Start Up No.1,088: deepfaked Zuckerberg, US warns on antitrust, Huawei kills laptop launch, the problem with privacy policies, and more


Nearly four years later, the last of the TalkTalk hackers has been sentenced. CC-licensed photo by Graham Smith on Flickr.

A selection of 11 links for you. Fast and furious, slow and calm. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Doctored video of sinister Mark Zuckerberg puts Facebook to the test • The Guardian

Luke O’Neil:

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A doctored video of Mark Zuckerberg delivering a foreboding speech has been posted to Instagram, in a stunt that put Facebook’s content moderation policies to the test.

Videos known as “deepfakes” use artificial intelligence to manipulate the appearance and voices of individuals, often celebrities, into theoretically real-looking footage. They are likely to become the next wave in the battles over disinformation online.

The clip, posted four days ago, casts the Facebook founder in a sinister light, boasting of his power, and is meant to appear as if it is a legitimate news program.

“Imagine this for a second: one man with total control of billions of people’s stolen data, all their secrets, their lives, their futures,” the faux-Zuckerberg says. “I owe it all to Spectre. Spectre showed me that whoever controls the data, controls the future.”

The video was made by a team including the artists Bill Posters and Daniel Howe and the advertising company Canny, according to Vice. Spectre is the name of a recent installation from the artists…

«

Facebook/Instagram has indeed left it up. But of course, it doesn’t matter what deepfakes there are about Mark Zuckerberg; you can’t vote him out of office. Nobody can.
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DOJ antitrust chief stresses role of competition in digital economy • WSJ

Brent Kendall, Kristina Peterson and Keach Hagey:

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[US Assistant Attorney General and head of antitrust, Makan] Delrahim’s speech, which aired at a conference whose attendees included a prominent Google economist, stressed that dominant companies can raise competition concerns in ways other than higher prices. The issue has particular relevance in the digital economy, where some companies give away their services free.

“Price effects alone do not provide a complete picture of market dynamics, especially in digital markets in which the profit-maximizing price is zero,” he said.

Antitrust enforcers are concerned about harms to innovation, product quality and privacy, the DOJ antitrust chief said. He compared today’s tech giants to the Standard Oil monopoly of the late 19th and early 20th century.

“Like today’s tech giants, Standard Oil was pioneering and generated a number of important patents. Scholars have noted, however, that Standard Oil’s innovation slowed as it became an entrenched monopolist,” Mr. Delrahim said.

The Journal reported May 31 that the Justice Department’s antitrust division was laying the groundwork for an antitrust investigation of Google, after reaching a jurisdictional agreement with the Federal Trade Commission. The department hasn’t commented on whether it was planning such a probe.

Senator Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday sent letters to Mr. Delrahim and a department ethics representative seeking the top antitrust official’s recusal. She cited Mr. Delrahim’s work for Google in 2007 as it sought approval from the Federal Trade Commission to buy internet ad firm DoubleClick, saying he “should not be supervising investigations into former clients who paid him tens of thousands of dollars to lobby the federal government.”

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Still going to be interested in how they interpret the Sherman antitrust doctrine without leaning on price. There’s never been such a case in the US, as far as I know. (Corrections welcome.)

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TalkTalk hacker Daniel Kelley sentenced to four years • BBC News

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Kelley turned to hacking when he failed to get the GCSE grades to get on to a computer course, the court heard.

He hacked the college “out of spite” before targeting companies in Canada, Australia and the UK – including TalkTalk which has four million customers.

The 22-year-old has Asperger’s syndrome and has suffered from depression and extreme weight loss since he pleaded guilty to the 11 hacking-related offences in 2016, the court heard.

Judge Mark Dennis told the Old Bailey that Kelley hacked computers “for his own personal gratification” regardless of the damage caused.

He went on to blackmail company bosses, revealing a “cruel and calculating side to his character”, he said, though a blackmail charge was previously dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Prosecutor Peter Ratliff previously described Kelley as a “prolific, skilled and cynical cyber-criminal” who was willing to “bully, intimidate, and then ruin his chosen victims from a perceived position of anonymity and safety – behind the screen of a computer”.

Between September 2013 and November 2015, he engaged in a wide range of hacking activities, using stolen information to blackmail individuals and companies.

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The strange thing is that Kelley was arrested in November 2015, pleaded guilty in 2016 to 11 charges, but it’s only now that he’s sentenced. What’s been happening in the meantime?

Thanks Graham Cluley for pointing it out.
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Huawei cancels launch of new laptop as US restrictions sting • WSJ

Stu Woo:

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China’s Huawei has canceled the launch of a new laptop and paused production at its personal-computer business because of restrictions on buying US components, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The moves mark Huawei’s first tangible setback from the US Commerce Department’s move to ban American companies from selling supplies to the Chinese company, while also demonstrating the importance of American businesses in the global personal-computing supply chain.

Huawei, the world’s No. 2 smartphone brand, has a relatively small and new personal-computer business. It makes three laptops, the first of which made its debut in 2016. It relies on Microsoft’s Windows operating system and Intel’s chips.

The head of Huawei’s consumer business, Richard Yu, told CNBC on Wednesday that the Commerce Department caused the company to cancel its new laptop launch, adding that it may never release that product if it remains on the Commerce Department’s blacklist. The news site the Information had reported the cancellation earlier.

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Couldn’t find the report on The Information. Huawei’s consumer side is 45% of revenues, so this is going to start hurting quite quickly.
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We read 150 privacy policies. They were an incomprehensible disaster • The New York Times

Kevin Litman-Navarro:

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For comparison, here are the scores for some classic texts. Only Immanuel Kant’s famously difficult “Critique of Pure Reason” registers a more challenging readability score than Facebook’s privacy policy. (To calculate their reading time, I measured the first chapter of each text.)

The vast majority of these privacy policies exceed the college reading level. And according to the most recent literacy survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, over half of Americans may struggle to comprehend dense, lengthy texts. That means a significant chunk of the data collection economy is based on consenting to complicated documents that many Americans can’t understand.

The BBC has an unusually readable privacy policy. It’s written in short, declarative sentences, using plain language. Here’s how the policy outlines the BBC’s guidelines for collecting and using personal data:

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“We have to have a valid reason to use your personal information. It’s called the ‘lawful basis for processing.’ Sometimes we might ask your permission to do things, like when you subscribe to an email. Other times, when you’d reasonably expect us to use your personal information, we don’t ask your permission, but only when: the law says it’s fine to use it, and it fits with the rights you have.”

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Airbnb’s privacy policy, on the other hand, is particularly inscrutable. It’s full of long, jargon-laden sentences that obscure Airbnb’s data practices and provides cover to use data in expansive ways…

“You’re confused into thinking these are there to inform users, as opposed to protect companies,” said Albert Gidari, the consulting director of privacy at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society.

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Amazing piece of work. Plaudits to the BBC, at least.
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LG’s 5G phones in doubt as chip deal with Qualcomm set to expire • Reuters

Heekyong Yang and Ju-min Park:

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In a US court filing late on Tuesday, the South Korean firm opposed Qualcomm’s efforts to put a sweeping US antitrust decision against it on hold, arguing setting the ruling aside could force it into signing another unfair deal.

“If Qualcomm does not participate in negotiations with LGE in accordance with the Court’s Order, LGE will have no option but to conclude license and chipset supply agreements once again on Qualcomm’s terms,” LG’s filing in the federal court in San Jose, California said.

The lack of clarity over a new license deal raises concerns over the rollout of LG’s newly launched 5G smartphones, crucial for the loss-making handset maker to boost flagging smartphone sales and catch up with Samsung Electronics.

“If LG Electronics fails to renew its contract with Qualcomm, it is very likely that it will not be able to make any phones since LG does not manufacture chips by itself,” BNK Securities analyst Park Sung-soon said.

“It would do catastrophic damage to its mobile business.”

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Quite the move by Qualcomm to insist that the court ruling is going to be reversed and so it needs to be able to sign its usual strongarm deal again. No possibility for a reversal clause in the agreement?
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Google is ending its confusing integration between Google Photos and Drive • The Verge

Chris Welch:

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Google has long offered syncing between Google Photos and Google Drive, but it’s putting an end to that in the name of simplicity. “We’ve heard feedback that the connection between these services is confusing, so next month, we’re making some changes to simplify the experience across Drive and Photos,” Dan Schlosser and Jason Gupta, product managers for Drive and Photos respectively, wrote in a blog post today. There’s also an article for G Suite customers, since this decision affects all end users.

When the change takes effect in July, photos and videos you add to Drive won’t automatically appear in Photos and vice versa. Additionally, file deletions won’t sync between the two. “This change is designed to help prevent accidental deletion of items across products,” Schlosser and Gupta wrote. Indeed, the current system provides ample opportunity for users to screw something up and unknowingly lose important photos if they’re not careful.

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Totally overdue. It only made sense if you were in that tech-head space that could see things with different names as being part of the same thing. Otherwise you’d be surprised when something added to Drive shows up in Photos.
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Leak suggests the iPhone 11 will add a Pixel-like Night Sight feature • BGR

Jacob Siegal:

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While Apple remains the most popular smartphone brand in the United States, the iPhone has been surpassed on multiple fronts by other smartphone makers. One such example is the NIght Sight feature of Google’s Pixel phones, but if a new report is true, Apple could catch up with Google before the end of the year.

According to XDA writer Max Weinbach, who leaked the following information to EverythingApplePro on YouTube, the 2019 iPhone models will have a “dedicated night mode” for taking photos in suboptimal environments. Weinbach also claims that this will be better than similar features from Google, Huawei, or Samsung.

In his text to EverythingApplePro, Weinbach cited a source who says that in addition to a dedicated night mode that users can choose to activate manually, the new iPhones should be able to switch to night mode automatically at the appropriate times. The source doesn’t sound totally confident with this leak, but it certainly makes sense as Apple is expected to focus heavily on camera hardware and software upgrades for this generation.

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Bet this was a crash project. Night Sight really reset peoples’ expectations of what could be done.
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The next big privacy hurdle? Teaching AI to forget • WIRED

Darren Shou:

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At present, when data is sucked into this complex machinery, there’s no efficient way to reclaim it and its influence on the resulting output. When we think about exerting the right to be forgotten, we recognize that reclaiming specific data from a vast number of private businesses and data brokers offers its own unique challenge. However, we need to realize that even if we can succeed there, we’ll still be left with a difficult question—how do we teach a machine to “forget” something?

This question is even more impactful for children and adolescents coming of age in this world—the “AI Generation.” They have gone through the largest “beta test” of all time, and it’s one that did not consider the fact that children make mistakes, they make choices, and they are given space by society to collectively learn from them and evolve. Algorithms may not offer this leniency, meaning that data collected on a youthful transgression may be given the same weight (and remembered the same) as any other data—potentially resulting in the reinforcement of bad behavior, or limited opportunities down the line as this data becomes more embedded into our lives.

For instance, today a college admissions counselor may be able to stumble upon incriminating photos of an applicant on a social media platform—in the future, they may be able to hear recordings of that applicant as a 12-year-old taken by a voice assistant in the child’s home.

The AI Generation needs a right to be forgiven.

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Nobody’s really thinking about this, are they?
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What changed my mind about climate change? • The Bulwark

Jerry Taylor used to oppose climate action as someone working at the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute. Now he favours it:

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we find ourselves in the midst of a debate about the most likely outcome of climate change, even though the truth is that neither side can know with certainty which variant will come to pass. And, funnily enough, both sides seem to think that the most-likely outcome will dovetail with their preferred political position on other matters.

Conservatives insist that environmentalists are greatly exaggerating risks (as is their wont) and that if we follow their climate agenda and abandon fossil fuels, we’ll destroy the global economy and surrender economic liberty (a claim that I once embraced but no longer do, given the remarkable technological advances in low-carbon energy technology). The left argues that conservatives are like the man jumping off the top of a skyscraper, claiming no discernible harm has come to him yet even as he plummets to his doom, and that the solutions are giant programs like the Green New Deal, which entail everything from fossil fuel independence to the entire social agenda of the Democratic Socialists of America.

How are we supposed to figure out which side is right?

The answer is that we can’t be sure. And that’s okay. Because in life you rarely know for certain what’s going to happen next. You plan for a range of outcomes and try to mitigate your exposure to the worst possible risks. There’s an entire economic discipline on this subject. It’s called risk management.

Risk management is not about discerning the optimal response to the most likely outcome. It is about discerning the appropriate response to the most likely distribution of possible outcomes. That means incorporating the possibility that climate change, either by a bad roll of the geophysical dice or a large and unexpected societal vulnerability to warming, turns into a bigger problem than we expect.

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US report finds sky is the limit for geothermal energy beneath us • Ars Technica

Scott Johnson:

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Geothermal power sources come in many forms, and they’re typically much more subtle than steam shooting out of the ground. In reality, geothermal energy could be a big player in our future mix.

That is made clear by the US Department of Energy’s recently released “GeoVision” report. The report follows similar evaluations of wind, solar, and hydropower energy and leans on information from national labs and other science agencies. It summarizes what we know about the physical resources in the US and also examines the factors that have been limiting geothermal’s deployment. Overall, the report shows that we could do a whole lot more with geothermal energy—both for generating electricity and for heating and cooling—than we currently do.


The highest temperatures are found out West, but these aren’t the only places where geothermal techniques can be applied. Dept of Energy.

There are opportunities to more than double the amount of electricity generated at conventional types of hydrothermal sites, where wells can easily tap into hot water underground. That’s economical on the current grid. But the biggest growth potential, according to the report, is in so-called “enhanced geothermal systems.” These involve areas where the temperatures are hot but the bedrock lacks enough fractures and pathways for hot water to circulate freely—or simply lacks the water entirely.

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Nice that the DOE can still put out useful information in the face of everything.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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6 thoughts on “Start Up No.1,088: deepfaked Zuckerberg, US warns on antitrust, Huawei kills laptop launch, the problem with privacy policies, and more

  1. The joys of IoT: a very successful (in France) discount Magimix clone has been found to not only run on years-old tablet hardware w/ unpatched zero-day-able software, but to also have an active microphone that’s both undocumented and officially purposeless. That’s for a fancy mixer !
    https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=fr&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.frandroid.com%2Fproduits-android%2Frobots%2F601721_monsieur-cuisine-connect-un-micro-cache-sur-ce-robot-sous-android-6-marshmallow
    This is still probably only negligence with an eye to adding voice commands later/on a premium version, but, really, it’s kind of extreme. I hope eventually we’ll get data security rules and laws same as for cars, electrical appliances, etc…
    I’m worried enough about my router NAS and PCs/tablets/phones, I’m not getting IoT until there’s some legal buck-stopping and consumer protections in place.

    • The OEM has confirmed they plan to add voice later on and that’s what the mic is for. Still, using 2015’s Android 6.0 in 2019 (even in 2018, with design+manufacturing delays) and having no physical switch for the mic is gross negligence.

  2. Anyone tried using feedburner recently? All the push pages connected to social media (twitter etc..) appear to need Google Plus, which has gone away, and hence all the pages are broken.

    Fingers crossed they don’t completely get rid of it.

    • Sorry I’m on Feedly. Got lucky and snatched the $100 lifetime promo they ran when Google unplugged whatever their RSS thing was, and, surprisingly, Feedly’s been reliably delivering for a handful of years now. I’ve tried other “lifetime promo” stuff, it’s always a con. So kudos to Feedly.

      If you’re on Android, what client are you using ? I’m on gReader Pro but the dev has been MIA for years, it’s a miracle that app still works. It’s got a compact night mode and offline caching, is rock-solid with a no-nonsense UI. The widget is broken now though, and authentication has to be done in a very roundabout way. I couldn’t find any other app with competent offline caching: not just click-to-cache, but wholesale caching of all the items of every feed full-text articles and pics, and I use that a lot in the tube/train/plane.

      • If you don’t have a website or need to process rss feeds, then feedburner isn’t very useful. If you do, its very handy.

        I’m using feedburner to clean up a bunch of rss feeds we have at work, and get analytics on who is reading the feed and what are the most popular stories on it. This is all stuff you can’t get out of rss easily. We use it to post stories from Physics Today to twitter, but noticed it stopped working. When I tried to edit or create new connections a message popped up saying these google plus pages had disappeared. Millions of people still use feedburner even though everyone has been expecting Google to kill it for years. We just keep a close eye on it (and I started a paid service with another vendor to publish the feedburner feed to twitter)

      • Oh, OK. Sorry for your troubles.

        Google’s habit of making cool nerdy stuff and then switching it off when it doesn’t take the world over or just turns out to be a deficient vector for ads/tracking is maddening. I’m not even using gmail nor Chrome since those other shoes are bound to drop at some point, actually seem to be starting to w/ the recent add-ons shenanigans.

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