every vendor from Amazon and Apple through to Ubuntu and ZyXEL. A remote attacker could cause a DoS by sending specially modified packets within ongoing TCP sessions. But sustaining the DoS condition would mean an attacker needs to have continuous two-way TCP sessions to a reachable and open port. The bug, dubbed "SegmentSmack" by Red Hat, has "no effective workaround/mitigation besides a fixed kernel."

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NEC Unveils Facial Recognition System For 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Posted by News Fetcher on August 07 '18 at 04:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-of-its-kind department:
NEC, a Japanese IT and networking company, announced plans to provide a large-scale facial recognition system for the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo. "The system will be used to identify over 300,000 people at the games, including athletes, volunteers, media, and other staff," reports The Verge. From the report: NEC's system is built around an AI engine called NeoFace, which is part of the company's overarching Bio-IDiom line of biometric authentication technology. The Tokyo 2020 implementation will involve linking photo data with an IC card to be carried by accredited people. NEC says that it has the world's leading face recognition tech based on benchmark tests from the US's National Institute of Standards and Technology. NEC demonstrated the technology in Tokyo today, showing how athletes and other staff wouldn't be able to enter venues if they were holding someone else's IC card. The company even brought out a six-foot-eight former Olympic volleyball player to demonstrate that the system would work with people of all heights, though he certainly had to stoop a bit. It worked smoothly with multiple people moving through it quickly; the screen displayed the IC card holder's photo almost immediately after.

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Europe's Heatwave is Forcing Nuclear Power Plants To Shut Down
Posted by News Fetcher on August 07 '18 at 02:50 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Europe's heatwave -- which led to wildfires in Greece and Sweden, droughts in central and northern parts, and made the normally green UK look brown from space -- is forcing nuclear plants to shut down or curtail the amount of power they produce, local media reports. From a report: French utility EDF shut four reactors at three power plants on Saturday, Swedish utility Vattenfall shut one of two reactors at a power plant earlier last week, and nuclear plants in Finland, Germany, and Switzerland have cut back the amount of power they produce. Thermal power plants, such as nuclear or coal, use high-temperature steam to turn turbines, which convert heat energy into electricity. In the process, the steam's temperature falls, so it can no longer be used to move the turbine again. [...] Europe's heatwave, however, hasn't just increased air temperatures but also water temperatures.

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Online Photos Can't Simply Be Republished, EU Court Rules
Posted by News Fetcher on August 07 '18 at 02:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's thou-shalt-not-post department:
The European Court of Justice ruled Tuesday that internet users must ask for a photographer's permission before posting their images online, even if the photos were already freely accessible on other websites. "The posting on a website of a photograph that was freely accessible on another website with the consent of the author requires a new authorization by that author," the EU's top court said in a statement. Politico reports: The court had been asked to decide on a case in Germany, in which a secondary school student downloaded and used a photo that had been freely accessible on a travel website for a school project. The photo was later posted on the school's website as well. The photographer who took the picture argued the school's use of his photo was a copyright infringement because he only gave the travel site permission to use it, and claimed damages amounting to 400 euros (~$463). The ECJ ruled in the photographer's favor, saying that under the EU's Copyright Directive, the school should have gotten his approval before publishing the photo.

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Verizon 'Grossly Overstated' Its 4G LTE Coverage In Government Filings, Trade Group Says
Posted by News Fetcher on August 07 '18 at 01:30 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's something-doesn't-add-up-here department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Verizon "grossly overstated" its 4G LTE coverage in government filings, potentially preventing smaller carriers from obtaining funding needed to expand coverage in underserved rural areas, a trade group says. The Federal Communications Commission last year required Verizon and other carriers to file maps and data indicating their current 4G LTE coverage. The information will help the FCC determine where to distribute up to $4.5 billion in Mobility Fund money over the next 10 years. The funds are set aside for "primarily rural areas that lack unsubsidized 4G," the FCC says. If Verizon provided the FCC with inaccurate data, the company's rural competitors might not be able to get that government funding. "Verizon's claimed 4G LTE coverage is grossly overstated," the Rural Wireless Association (RWA), which represents rural carriers, told the FCC in a filing yesterday. "Verizon should not be allowed to abuse the FCC challenge process by filing a sham coverage map as a means of interfering with the ability of rural carriers to continue to receive universal service support in rural areas," the RWA wrote. "RWA's members are in the middle of the Challenge Process but are expending enormous time and financial resources in their efforts due to inaccurate data submitted by Verizon," the group said. "RWA requests that the Commission investigate the 4G LTE coverage claimed by Verizon and require re-filing of Verizon's data to correct its overstated coverage."

According to the RWA, Verizon claims to cover almost all of the Oklahoma Panhandle, an area of 14,778.47 square kilometers, but estimates that the actual coverage area should be approximately 6,806.49 square kilometers. "[That's] not even half of the LTE coverage area Verizon publicly claims to serve," the RWA wrote.

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Only a Small Percentage of Users Buy Stuff Through Alexa, Report Claims
Posted by News Fetcher on August 07 '18 at 12:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's upon-further-reflection department:
Analysts have been aggressively optimistic in their predictions about the growth of consumer shopping via virtual assistants like Amazon's Alexa, but a new report claims that only a small fraction of Alexa device owners shop with voice commands. And most of those who do only try it once or stick to a limited range of products. From a report: Two people who have been briefed on Amazon's "internal figures" told tech business publication The Information that only around 2 percent of people who own Alexa-equipped devices like those in Amazon's Echo line have ever made a purchase with Alexa. Of that 2 percent, about 90 percent tried it once and did not attempt it again after that, one of The Information's sources said. And even those users who regularly use Alexa to shop mainly do so for small purchases like household supplies.

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Popular Subscription Email Service Newton Mail Is Being Discontinued
Posted by News Fetcher on August 07 '18 at 12:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's another-one-bites-the-dust department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: CloudMagic, the makers of Newton, today announced that Newton Mail is being discontinued. The company is no longer allowing new users to purchase Newton Mail which costs $100 a year, and existing users will be provided with refunds. For those using the monthly subscription plan, it will immediately stop automatically renewing. And for those on the yearly subscription, you will be given a refund on a pro-rata basis. "We explored various business models but couldn't successfully figure out profitability & growth over the long term. It was hard; the market for premium consumer mail apps is not big enough, and it faces stiff competition from high-quality free apps from Google, Microsoft, and Apple," said Rohit Nadhani, the founder and CEO of CloudMagic. All of that makes sense -- when we have companies like Microsoft and Google making brilliant free email clients like Outlook Mobile and Inbox, there really is no space for paid apps like Newton on the market.

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Elon Musk Says He's Considering Taking Tesla Private; Tesla Suspends Shares As It is Expected To Make an Announcement
Posted by News Fetcher on August 07 '18 at 10:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's basking-in-Elon's-musk department:
Elon Musk said he's thinking about taking Tesla private. More specifically, he said he may buy back the company for $71.3 billion (at a share price of $420), and already has the funding to do so. From a report: Musk, the CEO and largest shareholder of the electric car maker, said on Twitter on Tuesday that he has secured funding from a private buyer. He implied that the funding values the company at $420 a share. The stock had been worth about $342 a share before Musk's tweet, and shares quickly jumped as high as $371.
The stock had climbed slightly earlier in the day after the Financial Times reported that Saudi Arabia has quietly built a big stake in Tesla. Tesla didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. About an hour and 20 minutes after the Musk tweet, trading in Tesla stock was suspended because the company was expected to release news. TechCrunch: Musk's hope, he later tweeted, is that "all current investors remain with Tesla even if we're private. Would create special purpose fund enabling anyone to stay with Tesla. Already do this with Fidelity's SpaceX investment." Musk, who said he would stay on as CEO, also seems willing to have a provision for retail investors, who have held Tesla shares prior to Dec. 31, 2016, to convert their shares into private shares. Musk, in response to a tweet, said he's "super appreciative of Tesla shareholders" and "will ensure their prosperity in any scenario." Musk has publicly mused about taking Tesla private before, saying in a 2017 Rolling Stone profile: "I wish we could be private with Tesla," Musk murmurs as they exit. "It actually makes us less efficient to be a public company."

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The Defense Department Has Produced the First Tools For Catching Deepfakes
Posted by News Fetcher on August 07 '18 at 10:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fighting-back department:
Fake video clips made with artificial intelligence can also be spotted using AI -- but this may be the beginning of an arms race. From a report: The first forensics tools for catching revenge porn and fake news created with AI have been developed through a program run by the US Defense Department. Forensics experts have rushed to find ways of detecting videos synthesized and manipulated using machine learning because the technology makes it far easier to create convincing fake videos that could be used to sow disinformation or harass people. The most common technique for generating fake videos involves using machine learning to swap one person's face onto another's. The resulting videos, known as "deepfakes," are simple to make, and can be surprisingly realistic. Further tweaks, made by a skilled video editor, can make them seem even more real. Video trickery involves using a machine-learning technique known as generative modeling, which lets a computer learn from real data before producing fake examples that are statistically similar. A recent twist on this involves having two neural networks, known as generative adversarial networks, work together to produce ever more convincing fakes. The tools for catching deepfakes were developed through a program -- run by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) -- called Media Forensics. The program was created to automate existing forensics tools, but has recently turned its attention to AI-made forgery.

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The Ultra-Pure, Super-Secret Sand That Makes Your Phone Possible
Posted by News Fetcher on August 07 '18 at 09:30 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
The processor that makes your laptop or cell phone work was fabricated using quartz from this obscure Appalachian backwater. From a report: Alex Glover is a recently retired geologist who has spent decades hunting for valuable minerals in the hillsides and hollows of the Appalachian Mountains that surround Spruce Pine, North Carolina. Spruce Pine is not a wealthy place. Its downtown consists of a somnambulant train station across the street from a couple of blocks of two-story brick buildings, including a long-closed movie theater and several empty storefronts. The wooded mountains surrounding it, though, are rich in all kinds of desirable rocks, some valued for their industrial uses, some for their pure prettiness. But it's the mineral in Glover's bag -- snowy white grains, soft as powdered sugar -- that is by far the most important these days. It's quartz, but not just any quartz. Spruce Pine, it turns out, is the source of the purest natural quartz -- a species of pristine sand -- ever found on Earth. This ultra-elite deposit of silicon dioxide particles plays a key role in manufacturing the silicon used to make computer chips. In fact, there's an excellent chance the chip that makes your laptop or cell phone work was made using sand from this obscure Appalachian backwater. "It's a billion-dollar industry here," Glover says with a hooting laugh. "Can't tell by driving through here. You'd never know it." In the 21st century, sand has become more important than ever, and in more ways than ever. Most of the world's sand grains are composed of quartz, which is a form of silicon dioxide, also known as silica. High-purity silicon dioxide particles are the essential raw materials from which we make computer chips, fiber-optic cables, and other high-tech hardware -- the physical components on which the virtual world runs.

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Mozilla Debuts Firefox Extension that Recommends Content Based on Your Browsing Activity
Posted by News Fetcher on August 07 '18 at 09:30 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's interesting-moves department:
Mozilla on Tuesday began testing a Firefox extension that shows you its best guesses for what you want to see on the web. From a report: The Advance web extension is available for anyone from today and can analyze content on current active web pages to recommend related tidbits you may want to "read next" from other websites. It will also surface recommendations based on your recent browsing history in a "for you" section. With the extension installed, you just browse the web as you normally would and the little sidebar will show things that are relevant to what you've been looking at. The extension is powered by Laserlike, a VC-funded, machine learning-powered "interest search engine" that delivers personalized content. As such, Laserlike will receive users' browsing history -- something Mozilla wants people to understand before they install the extension. But the company has also built in some tools to boost control and data transparency.

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West Virginia To Introduce Mobile Phone Voting For Midterm Elections
Posted by News Fetcher on August 07 '18 at 08:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
West Virginians serving overseas will be the first in the country to cast federal election ballots using a smartphone app, a move designed to make voting in November's election easier for troops living abroad. But election integrity and computer security experts expressed alarm at the prospect of voting by phone, and one went so far as to call it "a horrific idea." CNN: The state's decision to pioneer mobile voting comes even as the United States grapples with Russian interference in its elections. A recent federal indictment outlined Russia's attempts to hack US voting infrastructure during the 2016 presidential race, and US intelligence agencies have warned of Russian attempts to interfere with the upcoming midterm election. Still, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner and Voatz, the Boston company that developed the app, insist it is secure. Anyone using it must first register by taking a photo of their government-issued identification and a selfie-style video of their face, then upload them via the app. Voatz says its facial recognition software will ensure the photo and video show the same person. Once approved, voters can cast their ballot using the Voatz app.

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Palm-branded Smartphones Could Return This Year
Posted by News Fetcher on August 07 '18 at 08:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Palm's smartphone return appears to still be on track for 2018. From a report: Last year, an executive at TCL confirmed that the dearly departed mobile brand would be making a comeback as part of the smartphone conglomerate's portfolio, and with a little under five months left in the year, the 'PVG100' has hit the FCC and WiFi alliance. The handset was spotted by Android Police, but we don't really have much more to go on than a name and a couple of WiFi bands. As the site notes, however, the absence of 5GHz support leads one to surmise that this won't exactly be a barn-burning flagship. The handset also looks to be running Android 8.1 -- not really a surprise, given that Android Pie is still limited to Pixel and a smattering of other devices.

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