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Facebook Deliberately Allowed 'Friendly Fraud' To Avoid Harming Revenue
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '19 at 03:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hands-off-approach department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Newly unsealed court documents show that Facebook was aware that underage children routinely used their parents' payment information to spend large sums of money on in-game purchases, and the company chose not to fix the problem. For years, it allowed for what it called "friendly fraud" because it feared implementing protections would harm revenue, according to the documents. In 2016, Facebook settled a class-action lawsuit brought by parents of children who were tricked into unwittingly making purchases with real money while playing free video games hosted on the social media platform. Despite its recognition of the problem, internal discussions show that Facebook decided it would be best to fight refund requests and allow the problem to persist. Documents related to the case were placed under seal because Facebook successfully argued that releasing them to the public could harm its business. Reveal, a publication run by the Center for Investigative Reporting, argued that these documents were in the public interest; last week, a judge granted Reveal's request to release the documents. On Thursday night, 135 pages from the court proceedings were unsealed, though Facebook was allowed to maintain some redactions.

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Google Voice VoIP Calls Will Be Live For Everyone by Next Week
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '19 at 01:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's about-time department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Google took a long, long break from Google Voice a while back. After letting the app fall into disrepair, Google expressed a renewed commitment to Voice in 2017. It has since announced a handful of feature updates, including VoIP calling in 2018. However, that feature never actually rolled out to everyone. Google's Scott Johnston says it's almost time, though. We know that some Voice users got VoIP calling as far back as September. Like far too many Google features lately, this is a server-side change and not controlled by an app update. For some unknown reason, Google has dragged its feet rolling it out to everyone. According to Johnston, things are back on track and the VoIP calling feature will be live for all users by next week.

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The Messy Truth About Infiltrating Computer Supply Chains
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '19 at 01:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
In October last year, Bloomberg Businessweek published an alarming story: Operatives working for China's People's Liberation Army had secretly implanted microchips into motherboards made in China and sold by U.S.-based Supermicro.
While Bloomberg's story -- which has been challenged by numerous players -- may well be completely (or partly) wrong, the danger of China compromising hardware supply chains is very real, judging from classified intelligence documents, reports The Intercept.

From the report: U.S. spy agencies were warned about the threat in stark terms nearly a decade ago and even assessed that China was adept at corrupting the software bundled closest to a computer's hardware at the factory, threatening some of the U.S. government's most sensitive machines, according to documents provided by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. The documents also detail how the U.S. and its allies have themselves systematically targeted and subverted tech supply chains, with the NSA conducting its own such operations, including in China, in partnership with the CIA and other intelligence agencies. The documents also disclose supply chain operations by German and French intelligence.

What's clear is that supply chain attacks are a well-established, if underappreciated, method of surveillance -- and much work remains to be done to secure computing devices from this type of compromise. "An increasing number of actors are seeking the capability to target ... supply chains and other components of the U.S. information infrastructure," the intelligence community stated in a secret 2009 report. "Intelligence reporting provides only limited information on efforts to compromise supply chains, in large part because we do not have the access or technology in place necessary for reliable detection of such operations."

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Pay up or Sell up, ICANN Tells Failing New gTLD
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's meanwhile-in-domain-registry-world department:
ICANN has responded to a request for it to reduce the $25,000 annual fee it charges gTLD registries. The answer is no. From a report: That wholly unsurprising reply came in a letter from registry services director Russ Weinstein to John McCabe, CEO of failing new gTLD operator Who's Who Registry. McCabe, in November, had asked ICANN to reduce its fees for TLDs, such as its own .whoswho, that have zero levels of abuse. ICANN fees are the "single biggest item" in the company's budget, he said. His request coincided with ICANN commencing compliance proceedings against the company for failure to pay these fees.

Weinstein wrote, in a letter [PDF] published today: "We sympathize with the financial challenges that some new gTLD registry operators may be facing in the early periods of these new businesses. New gTLD operators face a challenging task of building consumer awareness and this can and may take significant time and effort." But he goes on to point out that the $25,000-a-year fee was known to all applicants before they applied, and had been subject to numerous rounds of public comment before the Applicant Guidebook was finalized.

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YouTube To Curb Conspiracy Theory Video Recommendations
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's fixing-things department:
YouTube said today that it is retooling its recommendation algorithm that suggests new videos to users in order to prevent promoting conspiracies and false information, reflecting a growing willingness to quell misinformation on the world's largest video platform after several public missteps. From a report: These recommendations all too often serve up unsavory content: ludicrous conspiracy theories about mass-shooting events being staged, far-fetched proclamations that the moon landing never happened, and hare-brained notions that the Earth on which we live is, well, flat. Moving forward, YouTube promises that you'll see less of those kinds of videos. This is similar to moves it's made in the past to reduce clickbaity recommendations, or videos that are slight variations on something else you've watched.

"We'll continue that work this year, including taking a closer look at how we can reduce the spread of content that comes close to -- but doesn't quite cross the line of -- violating our Community Guidelines," YouTube said in a blog post. "While this shift will apply to less than one percent of the content on YouTube, we believe that limiting the recommendation of these types of videos will mean a better experience for the YouTube community."

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Illinois Supreme Court Rules Against Six Flags in Lawsuit Over Fingerprint Scans, Says Actual Harm Unnecessary For Biometric Case
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '19 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
The family of a teenager whose fingerprint data was collected in 2014 when he bought a season pass to Six Flags Great America had the right to sue the amusement park company under an Illinois privacy law, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday. Chicago Tribune reports: The case is being closely watched by tech giants such as Facebook, who have pushed back against the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). The law requires companies collecting information such as facial, fingerprint and iris scans to obtain prior consent from consumers or employees, detailing how they'll use the data and how long the records will be kept. It also allows private citizens to sue, while other states let only the attorney general bring a lawsuit.

The opinion, which overturns an appeals court ruling in favor of Six Flags, has the potential to effect biometrics lawsuits playing out in courtrooms across the country. The Illinois law is one of the strictest of its kind in the nation and has turned the state into a hotbed of lawsuits over alleged misuses of biometric data. Privacy experts say protecting that type of information is critical because, unlike a credit card or bank account number, it's permanent. The National Law Review adds: In short, individuals need not allege actual injury or adverse effect, beyond a violation of his/her rights under BIPA, in order to qualify as an "aggrieved" person and be entitled to seek liquidated damages, attorneys fees and costs, and injunctive relief under the Act. Potential damages are substantial as the BIPA provides for statutory damages of $1,000 per negligent violation or $5,000 per intentional or reckless violation of the Act. To date, no Illinois court has interpreted the meaning of "per violation," but the majority of BIPA suits have been brought as class actions seeking statutory damages on behalf of each individual affected.

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Budweiser, the World's Largest Beer Maker, is Using Low-Cost Sensors and Machine Learning To Keep Beverages Flowing
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '19 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
The world's largest beer maker is using low-cost sensors and machine learning to predict when motors at a Fort Collins, Colo. brewery might malfunction. From a report: The Anheuser-Busch InBev SA plant was the first among the company's 350 beverage-making facilities to test whether wireless sensors that can detect ultrasonic sounds -- beyond the grasp of the human ear -- can be analyzed to predict when machines need maintenance. "You can start hearing days in advance that something will go wrong, and you'll know within hours when it'll fail. It's really, for us, very practical," said Tassilo Festetics, vice president of global solutions for the company.

The project began about six months ago when Mr. Festetics's team installed 20 wireless sensors across three packaging lines motors to measure vibrations. The sounds picked up are transmitted in real time and then compared to a normal, functioning engine's sounds, which serve as a baseline and allow the program to identify anomalies. A key advantage is that the sensors are non-invasive and don't need to be placed inside a machine. Sensors have been used for predictive maintenance in the past, but they were unable to transmit information in real time. Advances in processing data at the edge of the network, referred to as edge computing, enables companies to collect and analyze real-time sensor data from machines.

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FBI Arrests Trump Associate Roger Stone Over His Communications With WikiLeaks
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '19 at 09:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's breaking-news department:
Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime informal adviser to President Trump, was charged as part of the special counsel investigation over his communications with WikiLeaks, the organization behind the release of thousands of stolen Democratic emails during the 2016 campaign, in an indictment unsealed Friday.

From a report: Mr. Stone was charged with seven counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding, making false statements and witness tampering, according to the special counsel's office. F.B.I. agents arrested Mr. Stone before dawn on Friday at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and he was expected to appear in a federal courthouse there later in the morning. F.B.I. agents were also seen carting hard drives and other evidence from Mr. Stone's apartment in Harlem.

The indictment is the first in months by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election and possible coordination with Trump campaign associates. Citing details in emails and other forms of communications, the indictment suggests Mr. Trump's campaign knew about additional stolen emails before they were released and asked Mr. Stone to find out about them.

Moments ago, Stone was released on a $250,000 bond.

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Caterers in China Are Using AI To Spot Unhygienic Cooks, Report Says
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '19 at 09:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
If you've ever harbored doubts about the hygiene of the cooks flipping your burger and frying your fries, you're definitely not the only one. From a report: Thepaper.cn reports that local authorities in eastern China have tapped artificial intelligence (AI) to clamp down on unsanitary cooks in kitchens -- and to reward those who adhere to best practices. According to the report, a camera-based system currently being piloted in the Zhejiang city of Shaoxing automatically recognizes "poor [sanitation] habits" and alerts managers to offending workers via a mobile app. It's reportedly the fruit of a six-year project -- Sunshine Kitchen -- that seeks to bring transparency to food preparation in catering, hotels, school cafeterias, and restaurants.

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Worrying Rise in Global CO2 Forecast for 2019
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '19 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
The level of climate-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is forecast to rise by a near-record amount in 2019, according to the Met Office. From a report: The increase is being fuelled by the continued burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests, and will be particularly high in 2019 due to an expected return towards El Nino-like conditions. This natural climate variation causes warm and dry conditions in the tropics, meaning the plant growth that removes CO2 from the air is restricted. Levels of the greenhouse gas have not been as high as today for 3-5m years, when the global temperature was 2-3C warmer and the sea level was 10-20 metres (32 to 64 feet) higher. Climate action must be increased fivefold to limit warming to the 1.5C rise above pre-industrial levels that scientists advise, according to the UN. But the past four years have been the hottest on record and global emissions are rising again after a brief pause.

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Neglected-Disease Research Funding Hits Record High
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '19 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Reader schwit1 shares a report: Research funding for diseases that predominantly affect people living in poverty hit a record high in 2017, according to a report released on 23 January by Policy Cures Research, a global-health think tank in Sydney, Australia. At US$3.6 billion, investments into 'neglected' diseases were higher than in any year since 2007. A surge from 2016 to 2017 included a rise in funding to fight neglected diseases generally, as opposed to targeting individual maladies.

Anna Doubell, director of research at Policy Cures Research, says that the launch of several trials testing new Ebola drugs, diagnostics and vaccines in response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa between 2014 and 2016 might be giving donors hope that investments into neglected diseases pay off. "The amount of progress made in a short period of time after the Ebola outbreak might have brought in optimism about what is possible," Doubell says.

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Zuckerberg Plans To Integrate WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '19 at 07:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, plans to integrate the social network's messaging services -- WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger -- asserting his control over the company's sprawling divisions at a time when its business has been battered by scandals.

The New York Times: The move, described by four people involved in the effort, requires thousands of Facebook employees to reconfigure how WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger function at their most basic levels. While all three services will continue operating as stand-alone apps, their underlying messaging infrastructure will be unified, the people said. Facebook is still in the early stages of the work and plans to complete it by the end of this year or in early 2020, they said.

Mr. Zuckerberg has also ordered all of the apps to incorporate end-to-end encryption, the people said, a significant step that protects messages from being viewed by anyone except the participants in the conversation. After the changes take effect, a Facebook user could send an encrypted message to someone who has only a WhatsApp account, for example. Currently, that isn't possible because the apps are separate.

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Intel Is Working On A Vulkan Overlay Layer, Inspired By Gallium3D HUD
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '19 at 07:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
Aside from some out-of-tree experiments last year by one of Valve's developers on a RADV Vulkan HUD of similar nature to the popular Gallium HUD option, it turns out an Intel developer has recently been working on a Vulkan overlay layer to provide "Gallium HUD" inspired information. From a report: Lionel Landwerlin is the open-source Intel developer that has begun working on this Intel Vulkan driver "heads-up display" implemented as a Vulkan overlay layer. The code is intended to provide Vulkan swapchain information and various statistics of use to Vulkan driver developers and game developers. The code is under a merge request for Mesa but is considered experimental at this point. Particularly for multi-threaded Vulkan programs it may end up crashing in its current form.

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US Patent Operations May Shut Down In Second Week of February
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '19 at 05:51 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's short-on-cash department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said it may have to cease patent operations in the second week of February if the partial government shutdown continues, though it has money for trademark work through mid-April. Any furlough of staff could mean significant delays in reviewing the tens of thousands of applications on inventions for things like telecommunications hardware and the next cutting-edge medical treatments. Now it takes on average 15.8 months before a patent applicant can expect a preliminary response from an examiner. More than 640,000 patent applications were filed in fiscal 2018.

The patent office, part of the Commerce Department, is funded entirely by user fees and gets no tax dollars, but it requires an appropriation from Congress to spend the money it collects. In fiscal 2018, it had a budget of $3.3 billion and has asked for $3.5 billion for fiscal 2019. The patent office sets aside authorized money in what's called an operating reserve to account for "temporary changes in our cash flow" and that's what it has been using to stay open since the partial shutdown began Dec. 22. At the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, it said it had 1.3 months of operating expenses for patent operations and 4.9 months of expenses for trademark operations.

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Apple Might Start Making Its Own Batteries For iPhones, Macs
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '19 at 03:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's do-it-yourself department:
Apple has hired an executive from the battery-making division of Samsung to help lead its own battery work. The new hire suggests that the company might start making its own batteries for iPhones and Macs. Bloomberg reports: Soonho Ahn joined Apple in December as global head of battery developments, after working as a senior vice president at Samsung SDI since 2015, according to his LinkedIn profile. At Samsung SDI, Ahn led development of lithium battery packs and worked on "next-generation" battery technology, the profile says. Apple has used batteries from Samsung SDI to power its own products in the past. The iPhone maker has been trying to reduce reliance on third-party components, and the notable battery technology hire suggests it may be doing the same for batteries. Apple has been working on its own MicroLED display technology for future devices, which would help wean itself off Samsung in other areas. It's also increasingly building its own processors and is investigating the development of its own cellular modems.

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Planet Crash That Made Moon Left Key Elements For Life On Earth, Scientists Say
Posted by News Fetcher on January 24 '19 at 11:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's blast-from-the-past department:
Scientists are claiming the cosmic collision that made the moon left a host of elements behind on Earth that were crucial for life to emerge. The Guardian reports: The impact 4.4 billion years ago is thought to have occurred when an itinerant planet the size of Mars slammed into the fledgling Earth, scattering a shower of rocks into space. The debris later coalesced into the moon. Beyond an act that shaped the sky, the smash-up transferred essential elements to the Earth's surface, meaning that most of the carbon and nitrogen that makes up our bodies probably came from the passing planet, the researchers believe.

Petrologists at Rice University in Texas reached their conclusions after running experiments on geochemical reactions under the high temperatures and pressures found deep inside a planet. They wanted to understand whether Earth acquired key elements from meteorites that slammed into Earth or through some other ancient route. Lead author Damanveer Grewal found that a planet with a sulphur-rich core would have large fractions of carbon and nitrogen on its surface. Such a planet could transfer that volatile material to Earth in just the right proportions if it happened to clatter into it, the researchers found, after modeling a billion different cosmic scenarios in a computer and comparing them to conditions seen in the solar system today. The research is published in Science Advances.

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Bangkok Fights Air Pollution With Water-Spraying Drones
Posted by News Fetcher on January 24 '19 at 08:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's mist-opportunity department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: Earlier in the week, levels of PM2.5 -- tiny particles 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller that can penetrate deep into the lungs -- reached 185 micrograms per cubic meter. Anything above 150 is deemed hazardous for all individuals (50 or below is considered good). The government has responded by unleashing a small fleet of drones that can spray water into the air and eliminate some of the pollution. Photos from a test on Tuesday (Jan. 22) show the yellow aircraft dispensing water and a "non-hazardous chemical spray," reported the Bangkok Post. An official from the Defense Technology Institute, a government agency, said the test, in which drones sprayed for less than an hour, reduced the concentration of PM2.5 by 10 micrograms per cubic meter on average.

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Is Lack of Sleep a Public Health Crisis?
Posted by News Fetcher on January 24 '19 at 07:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's go-to-bed department:
According to The Washington Post, "a growing number of scientists, not normally known for being advocates, are bringing evangelical zeal to the message that lack of sleep is an escalating public health crisis that deserves as much attention as the obesity epidemic." "We're competing against moneyed interests, with technology and gaming and all that. It's so addictive and so hard to compete with," said Orfeu Buxton, a sleep researcher at Pennsylvania State University. "We've had this natural experiment with the Internet that swamped everything else." From the report: The sleep research community, formerly balkanized into separate sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea, has begun to coalesce around the concept of "sleep health" -- which for most adults means getting at least seven hours a night. But time in the sack has been steadily decreasing. In 1942, a Gallup poll found that adults slept an average of 7.9 hours per night. In 2013, the average adult had sheared more than an hour off that number. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a third of adults fail to get the recommended seven hours. In the blink of an eye, in evolutionary terms, humans have radically altered a fundamental biological necessity -- with repercussions we are still only beginning to understand.

< article continued at Slashdot's go-to-bed department >

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'I Stopped Using a Computer Mouse For a Week and It Was Amazing'
Posted by News Fetcher on January 24 '19 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's keyboard-shortcuts-FTW department:
Slashdot reader dmoberhaus writes via Motherboard: Over the course of the next five days, I relied solely on my keyboard to navigate the web and my local hard drive. It was a limited form of digital detox, a way of trying to understand the way people used computers before the computer mouse became widely adopted for commercial machines in the 1980s. If I had to describe the experience of computing without a mouse in a word, I'd say it was fucking fantastic. It took about a day and a half before I had memorized all the shortcuts that I would be using on a regular basis. All the other important shortcuts I wrote down on a notepad I kept on my desk for reference. I also had to do a little set up for certain applications, such as Gmail, which doesn't have many of its most useful shortcuts turned on by default, such as the ability to select all unread messages or the ability to move between messages with only a single keystroke.

By the end of my week without a mouse, many of the shortcuts were already beginning to feel like second nature. I found that they saved me a ton of time, especially on tedious tasks like deleting emails. Indeed, one shortcut evangelist suggests that switching to keyboard shortcuts in Gmail saved him as much as 60 hours per year. If nothing else, it made the experience of using a laptop way less miserable because I didn't have to touch the touchpad. [...] Admittedly, not everything was rosy without a mouse. I haunt a number of forums and found it a little tedious to have to ctrl+f whatever item I wanted to "click" on. Similarly, doing anything that involved image editing in Photoshop was basically impossible. I don't game on my PC, but from what I hear, this would also be quite difficult without a mouse.

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DeepMind AI AlphaStar Wins 10-1 Against 'StarCarft II' Pros
Posted by News Fetcher on January 24 '19 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's there's-a-first-time-for-everything department:
In a series of matches streamed on YouTube and Twitch, DeepMind AI AlphaStar defeated two top-ranked professionals 10-1 at real-time strategy game StarCraft II. "This is of course an exciting moment for us," said David Silver at DeepMind in a live stream watched by more than 55,000 people. "For the first time we saw an AI that was able to defeat a professional player." New Scientist reports: DeepMind created five versions of their AI, called AlphaStar, and trained them on footage of human games. The different AIs then played against each other in a league, with the leading AI accumulating the equivalent of 200 years of game experience. With this, AlphaStar beat professional players Dario Wunsch and Grzegorz Komincz -- ranked 44th and 13th in the world respectively. AlphaStar's success came with some caveats: the AI played only on a single map, and using a single kind of player (there are three in the game). The professionals also had to contend with playing different versions of AlphaStar from match to match. While the AlphaStar was playing on a single graphics processing unit, a computer chip found in many gaming computers, it was trained on 16 tensor processing units hosted in the Google cloud -- processing power beyond the realms of many.

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