By BeauHD from Slashdot's gotta-catch-'em-all department
The Department of Homeland Security plans to expand the files it collects on immigrants, as well as some citizens, by including more online data -- most notably search results and social media information -- about each individual. The plan is set out in the Federal Register, where the government publishes forthcoming regulations. A final version is set to go into effect on Oct. 18. Fortune reports: The plan, reported by BuzzFeed, is notable partly because it permits the government to amass information not only about recent immigrants, but also on green card holders and naturalized Americans as well. The proposal to collect social media data is set out in a part of the draft regulation that describes expanding the content of so-called "Alien Files," which serve as detailed profiles of individual immigrants, and are used by everyone from border agents to judges. Here is the relevant portion: "The Department of Homeland Security, therefore, is updating the [file process] to ... (5) expand the categories of records to include the following: country of nationality; country of residence; the USCIS Online Account Number; social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's chain-reaction department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Astronomers have made a new detection of gravitational waves and for the first time have been able to trace the shape of ripples sent through spacetime when black holes collide. The announcement, made at a meeting of the G7 science ministers in Turin, marks the fourth cataclysmic black-hole merger that astronomers have spotted using Ligo, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. The latest detection is the first to have also been picked up by the Virgo detector, located near Pisa, Italy, providing a new layer of detail on the three dimensional pattern of warping that occurs during some of the most violent and energetic events in the universe. A tiny wobble in the signal, picked up by Ligo's twin instruments and the Virgo detector on 14 August, could be traced back to the final moments of the merger of two black holes about 1.8 billion years ago. The black holes, with masses about 31 and 25 times the mass of the sun, combined to produce a newly spinning black hole with about 53 times the mass of the sun. The remaining three solar masses were converted into pure energy that spilled out as deformations that spread outwards across spacetime like ripples across a pond. Detecting these tiny distortions has required detectors sensitive enough to measuring a discrepancy of just one thousandth of the diameter of an atomic nucleus across a 4km laser beam. A paper about the latest discovery has been accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's pound-for-pound department
The next version of Firefox, aptly named Firefox Quantum, is getting a big speed boost. "The idea, of course, is that the upcoming version 57 is a quantum leap over predecessors -- or, in the words of Mozilla CEO Chris Beard, a 'big bang,'" reports CNET. While Mozilla stopped short of declaring victory over Chrome, Nick Nguyen, vice president of Firefox product, said Firefox Quantum's page-load speed "is often perceivably faster" while using 30 percent less memory. From the report: The new Firefox revamp includes lots of under-the-covers improvements, like Quantum Flow, which stamps out dozens of performance bugs, and Quantum CSS, aka Stylo, which speeds up website formatting. More obvious from the outside is a new interface called Photon that wipes out Firefox's rounded tabs and adds a "page action" menu into the address bar. It also builds in the Pocket bookmarking service Mozilla acquired and uses it to recommend sites you might be interested in. A screenshot tool generates a website link so you can easily share what you see by email or Twitter. Mozilla even simplified the Firefox logo, a fox wrapping itself around the globe. More improvements are in the pipeline for later Firefox versions, too, including Quantum Render, which should speed up Firefox's ability to paint web pages onto your screen.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's short-novels department
Twitter announced today that it has started testing 280-character tweets for select users. The new limit doubles the current 140-character limit, and is said to help users be more expressive. The Verge reports: "Our research shows us that the character limit is a major cause of frustration for people tweeting in English," the company said in a blog post. "When people don't have to cram their thoughts into 140 characters and actually have some to spare, we see more people Tweeting -- which is awesome!"
About 9 percent of all tweets today are exactly 140 characters, Twitter says. It's tough to do that on accident, suggesting that users frequently have to edit their initial thoughts to get them under the limit. (It's certainly true for me.) Now Twitter hopes to ease that burden by doubling the character limit in what it calls "languages impacted by cramming," which includes every language except for Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. The report goes on to note that the "140-character limit was originally established to reflect the length of SMS messages, which was how tweets were distributed prior to the development of mobile apps. SMS messages are limited to 160 characters; Twitter reserved the remaining 20 for the username," reports The Verge.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's tools-of-the-job department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: The U.S. National Security Agency conducted targeted surveillance over the past year against 106,000 foreigners suspected of being involved in terrorism and other crimes, using powers granted in a controversial section of law that's set to expire at the end of this year. The number of foreigners targeted under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act rose from 94,000 in fiscal year 2015, according to U.S. intelligence officials, who asked not to be identified discussing the information. The program lets agencies collect the content of emails and other communications from suspected foreign criminals operating outside the U.S., but it has become a flash point with some lawmakers for potential infringement of Americans' constitutional rights. Congress has to decide by year-end whether to renew the NSA's power under Section 702, a program that came to light when former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed classified government documents in 2013. While the intelligence officials cautioned that changes would limit its effectiveness, lawmakers including Senate Intelligence Committee member Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, have indicated they'll seek adjustments to ensure against abuses.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's blind-as-a-bat department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Data is the new oil, or so the saying goes. So why are we giving it away for nothing more than ostensibly free email, better movie recommendations, and more accurate search results? It's an important question to ask in a world where the accumulation and scraping of data is worth billions of dollars -- and even a money-losing company with enough data about its users can be worth well into the eight-figure region. The essential bargain that's driven by today's tech giants is the purest form of cognitive capitalism: users feed in their brains -- whether this means solving a CAPTCHA to train AI systems or clicking links on Google to help it learn which websites are more important than others. In exchange for this, we get access to ostensibly "free" services, while simultaneously helping to train new technologies which may one day put large numbers of us out of business.
In an age in which concepts like universal basic income are increasingly widely discussed, one of the most intriguing solutions is one first put forward by virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier. In his book Who Owns the Future?, Lanier suggests that users should receive a micropayment every time their data is used to earn a company money. For example, consider the user who signs up to an online dating service. Here, the user provides data that the dating company uses to match them with a potential data. This matching process is, itself, based on algorithms honed by the data coming from previous users. The data resulting from the new user will further perfect the algorithms for later users of the service. In the case that your data somehow matches someone else successfully in a relationship, Lanier says you would be entitled to a micropayment.Read Replies (0)