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+ - Ethical trap: robot paralysed by choice of who to save-> 1

Submitted by wabrandsma
wabrandsma (2551008) writes "From New Scientist:

Can a robot learn right from wrong? Attempts to imbue robots, self-driving cars and military machines with a sense of ethics reveal just how hard this is

In an experiment, Alan Winfield and his colleagues programmed a robot to prevent other automatons – acting as proxies for humans – from falling into a hole. This is a simplified version of Isaac Asimov's fictional First Law of Robotics – a robot must not allow a human being to come to harm.

At first, the robot was successful in its task. As a human proxy moved towards the hole, the robot rushed in to push it out of the path of danger. But when the team added a second human proxy rolling toward the hole at the same time, the robot was forced to choose. Sometimes, it managed to save one human while letting the other perish; a few times it even managed to save both. But in 14 out of 33 trials, the robot wasted so much time fretting over its decision that both humans fell into the hole.

Winfield describes his robot as an "ethical zombie" that has no choice but to behave as it does. Though it may save others according to a programmed code of conduct, it doesn't understand the reasoning behind its actions. Winfield admits he once thought it was not possible for a robot to make ethical choices for itself. Today, he says, "my answer is: I have no idea".

As robots integrate further into our everyday lives, this question will need to be answered. A self-driving car, for example, may one day have to weigh the safety of its passengers against the risk of harming other motorists or pedestrians. It may be very difficult to program robots with rules for such encounters."

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+ - Treasure Map: NSA, GCHQ work on real-time 'Google Earth' internet observation-> 1

Submitted by wabrandsma
wabrandsma (2551008) writes "from Der Spiegel:
According to top-secret documents from the NSA and the British agency GCHQ, the intelligence agencies are seeking to map the entire Internet, including end-user devices. In pursuing that goal, they have broken into networks belonging to Deutsche Telekom.

The document that Der Spiegel has seen shows a map with the name 'Treasure Map'. On the map are the names of Deutsche Telekom and NetCologne and their networks highlighted in red, where the legend says that within the networks 'access points' exist for 'technical observation'.

Treasure Map is anything but harmless entertainment. Rather, it is the mandate for a massive raid on the digital world. It aims to map the Internet, and not just the large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. It also seeks to identify the devices across which our data flows, so-called routers.

Furthermore, every single end device that is connected to the Internet somewhere in the world — every smartphone, tablet and computer — is to be made visible. Such a map doesn't just reveal one treasure. There are millions of them.

The breathtaking mission is described in a Treasure Map presentation from the documents of the former intelligence service employee Edward Snowden which SPIEGEL has seen. It instructs analysts to "map the entire Internet — Any device, anywhere, all the time."

Treasure Map allows for the creation of an "interactive map of the global Internet" in "near real-time," the document notes. Employees of the so-called "FiveEyes" intelligence agencies from Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which cooperate closely with the American agency NSA, can install and use the program on their own computers. One can imagine it as a kind of Google Earth for global data traffic, a bird's eye view of the planet's digital arteries.

The New York Times reported on the existence of Treasure Map last November. What it means for Germany can be seen in additional material in the Snowden archive that SPIEGEL has examined."

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+ - Patents that kill->

Submitted by wabrandsma
wabrandsma (2551008) writes "The Economist:
The patent system, which was developed independently in 15th century Venice and then in 17th century England, gave entrepreneurs a monopoly to sell their inventions for a number of years. Yet by the 1860s the patent system came under attack, including from The Economist. Patents, critics argued, stifled future creativity by allowing inventors to rest on their laurels. Recent economic research backs this up."

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+ - PayPal freezes account of email encryption startup ProtonMail 1

Submitted by blottsie
blottsie (3618811) writes "PayPal has frozen more than $275,000 in donations to ProtonMail, claiming the email encryption startup may be illegal. A PayPal alert told ProtonMail that was unsure if ProtonMail has the necessary U.S. government approval to encrypt emails, as though anyone who encrypts needs a license to do so. Of course, it is absolutely legal to encrypt email. The freeze remains in place."

+ - Nasty Security Flaw In OAuth, OpenID Discovered->

Submitted by jones_supa
jones_supa (887896) writes "Notable security vulnerability has been discovered which impacts both OAuth and OpenID, which are software packages that provide a secure delegated access to websites. Wang Jing, a Ph.D student at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, discovered that the 'Covert Redirect' flaw can masquerade as a login popup based on an affected site's domain. Covert Redirect is based on a well-known exploit parameter. For example, someone clicking on a malicious phishing link will get a popup window in Facebook, asking them to authorize the app. Instead of using a fake domain name that's similar to trick users, the Covert Redirect flaw uses the real site address for authentication. If a user chooses to authorize the login, personal data will be released to the attacker instead of to the legitimate website. Wang did already warn a handful of tech giants about the vulnerability, but they mostly dodged the issue. In all honesty, it is not trivial to fix, and any effective remedies would negatively impact the user experience. Users who wish to avoid any potential loss of data should be careful about clicking links that immediately ask you to log in to Facebook or Google, and be aware of this redirection attack."
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+ - Supreme Court skeptical of computer-based patents->

Submitted by walterbyrd
walterbyrd (182728) writes "The case, Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, poses huge risks for both sides. If the court upholds the patent or rules only narrowly against it without affecting most others, the problem of too many patents — and patent lawsuits — will continue. In that case, Justice Stephen Breyer said, future competition could move from price and quality to "who has the best patent lawyer.""
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+ - Google Flu Trends gets it wrong three years running->

Submitted by wabrandsma
wabrandsma (2551008) writes "From NewScientist:

Google may be a master at data wrangling, but one of its products has been making bogus data-driven predictions. A study of Google's much-hyped flu tracker has consistently overestimated flu cases in the US for years. It's a failure that highlights the danger of relying on big data technologies.

Evan Selinger, a technology ethicist at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, says Google Flu's failures hint at a larger problem with the algorithmic approach taken by technology companies to deliver services we all want to use. The problem is with the assumption that either the data that is gathered about us, or the algorithms used to process it, are neutral.

Google Flu Trends has been discussed at slashdot before: When Google Got Flu Wrong."

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+ - Snowden Document Proves that Dutch Secret Service AIVD Hacks Internet Forums->

Submitted by vikingpower
vikingpower (768921) writes "In the ever-longer wake of the NSA scandal, much-respected Dutch newspaper NRC today reveals, in English, as mandated by the gravity of the occasion, that the Dutch secret service, the AIVD, hacks internet forums. And yes, that is gross misconduct against Dutch law. The service, whose headquarters are in Zoetermeer, did not yet comment upon the divulgation of the document from Edward Snowden's collection. Incensed Dutch parliamentaries are calling for an enquiry."
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+ - Study Suggests Link Between Dread Pirate Roberts and Satoshi Nakamoto->

Submitted by wabrandsma
wabrandsma (2551008) writes "Two Israeli computer scientists say they may have uncovered a puzzling financial link between Ross William Ulbricht, the recently arrested operator of the Internet black market known as the Silk Road, and the secretive inventor of bitcoin, the anonymous online currency, used to make Silk Road purchases."
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+ - Reprogrammed bacterium speaks new language of life->

Submitted by wabrandsma
wabrandsma (2551008) writes "From NewScientist:
A bacterium has had its genome recoded so that the standard language of life no longer applies. Instead, one of its words has been freed up to impart a different meaning, allowing the addition of genetic elements that don't exist in nature.
The work has been described as the first step towards a new biology because the techniques used should open the door to reinventing the meaning of several genetic words simultaneously, potentially creating new types of biomaterials and drugs."

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+ - Matchstick-sized sensor can record your private chats-> 1

Submitted by wabrandsma
wabrandsma (2551008) writes "From NewScientist: A sensor previously used for military operations can now be tuned to secretly locate and record any single conversation on a busy street.

Now, a Dutch acoustics firm, Microflown Technologies, has developed a matchstick-sized sensor that can pinpoint and record a target's conversations from a distance.
Known as an acoustic vector sensor, Microflown's sensor measures the movement of air, disturbed by sound waves, to almost instantly locate where a sound originated. It can then identify the noise and, if required, transmit it live to waiting ears.

Security technologist Bruce Schneier says this new capability is unwelcome – particularly given the recent claims about the NSA's success at tapping into our private lives. "It's not just this one technology that's the problem," Schneier says. "It's the mic plus the drones, plus the signal processing, plus voice recognition.""

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+ - "Patent troll" closes controversial podcast patent deal with SanDisk->

Submitted by wabrandsma
wabrandsma (2551008) writes "The patent company Personal Audio of James Logan has closed a licensing agreement with SanDisk. The company says that now "between a third and two thirds of all mp3 audio players" is made by the companies to which its patents have been licensed, including LG, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Blackberry and Amazon.

In the past Logan even went "into the lion's den," fielding a question-and-answer session at Slashdot.

The digital civil rights movement Electronic Frontier Foundation wants to fight Personal Audio's podcasting patent at the US Patent and Trademark Office. The money for the procedure, about 30,000 dollars, was brought in earlier this year through crowdfunding."

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