By BeauHD from Slashdot's major-concessions department
According to a new report from The Associated Press, a number of China's government officials and entities have had access to the location data of "new energy vehicles" from many different manufacturers. "More than 200 manufacturers (both national and foreign) transmit the data to 'government-backed monitoring centers,' according to the report, including one called 'The Shanghai Electric Vehicle Public Data Collecting, Monitoring and Research Center' and another known as the 'National Big Data Alliance of New Energy Vehicles,'" reports The Verge. From the report: Chinese officials told the AP that this data -- which includes the real-time location of cars, plus "dozens of other data points" -- is collected to "improve public safety" and "facilitate industrial development and infrastructure planning." The officials say the data is also used to "prevent fraud" in the government's subsidy program for new energy vehicles, which offers steep discounts on clean cars. The monitoring systems have been in place since the beginning of 2017, according to a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation from last year. Staffers at the data monitoring centers are able to look at a map, click on a car, and see things like make and model, mileage, and battery charge, according to the AP report.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's next-big-thing department
Airbnb is reportedly planning to distribute prototype buildings next year. Yesterday, Samara, a futures division of Airbnb meant to develop new products and services for the company, announced a new initiative called Backyard. The initiative is described in a press release as "an endeavor to design and prototype new ways of building and sharing homes," with the first wave of test units going public in 2019. Fast Company reports: The name "Backyard" might imply that Airbnb just wants to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), those small cottages that sit behind large suburban houses and are often rented on Airbnb. [Airbnb chief product officer and cofounder Joe Gebbia] clarifies that is not the case. "The project was born in a studio near Airbnb headquarters," he says in an interview over email. "We always felt as if we were in Airbnb's backyard -- physically and conceptually -- and started referring to the project as such."
Backyard is poised to be much larger than ADUs, in Gebbia's telling. Yes, small prefabricated dwellings could be in the roadmap, but so are green building materials, standalone houses, and multi-unit complexes. Think of Backyard as both a producer and a marketplace for selling major aspects of the home, in any shape it might come in. "Backyard investigates how buildings could utilize sophisticated manufacturing techniques, smart-home technologies, and gains vast insight from the Airbnb community to thoughtfully respond to changing owner or occupant needs over time," Gebbia says. "Backyard isn't a house, it's an initiative to rethink the home. Homes are complex, and we're taking a broad approach -- not just designing one thing, but a system that can do many things."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's end-of-the-road department
According to 9to5Google, Google Hangouts for consumers will be shutting down sometime in 2020. The news shouldn't come as too much of a surprise since Google essentially stopped development on the app more than a year ago. Thankfully, there are plenty of other Google messaging apps available, such as Allo, Duo, and Android Messages. From the report: Last spring, Google announced its pivot for the Hangouts brand to enterprise use cases with Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet, so the writing has been on the wall for quite some time regarding the Hangouts consumer app's demise. Meanwhile, Google has transitioned its consumer-facing messaging efforts to RCS 'Chat' and Android Messages following Allo's misadventures.
As mentioned, Hangouts as a brand will live on with G Suite's Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet, the former intended to be a team communication app comparable to Slack, and the latter a video meetings platform. Meanwhile, Google Voice calling, which was at first independent and then long integrated into Hangouts, was moved back out to its own redesigned app earlier this year. Interestingly, despite its forthcoming axing, Hangouts was one of a few apps to get early support for Android Auto's new MMS and RCS functionality, alongside Android Messages and WhatsApp.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
An estimated 4 billion people in the world lack a physical address. Researchers at the MIT Media Lab and Facebook are now proposing a new way to address the unaddressed: with machine learning. From a report: The team first trained a deep-learning algorithm to extract the road pixels from satellite images. Another algorithm connected the pixels together into a road network. The system analyzed the density and shape of the roads to segment the network into different communities, and the densest cluster was labeled as the city center. The regions around the city center were divided into north, south, east, and west quadrants, and streets were numbered and lettered according to their orientation and distance from the center.
When they compared their final results with a random sample of unmapped regions whose streets had been labeled manually, their approach successfully addressed more than 80% of the populated areas, improving coverage compared with Google Maps or OpenStreetMaps. This isn't the only way to automate the creation of addresses. The organization what3words generates a unique three-word combination for every 3-by-3-meter square on a global grid. The scheme has already been adopted in regions of South Africa, Turkey, and Mongolia by national package delivery services, local hospitals, and regional security teams. But Ilke Demir, a researcher at Facebook and one of the creators of the new system, says its main advantage is that it follows existing road topology and helps residents understand how two addresses relate to one another.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares an article: I don't use the phrase "Will do!" much in daily conversation, but lately it has been creeping into more and more of my e-mails. An editor asks me to get a draft back to her tomorrow? Will do! A friend heading back to Los Angeles from New York sends me a quick note telling me to enjoy living in the "best city in the world." Will do! The hosts of a panel I'm moderating need me to send over a three-line bio? Will do! "Will do!" is just one of many Smart Replies that Google now provides as a default feature in Gmail, there to assist you in your message composition unless you choose to manually turn them off. In October, the e-mail service, which one analytics firm suggests hosts about a quarter of all the e-mails sent worldwide, made this feature standard on its 1.4 billion active accounts, along with a menu of other innovations.
These include Smart Compose, a feature that finishes your sentences for you with the help of robot intelligence, and Nudges, a feature that bumps unanswered e-mails to the top of your in-box, making you feel increasingly guilty with every sign-in. As with many technological updates that are suddenly imposed on unsuspecting users, the new Gmail interface has been met with much annoyance. When my in-box started offering me Smart Replies, I felt a little offended. How dare it guess what I want to say, I thought. I -- a professional writer! -- have more to offer than just "Got it!" or "Love it!" or "Thanks for letting me know!" (Smart Replies are big on exclamation points.) I started to resent the A.I., which seemed to be learning my speech patterns faster than I could outsmart it. Just as I decided that I'd thwart the machine mind by answering my messages with "Cool!", the service started offering me several "Cool" varietals. Suddenly, I could answer with "Sounds cool" or "Cool, thanks" or the dreaded "Cool, I'll check it out!"Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Facebook is still reeling from the revelation that it hired an opposition research firm with close ties to the Republican party, but its relationship with Definers Public Affairs isn't the company's only recent contract work with deeply GOP-linked strategy firms. TechCrunch reports: According to sources familiar with the project, Facebook also contracted with Targeted Victory, described as "the GOP's go-to technology consultant firm." Targeted Victory worked with Facebook on the company's Community Boost roadshow, a tour of U.S. cities meant to stimulate small business interest in Facebook as a business and ad platform. The ongoing Community Boost initiative, announced in late 2017, kicked off earlier this year with stops in cities like and Topeka, Kansas and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Facebook also worked with Targeted Victory on the company's ad transparency efforts. Over the last year, Facebook has attempted to ward off regulation from Congress over ad disclosure, even putting forth some self-regulatory efforts to appease legislators.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's setting-precedence department
Businesses using fingerprint scanners to monitor their workforce can legally sack employees who refuse to hand over biometric information on privacy grounds, the Fair Work Commission has ruled. From a report: The ruling, which will be appealed, was made in the case of Jeremy Lee, a Queensland sawmill worker who refused to comply with a new fingerprint scanning policy introduced at his work in Imbil, north of the Sunshine Coast, late last year. Fingerprint scanning was used to monitor the clock-on and clock-off times of about 150 sawmill workers at two sites and was preferred to swipe cards because it prevented workers from fraudulently signing in on behalf of their colleagues to mask absences.
By msmash from Slashdot's out-now department
After months of back and forth, Apple has permitted Indian telecom regulator TRAI to release its anti-spam app on the App Store. The app, called TRAI DND - Do Not Disturb, went live on the iPhone app store on Friday. The free app, a version of which has existed on Android platform since 2016, allows customers to block unsolicited texts and calls from marketers, a rampant issue that continues to plague customers in India.
By msmash from Slashdot's before-it-is-too-late department
If New York City Council Member Ritchie J. Torres has his way, the growing trend of cashless restaurants -- establishments that accept payment only in plastic and digital forms -- will be snuffed out. From a report: Torres plans to introduce legislation before his fellow city council members that, if passed, would levy fines on any local businesses that refused to accept paper currency. "I started coming across coffee shops and cafes that were exclusively cashless and I thought: But what if I was a low-income New Yorker who has no access to a card?" he says in a Q&A with Grub Street. "I thought about it more and realized that even if a policy seems neutral in theory, it can be racially exclusionary in practice. Therein lies the problem with card-only policies. I see it as a way to gentrify the marketplace."
Torres believes the cashless business model is inherently classist and racist, as it excludes anyone who might not be able to afford smartphones loaded with digital currency such as Apple Pay or qualify for credit cards, let alone the roughly 22 million Americans who do not have bank accounts. "If you're intent on a cashless business model, it will have the effect of excluding lower-income communities of color from what should be an open and free market," he tells Grub Street. In 2009 Wall Street Journal story, Tony Zazula, co-owner of now-shuttered Commerce in New York City, explained, pretty much, yes, that's right.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's Data-Breach department
An anonymous reader writes: Starwood Hotels has confirmed its hotel guest database of about 500 million customers has been stolen in a data breach. The hotel and resorts giant said in a statement filed with U.S. regulators that the "unauthorized access" to its guest database was detected on or before September 10 -- but may have dated back as far as 2014. "Marriott learned during the investigation that there had been unauthorized access to the Starwood network since 2014," said the statement. "Marriott recently discovered that an unauthorized party had copied and encrypted information, and took steps towards removing it."
Specific details of the breach remain unknown. We've contacted Starwood for more and will update when we hear back. The company said hat it obtained and decrypted the database on November 19 and "determined that the contents were from the Starwood guest reservation database." Some 327 million records contained a guest's name, postal address, phone number, date of birth, gender, email address, passport number, Starwood's rewards information (including points and balance), arrival and departure information, reservation date, and their communication preferences.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's meanwhile-in-China department
schwit1 shares a report: More than 200 manufacturers, including Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Mitsubishi and U.S.-listed electric vehicle start-up NIO, transmit position information and dozens of other data points to government-backed monitoring centers, The Associated Press has found. Generally, it happens without car owners' knowledge. The automakers say they are merely complying with local laws, which apply only to alternative energy vehicles. Chinese officials say the data is used for analytics to improve public safety, facilitate industrial development and infrastructure planning, and to prevent fraud in subsidy programs.
But other countries that are major markets for electronic vehicles -- the United States, Japan, across Europe -- do not collect this kind of real-time data. And critics say the information collected in China is beyond what is needed to meet the country's stated goals. It could be used not only to undermine foreign carmakers' competitive position, but also for surveillance -- particularly in China, where there are few protections on personal privacy. Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, China has unleashed a war on dissent, marshalling big data and artificial intelligence to create a more perfect kind of policing, capable of predicting and eliminating perceived threats to the stability of the ruling Communist Party.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's can-you-hear-me-now department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: New Delhi police have arrested 63 suspects in the last two months working and operating 26 call centers that were engaging in tech support scams, posing as tech support staff at Microsoft, Google, Apple, and other major tech companies. The raids on Delhi-based call centers have taken place over the last two months, Microsoft said. Police first raided 10 call centers and arrested 24 people in October, and then raided 16 other call centers and made 39 more arrests this week.
Microsoft said its staff received over 7,000 victim reports associated with the 16 call centers raided this week, from over 15 countries. Users reported paying between $100 and $500 for unnecessary tech support services and products. The raids resulted in the seizure of substantial evidence including call scripts, live chats, voice call recordings and customer records from tech support fraud operations, Microsoft said. The Delhi police's crackdown on tech support call centers came after Microsoft filed legal complaints earlier this year. Microsoft has been collecting customer complaints about tech support scams since 2014, via its "Report a technical support scam" portal.Read Replies (0)