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United Kingdom

London Terrorist Used WhatsApp, UK Calls For Backdoors (yahoo.com) 149

Wednesday 52-year-old Khalid Masood "drove a rented SUV into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before smashing it into Parliament's gates and rushing onto the grounds, where he fatally stabbed a policeman and was shot by other officers," writes the Associated Press. An anonymous reader quotes their new report: Westminster Bridge attacker Khalid Masood sent a WhatsApp message that cannot be accessed because it was encrypted by the popular messaging service, a top British security official said Sunday. British press reports suggest Masood used the messaging service owned by Facebook just minutes before the Wednesday rampage that left three pedestrians and one police officer dead and dozens more wounded.... Home Secretary Amber Rudd used appearances on BBC and Sky News to urge WhatsApp and other encrypted services to make their platforms accessible to intelligence services and police trying to carrying out lawful eavesdropping. "We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp -- and there are plenty of others like that -- don't provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other," she said...

Rudd also urged technology companies to do a better job at preventing the publication of material that promotes extremism. She plans to meet with firms Thursday about setting up an industry board that would take steps to make the web less useful to extremists.

Cloud

Apache Hadoop Has Failed Us, Tech Experts Say (datanami.com) 128

It was the first widely-adopted open source distributed computing platform. But some geeks running it are telling Datanami that Hadoop "is great if you're a data scientist who knows how to code in MapReduce or Pig...but as you go higher up the stack, the abstraction layers have mostly failed to deliver on the promise of enabling business analysts to get at the data." Slashdot reader atcclears shares their report: "I can't find a happy Hadoop customer. It's sort of as simple as that," says Bob Muglia, CEO of Snowflake Computing, which develops and runs a cloud-based relational data warehouse offering. "It's very clear to me, technologically, that it's not the technology base the world will be built on going forward"... [T]hanks to better mousetraps like S3 (for storage) and Spark (for processing), Hadoop will be relegated to niche and legacy statuses going forward, Muglia says. "The number of customers who have actually successfully tamed Hadoop is probably less than 20 and it might be less than 10..."

One of the companies that supposedly tamed Hadoop is Facebook...but according to Bobby Johnson, who helped run Facebook's Hadoop cluster before co-founding behavioral analytics company Interana, the fact that Hadoop is still around is a "historical glitch. That may be a little strong," Johnson says. "But there's a bunch of things that people have been trying to do with it for a long time that it's just not well suited for." Hadoop's strengths lie in serving as a cheap storage repository and for processing ETL batch workloads, Johnson says. But it's ill-suited for running interactive, user-facing applications... "After years of banging our heads against it at Facebook, it was never great at it," he says. "It's really hard to dig into and actually get real answers from... You really have to understand how this thing works to get what you want."

Johnson recommends Apache Kafka instead for big data applications, arguing "there's a pipe of data and anything that wants to do something useful with it can tap into that thing. That feels like a better unifying principal..." And the creator of Kafka -- who ran Hadoop clusters at LinkedIn -- calls Hadoop "just a very complicated stack to build on."
Privacy

'Why The US Senate's Vote To Throw Out ISP Privacy Laws Isn't All Bad' (technologyreview.com) 98

"Nobody wants their data spread far and wide," write two associate editors at MIT Technology Review, "but the FCC's rules were an inconsistent solution to a much larger problem." An anonymous reader writes: They point out the rules passed in October "weren't even yet in effect," but more importantly -- they only would've applied to ISPs. "[T]he reality is that the U.S. doesn't have a baseline law that governs online privacy," and the truth is, it never did. "The FCC's new privacy rules would have been dramatic, to be sure -- but they would only have addressed one piece of the problem, leaving companies like Facebook and Google free to continue doing much the same thing.
While the repeal still needs approval in the U.S. House of Representatives and the president's signature, their article argues that what's really needed is "a more consistent approach to privacy."
Australia

Australia Shelves Copyright Safe Harbor For Google, Facebook (torrentfreak.com) 25

In a surprise setback for companies such as Google and Facebook that leverage user-generated content, Australia has dropped plans to extend its copyright safe harbor provisions. From a report: In a blow to Google, Facebook and others, the government dropped the amendments before they were due to be introduced to parliament yesterday. That came as a big surprise, particularly as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had given the proposals his seal of approval just last week. "Provisions relating to safe harbor were removed from the bill before its introduction to enable the government to further consider feedback received on this proposal whilst not delaying the passage of other important reforms," Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said in a statement. There can be little doubt that intense lobbying from entertainment industry groups played their part, with a series of articles published in News Corp-owned The Australian piling on the pressure in favor of rightsholders.
Social Networks

Reddit To Transform Into a Social Network With New Profile Pages (digitaljournal.com) 130

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Journal: Reddit has announced it has begun trialling a radical new profile page design that's reminiscent of Facebook and Twitter. It will evolve the discussion board site towards being a social network by enabling users to post directly to their new profile page. At present, posts on Reddit have to be directed into a specific sub-Reddit community. You can't simply write a post and have it appear across the network which can make it difficult to get your voice heard. Unless you've got some reputation in a relevant sub-Reddit, your posts may end up going unnoticed. That could soon change. Last night, Reddit announced it's working on a drastic revision of its user profile page experience. The site has commenced testing of an early version of the design. According to a report from Reuters, just three "high-profile" users currently have access to the feature. When the new pages are eventually opened up to all, they'll showcase the user's profile picture and description. Below the header, posts from the user will be publicly displayed. The user will be able to add new posts to their page, without submitting to a sub-Reddit. Users will be able to follow each other to stay informed of new posts, effectively creating a social network atmosphere above the discussion boards.
Businesses

Apple's Next Big Thing: Augmented Reality (bloomberg.com) 94

Apple is beefing up its staff with acquisitions and some big hires to help design augmented reality glasses and iPhone features, according to Bloomberg. From a report: Apple is working on "digital spectacles" that could connect to an iPhone and beam content like movies and maps, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reported on Monday. The Cupertino, Calif.- based company is also working on augmented reality features for the iPhone that are similar to Snapchat, Bloomberg said. To make its augmented reality push, Apple has acquired augmented reality start-ups FlyBy Media and Metaio, and hired major players from Amazon, Facebook's Oculus, Microsoft's HoloLens, and Dolby.
Biotech

Tech Billionaires Invest In Linking Brains To Computers (technologyreview.com) 77

"To many in Silicon Valley, the brain looks like an unconquered frontier whose importance dwarfs any achievement made in computing or the Web," including Bryan Johnson, the founder of Braintree online payments, and Elon Musk. An anonymous reader quotes MIT Technology Review: Johnson is effectively jumping on an opportunity created by the Brain Initiative, an Obama-era project which plowed money into new schemes for recording neurons. That influx of cash has spurred the formation of several other startups, including Paradromics and Cortera, also developing novel hardware for collecting brain signals. As part of the government brain project, the defense R&D agency DARPA says it is close to announcing $60 million in contracts under a program to create a "high-fidelity" brain interface able to simultaneously record from one million neurons (the current record is about 200) and stimulate 100,000 at a time...

According to neuroscientists, several figures from the tech sector are currently scouring labs across the U.S. for technology that might fuse human and artificial intelligence. In addition to Johnson, Elon Musk has been teasing a project called "neural lace," which he said at a 2016 conference will lead to "symbiosis with machines." And Mark Zuckerberg declared in a 2015 Q&A that people will one day be able to share "full sensory and emotional experiences," not just photos. Facebook has been hiring neuroscientists for an undisclosed project at Building 8, its secretive hardware division.

Elon Musk complains that the current speeds for transferring signals from brains are "ridiculously slow".
AI

Ray Kurzweil On How We'll End Up Merging With Our Technology (foxnews.com) 161

Mr.Intel quotes a report from Fox News: "By 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence," Kurzweil said in an interview at the SXSW Conference with Shira Lazar and Amy Kurzweil Comix. Known as the Singularity, the event is oft discussed by scientists, futurists, technology stalwarts and others as a time when artificial intelligence will cause machines to become smarter than human beings. The time frame is much sooner than what other stalwarts have said, including British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, as well as previous predictions from Kurzweil, who said it may occur as soon as 2045. Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son, who recently acquired ARM Holdings with the intent on being one of the driving forces in the Singularity, has previously said it could happen in the next 30 years. Kurzweil apparently ins't worried about the rise in machine learning and artificial intelligence. In regard to AI potentially enslaving humanity, Kurzweil said, "That's not realistic. We don't have one or two AIs in the world. Today we have billions." He shares a similar view with Elon Musk by saying that humans need to converge with machines, pointing out the work already being done in Parkinson's patients. "They're making us smarter," Kurzeil said during the SXSW interview. "They may not yet be inside our bodies, but, by the 2030s, we will connect our neocortex, the part of our brain where we do our thinking, to the cloud... We're going to be funnier, we're going to be better at music. We're going to be sexier. We're really going to exemplify all the things that we value in humans to a greater degree." You can watch the full interview on Facebook.
Privacy

Germany Plans To Fine Social Media Sites Over Hate Speech (reuters.com) 305

Germany plans a new law calling for social networks like Facebook to remove slanderous or threatening online postings quickly or face fines of up to 50 million euros ($53 mln). From a report: "This (draft law) sets out binding standards for the way operators of social networks deal with complaints and obliges them to delete criminal content," Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement announcing the planned legislation on Tuesday. Failure to comply could see a social media company fined up to 50 million euros, and the company's chief representative in Germany fined up to 5 million euros. Germany already has some of the world's toughest hate speech laws covering defamation, slander, public incitement to commit crimes and threats of violence, backed up by prison sentences for Holocaust denial or inciting hatred against minorities. It now aims to update these rules for the social media age.
Social Networks

Facebook Admits Flaw in Image Moderation After BBC Report (bbc.com) 57

From a report on BBC: A Facebook executive has admitted to MPs its moderating process "was not working" following a BBC investigation. BBC News reported 100 posts featuring sexualised images and comments about children, but 82 were deemed not to "breach community standards." Facebook UK director Simon Milner told MPs the problem was now fixed. He was speaking to the Commons Home Affairs committee alongside bosses from Twitter and Google as part of an investigation into online hate crime. The BBC investigation reported dozens of posts through the website tool, including images from groups where users were discussing swapping what appeared to be child abuse material. When journalists went back to Facebook with the images that had not been taken down, the company reported them to the police and cancelled an interview, saying in a statement: "It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation."
Australia

Australia Copyright Safe Harbour Provision Backed By Prime Minister (torrentfreak.com) 30

Moves to introduce a copyright "safe harbor" provision for platforms such as Google and Facebook have received a boost in Australia after receiving backing from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. From a report on TorrentFreak: A report in The Australian indicates that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has given the safe harbor amendments his support. It won't be all plain sailing from here, however. The government is to set up a Senate committee into the copyright amendments to determine whether the amendments will promote piracy as the entertainment industries are warning. The inquiry will launch after the government introduces the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill into Parliament after March 20. The Australian suggests that under Schedule 2 of the bill, online platforms would receive immunity for infringing user-uploaded content. However, totally immunity is an unrealistic eventuality that would almost certainly have to be tempered by rules concerning takedowns. Those details will be examined in-depth as part of the committee inquiry, which will run its course in advance of parliamentary debate and voting.
Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Ships With Unpatched 6-Month-Old WebKit Vulnerabilities (arstechnica.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Nintendo's Switch has been out for almost two weeks, which of course means that efforts to hack it are well underway. One developer, who goes by qwertyoruiop on Twitter, has demonstrated that the console ships with months-old bugs in its WebKit browser engine. These bugs allow for arbitrary code execution within the browser. A proof-of-concept explainer video was posted here. The potential impact of these vulnerabilities for Switch users is low. A Switch isn't going to have the same amount of sensitive data on it that an iPhone or iPad can, and there are way fewer Switches out there than iDevices. Right now, the Switch also doesn't include a standalone Internet browser, though WebKit is present on the system for logging into public Wi-Fi hotspots, and, with some cajoling, you can use it to browse your Facebook feed. The exploit could potentially open the door for jailbreaking and running homebrew software on the Switch, but, as of this writing, the exploit doesn't look like it provides kernel access. The developer who discovered the exploit himself says that the vulnerability is just a "starting point."
Facebook

Facebook and Instagram Ban Developers From Using Data For Surveillance (theguardian.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Facebook and Instagram have banned developers from using their data for surveillance with a new privacy policy that civil rights activists have long sought to curb spying by law enforcement. Following revelations last year that police departments had gained special access to the social networks to track protesters, Facebook, which owns Instagram, announced on Monday that it had updated its rules to state that developers could not "use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance." The American Civil Liberties Union obtained government records last year revealing that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter had provided users' data to a software company that aids police surveillance programs and had helped law enforcement monitor Black Lives Matter demonstrations. The ACLU found that the social networking sites had given "special access" to Geofeedia, a controversial startup that has partnered with law enforcement to track streams of user content. "Our goal is to make our policy explicit," Facebook said in its announcement on Monday. "Over the past several months we have taken enforcement action against developers who created and marketed tools meant for surveillance, in violation of our existing policies; we want to be sure everyone understands the underlying policy and how to comply."
Facebook

'We Didn't Lose Control Of Our Personal Data -- It Was Stolen From Us By People Farmers' (ar.al) 147

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the worldwide web, wrote an open-letter over the weekend to mark the 28th anniversary of his invention. In his letter, he shared three worrisome things that happened over the last twelve months. In his letter, Berners-Lee pointed out three things that occurred over the past 12 months that has him worried: we do not assume control of our personal data anymore; how easy it is for misinformation to spread on the web; and lack of transparency on political advertising on the web. Cyborg rights activist Aral Balkan wrote a piece yesterday arguing that perhaps Berners-Lee is being modest about the things that concern him. From the article: It's important to note that these (those three worrisome things) are not trends and that they've been in the making for far longer than twelve months. They are symptoms that are inextricably linked to the core nature of the Web as it exists within the greater socio-technological system we live under today that we call Surveillance Capitalism. Tim says we've "lost control of our personal data." This is not entirely accurate. We didn't lose control; it was stolen from us by Silicon Valley. It is stolen from you every day by people farmers; the Googles and the Facebooks of the world. It is stolen from you by an industry of data brokers, the publishing behavioural advertising industry ("adtech"), and a long tail of Silicon Valley startups hungry for an exit to one of the more established players or looking to compete with them to own a share of you. The elephants in the room -- Google and Facebook -- stand silently in the wings, unmentioned except as allies later on in the letter where they're portrayed trying to "combat the problem" of misinformation. Is it perhaps foolish to expect anything more when Google is one of the biggest contributors to recent web standards at the W3C and when Google and Facebook both help fund the Web Foundation? Let me state it plainly: Google and Facebook are not allies in our fight for an equitable future -- they are the enemy. These platform monopolies are factory farms for human beings; farming us for every gram of insight they can extract. If, as Tim states, the core challenge for the Web today is combating people farming, and if we know who the people farmers are, shouldn't we be strongly regulating them to curb their abuses?
Facebook

ShatChat: How Facebook's Bizarre Obsession With Snapchat Is Ruining User Experience On Messenger (500ish.com) 76

Columnist MG Siegler writes: "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should." I often find myself pointing to this quote from Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park. It's just so succinctly perfect for so many things. This week's example: Facebook Messenger's new 'Day' functionality. [...] They've [Facebook] decided to weaponize all of these networks [Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram], user experience be damned. On Messenger, people have their list of contacts and/or groups that they chat with. The most recent conversations -- likely the most important -- are at the top of that feed. But if you're anything like me, you're often scrolling down a bit because you have many regular conversations. And so this screen real estate is insanely valuable. And Messenger puked up this new 'Day' nonsense all over it. Yes, people share photos on Messenger. Undoubtedly a ton. That's maybe how you try to justify this move to yourself if you're Facebook. But Messenger is fundamentally about chatting; it's a utility. Photos may be additive, but they're not core. You could try to pivot your service into making them core, but that doesn't mean you should.As of last year, Facebook Messenger has over a billion active users.
Privacy

Tim Berners-Lee Warns About the Web's Three Biggest Threats (webfoundation.org) 91

Sunday was the 28th anniversary of the day that 33-year-old Tim Berners-Lee submitted his proposal for the World Wide Web -- and the father of the web published a new letter today about "how the web has evolved, and what we must do to ensure it fulfills his vision of an equalizing platform that benefits all of humanity."

It's been an ongoing battle to maintain the web's openness, but in addition, Berners-Lee lists the following issues: 1) We've lost control of our personal data. 2) It's too easy for misinformation to spread on the web. 3) Political advertising online needs transparency and understanding. Tim Berners-Lee writes:
We must work together with web companies to strike a balance that puts a fair level of data control back in the hands of people, including the development of new technology like personal "data pods" if needed and exploring alternative revenue models like subscriptions and micropayments. We must fight against government over-reach in surveillance laws, including through the courts if necessary. We must push back against misinformation by encouraging gatekeepers such as Google and Facebook to continue their efforts to combat the problem, while avoiding the creation of any central bodies to decide what is "true" or not. We need more algorithmic transparency to understand how important decisions that affect our lives are being made, and perhaps a set of common principles to be followed. We urgently need to close the "internet blind spot" in the regulation of political campaigning.
Berners-Lee says his team at the Web Foundation "will be working on many of these issues as part of our new five year strategy," researching policy solutions and building progress-driving coalitions, as well as maintaining their massive list of digital rights organizations. "I may have invented the web, but all of you have helped to create what it is today... and now it is up to all of us to build the web we want -- for everyone." Inspired by the letter, very-long-time Slashdot reader Martin S. asks, does the web need improvements? And if so, "I'm wondering what Slashdotters would consider to be a solution?"
The Media

Nick Denton Predicts 'The Good Internet' Will Rise Again (pcworld.com) 135

Gawker founder Nick Denton argued today that the future will be rooted in sites like Reddit which involve their reader community -- even if there's only a handful of subtopics each user is interested in. "There's a vitality to it and there's a model for what [media] could be," he told an audience at the South by Southwest festival.

But when it comes to other social media sites, "Facebook makes me despise many of my friends and Twitter makes me hate the rest of the world," Denton said. And he attempted to address America's politically-charged atmosphere where professional news organizations struggled to pay their bills while still producing quality journalism. An anonymous reader quotes PCWorld: The internet played a huge role in this crisis, but despite it all, Denton thinks the web can be the solution to the problems it created. "On Google Hangouts chats or iMessage you can exchange quotes, links, stories, media," he said. "That's a delightful, engaging media experience. The next phase of media is going to come out of the idea of authentic, chill conversation about things that matter. Even if we're full of despair over what the internet has become, it's good to remind yourself when you're falling down some Wikipedia hole or having a great conversation with somebody online -- it's an amazing thing. In the habits that we enjoy, there are the seeds for the future. That's where the good internet will rise up again."
To show his support for news institutions, Denton has also purchased a paid subscription to the New York Times' site.
Social Networks

Report: Up To 15% Of Twitter Accounts Are Bots (cbsnews.com) 50

A team of researchers claim they can identify Twitter account activity that's posted by bots through their new web portal -- "Bot or Not?" -- leveraging "more than a thousand features extracted from public data and meta-data." And it turns out there are a lot of bots. An anonymous reader writes: "A study released by the University of Southern California reports that roughly nine to 15 percent of Twitter accounts...are so-called bots controlled by software instead of humans," according to CBS News. "Twitter boasts 319 monthly active users meaning that this recent revelation equates to nearly 48 million bot accounts, according the university's high-end figure." CNBC adds that "The research could be troubling news for Twitter, which has struggled to grow its user base in the face of growing competition from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and others." In a 2014 SEC filing Twitter admitted that between 5 and 8% of their users were bots.
Twitter's response to this new report? "Many bot accounts are extremely beneficial, like those that automatically alert people of natural disasters ... or from customer service points of view."
United States

IEEE-USA Criticizes Failure To Reform The H-!B Program (ieee.org) 239

Slashdot reader Tekla Perry writes: IEEE USA says H-1B visas are a tool used to avoid paying U.S. wages. "For every visa used by Google to hire a talented non-American for $126,000, ten Americans are replaced by outsourcing companies paying their H-1B workers $65,000," says the current IEEE USA president, writing with the past president and president-elect. The outsourcing companies, Infosys, Cognizant, Wipro, and Tata Consultancy in 2014 "used 21,695 visas, or more than 25 percent of all private-sector H-1B visas used that year. Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Uber, for comparison, used only 1,763 visas, or 2 percent," they say.
On Friday, IEEE-USA also issued a new criticism about the lack of progress in reforming the H-1B program, saying "At least 50,000 Americans will lose their jobs this year because the president has yet to fulfill the promise he made to millions who voted for him."
The Almighty Buck

Oculus CTO John Carmack Is Suing ZeniMax For $22.5 Million (techcrunch.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: The feud between Oculus and ZeniMax Media is opening up once again, this time with the CTO of Oculus, John Carmack, suing his former employer for earnings that he claims are still owed to him. The suit is largely unrelated to the $6 billion trade secrets suit which ended last month with a $500 million judgment against Oculus. Instead, Carmack is suing ZeniMax Media for $22.5 million that he says has not been paid to him for the 2009 sale of his game studio, id Software, known for such pioneering video game classics as Doom and Quake. The lawsuit reveals that ZeniMax Media paid $150 million for the game studio. The document details that Carmack was set to earn $45 million from the id acquisition. In 2011, Carmack converted half of that note into a half-million shares of ZeniMax common stock, but has yet to receive the other half of his earnings in cash or common stock from the company, despite formal requests being made. The lawsuit was reported first by Dallas News.

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