By BeauHD from Slashdot's domestic-surveillance department
The Boston Globe reports of a previously undisclosed program, called "Quiet Skies," that targets travelers who "are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base." The insights come from a TSA bulletin in March that describes the program's goal as thwarting threats to commercial aircraft "posed by unknown or partially known terrorists. The program "gives the agency broad discretion over which air travelers to focus on and how closely they are tracked," reports The Boston Globe. From the report: But some air marshals, in interviews and internal communications shared with the Globe, say the program has them tasked with shadowing travelers who appear to pose no real threat -- a businesswoman who happened to have traveled through a Mideast hot spot, in one case; a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, in another; a fellow federal law enforcement officer, in a third. It is a time-consuming and costly assignment, they say, which saps their ability to do more vital law enforcement work. TSA officials, in a written statement to the Globe, broadly defended the agency's efforts to deter potential acts of terror. But the agency declined to discuss whether Quiet Skies has intercepted any threats, or even to confirm that the program exists.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's either-or department
Barack Obama said this month that AI research is accelerating, making it harder to find jobs for everybody, and concluding "we're going to have to consider new ways of thinking about these problems, like a universal income."
But a Financial Times columnist adds that "an intriguing debate has broken out over how to look after disadvantaged workers both now and in this robot future. Should everyone be given free money? Or should everyone receive the guarantee of a decently-paid job?" An anonymous reader quotes some of the highlights:
Psychologists have found that we like and benefit from feeling in control. That is a mark in favour of a universal basic income: being unconditional, it is likely to enhance our feelings of control. The money would be ours, by right, to do with as we wish. A job guarantee might work the other way: it makes money conditional on punching the clock. On the other hand (again!), we like to keep busy. Harvard researchers Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert (UK) (US) have found that "a wandering mind is an unhappy mind". And social contact is generally good for our wellbeing. Maybe guaranteed jobs would help keep us active and socially connected.
The truth is, we don't really know... It is good to see that the more thoughtful advocates of either policy -- or both policies simultaneously -- are asking for large-scale trials to learn more.
He titled the column "The secret to happiness after the robot takeover." But what say Slashdot readers?
Is it better to be given a basic income -- or a guaranteed job?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's speaking-of-downvoting department
"Facebook executives said on Wednesday its profit margins would plummet for several years due to the cost of improving privacy safeguards and slowing usage in its top advertising markets," reports Reuters, adding that the news "wiped over $120 billion off the company's share price." One millennial options trader lost $180,000 overnight.
And meanwhile CNBC reports that Facebook insiders "sold more stock than usual in the second quarter," the vast majority sold by Mark Zuckerberg, leaving some experts with mixed opinions.
To be clear, insiders sold in compliance with what's known as Securities and Exchange Commission Rule 10b5-1, a preapproved selling mechanism that is completely legal. And there is no evidence to suggest they were acting on inside information about the disastrous quarter that sent Facebook's stock down nearly 20 percent Thursday. However, their timing happened to be pretty good....
"You have something that's an outlier here," said James Cox, professor at Duke University School of Law. "It happened to be a very bad quarter that they had -- it doesn't wear well."
Friday Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg were sued "in what could be the first of many lawsuits over a disappointing earnings announcement by the social media company that wiped out about $120 billion of shareholder wealth."
The complaint filed by shareholder James Kacouris in Manhattan federal court accused Facebook, Zuckerberg and Chief Financial Officer David Wehner of making misleading statements about or failing to disclose slowing revenue growth, falling operating margins, and declines in active users.
Kacouris said the marketplace was "shocked" when "the truth" began to emerge on Wednesday from the Menlo Park, California-based company. He said the 19 percent plunge in Facebook shares the next day stemmed from federal securities law violations by the defendants. The lawsuit seeks class-action status and unspecified damages. A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's used-and-new department
An anonymous reader quotes CNN:
Amazon topped $2 billion in quarterly profit for the first time in its history, an impressive run fueled by continued growth in Prime subscriptions, cloud computing and its nascent advertising business. Amazon said Thursday that it earned $2.5 billion in profit for the three months ending in June, a staggering jump from the $197 million it posted in the same period last year. It marked the third consecutive quarter that Amazon has topped $1 billion in profit, a remarkable feat for a company once known for investing so much in its business that it often lost money. "The profitability trajectory appears to be accelerating quicker than expected," Daniel Ives, an analyst with GBH Insights, wrote in an investor note Thursday. Ives called this a "potential game changer" as Amazon continues to invest heavily in fulfillment centers, new stores and pricey content deals....
Earlier this month, Amazon's market value topped $900 billion for the first time, putting it on the cusp of eclipsing Apple as the world's most valuable company.
Amazon's cloud computing business, Amazon Web Services, had $6 billion in sales, while Amazon's $119-a-year "Prime" service for faster shipping now has more than 100 million users.
Qwartz says the results -- which are over 12 times more than Amazon earned in the same quarter a year ago -- prove that Amazon "can make loads of money when it actually feels like it."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's money-its-a-gas department
Slate asks why more businesses are refusing cash -- and investigates the downside. An anonymous reader quotes their report:
Stores are eliminating cash registers and coin rolls in pursuit of what they say is a safer, more streamlined payment process -- and one that most of their customers want to use anyway. At Dos Toros, co-founder Leo Kremer said that more than half of the shop's customers used cash when its first location opened in Manhattan in 2009. By the beginning of this year, that number had fallen to just 15 percent. At that point, the various hassles of dealing with cash -- employee training, banking fees, armored-truck pickups, and the occasional robbery -- outweighed the cost of credit card fees on those transactions. The shift wound up being more or less revenue-neutral, Kremer said, but saved a lot of time and trouble. Dos Toros' New York locations have been fully cash-free since the winter.... "After talking to the team and absorbing the flow at the register, we felt like almost everyone who used cash had a card. It just hasn't been an issue...."
But it would be hard to find anyone more gung-ho about the abolition of cash than credit card companies. Last summer, for example, Visa announced a $10,000 reward to 50 businesses that would give up cash entirely. "What concerns me about a cashless future is how much it benefits Wall Street," Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, wrote to me in an email. "They can charge swipe fees of two to three percent not because that's what the service actually costs, but because they have monopoly power."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's too-darn-hot department
"It's so hot, even parts of the Arctic are on fire," reports Vox, citing wildfires in Sweden, while Greece "has declared a state of emergency as raging forest fires have killed at least 81 people and injured more than 190."
But heat-related disasters are happening around the world. In Japan 86 people have been killed by heatstroke, while another 23,000 people have been hospitalized -- about half of them over the age of 65 -- in a heat wave forecast to continue for another two weeks. "Japan hit 106 degrees on Monday, its hottest temperature ever," reports the Associated Press, adding that "So far this month, at least 118 of these all-time heat records have been set or tied across the globe." An anonymous reader quotes their report.
"We now have very strong evidence that global warming has already put a thumb on the scales, upping the odds of extremes like severe heat and heavy rainfall," Stanford University climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh said. "We find that global warming has increased the odds of record-setting hot events over more than 80 percent of the planet, and has increased the odds of record-setting wet events at around half of the planet..."
"The world is becoming warmer and so heat waves like this are becoming more common," said Friederike Otto, deputy director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford.
"Death Valley, California, has set three consecutive daily record-high temperatures of 127 degrees," reports the Washington Post, adding that "Sometimes, like right now in the Western U.S., it's too hot for airplanes to fly" because of heat-related changes in air density at high-altitude airports. In Europe, nuclear power plants in Finland, Sweden, and German were forced to cut electricity production because high temperatures heated the seawater needed to cool reactors.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's not-so-instant-messages department
"The UK parliament has provided another telling glimpse behind the curtain of Facebook's unregulated ad platform by publishing data on scores of pro-Brexit adverts..." reports TechCrunch, adding that the 2016 ads "were run prior to Facebook having any disclosure rules for political ads. So there was no way for anyone other than each target recipient to know a particular ad existed or who it was being targeted at." An anonymous reader quotes their report:
The targeting of the ads was carried out on Facebook's platform by AggregateIQ, a Canadian data firm that has been linked to Cambridge Analytica/SCL... [I]t's not clear how many ad impressions they racked up in all. But total impressions look very sizable. While some of what runs to many thousands of distinctly targeted ads which AIQ distributed via Facebook's platform are listed as only garnering between 0-999 impressions apiece, according to Facebook's data, others racked up far more views. Commonly listed ranges include 50,000 to 99,999 and 100,000 to 199,999 -- with even higher ranges like 2M-4.9M and 5M-9.9M also listed....
The publication of the Brexit ads is, above all, a reminder that online political advertising has been allowed to be a blackhole -- and at times a cesspit -- because cash-rich entities have been able to unaccountably exploit the obscurity of Facebook's systemically dark ad targeting tools for their own ends, and operate in a darkness where only Facebook had oversight (and wasn't exercising any), leaving the public no right of objection let alone reply, despite it being people's lives that are indelibly affected by political outcomes.... The company has been making some voluntary changes to offer a degree of political ad disclosure, as it seeks to stave off regulatory rule. Whether its changes -- which at best offer partial visibility -- will go far enough remains to be seen.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's spirt-of-America department
An anonymous reader quotes CNET:
Massachusetts plans to protect net neutrality by naming and shaming internet service providers that don't adhere to open internet principles. Lawmakers in the state Senate have proposed a bill (S2160) that would create an "internet service provider registry" to track whether broadband and wireless providers adhere to policies that keep the internet open and neutral.
In the wake of the FCC's repeal of net neutrality, more than half the states in the union are considering their own, state-level net neutrality rules. Some states are tackling the problem with legislation (California, Oregon, Washington), while others (like Montana) are signing executive orders banning state agencies from doing business with ISPs that behave anti-competitively... when the FCC repealed net neutrality, it included a provision attempting to "pre-empt" (read: ban) states from protecting consumers. As a result, large ISPs have threatened to sue any states that stand up for consumer welfare, and at least one ISP (Charter Spectrum) has tried to use the repeal to wiggle out of state lawsuits for terrible broadband. Charter's efforts on that front have failed, and the the FCC's authority to tell states what to do has been highly contested.
Still, Massachusetts thought it might be a better idea to try and publicly shame ISPs into behaving.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's unhappy-anniversaries department
"It's been a year since Equifax doxed the nation of America through carelessness, deception and greed, lying about it and stalling while the problem got worse and worse," writes Cory Doctorow. Equifax's new CSO says they've spent over $200 million on security upgrades, in work being overseen by auditor from eight different states. An anonymous reader quotes Doctorow's response:
This all sounds very good and all, but it's still monumentally unfair. The penalty for Equifax's recklessness should have been the corporate death penalty: charter revoked, company shut down, assets sold to competitors... The fact that Equifax's investors and execs kept all the money they made by risking all America with shoddy security, and that no one went to jail for a monumental act of corporate recklessness, is a moral hazard, virtually guaranteeing that Equifax's competitors will not take the care they owe to the people on whom they have amassed nonconsensual, potentially life-destroying dossiers.
Equifax's CEO and several top officials did leave the company, notes Government Technology -- but that's about it.
Thus far, no financial punishment has been imposed on Equifax itself. Despite contentious hearings, no Congressional action has been taken. A few months later, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau tabled action against the company. And while the Federal Trade Commission said it opened an investigation into the Equifax breach in September, the agency has since named as chief of its consumer protection division a lawyer who has represented Equifax. This past week, Equifax asked a federal judge to reject the claims from 46 banks and credit unions for payment of damages because of the massive data breach. The companies claimed that Equifax owes them for all the costs they incurred protecting data after the breach was revealed, costs that could easily run into many millions of dollars....
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's giving-a-dam department
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power wants to spend $3 billion to pump back the water that's flowing through Hoover Dam -- so it can flow through again later, during periods of peak energy demand. This generates a net profit for the dam's operators -- the pumping stations are powered by cheap solar and wind energy, while the dams are currently operating at just 20% of their capacity. An anonymous reader quotes Clean Technica:
The problem is that California has so much renewable energy available now, thanks in large measure to aggressive state mandated policies, that much of it is "constrained." That's utility industry speak for having to give it away or simply let it go to waste. In some cases, utilities in California actually pay other utility companies to take the excess electricity off their hands.
Why not store it all in some of Elon Musk's grid scale batteries? Simply put, pumped hydroelectric storage is cheaper than battery storage, at least for now. Lazard, the financial advisory and asset management firm, estimates utility scale lithium-ion batteries cost 26 cents per kilowatt-hour compared with 15 cents for pumped hydro storage. "Hoover Dam is ideal for this," Kelly Sanders, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Southern California tells the New York Times. "It's a gigantic plant. We don't have anything on the horizon as far as batteries of that magnitude."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's going-to-the-Opera department
An anonymous reader quotes CNET:
Opera, an underdog in a browser market dominated by Google's Chrome, raised $115 million in an initial public offering Friday. The company sold 9.6 million American depositary shares at $12 each, the high end of the $10-to-$12 range it expected for the IPO. When the stock started trading more broadly at about 7:30 a.m. PT, it rose as high as 28 percent above that before settling in at a 10 percent rise, to $13.24, during midday trading.... In fact, Opera raised a big notch more, because at the same time as the IPO, it also secured a $60 million private funding round from Tospring Technology, also known as Bitmain, which makes Bitcoin mining computers, IDG Capital Fund and IDG Capital Investors. And the financial firms underwriting the IPO had an option to release another 15 percent of shares -- 1.44 million. "It gets us roughly up to $190 million," Chief Financial Officer Frode Jacobsen said....
In the first three months of 2018, Opera reported net income of $6.6 million on revenue of $39.4 million. The company makes money through partnerships with search engines, including Google and Yandex, that pay for search traffic it sends their way and through advertising deals like promoting websites on the browser's bookmarking, or speed dial, page. Opera has 264 million monthly active users on smartphones and 57 million on personal computers, Opera said in regulatory filings. Starting in 2017, it built an AI-powered news service into its browser and now offers it as a standalone app called Opera News. That has 90 million monthly users. The news app and service has been responsible for the turnaround in Opera's recent financial fortunes, Jacobsen said.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's up-up-and-away department
First World View hung Google SVP Alan Eustace at the end of a balloon and then dropped him 135,908 feet back to Earth. Then, it sent a KFC chicken sandwich to the edge of space. Now, World View has figured out how to get high-altitude balloons to sail winds in the stratosphere and travel for thousands of miles. They're being used to take detailed pictures of the Earth, send communications to far off places and learn more about the weather.
This strange company was founded by two people who lived in Biosphere 2, and they say they're doing all this balloon work to get people to think differently about the planet. In a few years, they plan to send people up to the edge of space in a capsule and let them hang out for a couple hours, while they sip cocktails and reflect on life or something like that.
The flights would cost $75,000 per person -- the money from KFC is already being used to build new software (along with sensors, and of course, durable balloons). Bloomberg Businessweek reports:
Since the Zinger, it's conducted more than 50 flights, primarily for the U.S. government, and kept its balloons up in the air for many days at a time. "People want us to do things like sit over the Red Sea and Indian Ocean and look for pirates," says Taber MacCallum, co-founder and chief technology officer. The company plans to start flying for commercial clients early next year. "Basically, our mission is to take over the stratosphere," he says.
Interestingly, Elon Musk also asked MacCallum's first company to design a greenhouse for Mars.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's another-aspect department
Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes:
YouTube very quietly made a very cool and rather major improvement in their video players today... YouTube is now adjusting the YT player size to match videos' native aspect ratios. This is a big deal, and very much welcome.
YouTube provided some before-and-after screenshots Friday, and acknowledged that "We launched this update on mobile awhile back (both Android and iOS) so this change also aligns the desktop and mobile viewing experiences."
Until now YouTube forced all videos into a 16:9 ratio by windowboxing them, meaning surround them with black vertical or horizontal bars like the old days of watching widescreen movies on VHS. In that sense, this isn't a huge change -- white space instead of black -- although the location of player controls moves to fit the video's size... The aspect adjustments are apparently automatic, retroactive to all uploaded video, and if there's a way to turn the feature off in Creator Studio it's non-obvious... Update 7/27/18 7:48pm: A YouTube spokesperson has since clarified to Gizmodo that currently there is no way to disable this feature.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's government-shut-downs department
An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet:
The German state of Lower Saxony is set to follow Munich in migrating thousands of official computers away from Linux to Microsoft's Windows. As initially reported by Heise, the state's tax authority has 13,000 workstations running OpenSuse -- which it adopted in 2006 in a well-received migration from Solaris -- that it now wants to migrate to a "current version" of Windows, presumably Windows 10.
The authority reasons that many of its field workers and telephone support services already use Windows, so standardisation makes sense. An upgrade of some kind would in any case be necessary soon, as the PCs are running OpenSuse versions 12.2 and 13.2, neither of which is supported anymore.
According to the Lower Saxony's draft budget, €5.9m is set aside for the migration in the coming year, with a further €7m annually over the following years; it's not yet clear how many years the migration would take... Munich's shift away from LiMux -- the city's own Ubuntu-based distribution -- is expected to cost more than €50m overall, involving the deployment of around 29,000 Windows-based computers.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's heads-up department
At least two malls in Calgary are using facial recognition technology to track shoppers' ages and genders without first obtaining their consent. "A visitor to Chinook Center in south Calgary spotted a browser window that had seemingly accidentally been left open on one of the mall's directories, exposing facial-recognition software that was running in the background of the digital map," reports CBC.ca. "They took a photo and posted it to the social networking site Reddit on Tuesday." From the report: The mall's parent company, Cadillac Fairview, said the software, which they began using in June, counts people who use the directory and predicts their approximate age and gender, but does not record or store any photos or video from the directory cameras. Cadillac Fairview said the software is also used at Market Mall in northwest Calgary, and other malls nationwide. Cadillac Fairview said currently the only data they collect is the number of shoppers and their approximate age and gender, but most facial recognition software can be easily adapted to collect additional data points, according to privacy advocates. Under Alberta's Personal Information Privacy Act, people need to be notified their private information is being collected, but as the mall isn't actually saving the recordings, what they're doing is legal. It's not known how many other Calgary-area malls are using the same or similar software and if they are recording the data.Read Replies (0)