Google Workers Urge CEO To Pull Out of Pentagon AI Project

3 months 2 weeks ago
Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company's involvement in a Pentagon program that uses artificial intelligence to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source). From a report: The letter, which is circulating inside Google and has garnered more than 3,100 signatures, reflects a culture clash between Silicon Valley and the federal government that is likely to intensify as cutting-edge artificial intelligence is increasingly employed for military purposes. "We believe that Google should not be in the business of war," says the letter, addressed to Sundar Pichai, the company's chief executive. It asks that Google pull out of Project Maven, a Pentagon pilot program, and announce a policy that it will not "ever build warfare technology." That kind of idealistic stance, while certainly not shared by all Google employees, comes naturally to a company whose motto is "Don't be evil," a phrase invoked in the protest letter. But it is distinctly foreign to Washington's massive defense industry and certainly to the Pentagon, where the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, has often said a central goal is to increase the "lethality" of the United States military.

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Valve Re-affirms Commitment To SteamOS and Linux After Hiding Steam Machines from Store

3 months 2 weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes: Valve recently removed Steam Machines from the Steam Store navigation menus which naturally led people to believe that Valve was giving up on that initiative, also leading to concern about its operating system, SteamOS. In a statement posted on its blog today, the firm said that it's still committed to SteamOS and Linux. It said the main reason for removing Steam Machines from the navigation menu was due to the low amount of traffic the page was getting. In a statement, Valve said, "We've noticed that what started out as a routine cleanup of the Steam Store navigation turned into a story about the delisting of Steam Machines. That section of the Steam Store is still available, but was removed from the main navigation bar based on user traffic. Given that this change has sparked a lot of interest, we thought it'd make sense to address some of the points we've seen people take away from it."

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Facebook Scans What You Send Other People on Messenger App

3 months 2 weeks ago
Sarah Frier, reporting for Bloomberg: Facebook scans the text and images that people send each other on Facebook Messenger, making sure it all abides by the company's rules governing content. If it doesn't, it gets blocked. The company confirmed the practice after an interview published earlier this week with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg raised questions about Messenger's practices and privacy. Zuckerberg told Vox's Ezra Klein a story about receiving a phone call related to ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. Facebook had detected people trying to send sensational messages through the Messenger app, he said. "In that case, our systems detect what's going on," Zuckerberg said. "We stop those messages from going through." Some people reacted with concern on Twitter: "Was Facebook reading messages more generally?" Facebook has been under scrutiny in recent weeks over how it handles users' private data and the revelation struck a nerve. Messenger doesn't use the data from the scanned messages for advertising, the company said, but the policy may extend beyond what Messenger users expect.

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Outgoing White House Emails Not Protected by Verification System

3 months 2 weeks ago
The security advocacy group Global Cyber Alliance tested the 26 email domains managed by the Executive Office of the President (EOP) and found that only one fully implements a security protocol that verifies the emails as genuinely from the White House. From a report: Of the 26 domains, 18 are not in compliance with a Department of Homeland Security directive to implement that protocol. Imagine the havoc someone could cause sending misinformation from a presidential aide's account: Such fraudulent messages could be used in phishing campaigns, to spread misinformation to careless reporters, or to embarrass White House employees by sending fake tirades under their names.

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Apple Working on Touchless Control and Curved iPhone Screen

3 months 2 weeks ago
Apple might be working on touchless gesture control and curved screens for future iPhones, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. From a report: The control feature would let iPhone users perform some tasks by moving their finger close to the screen without actually tapping it. The technology likely won't be ready for consumers for at least two years, if Apple chooses to go forward with it, a person familiar with the work said. Apple has long embraced new ways for humans to interact with computers. Co-Founder Steve Jobs popularized the mouse in the early 1980s. Apple's latest iPhones have a feature called 3D Touch that responds differently depending on different finger pressures. The new gesture technology would take into account the proximity of a finger to the screen, the person said. Apple is also developing iPhone displays that curve inward gradually from top to bottom, one of the people familiar with the situation said. That's different than the latest Samsung smartphone screens, which curve down at the edges.

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Intel Says Some CPU Models Will Never Receive Microcode Updates

3 months 2 weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes: Intel released an update to the Meltdown and Spectre mitigation guide, revealing that it stopped working on mitigations for some processor series. The Meltdown and Spectre mitigation guide is a PDF document that Intel published in February. The file contains information on the status of microcode updates for each of Intel's CPU models released in the past years. Intel has constantly updated the document in the past weeks with new information about processor series and the microcode firmware version number that includes patches for the Meltdown and Spectre flaws. An update published on Monday includes for the first time a "Stopped" production status. Intel says that processors with a "Stopped" status will not receive microcode updates. The reasons basically vary from "redesigning the CPU micro-architecture is impossible or not worth the effort" to "it's an old CPU" and "customers said they don't need it." The following Intel processor products received a "Stopped" status marker: Bloomfield, Bloomfield Xeon, Clarksfield, Gulftown, Harpertown Xeon C0, Harpertown Xeon E0, Jasper Forest, Penryn/QC, SoFIA 3GR, Wolfdale C0, Wolfdale M0, Wolfdale E0, Wolfdale R0, Wolfdale Xeon C0, Wolfdale Xeon E0, Yorkfield, and Yorkfield Xeon.

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US' Proposed China Tariffs Would Target Robotics, Satellites

3 months 2 weeks ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: The U.S. Trade Representative has published the list of Chinese products that would be subject to its proposed tech tariffs, and there are a few clear themes. The move would hike the costs of about 1,300 products, including industrial robots, communication satellites, spacecraft and a slew of semiconductors.The aim, as before, is to punish China for allegedly goading American companies into transferring their patents and technology to Chinese firms for the sake of claiming economic superiority. The USTR claimed the proposed tariffs would stymie Chinese plans while "minimizing the impact" on the American economy. The tariffs are still subject to a 60-day notice process that would include public comments until May 11th and a public hearing on May 15th.

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Latest macOS Update Disables DisplayLink, Rendering Thousands of Monitors Dead

3 months 2 weeks ago
rh2600 writes: Four days ago, Apple's latest macOS 10.13.4 update broke DisplayLink protocol support (perhaps permanently), turning what may be hundreds of thousands of external monitors connected to MacBook Pros via DisplayLink into paperweights. Some days in, DisplayLink has yet to announce any solution, and most worryingly there are indications that this is a permanent change to macOS moving forward. Mac Rumors is reporting that "users of the popular Mac desktop extension app Duet Display are being advised not to update to macOS 10.13.4, due to 'critical bugs' that prevent the software from communicating with connected iOS devices used as extra displays." Users of other desktop extensions apps like Air Display and iDisplay are also reporting incompatibility with the latest version of macOS.

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NASA Hires Lockheed Martin To Build Quiet Supersonic X-Plane

3 months 2 weeks ago
New submitter john of sparta shares a report from Space.com: NASA has taken a huge leap forward in its quest to create an aircraft that can travel faster than the speed of sound without causing the ear-splitting sonic boom. The space agency announced today (April 2) that it has awarded the aerospace company Lockheed Martin a $247.5 million contract to design and build a new X-plane, known as the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator (LBFD), which may soar silently over the U.S. by 2022. Lockheed Martin's LBFD won't be built for transporting people. Before any supersonic planes will be allowed to fly over land, NASA and Lockheed Martin must prove that it's possible to break the sound barrier without the sonic boom. Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, said that the LBFD will fly over select U.S. cities starting in mid-2022 and NASA will "ask the people living and working in those communities to tell us what they heard, if anything." The LBFD aircraft will be 94 feet (29 meters) long, or about the size of a small business jet. It will fly at a cruising altitude of about 55,000 feet (17,000 meters) and reach a speed of 1.4 times the speed of sound (about 1,000 mph, or 1,600 km/h). This will "create a sound about as loud as a car door closing," NASA officials said in the news conference.

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Swedes Turn Against Cashlessness

3 months 2 weeks ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: It is hard to argue that you cannot trust the government when the government isn't really all that bad. This is the problem facing the small but growing number of Swedes anxious about their country's rush to embrace a cash-free society. Most consumers already say they manage without cash altogether, while shops and cafes increasingly refuse to accept notes and coins because of the costs and risk involved. Until recently, however, it has been hard for critics to find a hearing. "The Swedish government is a rather nice one, we have been lucky enough to have mostly nice ones for the past 100 years," says Christian Engstrom, a former MEP for the Pirate Party and an early opponent of the cashless economy. "In other countries there is much more awareness that you cannot trust the government all the time. In Sweden it is hard to get people mobilized." There are signs this might be changing. In February, the head of Sweden's central bank warned that Sweden could soon face a situation where all payments were controlled by private sector banks. The Riksbank governor, Stefan Ingves, called for new legislation to secure public control over the payments system, arguing that being able to make and receive payments is a "collective good" like defense, the courts, or public statistics. "Most citizens would feel uncomfortable to surrender these social functions to private companies," he said. "It should be obvious that Sweden's preparedness would be weakened if, in a serious crisis or war, we had not decided in advance how households and companies would pay for fuel, supplies and other necessities." The report mentions a recently-released opinion poll, which found that seven out of 10 Swedes wanted to keep the option to use cash, while just 25% wanted a completely cashless society.

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YouTube Shooter 'Nasim Aghdam' Reportedly Had Website With Manifesto That Targeted YouTube For Censorship, Demonetization

3 months 2 weeks ago
The woman who entered the YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California, this morning and started shooting has been identified as Nasim Aghdam. According to ABC7 News, "the YouTube shooter was a user of the platform" and had "a website with an alleged manifesto that targeted YouTube for censorship and demonetization of her video content. According to her website, a possible motivation for the shooting could have been tied to her many YouTube accounts, which she says have seen a decline in viewership over the past few months."

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Schools Won't Like How Difficult the New iPad Is To Repair

3 months 2 weeks ago
Last week, Apple introduced a refreshed 9.7-inch iPad with Apple Pencil support. iFixit has published its teardown of the device this morning, and as The Verge points out, schools won't like how difficult it is to repair. From the report: The takeaway from all this is that the new iPad isn't going to be any easier to repair than prior generations, which were already borderline unrepairable. If an iPad breaks, there's almost no chance that a district will be able to repair it in-house; whereas on cheaper Chromebooks, there's a possibility an IT team could open them up to make some basic fixes. It's a weak point that it's hard to see Apple ever addressing. And since schools aren't exactly forgiving environments for a lent-out device, how well the iPad holds up to drops and dings, and how expensive it is to fix, are bound to be factors in a school's decision on which devices to adopt. Mac Rumors highlights the key findings from iFixit's teardown: The new iPad's lack of waterproofing, non-replaceable charging port, zero upgradeability, and use of glue throughout the internals added up to a "repair nightmare." iFixit then pointed towards the HP Elite x2 1012 G1 tablet, which got a perfect repairability score of 10 out of 10, summarizing that "Apple's 'education' iPad is still a case of won't -- not can't." One of the iPad's advantages in terms of repairability comes in the form of its digitizer panel easily separating from the display. iFixit pointed out that in the event that either component should break, repair will be easier for schools and educators. The sixth-gen iPad has the same battery as the previous model, with 32.9 Wh capacity. iFixit noted that while this allows Apple to reuse existing manufacturing lines to reduce waste, the battery is still locked behind a "repair-impeding adhesive" that greatly reduced the iPad's repairability score. Apple has provided easy battery removal before, in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but iFixit hasn't seen anything like it since. Ultimately, iFixit gave the 2018 iPad a repairability score of 2 out of 10, favoring the fairly easy repair options of its air-gapped, non-fused display and digitizer glass, but taking marks off for its heavy use of adhesive and sticky tape.

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Facebook CEO Says Not Planning To Extend European Privacy Law Globally

3 months 2 weeks ago
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Tuesday that the social network had no immediate plans to apply a strict new European Union law on data privacy in its entirety to the rest of the world. The news comes as Facebook reels from a scandal over its handling of personal information of millions of its users. Reuters reports: Zuckerberg told Reuters in a phone interview that Facebook already complies with many parts of the law ahead of its implementation in May. He said the company wanted to extend privacy guarantees worldwide in spirit, but would make exceptions, which he declined to describe. His comments signals that U.S. Facebook users, many of them still angry over the company's handling of personal information, may soon find themselves in a worse position than Europeans. The European law, called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is the biggest overhaul of online privacy since the birth of the internet, giving Europeans the right to know what data is stored on them and the right to have it deleted. Asked what parts of the EU law he would not extend worldwide, Zuckerberg said: "We're still nailing down details on this, but it should directionally be, in spirit, the whole thing." He did not elaborate.

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MIT Severs Ties To Company Promoting Fatal Brain Uploading

3 months 2 weeks ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: The MIT Media Lab will sever ties with a brain-embalming company that promoted euthanasia to people hoping for digital immortality through "brain uploads." The startup, called Nectome, had raised more than $200,000 in deposits from people hoping to have their brains stored in an end-of-life procedure similar to physician-assisted suicide. MIT's connection to the company came into question after MIT Technology Review detailed Nectome's promotion of its "100 percent fatal" technology. Under a subcontract, MIT was receiving approximately $300,000 from a federal grant won by Nectome to develop methods of brain preservation and analysis. According to an April 2 statement, MIT will terminate the research contract with Media Lab professor and neuroscientist Edward Boyden. Boyden said he didn't have a financial stake or other personal involvement with Nectome. MIT's connection to the company drew sharp criticism from some neuroscientists, who say brain uploading isn't possible.

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Facebook Blames a 'Bug' For Not Deleting Your Seemingly Deleted Videos

3 months 2 weeks ago
Last week, The New York Magazine found that Facebook was archiving videos users thought were deleted. The social media company is now apologizing for failing to delete the videos, blaming it on a "bug." It adds that it's in the process of deleting the content now. Gizmodo reports: Last week, New York's Select All broke the story that social network was keeping the seemingly deleted old videos. The continued existence of the draft videos was discovered when several users downloaded their personal Facebook archives -- and found numerous videos they never published. Today, Select All got a statement from Facebook blaming the whole thing on a "bug." From Facebook via New York: "We investigated a report that some people were seeing their old draft videos when they accessed their information from our Download Your Information tool. We discovered a bug that prevented draft videos from being deleted. We are deleting them and apologize for the inconvenience. We appreciate New York Magazine for bringing the issue to our attention."

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Russia Debuts Postal Drone, Which Immediately Crashes Into Wall

3 months 2 weeks ago
On Monday, Russia's postal service tested a delivery drone in the city of Ulan-Ude, Siberia, -- and it went horribly wrong. According to Futurism, soon after launch it crashed violently into the wall of a nearby building, "turning the UAV into a mess of jumbled parts." From the report: Here was the original plan for Monday's test. The $20,000 drone was supposed to pick up a small package and deliver it to a nearby village, Reuters reports. Instead the device failed spectacularly, only making it a short distance before crashing into a three-story building. The small crowd gathered to watch the test can be heard uttering expletives, according to Reuters. No one was injured in the crash, and it didn't do any damage, except to Russia's pride. The organizers aren't quite sure what went wrong, but they suspect the 100 or so nearby wifi spots could have had something to do with it.

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Apple Hires Google's AI Chief

3 months 2 weeks ago
"Apple has hired Google's chief of search and artificial intelligence (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), John Giannandrea, a major coup in its bid to catch up to the artificial intelligence technology of its rivals," reports The New York Times. Giannandrea will run Apple's overall "machine learning and AI strategy," reporting directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook. From the report: The hire is a victory for Apple, which many Silicon Valley executives and analysts view as lagging its peers in artificial intelligence, an increasingly crucial technology for companies that enable computers to handle more complex tasks, like understanding voice commands or identifying people in images. "Our technology must be infused with the values we all hold dear," Mr. Cook said Tuesday morning in an email to staff members obtained by The New York Times. "John shares our commitment to privacy and our thoughtful approach as we make computers even smarter and more personal." Mr. Giannandrea, a 53-year-old native of Scotland known to colleagues as J.G., helped lead the push to integrate A.I. throughout Google's products, including internet search, Gmail and its own digital assistant, Google Assistant. He joined Google in 2010 when it purchased Metaweb, a start-up where he served as chief technology officer. Metaweb was building what it described as a "database of the world's knowledge," which Google eventually rolled into its search engine to deliver direct answers to users' queries. (Try googling "How old is Steph Curry?") During Mr. Giannandrea's tenure, A.I. research became increasingly important inside Google, with its primary A.I. lab, Google Brain, moving into a space beside the chief executive, Sundar Pichai.

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Fedora 28 Beta Linux Distro is Finally Here

3 months 2 weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes: Today, version 28 of the Fedora finally achieves beta status. After a short delay -- it was scheduled to be available a week earlier -- the distro is back on track, and looking better than ever. As is typical now, there are three versions of the operating system -- Atomic Host, Server, and Workstation. While all three have their places, normal desktop computer users will want to focus on Workstation. While there are plenty of new features (and bugs), the most exciting aspect of Fedora 28 Workstation is the inclusion of the GNOME 3.28 desktop environment.

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WhatsApp Public Groups Can Leave User Data Vulnerable To Scraping

3 months 2 weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes: WhatsApp differentiates itself from parent company Facebook by touting its end-to-end encryption. "Some of your most personal moments are shared with WhatsApp," the company writes on its website, so "your messages, photos, videos, voice messages, documents, and calls are secured from falling into the wrong hands." But WhatsApp members may not be aware that when using the app's Group Chat feature, their data can be harvested by anyone in the group. What is worse, their mobile numbers can be used to identify and target them. WhatsApp groups are designed to enable groups of up to 256 people to join a shared chat without having to go through a central administrator. Group originators can add contacts from their phones or create links enabling anyone to opt-in. These groups, which can be found through web searches, discuss topics as diverse as agriculture, politics, pornography, sports, and technology. Not all groups have links, but in those that do, anyone who finds the link can join the group. While all new joining members are announced to the group, they are not required to provide a name or otherwise identify themselves. This design could leave inattentive members open to targeting, as a new report from European researchers shows. WhatsApp is used by more than 1.2 billion users worldwide.

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Update: Possible Active Shooter Reported at YouTube HQ

3 months 2 weeks ago
Police have responded to multiple 911 calls at YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California. From a report: Vadim Lavrusik, a product manager at the company, tweeted that there is an active shooter on campus. The San Bruno Police Department instructed people to stay away from 901 Cherry Avenue, where the company is located. Multiple 911 calls have been received from inside the building, according to a report from local news station KRON. In a Twitter thread, YouTube product manager Todd Sherman said that employees first thought there had been an earthquake. People began running out of their meetings, he said, but before reaching the exit, they got word that someone had a gun. Sherman said he saw blood on the floor and the stairs. He also said the shooter may have committed suicide. Vadim Lavrusik, who works at YouTube's products team, tweeted, "Active shooter at YouTube HQ. Heard shots and saw people running while at my desk. Now barricaded inside a room with coworkers." Update 20:30 GMT: Google has issued the following statement, "we are coordinating with authorities and will provide official information here from Google and YouTube as it becomes available." San Bruno Police said it was "responding to an active shooter. Please stay away from Cherry Ave & Bay Hill Drive." Update 20:40 GMT: CBS San Francisco reports: KPIX 5 reporter Andria Borba said at least two Homeland Security units were responding. Police radio transmissions describe casualties being taken to local hospitals. San Francisco General Hospital spokesman Brent Andrew said the hospital received patients from the incident but could not confirm a number. Update 21:20 GMT: ABC News is reporting that the suspected shooter is a white adult female, and that this is "leaning towards a workplace violence situation." Update 21:30 GMT: Law enforcement has confirmed that the shooter was a white female dressed in a headscarf. The woman reportedly shot her boyfriend then herself. It's unclear exactly how many people have been injured, but early reports estimate at least 9-10 victims. There is no word on their conditions. Update 03:10 GMT: ABC7 News is reporting that the shooter has been identified as Nasim Aghdam. She reportedly had a website with an alleged manifesto that targeted YouTube for censorship and demonetization of her video content. Contrary to previous reports, she is said to have no relationship with anyone in the YouTube facility. UPDATE 03:40 GMT: Aghdam's website can be found here. Update 04:15 GMT: The shooter is believed to have known at least one of the victims, two law enforcement officials told CNN. Other sources suggest the shooter drove up from San Diego. YouTube says her YouTube channel "has been terminated due to multiple or severe violations of YouTube's policy against spam, deceptive practices, and misleading content or other Terms of Service violations."

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