Transportation

NTSB Boots Tesla From Investigation Into Fatal Autopilot Crash (theverge.com) 160

The National Transportation Safety Board has removed Tesla from the investigation into a fatal Autopilot accident that occurred in March. The NTSB says it took the action because Tesla had released "investigative information before it was vetted and confirmed by" the agency. "Such releases of incomplete information often lead to speculation and incorrect assumptions about the probable cause of a crash, which does a disservice to the investigative process and the traveling public," the agency writes. The Verge reports: The NTSB's account contradicts Tesla's version of the story. In a statement, the automaker says it decided to remove itself from the investigation on Tuesday because of the NTSB was restricting it from sharing information before the probe ends. The company also accuses the NTSB of being duplicitous, arguing that the agency has released statements about the crash at the same time that it told Tesla not to. "It's been clear in our conversations with the NTSB that they're more concerned with press headlines than actually promoting safety," a spokesperson for the company says. "Among other things, they repeatedly released partial bits of incomplete information to the media in violation of their own rules, at the same time that they were trying to prevent us from telling all the facts. We don't believe this is right and we will be making an official complaint to Congress." The company also said it will issue "a Freedom Of Information Act request to understand the reasoning behind their focus on the safest cars in America while they ignore the cars that are the least safe." The full letter send to Musk from the NTSB can be seen here.
Cellphones

The Personality Traits That Put You At Risk For Smartphone Addiction (washingtonpost.com) 73

Zorro shares a report from The Washington Post: When the Trump-affiliated firm Cambridge Analytica obtained data on tens of millions of Facebook users, it used the "Big 5" or "Five Factor Model" personality test to target them with ads designed to influence their votes in the 2016 election. The test scores people on five traits -- openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism -- and was used in the election to predict the way a voter would respond to an advertisement. But the Big 5 can predict a lot more -- including how likely you are to even use Facebook or any other social media (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source).

That's because the way you score on the test can tell you how likely you are to become addicted to your screen. Research shows that people who score high on neuroticism, low on conscientiousness, and low on agreeableness are more likely to become addicted to social media, video games, instant messaging, or other online stimuli. Studies have also found that extraverts are more likely to become addicted to cellphone use than introverts. Some of the correlations make sense. Less agreeable people may be more apt to immerse themselves in technology because it does not require the kind of friendly interactions that real life does. Neurotic people have been shown to spend more time online because it validates their desire to belong or be part of a group. Conscientious people are less impulsive and therefore more able to control and organize their time. But then it gets complicated. Because according to a new study out of the State University of New York at Binghamton, specific combinations of those personality traits can mitigate or exaggerate one's propensity to addiction.

Operating Systems

'Fuchsia Is Not Linux': Google Publishes Documentation Explaining Their New OS (xda-developers.com) 245

An anonymous reader quotes a report from XDA Developers: You've probably seen mentions of the Fuchsia operating system here and there since it has been in development for almost 2 years. It's Google's not-so-secretive operating system which many speculate will eventually replace Android. We've seen it grow from a barely functional mock-up UI in an app form to a version that actually boots on existing hardware. We've seen how much importance Google places on the project as veteran Android project managers are starting to work on it. But after all of this time, we've never once had either an official announcement from Google about the project or any documentation about it -- all of the information thus far has come as a result of people digging into the source code.

Now, that appears to be changing as Google has published a documentation page called "The Book." The page aims to explain what Fuchsia, the "modular, capability-based operating system" is and is not. The most prominent text on that page is a large section explaining that Fuchsia is NOT Linux, in case that wasn't clear already. Above that are several readme pages explaining Fuchsia's file systems, boot sequence, core libraries, sandboxing, and more. The rest of the page has sections explaining what the Zircon micro-kernel is and how the framework, storage, networking, graphics, media, user interface, and more are implemented.

Media

AV1 Beats x264 and Libvpx-Vp9 in Practical Use Case (facebook.com) 96

An anonymous reader shares a blog post by Facebook engineer: We tested AV1 (a new open-source, royalty-free media codec) under conditions that closely match the most common real-world use cases for Facebook video. Our test examined AV1's performance vs. practical open source video encoders that can be deployed to a practical production system, rather than merely testing efficiency vs. standard reference software encoders (i.e., H.264/AVC Joint Model or JM). By structuring the test this way, we were able to show how the codec will perform in a true production environment compared with current widely used alternatives, such as x264 and libvpx-vp9.

Our testing shows AV1 surpasses its stated goal of 30% better compression than VP9, and achieves gains of 50.3%, 46.2% and 34.0%, compared to x264 main profile, x264 high profile and libvpx-vp9, respectively. The new codec requires longer encoding times vs. current alternatives, however, due to increased complexity. Our tests were conducted primarily with Standard Definition (SD) and High Definition (HD) video files, because those are currently the most popular video formats on Facebook. But because AV1's performance increased as video resolution increased, we conclude the new compression codec will likely deliver even higher efficiency gains with UHD/4K and 8K content.

Businesses

Tech Giants Like Amazon and Facebook Should Be Regulated, Disrupted, or Broken Up: Mozilla Foundation (venturebeat.com) 187

The Mozilla Foundation has called for the regulation of tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook. From a report: Though tech giants in the U.S. and companies like Alibaba and Tencent in China have "helped billions realize the benefits of the internet," the report calls for regulation of these players to mitagate monopolistic business practices that undermine "privacy, openness, and competition on the web." They box out competitors, restricting innovation in the process, Mozilla wrote today in its inaugural Internet Health Report, "As their capacity to make sense of massive amounts of data grows through advances in artificial intelligence and quantum computing, their powers are likely to advance into adjacent businesses through vertical integrations into hardware, software, infrastructure, automobiles, media, insurance, and more -- unless we find a way to disrupt them or break them up." Governments should enforce anti-competitive behavior laws and rethink outdated antitrust models when implementing regulation of tech giants, the report states.
Democrats

Democratic Senators Propose 'Privacy Bill of Rights' To Prevent Websites From Sharing Or Selling Sensitive Info Without Opt-In Consent (arstechnica.com) 136

Democratic Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today proposed a "privacy bill of rights" that would prevent Facebook and other websites from sharing or selling sensitive information without a customer's opt-in consent. The proposed law would protect customers' web browsing and application usage history, private messages, and any sensitive personal data such as financial and health information. Ars Technica reports: Markey teamed with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to propose the Customer Online Notification for Stopping Edge-provider Network Transgressions (CONSENT) Act. You can read the full legislation here. "Edge providers" refers to websites and other online services that distribute content over consumer broadband networks. Facebook and Google are the dominant edge providers when it comes to advertising and the use of customer data to serve targeted ads. No current law requires edge providers to seek customers' permission before using their browsing histories to serve personalized ads. The online advertising industry uses self-regulatory mechanisms in which websites let visitors opt out of personalized advertising based on browsing history, and websites can be punished by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if they break their privacy promises.

The Markey/Blumenthal bill's stricter opt-in standard would require edge providers to "obtain opt-in consent from a customer to use, share, or sell the sensitive customer proprietary information of the customer." Edge providers would not be allowed to impose "take-it-or-leave-it" offers that require customers to consent in order to use the service. The FTC and state attorneys general would be empowered to enforce the new opt-in requirements. The bill would require edge providers to notify users about all collection, use, and sharing of their information. The bill also requires edge providers "to develop reasonable data security practices" and to notify customers about data breaches that affect them.

Twitter

Twitter Says It Will Comply With Honest Ads Act To Combat Russia Social Media Meddling (theverge.com) 47

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Twitter today pledged to support a proposed Senate bill that would require technology platforms that sell advertising space to disclose the source of and amount of money paid for political ads. Called the Honest Ads Act, the bipartisan bill was first introduced back in October by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). As part of its transparency efforts, Twitter says it's launched a new platform called the Ads Transparency Center, or ATC, that will "go beyond the requirements of the Honest Ads Act and eventually provide increased transparency to all advertisements on Twitter." Twitter says the platform will increase transparency for political and so-called issue ads, which target specific topics like immigration and gun control, by providing even more information on the origin of an ad that is required by the Honest Ads Act. "We have a dedicated team that is fully resourced to implementing the ATC and are committed to launching it this summer," the company states. "Twitter is moving forward on our commitment to providing transparency for online ads. We believe the Honest Ads Act provides an appropriate framework for such ads and look forward to working with bill sponsors and others to continue to refine and advance this important proposal."
Facebook

Some Facebook Employees Are Quitting or Asking To Switch Departments Over Ethical Concerns (businessinsider.com) 208

Some dissatisfied Facebook engineers are reportedly attempting to switch divisions to work on Instagram or WhatsApp, rather than continue work on the platform responsible for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to a recent report from the New York Times. An anonymous reader writes: Many believe Facebook should have done more to handle the data responsibly, and the events that followed increased scrutiny against Facebook, reportedly taking a toll on employees working on the platform. Since the news came out, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg have spoken to the media on a few occasions, but it was days before the company commented on the scandal, which it now estimates around 87 million total users affected. Then, a leaked memo from Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth written in 2016 revealed a "growth at all costs" mentality that put Facebook in a position to be held responsible for the situation it's found itself in. As it became evident that Facebook's core product might be to blame, engineers working on it reportedly found it increasingly difficult to stand by what it built.
China

China Removes Four News Apps From Smartphone Stores To Tighten Control (scmp.com) 52

The mobile apps for four popular news apps in China, including the most popular aggregator, Jinri Toutiao, were removed from a number of Chinese smartphone app stores following reports of a crackdown by the country's media watchdog, local media reported on Monday. From the report: Toutiao, with about 120 million daily active users, was not available on the app stores of smartphone manufacturers Xiaomi and Meizu on Monday afternoon. The apps for Tiantian Kuaibao, Netease News and Ifeng News were also not found on Xiaomi. China's authorities have asked several of the country's smartphone app stores to remove the four apps by 3pm on Monday as part of efforts to "regulate order in the broadcasting environment," according to Chinese news portal Sohu.com. The apps will be removed for between three days to three weeks, with Toutiao being offline for the longest period, according to the Sohu report. [...] China has shut down more than 13,000 websites in the last three years as Beijing sought to tighten its grip on the internet.
Security

Don't Give Away Historic Details About Yourself (krebsonsecurity.com) 158

Brian Krebs: Social media sites are littered with seemingly innocuous little quizzes, games and surveys urging people to reminisce about specific topics, such as "What was your first job," or "What was your first car?" The problem with participating in these informal surveys is that in doing so you may be inadvertently giving away the answers to "secret questions" that can be used to unlock access to a host of your online identities and accounts. I'm willing to bet that a good percentage of regular readers here would never respond -- honestly or otherwise -- to such questionnaires (except perhaps to chide others for responding). But I thought it was worth mentioning because certain social networks -- particularly Facebook -- seem positively overrun with these data-harvesting schemes. What's more, I'm constantly asking friends and family members to stop participating in these quizzes and to stop urging their contacts to do the same.

On the surface, these simple questions may be little more than an attempt at online engagement by otherwise well-meaning companies and individuals. Nevertheless, your answers to these questions may live in perpetuity online, giving identity thieves and scammers ample ammunition to start gaining backdoor access to your various online accounts.

Media

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Stream/Capture Video? 155

datavirtue writes: I am starting to look at capturing and streaming video, specifically video games in 4K at 60 frames per second. I have a Windows 10 box with a 6GB GTX 1060 GPU and a modern AMD octa-core CPU recording with Nvidia ShadowPlay. This works flawlessly, even in 4K at 60 fps. ShadowPlay produces MP4 files which play nice locally but seem to take a long time to upload to YouTube -- a 15-minute 4K 60fps video took almost three hours. Which tools are you fellow Slashdotters using to create, edit, and upload video in the most efficient manner?
Security

'Vigilante Hackers' Strike Routers In Russia and Iran, Reports Motherboard (vice.com) 121

An anonymous reader quotes Motherboard: On Friday, a group of hackers targeted computer infrastructure in Russia and Iran, impacting internet service providers, data centres, and in turn some websites. "We were tired of attacks from government-backed hackers on the United States and other countries," someone in control of an email address left in the note told Motherboard Saturday... "We simply wanted to send a message...." In addition to disabling the equipment, the hackers left a note on affected machines, according to screenshots and photographs shared on social media: "Don't mess with our elections," along with an image of an American flag...

In a blog post Friday, cybersecurity firm Kaspersky said the attack was exploiting a vulnerability in a piece of software called Cisco Smart Install Client. Using computer search engine Shodan, Talos (which is part of Cisco) said in its own blog post on Thursday it found 168,000 systems potentially exposed by the software. Talos also wrote it observed hackers exploiting the vulnerability to target critical infrastructure, and that some of the attacks are believed to be from nation-state actors...

Reuters reported that Iran's IT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said the attack mainly impacted Europe, India, and the U.S.... The hackers said they did scan many countries for the vulnerable systems, including the U.K., U.S., and Canada, but only "attacked" Russia and Iran, perhaps referring to the post of an American flag and their message. They claimed to have fixed the Cisco issue on exposed devices in the US and UK "to prevent further attacks... As a result of our efforts, there are almost no vulnerable devices left in many major countries," they claimed in an email.

Their image of the American flag was a black-and-white drawing done with ASCII art.
Math

Did Harvard Scientists Predict The End of the Universe? (gizmodo.com) 155

The universe will end with a bang -- and not a whimper -- reports The New York Post, citing a new study by Harvard Researchers predicting exactly when (and how) the universe will end. But Gizmodo's science writer takes issue with the media coverage: That paper predicts that the universe's lifetime would be between 10**88 and 10**241 years, but probably probably around 10**139 years. "I think people don't have a sense as to how big these numbers are," study author and physicist Matthew Schwartz from Harvard told Gizmodo. "It's such an enormous out of time. But they think 10**139 years is 139."

The universe is around 10 billion, or 10**10 years old. 10**139 is a completely unfathomable number of years... It's more than the amount of time it would take to count every atom in the universe, if you had to wait from the Big Bang until now in between counting each atom. That number of years eludes any rational attempt to understand it (Which is probably why it sounds so close -- our heads just short circuit and say, threat!!!). It is forever.

Twitter

Twitter Bans 270,000 Accounts For 'Promoting Terrorism' (theguardian.com) 95

According to Twitter's latest transparency report, the social media company removed more than 270,000 accounts around the world for promoting terrorism in the second half of 2017. The number of accounts permanently suspended for sharing what the firm called extremist content between July and December represents a drop for the second period in a row. The Guardian reports: The social network puts this down to "years of hard work making our site an undesirable place for those seeking to promote terrorism." Nick Pickles, Twitter UK's head of public policy, said: "The overwhelming majority of these accounts were detected by our own technology, with just 0.2% of the accounts we suspended in 2017 being flagged by the police." Almost 75% of accounts were suspended before they sent their first tweet, according to the report, and 93% were discovered by tools that Twitter engineers had built. Twitter is understood to also use a combination of US and EU lists of terrorist organizations as well as research from academics and experts to identify terrorists on its network. The number of reports of abusive behavior submitted by government representatives also dropped amid a marked change in the type of abusive behavior reported. Two-thirds of the 10,000 reports concerned violated rules over impersonation, with only 16% of the reports for harassment and 12% for hateful conduct. Harassment and hateful conduct each accounted for a third of reported accounts in the first half of 2017. Only a quarter of reports of abusive behavior submitted by government representatives were acted upon by Twitter, compared with 98% of reports relating to the "promotion of terrorism."
The Internet

FBI Seizes Backpage.com, a Site Criticized For Sex-Related Ads (reuters.com) 163

The FBI has reportedly seized the sex marketplace website Backpage.com, according to a posting on its website on Friday. "The posting said the U.S. Justice Department would provide more information at 6 p.m. EDT," reports Reuters. "It said U.S. attorneys in Arizona and California, as well as the Justice Department's section on child exploitation and obscenity and the California and Texas attorneys general had supported the work in shutting down the website." From the report: Lawmakers and enforcement officials have been working to crack down on the site, the second largest classified ad service in the country after Craigslist that is used primarily to sell sex. The U.S. Senate passed legislation last month making it easier for state prosecutors and sex-trafficking victims to sue social media networks, advertisers and others that fail to keep sex trafficking and other exploitative materials off their platforms. The Supreme Court in January 2017 refused to consider reviving a lawsuit against backpage.com filed by three young women alleging the site facilitated their forced prostitution. But the site has since then faced a slew of other lawsuits alleging child sex trafficking. According to AZCentral, local FBI officials have confirmed "law enforcement activity" Friday morning at the Sedona-area home of Michael Lacey, a co-founder of Backpage.com. The raid comes amid what appears to be a shut-down of the website.
AI

Researchers Develop Device That Can 'Hear' Your Internal Voice (theguardian.com) 108

Researchers have created a wearable device that can read people's minds when they use an internal voice, allowing them to control devices and ask queries without speaking. From a report: The device, called AlterEgo, can transcribe words that wearers verbalise internally but do not say out loud, using electrodes attached to the skin. "Our idea was: could we have a computing platform that's more internal, that melds human and machine in some ways and that feels like an internal extension of our own cognition?" said Arnav Kapur, who led the development of the system at MIT's Media Lab.

Kapur describes the headset as an "intelligence-augmentation" or IA device, and was presented at the Association for Computing Machinery's Intelligent User Interface conference in Tokyo. It is worn around the jaw and chin, clipped over the top of the ear to hold it in place. Four electrodes under the white plastic device make contact with the skin and pick up the subtle neuromuscular signals that are triggered when a person verbalises internally. When someone says words inside their head, artificial intelligence within the device can match particular signals to particular words, feeding them into a computer.

Communications

The FCC Is Refusing To Release Emails About Ajit Pai's 'Harlem Shake' Video (vice.com) 84

bumblebaetuna writes from a report via Motherboard: On the eve of the net neutrality repeal, just as tensions and public debate over the issue were reaching a fever pitch, someone in the FCC decided it would be a good idea to have chair Ajit Pai ridicule legitimate concerns of internet users with a video featuring an outdated meme and a pizzagate conspiracy theorist. Now, citing the infamous b5 FOIA exemption, the Federal Communications Commission is refusing to release emails related to the planning of the video. The b5 exemption is supposed to protect "inter-agency or intra-agency memorandum or letters which would be privileged in civil litigation," but each agency interprets that meaning differently.
Australia

UK, Australia Investigating Facebook Amid Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal (go.com) 40

Both the United Kingdom and Australia said Thursday that they have opened formal investigations into Facebook amid allegations that their citizens' data was improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. ABC News reports: The Information Commissioner's Office in the U.K. is "looking at how data was collected from a third party app on Facebook and shared with Cambridge Analytica. We are also conducting a broader investigation into how social media platforms were used in political campaigning," according to Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. The office will investigate Facebook, along with 29 other organizations that have not been named.

Earlier Thursday, Australia said it had opened a formal investigation into the tech giant amid allegations that Australian users' data was improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. "Today I have opened a formal investigation into Facebook, following confirmation from Facebook that the information of over 300,000 Australian users may have been acquired and used without authorization," Angelene Falk, Australia's acting information commissioner and acting privacy commissioner, said. According to Falk, Australia will work with international regulatory agencies to investigate whether Facebook violated the country's privacy act. Under Australian law, the commissioner has the power to issue fines of up to $1.6 million to organizations that fail to comply with the act, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Australia and the U.K. joined the United States and Israel in investigating Facebook's breach of privacy.

Technology

Despite Having Unprecedented Access To Technology, Generation Z Is Already Bored (thedailybeast.com) 338

Taylor Lorenz, writing for The Daily Beast: There is a notion among older people that teens, with their smartphones and unlimited internet access, never experience boredom. CNN and other media outlets have repeatedly declared that smartphones have killed boredom as we know it. But today's teens are still bored, often incredibly so. They're just more likely to experience a new type of boredom: phone bored.

As members of what has been dubbed "Generation Z," a cohort that spans those born roughly between the years 1998 and 2010, today's teens and tweens have had unparalleled access to technology. Many have had smartphones since elementary, if not middle school. They've grown up with high-speed internet, laptops, and social media.

It's tempting to think that these devices, with their endless ability to stimulate, offer salvation from the type of mind-numbing boredom that is so core to the teen experience. But humans adapt to the conditions that surround them, and technical advances are no different. What seemed novel to one generation feels passe to the next. To many teens, smartphones and the internet have already lost their appeal.

Businesses

MIT Severs Ties To Company Promoting Fatal Brain Uploading (technologyreview.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: The MIT Media Lab will sever ties with a brain-embalming company that promoted euthanasia to people hoping for digital immortality through "brain uploads." The startup, called Nectome, had raised more than $200,000 in deposits from people hoping to have their brains stored in an end-of-life procedure similar to physician-assisted suicide. MIT's connection to the company came into question after MIT Technology Review detailed Nectome's promotion of its "100 percent fatal" technology. Under a subcontract, MIT was receiving approximately $300,000 from a federal grant won by Nectome to develop methods of brain preservation and analysis. According to an April 2 statement, MIT will terminate the research contract with Media Lab professor and neuroscientist Edward Boyden. Boyden said he didn't have a financial stake or other personal involvement with Nectome. MIT's connection to the company drew sharp criticism from some neuroscientists, who say brain uploading isn't possible.

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