New York Attorney General Expands Inquiry Into Net Neutrality Comments
The New York attorney general
subpoenaed more than a dozen telecommunications trade groups, lobbying contractors and Washington advocacy organizations on Tuesday, seeking to determine whether the groups sought to sway a critical federal decision on internet regulation last year by submitting
millions of fraudulent public comments, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation. From a report:
Some of the groups played a highly public role in last year's battle, when the Republican-appointed majority on the Federal Communications Commission voted to revoke a regulation issued under President Barack Obama that classified internet service providers as public utilities. The telecommunications industry bitterly opposed the rules -- which imposed what supporters call "net neutrality" on internet providers -- and enthusiastically backed their repeal under President Trump. The attorney general, Barbara D. Underwood, last year began investigating the source of more than 22 million public comments submitted to the F.C.C. during the battle. Millions of comments were provided using temporary or duplicate email addresses, others recycled identical phrases, and seven popular comments, repeated verbatim, accounted for millions more.
Rolls-Royce Wants To Fill the Seas With Self-Sailing Ships
An anonymous reader shares a report:
"Helsinki VTS, thank you for permission to depart," the captain says over the radio. He checks with the Vessel Traffic Service to see if there's anything to be looking out for. Just one other big ship, but also lots of small boats, enjoying the calm water, which could be hazards. Not a problem for this captain -- he has a giant screen on the bridge, which overlays the environment around his vessel with an augmented reality view. He can navigate the Baltic Discoverer confidently out of Finland's Helsinki Port using the computer-enhanced vision of the world, with artificial intelligence spotting and labeling every other water user, the shore, and navigation markers.
This not-too-far-in-the-future vision comes from Rolls-Royce. (One iteration of it, anyway: The Rolls-Royce car company, the jet engine maker, and this marine-focused enterprise all have different corporate owners.) The view provided to the crew of the (fictional) Baltic Discoverer is an example of the company's Intelligent Awareness system, which mashes together data from sensors all over a vessel, to give its humans a better view of the world. But that's just the early part of the plan. Using cameras, lidar, and radar, Rolls wants to make completely autonomous ships. And it's already running trials around the world.
"Tugs, ferries, and short-sea transport, these are all classes of vessels that we believe would be suitable for completely autonomous operations, monitored by a land based crew, who get to go home every night," says Kevin Daffey, Rolls-Royce's director of marine engineering and technology. Suitable, because they all currently rely on humans who demand to be paid -- and can make costly mistakes. Over the past decade, there have been more than 1,000 total losses of large ships, and at least 70 percent of those resulted from human error. [...] Moreover, the economic case for automating shipping is clear: About 100,000 large vessels are currently sailing the world's oceans, and the amount of cargo they carry is projected to grow around 4 percent a year, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Beyond preventing accidents, human-free ships could be 15 percent more efficient to run, because they don't need energy-gobbling life support systems, doing things like heating, cooking, and lugging drinking water along for the ride.
Facebook Plans Camera-Equipped TV Device, Report Says
Facebook is developing hardware for the TV, news outlet
Cheddar reported Tuesday. From the report:
The world's largest social network is building a camera-equipped device that sits atop a TV and allows video calling along with entertainment services like Facebook's YouTube competitor, according to people familiar with the matter. The project, internally codenamed "Ripley," uses the same core technology as Facebook's recently announced Portal video chat device for the home. Portal begins shipping next month and uses A.I. to automatically detect and follow people as they move throughout the frame during a video call. Facebook currently plans to announce project Ripley in the spring of 2019, according to a person with direct knowledge of the project. But the device is still in development and the date could be changed.
Stephen Hawking Warns That AI and 'Superhumans' Could Wipe Humanity; Says There's No God in Posthumous Book
Stephen Hawking says artificial intelligence will eventually become so advanced it will "outperform humans." The
renowned physicist who died in March
warns of both rises in advanced artificial intelligence and genetically-enhanced "superhumans" in a book published Tuesday. Hawking also weighed in on god, and aliens. From a report:
According to an excerpt of the book "Brief Answers to the Big Questions" published by the U.K.'s Sunday Times, Hawking wrote AI could prove "huge" to humanity so long as restrictions are in place to control how quickly it grows. "While primitive forms of artificial intelligence developed so far have proved very useful, I fear the consequences of creating something that can match or surpass humans," Hawking wrote. "Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete and would be superseded." Hawking wrote about a need for serious research to explore what impact AI would have on humanity, from the workplace to the military, where he expressed concerns about sophisticated weapons systems "that can choose and eliminate their own targets." Hawking also wrote about advances to manipulating DNA, or what he calls "self-designed evolution. Early advances involving the gene-editing tool CRISPR include alerting DNA to create "low-fat" pigs. CNN:
"There is no God. No one directs the universe," he writes in "Brief Answers to the Big Questions." "For centuries, it was believed that disabled people like me were living under a curse that was inflicted by God," he adds. "I prefer to think that everything can be explained another way, by the laws of nature."
"There are forms of intelligent life out there," he writes. "We need to be wary of answering back until we have developed a bit further." And he leaves open the possibility of other phenomena. "Travel back in time can't be ruled out according to our present understanding," he says. He also predicts that "within the next hundred years we will be able to travel to anywhere in the Solar System."
Google To Charge Smartphone Makers For Google Play in Europe
Google will charge smartphone makers
a licensing fee for using its popular Google Play app store and also allow them to use rival versions of its Android mobile operating system to comply with an EU antitrust order, it said Tuesday. From a report:
Google, an Alphabet subsidiary, announced the changes on Tuesday, three months after the European Commission handed it a landmark 4.34 billion euro ($5 billion) fine for using its popular Android mobile operating system to hinder rivals. The company said the licensing fees will offset revenue lost as a result of its compliance efforts. "Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the EEA," Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice president for platforms and ecosystems, said in a blog. In a blog post,
Second, device manufacturers will be able to license the Google mobile application suite separately from the Google Search App or the Chrome browser. Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the EEA. Android will remain free and open source. Third, we will offer separate licenses to the Google Search app and to Chrome.
We'll also offer new commercial agreements to partners for the non-exclusive pre-installation and placement of Google Search and Chrome. As before, competing apps may be pre-installed alongside ours. These new licensing options will come into effect on October 29, 2018, for all new smartphones and tablets launched in the EEA.
Chrome 70 Won't Ship With a Patch For Autoplay-Blocking Web Audio API Which Broke Web Apps and Games Earlier This Year
An anonymous reader shares a report:
Earlier this year, Google made a seemingly crowd-pleasing tweak to its Chrome browser and created a crisis for web game developers. Its May release of Chrome 66 muted sites that played sound automatically, saving internet users from the plague of annoying auto-playing videos. But the new system also broke the audio of games and web art designed for the old audio standard -- including hugely popular games like QWOP, clever experiments like the Infinite Jukebox, and even projects officially showcased by Google. After a backlash over the summer, Google kept blocking autoplay for basic video and audio, but it pushed the change for games and web applications to a later version. That browser version, Chrome 70, is on the verge of full release -- but the new, autoplay-blocking Web Audio API isn't part of it yet. Google communications manager Ivy Choi tells The Verge that Chrome will start learning the sites where users commonly play audio, so it can tailor its settings to their preferences. The actual blocking won't start until Chrome 71, which is due in December.
Chinese Phone Maker Huawei Launches Mate 20 Pro Featuring In-Screen Fingerprint Sensor, Two-Way Wireless Charging, 3 Rear Cameras and 4,200mAh Battery
new Mate 20 Pro has a massive screen, three cameras on the back and a fingerprint scanner embedded in the display. From a report:
The new top-end phone from the Chinese firm aims to secure its place at the top of the market alongside Samsung, having recently beaten Apple to become the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in August. The Mate 20 Pro follows Huawei's tried and trusted format for its Mate series: a huge 6.39in QHD+ OLED screen, big 4,200mAh battery and powerful new Huawei Kirin 980 processor -- Huawei's first to be produced at 7 nanometres, matching Apple's latest A12 chip in the 2018 iPhones.
New for this year is an infrared 3D facial recognition system, similar to that used by Apple for its Face ID in the iPhone XS, and one of the first fingerprint scanners embedded in the screen that is widely available in the UK, removing the need for a fingerprint scanner on the back or a chin on the front. The Mate 20 Pro is water resistant to IP68 standards and has a sleek new design reminiscent of Samsung's S-series phones, with curved glass on the front and back. The back also has an new pattern etched into the glass, which is smooth to the touch but ridged when running your nail over it.
On the back is a new version of Huawei's award-winning triple camera system using a 40-megapixel standard camera, an 8-megapixel telephoto camera with a 3x optical zoom and new for this year is a 20-megapixel ultra-wide angle camera, replacing the monochrome sensor used on the P20 Pro. The Mate 20 Pro runs EMUI 9, which is based on Android 9 Pie. The variant with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage is available for 899 Euro starting today.
Slack Doesn't Have End-to-End Encryption Because Your Boss Doesn't Want It
Business communications service Slack, which has more than three million paying customers, offers a bouquet of features that has made it popular (so popular that is
worth as much as $9 billion), but it lacks a crucial feature that some of its rivals don't: end-to-end encryption. It's a feature that numerous users have asked Slack to add to the service. Citing a former employee of Slack and the company's chief information security officer, news outlet
Motherboard reported Tuesday that the rationale behind not including end-to-end encryption is very simple:
bosses around the world don't want it. From the report:
Work communication service Slack has decided against the idea of having end-to-end encryption due to the priorities of its paying customers (rather than those who use a free version of the service.) Slack is not a traditional messaging program -- it's designed for businesses and workplaces that may want or need to read employee messages -- but the decision still highlights why some platforms may not want to jump into end-to-end encryption. End-to-end is increasingly popular as it can protect communications against from interception and surveillance. "It wasn't a priority for exec [executives], because it wasn't something paying customers cared about," a former Slack employee told Motherboard earlier this year.
Apple 'Deeply Apologetic' Over Account Hacks in China
Apple has issued an apology over the hacking of some Chinese accounts in phishing scams, almost a week after it emerged that stolen Apple IDs had been used to swipe customer funds. From a report:
In its English statement Tuesday, Apple said it found "a small number of our users' accounts" had been accessed through phishing scams. "We are deeply apologetic about the inconvenience caused to our customers by these phishing scams," Apple said in its Chinese statement. The incident came to light last week when Chinese mobile-payment giants Alipay and WeChat Pay said some customers had lost money. The victims of the scams, Apple said Tuesday, hadn't enabled so-called two-factor authentication -- a setting that requires a user to log in with a password and a freshly-generated code to verify their identity.
Sony Tries Using Blockchain Tech For Next-Gen DRM
Sony announced Monday that it's
using blockchain technology for digital rights management (DRM), "starting with written educational materials under the Sony Global Education arm of the business," reports Engadget. "This new blockchain system is built on Sony's pre-existing DRM tools, which keep track of the distribution of copyrighted materials, but will have advantages that come with blockchain's inherent security." From the report:
Because of the nature of blockchain, which tracks digital transactions in records that are particularly difficult to forge or otherwise tamper with, its application as a DRM tool makes sense and may also help creators keep tabs on their content. Currently, it's up to creators themselves (or the companies they create for) to monitor their contents' rights management. Sony's system could take over the heavy lifting of DRM. The way blockchain works allows Sony to track its content from creation through sharing. This means that users of the blockchain DRM tool will be able to see -- and verify -- who created a piece of work and when. Sony Global Education is the current focus of the DRM tool, but going forward, the company hints that the rest of its media -- including entertainment like music, movies, and virtual reality content -- may be protected the same way.
Medtronic Locks Down Vulnerable Pacemaker Programming Kit Due To Cybersecurity Concerns
AmiMoJo shares a report from The Register:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising health professionals to keep an eye on some of the equipment they use to monitor pacemakers and other heart implants. The watchdog's alert this week comes after Irish medical device maker Medtronic said it will lock some of its equipment out of its software update service, meaning the hardware can't download and install new code from its servers. That may seem counterintuitive, however, it turns out security vulnerabilities in its technology that it had previously thought could only be exploited locally could actually be exploited via its software update network. Malicious updates could be pushed to Medtronic devices by hackers intercepting and tampering with the equipment's internet connections -- the machines would not verify they were actually downloading legit Medtronic firmware -- and so the biz has cut them off.
Google's CEO Says Tests of Censored Chinese Search Engine Have Been Very Promising
At Wired's 25th anniversary summit, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company's internal tests developing a
censored search engine in China have been very promising. Pichai is
strengthening his commitment on the controversial search engine, codenamed Project Dragonfly, saying the potential to expose the world to more information is guiding Google's push into China. "We are compelled by our mission [to] provide information to everyone, and [China is] 20 percent of the world's population." Wired reports:
Pichai was careful to emphasize that this was a decision that weighs heavy on the company. "People don't understand fully, but you're always balancing a set of values," in every new country, he said. Those values include providing access to information, freedom of expression, and user privacy. "But we also follow the rule of law in every country," he said. This is a reversal of a decision from about eight years, when Google pulled its search engine, which was also censored, from the Chinese market. Pichai said the time had come to reevaluate that choice. "It's a wonderful, innovative market. We wanted to learn what it would look like if we were in China, so that's what we built internally," Pichai said. "Given how important the market is and how many users there are," he added, "we feel obliged to think hard about this problem and take a longer-term view." In response to the company's
decision to back out of a project with the Department of Defense, nicknamed Project Maven, to build AI and facial recognition technology, and the
employee concerns surrounding it, Pichai said: "Throughout Google's history, we've given our employees a lot of voice and say. But we don't run the company by holding referendums. It's an important input. We take it seriously." On the issue of Maven, however, "it's more also the debate within the AI Community around how you perceive our work in the area."
'Hyperalarming' Study Shows Massive Insect Loss
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post:
Insects around the world are in a crisis, according to a small but growing number of long-term studies showing dramatic declines in invertebrate populations. A new report suggests that the problem is more widespread than scientists realized. Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), the study found, and the forest's insect-eating animals have gone missing, too. The latest report, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that this startling loss of insect abundance extends to the Americas. The study's authors implicate climate change in the loss of tropical invertebrates.
Bradford Lister, a biologist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, has been studying rain forest insects in Puerto Rico since the 1970s. "We went down in '76, '77 expressly to measure the resources: the insects and the insectivores in the rain forest, the birds, the frogs, the lizards," Lister said. He came back nearly 40 years later, with his colleague Andrés García, an ecologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. What the scientists did not see on their return troubled them. "Boy, it was immediately obvious when we went into that forest," Lister said. Fewer birds flitted overhead. The butterflies, once abundant, had all but vanished. García and Lister once again measured the forest's insects and other invertebrates, a group called arthropods that includes spiders and centipedes. The researchers trapped arthropods on the ground in plates covered in a sticky glue, and raised several more plates about three feet into the canopy. The researchers also swept nets over the brush hundreds of times, collecting the critters that crawled through the vegetation. Each technique revealed the biomass (the dry weight of all the captured invertebrates) had significantly decreased from 1976 to the present day. The sweep sample biomass decreased to a fourth or an eighth of what it had been. Between January 1977 and January 2013, the catch rate in the sticky ground traps fell 60-fold. The study also found a 30-percent drop in anole lizards, which eat arthropods. Some anole species have disappeared entirely from the interior forest. Another research team captured insect-eating frogs and birds in 1990 and 2005, and found a 50 percent decrease in the number of captures. The authors attribute this decline to the changing climate.
The Full Photoshop CC Is Coming To the iPad In 2019
The "real version" of Photoshop is
coming to the iPad next year, complete with a user interface similar to the desktop application and all the main tools. Ars Technica reports:
Photoshop for iPad has a user interface structured similarly to the desktop application. It is immediately familiar to users of the application but tuned for touch screens, with larger targets and adaptations for the tablet as well as gestures to streamline workflows. Both touch and pencil input are supported. The interface is somewhat simpler than the desktop version, and although the same Photoshop code is running under the hood to ensure there's no loss of fidelity, not every feature will be available in the mobile version. The first release will contain the main tools while Adobe plans to add more in the future. Cloud syncing is a key element of Photoshop on iPad. Edits made on the iPad will be synchronized transparently with the desktop -- no conversions or import/export process to go through. Using a feature not available in the iPad version should then be as simple as hitting save and then opening the file on the desktop, picking up where you left off. Adobe is also reportedly building a tablet painting app called Project Gemini, which "simulates real brushes, paints, and materials as well as the interactions between them," reports Ars. "It combines raster graphics, vector drawing, and the Photoshop engine into a single application designed for artwork and illustration."
Printer Makers Are Crippling Cheap Ink Cartridges Via Bogus 'Security Updates'
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard:
Printer maker Epson is under fire this month from activist groups after a software update prevented customers from using cheaper, third party ink cartridges. It's just the latest salvo in a decades-long effort by printer manufacturers to block consumer choice, often by disguising printer downgrades as essential product improvements. For several decades now printer manufacturers have lured consumers into an arguably-terrible deal: shell out a modest sum for a mediocre printer, then pay an arm and a leg for replacement printer cartridges that cost relatively-little to actually produce.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation now says that Epson has been engaged in the same behavior. The group says it recently learned that in late 2016 or early 2017, Epson issued a "poison pill" software update that effectively downgraded user printers to block third party cartridges, but disguised the software update as a meaningful improvement. The EFF has subsequently sent a letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, arguing that Epson's lack of transparency can easily be seen as "misleading and deceptive" under Texas consumer protection laws. "When restricted to Epson's own cartridges, customers must pay Epson's higher prices, while losing the added convenience of third party alternatives, such as refillable cartridges and continuous ink supply systems," the complaint notes. "This artificial restriction of third party ink options also suppresses a competitive ink market and has reportedly caused some manufacturers of refillable cartridges and continuous ink supply systems to exit the market."