Communications

Feds Operated Yet Another Secret Metadata Database Until 2013 102

Posted by timothy
from the problem-with-authority dept.
A story at Ars Technica describes yet another Federal database of logged call details maintained by the Federal government which has now come to light, this one maintained by the Department of Justice rather than the NSA, and explains how it came to be discovered: [A] three-page partially-redacted affidavit from a top Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) official, which was filed Thursday, explained that the database was authorized under a particular federal drug trafficking statute. The law allows the government to use "administrative subpoenas" to obtain business records and other "tangible things." The affidavit does not specify which countries records were included, but specifically does mention Iran. ... This database program appears to be wholly separate from the National Security Agency’s metadata program revealed by Edward Snowden, but it targets similar materials and is collected by a different agency. The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, reported Friday that this newly-revealed program began in the 1990s and was shut down in August 2013. From elsewhere in the article: "It’s now clear that multiple government agencies have tracked the calls that Americans make to their parents and relatives, friends, and business associates overseas, all without any suspicion of wrongdoing," [said ACLU lawyer Patrick Toomey]. "The DEA program shows yet again how strained and untenable legal theories have been used to secretly justify the surveillance of millions of innocent Americans using laws that were never written for that purpose."
Stats

Lies, Damn Lies, and Tech Diversity Statistics 335

Posted by timothy
from the facts-are-stubborn-things dept.
theodp writes Some of the world's leading Data Scientists are on the payrolls of Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Apple. So, it'd be interesting to get their take on the infographics the tech giants have passed off as diversity data disclosures. Microsoft, for example, reported its workforce is 29% female, which isn't great, but if one takes the trouble to run the numbers on a linked EEO-1 filing snippet (PDF), some things look even worse. For example, only 23.35% of its reported white U.S. employee workforce is female (Microsoft, like Google, footnotes that "Gender data are global, ethnicity data are US only"). And while Google and Facebook blame their companies' lack of diversity on the demographics of U.S. computer science grads, CS grad and nationality breakouts were not provided as part of their diversity disclosures. Also, the EEOC notes that EEO-1 numbers reflect "any individual on the payroll of an employer who is an employee for purposes of the employers withholding of Social Security taxes," further muddying the disclosures of companies relying on imported talent, like H-1B visa dependent Facebook. So, were the diversity disclosure mea culpas less about providing meaningful data for analysis, and more about deflecting criticism and convincing lawmakers there's a need for education and immigration legislation (aka Microsoft's National Talent Strategy) that's in tech's interest?
Crime

What Africa Really Needs To Fight Ebola 83

Posted by timothy
from the infrastructure-matters dept.
Lasrick writes Laura Kahn, a physician on the research staff of Princeton University's Program on Science and Global Security, writes that the high tech solutions being promoted to help fight Ebola in Africa will make no difference. What Africa really needs is anti-corruption efforts, now. "A case in point is Liberia, which has received billions of dollars in international aid for over a decade, with little to show for it. The country ranks near the bottom of the United Nation's Human Development Index and near the bottom of Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer. And while international aid groups and non-governmental organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the International Medical Corps provide important humanitarian assistance and medical care, they also inadvertently absolve African political leaders from developing medical and public health infrastructures."
Businesses

Fighting Tech's Diversity Issues Without Burning Down the System 479

Posted by Soulskill
from the since-yelling-doesn't-seem-to-help dept.
reifman writes: Fizzmint CEO Tarah Wheeler Van Vlack says she "never had a problem with Mitt Romney's use of the phrase 'binders full of women.' ... Instead of congratulating him for his realization and his attempt to (awkwardly) rectify the situation, we crucified him for not already having a network of accomplished women." The scarcity of women in tech is a central issue in Seattle, where Amazon's growth is literally reshaping the city. The company refuses to release its technology workforce diversity numbers, and it's been criticized for interviewing practices that put female candidates on a "horrifying steeplechase [by] careless and non-people-oriented technologists." Van Vlack says, "It's stupid on every level not to acknowledge the obstacles women face when they try to join a tech company." She suggests three concrete steps for technology leaders to attract more women into the fold: 1) Push your technical recruiters to hit 20% thresholds for female candidates 2) Challenge and question your personal assumptions about the leadership skills of women in technology and 3) Transparently and openly take a stand to improve your company's diversity figures.
Transportation

Elon Musk Plans To Build Hyperloop Test Track 165

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-it-yourself dept.
An anonymous reader writes that Elon Musk wants to speed up the development of his proposed 800-mph tube transport. "Billionaire and entrepreneur Elon Musk is getting more hands-on with the Hyperloop. Musk, who heads up both space transportation outfit SpaceX and electric-vehicle maker Tesla Motors, casually announced via Twitter on Thursday that he's decided to help accelerate development of his vision for near-supersonic tube transportation, first outlined in August 2013. Musk said he will build a five-mile test track for the still-theoretical system for students and companies to use. A possible location would be Texas, he added, where presumably there is plenty of flat land to go around."
AI

An Open Letter To Everyone Tricked Into Fearing AI 227

Posted by timothy
from the robot-is-making-me-post-this dept.
malachiorion writes If you're into robots, AI, you've probably read about the open letter on AI safety. But do you realize how blatantly the media is misinterpreting its purpose, and its message? I spoke to the organization that released letter, and to one of the AI researchers who contributed to it. As is often the case with AI, tech reporters are getting this one wrong on purpose. Here's my analysis for Popular Science. Or, for the TL;DR crowd: "Forget about the risk that machines pose to us in the decades ahead. The more pertinent question, in 2015, is whether anyone is going to protect mankind from its willfully ignorant journalists."
Businesses

Radio Shack Reported To Be Ready for Bankruptcy Filing 314

Posted by timothy
from the what's-wrong-with-soldering-irons dept.
hij writes A number of news reports are coming out the Radio Shack is ready to file for bankruptcy. The stock price has tanked on Wall Street. There are conflicting reports that they are seeking more credit and they may be bought for their assets. (The Wall Street Journal has the story, but paywalled.)
Businesses

IEEE: New H-1B Bill Will "Help Destroy" US Tech Workforce 483

Posted by samzenpus
from the maybe-something-good-maybe-something-bad dept.
dcblogs writes New legislation being pushed by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to hike the H-1B visa cap is drawing criticism and warnings that it will lead to an increase in offshoring of tech jobs. IEEE-USA said the legislation, introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday, will "help destroy" the U.S. tech workforce with guest workers. Other critics, including Ron Hira, a professor of public policy at Howard University and a leading researcher on the issue, said the bill gives the tech industry "a huge increase in the supply of lower-cost foreign guest workers so they can undercut and replace American workers." Hira said this bill "will result in an exponential rise of American jobs being shipped overseas." Technically, the bill is a reintroduction of the earlier "I-Square" bill, but it includes enough revisions to be considered new. It increases the H-1B visa cap to 195,000 (instead of an earlier 300,000 cap), and eliminates the cap on people who earn an advanced degree in a STEM (science, technology, education and math) field. Hatch, who is the No. 2 ranking senator in the GOP-controlled chamber, was joined by co-sponsors Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in backing the legislation."
Facebook

Facebook Targets Office Workers With Facebook At Work Service 112

Posted by samzenpus
from the like-your-boss dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Facebook unveiled its rumored "at Work" service to a handful of partners today. Facebook at Work puts co-workers into a standalone social network and allows them to share posts and images appropriate for the workplace but looks and acts just like regular Facebook. "We have found that using Facebook as a work tool makes our work day more efficient," Lars Rasmussen, Facebook's director of engineering, tells WIRED. "You can get more stuff done with Facebook than any other tool that we know of, and we'd like to make that available to the whole world.""
Transportation

Tesla To Produce 'a Few Million' Electric Cars a Year By 2025 181

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Reuters reports that Elon Musk, speaking at an industry conference in Detroit, said Tesla may not be profitable until 2020 but that Tesla plans to boost production of electric cars to "at least a few million a year" by 2025. Musk told attendees at the Automotive News World Congress that "we could make money now if we weren't investing" in new technology and vehicles such as the Model 3 and expanded retail networks.

Musk does not see the Chevrolet Bolt as a potential competitor to the Model 3. "It's not going to affect us if someone builds a few hundred thousand vehicles," said Musk. "I'd be pleased to see other manufacturers make electric cars." On another topic, Musk said he was open to partnerships with retailers to sell Tesla vehicles, but not until after the company no longer has production bottlenecks. "Before considering taking on franchised dealers, we also have to establish (more of) our own stores," said Musk adding that "we will consider" franchising "if we find the right partner." Musk did not elaborate, but said Tesla "is not actively seeking any partnerships" with other manufacturers "because our focus is so heavily on improving our production" in Fremont. Last year, Tesla delivered about 33,000 Model S sedans and said the current wait for delivery is one to four months. Tesla has already presold every Model S that it plans to build in 2015. "If you ordered a car today, you wouldn't get it until 2016."
Operating Systems

OpenBSD's Kernel Gets W^X Treatment On Amd64 84

Posted by Soulskill
from the write-stuff dept.
New submitter brynet tips this news from Theo de Raadt: Over the last two months Mike Larkin (mlarkin@) modified the amd64 kernel to follow the W^X principles. It started as a humble exercise to fix the .rodata segment, and kind of went crazy. As a result, no part of the kernel address space is writeable and executable simultaneously. At least that is the idea, modulo mistakes. Final attention to detail (which some of you experienced in buggy drafts in snapshots) was to make the MP and ACPI trampolines follow W^X, furthermore they are unmapped when not required. Final picture is many architectures were improved, but amd64 and sparc64 look the best due to MMU features available to service the W^X model. The entire safety model is also improved by a limited form of kernel ASLR (the code segment does not move around yet, but data and page table ASLR is fairly good."
Cellphones

Ars: Samsung Gear VR Is Today's Best Virtual Reality 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the jury-still-out-on-today's-best-actual-reality dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Samsung took a distinctly different tack from Oculus VR in developing virtual reality tech. Whereas Oculus has a dedicated device, Samsung simply has a high-tech piece of headgear that you strap a Galaxy Note 4 phone into. A review popped up at Ars Technica after a month using the device, and they say it works surprisingly well. Quoting: "Though the weight of the two units is comparable, the Gear VR benefits from a strap system that distributes that weight on the upper forehead and the back of the skull rather than through an elastic death grip around the eye area."

They still say a purchase is hard to justify, simply because the content selection is lacking. But as that improves, the price tag will become worth it. "Simple, minimally interactive virtual reality experiences like The Deep, BluVR, and Titans of Space have become go-to apps when passing the Gear VR around a party for friends to check out. It's incredible just sitting in place and following along with your gaze as sea life or entire planets fly by in sharp, well-rendered, 360-degree glory."
Medicine

Silicon Valley's Quest To Extend Life 'Well Beyond 120' 273

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The Guardian has an interesting article on the current quest sweeping Silicon Valley to disrupt death, and the $1 million prize challenging scientists to push human lifespan past its apparent maximum of about 120 years. Hedge Fund Manager Joon Yun's Palo Alto Longevity Prize, which 15 scientific teams have so far entered, will be awarded in the first instance for restoring vitality and extending lifespan in mice by 50%.

"Billionaires and companies are bullish about what they can achieve. In September 2013 Google announced the creation of Calico, short for the California Life Company. Its mission is to reverse engineer the biology that controls lifespan and "devise interventions that enable people to lead longer and healthier lives." ... In April 2014 it recruited Cynthia Kenyon, a scientist acclaimed for work that included genetically engineering roundworms to live up to six times longer than normal, and who has spoken of dreaming of applying her discoveries to people.

Why might tech zillionaires choose to fund life extension research? Three reasons reckons Patrick McCray, a historian of modern technology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. First, if you had that much money wouldn't you want to live longer to enjoy it? Then there is money to be made in them there hills. But last, and what he thinks is the heart of the matter, is ideology. If your business and social world is oriented around the premise of "disruptive technologies", what could be more disruptive than slowing down or "defeating" aging?
AI

AI Experts Sign Open Letter Pledging To Protect Mankind From Machines 258

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sorry-dave-i-can't-sign-that dept.
hypnosec writes: Artificial intelligence experts from across the globe are signing an open letter urging that AI research should not only be done to make it more capable, but should also proceed in a direction that makes it more robust and beneficial while protecting mankind from machines. The Future of Life Institute, a volunteer-only research organization, has released an open letter imploring that AI does not grow out of control. It's an attempt to alert everyone to the dangers of a machine that could outsmart humans. The letter's concluding remarks (PDF) read: "Success in the quest for artificial intelligence has the potential to bring unprecedented benefits to humanity, and it is therefore worthwhile to research how to maximize these benefits while avoiding potential pitfalls."
Security

Google Throws Microsoft Under Bus, Then Won't Patch Android Flaw 629

Posted by timothy
from the well-that's-one-way-to-view-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes Last month, Google took the bold steps to release the details of a security vulnerability ahead of Microsoft. Microsoft responded and said that there was a patch in works which was set to be released two days after Google went live with the details. Microsoft accuses Google for refusing to wait an extra 48 hours so that the patch would have been released along with the details of the exploit. Now, let's see what is happening on the Google side of software development. Recently, an exploit has been uncovered in the WebView component of Android 4.3 — estimated to cover roughly 60% of Android install base — and Google is saying that they will not patch the flaw. Google's only reasoning seems to be that they are not fixing vulnerabilities in 4.3 (introduced in June 2012) anymore, as they have moved focus to newer releases. It would appear that over 930 million Android phones in use are out of official Google security patch support.
Privacy

Glitch In OS X Search Can Expose Private Details of Apple Mail Users 49

Posted by timothy
from the where-are-you-now dept.
itwbennett (1594911) writes "The potential privacy risk in Apple's OS X Yosemite, first reported by German tech news site Heise and confirmed by IDG News Service, appears when people use the Spotlight Search feature, which also indexes emails received with the Apple Mail email client. Performing a Spotlight search opens email previews that load external images, including tracking pixels that are used to gather data, even when the Mail client is asked not to do this." From the article: A preview of the unopened emails was shown by Spotlight, which revealed to the operator of the server hosting the pixels the receiver’s IP address, current OS version and some details about the browser used as well as the version of Quick Look, a program that let’s users preview a document.
Security

OpenBSD Releases a Portable Version of OpenNTPD 79

Posted by timothy
from the enlightened-self-interest dept.
Noryungi (70322) writes Theo De Raadt roundly criticized NTP due to its recent security advisories, and pointed out that OpenBSD OpenNTPD was not vulnerable. However, it also had not been made portable to other OS in a long time. Brent Cook, also known for his work on the portable version of LibreSSL (OpenBSD cleanup and refactoring of OpenSSL) decided to take the matter in his own hands and released a new portable version of OpenNTPD. Everyone rejoice, compile and report issues!
Technology

Connected Gun Lets Anyone Watch What Or Who You Are Shooting 138

Posted by samzenpus
from the point-and-double-click dept.
DavidGilbert99 writes A gun that lets novices make mile-long shots likes experts and which allows the owner to stream live video to show what the gun is aiming at to anyone, anywhere around the world is being showcased at CES. From the article: "Previously the longest range TrackingPoint’s weapons could accurately hit was about 1,200 yards with the company’s XM1 bolt-action rifle; the 'Mile Maker' adds 600 effective yards onto the range of the XM1 by using different rounds, a longer barrel, and most importantly, updated software in the computerized tracking scope. Aside from the 'Mile Maker,' TrackingPoint also announced that it will be expanding its weapons’ audio and visual capabilities—rather than streaming videos directly over local Wi-Fi or recording and uploading things after the fact to YouTube or Facebook, TrackingPoint firearms will gain the ability to live-stream the scope’s picture to remote users using TrackingPoint’s smartphone app. Later in 2015, the company will be shifting its lineup somewhat, removing all of the XS-class weapons from its catalog and replacing them with two, new lighter-frame options. The two, new bolt-action options will be chambered in .308 and .300 Winchester Magnum and will use the smaller scope from TrackingPoint’s AR platform. Finally, the company will also begin selling a smaller 'varmint gun' chambered in .260 Remington.
Government

Lawmaker's Facebook Rant Threatens Media For "Unauthorized" Use of His Name 136

Posted by samzenpus
from the keep-my-name-out-of-it dept.
An anonymous reader points out that Frederick County Councilman Kirby Delauter may be in need of a First Amendment lesson. "Apparently, a local Maryland politician ditched his civics class the day press freedoms were discussed. How else to explain Frederick County Councilman Kirby Delauter's recent Facebook rant in which he threatened a local newspaper with litigation because—wait for it—his name was used in print without his permission. 'Use my name again unauthorized and you'll be paying for an Attorney. Your rights stop where mine start,' Kirby Delauter, the councilman, posted on his Facebook page. He added: 'So let me be clear.........do not contact me and do not use my name or reference me in an authorized form in the future.'"
Privacy

CES 2015: FTC Head Warns About Data Grabbed By Smart Gadgets 62

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-just-say-it,-regulate-it dept.
mpicpp sends this quote from the BBC: A "deeply personal" picture of every consumer could be grabbed by futuristic smart gadgets, the chair of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has warned. Speaking at CES, Edith Ramirez said a future full of smart gadgets that watch what we do posed a threat to privacy. The collated data could create a false impression if given to employers, universities or companies, she said. Ms Ramirez urged tech firms to make sure gadgets gathered the minimum data needed to fulfill their function (PDF). The internet of things (IoT), which will populate homes, cars and bodies with devices that use sophisticated sensors to monitor people, could easily build up a "deeply personal and startlingly complete picture" of a person's lifestyle, said Ms Ramirez."