By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: An Amazon employee is seeking to put new pressure on the company to stop selling its facial recognition technology to law enforcement. An anonymous worker, whose employment at Amazon was verified by Medium, published an op-ed on that platform on Tuesday criticizing the company's facial recognition work and urging the company to respond to an open letter delivered by a group of employees. The employee wrote that the government has used surveillance tools in a way that disproportionately hurts "communities of color, immigrants, and people exercising their First Amendment rights."
"Ignoring these urgent concerns while deploying powerful technologies to government and law enforcement agencies is dangerous and irresponsible," the person wrote. "That's why we were disappointed when Teresa Carlson, vice president of the worldwide public sector of Amazon Web Services, recently said that Amazon 'unwaveringly supports' law enforcement, defense, and intelligence customers, even if we don't 'know everything they're actually utilizing the tool for.'" The op-ed comes one day after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos defended technology companies working with the federal government on matters of defense during Wired's ongoing summit in San Francisco. "If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the U.S. Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble," Bezos said on Monday.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department
"Qualcomm is launching a family of chips that can add incredibly high-speed Wi-Fi -- at speeds up to 10 gigabits per second -- to phones, laptops, routers, and so on," reports The Verge. The Wi-Fi standard used for something like replacing a virtual reality headset's data cable with a high-speed wireless link is being updated. Qualcomm's latest chips improve a wireless technology called WiGig, which relies on a connection standard known as 802.11ad, which can hit speeds up to 5 gigabits per second over close to 10 meters. The new generation of that wireless standard, called 802.11ay, can reach speeds twice as fast, and can do so up to 100 meters away, according to Dino Bekis, the head of Qualcomm's mobile and compute connectivity group. The Wi-Fi Alliance says the new standard "increases the peak data rates of WiGig and improves spectrum efficiency and reduces latency." From the report: So why not just use this as normal Wi-Fi, given how fast it gets? Because that range is only line-of-sight -- when there's literally nothing in the way between the transmitter and the receiver. This high-speed Wi-Fi is based on millimeter wave radio waves in the 60GHz range. That means it's really fast, but also that it has a very difficult time penetrating obstacles, like a wall. That's a problem if you want a general purpose wireless technology. That's why 802.11ay, like 802.11ad before it, is being used as an optional add-on to existing Wi-Fi technology. If you're one of the people who has a need for these extreme wireless speeds, then maybe you'll find a use for it. Just keep in mind, you'll probably need to keep your router and the device receiving these high speeds in the same room in order for it to work, due to the whole "walls" issue. WiGig will also be competing with 5G, as it offers "similarly fast speeds over similarly limited distances," reports The Verge. "[T]he two standards may be competing as an option for delivering internet from a tower to a home -- that's what Facebook's Terragraph is doing with WiGig, and it's what Verizon is doing with 5G."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's is-anyone-really-surprised department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: Facebook announced Portal last week, its take on the in-home, voice-activated speaker to rival competitors from Amazon, Google and Apple. Last Monday, we wrote: "No data collected through Portal -- even call log data or app usage data, like the fact that you listened to Spotify -- will be used to target users with ads on Facebook." We wrote that because that's what we were told by Facebook executives. But Facebook has since reached out to change its answer: Portal doesn't have ads, but data about who you call and data about which apps you use on Portal can be used to target you with ads on other Facebook-owned properties.
"Portal voice calling is built on the Messenger infrastructure, so when you make a video call on Portal, we collect the same types of information (i.e. usage data such as length of calls, frequency of calls) that we collect on other Messenger-enabled devices. We may use this information to inform the ads we show you across our platforms. Other general usage data, such as aggregate usage of apps, etc., may also feed into the information that we use to serve ads," a spokesperson said in an email to Recode. That isn't very surprising, considering Facebook's business model. The biggest benefit of Facebook owning a device in your home is that it provides the company with another data stream for its ad-targeting business.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's fighting-back department
The New York attorney general subpoenaed more than a dozen telecommunications trade groups, lobbying contractors and Washington advocacy organizations on Tuesday, seeking to determine whether the groups sought to sway a critical federal decision on internet regulation last year by submitting millions of fraudulent public comments, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation. From a report: Some of the groups played a highly public role in last year's battle, when the Republican-appointed majority on the Federal Communications Commission voted to revoke a regulation issued under President Barack Obama that classified internet service providers as public utilities. The telecommunications industry bitterly opposed the rules -- which imposed what supporters call "net neutrality" on internet providers -- and enthusiastically backed their repeal under President Trump. The attorney general, Barbara D. Underwood, last year began investigating the source of more than 22 million public comments submitted to the F.C.C. during the battle. Millions of comments were provided using temporary or duplicate email addresses, others recycled identical phrases, and seven popular comments, repeated verbatim, accounted for millions more.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's whatever-floats-your-boat department
An anonymous reader shares a report: "Helsinki VTS, thank you for permission to depart," the captain says over the radio. He checks with the Vessel Traffic Service to see if there's anything to be looking out for. Just one other big ship, but also lots of small boats, enjoying the calm water, which could be hazards. Not a problem for this captain -- he has a giant screen on the bridge, which overlays the environment around his vessel with an augmented reality view. He can navigate the Baltic Discoverer confidently out of Finland's Helsinki Port using the computer-enhanced vision of the world, with artificial intelligence spotting and labeling every other water user, the shore, and navigation markers. This not-too-far-in-the-future vision comes from Rolls-Royce. (One iteration of it, anyway: The Rolls-Royce car company, the jet engine maker, and this marine-focused enterprise all have different corporate owners.) The view provided to the crew of the (fictional) Baltic Discoverer is an example of the company's Intelligent Awareness system, which mashes together data from sensors all over a vessel, to give its humans a better view of the world. But that's just the early part of the plan. Using cameras, lidar, and radar, Rolls wants to make completely autonomous ships. And it's already running trials around the world. "Tugs, ferries, and short-sea transport, these are all classes of vessels that we believe would be suitable for completely autonomous operations, monitored by a land based crew, who get to go home every night," says Kevin Daffey, Rolls-Royce's director of marine engineering and technology. Suitable, because they all currently rely on humans who demand to be paid -- and can make costly mistakes. Over the past decade, there have been more than 1,000 total losses of large ships, and at least 70 percent of those resulted from human error. [...] Moreover, the economic case for automating shipping is clear: About 100,000 large vessels are currently sailing the world's oceans, and the amount of cargo they carry is projected to grow around 4 percent a year, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Beyond preventing accidents, human-free ships could be 15 percent more efficient to run, because they don't need energy-gobbling life support systems, doing things like heating, cooking, and lugging drinking water along for the ride.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's final-words department
Stephen Hawking says artificial intelligence will eventually become so advanced it will "outperform humans." The renowned physicist who died in March warns of both rises in advanced artificial intelligence and genetically-enhanced "superhumans" in a book published Tuesday. Hawking also weighed in on god, and aliens. From a report: According to an excerpt of the book "Brief Answers to the Big Questions" published by the U.K.'s Sunday Times, Hawking wrote AI could prove "huge" to humanity so long as restrictions are in place to control how quickly it grows. "While primitive forms of artificial intelligence developed so far have proved very useful, I fear the consequences of creating something that can match or surpass humans," Hawking wrote. "Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete and would be superseded." Hawking wrote about a need for serious research to explore what impact AI would have on humanity, from the workplace to the military, where he expressed concerns about sophisticated weapons systems "that can choose and eliminate their own targets." Hawking also wrote about advances to manipulating DNA, or what he calls "self-designed evolution. Early advances involving the gene-editing tool CRISPR include alerting DNA to create "low-fat" pigs. CNN: "There is no God. No one directs the universe," he writes in "Brief Answers to the Big Questions." "For centuries, it was believed that disabled people like me were living under a curse that was inflicted by God," he adds. "I prefer to think that everything can be explained another way, by the laws of nature." "There are forms of intelligent life out there," he writes. "We need to be wary of answering back until we have developed a bit further." And he leaves open the possibility of other phenomena. "Travel back in time can't be ruled out according to our present understanding," he says. He also predicts that "within the next hundred years we will be able to travel to anywhere in the Solar System."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-abut-that department
Google will charge smartphone makers a licensing fee for using its popular Google Play app store and also allow them to use rival versions of its Android mobile operating system to comply with an EU antitrust order, it said Tuesday. From a report: Google, an Alphabet subsidiary, announced the changes on Tuesday, three months after the European Commission handed it a landmark 4.34 billion euro ($5 billion) fine for using its popular Android mobile operating system to hinder rivals. The company said the licensing fees will offset revenue lost as a result of its compliance efforts. "Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the EEA," Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice president for platforms and ecosystems, said in a blog. In a blog post, Lockheimer wrote: Second, device manufacturers will be able to license the Google mobile application suite separately from the Google Search App or the Chrome browser. Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the EEA. Android will remain free and open source.
Third, we will offer separate licenses to the Google Search app and to Chrome. We'll also offer new commercial agreements to partners for the non-exclusive pre-installation and placement of Google Search and Chrome. As before, competing apps may be pre-installed alongside ours. These new licensing options will come into effect on October 29, 2018, for all new smartphones and tablets launched in the EEA.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's more-wait department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Earlier this year, Google made a seemingly crowd-pleasing tweak to its Chrome browser and created a crisis for web game developers. Its May release of Chrome 66 muted sites that played sound automatically, saving internet users from the plague of annoying auto-playing videos. But the new system also broke the audio of games and web art designed for the old audio standard -- including hugely popular games like QWOP, clever experiments like the Infinite Jukebox, and even projects officially showcased by Google. After a backlash over the summer, Google kept blocking autoplay for basic video and audio, but it pushed the change for games and web applications to a later version. That browser version, Chrome 70, is on the verge of full release -- but the new, autoplay-blocking Web Audio API isn't part of it yet. Google communications manager Ivy Choi tells The Verge that Chrome will start learning the sites where users commonly play audio, so it can tailor its settings to their preferences. The actual blocking won't start until Chrome 71, which is due in December.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Huawei's new Mate 20 Pro has a massive screen, three cameras on the back and a fingerprint scanner embedded in the display. From a report: The new top-end phone from the Chinese firm aims to secure its place at the top of the market alongside Samsung, having recently beaten Apple to become the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in August. The Mate 20 Pro follows Huawei's tried and trusted format for its Mate series: a huge 6.39in QHD+ OLED screen, big 4,200mAh battery and powerful new Huawei Kirin 980 processor -- Huawei's first to be produced at 7 nanometres, matching Apple's latest A12 chip in the 2018 iPhones. New for this year is an infrared 3D facial recognition system, similar to that used by Apple for its Face ID in the iPhone XS, and one of the first fingerprint scanners embedded in the screen that is widely available in the UK, removing the need for a fingerprint scanner on the back or a chin on the front. The Mate 20 Pro is water resistant to IP68 standards and has a sleek new design reminiscent of Samsung's S-series phones, with curved glass on the front and back. The back also has an new pattern etched into the glass, which is smooth to the touch but ridged when running your nail over it.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's everyone-is-doing-it department
Sony announced Monday that it's using blockchain technology for digital rights management (DRM), "starting with written educational materials under the Sony Global Education arm of the business," reports Engadget. "This new blockchain system is built on Sony's pre-existing DRM tools, which keep track of the distribution of copyrighted materials, but will have advantages that come with blockchain's inherent security." From the report: Because of the nature of blockchain, which tracks digital transactions in records that are particularly difficult to forge or otherwise tamper with, its application as a DRM tool makes sense and may also help creators keep tabs on their content. Currently, it's up to creators themselves (or the companies they create for) to monitor their contents' rights management. Sony's system could take over the heavy lifting of DRM. The way blockchain works allows Sony to track its content from creation through sharing. This means that users of the blockchain DRM tool will be able to see -- and verify -- who created a piece of work and when. Sony Global Education is the current focus of the DRM tool, but going forward, the company hints that the rest of its media -- including entertainment like music, movies, and virtual reality content -- may be protected the same way.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's downplaying-concerns department
At Wired's 25th anniversary summit, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company's internal tests developing a censored search engine in China have been very promising. Pichai is strengthening his commitment on the controversial search engine, codenamed Project Dragonfly, saying the potential to expose the world to more information is guiding Google's push into China. "We are compelled by our mission [to] provide information to everyone, and [China is] 20 percent of the world's population." Wired reports: Pichai was careful to emphasize that this was a decision that weighs heavy on the company. "People don't understand fully, but you're always balancing a set of values," in every new country, he said. Those values include providing access to information, freedom of expression, and user privacy. "But we also follow the rule of law in every country," he said. This is a reversal of a decision from about eight years, when Google pulled its search engine, which was also censored, from the Chinese market. Pichai said the time had come to reevaluate that choice. "It's a wonderful, innovative market. We wanted to learn what it would look like if we were in China, so that's what we built internally," Pichai said. "Given how important the market is and how many users there are," he added, "we feel obliged to think hard about this problem and take a longer-term view." In response to the company's decision to back out of a project with the Department of Defense, nicknamed Project Maven, to build AI and facial recognition technology, and the employee concerns surrounding it, Pichai said: "Throughout Google's history, we've given our employees a lot of voice and say. But we don't run the company by holding referendums. It's an important input. We take it seriously." On the issue of Maven, however, "it's more also the debate within the AI Community around how you perceive our work in the area."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's progress-of-portable-computing department
The "real version" of Photoshop is coming to the iPad next year, complete with a user interface similar to the desktop application and all the main tools. Ars Technica reports: Photoshop for iPad has a user interface structured similarly to the desktop application. It is immediately familiar to users of the application but tuned for touch screens, with larger targets and adaptations for the tablet as well as gestures to streamline workflows. Both touch and pencil input are supported. The interface is somewhat simpler than the desktop version, and although the same Photoshop code is running under the hood to ensure there's no loss of fidelity, not every feature will be available in the mobile version. The first release will contain the main tools while Adobe plans to add more in the future. Cloud syncing is a key element of Photoshop on iPad. Edits made on the iPad will be synchronized transparently with the desktop -- no conversions or import/export process to go through. Using a feature not available in the iPad version should then be as simple as hitting save and then opening the file on the desktop, picking up where you left off. Adobe is also reportedly building a tablet painting app called Project Gemini, which "simulates real brushes, paints, and materials as well as the interactions between them," reports Ars. "It combines raster graphics, vector drawing, and the Photoshop engine into a single application designed for artwork and illustration."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's war-on-consumer-choice department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Printer maker Epson is under fire this month from activist groups after a software update prevented customers from using cheaper, third party ink cartridges. It's just the latest salvo in a decades-long effort by printer manufacturers to block consumer choice, often by disguising printer downgrades as essential product improvements. For several decades now printer manufacturers have lured consumers into an arguably-terrible deal: shell out a modest sum for a mediocre printer, then pay an arm and a leg for replacement printer cartridges that cost relatively-little to actually produce.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation now says that Epson has been engaged in the same behavior. The group says it recently learned that in late 2016 or early 2017, Epson issued a "poison pill" software update that effectively downgraded user printers to block third party cartridges, but disguised the software update as a meaningful improvement. The EFF has subsequently sent a letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, arguing that Epson's lack of transparency can easily be seen as "misleading and deceptive" under Texas consumer protection laws.
"When restricted to Epson's own cartridges, customers must pay Epson's higher prices, while losing the added convenience of third party alternatives, such as refillable cartridges and continuous ink supply systems," the complaint notes. "This artificial restriction of third party ink options also suppresses a competitive ink market and has reportedly caused some manufacturers of refillable cartridges and continuous ink supply systems to exit the market."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's friend-or-foe department
A new study from Pew Research Center found that most Americans can't tell social media bots from real humans, and most are convinced bots are bad. "Only 47 percent of Americans are somewhat confident they can identify social media bots from real humans," reports The Verge. "In contrast, most Americans surveyed in a study about fake news were confident they could identify false stories." From the report: The Pew study is an uncommon look at what the average person thinks about these automated accounts that plague social media platforms. After surveying over 4,500 adults in the U.S., Pew found that most people actually don't know much about bots. Two-thirds of Americans have at least heard of social media bots, but only 16 percent say they've heard a lot about them, while 34 percent say they've never heard of them at all. The knowledgeable tend to be younger, and men are more likely than women (by 22 percentage points) to say they've heard of bots. Since the survey results are self-reported, there's a chance people are overstating or understating their knowledge of bots. Of those who have heard of bots, 80 percent say the accounts are used for bad purposes. Regardless of whether a person is a Republican or Democrat or young or old, most think that bots are bad. And the more that a person knows about social media bots, the less supportive they are of bots being used for various purposes, like activists drawing attention to topics or a political party using bots to promote candidates.Read Replies (0)