By msmash from Slashdot's new-revelations department
Millions of smartphone users confess their most intimate secrets to apps. Unbeknown to most people, in many cases that data is being shared with someone else: Facebook. [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; an alternative source was not immediately available.] The Wall Street Journal reports: The social-media giant collects intensely personal information from many popular smartphone apps just seconds after users enter it, even if the user has no connection to Facebook, according to testing done by The Wall Street Journal. The apps often send the data without any prominent or specific disclosure, the testing showed. [...] In the case of apps, the Journal's testing showed that Facebook software collects data from many apps even if no Facebook account is used to log in and if the end user isn't a Facebook member.
In the Journal's testing, Instant Heart Rate: HR Monitor, the most popular heart-rate app on Apple's iOS, made by California-based Azumio, sent a user's heart rate to Facebook immediately after it was recorded. Flo Health's Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker, which claims 25 million active users, told Facebook when a user was having her period or informed the app of an intention to get pregnant, the tests showed. Real-estate app Realtor.com, owned by Move, a subsidiary of Wall Street Journal parent News Corp, sent the social network the location and price of listings that a user viewed, noting which ones were marked as favorites, the tests showed. None of those apps provided users any apparent way to stop that information from being sent to Facebook.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Last May, Facebook promised to launch a "Clear History" feature that it said would give users more control over their data. 9 months later it's nowhere to be found and now a report claims that it's a key example of the company's "reactionary" way of dealing with privacy concerns. From a report: Thus far, Facebook's public discussions of Clear History appear to have been more about communications strategy than charting a new course. In a Facebook post looking back on 2018, Zuckerberg pointed to the tool as one that would "give people more transparency" while Sandberg highlighted it to show Facebook's willingness to change during a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month.
Still, nine months after its initial announcement, Clear History is nowhere to be found. "We want to make sure this works the way it should for everyone on Facebook, which is taking longer than expected," the company said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. It's unclear if new high-profile hires, like Nate Cardozo (formerly of EFF) and Robyn Greene (formerly of New America's Open Technology Institute), will work with Facebook's new privacy unit or if they will be involved with Clear History. It has reached out to groups like Access Now, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), as well as academics.
Sources confirmed that CDT and EFF were advising Facebook on its Clear History tool, but could not disclose specifics of their meetings due to nondisclosure agreements. Access Now's Masse confirmed Facebook had reached out on a number of issues, including Clear History, in the last few months, but called the conversations "punctual and limited." "Despite repeated statements and apologies from the company, we are not seeing a shift in Facebook data practices or an attitude that would suggest that they take data protection seriously," she said.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's one-giant-step-for-privately-funded-ventures department
The first privately funded mission to land on the moon took one giant step forward this evening as an Israeli spacecraft blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. "[I]f the mission is successful, it would make Israel the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the lunar surface -- after the U.S., the former Soviet Union and China," reports NPR. From the report: The spacecraft launched with a Space X Falcon 9 rocket, according to SpaceIL's partner Israel Aerospace Industries. It detached from the reusable rocket, which returned to an off-shore platform. The spacecraft was to make several orbits around Earth, slowly getting closer to the moon. In a difficult maneuver, it was to pivot from orbiting Earth to orbiting the moon, and then eventually attempt a treacherous landing on the moon. The total journey will take several months, with a landing anticipated in mid-April. According to IAI, it would be the "longest journey until landing on the moon, 6.5 million kilometers."
[The spacecraft, which is called Beresheet (Hebrew for "in the beginning"] is covered in gold-colored reflective coating. And as WMFE's Brendan Byrne reported, it's about the size of a kitchen table. It's carrying a digital time capsule which, according to The Jerusalem Post, contains "drawings by Israeli children, the Bible, the national anthem, prayers, Israeli songs and a map of the State of Israel, among other cultural items." The spacecraft is set to run experiments on the moon's surface -- in particular, SpaceIL says it will collaborate with the Weizmann Institute of Science and UCLA to "take measurements of the Moon's mysterious magnetic field."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's prime-for-weaponization department
In response to a mother's inquiry into why her son's gymnastics videos were deemed not advertiser friendly, YouTube said on Twitter it has "taken a number of actions to better protect the YouTube community from content that endangers minors." The video-sharing website went on to say something very concerning for anyone who has ever uploaded a video to the site: "... even if your video is suitable for advertisers, inappropriate comments could result in your video receiving limited or no ads (yellow icon)."
Essentially, what YouTube is saying is that if someone leaves a "incendiary or demeaning" comment, or one with "inappropriate language," the video which features that comment could get demonetized and the content creator would not generate money from it. If you've ever read a comment thread on YouTube, it shouldn't take long for you to realize how big of an issue this could become. According to YouTube's "advertiser-friendly content guidelines," the following content may not be suitable for most advertisers: "controversial issues and sensitive events," "drugs and dangerous products or substances," "harmful or dangerous acts," "harmful or dangerous acts," "hateful content," "inappropriate language," "inappropriate use of family entertainment characters," "incendiary and demeaning [content]," "sexually suggestive content," and/or "violence." The best advice for circumventing this issue is to disable comments entirely, but this would significantly reduce the interaction between the YouTuber and the viewer. "If this is our new reality we're going to need the ability to restrict comments from accounts under 1-4 weeks old," says news commentator and YouTube personality Philip DeFranco. "Sounds like this is prime for weaponization. Also it would probably be best to have an official blog post instead of my tweet as a reference for this change."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's unintended-consequences department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: The brains of two genetically-edited girls born in China last year may have been changed in ways that enhance cognition and memory, scientists say. The twins, called Lulu and Nana, were modified using CRISPR, a new gene-editing tool, by a Chinese scientific team to make the girls immune to infection by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Now, new research shows the same genetic alteration introduced into the girls' DNA, to a gene called CCR5, not only makes mice smarter, but also improves human brain recovery after stroke, and could be linked to greater success in school.
"The answer is likely yes, it did affect their brains," says Alcino J. Silva, a neurobiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. Silva's lab lab has been uncovering a major new role for the CCR5 gene in memory formation and the brain's ability to form new connections. "The simplest interpretation is that those mutations will probably have an impact on cognitive function in the twins," says Silva. He says the exact effect on the girls cognition is impossible to predict and "that is why it should not be done." The Chinese designer babies were created to be resistant to HIV. A team in Shenzhen, China, led by Southern University of Science and Technology He Jiankui used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to delete a single gene, called CCR5, from human embryos, some of which were later used to create pregnancies. The virus that causes AIDS requires the CCR5 gene to enter human blood cells. The scientist, He Jiankui of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, has been fired from the university as He is under investigation in China. There is no evidence that He actually set out to modify the twins' intelligence.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ready-or-not-here-it-comes department
Verizon has announced plans to turn on its 5G mobile network in 30 U.S. cities this year. "It revealed the plan during an investor meeting Thursday, though didn't disclose the list of cities," reports Engadget. From the report: Verizon already offers home broadband service via 5G in Los Angeles, Houston, Indianapolis and Sacramento. This month, it hinted at upcoming rollouts in New York City and Atlanta, as well as Medford, Massachusetts, suggesting Verizon will bring 5G to nearby Boston too. The provider plans to flip the switch on its mobile 5G network in the first half of this year, and it will expand its home 5G service to more markets later in 2019. One of the first phones to support Verizon's nascent 5G network will be the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, which was unveiled yesterday at Samsung's Unpacked event. The device has a larger screen and battery than the S10 Plus, and will temporarily be a Verizon exclusive before expanding to other carriers in the weeks after launch. It's slated to go on sale sometime "in the first half of 2019."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's only-time-will-tell department
Consumer Reports is pulling its recommendation of the Tesla Model 3, citing reliability issues with the car. "Tesla buyers are more likely to be satisfied with their car than customers of any other brand, according to Consumer Reports," reports CNN. "Yet the publication says many customers reported problems with the Model 3, including loose body trim and glass defects." From the report: "Consumers expect their cars to last -- and not be in the repair shop. That's why reliability is so important," said Jake Fisher, senior director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports.
Tesla pointed to its overall customer satisfaction rating from Consumer Reports and said it has corrected many of the problems found in the survey.
"We take feedback from our customers very seriously and quickly implement improvements any time we hear about issues," said the company statement. It said the survey was conducted from July through September, "so the vast majority of these issues have already been corrected through design and manufacturing improvements, and we are already seeing a significant improvement in our field data." Last May, the product testing website failed to give the Model 3 a recommendation due to issues with braking, but ultimately reversed its decision after Tesla released a firmware update improving the car's breaking distance by nearly 20 feet.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's time-to-buy-some-stickers department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BuzzFeed News: A viral photo showing a camera in a Singapore Airlines in-flight TV display recently caused an uproar online. The image was retweeted hundreds of times, with many people expressing concern about the privacy implications. As it turns out, some seat-back screens in American Airlines' premium economy class have them, too. Sri Ray was aboard an American Airlines Boeing 777-200 flight to Tokyo in September 2018 when he noticed something strange: a camera embedded in the seat back of his entertainment system. The cameras are also visible in this June 2017 review of the airline's premium economy offering by the Points Guy, as well as this YouTube video by Business Traveller magazine.
American Airlines spokesperson Ross Feinstein confirmed to BuzzFeed News that cameras are present on some of the airlines' in-flight entertainment systems, but said "they have never been activated, and American is not considering using them." Feinstein added, "Cameras are a standard feature on many in-flight entertainment systems used by multiple airlines. Manufacturers of those systems have included cameras for possible future uses, such as hand gestures to control in-flight entertainment." After Twitter user Vitaly Kamluk saw a similar lens on Singapore Airlines and tweeted photos of the system last week, the airline responded from its official Twitter account, saying the cameras were "disabled." Still, the airlines could quell passengers' concerns by covering the lenses with a plastic cover, if indeed there is no use for the camera.Read Replies (0)