How Technology Caught the Austin Serial Bomber (foxnews.com) 115

Wednesday police in Austin, Texas finally located the "serial bomber" believed to be responsible for six package bombs which killed two people over the last three weeks. "The operation was aided by different uses of technology, including surveillance cameras and cell phone triangulation." An anonymous reader shares this article: The suspect, who has been identified as 24-year-old Mark Anthony Conditt, was killed near the motel he was traced to thanks to surveillance footage from a Federal Express drop-off store, The Austin American-Stateman reported. The authorities were able to gather information after police noticed the subject shipped an explosive device from a Sunset Valley FedEx store, a suburb approximately 25 minutes away from Austin. The evidence included the security footage from the store, as well as store receipts obtained showing suspicious transactions. The authorities were also able to look at the individual's Google search history, the Statesman noted, which gave them further insight into his dealings...

The authorities were also able to use cell phone triangulation technology, which provides a cell phone's location data via information collected from nearby cell towers... The phone's GPS capabilities can track the phone within 5 to 10 feet and can also provide "historical" or "prospective" location information. It can also "ping" the phone, forcing it to reveal its exact location... As cell phone companies store this type of data, law enforcement authorities must request it via the appropriate court processes.

"Authorities in Austin were able to use this technology to trace the suspect to a hotel in Williamson County."
The Internet

Tim Berners-Lee Urges Web Users: 'Care About Your Data' (marketwatch.com) 95

"As the web celebrated its 29th birthday last week, Berners-Lee expressed disappointment with how his invention has turned out," reports MarketWatch. "He criticized Facebook and other tech heavyweights last week, saying they have 'made it possible to weaponize the web at scale.'

"But on Monday, the British computer scientist essentially told Zuck to buck up. 'I would say to him: You can fix it,' Berners-Lee tweeted. 'It won't be easy, but if companies work with governments, activists, academics and web users, we can make sure platforms serve humanity.'"

Tim Berners-Lee writes: This is a serious moment for the web's future. But I want us to remain hopeful. The problems we see today are bugs in the system. Bugs can cause damage, but bugs are created by people, and can be fixed by people.... My message to all web users today is this: I may have invented the web, but you make it what it is. And it's up to all of us to build a web that reflects our hopes & fulfils our dreams more than it magnifies our fears & deepens our divisions... Get involved. Care about your data. It belongs to you.

If we each take a little of the time we spend using the web to fight for the web, I think we'll be ok. Tell companies and your government representatives that your data and the web matter.


Dropbox IPOs. Its Founders Are Now Billionaires (cnbc.com) 58

Yesterday Dropbox finally launched its stock on NASDAQ. Reuters reports: Dropbox Inc's shares closed at $28.42, up more than 35 percent in their first day of trading on Friday, as investors rushed to buy into the biggest technology initial public offering in more than a year even as the wider sector languished... At the stock's opening price, Dropbox had a market valuation of $12.67 billion, well above the $10 billion valuation it had in its last private funding round... It has yet to turn a profit, which is common for startups that invest heavily in growth. As a public company Dropbox will be under pressure to quickly trim its losses. The 11-year old company reported revenue of $1.11 billion in 2017, up from $844.8 million a year earlier. Its net loss nearly halved from $210.2 million in 2016.
CNBC reports that Y Combinator almost passed on a chance to invest in Dropbox -- which became its first IPO ever -- "because it had misgivings about bringing on a solo entrepreneur." After Drew Houston, the creator of Dropbox, scrambled to find a co-founder in time for his in-person interview, the company was admitted into YC in 2007. Four years later, venture capitalists poured money into Dropbox at a $4 billion valuation. YC has since become a power player in Silicon Valley, helping spawn numerous companies valued at over $1 billion today including Stripe, Airbnb, Instacart and Coinbase. It also backed Twitch, which Amazon acquired in 2014 for about $970 million, and the self-driving tech start-up Cruise, which GM bought in 2016 for over $1 billion. But in its 13-year history, YC had yet to see any of its companies go public until Dropbox's stock market debut on Friday...

Houston is now worth over $3 billion and co-founder Arash Ferdowsi owns shares valued at more than $1 billion.

Dropbox's Twitter feed posted a video from their NASDAQ debut, adding "We're so thankful for the 500 million registered users who helped us get here."

Uber's Self-Driving Cars Were Struggling Before Arizona Crash (nytimes.com) 240

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Uber's robotic vehicle project was not living up to expectations months before a self-driving car operated by the company struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Ariz. The cars were having trouble driving through construction zones and next to tall vehicles, like big rigs. And Uber's human drivers had to intervene far more frequently than the drivers of competing autonomous car projects. Waymo, formerly the self-driving car project of Google, said that in tests on roads in California last year, its cars went an average of nearly 5,600 miles before the driver had to take control from the computer to steer out of trouble. As of March, Uber was struggling to meet its target of 13 miles per "intervention" in Arizona (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), according to 100 pages of company documents obtained by The New York Times and two people familiar with the company's operations in the Phoenix area but not permitted to speak publicly about it. Yet Uber's test drivers were being asked to do more -- going on solo runs when they had worked in pairs. And there also was pressure to live up to a goal to offer a driverless car service by the end of the year and to impress top executives.

One Startup is Using Phone Calls and Other Inexpensive Means To Save TB Patients (microsoft.com) 28

Tuberculosis (TB) is one of most common causes of death globally. In 2016 alone, more than 10.4 million people fell sick to TB and 1.7 million TB-related deaths were reported. The WHO says India, in particular, and developing markets, in general, lead the count for the occurrence of TB in the world even as the local authorities provide free and effective medications to anyone who is ill. From a report: "One of the biggest barriers to recovery from TB is medication adherence," explains Microsoft Researcher Bill Thies, who is also the Chairman and Co-founder of Everwell Health Solutions, a Bangalore-based healthcare start-up. "Patients have to take daily drugs for a full six months, or else they do not fully recover, and are at risk of developing drug resistance. While medication adherence might sound like a simple problem, it turns out to be an enormously complex and heavily studied multi-disciplinary problem. If patients start feeling better after a few weeks, how can we convince them to take toxic drugs for another five months -- especially if patients have little or no understanding of germs and antibiotic resistance?"

The popular recommended practice to ensure medication adherence is Directly Observed Treatment or DOTS, which involves the patients going to a healthcare centre where they ingest the medication in front of a health worker. As it was implemented at the start of their work, patients needed to visit the centre three times per week for the first two months and once a week for the remaining four months. The system involves an unnecessary burden on the patients, who are typically from low-income groups -- every visit means travel expense and loss of work.
There are ways to ensure that a patient has taken medication on time -- we have things like smart pills, and you can send texts to people to remind them about the pills -- but in places like India, these solutions are beyond the reach of people. So in 2013, Thies and his colleagues, along with Microsoft Research Program Manager and TEM collaborator, started a project called 99DOTS to explore if any low-cost tech solution could be employed. They did find one, and it involves making a "missed call" to people. Here's the fascinating story of what happened next.

Facebook Gets Hit With Four Lawsuits Over Cambridge Analytica Scandal (sfgate.com) 91

Facebook has had a terrible week. Since it was revealed that political data firm Cambridge Analytica obtained information about 50 million Facebook users, the social media company has been in damage control mode, apologizing for its mistakes and conducting forensic audits to determine exactly what happened. SFGate reports today that Facebook "has been hit with four lawsuits in federal court in San Francisco and San Jose thus far this week." From the report: One lawsuit was filed by a Facebook user who claims the Menlo Park company acted with "absolute disregard" for her personal information after allegedly representing that it wouldn't disclose the data without permission or notice. That lawsuit, filed by Lauren Price of Maryland in San Jose on Tuesday, seeks to be a class action on behalf of up to 50 million people whose data was allegedly collected from Facebook by London-based Cambridge Analytica. The lawsuit says that during the 2016 election, Price was "frequently targeted with political ads while using Facebook." It seeks financial restitution for claims of unfair business practices and negligence. Both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are named as defendants. Cambridge Analytica also announced today that the company will undergo an independent third-party audit to determine whether it still holds any data covertly obtained from Facebook users. "We take the disturbing recent allegations of unethical practices in our non-U.S. political business very seriously," CEO Alexander Tayler writes. "The Board has launched a full and independent investigation into SCL Elections' past practices, and its findings will be shared publicly."

UPDATE: Eighteen enforcement officers have entered the Cambridge Analytica headquarters in London's West End to search the premises after the data watchdog was granted a warrant to examine its records, reports The Guardian.

School Pays To Get an Algorithm To Scan Students' Social Media For Threats and Suicide Risks Posts (wbur.org) 80

When someone visits the buildings of Shawsheen Valley Technical High School in Billerica, as they walk through the secure foyer, they have to get their driver's license or another state-issued ID scanned. But the secure foyer does kind of a high-level national background check, too, explains Superintendent Tim Broadrick. From a report: The "LobbyGuard" scanner is the size of a computer tablet. It scans a driver's license, takes a picture of the school visitor and if all is OK with the person's background check, almost instantly clears the person to enter the school. An employee behind a window then pushes a button and unlocks the door to the school hallway. Amid nationwide concern about school shootings, there's talk at Shawsheen Tech of covering the wall of glass in the lobby with a special film to make it harder for a bullet to pierce. There's also a police officer -- known as a school resource officer -- stationed at the school. He has an office in the lobby. And the school has adopted another security measure to try to protect students from attacks -- one you can't see. It's a computer program designed to detect threats against the school in social media posts. And it runs 24/7.

"It's receiving and filtering and then gives us alerts when certain kinds of public communication are detected," Broadrick explains. Shawsheen Tech buys the social media scanning service from a Vermont-based company called Social Sentinel. It's one of many technology firms doing some form of social media scanning or monitoring. Social Sentinel claims it's the only one with expertise in protecting schools. Shawsheen Tech has about 1,300 students. It pays Social Sentinel approximately $10,000 per year, according to Broadrick.

The Internet

Craigslist Personals, Some Subreddits Disappear After FOSTA Passage (arstechnica.com) 135

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In the wake of this week's passage of the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) bill in both houses of Congress on Wednesday, Craigslist has removed its "Personals" section entirely, and Reddit has removed some related subreddits, likely out of fear of future lawsuits. FOSTA, which awaits the signature of President Donald Trump before becoming law, removes some portions of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The landmark 1996 law shields website operators that host third-party content (such as commenters, for example) from civil liability. The new bill is aimed squarely at Backpage, a notorious website that continues to allow prostitution advertisements and has been under federal scrutiny for years. In a bizarre turn of events, the Department of Justice also warned the House in February 2018 that the bill "raises a serious constitutional concern," as it would apply retroactively -- a seeming violation of the Constitution's ex post facto clause. Congress passed it anyway. The Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote in a blog post: "It's easy to see the impact that this ramp-up in liability will have on online speech: facing the risk of ruinous litigation, online platforms will have little choice but to become much more restrictive in what sorts of discussion -- and what sorts of users -- they allow, censoring innocent people in the process."

'What's Facebook?', Elon Musk Asks, As He Deletes SpaceX and Tesla Facebook Pages 229

It is unlikely that Facebook will see a significant drop in its mammoth userbase following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. But on Friday, the #DeleteFacebook campaign, which is seeing an increasingly growing number of people call it quits on the world's largest social network, found its biggest backer: Elon Musk. Responding to WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton's "#DeleteFacebook" tweet, Musk asked "What's Facebook?" That was the beginning of a tweetstorm, which saw journalists asking Musk why his companies -- SpaceX and Tesla -- maintained their Facebook pages. Shouldn't Musk, they asked, delete them? Musk agreed. As of this writing, the official Facebook pages of SpaceX and Tesla, both of which had more than two million followers, are nowhere to be found. The Facebook page of SolarCity is gone too, if you were wondering.

The move comes months after Musk said Zuckerberg's understanding of AI was limited.
Social Networks

Instagram Will Show More Recent Posts Due To Algorithm Backlash (techcrunch.com) 29

Instagram announced today that it will show more new posts and stop suddenly bumping you to the top of the feed while you're scrolling. "With these changes, your feed will feel more fresh, and you won't miss the moments you care about," Instagram writes. TechCrunch reports: Instagram switched from a reverse chronological feed to a relevancy-sorted feed in June 2016, leading to lots of grumbling from hardcore users. While it made sure you wouldn't miss the most popular posts from your close friends, showing days-old posts made Instagram feel stale. And for certain types of professional content creators and merchants, cutting their less likable posts out of the feed -- like their calls to buy their products or follow their other social accounts -- was detrimental to their business. Instagram and Facebook moved to hide these posts over time because they can feel spammy.

Human Driver Could Have Avoided Fatal Uber Crash, Experts Say (bloomberg.com) 404

An anonymous reader shares a report: The pedestrian killed Sunday by a self-driving Uber SUV had crossed at least one open lane of road before being hit, according to a video of the crash that raises new questions about autonomous-vehicle technology. Forensic crash analysts who reviewed the video said a human driver could have responded more quickly to the situation, potentially saving the life of the victim, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg. Other experts said Uber's self-driving sensors should have detected the pedestrian as she walked a bicycle across the open road at 10 p.m., despite the dark conditions. Herzberg's death is the first major test of a nascent autonomous vehicle industry that has presented the technology as safer than humans who often get distracted while driving. For human driving in the U.S., there's roughly one death every 86 million miles, while autonomous vehicles have driven no more than 15 to 20 million miles in the country so far, according to Morgan Stanley analysts. "As an ever greater number of autonomous vehicles drive ever an ever greater number of miles, investors must contemplate a legal and ethical landscape that may be difficult to predict," the analysts wrote in a research note following the Sunday collision. "The stock market is likely too aggressive on the pace of adoption."
United States

Trump Announces $60 Billion Tariff on Chinese High-Tech and Other Goods (techcrunch.com) 522

Following months of investigations by the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the Trump administration announced on Thursday at a White House briefing that the administration intends to place about $60 billion of tariffs on Chinese goods, with the bulk of them likely to be focused on the high-tech industry. The White House will announce a final list of goods subject to the tariffs in the next few weeks. From a report: "We've lost over a fairly short period of time, 60,000 factories in our country. Closed, shuttered, gone. Six million jobs at least, gone. And now they are starting to come back," President Trump said during the briefing. "The word that I want to use is reciprocal -- when they charge 25 percent for a car to go in, and we charge 2 percent for their car to come into the United States, that's not good. That's how China rebuilt itself."

Mozilla Pulls Advertising from Facebook (betanews.com) 81

An anonymous reader shares a report: Mozilla is not happy with Facebook. Not happy at all. Having already started a petition to try to force the social network to do more about user privacy, the company has now decided to withdraw its advertising from the platform. The organization is voting with its money following the misuse of user data by Cambridge Analytica, as it tries to force Facebook into taking privacy more seriously. Mozilla says that it is not happy to financially support a platform that does not do enough to protect user privacy. But the company is not severing ties completely. It says that advertising is being "paused" and that if the right steps are taken by Facebook "we'll consider returning."

Cutting 'Old Heads' at IBM (propublica.org) 210

An anonymous reader shares a report: As the world's dominant technology firm, payrolls at International Business Machines swelled to nearly a quarter-million U.S. white-collar workers in the 1980s. Its profits helped underwrite a broad agenda of racial equality, equal pay for women and an unbeatable offer of great wages and something close to lifetime employment, all in return for unswerving loyalty. But when high tech suddenly started shifting and companies went global, IBM faced the changing landscape with a distinction most of its fiercest competitors didn't have: a large number of experienced and aging U.S. employees.

The company reacted with a strategy that, in the words of one confidential planning document, would "correct seniority mix." It slashed IBM's U.S. workforce by as much as three-quarters from its 1980s peak, replacing a substantial share with younger, less-experienced and lower-paid workers and sending many positions overseas. ProPublica estimates that in the past five years alone, IBM has eliminated more than 20,000 American employees ages 40 and over, about 60 percent of its estimated total U.S. job cuts during those years. In making these cuts, IBM has flouted or outflanked U.S. laws and regulations intended to protect later-career workers from age discrimination, according to a ProPublica review of internal company documents, legal filings and public records, as well as information provided via interviews and questionnaires filled out by more than 1,000 former IBM employees.


Mark Zuckerberg Apologizes For the Cambridge Analytica Scandal, Says He Isn't Opposed To Regulation (theverge.com) 179

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Mark Zuckerberg apologized on Wednesday evening for his company's handling of the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal. "This was a major breach of trust and I'm really sorry this happened," he said in an interview on CNN. "Our responsibility now is to make sure this doesn't happen again." Zuckerberg's comments reflected the first time he apologized following an uproar over how Facebook allowed third-party developers to access user data. Earlier in the day, Zuckerberg wrote a Facebook post in which he said the company had made mistakes in its handling of the Cambridge Analytica data revelations. The company laid out a multipart plan designed to reduce the amount of data shared by users with outside developers, and said it would audit some developers who had access to large troves of data before earlier restrictions were implemented in 2014. Zuckerberg also told CNN that he is not totally opposed to regulation. "I'm not sure we shouldn't be regulated," he said. "There are things like ad transparency regulation that I would love to see."

Other highlights of Zuckerberg's interviews:
-He told multiple outlets that he would be willing to testify before Congress.
-He said the company would notify everyone whose data was improperly used.
-He told the New York Times that Facebook would double its security force this year, adding: "We'll have more than 20,000 people working on security and community operations by the end of the year, I think we have about 15,000 now."
-He told the Times that Facebook would investigate "thousands" of apps to determine whether they had abused their access to user data.

Regarding moderation, Zuckerberg told Recode: "[The] thing is like, 'Where's the line on hate speech?' I mean, who chose me to be the person that did that?" Zuckerberg said. "I guess I have to, because of where we are now, but I'd rather not."

Slashdot Top Deals