AI

Researchers Have Figured Out How To Fake News Video With AI (qz.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: A team of computer scientists at the University of Washington have used artificial intelligence to render visually convincing videos of Barack Obama saying things he's said before, but in a totally new context. In a paper published this month, the researchers explained their methodology: Using a neural network trained on 17 hours of footage of the former U.S. president's weekly addresses, they were able to generate mouth shapes from arbitrary audio clips of Obama's voice. The shapes were then textured to photorealistic quality and overlaid onto Obama's face in a different "target" video. Finally, the researchers retimed the target video to move Obama's body naturally to the rhythm of the new audio track. In their paper, the researchers pointed to several practical applications of being able to generate high quality video from audio, including helping hearing-impaired people lip-read audio during a phone call or creating realistic digital characters in the film and gaming industries. But the more disturbing consequence of such a technology is its potential to proliferate video-based fake news. Though the researchers used only real audio for the study, they were able to skip and reorder Obama's sentences seamlessly and even use audio from an Obama impersonator to achieve near-perfect results. The rapid advancement of voice-synthesis software also provides easy, off-the-shelf solutions for compelling, falsified audio. You can view the demo here: "Synthesizing Obama: Learning Lib Sync from Audio"
Android

Samsung's 'Bixby' Voice Assistant Finally Launches In US (theverge.com) 39

After 3 months, Samsung announced that the voice capabilities of its digital assistant are now rolling out to U.S. Galaxy S8 and S8+ owners. Now, if you happen to own a Galaxy S8 or S8+, the physical Bixby button on the lefthand side of your phone will be able to actually do something somewhat useful. The Verge reports: Bixby's voice capabilities have been available in the US as part of an opt-in beta test, and Samsung says that feedback has led to faster response times, improved comprehension of varied phrasing around the same question, better hands-free operation, and more. Over 100,000 users of the flagship devices have enrolled in the early access program and issued over 4 million voice commands. Also, Samsung says Bixby can now read aloud your latest SMS messages and emails -- if you use its stock apps on the Galaxy S8. Bixby can be activated with a push of the dedicated Bixby button located on the side of the Galaxy S8 and S8+, or by saying "hi Bixby." Like Siri and Google Assistant, Bixby can handle alarms, send texts, and so on, but its real power lies in the ability to access granular phone settings or -- in supported apps -- automatically move through several menu screens to perform commands that Google Assistant simply can't do. Samsung says that deep learning should allow Bixby to improve over time as it begins to recognize users' preferences and ways of speaking. Here's a video showing some of the voice commands Bixby can respond to.
Security

US To Create the Independent US Cyber Command, Split Off From NSA (pbs.org) 99

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PBS: After months of delay, the Trump administration is finalizing plans to revamp the nation's military command for defensive and offensive cyber operations in hopes of intensifying America's ability to wage cyberwar against the Islamic State group and other foes, according to U.S. officials. Under the plans, U.S. Cyber Command would eventually be split off from the intelligence-focused National Security Agency. The goal, they said, is to give U.S. Cyber Command more autonomy, freeing it from any constraints that stem from working alongside the NSA, which is responsible for monitoring and collecting telephone, internet and other intelligence data from around the world -- a responsibility that can sometimes clash with military operations against enemy forces. Making cyber an independent military command will put the fight in digital space on the same footing as more traditional realms of battle on land, in the air, at sea and in space. The move reflects the escalating threat of cyberattacks and intrusions from other nation states, terrorist groups and hackers, and comes as the U.S. faces ever-widening fears about Russian hacking following Moscow's efforts to meddle in the 2016 American election.
Bitcoin

Hacker Allegedly Steals $7.4 Million In Ethereum After Hijacking ICO (vice.com) 64

An anonymous reader writes: An unknown hacker allegedly took over the website of an ethereum startup called Coindash, directing investors to send money to his or her own ethereum digital wallet, instead of the one controlled by Coindash. While Coindash noticed the hack almost immediately, the damage was done, and the hacker amassed more than $7 million in stolen cryptocurrency.
United Kingdom

Porn Websites in UK Ordered To Introduce Age Checks From Next Year (bbc.com) 103

Reader dryriver shares an article: A nine-month countdown to the introduction of compulsory age checks on online pornography seen from the UK has begun. The April 2018 goal to protect under-18s was revealed as digital minister Matt Hancock signed the commencement order for the Digital Economy Act, which introduces the requirement. But details as to how the scheme will work have yet to be finalised. Experts who advised ministers said the targeted date seemed "unrealistic". The act also sets out other new laws including punishing the use of bots to snatch up scores of concert tickets, and mandating the provision of subtitles on catch-up TV. The age-check requirement applies to any website or other online platform that provides pornography "on a commercial basis" to people in the UK. It allows a regulator to fine any business that refuses to comply and to ask third-party payment services to withdraw support. The watchdog will also be able to force internet providers to block access to non-compliant services.
AMD

Chipmakers Nvidia, AMD Ride Cryptocurrency Wave -- For Now (bloomberg.com) 57

During California's Gold Rush, it was often the sellers of pickaxes and shovels who made the most money. In the frenzy to get rich quick from cryptocurrencies, some investors are calling computer chipmakers the modern-day equivalent. From a report: Shares of Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices have gained at least 14 percent since the beginning of June, spurred in part by about a 10-fold boom from April to June in a market, known as ethereum, for a currency that can be used to buy computing power over the internet. What's the link between ethereum and these Silicon Valley chipmakers? It lies in the really powerful graphics processors, designed to make computer games more realistic, that are also needed to gain access to encrypted digital currencies. Nvidia and AMD have rallied in the last month and a half even as investors have ignored chip stocks leaving the benchmark Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index up about 1 percent. Nvidia has gained 14 percent and AMD rallied 27 percent. While some of that has come from optimism around new products for other markets, analysts are projecting that sales related to cryptocurrencies will result in a spike in revenue for both companies. Even so, investors shouldn't bank on a lasting impact from the cryptocurrency boom, said Stacy Rasgon, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. "This has happened before," Rasgon said. "It lasted about a quarter." [...] Like bitcoin, ethereum is an attempt by an online community to create an economy that doesn't rely on government-backed currencies. Unlike bitcoin, it's focused solely on offering decentralized computing and storage services. Those seeking to use these services -- and speculators looking for a quick profit by creating and then selling ether -- have seized on graphics cards, which excel at performing multiple simple calculations in parallel, as a faster way to claim the blocks of code that act as the currency of the ethereum market. Demand from ethereum miners has created temporary shortages of some of the graphics cards, according to analysts, who cite sold-out products at online retailers. Estimates of additional sales from this demand run as high as $875 million, according to RBC Capital Markets analyst Mitch Steves. That would roughly equal AMD's total sales from graphics chips last year, or half of Nvidia's quarterly sales of those components. But Steves and other analysts are also quick to warn that the market opportunity could fizzle out.
Music

EU Sides With RIAA, Says YouTube Underpays For Music Streaming (mercurynews.com) 82

Profits from both CD sales and digital downloads are declining, while online streaming now accounts for the majority of the $7.7 billion U.S. music market, according to a new article. And the music industry's newest complaint is that 25% of music streaming is happening on YouTube, which they believe is paying them too little. An anonymous reader quotes the San Jose Mercury News: Now, the battle is heating up as the European Union is expected to release new rules later this year for how services such as YouTube handle music, potentially upending some of the copyright protections that undergird the Internet... The E.U. has formally recognized that there is a "value gap" between song royalties and what user-upload services such as YouTube earn from selling ads while playing music... How such a law would address the gap is still being decided, but the E.U. has indicated it plans to focus on ensuring copyright holders are "properly remunerated." Even the value gap's existence is disputed.

A recent economic study commissioned by YouTube found no value gap -- in fact, the report said YouTube promotes the music industry, and if YouTube stopped playing music, 85 percent of users would flock to services that offered lower or no royalties. A different study by an independent consulting group pegged the YouTube value gap at more than $650 million in the United States alone. "YouTube is viewed as a giant obstacle in the path to success for the streaming marketplace," said Mitch Glazier, president of the Recording Industry Association of America... YouTube pays an estimated $1 per 1,000 plays on average, while Spotify and Apple music pay a rate closer to $7... The music industry claims YouTube has avoided paying a fair-market rate by hiding behind broad legal protections. In the United States, that's the "safe harbor" provision, which essentially says YouTube is not to blame if someone uploads a copy-protected song -- unless the copyright holder complains.

YouTube argues that its automatic Content ID system recognizes 98% of all copyright-infringing uploads -- and that each year they're already paying the music industry $1 billion in royalties.
Businesses

Dark Web Marketplace AlphaBay Shuts For Good After Police Raids (theregister.co.uk) 112

Dark web marketplace AlphaBay's closure last week followed an international law enforcement operation and multiple raids, it has emerged. It has also been reported that a key suspect who was arrested in the raids has died in custody. From a report: The world's biggest online drug bazaar dropped offline on 5 July, sparking fears that its administrators had disappeared taking a swag bag of digital currency with them, pulling an "exit scam" like other dark web marketplace kingpins before them. The Wall Street Journal reports that a Canadian suspected of running AlphaBay was arrested in Thailand on 5 July following an international police operation involving authorities in the US and Canada as well as Thailand. Alexandre Cazes, the 26-year-old who had been accused of being the site's admin, was found dead in a Thai jail cell on Wednesday, the WSJ adds. The Bangkok Post reported that Cazes had been resident in Thailand for about eight years and had a Thai wife. Thai authorities said they'd seized four Lamborghini cars and three upmarket residences with a combined value of $11.7m (400 million Thai Baht). US authorities had apparently been seeking to extradite Cazes at the time of his death.
Movies

Biologists Use Gene Editing To Store Movies In DNA (scientificamerican.com) 87

New submitter elmohound writes: A recent paper in Nature describes how gene editing was used to store a digital movie into a bacterial population. The choice of subject is a nice hommage to Muybridge's 1887 photos. From a report via Scientific American: "The technical achievement, reported on July 12 in Nature, is a step towards creating cellular recording systems that are capable of encoding a series of events, says Seth Shipman, a synthetic biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. To develop such a system, however, his team would need to establish a method for recording hundreds of events in a cell. Shipman and his colleagues, including Harvard geneticist George Church, harnessed the CRISPR-Cas immune system best known for enabling researchers to alter genomes with relative ease and accuracy. Shipman's team exploited the ability to capture snippets of DNA from invading viruses and store them in an organized array in the host genome. In nature, those snippets then target an enzyme to slice up the invader's DNA. The team designed its system so that these snippets corresponded to pixels in an image. The researchers encoded the shading of each pixel -- along with a barcode that indicated its position in the image -- into 33 DNA letters. Each frame of the movie consisted of 104 of these DNA fragments." You can view the movie here, which consists of five frames adapted from Muybridge's Human and Animal Locomotion series.
DRM

EFF Officially Appeals Tim Berners-Lee Decision On DRM In HTML (techdirt.com) 149

Last week, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) decided to officially recommend the use of Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) for protecting copyrighted video on the internet. This will enable web surfers to watch media in a browser that requires Digital Rights Management copy protection without the need for browser-based plugins. "It moves the responsibility for interaction from plugins to the browser," the consortium states at the time. "As such, EME offers a better user experience, bringing greater interoperability, privacy, security, and accessibility to viewing encrypted video on the web." TechDirt shares an update: It's been a foregone conclusion that EME was going to get approved, but there was a smaller fight about whether or not W3C would back a covenant not to sue security and privacy researchers who would be investigating (and sometimes breaking) that encryption. Due to massive pushback from the likes of the MPAA and (unfortunately) Netflix, Tim Berners-Lee rejected this covenant proposal. In response, W3C member EFF has now filed a notice of appeal on the decision. The crux of the appeal is the claimed benefits of EME that Berners-Lee put forth won't actually be benefits without the freedom of security researchers to audit the technology -- and that the wider W3C membership should have been able to vote on the issue. This appeals process has never been used before at the W3C, even though it's officially part of its charter -- so no one's entirely sure what happens next.
Google

Google Spared $1.3 Billion Tax Bill With Victory In French Court (bloomberg.com) 56

New submitter Zorro shares a report from Bloomberg: Google won its fight against a 1.12 billion-euro ($1.3 billion) French tax bill after a court rejected claims the search-engine giant abused loopholes to avoid paying its fair share. Google didn't illegally dodge French taxes by routing sales in the country out of Ireland, the Paris administrative court decided Wednesday. Judges ruled that Google's European headquarters in Ireland can't be taxed as if it also has a permanent base in France, as requested by the nation's administration. "Google Ireland isn't taxable in France over the period 2005-2010," the court said in a statement. Google said in a statement: "The French Administrative Court of Paris has confirmed Google abides by French tax law and international standards. We remain committed to France and the growth of its digital economy."
Data Storage

Western Digital Gets US Court Order To Access Toshiba Databases, Chip Samples (reuters.com) 12

Western Digital won a temporary U.S. court order on Tuesday saying that Toshiba must allow Western Digital's employees to access databases and chip samples as part of a joint venture with Toshiba around flash memory chip plants in Japan. Reuters reports: Toshiba is scrambling to sell its flash memory business and Western Digital is among the bidders. In a sign of high tensions around the deal, Toshiba threatened to lock Western Digital out of shared databases and quit sending chip samples. Western Digital sued Toshiba in San Francisco County Superior Court saying that its joint venture with Toshiba means Toshiba must get its consent for a sale. It asked the court for two separate orders: An injunction to stop the sale, and a temporary restraining order forcing Toshiba to give its workers access to shared databases. A judge granted the temporary order for access to the shared databases Tuesday and set a further hearing on July 28.
The Courts

Twitter Users Blocked By Trump Sue, Claim @realDonaldTrump Is Public Forum (arstechnica.com) 423

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A handful of Twitter users, backed by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, sued President Donald Trump on Tuesday, claiming their constitutional rights are being violated because the president has blocked them from his @realDonaldTrump handle. The suit claims that Trump's Twitter feed is a public forum and an official voice of the president. Excluding people from reading or replying to his tweets -- especially because they tweeted critical comments -- amounts to a First Amendment breach, according to the lawsuit.

"The @realDonaldTrump account is a kind of digital town hall in which the president and his aides use the tweet function to communicate news and information to the public, and members of the public use the reply function to respond to the president and his aides and exchange views with one another," according to the lawsuit (PDF) filed in New York federal court. "Defendants' viewpoint-based blocking of the Individual Plaintiffs from the @realDonaldTrump account infringes the Individual Plaintiffs' First Amendment rights. It imposes an unconstitutional restriction on their participation in a designated public forum," the suit says. "It imposes an unconstitutional restriction on their right to access statements that Defendants are otherwise making available to the public at large. It also imposes an unconstitutional restriction on their right to petition the government for redress of grievances."

Privacy

EFF's Latest Privacy Report Criticizes Amazon and WhatsApp Over Policies That 'Fall Short' (betanews.com) 12

An anonymous reader shares a report: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published the latest edition of its "Who has your back" privacy report. This is the seventh report from the digital rights group, and this year it criticizes both WhatsApp and Amazon for having policies that "fall short of other similar technology companies." Four big telecom companies -- AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile, and Verizon -- performed very poorly, while at the other end of the scale Adobe, Credo, Dropbox, Lyft, Pinterest, Sonic, Uber, Wickr, and WordPress were all praised. In all, the report rates 26 technology companies in five key areas relating to privacy and government data requests: "Follows industry-wide best practices," "Tells users about government data requests," "Promises not to sell out users," "Stands up to NSL gag orders" and "Pro-user public policy: Reform 702." While the report points out that some progress has been made, generally speaking, in the technology world, AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile, and Verizon were all awarded a single star out of a possible five. Amazon and WhatsApp both scored just two out of five, leading the Electronic Freedom Foundation to say: "We urge both Amazon and WhatsApp to improve their policies in the coming year so they match the standards of other major online services."
Businesses

Newspapers To Bid For Antitrust Exemption To Tackle Google and Facebook (cnbc.com) 116

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The news industry is to band together to seek a limited antitrust exemption from Congress in an effort to fend off growing competition from Facebook and Google. Traditional competitors including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, as well as a host of smaller print and online publications, will temporarily set aside their differences this week and appeal to federal lawmakers to let them negotiate collectively with the technology giants to safeguard the industry. Antitrust laws traditionally prevent companies from forming such an alliance which could see them becoming over-dominant in a particular sector. However, the media companies will be hoping that Congress will look favorably on a temporary exemption, particularly giving the recent clampdown on the technology industry which saw Google slapped with a $2.7 billion antitrust fine. The campaign is led by newspaper industry trade group News Media Alliance and it is intended to help the industry collaborate in order to regain market share from Facebook and Google, which have been swooping in on newspapers' distribution and advertising revenues. The two companies currently command 70 percent of the $73 billion digital advertising industry in the U.S., according to new research from the Pew Research Centre. Meanwhile, U.S. newspaper ad revenue in 2016 was $18 billion from $50 billion a decade ago.
Cellphones

Researchers Have Developed A Battery-Free Mobile Phone (hothardware.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes HotHardware: Researchers from the University of Washington are looking to make batteries a thing of the past when it comes to mobile phones. The team has developed a phone that uses "almost zero power" according to associate professor Shyam Gollakota, who co-authored a paper which detailed the breakthrough... The researchers designed the phone to harvest microwatts of power from RF signals transmitted from a base station that is 31 feet away. Additional power is harnessed via ambient light through the use of miniature photodiodes that are about the size of a grain of rice. While in use, the phone consumes about 3.5 microwatts of power and is capable of communicating with a custom base station that is up to 50 feet away to send and receive calls... The phone ditches the traditional analog-to-digital converter, which turns your voice into data, in favor of a system that uses the vibrations from a microphone or speaker to perform the same task. An antenna then converts that motion into radio signals in such a way that very little power is consumed.
There's two drawbacks. First, modern smartphones "need a lot more than a 3.5-microwatt power budget for blazing fast processor, copious amounts of RAM and internal storage, and power-hungry displays." And more importantly, "you have to press a button to switch between transmissions and listening modes with the phone."
DRM

FSF Sees Hopeful Signs Before Sunday's 'Day Against DRM' (defectivebydesign.org) 124

The Free Software Foundation's anti-DRM initiative "Defective By Design" argues that since last year's annual Day Against DRM, "we've seen cracks appearing in the foundation of the DRM status quo." The companies that profit from Digital Restrictions Management are still trying to expand the system of law and technology that weakens our security and curtails our rights, in an effort to prop up their exploitative business models. But since the last International Day Against DRM, the TPP trade agreement -- a key pro-DRM initiative -- crashed and burned. And our allies at the Electronic Frontier Foundation brought major legal and regulatory challenges against DRM in Washington DC... If we play our cards right, this may be the beginning of the end of DRM.

On Sunday, July 9, 2017, we will channel this momentum into the International Day Against DRM. We'll be gathering, protesting, and making -- showing the world that we insist on a future without Digital Restrictions Management. Will you join us? Here's what you can do now:

They're asking supporters to plan a protest, translate their fliers into more languages, voice support in videos and blog posts, or make endorsements. And you can also join the "DRM Elimination crew" mailing list or their Freenode IRC channel #dbd for year-round conversation and collaboration with the anti-DRM movement -- or simply make a donation to show your support.
Businesses

A Year After 'Pokemon Go', Where Are the Augmented-Reality Hits? (theaustralian.com.au) 105

A year after "Pokemon Go" prompted throngs of people to scour parks and streets for monsters visible only through smartphones, hit games made with augmented reality are rarer than a Snorlax. From a report: In fact, analysts say, the monster-hunting blockbuster drove only a brief spike in games using the nascent technology, which blends digital images with a person's view of the real world. That is surprising, considering the ubiquity of screenshots showing Pokemon invading players' work desks, kitchen counters and other locations of everyday life. "Pokemon Go" reached $1 billion in revenue globally just seven months after its release last July -- faster than any other mobile game, including Activision Blizzard's "Candy Crush Saga," according to App Annie. There are thousands of augmented-reality games among the millions of apps in the Apple and Alphabet stores. None, though, has come close to the success of "Pokemon Go." There are several reasons why, industry observers say. One is that the allure of "Pokemon Go" wasn't primarily its augmented reality. While the game's digital monsters materialise as if in the real world, they don't interact with it. A Snorlax might appear next to a tree, but the catlike creature won't peek from behind it. Many players who took up hunting the monsters ended up turning off the augmented-reality feature.
Music

SoundCloud Lays Off Nearly Half Its Staff, Closes Two Offices (bloomberg.com) 51

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: SoundCloud is cutting about 40 percent of its staff in a cost-cutting move the digital music service says will give it a better financial footing to compete against larger rivals Spotify and Apple. SoundCloud, which in January said it was at risk of running out of money, informed staff on Thursday that 173 jobs would be eliminated. It had 420 employees. The company's operations will be consolidated at its headquarters in Berlin and another office in New York. Offices in San Francisco and London will be shut.

"We need to ensure our path to long-term, independent success," Alex Ljung, the company's co-founder and chief executive officer, said in a blog post published on SoundCloud's website. He said the company has doubled its revenue over the past 12 months -- without providing specifics -- and that the cuts put it on a path to profitability.

EU

Google May Face Another Record EU Fine, This Time Over Android (itwire.com) 192

troublemaker_23 shares a report from ITWire: The EU is contemplating another record fine against Google over how it pays and limits mobile phone providers who use the search company's Android mobile operating system and app store. Reuters reported that a decision could be expected by the end of the year if the opinion of a team of experts, set up by the EU to obtain a second opinion, agree with the decisions reached by the team that has worked on the case. The report quoted Richard Windsor, an independent financial analyst, as saying that the Android fine was likely to hurt Google more than the search fine or the verdict in a third EU probe over AdSense. "If Google was forced to unbundle Google Play from its other Digital Life services, handset makers and operators would be free to set whatever they like by default potentially triggering a decline in the usage of Google's services," he said.

In the chargesheet, issued on April 20, 2016, the European Commission said Google had breached EU anti-trust rules by:
-Requiring manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and Google's Chrome browser and requiring them to set Google Search as default search service on their devices, as a condition to license certain Google proprietary apps;
-Preventing manufacturers from selling smart mobile devices running on competing operating systems based on the Android open source code;
-Giving financial incentives to manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-install Google Search on their devices.

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