- MIT Removes Huge Dataset That Teaches AI Systems To Use Racist, Misogynistic Slurs
- People Testing Negative For COVID-19 Antibodies May Still Have Some Immunity, Study Suggests
- Firefox 78: Protections Dashboard, New Developer Features, and the End of the Line For Older MacOS Versions
- Dish Buys Prepaid Carrier Boost Mobile For $1.4 Billion
- Multiple Service Providers Are Blocking DuckDuckGo In India
- Apple Recloses More Than 25% of Its US Retail Stores Due To COVID-19 Spikes
- Kongregate No Longer Accepting New Games, Shutting Down Forums and Chat
- Uncovered: 1,000 Phrases That Incorrectly Trigger Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant
- Zoom Misses Its Own Deadline To Publish Its First Transparency Report
- Detroit Police Chief: Facial Recognition Software Misidentifies 96% of the Time
- Ads Are Taking Over Samsung's Galaxy Smartphones
- A Massive Star Has Seemingly Vanished from Space With No Explanation
- Tesla Becomes Most Valuable Automaker in Latest Stock Rally
- MIT Apologizes, Permanently Pulls Offline Huge Dataset That Taught AI Systems To Use Racist, Misogynistic Slurs
- Minecraft Is Now Home To a Virtual Library of Censored Journalism
MIT Removes Huge Dataset That Teaches AI Systems To Use Racist, Misogynistic Slurs
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register
MIT has taken offline its highly cited dataset that trained AI systems to potentially describe people using racist, misogynistic, and other problematic terms. The database was removed this week after The Register alerted the American super-college. MIT also urged researchers and developers to stop using the training library, and to delete any copies. "We sincerely apologize," a professor told us. The training set, built by the university, has been used to teach machine-learning models to automatically identify and list the people and objects depicted in still images. For example, if you show one of these systems a photo of a park, it might tell you about the children, adults, pets, picnic spreads, grass, and trees present in the snap. Thanks to MIT's cavalier approach when assembling its training set, though, these systems may also label women as whores or bitches, and Black and Asian people with derogatory language. The database also contained close-up pictures of female genitalia labeled with the C-word. Applications, websites, and other products relying on neural networks trained using MIT's dataset may therefore end up using these terms when analyzing photographs and camera footage.
The problematic training library in question is 80 Million Tiny Images, which was created in 2008 to help produce advanced object-detection techniques. It is, essentially, a huge collection of photos with labels describing what's in the pics, all of which can be fed into neural networks to teach them to associate patterns in photos with the descriptive labels. So when a trained neural network is shown a bike, it can accurately predict a bike is present in the snap. It's called Tiny Images because the pictures in library are small enough for computer-vision algorithms in the late-2000s and early-2010s to digest. Today, the Tiny Images dataset is used to benchmark computer-vision algorithms along with the better-known ImageNet training collection. Unlike ImageNet, though, no one, until now, has scrutinized Tiny Images for problematic content.
People Testing Negative For COVID-19 Antibodies May Still Have Some Immunity, Study Suggests
Thelasko shares a report from the BBC:
For every person testing positive for antibodies, two were found to have specific T-cells which identify and destroy infected cells. This was seen even in people who had mild or symptomless cases of Covid-19. But it's not yet clear whether this just protects that individual, or if it might also stop them from passing on the infection to others.
Researchers at the Karolinksa Institute in Sweden tested 200 people for both antibodies and T-cells. Some were blood donors while others were tracked down from the group of people first infected in Sweden, mainly returning from earlier affected areas like northern Italy. This could mean a wider group have some level of immunity to Covid-19 than antibody testing figures, like those published as part of the UK Office for National Statistics Infection Survey, suggest. It's likely those people did mount an antibody response, but either it had faded or was not detectable by the current tests. And these people should be protected if they are exposed to the virus for a second time.
Firefox 78: Protections Dashboard, New Developer Features, and the End of the Line For Older MacOS Versions
williamyf shares a report from The Register:
Mozilla has released Firefox 78 with a new Protections Dashboard and a bunch of updates for web developers. This is also the last supported version of Firefox for macOS El Capitan (10.11) and earlier. Firefox is on a "rapid release plan," which means a new version every four to five weeks. This means that major new features should not be expected every time. That said, Firefox 78 is also an extended support release (ESR), which means users who stick with ESR get updates from this and the previous 10 releases. The main new user-facing feature in Firefox 78 is the Protections Dashboard, a screen which shows trackers and scripts blocked, a link to the settings, a link to Firefox Monitor for checking your email address against known data breaches, and a button for password management.
Dish Buys Prepaid Carrier Boost Mobile For $1.4 Billion
announced the $1.4 billion acquisition of Boost Mobile. With this purchase, Dish
secures its place in the retail wireless market and will serve more than nine million customers. Engadget reports:
The deal is the result of T-Mobile's Sprint merger. In order to gain FCC approval and quell fears that the merger would hurt competition, T-Mobile and Sprint agreed to several demands, including divesting Boost Mobile, one of Sprint's prepaid brands. Rumors circulated last year that Dish would buy Boost for $6 billion. Obviously, the final price is nowhere near that amount. "This marks an important milestone in DISH's evolution as a connectivity company," Dish CEO and president Erik Carlson said in a statement. "It positions us well as we continue to build out the first virtualized, standalone 5G network in America."
Dish will continue to use the Boost brand, but it has unveiled a new logo. It's also launching a new "$hrink-It!" plan, which starts at $45 for 15GB. If customers make three on-time payments, Dish will drop the monthly rate by $5. Dish will take off another $5 after six on-time payments. Another 10GB plan with unlimited talk and text will cost $35. Both plans will be available beginning July 2nd.
Multiple Service Providers Are Blocking DuckDuckGo In India
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web:
Just a few days after India banned 59 Chinese apps, many users in the country are reporting that privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo is inaccessible to them. Users on Reddit have noticed they're unable to access the site on their Airtel and Reliance Jio mobile network connections. While Some users on Twitter have further suggested multiple internet service providers (ISP) have blocked the site. There's no clarity at the moment if there's an order from India's telecom authority to block the site. Meanwhile, DuckDuckGo confirmed on Twitter that it's looking into the issue and suggested Android users change their DNS provider to get around the issue. It also added that there's no issue on the server-side.
Apple Recloses More Than 25% of Its US Retail Stores Due To COVID-19 Spikes
Apple will close 30 additional stores in the United States by Thursday, the company said,
bringing the total number of reclosures in the United States to 77 as Covid-19 cases rapidly rise in several regions around the country. CNBC reports:
Stores in Alabama, California, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada and Oklahoma will close Thursday. Other stores in Florida, Mississippi, Texas and Utah are closed as of Wednesday. Apple has 271 stores in the United States. An Apple spokesman said in a statement: "Due to current COVID-19 conditions in some of the communities we serve, we are temporarily closing stores in these areas. We take this step with an abundance of caution as we closely monitor the situation and we look forward to having our teams and customers back as soon as possible." The closings announced on Wednesday include the last two remaining stores open in Florida, as well as a number of stores around the Los Angeles area.
Kongregate No Longer Accepting New Games, Shutting Down Forums and Chat
Kongregate, a video game publisher and web gaming portal featuring over 128,000 titles,
announced that many features on the site are going away. The site is
no longer allowing uploads of new flash games, and will be shutting down forums and chat services. From a report:
Previously, anyone who created a game was able to upload their title for anyone to play, which is why the website has "over 128,000 titles." Another key feature hitting the chopping block is badges. Badges were achievements of varying difficulty, which were periodically added into popular games. Players were granted points upon earning a badge. Kongregate is also famous for its chat features. While playing a game, users can talk with each other in a "chat room." On July 22, most chat rooms are closing down in addition to "non-gaming" forums.
It is worth noting that the company is still supporting Kartridge, a gaming platform where you can purchase titles -- it operates like Steam and GOG. Kartridge has essentially the same features as Kongregate, such as chat rooms and badges; only, this is a curated platform that has downloadable games instead of Adobe Flash. Kongregate also continues to "focus on developing games," according to the post. Most of these titles are on mobile, however, some can be found on Kartridge and Steam, like Realm Grinder.
Uncovered: 1,000 Phrases That Incorrectly Trigger Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal:
As Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and other voice assistants have become fixtures in millions of homes, privacy advocates have grown concerned that their near-constant listening to nearby conversations could pose more risk than benefit to users. New research suggests the privacy threat may be greater than previously thought. The findings demonstrate how common it is for dialog in TV shows and other sources to produce false triggers that cause the devices to turn on, sometimes sending nearby sounds to Amazon, Apple, Google, or other manufacturers. In all, researchers uncovered more than 1,000 word sequences -- including those from Game of Thrones, Modern Family, House of Cards, and news broadcasts -- that incorrectly trigger the devices.
"The devices are intentionally programmed in a somewhat forgiving manner, because they are supposed to be able to understand their humans," one of the researchers, Dorothea Kolossa, said. "Therefore, they are more likely to start up once too often rather than not at all." When devices wake, the researchers said, they record a portion of what's said and transmit it to the manufacturer. The audio may then be transcribed and checked by employees in an attempt to improve word recognition. The result: fragments of potentially private conversations can end up in the company logs. The research paper, titled "Unacceptable, where is my privacy?," hasn't yet been published, although a brief write-up of the findings can be found
Zoom Misses Its Own Deadline To Publish Its First Transparency Report
How many government demands for user data has Zoom received? We
won't know until "later this year," an updated Zoom blog post now says. From a report:
The video conferencing giant previously said it would release the number of government demands it has received by June 30. But the company said it's missed that target and has given no firm new date for releasing the figures. It comes amid heightened scrutiny of the service after a number of security issues and privacy concerns came to light following a massive spike in its user base, thanks to millions working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a blog post today reflecting on the company's turnaround efforts, chief executive Eric Yuan said the company has "made significant progress defining the framework and approach for a transparency report that details information related to requests Zoom receives for data, records or content. We look forward to providing the fiscal [second quarter] data in our first report later this year," he said. Transparency reports offer rare insights into the number of demands or requests a company gets from the government for user data. These reports are not mandatory, but are important to understand the scale and scope of government surveillance.
Detroit Police Chief: Facial Recognition Software Misidentifies 96% of the Time
Detroit police have used highly unreliable facial recognition technology almost exclusively against Black people so far in 2020, according to the Detroit Police Department's own statistics. From a report:
The department's use of the technology gained national attention last week after the American Civil Liberties Union and New York Times brought to light the case of Robert Julian-Borchak Williams, a man who was wrongfully arrested because of the technology. In a public meeting Monday, Detroit Police Chief James Craig admitted that the technology, developed by a company called DataWorks Plus, almost never brings back a direct match and almost always misidentifies people. "If we would use the software only [to identify subjects], we would not solve the case 95-97 percent of the time," Craig said. "That's if we relied totally on the software, which would be against our current policy ... If we were just to use the technology by itself, to identify someone, I would say 96 percent of the time it would misidentify."
Ads Are Taking Over Samsung's Galaxy Smartphones
writing for Android Police:
I have been using Samsung phones every day for almost 4 years. It was because Samsung had fantastic hardware paired with --depending on the year -- good software. 2020 is the first year in a while I'm not using a Samsung phone as my daily driver. The reason? Ads. Ads in Samsung phones never really bothered me, at least not until the past few months. It started with the Galaxy Z Flip. A tweet from Todd Haselton of CNBC is what really caught my eye. Samsung had put an ad from DirectTV in the stock dialer app. This is really something I never would have expected from any smartphone company, let alone Samsung. It showed up in the "Places" tab in the dialer app, which is in partnership with Yelp and lets you search for different businesses directly from the dialer app so you don't need to Google somewhere to find the address or phone number. I looked into it, to see if this was maybe a mistake on Yelp's part, accidentally displaying an ad where it shouldn't have, but nope. The ad was placed by Samsung, in an area where it could blend in so they could make money.
Similar ads exist throughout a bunch of Samsung apps. Samsung Music has ads that look like another track in your library. Samsung Health and Samsung Pay have banners for promotional ads. The stock weather app has ads that look like they could be news. There is also more often very blatant advertising in most of these apps as well. Samsung Music will give you a popup ad for Sirius XM, even though Spotify is built into the Samsung Music app. You can hide the SiriusXM popup, but only for 7 days at a time. A week later, it will be right back there waiting for you. Samsung will also give you push notification ads for new products from Bixby, Samsung Pay, and Samsung Push Service.
A Massive Star Has Seemingly Vanished from Space With No Explanation
Astronomers are perplexed by the unexplained
disappearance of a massive star located 75 million light years away. From a report:
A decade ago, light from this colossal star brightened its entire host galaxy, which is officially known as PHL 293B and is nicknamed the Kinman Dwarf. But when scientists checked back in on this farflung system last summer, the glow of the star -- estimated to be roughly 100 times more massive than the Sun -- had been extinguished. The head-scratching discovery was announced in a study published on Tuesday in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. "We were quite surprised when we couldn't find the star," said lead author Andrew Allan, a PhD student at Trinity College Dublin, in a call. "It is a very extreme star, and it has quite a strong wind, so we can distinguish it from the galaxy. That's what we couldn't see in the newer observations."
The mysterious series of events began when Allan and his colleagues imaged the Kinman Dwarf in August 2019, using the ESPRESSO instrument at the Very Large Telescope in Chile. The team initially set out to learn more about massive stars located in galaxies with low metal densities. Given that the starlit Kinman Dwarf had been observed by other astronomers between 2001 and 2011, the team knew that it would be a good target for their research. "Not a lot is understood about stars in those kinds of environments, so that was the main reason we wanted to look," Allan said. "We are interested in massive stars at the end of their lives in those kinds of environments, so we were really just hoping to get a better resolution observation."
Tesla Becomes Most Valuable Automaker in Latest Stock Rally
Tesla on Wednesday
became the highest-valued automaker as its shares surged to record highs and the electric carmaker's market capitalization overtook that of former front runner Toyota Motors. From a report:
Tesla shares gained 5% in early morning trade to a record of $1,133, boosting the company's market cap to $209.47 billion - roughly $6 billion more than Toyota is currently valued by investors. Tesla is now worth more than triple the combined value of U.S. automakers General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co. The shares' meteoric rise, up more than 163% since the start of 2020, highlight growing confidence among investors about the future of electric vehicles and Tesla's shift from a niche carmaker into a global leader in cleaner cars. After several years of losses, Tesla has delivered three straight profitable quarters since the third quarter of 2019 and surprised investors with solid first-quarter deliveries despite the virus outbreak.
MIT Apologizes, Permanently Pulls Offline Huge Dataset That Taught AI Systems To Use Racist, Misogynistic Slurs
MIT has taken offline its highly cited dataset that trained AI systems to
potentially describe people using racist, misogynistic, and other problematic terms. From a report:
The database was removed this week after The Register alerted the American super-college. And MIT urged researchers and developers to stop using the training library, and to delete any copies. "We sincerely apologize," a professor told us. The training set, built by the university, has been used to teach machine-learning models to automatically identify and list the people and objects depicted in still images. For example, if you show one of these systems a photo of a park, it might tell you about the children, adults, pets, picnic spreads, grass, and trees present in the snap. Thanks to MIT's cavalier approach when assembling its training set, though, these systems may also label women as whores or bitches, and Black and Asian people with derogatory language. The database also contained close-up pictures of female genitalia labeled with the C-word.
Applications, websites, and other products relying on neural networks trained using MIT's dataset may therefore end up using these terms when analyzing photographs and camera footage. The problematic training library in question is 80 Million Tiny Images, which was created in 2008 to help produce advanced object detection techniques. It is, essentially, a huge collection of photos with labels describing what's in the pics, all of which can be fed into neural networks to teach them to associate patterns in photos with the descriptive labels. So when a trained neural network is shown a bike, it can accurately predict a bike is present in the snap. It's called Tiny Images because the pictures in library are small enough for computer-vision algorithms in the late-2000s and early-2010s to digest.
Minecraft Is Now Home To a Virtual Library of Censored Journalism
schwit1 shares a report:
Free press advocates have created a virtual library in Minecraft that bypasses censorship in oppressive countries to house censored journals and articles. The virtual space was created as a collaboration between the freedom-of-the-press organization, Reporters Without Borders, and a Minecraft design company, BlockWorks. Because Minecraft isn't blocked in many places -- at least, not yet -- it's an ingenious way to ensure access even for those living under repressive regimes. The Uncensored Library, as it's called, houses information on all 180 countries in the press freedom index, as well as exhibition halls on countries notorious for their press censorship, like Russia and Vietnam. BlockWorks says that journalists across five countries who've seen their works banned were able to republish their articles in the exhibition halls for their respective countries, giving them a chance to inform the world about the situation on the ground. There are also areas in the exhibition halls honoring journalists who have been silenced, including Nguyen Van Dai, Yulia Beerezovskaia, and Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was brutally murdered, allegedly at the behest of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Salman.