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Updated 2019-09-22 04:15
GNU's Former Kernel Maintainer Shares 'A Reflection on the Departure of Richard Stallman'
Thomas Bushnell, BSG, founded GNU's official kernel project, GNU Hurd, and maintained it from 1990 through 2003. This week on Medium he posted "a reflection on the departure of RMS."There has been some bad reporting, and that's a problem. While I have not waded through the entire email thread Selam G. has posted, my reaction was that RMS did not defend Epstein, and did not say that the victim in this case was acting voluntarily. But it's not the most important problem. It's not remotely close to being the most important problem. This was an own-goal for RMS. He has had plenty of opportunities to learn how to stfu when that's necessary. He's responsible for relying too much on people's careful reading of his note, but even that's not the problem. He thought that Marvin Minsky was being unfairly accused. Minsky was his friend for many many years, and I think he carries a lot of affection and loyalty for his memory. But Minsky is also dead, and there's plenty of time to discuss at leisure whatever questions there may be about his culpability. RMS treated the problem as being "let's make sure we don't criticize Minsky unfairly", when the problem was actually, "how can we come to terms with a history of MIT's institutional neglect of its responsibilities toward women and its apparent complicity with Epstein's crimes". While it is true we should not treat Minsky unfairly, it was not -- and is not -- a pressing concern, and by making it his concern, RMS signaled clearly that it was much more important to him than the question of the institution's patterns of problematic coddling of bad behavior. And, I think, some of those focusing themselves on careful parsing of RMS's words are falling into the same pitfall as he.... Minsky was RMS's protector for a long long time. He created the AI Lab, where I think RMS found the only happy home he ever knew. He kept the rest of the Institute at bay and insulated RMS from attack (as did other faculty that also had befriended RMS). I was around for most of the 90s, and I can confirm the unfortunate reality that RMS's behavior was a concern at the time, and that this protection was itself part of the problem... Bushnell also calls Stallman "a tragic figure. He is one of the most brilliant people I've met, who I have always thought desperately craved friendship and camaraderie, and seems to have less and less of it all the time. This is all his doing; nobody does it to him. But it's still very sad. As far as I can tell, he believes his entire life's work is a failure..." But Bushnell concludes that "It is time for the free software community to leave adolescence and move to adulthood, and this requires leaving childish tantrums, abusive language, and toxic environments behind."Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Home Depot and Lowe's Accused of Scanning Millions of Customers Faces
JustAnotherOldGuy tipped us off to this story. The Daily Mail reports:Home Depot and Lowe's are secretly using facial recognition technology to track customer movement in their stores, violating privacy laws in Illinois, plaintiffs in two class action lawsuits say. The plaintiffs, who are Illinois residents, allege the two big box retailers are using the technology without properly notifying customers or seeking their consent, as required by state law... The collection of the biometric data requires written notification, a statement of purpose for the collection of that data and duration for which it will be kept, and written consent from the individuals from which the data is being collected, the lawsuits both state. Neither store, according to both lawsuits, met the benchmarks set in the Illinois law, also know as BIPA and which was enacted in 2008. "Plaintiffs and the class members did not consent to the disclosure or dissemination of their biometric identifiers," say both of the class actions. No evidence is provided for the allegations, although the American Civil Liberties Union confirmed last year that Lowe's was using facial recognition, citing mentions in its 2018 privacy policy. However, IPVM, a camera surveillance industry news site, noted that the privacy policy this year no longer has references to the technology... Walmart also was testing the technology, according to the ACLU, and Madison Square Garden was considering using it.The civil rights organization points out on its website that "stores have a strong financial incentive to collect as much information about their customers as they can get. And we do know that when it comes to this kind of cutting-edge technology, which is taking the human race to places it's never been before, the public has a right to know what stores are doing with it, if anything, so they can vote with their feet if they don't like it."Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Was Cuba's Mysterious Sonic Weapon Just Mosquito Gas?
Remember concerns about possible "sonic attacks" in Cuba? Long-time Slashdot reader kbahey shares an update:In the wake of the health problems experienced over the past three years by US and Canadian staff in Havana, Cuba embassies, Global Affairs Canada commissioned a clinical study by a team of multidisciplinary researchers. Now, the working hypothesis is that the cause could instead be neurotoxic agents used in pesticide fumigation. The BBC has more coverage on this, saying it may have been merely mosquito gas. "The researchers found that since 2016, Cuba launched an aggressive campaign against mosquitoes to stop the spread of the Zika virus," reports the CBC:The embassies actively sprayed in offices, as well as inside and outside diplomatic residences -- sometimes five times more frequently than usual. Many times, spraying operations were carried out every two weeks, according to embassy records... The researchers are now looking to collaborate with Cuban officials to determine whether any Cubans suffered similar brain injuries...Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Ubisoft To Send Cease & Desist Requests To DDoS Services Attacking 'Rainbox Six Siege' Players
An anonymous reader writes: Ubisoft plans to send cease & desist legal letters to operators of DDoS-for-hire services, also known as DDoS booters or DDoS stressors. The company said it plans on making this step as part of a global action plan to curb DDoS attacks aimed at Rainbox Six Siege multiplayer servers. The French video game company has been under a wave of DDoS attacks ever since last week when it launched the Operation Ember Rise update for the Rainbow Six Siege game. Along with the update, Ubisoft also performed a reset of multiplayer rankings. Following the reset, multiple players are suspected to have started launching DDoS attacks at the company's servers. The cheating players have been using the DDoS attacks to trigger server lag and slow down matches. The goal was to annoy opponents, who in many cases would end up disconnecting and receiving a penalty for leaving the match, allowing the player who launched the DDoS attack to gain rank points undeserved. The DDoS attacks have been widespread as several players got wind of the trick and started renting DDoS firepower from online DDoS for-hire sites.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Ex-Google Engineer Says That Robot Weapons May Cause Accidental Mass Killings
"A former Google engineer who worked on the company's infamous military drone project has sounded a warning against the building of killer robots," reports Business Insider. Long-time Slashdot reader sandbagger quotes their report:Laura Nolan had been working at Google four years when she was recruited to its collaboration with the US Department of Defense, known as Project Maven, in 2017, according to the Guardian. Project Maven was focused on using AI to enhance military drones, building AI systems which would be able to single out enemy targets and distinguish between people and objects. Google canned Project Maven after employee outrage, with thousands of employees signing a petition against the project and about a dozen quitting in protest. Google allowed the contract to lapse in March this year. Nolan herself resigned after she became "increasingly ethically concerned" about the project, she said... Nolan fears that the next step beyond AI-enabled weapons like drones could be fully autonomous AI weapons. "What you are looking at are possible atrocities and unlawful killings even under laws of warfare, especially if hundreds or thousands of these machines are deployed," she said.... Although no country has yet come forward to say it's working on fully autonomous robot weapons, many are building more and more sophisticated AI to integrate into their militaries. The US navy has a self-piloting warship, capable of spending months at sea with no crew, and Israel boasts of having drones capable of identifying and attacking targets autonomously -- although at the moment they require a human middle-man to give the go-ahead. Nolan is urging countries to declare an outright ban on autonomous killing robots, similar to conventions around the use of chemical weapons.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
In Hong Kong, Protesters and Police Are Now Doxxing Each Other
As protests continue to rock Hong Kong, social media sites are now being used to share names, photos, phone numbers, ages and occupationa of individuals "on both sides of the protest line," reports the Guardian:Supporters of the Hong Kong government have sought to identify masked protesters at demonstrations, while protesters themselves also appear to have taken part, sharing private information about police officers and their families across Telegram... Hong Kong's privacy commission said it had received 1,376 complaints and 126 enquiries between 14 June and 18 September regarding personal information being leaked online, according to Stephen Kai-yi Wong, privacy commissioner for personal data. While journalists have become a high-profile target, about 40% of cases involve police officers while the rest concern government officials, community leaders, the families of police officers, and other citizens, Wong said.... Craig Choy, a spokesperson for Hong Kong's Progressive Lawyers Group and a specialist in data protection law, said the high volume of cases was unprecedented in Hong Kong... The privacy commission has referred nearly 1,000 cases for criminal investigation and consideration for prosecution. Eight people were arrested in July for doxxing police officers, according to Hong Kong Free Press. Choy said doxxing of police began after officers stopped wearing badge numbers on their uniforms when they attended protests -- leading protesters to attempt to identify officers independently as police tactics and arrests began to escalate.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Does America's First Commercial Offshore Wind Farm Portend a Clean Energy Revolution?
In the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Slashdot reader Dan Drollette describes visiting one of North America's biggest experiments in renewable energy, off the coast of Rhode Island. As the only commercial offshore wind farm in North America, Block Island is "setting the stage for what could be a rapid explosion in the number of commercial offshore windmills on the entire East Coast of the United States, assuming they leap the latest set of ever-changing legal hurdles set by fossil-fuel friendly regulators in Washington, DC."The goal of the Block Island test wind farm -- which started construction in the summer of 2015 and started generating some power in December 2016 -- is to see if it is technologically, environmentally, and scientifically possible to transfer offshore wind power technology from Europe to North America... This five-turbine, 30-megawatt endeavor has been effectively acting as a multi-year, real-world experiment in offshore wind power for the United States, paving the way for offshore wind farms on the northeast coast and the mid-Atlantic that could each be as much as 600 times the size of this test site, with hundreds of turbines generating electricity for hundreds of thousands of homes from just one full-scale, industrial-sized wind farm. There are more than a dozen large offshore "wind lease areas" suitable for wind farms currently up for bid from the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, stretching from Massachusetts to North Carolina. Massachusetts alone is soliciting contracts for 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind development (half have now been sold), which is more than 50 times the size of this pilot project off of Block Island.... Once it is built and running, the Massachusetts project off Martha's Vineyard alone will provide enough energy to power at least 230,000 households, or about a third of the state's residential energy demand. Other states are working on a similar gargantuan scale. All told, there are 28 offshore wind projects in the works on the East Coast, with a total capacity of 24 gigawatts, or 24,000 megawatts. To give a sense of the massive size of the generating power of the wind farms now in the works, the first commercial civilian nuclear reactor in the United States -- Massachusetts' Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Station, now decommissioned -- generated just 185 megawatts at its peak. But after decades of false starts and tangled litigation, a sea change appears to be occurring for offshore wind in the United States, as this country races to catch up with Northern Europe, where this renewable energy source has become increasingly mainstream and increasingly cheap... And these offshore wind projects could have a big impact on the environment. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that the newly contracted wind farms would offset carbon emissions equivalent to removing about 270,000 cars from the road. They could play a key role in reducing the region's climate change footprint, while allowing the New England economy to grow... Consequently, this handful of windmills in one test plot have been closely watched, studied, and debated, from multiple points of view, by many different "stakeholders," as the parlance goes -- including Wall Street analysts, investment firms, engineers, economists, sociologists, fisheries experts, environmental activists, historic preservationists, ornithologists, marine mammal biologists, Native American tribes, scallopers, long-liners, oystermen, sport fisherman, real estate investors, the tourism industry, and homeowners.And, of course, lawyers. Many, many lawyers... The article notes that often windmill power companies "can piggyback on existing infrastructure, in the form of the high-tension power lines built for decommissioned nuclear plants or retired coal-fired plants such as the 1,500 megawatt Brayton Point Power Station on the mainland -- the last coal-burning plant in Massachusetts, which was shut down in May 2017..." After talking to several locals, he concludes that "If there is a common thread to the comments, it is that the windmills are quiet and distant, and that with a steady and predictable source of power, islanders no longer have to worry about blackouts or brownouts... If nothing else, wind had turned out to be more reliable than ferrying barrels of diesel fuel to a generator located on an island 13 miles out to sea."Read more of this story at Slashdot.
SpaceX Tries Buying Out Homeowners Around Starhopper's Texas Launchpad
SpaceX "built its experimental spaceport in and around Boca Chica Village, a decades-old community of about 20 elderly residents," reports Business Insider. But now "SpaceX is trying to buy as much of Boca Chica Village as it can and move people out...following an accidental brush fire, public-safety notices warning of the possibility for explosions, and a push to have the Federal Aviation Administration approve orbital-class launches with larger rockets.""When SpaceX first identified Cameron County as a potential spaceport location, we did not anticipate that local residents would experience significant disruption from our presence," the letter said. "However, it has become clear that expansion of spaceflight activities as well as compliance with Federal Aviation Administration and other public safety regulations will make it increasingly more challenging to minimize disruption to residents of the Village... SpaceX is offering you three times the independently appraised fair market value of your property," the letter said. "The offer is good through two weeks from the date of this letter...." For those who commit to a sale, SpaceX said it would cover closing and other real-estate costs. It also comes packaged with an additional perk. "SpaceX recognizes that your close proximity to its operations has offered a unique opportunity to experience at close-hand the development of what will be the world's most advanced rocket. In appreciation of your support, we will offer all residents of the Village who accept the purchase offer the opportunity to continue their connection with the development of Starship by extending an invitation to attend future private VIP launch viewing events that are unavailable to the public." Homeowner Cheryl Stevens complained to CBS News that the company has encroached on their neighborhood. "They're behaving as if this is Cape Canaveral. And it's not. It's not a military base. It's just a regular neighborhood, and a public beach, and a state highway. And suddenly, because they're here, stop the presses. Everything has to change for SpaceX." SpaceX issued the following statement to CBS News: "We are entering a new and exciting era in space exploration and Texas is playing an increasingly important role in our efforts to help make humanity multi-planetary. "As we develop Starship -- the world's most advanced launch system ever -- we are listening and responding to our neighbors' concerns and are striving to minimize disruptions as much as possible. We are working closely with Cameron County to facilitate public safety and provide regular road and beach closure updates to the public through a telephone hotline and on Cameron County's website."Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Uber Sues New York City Over 'Cruising Cap' Rule
Reuters: Uber Technologies sued New York City on Friday over a new rule limiting how much time its drivers can spend in their vehicles in Manhattan without passengers, saying the rule threatens to undermine the company's ride sharing model. In its complaint filed in a New York state court in Manhattan, Uber called the "cruising cap" rule adopted last month "arbitrary and capricious," and said it was based on a flawed economic model.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
They Want To Believe: People Gather Near Area 51 To 'See Them Aliens'
Hundreds of people arrived early Friday at a gate at the once secret Area 51 military base in Nevada at the time appointed by an internet hoaxster to "storm" the facility to see space aliens and at least two were detained by sheriff's deputies. From a report: The Storm Area 51 invitation spawned festivals in the tiny Nevada towns of Rachel and Hiko nearest the military site, and a more than two-hour drive from Las Vegas. The Lincoln county sheriff, Kerry Lee, estimated late Thursday that about 1,500 people had gathered at the festival sites and said more than 150 people also made the rugged trip several additional miles on bone-rattling dirt roads to get within selfie distance of the gates. An Associated Press photographer said it wasn't immediately clear if a woman who began ducking under a gate and a man who urinated nearby were arrested after the crowd gathered about 3am Friday. Millions of people had responded to a June internet post calling for people to run into the remote US air force test site that has long been the focus of UFO conspiracy theories. "They can't stop all of us," the post joked. "Lets see them aliens." The military responded with stern warnings that lethal force could be used if people entered the Nevada Test and Training Range, and local and state officials said arrests would be made if people tried.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
French Court Rules that Steam's Ban on Reselling Used Games is Contrary To European Law
A French high court this week delivered a blow to Valve, ruling that European consumers are legally free to resell digital games bought on Steam, just as they're able to resell packaged, physical games. From a report: The ruling was delivered by the High Court of Paris (Tribunal de grande instance de Paris) two days ago, according to a report on French games site Numerama. In a statement released today, Valve pledged to appeal the decision. The court's ruling is a victory for French consumer group UFC-Que Choisir, which filed a suit against Steam four years ago, alleging anti-consumer rights activities. The court rejected Valve's defense that argued Steam is a subscription service. According to Numerama, the court found that Steam sells games in perpetuity, and not as part of a subscription package. The ban on reselling games is therefore counter to European Union laws on digital goods that are designed to block prohibitions on "the free movement of goods within the Union." According to EU law, all goods, including software, can be sold used without the permission of the maker or the original seller.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Japan's Hayabusa 2 Targets Final Asteroid Landing
The team overseeing the Hayabusa2 mission for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is putting the vehicle through its paces one more time as it prepares to release the last rover it has on board. "That rehearsal, which took place Sept. 16 (Sept. 17 local time at mission control), sent two target markers toward the asteroid," reports Space.com. From the report: Each target marker is a reflective ball that's about 4 inches (10 centimeters) across and filled with smaller balls -- like a high-tech beanbag. Hayabusa2 launched with five of these markers and had already deployed two, one last October and one in May. Two more left the spacecraft during the rehearsal this week, according to JAXA. During the procedure, the spacecraft photographed the target markers every 4 seconds, producing the raw material that mission personnel have turned into stunning would-be multiple-exposure images. As the camera snapped, the target marker itself stayed more or less in the same place, while the spacecraft itself rose at a speed of about 4 inches per second, according to a statement from JAXA. All told, the target markers took a few days to reach the asteroid's surface, on account of the space rock's very weak gravity. Since deploying the two target markers, Hayabusa2 has focused on observing the pair, which it will continue to do until Sept. 23, according to JAXA. The agency has not yet announced when it will deploy the spacecraft's final rover. That deployment marks the last task Hayabusa2 needs to complete before it ferries its precious space-rock cargo back to Earth. The spacecraft will leave Ryugu in November or December.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Authorities Consider Taking Legal Action Against Facebook Over Storm Area 51 Event
Local authorities in Rachel, Nevada -- the location of a planned Aliengate festival that evolved out of a viral Facebook event -- are considering taking legal action to cover $250,000 the county plans to spend to prepare for the potential onslaught of visitors. Gizmodo reports: Matty Roberts created the "Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us" Facebook event on June 27 as a joke, but the event went viral and evolved into an actual festival -- Alienstock -- which was planned for September 19-22 at the Little A'Le'Inn in Rachel, Nevada, near the US Air Force base known as Area 51. But just a few days before the event was supposed to begin, Roberts and his partners backed out, posting on their website that they "foresee a possible humanitarian disaster in the works" and after considering "the lack of infrastructure, planning, and risk management, along with concerns raised for the safety of the expected 10,000+ attendees, we decided to transition Alienstock away from the Rachel festival towards a safer alternative." That safer alternative is an "Area 51 Celebration" happening on Thursday night at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center. However, Little A'Le'Inn owner Connie West has made it very clear that she still plans to host her own Alienstock, despite Roberts' attorney sending her a cease-and-desist letter ordering her to stop using the name "Alienstock" since the event at that location was canceled. Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee told Gizmodo that as of Wednesday morning, people had already started arriving at A'Le'Inn. "Matty Roberts is the one that started this on Facebook. So our district attorney, his opinion is that Matty Roberts and Facebook stand to be partially to blame for this" Lee told Gizmodo. "He's already told people that this is quote-unquote 'His event.' He told some of the other event promoters that this was his event. And so I guess if it's his event and he's taken ownership of it then we know where legal action should go toward. I'm not an attorney but that is what Lincoln County district attorney is saying." Facebook is protected from legal action regarding content created by one of its users under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, but it's possible that the district attorney may argue that this particular circumstance wouldn't be covered by those protections.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Google Makes the Largest Ever Corporate Purchase of Renewable Energy
Two years ago, Google became the first company of its size to buy as much renewable electricity as the electricity it used. But as the company grows, so does its demand for power. To stay ahead of that demand, Google just made the largest corporate renewable energy purchase in history, with 18 new energy deals around the world that will help build infrastructure worth more than $2 billion. From a report: The projects include massive new solar farms in places like Texas and North Carolina where the company has data centers. "Bringing incremental renewable energy to the grids where we consume energy is a critical component of pursuing 24x7 carbon-free energy for all of our operations," Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a blog post today. While most of the renewable energy the company has purchased in the past has come from wind farms, the dropping cost of solar power means that several of the new deals are solar plants. In Chile, a new project combines both wind and solar power, making it possible to generate clean energy for longer each day.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
North America Has Lost 3 Billion Birds in 50 Years
Slowly, steadily and almost imperceptibly, North America's bird population is dwindling. From a report: The sparrows and finches that visit backyard feeders number fewer each year. The flutelike song of the western meadowlark -- the official bird of six U.S. states -- is growing more rare. The continent has lost nearly 3 billion birds representing hundreds of species over the past five decades, in an enormous loss that signals an "overlooked biodiversity crisis," according to a study from top ornithologists and government agencies. This is not an extinction crisis -- yet. It is a more insidious decline in abundance as humans dramatically alter the landscape: There are 29 percent fewer birds in the United States and Canada today than in 1970, the study concludes. Grassland species have been hardest hit, probably because of agricultural intensification that has engulfed habitats and spread pesticides that kill the insects many birds eat. But the victims include warblers, thrushes, swallows and other familiar birds. "That's really what was so staggering about this," said lead author Ken Rosenberg, a senior scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and American Bird Conservancy. "The generalist, adaptable, so-called common species were not compensating for the losses, and in fact they were experiencing losses themselves. This major loss was pervasive across all the bird groups."Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Downloading Stays Legal, No Site Blocking, Swiss Copyright Law Says
From a report: Switzerland's National Council has passed amendments aimed at modernizing the country's copyright law to make it more fit for the digital age. While services that host pirate sites or distribute content can expect a tougher ride moving forward, users will still be able to download pirate content for personal use. Furthermore, Swiss Internet service providers will not be required to prevent their customers accessing pirate sites.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
India Tells Tech Firms To Protect User Privacy, Prevent Abuse
Technology firms must protect user privacy and prevent abuse of their platforms, India's IT minister said on Thursday, speaking as the government draws up a data privacy law and seeks to push companies to store more data locally. From a report: Federal Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said he wanted Indians to have access to more technology platforms but said this should not undermine user privacy. "I have only one caveat -- it must be safe and secure, it must safeguard the privacy rights of the individual and you must make extra efforts that people don't abuse the system," Prasad told industry executives at a gathering organized by Alphabet's Google in New Delhi. India's 1.3 billion people and their massive consumption of mobile data has turned it into a key growth market for U.S. technology giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. India has already forced foreign payment firms such as Mastercard and Visa to store data locally.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Google is Bringing Its AI Assistant Service To People Without Internet Access
An anonymous reader shares a report: Google Assistant, the digital assistant from the global search giant, is available to users through their smartphones, laptops, and smart speakers. Earlier this year, the company partnered with KaiOS to bring Assistant to some feature phones with internet access. Now Google is going a step further: Bringing its virtual assistant to people who have the most basic cellphone with no internet access. It's starting this program in India. At an event in New Delhi on Thursday, the company announced a 24x7 telephone line that anyone in India on Vodafone and Idea telecom networks (or Vodafone-Idea telecom network; as Vodafone owns Idea) could dial to have their questions answered. The company said it tested the phone line service with thousands of users across Lucknow and Kanpur before making it generally available. Users will be able to dial 000-800-9191-000 and they won't be charged for the call or the service. Manuel Bronstein, a VP at Google, said through this program the company is hoping to reach hundreds of millions of users in India who currently don't have access to smartphones or internet.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Navy Confirms Existence of UFOs Seen In Leaked Footage
A Navy official has confirmed that recently released videos of unidentified flying objects are real, but that the footage was not authorized to be released to the public in the first place. From a report: Joseph Gradisher, the spokesman for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare, confirmed to TIME that three widely-shared videos captured "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena." Gradisher initially confirmed this in a statement to "The Black Vault" a website dedicated to declassified government documents. "The Navy designates the objects contained in these videos as unidentified aerial phenomena," Gradisher told the site. He tells TIME that he was "surprised" by the press coverage surrounding his statement to the site, particularly around his classification of the incursions as "unidentifiable," but says that he hopes that leads to UAP's being "de-stigmatized." "The reason why I'm talking about it is to drive home the seriousness of this issue," Gradisher says. "The more I talk, the more our aviators and all services are more willing to come forward." Gradisher would not speculate as to what the unidentified objects seen in the videos were, but did say they are usually proved to be mundane objects like drones -- not alien spacecraft. "The frequency of incursions have increased since the advents of drones and quadcopters," he says. The three videos of UFOs were published by the New York Times and "To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science," a self-described "public benefit corporation" co-founded by Tom DeLonge, best known as the vocalist and guitarist for the rock band, Blink-182.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
AI Can't Protect Us From Deepfakes, Argues New Report
A new report from Data and Society raises doubts about automated solutions to deceptively altered videos, including machine learning-altered videos called deepfakes. Authors Britt Paris and Joan Donovan argue that deepfakes, while new, are part of a long history of media manipulation -- one that requires both a social and a technical fix. Relying on AI could actually make things worse by concentrating more data and power in the hands of private corporations. The Verge reports: As Paris and Donovan see it, deepfakes are unlikely to be fixed by technology alone. "The relationship between media and truth has never been stable," the report reads. In the 1850s when judges began allowing photographic evidence in court, people mistrusted the new technology and preferred witness testimony and written records. By the 1990s, media companies were complicit in misrepresenting events by selectively editing out images from evening broadcasts. In the Gulf War, reporters constructed a conflict between evenly matched opponents by failing to show the starkly uneven death toll between U.S. and Iraqi forces. "These images were real images," the report says. "What was manipulative was how they were contextualized, interpreted, and broadcast around the clock on cable television." Today, deepfakes have taken manipulation even further by allowing people to manipulate videos and images using machine learning, with results that are almost impossible to detect with the human eye. Now, the report says, "anyone with a public social media profile is fair game to be faked." Once the fakes exist, they can go viral on social media in a matter of seconds. [...] Paris worries AI-driven content filters and other technical fixes could cause real harm. "They make things better for some but could make things worse for others," she says. "Designing new technical models creates openings for companies to capture all sorts of images and create a repository of online life."Read more of this story at Slashdot.
California Governor Signs Labor Law, Setting Up Bitter Gig Economy Fight
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a sweeping new law that could force gig companies like Uber and Lyft to reclassify their workers as employees. From a report: The hotly contested legislation, Assembly Bill 5, dictates that workers can generally only be considered contractors if they are doing work that is outside the usual course of a company's business. The law codifies a 2018 state supreme court ruling, and applies it to a wide range of state laws. It could upend the business models of companies that depend on armies of independent contractors, who aren't guaranteed employment protections like minimum wage and overtime. The bill is slated to go into effect on Jan. 1. While the legislature has adjourned until next year, fierce lobbying and deal-making efforts are expected to continue in the meantime, and could potentially yield separate legislation in 2020. In a statement, Newsom called the bill "landmark legislation," and said that, "A next step is creating pathways for more workers to form a union, collectively bargain to earn more, and have a stronger voice at work -- all while preserving flexibility and innovation." Lorena Gonzalez, the state assemblywoman who authored the bill, said in a statement that, "California is now setting the global standard for worker protections for other states and countries to follow." Further reading: Drivers? Never Heard of Them, Says Uber.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Have Flagship Smartphone Prices Peaked?
Analyst Ben Wood, writing for research firm CCS Insight: Smartphone makers have been testing the economic rule of supply and demand for the past decade, seemingly defying conventional wisdom in consumer electronics products by raising prices. Greater utility and the constant of use smartphones combined to grow the value of devices to customers. But it seems that top phone-makers are learning that no tree grows to heaven, as prices beyond the psychological threshold of $1,000 have created sticker shock among some consumers. Apple's announcement of the iPhone 11 at its annual product event last week largely centered on incremental improvements such as better camera and battery life, but the company's decision to lower the price of its base flagship smartphone caught our eye. The iPhone 11 will cost $699 in the US. A year ago, Apple introduced the iPhone XR at $749. It's a subtle, but interesting move that sees Apple shifting its "mid-range" iPhone back to a price of $699, where it previously resided with the iPhone 8. Apple's decision to lower pricing can be seen as an acknowledgement that it has tested the upper limits of consumer acceptance. At a time when the company wants to expand its number of customers as it builds out its ecosystem of content and services, it's sensible that it slightly brought down the barriers for consumers to get their hands on the new device.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Smart TVs, Smart-Home Devices Found To Be Leaking Sensitive User Data, Researchers Find
Smart-home devices, such as televisions and streaming boxes, are collecting reams of data -- including sensitive information such as device locations -- that is then being sent to third parties like advertisers and major tech companies, researchers said Tuesday. From a report: As the findings show, even as privacy concerns have become a part of the discussion around consumer technology, new devices are adding to the hidden and often convoluted industry around data collection and monetization. A team of researchers from Northeastern University and the Imperial College of London found that a variety of internet-connected devices collected and distributed data to outside companies, including smart TV and TV streaming devices from Roku and Amazon -- even if a consumer did not interact with those companies. "Nearly all TV devices in our testbeds contacts Netflix even though we never configured any TV with a Netflix account," the Northeastern and Imperial College researchers wrote. The researchers tested a total of 81 devices in the U.S. and U.K. in an effort to gain a broad idea of how much data is collected by smart-home devices, and where that data goes.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Crypto-mining Malware Saw New Life Over the Summer as Monero Value Tripled
Malware that mines cryptocurrency made a comeback over the summer, with an increased number of campaigns being discovered and documented by cyber-security firms. From a report: The primary reason for this sudden resurgence is the general revival of the cryptocurrency market, which saw trading prices recover after a spectacular crash in late 2018. Monero, the cryptocurrency of choice of most crypto-mining malware operations, was one of the many cryptocurrencies that were impacted by this market slump. The currency also referred to as XMR, has gone down from an exchange rate that orbited around $300 - $400 in late 2017 to a meager $40 - $50 at the end of 2018. But as the Monero trading price recovered throughout 2018, tripling its value from $38 at the start of the year, to nearly $115 over the summer, so have malware campaigns. These are criminal operations during which hackers infect systems with malware that's specifically designed to secretly mine Monero behind the computer owner's back. Starting with the end of May, the number of reports detailing crypto-mining campaigns published by cyber-security firms has exploded, with a new report published each week, and sometimes new campaigns being uncovered on a daily basis.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Facebook Contractors Have Been Listening To 'Hey Portal' Clips
Facebook, which last month said it stopped using humans to review and transcribe users' voice messages, will resume that practice for some audio collected from its Portal video-calling device. From a report: Facebook "paused human review of audio" around August. Bloomberg reported at the time the company hired contractors to transcribe private voice messages sent via its Messenger app. In that case, users had not been alerted to the possibility that their communications might be subject to human review. It was also unclear at the time that some of the clips Facebook had been collecting were coming from Portal. Facebook confirmed Wednesday that it was indeed collecting audio from Portal users who make a request from the device using the command "Hey Portal." By default, those commands were recorded and stored on Facebook servers, and some of them were transcribed by contractors working with the company to improve the software algorithms used to understand the commands, according to Andrew Bosworth, Facebook's head of hardware. That practice was paused last month at the same time Messenger stopped using humans to transcribe messages.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Egypt's Massive 1.8-Gigawatt Benban Solar Park Nears Completion
Wave723 shares a report from IEEE Spectrum: Amid the sand dunes of the western Sahara, workers are putting the finishing touches on one of the world's largest solar installations. There, as many as 7.2 million photovoltaic panels will make up Benban Solar Park -- a renewable energy project so massive, it will be visible from space. The 1.8-gigawatt installation is the first utility-scale PV plant in Egypt, a nation blessed with some of the best solar resources on the planet. The ambitious project is part of Egypt's efforts to increase its generation capacity and incorporate more renewable sources into the mix. Once operational, Benban Solar Park will avoid two million tons of CO2 emissions per year [PDF] compared with what's belched into the air by a thermal power station generating the same amount of electricity. That difference is roughly equivalent to half the annual emissions produced by one coal-fired power plant. To create the park, Egypt's government selected a remote desert site with high solar radiation and divided it into 41 plots of varying sizes. It assigned those plots to roughly 30 developers that expressed interest in the project, and the government promised to pay a competitive price (through financial incentives called feed-in tariffs [PDF]) for all power produced at Benban for 25 years.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Fossil Fuel Divestment Has 'Zero' Climate Impact, Says Bill Gates
dryriver shares a report from The Financial Times: Climate activists are wasting their time lobbying investors to ditch fossil fuel stocks, according to Bill Gates, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder who is one of the world's most prominent philanthropists. Those who want to change the world would do better to put their money and energy behind the disruptive technologies that slow carbon emissions and help people adapt to a warming world, Mr Gates told the Financial Times. "Divestment, to date, probably has reduced about zero tons of emissions. It's not like you've capital-starved [the] people making steel and gasoline," he said. "I don't know the mechanism of action where divestment [keeps] emissions [from] going up every year. I'm just too damn numeric." Mr Gates questioned the divestment movement's "theory of change," arguing that investors who want to use their money to promote progress will have better results by funding innovative businesses such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, two alternative protein companies he has backed. "When I'm taking billions of dollars and creating breakthrough energy ventures and funding only companies who, if they're successful, reduce greenhouse gases by 0.5 percent, then I actually do see a cause and effect type thing," he said.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Modified Tesla Model S Reportedly Outguns Porsche Taycan at Nurburgring
Tesla is being a busy bee at the Nurburgring Nordschleife, and after multiple videos and rumors, we have our first idea of how capable its modified Model S electric sedan is. From a report: Road & Track reported Tuesday that the stripped-down Model S clocked a lap time of 7:23. Do note, that is not an official time and comes from well-placed sources hand-timing the electric car with a clear view of the track. It also happens to be 20 seconds quicker than the Porsche Taycan's lap time at the 'Ring. However, what's impressive is that this time comes during an industry-pool session. This is when all automakers are free to make rounds around the track, which leads to traffic. At the end of the day, the time doesn't reflect the car's full potential. It's not possible to clock a flying lap during an industry-pool session. If we do get an official time this week, expect it to be even quicker than 7:23. At the same time, the magazine's sources also described the fact that this Model S is nowhere near close to the kind of electric sedan Tesla sells to buyers. It's rumored to house a new three-motor powertrain (one motor for each rear wheel) and sports plenty of variations outside. They include wider tires, reportedly Goodyear Eagle F1 Supersport RS rubber, fender flares to help cover the extra width and a massive gurney flap at the rear. Massive carbon-ceramic brakes are supposedly hiding behind the wheels, too.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Firefox Moving To a Faster 4-Week Release Cycle
Mozilla announces in a blog post: We typically ship a major Firefox browser (Desktop and Android) release every 6 to 8 weeks. Building and releasing a browser is complicated and involves many players. To optimize the process, and make it more reliable for all users, over the years we've developed a phased release strategy that includes 'pre-release' channels: Firefox Nightly, Beta, and Developer Edition. With this approach, we can test and stabilize new features before delivering them to the majority of Firefox users via general release. And today we're excited to announce that we're moving to a four-week release cycle! We're adjusting our cadence to increase our agility, and bring you new features more quickly. In recent quarters, we've had many requests to take features to market sooner. Feature teams are increasingly working in sprints that align better with shorter release cycles. Considering these factors, it is time we changed our release cadence. Starting Q1 2020, we plan to ship a major Firefox release every 4 weeks. Firefox ESR release cadence (Extended Support Release for the enterprise) will remain the same. In the years to come, we anticipate a major ESR release every 12 months with 3 months support overlap between new ESR and end-of-life of previous ESR. The next two major ESR releases will be ~June 2020 and ~June 2021.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
NBCUniversal's Streaming Service Is Called Peacock and It's Launching Next April
NBCUniversal's upcoming streaming service finally has a name -- Peacock -- and a whole bunch of newly announced programming. From a report: The long-in-the-works service will launch next April, anchored by more than 15,000 hours of content from the entertainment conglomerate's TV and movie vaults. In addition to a previously announced deal to take back The Office from Netflix in 2021, NBCU Tuesday said that starting next fall, Peacock will also be the exclusive streaming home for the Universal TV -- produced Parks and Recreation, which currently streams on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. The new service has also locked down deals for a slew of originals with ties to existing NBCU brands, including a reboot of Battlestar Galactica overseen by Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot), revivals of Saved by the Bell and Punky Brewster, a comedy/talk show hosted by Late Night's Amber Ruffin, a new spinoff from The Real Housewives universe, and a new comedy from The Good Place creator Mike Schur starring The Office's Ed Helms.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
HP Printers Try To Send Data Back To HP About Your Devices and What You Print
Robert Heaton: Last week my in-laws politely but firmly asked me to set up their new HP printer. I protested that I'm completely clueless about that sort of thing, despite my tax-return-job-title of "software engineer." Still remonstrating, I was gently bundled into their study with an instruction pamphlet, a cup of tea, a promise to unlock the door once I'd printed everyone's passport forms, and a warning not to try the window because the roof tiles are very loose. At first the setup process was so simple that even a computer programmer could do it. But then, after I had finished removing pieces of cardboard and blue tape from the various drawers of the machine, I noticed that the final step required the downloading of an app of some sort onto a phone or computer. This set off my crapware detector. [...] It was a way to try and get people to sign up for expensive ink subscriptions and/or hand over their email addresses, plus something even more nefarious that we'll talk about shortly (there were also some instructions for how to download a printer driver tacked onto the end). This was a shame, but not unexpected. I'm sure that the HP ink department is saddled with aggressive sales quotas, and no doubt the only way to hit them is to ruthlessly exploit people who don't know that third-party cartridges are just as good as HP's and are much cheaper. Fortunately, the careful user can still emerge unscathed from this phase of the setup process by gingerly navigating the UI patterns that presumably do fool some people who aren't paying attention.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
The Internet Relies on People Working for Free
Who should be responsible for maintaining and troubleshooting open-source projects? From a report: When you buy a product like Philips Hue's smart lights or an iPhone, you probably assume the people who wrote their code are being paid. While that's true for those who directly author a product's software, virtually every tech company also relies on thousands of bits of free code, made available through "open-source" projects on sites like GitHub and GitLab. Often these developers are happy to work for free. Writing open-source software allows them to sharpen their skills, gain perspectives from the community, or simply help the industry by making innovations available at no cost. According to Google, which maintains hundreds of open-source projects, open source "enables and encourages collaboration and the development of technology, solving real-world problems." But when software used by millions of people is maintained by a community of people, or a single person, all on a volunteer basis, sometimes things can go horribly wrong. The catastrophic Heartbleed bug of 2014, which compromised the security of hundreds of millions of sites, was caused by a problem in an open-source library called OpenSSL, which relied on a single full-time developer not making a mistake as they updated and changed that code, used by millions. Other times, developers grow bored and abandon their projects, which can be breached while they aren't paying attention. It's hard to demand that programmers who are working for free troubleshoot problems or continue to maintain software that they've lost interest in for whatever reason -- though some companies certainly try. Not adequately maintaining these projects, on the other hand, makes the entire tech ecosystem weaker. So some open-source programmers are asking companies to pay, not for their code, but for their support services. Daniel Stenberg is one of those programmers. He created cURL, one of the world's most popular open-source projects.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Square Wants To Be a Bank But Doesn't Want To Be Taxed Like One
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal: Square has lent $5 billion to small businesses and consumers and applied for a banking license. It operates a nationwide mobile money-transfer business that serves 15 million Americans. But Square says it isn't a financial company. The San Francisco-based payments processor filed a lawsuit last week against its home city to recover $1.3 million in taxes, plus interest and attorneys' fees. Square argued that San Francisco was wrong to classify it as a financial company for tax purposes because it is a technology company that should be subject to a lower tax rate. The refund Square is seeking from San Francisco relates to excess taxes it believes it paid for 2014 and 2015, years when Square was a much smaller company. Square disclosed in its most recent securities filing that it may have to pay San Francisco additional taxes for subsequent years if it was unable to convince the city it was a tech company. The company said in its complaint that its San Francisco operations more closely resemble a technology company than a financial-services firm. The company has roughly 2,200 employees in San Francisco. Square also said in its lawsuit that San Francisco overstates Square's gross receipts because it includes money that the company doesn't get to keep. Square takes a 2.75% cut of most credit-card payments to its small-business customers. More than half of what Square derives from those transactions must be paid out to banks and credit-card networks, the company said. San Francisco's treasurer and tax collector, Jose Cisneros, said that his office's audit of Square was "thorough and fair" and that he stands by its findings. Mr. Cisneros is also a defendant in the case.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Google Preps 'Smart Screenshots' Feature To Let You Search With a Screenshot
According to Abner Li from 9to5Google, Google is working on a new "Smart Screenshots" feature that integrates Google Lens abilities into the Google app's screenshot function. From the report: The Google app has long had an "Edit & share screenshots" ability where captures made within Search would reveal cropping and annotation tools. Meanwhile, Assistant has long maintained a "What's on my screen" capability that analyzes what you're currently viewing for search suggestions. Google app 10.61 reveals work on "Smart Screenshots" that combine those two features. Like before, a toolbar -- which interestingly uses a four-color light bar -- appears after you take a screenshot. A small preview is shown at the left with a pencil button overlaid. You can open the system share sheet, but the Google app also suggests a frequently used app. The most interesting addition is Lens. "Exploring with Lens" could be intended as a "Screen search" replacement given that Lens is increasingly taking over visual lookup throughout first-party apps, like Chrome. After taking a capture, Smart Screenshots have an easy way to invoke Lens for search, OCR, and finding visually "similar items." The existing editing tools (Annotating, Cropping, and Sharing) will remain and this new functionality appears to even use the same settings toggle to enable. It's unclear if this functionality once live will again be limited to screenshots taken within Search, or if it will expand to be systemwide and invokable anywhere. A notification from the Google app could appear after capturing a screenshot.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Richard Stallman Resigns From MIT
Multiple Slashdotters are reporting the unfortunate news that famed free software advocate and computer scientist Richard Stallman has resigned from MIT. Slashdot reader iamacat writes: Following outrage over his remarks about Jefferey Epstein's victims, Richard Stallman has resigned from his position in MIT, effective immediately. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss him -- even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to popular culture. Truly an American icon. "I am resigning effective immediately from my position in CSAIL at MIT," Stallman wrote in an email, referring to MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. "I am doing this due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations." Stallman also resigned as president from the Free Software Foundation (FSF) as well as from the organization's board of directors, FSF announced shortly after.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Spouse of Ring Exec Among Lawmakers Trying To Weaken California Privacy Law
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The California legislature worked through the summer to finalize the text of the state's landmark data privacy law before time to make amendments ran out on Friday. In the Assembly (California's lower house), Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin has been a key voice and vote backing motions that would weaken the law, and a new report says her reasoning may be very, very close to home. A review of state ethics documents conducted by Politico found that Ms. Irwin is married to Jon Irwin, the chief operating officer of Amazon's controversial Ring home surveillance business. That company stands to benefit if the California law is weakened in certain key ways before it can take effect. One proposal put forth by Assemblywoman Irwin would expand what kind of data would be exempt from CCPA provisions, and this drew the ire of consumer protection groups, Politico reports. Irwin also initially proposed striking out "a provision requiring companies to disclose or delete data associated with 'households' upon request," a regulation that will likely affect companies like Ring. She also voted against an amendment that would have required smart speaker systems, like Amazon's Alexa or Google Home, to obtain user consent to sell recorded conversations, and "used store security-camera footage as an example of data that would be burdensome and risky for businesses to be required to link to consumers in response to data-deletion requests." Assemblywoman Irwin told Politico she found questions about her spouse to be offensive, given her own personal background as a systems engineer. "My role in the privacy debate in the Legislature is focused on bringing people together and solving the practical issues posed to us as policy makers and is independent of any job or role my husband may have," she said. The California Consumer Privacy Act was signed into law in June 2018 by California nGovernor Gavin Newsom. "This legislation gives California residents several protections with regard to their personal information, including the rights to know what is being collected, what is being sold, and to whom it is being sold," reports Ars Technica. "It also grants Californians the right to access their personal information, the right to delete data collected from them, and the right to opt out -- without being charged extra for services if they choose to do so."Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Milton's Notes On Shakespeare Appear To Have Been Found
Almost 400 years after the first folio of Shakespeare was published in 1623, scholars believe they have identified the early owner of one copy of the text, who made hundreds of insightful annotations throughout: John Milton. The Guardian reports: The astonishing find, which academics say could be one of the most important literary discoveries of modern times, was made by Cambridge University fellow Jason Scott-Warren when he was reading an article about the anonymous annotator by Pennsylvania State University English professor Claire Bourne. Bourne's study of this copy, which has been housed in the Free Library of Philadelphia since 1944, dated the annotator to the mid-17th century, finding them alive to "the sense, accuracy, and interpretative possibility of the dialogue." She also provided many images of the handwritten notes, which struck Scott-Warren as looking oddly similar to Milton's hand. The first folio is the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, published seven years after his death. Without it, 18 plays including Macbeth and The Tempest might have been lost to history. Around 750 first folios were printed, with 233 known to survive. They command huge sums at auction, with one selling for 1.87 million pounds three years ago. Scott-Warren has made a detailed comparison of the annotator's handwriting with the Paradise Lost poet's. He also believes that the work the annotator did to improve the text of the folio -- suggesting corrections and supplying additional material such as the prologue to Romeo and Juliet, along with cross-references to other works -- is similar to work Milton did in other books that survive from his library, including his copy of Boccaccio's Life of Dante.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Drivers May Choose Electric Car Alert Sounds, US Proposal Says
The NHTSA is now proposing drivers be able to select an electric-car alert sound at speeds under 18.6 mph. "NHTSA wants the public's opinion 'on whether there should be a limit to the number of compliant sounds that a manufacturer can install in a vehicle and what that limit should be,'" adds CNET. From the report: As of this month, automakers are required to equip 50% of their "quiet cars," which applies to silent electric vehicles, with an alert noise at low speeds. The rules, first brought about in 2010, have been delayed for years, but come 2020, every quiet vehicle will need the alert mechanism. Regulators concluded cars make enough noise from tire and wind noise to forego the alert above 18.6 mph (that's 30 kph in case you're wondering why so precise a figure). Think of the sound as a gentle reminder when strolling through parking lots with cars backing out of spaces and crawling through the area. It's nice to hear a car approach, and something we take for granted with internal-combustion engines. NHTSA said the alert will help prevent 2,400 injuries annually.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
CentOS 8 To Be Released Next Week
New submitter JDShewey writes: The CentOS Project has announced that CentOS 8.0 will be available for download beginning Tuesday, September 24. This release was deferred so that work to release CentOS 7.7 could be completed, which means that CentOS 7.7 will be out shortly as well (and 7.7 it is already beginning to appear in mirrors and repos). This comes 20 weeks to the day from the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Apple Takes On EU's Vestager In Record $14 Billion Tax Fight
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Apple fights the world's biggest tax case in a quiet courtroom this week, trying to rein in the European Union's powerful antitrust chief ahead of a potential new crackdown on internet giants. The iPhone maker can tell the EU General Court in Luxembourg that it's the world's biggest taxpayer. But that's not enough for EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager who said in a 2016 ruling that Apple's tax deals with Ireland allowed the company to pay far less than other businesses. The court must now weigh whether regulators were right to levy a record 13 billion-euro ($14.4 billion) tax bill. A court ruling, likely to take months, could empower or halt Vestager's tax probes, which are now centering on fiscal deals done by Amazon.com and Alphabet. She's also been tasked with coming up with a "fair European tax" by the end of 2020 if global efforts to reform digital taxation don't make progress. Vestager showed her determination to fight the tax cases to the end by opening new probes into 39 companies' tax deals with Belgium on Monday. The move addresses criticism by the same court handling the Apple challenge. A February judgment threw out her 2016 order for them to pay back about 800 million euros. At the same time she's pushing for "fair international tax rules so that digitization doesn't allow companies to avoid paying their fair share of tax," according to a speech to German ambassadors last month. She urged them to use "our influence to build an international environment that helps us reach our goals" in talks on a new global agreement to tax technology firms. After the 2016 EU order, Apple CEO Tim Cook blasted the EU move as "total political crap." "The company's legal challenge claims the EU wrongly targeted profits that should be taxed in the U.S. and 'retroactively changed the rules' on how global authorities calculate what's owed to them," reports Bloomberg.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Faster Wi-Fi Officially Launches Today
The Wi-Fi Alliance, the organization that oversees implementation of the Wi-Fi standard, is launching its official Wi-Fi 6 certification program. "That might sound boring, but it means the Wi-Fi 6 standard is truly ready to go, and tech companies will soon be able to advertise their products -- mostly brand new ones -- as certified to properly support Wi-Fi 6," reports The Verge. From the report: So the point of Wi-Fi 6 is to boost speeds within a crowded network. The theoretical maximum speed for Wi-Fi is increasing, too -- to 9.6 Gbps from 3.5 Gbps -- but those numbers don't really matter since you'll never get them at home. What matters is that Wi-Fi 6 has a bunch of tools allowing it to operate faster and deliver more data at once, so the speeds you actually get will be higher than before. Those gains will be most noticeable on crowded networks, where the efficiency improvements will make up for the higher Wi-Fi demands. (Wi-Fi 6 also mandates a major security improvement.) Really, though, today's launch is largely a formality. The Wi-Fi certification program -- while important, and very much marking the beginning of the Wi-Fi 6 era -- isn't required, and companies have been rolling out Wi-Fi 6 devices for months that likely work just fine. But the Wi-Fi Alliance is made up of members of the tech industry big and small, and its actions represent what wireless features and technologies they're interested in delivering, so this is a clear sign that Wi-Fi 6 has arrived. All that said, this week's biggest news for Wi-Fi 6 has no immediate connection to the Alliance: it's that the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro go on sale, and both support Wi-Fi 6. That's going to quickly put millions of Wi-Fi 6 devices into people's hands, meaning adoption of the new tech will very suddenly be well underway.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Password-Leaking Bug Purged From LastPass Extensions
Developers of the LastPass password manager have patched a vulnerability that made it possible for websites to steal credentials for the last account the user logged into using the Chrome or Opera extension. Ars Technica reports: The vulnerability was discovered late last month by Google Project Zero researcher Tavis Ormandy, who privately reported it to LastPass. In a write-up that became public on Sunday, Ormandy said the flaw stemmed from the way the extension generated popup windows. In certain situations, websites could produce a popup by creating an HTML iframe that linked to the Lastpass popupfilltab.html window, rather than through the expected procedure of calling a function called do_popupregister(). In some cases, this unexpected method caused the popups to open with a password of the most recently visited site. "Because do_popupregister() is never called, ftd_get_frameparenturl() just uses the last cached value in g_popup_url_by_tabid for the current tab," Ormandy wrote. "That means via some clickjacking, you can leak the credentials for the previous site logged in for the current tab." On Friday, LastPass published a post that said the bugs had been fixed and described the "limited set of circumstances" required for the flaws to be exploited. "To exploit this bug, a series of actions would need to be taken by a LastPass user including filling a password with the LastPass icon, then visiting a compromised or malicious site and finally being tricked into clicking on the page several times," LastPass representative Ferenc Kun wrote. "This exploit may result in the last site credentials filled by LastPass to be exposed. We quickly worked to develop a fix and verified the solution was comprehensive with Tavis."Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Facebook Advertisers Can Write Their Own Headlines For Shared News Stories
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBC.ca: Advertisers on Facebook are able to completely rewrite the displayed headline for news stories, CBC News has learned, opening the door for potential disinformation to spread on the platform while using news media branding as cover. When placing an ad on the platform, one option is to include a link to a website, including links to news stories. The news story's real headline is auto-filled into the ad copy, but advertisers have the option to rewrite the headline. However, the article's website address still appears in the ad, giving the impression that the headline is the one written by the article's author. This policy raises the possibility that it could be abused by political parties or third-party advertisers during the federal election campaign. The article provides an example where the UK's Conservative Party ran an ad containing a BBC article whose headline was, "14 billion pound cash boost for schools." However, the actual BBC story is headlined "School spending: Multi-billion pound cash boost announced," and instead put the number at 7.1 billion pounds, criticizing the government's use of 14 billion pound figure as not the usual way of calculating spending. Facebook is aware of the issue and said it is planning changes. "We have a system that gives publishers control over how their links appear on Facebook. We're working to put additional safeguards in place by the end of this year to make sure advertisers don't misuse this tool," said a Facebook spokesperson in an email to CBC News.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
CBS and MIT's 1960 Documentary On AI Is a Gem
FastCompany magazine editor and Slashdot reader harrymcc writes: On the night of October 26, 1960, CBS aired a special -- coproduced with MIT -- about an emerging field of technology called 'artificial intelligence.' It featured demos -- like a checkers-playing computer and one that wrote scripts for TV westerns -- along with sound bits from leading scientists on the question of whether machines would ever think. It was well reviewed at the time and then mostly forgotten. But it's available on YouTube, and surprisingly relevant to today's AI challenges, 59 years later.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Australia Concludes China Was Behind Hack on Parliament, Political Parties
Australian intelligence determined China was responsible for a cyber-attack on its national parliament and three largest political parties before the general election in May, Reuters reports. From the report: Australia's cyber intelligence agency -- the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) -- concluded in March that China's Ministry of State Security was responsible for the attack, the five people with direct knowledge of the findings of the investigation told Reuters. The report, which also included input from the Department of Foreign Affairs, recommended keeping the findings secret in order to avoid disrupting trade relations with Beijing, two of the people said. The Australian government has not disclosed who it believes was behind the attack or any details of the report.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
There's a Lost Continent 1,000 Miles Under Europe
Scientists have reconstructed the tumultuous history of a lost continent hidden underneath Southern Europe, which has been formally named "Greater Adria" in a new study. From a report: This ancient landmass broke free from the supercontinent Gondwana more than 200 million years ago and roamed for another 100 million years before it gradually plunged underneath the Northern Mediterranean basin. Researchers led by Douwe van Hinsbergen, a professor of global tectonics and paleogeography at Utrecht University, have been piecing together Greater Adria's past for a decade. The team collected rock samples from Spain to Iran, looking for the last material remnants of the continent that are accessible to scientists. The results were published this month in the journal Gondwana Research, and include an animated summary of the lost continent's birth, life, and death. Unless you live in an earthquake zone, it can be easy to forget that Earth is constantly cannibalizing its own landmasses. The map of our world morphs over the eons, as continental plates shift around, bump into each other, and undergo subduction, which occurs when one plate slides underneath another.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
SoftBank Backers Rethink Role in Next Vision Fund on WeWork
The biggest backers of SoftBank's gargantuan Vision Fund are reconsidering how much to commit to its next investment vehicle as an oversized bet on flexible workspace provider WeWork sours. From a report: Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which contributed $45 billion to the $100 billion Vision Fund, is now only planning to reinvest profits from that vehicle into its successor, according to people familiar with the talks. Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Investment, which invested $15 billion, is considering paring its future commitment to below $10 billion, the people said, asking not to be identified in disclosing internal deliberations. A partial retreat of the two anchor investors would complicate fundraising for SoftBank Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son, who upended venture capital by making huge bets on promising yet unproven companies and spurring others to follow suit. Perhaps more than any other startup, WeWork has come to symbolize that brash style, and the success or failure of its IPO is likely to impact Son's ability to raise cash for future deals.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Amazon Changed Search Algorithm in Ways That Boost Its Own Products
Amazon.com has adjusted its product-search system to more prominently feature listings that are more profitable for the company, WSJ reported Monday citing people who worked on the project, a move, contested internally, that could favor Amazon's own brands. From the report: Late last year, these people said, Amazon optimized the secret algorithm that ranks listings so that instead of showing customers mainly the most-relevant and best-selling listings when they search -- as it had for more than a decade -- the site also gives a boost to items that are more profitable for the company. The adjustment, which the world's biggest online retailer hasn't publicized, followed a yearslong battle between executives who run Amazon's retail businesses in Seattle and the company's search team, dubbed A9, in Palo Alto, Calif., which opposed the move, the people said. Any tweak to Amazon's search system has broad implications because the giant's rankings can make or break a product. The site's search bar is the most common way for U.S. shoppers to find items online, and most purchases stem from the first page of search results, according to marketing analytics firm Jumpshot. The issue is particularly sensitive because the U.S. and the European Union are examining Amazon's dual role -- as marketplace operator and seller of its own branded products. An algorithm skewed toward profitability could steer customers toward thousands of Amazon's in-house products that deliver higher profit margins than competing listings on the site. Further reading: Amazon Falls After Report That the Company Prioritized Profit in Its Search Listings.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Database Leaks Data on Most of Ecuador's Citizens, Including 6.7 Million Children
The personal records of most of Ecuador's population, including children, has been left exposed online due to a misconfigured database, ZDNet reported Monday. From the report: The database, an Elasticsearch searver, was discovered two weeks ago by vpnMentor security researchers Noam Rotem and Ran Locar, who shared their findings exclusively with ZDNet. Together, we worked to analyze the leaking data, verify its authenticity, and contact the server owner. The leaky server is one of the, if not the biggest, data breaches in Ecuador's history, a small South American country with a population of 16.6 million citizens. The Elasticsearch server contained a total of approximately 20.8 million user records, a number larger than the country's total population count. The bigger number comes from duplicate records or older entries, containing the data of deceased persons.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
LastPass Bug Leaks Credentials From Previous Site
Password manager LastPass has released an update last week to fix a security bug that exposes credentials entered on a previously visited site. From a report: The bug was discovered last month by Tavis Ormandy, a security researcher with Project Zero, Google's elite security and bug-hunting team. LastPass, believed to be the most popular password manager app today, fixed the reported issue in version 4.33.0, released last week, on September 12. If users have not enabled an auto-update mechanism for their LastPass browser extensions or mobile apps, they're advised to perform a manual update as soon as possible. This is because yesterday, Ormandy published details about the security flaw he found. The security researcher's bug report walks an attacker through the steps necessary to reproduce the bug.Read more of this story at Slashdot.