By BeauHD from Slashdot's he-said-she-said department
According to a senior Republican congressional aide, the National Security Agency has quietly shut down a system that analyzes logs of Americans' domestic calls and texts. "The agency has not used the system in months, and the Trump administration might not ask Congress to renew its legal authority, which is set to expire at the end of the year, according to the aide, Luke Murry, the House minority leader's national security adviser," reports The New York Times. From the report: In a raw assertion of executive power, President George W. Bush's administration started the program as part of its intense pursuit for Qaeda conspirators in the weeks after the 2001 terrorist attacks, and a court later secretly blessed it. The intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden disclosed the program's existence in 2013, jolting the public and contributing to growing awareness of how both governments and private companies harvest and exploit personal data. The way that intelligence analysts have gained access to bulk records of Americans' phone calls and texts has evolved, but the purpose has been the same: They analyze social links to hunt for associates of known terrorism suspects.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's manufacturing-breakthroughs department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Scientists from Heriot-Watt University have welded glass and metal together using an ultrafast laser system, in a breakthrough for the manufacturing industry. Various optical materials such as quartz, borosilicate glass and even sapphire were all successfully welded to metals like aluminum, titanium and stainless steel using the Heriot-Watt laser system, which provides very short, picosecond pulses of infrared light in tracks along the materials to fuse them together. The new process could transform the manufacturing sector and have direct applications in the aerospace, defense, optical technology and even healthcare fields. Professor Duncan Hand, director of the five-university EPSRC Center for Innovative Manufacturing in Laser-based Production Processes based at Heriot-Watt, said: "Traditionally it has been very difficult to weld together dissimilar materials like glass and metal due to their different thermal properties -- the high temperatures and highly different thermal expansions involved cause the glass to shatter. Being able to weld glass and metals together will be a huge step forward in manufacturing and design flexibility."
He added: "The parts to be welded are placed in close contact, and the laser is focused through the optical material to provide a very small and highly intense spot at the interface between the two materials -- we achieved megawatt peak power over an area just a few microns across. This creates a microplasma, like a tiny ball of lightning, inside the material, surrounded by a highly-confined melt region. We tested the welds at -50C to 90C and the welds remained intact, so we know they are robust enough to cope with extreme conditions."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's those-who-do-not-learn-history-are-doomed-to-repeat-it department
Chronicle, a security start-up owned by Google's parent company, Alphabet, plans on sharing what it learned from a cyberattack against Google nearly ten years ago. The hack was conducted by the Chinese military and was "one of the most starting cyberattacks on an American company by government-affiliated agents," reports The New York Times. The lessons it learned from that incident will be brought to other companies through a widely anticipated new product called Backstory. From the report: The idea, company executives said, is simple: Backstory will make Alphabet's vast storage, indexing and search abilities available to other companies, allowing them to search through giant volumes of data, going years back, to trace the back story of a malicious attack. Chronicle is hardly the only company doing this. Dozens of companies promise so-called big data threat intelligence and storage. But many of their customers can't afford to pay to search through huge amounts of information. Chronicle will charge customers by their number of employees.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's unmatched-AI-offerings department
MIT Technology reports of how Huawei's technology road map, especially in the field of artificial intelligence, is progressing more rapidly than any other business in the world. "The [Chinese] government and private sector approach is to build companies that compete across the full tech stack," says Samm Sacks, who specializes in cybersecurity and China at New America, a Washington think tank. "That's what Huawei is doing." Huawei's AI strategy "will also raise a host of new security issues," the report notes. "The company's technological ubiquity, and the fact that Chinese companies are ultimately answerable to their government, are big reasons why the U.S. views Huawei as an unprecedented national security threat." From the report: In an exclusive interview with MIT Technology Review, Xu Wenwei, director of the Huawei board and the company's chief strategy and marketing officer, touted the scope of its AI plans. He also defended the company's record on security. And he promised that Huawei would seek to engage with the rest of the world to address emerging risks and threats posed by AI. Xu (who uses the Western name William Xu) said that Huawei plans to increase its investments in AI and integrate it throughout the company to "build a full-stack AI portfolio." Since Huawei is a private firm, it's tricky to quantify its technology investments. But officials from the company said last year that it planned to more than double annual R&D spending to between $15 billion and $20 billion. This could catapult the company to between fifth and second place in worldwide spending on R&D. According to its website, some 80,000 employees, or 45% of Huawei's workforce, are involved in R&D.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's end-of-the-road department
Microsoft is officially killing off its Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health Dashboard apps and services on May 31st. "The software giant already discontinued its wrist-worn Band fitness tracker more than two years ago, but the company has kept the Band apps running to support existing users," reports The Verge. "That will now change on May 31st, with the backend services ending and the apps being removed from the Microsoft Store, Google Play, and Apple's App Store." From the report: Existing Band users will be able to export their data before the end of May, and services powered by the cloud will cease to function in June. Band users should still be able to record daily steps, heart rate, and workouts, alongside activity data, sleep tracking, and alarm functionality. If a Band user resets a device then it will be "impossible to set up the device again" according to Microsoft.
Some Microsoft Band users will be eligible for a refund from the software giant, though. Microsoft is letting active users who have synced data from a Band to the Health Dashboard between December 1st 2018 and March 1st 2019 apply for a refund on their hardware. Surprisingly, Microsoft is offering $79.99 for Band 1 owners, and $175 for Band 2 devices. If your Microsoft Band is also covered under warranty, the same refund values will be available.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's quietly-buying-and-selling-your-data department
tedlistens writes: Vermont's newly enacted data broker law is the only law of its kind in the U.S. so far, and it's forced any company collecting data on its citizens to register with the state. Fast Company wrote about the limitations of the law and compiled a list of the companies, what they do, and tips for opting-out if possible.
The Vermont law only covers third-party data firms -- those trafficking in the data of people with whom they have no relationship -- as opposed to "first-party" data holders like Amazon, Facebook, or Google, which collect their own enormous piles of detailed personal data directly from users. It doesn't require data brokers to disclose who's in their databases, what data they collect, or who buys it. Nor does it require brokers to give consumers access to their own data or opt out of data collection. Brokers are, however required to provide some information about their opt-out systems under the law -- assuming they provide one. "The registry is an expansive, alphabet soup of companies, from lesser-known organizations that help landlords research potential tenants or deliver marketing leads to insurance companies, to the quiet giants of data," reports Fast Company. "Those include big names in people search, like Spokeo, ZoomInfo, White Pages, PeopleSmart, Intelius, and PeopleFinders; credit reporting, like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion; and advertising and marketing, like Acxiom, Oracle, LexisNexis, Innovis, and KBM. Some companies also specialize in 'risk mitigation,' which can include credit reporting but also background checks and other identity verification services." The report lists all the companies that have registered under Vermont's data broker law, with descriptions drawn from their websites or other sources where noted.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's trust-issues department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Using two-factor authentication, a security mechanism that requires a second step to login into an account other than the password, is widely considered an essential measure to protect yourself online. Yet, only a small percentage of people use this feature, mostly because it can be burdensome and it's rarely required by default, leaving users with the responsibility to turn it on. Now, Facebook may have given people yet another reason not to bother. Last week, Emojipedia founder Jeremy Burge warned in a viral Twitter thread that anyone could look him up on Facebook using his phone number, which he provided to the social network in order to enable two-factor authentication. What's worse, it looks like there's no way to completely remove your phone number that Facebook has collected. If you check your privacy settings, under "Who can look you up using the phone number you provided?" there are only three options: Everyone, Friends of friends, and Friends. "Everyone" is the default.
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By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department
Netflix has addressed Steven Spielberg's concerns, after the legendary director indicated he'd throw his weight behind making Oscars harder to reach for Netflix films like "Roma". From a report: The streaming giant didn't name Spielberg directly in its tweet, but considering his views on Netflix films and the Academy Awards, it seems like the statement is associated with the director's thoughts about their participation as contenders in award season. "We love cinema," the official Netflix Twitter account wrote. They continue with a list of things they loved including: Access for people who can't always afford, or live in towns without, theaters; letting everyone, everywhere enjoy releases at the same time; and giving filmmakers more ways to share art. "These things are not mutually exclusive," they concluded in a tweet that could be considered a clap back at the filmmaker. IndieWire reported last week that Spielberg, who serves as the current governor of the Academy's directors branch, intends to argue in favor of changing the Oscars' rules to prevent streaming services from entering the campaign field at the Academy Board of Governors' next meeting. Because Netflix is a home-viewing platform, critics like Spielberg say that it's better-suited for the Emmys, which celebrate TV, a medium inherent to home-viewing.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Fish populations are declining as oceans warm, putting a key source of food and income at risk for millions of people around the world, according to research published last week. From a report: The study found that the amount of seafood that humans could sustainably harvest from a wide range of species shrank by 4.1 percent from 1930 to 2010, a casualty of human-caused climate change. "That 4 percent decline sounds small, but it's 1.4 million metric tons of fish from 1930 to 2010," said Chris Free, the lead author of the study, which appears in the journal Science. Scientists have warned that global warming will put pressure on the world's food supplies in coming decades. But the new findings -- which separate the effects of warming waters from other factors, like overfishing -- suggest that climate change is already having a serious impact on seafood.
[...] As the oceans have warmed, some regions have been particularly hard-hit. In the northeast Atlantic Ocean and the Sea of Japan, fish populations declined by as much as 35 percent over the period of the study. "The ecosystems in East Asia have seen some of the largest decline in fisheries productivity," Dr. Free said. "And that region is home to some of the largest growing human populations and populations that are highly dependent on seafood."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's strange-bug department
Over the weekend, a disturbed Android TV owner took to Twitter when he realized, through the Google Home app, he could access a massive list of random accounts, as well as photos they'd added to their Google Photos albums. From a report: If someone were to click on "linked accounts" while setting your Google Photos screensaver, the Google Home bug apparently showed a giant, scrolling list of users. From there, the bug allowed limited access to users' personal images in Google Photos, which could then be displayed as Ambient Mode screensavers. That is, someone could have theoretically displayed your photos as screensavers on their Android TV without you knowing it. The user who discovered this bug theorized that the list of accounts were other users with the same TV model, but that hasn't been confirmed yet. There's no answer yet on where this bug came from, but Google is working on a fix and has disabled Google Photos screensavers in the meantime.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
Thousands of people could soon be receiving letters threatening to cut off vital housing benefits as they face being incorrectly targeted by a new automated fraud detector. From a report: The government-backed London Counter Fraud Hub, developed by BAE, has been hailed a success after being trialled in four boroughs - Camden, Ealing, Croydon and Islington. Using vast quantities of data from millions of households, it is designed to target potential fraud cases involving the single person council tax discount, subletting in local authority housing and business rate relief and rating.
Ealing, the lead council for the project, found the automated elements of the system targeting single person discount fraud was 80% effective -- which is seen as an acceptable benchmark. With just over one million claimants of council tax single person discount in London, the London Counter Fraud Hub estimates it will detect around 40,000 fraudulent cases in the first year. Critics say the 20% error rate is unacceptable as around 8,000 people will receive letters wrongly accusing them of fraud.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
An anonymous reader shares a report: The median rent for a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco has reached a new peak of $3,690, according to survey data from Zumper, a home and apartment rental app. That's also a rise of nearly 9 percent from the same time last year, the survey found. Not only are those figures high enough to make your bank account cringe, but they're also nearly 30 percent higher than New York City and more than double the prices in Miami. Seattle, home to Amazon and Microsoft, rang in at $1,970 and Washington, DC, hit $2,150.
Oh, and by the way, while San Francisco's prices rose, the median price of one bedroom apartments across the US dropped nearly half a percent during this same time. That means while San Francisco's prices climbed, the country's prices fell. "Though there may be a ton of cash flowing through the city and surrounding areas soon, many of these workers will not immediately invest in a home and may, instead, take their money to both travel and upgrade their rental situation," Zumper wrote in a blog post Thursday.Read Replies (0)