Start Up No.1,096: Raspberry Pi gets more vroom, Apple downplays Spotify numbers, the trouble with cement, how Wikipedia beats fake news, and more


Is the number of people who doubt this message growing – or perhaps actually shrinking? CC-licensed photo by Province of British Columbia on Flickr.

A selection of 10 links for you. Tuesday already? I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.


Adblock-proof shameless promo: got half an hour? Try The Human and Machine podcast. It’s a co-presentation by Julia Hobsbawm (of Editorial Intelligence) and myself.

The latest episode is a discussion with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Rohan Candappa, plus an interview with Professor Charlton McIlwain, about race and the internet.

We’ve previously spoken about autopilots, the 737 Max and the implications for self-driving cars with Alex Hern of the Guardian and Dr Jack Stilgoe of University College London.

The next one (coming soon!) will talk to Professor Martyn Rees about humans on Mars, genetic modification, and much more. Find these episodes, and the whole series, by searching for “human and machine” on your podcast app. As long as that isn’t BBC Sounds, which arguably isn’t a podcast app anyway.


Anti-vaxxers aren’t the main driver of the measles epidemic; their numbers aren’t growing • Slate

Daniel Engber:

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Here’s a simpler, more convincing explanation for the sudden surge of measles: Much bigger outbreaks overseas have been spilling over to our shores. More than 66,000 cases have been registered in Europe since the start of the year, and there have been alarming flare-ups in parts of Africa and Asia, too. These crises have in turn set off the ones we’re seeing here. In May, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the recent measles outbreaks affecting New York’s Orthodox Jewish communities and Russian speakers in Clark County, Washington, each started off with sickened travelers returning from Israel and Eastern Europe.

In other words, one doesn’t need to posit soaring rates of craziness within the US to explain the growing public health disaster. It’s certainly true that pockets of vaccine refusal persist in this country, as they have for many years. If those pockets are now experiencing greater numbers of measles cases, it may be on account of dire trends in far-off places.

This global explanation only kicks the can a little farther down the road, however. Measles cases are spreading here because they’re spreading overseas—OK, fine. But why is measles spreading overseas?

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Think a little while before you answer; it’s not obvious.
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The new Raspberry Pi is basically a $35 desktop computer • Gizmodo

Andrew Liszewski:

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At $35, the new Raspberry Pi 4 is the last thing you’ll want to rely on for tasks like Photoshop, video editing, or gaming. But it’s now packing a Broadcom 1.5 GHz ARM Cortex-A72 quad-core processor and the option to step up from 1GB of faster LPDDR4 RAM to 2GB for $45, or 4GB for $55, which should go a long way to making the Pi 4 more viable as a web browsing and email machine straight out of the box.

The Raspberry Pi 3’s standard sized HDMI port has been upgraded to a pair of micro HDMI ports on the Pi 4, allowing the tiny computer to power a pair of 4K displays at 30 frames per second, or a single 4K display at 60 frames per second—thanks to the board now adopting developer Eric Anholt’s Mesa V3D graphics driver. Onboard you’ll also find a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a pair of USB 3.0 ports, but microUSB is nowhere to be seen. It’s been replaced with a power-only USB-C port, adding an extra 500 mA of juice. On the wireless front, the Raspberry Pi 4’s Bluetooth has been upgraded to the 5.0 standard, and wifi now supports dual-band 802.11ac.

Originally designed as both a tool for tinkerers and those wanting to learn more about how computers work, the Raspberry Pi has become an essential tool for industrial applications, according to the company.

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There’s a long discussion about what people use their Raspberry Pi to do over on Hacker News.
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Green cement struggles to expand market as pollution focus grows • Bloomberg

Vanessa Dezem:

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Manufacturing the stone-like building material is responsible for 7% of global carbon dioxide emissions, more than what comes from all the trucks in the world. And with that in mind, it’s surprising that leading cement makers from LafargeHolcim Ltd. in Switzerland to Votorantim Cimentos SA in Brazil are finding customers slow to embrace a greener alternative.

Their story highlights the difficulties of taking greenhouse gases out of buildings, roads and bridges. After wresting deep cuts from the energy industry, policymakers looking to extend the fight against global warming are increasingly focusing on construction materials and practices as a place to make further reductions. The companies are working on solutions, but buyers are reluctant to pay more.

“There is so far too little demand for sustainable materials,” said Jens Diebold, head of sustainability at LafargeHolcim. “I would love to see more demand from customers for it. There is limited sensitivity for carbon emissions in the construction of a building.”

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Fertilizer yesterday, cement today – it seems like everything is contributing to the problem. In a way, it is.
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An encyclopedia with breaking news • Wikipedia At 20

Brian Keegan on how Wikipedia has survived the “fake news” and clickbait incursion that has infected everywhere else:

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Every user’s Facebook News Feed is personalized in response to their relationships, interests, and behavior. Content featuring novelty, humor, and outrage receives greater “engagement”, so publishers and advertisers are locked in an arms race to produce ever more attention-grabbing content and target it for users’ personalized feeds. Wikipedia has no newsfeed1, runs no advertising, and has a comparatively minuscule operating budget.

But an overlooked and critical difference between Wikipedia and other social platforms is the absence of personalization in the user experience. Every English Wikipedia user’s “Abraham Lincoln” article is the same regardless of their geography, gender, browsing history, or social graph. This common experience concentrates collective scrutiny and deliberative capacity rather than diffusing these accountability mechanisms across inscrutable and incommensurable personalized news feeds. Linus’s Law—”given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow” evidently holds for preserving the integrity of social information feeds.

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That lack of personalisation turns out to be a boon. Not an easy one to predict. And yes, it is used as a source for breaking news by some senior people in Silicon Valley.
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US bans AMD’s Chinese joint venture from developing, selling hardware • Extreme Tech

Joel Hruska:

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The United States added five Chinese companies to a blacklist on Friday, restricting their access to US technology. The so-called Entity List “identifies entities for which there is reasonable cause to believe, based on specific and articulable facts, have been involved, are involved, or pose a significant risk of being or becoming involved in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

The companies in question are: Sugon, Higon, Chengdu Haiguang Integrated Circuit, Chengdu Haiguang Microelectronics Technology, and Wuxi Jiangnan Institute of Computing Technology. One of these, Higon (also spelled Hygon) is a fabless semiconductor joint venture between AMD and THATIC, responsible for selling x86 CPUs for the Chinese server market. THATIC is itself composed of two separate joint ventures — Chengdu Haiguang Microelectronics Technology and Chengdu Haiguang Integrated Circuit Design. If you look at the list above, both of these companies are on it.

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Sugon makes supercomputers (“exascale machines”). Seems possible that Hikvision, which is behind lots of CCTV cameras, will also join them on the blacklist.
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Facebook adds new limits to address the spread of hate speech in Sri Lanka and Myanmar • TechCrunch

Manish Singh and Jon Russell:

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As Facebook grapples with the spread of hate speech on its platform, it is introducing changes that limit the spread of messages in two countries where it has come under fire in recent years: Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

In a blog post on Thursday evening, Facebook said that it was “adding friction” to message forwarding for Messenger users in Sri Lanka so that people could only share a particular message a certain number of times. The limit is currently set to five people.

This is similar to a limit that Facebook introduced to WhatsApp last year. In India, a user can forward a message to only five other people on WhatsApp . In other markets, the limit kicks in at 20. Facebook said some users had also requested this feature because they are sick of receiving chain messages.

In early March, Sri Lanka grappled with mob violence directed at its Muslim minority. In the midst of it, hate speech and rumors started to spread like wildfire on social media services, including those operated by Facebook.

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Missed this at the time, but it’s quite the thing to see how remarkably hard Facebook is rowing back on the whole “sharing stuff really easily is terrifically good for everyone” idea.
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Do the best academics fly more? • Impact of Social Sciences

Seth Wynes:

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Flying comes at a huge environmental cost, and yet many researchers view it as crucial to their success. Using the University of British Columbia as a case study, we investigated whether the faculty at our institution who flew the most were also the most successful. We found that beyond a small threshold there was no relationship between scholarly output and how much an individual academic flies.

These results are not intuitive. Networking, attending conferences and delivering lectures should give your ideas an edge, help you to disseminate your research, and result in higher quality papers that get more citations. And the fastest way to do all of these things in person is to fly. But even when accounting for department, position and gender, we found no relationship between how much academics travel and their total citation count or their hIa (a version of h-index adjusted for academic age).

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Thank you to the mischievous academic – you know who you are – who I think has a very low air mileage, and who sent this link.
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We tried to publish a replication of a Science paper in Science. The journal refused • Slate

Kevin Arceneaux, Bert N. Bakker, Claire Gothreau, Gijs Schumacher:

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The researchers behind the Science article had shown a series of images to 46 participants in Nebraska and used equipment to record how much the participants’ palms sweated in response. The images included scary stuff, like a spider on a person’s face. We conducted two “conceptual” replications (one in the Netherlands and one in the U.S.) that used different images to get at the same idea of a “threat”—for example, a gun pointing at the screen. Our intention in these first studies was to try the same thing in order to calibrate our new equipment. But both teams independently failed to find that people’s physiological reactions to these images correlated with their political attitudes.

Our first thought was that we were doing something wrong. So, we asked the original researchers for their images, which they generously provided to us, and we added a few more. We took the step of “pre-registering” a more direct replication of the Science study, meaning that we detailed exactly what we were going to do before we did it and made that public. The direct replication took place in Philadelphia, where we recruited 202 participants (more than four times than the original sample size of 46 used in the Science study). Again, we found no correlation between physiological reactions to threatening images (the original ones or the ones we added) and political conservatism—no matter how we looked at the data.

By this point, we had become more skeptical of the rationale animating the original study.

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As you’ve guessed, Science didn’t feel like publishing their non-replication. There have been proposals for a Journal of Non-Replication, but the problem is that you have to be sure that the replication attempt was good in every aspect, and that the failure isn’t due to some other reason. Not as easy as it sounds.
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Apple files response to Spotify complaint in Europe • 9to5Mac

Chance Miller:

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In March, Spotify’s public PR campaign against Apple focused on the company of charging a 30% “tax” on all App Store transactions. In actuality, Apple now says that Spotify isn’t paying the 30% fee on any of its subscribers.

Essentially, Spotify only offered the ability to sign up for a subscription through its iOS app from 2014 until 2016. For subscriptions, Apple charges a 30% fee for the first year, then a 15% fee each year after that. All of the subscribers that Spotify acquired though its iOS app are long since out of that one-year window.

Apple also underscores in its response that Spotify only pays Apple a fee on just over 0.5% of its total subscribers. As noted by CNET, Spotify has around 100 million paying subscribers. Apple says that Spotify acquired 680,000 subscribers through its iOS app. That means that Spotify gives Apple a cut on only 0.68% of its total subscribers.

This response from Apple marks the first time Apple has formally responded to Spotify’s European Commission complaint. Immediately after Spotify’s initial PR campaign in March, Apple publicly responded to the accusations made by Spotify, but as of earlier this month, it had not yet filed a formal response to the commission.

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Well that’s quite the response. Although, of course, the complaint is about a matter of law, not number.
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Apple was right again: here’s why a Galaxy Note 10 without a microSD slot isn’t a big deal • BGR

Chris Smith:

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[XDA Developers organiser Max] Weinbach says the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Pro will have expandable storage, whereas the Note 10 will not. That would be a strange thing for Samsung to do, but the larger dimensions of the Note 10 would explain why Samsung might do it. Also, Samsung likes money too, so it would definitely welcome your extra cash for versions with more internal storage.

When Samsung did the same thing with the Note 5 a few years ago, the cheapest version of the phone shipped with 32GB of storage. But Samsung flagships now start at 128GB of memory, which is a significant upgrade — that goes for the Note 9 and the Galaxy S10. Add to that USB-C connectivity and speedy internet support (up to 5G), and you’d have more ways to move data at high speeds and free up your local storage than we had four years ago.

Yes, Samsung brought the microSD card back after backlash from consumers. But the absence of microSD storage shouldn’t be a deal-breaker in 2019. By the way, the Galaxy Fold that’s still delayed would have shipped without a microSD slot too, but the foldable phone packs speedier storage. And built-in flash memory is always faster than expandable storage.

Finally, by removing ports and buttons from its flagship phones, Samsung might be able to manufacture more durable handsets than before. Sooner or later, the microSD card is bound to disappear from more flagship devices, not just Samsung’s. The iPhone never supported microSD cards, and Google’s Pixel doesn’t do it either. OnePlus has been selling phones without microSD support for years, well before significantly bumping up onboard storage, and Android fans have been buying them like crazy.

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Start Up No.1,095: US’s cyberattack on Iran, big expectations for 16in MacBook Pro, stopping Libra, the trouble with fertiliser, and more


Amazon and Walmart want to recommend stuff based on your indoor camera. In this case, a cleaner. CC-licensed photo by Scott Miller on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 11 links for you. Switching the week back on again. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Trump approved cyber-strikes against Iran’s missile systems • The Washington Post

Ellen Nakashima:

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President Trump approved an offensive cyberstrike that disabled Iranian computer systems used to control rocket and missile launches, even as he backed away from a conventional military attack in response to its downing Thursday of an unmanned US surveillance drone, according to people familiar with the matter.

The cyberstrikes, launched Thursday night by personnel with US Cyber Command, were in the works for weeks if not months, according to two of these people, who said the Pentagon proposed launching them after Iran’s alleged attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman earlier this month.

The strike against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was coordinated with US Central Command, the military organization with purview of activity throughout the Middle East, these people said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the operation remains extremely sensitive.

Though crippling to Iran’s military command and control systems, the operation did not involve a loss of life or civilian casualties — a contrast to conventional strikes, which the president said he called back Thursday because they would not be “proportionate.”

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My reading of this is that the cyberattacks were to disable the missile defences against the planned US missile attack. Which makes sense.

What’s absurd about the entire US-Iran scenario, though, is that the US unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA, on spurious claims (repudiated by every other western signatory to the JCPOA) that Iran was breaching its requirements. Then Iran says it’s enriching its nuclear fuel, because if it isn’t bound by the JCPOA any more, then it might as well because there’s no agreement to break any more. To which John Bolton, who never saw a tense situation that he didn’t want to turn into a conflagration, declares that Iran is going too far and rattles his sabre. Whose fault was this? America’s. Who’s going to suffer? Not America. This isn’t a symmetrical allocation.
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Walmart and Amazon want to see inside your house. Should you let them? • Los Angeles Times

Sam Dean:

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Walmart — which is rolling out its service in Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Vero Beach, Fla., this fall — said it was too early to say how the footage would be stored and processed. But the fact that Walmart owns the in-home recording device, in contrast to the customer-owned Cloud Cam, could lead to even less accountability for how footage of customers’ homes is used.

“For these companies, it would be very difficult to resist the temptation of ‘Look, we have all this video inside people’s houses,’ ” Gillula said. “Let’s use it to train AI to recognize specific products we can recommend.”

In fact, Google last year filed a patent application laying out a system that would do exactly that.
Featuring smart speakers and cameras, Google Home competes with Amazon’s smart home suite. But, unlike Amazon, Google depends on advertising for the vast majority of its revenue.

It’s unclear whether Google is using your home as a data mine to improve its ad targeting, but in its patent, Google engineers described how that would work in detail. In-home cameras and audio sensors would look at the objects in your house, create a detailed profile of your tastes and potential desires, and then serve up ads and content that fit that profile.

In one of the patent’s example scenarios, a smart video camera sees that you have a paperback of “The Godfather” on your bedside table, then feeds that information back to a local processing hub. Some light profile-crunching later, and a notification pops up: “I noticed you have a copy of ‘The Godfather’ by your bed. The movie based on this novel is showing tonight at 9:30 PM on Channel 5.”

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“I notice that you have thrown the camera out of the window and disabled our ability to show you relevant adverts.”
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Apple plans to ship 16in MacBook Pro this year, says IHS Markit, with more details • Forbes

Brooke Crothers:

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The 16in MacBook Pro is slated for release this fall, according to IHS Markit.

“We foresee that Apple will release a new product [at the] Sep’19 Apple event if there’s no unexpected development issue,” Jeff Lin, Associate Director, Consumer Electronics at IHS Markit, said in an email, referring to the 16in MacBook Pro.

IHS Markit describes the future MacBook Pro as having a “new display size (16in), new Mac OS (Catalina) & CPU,” as cited in its “IHS Markit Q1’19 Mobile PC Market Tracker.”


The coming 16-inch MacBook Pro: expected specs. CREDIT: IHS MARKIT

If the IHS Markit data is accurate, Apple will opt for a 3,072-by-1,920 resolution* LCD not an OLED display – at least on the model specified by IHS Markit. Hewlett-Packard and Dell are now moving to OLED displays on large, select 15.6in laptops.

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The demand forecast points to sales of 750k per quarter, which is a bit over 15% – or nearly one-seventh – of all Apple’s quarterly computer sales. There are seven different models of Mac (MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, iMac Pro, Mac Pro, Mac mini). If the forecast is right, this would be one *variant* of one model, the MacBook Pro, taking a huge chunk of the market. In other words, they’re expecting it to sell well.
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Why brilliant people lose their touch • Tim Harford

Tim Harford:

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The story of triumph followed by disappointment is not limited to investment [such as suddenly-struggling investment fund manager Neil Woodford]. Think of Arsène Wenger, for a few years the most brilliant manager in football, and then an eternal runner-up. Or all the bands who have struggled with “difficult second-album syndrome”.

There is even a legend that athletes who appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated are doomed to suffer the “SI jinx”. The rise to the top is followed by the fall from grace.

There are three broad explanations for these tragic career arcs. Our instinct is to blame the individual. We assume that Mr Woodford lost his touch and that Mr Wenger stopped learning. That is possible. Successful people can become overconfident, or isolated from feedback, or lazy.

But an alternative possibility is that the world changed. Mr Wenger’s emphasis on diet, data and the global transfer market was once unusual, but when his rivals noticed and began to follow suit, his edge disappeared. In the investment world — and indeed, the business world more broadly — good ideas don’t work forever because the competition catches on.

The third explanation is the least satisfying: that luck was at play. This seems implausible at first glance. Could luck alone have brought Mr Wenger three Premier League titles? Or that Mr Bolton was simply lucky for 28 years? Do we really live in such an impossibly random universe?

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Second-album syndrome is easily explained: a band has all the time up until it records its first album to refine and write its songs. That’s often many years. Then it typically gets a year to write the same number of songs which are meant to be just as good. That’s really hard.
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Facebook’s Libra must be stopped • Project Syndicate

Katharina Pistor:

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Zuckerberg seems to understand that technological innovation alone will not ensure Libra’s success. He also needs a commitment from governments to enforce the web of contractual relations underpinning the currency, and to endorse the use of their own currencies as collateral. Should Libra ever face a run, central banks would be obliged to provide liquidity.

The question is whether governments understand the risks to financial stability that such a system would entail. The idea of a private, frictionless payment system with 2.6 billion active users may sound attractive. But as every banker and monetary policymaker knows, payment systems require a level of liquidity backstopping that no private entity can provide.
Unlike states, private parties must operate within their means, and cannot unilaterally impose financial obligations on others as needed. That means they cannot rescue themselves; they must be bailed out by states, or be permitted to fail. Moreover, even when it comes to states, currency pegs offer only an illusion of safety. Plenty of countries have had to break such pegs, always while insisting that “this time is different.”

What sets Facebook apart from other issuers of “private money” is its size, global reach, and willingness to “move fast and break things.”

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So to put it in words that Zuckerberg might understand, “Libra delenda est”?
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It wasn’t the cows after all • A Greener World

Andrew Gunther:

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While the cattle industry is repeatedly accused of being the main culprit for increased global methane emissions (and a leading cause for climate change), a new study shows that the fertilizer industry is the root cause.

The report by researchers from Cornell and the Environmental Defense Fund, published in Elementa, shows that emissions of methane from the industrial fertilizer industry have been ridiculously underestimated (and, it turns out, based on self-reporting) and the production of ammonia for fertilizer may result in up to 100 times more emissions than previously estimated for this sector. What’s worse is that these newly calculated emission amounts from the industrial fertilizer industry are actually more than the total amount the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated for all industries to emit across the US.

Researchers used a Google Street View car equipped with a high-precision methane sensor to measure the emissions of six fertilizer plants for this study. They drove the car on public roads, downwind from the facilities to record the methane levels in the air. The study reveals an enormous disparity between EPA estimates and actual emissions levels. The team discovered that on average, 0.34% of the gas used in the plants is emitted to the atmosphere. Scaling this emission rate from the six plants to the entire industry suggests total annual methane emissions of 28 gigagrams, which is 100 times higher than the fertilizer industry’s self-reported estimate of 0.2 gigagrams per year.

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The more we look into the realities of greenhouse gas emissions, the more complicated the picture is.
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Why Chennai, India’s sixth biggest city, has run out of water • Gizmodo

Brian Kahn:

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Climate change has an influence on heat waves, raising the risks of more evaporation and baking in drought by sucking moisture out of the soil. Background warming has also raised Chennai’s temperatures about 1.3ºC (2.4ºF) over the past 60 years meaning even without heat waves, climate change is altering the hydrological cycle. But the problems for Chennai’s water supply extend beyond low rainfall.

“The issue plaguing Chennai is a mix of over consumption and low rainfall during 2018 North East Monsoon,” Bhagat said. “The city and its neighbouring region has witnessed massive growth in all sectors over the last century which had resulted in massive [increases in water] consumption.”

Indeed, the city has seen its population grow by double digit percentages every decade since the 1940s. The huge growth coupled with weak planning has led to a water system that’s both overtaxed and widely inefficient. The rapid urbanization has also paved over once permeable surfaces, reducing groundwater recharge rates. Chennai’s reservoir capacity also remains well below what’s needed to serve the population and there’s no water metering program in place, meaning already scarce water resources aren’t being monitored for overuse.

In short, it’s the perfect storm of human failures and a harsher climate coming together create huge issues for the city’s residents.

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“No water metering program in place”. Which isn’t surprising (it’s an old city), but suddenly looks necessary. However the cost of doing that would be colossal.

Cape Town in 2018 (and that site is worth a look in its own right), Chennai in 2019, which ones shall we nominate for 2020?
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Deepfakes: a threat to individuals and national security • Lionbridge AI

Limarc Ambalina:

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The dangers of deepfakes are serious, but OpenAI policy director Jack Clark emphasized that misinformation is not a new problem and fake media is not a new issue. AI itself is not the problem, but just an “accelerant to an issue that’s been with us for some time.” Deepfake technology is merely a tool which has more positive applications than negative. Certain actions and precautions should be taken to minimize the damage done by those who use deepfakes with nefarious intent.

“The people that share this stuff are part of the problem,” said Doermann. Individuals, social media platforms, and the press should all have the tools readily available to quickly and easily test media they suspect to be fake. Policing content should be put it in the hands of individuals rather than the government. Individuals should be able to identify immediately whether or not something they are viewing or sharing is authentic.

[Former head of Media Forensics (MediFor) at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), David] Doermann also called for social media sites to be pressured to moderate their content more seriously. Websites and platforms where harmful manipulated media is shared should hold more responsibility and accountability. Not all deepfakes are nefarious, but at the very least, social media sites should more diligently label synthetic media, increase public awareness of such material and allow the public to make better decisions.

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The trajectory to watch is Facebook’s position on whether it removes deep fakes, particularly about politicians, or not. So far it looks like it will say no, but there’s going to be a lot of pressure which it might find irresistible.
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US air quality is slipping after years of improvement • Associated Press

Seth Borenstein and Nicky Forster:

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Over the last two years the nation had more polluted air days than just a few years earlier, federal data shows. While it remains unclear whether this is the beginning of a trend, health experts say it’s troubling to see air quality progress stagnate.

There were 15% more days with unhealthy air in America both last year and the year before than there were on average from 2013 through 2016, the four years when America had its fewest number of those days since at least 1980.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed just the opposite, saying earlier this month in Ireland: “We have the cleanest air in the world, in the United States, and it’s gotten better since I’m president.”

That’s not quite the case. There were noticeably more polluted air days each year in the president’s first two years in office than any of the four years before, according to new Environmental Protection Agency data analyzed by The Associated Press.

The Trump administration is expected to replace an Obama-era rule designed to limit emissions from electric power plants on Wednesday. Called the Clean Power Plan, it would have gradually phased out coal-burning power plants that emit both air pollutants and heat-trapping gases responsible for climate change.

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It’s wrong to say “That’s not quite the case” about Trump’s claim on air quality. It’s not the case, full stop. Spade = spade.
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Before you use a password manager • Medium

Stuart Schechter:

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In this article, I’ll start by examining the benefits and risks of using a password manager. It’s hard to overstate the importance of protecting the data in your password manager, and having a recovery strategy for that data, so I’ll cover that next. I’ll then present a low-risk approach to experimenting with using a password manager, which will help you understand the tough choices you’ll need to make before using it for your most-important passwords. I’ll close with a handy list of the most important decisions you’ll need to make when using a password manager.

There are a lot of password managers to choose from. There’s a password manager built into every major web browser today, and many stand-alone password managers that work across browsers. In addition to remembering your passwords, most password managers will type your password into login forms. The better ones will create randomly-generated passwords for you, ensuring that you’re not using easily-guessed passwords or re-using passwords between sites. Some will even identify passwords you’ve re-used between sites and help you replace them.

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The low-risk approach seems like a good plan. It’s the idea of jumping in that many people find problematic.
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Amazon will pay $0 in taxes on $11,000,000,000 in profit for 2018 • Yahoo Finance

Kristin Myers:

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While some people have received some surprise tax bills when filing their returns, corporations continue to avoid paying tax — thanks to a cocktail of tax credits, loopholes, and exemptions.

According to a report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), Amazon (AMZN) will pay nothing in federal income taxes for the second year in a row.

Thanks to the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), Amazon’s federal tax responsibility is 21% (down from 35% in previous years). But with the help of tax breaks, according to corporate filings, Amazon won’t be paying a dime to Uncle Sam despite posting more than $11.2 billion in profits in 2018.

How is that possible?

“It’s hard to know exactly what they’re doing,” said Steve Wamhoff, ITEP’s Director of Federal Tax Policy. “In their public documents they don’t lay out their tax strategy. So it’s unclear exactly which breaks [the company is taking advantage of]. They vaguely say tax credits. One could think of many different ways a corporation could do this, like the depreciation breaks which were expanded under TCJA.”

… this isn’t the first year that Amazon has avoided paying federal tax. The company reported $5.6bn in US profits in 2017 and paid $0 last year as well.

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As Vlad Savov tweeted, just by buying a sandwich at an airport in the US he paid more taxes (sales tax) than Amazon. It’s incomprehensible to the average person how this can happen.

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Start Up No.1,094: Facebook’s moderators under stress, UK porn verification delayed, US cities in ransomware attacks, premium smartphone market slumps, and more


Madrid’s traffic reduction measures improved air quality dramatically; now they’re under threat. CC-licensed photo by EURIST e.V. on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. Or tell a friend!

A selection of 11 links for you. They’re tasty. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.


Increasingly regular shameless promo: got half an hour? Try The Human and Machine podcast. It’s a co-presentation by Julia Hobsbawm (of Editorial Intelligence) and myself.

The latest episode is a discussion with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Rohan Candappa, plus an interview with Professor Charlton McIlwain, about race and the internet.

We’ve previously spoken about autopilots, the 737 Max and the implications for self-driving cars with Alex Hern of the Guardian and Dr Jack Stilgoe of University College London.

The next one (coming soon!) will talk to Professor Martyn Rees about humans on Mars, genetic modification, and much more. Find these episodes, and the whole series, by searching for “human and machine” on your podcast app. As long as that isn’t BBC Sounds. (If it is, please explain yourself.)


Facebook moderators break their NDAs to expose desperate working conditions • The Verge

Casey Newton:

»

[Keith] Utley worked the overnight shift at a Facebook content moderation site in Tampa, FL, operated by a professional services vendor named Cognizant. The 800 or so workers there face relentless pressure from their bosses to better enforce the social network’s community standards, which receive near-daily updates that leave its contractor workforce in a perpetual state of uncertainty. The Tampa site has routinely failed to meet the 98% “accuracy” target set by Facebook. In fact, with a score that has been hovering around 92, it is Facebook’s worst-performing site in North America.

The stress of the job weighed on Utley, according to his former co-workers, who, like all Facebook contractors at the Tampa site, must sign a 14-page nondisclosure agreement.

“The stress they put on him — it’s unworldly,” one of Utley’s managers told me. “I did a lot of coaching. I spent some time talking with him about things he was having issues seeing. And he was always worried about getting fired.”

On the night of March 9th, 2018, Utley slumped over at his desk. Co-workers noticed that he was in distress when he began sliding out of his chair. Two of them began to perform CPR, but no defibrillator was available in the building. A manager called for an ambulance.

The Cognizant site in Tampa is set back from the main road in an office park, and between the dim nighttime lighting and discreet exterior signage, the ambulance appears to have had trouble finding the building. Paramedics arrived 13 minutes after the first call, one worker told me, and when they did, Utley had already begun to turn blue.

«

Stunning reporting by Newton. Still feeling good about how your digital money will be handled if you need to dispute a transaction?
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15-inch MacBook Pro battery recall program • Apple Support

»

Apple has determined that, in a limited number of older generation 15-inch MacBook Pro units, the battery may overheat and pose a fire safety risk. Affected units were sold primarily between September 2015 and February 2017 and product eligibility is determined by the product serial number.

Customer safety is always Apple’s top priority, and we have voluntarily decided to replace affected batteries, free of charge.

First check to see which 15-inch MacBook Pro you have. Choose About This Mac from the Apple menu () in the upper-left corner of your screen. Confirm your model is “MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015).” If you have that model, enter your computer’s serial number below to see if it is eligible for this program.

«

Afraid they’re only going to replace the battery, not the whole device.
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UK age-verification system for porn delayed by six months • The Guardian

Jim Waterson and Alex Hern:

»

The already delayed policy, which will require all adult internet users wanting to watch legal pornography to prove they are over 18 by providing some form of identification, was due to come into force on 15 July.

However, the culture secretary, Jeremy Wright, told the House of Commons, that would not happen, because of a failure to comply with European law in how statutory instruments are passed.

“In autumn last year, we laid three instruments before the house,” Wright told the Commons. “One of them sets out standards that companies need to comply with. This should have been notified to the European commission, and it was not. This will result in a delay in the region of six months.”

The delay, first reported by Sky News, is likely see the issue of age verification fall under the responsibility of the next prime minister.

Wright emphasised that the delay did not mean the government was backing down from its policy. “There are also those who do not want these measures to be brought in,” he said, “but let me be clear, although this is an apology for the delay, it is not a change in policy. Age verification needs to happen, and in the interest of the needs of children, it must.”

Labour’s Cat Smith, responding, said the announcement was “proof that an important policy issue has descended into utter shambles”.

«

Not sure about “descended”. It was already there.
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Display the macOS Dock in the Touch Bar • Pock

Pierluigi Galdi:

»

Display your macOS Dock in the Touch Bar.
It’s free and open source!

«

My first reaction is that this is a great idea, though looking at my Dock, it has 56 apps, 31 of them open, and 5 folders, plus the Trash. They’re pretty small because I have the Dock on the left-hand side of the screen – leaving it on the bottom is a criminal waste of space.

I guess there’s more real estate in the Touch Bar? (I don’t yet have a Touch Bar Mac.) Then again, I’ve got a lot of apps I never use in there, and when I launch apps I tend to do it via Spotlight.

Plus the Dock has one advantage: if you click and hold on an icon, you get a menu of all the open windows and can navigate directly to any of them. Probably can’t do that with Pock. Even so, nice idea.
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Millions of business listings on Google Maps are fake—and Google profits • WSJ

Rob Copeland and Katherine Bindley:

»

Once considered a sleepy, low-margin business by the company and known mostly for giving travel directions, Google Maps in recent months has packed more ads onto its search queries. It is central to Google parent Alphabet Inc.’s hope to recharge a cresting digital-advertising operation.

Often, Google Maps yields mirages, visible in local business searches of U.S. cities, including Mountain View, Calif., Google’s hometown. Of a dozen addresses for personal-injury attorneys on Google Maps during a recent search, only one office was real. A Viennese patisserie was among the businesses at addresses purported to house lawyers. The fakes vanished after inquiries to Google from The Wall Street Journal.

The false listings benefit businesses seeking more customer calls by sprinkling made-up branches in various corners of a city. In other cases, as Ms. Carter discovered, calls to listed phone numbers connect to unscrupulous competitors, a misdirection forbidden by Google rules but sporadically policed by the company.

Hundreds of thousands of false listings sprout on Google Maps each month, according to experts. Google says it catches many others before they appear.

The Justice Department is laying the groundwork for a broad antitrust probe of Google, which will include a look at the company’s dominant advertising platform, the Journal has reported.

«

How do you solve a problem like the internet?
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Florida city to pay $600k ransom to hacker who seized computer systems weeks ago • CNN

Faith Karimi:

»

A Florida city is paying $600,000 in Bitcoins to a hacker who took over local government computers after an employee clicked on a malicious email link three weeks ago.

Riviera Beach officials voted this week to pay 65 Bitcoins to the hacker who seized the city’s computer systems, forcing the local police and fire departments to write down the hundreds of daily 911 calls on paper, CNN affiliate WPEC reported.

The 65 Bitcoins, which equals $600,000, will come from the city’s insurance, officials said.
Once the payment is made, they hope to get access to data encrypted by the hacker. Even with the plans to pay the ransom, the city said, an investigation is under way.

Riviera Beach has a population of 35,000 and is about 80 miles from Miami.

Targeted ransomware attacks on local US government entities – cities, police stations and schools – are on the rise, costing millions as some pay off the perpetrators in an effort to untangle themselves and restore vital systems.

Cybersecurity firm Recorded Future found that at least 170 county, city or state government systems have been attacked since 2013, including at least 45 police and sheriff’s offices.

«

The fact that it’s local government that’s being targeted tells you something: they’re easier targets than many and able to pay up better than others. And it’s really noticed when the systems don’t work; and they’re accountable.
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Premium smartphone market collapses 8% in Q1 2019, after Apple shipments drop 20% • Counterpoint Research

Varun Mishra:

»

Apple’s declining shipments has pulled down the global smartphone premium segment. Data from Counterpoint Research’s Market Monitor Service for Q1 2019, shows that Apple’s shipments fell 20% year-on-year in Q1 2019, resulting in an 8%  YoY decline for the global premium* segment. However, as Apple is losing ground, Samsung is gaining share. During the quarter, Samsung ended up with one-fourth of the global premium segment, its highest ever share over the past year. This was also the first time when Samsung launched three devices instead of the usual two in its S series, thus covering wider price points.

According to our analysis, the trend of users holding onto their iPhones for longer has affected Apple’s shipments. The replacement cycle for iPhones has grown to over three years, on an average, from two years. On the other hand, substantial design changes in the Galaxy S10 series and the better value proposition it offers compared to high-end iPhones helped Samsung close the gap to Apple in the global premium segment.

Apart from Apple’s falling shipments, the sluggishness of the Chinese market was the other key reason for the decline in the global premium segment.

«

Old news, in a way; wait and see what happens to Huawei’s numbers in the next couple of quarters. (Might rise in the next one because networks are trying to get them out of their channel so they aren’t left with unsaleable stock.)
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Gun influencers on Instagram are a boon to gun companies • Vox

Kaitlyn Tiffany:

»

three years ago, she moved to Michigan to be with her American husband, who’d recently retired from the military. Now they shoot guns together, and arrange assault-weapon-centric lingerie photo sessions for Matte and her clients. She makes good money for her part, doing sponsored posts for brands both firearm-related and not — assault rifles one day, teeth-whitening treatments the next. For $100 and some free products, Matte will post a “selfie and shoutout” on her Instagram grid; she gets paid thousands of dollars per month for recurring endorsements.

Matte’s feed is a mix of guns and rough-cut firewood and laser-cut underwear. She doesn’t let anyone shoot guns on her property because her yard is an unofficial foster home for wild deer, several of which she personally nurtured through infancy when their mother was hit by a car. She loves the president, hates the “free-for-all negativity” around him. She is extremely charming. Her platform, she tells me, is a place to preach love.

And because Facebook, and by extension the Facebook-owned Instagram, forbids retailers to run ads that promote the sale or use of firearms, her platform is also a place to market guns that can’t be easily marketed online.

Kyle Clouse, head of marketing at the gun safe company Liberty Safe, refers to influencers as “the goose laying the golden egg” for the firearms industry. Influencers skirt the rules and restrictions platforms impose on official businesses that want to advertise guns or gun-related services and accessories.

«

Another end-run around carefully devised regulation. Why are guns banned from advertising on these networks? Because they don’t want those ads.
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Google says it’s done making tablets and cancels two unreleased products • The Verge

Chris Welch:

»

Google went so far as to reveal that it has axed two in-development tablet products, moving the employees who had been working on them to other areas of the company. (Most have apparently joined the Pixelbook team.) The tablets were both smaller in size than the Pixel Slate and were planned for release “sometime after 2019.” But disappointing quality assurance testing results led Google to completely abandon both devices. Google informed employees of its decision on Wednesday.

The Pixel Slate received largely mediocre reviews when it went on sale last year. Google earned praise for the device’s hardware design, but the software felt unfinished — Chrome OS has yet to really feel at home on a tablet — and lower-priced versions of the Slate suffered from extremely sluggish performance and lag. Google has resolved some of those issues with updates, but more than anything else, the company might have realized that taking on Apple’s iPad was going to be a losing battle. The iPad is offered at multiple price points, has an enormous selection of apps, and is set to gain productivity enhancements this fall with the rollout of iPadOS.

The Pixelbook, meanwhile, has been met with much better feedback from customers since its release in 2017 owing to its fantastic keyboard, nice screen, lightweight design, and unique style. And it’s now clear that a new model is on the way. A Google spokesperson told Computer World, which also reported on this news, that it’s “very likely” a Pixelbook 2 will see release before the end of 2019.

«

Google’s saying Android slates have reached the end of their evolution (and zero profitability – note that’s not the case for iPads). It’s going to focus “solely on laptops” for ChromeOS – which also implies that ChromeOS (or a fusion, or Fuchsia) isn’t going to come to Android tablets either.
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Is this the end of the road for Madrid’s car ban? • Citylab

Feargus O’Sullivan:

»

The game changer is that the right-wing Popular Party (PP) and the centrist Ciudadanos brokered a deal with recently emerged extreme-right party Vox, whose four seats gave them just enough to tip the coalition over the finishing line, with 29 seats collectively. Vox doesn’t even bother to dog-whistle its racist views, peddling a rhetoric that suggests Spain’s cathedrals are in danger of being torn down to build mosques; it’s also avowedly anti-feminist and anti-marriage equality. The full political consequences of this pact remain to be seen, but it’s worth pointing out that this extreme-right party has been granted political power and a seat at the table in Madrid’s affairs despite holding only a tiny amount of support in the city itself. It’s unfortunately possible that the city’s progressive road policy will not be the most serious casualty of this pact.

A casualty it would nonetheless be, along with the substantial pollution drops associated with its first five months of operation. Outside Madrid’s City Hall, carbon dioxide levels dropped 44% year-on-year while nitrogen dioxide fell by 42%, according to monitoring by local ecologists. Property values within the car-ban-zone rose at a rate notably higher than surrounding neighborhoods, while footfall in commercial streets remained reportedly stable. However, these figures have been disputed by some local retail associations, who insist that their turnover has fallen since their businesses became less accessible by car.

Accordingly, the car ban was already set to be a battleground for succeeding city leaders: Madrid’s likely next mayor, PP candidate José Luis Martínez-Almeida, has promised to address the issue as the new administration’s first action. Right now, however, the form that action will take is unclear.

«

Improving quality of life takes second place to kickbacks; there’s a plan to construct a tunnel, which would be pricey, less effective, but also a great way to line pockets of those in power.
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Don’t panic: Dixons Carphone’s share price crashes 30% after statutory losses hit £329m • The Register

Paul Kunert:

»

Consumers have generally moved from two-year contracts to SIM-only packages and more “flexible credit-based contracts”, the firm reiterated. This changing mix led to Dixons’ £440m goodwill write-down in December.

Group revenues for the year dropped 1% to £10.443bn, and profit before tax was £298m compared to £382m a year earlier.

The big boss said today the pace of change in the mobile sector was happening more quickly than it had predicted, forcing the retailer to “move faster”.

“We’ve renegotiated all our legacy network contacts, we’re developing our new customer offer, and are accelerating the integration of Mobile and Electronics into one business,” said Baldock.

Dixons had faced large penalties from the networks for falling short of “volume commitments”. It is also broadening its choice of networks, and adding more SIM-only deals.

“This means taking more pain in the coming year, when Mobile will make a significant loss. But accelerating our transformation provides certainty that this year is the trough, as during next year the legacy contractual constraints on our Mobile business lift, and the integration costs benefits build,” the CEO added.

«

Shrinking mobile business (and the writeoff of goodwill means “it doesn’t have any synergy after all”); this is the long slow ebb of Dixons, which used to be where you got all your PC gew-gaws, and Carphone Warehouse, from the days when fitting a mobile phone! In! Your! Car! was a thing.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.1,093: YouTube thinks of the kids, more deepfakery, the antivax funders, GDPR by the numbers, views on Libra, and more


Behold the last redoubt (probably) of IBM’s OS/2. CC-licensed photo by Arun D on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 9 links for you. Completely immune. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Meet the New York couple donating millions to the anti-vax movement • The Washington Post

Lena Sun and Amy Brittain:

»

A wealthy Manhattan couple has emerged as significant financiers of the anti-vaccine movement, contributing more than $3m in recent years to groups that stoke fears about immunizations online and at live events — including two forums this year at the epicenter of measles outbreaks in New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

Hedge fund manager and philanthropist Bernard Selz and his wife, Lisa, have long donated to organizations focused on the arts, culture, education and the environment. But seven years ago, their private foundation embraced a very different cause: groups that question the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

How the Selzes came to support anti-vaccine ideas is unknown, but their financial impact has been enormous. Their money has gone to a handful of determined individuals who have played an outsize role in spreading doubt and misinformation about vaccines and the diseases they prevent. The groups’ false claims linking vaccines to autism and other ailments, while downplaying the risks of measles, have led growing numbers of parents to shun the shots. As a result, health officials have said, the potentially deadly disease has surged to at least 1,044 cases this year, the highest number in nearly three decades.

«

“Hedge fund manager and philanthropist” is a job title to conjure with. It’s like “TV presenter and barman”, which appeared on a UK reality show recently. O tempora, o mores.
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YouTube weighs major changes to kids’ content amid FTC probe • WSJ

Rob Copeland:

»

Executives at the Google unit are debating moving all children’s content into a separate product, the stand-alone YouTube Kids app, to better protect young viewers from objectionable videos, say people briefed on the discussions. That would be a seismic and risky switch, as children’s videos are among the most popular on the platform and carry millions of dollars in advertising.

Some YouTube employees are pushing for another significant modification. They are encouraging the company to switch off for children’s programming a feature that automatically plays a new video after one has been completed, according to the people briefed. While that default setting—known as YouTube’s recommendation system—has helped boost audience hours to new heights, it has also opened the company up to criticism that children and parents can select innocuous videos only to be automatically transitioned into inappropriate fare.

The proposed changes are motivated in part by a continuing investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, according to people familiar with the matter. The probe was initiated by a complaint last year from consumer groups that accused Google of exploiting YouTube’s popularity with children to illegally amass data on minors under 13 without parental consent, the people said. The groups also alleged the site subjected children to inappropriate content.

«

Can we have “no autoplay” for adults too? As a personal setting? The above would be a good first step, though; YouTube needs to take more responsibility for the children who use it all the time. TV was regulated. YouTube isn’t.
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GDPR Enforcement Tracker: a list of GDPR fines

»

This website contains a list and overview of fines and penalties which data protection authorities within the EU have imposed under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR, DSGVO). Our aim is to keep this list as up-to-date as possible. Since not all fines are made public, this list can of course never be complete, which is why we appreciate any indication of further GDPR fines and penalties.

«

Google’s well out in front, but there’s a hospital too which is not far behind with a €400,000 fine for unauthorised access by doctors to patient records.
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Facebook’s Libra will not help the unbanked • FT Alphaville

Brendan Greeley has an alternative view:

»

The organisations that actually work on getting people into this banking system, most significantly Bank On in the United States, have identified two hurdles. First, existing consumer banks need to offer entry-level, low-fee checking accounts. Bank On has developed a list of standards for these accounts, and leans on banks, city by city, to offer them. And that’s the easy part.

The hard part is that, city by city, Bank On creates local coalitions of city governments, regional banks, and local nonprofits and social services. Actual people, following best practices that have been developed through experience in other cities, find locals where they are — kids at summer jobs, parolees at halfway houses, people receiving public benefits at the benefit offices — and work with them, over time, to walk through the sociological and administrative hurdles to getting a basic checking account.

“I don’t have enough money to open a bank account” isn’t a problem that can be solved by putting a bank account on the internet. It takes a lot of face-to-face conversations about what banking is, how it works, and why it’s an important tool for every household. For example, a recent pilot in New York City (paid for by Michael Bloomberg, that other billionaire) found some success in offering a series of personal financial inclusion counselling sessions, almost like therapy.

This is personal, detailed, local work. It does not scale. It requires trust, and good relationships with civic authorities. To start with, there’s not much in our recent experience with Facebook that suggests they’d flourish as the senior partner in any initiative that demands personal, detailed, local work that requires civic trust. Let us also point out, though, that nowhere, in any research on the unbanked, does it state that the US dollar is unsuited to the task of moving people into the formal financial system.

«

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Deepfake 3.0 (beta), the bad news: This AI can turn ONE photo of you into a talking head. There’s no good news • The Register

Katyanna Quach:

»

The internet freaked out over portraits of Mona Lisa and photos of dead celebrities like Marilyn Monroe suddenly coming to life, reanimated by the cold clammy hands of neural networks and code. Their eyes blinked, and their mouths moved, but no sound came out.

Now, researchers at the Samsung AI Center, and Imperial College London in the United Kingdom, have gone one step further. They have created fake talking heads that really can speak. Listen to Einstein discussing the wonders of science below. Yes, it’s his face and his voice, but it’s still fake, and clearly fake, nevertheless.

The audio was sourced from a recording of a speech by the E-mc2 super-boffin, and his face is from a photograph. Here’s one that’s more obviously bogus: it’s a photograph of Grigori Rasputin singing popstar Beyonce’s smash hit Halo…

The images are pretty grainy, obviously manipulated in some way, and they’re amusing enough to not really be taken seriously. However, here’s another clip that shows why this type of technology is potentially dangerous:

Normal people like you or me can therefore be visually manipulated, and the doctoring is not always obvious.

«

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Subway history: how OS/2 powered the NYC subway for decades • Tedium

Andrew Egan:

»

Despite the failure of [IBM’s PC operating system from the late 1980s] OS/2 in the consumer market, it was hilariously robust, leading to a long life in industrial and enterprise systems—with one other famous example being ATMs. Waldhauer said, “Thinking about all the operating systems in use [in the NY Metropolitan Transit Authority, MTA], I’d have to say that OS/2 is probably the most robust part of the system, except for the mainframe.”

It’s still in use in the NYC subway system in 2019. IBM had long given up on it, even allowing another company to maintain the software in 2001. (These days, a firm named Arca Noae sells an officially supported version of OS/2, ArcaOS, though most of its users are in similar situations to the MTA.)

The role of OS/2 in the NYC subway system is more of a conduit. It helps connect the various parts that people use with the parts they don’t. Waldhauer notes, “There are no user-facing applications for OS/2 anywhere in the system. OS/2 is mainly used as the interface between a sophisticated mainframe database and the simple computers used in subway and bus equipment for everyday use. As such, the OS/2 computers are just about everywhere in the system.”

At this point, we’re talking about an OS designed in the late 80s, released in the early 90s, as part of a difficult relationship between two tech giants. The MTA had to ignore most of this because it had already made its decision and changing course would cost a lot of money.

«

This is quite the horror story. No wonder New Yorkers are thrilled when they can pay by contactless, five years after it became standard all over London’s underground network.
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Alarming and unnecessary: Facebook’s new cryptocurrency must be resisted • The Guardian

I opined over at The Guardian:

»

Have you heard about Facebook’s new “cryptocurrency”, called Libra? Its basic pitch boils down to “we messed up your privacy and gave your data to all sorts, and let foreign actors screw up your elections – now let’s see what we can do with banking!”…

…Facebook insists that 1.7 billion people without bank accounts in developing countries need it; strange they can’t see that M-Pesa [the phone-based non-bank money transfer system used in Africa and India] fits the bill already.

Overall, it’s not reassuring that Facebook is doing this. First, it has a track record of screwing up when it comes to looking after or respecting your data – Cambridge Analytica and the Onavo VPN that spied on users being just two obvious examples. Second, it has problems being consistent in how it applies its rules: see the many, many rows over content. It’s ignorant of its naivete, and so big it repeatedly causes huge problems.

Third, its size and US-centredness means that the new currency could gain critical mass, and take on a life of its own. And that carries gigantic risks. Lana Swartz, an assistant professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, put it succinctly: “Facebook wants to be/is now a government.” But have Marcus and Zuckerberg thought of the inevitable problems that will emerge? What if other governments don’t like what Libra does to their local currency, perhaps by undermining financial export rules? If they block Facebook, what happens to citizens’ money tied up in Libra?

«

I wish I felt confident that they’d wargamed the possible downsides of this, but I suspect they haven’t.
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2017: The CIA spied on people through their smart TVs, leaked documents reveal • VICE

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, in March 2017:

»

The CIA and MI5 called the project to spy on Samsung Smart TVs “Weeping Angel,” perhaps a reference to Doctor Who, where weeping angels are “the deadliest, most powerful, most malevolent life-form ever produced.” The malware was designed to keep the smart TVs on even when they were turned off. This was dubbed “Fake-Off mode,” according to the documents. The CIA hackers even developed a way to “suppress” the TVs LED indicators to improve the “Fake-Off” mode.

“Weeping Angel already hooks key presses from the remote (or TV goes to sleep) to cause the system to enter Fake-Off rather than Off,” one of the leaked document reads. “Since the implant is already hooking these events, the implant knows when the TV will be entering Fake-Off mode.”

After this article was published, Samsung reacted with a statement. 

“Protecting consumers’ privacy and the security of our devices is a top priority at Samsung,” read the statement sent via email. “We are aware of the report in question and are urgently looking into the matter.”

«

This precedes, of course, Samsung’s bizarre tweet (since deleted) earlier this week about scanning your TV for malware. Maybe just unplug it?
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Samsung Galaxy Fold is now ready for launch: Samsung Display exec • Korean Investor

Kim Young-won:

»

Samsung Electronics’ first foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Fold, will launch soon, as “most” issues linked to the screen have been solved, a Samsung Display executive has revealed.

“Most of the display problems have been ironed out, and the Galaxy Fold is ready to hit the market,” said Samsung Display Vice President Kim Seong-cheol in his speech at a conference held by industry organization The Korean Information Display Society on June 18 in Seoul.

Samsung Display, a subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, is the main supplier of the folding screen.

The Fold was initially scheduled to hit the shelves in April in the US and in May in Korea, but the launch has been delayed after reviewers complained of flickering screens and creases in the middle of the screen made after repeated folds.

It is rumored that the launch will take place in July before the tech giant unveils its flagship for the latter half, Galaxy Note 10, but the tech giant has denied the rumor.

«

Most of the display problems. Most of them. OK, not all of them. Quite a lot of them. Nearly all. Most of the problems with the thing that is what you look at and manipulate every moment you’re using it. Yeah, those problems? Most of them are gone.

I’m trying to imagine what sort of mindset you need to go onto a stage and say those words. To be quite truthful, I’m finding it difficult.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.1,092: Facebook launches Libra, driving v self-driving cars, how we changed dogs, Mazda dumps touchscreens, and more


Some of the bits are going out – and being reclaimed. CC-licensed photo by charlene mcbride on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. Sufficient votes to stay. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Self-driving cars have a problem: safer human-driven ones • WSJ

Christopher Mims:

»

If you buy one of many new makes and models of car today, you might be surprised to find that, as a standard feature, it can do something your previous car couldn’t: It will take over when it thinks you’re making a mistake.

In the coming years, many cars will do more than that, even driving mostly by themselves, at least on highways. And not just luxury models such as the latest Audi A8 or Cadillac CT6, but something as mainstream as a Nissan Rogue.

Some of this technology has been in development for years, but the newest versions of it—with advanced object recognition, radar-and-laser detection and lightning-fast artificial intelligence—were created for autonomous cars. Many tech entrepreneurs have argued that fleets of robo-taxis would convince us to abandon personal car ownership in favor of “transportation as a service.” Some of them have predicted these robot cars will start populating U.S. roads within the next two years.

But the paradox of how this evolution is playing out is that technology developed to give us driverless vehicles from the likes of Tesla and Alphabet’s Waymo could actually delay their adoption.

When car makers put these incremental tech advances in human-driven cars, they pre-empt one of the fully self-driving car’s supposed advantages: safety. These new systems marry the best machines capabilities—360-degree sensing and millisecond reflexes—with the best of the human brain, such as our ability to come up with novel solutions to unique problems.

«

Maybe we’ll just never quite get there; maybe it’ll be an asymptotic, Zeno-style approach rather than a big bang.
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☠️☠️☠️ PixelPirate MillionDollarHomepage-As-A-Service (MDHPAAS) ☠️☠️☠️

Domain Research Group:

»

Avast ye maties and welcome aboard the SS PixelPirate. Every day, domains linked from the MillionDollarHomepage expire.

With the help of PixelPirate’s revolutionary MillionDollarHomepage As A Service (MDHPAAS) technology, our band of robot scallywags scour the data seas, always on the lookout for domains prematurely sent to Davy Jones’ Locker.

Capture the domain, own the Pixels.

«

People still visit the Million Dollar Homepage? I’d have thought this is more like a scheme by its creator to get people to go back. (Though he has since moved on to much better things.)
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Dogs’ eyes have changed since humans befriended them • The Atlantic

Haley Weiss:

»

We connect profoundly with animals capable of exaggerating the size and width of their eyes, which makes them look like our own human babies and “hijacks” our nurturing instincts. Research has already demonstrated that humans prefer pets with more infantlike facial features, and two years ago, the authors of this latest study showed that dogs who made the facial movement enabled by the RAOL and LAOM muscles—an expression we read as distinctly humanlike—were more likely to be selected for adoption from a shelter than those who didn’t.

We might not have bred dogs for this trait knowingly, but they gained so much from having it that it became a widespread facial feature. “These muscles evolved during domestication, but almost certainly due to an advantage they gave dogs during interactions with humans that we humans have been all but unaware of,” Hare explained.

“It’s such a classically human system that we have, the ways we interact with our own infants,” says Angie Johnston, an assistant professor at Boston College who studies canine cognition and was not involved with the study. “A big theme that’s come out again and again in canine cognition and looking at the domestication of dogs is that it seems like they really just kind of dove right into our society in the role of being an infant or a small child in a lot of ways. They’re co-opting existing systems we have.”

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Quite how a muscle like that evolves is really puzzling: domestication is relatively recent (40,000-20,000 years ago) which doesn’t seem to give it much time. And it has to spread through the whole species.

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Why Mazda is purging touchscreens from its vehicles • Motor Authority

Bengt Halvorson:

»

It wasn’t a decision that was hastily made, according to company officials. However, as they started studying the effects of touchscreens on driving safety (and driving comfort), it soon became clear what the priorities should be with this completely new system that makes its debut in the 2019 Mazda 3.

It started out by looking at actual times—the times spent looking away from the road to make a screen selection, and the time needed to refocus the eyes on something close versus the road ahead—and decided that it needed to home in on factors that reduced that time.

“Doing our research, when a driver would reach towards a touch-screen interface in any vehicle, they would unintentionally apply torque to the steering wheel, and the vehicle would drift out of its lane position,” said Matthew Valbuena, Mazda North America’s lead engineer for HMI and infotainment.

“And of course with a touchscreen you have to be looking at the screen while you’re touching…so for that reason we were comfortable removing the touch-screen functionality,” he added.

The head-up display that top trims of the Mazda 3 get is now projected onto the windshield.

«

Pretty obvious really that touchscreens don’t offer tactile feedback; the distraction factor is very high.
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Congress must act on regulating deepfakes • OneZero

Mutale Nkonde:

»

We are 17 months away from the 2020 Presidential Election and the rise of deepfake videos should concern us all. The indictment of 13 members of Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for online African-American voter suppression highlights how American anti-blackness was weaponized against the country as a whole. Mueller’s team showed how Russian operatives created 30 pro-black Facebook and Instagram sites with names like “blacktivst” and “woke blacks,” which thanks to advertising recommendation algorithms reached 1.2 million people.

During the deepfakes briefing process, Russia expert Nina Jankowitcz debunked the idea that disinformation campaigns were built solely on lies. She explained that Russian disinformation campaigns build trust with their target audiences by introducing verifiable facts into public debate. In the case of the IRA they bought Facebook ads highlighting Hillary Clinton’s support of the 1994 crime bill, linking this legislation to the criminalization of the African-American community, and reinforcing this argument with clips of her describing young black boys as “super predators.” That much was true, but they also weaved in inspirational quotes, funny memes and provided a space to vent online for African-Americans frustrated with their presidential options. Once messages expressing dissatisfaction with both 2016 candidates began accumulating, the IRA began to release ads suggesting members of these pro-Black communities should not vote for Hillary Clinton because she may still hold these views. That part wasn’t true, but it did fit into the narrative laid out by this otherwise trustworthy community.

Now imagine if nefarious actors could create deepfake video of a presidential candidate saying the N-word, or appearing in blackface? That would potentially and unfairly end their run. That’s why we need to stop the spread of deepfake video before it is used to interfere with the 2020 election.

«

My prediction: deepfakes will be a notable part of the 2020 US presidential election. Facebook will dither about them.
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Solar, wind, batteries to attract $10 trillion to 2050, but curbing emissions long-term will require other technologies too • BloombergNEF

»

Deep declines in wind, solar and battery technology costs will result in a grid nearly half-powered by the two fast-growing renewable energy sources by 2050, according to the latest projections from BloombergNEF (BNEF). In its New Energy Outlook 2019 (NEO), BNEF sees these technologies ensuring that – at least until 2030 – the power sector contributes its share toward keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.[1]

Each year, NEO compares the costs of competing energy technologies through a levelized cost of energy analysis. This year, the report finds that, in approximately two-thirds of the world, wind or solar now represent the least expensive option for adding new power-generating capacity. Electricity demand is set to increase 62%, resulting in global generating capacity almost tripling between 2018 and 2050. This will attract $13.3 trillion in new investment, of which wind will take $5.3 trillion and solar $4.2 trillion.

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Encouraging. But of course there’s still that “will require new technologies too” coda.
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Time for Clockwise • Greylock Perspectives

John Lilly:

»

I met the Clockwise founders Matt Martin, Mike Grinolds, and Gary Lerhaupt early in 2018 and was immediately taken with them, their passion for helping us get control of our time, and their new approach to doing it — not by creating a new calendar app, but by using machine learning to make the calendars we already have work better. The approach would take a deep mix of product, UX, machine learning and systems thinking to make work, and that’s precisely what Matt, Mike & Gary demonstrated. This was a team I wanted to be in business with, building a technology that needed to exist in the world.

Clockwise makes a product and supporting technology that actually gives us time back. They’ve been heads down over the past couple of years building their first product — connect it to your own calendar and it figures out how to optimize your days to give you back meaningful chunks of time in whole blocks. For old school nerds (🙋 ♂️) , it will remind you of a disk defragmenter:

You can see from the animation above that Clockwise can figure out which meetings are movable (like weekly 1–1s) and which aren’t (like staff meetings), and can rework your weekly calendar to give you back time to think and time to work.

«

$10m for this? But Lilly says that the power emerges when you use it across the whole organisation, so that it can maximise multiple peoples’ time, and offers some examples.

Except… what if you’re in an organisation which just has lots of ad-hoc meetings? Or maybe newspapers are atypical organisations.
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These influencers aren’t flesh and blood, yet millions follow them • The New York Times

Tiffany Hau:

»

Everything about Ms. Sousa, better known as Lil Miquela, is manufactured: the straight-cut bangs, the Brazilian-Spanish heritage, the bevy of beautiful friends.

Lil Miquela, who has 1.6 million Instagram followers, is a computer-generated character. Introduced in 2016 by a Los Angeles company backed by Silicon Valley money, she belongs to a growing cadre of social media marketers known as virtual influencers.

Each month, more than 80,000 people stream Lil Miquela’s songs on Spotify. She has worked with the Italian fashion label Prada, given interviews from Coachella and flaunted a tattoo designed by an artist who inked Miley Cyrus.

Until last year, when her creators orchestrated a publicity stunt to reveal her provenance, many of her fans assumed she was a flesh-and-blood 19-year-old. But Lil Miquela is made of pixels, and she was designed to attract follows and likes.

Her success has raised a question for companies hoping to connect with consumers who increasingly spend their leisure time online: Why hire a celebrity, a supermodel or even a social media influencer to market your product when you can create the ideal brand ambassador from scratch?

That’s what the fashion label Balmain did last year when it commissioned the British artist Cameron-James Wilson to design a “diverse mix” of digital models, including a white woman, a black woman and an Asian woman. Other companies have followed Balmain’s lead.

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And no chance of them collapsing out of a taxi drunk. Although… isn’t that publicity, of which there is no bad form?
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China’s unmanned store boom ends as quickly as it began • Nikkei Asian Review

Hiroshi Murayama:

»

In Shenzhen’s neighboring city of Guangzhou, i-Store, the first local unmanned convenience chain, has also been closing stores one after another. It had three left at the end of March, down from a peak of nine, according to a local newspaper.

Last December, JD.com, China’s second-largest online retailer, announced it would suspend its smart shelf business — small unmanned shops the size of train station kiosks. In July 2018, JD.com unveiled a plan to open 5,000 of them in office buildings and other places in major cities by the end of the year, only to withdraw the plan six months later.

What went wrong?

The difficulty of selling fresh groceries in stores without staff is one major obstacle.

Industry experts say a convenience store in a major Chinese city like Beijing needs to generate at least 5,000 to 6,000 yuan in sales per day to remain viable. A significant chunk of those sales come from boxed lunches, ready-made fresh meals, desserts and other products with limited shelf lives.

In Japan and China alike, the gross margin on processed food, which lasts longer, is about 25%, while that on fast food and fresh groceries stands at 40% to 50%. In other words, the higher the ratio of fresh food at a convenience store, the more stable the business becomes.

Many of the companies that attempted to run unmanned convenience stores appear to have lacked such knowledge.

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Robots not as good at running shops as humans? There’s hope for us yet.
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Facebook’s Libra will give billions access to cryptocurrency • CNBC

Salvador Rodriguez:

»

Facebook on Tuesday unveiled its long-rumored digital coin called Libra that will become available to users in the first half of 2020. The open-source digital currency has been under development by Facebook over the past year, but it will be managed by a nonprofit association with support from a variety of companies and organizations.

“Libra is a major validation of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology to be the financial infrastructure of the future,” said Garrick Hileman, head of research at Blockchain, which makes a cryptocurrency wallet. Libra “could be one of the most significant and positive events in cryptocurrencies’ history as billions of Facebook users could join the ecosystem we’ve been building over the last decade.”

Many in the blockchain space say they believe Libra will leverage Facebook’s more than 2.7 billion monthly users to finally bring cryptocurrencies into the mainstream.

“Worst case scenario, Facebook crypto could become the gateway drug to introduce people to the greater crypto ecosystem,” said Roneil Rumburg, CEO of Audius, a blockchain-based music streaming service. “Best case, their stablecoin is sufficiently decentralized to enable interesting censorship-resistant use cases and is still usable by a mainstream audience.”

«

I don’t think it’s going to bring cryptocurrencies into the mainstream; it might bring Libra into the mainstream, but it’s colossally well funded compared to many others, and has the infrastructure behind it. That to me makes it worrying more than anything else.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.1,091: Google pushes RCS, China’s organ scandal, social media v drugs trials, YouTube v its Kids app, and more


What if they’re watching you all the time? CC-licensed photo by Fred Barr on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 12 links for you. Crypto? What’s that? (Let’s decide tomorrow.) I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Google is finally taking charge of the RCS rollout – The Verge

Dieter Bohn:

»

We’ve been hearing about RCS, the replacement for SMS texting, for over a year now, but actually using the next-generation service has been nearly impossible due to complicated carrier and phone maker politics. But now Google is taking over: later this month, Android users in the UK and France will be able to opt in to RCS Chat services provided directly by Google instead of waiting for their carrier to support it.

That seems like yet another minor status check-in on the service meant to replace SMS, but in fact it’s a huge shift in strategy: as Google rolls this offering out to more countries, it should eventually mean that RCS will become universally available for all Android users.

For the first time in years, Google will directly offer a better default texting experience to Android users instead of waiting for cellphone carriers to do it. It’s not quite the Google equivalent of an iMessage service for Android users, but it’s close. Not knowing when or if RCS Chat would be available for your phone was RCS’s second biggest problem, and Google is fixing it.

RCS’s biggest problem is that messages are still not end-to-end encrypted. iMessage, WhatsApp, and Signal are secured in that way, and even Facebook has said it will make all its apps encrypted by default. Google’s chat solution is increasingly looking out of touch — even immoral.

«

Immoral is maybe overplaying it, but the reality is that if you’re communicating with someone you know then you’ll almost certainly be using one of those three services (or perhaps also Telegram). RCS is too late. Google’s never had a sensible comms strategy.
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China is harvesting organs from detainees, tribunal concludes • The Guardian

Owen Bowcott:

»

An independent tribunal sitting in London has concluded that the killing of detainees in China for organ transplants is continuing, and victims include imprisoned followers of the Falun Gong movement.

The China Tribunal, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who was a prosecutor at the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, said in a unanimous determination at the end of its hearings it was “certain that Falun Gong as a source – probably the principal source – of organs for forced organ harvesting”.

“The conclusion shows that very many people have died indescribably hideous deaths for no reason, that more may suffer in similar ways and that all of us live on a planet where extreme wickedness may be found in the power of those, for the time being, running a country with one of the oldest civilisations known to modern man.”

He added: “There is no evidence of the practice having been stopped and the tribunal is satisfied that it is continuing.”

The tribunal has been taking evidence from medical experts, human rights investigators and others.

Among those killed, it has been alleged, are members of religious minorities such as Falun Gong.

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This $3.2bn industry could turn millions of surveillance cameras into an army of robot security guards • American Civil Liberties Union

Jay Stanley is the ACLU’s senior policy analyst:

»

Today we’re publishing a report on a $3.2 billion industry building a technology known as “video analytics,” which is starting to augment surveillance cameras around the world and has the potential to turn them into just that kind of nightmarish army of unblinking watchers.

Using cutting-edge, deep learning-based AI, the science is moving so fast that early versions of this technology are already starting to enter our lives. Some of our cars now come equipped with dashboard cameras that can sound alarms when a driver starts to look drowsy. Doorbell cameras today can alert us when a person appears on our doorstep. Cashier-less stores use AI-enabled cameras that monitor customers and automatically charge them when they pick items off the shelf.

In the report, we looked at where this technology has been deployed, and what capabilities companies are claiming they can offer. We also reviewed scores of papers by computer vision scientists and other researchers to see what kinds of capabilities are being envisioned and developed. What we found is that the capabilities that computer scientists are pursuing, if applied to surveillance and marketing, would create a world of frighteningly perceptive and insightful computer watchers monitoring our lives.

Cameras that collect and store video just in case it is needed are being transformed into devices that can actively watch us, often in real time.

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Social media can threaten medical experiments • The Conversation

David Teira:

»

In the 1980s, the test of AZT, the first successful retroviral against AIDS, gave a hint of what could happen when patients coordinate. Many US-based AIDS patients had taken part in the gay rights campaigns of the 1970s. They entered the fight with AIDS as a community and when the AZT trial came up they acted together. Nobody wanted to take the placebo, so patients swapped pills, had them analysed by chemists and dropped out of the experiment if they could not access AZT. They broke the trial protocol in a way that made the US Food and Drug Administration reconsider its testing standards. The trial was also terminated early.

This degree of coordination between patients was until recently the exception. Digital networks might now transform the exception into the rule. Patient communities have grown greatly on the internet, ranging from simple mailing lists or Facebook groups to dedicated websites. PatientsLikeMe is one such digital platform: in 2011-2012 a group of ALS patients taking part in an early clinical trial used its message boards to share their experiences in the test, unblinding the treatment they were receiving and breaking the protocol.

Some also took a homebrew solution designed to mimic the experimental drug during the experiment. Despite that, the original trial and the parallel experiment were completed. Researchers from the platform PatientsLikeMe, however, warned about the risks of taking homebrew compounds and called for a debate on how patients and researchers could work together.

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So it’s not new, just easier.
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How YouTube is trying to fix its Kids app without ruining it • Fast Company

Jared Newman:

»

I started to wonder why YouTube Kids doesn’t just put humans in charge of the curation. YouTube’s algorithms have caused a lot of damage in other areas–most notably, by recommending conspiracy theories, political extremism, and even, as the New York Times recently reported, the kind of videos of children that pedophiles might want to watch–but video for kids is arguably the one area where abandoning them makes the most sense. Doing so would eliminate any risk of surfacing inappropriate content, and could allow the app to become a kind of highlight reel for a diverse range of videos from across YouTube proper. (According to Bloomberg, some people inside YouTube even advocated for this approach, unsuccessfully.)

Alicia Blum-Ross, YouTube’s global public policy lead for kids and families, counters that without machine-driven recommendations, YouTube Kids wouldn’t be able to catch all the edge cases that drive people to the app in the first place.

As an example, she once interviewed a Brazilian and Portuguese family living in London, and found that they watched videos in Portuguese on YouTube Kids so the children could learn to speak the same language as their relatives. She also talked to a family that would watch hair braiding videos at the end of the day, which ended up becoming a bonding experience. “Would a whitelisted version have French-braiding hair? How long would your list have to be to think of all those different use cases?” Blum-Ross asks.

In lieu of changing the fundamental way that it operates, YouTube has bolted more layers of parental control onto to YouTube Kids, which is officially the only way that children under 13 are supposed to access the site. (Unlike regular YouTube, the YouTube Kids app doesn’t allow comments or video uploads, doesn’t show interest-based ads, and requires explicit permission from parents to meet federal guidelines on collecting data from children.)

For instance, parents can now set up individual profiles for their kids, each with their own viewing preferences and age ranges. And last year, YouTube Kids added an option to disable search and recommendations entirely…

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Quoting that example about the hair braiding feels like misdirection. It’s hard to argue that YouTube is a boon to kids’ lives overall, so find one example that is and quote the hell out of it.
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Inside Huawei’s secretive plans to develop an operating system to rival Google’s Android • South China Morning Post

:

»

Huawei’s self-developed OS would be able to support a range of products and systems within its ecosystem, including smartphones, computers, tablets, TVs, automobiles and smart wear, which would also be compatible with all Android applications and existing web applications, Yu was quoted as saying in a Securities Times report published on May 21.

“The Huawei OS is likely to hit the market as soon as this fall, and no later than spring next year,” Yu said in a WeChat group discussion. Although the screenshot of the conversation has been widely circulated on Chinese media, Huawei has declined to verify the information.

“I am not able to reveal more information beyond Yu’s remarks,” Zhao Ming, president of Honor, one of Huawei’s two smartphone brands, told reporters in Shanghai last month, when asked for an update on the proprietary OS.

Questions remain though over potential user experience issues and whether overseas customers will actually want a phone without popular Google apps.

Google’s Android and Apple’s proprietary iOS have a stranglehold on smartphone operating systems, accounting for 99.9% of the global market [outside China], according to Gartner estimates last year.

Huawei was confident of its OS prospects in China as it believed developers and local consumers would support and build up the ecosystem quickly, the sources said. Huawei’s sales have continued to rise in the country as the Android system used on the mainland has never carried Google services, to comply with government restrictions.

But Bloomberg reported on June 5 that consumer fear in Europe that Huawei phones would quickly become out of date has meant demand for its devices has “dropped off a cliff” in some markets there, according to analysts.

“It is not the best time to introduce an OS as Huawei would have liked to try it when they have an even bigger market share,” one analyst said. “Domestically it may be OK, but the company remains concerned about the international response.”

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“Chernobyl” miniseries on HBO illuminates deceit of Trump era • The Intercept

Peter Maass:

»

The theme of lies — the destruction of truth by a regime devoted to self-preservation — pervades “Chernobyl” in a way that is wildly relevant to America in the age of birtherism, Sarah Sanders, and “very fine people” who are neo-Nazis. The corollary is unmistakable. At one point, an engineer who is partly culpable for the nuclear accident tells an investigator that her search for honesty, and his desire to avoid a firing squad, are futile. “You think the right question will get you the truth?” he says. “There is no truth. Ask the bosses whatever you want. You will get the lie, and I will get the bullet.”

“Chernobyl” can be considered the best political film of our times because it illuminates a core problem of the Trump era: the nonstop jackhammer of falsehoods that are drowning out what’s true. The risk is that Americans who are inundated with moral rubbish from the White House and Fox News may lose the will to care about the difference between right and wrong, echoing what happened in the Soviet Union. When everything becomes gray and sluggish, there is no battle worth fighting.

The craft behind “Chernobyl” is transporting — the dialogue, the visuals, the acting, the music. It excels as a horror movie, action film, political thriller, documentary, and fable. You hardly notice the show’s gutting message up to the finale, which is like a dagger you don’t sense until it pierces your heart and you gasp. But the creator and writer of the show, Craig Mazin, has been, like his central character, explicit in saying what it means. “We are now living in a global war on the truth,” Mazin told the Los Angeles Times. “We look at this president who lies, not little ones but outstandingly absurd lies. The truth isn’t even in the conversation. It’s just forgotten or obscured to the point where we can’t see it. That’s what Chernobyl is about.”

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Trump’s obscuration of the truth through his Twitter feed is, in its way, truly Soviet. Mazin’s very smart.
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UK may get ‘thousands’ of 5G new entrants under proposed shake-up by Ofcom • Light Reading

Iain Morris:

»

The future 5G opportunity for UK operators appeared to shrink today after regulatory authority Ofcom announced dramatic plans to sell licenses to “thousands” of 5G new entrants, imitating moves that have already been made in Germany and several other markets.

Under proposals unveiled at today’s 5G World event in London, Ofcom would reserve 390MHz of valuable “mid-band” spectrum between 3.8GHz and 4.2GHz for local coverage and campus use. If the scheme takes off, anyone could apply for a 5G license covering an area of just 50 square meters and develop their own local 5G network.

That could be done in partnership with a mobile network operator, but it could also be through an equipment vendor or startup, said Mansoor Hanif, Ofcom’s chief technology officer, describing the proposals as “revolutionary” during a presentation at today’s event.

“5G is an opportunity for everyone and we’d like to encourage new entrants,” he said. “We want to give low-cost access to local spectrum so that anyone who thinks they need 5G coverage on an industrial campus and feels it isn’t served by MNOs [mobile network operators] fast enough should be able to build their own network.”

The move could provoke a backlash from telcos, which have been fiercely critical of similar plans in Germany after its regulatory authorities decided to reserve 100MHz of “mid-band” spectrum for local, industrial use.

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Lots of fine detail here; Ofcom is proposing low-power spectrum in (small) 10MHz blocks. They’d be very local, probably.
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Huawei CEO says it underestimated impact of US ban, forecasts revenue dip • Reuters

Sijia Jiang:

»

Huawei’s international smartphone shipments will drop 40%, Ren said on Monday, without specifying a period. Bloomberg reported on Sunday that the tech giant was preparing for a 40% to 60% decline in international smartphone shipments.

Huawei had reported revenue of 721.2bn yuan ($104.16bn) last year and said a few months ago it expected revenue this year to jump to $125bn. [The forecast now is $100bn.]

“We did not expect they would attack us on so many aspects,” Ren said but added that he expects a revival in the business in 2021.

“We cannot get components supply, cannot participate in many international organizations, cannot work closely with many universities, cannot use anything with U.S. components, and cannot even establish connection with networks that use such components.”

«

Also, a little hilariously, Huawei has also delayed the launch of its foldable phone by three months, to some time in September. With Samsung having delayed its foldable launch by a continually unspecified period, there’s a game of reverse chicken going on – who can hold off launching longer?
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Russian hacks on US voting system wider than previously known • Bloomberg

Michael Riley and Jordan Robertson:

»

Russia’s cyberattack on the US electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.

In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the US investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.

The scope and sophistication so concerned Obama administration officials that they took an unprecedented step – complaining directly to Moscow over a modern-day “red phone.” In October [2016], two of the people said, the White House contacted the Kremlin on the back channel to offer detailed documents of what it said was Russia’s role in election meddling and to warn that the attacks risked setting off a broader conflict.

The new details, buttressed by a classified National Security Agency document recently disclosed by the Intercept, show the scope of alleged hacking that federal investigators are scrutinizing as they look into whether Trump campaign officials may have colluded in the efforts.

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Samsung accidentally makes the case for not owning a smart TV • The Verge

Jon Porter on Samsung’s bizarre tweet suggesting owners of its smart TVs should do a virus scan every few weeks or so:

»

There haven’t been any recent security vulnerabilities reported for Samsung’s smart TVs, but back in 2017 WikiLeaks revealed that the CIA had developed a piece of software called “Weeping Angel” that was capable of turning Samsung’s smart TVs into a listening device. Less than a month later a security researcher found 40 zero-day vulnerabilities in Samsung’s smart TV operating system, Tizen. At the time, Samsung released a blog post detailing the security features of its TVs, which includes its ability to detect malicious code on both its platform and application levels.

Virus scans are another reminder of how annoying modern smart TVs can be. Sure, they have pretty much every streaming app under the sun built in, and Samsung’s models can even be used to stream games from a local PC. But they also contain microphones that can be a privacy risk, and are entrusted with credit card details for buying on-demand video content. Even when everything’s working as the manufacturer intended, they can be yet another way of putting ads in front of you, either on your home screen or even in some cases directly into your own video content.

Samsung’s little PSA about scanning for “malware viruses” (eh hem) might be a sound security practice on a Samsung smart TV, but it’s also an excellent reminder for why you might not want to buy one in the first place.

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The microphones are obviously for voice commands. The world is full of microphones.
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Akamai: hackers have carried out 12 billion attacks against gaming sites in 17 months • VentureBeat

Dean Takahashi:

»

Hackers have targeted the gaming industry by carrying out 12 billion credential stuffing attacks against gaming websites in the 17 months ended March 2019, according to a new report by internet delivery and cloud services company Akamai.

This puts the gaming community among the fastest rising targets for credential stuffing attacks — where hackers use stolen credentials to take over an account — and one of the most lucrative targets for criminals looking to make a quick profit. During the same time period, Akamai saw a total of 55 billion credential stuffing attacks across all industries…

…“One reason that we believe the gaming industry is an attractive target for hackers is because criminals can easily exchange in-game items for profit,” said Martin McKeay, security researcher at Akamai editorial director of the report, in a statement. “Furthermore, gamers are a niche demographic known for spending money, so their financial status is also a tempting target.”

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“Why rob banks? Because it’s where the money is.” (And also because gaming sites aren’t that hot at making people use two-factor authentication.)
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.1,090: YouTube’s sweary kid side, US ready to hack Russia’s grid, Gmail’s calendar flaw, the cost of (no) GPS, and more


Think of a song lyric and you’ll find it on Google. But where did the search engine get it from? CC-licensed photo by Diego Sideburns on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 9 links for you. For sale: empty podium, never used. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Oh $h1t — there’s an awful lot of swearing on YouTube • Medium

Matt Reynolds:

»

Some of you may know that I have recently been working on developing an internet filter doodad that lets parents selectively filter what their children watch on YouTube.

One of the things the doodad does is a real-time analysis of the language used in YouTube videos. (It does this to determine an age-rating of PG, 12, 15, or 18 — any video that scores above the age you set for your child is blocked.)

One of the other things it does is it spits out just how much swearing there is in a given video — and it can also aggregate the amount of swearing across a channel. This is the analysis from PewPieDie — a YouTuber that I thought was just straightforwardly awful until I actually watched some of his videos and downgraded my expectations…

How about something more educational? Of 263 science videos, 3 of them contained the c-word. Because of course they did. Because what parent isn’t going to answer the question, “dad, can I watch a video on YouTube about science and technology” with “sure, go ahead!”

Here is a the analysis on one video that dropped the c-bomb. And it’s about fuc— freaking LEGO, and not even an unpopular type of LEGO. No, this is Avengers Endgame LEGO. Like, the most likely type of LEGO video you’re going to look for.

…YouTube has this singular problem that — as parents — we didn’t have growing up. The main broadcast channels had, you know, standards… Without any form of oversight, YouTube is always going to be a race to the bottom. I’ll be doing this analysis every month from now on — so at least we’ll know how fast we’re going.

«

Personally, I’d really like to know if it’s possible to completely disable the autoplay and “recommended” settings permanently. But this “doodad” looks like a useful start.
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Lyrics site accuses Google of lifting its content • WSJ

Robert McMillan:

»

Genius said it notified Google as far back as 2017, and again in an April letter, that copied transcriptions appear on Google’s website. The April letter, a copy of which was viewed by the Journal, warned that reuse of Genius’s transcriptions breaks the Genius.com terms of service and violates antitrust law.

“Over the last two years, we’ve shown Google irrefutable evidence again and again that they are displaying lyrics copied from Genius,” said Ben Gross, Genius’s chief strategy officer, in an email message. The company said it used a watermarking system in its lyrics that embedded patterns in the formatting of apostrophes. Genius said it found more than 100 examples of songs on Google that came from its site.

Starting around 2016, Genius made a subtle change to some of the songs on its website, alternating the lyrics’ apostrophes between straight and curly single-quote marks in exactly the same sequence for every song.

When the two types of apostrophes were converted to the dots and dashes used in Morse code, they spelled out the words “Red Handed.”

In a statement, Google said the lyrics on its site, which pop up in little search-result squares called “information panels,” are licensed from partners, not created by Google.

«

Classic Google; exactly the same as it was doing with Yelp back in 2013. Genius doesn’t actually own the lyrics, but it must own the copyright of the careful curation of the apostrophes.
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Apple CEO Tim Cook: Technology companies need to take responsibility for chaos they create • CNBC

Kif Leswing:

»

Apple CEO Tim Cook warned that Silicon Valley companies needed to take responsibility for the “chaos” they create in a speech Sunday at Stanford University.

Although Cook did not mention companies by name, his commencement speech in Silicon Valley’s backyard mentioned data breaches, privacy violations, and even made reference to Theranos, a disgraced startup.

“Lately it seems this industry is becoming better known for a less noble innovation – the belief you can claim credit without accepting responsibility,” Cook said. “We see it every day now with every data breach, every privacy violation, every blind eye turned to hate speech, fake news poisoning out national conversation, the false miracles in exchange for a single drop of your blood.”

He continued: “It feels a bit crazy that anyone should have to say this, but if you built a chaos factory, you can’t dodge responsibility for the chaos.”

«

Plenty of easy pickings to be had on this front – though strangely he didn’t mention tax avoidance at contributing to the wider chaos of lowered tax takes in countries.
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US escalates online attacks on Russia’s power grid • The New York Times

David Sanger and Nicole Perlroth:

»

In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections.

Advocates of the more aggressive strategy said it was long overdue, after years of public warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI that Russia has inserted malware that could sabotage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, or water supplies in any future conflict with the United States.

But it also carries significant risk of escalating the daily digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow.

«

Quite a thing, right? And now look at this little extra, buried wayyyy down the story:

»

Two administration officials said they believed Mr. Trump had not been briefed in any detail about the steps to place “implants” — software code that can be used for surveillance or attack — inside the Russian grid.

Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction — and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister.

Because the new law defines the actions in cyberspace as akin to traditional military activity on the ground, in the air or at sea, no such briefing would be necessary, they added.

«

Shall we tell the president? Nah, better not.
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Amazon Spark, the retailer’s two-year-old Instagram competitor, has shut down • TechCrunch

Sarah Perez:

»

Amazon’s two-year-old Instagram competitor, Amazon Spark, is no more.

Hoping to capitalize on the social shopping trend and tap into the power of online influencers, Amazon in 2017 launched its own take on Instagram with a shoppable feed of stories and photos aimed at Prime members. The experiment known as Amazon Spark has now come to an end. However, the learnings from Spark and Amazon’s discovery tool Interesting Finds are being blended into a new social-inspired product, #FoundItOnAmazon.

«

Amazon had an Instagram competitor? For two years? I’ve literally never seen it.
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New security warning issued for Google’s 1.5 billion Gmail and Calendar users • Forbes

Davey Winder:

»

users of the Gmail service are being targeted primarily through the use of malicious and unsolicited Google Calendar notifications. Anyone can schedule a meeting with you, that’s how the calendar application is designed to work. Gmail, which receives the notification of the invitation, is equally designed to tightly integrate with the calendaring functionality.

When a calendar invitation is sent to a user, a pop-up notification appears on their smartphone. The threat actors craft their invitations to include a malicious link, leveraging the trust that user familiarity with calendar notifications brings with it.

The researchers have noticed attackers throughout the last month using this technique to effectively spam users with phishing links to credential stealing sites. By populating the location and topic fields to announce a fake online poll or questionnaire with a financial incentive to participate, the threat actors encourage the victim to follow the malicious link where bank account or credit card details can be collected. By exploiting such a “non-traditional attack vector,” the criminals can get around the fact that people are increasingly aware of common methods to encourage link-clicking.

“Beyond phishing, this attack opens up the doors for a whole host of social engineering attacks,” says Javvad Malik, security awareness advocate at KnowBe4. Malik told me that in order to gain access to a building, for example, you could put in a calendar invite for an interview or similar face to face appointment such as building maintenance which, he warns “could allow physical access to secure areas.”

«

Google was told about this in 2017, and said that “making this change would cause major functionality drawbacks for legitimate API events with regards to Calendar.” But don’t worry! It scans for malicious links. Huh. Apple had a similar problem like this – spammy calendar invites being sent, mainly from China – in November 2016. Seems to have solved it.
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The new wilderness • Idle Words

Maciej Cieglowski on the erosion of what he calls “ambient privacy” – the expectation that your interactions aren’t monitored or remembered:

»

Ambient privacy is particularly hard to protect where it extends into social and public spaces outside the reach of privacy law. If I’m subjected to facial recognition at the airport, or tagged on social media at a little league game, or my public library installs an always-on Alexa microphone, no one is violating my legal rights. But a portion of my life has been brought under the magnifying glass of software. Even if the data harvested from me is anonymized in strict conformity with the most fashionable data protection laws, I’ve lost something by the fact of being monitored.

One can argue that ambient privacy is a relic of an older world, just like the ability to see the stars in the night sky was a pleasant but inessential feature of the world before electricity. This is the argument Mr. Zuckerberg made when he unilaterally removed privacy protections from every Facebook account back in 2010. Social norms had changed, he explained at the time, and Facebook was changing with them. Presumably now they have changed back.

My own suspicion is that ambient privacy plays an important role in civic life. When all discussion takes place under the eye of software, in a for-profit medium working to shape the participants’ behavior, it may not be possible to create the consensus and shared sense of reality that is a prerequisite for self-government. If that is true, then the move away from ambient privacy will be an irreversible change, because it will remove our ability to function as a democracy.

All of this leads me to see a parallel between privacy law and environmental law, another area where a technological shift forced us to protect a dwindling resource that earlier generations could take for granted.

«

Always a must-read; easily comprehensible phrasing, but conveying deep meaning.

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America’s renewable energy capacity is now greater than coal • CNN

Matt Egan:

»

“Coal has no technology path,” said Jeff McDermott, managing partner at Greentech Capital Advisors, a boutique investment bank focused on clean energy. “It’s got nowhere to go but extinction.”

The clean energy revolution is on the verge of a tipping point.

Also in April, the renewable energy sector was projected to have generated more electricity than coal, according to a separate report published by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. That transition was partially driven by seasonal issues.

At the same time, America has drastically cut back on its appetite for coal. Since peaking in 2008, US coal consumption has plunged 39% to the lowest level in 40 years, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

The milestones come despite President Donald Trump’s promise to prop up the coal industry by cutting environmental rules. Analysts say that’s because the shift toward renewables is being driven more by economics than regulation.

“The government can tap on the brakes or accelerate this movement – but this progress will continue moving forward,” said Matthew Hoza, senior energy analyst at consulting firm BTU Analytics.

«

A letter in The Observer on Sunday commented that the price of renewables is falling so fast that government spreadsheets can’t keep up (down?) with it.
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Study finds that a GPS outage would cost $1bn per day • Ars Technica

Eric Berger:

»

According to the study, 90% of the technology’s financial impact has come since just 2010, or just 20% of the study period [which looks at 1984-2017]. Some sectors of the economy are only beginning to realize the value of GPS technology, or are identifying new uses for it, the report says, indicating that its value as a platform for innovation will continue to grow.

In the case of some adverse event leading to a widespread outage, the study estimates that the loss of GPS service would have a $1bn per-day impact, although the authors acknowledge this is at best a rough estimate. It would likely be higher during the planting season of April and May, when farmers are highly reliant on GPS technology for information about their fields.

To assess the effect of an outage, the study looked at several different variables. Among them was “precision timing” that enables a number of wireless services, including the synchronization of traffic between carrier networks, wireless handoff between base stations, and billing management. Moreover, higher levels of precision timing enable higher bandwidth and provide access to more devices. (For example, the implementation of 4G LTE technology would have been impossible without GPS technology).

In the case of an outage, there would be relatively minimal impacts over the first two days, but after that time, the wireless network would begin to degrade significantly. After 30 days, the study estimates that functionality would lie somewhere between 0% and 60% of normal operating levels. Landline phones would be largely unaffected.

«

That’s only for the US, of course. GPS costs about $1bn per annum to run. As economic multipliers go, that’s pretty dramatic. GPS was the example I kept reaching for when I was pushing the Free Our Data campaign: government funds it, private sector exploits it, but everyone benefits.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.1,089: the spies created by AI, the farm emissions problem, Sudan cuts its internet, iPadOS in view, and more


Mailing list company Mailchimp is blocking anti-vaccination newsletters. Not a minute too soon. CC-licensed photo by Cory Doctorow on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 9 links for you. Counted. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.


Continuing shameless promo: got half an hour? Try The Human and Machine podcast. It’s a co-presentation by Julia Hobsbawm (of Editorial Intelligence) and myself.

The latest episode is a discussion with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Rohan Candappa, plus an interview with Professor Charlton McIlwain, about race and the internet.

We’ve previously spoken about autopilots, the 737 Max and the implications for self-driving cars with Alex Hern of the Guardian and Dr Jack Stilgoe of University College London.

Find these episodes, and the whole series, by searching for “human and machine” on your podcast app. As long as that isn’t BBC Sounds. (If it is, please explain yourself.)


Digital marketer Mailchimp bans anti-vaccination content • NBC News

Brandy Zadrozny:

»

The move to block the anti-vaccination rhetoric follows similar actions by other tech companies and comes on the heels of increased pressure from public health advocates and lawmakers on digital platforms to curtail the spread of health misinformation.

“Mailchimp has shut down a number of accounts for anti-vaccination content that violates our Terms of Use, and we’re adding this category to our routine searches for prohibited content,” a Mailchimp spokesperson said in a statement provided to NBC News. “Spreading misinformation about the safety and efficacy of vaccines poses a serious threat to public health and causes real-world harm. We cannot allow these individuals and groups to use our Marketing Platform to spread harmful messages and expand their audiences.”

The company began quietly enforcing this decision last week.

“We trust the world’s leading health authorities, like the CDC, WHO, and the AAP, and follow their guidance when assessing this type of misuse of our platform,” the spokesperson said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Vaccine misinformation that had once been allowed to flourish on the fringes of many mainstream internet destinations has come under growing scrutiny in the past six months, particularly as health officials have warned about the resurgence of some preventable diseases.

«

Fascinating contrast with Facebook (inc Instagram), YouTube and Twitter, which have been pretty indifferent to complaints about such content. Mailchimp once stopped an edition of The Overspill (it goes out by email! You can get it in your inbox!) because it contained a reference to b*tco*n (I’m taking no chances) and they thought I was touting crypto~mumble~cies.

We seem to be approaching a point where not all content is created equal.
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Experts: spy used AI-generated face to connect with targets • Associated Press

Raphael Satter:

»

Katie Jones sure seemed plugged into Washington’s political scene. The 30-something redhead boasted a job at a top think tank and a who’s-who network of pundits and experts, from the centrist Brookings Institution to the right-wing Heritage Foundation. She was connected to a deputy assistant secretary of state, a senior aide to a senator and the economist Paul Winfree, who is being considered for a seat on the Federal Reserve.

But Katie Jones doesn’t exist, The Associated Press has determined. Instead, the persona was part of a vast army of phantom profiles lurking on the professional networking site LinkedIn. And several experts contacted by the AP said Jones’ profile picture appeared to have been created by a computer program.

“I’m convinced that it’s a fake face,” said Mario Klingemann, a German artist who has been experimenting for years with artificially generated portraits and says he has reviewed tens of thousands of such images. “It has all the hallmarks.”

Experts who reviewed the Jones profile’s LinkedIn activity say it’s typical of espionage efforts on the professional networking site, whose role as a global Rolodex has made it a powerful magnet for spies.

“It smells a lot like some sort of state-run operation,” said Jonas Parello-Plesner, who serves as program director at the Denmark-based think tank Alliance of Democracies Foundation and was the target several years ago of an espionage operation that began over LinkedIn .

William Evanina, director of the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said foreign spies routinely use fake social media profiles to home in on American targets — and accused China in particular of waging “mass scale” spying on LinkedIn.

“Instead of dispatching spies to some parking garage in the US to recruit a target, it’s more efficient to sit behind a computer in Shanghai and send out friend requests to 30,000 targets,” he said in a written statement.

«

Amazing story. The face would be generated by a generative adversarial network (GAN). One clue it’s a fake: her eyes are different colours. There are others which suggest she’s got lizard DNA.
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Deadly gas: cutting farm emissions in half could save 3,000 lives a year • The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Andrew Wasley, Alexandra Heal and Mie Lainio:

»

The thousands of tonnes of faeces and urine produced by UK farm animals a day release ammonia gas, which combines with other particles in the air to create one of the most deadly forms of pollution. Ammonia is the only pollutant on the rise in the UK, and taking simple measures to cut it would be the “most effective way” to clean up our air and prevent deaths, according to a leading expert.

During a five month investigation the Bureau and the Guardian found:

• The government only monitors ammonia emissions from the largest intensive poultry and pig farms, completely missing the biggest polluters — beef and dairy farms.

• Despite promising to close this loophole by 2025, Michael Gove, the environment secretary, has not laid out a clear plan or any legislation to do so. In the meantime, the number of intensive US-style beef feedlots and dairy “megafarms” has been increasing.

• Cuts in staffing at the Environment Agency, which polices farm emissions, mean farms are not always monitored properly, leaked correspondence shows.

• Demand for cheap food is preventing farmers taking the basic but expensive steps to cut ammonia because their profit margins are too narrow. Brexit is likely to exacerbate this, as farmers may struggle to compete with cheap imported food.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has called air pollution a national health emergency and a “slow and deadly poison”. Yet efforts to reduce it have largely ignored ammonia, despite its key role in producing dangerous particles.

«

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Huawei files to trademark mobile OS around the world after US ban • Reuters

Marco Aquino and Brenda Goh:

»

A senior US official on Thursday said Huawei’s clients should be asking themselves if the Chinese firm can meet its commitments given its dependence on US companies.

Huawei – the world’s biggest maker of telecoms network gear – has filed for a Hongmeng trademark in countries such as Cambodia, Canada, South Korea and New Zealand, data from the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) shows.

It also filed an application in Peru on May 27, according to the country’s anti-trust agency Indecopi.

Huawei has a back-up OS in case it is cut off from US-made software, Richard Yu, CEO of the firm’s consumer division, told German newspaper Die Welt in an interview earlier this year.

The US official, meeting with officials in Europe to warn against buying Huawei equipment for next-generation mobile networks, said only time would tell if Huawei could diversify.

«

One thing to trademark the product, quite another to have it up and running.
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WeChat is watching • Nautilus

Barclay Bram:

»

At 9:27, once I’ve brushed my teeth, answered a few messages, and wiped the sleep from my eyes, I order a coffee through WeChat. There’s a payments window on the app, and when you click on it you see various options, some proprietary to WeChat and some which are independent apps that run on WeChat’s platform. I open the Meituan delivery app and scroll through all the coffee options around me. I order an Americano. I have my WeChat linked with the facial recognition scanner on my iPhone; when I pay, I just hold my phone up to my face and a green tick flicks across the screen. Seven minutes later, I get a message telling me the coffee is on the way, with the name and number of the delivery driver. It arrives at 9:53.

Before 10 on a normal day in Chengdu, WeChat knows the following things about me: It knows roughly when I wake up, it knows who has messaged me and who I message, it knows what we talk about. It knows my bank details, it knows my address and it knows my coffee preference in the morning. It knows my biometric information; it knows the very contours of my face.

But this isn’t all it knows. I use WeChat to pay my rent. I use it to pay for my utilities. I use it to top up my phone credit. I use WeChat to pay for the metro system. I use it to scan QR codes on the back of shared-bike schemes throughout the city. I use it to call cabs. It knows where I go and how I go there. I follow bloggers on it, I follow media organizations and NGOs and government offices (there are over 20 million official accounts associated with governmental institutions, agencies, or officials) and I read their content through it. It knows what academic interests I have—I’m researching mental health and I pay for and attend online courses in psychology through the app. I book movie tickets, order things through Jingdong’s page (the Chinese Amazon), and I recently downloaded a WeChat app which allows me to take a photo of a flower and have it tell me the name. It also tells me anytime it’s been mentioned in Chinese poetry.

«

WeChat’s dominance is accidental (as far as we know). And it’s an absolute dream for a surveillance state. And western governments with dictatorial tendencies (basically: all of them) would love WeChat, or an equivalent, to rise in their countries.
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LaLiga’s app listened in on fans to catch bars illegally streaming soccer • The Verge

Dami Lee:

»

Spain’s data protection agency has fined the country’s soccer league, LaLiga, €250,000 (about $280,000) for allegedly violating EU data privacy and transparency laws. The app, which is used for keeping track of games and stats, was using the phone’s microphone and GPS to track bars illegally streaming soccer games, Spanish newspaper El País reported.

Using a Shazam-like technology, the app would record audio to identify soccer games, and use the geolocation of the phone to locate which bars were streaming without licenses. El Diario reports that fans have downloaded that app more than 10 million times, essentially turning them into undercover narcs. The league claims that the app asks for permission to access the phone’s microphone and location, and that the data — which is received as a code, not audio — is only used to detect LaLiga streams.

«

You’ve got to admit: that is clever. Sneaky, but ever so clever. Of course people will be at bars with their smartphones. Of course.
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GE ‘badly’ misjudged the clean energy transition, costing investors almost $193bn: IEFFA • Utility Dive

Robert Walton:

»

While General Electric (GE) led the world in gas turbine manufacturing in 2015, the company shed 74% of its market capitalization between 2016 and 2018, as demand for new turbines cratered.

GE is “a case study in how rapidly and unexpectedly the global energy transition away from fossil fuels travels up the economic chain and destroys value in the power generation sector,” the report says. It points the finger at large shareholders, like Vanguard, BlackRock, State Street and Fidelity, who IEEFA analysts say should be doing more to push companies away from fossil fuels.

“It is in [shareholder] hands to ensure companies evaluate and understand the inevitable energy transition as the world accelerates towards meeting the Paris Agreement,” report co-author and IEEFA financial analyst Kathy Hipple said in a statement.

GE declined to provide comment to Utility Dive, instead pointing toward previous statements by company leadership. In January, GE CEO Lawrence Culp said the company was “late to embrace the realities of the secular and cyclical pressures” on its power business.

«

Wonder how many other companies are going to miss this in the same way.
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Internet shutdown in Sudan • iAfrikan

Nakirfai Tobor:

»

According to reports from Sudan’s capital city, the last remaining Internet connections are being cut off. This attempt at a total Internet shutdown is reported to have started on Monday 10 June 2019.

This came at a time when pro-democracy protesting civilians were murdered and raped by Sudan’s military troops during a sit-in protest.

Speaking to The Guardian, a doctor who has access to data compiled by the central committee of doctors in Sudan said hospitals in Khartoum had recorded more than 70 cases of rape in the attack and its immediate aftermath. Another doctor who works at the Royal Care hospital in Khartoum added that they had treated eight victims of rape, of whom five were women and three were men. Many other rape cases had been treated at other hospitals too.

«

New military thinking: control the internet, control the story.
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Initial thoughts on iPadOS: a new path forward • MacStories

Federico Viticci:

»

not only does iPadOS enable split-screen for the same app, but it also supports an arbitrary number of app windows; in fact, just like on a Mac, you can create as many app windows as you want in iPadOS, and you can even preview them all with Exposé; however, the whole system has been designed around the iPad’s touch interactions with long-tap gestures, drag and drop, Slide Over, and Split View.

The net result of this new multitasking approach is a drastic departure from iOS’ longstanding assumption that an app can only live in one window at a time: it’s going to take a while to get used to the idea that iPad apps can spawn multiple windows, and that the same document or app view can coexist with other app windows across the system in different spaces. At the same time, iPadOS’ multitasking builds upon the Mac’s multiwindow environment and iOS 11’s drag and drop multitasking in a way that feels inevitable – like the best innovations always do.


Multiple Safari windows in iPadOS


Creating a new Notes window in Slide Over by dragging a note to the side of the screen

At a high level, iPadOS multitasking is still largely enabled3 by drag and drop: while iOS 11 allowed you to add apps to Split View or Slide Over by dragging their icons into a space, iPadOS lets you add windows by dragging app views or content around. For instance, Notes lets you pick up an individual note and create a new window off of it by dragging it to the side of the screen; in Messages, conversations can become windows; in Mail, a specific feature of the app (the message composer) can be detached from the main UI and turned into a window.

«

This does look fascinating. The first public beta is probably next month.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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:

»

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:

»

[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.”

«

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

»

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.

«

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:

»

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.

«

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:

»

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

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

Start Up No.1,087: YouTube CEO kinda-sorta apologises, Dropbox evolves a bit, Have I Been Sold?, Ebola keeps growing, and more


Maybe we’re going to do this one for real this time? CC-licensed photo by Gervasio Varela on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 9 links for you. That’s the way, uh-huh. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.


Shameless promo: have you listened to The Human and Machine podcast? It’s a co-presentation by Julia Hobsbawm (of Editorial Intelligence) and myself. We’ve spoken about autopilots, the 737 Max and the implications for self-driving cars with Alex Hern of the Guardian and Dr Jack Stilgoe of University College London.
And coming soon: an episode looking at racism and the internet.


YouTube CEO apologizes to LGBTQ community after outcry • The Verge

Julia Alexander:

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[YouTube CEO Susan] Wojcicki was pressed about her apology [at Code Conference in Arizona] by Axios’ Ina Fried, who asked the CEO to further expand on her apology.

“I’m really, personally very sorry,” Wojcicki said. “YouTube has always been a home of so many LGBTQ creators, and that’s why it was so emotional. Even though it was a hard decision, it was harder that it came from us — because it was such an important home. And even though we made this decision, we have so many people from the LGBTQ community. We’ve always wanted to openly support this community. As a company we really want to support this community.

“It’s just from a policy standpoint we need to be consistent — if we took down that content, there would be so much other content that we need to take down.”

Everything comes down to context, according to the CEO. Wojcicki said that context is important in deciding when to take action against a channel. For example, rap videos and late night shows often contain words or content that could be considered harmful. Contextually, those videos are fine. It’s the same defense that Crowder and his supporters, both creators and fans, have used, too.

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As Fried pointed out, this wasn’t a “sorry we did that” apology; it was a “sorry you felt offended” apology, which is a classic non-apology (it’s not “sorry for what we did”, it’s “sorry about how you react”). As for “if we took down that content, there would be so much other content we’d need to take down”: in the words of Twitter personality Darth, “and what’s the down side?”
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How Dropbox is finally breaking free of the folder • Fast Company

Harry McCracken:

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What’s most intriguing are the new Dropbox’s collaborative features—many of which the service probably couldn’t have shoehorned into File Explorer or Finder, at least in a way that many people would want to use. The existing menu that pops out from Windows’ tray and MacOS’s menu bar doesn’t look much different, but it’s been retooled to show the files that your colleagues are sharing, editing, and commenting upon: “It’s not just about your sync activity or files that you’ve edited, but what’s going on with everyone in your group,” explains Adam Nash, Dropbox’s VP of product. The menu also offers newly sophisticated search, similar to that in the web version, that plumbs the content of files rather than just scanning their names.

Every folder sports a shared scratchpad-like area that lets you type free-form text, numbered or bulleted lists, and to-do items, as well as reference colleagues by their Dropbox @names, giving you the ability to do anything from write a brief description of a folder’s contents to assign tasks to colleagues, who are represented as a row of avatars whom you can discuss items with in comments that show up in the right-hand pane. “The folder feels richer, more like a lightweight project,” says Nash.

With the new Dropbox, the service is taking the wraps off integrations that let you share items via Slack channels and direct messages or in a Zoom meeting. The company is also announcing a new collaboration with Atlassian, maker of such collaboration tools as Jira and Trello. Details on that partnership are yet to announced.

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Every feature expands to become an app; every app expands to include collaboration and messaging. Then a new feature arises which strips out most of those apps’ functions. Dropbox is presently on the second part of this cycle.
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For sale: Have I Been Pwned • Gizmodo

Jennings Brown:

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In a blog post, [security researcher Troy] Hunt explained the reasons for his decisions and hopes for the future of the platform.

“It’s time to go from that one guy doing what he can in his available time to a better-resourced and better-funded structure that’s able to do way more than what I ever could on my own,” Hunt wrote.

The blog states that HIBP now has almost 3 million subscribers for notifications, and the platform can now check about eight billion breached records. According to Hunt the site usually gets around 150,000 unique visits on a typical day, and 10 million unique visits on an “abnormal day.”

Troy wrote that traffic spiked in January when he broke the news of the behemoth “Collection #1” breach that exposed 773 million emails and 21 million passwords. Since then, the site has continued to grow and Hunt has come to the realization he “was getting very close to burn-out.”

Now he’s ready to hand much of the workload off. Hunt said he is laying the groundwork for acquisition and has had some early talks with organizations who may be interested in acquiring HIBP.

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One possible buyer is, apparently, Mozilla; wonder if they’ll try to monetise it if they do purchase it. HIBP is good if you care about data breaches, but since Hunt started it in December 2013, they’ve gone from being a bit unusual to being completely quotidien. It’s almost a surprise if you have an email address that hasn’t been revealed in a breach at some point.
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Facebook will once again pay users to install an app that tracks their app usage • CNBC

Salvador Rodriguez:

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Facebook on Tuesday announced a new app that will let the company collect data on how people use their smartphones in exchange for money.

The new app is called Study, and it is designed to give Facebook data on what apps participants install, how much time they spend on those apps, what features they use on those apps, what country they’re in, and type of device and network they’re using.

Facebook has a long history of using apps to collect information about usage habits in order to improve its own products.

In 2013, Facebook bought a free security app called Onavo, which let users access a virtual private network, or VPN, to browse the web and download apps with a greater degree of privacy. Facebook used data from Onavo to gather broad information about which apps were popular and how people were using them, which it used to improve its own products, but claims it did not collect information about individual users.

However, Facebook pulled the app from the App Store in 2018 after Apple reportedly told the company that it violated rules then-new rules about user privacy.

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Meet the new app, same as the old app (but with Apple’s blessing this time).
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Apple has capacity to make all iPhones for US outside of China • Bloomberg

Debby Wu:

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Hon Hai, known also as Foxconn, is the American giant’s most important manufacturing partner. It will fully support Apple if it needs to adjust its production as the U.S.-Chinese trade spat gets grimmer and more unpredictable, board nominee and semiconductor division chief Young Liu told an investor briefing in Taipei on Tuesday.

“Twenty-five% of our production capacity is outside of China and we can help Apple respond to its needs in the U.S. market,” said Liu, adding that investments are now being made in India for Apple. “We have enough capacity to meet Apple’s demand.”

Apple shares were up more than 1% to $194.99 in New York on Tuesday.

Apple has not given Hon Hai instructions to move production out of China, but it is capable of moving lines elsewhere according to customers’ needs, Liu added. The company will respond swiftly and rely on localized manufacturing in response to the trade war, just as it foresaw the need to build a base in the US state of Wisconsin two years ago, he said.

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It was all going so well until that mention of Wisconsin.
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Gravity ‘anomaly’ at Moon’s south pole could be buried metallic asteroid • Extreme Tech

Ryan Whitwam:

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The leading explanation for the gravitational anomaly, according to the researchers, is that the object responsible for the crater is still mostly intact beneath the surface. So, some 4 billion years ago, a mostly metallic asteroid hit the moon and remains embedded in the mantle to this day. Another potential explanation is that the region is naturally rich in oxides that formed as the moon cooled in the distant past. However, the overlap of the crater and increased gravity seems a bit too convenient.

If there is a large metallic object buried under the South Pole-Aitken basin, it could tell us something about the moon’s interior. After four billion years, the iron-nickel remains of the asteroid would have been dispersed throughout the mantle if the moon was geologically active for any significant period of time.

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Ooooh is it a radio-opaque obelisk with proportions of 1:4:9? Looking forward to the expedition visiting it.
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Worldwide all-in-one (AIO) PC shipments to drop further in 2019 • Digitimes

Betty Shyu:

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Because of the US-China trade tensions and Intel’s ongoing CPU shortages, worldwide all-in-one (AIO) PC shipments are expected to shrink 5% on year to arrive at only 12.8 million units in 2019, a weaker performance than expected previously, according to Digitimes Research’s figures.

All-in-one (AIO) PCs will account for 12.6% of overall desktop shipments in 2019, Digitimes Research’s numbers showed.

Of the top-4 AIO PC brands, the top-2 brands – Apple and Lenovo – will see sharper shipment declines than others in 2019, while third-place Hewlett-Packard (HP) and foruth-place Dell will both see stead performances.

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12.8m in a year is about 3.2m per quarter on average. Assume that the top two have 40% of that market, and that that splits 25-15. That would mean Apple is selling 0.8m iMacs per quarter. A tiny fraction will be iMac Pros. And then consider how big the market for the Mac Pro is: likely smaller than for the iMac Pro (because you’d only want the Mac Pro if the iMac Pro didn’t do it for you). So much effort, so few buyers.
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Massive Ebola outbreak spreads across DRC border, infected five-year-old in Uganda • Ars Technica

Beth Mole:

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Health officials in Uganda have confirmed the country’s first case of Ebola stemming from a massive outbreak that has been raging across the border in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since August of 2018.

The World Health Organization reported Tuesday, June 11, that the case is in a five-year-old boy from the DRC who traveled with his family into Uganda on June 9. The boy’s case was confirmed by the Uganda Virus Institute (UVRI), and he’s receiving care in the Ebola Treatment Unit in the western Ugandan town of Bwera, which sits at the border with DRC.

Health officials have feared the spread of the virus, which has festered in DRC’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces for nearly a year. The provinces sit on the eastern side of the country, bordering South Sudan, Uganda, and Rwanda. As of June 9, the WHO reports 2,062 cases (1,968 confirmed and 94 probable), including 1,390 deaths (1,296 confirmed and 94 probable) in the outbreak. It is the second largest Ebola outbreak on record, surpassed only by the 2014 West African outbreak, which involved more than 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths.

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Current existential risks to civilisation: climate emergency, asteroid strike, nuclear confrontation/accident.. and pandemic. Quite a lot of scientists worry about the latter one because it would only have to affect a tiny percentage of the population to have a dramatic effect on social order.
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Facebook turned off search features used to catch war criminals, child predators, and other bad actors • Buzzfeed News

Craig Silverman:

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In August 2017, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for [Libyan military commander Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli] for allegedly participating in or ordering the execution of 33 people in Benghazi, Libya. At the core of the evidence against him are seven videos, some of which were found on Facebook, that allegedly show Werfalli committing crimes. His case marked the first time the ICC issued a warrant based largely on material gathered from social media.

Now that kind of work is being put in jeopardy, according to Koenig, executive director of the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley. She said Facebook’s recent decision to turn off the features in its graph search product could be a “disaster” for human rights research.

“To make it even more difficult for human rights actors and war crimes investigators to search that site—right as they’re realizing the utility of the rich trove of information being shared online for documenting abuses—is a potential disaster for the human rights and war crimes community,” she said. “We need Facebook to be working with us and making access to such information easier, not more difficult.”

Simply put, Facebook graph search is a way to receive an answer to a specific query on Facebook, such as “people in Nebraska who like Metallica.” Using graph search, it’s possible to find public — and only public — content that’s not easily accessed via keyword searches.

Late last week, Facebook turned off several features that have long been accessible via graph search, such as the ability to find public videos that a specific Facebook user was tagged in.

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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified