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Top Communications Union Joins Group Pushing for Facebook's Breakup
Posted by News Fetcher on July 09 '18 at 01:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
The top U.S. communications union is joining a coalition calling for the Federal Trade Commission to break up Facebook, as the social media company faces growing government scrutiny and public pressure. From a report: "We should all be deeply concerned by Facebook's power over our lives and democracy," said Brian Thorn, a researcher for the 700,000-member Communications Workers of America, the newest member of the Freedom From Facebook coalition. For the FTC not to end Facebook's monopoly and impose stronger rules on privacy "would be unfair to the American people, our privacy, and our democracy," Thorn said in an email. Facebook disclosed July 2 that it's cooperating with probes by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation on how political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica obtained personal information from as many as 87 million of the siteâ(TM)s users without their consent. The FTC, the Department of Justice and some state regulators were already probing the matter, which prompted Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress in April. Facebook also faces calls for regulation from many lawmakers and the public over the privacy issue, Russian efforts to manipulate the 2016 presidential election and the spread of false information on the platform.

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Google May Have To Make Major Changes To Android in Response To a Forthcoming Fine in Europe
Posted by News Fetcher on July 09 '18 at 12:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
Google could face a new record penalty this month from European regulators for forcing its search and Web-browsing tools on the makers of Android-equipped smartphones and other devices, potentially resulting in major changes to the world's most widely deployed mobile operating system. From a report: The punishment from Margrethe Vestager, the European Union's competition chief, is expected to include a fine raging into the billions of dollars, according to people familiar with her thinking, marking the second time in as many years that the region's antitrust authorities have found that Google threatens corporate rivals and consumers. At the heart of the E.U.'s looming decision are Google's policies that pressure smartphone and tablet manufacturers that use Google's Android operating system to pre-install the tech giant's own apps. In the E.U.'s eyes, device makers such as HTC and Samsung face an anti-competitive choice: Set Google Search as the default search service and offer Google's Chrome browser, or lose access to Android's popular app store. Lacking that portal, owners of Android smartphones or tablets can't easily download games or other apps -- or services from Google's competitors offered by third-party developers.

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What if People Were Paid For Their Data?
Posted by News Fetcher on July 09 '18 at 12:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's food-for-thought department:
Advocates of "data as labour" think users should be paid for using online services. An anonymous reader shares a report: Labour, like data, is a resource that is hard to pin down. Workers were not properly compensated for labour for most of human history. Even once people were free to sell their labour, it took decades for wages to reach liveable levels on average. History won't repeat itself, but chances are that it will rhyme, Glen Weyl, an economist at Yale University, predicts in "Radical Markets," a provocative new book he has co-written with Eric Posner of the University of Chicago. He argues that in the age of artificial intelligence, it makes sense to treat data as a form of labour. To understand why, it helps to keep in mind that "artificial intelligence" is something of a misnomer. Messrs Weyl and Posner call it "collective intelligence": most AI algorithms need to be trained using reams of human-generated examples, in a process called machine learning. Unless they know what the right answers (provided by humans) are meant to be, algorithms cannot translate languages, understand speech or recognise objects in images. Data provided by humans can thus be seen as a form of labour which powers AI. As the data economy grows up, such data work will take many forms. Much of it will be passive, as people engage in all kinds of activities -- liking social-media posts, listening to music, recommending restaurants -- that generate the data needed to power new services. But some people's data work will be more active, as they make decisions (such as labelling images or steering a car through a busy city) that can be used as the basis for training AI systems. Yet whether such data are generated actively or passively, few people will have the time or inclination to keep track of all the information they generate, or estimate its value. Even those who do will lack the bargaining power to get a good deal from AI firms. But the history of labour offers a hint about how things could evolve: because historically, if wages rose to acceptable levels, it was mostly due to unions. Similarly, Mr Weyl expects to see the rise of what he calls "data-labour unions," organisations that serve as gatekeepers of people's data. Like their predecessors, they will negotiate rates, monitor members' data work and ensure the quality of their digital output, for instance by keeping reputation scores. Unions could funnel specialist data work to their members and even organise strikes, for instance by blocking access to exert influence on a company employing its members' data. Similarly, data unions could be conduits channelling members' data contributions, all while tracking them and billing AI firms that benefit from them.

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High-Power Thermoelectric Generator Utilizes Thermal Difference of Only 5C
Posted by News Fetcher on July 09 '18 at 10:42 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department:
A silicon-nanowire thermoelectric generator has been developed by a team of researchers from Waseda University, Osaka University, and Shizuoka University. From a report: According to the Japanese researchers, this experimentally demonstrated a high-power density of 12 microwatts per 1cm2, enough to drive sensors or realise intermittent wireless communication, at a small thermal difference of only 5C. Silicon-based thermoelectric generators conventionally employed long, silicon nanowires of about 10-100nm, which were suspended on a cavity to cut off the bypass of the heat current and secure the temperature difference across the silicon nanowires. However, the cavity structure weakened the mechanical strength of the devices and increased the fabrication cost. The team says their generator has overcome this issue. "Because our generator uses the same technology to manufacture semiconductor integrated circuits, its processing cost could be largely cut through mass production," says Professor Takanobu Watanabe of Waseda University. "Also, it could open up a pathway to various, autonomously-driven IoT devices utilising environmental and body heats. For instance, it may be possible to charge your smartwatch during your morning jog someday."

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World's Largest Mobile Phone Factory Set To Open in India
Posted by News Fetcher on July 09 '18 at 10:42 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's next-billion-users department:
Samsung said on Monday that it is opening what it said is the world's biggest mobile phone manufacturing facility as the South Korean giant seeks to expand production in the world's fastest growing mobile phone market. From a report: The new Samsung factory will have the capacity of 120 million smartphones per year, and make everything from low-end smartphones that cost under $100 to its flagship S9 model, according to the company. Earlier this year, China's Xiaomi displaced Samsung from the No. 1 smartphone spot in the country, breaking its long-held dominance. Indians favor low-end smartphones priced at $250 or less, given the low average annual income of its people, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. That's one reason why Apple has struggled to gain market share in India, with most iPhone models priced beyond $500, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence report earlier this month.

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Sergey Brin Says Google 'Failed To Be on the Bleeding Edge' of Blockchain
Posted by News Fetcher on July 09 '18 at 09:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
At an event over the weekend, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said that the internet giant missed its chance to be at the forefront of blockchain technology. From a report: Brin, who currently serves as president of Google parent company Alphabet, joined blockchain technology leaders and researchers on a panel at Richard Branson's exclusive Blockchain Summit. "We probably already failed to be on the bleeding edge, I'll be honest," Brin said. Although Google may have missed out on early adoption of the distributed ledger technology, Brin suggested that blockchain is within the wheelhouse of X, the company's semi-secret research division. "I see the future as taking these kind of research-y kind of out there ideas and making them real -- and Google X is kind of like that," Brin said.

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Cyber-Espionage Group That Targeted Palestinian Law Enforcement Last Year Returns With New Attacks
Posted by News Fetcher on July 09 '18 at 09:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's attackers-on-the-move department:
Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: A cyber-espionage group that has targeted Palestinian law enforcement last year is now back in action targeting Palestinian government officials. These recent attacks started in March 2018, according to evidence surfaced by Israel-based cyber-security firm Check Point. The new attacks seem to fit the same modus operandi of a group detailed in two reports from Cisco Talos and Palo Alto Networks last year. Those reports detailed a spear-phishing campaign aimed at Palestinian law enforcement. The malicious emails tried to infect victims with the Micropsia infostealer, a Delphi-based malware that contained many strings referencing characters from the Big Bang Theory and Game Of Thrones TV shows. Now, the same group appears to be back, and the only thing they've changed is the malware, which is now coded in C++. The TV shows references are still there, this time with mentions to the Big Bang Theory, but also a Turkish TV series named "Resurrection: Ertugrul."

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China Begins Production Of x86 Processors Based On AMD's IP
Posted by News Fetcher on July 09 '18 at 08:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's aggressive-expansion department:
Chinese-designed "Dhyana" x86 processors based on AMD's Zen microarchitecture are beginning to surface from Chinese chip producer Hygon. From a report: The processors come as the fruit of AMD's x86 IP licensing agreements with its China-based partners and break the decades-long stranglehold on x86 held by the triumvirate of Intel, AMD and VIA Technologies. Details are also emerging that outline how AMD has managed to stay within the boundaries of the x86 licensing agreements but still allow Chinese-controlled interests to design and sell processors based on the Zen design. AMD's official statements indicate the company does not sell its final chip designs to its China-based partners. Instead, AMD allows them to design their own processors tailored for the Chinese server market. But the China-produced Hygon "Dhyana" processors are so similar to AMD's EPYC processors that Linux kernel developers have listed vendor IDs and family series numbers as the only difference. In fact, Linux maintainers have simply ported over the EPYC support codes to the Dhyana processor and note that they have successfully run the same patches on AMD's EPYC processors, implying there is little to no differentiation between the chips.

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Mistrust of Google and Facebook is a 'Contagion' That Could Spread To Every Tech Company, Says Box CEO Aaron Levie
Posted by News Fetcher on July 09 '18 at 08:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's domino's-effect department:
Aaron Levie isn't worried about his company, Box, being regulated -- but he is worried about what happens if the government has to do something about Facebook. From a report: "It's a contagion because it's going to reduce trust in these types of platforms," Levie said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. "The worst-case scenario for us is that Silicon Valley gets so far behind on these issues that we just can't be trusted as an industry," he said. "We rely on the Fortune 500 trusting Silicon Valley's technology, to some extent, for our success. When you see that these tools can be manipulated or they're being used in more harmful ways, or regulators are stamping them down, then that impacts anybody, whether you're consumer or enterprise."

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'Domain Factory' Confirms January 2018 Data Breach
Posted by News Fetcher on July 09 '18 at 06:42 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
German hosting company Domainfactory has taken down its forums after someone posted messages alleging to have compromised the company. From a report: Acknowledging the attack, the GoDaddy-owned (via Host Europe, acquired in 2016) company has advised customers to change their passwords and detailed the extent of the data breach claimed by the hackers. "While we investigate this data breach, we already know that third parties could have had unauthorised access to the following categories of data: Customer name; Company name; Customer number; Address; E-mail addresses; Phone number; DomainFactory Phone password; Date of birth; Bank name and account number (eg IBAN or BIC); and Schufa score." The company says it has secured the systems the attacker accessed.

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Owning an iPhone is the Number-One Way To Guess if You're Rich or Not, Research Finds
Posted by News Fetcher on July 09 '18 at 05:20 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: In the United States, if you have an Apple iPhone or iPad, it's a strong sign that you make a lot of money. That's one of the takeaways from a new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper from University of Chicago economists Marianne Bertrand and Emir Kamenica. "Across all years in our data, no individual brand is as predictive of being high-income as owning an Apple iPhone in 2016," the researchers wrote. There are details and caveats to the research, but the economists found that owning an iPhone gave them a 69% chance to correctly infer that the owner was "high-income," which they defined as being in the top quartile of income for households of that type -- like single adult or couple with dependents, for example.

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Stanley Kubrick Explains The '2001: A Space Odyssey' Ending In A Rare, Unearthed Video
Posted by News Fetcher on July 09 '18 at 02:40 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
When it was originally released in 1968, audiences didn't really know what to make of "2001: A Space Odyssey". In fact, 250 critics walked out of the New York premiere, literally asking aloud, "What is this bullshit?" [...] Stanley Kubrick himself was always hesitant to offer an explanation of the ending, once telling Playboy, "You're free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film -- and such speculation is one indication that it has succeeded in gripping the audience at a deep level -- but I don't want to spell out a verbal road map for 2001 that every viewer will feel obligated to pursue or else fear he's missed the point." But, in a bizarre video, which appeared recently, the director seems to provide a very simple and clear explanation of the "2001: A Space Odyssey" ending. Esquire: It comes from a Japanese paranormal documentary from TV personality Jun'ichi Yaio made during the filming of The Shining. The documentary was never released, but footage was sold on eBay in 2016 and conveniently appeared online this week timed with the movie's 50th anniversary. Kubrick says in the interview: I've tried to avoid doing this ever since the picture came out. When you just say the ideas they sound foolish, whereas if they're dramatized one feels it, but I'll try. The idea was supposed to be that he is taken in by god-like entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form. They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room. And he has no sense of time. It just seems to happen as it does in the film. They choose this room, which is a very inaccurate replica of French architecture (deliberately so, inaccurate) because one was suggesting that they had some idea of something that he might think was pretty, but wasn't quite sure. Just as we're not quite sure what do in zoos with animals to try to give them what we think is their natural environment. Anyway, when they get finished with him, as happens in so many myths of all cultures in the world, he is transformed into some kind of super being and sent back to Earth, transformed and made into some sort of superman. We have to only guess what happens when he goes back. It is the pattern of a great deal of mythology, and that is what we were trying to suggest.

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Firefox and the 4-Year Battle To Have Google To Treat It as a First-Class Citizen
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '18 at 10:40 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's david-vs-goliath department:
Web monoculture is well and truly alive when Google cannot be bothered to make a full-featured cross-browser mobile search page. From a report: It has been over five years since Firefox really turned a corner and started to morph from its bloated memory-munching ways into the lightning-quick browser it is today. Buried in Mozilla's issue tracker is a bug that kicked off in February 2014, and is yet to be resolved: Have Google treat Firefox for Android as a first-class citizen and serve up comparable content to what the search giant hands Chrome and Safari. After years of requests, meetings, and to and fro, it has hit a point where the developers of Firefox are experimenting by manipulating the user agent string in its nightly development builds to trick Google into thinking that Firefox Mobile is a Chrome browser. Not only does Google's search page degrade for Firefox on Android, but some new properties like Google Flights have occasionally taken to outright blocking of the browser.

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Surgical Robots Cut Training Time Down From 80 Sessions To 30 Minutes
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '18 at 06:40 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department:
From a report: It is the most exacting of surgical skills: tying a knot deep inside a patient's abdomen, pivoting long graspers through keyhole incisions with no direct view of the thread. Trainee surgeons typically require 60 to 80 hours of practice, but in a mock-up operating theatre outside Cambridge, a non-medic with just a few hours of experience is expertly wielding a hook-shaped needle -- in this case stitching a square of pink sponge rather than an artery or appendix. The feat is performed with the assistance of Versius, the world's smallest surgical robot, which could be used in NHS operating theatres for the first time later this year if approved for clinical use. Versius is one of a handful of advanced surgical robots that are predicted to transform the way operations are performed by allowing tens or hundreds of thousands more surgeries each year to be carried out as keyhole procedures. The Versius robot cuts down the time required to learn to tie a surgical knot from more than 100 training sessions, when using traditional manual tools, to just half an hour, according to Slack.

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Hackers Stole 600 Gallons of Gas From Detroit Gas Station, Report Says
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '18 at 04:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's making-a-living department:
Police in Detroit are looking for two suspects who allegedly managed to hack a gas pump and steal over 600 gallons of gasoline, valued at about $1,800. From a report: The theft took place in the middle of the day and went on for about 90 minutes, with the gas station attendant unable to thwart the hackers. The theft, reported by Fox 2 Detroit, took place at around 1pm local time on June 23 at a Marathon gas station located about 15 minutes from downtown Detroit. At least 10 cars are believed to have benefitted from the free-flowing gas pump, which still has police befuddled. Here's what is known about the supposed hack: Per Fox 2 Detroit, the thieves used some sort of remote device that allowed them to hijack the pump and take control away from the gas station employee. Police confirmed to the local publication that the device prevented the clerk from using the gas station's system to shut off the individual pump.

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Spiders Can Fly Hundreds of Miles Using Electricity
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '18 at 02:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: On Halloween in 1832, the naturalist Charles Darwin was onboard the HMS Beagle. He marveled at spiders that had landed on the ship after floating across huge ocean distances. "I caught some of the Aeronaut spiders which must have come at least 60 miles," he noted in his diary. "How inexplicable is the cause which induces these small insects, as it now appears in both hemispheres, to undertake their aerial excursions." Small spiders achieve flight by aiming their butts at the sky and releasing tendrils of silk to generate lift. Darwin thought that electricity might be involved when he noticed that spider silk stands seemed to repel each other with electrostatic force, but many scientists assumed that the arachnids, known as "ballooning" spiders, were simply sailing on the wind like a paraglider. The wind power explanation has thus far been unable to account for observations of spiders rapidly launching into the air, even when winds are low, however. Now, these aerial excursions have been empirically determined to be largely powered by electricity, according to new research published Thursday in Current Biology. Led by Erica Morley, a sensory biophysicist at the University of Bristol, the study settles a longstanding debate about whether wind energy or electrostatic forces are responsible for spider ballooning locomotion.

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Kepler Telescope To Send NASA Its Last Images
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '18 at 01:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's thanks-for-all-fish department:
We don't yet know if there's life on other worlds, however likely that is, but NASA's Kepler Mission satellite has helped pinpoint the abundance of planets orbiting other stars starting in May 2009. So far, it has provided data that scientists have used to confirm the existence of 2,650 exoplanets in a field of over 150,000 stars that it's examining. But that long service is about to end, as NASA said this week the craft is running out of fuel. From a report: The space agency has put the satellite into a form of hibernation until August 2, when there's time booked on the Deep Space Network -- a global array of receivers for space missions -- to download data from its 18th observational mission. Following that download, NASA will use the remaining fuel to start a 19th session. Fortunately, its successor is already in place and operational. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched in April 2018, and produced a test image in May. TESS is a massive upgrade, observing almost 400 times the region of space as Kepler, or about 85% of what's observable from its orbit relative to Earth. Kepler is already a survivor, continuing to operate after part of the gyroscope mechanism failed that let it target star fields. Four wheels rotate in the gyroscope to provide a reaction that allows the necessarily precision in tracking, and two of the four failed by May 2013. NASA mission scientists figured out a clever workaround, in which they used pressure from the Sun to provide additional positioning assistance. The mission resumed under the moniker K2 in May 2014.

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Some Startups Have Worked Out It's Cheaper and Easier To Get Humans To Behave Like Robots Than it is To Get Machines To Behave Like Humans
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '18 at 01:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
"Using a human to do the job lets you skip over a load of technical and business development challenges. It doesn't scale, obviously, but it allows you to build something and skip the hard part early on," said Gregory Koberger, CEO of ReadMe, who says he has come across a lot of "pseudo-AIs." It's essentially prototyping the AI with human beings, he said. From a report: This practice was brought to the fore this week in a Wall Street Journal article highlighting the hundreds of third-party app developers that Google allows to access people's inboxes. In the case of the San Jose-based company Edison Software, artificial intelligence engineers went through the personal email messages of hundreds of users -- with their identities redacted -- to improve a "smart replies" feature. The company did not mention that humans would view users' emails in its privacy policy. The third parties highlighted in the WSJ article are far from the first ones to do it. In 2008, Spinvox, a company that converted voicemails into text messages, was accused of using humans in overseas call centres rather than machines to do its work. In 2016, Bloomberg highlighted the plight of the humans spending 12 hours a day pretending to be chatbots for calendar scheduling services such as X.ai and Clara. The job was so mind-numbing that human employees said they were looking forward to being replaced by bots.

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India's ISRO Conducts First Escape Test For Nation's Manned Mission To Space
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '18 at 01:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-up-and-away department:
Earlier this week, ISRO took the first, small but significant step towards realizing human space flight by successfully conducting a test of the Crew Escape System that provides an escape mechanism for astronauts if the launch operation is aborted. From a report: "This is one of the critical technologies for a future human space programme," said K. Sivan, chairman of ISRO. "When you are flying with the humans, if there is something wrong during the launch, this will help them escape to a safe place." Only three countries -- USA, Russia and China -- have human space flight programmes. The only Indian citizen to ever travel to space was fighter pilot Rakesh Sharma who flew aboard Soyuz T-11, a spacecraft of the former USSR in 1984. India does not have a human space flight programme. "ISRO always does research and development activity and develops technologies keeping future needs in mind," said Sivan.

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Fitness App Polar Exposed Locations of Spies and Military Personnel
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '18 at 12:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's privacy-woes department:
An anonymous reader writes: A popular fitness app that tracks the activity data on millions of users has inadvertently revealed the locations of personnel working at military bases and intelligence services. The app, Polar Flow, built by its eponymous company Polar, a Finnish-based fitness tracking giant with offices in New York, allowed anyone to access a user's fitness activities over several years -- simply by modifying the browser's web address. Although the existence of many government installations are widely known, the identities of their employees were not. Not only was it possible to see exactly where a user had exercised, it was easy to pinpoint exactly where a user lived, if they started or stopped their fitness tracking as soon as they left their house. Because there were no limits on how many requests the reporters could make, coupled with easily enumerable user ID numbers, it was possible for anyone -- including malicious actors or foreign intelligence services -- to scrape the fitness activity data on millions of users. But they also found they could trick the API into retrieving fitness tracking data on private profiles.

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