Security

Wikimedia Is Clear To Sue the NSA Over Its Use of Warrantless Surveillance Tools (engadget.com) 8

The Wikimedia Foundation has the right to sue the National Security Agency over its use of warrantless surveillance tools, a federal appeals court ruled. "A district judge shot down Wikimedia's case in 2015, saying the group hadn't proved the NSA was actually illegally spying on its communications," reports Engadget. "In this case, proof was a tall order, considering information about the targeted surveillance system, Upstream, remains classified." From the report: The appeals court today ruled Wikimedia presented sufficient evidence that the NSA was in fact monitoring its communications, even if inadvertently. The Upstream system regularly tracks the physical backbone of the internet -- the cables and routers that actually transmit our emoji. With the help of telecom providers, the NSA then intercepts specific messages that contain "selectors," email addresses or other contact information for international targets under U.S. surveillance. "To put it simply, Wikimedia has plausibly alleged that its communications travel all of the roads that a communication can take, and that the NSA seizes all of the communications along at least one of those roads," the appeals court writes. "Thus, at least at this stage of the litigation, Wikimedia has standing to sue for a violation of the Fourth Amendment. And, because Wikimedia has self-censored its speech and sometimes forgone electronic communications in response to Upstream surveillance, it also has standing to sue for a violation of the First Amendment."
Security

DEFCON Conference To Target Voting Machines (politico.com) 51

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Politico: Hackers will target American voting machines -- as a public service, to prove how vulnerable they are. When over 25,000 of them descend on Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas at the end of July for DEFCON, the world's largest hacking conference, organizers are planning to have waiting what they call "a village" of different opportunities to test how easily voting machines can be manipulated. Some will let people go after the network software remotely, some will be broken apart to let people dig into the hardware, and some will be set up to see how a prepared hacker could fiddle with individual machines on site in a polling place through a combination of physical and virtual attacks. With all the attention on Russia's apparent attempts to meddle in American elections -- former President Barack Obama and aides have made many accusations toward Moscow, but insisted that there's no evidence of actual vote tampering -- voting machines were an obvious next target, said DEFCON founder Jeff Moss.
Businesses

Renewable Energy Powers Jobs For Almost 10 Million People (bloomberg.com) 67

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency's (IRENA) annual report, the renewable energy industry employed 9.8 million people last year, which is up 1.1 percent from 2015. The strongest growth was seen in the solar photovoltaic category with 3.09 million jobs. Bloomberg reports: Here are some of the highlights from the report: Global renewables employment has climbed every year since 2012, with solar photovoltaic becoming the largest segment by total jobs in 2016. Solar photovoltaic employed 3.09 million people, followed by liquid biofuels at 1.7 million. The wind industry had 1.2 million employees, a 7 percent increase from 2015. Employment in renewables, excluding large hydro power, increased 2.8 percent last year to 8.3 million people, with China, Brazil, the U.S., India, Japan and Germany the leading job markets. Asian countries accounted for 62 percent of total jobs in 2016 compared with 50 percent in 2013. Renewables jobs could total 24 million in 2030, as more countries take steps to combat climate change, IRENA said.
Education

Researchers Find Dozens of Genes Associated With Measures of Intelligence (arstechnica.com) 93

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: We don't know a lot about the biological basis of our mental abilities -- we can't even consistently agree on how best to test them -- but a few things seem clear. One is that performance on a number of standardized tests that purport to measure intelligence tends to correlate with outcomes we'd associate with intelligence, like educational achievement. A second is that this performance seems to have a large genetic component. But initial studies clearly indicated that the effect of any individual gene on intelligence is small. As a result, the first genetics studies found very little, since you needed to look at a large number of people in order to see these small effects. Now, a new study has combined much of the previous work and has turned up 40 new genetic regions associated with intelligence test scores. But again, the effect of any individual gene is pretty minor. The team behind the new work took advantage of open data to pull together information from 13 different studies, which cumulatively looked through the genomes of over 78,000 individuals. While those individuals had been given a variety of tests, the authors focused on measures of general intelligence or fluid intelligence (the two seem to measure similar things). The genomes of these individuals had been scanned for single base pair differences, allowing the authors to look for correlations between regions of the genome and test scores. Two separate analyses were done. The first simply looked at each base difference individually. That turned up 336 individual bases, which clustered into 22 different genes. Half of these had not been associated with intelligence previously. To provide a separate validation of these results, the authors did a similar analysis with educational achievement. They found that nearly all of the sites they identified also correlated with that. In a second analysis, the authors tracked base differences that cluster in a single gene. Since there are more markers for each gene, this tends to be a more sensitive way of looking for effects. And in fact, it produced 47 genes associated with the intelligence test scores. Seventeen of those had been identified in the earlier analysis, which brought the total genes identified to 52, only 12 of which had been previously associated with intelligence test scores.
AI

When AI Botches Your Medical Diagnosis, Who's To Blame? (qz.com) 139

Robert Hart has posed an interested question in his report on Quartz: When artificial intelligence botches your medical diagnosis, who's to blame? Do you blame the AI, designer or organization? It's just one of many questions popping up and starting to be seriously pondered by experts as artificial intelligence and automation continue to become more entwined into our daily lives. From the report: The prospect of being diagnosed by an AI might feel foreign and impersonal at first, but what if you were told that a robot physician was more likely to give you a correct diagnosis? Medical error is currently the third leading cause of death in the U.S., and as many as one in six patients in the British NHS receive incorrect diagnoses. With statistics like these, it's unsurprising that researchers at Johns Hopkins University believe diagnostic errors to be "the next frontier for patient safety." Of course, there are downsides. AI raises profound questions regarding medical responsibility. Usually when something goes wrong, it is a fairly straightforward matter to determine blame. A misdiagnosis, for instance, would likely be the responsibility of the presiding physician. A faulty machine or medical device that harms a patient would likely see the manufacturer or operator held to account. What would this mean for an AI?
Cellphones

Republicans Want To Leave You Voicemail -- Without Ever Ringing Your Cellphone (recode.net) 289

bricko quotes a report from Recode: The GOP's leading campaign and fundraising arm, the Republican National Committee, has quietly thrown its support behind a proposal at the Federal Communications Commission that would pave the way for marketers to auto-dial consumers' cellphones and leave them prerecorded voicemail messages -- all without ever causing their devices to ring. Under current federal law, telemarketers and others, like political groups, aren't allowed to launch robocall campaigns targeting cellphones unless they first obtain a consumer's written consent. But businesses stress that it's a different story when it comes to "ringless voicemail" -- because it technically doesn't qualify as a phone call in the first place. In their eyes, that means they shouldn't need a customer or voter's permission if they want to auto-dial mobile voicemail inboxes in bulk pre-made messages about a political candidate, product or cause. And they want the FCC to rule, once and for all, that they're in the clear. Their argument, however, has drawn immense opposition from consumer advocates.
Businesses

Open19 Launches Open Hardware Project Targeting Edge Computing (datacenterfrontier.com) 11

miller60 writes: The Open19 Foundation launched today, positioning its open hardware designs as a platform for edge computing, and an alternative to the Open Compute Project and hyperscale designs. The Open19 designs were created by the data center team at LinkedIn, citing its focus on a 19-inch rack and licensing terms that it said allow participants better control over their intellectual property. Open Compute develops the 21-inch Open Rack but is also supporting several designs for 19-inch racks, including the Project Olympus concept contributed by Microsoft, LinkedIn's parent company. According to Fortune, the Open19 Foundation is a new group established by LinkedIn, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and General Electric. Its purpose is to make it easier for businesses to buy data center hardware and to encourage companies to build data center hardware more uniformly so that it fits in standardized data racks. The racks themselves are used by businesses to house their computing gear, such as servers and routers. The 19-inch rack is the most commonly used.
Advertising

Google Following Your Offline Credit Card Spending To Tell Advertisers If Their Ads Work (consumerist.com) 102

One of the new tools Google has announced for its advertisers today promises to tie your offline credit card data together with all your online viewing to tell advertisers exactly what's working as they try to target you and your wallet. Consumerist reports: That return, for decades, was hard to measure in all but the most vaguely correlative of ways. Did people buy your product after seeing your TV ad? After seeing your billboard? On a whim after seeing neither? Who knows! But in the age of highly targeted, algorithmic advertising, the landscape is completely different. The apps on your phone know what you looked at and when, and can tie that in to what you see on other devices you're also logged into their services on (like your work computer). Meanwhile, you're leaving tracks out in the physical world -- not only the location history of your phone, but also the trail of payments you leave behind you if you pay with a credit card, debit card, or app (as millions of us do). Google also introduced some offline measurements to its online tool suite back in 2014, when it started using phone location data to try to match store visit location data to digital ad views. But a store doesn't make any money when you simply walk into it; you need to buy something. So Google's tracking that very granularly now, too. "In the coming months, we'll be rolling out store sales measurement at the device and campaign levels. This will allow you to measure in-store revenue in addition to the store visits delivered by your Search and Shopping ads," Google explains to advertisers. That's very literally a collection of spending data matched to the people who spent it, matched in turn to people who saw ads.
The Almighty Buck

Uber Plans Millions In Back Pay After Shorting NYC Drivers (bloomberg.com) 25

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Uber Technologies Inc. said it underpaid its New York City drivers by improperly calculating the company's share of passenger fares, and will pay out an average of $900 per driver in restitution, costing tens of millions of dollars. The back pay could run at least $45 million, based on the approximately 50,000 drivers the Independent Drivers Guild says work in New York City. The ride-hailing company has previously misled drivers about how much they could make and miscalculated fares. In this case, Uber was taking its cut of fares based on the pretax sum, instead of after taxes and fees as stated in its terms of service. The issue was also raised in a lawsuit against San Francisco-based Uber filed by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. In March, Uber acknowledged that it had underestimated drivers' pay in Philadelphia by millions of dollars. "We are committed to paying every driver every penny they are owed -- plus interest -- as quickly as possible," Rachel Holt, Uber's head of U.S. operations, said in a statement. "We are working hard to regain driver trust, and that means being transparent, sticking to our word, and making the Uber experience better from end to end."
Censorship

FCC Won't Punish Stephen Colbert For Controversial Trump Insult (slashdot.org) 176

Earlier this month, the FCC said it would look into complaints made against The Late Show host Stephen Colbert over a homophobic joke he made about President Donald Trump. Well, it turns out the FCC is not going to levy a fine against the comedian for using the word "cock" on late-night network television, reports The Verge. From the report: "Consistent with standard operating procedure, the FCC's Enforcement Bureau has reviewed the complaints and the material that was the subject of these complaints," reads the FCC's statement, according to Variety. "The Bureau has concluded that there was nothing actionable under the FCC's rules." Helping Colbert's case was the fact that the broadcast, time delayed for incidents like these, bleeped out the questionable word and also blurred the host's mouth as he was saying it. The FCC has broad authority to regulate what can and cannot be broadcast based on legal precedent regarding obscenity laws. Yet looser rules apply during the hours of 10PM and 6AM ET, when Colbert's show airs. So it would appear that the ample self-censorship on behalf of CBS saved the program from a guilty verdict in this case.
Software

DJI Threatens To 'Brick' Its Copters Unless Owners Agree To Share Their Details (thesun.co.uk) 153

schwit1 quotes a report from The Sun: A top drone manufacturer has warned that customers' expensive gadgets will be crippled if they don't register their details on its website. DJI drones -- which cost between $1,200 and $3,000 -- won't be able to fly to their full potential or beam back footage if their owners don't sign up next week, the company warned. Those who splashed out for the snazzy gadgets will find they are limited to a teensy 50m radius and it won't be flying higher than 30m if they don't play ball. The company said on its website: "DJI will soon introduce a new application activation process for international customers. This new step, to take effect at the end of next week, ensures you will use the correct set of geospatial information and flight functions for your aircraft, as determined by your geographical location and user profile. All existing flight safety limitations, such as geofencing boundaries and altitude limits, remain the same. Even if you have registered when activating your aircraft upon purchase, you will have to log in once when you update the new version of DJI GO or GO 4 App."
Republicans

President Trump's Budget Includes a $2 Trillion Math Error (time.com) 278

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TIME: President Trump's budget includes a simple accounting error that adds up to a $2 trillion oversight. Under the proposed budget released Tuesday, the Trump Administration's proposed tax cuts would boost economic growth enough to pay for $1.3 trillion in spending by 2027. But the tax cuts are also supposed to be revenue-neutral, meaning that trillion dollars is already supposed to pay for the money lost from the tax cuts. Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers called the oversight an "elementary double count" and "a logical error of the kind that would justify failing a student in an introductory economics course" in an op-ed in the Washington Post.
The Courts

Engineer At Boeing Admits Trying To Sell Space Secrets To Russians (arstechnica.com) 67

An anonymous reader shares an ArsTechnica report: Gregory Allen Justice, a 49-year-old engineer living in Culver City, Calif., has pleaded guilty to charges of attempted economic espionage and attempted violation of the Export Control Act. Justice, who according to his father worked for Boeing Satellite Systems in El Segundo, Calif., was arrested last July after selling technical documents about satellite systems to someone he believed to be a Russian intelligence agent. Instead, he sold the docs to an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation employee. The sting was part of a joint operation by the FBI and the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations. The documents provided by Justice to the undercover agent included information on technology on the US Munitions List, meaning they were regulated by government International Trade in Arms regulations (ITAR). "In exchange for providing these materials during a series of meeting between February and July of 2016, Justice sought and received thousands of dollars in cash payments," a Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement. "During one meeting, Justice and the undercover agent discussed developing a relationship like one depicted on the television show 'The Americans.'"
Sony

'Sony Needs a Fresh Hit' (bloomberg.com) 104

Even as Sony's CEO Kazuo Hirai has done a remarkable job over the past five years -- taking bold decisions on the areas the company should be focusing on, and cutting efforts on those that aren't working -- his company desperately needs a fresh hit to boost its revenue and to become relevant in the mind of most, writes columnist Tim Culpan for Bloomberg. An except from his article: According to a company statement Tuesday for investors' day, the key will be to "remain the 'last one inch' that delivers a sense of 'wow' to customers," expand recurring revenue, and pursue new businesses.Those three strategies are closely linked. With TV sales in decline, its Vaio PC business spun off, and its smartphones barely a blip on the radar, Sony's last inch is heavily dependent on the PlayStation. Sony's Game & Network Services business has grown at both the top and bottom lines over the past five years, but the games console business is stuck in time. [...] Sony needs to build a device that will be far more ubiquitous and can appeal to consumers beyond the current male-skewed slowly aging hard-core gamer base. Amazon and Alphabet, with Echo and Home, are two such examples, and Apple will probably follow suit. With its background in audio, video, sensors and entertainment, Sony has all the right parts to make it happen. For the company that invented the Walkman, dreaming up another hit shouldn't be so hard.
Google

At Google, an Employee-Run Email List Tracks Harassment and Bias Complaints (bloomberg.com) 89

A group of Google employees have begun a message board for employees to submit worker complaints that's then emailed weekly as a digest, according to a report on Bloomberg. The email list -- called "Yes, at Google" -- has been around since October and allows employees to talk openly about work situations in which they felt uncomfortable; most submissions are anonymized. From the article: Google management is aware of the list. "We work really hard to promote and preserve a culture of respect and inclusion," a Google spokesperson said in a statement. "Our employees have numerous ways to raise issues -- both negative and positive -- with us, including through grassroots transparency efforts like this one. We take concerns seriously and take appropriate measures to address them." The list is run by a group of workers across different product areas, according to a person familiar with the list, though it's not clear who runs the list and how or whether the submissions are vetted before being distributed. Usually, the people in the complaints are not named, though one submission described an instance when, during a large company meeting in late April, Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt allegedly interrupted Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat when she had a question addressed to her, which the post categorized as a "gender-related" complaint. A person who attended the meeting said Schmidt answered the question to make a joke. Messages sometimes include job titles and other details.
Communications

Comcast Proves Need For Net Neutrality By Trying To Censor Advocacy Website (fightforthefuture.org) 135

Reader mrchaotica writes: As most Slashdot readers are probably aware, the FCC, under the direction of Trump-appointed chairman Ajit Pai, is trying to undo its 2015 decision to protect Net Neutrality (PDF) by classifying ISPs as common carriers. During the recent public comment period, the FCC's website was flooded with pro-Net-Neutrality comments from actual people (especially those who heeded John Oliver's call to arms) as well as anti-Net-Neutrality comments posted by bots using the names and addresses of people without their consent. The fake comments use boilerplate identical to that used in a 2010 press release by the conservative lobbying group Center for Individual Freedom (which is funded by Comcast, among other entities), but beyond that, the entities who perpetrated and funded the criminal acts have not been conclusively identified. In response to this brazen attempt to undermine the democratic process, the Internet freedom advocacy group Fight for the Future (FFTF) created the website Comcastroturf.com to call attention to the fraud and allow people to see if their identity had been misappropriated. Comcast, in a stunning display of its tone-deaf attitude towards free speech, has sent a cease-and-desist order to FFTF, claiming that Comcastroturf.com violates its "valuable intellectual property[sic]." According to the precedent set in Bosley Medical Institute, Inc. v. Kremer , websites created for the purpose of criticizing an organization can not be considered trademark infringement. As such, FFTF reportedly has no intention of taking down the site.

"This is exactly why we need Title II net neutrality protections that ban blocking, throttling, and censorship," said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, "If Ajit Pai's plan is enacted, there would be nothing preventing Comcast from simply blocking sites like Comcastroturf.com that are critical of their corporate policies," she added. "It also makes you wonder what Comcast is so afraid of? Are their lobbying dollars funding the astroturfing effort flooding the FCC with fake comments that we are encouraging Internet users to investigate?"

Could there be a better example to illustrate why ensuring strong Net Neutrality protections by regulating ISPs as common carriers is so important?


Programming

'Coding Is Not Fun, It's Technically and Ethically Complex' (qz.com) 298

An anonymous reader shares an article: For starters, the profile of a programmer's mind is pretty uncommon. As well as being highly analytical and creative, software developers need almost superhuman focus to manage the complexity of their tasks. Manic attention to detail is a must; slovenliness is verboten. Coding isn't the only job that demands intense focus. But you'd never hear someone say that brain surgery is "fun," or that structural engineering is "easy." When it comes to programming, why do policymakers and technologists pretend otherwise? For one, it helps lure people to the field at a time when software (in the words of the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen) is "eating the world" -- and so, by expanding the labor pool, keeps industry ticking over and wages under control. Another reason is that the very word "coding" sounds routine and repetitive, as though there's some sort of key that developers apply by rote to crack any given problem. It doesn't help that Hollywood has cast the "coder" as a socially challenged, type-first-think-later hacker, inevitably white and male, with the power to thwart the Nazis or penetrate the CIA. Insisting on the glamor and fun of coding is the wrong way to acquaint kids with computer science. It insults their intelligence and plants the pernicious notion in their heads that you don't need discipline in order to progress. As anyone with even minimal exposure to making software knows, behind a minute of typing lies an hour of study. It's better to admit that coding is complicated, technically and ethically. Computers, at the moment, can only execute orders, to varying degrees of sophistication. So it's up to the developer to be clear: the machine does what you say, not what you mean. More and more "decisions" are being entrusted to software, including life-or-death ones: think self-driving cars; think semi-autonomous weapons; think Facebook and Google making inferences about your marital, psychological, or physical status, before selling it to the highest bidder. Yet it's rarely in the interests of companies and governments to encourage us to probe what's going on beneath these processes.
Encryption

Hackers Unlock Samsung Galaxy S8 With Fake Iris (vice.com) 69

From a Motherboard report: Despite Samsung stating that a user's irises are pretty much impossible to copy, a team of hackers has done just that. Using a bare-bones selection of equipment, researchers from the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) show in a video how they managed to bypass the scanner's protections and unlock the device. "We've had iris scanners that could be bypassed using a simple print-out," Linus Neumann, one of the hackers who appears in the video. The process itself was apparently pretty simple. The hackers took a medium range photo of their subject with a digital camera's night mode, and printed the infrared image. Then, presumably to give the image some depth, the hackers placed a contact lens on top of the printed picture. And, that's it. They're in.
China

Chinese Giant Huawei Gets Serious About PC Business, Announces Plans For Global Expansion (reuters.com) 51

Speaking of new laptops, Chinese conglomerate Huawei plans a global expansion into computers, it said on Tuesday, posing a fresh challenge to established PC players in a market that has suffered two years of falling sales volumes and pressure on margins. From a report: At a news conference in Berlin, the Shenzhen-based company introduced its first line-up of three personal computer models, including a 15.6-inch screen notebook, a 2-in-1 tablet and notebook hybrid and an ultra slim, metallic 13-inch notebook. Initially, Huawei plans to target the premium-priced consumer market, competing with Lenovo, HP and Dell, which together sell more than 50 percent of all PCs. To a lesser extent, it will also go up against Apple's high-end, but shrinking, Mac computer business. Huawei's Matebook X is a fanless notebook with splash-proof screen and combined fingerprint sign-on and power button, priced between 1,399 and 1,699 euros ($1,570-$1,900). Its Matebook E 2-in-1 hybrid will run from 999 to 1,299 euros while the Matebook D with 15.6-inch display is priced at 799 to 999 euros, it said. Huawei said it aims to offer the new PCs in 12 countries in Europe, North America, Asia, and the Middle East in early June.

Slashdot Top Deals