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.Read Replies (0)
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."Read Replies (0)
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.Read Replies (0)
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."Read Replies (0)
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.Read Replies (0)
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.Read Replies (0)
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.Read Replies (0)
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.Read Replies (0)
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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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.Read Replies (0)
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.Read Replies (0)