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Geek

Facebook Considers Political-Ad Blackout Ahead of US Election

Slashdot - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 19:25
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Facebook is considering imposing a ban on political ads on its social network in the days leading up to the U.S. election in November, according to people familiar with the company's thinking. The potential ban is still only being discussed and hasn't yet been finalized, said the people, who asked not to be named talking about internal policies. A halt on ads could serve as a defense against misleading election-related content spreading widely right as people prepare to vote. Still, there are also concerns that an ad blackout could hurt "get out the vote" campaigns, or limit a candidate's ability to respond widely to breaking news or new information. Facebook doesn't fact-check ads from politicians or their campaigns, a point of contention for many lawmakers and advocates, who say the policy means ads on the platform could be used to spread lies and misinformation. The social-media giant has been criticized in recent weeks by civil rights groups that say it doesn't do enough to remove efforts to limit voter participation, and a recent audit of the company found Facebook failed to enforce its own voter suppression policies when it comes to posts from U.S. President Donald Trump. Hundreds of advertisers are currently boycotting Facebook's advertising products as part of a protest against its policies.

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Categories: Geek

Google Bans Stalkerware Ads

Slashdot - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 18:45
Google announced plans this week to ban ads that promote stalkerware, spyware, and other forms of surveillance technology that can be used to track other persons without their specific consent. From a report: The change was announced this week as part of an upcoming update to Google Ads policies, set to enter into effect next month, on August 11, 2020. Examples of products and services that advertisers won't be able to promote via Google Ads anymore include: 1. Spyware and technology used for intimate partner surveillance including but not limited to spyware/malware that can be used to monitor texts, phone calls, or browsing history; 2. GPS trackers specifically marketed to spy or track someone without their consent; 3. Promotion of surveillance equipment (cameras, audio recorders, dash cams, nanny cams) marketed with the express purpose of spying.

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Categories: Geek

Amazon Delays Next Video Game Half a Year After Latest One Flops

Slashdot - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 18:04
Following scathing reviews of a computer game it released in May, Amazon.com is delaying its next big-budget game by at least six months. From a report: The decision represents another setback for the technology giant's ambitions to break into the gaming industry. The next game, New World, was supposed to debut in late August but is now scheduled for spring 2021, Rich Lawrence, director of Amazon's game studio, wrote in a blog post Friday. The company wants extra time to implement changes suggested by players who have been testing the game, he wrote. Delays are fairly common in the video game industry, but this was an important opportunity for Amazon to redeem itself after a recent flop. Amazon is trying to make a name for itself as a maker of big-budget video games that can compete with those from the likes of Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts. But Amazon's Crucible, a free-to-play PC game introduced in May, was panned by critics, prompting Amazon to take the highly unusual step of pulling the game from wide circulation.

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Signal's New PIN Feature Worries Cybersecurity Experts

Slashdot - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 17:24
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, writing for Vice: Ever since NSA leaker Edward Snowden said "use Signal, use Tor," the end-to-end encrypted chat app has been a favorite of people who care about privacy and need a chat and calling app that is hard to spy on. One of the reasons security experts recommended Signal is because the app's developers collected -- and thus retained -- almost no information about its users. This means that, if subpoenaed by law enforcement, Signal would have essentially nothing to turn over. Signal demonstrated this in 2016, when it was subpoenaed by a court in Virginia. But a newly added feature that allows users to recover certain data, such as contacts, profile information, settings, and blocked users, has led some high-profile security experts to criticize the app's developers and threaten to stop using it. Signal will store that data on servers the company owns, protected by a PIN that the app has initially been asking users to add, and then forced them to. The purpose of using a PIN is, in the near future, to allow Signal users to be identified by a username, as opposed to their phone number, as Signal founder Moxie Marlinspike explained on Twitter (as we've written before, this is a laudable goal; tying Signal to a phone number has its own privacy and security implications). But this also means that unlike in the past, Signal now retains certain user data, something that many cybersecurity and cryptography experts see as too dangerous. Matthew Green, a cryptographer and computer science professor at Johns Hopkins University, said that this was "the wrong decision," and that forcing users to create a PIN and use this feature would force him to stop using the app.

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Daily Deals: $16 Nintendo Switch controller, $70 Amazon Echo speaker, $169 Apple Watch, and much more

iDownloadBlog - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 16:53

Welcome to our Daily Deals column, where we round up the best tech deals from around the web. Here you’ll find discounts on everything from Apple products to accessories, video games and much more. But you better hurry, these prices won’t be around forever!
Categories: Geek

Apple Advises Against MacBook Camera Covers Due To Display Cracking

Slashdot - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 16:45
Apple, in a new support document, is warning users against closing their MacBook lids with a cover over the camera. From a report: Placing a cover, sticker or tape over a laptop camera is a practice adopted by some privacy- and security-conscious individuals to protect against webcam hijacking. Now, however, Apple is explicitly advising against the tactic. In a support document published earlier in July, Apple urges users not to close their MacBook Pro or MacBook Air lids if there's a camera cover installed on it. "If you close your Mac notebook with a camera cover installed, you might damage your display because the clearance between the display and keyboard is designed to very tight tolerances," Apple notes. The support document also outlines some of the privacy and security functions of the camera, including the green indicator light that lets users know when the camera is active and the camera permission settings introduced in macOS Mojave.

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France To Introduce Controversial Age Verification System For Adult Websites

Slashdot - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 16:05
The French Parliament unanimously agreed this week to introduce a nationwide age verification system for pornography websites, months after President Emmanuel Macron pledged to protect children against such content. From a report: Macron made the protection of children against adult content online a high-profile issue well before the coronavirus crisis hit. In January, tech companies, internet services providers and the adult movies industry signed a voluntary charter, pledging to roll out tools to help ensure minors don't have access to pornographic content. Within a broader law on domestic violence, the Senate decided in June to introduce an amendment requiring pornography websites to implement an age verification mechanism. In order to enforce the law, the French audiovisual regulator CSA will be granted new powers to audit and sanction companies that do not comply -- sanctions could go as far as blocking access to the websites in France with a court order. The choice of verification mechanisms will be left up to the platforms. But lawmakers have suggested using credit card verification -- a system first adopted by the U.K., which mulled similar plans to control access to pornography but had to drop them in late 2019 because of technical difficulties and privacy concerns. Italy also approved a similar bill in late June, which raised the same concerns over its feasibility and compliance with the EU laws.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Geek

US Finalizing Federal Contract Ban For Companies That Use Huawei, Others

Slashdot - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 15:25
The Trump administration plans to finalize regulations this week that will bar the U.S. government from buying goods or services from any company that uses products from five Chinese companies including Huawei, Hikvision and Dahua, Reuters reported Friday, citing a U.S. official said. From the report: The rule, which was prompted by a 2019 law, could have far-ranging implications for companies that sell goods and services to the U.S. government since they will now need to certify they do not use products from Dahua or Hikvision, even though both are among the top sellers of surveillance equipment and cameras worldwide. The same goes for two-way radios from Hytera and telecommunications equipment or mobile devices like smartphones from Huawei or ZTE. Any company that uses equipment or services in their day-to-day operations from these five companies will no longer be able to sell to the U.S. government without obtaining a U.S. government waiver. Further reading: 'UK Faces Mobile Blackouts if Huawei 5G Ban Imposed By 2023.'

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Categories: Geek

Nearly 70,000 Tech Startup Employees Have Lost Their Jobs Since March

Slashdot - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 14:45
Technology startups have been laying off tens of thousands of workers to cope with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, potentially blunting a key innovation pipeline for the enterprise information-technology market, according to industry analysts. From a report: "Startups are a great source of innovation in the IT industry, but are now especially cash constrained," said Max Azaham, a senior research director at research and consulting firm Gartner. Mr. Azaham said the coronavirus has made startup investors far more risk averse, resulting in a sharp downturn in investment capital for IT companies looking to raise less than $100 million. As of last week, nearly 70,000 tech-startup employees world-wide had lost jobs since March, led by ventures in the transportation, financial and travel sectors, according to a report by U.K.-based brokerage BuyShares.co.uk. Startups in the San Francisco region, including Silicon Valley, have shed more than 25,500 jobs, including layoffs at high-profile companies such as Uber, Groupon and Airbnb, the report said. Uber in May announced more than 6,500 layoffs, cutting roughly a quarter of its workforce. A month earlier, Lyft said it would cut about 17% of its workforce, furlough workers and slash pay in cost-cutting efforts to cope with lost sales during the coronavirus pandemic. Startups developing artificial intelligence and other emerging digital tools fall under the category of tech-sector employers, which have cut jobs for four consecutive months, said Tim Herbert, executive vice president for research and market intelligence at IT industry trade group CompTIA. The cuts included a record 112,000 layoffs in April, as tech companies scrambled to slash costs, according to CompTIA's analysis of federal employment data.

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Scientists Make Precise Gene Edits To Mitochondrial DNA For First Time

Slashdot - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 14:04
A peculiar bacterial enzyme has allowed researchers to achieve what even the popular CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing system couldn't manage: targeted changes to the genomes of mitochondria, cells' crucial energy-producing structures. From a report: The technique -- which builds on a super-precise version of gene editing called base editing -- could allow researchers to develop new ways to study, and perhaps even treat, diseases caused by mutations in the mitochondrial genome. Such disorders are most often passed down maternally, and impair the cell's ability to generate energy. Although there are only a small number of genes in the mitochondrial genome compared with the nuclear genome, these mutations can particularly harm the nervous system and muscles, including the heart, and can be fatal to people who inherit them. But it has been difficult to study such disorders, because scientists lacked a way to make animal models with the same changes to the mitochondrial genome. The latest technique marks the first time that researchers have made such targeted changes, and could allow researchers to do this. "It's a very exciting development," says Carlos Moraes, a mitochondrial geneticist at the University of Miami in Florida. "The ability to modify mitochondrial DNA would allow us to ask questions that, before, we could not." The work was published on 8 July in Nature.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Geek

Amazon Makes Employees Delete TikTok From Phones, Citing Security Risk [Update]

Slashdot - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 13:22
Amazon has asked its employees to delete the Chinese-owned video app TikTok from their cellphones, citing "security risks," according to a company email sent on Friday. From a report: In the email, which was obtained by The New York Times, Amazon officials said that employees must delete the app from any devices that "access Amazon email." Employees had to remove the app by Friday to remain able to obtain mobile access to their Amazon email, the note said. Amazon workers are still allowed to view TikTok from their laptop browser, the company added. Amazon and TikTok did not immediately respond to requests for comment. TikTok, which has been popular with young audiences in the United States, is owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance. It has been under scrutiny in Washington for security reasons because of its ownership. Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, said on Monday that the Trump administration was considering blocking some Chinese apps, which he has called a threat to national security. Updated at 21:01GMT: In a statement, Amazon said the email was sent by accident. "This morning's email to some of our employees was sent in error. There is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok."

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Categories: Geek

A Moment of Clarity Regarding the Raison d'Etre for the App Store

Slashdot - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 12:44
John Gruber, writing at DaringFireball: Feel free to file Google's release this week of an update to their iPad Gmail app with support for split-screen multitasking under "better late than never," but this is so late it borders on the absurd. It's like the difference between showing up fashionably late and showing up a week after the party. Split-screen multitasking was introduced for the iPad back in 2015 with iOS 9. Five years to add support for a foundational element of the iPad user experience. And an email client is near the top of the list of the type of apps where someone would want to use split-screen. Five years. Google makes a lot of software with terrible user experiences for users who have poor taste. Their iOS software, in particular, has for the most part never suggested that it was designed by people who like -- or even use -- iOS. It's the blind leading the blind. But yet the Gmail app is currently the number one free app in the Productivity category in the App Store. On the surface, it's tempting to blow this off. To each their own. Whatever floats their boat. Who cares if millions of iPad users are satisfied using an email client that is a poor iPad app, so long as actual good iPad email clients are available to those who do care? But what about those stuck using the Gmail app not because they want to, but because they have to? Who can help them but Apple? I worry that it's not tenable in the long run to expect Apple to continue striving to create well-crafted -- let alone insanely great -- software when so many of its users not only settle for, but perhaps even prefer, software that is, to put it kindly, garbage. There have always been popular Mac and iPhone apps that are objectively terrible apps -- where by "popular" I mean much-used, not much-loved. But what made Apple users Apple users is that they complained vociferously if they had to use a terrible app. Word 6 was a sack of dog shit Microsoft dropped off and set aflame on Mac users' porch, but we all knew it was a flaming bag of dog shit, and even those of us who didn't even use Word were angry about it because it was an insult. I worry that this sort of "Who cares, it's better than nothing" attitude has seeped into Apple itself, and explains how we wound up with barely modified iPad apps shipping as system apps on the Mac. But more than anything I worry that this exemplifies where Apple has lost its way with the App Store. What exactly is the point of running a strict approval process for apps if not, first and foremost, to ensure that they're good apps? An iPad email app that doesn't support split-screen multitasking for five years is, by definition, not a good app. I'd like to see all the vim, vigor, and vigilance Apple applies to making sure no app on the App Store is making a dime without Apple getting three cents applied instead to making sure there aren't any scams or ripoffs, and that popular apps support good-citizen-of-the-platform features within a reasonable amount of time after those features are introduced in the OS. I don't know exactly how long "reasonable" is, but five fucking years for split-screen support ain't it.

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Categories: Geek

Apple Reaches New Stage in Development of AR Devices

Slashdot - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 12:04
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted key parts of Apple's business, but it hasn't derailed the company's plans to build what could be its next important technology platform -- augmented reality devices. From a report: The Information has learned that Apple is working with Taiwan's Foxconn Technology, Apple's largest contract manufacturer and the one responsible for building most iPhones, to develop semitransparent lenses for its AR devices. As of two months ago, the lenses -- considered one of the most essential elements of the head-worn devices -- had passed the prototype stage and entered trial production [the link may be paywalled; alternative source], a person familiar with the matter said. A spokesperson for Apple declined to comment. The lenses are at least one to two years away from mass production, and the same is likely true of the AR product they ultimately end up in, the person said. The product must still go through a lengthy process of ramping up production to the point where Apple can reliably manufacture millions of them. AR glasses and headsets allow people who wear them to view digital imagery overlaid on and intermingled with their physical surroundings. The technology could give people a new way to view everything from map directions to videoconference calls, and allow them to play games with characters and objects that hide around the corners of real buildings.

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Leaker: iPhone 12 Pro models should feature 6GB of RAM, baseline ones stuck with 4GB

iDownloadBlog - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 12:02

Fifty percent more RAM is allegedly coming to a pair of higher-end iPhones to be released later this year, while the baseline models are said to be stuck with 4GB of RAM.
Categories: Geek

Semitransparent lenses for Apple AR headset allegedly in trial production

iDownloadBlog - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 11:30

Foxconn has reportedly moved one of the most essential elements of Apple's rumored head-worn device from prototype to trial production — semitransparent lenses that will use polarization to achieve stereoscopic images.
Categories: Geek

Should We Be Drinking Less?

Slashdot - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 11:21
Can a daily drink or two lead to better health? For many years, the federal government's influential dietary guidelines implied as much, saying there was evidence that moderate drinking could lower the risk of heart disease and reduce mortality. But now a committee of scientists that is helping to update the latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is taking a harder stance on alcohol. From a report: The committee said in a recent conference call that it plans to recommend that men and women who drink limit themselves to a single serving of wine, beer or liquor per day. Do not drink because you think it will make you healthier, the committee says: It won't. And it maintains that drinking less is generally better for health than drinking more. That message is a departure from previous guidelines, which since 1980 have defined "moderate" drinking as up to two drinks a day for men and one for women. Government agencies have also long defined a standard drink as 12 ounces of regular beer, five ounces of wine, or one and a half ounces of distilled spirits (40 percent alcohol), amounts often exceeded in Americans' typical "drink." Between 1990 and 2010, many editions of the guidelines, which are updated every five years, discouraged heavy drinking and warned pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions not to drink. But they also noted that moderate drinking was linked to fewer heart attacks and lower mortality. The 2010 guidelines mentioned that moderate drinking may even "help to keep cognitive function intact with age." The new recommendation would be a victory for experts who have long questioned the health halo around moderate drinking. They say that studies showing it can protect health are deeply flawed, and that any potential cardiovascular benefits would be outweighed by the fact that alcohol is a leading preventable cause of cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, even one drink a day increases the risk of breast, esophageal and oral cancer. The new advice is not yet final. The advisory panel is expected to include it in a report that it will release publicly in mid-July and submit to the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. Those two agencies are scheduled to publish the official dietary guidelines later this year.

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Categories: Geek

Apple Arcade adds creepy adventure puzzler “Creaks” from the makers of “Machinarium”

iDownloadBlog - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 11:01

This adventure puzzler was conceived and developed by the same people who brought you indie classic "Machinarium".
Categories: Geek

Asia IT Giant's CEO Warns Trump's Visa Curbs Will Cost US

Slashdot - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 10:45
The chief executive officer of Asia's largest IT services firm warned that a U.S. freeze on thousands of employment visas will only raise costs for American corporations like Wall Street banks, auto manufacturers and drugmakers. From a report: Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) CEO Rajesh Gopinathan told Bloomberg News the move has put massive stress on a huge swath of Indian-born engineers that have lived in the U.S. for years and helped support American clients, who will ultimately be the ones hurt most. His remarks were among the strongest public rebukes from India's $181 billion IT industry since U.S. President Donald Trump's June decree to halt approvals for a range of visas until the end of the year -- including those for intra-company transfers. TCS and peers like Infosys have relied for years on the ability to send talent to work alongside their customers overseas, which include some of the largest electronics manufacturers and global retailers. Investors worry that the inability to do so will hurt their competitiveness in the largest international market. "The ignorance around this ruling should be addressed," Gopinathan said via video conference on Friday. "Playing with the status of people who've moved away from families and committed to spending five-six years in a foreign country without immigrant status to deliver value to customers, is a short-term gimmick," the executive said.

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Categories: Geek

Apple TV+ arrivals: Tom Hanks WWII epic “Greyhound”, “Little Voice & “Greatness Code”

iDownloadBlog - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 10:39

Looking to watch something new this weekend? Apple TV+ has added two new shows to its roster plus "Greyhound," a much-awaited WWII epic written and starred by Tom Hanks.
Categories: Geek

Chicago Police Department Arrest API Shutdown is Its Own Kind of 'Cover Up'

Slashdot - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 10:08
Asraa Mustufa and David Eads, reporting for Chicago Reporter: With Chicago reeling this week from a bloody July 4 weekend that saw more than 80 shootings claim the lives of at least 17 people, including young children, police Superintendent David Brown doubled down on his approach to stemming the violence at a press conference Monday. "We must keep violent offenders in jail longer," Brown said, arguing that arrestees are getting released too quickly and that the electronic monitoring program is "clearly not working" and needs to be revamped. Mayor Lori Lightfoot agreed on the need to keep violent offenders locked up in order to reduce crime. Brown had deployed an additional 1,200 officers on the streets ahead of the holiday weekend to break up "drug corners," in a strategy not unlike that of police chiefs before him. His plan was criticized by civil rights advocates and criminologists, WBEZ reported. "Our endgame is arrests for the precursors to violence," Brown said. "But when we clear the corner, we're pleading with the court systems: Keep them in jail through the weekend." Brown's remarks raise many questions. How did officers carry out this policing strategy? Did they make arrests for violent crimes or other charges? How long were arrestees in police custody? Do these defendants quickly bond out or remain detained? Do these kinds of arrests really keep violent offenders off the street and effectively prevent more violence? Queries like these are key to digging into Brown's claims and gauging how effective CPD's tactics are. But it's now substantially more difficult to check CPD's claims and details about arrests. That's because the department recently shut down its arrest API used by journalists and researchers. A data API, or application programming interface, provides access to structured information in a way machines can read, akin to the difference between getting data in a spreadsheet file versus copying it by hand into a spreadsheet. CPD's API provided access to comprehensive and timely data about arrests going back to 2014 in ways that can be processed and analyzed by software engineers and reporters. The Chicago Reporter used the API last month to analyze police tactics during local mass protests following the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. CPD had released figures stating that the majority of arrests made on the weekend of May 29 were for criminal conduct related to looting, not protesting. But by using CPD's own data from the arrest API, we found the opposite to be true: the majority of civil unrest-related arrests made that weekend had been for offenses related to protesting. [...] Within a day of our publishing this analysis, CPD removed access to the API for all users.

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