California Bans Political Deepfakes During Election Season
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge:
California has passed a law meant to prevent altered "deepfake" videos from influencing elections, in a plan that has raised free speech concerns. Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 730, which makes it a crime to distribute audio or video that gives a false, damaging impression of a politician's words or actions. The law applies to any candidate within 60 days of an election, but includes some exceptions. News media will be exempt from the requirement, as will videos made for satire or parody. Potentially deceptive video or audio will also be allowed if it includes a disclaimer noting that it's fake. The law will sunset in 2023. The report notes that Newsom also signed a law that
would ban pornographic deepfakes made without consent.
Microsoft Plans To Bring Internet Access To 40 Million People By 2022
Almost 30 years after the World Wide Web was first invented, there are still billions of people that don't have access to any sort of internet connectivity. Microsoft wants to change that by using its
2017 Airband Initiative to streamline efforts to build out internet access across Africa, Latin America and Asia. "Moving forward, the company
plans to connect 40 million people across the world to the internet by 2022," reports Engadget. From the report:
Initially, Microsoft will focus on rural and remote communities in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, with other regions to follow. The company adds that it plans to employ a four-part approach that will focus on working with local ISPs and communities to build out affordable and reliable internet access. Microsoft is pushing regulators for access to TV White Space (TVWS), which are wireless frequencies that can be repurposed to deliver internet access across a wide area. Microsoft is also working to build out internet access in rural communities across the U.S. The company currently aims to bring high-speed internet access to more than 9 million people in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.
Twitter Took Phone Numbers for Security and Used Them for Advertising
When some users provided Twitter with their phone number to make their account more secure, the
company used this information for advertising purposes, the company said today. From a report:
This isn't the first time that a large social network has taken information explicitly meant for the purposes of security, and then quietly or accidentally use it for something else entirely. Facebook did something similar with phone numbers provided by users for two-factor authentication, the company confirmed last year. "We recently discovered that when you provided an email address or phone number for safety or security purposes (for example, two-factor authentication) this data may have inadvertently been used for advertising purposes, specifically in our Tailored Audiences and Partner Audiences advertising system," Twitter's announcement reads. In short, when an advertiser using Twitter uploaded their own marketing list of email addresses or phone numbers, Twitter may have matched the list to people on Twitter "based on the email or phone number the Twitter account holder provided for safety and security purposes," the post adds.
Teens Choose YouTube Over Netflix For the First Time, Survey Finds
According to Piper Jaffray's fall 2019 survey, teens
prefer watching videos on YouTube more than Netflix. CNBC reports:
Piper Jaffray found 37% of teens surveyed are streaming video most often on the Google-owned platform, narrowly edging out longtime leader Netflix, which came in at 35%. The firm attributed the shift to YouTube's diversified content library, which includes a "wide array of teen-oriented content" like music videos, video game playthroughs, how-to videos and videos from social media influencers, among other things.
Despite Netflix ceding its pole position to YouTube, teens are flocking to it far more than other streaming services, Piper Jaffray found. Hulu and Amazon's Prime Video served as the preferred platforms for 7% and 3% of teens surveyed, respectively. Cable TV ranked third at 12%, down from 14% in the spring, indicating that cord-cutting continues to be on the rise, the firm said. "Among the subscription services, Netflix is the leader in category that contains massive multi-year growth potential as more content viewing shifts online," Piper Jaffray analysts said. "There will be increasing competition (Disney's Disney+ and Apple's Apple TV+) and unforeseen hurdles, but we believe the market will support multiple players, with Netflix leading the way."
'Collapse OS' Is An Open-Source Operating System For the Post-Apocalypse
Collapse OS is a new open-source operating system
built specifically for use during humanity's darkest days. According to its creator, software developer Virgil Dupras, Collapse OS is what the people of the future will need to reconfigure their scavenged iPhones. For now, though, he's
hosting the project on GitHub and looking for contributors. Motherboard reports:
According to the Collapse OS site, Dupras envisions a world where the global supply chain collapses by 2030. In this possible future -- kind of a medium-apocalypse -- populations won't be able to mass produce electronics anymore, but they'll still be an enormous source of political and social power. Anyone who can scavenge electronics and reprogram them will gain a huge advantage over those who don't. Dupras believes that the biggest problem for tech savvy post-apocalyptic people will be microcontrollers -- tiny computers embedded in circuit boards that control the functions of computer systems.
Collapse OS will work with Z80 8-bit microprocessors. Though less common today than 16- and 32-bit components, the 8-bit Z80 can be found in desktop computers, cash registers, musical instruments, graphing calculators, and everything in between. In a Reddit Q&A, Dupras explained that the Z80 was chosen "because it's been in production for so long and because it's been used in so many machines, scavenger have good chances of getting their hands on it." According to the product page, Collapse OS currently can run on a homebrew Z80-based computer called the RC2014, and on Reddit Dupras said it could theoretically run on a Sega Genesis console.
FBI's Use of Surveillance Database Violated Americans' Privacy Rights: Court
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal:
Some of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's electronic surveillance activities violated the constitutional privacy rights of Americans swept up in a controversial foreign intelligence program (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source), a secretive surveillance court has ruled. The ruling deals a rare rebuke to U.S. spying activities that have generally withstood legal challenge or review. The intelligence community disclosed Tuesday that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court last year found that the FBI's pursuit of data about Americans ensnared in a warrantless internet-surveillance program intended to target foreign suspects may have violated the law authorizing the program, as well as the Constitution's Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.
The court concluded that the FBI had been improperly searching a database of raw intelligence for information on Americans -- raising concerns about oversight of the program, which as a spy program operates in near total secrecy. The court ruling identifies tens of thousands of improper searches of raw intelligence databases by the bureau in 2017 and 2018 that it deemed improper in part because they involved data related to tens of thousands of emails or telephone numbers -- in one case, suggesting that the FBI was using the intelligence information to vet its personnel and cooperating sources. Federal law requires that the database only be searched by the FBI as part of seeking evidence of a crime or for foreign intelligence information. In other cases, the court ruling reveals improper use of the database by individuals. In one case, an FBI contractor ran a query of an intelligence database -- searching information on himself, other FBI personnel and his relatives, the court revealed. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said that the Trump administration failed to persuasively argue that the bureau would not be able to properly tackle national security threats if the program was altered to better protect citizen privacy.
Senator Proposes Mandatory Labeling For Products With Mics, Cameras
Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) introduced a bill, dubbed the
Protecting Privacy in our Homes Act, that would require tech companies to
include a label on products disclosing the presence of internet-connected microphones or cameras. "The proposed law does not define what kind of labels would need to be appended but rather would order the Federal Trade Commission to put in place specific regulations 'under which each covered manufacturer shall be required to include on the packaging of each covered device manufactured by the covered manufacturer a notice that a camera or microphone is a component of the covered device,'" reports Ars Technica. From the report:
"Consumers face a number of challenges when it comes to their privacy, but they shouldn't have a challenge figuring out if a device they buy has a camera or microphone embedded into it," Gardner said. "This legislation is about consumer information, consumer empowerment, and making sure we're doing everything we can to protect consumer privacy." Most products that ship with cameras or microphones included tout the inclusion of such recording devices as a selling point, which could make this kind of regulation feel redundant at best. That said, there's quite a difference between "most" and "all." A rule such as the regulation Gardner proposes would close the gap that, for example, led owners of Nest Secure devices to the unpleasant discovery earlier this year that the products had shipped with undisclosed microphones.
D-Link Home Routers Open To Remote Takeover Will Remain Unpatched
won't patch a critical unauthenticated command-injection vulnerability in its routers that could allow an attacker to remotely take over the devices and execute code. Threatpost reports:
The vulnerability (CVE-2019-16920) exists in the latest firmware for the DIR-655, DIR-866L, DIR-652 and DHP-1565 products, which are Wi-Fi routers for the home market. D-Link last week told Fortinet's FortiGuard Labs, which first discovered the issue in September, that all four of them are end-of-life and no longer sold or supported by the vendor (however, the models are still available as new via third-party sellers). The root cause of the vulnerability, according to Fortinet, is a lack of a sanity check for arbitrary commands that are executed by the native command-execution function. Fortinet describes this as a "typical security pitfall suffered by many firmware manufacturers." With no patch available, affected users should upgrade their devices as soon as possible.
US Expands Blacklist To Include China's Top AI Startups Ahead of Trade Talks
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters:
The U.S. government widened its trade blacklist to include some of China's top artificial intelligence startups, punishing Beijing for its treatment of Muslim minorities and ratcheting up tensions ahead of high-level trade talks in Washington this week. The decision, which drew a sharp rebuke from Beijing, targets 20 Chinese public security bureaus and eight companies including video surveillance firm Hikvision, as well as leaders in facial recognition technology SenseTime Group Ltd and Megvii Technology Ltd. The action bars the firms from buying components from U.S. companies without U.S. government approval -- a potentially crippling move for some of them. It follows the same blueprint used by Washington in its attempt to limit the influence of Huawei for what it says are national security reasons. The Commerce Department said in a filing the "entities have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China's campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups." "The U.S. Government and Department of Commerce cannot and will not tolerate the brutal suppression of ethnic minorities within China," said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
In response, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the U.S. should stop interfering in its affairs and that it will continue to take firm and resolute measures to protect its sovereign security.
Thunderbird Announces OpenPGP Support
On the Mozilla Thunderbird blog it was announced that for the future Thunderbird 78 release, planned for summer 2020, they will add built-in functionality for email encryption and digital signatures using the OpenPGP standard. This addresses a feature request opened on Bugzilla almost 20 years ago and has been one of the top voted bugs for most of that period.
Bipartisan Senate Report Calls For Sweeping Effort To Prevent Russian Interference in 2020 Election
A bipartisan panel of U.S. senators Tuesday called for sweeping action by Congress, the White House and Silicon Valley to
ensure social media sites aren't used to interfere in the coming presidential election, delivering a sobering assessment about the weaknesses that Russian operatives exploited in the 2016 campaign. From a report:
The Senate Intelligence Committee, a Republican-led panel that has been investigating foreign electoral interference for more than two and a half years, said in blunt language that Russians worked to damage Democrat Hillary Clinton while bolstering Republican Donald Trump -- and made clear that fresh rounds of interference are likely ahead of the 2020 vote. "Russia is waging an information warfare campaign against the U.S. that didn't start and didn't end with the 2016 election," said Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the committee's chairman. "Their goal is broader: to sow societal discord and erode public confidence in the machinery of government. By flooding social media with false reports, conspiracy theories, and trolls, and by exploiting existing divisions, Russia is trying to breed distrust of our democratic institutions and our fellow Americans." Though the 85-page report itself had extensive redactions, in the visible sections lawmakers urged their peers in Congress to act, including through the potential adoption of new regulations that would make who bought an ad more transparent. The report also called on the White House and the executive branch to adopt a more forceful, public role, warning Americans about the ways in which dangerous misinformation can spread while creating new teams within the U.S. government to monitor for threats and share intelligence with industry.
Nobel Prize in Physics: 2019 Winners Made Significant Cosmological Discoveries
The Nobel Prize in physics for 2019 was awarded to three scientists on Tuesday for
groundbreaking work on the evolution of the universe and Earth's place in it. From a report:
Their discoveries have forever "transformed our ideas about the cosmos" and helped answer fundamental questions about existence, said the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Half of the award went to James Peebles, a physicist with Princeton University, for developing a theoretical framework that traces the the history of the universe, from the Big Bang to present day. His contributions to the Big Bang model and other work led to insights that just 5% of the universe is known matter -- everything from stars to plants to humans -- and the remaining 95% is unknown dark matter and dark energy. "When I started working in this subject -- I can tell you the date, 1964 -- at the invitation of my mentor, Professor Robert Henry Dicke, I was very uneasy about going into this subject because the experimental observational basis was so modest. ... I just kept going," Peebles said during a news conference, according to Princeton University. "Which particular step did I take? I would be very hard-pressed to say. It's a life's work."
The other half was jointly awarded to Michel Mayor, an astrophysicist with the University of Geneva, and Didier Queloz, an astronomer with the University of Geneva and University of Cambridge, for the first discovery of a planet outside our solar system. In October 1995, the two scientists discovered the first exoplanet in the Milky Way, planet 51 Pegasi b. Since their initial discovery, more than 4,000 exoplanets have been found in our home galaxy, according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Nobel Prize in Medicine Goes To 3 Scientists For Discovering How Cells Use Oxygen
Dave Knott writes:
Two Americans and a British scientist won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine on Monday for discovering details of how the body's cells sense and react to low oxygen levels, providing a foothold for developing new treatments for anemia, cancer and other diseases. Drs. William G. Kaelin Jr., of Harvard University and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Gregg L. Semenza, of Johns Hopkins University, and Peter J. Ratcliffe, at the Francis Crick Institute and Oxford University, won the prize. They "revealed the mechanism for one of life's most essential adaptive processes," the Nobel committee said.
Activision Blizzard Suspends 'Hearthstone' Pro Player for Supporting Hong Kong Protests
Activision Blizzard suspended Hearthstone pro Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai on Tuesday after
he spoke up in support of protests in Hong Kong during a post-match interview during Hearsthone's Asia-Pacific Grandmaster tournament on October 6. From a report:
Two days later, on October 8, Activision Blizzard suspended him from competing in Hearthstone esports tournaments for a year, rescinded his $3000 winnings from the tournament, and fired the two people who interviewed him. Each year, Hearhstone's best players compete in regional tournaments that narrow the field to 48 Grandmasters. After the regionals, the Grandmasters play for a $500,000 prize pool. After winning a match in the Asia-Pacific regional, Chung streamed a post-victory interview while wearing ski goggles and a gas mask, a look often worn by protestors in Hong Kong to mitigate the effects of tear gas. "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time," Chung said on the stream, a phrase that's become a rallying cry for protestors in Hong Kong.
Apple's Merged iPad, Mac Apps Leave Developers Uneasy, Users Paying Twice
Last year, Apple software chief Craig Federighi said developers would be able to easily
bring their iPad apps to Mac computers, essentially letting coders write an app once and deploy it across millions more devices. So far, the reality has
fallen short for some developers and is even leaving consumers paying twice for apps. From a report:
Major app developers and service providers like Netflix are also demurring on taking part, at least at this early stage. Apple rolled out Catalyst, the technology to transition iPad apps into Mac versions, on Monday. It's the initial step toward a bigger goal: By 2021, developers should be able to build an app once and have it work on iPhones, iPads and Mac computers through a single, unified App Store. But the first iteration, which appears to still be quite raw and in a number of ways frustrating to developers, risks upsetting users who may have to pay again when they download the Mac version of an iPad app they've already bought.
"As a user, I don't want to pay again just to have the same app," said longtime Apple developer Steven Troughton-Smith. "As a developer, I don't want my users to have to make that decision." James Thompson has had to work harder than he expected to get his popular PCalc calculator iPad app running well on Mac computers. Getting paid a second time for that extra work makes sense for developers, but consumers may not immediately understand that after Apple made the porting process sound as easy as checking a box, he said. Kevin Reutter, who has brought his Planny app to Mac computers, called the situation "sad."
Sony Confirms PlayStation 5 Name, Holiday 2020 Release Date
Sony has confirmed that its next-generation console will be called the PlayStation 5, and it'll be out next year,
launching in time for "Holiday 2020." From a report:
The company also announced several changes that it'll be making to the controller on the PS5. Chief among them is replacing the current rumble technology that Sony has been using since the original PlayStation for new haptic feedback technology that it promises will offer a "broader range of feedback." The other big change that Sony is talking about today is a technology it's calling "adaptive triggers," which will go in the primary R2/L2 triggers on the PS5's controller. According to Sony, developers will be able to "program the resistance of the triggers," giving the example that you'll be able to "feel" the increased tension as you draw back a bow or force you to push down with extra pressure if you're driving through rough terrain. It sounds pretty similar to a Microsoft patent from earlier this year, which detailed a similar trigger system for a future Xbox controller.
US Using Trade Deals To Shield Tech Giants From Foreign Regulators
The Trump administration has begun
inserting legal protections into recent trade agreements that shield online platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube from lawsuits, a move that could help lock in America's tech-friendly regulations around the world even as they are being newly questioned at home. From a report:
The protections, which stem from a 1990s law, have already been tucked into the administration's two biggest trade deals -- the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and a pact with Japan that President Trump signed on Monday. American negotiators have proposed including the language in other prospective deals, including with the European Union, Britain and members of the World Trade Organization. The administration's push is the latest salvo in a global fight over who sets the rules for the internet. While the rules for trading goods have largely been written -- often by the United States -- the world has far fewer standards for digital products. Countries are rushing into this vacuum, and in most cases writing regulations that are far more restrictive than the tech industry would prefer.
Europe has enacted tough policies to curb the behavior of companies like Facebook and Google and passed laws to deal with privacy, hate speech and disinformation. China has largely cordoned itself off from the rest of the internet, allowing Beijing to censor political content and bolster Chinese tech companies like Alibaba and Tencent. In India, Indonesia, Russia and Vietnam, governments are introducing regulations to ostensibly protect their citizens' privacy and build domestic internet industries that critics say will stymie the ability of American companies to provide services in those countries. The United States wants its more permissive rules to form the basis for worldwide regulation. But there is a rising debate about whether its regime of internet regulations has failed to protect consumer privacy, encouraged the spread of disinformation and supported a powerful forum for harassment and bullying.
The American rules, codified in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, shield online platforms from many lawsuits related to user content and protect them from legal challenges stemming from how they moderate content. Those rules are largely credited with fueling Silicon Valley's rapid growth. The language in the trade deals echoes those provisions but contains some differences. That freedom has come under intense criticism from lawmakers and advocates. They say the 23-year-old law has allowed companies like Facebook and Google to avoid responsibility for harm associated with content that reaches billions of users. That anger has been compounded by revelations about the role of Silicon Valley's business practices in the spread of disinformation and treatment of user data.
Chinese Firms Tencent, Vivo, and CCTV Suspend Ties With the NBA Over Hong Kong Tweet
Smartphone maker Vivo, broadcaster CCTV, and internet giant Tencent said today they are suspending all cooperation with the National Basketball Association,
becoming the latest Chinese firms to cut ties with the league after a tweet from a Houston Rockets executive supporting Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters offended many in the world's most populous nation. From a report:
Vivo, which is a key sponsor for the upcoming exhibition games to be played in Shanghai and Shenzhen this week, said in a statement on Chinese social networking platform Weibo, that it was "dissatisfied" with Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey's views on Hong Kong. In a tweet over the weekend, Morey voiced his support for protesters in Hong Kong. He said, "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong." Even as he quickly moved to delete the tweet and the NBA attempted to smoothen the dialogue, Morey's views had offended many in China, which maintains a low tolerance for criticism of its political system. In a statement, the NBA said it was "regrettable" that Morey's views had "deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China." This stance from the NBA, which has grown accustomed to seeing its star players speak freely and criticize anyone they wish including the U.S. president Donald Trump, in turn, offended many.
Earlier today, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said it was also suspending broadcasts of the league's games to be played in China. China remains a key strategic nation for the NBA. According to official figures, more than 600 million viewers in China watched the NBA content during the 2017-18 season. The league's five-year partnership with Chinese tech giant Tencent for digital streaming rights of matches is reported to be worth $1.5 billion. In a statement issued today, Tencent Sports said it was "temporarily suspending" the pre-season broadcast arrangements.
China Is Breeding Giant Pigs the Size of Polar Bears
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg:
In a farm deep in the southern region of China lives a very big pig that's as heavy as a polar bear. The 500 kilogram, or 1,102 pound, animal is part of a herd that's being bred to become giant swine. At slaughter, some of the pigs can sell for more than 10,000 yuan ($1,399), over three times higher than the average monthly disposable income in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi province where Pang Cong, the farm's owner, lives. While Pang's pigs may be an extreme example of the lengths farmers are going to fill China's swelling pork shortage problem, the idea that bigger is better has been spreading across the country, home to the world's most voracious consumers of the meat.
High pork prices in the northeastern province of Jilin is prompting farmers to raise pigs to reach an average weight of 175 kilograms to 200 kilograms, higher than the normal weight of 125 kilograms. They want to raise them "as big as possible,"said Zhao Hailin, a hog farmer in the region. The trend isn't limited to small farms either. Major protein producers in China, including Wens Foodstuffs Group Co, the country's top pig breeder, Cofco Meat Holdings Ltd. and Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Co. say they are trying to increase the average weight of their pigs. Big farms are focusing on boosting the heft by at least 14%, said Lin Guofa, a senior analyst with consulting firm Bric Agriculture Group. The average weight of pigs at slaughter at some large-scale farms has climbed to as much as 140 kilograms, compared with about 110 kilograms normally, Lin said. That could boost profits by more than 30%, he said.
You Can Now Overclock a Raspberry Pi 4 For Some Nice Performance Gains
The Raspberry Pi 4 is one of the cheapest single-board computers around. The new 4th generation is a solid performance lift over its predecessor and good bang for the buck if you're interested in learning Linux, working with embedded computing, or just want to kick back and play some retro games on an emulator. In addition, the latest version of the Raspberry Pi Foundation's Linux distribution, Raspbian Buster, comes with a new firmware revision for the tiny DIY PC that removes its 2GHz clock speed limit and allows voltage adjustments to wring out additional performance, with proper cooling of course. In testing, while there are no guarantees in overclocking, HotHardware was able to realize more than a 40% lift in their Raspberry Pi 4's processor clock speed, and a 50% boost to the GPU with an air-cooled mini case kit. Combined, they're not enough to turn the Pi 4 into your every day PC, but the performance gains are measurable and valuable. All it takes is a quick firmware update and a couple of Linux commands to dial things in.
First Meat Grown In Space Lab 248 Miles From Earth
The Israeli food technology startup Aleph Farms
has successfully cultured meat in space for the first time. The Guardian reports:
Aleph Farms grew the meat on the International Space Station, 248 miles (399 km) away from any natural resources. Bovine cells were harvested on Earth and taken to space, where they were grown into small-scale muscle tissue using a 3D bioprinter. The method relies on mimicking a natural process of muscle-tissue regeneration occurring inside a cow's body. The experiment took place on September 26 on the Russian segment of the space station, and involved the assembly of small-scale muscle tissue in a 3D bioprinter under controlled microgravity conditions. In future the technique could be used to provide meat for people living on the space station.