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Facebook

Facebook Says Humans Won't Write Its Trending Topic Descriptions Anymore (recode.net) 16

Following a former Facebook journalist's report that the company's workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network's Trending Topics section, the company has been in damage control mode. First, the company announced it would tweak its Trending Topics section and revamp how editors find trending stories. Specifically, they will train the human editors who work on Facebook's trending section and abandon several automated tools it used to find and categorize trending news in the past. Most recently, Facebook added political scenarios to its orientation training following the concerns. Now, it appears that Facebook will "end its practice of writing editorial descriptions for topics, replacing them with snippets of text pulled from news stories." Kurt Wagner, writing for Recode: It's been more than three months since Gizmodo first published a story claiming Facebook's human editors were suppressing conservative news content on the site's Trending Topics section. Facebook vehemently denied the report, but has been dealing with the story's aftermath ever since. On Friday, Facebook announced another small but notable change to Trending Topics: Human editors will no longer write the short story descriptions that accompany a trending topic on the site. Instead, Facebook is going to use algorithms to "pull excerpts directly from stories." It is not, however, cutting out humans entirely. In fact, Facebook employees will still select which stories ultimately make it into the trending section. An algorithm will surface popular stories, but Facebook editors will weed out the inappropriate or fake ones. "There are still people involved in this process to ensure that the topics that appear in Trending remain high-quality," the company's blog reads.
Businesses

Spotify Is Burying Tracks From Musicians Who Give Exclusives To Apple and Tidal (bloomberg.com) 22

The music-streaming market is very competitive these days, especially since Apple released Apple Music last year. In retaliation for musicians giving Apple exclusive access to their new music, Spotify has reportedly been making their songs harder to find on its service. Bloomberg reports: "Artists who have given Apple exclusive access to new music have been told they won't be able to get their tracks on featuring playlists once the songs become available on Spotify, said the people [familiar with the strategy], who declined to be identified discussing the steps. Those artists have also found their songs buried in the search rankings of Spotify, the world's largest music-streaming service, the people said. Spotify said it doesn't alter search rankings. Spotify has been using such practices for about a year, one of the people said, though others said the efforts have escalated over the past few months. Artists who have given exclusives to Tidal, the streaming service run by Jay Z, have also retaliated against, the person said, declining to identify specific musicians."
United Kingdom

British Companies Are Selling Advanced Spy Tech To Authoritarian Regimes (vice.com) 32

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Since early 2015, over a dozen UK companies have been granted licenses to export powerful telecommunications interception technology to countries around the world, Motherboard has learned. Many of these exports include IMSI-catchers, devices which can monitor large numbers of mobile phones over broad areas. Some of the UK companies were given permission to export their products to authoritarian states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Egypt; countries with poor human rights records that have been well-documented to abuse surveillance technology. In 2015, the UK's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) started publishing basic data about the exportation of telecommunications interception devices. Through the Freedom of Information Act, Motherboard obtained the names of companies that have applied for exportation licenses, as well as details on the technologies being shipped, including, in some cases, individual product names. The companies include a subsidiary of defense giant BAE Systems, as well as Pro-Solve International, ComsTrac, CellXion, Cobham, and Domo Tactical Communications (DTC). Many of these companies sell IMSI-catchers. IMSI-catchers, sometimes known as "Stingrays" after a particularly popular brand, are fake cell phone towers which force devices in their proximity to connect. In the data obtained by Motherboard, 33 licenses are explicitly marked as being for IMSI-catchers, including for export to Turkey and Indonesia. Other listings heavily suggest the export of IMSI-catchers too: one granted application to export to Iraq is for a "Wideband Passive GSM Monitoring System," which is a more technical description of what many IMSI-catchers do. In all, Motherboard received entries for 148 export license applications, from February 2015 to April 2016. A small number of the named companies do not provide interception capabilities, but defensive measures, for example to monitor the radio spectrum.
Democrats

Hillary Clinton Used BleachBit To Wipe Emails (neowin.net) 198

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Neowin: The open-source disk cleaning application, BleachBit, got quite a decent ad pitch from the world of politics after it was revealed lawyers of the presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton, used the software to wipe her email servers. Clinton is currently in hot water, being accused of using private servers for storing sensitive emails. "[South Carolina Representative, Trey Gowdy, spoke to Fox News about Hillary Clinton's lawyers using BleachBit to wipe the private servers. He said:] 'She and her lawyers had those emails deleted. And they didn't just push the delete button; they had them deleted where even God can't read them. They were using something called BleachBit. You don't use BleachBit for yoga emails or bridesmaids emails. When you're using BleachBit, it is something you really do not want the world to see.'" Two of the main features that are listed on the BleachBit website include "Shred files to hide their contents and prevent data recovery," and "Overwrite free disk space to hide previously deleted files." These two features would make it pretty difficult for anyone trying to recover the deleted emails. Slashdot reader ahziem adds: The IT team for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used the open source cleaning software BleachBit to wipe systems "so even God couldn't read them," according to South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy on Fox News. His comments on the "drastic cyber-measure" were in response to the question of whether emails on her private Microsoft Exchange Server were simply about "yoga and wedding plans." Perhaps Clinton's team used an open-source application because, unlike proprietary applications, it can be audited, like for backdoors. In response to the Edward Snowden leaks in 2013, privacy expert Bruce Schneier advised in an article in which he stated he also uses BleachBit, "Closed-source software is easier for the NSA to backdoor than open-source software." Ironically, Schneier was writing to a non-governmental audience. Have any Slashdotters had any experience with BleachBit? Specifically, have you used it for erasing "yoga emails" or "bridesmaids emails?"
Earth

SpaceX Dragon Returns Home From ISS (floridatoday.com) 17

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Florida Today: A SpaceX Dragon capsule that helped prepare the International Space Station for future commercial astronaut flights has returned to Earth after a stay of more than month-long mission. A robotic arm released the unmanned capsule packed with 3,000 pounds of cargo at 6:11 a.m. EDT, then fired thrusters several times to move a safe distance away from the station orbiting about 250 miles up. The departure began a less than six-hour journey that culminated in a Pacific Ocean splashdown at 11:47 a.m. EDT, about 300 miles southwest of Baja, California. The Dragon launched from Cape Canaveral early July 18 on a Falcon 9 rocket and berthed at the station two days later. Among the cargo brought back from space Friday were a dozen mice from a Japanese science experiment -- the first brought home alive in a Dragon. Samples from mice euthanized as part of an experiment by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly also were on board. Results were returned from an experiment that studied the behavior of heart cells in microgravity, and from research into the composition of microbes in the human digestive system, NASA said. Findings from both could help keep astronauts healthy during deep space exploration missions. SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station next Saturday, Sept. 3.
Communications

Sprint Charging 'Unlimited' Users $20 More for Unthrottled Video (dslreports.com) 66

Sprint has a new "unlimited" data plan for users that want to watch videos in full-HD (1080p) screen resolution. Dubbed "Unlimited Freedom Premium" plan, it offers the same features as the "Unlimited Freedom" plan with the bonus of allowing users to stream videos in full-HD. Also, it costs $20 extra. DSLReports points out the obvious:Last week we noted that Sprint unveiled its new Unlimited Freedom plan, which provides unlimited text, voice and data for $60 a month for one line, $40 a month for a second line, and $30 a month for every line thereafter (up to a maxiumum of 10). But the plan also, following on T-Mobile's heels, throttles all video by default to 480p, a move that has raised the hackles of net neutrality advocates.
The Almighty Buck

Amazon Is Testing a 30-Hour, 75% Salary Workweek (washingtonpost.com) 128

Amazon is planning a pilot program in which a select group of workers will need to work for 30 hours a week, instead of the usual 40 to 70 hours, and make 75 percent of the salary + benefits (alternate source). From the report:Currently, the pilot program will be small, consisting of a few dozen people. These teams will work on tech products within the human resources division of the company, working Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with additional flex hours. Their salaries will be lower than 40-hour workers, but they will have the option to transition to full-time if they choose. Team members will be hired from inside and outside the company. As of now, Amazon does not have plans to alter the 40-hour workweek on a companywide level, the spokesman said.
Books

Belgians Are Hunting Books, Instead Of Pokemon (reuters.com) 29

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report:Inspired by the success of Pokemon Go, a Belgian primary school headmaster has developed an online game for people to search for books instead of cartoon monsters, attracting tens of thousands of players in weeks. While with Pokemon Go, players use a mobile device's GPS and camera to track virtual creatures around town, Aveline Gregoire's version is played through a Facebook group called "Chasseurs de livres" ("Book hunters"). Players post pictures and hints about where they have hidden a book and others go to hunt them down. Once someone has finished reading a book, they "release" it back into the wild. "While I was arranging my library, I realized I didn't have enough space for all my books. Having played Pokemon Go with my kids, I had the idea of releasing the books into nature," Gregoire told Reuters. Though it was only set up a few weeks ago, more than 40,000 people are already signed up to Gregoire's Facebook group.
Power

Alphabet's Nest Wants to Build a 'Citizen-Fueled' Power Plant (bloomberg.com) 129

Mark Chediak, reporting for Bloomberg:Alphabet Inc's Nest Labs is looking to enlist enough customers in California to free up as much power as a small natural gas-fired plant produces, helping alleviate potential energy shortages in the region following a massive gas leak that has restricted supplies. Nest, which supplies digital, wireless thermostats, is partnering with Edison International's Southern California Edison utility to get households enrolled in a state-established energy conservation program. The company wants to attract 50,000 customers through next summer that could shrink their total demand by as much as 50 megawatts when needed, Ben Bixby, Nest's director of energy businesses at Nest, said by phone. "We are building a citizen-fueled clean power plant," he said.
Security

Dropbox Is Urging Users To Reset Their Passwords (fortune.com) 27

Dropbox is forcing a number of users to change their passwords after the cloud storage company found some account details linked to an old data breach. "The next time you visit dropbox.com, you may be asked to create a new password. We proactively initiated this password update prompt for Dropbox users who meet certain criteria," the company writes on its website. Fortune reports: The popular cloud storage said the move was related to the theft of an old set of Dropbox credentials, dating back to 2012. So the users the company has contacted are those who created Dropbox accounts before mid-2012 and have not updated their passwords since that time. Dropbox disclosed in July 2012 that some users were getting spammed, and the cause appeared to be the theft of usernames and passwords from other websites. As is often the case, some people reuse their usernames and passwords across different web services. (If it still needs saying, you really shouldn't reuse your passwords, ever.)
Australia

Robot Babies Not Effective Birth Control, Australian Study Finds (sky.com) 266

An anonymous reader writes: Girls given imitation babies to look after in an effort to deter teenage pregnancy could actually be more likely to get pregnant, according to a study. Researchers in Australia found 8% of girls who used the dolls were expecting by the age of 20, compared with 4% of those who did not. The number of girls having at least one abortion was also higher among girls given the dolls: 9% compared to 6%. 'Baby Think It Over' dolls were used in a Virtual Infant Parenting (VIP) programme which began in 57 schools in Western Australia in 2003. During the three-year study, published in The Lancet, 1267 girls aged 13 to 15 used the simulators -- which need to be fed and changed, while 1567 learned the normal health curriculum. The idea originated in the United States and is used in 89 countries. Researchers from the Telethon Kids Institute in Western Australia are now warning that such programmes may be a waste of public money.
Media

The Slashdot Interview With VideoLAN President and Lead VLC Developer Jean-Baptiste Kempf 27

You asked, he answered!

VideoLan President and Lead Developer of VLC Jean-Baptiste Kempf has responded to questions submitted by Slashdot readers. Read on to find out about the upcoming VideoLAN projects; how they keep VLC sustainable; what are some mistakes they wish they hadn't made; and what security challenges they face, among others!
Hardware

Ask Slashdot: Do You Still Use Optical Media? 313

The other day at an event, public relation officials were handing out press kit (it usually contains everything the company announced, photos from the event, and contact information of the company) to journalists. When I reached office and opened the kit, I found a CD in it. Which was weird because it's been two to three years since I had a computer with an optical drive. And all these years I didn't need one. Which brings up the question: Does your work require dealing with CDs and DVDs anymore? An anonymous reader asks the same question: I still use optical discs for various backup purposes, but recently I developed doubts as to the reliability of the media to last a reasonable amount of time. I have read a review on Amazon of the TDK DVDs, in which somebody described losing 8000 (sic!) DVDs of data after 4 years of storage. I promptly canceled my purchase of TDKs. So, do you still use opticals for back-up -- Blu-Rays, DVDs, CDs? -- and if so, how do you go about it?I do buy Blu-Ray discs of movies, though. So my life isn't optical disc free yet. What about yours?
Games

Second Confirmed Death In Japan Involving Pokemon Go (japantimes.co.jp) 134

An anonymous reader writes: The Japan Times reports another death. This time a 20 year old woman has died after being hit by a car while riding her bicycle. The man driving the car claimed he was distracted changing the battery because it was nearly flat from playing Pokemon Go. Police have already charged him with negligence resulting in injury. The penalty for causing death is a maximum 7 years jail. The Japanese National Police agency said there have been 79 bicycle and car accidents linked to the game. Another death was reported yesterday
Android

Facebook's WhatsApp Data Gambit Faces Federal Privacy Complaint (vice.com) 82

Sam Gustin, writing for Motherboard: Facebook's decision to begin harvesting data from its popular WhatsApp messaging service provoked a social media uproar on Thursday, and prompted leading privacy advocates to prepare a federal complaint accusing the tech titan of violating US law. On Thursday morning, WhatsApp, which for years has dined out on its reputation for privacy and security, announced that it would begin sharing user phone numbers with its Menlo Park-based parent company in an effort "to improve your Facebook ads and products experiences." Consumer privacy advocates denounced the move as a betrayal of WhatsApp's one billion users -- users who had been assured by the two companies that "nothing would change" about the messaging service's privacy practices after Facebook snapped up the startup for a whopping $19 billion in 2014. "WhatsApp users should be shocked and upset," Claire Gartland, Consumer Protection Counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a leading US consumer advocacy group, told Motherboard. "WhatsApp obtained one billion users by promising that it would protect user privacy. Both Facebook and WhatsApp made very public promises that the companies would maintain a separation. Those were the key selling points of the deal."

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