FTC Tells ISPs To Disclose Exactly What Information They Collect On Users and What It's For
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch:
The Federal Trade Commission, in what could be considered a prelude to new regulatory action, has issued an order to several major internet service providers requiring them to share every detail of their data collection practices. The information could expose patterns of abuse or otherwise troubling data use against which the FTC -- or states -- may want to take action. The letters requesting info went to Comcast, Google, T-Mobile, and both the fixed and wireless sub-companies of Verizon and AT&T. These "represent a range of large and small ISPs, as well as fixed and mobile Internet providers," an FTC spokesperson said. I'm not sure which is mean to be the small one, but welcome any information the agency can extract from any of them.
To be clear, the FTC already has consumer protection rules in place and could already go after an internet provider if it were found to be abusing the privacy of its users -- you know, selling their location to anyone who asks or the like. (Still no action there, by the way.) But the evolving media and telecom landscape, in which we see enormous companies devouring one another to best provide as many complementary services as possible, requires constant reevaluation. As the agency writes in a press release: "The FTC is initiating this study to better understand Internet service providers' privacy practices in light of the evolution of telecommunications companies into vertically integrated platforms that also provide advertising-supported content." The report provides this example as to the kind of situation the FTC is concerned about: "If Verizon wants to offer not just the connection you get on your phone, but the media you request, the ads you are served, and the tracking you never heard of, it needs to show that these businesses are not somehow shirking rules behind the scenes."
"For instance, if Verizon Wireless says it doesn't collect or share information about what sites you visit, but the mysterious VZ Snooping Co (fictitious, I should add) scoops all that up and then sells it for peanuts to its sister company, that could amount to a deceptive practice," TechCrunch adds. "Of course it's rarely that simple (though don't rule it out), but the only way to be sure is to comprehensively question everyone involved and carefully compare the answers with real-world practices."
UPS Is Using Drones To Transport Medical Supplies Between Hospitals
UPS has partnered with autonomous drone company Matternet and hospital WakeMed in Raleigh, North Carolina, to
test a new drone delivery service for transporting medical samples to nearby facilities. The FAA is overseeing the program. CNBC reports:
UPS said the service will utilize Matternet's M2 "quadcopter" drone, which can carry medical samples of up to 5 pounds as far as 12.5 miles. The program will begin with "numerous planned daily revenue flights at the WakeMed Raleigh campus," UPS said. The drone delivery service aims to replace WakeMed's reliance on a fleet of courier cars, which currently transports most of the hospital's medical samples. Using a UPS "secure drone container," WakeMed employees can load medical specimens like blood samples and send them quickly to a nearby WakeMed facility.
Matternet has completed "more than 3,000 flights for healthcare systems in Switzerland," UPS added. The WakeMed program is also under the FAA's broader effort called the "Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program," which "aims to test practical applications of drones by partnering local governments with private sector companies."
How Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon Warped the Hyperlink
The concept of the hyperlink was first outlined over 70 years ago and eventually became a central part of the web. But 30 years
since the invention of the world wide web, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon have
skewed the original ambitions for hyperlinks, who they are for and how far they can lead you. From a feature story:
The impact that Google's PageRank algorithms have had on how the commercial web chooses to deploy hyperlinks can be seen in just about any SEO (search engine optimisation) blog. Publishers and businesses are encouraged to prioritize internal links over external links that may boost the competition in Google's rankings. "Since the very moment Google came on the scene, links moved from being the defining characteristic of the web, to being a battleground. Google's core insight was that you could treat every link as, essentially, a vote for the site," says Adam Tinworth, a digital publishing strategist. Tinworth explains that Google tries to minimize the effect of these 'unnatural linking patterns', which includes comment spam and 'guest posts', but it remains part of "how the shadier side of the SEO industry operates."
With clear, financial incentives to serve Google's web spiders, which regularly 'crawl' website content to determine its placement in searches, a common strategy involves placing hyperlinks on specific 'anchor text' -- the actual words that you click on -- that benefit that site's PageRank for keywords rather than tailor links to readers. That's not inherently a problem but research from the University of Southampton, published in February, suggests it doesn't go unnoticed. [...] In the cases of Apple and Facebook, the question isn't so much how we link and how we react to them, as where we can link to and where we can follow links to. Apple News, Facebook's Instant Articles and Google AMP all propose variations on limited systems of linking back to sources of information. As for Instagram, it's based on a two-tier system: users can't add external links to posts (#linkinbio) unless they buy adverts whereas accounts with a large number of followers are able to add external links to Stories.
ASUS Releases Fix For ShadowHammer Malware Attack
Iwastheone shares a report from Engadget:
ASUS may have inadvertently pushed malware to some of its computers through its update tool, but it at least it has a fix ready to go. The PC maker has released a new version of its Live Update software for laptops that addresses the ShadowHammer backdoor attack. It also promised "multiple security verification mechanisms" to reduce the chances of further attacks, and started using an "enhanced end-to-end encryption mechanism." There are upgrades to the behind-the-scenes server system to prevent future attacks, ASUS added.
The company simultaneously reiterated the narrow scope of ShadowHammer, noting that the malware targeted a "very small and specific user group." It's believed to be an Advanced Persistent Threat -- that is, a state-backed assault against organizations rather than everyday users. Other ASUS devices weren't affected, according to a notice. While the fix is reassuring, it also raises questions as to why the systems weren't locked down earlier. Update tools are prime targets for hackers precisely because they're both trusted and have deep access to the operating system -- tight security is necessary to prevent an intruder from hijacking the process.
Judge Recommends Import Ban On iPhones After Latest Apple Vs. Qualcomm Verdict
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge:
The latest chapter in the ongoing and messy Apple versus Qualcomm legal battle might mean a U.S. import ban on some iPhone models. A U.S. trade judge has found Apple guilty of infringing on two Qualcomm patents related to power management and data download speeds. As a result, the judge -- International Trade Commission Judge MaryJoan McNamara -- says some iPhone models containing competing Intel modems might be blocked from shipping from China, where they're manufactured, to the U.S. The judgment is still pending review by the ITC. Qualcomm is expecting another ruling in a second case it brought to the ITC later today that is not expected to include an import ban on iPhones. Regardless, this ruling is another blow to Apple, which, earlier this month, was found to have infringed on three separate Qualcomm patents in one of many other legal skirmishes playing out between the two companies. Next month the two companies
will square off in court to discuss Qualcomm's alleged anti-competitive licensing strategies and the patent royalties it claims Apple owes for disputing the terms of their long-standing relationship.
Google Launches Global Council To Advise on AI and Tech Ethics
Google announced today that it has formed an external advisory group -- dubbed the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) -- that is tasked with "
considering some of the most complex challenges in AI," including facial recognition and fairness in machine learning. From a report:
The council, which is slated to publish a report at the end of 2019, includes technology experts, digital ethicists, and people with public policy backgrounds, Kent Walker, Google's senior vice president for global affairs, said at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology conference. The group is meant to provide recommendations for Google and other companies and researchers working in areas such as facial recognition software, a form of automation that has prompted concerns about racial bias and other limitations. "We want to have the most informed and thoughtful conversations we can," Walker said on stage at the MIT Technology Review event in San Francisco. "We want to sit down with the council and see what agenda they want to set."
Trump Administration Dims Rule On Energy Efficient Lightbulbs
An anonymous reader shares a report:
If it's been a few years since you shopped for a lightbulb, you might find yourself confused. Those controversial curly-cue ones that were cutting edge not that long ago? Gone. (Or harder to find.) Thanks to a 2007 law signed by President George W. Bush, shelves these days are largely stocked with LED bulbs that look more like the traditional pear-shaped incandescent version but use just one-fifth the energy. A second wave of lightbulb changes was set to happen. But now the Trump administration wants to undo an Obama-era regulation designed to make a wide array of specialty lightbulbs more energy efficient.
At issue here are bulbs such as decorative globes used in bathrooms, reflectors in recessed lighting, candle-shaped lights and three-way lightbulbs. The Natural Resources Defense Council says that, collectively, these account for about 2.7 billion light sockets, nearly half the conventional sockets in use in the U.S. At the very end of the Obama administration, the Department of Energy decided these specialty bulbs should also be subject to efficiency requirements under the 2007 law. The lighting industry objected and sued to overturn the decision. [...] NEMA argued that Congress never intended for the law to apply to all these other lightbulbs. After President Trump took office the Energy Department agreed and proposed to reverse the agency's previous decision. Critics say if the reversal is finalized it will mean higher energy bills for consumers and more pollution.
Google Makes Emails More Dynamic With AMP For Email
Google today officially
launched AMP for Email, its effort to turn emails from static documents into dynamic, web page-like experiences. From a report:
AMP for Email is coming to Gmail, but other major email providers like Yahoo Mail, Outlook and Mail.ru will also support AMP emails. It's been more than a year since Google first announced this initiative. Even by Google standards, that's a long incubation phase, though there's also plenty of backend work necessary to make this feature work.
The promise of AMP for Email is that it'll turn basic messages into a surface for actually getting things done. "Over the past decade, our web experiences have changed enormously -- evolving from static flat content to interactive apps -- yet email has largely stayed the same with static messages that eventually go out of date or are merely a springboard to accomplishing a more complex task," Gmail product manager Aakash Sahney writes. "If you want to take action, you usually have to click on a link, open a new tab, and visit another website." With AMP for Email, those messages become interactive. That means you'll be able to RSVP to an event right from the message, fill out a questionnaire, browse through a store's inventory or respond to a comment -- all without leaving your web-based email client.
Dream Market, the Top Dark Web Marketplace, Will Shut Down Next Month
Dream Market, today's top dark web marketplace, today
announced plans to shut down on April 30. From a report:
The announcement came on the same day Europol, FBI, and DEA officials announced tens of arrests and a massive crackdown on dark web drug trafficking. The timing of the four announcements immediately sent most of Dream Market's users and dark web threat intel analysts into a frenzy of theories that law enforcement might have already seized the site and are now running a honeypot operation. Their fears are based on a similar event from June 2017 when Dutch police took over Hansa Market and ran the site for a month while collecting evidence on the portal's users. Law enforcement later used passwords collected from Hansa Market users to gain access to accounts on other dark web marketplaces.
Oculus VR Founder on Recently Unveiled Oculus Rift S: I Can't Use it, and Neither Can You.
Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus VR and designer of the Oculus Rift, shares his thoughts on the
recently unveiled Oculus Rift S:
Rift S is very cool! It takes concepts that have been around for years and puts them into a fully functional product for the first time. Sure, sure, I see people complaining about how Rift S is worse than CV1 concerning audio quality, display characteristics, and ergonomics -- some of the tradeoffs are real, some are imaginary, and people should really wait for it to come out before passing final judgement. [...] My IPD (interpupillary distance, the distance between my eyes) is a hair under 70mm and slightly skewed to the right side of my face. One of my best friends has an IPD of 59mm. I don't know what your IPD is, but both of us were perfectly served by the IPD adjustment mechanism on Rift CV1, a mechanism that was an important part of our goal to be compatible with male and female users from 5th to 95th percentile. Anyone within the supported range (about 58mm to 72mm) got a perfect optical experience -- field curvature on the focal plane was matched, geometric distortion was properly corrected, world scale was at the right size, and pupil swim was more or less even.
Sharp imagery from edge to edge of your field of view was the norm. The small handful of people with an IPD outside that range would not get a perfect experience, but at least they would be in the right ballpark. IPD skews in different directions by gender, race, and age, but we managed to cover almost everyone, and we were proud of that. This is not the case with Rift S. Like Oculus Go, it uses two lenses that are set about 64mm apart, perfect for a perfectly average person. Everyone who fits Cinderella's shoe will get a perfect experience, anyone close will deal with minor eyestrain problems that impact their perception of VR at a mostly subconscious level. Everyone else is screwed, including me. Imagery is hard to fuse, details are blurry, distortion is wrong, mismatched pupil swim screws up VOR, and everything is at the wrong scale. "Software IPD adjustment" can solve that last bit, but not much else -- it adjusts a single variable that happens to be related to IPD, but is not comparable in any way to an actual IPD adjustment mechanism. This is the main reason I cannot use my Oculus Go, even after heavy modification on other fronts.
Multiple US Airlines Hit By Flight Check-in and Booking Systems Outage
A computer system that airlines use for check-in kiosks, booking and more was experiencing issues on Tuesday,
apparently affecting multiple air carriers. From a report:
There were widespread reports on social media of air passengers inconvenienced by the outage, with long lines at airports across the country. Sabre Airline Solutions released this statement shortly before noon Eastern Time: "We are aware of the issues facing some of our customers. Recovery is in progress. We apologize for the inconvenience." The company was tweeting that statement to people who took note of the outage. American Airlines flagged the issue, saying in a statement that Sabre was "experiencing a technical issue that is impacting multiple carriers, including American Airlines. Sabre is working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, and we apologize to our customers for the inconvenience." American later said that the issue with Sabre's system "has been resolved."
Firefox Lockbox Comes To Android To Ease Password Pain
a Firefox true believer, or even just a Firefox user, your password struggles
just got a little easier with the release of Firefox Lockbox for Android devices. From a report:
The password manager, based on login information already in Firefox, makes it easier to sign into apps as well. It integrates with login autocomplete systems in both Apple's iOS and Google's Android software, Mozilla said. It's not as fancy as password managers like LastPass, BitWarden, 1Password and Dashlane, and the only browser it works with is Firefox. On the other hand, if you're already in the Firefox world, it's basically already set up for you. There's no migration process as with dedicated password managers.
Ted Kremenek, a manager of the Languages and Runtimes team at Apple, writes:
Swift 5 is now officially released! Swift 5 is a major milestone in the evolution of the language. Thanks to ABI stability, the Swift runtime is now included in current and future versions of Apple's platform operating systems: macOS, iOS, tvOS and watchOS. Swift 5 also introduces new capabilities that are building blocks for future versions, including a reimplementation of String, enforcement of exclusive access to memory during runtime, new data types, and support for dynamically callable types.
EU Parliament Votes To End Daylight Savings
The European Parliament on Tuesday voted with
a large majority to end daylight savings time in the EU by 2021. From a report:
Under the proposals, each member state would decide whether to continue with twice-a-year clock changes or stick permanently to summer or winter time. All 28 member states would need to inform the European Commission of their choice ahead of the proposed switch, by April 2020. They would then coordinate with the bloc's executive so that their decisions do not disrupt the functioning of the single market.
Europe Passes Controversial Online Copyright Reforms
EU lawmakers today
endorsed an overhaul of the bloc's two-decade old copyright rules, which will force Google and Facebook to pay publishers for use of news snippets and make them
filter out protected content. From a report:
The set of copyright rules known as the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, but more succinctly as the EU Copyright Directive, has been debated and discussed for several years. While it is broadly uncontroversial in many regards, there are two facets to the directive that has caused the internet to freak out. Article 11, which has been dubbed the "link tax," stipulates that websites pay publishers a fee if they display excerpts of copyrighted content -- or even link to it. This obviously could have big ramifications for services such as Google News. Then there is Article 13, dubbed the "upload filter," which would effectively make digital platforms legally liable for any copyright infringements on their platform, which has stoked fears that it would stop people from sharing content -- such as GIF-infused memes -- on social networks. In a statement, EFF said, "In a stunning rejection of the will five million online petitioners, and over 100,000 protestors this weekend, the European Parliament has abandoned common-sense and the advice of academics, technologists, and UN human rights experts, and approved the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive in its entirety."