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Canadian Malls Are Using Facial Recognition To Track Shoppers' Age, Gender Without Consent
Posted by News Fetcher on July 28 '18 at 02:51 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's heads-up department:
At least two malls in Calgary are using facial recognition technology to track shoppers' ages and genders without first obtaining their consent. "A visitor to Chinook Center in south Calgary spotted a browser window that had seemingly accidentally been left open on one of the mall's directories, exposing facial-recognition software that was running in the background of the digital map," reports CBC.ca. "They took a photo and posted it to the social networking site Reddit on Tuesday." From the report: The mall's parent company, Cadillac Fairview, said the software, which they began using in June, counts people who use the directory and predicts their approximate age and gender, but does not record or store any photos or video from the directory cameras. Cadillac Fairview said the software is also used at Market Mall in northwest Calgary, and other malls nationwide. Cadillac Fairview said currently the only data they collect is the number of shoppers and their approximate age and gender, but most facial recognition software can be easily adapted to collect additional data points, according to privacy advocates. Under Alberta's Personal Information Privacy Act, people need to be notified their private information is being collected, but as the mall isn't actually saving the recordings, what they're doing is legal. It's not known how many other Calgary-area malls are using the same or similar software and if they are recording the data.

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An Open Source, DIY Spacesuit Is About To Get Its First Life Or Death Test
Posted by News Fetcher on July 28 '18 at 01:30 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's elbow-grease department:
dmoberhaus writes: Pacific Spaceflight is a small group of volunteers that has spent the last decade developing an open source, DIY spacesuit in their members' living rooms. This fall its creator will fly to over 60,000 feet in a hot air balloon, known as the Armstrong Limit, the point at which exposed body fluids will boil away if not protected in a pressured vessel. [A post on Medium provides a] deep dive into the story of Pacific Spaceflight and how to build your own spacesuit. Here is an excerpt from the report: There are two main types of spacesuits: Intravehicular activity (IVA) suits worn inside spacecraft, and those worn outside for extravehicular activities (EVA). IVA spacesuits are mostly there as a backup in case of an emergency, like the sudden loss of pressure in a spacecraft. This makes them inherently simpler since they don't have to account for things like radiation exposure and the gloves can just be rubber gloves similar to those you might use to wash your dishes. [...] Smith's first suits were made by modifying old scuba diving suits to fit his needs. Yet as he became more familiar with pressure suit design and his own requirements, he started to assemble everything from scratch. These days, he and the other Pacific Spaceflight volunteers cut their own fabric and pretty much make everything on their own or repurpose common household items as necessary (Smith said one of the few things the group can't make on its own is the suit's zippers). Smith will release the designs of the spacesuit as an open source blueprint once the suit is perfected and properly tested. The final version will reportedly cost less than $1,000 of materials to build.

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Scientists Resurrect 40,000-Year-Old Worms Buried In Ice
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 08:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's holding-on-for-life department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Earlier this month, in the journal Doklady Biological Sciences, a team of Russian scientists announced they had apparently discovered ancient nematode worms that were able to resurrect themselves after spending at least 32,000 years buried in permafrost. The discovery, if legitimate, would represent the longest-surviving return from the cold ever seen in a complex, multi-celled organism, dwarfing even the tardigrade. The worms were found among more than 300 samples of frozen soil pulled from the Kolyma River Lowlands in Northeastern Siberia by the researchers. Two of the samples held the worms, with one from a buried squirrel burrow dating back 32,000 years and one from a glacier dating back 40,000 years. After isolating intact nematodes, the scientists kept the samples at 68 degrees Fahrenheit and left them surrounded by food in a petri dish, just to see what would happen. Over the next few weeks, they gradually spotted flickers of life as the worms ate the food and even cloned new family members. These cloned worms were then cultured separately, and they too thrived.

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Facebook's 'Downvote' System Begins Rolling Out Wider In US
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 06:52 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department:
Facebook is reportedly rolling out its "downvote" button to a wider group of users in the United States. "The feature began appearing on the service's mobile app without a formal company announcement -- and we only found out about it by browsing on our phones," reports Ars Technica. From the report: The feature appears to currently be limited to "public" posts. Should your account be flagged for this week's test, every comment in a thread will include a numeric value and small up- and down-arrows connected to that number. Upon the first display of this Reddit-like change, the Facebook app will offer guidance: "Support comments that are thoughtful, and demote ones that are uncivil or irrelevant."

This is in addition to the site's long-running "emotion" interface, which lets users tap "like" or emoji-styled buttons. These icons and numbers still attach to posts as they've done for years. Now an additional value based on up- and down-votes, appears as well, and these values are separate. Meaning, if you tap the "like" button and down-vote on the same comment, those actions don't cancel each other out. As of press time, these up- and down-vote numbers are not visible if your account is not flagged for the test. We have not yet seen this feature go live on any versions of the Facebook Android app.

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364 Idaho Inmates Hacked Their Prison Tablets For Free Credits
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 05:33 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's short-on-funds department:
According to local Idaho media, 364 inmates across at least five institutions exploited a vulnerability in their prison-issued tablets to assign nearly $225,000 worth of digital credits to their accounts. They were then able to use these credits to buy music and games. Bleeping Computer reports: The hacked tablets have been used at low-security level prisons across the U.S. for a few years now. They've been offered through a partnership between CenturyLink and JPay. Spokespersons for both companies said the vulnerability inmates exploited was identified and fixed. Officials from the Idaho Department of Correction (IDC) said there was no loss of state funds as a result of the hack, as inmates transferred only JPay-managed (fictitious) digital credits to their accounts. Most inmates transferred small amounts of credits to their tablet accounts. JPay said it recovered more than $65,000 worth of digital credits from the 364 inmate accounts. The company has suspended the ability to buy games and music via digital credits on the tablets of offending inmates. Email functionality was left intact, and the company plans to recover the incurred losses.

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Twitter Stock Plunges 21 Percent After Earnings Show Effects of Fake-Account Purge
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 05:33 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department:
Twitter shares fell 21% on Friday as the company reported that user growth had turned negative, even as its quarterly results beat Wall Street expectations. The decline was even greater than Facebook's almost 19 percent plunge in shares after the social media giant reported disappointing results. MarketWatch reports: Twitter posted a profit for the third consecutive quarter, with its $134 million in net income equating to 13 cents a share. Adjusted per-share earnings came to 17 cents. The FactSet consensus estimate had been 16 cents. Twitter's revenue climbed 24% to $710.5 million to beat the FactSet consensus estimate by about $2 million. Even as executives talked about Twitter's bright future on the earnings calls, investors appeared to react to Twitter's slowing user growth, as its monthly user count went south, falling by 1 million to 355 million, as compared with the year's first quarter. The decline was expected after recent reports had the company purging about a million fake accounts a day.

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New York City May Cap the Number of Uber, Lyft Vehicles On Its Streets
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 04:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's red-light-green-light department:
New York City may become the first major U.S. city to cap the number of Uber and other ride-sharing vehicles on the road. According to Engadget, "The City Council is looking at proposed legislation that would largely freeze the issuance of ridesharing vehicle licenses while officials work on a year-long study of the cars' effects." Wheelchair-accessible vehicles would be exempt from any cap. From the report: This wouldn't be the first time the city tried a cap -- it abandoned an attempt in 2015. There's greater pressure to consider a limit this time, though. NYC now has over 100,000 ride-hailing cars (up from 63,000 back in 2015), and a string of suicides by both ridesharing and taxi drivers has raised questions about working conditions that can include low pay, long hours and poor compensation for time off. On top of the cap, the Council is looking at raising minimum pay and otherwise regulating on-demand transportation services. NYC is concerned that the growth of ridesharing is coming at the expense of drivers' well-being (regardless of who they work for), and it's unlikely to back down until it's satisfied these workers are receiving fair treatment. Uber argues the cap would "leave New Yorkers stranded" without solving issues like congestion, taxi medallion ownership and mass transit. It claimed it would hinder passengers who live outside of Manhattan and don't have reliable alternatives to cabs or public transportation. The company even posted a commercial underscoring how difficult it was for some residents to hail taxis.

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Should Bots Be Required To Tell You That They're Not Human?
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 04:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's are-you-a-cop department:
"BuzzFeed has this story about proposals to make social media bots identify themselves as fake people," writes an anonymous Slashdot reader. "[It's] based on a paper by a law professor and a fellow researcher." From the report: General concerns about the ethical implications of misleading people with convincingly humanlike bots, as well as specific concerns about the extensive use of bots in the 2016 election, have led many to call for rules regulating the manner in which bots interact with the world. "An AI system must clearly disclose that it is not human," the president of the Allen Institute on Artificial Intelligence, hardly a Luddite, argued in the New York Times. Legislators in California and elsewhere have taken up such calls. SB-1001, a bill that comfortably passed the California Senate, would effectively require bots to disclose that they are not people in many settings. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has introduced a similar bill for consideration in the United States Senate.

In our essay, we outline several principles for regulating bot speech. Free from the formal limits of the First Amendment, online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have more leeway to regulate automated misbehavior. These platforms may be better positioned to address bots' unique and systematic impacts. Browser extensions, platform settings, and other tools could be used to filter or minimize undesirable bot speech more effectively and without requiring government intervention that could potentially run afoul of the First Amendment. A better role for government might be to hold platforms accountable for doing too little to address legitimate societal concerns over automated speech. [A]ny regulatory effort to domesticate the problem of bots must be sensitive to free speech concerns and justified in reference to the harms bots present. Blanket calls for bot disclosure to date lack the subtlety needed to address bot speech effectively without raising the specter of censorship.

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New NetSpectre Attack Can Steal CPU Secrets via Network Connections
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 02:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's furthering-their-reach department:
Scientists published a paper Friday detailing a new Spectre-class CPU attack that can be carried out via network connections and does not require the attacker to host code on a targeted machine. From a report: This new attack --codenamed NetSpectre -- is a major evolution for Spectre attacks, which until now have required the attacker to trick a victim into downloading and running malicious code on his machine, or at least accessing a website that runs malicious JavaScript in the user's browser. But with NetSpectre, an attacker can simply bombard a computer's network ports and achieve the same results. Although the attack is innovative, NetSpectre also has its downsides (or positive side, depending on what part of the academics/users barricade you are). The biggest is the attack's woefully slow exfiltration speed, which is 15 bits/hour for attacks carried out via a network connection and targeting data stored in the CPU's cache.

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IBM Wins $83 Million From Groupon In E-Commerce Patents Case
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 02:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's raking-it-in department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: A U.S. jury awarded International Business Machines Corp. $83.5 million after finding that Groupon Inc. infringed four of its e-commerce patents. Friday's verdict cements the prowess of IBM's portfolio of more than 45,000 patents and is a boon to its intellectual-property licensing revenue, which brought in $1.19 billion in 2017. The jury in Wilmington, Delaware, sided with the argument of IBM's lawyers, who had said Groupon was trying to portray IBM as claiming to have patented the Internet and had called that effort "a smoke screen." As they began the trial, IBM's lawyers said Groupon built its online coupon business on the back of IBM's e-commerce inventions without permission.

[T]he patents at issue don't protect IBM's products or services, said David Hadden, Groupon's lawyer. IBM never used the patents and instead relies on its huge portfolio to extract money from other companies, he said. Two of the patents, one of which expired in 2015, came out of the Prodigy online service, which started in the late 1980s and predated the web. Another, which expired in 2016, is related to preserving information in a continuing conversation between clients and servers. The fourth patent is related to authentication and expires in 2025, the latest among the case's patents. IBM stressed throughout the trial that a range of companies have paid for licenses to use its patents. Tech giants such as Amazon, Alphabet's Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have paid from $20 million to $50 million each in cross-licensing agreements, allowing them access to IBM's cadre of more than 45,000 patents.

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New York Orders Charter Out of State
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 01:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's well-that-escalated-quickly department:
Yesterday, it was reported that Charter Communications could lose its license in New York because of its failure to meet merger-related broadband deployment commitments. Today, according to Ars Technica, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) voted to revoke its approval of Charter Communications' 2016 purchase of Time Warner Cable (TWC). "The PSC said it is ordering Charter to sell the former TWC system that it purchased in New York, and it's 'bring[ing] an enforcement action in State Supreme Court to seek additional penalties for Charter's past failures and ongoing non-compliance," reports Ars. From the report: Charter has repeatedly failed to meet deadlines for broadband expansions that were required in exchange for merger approval, state officials said. The PSC has steadily increased the pressure on Charter with fines and threats, but Charter never agreed to changes demanded by state officials. As a result of today's vote, "Charter is ordered to file within 60 days a plan with the Commission to ensure an orderly transition to a successor provider(s)," the PSC's announcement said. "During the transition process, Charter must continue to comply with all local franchises it holds in New York State and all obligations under the Public Service Law and the Commission regulations. Charter must ensure no interruption in service is experienced by customers, and, in the event that Charter does not do so, the Commission will take further steps, including seeking injunctive relief in Supreme Court in order to protect New York consumers." The five types of misconduct that the commission cited to support its decision include: the company's repeated failures to meet deadlines; Charter's attempts to skirt obligations to serve rural communities; unsafe practices in the field; its failure to fully commit to its obligations under the 2016 merger agreement; and the company's purposeful obfuscation of its performance and compliance obligations to the Commission and its customers.

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What OpenStreetMap Can Be
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 01:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department:
An anonymous reader shares a blog post on OpenSourceMap: Most OSM commentary focuses on unimportant minutiae (layers, for goodness' sake, as if it's still 2004) without seeking to examine what makes OSM unique -- and whether that's still relevant in a rapidly changing market. Could OSM become a dead-end curio while Google, Apple, and an increasingly self-sufficient Mapbox hare off in another, common direction? OSM's continuing differentiation from Google/Apple boils down to two points. First, a non-commercial imperative. Google and Apple (and Mapbox, TomTom, HERE) are beholden to their shareholders and investors. They do what makes them money, which means car navigation. (Once human-controlled, now, increasingly, self-guided. When people ask "How far ahead of Apple is Google Maps?", what they usually mean is "Who will get to self-driving cars first?") OSM, however, isn't ruled by shareholder value, but by the preoccupations of its contributor base. (We'll come onto that demographic later.) Whether that's a good thing depends on what you want from a map. But it's clearly a point of differentation. Second, ground truthed local knowledge. Surveying by locals is the gold standard of OSM, building a rich, intricate compilation of contributors' preoccupations. The painstaking human curation of areas and topics remains unique to OSM. Neither of these are under threat from Google/Apple. Outsourced quick-fire digitisation of Street View-type imagery in cheap labour countries doesn't give you this. Nor does image recognition. OSM's points of differentation remain clear. In OSM's early days, commentators used the phrase "democratising mapmaking," and it remains true. You choose what to map; and you choose how to use the map. You participate. Other maps are a one-way street: sure, you can contribute (actively through map corrections, or passively through using a mobile app that phones home), but the provider chooses what you get back.

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Teen Allegedly Broke Into a Couple's Home To Ask For Their WiFi Password, Police Say
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 12:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's real-needs department:
A 17-year-old has been accused of breaking into a couple's home in Northern California and asking for their WiFi password, hours after he had asked nearby neighbors for theirs, authorities said. From a report: Police in Palo Alto said the teen, whose name has not been released, went to a home in Silicon Valley late Saturday and asked to use the residents' WiFi network "because he was out of data," before stealing their bicycle. Then just after midnight Sunday, police said, he broke into a nearby home, woke up a sleeping couple and asked them for their password. The male resident "pushed him down the hallway and out the front door of the house before calling police," police said in a statement. Palo Alto Police Sgt. Dan Pojanamat told The Washington Post on Friday that it's unclear whether the juvenile suspect was really seeking WiFi access or whether it was simply an excuse, saying that "the real issue is the fact that he entered a house that was occupied."

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'Blood Moon', the Longest Total Lunar Eclipse of the Century, Underway
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 12:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's watch-out department:
Skywatchers are being treated to the longest "blood moon" eclipse of the 21st Century. From a report: As it rises, during this total eclipse, Earth's natural satellite turns a striking shade of red or ruddy brown. The "totality" period, when light from the Moon is totally obscured, will last for one hour, 43 minutes. At least part of the eclipse is visible from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, most of Asia and South America. On the same night and over the coming days, Mars will be at its closest point to Earth since 2003 - visible as a "bright red star" where skies are clear. Here's a live feed, provided by NASA.

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State Governments Warned of Malware-Laden CD Sent Via Snail Mail From China
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 10:53 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's timely-reminder department:
Security reporter Brian Krebs writes: Several U.S. state and local government agencies have reported receiving strange letters via snail mail that include malware-laden compact discs (CDs) apparently sent from China, KrebsOnSecurity has learned. This particular ruse, while crude and simplistic, preys on the curiosity of recipients who may be enticed into popping the CD into a computer. According to a non-public alert shared with state and local government agencies by the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), the scam arrives in a Chinese postmarked envelope and includes a "confusingly worded typed letter with occasional Chinese characters."

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MoviePass Having Outage Issues Because It Couldn't Pay Its Bills
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 10:53 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's well-that's-embarrassing department:
Popular movie-ticked subscription service MoviePass experienced an outage on Thursday, still ongoing for some, which the company attributed to "technical issues with our card-based check-in process," on its Twitter feed. But its SEC filing Thursday indicated that the problem was really cash flow. From a report: The filing by its parent company, Helios and Matheson Analytics, explained an emergency loan the company had taken out: The $5.0 million cash proceeds received from the Demand Note will be used by the Company to pay the Company's merchant and fulfillment processors. If the Company is unable to make required payments to its merchant and fulfillment processors, the merchant and fulfillment processors may cease processing payments for MoviePass. ("MoviePass"), which would cause a MoviePass service interruption. Such a service interruption occurred on July 26, 2018. Such service interruptions could have a material adverse effect on MoviePass' ability to retain its subscribers.

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The Peculiar Math That Could Underlie the Laws of Nature
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 09:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
xanthos writes: A fascinating article in Quanta magazine introduces us to Cohl Furey and the eight dimensional mathematics called octonions that she is using to model the interactions of strong and electromagnetic forces. "Proof surfaced in 1898 that the reals, complex numbers, quaternions and octonions are the only kinds of numbers that can be added, subtracted, multiplied and divided. The first three of these "division algebras" would soon lay the mathematical foundation for 20th-century physics, with real numbers appearing ubiquitously, complex numbers providing the math of quantum mechanics, and quaternions underlying Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity. This has led many researchers to wonder about the last and least-understood division algebra. Might the octonions hold secrets of the universe?" "In her most recent published paper she consolidated several findings to construct the full Standard Model symmetry group for a single generation of particles, with the math producing the correct array of electric charges and other attributes for an electron, neutrino, three up quarks, three down quarks and their anti-particles. The math also suggests a reason why electric charge is quantized in discrete units -- essentially, because whole numbers are."

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The Trump Administration is Talking To Facebook and Google About Potential Rules For Online Privacy
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 09:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
The Trump administration is crafting a proposal to protect Web users' privacy, aiming to blunt global criticism that the absence of strict federal rules in the United States has enabled data mishaps at Facebook and others in Silicon Valley. From a report: Over the past month, the Commerce Department has been huddling with representatives of tech giants such as Facebook and Google, Internet providers including AT&T and Comcast, and consumer advocates [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], according to four people familiar with the matter but not authorized to speak on the record. The government's goal is to release an initial set of ideas this fall that outlines Web users' rights, including general principles for how companies should collect and handle consumers' private information, the people said. The forthcoming blueprint could then become the basis for Congress to write the country's first wide-ranging online-privacy law, an idea the White House recently has said it could endorse. "Through the White House National Economic Council, the Trump Administration aims to craft a consumer privacy protection policy that is the appropriate balance between privacy and prosperity," Lindsay Walters, the president's deputy press secretary, said in a statement. "We look forward to working with Congress on a legislative solution consistent with our overarching policy."

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A New Study Says Services Like UberPool Are Making Traffic Worse
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 09:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
The explosive growth of Uber and Lyft has created a new traffic problem for major U.S. cities and ride-sharing options such as UberPool and Lyft Line are exacerbating the issue by appealing directly to customers who would otherwise have taken transit, walked, biked or not used a ride-hail service at all, according to a new study. From a report: The report by Bruce Schaller, author of the influential study, "Unsustainable?", which found ride-hail services were making traffic congestion in New York City worse, constructs a detailed profile of the typical ride-hail user and issues a stark warning to cities: make efforts to counter the growth of ride-hail services, or surrender city streets to fleets of private cars, creating a more hostile environment for pedestrians and cyclists and ultimately make urban cores less desirable places to live. Schaller concludes that where private ride options such as UberX and Lyft have failed on promises to cut down on personal driving and car ownership -- both of which are trending up -- pooled ride services have lured a different market that directly competes with subway and bus systems, while failing to achieve significantly better efficiency than their solo alternatives. The result: more driving overall. Ride sharing has added 5.7 billion vehicle miles to nine major urban areas over six years, the report says, and the trend is "likely to intensify" as the popularity of the services surges.

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Google Executive Warns of Face ID Bias
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 08:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fault-in-our-data department:
Facial recognition technology does not yet have "the diversity it needs" and has "inherent biases," a top Google executive has warned. From a report: The remarks, from the firm's director of cloud computing, Diane Greene, came after rival Amazon's software wrongly identified 28 members of Congress, disproportionately people of colour, as police suspects. Google, which has not opened its facial recognition technology to public use, was working on gathering vast sums of data to improve reliability, Ms Greene said. However, she refused to discuss the company's controversial work with the military. "Bad things happen when I talk about Maven," Ms Greene said, referring to a soon-to-be abandoned project with the US military to develop artificial intelligence technology for drones. After considerable employee pressure, including resignations, Google said it would not renew its contract with the Pentagon after it lapses some time in 2019. The firm has not commented on the deal since, only to release a set of "AI principles" that stated it would not use artificial intelligence or machine learning to create weapons.

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