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AI

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

Posted by timothy
from the you-like-this dept.
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.
Censorship

Google Knocks Explicit Adult Content On Blogger From Public View 285

Posted by timothy
from the start-your-own dept.
Ellie K writes As of 23 March 2015, Google will remove blogs on its Blogger platform that don't conform to its new anti-adult policies. This is an abrupt reversal of policy. Until today, Google allowed "images or videos that contain nudity or sexual activity," and stated that "Censoring this content is contrary to a service that bases itself on freedom of expression." The linked article quotes the message which has been sent to Blogger users thus: (...) In the coming weeks, we'll no longer allow blogs that contain sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video. We'll still allow nudity presented in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts, or presented where there are other substantial benefits to the public from not taking action on the content. The new policy will go into effect on the 23rd of March 2015. After this policy goes into effect, Google will restrict access to any blog identified as being in violation of our revised policy. No content will be deleted, but only blog authors and those with whom they have expressly shared the blog will be able to see the content we've made private.
Biotech

Police Use DNA To Generate a Suspect's Face 100

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-the-generic-looking-ones-you've-gotta-watch dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The NY Times has a pair of articles about a technology now being used in police investigations: computer generation of a suspect's face from only their DNA. Law enforcement in South Carolina had no pictures or descriptions of a man who murdered a mother and her daughter, but they had some of his DNA. From this, a company named Parabon NanoLabs used a technique called DNA phenotyping to create a rough portrait of the suspect's facial features, which the police then shared with the public.

The accuracy of these portraits is still an area of hot debate — most of them look rather generic. The NY Times staff tested it with a couple of their employees, circulating the DNA-inspired portraits and seeing if people could guess who it was supposed to be. None of the ~50 employees were able to identify reporter John Markoff, and only about 10 were able to identify video journalist Catherine Spangler. But even though the accuracy for a person's entire face is low, techniques for specific attributes, like eye color, have improved greatly. Of course, the whole situation raises a slew of civil liberties questions: "What traits are off limits? Should the authorities be able to test whether a suspect has a medical condition or is prone to violence should such testing be possible?"
Cellphones

Pakistanis Must Provide Fingerprints Or Give Up Cellphone 134

Posted by Soulskill
from the must-donate-kidney-to-keep-tablet dept.
schwit1 sends this report from the Washington Post: Cellphones didn't just arrive in Pakistan. But someone could be fooled into thinking otherwise, considering the tens of millions of Pakistanis pouring into mobile phone stores these days. In one of the world's largest — and fastest — efforts to collect biometric information, Pakistan has ordered cellphone users to verify their identities through fingerprints for a national database being compiled to curb terrorism. If they don't, their service will be shut off, an unthinkable option for many after a dozen years of explosive growth in cellphone usage here.

Prompted by concerns about a proliferation of illegal and untraceable SIM cards, the directive is the most visible step so far in Pakistan's efforts to restore law and order after Taliban militants killed 150 students and teachers at a school in December. Officials said the six terrorists who stormed the school in Peshawar were using cellphones registered to one woman who had no obvious connection to the attackers.
Medicine

Looking Up Symptoms Online? These Companies Are Tracking You 147

Posted by samzenpus
from the that's-sick dept.
merbs writes When we feel sick, fear disease, or have questions about our health, we turn first to the internet. According to the Pew Internet Project, 72 percent of US internet users look up health-related information online. But an astonishing number of the pages we visit to learn about private health concerns—confidentially, we assume—are tracking our queries, sending the sensitive data to third party corporations, even shipping the information directly to the same brokers who monitor our credit scores.
Businesses

Lenovo Hit With Lawsuit Over Superfish Adware 114

Posted by samzenpus
from the here-comes-the-trouble dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news that the fallout from the Superfish fiasco might just be starting for Lenovo. "Lenovo admitted to pre-loading the Superfish adware on some consumer PCs, and unhappy customers are now dragging the company to court on the matter. A proposed class-action suit was filed late last week against Lenovo and Superfish, which charges both companies with 'fraudulent' business practices and of making Lenovo PCs vulnerable to malware and malicious attacks by pre-loading the adware. Plaintiff Jessica Bennett said her laptop was damaged as a result of Superfish, which was called 'spyware' in court documents. She also accused Lenovo and Superfish of invading her privacy and making money by studying her Internet browsing habits."
Encryption

NSA, GHCQ Implicated In SIM Encryption Hack 155

Posted by samzenpus
from the protect-ya-neck dept.
First time accepted submitter BlacKSacrificE writes Australian carriers are bracing for a mass recall after it was revealed that a Dutch SIM card manufacturer Gemalto was penetrated by the GCHQ and the NSA in an alleged theft of encryption keys, allowing unfettered access to voice and text communications. The incident is suspected to have happened in 2010 and 2011 and seems to be a result of social engineering against employees, and was revealed by yet another Snowden document. Telstra, Vodafone and Optus have all stated they are waiting for further information from Gemalto before deciding a course of action. Gemalto said in a press release that they "cannot at this early stage verify the findings of the publication" and are continuing internal investigations, but considering Gemalto provides around 2 billion SIM cards to some 450 carriers across the globe (all of which use the same GSM encryption standard) the impact and fallout for Gemalto, and the affected carriers, could be huge.
Cellphones

In Florida, Secrecy Around Stingray Leads To Plea Bargain For a Robber 241

Posted by timothy
from the it-looks-just-like-a-snipe dept.
schwit1 writes The case against Tadrae McKenzie looked like an easy win for prosecutors. He and two buddies robbed a small-time pot dealer of $130 worth of weed using BB guns. Under Florida law, that was robbery with a deadly weapon, with a sentence of at least four years in prison. But before trial, his defense team detected investigators' use of a secret surveillance tool, one that raises significant privacy concerns. In an unprecedented move, a state judge ordered the police to show the device — a cell-tower simulator sometimes called a StingRay — to the attorneys. Rather than show the equipment, the state offered McKenzie a plea bargain. Today, 20-year-old McKenzie is serving six months' probation after pleading guilty to a second-degree misdemeanor. He got, as one civil liberties advocate said, the deal of the century.
Social Networks

Inside the Business of Online Reputation Spin 126

Posted by timothy
from the loved-the-armband-harry dept.
The Guardian has a long, thought-provoking piece (it's an excerpt from an upcoming book) on the way that online PR works, when individuals or organizations pay online spin doctors to change the way they're perceived online. Embarrassing photos, ill-considered social media posts, even quips that have ended up geting the speaker into hot water, can all be crowded out, even if not actually expunged, by injecting lots of innocuous information, photos, and other bits of information. That crowding out seems to be the reputation managers' prime tactic. Besides a brush of his own with identity theft (or at least unwanted borrowing), the author spoke at length with both Adria Richards and "Hank"; both of whom ended up losing their jobs in the aftermath of what became known as Donglegate, after Richards tweeted about jokes that she overheard Hank and another developer share at PyCon 2013.
Censorship

Iran Allows VPNs To Make Millions In Profit 57

Posted by timothy
from the have-cake-and-eat-it-too dept.
New submitter Patrick O'Neill writes with this excerpt from The Daily Dot: Anti-censorship technology is de jure illegal in Iran, but many VPNs are sold openly, allowing Iranians to bounce around censorship and seemingly render it ineffective. Nearly 7 in 10 young Iranians are using VPNs, according to the country's government, and a Google search for "buy VPN" in Persian returns 2 million results. Iran's Cyber Police (FATA) have waged a high-volume open war against the VPNs, but it's still very easy to find, buy, and use the software. It's so easy, in fact, that you can use Iran's government-sanctioned payment gateways (Pardakht Net, Sharj Iran, Jahan Pay & Baz Pardakht) to buy the tools that'll beat the censors. To use these gateways, however, customers have to submit their Iranian bank account and identity, all but foregoing hopes of privacy or protection from authorities."
Crime

Al-Shabaab Video Threat Means Heightened Security at Mall of America 241

Posted by timothy
from the worst-case-scenarios dept.
Reuters and other news outlets carry the news that the Minnesota's gigantic Mall of America is under heightened security after a video threat posted online by terrorist group Al-Shabaab. Also at CNN and CBS News. According to Reuters' version of the story: The U.S. homeland security chief said on Sunday he takes seriously a threat made by Somali-based Islamist militants against shopping malls, including the Mall of America in Minnesota, and urged people going there to be careful. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was reacting to a video released by al Shabaab appearing to call for attacks on Western shopping areas, specifically mentioning Mall of America, the West Edmonton Mall in Canada and London's Oxford Street. ... Mall officials issued a statement about the threat made by the group, saying they are monitoring events with the help of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. "Mall of America has implemented extra security precautions, some may be noticeable to guests, and others won’t be," the officials said.
The Almighty Buck

Will Greek Finance Minister Varoufakis Support Cryptocurrency In Greece? 253

Posted by timothy
from the for-health-points dept.
giulioprisco writes New Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, former Economist-in-Residence at game developer Valve Corporation, sees something like Bitcoin — or, more likely, a state-controlled "Fedcoin" — possibly playing a role in the (necessarily creative) rescue of the Greek economy. "The technology of Bitcoin, if suitably adapted, can be employed profitably in the Eurozone," he said.
The Courts

Nvidia Faces Suit Over GTX970 Performance Claims 159

Posted by timothy
from the lot-of-work-for-a-few-pixels dept.
According to this story at PC World, Nvidia was hit with a class action lawsuit Thursday that claims it misled customers about the capabilities of the GTX 970, which was released in September. Nvidia markets the chip as having 4GB of performance-boosting video RAM, but some users have complained the chip falters after using 3.5GB of that allocation. The lawsuit says the remaining half gigabyte runs 80 percent slower than it's supposed to. That can cause images to stutter on a high resolution screen and some games to perform poorly, the suit says. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern California and names as defendants Nvidia and Giga-Byte Technology, which sells the GTX 970 in graphics cards. Nvidia declined to comment on the lawsuit Friday and Giga-Byte couldn't immediately be reached.
Education

L.A. School Superintendent Folds on Laptops-For-Kids Program 139

Posted by timothy
from the but-they-were-only-tax-dollars dept.
In an announcement yesterday reported on by Ars Technica, [Los Angeles school superintendent] Ramon C. Cortines said that the city can't afford to buy a computer for every student. The statement comes after intense controversy over a $1.3 billion initiative launched by Cortines' predecessor, former superintendent John Deasy, in which every student was supposed to be given an iPad loaded with content from educational publisher Pearson. (That controversy is worth reading about, and sparked an FBI investigation as well.)
Crime

Chicago's Red Light Cameras Now a Point of Contention for Mayoral Candidates 93

Posted by timothy
from the man-vs-the-state's-electronic-proxy dept.
The same system of red-light cameras in Chicago that was shown last year to have been generating bogus tickets is still around -- but now, reports Reuters, it's a political punching bag for opponents of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel in an upcoming election. "[Emanuel], who supports the nation's largest automated camera system, is polling slightly under the 50 percent plus one vote he needs to avoid a run-off against the second-highest vote-getter. Three of the four challengers seeking to topple Emanuel say the cameras should go. Emanuel's closest rival, Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, who is polling at about 20 percent, said he would only keep cameras that have been proven to reduce accidents. .... Chicago has red-light cameras at 174 intersections and 144 speed cameras near schools and parks around the city. They have brought in $500 million since 2003, according to media reports, a figure Chicago has neither confirmed nor disputed.
Google

Antitrust Case Against Google Thrown Out of SF Court 62

Posted by timothy
from the like-the-swiss-miss-marshallow-scam dept.
Mark Wilson (3799011) writes "Just a few days ago Google was threatened with legal action for anti-competitive behavior in Russia. While we don't yet know if that will amount to anything, there has been some better news for the search giant in the US. A San Francisco judge dismissed a case brought against the firm by two men who thought the inclusion of Google services in Android pushed up the prices of their handsets."
The Courts

Ask Slashdot: How Can Technology Improve the Judicial System? 183

Posted by timothy
from the judicial-vs-just dept.
An anonymous reader writes One of the cornerstones of any democracy is its judicial system. Fortunately, most of us never have to deal with it. On the other hand, the fact that we so seldom interact with it also means that most of us are not constantly thinking about it. It is possible our judicial system would be much better if most of us had to spend more time thinking about it. I myself had not put much thought into it until I watched a documentary about Aaron Swartz. It is frightening to think that someone could have been left in a position like that. I also hear about so many cases were people end up pleading guilty because they do not have enough money to fight a case in court. Is this really the best we can do? The Marshal Project is also an interesting source of information regarding the shortfalls of our current system.

What do you think about it? How can we improve our judicial system? Is there any interesting way that technology could be used to improve the system?
Crime

Wired On 3-D Printers As Fraud Enablers 207

Posted by timothy
from the phoney-numbers-can-be-as-big-as-you-want dept.
An anonymous reader writes Citing a report from the Gartner Group estimating $100 billion in intellectual property losses within five years, Joshua Greenbaum warns of "the threat of a major surge in counterfeiting" as cheap 3-D printers get more sophisticated materials. Writing for Wired, Greenbaum argues that preventing counterfeiting "promises to be a growth market," and suggests that besides updating IP laws, possible solutions include nanomaterials for "watermarking" authentic copies or even the regulation of 3-D printing materials. Major retailers like Amazon are already offering 3-D print-on-demand products — though right now their selection is mostly limited to novelties like customized bobbleheads and Christmas ornaments shaped like cannabis leaves. Apropos: Smithonian Magazine has an article that makes a good companion piece to this one on the long political history of the copy machine, which raised many of the same issues being rediscovered in the context of 3-D printing.
Government

Homeland Security Urges Lenovo Customers To Remove Superfish 134

Posted by timothy
from the confessed-fully-as-soon-as-we-were-caught-red-handed dept.
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Reuters reports that the US Department of Homeland Security has advised Lenovo customers to remove "Superfish" software from their computers. According to an alert released through its National Cyber Awareness System the software makes users vulnerable to SSL spoofing and could allow a remote attacker to read encrypted web browser traffic, spoof websites and perform other attacks on Lenovo PCs with the software installed. Lenovo inititally said it stopped shipping the software because of complaints about features, not a security vulnerability. "We have thoroughly investigated this technology and do not find any evidence to substantiate security concerns," the company said in a statement to Reuters early on Thursday. On Friday, Lenovo spokesman Brion Tingler said the company's initial findings were flawed and that it was now advising customers to remove the software and providing instructions for uninstalling "Superfish". "We should have known about this sooner," Tingler said in an email. "And if we could go back, we never would have installed this software on our machines. But we can't, so we are dealing with this head on.""
Government

Crystal Pattern Matching Recovers Obliterated Serial Numbers From Metal 133

Posted by timothy
from the x-still-marks-the-spot dept.
chicksdaddy writes Criminals beware: researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have figured out how to recover serial numbers obliterated from metal surfaces such as firearms and automobiles — a common problem in forensic examinations. According to this report, NIST researchers used a technique called electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) to read, in the crystal structure pattern, imprints on steel that had been removed by polishing. ... The more perfect the crystal structure, the stronger and clearer the pattern. Software can then calculate the pattern quality to reveal crystal damage; areas with more damage produce lower quality patterns. In the NIST experiments, described in Forensic Science International, researchers hammered the letter 'X' into a polished stainless steel plate. The letter stamps were as deep as 140 micrometers, meeting federal regulations for firearm serial numbers. The researchers then polished the metal again to remove all visible traces of the letters, and collected the EBSD diffraction patterns and pattern quality data and analyzed them for evidence of the imprints.