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Officials Named in Panama Papers Cower Behind China's Great Firewall
April 13, 2016
Chinese authorities have issued censorship instructions to the media following the release of the Panama Papers, according to news reports published last week. The leaked documents reportedly listed several top Chinese officials who used Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to set up offshore companies. The names include President Xi Jinping's brother-in-law Deng Jiagui.
Next Apple Watch Will Be More 'S' Than 2
April 13, 2016
Most of the changes in the next version of the Apple Watch will be on the inside and not the outside of the case, according to an investors note issued Monday by Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities. His comments are consistent with rumors circulating last summer that the design of the next version of Apple's wrist computer would remain essentially unchanged.
CFPB Asserts Jurisdiction Over E-Commerce Privacy Regulation
April 12, 2016
Another federal agency has entered the arena for regulating e-commerce companies regarding the protection of consumer data. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has closed its first and so far only privacy case with a consent agreement between itself and an online payments processor. The CFPB charged that Dwolla misled consumers that its information was encrypted and stored securely.
Samsung's AR Vision Includes Smart Contact Lenses
April 12, 2016
Samsung has been granted a patent for a smart contact lens, according to news reports published last week. The lens is equipped with a tiny display, a camera, an antenna, and sensors that detect movement and eye blinks. Eye blinks would provide the input, and a smartphone would be needed to process images. A user blinks to take pictures or interact with data displayed on the smart contact lens.
Publishers Put Brave Ad-Blocking Browser on Notice
April 11, 2016
A group of newspaper publishers last week sent what amounted to a cease-and-desist letter to Brave Software, which offers the HTTPS Brave browser with built-in ad blocking and tracking protection. Brave has offered to let publishers make money off blocked ads by partnering with them "for a lower fee than they pay their third-party data-tracking partners," CEO Brendan Eich said.
Ford After Dark: Self-Driving Car 'Sees' All
April 11, 2016
Ford on Monday announced that it has been testing its Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicle with no headlights on remote desert roads at night. While such a task would be quite perilous for a human driver, it was an important step in developing a fully autonomous vehicle, the company said. The test vehicle relied on LiDAR technology for navigation.
Learning to Love Virtual Reality
April 11, 2016
At Nvidia's technology conference, I saw a variety of new technologies showcased. From deep learning systems -- computers that arguably are smarter than we are -- to self-driving cars that can drive better than we can, the technological advances on display made me feel just a tad inadequate. One way to get over my sudden concern over obsolescence was to check out the virtual reality showcase.
A Convoy of Autonomous Trucks Just Platooned Across Europe
April 9, 2016
A dozen trucks utilizing an autonomous driving system arrived Wednesday in Rotterdam, Netherlands, after traveling across Europe in the European Truck Platooning Challenge. The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, along with the Directorate General Rijkswaterstaat, the Netherlands Vehicle Authority and the Conference of European Directors of Roads were behind the initiative.
Illicit Weapons Traders Flock to Facebook
April 8, 2016
Facebook has served as an online marketplace for armed militias in Libya and other war-torn countries, according to a news report published Wednesday. An array of light weapons bought and sold after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi unleashed a torrent of unregulated commerce in Libya, which previously had controlled online communications strictly, according to a study by Armament Research Services.
White House Takes a Pass on Encryption Debate
April 7, 2016
It appears that the Obama administration will refrain from giving its outspoken support to any legislation that aims to compel high-tech companies to help law enforcement agencies crack mobile phone encryption. On the other hand, it won't level any outspoken opposition either. Introduction of such a bill -- sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Richard Burr -- is expected soon.
Salesforce's MetaMind Buy Fuels CRM's AI Arms Race
April 7, 2016
MetaMind, a startup focused on deep learning, this week announced that it has been acquired by Salesforce. The company's expertise is in natural language processing -- letting computers analyze relationships between words. "We'll be able to offer customers real AI solutions with breakthrough capabilities that further automate and personalize customer support," MetaMind CEO Richard Socher said.
Volkswagen Picks Mirantis to Build Massive OpenStack Cloud
April 7, 2016
Mirantis on Wednesday announced that Volkswagen Group has selected Mirantis OpenStack to power its cloud applications. The selection process involved a series of cloud-to-cloud performance trials between Red Hat and Mirantis, one of the last pure-play OpenStack companies. It's ideally positioned to pursue and win large-scale deals like the Volkswagen project, analyst Charles King said.
Facebook AI Fills In the Photo Blanks for Blind Users
April 6, 2016
Facebook on Monday introduced automated alt text, a new tool that describes what's in an image to help visually impaired users engage more on the site. People using screen readers on iOS devices will hear a description of the items contained in a photo when they swipe past pictures on a Facebook page. The feature is available for iOS users in the U.S., the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Gadget Ogling: Food Frenzies and Rollerblade Off-Roading
April 6, 2016
Of all the kitchen gadgets I own, the rice cooker is possibly my second-most favorite after the tea kettle. Sure, I could make rice in a pot, but the dedicated rice cooker makes it much easier to attend to other details instead of watching the pot. Xiaomi's pressurized version might prove even better. It recognizes the type of rice from a barcode scan and cooks it perfectly.
FCC Labels Aim to Demystify Broadband Service Plans
April 5, 2016
The Federal Communications Commission on Monday announced a plan to create label disclosures that would give consumers a clear picture of the pricing, speed and bandwidth they are paying for under high-speed Internet contracts. The FCC's Consumer Advisory Committee proposed the nutrition-like labels amid concerns that providers were not transparent enough.
Lawrence Livermore Lab Buys Brainy IBM Supercomputer
April 5, 2016
IBM last week announced that Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has purchased its TrueNorth processor-based cognitive computing platform. The purchase included an end-to-end ecosystem and a multisocket host node. The lab will build a supercomputer based on the platform to see how neural networks might be used in the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration's cybersecurity program.
FBI May Help Local Law Enforcement Agencies Crack Encrypted iPhones
April 4, 2016
Weeks after backing down from its litigation demanding Apple's help to access encrypted data on the San Bernardino terrorist's iPhone, the FBI appears to be taking full advantage of its newly discovered forensic prowess by offering assistance to law enforcement agencies across the country. The agency has sent out letters letting local officials know that it has gained access to the encrypted data.
Oculus' Controversial ToS a Stark Reminder of Its Facebook Parentage
April 4, 2016
Oculus last week updated its terms of service to accompany the release of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, raising privacy and content ownership concerns. Software will be installed to monitor how the device is used, and the usage data will be sent back to Oculus and its parent company, Facebook, according to the terms of service. Collected data could be shared with third parties.
Amazon Doubles Down on Dash
April 4, 2016
Amazon last week announced that it had increased to more than 100 the number of Dash buttons Prime users can install in their homes to replenish supplies of household goods. Dash buttons, which essentially are free for Amazon Prime members, are connected devices that link to a customer's account. With the press of a button, they can order shipments of the product associated with a Dash module.
The Hololens Academy: How I Became a Novice Wizard
April 4, 2016
At last week's Microsoft Build conference, I attended the Hololens Academy -- a whirlwind effort to turn me into a master programmer able to create things out of thin air. It failed. Apparently it takes longer than an hour to teach someone who hasn't coded in decades to be a master programmer -- go figure. However, by the end of the class I was gleefully throwing fireballs.
FCC Extends Broadband Lifeline to Low-Income Subcribers
April 2, 2016
The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted 3-2 to approve a $2.25 billion program to subsidize broadband Internet service and bundled voice and data packages for low-income consumers. The new subsidy is part of a major overhaul of the agency's Lifeline program, which has provided affordable phone access for decades. The vote was a long-awaited reform for many low-income communities.
DC Healthcare Provider Limps On After Malware Attack
April 1, 2016
Despite its computer systems being infected with malware since Monday, MedStar Health, which operates 10 hospitals and more than 250 outpatient facilities in and around Washington, D.C., has continued to provide patient care at near normal levels, according to several updates released this week. Since the malware attack occurred, MedStar Health has treated an average of 3,380 patients a day.
ACLU Finds Widespread Use of All Writs Act to Compel Cooperation
April 1, 2016
The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday announced that it had identified dozens of criminal cases in which the government has made requests for cooperation in unlocking encrypted phones -- both of Apple and of Google. The government has used the All Writs Act to compel a phone manufacturer to hand over data to law enforcement in a total of 63 cases, the ACLU report shows.
Stakes High as Tesla Gets Ready to Pull the Wraps Off Model 3
March 31, 2016
Tesla fans around the world queued up to add their names to a reservation list in anticipation of Tesla Motors' planned Thursday night unveiling of its Model 3. The long-awaited new addition to the Tesla line is a more affordable sedan that targets not just early adopters, but a larger audience of luxury car owners. Company founder Elon Musk has shared key details in advance of the reveal.
Microsoft Tells Devs to Talk to the Bots
March 31, 2016
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and members of his leadership team, speaking to developers Wednesday at the Build 2016 conference, introduced their vision to infuse human speech and machine learning into the company's consumer and enterprise businesses. Nadella and Executive VP Terry Myerson introduced upgrades to Windows 10 and Cortana as well as technology called "Conversations as a Platform."
Gadget Ogling: Honey, I Shrunk the iPhone
March 31, 2016
The iPhone SE packs almost everything from the iPhone 6s into a handset that looks almost identical to the iPhone 5. The only thing that's really missing is Force Touch. It's a smart play, trying to convince iPhone 4 and 5 owners that they can still upgrade to -- almost -- the latest model without the need to take on a device with a larger screen.
Oracle Ups Java Damages Demand to $9.3B
March 30, 2016
Oracle has asked for $9.3 billion in damages in its multiyear lawsuit against Google over the use of Java in Android, according to a report filed last week in federal court. That amount is reportedly about 10 times what it had initially asked for. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for May 9 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
FCC Commissioner Sounds Alarm Over Netflix Throttling
March 30, 2016
FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly on Tuesday suggested the government should investigate Netflix's practice of throttling video content delivery to customers using mobile devices. However, Netflix's video throttling was not a violation of the FCC's Net neutrality rules, O'Rielly also said. Netflix last week announced plans to offer a data saver feature for mobile apps beginning in May.
You Rang? Microsoft's Holoportation Redefines Face-to-Face Communication
March 29, 2016
Microsoft on Monday unveiled its version of a teleporter, called "holoportation," which was designed to transmit 3D models of people anywhere in the world. Holoportation compresses, transmits and reconstructs the 3D scans to Microsoft's HoloLens and other head-mounted displays. It lets headset wearers interact with remote users in 3D as if they were in the same space, according to Microsoft.
Feds Crack iPhone, Warn Apple to Keep One Eye Open
March 29, 2016
After a bitter legal battle over encryption and privacy rights, the Department of Justice on Monday announced it would back out of its case against Apple because the FBI was able to crack the code of the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters. The department had asked a federal magistrate judge to force Apple to help the FBI crack open the encrypted smartphone.
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What best reflects your opinion on online privacy?
We need new laws to curb government spying.
It's dead -- Google, Facebook and others killed it.
Personalized advertising is the worst -- it's creepy.
It's achievable through encryption and other tech.
It's an overblown issue -- I have nothing to hide.