Communications

Senators Demand FCC Answer For Fake Comments After Realizing Their Identities Were Stolen (gizmodo.com) 151

Two US senators -- one Republican, one Democrat who both had their identities stolen and then used to post fake public comments on net neutrality -- are calling on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to address how as many as two million fake comments were filed under stolen names. From a report: Senators Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, and Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, are among the estimated "two million Americans" whose identities were used to file comments to the FCC without their consent. "The federal rulemaking process is an essential part of our democracy and allows Americans the opportunity to express their opinions on how government agencies decide important regulatory issues," the pair of lawmakers wrote [PDF].

"As such, we are concerned about the aforementioned fraudulent activity. We need to prevent the deliberate misuse of Americans' personal information and ensure that the FCC is working to protect against current and future vulnerabilities in its system. We encourage the FCC to determine who facilitated these fake comments," the letter continues. "While we understand and agree with the need to protect individuals' privacy, we request that the FCC share with the public the total number of fake comments that were filed."

The Internet

The Wayback Machine is Deleting Evidence of Malware Sold To Stalkers (vice.com) 82

The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine is a service that preserves web pages. But the site has been deleting evidence of companies selling malware to illegally spy on spouses, Motherboard reported Tuesday. From the report: The company in question is FlexiSpy, a Thailand-based firm which offers desktop and mobile malware. The spyware can intercept phone calls, remotely turn on a device's microphone and camera, steal emails and social media messages, as well as track a target's GPS location. Previously, pages from FlexiSpy's website saved to the Wayback Machine showed a customer survey, with over 50 percent of respondents saying they were interested in a spy phone product because they believe their partner may be cheating. That particular graphic was mentioned in a recent New York Times piece on the consumer spyware market.

In another example, a Wayback Machine archive of FlexiSpy's homepage showed one of the company's catchphrases: "Many spouses cheat. They all use cell phones. Their cell phone will tell you what they won't." Now, those pages are no longer on the Wayback Machine. Instead, when trying to view seemingly any page from FlexiSpy's domain on the archiving service, the page reads "This URL has been excluded from the Wayback Machine."

Android

The Verge Goes Hands-On With the 'Wildly Ambitious' RED Hydrogen One Smartphone (theverge.com) 53

It's been almost a year since RED, a company known for its high-end $10,000+ cameras, teased a smartphone called the RED Hydrogen One. Several months have passed since the phone was announced and we still don't know much about it, aside from it having a very industrial design and "Hydrogen holographic display." Earlier this week, AT&T and Verizon confirmed that they'll launch the device later this year. Now, The Verge's Dieter Bohn has shared his hands-on impressions with the device, which he claims to be "one of the most ambitious smartphones in years from a company not named Apple, Google, or Samsung." Here's an excerpt from the report: The company better known for high-end 4K cameras with names like "Weapon" and "Epic-w" isn't entering the smartphone game simply to sell you a better Android phone. No, this phone is meant to be one piece of a modular system of cameras and other media creation equipment -- the company claims it will be "the foundation of a future multi-dimensional media system." To that end, it has a big set of pogo-pins on the back to connect it to RED's other cameras also to allow users to attach (forthcoming) modules to it, including lens mounts. If it were just a modular smartphone, we'd be talking about whether we really expected the company to produce enough modules to support it.

RED is planning on starting with a module that is essentially a huge camera sensor -- the company is not ready to give exact details, but the plan is definitely more towards DSLR size than smartphone size. Then, according to CEO Jim Jannard, the company wants any traditional big camera lens to be attached to it. Answering a fan question, he joked that support for lenses will be "pretty limited," working "just" with Fuji, Canon, Nikon, Leica, and more. [...] The processor inside will be a slightly-out-of-date Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, but it seemed fast enough in the few demos I was able to try. Honestly, though, if you're looking to get this thing just as a phone, you're probably making your decision based on the wrong metrics. It's probably going to be a perfectly capable phone, but at this price (starting at $1,195) what you're buying into is the module ecosystem.

Canada

People Hate Canada's New 'Amber Alert' System (www.cbc.ca) 312

The CBC reports: When the siren-like sounds from an Amber Alert rang out on cellular phones across Ontario on Monday, it sparked a bit of a backlash against Canada's new mobile emergency alert system. The Ontario Provincial Police had issued the alert for a missing eight-year-old boy in the Thunder Bay region. (The boy has since been found safe)... On social media, people startled by the alerts complained about the number of alerts they received and that they had received separate alerts in English and French... Meanwhile, others who were located far from the incident felt that receiving the alert was pointless. "I've received two Amber Alerts today for Thunder Bay, which is 15 hours away from Toronto by car," tweeted Molly Sauter. "Congrats, you have trained me to ignore Emergency Alerts...."

The CRTC ordered wireless providers to implement the system to distribute warnings of imminent safety threats such as tornadoes, floods, Amber Alerts or terrorist threats. Telecom companies had favoured an opt-out option or the ability to disable the alarm for some types of alerts. But this was rejected by the broadcasting and telecommunications regulator. Individuals concerned about receiving these alerts are left with a couple of options: they can turn off their phone -- it will not be forced on by the alert -- or mute their phone so they won't hear it.

Long-time Slashdot reader knorthern knight complains that the first two alerts-- one in English, followed by one in French -- were then followed by a third (bi-lingual) alert advising recipients to ignore the previous two alerts, since the missing child had been found.
Transportation

Should The Media Cover Tesla Accidents? (chicagotribune.com) 268

Long-time Slashdot reader rufey writes: Last weekend a Tesla vehicle was involved in a crash near Salt Lake City Utah while its Autopilot feature was enabled. The Tesla, a Model S, crashed into the rear end of a fire department utility truck, which was stopped at a red light, at an estimated speed of 60 MPH. "The car appeared not to brake before impact, police said. The driver, whom police have not named, was taken to a hospital with a broken foot," according to the Associated Press. "The driver of the fire truck suffered whiplash and was not taken to a hospital."
Elon Musk tweeted about the accident:

It's super messed up that a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the ~40,000 people who died in US auto accidents alone in past year get almost no coverage. What's actually amazing about this accident is that a Model S hit a fire truck at 60mph and the driver only broke an ankle. An impact at that speed usually results in severe injury or death.

The Associated Press defended their news coverage Friday, arguing that the facts show that "not all Tesla crashes end the same way." They also fact-check Elon Musk's claim that "probability of fatality is much lower in a Tesla," reporting that it's impossible to verify since Tesla won't release the number of miles driven by their cars or the number of fatalities. "There have been at least three already this year and a check of 2016 NHTSA fatal crash data -- the most recent year available -- shows five deaths in Tesla vehicles."

Slashdot reader Reygle argues the real issue is with the drivers in the Autopilot cars. "Someone unwilling to pay attention to the road shouldn't be allowed anywhere near that road ever again."


Operating Systems

Canonical Shares Desktop Plans For Ubuntu 18.10 (ubuntu.com) 79

Canonical's Will Cooke on Friday talked about the features the company is working on for Ubuntu 18.10 "Cosmic Cuttlefish" cycle. He writes: We're also adding some new features which we didn't get done in time for the main 18.04 release. Specifically: Unlock with your fingerprint, Thunderbolt settings via GNOME Control Center, and XDG Portals support for snap.

GNOME Software improvements
We're having a week long sprint in June to map out exactly how we want the software store to work, how we want to present information and to improve the overall UX of GNOME Software. We've invited GNOME developers along to work with Ubuntu's design team and developers to discuss ideas and plan the work. I'll report back from the sprint in June.

Snap start-up time
Snapcraft have added the ability for us to move some application set up from first run to build time. This will significantly improve desktop application first time start up performance, but there is still more we can do.

Chromium as a snap
Chromium is becoming very hard to build on older releases of Ubuntu as it uses a number of features of modern C++ compilers. Snaps can help us solve a lot of those problems and so we propose to ship Chromium only as a snap from 18.10 onwards, and also to retire Chromium as a deb in Trusty. If you're still running Trusty you can get the latest Chromium as a snap right now.
In addition, Ubuntu team is also working on introducing improvements to power consumption, adding support for DLNA, so that users could share media directly from their desktop to DLNA clients (without having to install and configure extra packages), and improved phone integration by shipping GS Connect as part of the desktop, the GNOME port of KDE Connect. Additional changelog here.
Businesses

Data Science is America's Hottest Job (bloomberg.com) 79

Anonymous readers share a report: It turns out that even in the wake of Facebook's privacy scandal and other big-data blunders, finding people who can turn social-media clicks and user-posted photos into monetizable binary code is among the biggest challenges facing U.S. industry. People with data science bona fides are among the most sought-after professionals in business, with some data science Ph.Ds commanding as much as $300,000 or more from consulting firms.

Job postings for data scientists rose 75 percent from January 2015 to January 2018 at Indeed.com, while job searches for data scientist roles rose 65 percent. A growing specialty is "sentiment analysis," or finding a way to quantify how many tweets are trashing your company or praising it. A typical data scientist job pays about $119,000 at the midpoint of salaries and rises to $168,000 at the 95th percentile, according to staffing agency Robert Half Technology.

Facebook

Facebook's Android App Is Asking for Superuser Privileges, Users Say (bleepingcomputer.com) 183

Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: The Facebook Android app is asking for superuser permissions, and a bunch of users are freaking out about granting the Facebook app full access to their device, an understandable reaction following the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal. "Grants full access to your device," read the prompts while asking users for superuser permissions. These popups originate from the official Facebook Android app (com.facebook.katana) and are started appearing last night [UTC timezone], continuing throughout the day. Panicked users took to social media, Reddit, and Android-themed forums to share screengrabs of these suspicious popups and ask for advice on what's going on.
Music

YouTube Unveils New Streaming Service 'YouTube Music,' Rebrands YouTube Red (gizmodo.com) 107

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: YouTube Music, a streaming music platform designed to compete with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music, officially has a launch date: May 22nd. Its existence will also shift around YouTube and Google's overall media strategy, which has thus far been quite the mess. YouTube Music will borrow the Spotify model and offer a free, ad-supported tier as well as a premium version. The paid tier, which will be called YouTube Music Premium, will be available for $9.99 per month. It will debut in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and South Korea before expanding to 14 other countries.

One of the selling points for YouTube Music will be the ability to harness the endless amount of information Google knows about you, which it will use to try to create customized listening experiences. Pitchfork reported that the app, with the help of Google Assistant, will make listening recommendations based on the time of day, location, and listening patterns. It will also apparently offer "an audio experience and a video experience," suggesting perhaps an emphasis on music videos and other visual content. From here, Google seems to be focused on making its streaming strategy a little less wacky. Google Play Music, the company's previous music streaming service that is still inexplicably up and running despite teetering on the brink of extinction for years, will slowly be phased out according to USA Today.
Meanwhile, the paid streaming subscription service, known as YouTube Red, is being rebranded to YouTube Premium and will cost $11.99 per month instead of $9.99. (Pitchfork notes that existing YouTube Red subscribers will be able to keep their $9.99 rate.) YouTube Premium will include access to YouTube Music Premium. Here's a handy-dandy chart that helps show what is/isn't included in the two plans.
Transportation

Tesla Model X Breaks Electric Towing Record By Pulling Boeing 787 (inverse.com) 235

A Tesla Model X has set the world record for heaviest tow by electric production passenger vehicle when it pulled a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner at the Melbourne Airport in Australia. The video can be viewed on YouTube. Inverse reports: As probably expected, the plane far exceeds the Model X's recommended tow limit of around 5,000 pounds. In fact, the weight of the unloaded 787 with a minimal amount of fuel came closer to around 300,000 pounds. The airline pulled the Dreamliner around 1,000 feet down the tarmac. The stunt was part of a wider campaign around Qantas' new work with Tesla, which involves offering high-powered chargers at its Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide facilities as well as offsetting miles for Tesla drivers that are also frequent flyer members.
Google

Should the FTC Investigate Google's Location Data Collection? (engadget.com) 110

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: In December of 2017, the office of U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal sent Google's CEO a letter asking for a detailed explanation of the company's privacy practices around location services. Based on a report at Quartz, the senator's letter had 12 specific questions about how Google deals with location data. In January, Google responded to all of the issues in a lengthy letter signed by Google's VP of public policy, Susan Molinari. Now, apparently unsatisfied with the response, Senators Blumenthal and Edward J. Markey have sent a written request to the FTC to investigate Google's location services, along with "any deceptive acts and practices associated with the product."

While Google's initial response refuted many of the claims made by Quartz, and explained again and again how Google and Android handles sensitive location data, the letter to the FTC again uses the report as its main basis. The crux of the new letter appears to be this: "Google has an intimate understanding or personal lives as they watch their users seek the support of reproductive health services, engage in civic activities or attend places of religious worship," wrote the senators. All it takes to expose users to data collection, say the letter's authors, is to allow an "ambiguously described feature" once and then it is silently enabled across all signed-in devices without an expiration date.

Facebook

Facebook Faulted By Judge For 'Troubling Theme' In Privacy Case (bloomberg.com) 61

schwit1 quotes a report from Bloomberg: A judge scolded Facebook for misconstruing his own rulings as he ordered the company to face a high-stakes trial accusing it of violating user privacy. The social media giant has misinterpreted prior court orders by continuing to assert the "faulty proposition" that users can't win their lawsuit under an Illinois biometric privacy law without proving an "actual injury," U.S. District Judge James Donato said in a ruling Monday. Likewise, the company's argument that it's immune from having to pay a minimum of $1,000, and as much as $5,000, for each violation of the law is "not a sound proposition," he said. Under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, the damages in play at a jury trial set for July 9 in San Francisco could easily reach into the billions of dollars for the millions of users whose photos were allegedly scanned without consent. Apart from his concerns about the "troubling theme" in Facebook's legal arguments, Donato ruled a trial must go forward because there are multiple factual issues in dispute, including a sharp disagreement over how the company's photo-tagging software processes human faces.
Communications

Wi-Fi Alliance's Wi-Fi EasyMesh Certification Aims To Standardize Mesh Networks (pcworld.com) 39

The Wi-Fi Certified EasyMesh program that the Wi-Fi Alliance announced today promises to do for mesh networks what the Alliance has long done for wireless networking gear in general: Assure consumers that they can build out wireless home networks without worrying if one brand of device will be compatible with another. From a report: The emergence of mesh networking somewhat undermined that effort, because every manufacturer pursued its own path. Wi-Fi is still Wi-Fi, so you don't need to worry that your smartphone, or media streamer, or home security camera will connect to your wireless router, regardless of brand. But if you buy a Linksys Velop router today, for example, you can buy only Linksys Velop access points if you want to expand your network to cover more areas of your home later. EasyMesh promises to bring to mesh networks the same interoperability assurances that conventional routers have long offered.
Japan

Japan Moves To Ease Aging Drivers Out of Their Cars (nytimes.com) 135

As Japan's population ages, so do its drivers. Japan has the oldest population in the world, with nearly 28 percent of its residents above 65 years old. One in seven people are over 75. In the United States, by comparison, that figure is closer to one in 16. From a report: According to data compiled by Japan's national police agency, drivers between 16 and 24 are more likely to cause traffic accidents than any other age group. But last year, drivers over 75 caused twice as many fatal accidents per 100,000 drivers as those under that age. Among drivers over 80 years old, the rate was three times as high as for drivers under that age. The news media regularly features grisly reports of deaths caused by older drivers, some of whom are later discovered to have Alzheimer's disease.

Since 2009, all drivers 75 and older must submit to a test of their cognitive functioning when they renew their licenses [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled], typically once every three years. Under a new traffic law that took effect in March 2017, those who score poorly are sent to a doctor for examination, and if they are found to have dementia, the police can revoke their licenses. More than 33,000 drivers who took the cognitive test last year showed what the police deemed to be signs of cognitive impairment and were ordered to see a doctor. The police revoked just over 1,350 licenses after doctors diagnosed dementia.

The Internet

Russian Fake News Ecosystem Targets Syrian Human Rights Workers (securityledger.com) 259

chicksdaddy shares a report from The Security Ledger: Kremlin linked news sites like RT and Sputnik figure prominently in an online disinformation campaign portraying Syrian humanitarian workers ("White Helmets") as terrorists and crisis actors, according to an analysis (PDF) by researchers at University of Washington and Harvard. An online "echosystem" of propaganda websites including Russia backed news outlets Sputnik and RT is attacking the credibility of humanitarian workers on the ground in rebel occupied Syria, according to a new analysis by researchers at The University of Washington and Harvard University. Online rumors circulated through so called "alternative" media sites have attacked the Syrian Civil Defense (aka "White Helmets") as "crisis actors" and Western agents working on behalf of the U.S. and NATO. Statistical analysis of the online rumors reveal a tight network of websites sharing nearly identical content via Twitter and other social media platforms, wrote Kate Starbird. Starbird is an Assistant Professor of Human Centered Design & Engineering at University of Washington and a leading expert on so-called "crisis informatics."

In activity reminiscent of the disinformation campaigns that roiled the U.S. Presidential election in 2016, articles by what Starbird describes as "a few prominent journalists and bloggers" writing for self described "alternative" news sites like 21stCenturyWire, GlobalResearch, MintPressNews, and ActivistPost are picked up by other, smaller and more niche websites including both left- and right-leaning partisan news sites, "clickbait sites," and conspiracy theory websites. Government funded media outlets from Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia figure prominently in the Syrian disinformation campaign, Starbird's team found. In particular, "Russian government-funded media outlets (i.e. SputnikNews and RT) play a prominent and multi-faceted role within this ecosystem," she wrote.

Youtube

YouTube Rolls Out New Tools To Help You Stop Watching (techcrunch.com) 26

At its Google I/O conference this week, YouTube announced a series of new controls that will allow users to set limits on their viewing, and then receive reminders telling them to "take a break." "The feature is rolling out now in the latest version of YouTube's app, along with others that limit YouTube's ability to send notifications, and soon, one that gives users an overview of their binge behavior so they can make better-informed decisions about their viewing habits," reports TechCrunch. From the report: With "Take a Break," available from YouTube's mobile app Settings screen, users can set a reminder to appear every 15, 30, 60, 90 or 180 minutes, at which point the video will pause. You can then choose to dismiss the reminder and keep watching, or close the app.

Also new is a feature that lets you disable notification sounds during a specified time period each day -- say, for example, from bedtime until the next morning. When users turn on the setting to disable notifications, it will, by default, disable them from 10 PM to 8 AM local time, but this can be changed. Combined with this is an option to get a scheduled digest of notifications as an alternative. And YouTube is preparing to roll out a "time watched profile" that will appear in the Account menu and display your daily average watch time, and how long you've watched YouTube videos today, yesterday and over the past week, along with a set of tools to help you manage your viewing habits.

Social Networks

Klout's Score Drops to Zero as It Announces Plans to Close Down (gizmodo.com) 44

Once upon a time, Klout had 100 million users, Gizmodo reports. But now... You probably haven't experienced the crippling anxiety of thinking about increasing your Klout score in quite some time. As of May 25, you won't have ever have to do it again. On Thursday, the social ranking company announced to its 708,000 Twitter followers (meh) that it will be shutting down.

Klout was founded in 2008 as a way for social media users to gauge their "influence." Through some algorithmic voodoo the service would snoop through your social media presence and spit out your "Klout Score" -- a number between 1 and 100 that determined how much you are worth as a social human being.

Lithium Technologies (Klout's parent company) annouced that their acquisition "provided Lithium with valuable artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities but Klout as a standalone service is not aligned with our long-term strategy."

But Lithium also announced plans to launch "a new social impact scoring methodology based on Twitter" sometime in the future.
Twitter

One of the Worst Jobs in America: Responding To Irate Tweets From New York City Subway Riders (wsj.com) 98

Every day, the frustrations of New York City subway riders spew out in the form of 2,500 often profanity-laced tweets directed at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. From a report: "Thanks @MTA for making sure we can't buy metrocards AGAIN," wrote @itzMzLori, 31-year-old beauty blogger Lori Tenn, who found her card machine closed. "I swear I f-ing hate y'all." The job of taking this vitriol -- and offering measured responses -- falls to the social-media team behind @MTA and @NYCTSubway. The two Twitter accounts for the agency that manages the New York City subway, bus and commuter rail system have more than two million often angry followers. "We're New Yorkers, we have thick skins, but we're human," said Molly Washam, an even-keeled 30-year-old. "We do sometimes gather around the monitor to see the meanest thing someone could come up with that day."

To stay calm, she said she does yoga, and recently tried a pottery class. Rampant subway delays and breakdowns in recent years are making the work more intense. A 2017 report by the New York City comptroller found weekday subway delays rose 83% between 2013 and 2016. The agency has begun a modernization plan to make improvements, including upgrading the signaling system and hiring more subway workers. New Yorkers' response to repairs? "Really @MTA, More of your Bs complications," wrote @MattMercadoNYC, rider Matt Mercado, 34, of the Bronx. "You pick Thursday AND Friday for these 'Required Repairs'??!?" "We know they might not mean everything they're saying," said Sarah Meyer, the MTA's customer-service chief. But, "I can't personally change the signaling system."

Music

Surging Demand For Vinyl LPs Has Raised Hopes For Reel-to-Reel Tape Deck, Which is Returning To Sale For First Time in Decades (bloomberg.com) 244

It's no secret that sales of vinyl music are at the highest in decades. Even the lowly cassette tape is regaining popularity as some millennials embrace analog music over digital downloads and streaming services. But for the first time in more than two decades, a German company is reviving what may be the ultimate format: a new reel-to-reel tape machine. From a report: Dusseldorf-based Roland Schneider Precision Engineering this week will introduce four Ballfinger reel-to-reel machines, bringing back a technology that dominated professional music recording for most of the 20th century and is now making a comeback with audiophiles and artists including Lady Gaga. The sleek machines, some of them customizable, will retail from about 9,500 euros ($11,400) for the basic version to about 24,000 euros for the high-end model, which features three direct-drive motors, an editing system and walnut side panels. "Digital media is great, but experiencing music is more than just listening to a sound file -- it's sensual, it's reels that turn and can be touched," says Roland Schneider, the machine's designer. "When it comes to audio quality, nothing else in the analog world gets you closer to the experience of being right there in the recording studio than reel-to-reel tape."
Facebook

Social Media Copies Gambling Methods 'To Create Psychological Cravings' (theguardian.com) 80

Social media platforms are using the same techniques as gambling firms to create psychological dependencies and ingrain their products in the lives of their users, experts warn. From a report: These methods are so effective they can activate similar mechanisms as cocaine in the brain, create psychological cravings and even invoke "phantom calls and notifications" where users sense the buzz of a smartphone, even when it isn't really there. "Facebook, Twitter and other companies use methods similar to the gambling industry to keep users on their sites," said Natasha Schull, the author of Addiction by Design, which reported how slot machines and other systems are designed to lock users into a cycle of addiction. "In the online economy, revenue is a function of continuous consumer attention -- which is measured in clicks and time spent."

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