By msmash from Slashdot's priorities department
Earlier this year, many Android users were shocked to discover that Facebook had been collecting a record of their call and SMS history, as revealed by the company's data download tool. Now, internal emails released by the UK Parliament show how the decision was made internally. From a report: According to the emails, developers knew the data was sensitive, but they still pushed to collect it as a way of expanding Facebook's reach. The emails show Facebook's growth team looking to call log data as a way to improve Facebook's algorithms as well as to locate new contacts through the "People You May Know" feature. Notably, the project manager recognized it as "a pretty high-risk thing to do from a PR perspective," but that risk seems to have been overwhelmed by the potential user growth.
Initially, the feature was intended to require users to opt in, typically through an in-app pop-up dialog box. But as developers looked for ways to get users signed up, it became clear that Android's data permissions could be manipulated to automatically enroll users if the new feature was deployed in a certain way.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's Dystopian-Future department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Sitting in front of a Converus EyeDetect station, it's impossible not to think of Blade Runner. In the 1982 sci-fi classic, Harrison Ford's rumpled detective identifies artificial humans using a steam-punk Voight-Kampff device that watches their eyes while they answer surreal questions. EyeDetect's questions are less philosophical, and the penalty for failure is less fatal (Ford's character would whip out a gun and shoot). But the basic idea is the same: By capturing imperceptible changes in a participant's eyes -- measuring things like pupil dilation and reaction time -- the device aims to sort deceptive humanoids from genuine ones.
It claims to be, in short, a next-generation lie detector. Polygraph tests are a $2 billion industry in the US and, despite their inaccuracy, are widely used to screen candidates for government jobs. Released in 2014 by Converus, a Mark Cuban-funded startup, EyeDetect is pitched by its makers as a faster, cheaper, and more accurate alternative to the notoriously unreliable polygraph. By many measures, EyeDetect appears to be the future of lie detection -- and it's already being used by local and federal agencies to screen job applicants.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's where-we-are department
The days of double-digit smartphone growth are over -- and the next decade may start to see smartphone sales decline. A report adds: From roughly 2007 until 2013, the smartphone market grew at an astonishing pace, posting double-digit growth year after year, even during a global recession. They were the good years, the type that would inspire a Scorsese montage: millions and then billions of smartphones going out; billions and then trillions of dollars in rising company valuations; every year new models of phones hitting the market, held up triumphantly at events that were part sales pitch, part tent revival. (To nail the Scorsese effect, imagine "Jumpin' Jack Flash" playing while you think about it.)
But just like every Scorsese movie, the party ends. Smartphone growth began to slow starting in 2013 or 2014. In 2016, it was suddenly in the single digits, and in 2017 global smartphone shipments, for the first time, actually declined -- fewer smartphones were sold than in 2017 than in 2016. Every smartphone manufacturer is now facing a world where, at best, they can hope for single-digit growth in smartphone sales -- and many seem to be preparing for a world where they face declines.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Russia's Yandex has launched its first ever smartphone as the company seeks to leverage its dominant position in apps and services into hardware sales. Yandex, which runs the most popular search engine in Russia, hopes its Yandex.Phone will bind users closer to its suite of products, from food delivery and taxi hailing apps to marketplace and music streaming platforms, as competition rises for online services. From a report: The Yandex.Phone is a 5.65-inch Android-powered phone that will cost 17,990 rubles ($270) when it goes on sale tomorrow. In terms of specifications, Yandex.Phone is a fairly mid-range device, sporting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, and a 16-megapixel / 5-megapixel dual rear camera.
In place of Google Assistant, which is standard on most Android phones, the company is also pushing its own intelligent assistant, Alice. This isn't the first piece of Yandex hardware to sport Alice since it was unveiled in 2017 -- earlier this year, Yandex launched a $160 smart speaker that also included the virtual assistant. It's not entirely clear what the default apps on the phone will be, but judging by the official photos it seems pretty clear Yandex is positioning its own services at the forefront of the device and favoring its own search engine. That said, Google's apps are also bundled.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fully-committed department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Volkswagen AG expects the era of the combustion car to fade away after it rolls out its next-generation gasoline and diesel cars beginning in 2026. "Our colleagues are working on the last platform for vehicles that aren't CO2 neutral," Michael Jost, strategy chief for Volkswagen's namesake brand, said Tuesday at an industry conference near the company's headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany. "We're gradually fading out combustion engines to the absolute minimum."
The world's largest automaker has started to introduce its first wave of electric cars, including next year's Porsche Taycan. The rollout across its stable of 12 automotive brands is forecast to comprise about 15 million vehicles, as the company earmarks $50 billion over the next five years to spend on its transformation to self-driving, electric cars. Production of the VW brand's I.D. Neo hatchback will start in 12 months in Germany, followed by other models from the I.D. line assembled at two sites in China as of 2020. VW plans to launch fully or partly electric versions across its lineup of more than 300 cars, vans, trucks and motorbikes by 2030. The company "will continue to modify its combustion engine technology after the new platform is introduced next decade," reports Bloomberg. "After 2050, there may still be some gasoline and diesel models in regions where there is insufficient charging infrastructure, according to Jost."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's broken-promises department
On December 1, 2013, Amazon announced its plans to deliver packages by drone in just "four or five years" on a 60 Minutes episode with then-host Charlie Rose. As The Associated Press reports, it's officially been five years and drone deliveries seem to be nowhere in sight. "Bezos made billions of dollars by transforming the retail sector," reports The Associated Press. "But overcoming the regulatory hurdles and safety issues posed by drones appears to be a challenge even for the world's wealthiest man." From the report: The day may not be far off when drones will carry medicine to people in rural or remote areas, but the marketing hype around instant delivery of consumer goods looks more and more like just that -- hype. Drones have a short battery life, and privacy concerns can be a hindrance, too. Amazon says it is still pushing ahead with plans to use drones for quick deliveries, though the company is staying away from fixed timelines. "We are committed to making our goal of delivering packages by drones in 30 minutes or less a reality," says Amazon spokeswoman Kristen Kish. The Seattle-based online retail giant says it has drone development centers in the United States, Austria, France, Israel and the United Kingdom.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sign-of-the-times department
Tokyo Telemessage, Japan's last pager provider, has announced that it will end service to its 1,500 remaining users in September 2019. It will bring a national end to telecommunication beepers, 50 years after their introduction. The BBC reports: The once-popular devices are able to receive and show wireless messages. Users would then find a phone to call the sender back. Developed in the 1950s and 1960s, they grew in popularity in the 1980s. By 1996, Tokyo Telemessage had 1.2 million subscribers. However, the rise of mobile phones rendered the pager obsolete, and few remain worldwide. Emergency services, however, continue to use the reliable technology -- including in the UK.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's missing-pieces department
AmiMoJo shares a report from 9to5Mac: Apple is facing a new class action lawsuit claiming that it sells select iMac and MacBook models without needed dust filters. In turn, this causes issues such as display imprecations, slowing performance, and more, the lawsuit alleges. The iMac and MacBook lawsuit is being brought forward by law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, which is a class action litigation firm that has gone after Apple before. Most notably, the firm won the infamous $450 million ebooks pricing case against Apple. Since then, Hagens Berman has levied other suits at Apple, including one regarding the performance throttling of iPhones. Hagens Berman's latest lawsuit reads in part: "iMac and MacBook owners have reported dark smudges and spots on the interior of the screens of their desktop computers as well as excessive slowness and break downs of their computers related to the lack of filter on Apple computers. The computer intakes air to cool its components, but with no filter, dust gets trapped inside. This affects the screen and logic board of the computer, leading to dust stuck behind the screen and gummed up motherboards, causing the computer to run slow and/or overheat." Hagens Berman says "Apple refuses to remedy the defect," instead forcing affected customers to pay "more than $500 to fix this screen defect, and even more if they wish to replace parts integral to the computer's sped and performance." "We believe Apple owes it to the purchasers of these premium, high-end computers to pay for the widespread defect, and we seek to represent iMac owners to recover their losses in costs to repair this defect, or for their loss of use of their computer."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's subjects-of-interest department
The Secret Service is planning to test facial recognition surveillance around the White House, "with the goal of identifying 'subjects of interest' who might pose a threat to the president," reports The Verge. The document with the plans was published by the American Civil Liberties Union, describing "a test that would compare closed circuit video footage of public White House spaces against a database of images -- in this case, featuring employees who volunteered to be tracked." From the report: The test was scheduled to begin on November 19th and to end on August 30th, 2019. While it's running, film footage with a facial match will be saved, then confirmed by human evaluators and eventually deleted. The document acknowledges that running facial recognition technology on unaware visitors could be invasive, but it notes that the White House complex is already a "highly monitored area" and people can choose to avoid visiting. We don't know whether the test is actually in operation, however. "For operational security purposes we do not comment on the means and methods of how we conduct our protective operations," a spokesperson told The Verge.
The ACLU says that the current test seems appropriately narrow, but that it "crosses an important line by opening the door to the mass, suspicionless scrutiny of Americans on public sidewalks" -- like the road outside the White House. (The program's technology is supposed to analyze faces up to 20 yards from the camera.) "Face recognition is one of the most dangerous biometrics from a privacy standpoint because it can so easily be expanded and abused -- including by being deployed on a mass scale without people's knowledge or permission."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-in-the-nation department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Tuesday, New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission voted to set a minimum pay rate for Uber, Lyft, and other on-demand ride-hailing drivers. The new rate will be set at $17.22 after expenses, or $26.51 per hour gross. New York is believed to be the first city in the nation to implement such a pay floor. Four months ago, the Big Apple also imposed a cap on the number of such vehicles in the city. The Independent Drivers Guild, a local affiliate of the Machinists Union, advocated for the change. Meanwhile, Uber has already put out a statement saying that increased driver earnings "will lead to higher than necessary fare increases" and that the new rules do not adequately take into account "incentives or bonuses forcing companies to raise rates even higher." "Today we brought desperately needed relief to 80,000 working families. All workers deserve the protection of a fair, livable wage and we are proud to be setting the new bar for contractor workers' rights in America," Jim Conigliaro, Jr., founder of the Independent Drivers Guild, said in a statement.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's it's-about-time department
China has announced an array of punishments that could restrict companies' access to borrowing and state-funding support over intellectual-property theft. The news comes after the G20 Summit in Argentina, where the Trump Administration agreed to hold off on tariff action for at least 90 days as they negotiate to resolve specific U.S. complaints. Bloomberg reports: China set out a total of 38 different punishments to be applied to IP violations, starting this month. The document, dated Nov. 21, was released Tuesday by the National Development and Reform Commission and signed by various government bodies, including the central bank and supreme court. China says violators would be banned from issuing bonds or other financing tools, and participating in government procurement. They would also be restricted from accessing government financial support, foreign trade, registering companies, auctioning land or trading properties. In addition, violators will be recorded on a list, and financial institutions will refer to that when lending or granting access to foreign exchange. Names will be posted on a government website. "This is an unprecedented regulation on IP violation in terms of the scope of the ministries and severity of the punishment," said Xu Xinming, a researcher at the Center for Intellectual Property Studies at China University of Political Science and Law. The newly announced punishments are "a security net of IP protection" targeting repeat offenders and other individuals who aren't in compliance with the law, he said.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ready-or-not-here-they-come department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MacRumors: Streaming TV services offered by companies like Hulu and AT&T are testing the waters for a new type of advertising called "pause ads." The idea behind pause ads is that instead of facing forced commercial breaks at specified interludes, users would be more accepting of ads that play when they choose to pause a show for a bit while they do something else. Hulu says it plans to launch pause ads in 2019, but not much else was given in the way of details regarding which of its numerous streaming plans will include the new type of commercial. The plan likely to see pause ads is Hulu With Limited Commercials, which interjects a few ads throughout a show's runtime, similar to live TV, but again this hasn't been confirmed.
AT&T cited similar interest in pause ads, stating that it also plans to launch technology in 2019 that plays a video when a user pauses a TV show. For both companies, it's unclear exactly how long these ads will run for, and if you'll be able to immediately cancel them out by simply hitting the play button and resuming your TV show. According to Hulu vice president and head of advertising platforms Jeremy Helfand, pause ads will not be home to longform advertisements, but will instead focus on commercials where advertisers "have seconds" to deliver a message effectively. Over the next three years, Hulu expects "more than half" of its advertising revenue to come from these so-called non-disruptive experiences.Read Replies (0)