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Google

SCOTUS Denies Google's Request To Appeal Oracle API Case 152 152

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-don't-want-to-hear-it dept.
New submitter Neil_Brown writes: The Supreme Court of the United States has today denied Google's request to appeal against the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit's ruling (PDF) that the structure, sequence and organization of 37 of Oracle's APIs (application program interfaces) was capable of copyright protection. The case is not over, as Google can now seek to argue that, despite the APIs being restricted by copyright, its handling amounts to "fair use". Professor Pamela Samuelson has previously commented (PDF) on the implications if SCOTUS declined to hear the appeal. The Verge reports: "A district court ruled in Google's favor back in 2012, calling the API "a utilitarian and functional set of symbols" that couldn't be tied up by copyrights. Last May, a federal appeals court overturned that ruling by calling the Java API copyrightable. However, the court said that Google could still have lawfully used the APIs under fair use, sending the case back to a lower court to argue the issue. That's where Google will have to go next, now that the Supreme Court has declined to hear the issue over copyright itself.
Privacy

When a Company Gets Sold, Your Data May Be Sold, Too 87 87

Posted by Soulskill
from the what's-yours-is-ours-and-what's-ours-is-somebody-else's dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A new report points out that many of the top internet sites have language in their privacy policies saying that your private data might be transferred in the event of an acquisition, bankruptcy sale, or other transaction. They effectively say, "We won't ever sell your information, unless things go bad for us." 85 of the top 100 websites in the U.S. (ranked by Alexa), had this sort of language, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Hulu, and LinkedIn. (RadioShack did this recently.) "The potential ramifications of the fire sale provisions became clear two years ago when True.com, a dating site based in Plano, Tex., that was going through a bankruptcy proceeding, tried to sell its customer database on 43 million members to a dating site based in Canada. The profiles included consumers' names, birth dates, sexual orientation, race, religion, criminal convictions, photos, videos, contact information and more. Because the site's privacy policy had promised never to sell or share members' personal details without their permission, Texas was able to intervene to stop the sale of customer data, including intimate details on about two million Texans." But with this new language, users no longer enjoy that sort of protection. Only 17 of the top 100 sites even say they will notify customers of the data transfer. Only a handful allow users to opt out.
Google

New Study Accuses Google of Anti-competitive Search Behavior 125 125

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-feeling-lucky dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu — the man who coined the term "network neutrality" — has published a new study suggesting that Google's new method of putting answers to simple search queries at the top of the results page is anticompetitive and harmful to consumers. For subjective search queries — e.g. "What's the best [profession] in [city]?" — Google frequently figures out a best-guess answer to display first, favoring its own results to do so. The study did some A/B testing with a group of 2,690 internet users and found they were 45% more likely to click on merit-based results than on Google's listings. Wu writes, "Search engines are widely understood as key mediators of the web's speech environment, given that they have a powerful impact on who gets heard, what speech is neglected, and what information generally is reached. ... The more that Google directs users to its own content and its own properties, the more that speakers who write reviews, blogs and other materials become invisible to their desired audiences."
Bug

Chromecast Update Bringing Grief For Many Users 136 136

Posted by timothy
from the everyone-complains dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Last week, many Chromecast users were automatically "upgraded" to build 32904. Among the issues seen with this update are placing some users on the 'beta' release track, issues with popular apps such as Plex, HBO GO, (more embarassingly) YouTube, and others. Google so far has been slow to respond or even acknowledge the issues brought by customers, save for the beta release mishap. If you're a Chromecast user, what's been your experience?
Censorship

BBC Curates The "Right To Be Forgotten" Links That Google Can't 141 141

Posted by timothy
from the good-on-them dept.
An anonymous reader writes, quoting the BBC's Internet Blog: "Since a European Court of Justice ruling last year, individuals have the right to request that search engines remove certain web pages from their search results. Those pages usually contain personal information about individuals." The BBC, however, is not obligated to completely censor the results, and so has taken an approach that other media outlets would do well to emulate: they're keeping a list of those pages delisted by the search engines, and making them easy to find through the BBC itself. Why? The BBC has decided to make clear to licence fee payers which pages have been removed from Google's search results by publishing this list of links. Each month, we'll republish this list with new removals added at the top. We are doing this primarily as a contribution to public policy. We think it is important that those with an interest in the “right to be forgotten” can ascertain which articles have been affected by the ruling. We hope it will contribute to the debate about this issue. We also think the integrity of the BBC's online archive is important and, although the pages concerned remain published on BBC Online, removal from Google searches makes parts of that archive harder to find.
AI

WSJ Overstates the Case Of the Testy A.I. 196 196

Posted by timothy
from the how-do-you-feel-about-me-being-eliza dept.
mbeckman writes: According to a WSJ article titled "Artificial Intelligence machine gets testy with programmer," a Google computer program using a database of movie scripts supposedly "lashed out" at a human researcher who was repeatedly asking it to explain morality. After several apparent attempts to politely fend off the researcher, the AI ends the conversation with "I'm not in the mood for a philosophical debate." This, says the WSJ, illustrates how Google scientists are "teaching computers to mimic some of the ways a human brain works."

As any AI researcher can tell you, this is utter nonsense. Humans have no idea how the human, or any other brain, works, so we can hardly teach a machine how brains work. At best, Google is programming (not teaching) a computer to mimic the conversation of humans under highly constrained circumstances. And the methods used have nothing to do with true cognition.

AI hype to the public has gotten progressively more strident in recent years, misleading lay people into believing researchers are much further along than they really are — by orders of magnitude. I'd love to see legitimate A.I. researchers condemn this kind of hucksterism.
Advertising

Google Will Reduce Accidental Mobile Ad Clicks, With Mandatory Borders and More 70 70

Posted by timothy
from the next-step-per-tab-muting dept.
Mark Wilson submits news that Google is throwing a bone to mobile users annoyed by ads that (accidentally, or accidentally-on-purpose) make it too easy to accidentally click, breaking your browsing flow, by making those ads a bit less clickable. Writes Beta News: The company is taking steps to make the 'user experience' of ads a little better. It recognizes that advertisements that get clicked accidentally don't benefit anybody. They end up irritating the clicker, and are unlikely to be of value to the company that placed the ad. With around half of ad clicks being made by mistake, Google is now taking steps to stop this from happening — great news for users advertisers alike. In all, Google is making three key changes to ads that appear on smartphones and tablets, starting off by adding an unclickable border to the outer edges of advertisements.
Facebook

FB Reveals Woeful Diversity Numbers 248 248

Posted by timothy
from the talent-on-hand dept.
theodp writes: There's more work to do," said Facebook's Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams, who issued a straight-out-of-How-to-Lie-With-Statistics diversity update on Thursday that essentially consisted of a handful of bar charts labeled with only percentages for select measures of the social networking giant's current demographics. In search of real numbers, the Guardian turned to Facebook's most recent Equal Employment Opportunity report filing, which showed that the ranks of black employees swelled by a grand total of seven (7) (1 woman) in the year covered by the filing, during which time Facebook saw an overall headcount increase of 1,231. Comparing Facebook's new bar charts of US tech employees to those issued last year shows the proportion of Hispanic and Black employees remained flat at 3% and 1% respectively, while a decline in the proportion of white employees from 53% to 51% was offset by an increase in the proportion of Asian employees from 41% to 43%.
Google

Why Is Google Opening a New Data Center In a Former Coal-Fired Power Plant? 40 40

Posted by Soulskill
from the coal-thing-to-do dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Quentin Hardy reports at the NY Times that Google has announced it is opening its 14th data center inside a former coal-fired power plant in Stevenson, Alabama. While there is considerable irony in taking over a coal-burning plant and promoting alternative power, there are pragmatic reasons Google would want to put a $600 million data center in such a facility. These power facilities are typically large and solid structures with good power lines. The Alabama plant is next to a reservoir on the Tennessee River with access to lots of water, which Google uses for cooling its computers. There are also rail lines into the facility, which makes it likely Google can access buried conduits along the tracks to run fiber-optic cable. In Finland, Google rehabilitated a paper mill, and uses seawater for cooling. Salt water is corrosive for standard metal pipes, of course, so Google created a singular cooling system using plastic pipes.
Security

My United Airlines Website Hack Gets Snubbed 185 185

Posted by timothy
from the no-seat-back-recline-for-you! dept.
Bennett Haselton writes: United Airlines announced that they will offer up to 1 million air miles to users who can find security holes in their website. I demonstrated a way to brute-force a user's 4-digit PIN number and submitted it to them for review, emailing their Bugs Bounty contact address on three occasions, but I never heard back from them. Read on for the rest. If you've had a different experience with the program, please chime in below.
United States

France Could Offer Asylum To Assange, Snowden 212 212

Posted by timothy
from the asylum-and-delcious-croissants dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The Intercept reports that in the aftermath of the NSA's sweeping surveillance of three French presidents, French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira thinks National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange might be allowed to settle in France. Taubira was asked about the NSA's surveillance of three French presidents, disclosed by WikiLeaks this week, and called it an "unspeakable practice." Taubira's comments echoed those in an editorial in France's leftist newspaper Libération that France should respond to the U.S.'s "contempt" for its allies by giving Edward Snowden asylum. France would send "a clear and useful message to Washington, by granting this bold whistleblower the asylum to which he is entitled," wrote editor Laurent Joffrin in an angry editorial titled "Un seul geste" — or "A single gesture." (google translate) If Paris offers Snowden asylum, it will be joining several other nations who have done so in the past, including Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. However, Snowden is still waiting in Moscow to hear from almost two dozen other countries where he has requested asylum.
Google

Google Asks Android Developers To Show Sensitivity To Disasters and Atrocity 96 96

Posted by samzenpus
from the blood-apps dept.
Mark Wilson writes: Today Google revealed an updated version of its Google Play Developer Program Policies. There aren't actually all that many changes or additions, but those that are present are quite interesting. Google is clamping down on the problem of impersonation, making it clearer that it is not permissible to mislead users by imitating other apps, making false claims, or suggesting endorsements that do not exist. One of the more intriguing changes to the document sees Google calling on developers to show sensitivity to evens such as natural disasters, war, and death. Any apps or other content that attempt to benefit by exploiting such events are explicitly banned.
Google

Google Tests Code Repository Service 44 44

Posted by Soulskill
from the a-challenger-appears dept.
An anonymous reader writes: VentureBeat notes that Google has begun testing an unannounced service to host and edit source code repositories as part of its cloud platform. It's called Cloud Source Repositories, and it's currently being beta-tested. "Google is taking a gradual approach with the new service: It can serve as a 'remote' for Git repositories sitting elsewhere on the Internet or locally. Still, over time the new tool could help Google become more of an all-in-one destination for building and deploying applications."
Government

Editor of 'Reason' Discusses Federal Subpoena To Unmask Commenters 144 144

Posted by Soulskill
from the apparently-people-say-bad-stuff-on-the-internet dept.
mi points out an article from Nick Gillespie, editor of libertarian website Reason, who was recently asked by the federal government to provide identifying information on anonymous commenters from one of the site's blog posts. Not only was Reason issued a subpoena for the commenters's identities, but they were also placed under a gag order, preventing them from even mentioning it to somebody who wasn't their lawyer. Gillespie says the comments in question were "hyperbolic, in questionable taste–and fully within the norms of Internet commentary." He continues: To the extent that the feds actually thought these were serious plans to do real harm, why the hell would they respond with a slow-moving subpoena whose deadline was days away? By spending five minutes doing the laziest, George Jetson-style online "research" (read: Google and site searches), they would have found publicly available info on some of the commenters. I'm talking things like websites and Google+ pages. One of the commenters had literally posted thousands of comments at Reason.com, from which it is clear that he (assuming it is a he) is not exactly a threat to anyone other than common decency."
Robotics

Making a Birdhouse is Like 'Hello World' for a Versatile Factory Robot (2 Videos) 24 24

Posted by Roblimo
from the do-robot-birdhouse-builders-keep-robot-cats-as-pets? dept.
Many millions of American students have been called on to construct a wooden birdhouse as part of a middle- or high-school shop class. To make a birdhouse from wood and nails may not requite advanced carpentry, but it does take eye-hand coordination, object recognition, the ability to lift constituent pieces, and to grasp and wield tools -- and each of those can be broken down further into smaller tasks and skills of the kind that we as humans don't generally have to think about. ("Rotate wrist slightly to account for board angle.") For robots, it's another story: like the computers that run them, robots generally only do what they're told. Industrial robots can do some complex tasks, but they're expensive and complex to program.

Benjamin Cohen is a Ph.D candidate at the University of Pennsylvania working under adviser Maxim Likhachev with a real-world, cheap way to make robots to accomplish a multi-step project with minimal human intervention, which he calls "autonomous robotic assembly." Project Birdhouse -- part of his Ph.D. work, along with teammates Mike Phillips and Ellis Ranter -- is Cohen's effort to create a sort of "Hello, World" for robots. With a combination of a research-platform robot base, off-the-shelf parts, like a nail gun (read: "One not built for robot use"), and software to squeeze greater accuracy out of the system as a whole, he and his colleagues have come up with a robot that can grab a selection of parts, align them properly, and assemble them with nails into a functional birdhouse. QR codes let the robot give the robot a sort of recipe to follow, and the system is smart enough to squawk if it doesn't have the right parts to complete the task. (Check out more video with the robot in action, and a great many photos, sketches, and diagrams illustrating the project's evolution.)

NOTE: We split today's video in half, with both halves running right here, today. This way, if you watch the first video and and want to learn more, you can move on to the second one. And the transcript not only covers both videos, but has "bonus" material that isn't in either one.
United States

Google, Apple, and Others Remove Content Related To the Confederate Flag 812 812

Posted by Soulskill
from the symbols-are-for-the-symbol-minded dept.
davek writes with news that Google is removing results related to the Confederate Flag from Google Shopping, the company's online marketplace. They're also blocking advertisements involving the flag. They say, "We have determined that the Confederate flag violates our Ads policies, which don't allow content that's generally perceived as expressing hate toward a particular group." At the same time, Apple is removing from the App Store any games or other software featuring the Confederate Flag. This, of course, follows the recent shooting in South Carolina, which triggered a nationwide debate over whether the flag should be flown at government buildings (or anywhere). Major online merchant websites like eBay and Amazon have already taken the step of banning merchandise relating to the flag.
Education

New Google and CMU Moonshot: the 'Teacherless Classroom' 89 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the do-guinea-pigs-need-to-pay-tuition dept.
theodp writes: At the behest of Google, Carnegie Mellon University will largely replace formal lectures in a popular introductory Data Structures and Algorithms course this fall with videos and a social networking tool to accommodate more students. The idea behind the multi-year research project sponsored by Google — CMU will receive $200,000 in the project's first year — is to find a way to leverage existing faculty to meet a growing demand for computer science courses, while also expanding the opportunities for underrepresented minorities, high school students and community college students, explained Jacobo Carrasquel, associate teaching professor of CS. "As we teach a wider diversity of students, with different backgrounds, we can no longer teach to 'the middle,'" Carrasquel said. "When you do that, you're not aiming at the 20 percent of the top students or the 20 percent at the bottom." The move to a "teacherless classroom" for CS students at CMU [tuition $48K] comes on the heels of another Google CS Capacity Award-inspired move at Stanford [tuition $45K], where Pair Programming was adopted in a popular introductory CS class to "reduce the increasingly demanding workload for section leaders due to high enrollment and also help students to develop important collaboration skills."
Google

Virtually Climb El Capitan With Google's First Vertical Street View 32 32

Posted by samzenpus
from the going-up dept.
mpicpp writes: Google Maps is incorporating its first vertical Street View by allowing users to virtually climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. To capture the 3,000-foot ascent up El Capitan Google relied on the skills of mountain climbers Lynn Hill, Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell. "People around the world will now be able to virtually experience the unique act of ascending a 3,000-foot cliff by going on a self-directed, vertical climb," the Mountain View, Calif., company said.
Open Source

The Open Container Project and What It Means 54 54

Posted by samzenpus
from the breaking-it-down dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Monday saw the announcement of the Open Container Project in San Francisco. It is a Linux Foundation project that will hold the specification and basic run-time software for using software containers. The list of folks signing up to support the effort contains the usual suspects, and this too is a good thing: Amazon Web Services, Apcera, Cisco, CoreOS, Docker, EMC, Fujitsu Limited, Goldman Sachs, Google, HP, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Joyent, the Linux Foundation, Mesosphere, Microsoft, Pivotal, Rancher Labs, Red Hat, and VMware. In this article Stephen R. Walli takes a look at what the project means for open source.
Android

Microsoft Brings Office To Android Smartphones For Free 85 85

Posted by samzenpus
from the coming-together dept.
Mark Wilson writes: After a few weeks in preview, Microsoft Office is now available for Android smartphones. Despite Microsoft's mobile-first, cloud-first philosophy, it has actually taken some time to bring the world's most popular office suite to Android phones — it joins the tablet version of the suite that was released last year. Just like the tablet editions, the phone versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint won't cost you a penny, allowing for the viewing and editing of a range of files when on the move. There is a cloud focus with support for not only OneDrive, but also Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box, and Microsoft says it has made changes based on the feedback received during the preview period.