Category Archives: Technology

New Pro-Abortion Google Rule

It seems to me that a search engine should just find and present the underlying websites based on their content and not seek to interpret, filter, or twist that content on the basis of Google’s own biases.

new Google policy that was meant to rein in deceptive advertising by “crisis pregnancy centers” has a loophole that is allowing the centers to continue to post misleading ads on the search engine.

Crisis pregnancy centers often seek to aggressively discourage women from getting abortions and have earned the ire of abortion rights groups for often seeming to resemble abortion clinics.

The loophole means only users who are specifically searching under the term “abortion” will be provided information on Google’s website about whether a particular health care clinic does – or does not – offer the procedure to women.

If a user searches under other terms, like “free pregnancy test” or “pregnancy symptoms”, no such information appears under the advertisements for the same clinics. While the difference might seem semantic, there is a worry that it will confuse women who might mistake a crisis pregnancy center for an abortion clinic.

Facebook is Listening

And again

Facebook has become the latest company to admit that human contractors listened to recordings of users without their knowledge, a practice the company now says has been “paused”.

Citing contractors who worked on the project, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday that the company hired people to listen to audio conversations carried out on Facebook Messenger.

The practice involved users who had opted in Messenger to have their voice chats transcribed, the company said. The contractors were tasked with re-transcribing the conversations in order to gauge the accuracy of the automatic transcription tool.

“Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” a Facebook spokesperson told the Guardian.

Massive Data Breach of Capital One

Wow.

The firm said in a statement released on Monday that the breach affected approximately 100 million individuals in the US and 6 million people in Canada.

The statement added that about 140,000 social security numbers and 80,000 linked bank account numbers were compromised in the US.

In Canada, about one million social insurance numbers belonging to Capital One credit card customers were also compromised.

One Small Step

50 years ago, a man step foot on another celestial body for the first time in human existence. It was an amazing accomplishment and one for which we can all be proud. Huzzah, huzzah, huzzah.

Regulating Big Tech

Putting aside the outright lie about Google being impartial (that’s been proven wrong time and time again), the next question is, what do we do about it, if anything?

Karan Bhatia, Google’s policy chief who was at the hearing, denied the claims and said it would be bad for business if users didn’t trust the company to be impartial.

Bhatia also said Google had done all it could to remove offensive content on YouTube but the volume of videos being uploaded makes it difficult to police.

Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, told Bloomberg after the hearing that Section 230 was originally put in place to protect smaller tech companies in the 1990s rather than giants.

[…]

But Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, said the investigation could easily generate a gratuitous and unhealthy level of government control.

‘Just because a business is big doesn’t mean it’s bad,’ Sensenbrenner said Tuesday. He argued that breaking up big companies could hurt smaller firms around the U.S. and might compound privacy problems.

Apollo 11 Launched 50 Years Ago Today

Time to indulge your inner space geek.

Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin into an initial Earth-orbit of 114 by 116 miles. An estimated 650 million people watched Armstrong’s televised image and heard his voice describe the event as he took “…one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” on July 20, 1969.

Two hours, 44 minutes and one-and-a-half revolutions after launch, the S-IVB stage reignited for a second burn of five minutes, 48 seconds, placing Apollo 11 into a translunar orbit. The command and service module, or CSM, Columbia separated from the stage, which included the spacecraft-lunar module adapter, or SLA, containing the lunar module, or LM, Eagle. After transposition and jettisoning of the SLA panels on the S-IVB stage, the CSM docked with the LM. The S-IVB stage separated and injected into heliocentric orbit four hours, 40 minutes into the flight.

Facebook Fined for Sharing Users’ Data Without Consent

Shocking… the Democrats voted to protect Big Tech.

US regulators have approved a record $5bn (£4bn) fine on Facebook to settle an investigation into data privacy violations, reports in US media say.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been investigating allegations that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained the data of up to 87 million Facebook users.

[…]

The FTC began investigating Facebook in March 2018, following reports that Cambridge Analytica had accessed the data of tens of millions of its users.

The investigation focused on whether Facebook had violated a 2011 agreement under which it was required to clearly notify users and gain “express consent” to share their data.

Anonymous sources familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal on Friday that the $5bn fine was approved by the FTC in a 3-2 vote, which broke along party lines with Republican commissioners in favour and Democrats opposed.

Sources cited in other media also reported the same information.

 

I’m Listening

This should no longer be news. If you don’t know this already, you haven’t been paying attention.

Google acknowledged its contractors are able to listen to recordings of what people say to the company’s artificial-intelligence system, Google Assistant.

The company admitted on Thursday that humans can access recordings made by the Assistant, after some of its Dutch language recordings were leaked. Google is investigating the breach.

The recordings were obtained by the Belgian public broadcaster VRT, which reviewed more than 1,000 audio clips and found 153 had been captured accidentally.

Google Assistant begins automatically recording audio when prompted by a user, usually by saying a wake-up word or phrase like, “OK, Google”.

RIP Ross Perot

RIP

H Ross Perot was an American original. A self-made billionaire with a penchant for plain-speaking in his clipped north Texas twang, he built a reputation as a savvy technology entrepreneur and spent a small fortune helping US veterans and attempting to free American hostages abroad.

He was also a political harbinger.

His 1992 independent presidential bid – the most successful third-party candidacy in eight decades – exposed fault lines in the US political system that would some day result in electoral earthquakes. He capitalised on the thirst of American voters for an outsider who could disrupt two-party government and built a dedicated following with his populist, small-government, anti-trade, anti-globalist rhetoric.

Scooter Mania

In Wisconsin.

Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill Monday regulating electric scooters on roads and sidewalks.

Under the bipartisan measure, scooters must weigh less than 100 pounds and abide by a 15 mph speed limit. Local governments can prohibit use on sidewalks or streets with speed limits above 25 mph and restrict public rentals.

The law also exempts scooters from state vehicle registration requirements, though scooters must comply with lighting and braking requirements and scooter drivers must follow road rules.

In Copenhagen.

Danish police have arrested 28 people in Copenhagen for riding electric scooters while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Over the weekend 24 people were caught drink-driving scooters while four were intoxicated from recreational drugs.

The force announced the arrests on Twitter following a crackdown on the unsafe use of scooters in the Danish capital earlier this year.

Intoxicated drivers are liable for a 2,000 krone ($300; £235) fine.

I rode a couple of these while touring the Mall in D.C. a few weeks ago. It was a handy way to pack in the sights in less time. But they really do whip along and could do some real damage to the rider and other people.

Google’s Leftist Agenda Revealed

Again

A senior Google executive has been caught on an undercover video appearing to suggest the company is trying to stop ‘the next Trump situation’ in the 2020 presidential election.

Secret footage released by Project Veritas shows Google’s Head of Responsible Innovation, Jen Gennai, saying: ‘We all got screwed over in 2016, again it wasn’t just us, it was, the people got screwed over, the news media got screwed over, like, everybody got screwed over so we’ve rapidly been like, what happened there and how do we prevent it from happening again.’

A company insider provided Project Veritas with documents outlining Google’s explanation of ‘Machine Learning Fairness’ and ‘algorithmic unfairness,’ which appear to expose a liberal bent at the online giant.

A document leaked by the alleged insider contained language about addressing ‘unjust or prejudicial treatment,’ saying that even when search results are factually accurate, ‘it may be desirable to consider how we might help society reach a more fair and equitable state, via either product intervention or broader corporate social responsibility efforts.’

So much for this blog showing up in Google searches.

Facebook Money

It’s an interesting plan and Facebook certainly has the wherewithal to try it. The greatest flaw I see is that Facebook is, perhaps, the least trusted company on the planet. They are continually getting caught lying and abusing their users. Currency is all about trust that the value tomorrow will be consistent or predictable – with acceptable variances. Who is going to trust a Facebook currency?

Facebook Inc. unveiled plans for a new cryptocurrency called Libra this week. When it launches in 2020 or later, it will be a stablecoin–a digital currency that doesn’t fluctuate much because it’s supported by established government-backed currencies and securities.

The world’s largest social media company published a 12-page white paperon Libra and has more than 20 partners for the project. But there are still many questions. After a week of analysis, here’s what Bloomberg reporters and editors know about Libra, along with key unknowns that remain:

Joe Weisenthal, executive editor: digital news at Bloomberg:

For sure: Libra is being touted as a cryptocurrency, so it’s natural to use existing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum as mental models for what it could be. But it’s probably better to think instead about traditional peer-to-peer payment networks. Whether you’re talking about PayPal, Venmo, Square, WeChat, or even Western Union, all of these networks are in some way layered on top of the traditional financial system in order to ease some type of transaction (e-commerce, check-splitting, remittances). The problem is that these networks aren’t interoperable, and in many cases the fees can be quite high. Like all these other networks, Libra will be layered on top of the existing financial system, since each coin will be backed by traditional money in the bank to support a stable price. Unlike these other networks, however, there is an opportunity to create payments unification on a global scale, and at potentially a much lower cost. And in theory, anyone will one be able to build payment applications on top of Libra. Some might focus on friends splitting the cost of dinner. Others might be focused on remittance payments to developing markets. In the most extremely successful version of Libra, it’s not so much a cryptocurrency, but a global operating system for moving fiat money around.

Public Records Must Be Provided in their Original Digital Format

Hurrah, hurrah.

A Wisconsin appeals court has affirmed that officials must provide copies of electronic records in their original format.

The decision, released Wednesday, upholds a lower court’s order requiring state Rep. Scott Krug, R-Wisconsin Rapids, to turn over electronic copies of emails requested by The Progressive magazine editor Bill Lueders.

Lueders, who is president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, said the decision represents “a major win for requesters in Wisconsin.”

You might remember that I have been pushing for this for years. I file open records requests from time to time and it frustrates the heck out of me when governments insist on printing emails to give to me. It’s wasteful and imposes undue expenses on the requester for no good reason. I’m glad to see the courts insisting that government abide by the state’s Open Record Laws.

Nobody Wants a Surveillance State

Agree

A rare show of bipartisan unity broke out in Washington Wednesday as Republicans and Democrats on the House Oversight Committee expressed concerns over the rapid spread of facial recognition software used by technology companies.

“I don’t want to see an authoritarian surveillance state, whether it’s run by a government or whether it’s run by five corporations,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said in reference to Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Google and Facebook.

Drone Warning

Yikes.

‘Be cautious when purchasing [drone] technology from Chinese manufacturers as they can contain components that can compromise your data and share your information on a server accessed beyond the company itself,’ the advisory says.

The warning from U.S. DHS that’s titled ‘Chinese Manufactured Unmanned Aircraft Systems’ warns that sensitive flight data might be sent to their manufacturers in China, where it can be accessed by the government

DJI drones at the 3rd World Intelligence Congress, one of the most important hi-tech exhibitions in China showing the latest development and innovations in Intelligence technology, was held in Tianjin from May 16 to May 19

‘Organisations that conduct operations impacting national security or the Nation’s critical functions must remain especially vigilant as they may be at greater risk of espionage and theft of proprietary information,’ the alert also adds.

Nearly 80% of the drones used in the U.S. and Canada come from DJI, which is headquartered in Shenzhen, as reported by CNN.

Google Leans Left

We all know it, but just in case you didn’t… Google has a huge liberal bias. The next time you are looking for something, try the same search in multiple search engines and you’ll be surprised by the vastly different results you get.

Nearly all (86 percent) of the stories came from just 20 sources and of them, 62 percent were considered to be left-leaning.

The research sheds new light on the unprecedented power the search engine has in influencing the external traffic to news sites, a hot topic in the worlds of media and politics given Facebook’s recently reduced output.

For example, the researchers found that CNN got a 24 percent bump in traffic as a result of having its stories featured in the ‘Top Stories’ box.

The most featured sources, in order, were CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fox News, BBC, USA Today, LA Times, The Guardian, Politico, ABC News, CBS News, NPR, NBC News, CNBC, Reuters, Huffington Post, The Verge, Al Jazeera, The Hill and People.

For some stories there was a shortage of sources but a search for Rex Tillerson, the former Secretary of State, turfed up stories from 38 sources.

Despite the plethora of sources, 75 percent of the promoted stories about Tillerson came from The New York Times and CNN, the researchers found.

Two Wisconsinites Plead Guilty to Assisting ISIS

They are still an extremist threat.

In one Facebook post Dais wrote in part, “…I was and I continue to be on the doctrine of the Islamic State,” according to her plea agreement.

“She spread ISIS’ message of violence to numerous individuals in countless places,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Krueger said.

This included sharing step-by-step videos for making bombs and poison with potential ISIS attackers.

“Without people like Dais to perpetuate extremism online, ISIS’ reach would be much more constrained,” he said.

Two years earlier, Yosvany Padilla-Conde of Milwaukee conducted similar acts by helping a man named Jason Ludke try to provide materials and resources to the Islamic State Group.

Krueger said both cases reveal the continuing threat of homegrown terrorism.

“While ISIS no longer controls any significant parts of Iraq or Syria, they continue to exist online and in the hearts and minds of those who believe that violence against innocence is an acceptable means to an end,” he said.

Facebook “Unintentionally” Uploads Millions of Email Contacts

Uh huh

Social networking giant Facebook said on Wednesday evening it may have “unintentionally uploaded” the email contacts of up to 1.5 million users on its site, without their permission or knowledge, when they signed up for new accounts since May 2016.

Users affected by that incident were not just limited to the United States, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Those contacts were not shared with anyone and Facebook is deleting them, a company spokesperson told CNBC.

“We’ve fixed the underlying issue and are notifying people whose contacts were imported. People can also review and manage contacts they share with Facebook in their settings,” the spokesperson said.

Blackhole Breakthrough

Wow.

The first image of a black hole has been captured by astronomers, heralding a revolution in our understanding of the universe’s most enigmatic objects.

The picture shows a halo of dust and gas, tracing the outline of a colossal black hole, at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, 55 million light years from Earth.

The black hole itself – a cosmic trapdoor from which neither light nor matter can escape – is unseeable. But the latest observations take astronomers right to its threshold for the first time, illuminating the event horizon beyond which all known physical laws break down.

Pictures of Black Hole Coming Wednesday

So exciting!

Black holes are some of the most intriguing and mysterious objects in the universe, inspiring entire libraries of both scientific research and science fiction, from Einstein to the movie Interstellar. Yet despite the hold that their inconceivable gravity has on our imaginations, as well as our understanding of physics, humans have never actually seen a black hole.

That appears set to change Wednesday with the impending release of the first image taken of Sagittarius A, the black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. It’s a landmark moment for both science and technology made possible by the Event Horizon Telescope, which is actually an array telescopes spread out across the Earth.

[…]

The EHT is actually an array of radio telescopes on different sides of the globe that are linked to create what’s called a Very Long Baseline Interferometer (VLBI) the size of the Earth itself. The basic idea here is that radio telescopes in different locations are combining their signals to boost their power.

If you’ve seen pictures of the Very Large Array in New Mexico (featured prominently in the 1997 movie Contact) with its multiple telescopic dishes all working together, then you can visualize the concept: Just imagine Jodie Foster tapping into an array of dishes that are separated not by meters but by thousands of miles instead.

This planet-sized observatory is necessary because, as the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory explains in the below animation, while Sagittarius A is 4 million times as massive as our sun, it’s still really far away — a distance of about 26,000 light years.

This is, of course, good news for all people interested in not getting sucked into a black hole, but it makes the thing very hard to photograph; it would be comparable to trying to see the dimples on a golf ball in Los Angeles… from New York. Better get out your super zoom lens, which is also kind of what the Event Horizon Telescope is.