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Google AI No Longer Uses Gender Binary Tags on Images of People

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 3:45pm
Google's image-labeling AI tool will no longer label pictures with gender tags like "man" and "woman." From a report: In the email, Google cites its ethical rules on AI as the basis for the change. This is a progressive move by Google -- and one that will hopefully set a precedent for the rest of the AI industry. Ethics aside, Google also says it's made this change because it isn't possible to infer gender from someone's appearance. Google is correct on that count. AI's tendency toward a gender binary might be helpful in blunt categorization, but there are also many gender identities that fall on the spectrum outside of "man" and "woman." Though Google doesn't go as far as saying so in its policies, removing the gender binary from its AI actively makes the software more inclusive of transgender and non-binary people. It's a move that the rest of the tech industry would do well to emulate.

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Trump Backs Supporter Larry Ellison in Court Fight With Google

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 3:00pm
kimanaw shares a report: The Trump administration urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reject an appeal by Alphabet's Google, boosting Oracle's bid to collect more than $8 billion in royalties for Google's use of copyrighted programming code in the Android operating system. The administration weighed in on the high-stakes case on the same day that President Donald Trump attended a re-election campaign fundraiser in California hosted by Oracle's co-founder, billionaire Larry Ellison. Ellison hosted a golf outing and photos with Trump. The event cost a minimum of $100,000 per couple to attend, with a higher ticket price of $250,000 for those who wanted to participate in a policy roundtable with the president, the Palm Springs Desert Sun reported. Google is challenging an appeals court ruling that it violated Oracle copyrights when it included some Oracle-owned Java programming code in Android. The dispute has split Silicon Valley, pitting developers of software code against companies that use the code to create programs. Google's "verbatim copying" of Oracle's code into a competing product wasn't necessary to foster innovation, the U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco said Wednesday in a filing with the court.

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Twitter is Testing New Ways To Fight Misinformation

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 2:22pm
Twitter is experimenting with adding brightly colored labels directly beneath lies and misinformation posted by politicians and public figures, according to a leaked demo of new features sent to NBC News. From the report: Twitter confirmed that the leaked demo, which was accessible on a publicly available site, is one possible iteration of a new policy to target misinformation it plans to roll out March 5. In this version, disinformation or misleading information posted by public figures will be corrected directly beneath the tweet by fact-checkers and journalists who are verified on the platform, and possibly other users who will participate in a new "community reports" feature, which the demo claims is "like Wikipedia." "We're exploring a number of ways to address misinformation and provide more context for tweets on Twitter," a Twitter spokesperson said. "Misinformation is a critical issue and we will be testing many different ways to address it." The demo features bright red and orange badges for tweets that have been deemed "harmfully misleading," in nearly the same size as the tweet itself and prominently displayed directly below the tweet that contains the harmful misinformation.

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UCLA Abandons Plans To Use Facial Recognition After Backlash

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 1:47pm
Ahead of a national day of action led by digital rights group Fight for the Future, UCLA has abandoned its plans to become the first university in the United States to adopt facial recognition technology. From a report: In a statement shared with Fight for the Future's Deputy Director Evan Greer, UCLA's Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael Beck said the university "determined that the potential benefits are limited and are vastly outweighed by the concerns of the campus community." Since last year, UCLA has been considering using the university's security cameras to implement a facial recognition surveillance system. These plans have been dogged by student criticism, culminating in an editorial in the Daily Bruin, UCLA's student newspaper, that argued the system would "present a major breach of students' privacy" while creating "a more hostile campus environment" by "collecting invasive amounts of data on [UCLA's] population of over 45,000 students and 50,000 employees." In an attempt to highlight the risks of using facial recognition on UCLA's campus, Fight for the Future used Amazon's facial recognition software, Rekognition, to scan public photos of UCLA's athletes and faculty, then compare the photos to a mugshot database. Over 400 photos were scanned, 58 of which were false positives for mugshot images -- the software often gave back matches with "100% confidence" for individuals "who had almost nothing in common beyond their race"

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JPEG Committee is Banking on AI To Build Its Next Image Codec

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 1:09pm
Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG), a committee that maintains various JPEG image-related standards, has started exploring a way to involve AI to build a new compression standard. From a report: In a recent meeting held in Sydney, the group released a call for evidence to explore AI-based methods to find a new image compression codec. The program, aptly named JPEG AI, was launched last year; with a special group to study neural-network-based image codecs. Under the program, it aims to find possible solutions towards finding a new standard. To do that, it has partnered with IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) to call for papers under the Learning-based Image Coding Challenge. These papers will be presented at the International Conference of Image Processing (ICIP) scheduled to be held at Abu Dhabi in October.

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Sweden Starts Testing World's First Central Bank Digital Currency

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 12:34pm
Sweden's Riksbank said on Wednesday it had begun testing an e-krona, taking the country a step closer to the creation of the world's first central bank digital currency (CBDC). From a report: If the e-krona eventually comes into circulation it will be used to simulate everyday banking activities, such as payments, deposits and withdrawals from a digital wallet such as a mobile phone app, the Riksbank said. "The aim of the project is to show how an e-krona could be used by the general public," the Riksbank said in a statement. In January, the central banks of Britain, the euro zone, Japan, Sweden and Switzerland joined forces to assess the case for issuing CBDCs. CBDCs are traditional money, but in digital form, issued and governed by a country's central bank. By contrast, cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are produced by solving complex maths puzzles, and governed by disparate online communities instead of a centralized body. The sharp decline in the use of cash and competition from alternative currencies, such as Facebook's Libra, has also prompted central banks around the world to consider issuing their own electronic currencies.

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Microsoft To Invest $1.1 Billion in Mexico Over Next 5 Years

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 11:45am
Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella said the technology giant will invest $1.1 billion in Mexico over the next five years, according to a promotional video released by the Mexican government on Thursday. From a report: Nadella said the investment is "focused on expanding access to digital technology for people and organizations across the country." Microsoft will build a new data center to deliver "client services to help every organization to really get an advantage and drive digital transformation," added Nadella, who met with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador last year. The U.S. company will also invest in training labs and skills programs, Nadella said.

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US, UK Formally Blame Russia for Mass-Defacement of Georgian Websites

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 11:08am
The US and UK governments have issued official statements today formally accusing Russia's military intelligence agency, GRU, with carrying out a coordinated cyber-attack on thousands of Georgian websites in October 2019. From a report: The incident, widely reported at the time, was considered the largest cyber-attack in the former Soviet country's history. According to a report at the time, unidentified hackers broke into at least one web hosting provider and defaced more than 15,000 websites with an image of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, with the text "I'll be back" overlaid on top. The former Georgia President was known for his fierce pro-Western agenda but is now a Ukrainian citizen after leaving Georgia in 2013, citing a political witch-hunt on corruption charges. The messages were reported as appearing on sites for the Georgian government, courts, NGOs, news media, and local businesses. In some cases, the web host disruption also took down broadcasting services for some radio and TV stations.

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Samsung Sparks Confusion After Sending Out Mysterious '1' Notification To Smartphones

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 10:21am
Users of Samsung's Galaxy smartphones got a surprise Thursday morning as they were sent a random notification for its mobile tracking app . From a report: The notification, which some CNBC employees also received, was for Samsung's own "Find My Mobile" app and showed the number "1" twice, with no other information. Once clicked on, the notification disappeared, and some users reported via Twitter that it used up a chunk of their battery life. According to Samsung, the "1" notification was sent out by accident to a number of Galaxy phones as part of "internal testing."

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The Linux Foundation Identifies Most Important Open-Source Software Components and Their Problems

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 9:40am
The Linux Foundation's Core Infrastructure Initiative (CII) and the Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard (LISH) have revealed -- in "Vulnerabilities in the Core, a preliminary report and Census II of open-source software" -- the most frequently used components and the vulnerabilities they share. From a report: This Census II analysis and report is the first major study of its kind but isn't a final analysis. It takes important first steps and lays out a methodology for understanding and addressing open-source software structural and security complexities. Specifically, it also identifies the most commonly used free and open-source software (FOSS) components in production applications and examines them for potential vulnerabilities. To create this work, CII and LISH partnered with Software Composition Analysis (SCAs) and application security companies such as Snyk and Synopsys Cybersecurity Research Center. They combined private usage data with publicly available datasets for identifying over 200 of the most used open-source software projects. These are not the programs -- Apache, MySQL, Linux -- that probably spring to your mind. For all their foundational importance, it's the small building block programs that are most widely used. They may be small, sometimes less than a hundred lines of code (LoC), but they're vital. As Frank Nagle, a professor at Harvard Business School and co-director of the Census II project, said: "FOSS was long seen as the domain of hobbyists and tinkerers. However, it has now become an integral component of the modern economy and is a fundamental building block of everyday technologies like smart phones, cars, the Internet of Things, and numerous pieces of critical infrastructure. Understanding which components are most widely used and most vulnerable will allow us to help ensure the continued health of the ecosystem and the digital economy."

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Apple Weighs Letting Users Switch Default iPhone Apps To Rivals

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 9:00am
Apple is considering giving rival apps more prominence on iPhones and iPads and opening its HomePod speaker to third-party music services after criticism the company provides an unfair advantage to its in-house products. From a report: The technology giant is discussing whether to let users choose third-party web browser and mail applications as their default options on Apple's mobile devices, replacing the company's Safari browser and Mail app, according to people familiar with the matter. Since launching the App Store in 2008, Apple hasn't allowed users to replace pre-installed apps such as these with third-party services. That has made it difficult for some developers to compete, and has raised concerns from lawmakers probing potential antitrust violations in the technology industry. The web browser and mail are two of the most-used apps on the iPhone and iPad. To date, rival browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox and mail apps like Gmail and Microsoft Outlook have lacked the status of Apple's products. For instance, if a user clicks a web link sent to them on an iPhone, it will automatically open in Safari. Similarly, if a user taps an email address -- say, from a text message or a website -- they'll be sent to the Apple Mail app with no option to switch to another email program. The Cupertino, California-based company also is considering loosening restrictions on third-party music apps, including its top streaming rival Spotify, on HomePods, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing internal company deliberations.

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ICANN To Hold First-Ever Remote Public Meeting Due To COVID-19 Outbreak

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 5:00am
penciling_in shares a report from CircleID: The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has announced that its ICANN67 Public Meeting, which was to be held in Cancun, Mexico, will now be held via remote participation-only. This decision was made as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, considered a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization. The meeting, scheduled for March 7-12, 2020, marks the first time in ICANN's history that it will hold a Public Meeting solely with remote participation. "This is a decision that the ICANN Board has been considering since the outbreak was first announced and it is one that we haven't taken lightly," said Maarten Botterman, ICANN Board Chair. "We know that changing this meeting to remote participation-only will have an impact on and cause disruption to our community; however, this decision is about people. Protecting the health and safety of the ICANN community is our top priority."

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Fossil-Fuel Production May Be Responsible For Much More Atmospheric Methane Than Scientists Thought

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 2:00am
Fossil-fuel production may be responsible for much more atmospheric methane than scientists previously thought, according to new research published today in the journal Nature. The results, if they hold, suggest that methane needs to be managed even more tightly than was accounted for in multilateral initiatives such as the 2015 Paris Agreement -- not to mention many policies on the national and local level. Bloomberg reports: Scientists aren't challenging the top-line amount of fossil methane that enters the atmosphere every year -- that number stays at about 194 million metric tons, says Benjamin Hmiel, a post-doctoral fellow in Earth science at the University of Rochester and the study's lead author. Rather, they're challenging how much of the total comes from natural versus industrial sources, an important distinction for policy-makers. Conventional wisdom has held until now that fossil sources emit roughly 50 million tons of methane. The new paper's estimate is dramatically smaller: Just 5 million tons, at most, come from natural sources, or "seeps," the study says. "If it's not coming from seeps, then it's coming from fossil-fuel operations," says Rob Jackson, a Stanford professor of Earth system science who wasn't involved in the study. "There's really no other explanation for it. It's kind of a zero-sum game." The Nature study takes advantage of a rare, radioactive form of the carbon atom that decays over several thousand years. Carbon-14 is present in trace amounts in the biosphere, embedded in naturally occurring molecules such as methane and carbon dioxide, but fossil fuels have no carbon-14 in them. Hmiel and his colleagues visited Greenland three times over two years to drill samples out of ice sheets dating back 300 years, then analyzed the gases trapped in it looking for carbon-14. This allowed scientists to establish a pre-industrial level for natural methane emissions.

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A New Use For McDonald's Used Cooking Oil: 3D Printing

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 10:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: Professor Andre Simpson had a problem. The University of Toronto's Scarborough campus was paying through the nose for a crucial material for its 3D printer. Few would have guessed McDonald's would come to the rescue. Simpson is director of the school's Environmental NMR Center dedicated to environmental research. Central to this research is an analytical tool called the NMR spectrometer. NMR stands for nuclear magnetic resonance and is technically similar to how an MRI works for medical diagnostics. Simpson had bought a 3D printer for the lab in 2017. He hoped to use it to build custom parts that kept organisms alive inside of the NMR spectrometer for his research. But the commercial resin he needed for high-quality light projection 3D printing (where light is used to form a solid) of those parts was expensive. The dominant material for light projection printing is liquid plastic, which can cost upward of $500 a liter, according to Simpson. Simpson closely analyzed the resin and spotted a connection. The molecules making up the commercial plastic resin were similar to fats found in ordinary cooking oil. What came next was the hardest part of the two-year experiment for Simpson and his team of 10 students -- getting a large sample batch of used cooking oil. "We reached out to all of the fast-food restaurants around us. They all said no," said Simpson. Except for McDonald's. After filtering out chunks of food particles and experimenting with the oil for several months, the team was able to successfully print a high-quality butterfly with details as minute as 100 micrometers in size. "The experiment yielded a commercially viable resin that Simpson estimates could be sourced as cheaply as 30 cents a liter of waste oil," reports CNN. Another bonus: it is biodegradable. Simpson and his team published their research in December 2019 in industry publication ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

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Chemotherapy For Cancer Could Soon Be Unviable Because of Superbugs

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 9:03pm
schwit1 quotes a report from MSN: Cancer doctors fear superbugs which can't be treated with antibiotics will soon remove chemotherapy as a treatment option for their patients, a survey has revealed. Cancer patients are more vulnerable to infections because the disease and its treatments can stop the immune system from working correctly. Of the 100 oncologists in the U.K. surveyed between December 20, 2019 and February 3, 2020 by the Longitude Prize -- which was established to tackle antimicrobial resistance in cancer care -- 95 percent said they were worried about the effect superbugs could have on their patients. An estimated one in five cancer patients need antibiotics during their treatment, according to existing research cited by the authors of the report, and cancers including multiple myeloma and acute leukemia can't be treated without them. The survey revealed that 46 percent of doctors believe drug-resistant bugs will make chemotherapy unviable. Some cancer treatments, which the report didn't name, will be obsolete in five years, 28 percent of the cancer doctors predicted. A further 39 percent forecast this would happen within the next decade, and 15 percent in two decades. Four in 10 (41 percent) said they had seen a rise in patients developing drug-resistant infections in the last year, with 23 percent of their cancer patients developing an infection during treatment on average. As many as 65,000 cancer patients are at risk of catching a superbug infection after having surgery in the U.K. in this decade, the data suggested. Among the doctors surveyed, 5 percent of their patients who had surgery developed an infection which didn't respond to antibiotics. A total of 86 percent of the doctors said the bugs Staphylococcus, E. coli and pseudomona put cancer patients at the most risk of serious harm. The research also highlighted frustrations clinicians have with the way infections are diagnosed, with 60 percent saying laboratories take too long to identify them in their patients.

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Researchers Trick Tesla Into Accelerating 50 Miles Per Hour

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 8:25pm
mrwireless writes: Security researchers were able to get multiple Tesla cars to accelerate to 85 miles per hour on a road with a speed limit of 35. They did this by simply modifying the speed limit sign with some black tape, turning a "3" into an "8." Mobileye, the company that produces the Mobileye Eye Q3 for many of Tesla's cars, downplayed the research by suggesting that the modified sign would fool even a human into reading 85 instead of 35. "Autonomous vehicle technology will not rely on sensing alone, but will also be supported by various other technologies and data, such as crowdsourced mapping, to ensure the reliability of the information received from the camera sensors and offer more robust redundancies and safety," the Mobileye spokesperson said in a statement. MIT Technology Review: "Tesla has since moved to proprietary cameras on newer models, and Mobileye EyeQ3 has released several new versions of its cameras that in preliminary testing were not susceptible to this exact attack."

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Leaked Document Shows How Big Companies Buy Credit Card Data On Millions of Americans

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 7:45pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Yodlee, the largest financial data broker in the U.S., sells data pulled from the bank and credit card transactions of tens of millions of Americans to investment and research firms, detailing where and when people shopped and how much they spent. The company claims that the data is anonymous, but a confidential Yodlee document obtained by Motherboard indicates individual users could be unmasked. The findings come as multiple Senators have urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Envestnet, which owns Yodlee, for selling Americans' transaction information without their knowledge or consent, potentially violating the law. The Yodlee document describes in detail what type of data its clients gain access to, how the company manages that data across its infrastructure, and the specific measures Yodlee takes to try and anonymize its dataset. The transaction data itself comes from banks, credit card companies, and apps that Yodlee works with, including Bank of America, Citigroup, and HSBC, according to previous reporting from The Wall Street Journal. According to the 2019 document Motherboard obtained, the data includes a unique identifier given to the bank or credit card holder who made the purchase; the amount spent for the transaction; the date of the sale; the city, state, and zip code of the business the person bought from, and other pieces of metadata. Once logged into Yodlee's server, clients download the data as a large text file, rather than interacting with the data in a dashboard or interface that stays solely within Yodlee's control, according to the document. Yodlee does remove personal identifiable information (PII), such as names, email addresses, account numbers, SSNs, and phone numbers, but it "does not remove spatio-temporal traces of people that can be used to connect back the data to them," says Vivek Singh, assistant professor at Rutgers University. As Motherboard notes, "spatio-temporal traces are the various pieces of metadata that the document shows are included with the transaction -- the date, the merchant, the physical location of the sale, and more." "If an attacker can get hold of the spatio-temporal coordinates for just three to four randomly picked transactions in the dataset, then the attacker can unmask the person with a very high probability. With this unmasking, the attacker would have access to all the other transactions made by that individual," Singh said.

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Google Users In UK To Lose EU Data Protection: Reuters

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 7:20pm
Sources told Reuters that Google is planning to move its British users' accounts out of the control of European Union privacy regulators, placing them under U.S. jurisdiction instead. From the report: The shift, prompted by Britain's exit from the EU, will leave the sensitive personal information of tens of millions with less protection and within easier reach of British law enforcement. The change was described to Reuters by three people familiar with its plans. Google intends to require its British users to acknowledge new terms of service including the new jurisdiction. Ireland, where Google and other U.S. tech companies have their European headquarters, is staying in the EU, which has one of the world's most aggressive data protection rules, the General Data Protection Regulation. Google has decided to move its British users out of Irish jurisdiction because it is unclear whether Britain will follow GDPR or adopt other rules that could affect the handling of user data, the people said. If British Google users have their data kept in Ireland, it would be more difficult for British authorities to recover it in criminal investigations.

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Coinbase Becomes a Visa Principal Member To Double Down On Debit Card

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 7:03pm
Coinbase has become the only cryptocurrency company with a Visa Principal Member certification. TechCrunch reports: Cryptocurrency company Coinbase has been working with Paysafe to issue the Coinbase Card, a Visa debit card that works with your Coinbase account balance. The company is now a Visa Principal Member, which should help Coinbase rely less on Paysafe and control a bigger chunk of the card payment stack. The company will offer the Coinbase Card in more markets in the future. The new status could open up more possibilities and features as well. While Coinbase originally launched the Coinbase Card in the U.K., it is now available in 29 European countries. It works with any Visa-compatible payment terminal and ATM. Users can decide in the app which wallet they want to use for upcoming transactions. This way, you can spend money in 10 cryptocurrencies. There are some conversion fees just like on Coinbase. In addition to those fees, there can be some additional fees if you withdraw a lot of money or make a purchase abroad.

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IRS Sues Facebook For $9 Billion, Says Company Offshored Profits To Ireland

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 6:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fox Business: Facebook is slated to begin a tax trial in a San Francisco court on Tuesday, as the Internal Revenue Service tries to convince a judge the world's largest social media company owes more than $9 billion linked to its decision to shift profits to Ireland. The trial, which Facebook expects will take three to four weeks, could see top executives including hardware chief Andrew Bosworth and Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer called to testify, according to a document the company filed in January. The witness list also includes Naomi Gleit and Javier Olivan, veterans of Facebook's aggressive growth team, and Chief Revenue Officer David Fischer. The IRS argues that Facebook understated the value of the intellectual property it sold to an Irish subsidiary in 2010 while building out global operations, a move common among U.S. multinationals. Ireland has lower corporate tax rates than the United States, so the move reduced the company's tax bill. Under the arrangement, Facebook's subsidiaries pay royalties to the U.S.-based parent for access to its trademark, users and platform technologies. From 2010 to 2016, Facebook Ireland paid Facebook U.S. more than $14 billion in royalties and cost-sharing payments, according to the court filing. The company said the low valuation reflected the risks associated with Facebook's international expansion, which took place in 2010 before its IPO and the development of its most lucrative digital advertising products.

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