Encryption

US Says It Doesn't Need a Court Order To Ask Tech Companies To Build Encryption Backdoors (gizmodo.com) 249

schwit1 shares a report from Gizmodo: According to statements from July released this weekend, intelligence officials told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that there's no need for them to approach courts before requesting a tech company help willfully -- though they can always resort to obtaining a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order if the company refuses. The documents show officials testified they had never needed to obtain such an FISC order, though they declined to tell the committee whether they had "ever asked a company to add an encryption backdoor," per ZDNet. Other reporting has suggested the FISC has the power to authorize government personnel to compel such technical assistance without even notifying the FISC of what exactly is required. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act gives authorities additional powers to compel service providers to build backdoors into their products.
Medicine

'Watershed' Medical Trial Proves Type 2 Diabetes Can Be Reversed (bbc.com) 223

dryriver writes: For those suffering from type 2 diabetes, there is good news. Nearly half of the participants in a watershed trial of a new diabetes treatment were able to reverse their affliction. The method is quite simple -- an all liquid diet that causes participants to lose a lot of weight, followed by a carefully controlled diet of real solid foods. Four times a day, a sachet of powder is stirred in water to make a soup or shake. They contain about 200 calories, but also the right balance of nutrients. If the patient can keep away from other foods long enough, there is a chance of reversing type 2 diabetes completely. Prof Roy Taylor, from Newcastle University, told the BBC: "It's a real watershed moment. Before we started this line of work, doctors and specialists regarded type 2 as irreversible. But if we grasp the nettle and get people out of their dangerous state (being overweight), they can get remission of diabetes." However, doctors are not calling this a cure. If the weight goes back on, then the diabetes will return. The trial only looked at people diagnosed with diabetes in the last six years. Doctors believe -- but do not know with absolute certainty yet -- that in people who have had the affliction much longer than that, there may be too much permanent damage to make remission possible. The trial results have been published in the Lancet medical journal.
Bitcoin

Feds Shut Down Allegedly Fraudulent Cryptocurrency Offering (arstechnica.com) 47

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday announced that it was taking action against an initial coin offering (ICO) that the SEC alleges is fraudulent. The announcement represents the first enforcement action by the SEC's recently created cyber fraud unit. In July, the agency fired a warning shot. It announced that a 2016 fundraising campaign had run afoul of securities law, but that the SEC would decline to prosecute those responsible. The hope was to get the cryptocurrency world to take securities laws more seriously without doing anything drastic. Now the SEC is taking the next step by prosecuting what it considers to be one of the most egregious scams in the ICO world. The SEC's complaint, filed in federal court in New York, is against Dominic Lacroix, whom the SEC describes as a "recidivist securities law violator." The SEC considers Lacroix's cryptocurrency project, PlexCoin, to be a "fast-moving Initial Coin Offering (ICO) fraud that raised up to $15 million from thousands of investors since August by falsely promising a 13-fold profit in less than a month." The PlexCoin website has a hilariously vague description of this supposedly revolutionary cryptocurrency. "The PlexCoin's new revolutionary operating structure is safer and much easier to use than any other current cryptocurrency," the site proclaims. "One of the many features of PlexBank will be to secure your cryptocurrency from market variation, which is highly volatile, and invest your money in a place where you can get interesting guaranteed returns." According to Ars, "The SEC isn't impressed and is arguing that PlexCoin has 'all of the characteristics of a full-fledged cyber scam.' The agency is seeking to freeze the assets of the PlexCoin project in hopes of getting investors' funds back to them."
Television

40 Percent of America Will Cut the Cord By 2030, New Report Predicts (vice.com) 114

bumblebaetuna shares a report from Motherboard: By 2030, as many as 40 percent of Americans will have cut the cord, according to predictions in a new report by market analyst TDG Research. The percent of U.S. households still shelling out for cable has dropped every year since 2012. If the trend continues on the current path, TDG predicts the percent of U.S. households subscribing to pay TV will drop to 60 percent in the next 13 years. Cost is a major driver of this shift: the cost of bundling a few favorite streaming services together still pales in comparison to the average cable bill. TDG found that two thirds of cord cutters and "cord nevers" (people who have never paid for cable) said service expense was the key reason they do not use legacy pay TV services. There's also a generational shift: 61 percent of adults aged 18-29 say online streaming services are the primary way they watch TV.
Canada

ISPs and Movie Industry Prepare Canadian Pirate Site Blocking Deal (torrentfreak.com) 86

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: A coalition of movie industry companies and ISPs, including Bell, Rogers, and Cineplex are discussing a proposal to implement a plan to allow for website blockades without judicial oversight. The Canadian blocklist would be maintained by a new non-profit organization called "Internet Piracy Review Agency" (IPRA) and enforced through the CTRC, Canadaland reports. The plan doesn't come as a total surprise as Bell alluded to a nationwide blocking mechanism during a recent Government hearing. What becomes clear from the new plans, however, is that the telco is not alone. The new proposal is being discussed by various stakeholders including ISPs and local movie companies. As in other countries, major American movie companies are also in the loop, but they will not be listed as official applicants when the plan is submitted to the CRTC. Canadian law professor Micheal Geist is very critical of the plans. Although the proposal would only cover sites that "blatantly, overwhelmingly or structurally" engage in or facilitate copyright infringement, this can be a blurry line.

"Recent history suggests that the list will quickly grow to cover tougher judgment calls. For example, Bell has targeted TVAddons, a site that contains considerable non-infringing content," Geist notes. "It can be expected that many other sites disliked by rights holders or broadcasters would find their way onto the block list," he adds. While the full list of applicants is not ready yet, it is expected that the coalition will file its proposal to the CRTC before the end of the month.

Sci-Fi

Quentin Tarantino and JJ Abrams Team Up For 'Star Trek' Movie (hollywoodreporter.com) 228

Quentin Tarantino reportedly has a pitch for a Star Trek film, and he has shared his vision with J.J. Abrams. According to Hollywood Reporter, "Tarantino and Abrams have plans to bring together a writers room to develop a film at Star Trek studio Paramount. Tarantino has an eye to direct the potential project." From the report: Abrams rebooted the franchise with 2009's Star Trek and also helmed 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness, before pivoting to Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He remains a producer on the Star Trek franchise even as he readies 2019's Star Wars: Episode IX. Paramount previously stated it was developing a fourth Star Trek film to star Chris Hemsworth as Captain Kirk's (Chris Pine) father, but no director has been attached and it's unclear where this Tarantino development leaves the project. The latest installment, Justin Lin's Star Trek Beyond (2016), was well-liked by critics but earned just $343.4 million worldwide, the lowest in the rebooted universe. In a 2015 Nerdist podcast interview, Tarantino revealed that he would be more likely to direct a Star Trek film over a Star Wars pic, noting he was a big fan of the original series.
Android

Qualcomm Announces Latest Snapdragon 845 Processor (9to5google.com) 38

The processor to power the next generation of Android flagship smartphones has been announced today. Qualcomm unveiled the new Snapdragon 845 processor at the 2017 Snapdragon Tech Summit, where Microsoft announced it was working with its PC partners to bring Windows 10 to Qualcomm's ARM processors. While more technical details of the chip will be announced tomorrow, we do know that the Snapdragon 845 processor is based on a 10nm processor and will feature the latest X20 LTE modem for gigabit connectivity speeds. Generally speaking, the new processor will bring improved performance, better power efficiency, and improved image processing.
AI

Tencent Says There Are Only 300,000 AI Engineers Worldwide, But Millions Are Needed (theverge.com) 116

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: It's well-established that talent is in short supply in the AI industry, but a new report from Chinese tech giant Tencent underscores how great the need might be. According to the study, compiled by the Tencent Research Institute, there are just 300,000 "AI researchers and practitioners" worldwide, but the "market demand" is for millions of roles. These are unavoidably speculative figures, and the study does not offer much detail on how they were reached, but as a general trend they fit with other, more anecdotal reports. Around the world, tech giants regularly complain about the difficulty hiring AI engineers, and the demand has pushed salaries to absurd heights. Individuals with just a few year's experience can expect base pay of between $300,000 and $500,000 a year, says The New York Times, while the very best will collect millions. One independent AI lab told the publication that there were only 10,000 individuals worldwide with the right skills to spearhead serious new AI projects.

Tencent's new "2017 Global AI Talent White Paper" suggests the bottleneck here is education. It estimates that 200,000 of the 300,000 active researchers are already employed in various industries (not just tech), while the remaining 100,000 are still studying. Attendance in machine learning and AI courses has skyrocketed in recent years, as has enrollment in online courses, but there is obviously a lag as individuals complete their education.

Science

Why Some People Can Hear Silent GIF (bbc.com) 167

An anonymous reader shares a BBC report: Some people claim they can hear a thudding sound when the pylon hits the ground and the picture vibrates. Last weekend, Dr Lisa DeBruine from the Institute of Neuroscience & Psychology at the University of Glasgow posted it on Twitter, asking her followers to describe whether they experienced any auditory sensations while watching it. One person who suffers from ringing ears replied: "I hear a vibrating thudding sound, and it also cuts out my tinnitus during the camera shake." Others offered explanations as to why. While another suggested it may have something to do with correlated neuronal activity: "The brain is 'expecting/predicting' what is coming visually and then fires a version of what it expects across the relevant senses. Also explains why some might 'feel' a physical shake."
Facebook

Health Secretary Hits Out at Facebook's New App, Says 'Stay Away From My Kids' (theguardian.com) 113

Jeremy Hunt has publicly attacked Facebook for releasing a version of its Messenger app aimed at children, and called on the social media company to "stay away from my kids." From a report: The health secretary accused the company of "targeting younger children" after Facebook announced on Monday that it was conducting trials of an app called Messenger Kids in the US, which is designed to be used by pre-teens. He said the company was failing to act responsibly despite having assured the government that it would not target its service at children, who can only use the main social media website if they are over 13.
Google

Google Is Pulling YouTube Off the Fire TV and Echo Show as Feud With Amazon Grows (theverge.com) 238

An anonymous reader shares a report: Three months ago, YouTube pulled its programming from Amazon's Echo Show device -- the first skirmish in what is apparently an ongoing war. Shortly after, Amazon stopped selling the Nest E Thermostat, Nest's Camera IQ, and the Nest Secure alarm system. Two weeks ago, Amazon got YouTube back on the Echo Show by simply directing users to the web version, a workaround that left a lot to be desired. But even that version won't be available after today. In a statement, Google said it has been trying to reach an agreement with Amazon to provide customers with access to each other's products and services. But, Google said, Amazon doesn't carry Google products like Chromecast and Google Home, doesn't make Prime Video available for Google Cast users, and last month stopped selling some of Nest's latest products. "Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and FireTV. We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon."
Microsoft

Microsoft Debuts Windows 10 on ARM; Asus and HP Unveil Laptops With 20-Hour Battery Life, Gigabit LTE (zdnet.com) 139

Mary Jo Zoley, writing for ZDNet: A year ago, Microsoft announced it was working with its PC partners to bring Windows 10 to Qualcomm's ARM processors. The resulting machines, part of the "Always Connected PC" ecosystem, would start rolling out before the end of calendar 2017, officials said. Today, December 5, Microsoft provided a progress report on Windows on ARM at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Tech Summit. Microsoft and PC makers Asus and HP showed off new PCs running Windows 10 on Snapdragon 835 at the event. Asus' NovoGo will begin shipping at least in quantities before year-end, I've heard. Models with 4 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage will be available starting at $599, and 8GB/256 GB storage model at $799, Asus officials said today. Asus is claiming 22 hours of continuous video playback and 30 days of standby. HP's Envy x2 -- like most of the ARM-based Always Connected Windows 10 devices -- won't be available until Spring of 2018. Users can get up to 20 hours of active use and 700 hours of "Connected Modern Standby." Pricing is not yet available.
Privacy

Germany Preparing Law for Backdoors in Any Type of Modern Device (bleepingcomputer.com) 251

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: German authorities are preparing a law that will force device manufacturers to include backdoors within their products that law enforcement agencies could use at their discretion for legal investigations. The law would target all modern devices, such as cars, phones, computers, IoT products, and more. Officials are expected to submit their proposed law for debate this week, according to local news outlet RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND). The man supporting this proposal is Thomas de Maiziere, Germany's Interior Minister, who cites the difficulty law enforcement agents have had in past months investigating the recent surge of terrorist attacks and other crimes.
Privacy

Trump Is Looking at Plans For a Global Network of Private Spies (vice.com) 481

David Gilbert, writing for Vice: The White House is reportedly looking at a proposal to create a ghost network of private spies in hostile countries -- a way of bypassing the intelligence community's "deep state," which Donald Trump believes is a threat to his administration. The network would report directly to the president and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and would be developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince, according to multiple current and former officials speaking to The Intercept. "Pompeo can't trust the CIA bureaucracy, so we need to create this thing that reports just directly to him," a former senior U.S. intelligence official with firsthand knowledge of the proposals told the website. Described as "totally off the books," the network would be run by intelligence contractor Amyntor Group and would not share any data with the traditional intelligence community.
Security

A Popular Virtual Keyboard App Leaks 31 Million Users' Personal Data (zdnet.com) 65

Zack Whittaker, writing for ZDNet: Personal data belonging to over 31 million customers of a popular virtual keyboard app has leaked online, after the app's developer failed to secure the database's server. The server is owned by Eitan Fitusi, co-founder of AI.type, a customizable and personalizable on-screen keyboard, which boasts more than 40 million users across the world. But the server wasn't protected with a password, allowing anyone to access the company's database of user records, totaling more than 577 gigabytes of sensitive data. The database appears to only contain records on the app's Android users.
The Almighty Buck

Contributors To Prominent Publications Have Taken Payments in Exchange For Positive Coverage (theoutline.com) 130

Jon Christian, reporting for The Outline: Interviews with more than two dozen marketers, journalists, and others familiar with similar pay-for-play offers revealed a dubious corner of online publishing in which publicists blur traditional lines between advertising and public relations, quietly pay off journalists to promote their clients in articles that make no mention of the financial arrangement. People involved with the payoffs are extremely reluctant to discuss them, but four contributing writers to prominent publications including Mashable, Business Insider, and Entrepreneur told me they have personally accepted payments in exchange for weaving promotional references to brands into their work on those sites. Two of the writers acknowledged they have taken part in the scheme for years, on behalf of many brands. One of them, a contributor to Fast Company and other outlets who asked not to be identified by name, described how he had inserted references to a well-known startup that offers email marketing software into multiple online articles, in Fast Company and elsewhere, on behalf of a marketing agency he declined to name.
Businesses

Gizmodo: Don't Buy Anyone an Amazon Echo Speaker (gizmodo.com) 257

Adam Clark Estes, writing for Gizmodo: Three years ago, we said the Echo was "the most innovative device Amazon's made in years." That's still true. But you shouldn't buy one. You shouldn't buy one for your family. [...] Your family members do not need an Amazon Echo or a Google Home or an AppleHomePod or whatever that one smart speaker that uses Cortana is called. And you don't either. You only want one because every single gadget-slinger on the planet is marketing them to you as an all-new, life-changing device that could turn your kitchen into a futuristic voice-controlled paradise. You probably think that having an always-on microphone in your home is fine, and furthermore, tech companies only record and store snippets of your most intimate conversations. No big deal, you tell yourself. Actually, it is a big deal. The newfound privacy conundrum presented by installing a device that can literally listen to everything you're saying represents a chilling new development in the age of internet-connected things. By buying a smart speaker, you're effectively paying money to let a huge tech company surveil you. And I don't mean to sound overly cynical about this, either. Amazon, Google, Apple, and others say that their devices aren't spying on unsuspecting families. The only problem is that these gadgets are both hackable and prone to bugs.
Youtube

YouTube To Hire More Than 10,000 Content Moderators on Staff Next Year To Stop Its Child Exploitation Problem (buzzfeed.com) 91

YouTube is adding more human moderators and increasing its machine learning in an attempt to curb its child exploitation problem, the company's CEO Susan Wojcicki said. From a report: The company plans to increase its content moderation workforce to more than 10,000 employees in 2018 in order to help screen videos and train the platform's machine learning algorithms to spot and remove problematic children's content. Sources familiar with YouTube's workforce numbers say this represents a 25% increase from where the company is today. In the last two weeks, YouTube has removed hundreds of thousands of videos featuring children in disturbing and possibly exploitative situations, including being duct-taped to walls, mock-abducted, and even forced into washing machines. The company said it will employ the same approach it used this summer as it worked to eradicate violent extremist content from the platform.
Android

Android Go Will Make the Most Basic Phones Run Smoothly (cnet.com) 101

Entry-level phones may cost less than big hitters, but they come at the cost of space, speed and efficiency. Google's looking to change that with Android Go. From a report: Android Oreo (Go Edition) will launch tomorrow as part of the Android Oreo 8.1 rollout and all Android Oreo devices with 512MB to 1GB of memory will be optimised for Android Go. Google says this will allow them to function properly as smartphones while doubling their available storage space. The experience includes: An improved operating system with better performance, storage and security features; a new set of lighter Google apps, suitable for first-time web users; a Google Play store that highlights apps designed to work best on entry-level devices.
Businesses

The Compelling Case For Working Less (bbc.com) 176

An anonymous reader shares a report from the BBC, written by Amanda Ruggeri: As we fill our days with more and more "doing," many of us are finding that non-stop activity isn't the apotheosis of productivity. It is its adversary. Researchers are learning that it doesn't just mean that the work we produce at the end of a 14-hour day is of worse quality than when we're fresh. This pattern of working also undermines our creativity and our cognition. Over time, it can make us feel physically sick -- and even, ironically, as if we have no purpose. Think of mental work as doing push-ups, says Josh Davis, author of Two Awesome Hours. Say you want to do 10,000. The most 'efficient' way would be to do them all at once without a break. We know instinctively, though, that that is impossible. Instead, if we did just a few at a time, between other activities and stretched out over weeks, hitting 10,000 would become far more feasible. "The brain is very much like a muscle in this respect," Davis writes. "Set up the wrong conditions through constant work and we can accomplish little. Set up the right conditions and there is probably little we can't do." Many of us, though, tend to think of our brains not as muscles, but as a computer: a machine capable of constant work. Not only is that untrue, but pushing ourselves to work for hours without a break can be harmful, some experts say. Ruggeri goes on to highlight the negative health effects associated with working long hours. "One meta-analysis found that long working hours increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 40% -- almost as much as smoking (50%)," she writes. "Another found that people who worked long hours had a significantly higher risk of stroke, while people who worked more than 11 hours a day were almost 2.5 times more likely to have a major depressive episode than those who worked seven to eight."
Power

The World's Astonishing Dependence On Fossil Fuels Hasn't Changed In 40 Years (qz.com) 243

schwit1 shares a report from Quartz, adding: "Maybe 'dependence' is a poor description of poor people using the ready availability of cheap energy to help lift themselves out of poverty": There are few ways to understand why. First, most of the world's clean-energy sources are used to generate electricity. But electricity forms only 25% of the world's energy consumption. Second, as the rich world moved towards a cleaner energy mix, much of the poor world was just starting to gain access to modern forms of energy. Inevitably, they chose the cheapest option, which was and remains fossil fuels. So yes, we're using much more clean energy than we used to. But the world's energy demand has grown so steeply that we're also using a lot more fossil fuels than in the past.
The Courts

State Board Concedes It Violated Free Speech Rights of Oregon Man Fined For Writing 'I Am An Engineer' (oregonlive.com) 178

According to Oregon Live, "A state panel violated a Beaverton man's free speech rights by claiming he had unlawfully used the title 'engineer' and by fining him when he repeatedly challenged Oregon's traffic-signal timing before local media and policymakers, Oregon's attorney general has ruled." From the report: Oregon's Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying unconstitutionally applied state law governing engineering practice to Mats Jarlstrom when he exercised his free speech about traffic lights and described himself as an engineer since he was doing so "in a noncommercial'' setting and not soliciting professional business, the state Department of Justice has conceded. "We have admitted to violating Mr. Jarlstrom's rights,'' said Christina L. Beatty-Walters, senior assistant attorney general, in federal court Monday. The state's regulation of Jarlstrom under engineering practice law "was not narrowly tailored to any compelling state interests,'' she wrote in court papers. The state has pledged the board will not pursue the Beaverton man any further when he's not acting in a commercial or professional manner, and on Monday urged a federal judge to dismiss the case. The state also sent a $500 check to Jarlstrom in August, reimbursing him for the state fine.

Jarlstrom and his lawyers argued that's not good enough. They contend Jarlstrom isn't alone in getting snared by the state board's aggressive and "overbroad'' interpretation of state law. They contend others have been investigated improperly and want the court to look broader at the state law and its administrative rules and declare them unconstitutional. In the alternative, the state law should be restricted to only regulating engineering communications that are made as part of paid employment or a contractual agreement.

Slashdot Top Deals