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United States

Database of 191 Million US Voters Exposed On Internet (reuters.com) 77

An anonymous reader writes: Researcher Chris Vickery has discovered an incorrectly configured database that exposes the details of 191 million U.S. voters. Reuters reports: "While voter data is typically considered public information, it would be time-consuming and expensive to gather a database of all American voters. A trove of all U.S. voter data could be valuable to criminals looking for lists of large numbers of targets for a variety of fraud schemes. 'The alarming part is that the information is so concentrated,' said Vickery."
Google

Manhattan DA Pressures Google and Apple To Kill Zero Knowledge Encryption (thestack.com) 291

An anonymous reader writes: In a speech to the 6th Annual Financial Crimes and Cybersecurity Symposium, New York County District Attorney for Manhattan Cyrus Vance Jr. has appealed to the tech community — specifically citing Google and Apple — to "do the right thing" and end zero-knowledge encryption in mobile operating systems. Vance Jr. praised FBI director James Comey for his 'outspoken' and 'fearless' advocacy against zero knowledge encryption, and uses the recent attacks on Paris as further justification for returning encryption keys to the cloud, so that communications providers can once again comply with court orders.
Biotech

Stanford Identifies Potential Security Hole In Genomic Data-Sharing Network 23

An anonymous reader writes: Sharing genomic information among researchers is critical to the advance of biomedical research. Yet genomic data contains identifiable information and, in the wrong hands, poses a risk to individual privacy. If someone had access to your genome sequence — either directly from your saliva or other tissues, or from a popular genomic information service — they could check to see if you appear in a database of people with certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung cancer or autism. Work by a pair of researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine makes that genomic data more secure. Researches have demonstrated a technique for hacking a network of global genomic databases and how to prevent it. They are working with investigators from the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health on implementing preventive measures.
Privacy

Irish Data Protection Commissioner Ordered To Investigate Facebook Data (www.rte.ie) 18

New submitter bigtomrodney writes: Following last week's ruling by the European Court of Justice ruling on Safe Harbor, the Irish High Court has quashed the former decision of the Data Protection Commissioner not to investigate Facebook. In the current vacuum of legislation and given that this challenge is directly focused on U.S. intelligence agency's gathering of European citizen's data, this makes for interesting times ahead. See this story from earlier this month for a bit more background; all this fuss comes down mostly to efforts by one determined gadfly (Max Schrems) and the attention he's brought to the issue of privacy when data crosses national (or at least notional) borders.
Privacy

FBI and DEA Under Review For Misuse of NSA Mass Surveillance Data 86

Patrick O'Neill writes: The FBI and DEA were among the agencies fed information from an NSA surveillance program described as "staggering" by one judge who helped strike the program down. Now the two agencies are under review by the Justice Department for the use of parallel construction as well as looking into the specifics and results of cases originating from NSA tips. (Here's some more on the practice of parallel construction in this context.)
Science

'Smart Sewer' Project Will Reveal a City's Microbiome 37

the_newsbeagle writes: Public health officials want to turn streams of sewage into streams of data. A new project in Cambridge, Mass. will equip sewer tunnels with robotic samplers that can routinely collect sewage from 10 different locations. MIT scientists will then analyze the sewage content for early signs of a viral outbreak or a food-borne bacterial illness, and may be able to draw conclusions about specific health trends throughout the city. This Cambridge effort is a proof of concept; the MIT researchers plan to deploy a larger system in Kuwait, where officials are particularly interested in studying obesity and the effectiveness of public health interventions.
Privacy

The DEA Disinformation Campaign To Hide Surveillance Techniques 46

An anonymous reader writes: Ken White at Popehat explains how the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has been purposefully sowing disinformation to hide the extent of their surveillance powers. The agency appears to have used a vast database of telecommunications metadata, which they acquired via general (read: untargeted, dragnet-style) subpoenas. As they begin building cases against suspected criminals, they trawl the database for relevant information. Of course, this means the metadata of many innocent people is also being held and occasionally scanned. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a lawsuit to challenge this bulk data collection. The DEA database itself seems to have been shut down in 2013, but not before the government argued that it should be fine not only to engage in this collection, but to attempt to hide it during court cases. The courts agreed, which means this sort of surveillance could very well happen again — and the EFF is trying to prevent that.
Businesses

Netflix Algorithm Tells You When Your Best Employee Is About To Leave You 210

An anonymous reader writes "Former Netflix data scientist Mohammad Sabah has used the basis of the video-streaming company's movie-recommendation engine to create a new system to predict when valuable employees are likely to leave your company for pastures new. The new application 'Workday Talent Insights' uses the basis of the engine to correlate diverse factors such as interval between promotions and current length of tenure with equivalent job opportunities at employment websites, in order to gauge 'corporate restlessness', and provide options for employers who identify potential leavers."
Biotech

Biometrics Are Making Espionage Harder 104

schwit1 sends this story from Foreign Policy: In the age of iris scans and facial recognition software, biometrics experts like to point out: The eyes don't lie. And that has made tradecraft all the more difficult for U.S. spies. After billions of dollars of investment — largely by the U.S. government — the routine collection and analysis of fingerprints, iris scans, and facial images are helping to ferret out terrorists and immigration fraudsters all over the world. But it has also made it harder for undercover agents to remain anonymous.

Gone are the days of entering a country with a false passport and wearing a wig and a mustache to hide your true identity. Once an iris scan is on record, it becomes nearly impossible to evade detection. 'In the 21st century, you can't do any of that because of biometrics,' said retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
AI

Facebook AI Director Discusses Deep Learning, Hype, and the Singularity 71

An anonymous reader writes In a wide-ranging interview with IEEE Spectrum, Yann LeCun talks about his work at the Facebook AI Research group and the applications and limitations of deep learning and other AI techniques. He also talks about hype, 'cargo cult science', and what he dislikes about the Singularity movement. The discussion also includes brain-inspired processors, supervised vs. unsupervised learning, humanism, morality, and strange airplanes.
AT&T

AT&T To Match Google Fiber In Kansas City, Charge More If You Want Privacy 227

An anonymous reader writes: When Google Fiber started bringing gigabit internet to cities around the U.S., we wondered how the incumbent ISPs would respond. Now we know: AT&T has announced they will match Google Fiber's gigabit offerings in Kansas City. Of course, there are some caveats. First, AT&T's rollout may stop as it fights the Obama administration over net neutrality. Not that it would be a nationwide rollout anyway: "AT&T does not plan to offer the ultra-fast Internet lines to every home in the market. Rather, he said the company would calculate where demand is strongest and the investment in stringing new cables promised a decent return."

There are also some interesting pricing concerns. The company plans to charge $70/month for gigabit service, but that's a subsidized price. Subsidized by what, you ask? Your privacy. AT&T says if you want to opt out of letting them track your browsing history, you'll have to pay $29 more per month. They say your information is used to serve targeted advertising, and includes any links you follow and search terms you enter.
AI

Facebook Will Soon Be Able To ID You In Any Photo 153

sciencehabit writes Appear in a photo taken at a protest march, a gay bar, or an abortion clinic, and your friends might recognize you. But a machine probably won't — at least for now. Unless a computer has been tasked to look for you, has trained on dozens of photos of your face, and has high-quality images to examine, your anonymity is safe. Nor is it yet possible for a computer to scour the Internet and find you in random, uncaptioned photos. But within the walled garden of Facebook, which contains by far the largest collection of personal photographs in the world, the technology for doing all that is beginning to blossom.
Input Devices

The Algorithm That 'Sees' Beauty In Photographic Portraits 76

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But what if the beholder is a machine? Scientists from Yahoo Labs in Barcelona have trained a machine learning algorithm to pick out beautiful photographic portraits from a collection of not-so-beautiful ones. They began with a set of 10,000 portraits that have been rated by humans and then allowed the algorithm to "learn" the difference by taking into account personal factors such as the age, sex and race of the subject as well as technical factors such as the sharpness of the image, the exposure and the contrast between the face and the background and so on. The trained algorithm was then able to reliably pick out the most beautiful portraits. Curiously, the algorithm does this by ignoring personal details such as age, sex, race, eye colour and so on and instead focuses only on technical details such as sharpness, exposure and contrast. The team say this suggests that any subject can be part of a stunning portrait regardless of their looks. It also suggests that "perfect portrait" algorithms could be built in to the next generation of cameras, rather like the smile-capturing algorithms of today."
Privacy

'Anonymized' Credit Card Data Not So Anonymous, MIT Study Shows 96

schwit1 writes Scientists showed they can identify you with more than 90 percent accuracy by looking at just four purchases, three if the price is included — and this is after companies "anonymized" the transaction records, saying they wiped away names and other personal details. The study out of MIT, published Thursday in the journal Science, examined three months of credit card records for 1.1 million people. "We are showing that the privacy we are told that we have isn't real," study co-author Alex "Sandy" Pentland of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in an email.
Advertising

Healthcare.gov Sends Personal Data To Over a Dozen Tracking Websites 204

An anonymous reader tips an Associated Press report saying that Healthcare.gov is sending users' personal data to private companies. The information involved is typical ad-related analytic data: "...it can include age, income, ZIP code, whether a person smokes, and if a person is pregnant. It can include a computer's Internet address, which can identify a person's name or address when combined with other information collected by sophisticated online marketing or advertising firms." The Electronic Frontier Foundation confirmed the report, saying that data is being sent from Healthcare.gov to at least 14 third-party domains.

The EFF says, "Sending such personal information raises significant privacy concerns. A company like Doubleclick, for example, could match up the personal data provided by healthcare.gov with an already extensive trove of information about what you read online and what your buying preferences are to create an extremely detailed profile of exactly who you are and what your interests are. It could do all this based on a tracking cookie that it sets which would be the same across any site you visit. Based on this data, Doubleclick could start showing you smoking ads or infer your risk of cancer based on where you live, how old you are and your status as a smoker. Doubleclick might start to show you ads related to pregnancy, which could have embarrassing and potentially dangerous consequences such as when Target notified a woman's family that she was pregnant before she even told them. "

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