AI

President of France Emmanuel Macron Talks About Nation's New AI Strategy (wired.com) 44

Earlier this week, Emmanuel Macron, President of France, pledged to spend $1.9 billion over the next five years and allow expanded data-sharing to help make France a leader in artificial intelligence. In an interview with Wired, Emmanuel Macron, President of France, explained why he is making big investments to bring France into the "winner takes all" race with the U.S. and China on artificial intelligence. An interesting quote, "At some point, as citizens, people will say, 'I want to be sure that all of this personal data is not used against me, but used ethically, and that everything is monitored. I want to understand what is behind this algorithm that plays a role in my life." An excerpt from the story: AI will raise a lot of issues in ethics, in politics, it will question our democracy and our collective preferences. For instance, if you take healthcare: you can totally transform medical care making it much more predictive and personalized if you get access to a lot of data. We will open our data in France. I made this decision and announced it this afternoon. But the day you start dealing with privacy issues, the day you open this data and unveil personal information, you open a Pandora's Box, with potential use cases that will not be increasing the common good and improving the way to treat you.

In particular, it's creating a potential for all the players to select you. This can be a very profitable business model: this data can be used to better treat people, it can be used to monitor patients, but it can also be sold to an insurer that will have intelligence on you and your medical risks, and could get a lot of money out of this information. The day we start to make such business out of this data is when a huge opportunity becomes a huge risk. It could totally dismantle our national cohesion and the way we live together. This leads me to the conclusion that this huge technological revolution is in fact a political revolution.

Advertising

MailChimp Bans Emails Promoting Cryptocurrency (gizmodo.com) 48

"MailChimp to Cryptocurrency Promoters: Your Fake Money's No Good Here," jokes the headline at Gizmodo. The mass emailing service -- which sends over a billion emails a day -- just updated its Acceptable Use Policy to warn users that MailChimp "does not allow businesses involved in any aspect of the sale, transaction, exchange, storage, marketing, or production of cryptocurrencies, virtual currencies, and any digital assets related to an Initial Coin Offering, to use MailChimp to facilitate or support any of those activities."

An anonymous reader quotes Gizmodo: The ban on cryptocurrency promotion isn't out of the blue so much as a clarification of existing use policies... In a statement to Gizmodo, MailChimp further clarified: "We recognize that blockchain technology is in its infancy and has tremendous potential. Nonetheless, the promotion and exchange of cryptocurrencies is too frequently associated with scams, fraud, phishing, and potentially misleading business practices at this time..." MailChimp previously held policies prohibiting multi-level marketing, "make money online" businesses, and "industries hav[ing] higher-than-average abuse complaints," and earmarked "online trading, day trading tips, or stock market related content" for "additional scrutiny..."

This follows similar, though less restrictive bans by Facebook (and Instagram by extension), Google, Linkedin, Twitter, and Snapchat on ICO ads, and country-wide bans in China and South Korea.

Futurism reports that the first victims are "responding in kind by attempting to read the riot act to a Twitter account whose avatar is a monkey with a hat," strongly informing that monkey that "Centralized capricious power is exactly why we need blockchains."
China

Airbnb To Share Information With Authorities On Guests In China (gizmodo.co.uk) 45

Airbnb has notified users in China that, as required by law, their information will soon be automatically logged with the government. Bloomberg reports: This week, it sent an email to hosts declaring it may disclose their information at any time -- those with concerns were given a link to deactivate their listing. Airbnb -- which had previously resisted comparisons to what it calls the hotel cartel -- is abiding by Chinese regulations governing the lodging industry. Hotels there keep tabs on guests and are obliged to report their information to the authorities -- which in turn becomes a useful tool for surveillance. Airbnb's approach automates the process, so travelers' data is directly transmitted to the government.

"Like all businesses operating in China, Airbnb China must comply with local laws and regulations," said Airbnb spokesman Jake Wilczynski. "The information we collect is similar to information hotels in China have collected for decades." Previously, the onus was mostly on Airbnb hosts to submit passport and other required traveler information. The company said in its email to hosts that it will comply with requests from authorities for information when asked.

Social Networks

Top Facebook Executive Defended Data Collection In 2016 Memo, Warned That Facebook Could Get People Killed (buzzfeed.com) 120

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BuzzFeed: On June 18, 2016, one of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's most trusted lieutenants circulated an extraordinary memo weighing the costs of the company's relentless quest for growth. "We connect people. Period. That's why all the work we do in growth is justified. All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends. All of the work we do to bring more communication in. The work we will likely have to do in China some day. All of it," VP Andrew "Boz" Bosworth wrote. "So we connect more people," he wrote in another section of the memo. "That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs someone a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools." The explosive internal memo is titled "The Ugly," and has not been previously circulated outside the Silicon Valley social media giant.

The Bosworth memo reveals the extent to which Facebook's leadership understood the physical and social risks the platform's products carried -- even as the company downplayed those risks in public. It suggests that senior executives had deep qualms about conduct that they are now seeking to defend. And as the company reels amid a scandal over improper outside data collection on its users, the memo shows that one senior executive -- one of Zuckerberg's longest-serving deputies -- prioritized all-encompassing growth over all else, a view that has led to questionable data collection and manipulative treatment of its users.
The full memo is embedded in BuzzFeed's report. In response to the story, Zuckerberg wrote in a statement: "Boz is a talented leader who says many provocative things. This was one that most people at Facebook including myself disagreed with strongly. We've never believed the ends justify the means. We recognize that connecting people isn't enough by itself. We also need to work to bring people closer together. We changed our whole mission and company focus to reflect this last year."
Science

X-ray 'Ghost Images' Could Cut Radiation Doses (sciencemag.org) 21

Sophia Chen, writing for Science magazine: On its own, a single-pixel camera captures pictures that are pretty dull: squares that are completely black, completely white, or some shade of gray in between. All it does, after all, is detect brightness. Yet by connecting a single-pixel camera to a patterned light source, a team of physicists in China has made detailed x-ray images using a statistical technique called ghost imaging, first pioneered 20 years ago in infrared and visible light. Researchers in the field say future versions of this system could take clear x-ray photographs with cheap cameras -- no need for lenses and multipixel detectors -- and less cancer-causing radiation than conventional techniques.

"Our system is much smaller and cheaper, and it could even be portable if you needed to take it into the field," says Wu Ling-An, a physicist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing whose work with her colleagues was published on 28 March in Optica. The researchers' system still isn't ready to be used in medicine. But they have lowered the x-ray dose by about a million times compared with earlier attempts, says Daniele Pelliccia, who in 2015 made some of the first x-ray ghost images.

China

China, in Search of Water, is Building a Rain-Making Network Three Times the Size of Spain (scmp.com) 111

China is testing cutting-edge defence technology to develop a powerful yet relatively low-cost weather modification system to bring substantially more rain to the Tibetan plateau, Asia's biggest freshwater reserve. From a report: The system, which involves an enormous network of fuel-burning chambers installed high up on the Tibetan mountains, could increase rainfall in the region by up to 10 billion cubic metres a year -- about 7 per cent of China's total water consumption -- according to researchers involved in the project. Tens of thousands of chambers will be built at selected locations across the Tibetan plateau to produce rainfall over a total area of about 1.6 million square kilometres (620,000 square miles), or three times the size of Spain. It will be the world's biggest such project.

The chambers burn solid fuel to produce silver iodide, a cloud-seeding agent with a crystalline structure much like ice. The chambers stand on steep mountain ridges facing the moist monsoon from south Asia. As wind hits the mountain, it produces an upward draft and sweeps the particles into the clouds to induce rain and snow.

Businesses

Cities Worldwide Spent Over $3 Billion Last Year To Peep On You (cnet.com) 98

The world market for security equipment in city surveillance surged past $3 billion last year and won't be slowing down anytime soon, a research report by IHS Markit said Wednesday. From a report: State capitals and major cities have been spurring rapid development of city surveillance market in recent years, mostly to help police forces maintain public safety and reduce crime, the researcher said. Demand has surged for video content analysis, like facial recognition, as well as for things like body-worn cameras and services for police officers. IHS Markit estimated the city surveillance market will grow at average annual rate of 14.6 percent from 2016 to 2021. China is the biggest market for security equipment in city surveillance, taking up a two-thirds share, and it will also be the first country to widely use facial recognition in city surveillance projects, according to the researcher. More than 10,000 smart cameras are expected to roll out in Shenzhen city this year.
AI

Baidu Shows Off Its Instant Pocket Translator (technologyreview.com) 43

MIT Technology Review: Baidu showed off the speed of its pocket translator for the first time in the United States during an afternoon presentation at MIT Technology Review's EmTech Digital conference in San Francisco. The Chinese Internet giant has made significant strides improving machine language translation since 2015, using an advanced form of artificial intelligence known as deep learning, said Hua Wu, the company's chief scientist focused on natural-language processing. On stage, the Internet-connected device was able to almost instantly translate a short conversation between Wu and senior editor Will Knight. It easily rendered Knight's questions -- including "Where can I buy this device?" and "When will machines replace humans?" -- into Mandarin, and relayed Wu's responses in clear, if machine-inflected, English.
China

Forget Millennials, the Internet's Most Wanted Users Are Older -- and Poorer (wsj.com) 58

An anonymous reader writes: China's relatively young internet industry is facing a mature-market problem: User growth for popular online services such as instant messaging, search, online news and video has fallen to single digits. Online population growth has hovered around 5% to 6% annually since 2014, which is only slightly higher than in mature economies. Unlike in many developed markets, a vast number of Chinese are unconnected. As they slowly come online, they're creating a sizable market that companies can tap into -- if they can figure out how.

"The Chinese internet is experiencing the third wave of [a] demographic dividend," said Wang Hua, a partner at venture-capital firm Sinovation Ventures, at a speech in December. The first wave, he said, were early adopters, while the second was driven by young people in major cities. "About half of the Chinese population is not yet heavy internet users, and they're the third wave of the demographic dividend," he says. "And they're usually the ones that are in charge of a family's daily consumption." Only 56% of 1.4 billion Chinese -- about 772 million people -- use the internet, according to official data. The U.S. reached that level of penetration in 2002, according to the United Nations. Interest in the lower end of the internet market has been building; live-streaming services have managed to attract working-class Chinese. This time around, the spread of e-commerce and new business models are unlocking more potential.

AI

Jaywalkers Under Surveillance In China Will Soon Be Punished Via Text Messages (scmp.com) 139

An anonymous reader quotes a report from South China Morning Post: Traffic police in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen have always had a reputation for strict enforcement of those flouting road rules in the metropolis of 12 million people. Now with the help of artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology, jaywalkers will not only be publicly named and shamed, they will be notified of their wrongdoing via instant messaging -- along with the fine. Intellifusion, a Shenzhen-based AI firm that provides technology to the city's police to display the faces of jaywalkers on large LED screens at intersections, is now talking with local mobile phone carriers and social media platforms such as WeChat and Sina Weibo to develop a system where offenders will receive personal text messages as soon as they violate the rules, according to Wang Jun, the company's director of marketing solutions.

For the current system installed in Shenzhen, Intellifusion installed cameras with 7 million pixels of resolution to capture photos of pedestrians crossing the road against traffic lights. Facial recognition technology identifies the individual from a database and displays a photo of the jaywalking offense, the family name of the offender and part of their government identification number on large LED screens above the pavement. In the 10 months to February this year, as many as 13,930 jaywalking offenders were recorded and displayed on the LED screen at one busy intersection in Futian district, the Shenzhen traffic police announced last month. Taking it a step further, in March the traffic police launched a webpage which displays photos, names and partial ID numbers of jaywalkers. These measures have effectively reduced the number of repeat offenders, according to Wang. The next step -- informing the errant pedestrians by text or Weibo instant messaging -- could have the added benefit of eliminating the cost of erecting large LED screens across the cities, he said.

Businesses

Foxconn Announces Purchase of Belkin, Wemo, and Linksys (androidpolice.com) 80

Foxconn, the Taiwan-based company best-known for manufacturing Apple products announced that one of its subsidiaries (Foxconn Interconnect Technology) is purchasing U.S.-based Belkin for $866 million in cash. "Belkin owns a number of major brands, including Linksys and Wemo," notes Android Police. From the report: The buyout would make Foxconn a major player in consumer electronics, instead of just a contract manufacturing company. Belkin primarily sells phone/tablet accessories, but also manufactures networking equipment like routers and Wi-Fi range extenders. The company also sells a range of smart home products under the Wemo brand. According to The Financial Times, the purchase is subject to approval from the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment. In other words, there is a very real chance the acquisition could be blocked. President Trump blocked Broadcom's acquisition of Qualcomm earlier this month, based on advice from the committee.
Earth

Few Countries Will Benefit From the AI Revolution (qz.com) 124

hackingbear writes from a report via Quartz: According to Chinese venture capitalist and former Google China president Kai-Fu Lee, the list of countries well-positioned to embrace a future powered by artificial intelligence is exceedingly short: United States and China. "The countries that are not in good shape are the countries that have perhaps a large population, but no AI, no technologies, no Google, no Tencent, no Baidu, no Alibaba, no Facebook, no Amazon," Lee says. "These people will basically be data points to countries whose software is dominant in their country. If a country in Africa uses largely Facebook and Google, they will be providing their data to help Facebook and Google make more money, but their jobs will still be replaced nevertheless." Originally, China's low labor costs might have helped the country modernize, Lee says, but as AI-driven automation takes hold in manufacturing, other countries that want to follow China's blueprint for economic growth probably wouldn't be able to rely on cheap labor alone.
Android

Google Starts Blocking 'Uncertified' Android Devices From Logging In (arstechnica.com) 179

Google logins on unlicensed devices will now fail at setup, and a warning message will pop up stating "Device is not certified by Google," reports Ars Technica. "This warning screen has appeared on and off in the past during a test phase, but XDA (and user reports) indicate it is now headed for a wider rollout." From the report: While the basic operating system code contained in the Android Open Source Project is free and open source, Google's apps that run on top of Android (like the Play Store, Gmail, Google Maps, etc.) and many others are not free. Google licenses these apps to device makers under a number of terms designed to give Google control over how the OS is used. Google's collection of default Android apps must all be bundled together, there are placement and default service requirements, and devices must pass an ever-growing list of compatibility requirements to ensure app compatibility. Android distributions that don't pass Google's compatibility requirements aren't allowed to be called "Android" (which is a registered trademark of Google), so they are Android forks. The most high-profile example of an Android fork is Amazon's Kindle Fire line of products, but most devices that ship in China (where Google doesn't do much business) fall under the umbrella of an "Android fork," too.

While Google's Android apps are only properly available as a pre-loaded app (or through the pre-loaded Play Store), they are openly distributed on forums, custom ROM sites, third-party app stores, and other places online. When a non-compatible device seller (or a user) loads these on a device, they can potentially trigger Google's new message at login. The message pops up when you try to log in to Google's services, which usually happens during the device setup. Users who purchased the device are warned that "the device manufacturer has preloaded Google apps and services without certification from Google," and users aren't given many options other than to complain to the manufacturer. At this point, logging in to Google services is blocked, and non-tech-savvy users will have to live without the Google apps. Users of custom Android ROMs -- which wipe out the stock software and load a modified version of Android -- will start seeing this message, too.

Sci-Fi

Amazon Plans Blockbuster TV Series Based On Chinese Sci-Fi Trilogy 'The Three-Body Problem' (medium.com) 158

hackingbear writes from a report: Amazon is reportedly likely to earmark $1 billion for a television series (Warning: source paywalled, alternative source) based on the ultra-popular Chinese science fiction trilogy The Three Body Problem. The American video subscription service will likely acquire the rights to the Yugo-winning, extremely popular trilogy of novels written by Liu Cixin and produce three seasons of episodes. The rights to the trilogy are currently owned by Lin Qi, the chairman of Youzu Interactive, a Chinese developer and publisher that typically focuses on online and mobile games.
China

FCC Chief Cites Concerns on Spy Threats From Chinese Telecoms Firms (reuters.com) 45

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, in a letter sent to lawmakers earlier this week (but released just now), said he shares the concerns of U.S. lawmakers about espionage threats from Chinese smartphone maker Huawei and plans to take "proactive steps" to ensure the integrity of the U.S. communications supply chain. From a report: Pai said he shares concerns over the "security threat that Huawei and other Chinese technology companies pose to our communications networks." Pai said he intends to take action in the "near future," but offered no specifics. Pai's letter follows the introduction of legislation by Republican Senators Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio in February that would block the U.S. government from buying or leasing telecoms equipment from Huawei, the world's third largest smartphone maker, or Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE Corp, citing concerns the companies would use their access to spy on U.S. officials.
China

China Regulator Bans TV Parodies Amid Content Crackdown (reuters.com) 61

China's media regulator is cracking down on video spoofs, the official Xinhua new agency reported, amid an intensified crackdown on any content that is deemed to be in violation of socialist core values under President Xi Jinping. From a report: The decision comes after Xi cemented his power at a recent meeting of parliament by having presidential term limits scrapped, and the ruling Communist Party tightened its grip on the media by handing control over film, news and publishing to its powerful publicity department. Xinhua said video sites must ban videos that "distort, mock or defame classical literary and art works," citing a directive from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television on Thursday.
United States

Trump Announces $60 Billion Tariff on Chinese High-Tech and Other Goods (techcrunch.com) 547

Following months of investigations by the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the Trump administration announced on Thursday at a White House briefing that the administration intends to place about $60 billion of tariffs on Chinese goods, with the bulk of them likely to be focused on the high-tech industry. The White House will announce a final list of goods subject to the tariffs in the next few weeks. From a report: "We've lost over a fairly short period of time, 60,000 factories in our country. Closed, shuttered, gone. Six million jobs at least, gone. And now they are starting to come back," President Trump said during the briefing. "The word that I want to use is reciprocal -- when they charge 25 percent for a car to go in, and we charge 2 percent for their car to come into the United States, that's not good. That's how China rebuilt itself."
Android

Best Buy Stops Selling Huawei Smartphones (cnet.com) 88

Best Buy, the nation's largest electronics big box retailer, has ceased ordering new smartphones from Huawei and will stop selling its products over the next few weeks. Best Buy didn't provide any details as to why it has severed ties with Huawei, but it may have to do with security concerns involving the Chinese government. CNET reports: The move is a critical blow to Huawei, which is the world's third-largest smartphone vendor behind Apple and Samsung but has struggled to establish any presence in the U.S. Best Buy was one of Huawei's biggest retail partners, and one of the rare places where you could physically see its phones. Huawei phones aren't sold by any U.S. carriers, where a majority of Americans typically buy their phones. Security concerns have long dogged Huawei in the U.S. In 2012, the House Intelligence Committee released a report accusing Huawei and fellow Chinese vendor ZTE of making telecommunications equipment that posed national security threats, and banned U.S. companies from buying the gear. At the time, the committee stressed that the report didn't refer to its smartphones. But that's changed over the last several months. The directors of the FBI, CIA and NSA all expressed their concerns about the risks posed by Huawei and ZTE.
Education

Chinese Companies Are Buying Up Cash-Strapped US Colleges (bloomberg.com) 206

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Chinese companies are taking advantage of America's financially strapped higher-education system to buy schools, and the latest deal for a classical music conservatory in Princeton, New Jersey, is striking chords of dissonance on campus. Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co. agreed in February to pay $40 million for Westminster Choir College, an affiliate of Rider University that trains students for careers as singers, conductors and music teachers. The announcement came just weeks after the government-controlled Chinese company changed its name from Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure Co. The pending purchase rankles some Westminster faculty and alumni, who question what a longtime maker of steel spans knows about running an elite school whose choirs sang with maestros Leonard Bernstein, Arturo Toscanini and Seiji Ozawa. Alumni are among those suing in New York federal court to block the sale, saying it violates Westminster's 1991 merger agreement with Rider and will trigger the choir college's demise.
China

China Approves Giant Propaganda Machine To Improve Global Image (bloomberg.com) 157

China has approved the creation of one of the world's largest propaganda machines as it looks to improve its global image, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing a person familiar with the matter. From the report: The new broadcaster will be called "Voice of China," the person said, mimicking the U.S. government-funded Voice of America that started up during World War II to advance American interests. Bloomberg News had previously reported the new entity would be created through merging China Central Television, China Radio International and China National Radio. The combined group was designed to strengthen the party's ability to shape public opinion and would serve as a key vehicle for China to project its image to the world.

Slashdot Top Deals