Twitter

Twitter Plans To End Revenge Porn Next Week, Hate Speech In Two (arstechnica.com) 5

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In the beginning of 2017, Twitter said it would take on harassment and hate speech. CEO Jack Dorsey said the company would embrace a "completely new approach to abuse on Twitter" with open dialogue along the way. For months, though, the company has offered few details about what it would do, or when. That changed late yesterday, when Twitter posted a timeline with specific promises on actions it will take. The changes begin next week. On October 27, Twitter will expand what types of "non-consensual nudity" (aka "revenge porn") that it takes action against. The company will already act when a victim complains, but Twitter will soon act even in cases where the victims may not be aware images were taken, instances like upskirt photos and hidden webcams. "Anyone we identify as the original poster of non-consensual nudity will be suspended immediately," the October entry reads. On November 3, Twitter will ban hate imagery in profile headers and avatars, and the service will start suspending accounts "for organizations that use violence to advance their cause." The same day it will institute a policy of stopping "Unwanted Sexual Advances," although the company says it has already been taking enforcement actions on this front. Later in November, Twitter will ban "hateful display names."
AI

The AI That Has Nothing to Learn From Humans (theatlantic.com) 20

An anonymous reader shares a report: Now that AlphaGo's arguably got nothing left to learn from humans -- now that its continued progress takes the form of endless training games against itself -- what do its tactics look like, in the eyes of experienced human players? We might have some early glimpses into an answer. AlphaGo Zero's latest games haven't been disclosed yet. But several months ago, the company publicly released 55 games that an older version of AlphaGo played against itself. (Note that this is the incarnation of AlphaGo that had already made quick work of the world's champions.) DeepMind called its offering a "special gift to fans of Go around the world." Since May, experts have been painstakingly analyzing the 55 machine-versus-machine games. And their descriptions of AlphaGo's moves often seem to keep circling back to the same several words: Amazing. Strange. Alien. "They're how I imagine games from far in the future," Shi Yue, a top Go player from China, has told the press. A Go enthusiast named Jonathan Hop who's been reviewing the games on YouTube calls the AlphaGo-versus-AlphaGo face-offs "Go from an alternate dimension." From all accounts, one gets the sense that an alien civilization has dropped a cryptic guidebook in our midst: a manual that's brilliant -- or at least, the parts of it we can understand. Will Lockhart, a physics grad student and avid Go player who codirected The Surrounding Game (a documentary about the pastime's history and devotees) tried to describe the difference between watching AlphaGo's games against top human players, on the one hand, and its self-paired games, on the other. According to Will, AlphaGo's moves against Ke Jie made it seem to be "inevitably marching toward victory," while Ke seemed to be "punching a brick wall." Any time the Chinese player had perhaps found a way forward, said Lockhart, "10 moves later AlphaGo had resolved it in such a simple way, and it was like, 'Poof, well that didn't lead anywhere!'" By contrast, AlphaGo's self-paired games might have seemed more frenetic. More complex. Lockhart compares them to "people sword-fighting on a tightrope."
Microsoft

Consumer Reports Refuses To Recommend Microsoft Surface Book 2 (betanews.com) 47

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier in the year, the review group said that problems with reliability meant that it was impossible for it to recommend any Microsoft laptop or tablet. Now Consumer Reports says that this extends to the Surface Book 2, meaning that the device will not be recommended. Microsoft is likely to be similarly disappointed with Consumer Reports' statement about the Surface Book 2. Speaking to Benzinga, Consumer Reports' spokesperson James McQueen said: "We will evaluate the performance of the Microsoft Surface Book 2 once we get it into our labs next month for testing, but we will not be able to recommend it. Our decision to withhold our recommendation of all Microsoft laptops and tablets is still in effect."
Security

Student Expelled After Using Hardware Keylogger to Hack School, Change Grades (bleepingcomputer.com) 96

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Kansas University (KU) officials have expelled a student for installing a hardware keylogger and using the data acquired from the device to hack into the school's grading system and chang his grades. KU did not release the student's name to the public, but they said the keystroke logging device had been installed on one of the computers in its lecture halls. The student used data collected from the device to change F grades into A grades. Professors said the incident would not have been noticed if the student didn't get greedy about modifications. The hardware device the student used was a run-of-the-mill hardware keylogger that anyone can buy on Amazon or eBay for prices as low as $20. Speaking to local media, various KU professors said they hope not to see any copycats in the near future.
Transportation

Laptops Could Be Banned From Checked Bags on Planes Due To Fire Risk (cnn.com) 101

Readers share a report: Laptops could be banned from checked baggage on planes due to a fire risk under a proposal being recommended by an international air safety panel. According to a report, an overheating laptop battery could cause a significant fire in a cargo hold that fire fighting equipment aboard the plane would not be able to extinguish. That could "lead to the loss of the aircraft," according to the proposal. The ban will be considered by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations organization, at its meeting this month. Even if the organization endorses the proposal from its Dangerous Goods Panel, which is making the recommendation, it would be up to regulators in individual nations to pass rules to enforce it. The U.S. FAA has no comment on the proposal. But it is represented on the panel that is supporting the ban, and its research on the risk of fires from laptops is included in the proposal.
Privacy

Smartwatches For Kids Are a Total Privacy Nightmare (gizmodo.com) 28

An anonymous reader shares a report: Kids' smartwatches are usually intended to help parents feel at ease that their children are safe when they're not around. But as it turns out, a number of these devices may do more harm than good. A 49-page report on smartwatches for children details all the ways in which they are a security nightmare. The report (PDF), conducted by the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) and European security firm Mnemonic, analyzed four kids' smartwatches -- Gator 2, Tinitell, Viksfjord, and Xplora. According the NCC's report, two of the aforementioned devices were vulnerable to hackers, affording them the ability to remotely control the apps on the device. Through a breached device, the NCC says a hacker could access information on a child's whereabouts in real-time, uncover their personal information, and even communicate with the child. What's more, one of the devices could allow someone "with some technical knowledge" to discreetly listen to the child's surroundings. Beyond these gross invasions of privacy, the Council said certain key features of these devices -- an SOS button and a feature that alerts parents when kids leave virtual boundaries -- were unreliable. The report also notes issues regarding collecting user data -- only one of the product's terms and services allowed parents to opt in to or out of data collection. And one watch, the Xplora app, gave up children's data to marketers, the NCC said.
Businesses

Japan's SoftBank Says It Could Invest as Much As $880 Billion in Tech (recode.net) 33

SoftBank could commit as much as $880 billion to tech investments in the coming years, a gargantuan, unprecedented amount of cash that would amount to a seismic shift in tech-sector finance. From a report: "The Vision Fund was just the first step, 10 trillion yen ($88 billion) is simply not enough," CEO Masayoshi Son said in an interview with The Nikkei Asian Review that was published late Thursday. "We will briskly expand the scale. Vision Funds 2, 3 and 4 will be established every two to three years." Son's comment confirms a Recode report that his Vision Fund -- which is sinking $100 billion into the technology sector worldwide -- was only the first in a series of investments that he plans to make in young companies. "We are creating a mechanism to increase our funding ability from 10 trillion yen to 20 trillion yen to 100 trillion yen," Son told the outlet. That comes out to about $880 billion. Companies that SoftBank either completely owns or has major or minor stakes in include Vodafone Japan, Yahoo! Japan, India's Snapdeal, India's Ola, Sprint Corporation, and India's Flipkart. The company is expected to become a major stake holder in Uber as soon as next week.
Security

MasterCard Has Finally Realized That Signatures Are Obsolete and Stupid (fastcompany.com) 232

An anonymous reader shares a report: For years, credit card companies have relied on an illegible squiggly line as the frontline of defense against credit card fraud. Customers are forced to use a pen (how retro!) to scrawl their signature on bills at restaurants and sign digitally at cash registers -- as if somehow in the age of chips, PINs, biometrics, and online fraud alerts, a line on a page is still a great tool against fraud prevention. Personally, I have been known to sign on the dotted line with a doodle of a piece of tofu and no one has ever stopped me, because signatures mean very little in this digital age. Companies are finally seeing the light. Starting in April 2018, MasterCard cardholders will no longer be required to sign their name when they purchase something using their debit or credit cards. The company has been moving away from requiring signatures for a few years now, with only about 80% of purchases (typically over a certain dollar amount) requiring a signature these days. MasterCard did some digging, though, and per its press release, realized that most of their customers "believe it would be easier to pay and that checkout lines would move faster if they didn't need to sign when making a purchase."
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Nears $6,000 For the First Time (bloomberg.com) 93

Bitcoin closed in on another milestone Friday, as the digital currency approached $6,000 for the first time to put its gain in 2017 to above 500 percent. From a report: The push higher comes just three days after bitcoin suffered its biggest one-day drop in a month on rising concern that regulators are increasingly targeting digital currencies. It's added almost $500 in value in the past two days alone.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Market Value Hits a Dot-Com Era Milestone: $600 Billion (wsj.com) 83

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft's value is returning to tech-bubble peaks. The software giant closed with a market value of $600 billion Thursday for the first time since January 2000, according to the Journal's Market Data Group. Shares rose 0.4 percent to $77.91, setting a fresh all-time high. For the year, Microsoft shares are up 25% and on track for their best year since 2013, as the firm continues its rebirth as a force in cloud-computing. The firm is the third-largest S&P 500 company in market value, trailing Apple (about $800 billion) and Google's parent company, Alphabet, (about $690 billion). In July, fellow technology and internet stalwarts Facebook and Amazon.com joined the trio as the only U.S.-listed companies valued at more than in the $500 billion. The last time Microsoft was over $600 billion back in 2000, it didn't stay there for long. The tech bubble would peak in March of that year, and the Nasdaq Composite Index wouldn't climb back to the level it reach that year until 2015.
Google

On the Google Book Scanning Project and the Library We Will Never See (theatlantic.com) 114

For a decade, Google's enormous project to create a massive digital library of books was embroiled in litigation with a group of writers who say it was costing them a lot of money in lost revenue. Even as Google notched a victory when a federal appeals court ruled that the company's project was fair use, the company quietly shut down the project. From an article published in April this year: Despite eventually winning Authors Guild v. Google, and having the courts declare that displaying snippets of copyrighted books was fair use, the company all but shut down its scanning operation. It was strange to me, the idea that somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25-million books and nobody is allowed to read them. It's like that scene at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie where they put the Ark of the Covenant back on a shelf somewhere, lost in the chaos of a vast warehouse. It's there. The books are there. People have been trying to build a library like this for ages -- to do so, they've said, would be to erect one of the great humanitarian artifacts of all time -- and here we've done the work to make it real and we were about to give it to the world and now, instead, it's 50 or 60 petabytes on disk, and the only people who can see it are half a dozen engineers on the project who happen to have access because they're the ones responsible for locking it up. But Google seems to be thinking ways to make use of it, it appears. Last month, it added a new feature to its search function that instantly connects you with eBook data from libraries near you. From a report: Now, every time you search for a book through Google, information about your local library rental options will be easily available. Yeah, that's right. Your local library not only still exists, but it has eBooks, which are things you can totally borrow (for free) online! Before, this perk was hidden somewhere deep within your local library's website -- assuming it had one -- but now these free literary wonders are all yours for the taking.
Businesses

Tesla Hit With Another Lawsuit, This Time Alleging Anti-LGBT Harassment (theverge.com) 145

Earlier this week, Tesla was hit with a lawsuit for racial harassment in its factories. Now, a newer lawsuit has been filed against the company alleging anti-LGBT harassment. An anonymous reader shares a report from The Verge: A former employee at Tesla's Fremont factory filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the electric carmaker, alleging he was fired in retaliation after seeking protection from anti-gay harassment, The Guardian reported today. The defendant, an assembly line worker named Jorge Ferro, claims he was taunted for being gay and threatened with violence. "Watch your back," one supervisor told him after mocking his "gay tight" clothing, the paper said. After complaining to an HR representative, Ferro was repeatedly moved to different assembly lines, but the harassment didn't stop. Ultimately, HR told him there was "no place for handicapped people at Tesla" after noticing an old scar on his wrist, according to The Guardian. He was sent home, and eventually terminated. In a strongly worded statement to the paper, Tesla denied the allegations and defended itself against the charges. "There is no company on earth with a better track record than Tesla," a spokesperson said.
Power

First Mass-Produced Electric Truck Unveiled (nhk.or.jp) 104

AmiMoJo shares a report from NHK WORLD: Japan's Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus has unveiled what it says is the world's first mass-produced electric truck, as automakers around the world go all out to develop cars that run on battery power. The vehicle can carry about 3 tons of cargo and travel about 100 kilometers on a single charge. The truck, unveiled on Thursday, will be used by Japan's largest convenience store chain, Seven-Eleven. Seven-Eleven President Kazuki Furuya says some people complain about the noise delivery vehicles make, and says he is very impressed at how quiet the electric truck is.
Space

Blue Origin Successfully Test Fires Game-Changing BE-4 Rocket Engine (geekwire.com) 89

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture has successfully test-fired its BE-4 rocket engine, marking a key step in the development of its own New Glenn rocket as well as United Launch Alliance's next-generation rocket. GeekWire reports: ULA has been waiting for months to get good news about the BE-4 tests in West Texas. The company wanted to see a successful full-scale test before going ahead with plans to use the BE-4 engine on its Vulcan rocket, which is due to have its first flight in 2019. A Blue Origin competitor, Aerojet Rocketdyne, has been waiting in the wings with its AR1 engine, which ULA saw as a "Plan B" for the Vulcan in case the BE-4 faltered. Wednesday's initial hot-firing didn't reach full power or full duration, but the test's success nevertheless reduces the likelihood that ULA would turn to the AR1. The BE-4 engine, which uses liquefied natural gas as fuel, is built at Blue Origin's production facility in Kent, Wash., and shipped down to Texas for testing. Assuming that it's accepted for ULA's use, engine production will eventually shift to a factory in Huntsville, Ala. Engines for the orbital-class New Glenn rocket will go to Blue Origin's rocket factory in Florida, which is due to be completed by the end of this year.
Facebook

Facebook Security Chief Says Its Corporate Network Is Run 'Like a College Campus' (zdnet.com) 72

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Facebook's security chief has told employees that the social media giant needs to improve its internal security practices to be more akin to a defense contractor, according to a leaked recording obtained by ZDNet. Alex Stamos made the comments to employees at a late-July internal meeting where he argued that the company had not done enough to respond to the growing threats that the company faces, citing both technical challenges and cultural issues at the company. "The threats that we are facing have increased significantly and the quality of the adversaries that we are facing," he said. "Both technically and from a cultural perspective I don't feel like we have caught up with our responsibility. The way that I explain to [management] is that we have the threat profile of a Northrop Grumman or a Raytheon or another defense contractor, but we run our corporate network, for example, like a college campus, almost," he said.

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