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Submission + - The Most Important Law in Tech Has a Problem (backchannel.com)

mirandakatz writes: The internet as we know it was created on the back of a law known as "Safe Harbor," or Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That one statute is what gives online platforms legal immunity from most of the content posted by their users—but in recent years, it's become a defense for everything ranging from rampant abuse on Twitter to harmful one-star reviews on Yelp and housing scarcity spurred by Airbnb. At Backchannel, Chris Zara dives deep into the problems with Safe Harbor, and how it's starting to unravel in the courts—a process that could radically change the way we think about our lives online.

Submission + - 700 Employee, 7 Story India Tech Raided for Telemarketing Fraud (nytimes.com)

retroworks writes: NYT has an interesting blow-by-blow story on two India Tech Center employees who informed on their call center fraud operation, which targeted Americans (especially recent immigrants) with fraudulent IRS calls and other scams. The building was surrounded by police, phone lines cut. Eventually 630 of the employees were released, and charges were brought against 70 managers and executives of the call center.

The article concludes that while the number of such scam calls fell by 95% following the raid, that even if 400 such centers were raided, that the business was too easy and too lucrative to successfully destroy.

Submission + - Trump's Treasury pick appears to be part of a federal investigation (muckrock.com)

v3rgEz writes: Trump's transition strategy of picking some of the shadiest people on earth is still going strong. The latest: According to the FBI, his Treasury pick Steven Mnuchin is involved with an "ongoing investigation", as reported by Mike Best over at the FOIA site MuckRock. Best requested Mnuchin's FBI files, but the request was rejected under the grounds of an open investigation, likely related to Mnuchin's superbly-timed exit from Relativity Media — right before it cratered.

Submission + - "Artificial Intelligence" was the Fake News of 2016

Artem Tashkinov writes: The Register argues that the AI hype in 2016 was just that, a hype. The definition of AI was stretched out of limits to encompass what basically is very advanced algorithms for harvesting and processing data. Various intelligent assistants, such as Google Assistent and Siri, are at best a nicely looking and sounding interface to search engines. Of course, speech and images recognition has become much better but the doom and gloom of millions of people losing their jobs to AI haven't materialized yet and it's not immediately obvious that the prediction will hold any sway in the nearest future.

Submission + - U.S. government begins asking foreign travelers about social media (politico.com)

schwit1 writes: Since Tuesday, foreign travelers arriving in the United States on the visa waiver program have been presented with an “optional” request to “enter information associated with your online presence,” a government official confirmed Thursday. The prompt includes a drop-down menu that lists platforms including Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, as well as a space for users to input their account names on those sites.

Submission + - Court Rejects Government's Secrecy Claims in EFF's Hemisphere Suit (eff.org)

schwit1 writes: As a result, the federal government must submit roughly 260 pages of previously withheld or heavily redacted records to the court so that it can review them and decide whether to make more information about Hemisphere public.

Hemisphere is a partnership between AT&T and federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies that allows police almost real-time access to telephone call detail records. The program is both extremely controversial—AT&T requires police to hide its use from the public—and appears to violate our First and Fourth Amendment rights.

Submission + - How Google.org Stole the Christmas Spirit

theodp writes: The Register notes that even the most innocuous sounding Christmas theme turns out to have a promotional value for Google. Over at Santa’s Village, for instance, Google instructs children to "support the charity organizations that help keep our world beautiful and resourceful" by coloring ornaments that promote Google.org's pet charities, hanging them on their Xmas trees, and "gifting them to your loved ones." And a blog post on how Google is supporting nonprofits around the world this holiday season explains how Google.org has teamed with one of the five promoted charities — teacher 'begfunding' site DonorsChoose.org — to support classrooms in need "by funding projects that have requested Chromebooks and other technology via the educational giving platform DonorsChoose.org." Nice, but one can't help but wonder if Google.org's decision to award $18,130 to teachers at Timberland Charter Academy for Chromebooks to help make students "become ‘Google'licious" while leaving another humbler $399 request from a teacher at the same school for basic school supplies — pencils, paper, erasers, etc. — unfunded is more aligned with Google's interests than the Xmas spirit. Google, The Register reminds readers, lowered its 2015 tax bill by $3.6 billion using the old Dutch Sandwich loophole trick, according to new regulatory filings in the Netherlands.

Submission + - Successful Ebola vaccine will be fast-tracked for use (bbc.com)

Applehu Akbar writes: Merck has developed an Ebola vaccine which, according to Lancet is showing virtually complete effectiveness in preventing infection by the dreaded disease. Is is now being fast-tracked for general distribution by 2018.

Submission + - Leaked files reveal scope of Israeli firm's phone cracking tech (zdnet.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this year, we were sent a series of large, encrypted files purportedly belonging to a US police department as a result of a leak at a law firm, which was insecurely synchronizing its backup systems across the internet without a password.

Among the files was a series of phone dumps created by the police department with specialist equipment, which was created by Cellebrite, an Israeli firm that provides phone-cracking technology.

We obtained a number of these so-called extraction reports. One of the more interesting reports by far was from an iPhone 5 running iOS 8. The phone's owner didn't use a passcode, meaning the phone was entirely unencrypted.

We're publishing some snippets from the report, with sensitive or identifiable information redacted.

Submission + - Anti-Malaria Drug may cure type 1 diabetes (diabetesdaily.com)

schwit1 writes: Researchers using an artemisinin treatment manage to get pancreatic cells to produce insulin instead of glucagon.

Scientists at the CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences revealed that artemisinins, which are an FDA approved treatment for malaria “transform” glucagon producing alpha cells in the pancreas to instead insulin producing cells that acquire the features of beta cells–the ones attacked by the immune system in type 1 diabetes.

Submission + - Donald Trump asks Boeing to bid on F-18 to replace F-35 1

bobthesungeek76036 writes: In a tweet Donald Trump states: "Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!". The F-35 idea was based on reusable parts for multiple military branches. Not really an apples to apples comparison unless Boeing can design a VSTOL F-18 which I can't wait to see....

Submission + - Russians Used Malware On Android Devices to Track and Target Ukraine Artillery (reuters.com)

schwit1 writes: The malware was able to retrieve communications and some locational data from infected devices, intelligence that would have likely been used to strike against the artillery in support of pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine, the report from cyber security firm CrowdStrike foundThe hacking group, known commonly as Fancy Bear or APT 28, is believed by U.S. intelligence officials to work primarily on behalf of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency.

        The implant leveraged a legitimate Android application developed by a Ukrainian artillery officer to process targeting data more quickly, CrowdStrike said.

        Its deployment “extends Russian cyber capabilities to the front lines of the battlefield”, the report said, and “could have facilitated anticipatory awareness of Ukrainian artillery force troop movement, thus providing Russian forces with useful strategic planning information”.

Submission + - TaskRabbit Quietly Raised The Cut It Takes From Many Of Its Workers (fastcompany.com)

tedlistens writes: For over a year, the platform, which connects independent handymen or housecleaners with people looking to hire help, has taken a 30% cut on the first job a contractor does for a client. After a client rehires the same contractor, the company reduced that cut to 15%. Going forward, however, the company has removed the 15% discounted cut in favor of a flat 30% fee for all new jobs.

Frustrated contractors interviewed by Fast Company said that anywhere between 50% and 90% of the work they do is for repeat clients. Josh, a handyman from Los Angeles who previously drove for Lyft, says it’s part of a pattern in new gig economy platforms. "Once something seems too good to be true—like a great job that treats you fairly—you know it’s going to get worse really soon," said Josh. "All these tech companies never make it better for the workers. It just gets worse and worse over time."

Submission + - San Francisco's 58-Story Millennium Tower Seen Sinking From Space (sfgate.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Engineers in San Francisco have tunneled underground to try and understand the sinking of the 58-story Millennium Tower. Now comes an analysis from space. The European Space Agency has released detailed data from satellite imagery that shows the skyscraper in San Francisco's financial district is continuing to sink at a steady rate — and perhaps faster than previously known. The luxury high-rise that opened its doors in 2009 has been dubbed the Leaning Tower of San Francisco. It has sunk about 16 inches into landfill and is tilting several inches to the northwest. Engineers have estimated the building is sinking at a rate of about 1-inch per year. The Sentinel-1 twin satellites show almost double that rate based on data collected from April 2015 to September 2016. The satellite data shows the Millennium Tower sunk 40 to 45 millimeters — or 1.6 to 1.8 inches — over a recent one-year period and almost double that amount — 70 to 75 mm (2.6 to 2.9 inches) — over its 17-month observation period, said Petar Marinkovic, founder and chief scientist of PPO Labs which analyzed the satellite's radar imagery for the ESA along with Norway-based research institute Norut. The Sentinel-1 study is not focused on the Millennium Tower but is part of a larger mission by the European Space Agency tracking urban ground movement around the world, and particularly subsidence "hotspots" in Europe, said Pierre Potin, Sentinel-1 mission manager for the ESA. The ESA decided to conduct regular observations of the San Francisco Bay Area, including the Hayward Fault, since it is prone to tectonic movement and earthquakes, said Potin, who is based in Italy. Data from the satellite, which is orbiting about 400 miles (700 kilometers) from the earth's surface, was recorded every 24 days. The building's developer, Millennium Partners, insists the building is safe for occupancy and could withstand an earthquake.

Submission + - Cloned Dogs Protect Putin (mirror.co.uk)

turkeydance writes: Special "designer dogs" which have been cloned for sniffing explosives and drugs are being used by police and security services in Russia.

The three Belgian Malinois — each valued at £80,000 — were cloned by a South Korean professor who also aims one day to restore extinct woolly mammoths to the vast and frigid Russian province of Siberia.

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