Google Chief: I'd Disclose Smart Speakers Before Guests Enter My Home
After being challenged as to whether homeowners should tell guests smart devices -- such as a Google Nest speaker or Amazon Echo display -- are in use before they enter the building, Google senior vice president of devices and services, Rick Osterloh,
concludes that the answer is indeed yes. The BBC reports:
"Gosh, I haven't thought about this before in quite this way," Rick Osterloh begins. "It's quite important for all these technologies to think about all users... we have to consider all stakeholders that might be in proximity." And then he commits. "Does the owner of a home need to disclose to a guest? I would and do when someone enters into my home, and it's probably something that the products themselves should try to indicate."
To be fair to Google, it hasn't completely ignored matters of 21st Century privacy etiquette until now. As Mr Osterloh points out, its Nest cameras shine an LED light when they are in record mode, which cannot be overridden. But the idea of having to run around a home unplugging or at least restricting the capabilities of all its voice- and camera-equipped kit if a visitor objects is quite the ask. The concession came at the end of one-on-one interview given to BBC News to mark the launch of
Google's Pixel 4 smartphones, a new Nest smart speaker and
other products. You can read the full conversation on the BBC's article.
California's New Law Bans Schools From Starting Before 8am
California governor Gavin Newsom
signed a new law on Sunday
preventing schools in the state from starting classes before 8am. Quartz reports:
The law bars middle schools from starting before 8am, while high schools must wait till 8:30am to begin classes. This means that about half of California schools will need to delay their opening bell by 30 minutes or less, according to a legislative analysis (pdf), while one-quarter will need to wait an additional 31 to 60 minutes to get going. Schools have until July 1, 2022 to comply with the rule, or whenever their three-year collective bargaining agreements with employees expire -- whichever comes later. Some rural schools are exempt from the law, and the new start times do not apply to optional "zero period" classes.
The move makes California the first U.S. state to heed the call of health advocates who argue that early school start times are forcing adolescents to operate in a state of perpetual sleep deprivation. The American Academy of Pediatrics, which backed the bill, said in 2014 policy statement that getting too little sleep puts teenagers' physical and mental health at risk, as well as their academic performance. The organization cited research that shows that biological changes in puberty make it difficult for the average teenager to fall asleep before 11pm, and that teenagers need between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep to function at their best. It recommended that schools adjust their schedules rather than compel students to go against their natural sleep rhythms.
Testosterone Significantly Boosts Women's Athletic Performance, Study Shows
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian:
Boosting testosterone levels significantly improves female athletic performance, according to one of the first randomized controlled trials. The findings come as the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) announced on Monday it would impose an upper limit for testosterone levels on trans female athletes competing in middle-distance events. The latest research confirmed that testosterone significantly increases endurance and lean muscle mass among young women, even when given for a relatively short period.
In the study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48 healthy 18- to 35-year-old women were randomly assigned to 10 weeks of daily treatment with 10mg of testosterone cream or 10mg of a placebo. The scientists tested the hormone's impact on aerobic performance measured by how long the women could run on a treadmill before reaching the point of exhaustion, and leg power, muscle strength and lean muscle mass. Circulating levels of testosterone rose from 0.9 nmol/litre of blood to 4.3 nmol/L in the women given the hormone cream. This was below the recent 5 nmol/L IAAF limit and below the normal male range of 8-29 nmol/L. Running time to exhaustion increased significantly by 21.17 seconds (8.5%) in the testosterone group, compared with those given the inactive substance. The group given the hormone also had significant changes in lean muscle mass, gaining 923g vs 135g overall and 398g vs 91g in their legs. "The IAAF ruled this week that trans female athletes must keep their levels of natural testosterone below 5 nanomoles per liter of blood to compete in the female category," the report adds. "The new regulation follows a similar limit imposed on athletes with differences of sexual development (DSD), including the South African Olympic gold medallist, Caster Semenya."
Dutch Family 'Waiting For End of Time' Discovered In Basement
A family who spent nine years in a basement "waiting for the end of time"
have been discovered by police in the Netherlands after one of them turned up at a local pub, reports say. The BBC reports:
A man of 58 and a family with young adults aged 18 to 25 were living at a farm in the province of Drenthe. They were found after the eldest of the children ordered beer at a bar in the nearby village of Ruinerwold. He then told staff he needed help, broadcaster RTV Drenthe reported. The older man, who has been arrested, was initially assumed to be the father, but local mayor Roger de Groot later told reporters that was not the case. Nor was the man the owner of the farmhouse, Mr de Groot said, adding: "I've never seen anything like it."
The public broadcaster said that the family had been living in isolation waiting for the end of time. Unconfirmed reports said the children's father was among those found. Bar owner Chris Westerbeek described how a man had come in, ordered five beers and drunk them. "Then I had a chat with him and he revealed he had run away and needed help... then we called the police," he said. He added: "He had long hair, a dirty beard, wore old clothes and looked confused. He said he'd never been to school and hadn't been to the barber for nine years." "He said he had brothers and sisters who lived at the farm. He said he was the oldest and wanted to end the way they were living." Officers visited the remote farmhouse and carried out a search. They discovered a hidden staircase behind a cupboard in the living room that led down to a basement room where the family were housed.
Robot War Breaks Out As Roomba Maker Sues Upstart SharkNinja
Roomba robotic vacuum maker IRobot Corp.
is suing rival SharkNinja for copying a device of theirs and selling it at "half the price." "Shark is not even shy about being a copycat," iRobot said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Boston, "claiming that the Shark IQ Robot offers the same iRobot technology at 'half the price of iRobot i7+'."Bloomberg reports:
The company that unveiled the Roomba robotic vacuum in the early 2000s launched a product last year that takes house cleaning to a new level: It maps your home, schedules sweeps through each room, empties the dust bin itself and even knows where to resume cleaning after has returned to its base for a recharge. After being recognized by Time magazine for one of 2018's inventions of the year, IRobot Corp. says it's no accident that rival SharkNinja Operating LLC came out with a similar device a year later. [...] SharkNinja, a unit of closely held EP Midco LLC, on Friday filed a pre-emptive lawsuit in federal court in Delaware, asking the court to declare that the Shark IQ doesn't infringe six patents cited in iRobot's complaint, nor five others. IRobot had previously demanded that the Shark IQ be pulled off store shelves.
YouTube Gets Alleged Copyright Troll To Agree To Stop Trolling YouTubers
Alleged copyright troll Christopher Brady
will no longer be able to issue false DMCA takedowns to other YouTubers, according to a lawsuit settlement filed today. The Verge reports:
Under the new agreement, Brady is banned from "submitting any notices of alleged copyright infringement to YouTube that misrepresent that material hosted on the YouTube service is infringing copyrights held or claimed to be held by Brady or anyone Brady claims to represent." Brady agreed to pay $25,000 in damages as part of the settlement. He is also prohibited from "misrepresenting or masking their identities" when using Google products, including YouTube. "This settlement highlights the very real consequences for those that misuse our copyright system. We'll continue our work to prevent abuse of our systems," a YouTube spokesperson told The Verge.
"I, Christopher L. Brady, admit that I sent dozens of notices to YouTube falsely claiming that material uploaded by YouTube users infringed my copyrights," he said in an apology, shared by YouTube with The Verge. "I apologize to the YouTube users that I directly impacted by my actions, to the YouTube community, and to YouTube itself." YouTube claimed the investigation caused the company to "expend substantial sums on its investigation in an effort to detect and halt that behavior, and to ensure that its users do not suffer adverse consequences from it." YouTube also said that the company may be "unable to detect and prevent similar misconduct in the future," as a result of the various methods Brady took to cover up his identity.
OpenAI's AI-Powered Robot Learned How To Solve a Rubik's Cube One-Handed
Earlier today, San Francisco-based research institute OpenAI
announced that it
had taught a robotic hand to solve Rubik's cube one-handed. "Lost in the shuffle is just what is new here, if anything, and what of it may or may not be machine learning and artificial intelligence -- the science in other words," writes Tiernan Ray via ZDNet. An anonymous Slashdot reader shares an excerpt from his report:
The real innovation in Tuesday's announcement, from a science standpoint, is the way many versions of possible worlds were created inside the computer simulation, in an automated fashion, using an algorithm called ADR. ADR, or "Automatic domain randomization," is a way to reset the neural network at various points based on different appearances of the Rubik's cube and different positions of the robotic hand, and all kinds of physical variables, such as friction and gravity. It's done by creating thousands of variations of the values of those variables inside the computer simulator while the neural network is being trained. ADR is an algorithm that changes the variables automatically and iteratively, as the policy network is trained to solve the Rubik's cube. The ADR, in other words, is a separate piece of code that is designed to increase random variation in training data to make things increasingly hard for the policy neural network.
Using ADR, the real world Dexterous Hand can adapt to changes such as when it drops the cube on the floor and the cube is placed back in the hand at a slightly different angle. The performance of the Dexterous Hand after being trained with ADR is vastly better than without it, when only a handful (sorry again again for the pun) of random variants are thrown at it using the prior approach of manually-crafted randomness, the authors report. What's happening, they opine, is the emergence of a kind of "meta-learning." The neural network that has been trained is still, in a sense "learning" at the time it is tested on the real-world Rubik's cube. What that means is that the neural network is updating its model of what kinds of transitions can happen between states of affairs as events happen in the real world. The authors assert that they know this is happening "inside" the trained network because they see that after a perturbation -- say, the Dexterous Hand is hit with some object that interrupts its effort -- the robot's activity suddenly plunges, but then steadily improves, as if the whole policy network is adjusting to the changed state of affairs.
Ask Slashdot: What Should I Do About My Landlord Forcing Smart Things Into My Home?
I asked SmartRent's Project Manager, Steven, as well as SmartRent's support not to plug into the electrical power I pay for, but I doubt that will be respected and instead I'll find them stealing my electricity for their own purposes when I get home. The install list is a smart lock (one of the hackable Yale cheapos), smart thermostat, a couple leak detectors, a dimmer plug -- and the scary part -- SmartRent's own Alloy brand SmartRent Hub with 4G backup (who pays the extra for 4G?). I'll do a full hardware teardown to find out what else is inside the Hub -- hopefully just minimally functional cheap ARM stuff and radios. But what else do I do from here /.? I don't really have time to file a lawsuit, and my gut tells me every step I take against the landlord is going to bring their more onerous leasing agreement line items on my head.
Twitter Says It Will Restrict Users From Retweeting World Leaders Who Break Its Rules
The social media giant said it
will not allow users to like, reply, share or retweet tweets from world leaders who break its rules. Instead, it will let users quote-tweet to allow ordinary users to express their opinions. The company
said the move will help its users stay informed about global affairs, but while balancing the need to keep the site's rules in check. TechCrunch reports:
Twitter has been in a bind, amid allegations that the company has not taken action against world leaders who break its rules. "When it comes to the actions of world leaders on Twitter, we recognize that this is largely new ground and unprecedented," Twitter said in an unbylined blog post on Tuesday. "We want to make it clear today that the accounts of world leaders are not above our policies entirely," the company said. Any user who tweets content promoting terrorism, making "clear and direct" threats of violence, and posting private information are all subject to ban. But Twitter said in cases involving a world leader, "we will err on the side of leaving the content up if there is a clear public interest in doing so." "Our goal is to enforce our rules judiciously and impartially," Twitter added
in a tweet. "In doing so, we aim to provide direct insight into our enforcement decision-making, to serve public conversation, and protect the public's right to hear from their leaders and to hold them to account."
Google's New Voice Recorder App Transcribes in Real Time, Even When Offline
hardware event this morning, the company
introduced a new voice recorder app for Android devices, which will tap into advances in real-time speech processing, speech recognition and AI to automatically transcribe recordings in real time as the person is speaking. From a report:
The improvements will allow users to take better advantage of the phone's voice recording functionality, as it will be able to turn the recordings into text even when there's no internet connectivity. This presents a new competitor to others in voice transcriptions that are leveraging similar AI advances, like Otter.ai, Reason8, Trint and others, for example. As Google explained, all the recorder functionality happens directly on the device -- meaning you can use the phone while in airplane mode and still have accurate recordings. "This means you can transcribe meetings, lectures, interviews, or anything you want to save," said Sabrina Ellis, VP of Product Management at Google. The Recorder app was demonstrated onstage during the event, live, and was offering -- from what was shown -- an error-free transcription.
Data For 26 Million Stolen Payment Cards Leaked In Hack of Fraud Bazaar
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
A thriving online bazaar selling stolen payment card data has been hacked in a heist that leaked the records for more than 26 million cards, KrebsOnSecurity reported on Tuesday. The 26 million figure isn't significant only to the legitimate consumers and businesses who own the stolen cards or the financial institutions that issued them. Fortunately for the card owners, the database is now in the hands of affected financial institutions, who can invalidate and replace the cards.
The hacked market is called BriansClub, a site available at BriansClub[.]at that, for years, has imitated Krebs' site and likeness. The data taken in the hack shows that BriansClub acquired 1.7 million cards in 2015, 2.9 million in 2016, 4.9 million in 2017, 9.2 million in 2018, and 7.6 million in the first eight months of this year. Most of the pilfered data is composed of "dumps," the term card thieves use to describe data that's stored on the magnetic stripe of payment cards. The stolen dumps can be transferred to new cards that crooks use to buy electronics, gift cards, and other large-ticket items from big-box stores. An analysis based on how many of the cards had expiration dates in the future suggests that more than 14 million of the leaked records could still be valid. Based on the pricing tiers listed on BriansClub, the haul represents about $414 million worth of lost sales, security intelligence firm Flashpoint told Krebs. By tracking the cards that were once available for sale and later removed, Flashpoint estimated that BriansClub has sold data for about 9.1 million cards for about $126 million. Federal prosecutors often value each stolen credit card record at $500, a sum that represents the average cost incurred from each compromised holder. Based on that estimate, the 9.1 million cards translates to about $2.27 billion in losses.
Blizzard Cancels Overwatch Event as It Tries To Contain Backlash
Activision Blizzard, reeling from harsh reactions after it
punished a tournament player for backing Hong Kong's anti-Beijing protesters,
canceled a New York launch event for an edition of its Overwatch game. From a report:
The event, scheduled for Wednesday at Nintendo's store in Rockefeller Center, was planned to support the release of Overwatch: Legendary Edition for the Nintendo Switch portable game machine. Nintendo tweeted Tuesday that Blizzard had canceled the promotion. Blizzard, which didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, has been struggling to contain a backlash after it punished the gamer Chung Ng Wai, known as Blitzchung. The player wore a gas mask and chanted a pro-Hong Kong slogan in a post-tournament interview, leading Blizzard to ban him from events for a year and strip him of $10,000 in prize money.
Google Announces New Google Assistant With Huge Boost To Speed
Google has announced the
second-generation version of its Google Assistant software, which promises new capabilities, a design overhaul, and a noticeable boost to speed. From a report:
That last upgrade means the new Assistant can launch and return answers to queries much faster than before. The service is coming first to Pixel phones, and Google made the announcement onstage at its Pixel 4 reveal event in New York City on Tuesday. We already knew quite a bit about the new Assistant, thanks to Google's initial reveal back at its I/O developer conference in May, but we also got to see it in action on the Pixel 4 ahead of release, thanks to a flood of leaks that included, among other things, new Assistant marketing videos. Google claimed in May that the new Assistant would be up to 10 times faster than before, and the marketing videos did indeed show a much speedier version of the software retrieving directions and returning answers to queries. (It's not clear if that 10x estimation is for all Assistant features or just certain lightweight ones.)
Google's Auto-Delete Tools Are Practically Worthless For Privacy
An anonymous reader shares a report:
By default, Google collects a vast amount of data on users' behavior, including a lifelong record of web searches, locations, and YouTube views. But amid a privacy backlash and ongoing regulatory threats, the company has started to hype its recently released privacy tools, like the ability to automatically delete some of the data it collects about you -- data that helps power its $116 billion ad business. [...] In reality, these auto-delete tools accomplish little for users, even as they generate positive PR for Google. Experts say that by the time three months rolls around, Google has already extracted nearly all the potential value from users' data, and from an advertising standpoint, data becomes practically worthless when it's more than a few months old. "Anything up to one month is extremely valuable," says David Dweck, the head of paid search at digital ad firm WPromote. "Anything beyond one month, we probably weren't going to target you anyway." Dweck says that in the digital ad industry, recent activity is essential. If you start searching on Google for real estate or looking up housing values, for instance, Google might lump you into a "prospective home buyers" category for advertisers. That information becomes instantly valuable to realtors, appraisers, and lenders for ad targeting, and it could remain valuable for a while as other companies, such as painters or appliance brands, try to follow up on your home buying. Still, it's unusual for advertisers to target users based on their activity from months earlier, Dweck says.
Argentinian Security Researcher Arrested After Tweeting About Government Hack
Argentinian police briefly
detained and raided the home of a well-known security researcher last week on suspicion of hacking and leaking data from government systems. From a report:
Following his release, Javier Smaldone, the security researcher, obtained and published court documents pertaining to his arrest on Twitter. The documents showed that authorities arrested and raided the security expert just for tweeting about a recent government hack, with no tangible evidence that he was involved. Smaldone claimed the entire affair was a witch-hunt, describing his arrest and raid as "political persecution." The researcher is a well-known cyber-security activist, previously testified in front of the Argentinian Senate against the use of electronic voting machines, and regularly publishes blog posts criticizing the government's plans to use such devices. Smaldone believes this is the government's revenge for past criticism.