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Facebook Unfazed by $5B FTC Settlement
July 18, 2019
The Federal Trade Commission this week announced its approval of a $5 billion settlement with Facebook, ending a long-running investigation into the company's privacy practices. The commission's 3-2 vote was along party lines. The United States Department of Justice must finalize the settlement before the matter is closed. The DoJ's action will end the investigation that began early last year.
Mnuchin Sounds Alarm Over Facebook's Money-Minting Plan
July 17, 2019
The Treasury Department has "very serious concerns" about Facebook's new Libra cryptocurrency, according to Secretary Steve Mnuchin. "Libra could be misused by money launderers and terrorist financiers. Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, have been exploited to support billions of dollars of illicit activity, like cybercrime, tax evasion, extortion, ransomware, illicit drugs, human trafficking."
Code Cracker Turing to Be on 50-Quid Notes
July 16, 2019
Alan Turing, the British mathematician known for his World War II code-breaking exploits and for a test to distinguish between human and machine intelligence, will be on 50-pound notes in the UK by the end of 2021. The Bank of England, which made the announcement, explained that Turing, who died in 1954, was chosen from a field of 989 eligible characters after a public nomination period.
FBI, ICE Turn Drivers' Licenses Into Facial Recognition Gold
July 9, 2019
State motor vehicle departments have become a rich source of facial recognition data for and FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Researchers at Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy & Technology reportedly used public records requests to gather a cache of documents that show the agencies have turned state DMV databases into the foundation of a vast surveillance infrastructure.
The Threat of a Deepfake Fiasco
July 5, 2019
An AI technology called "deepfake" may be the next big threat we face as a society. Consider a recent video clip of Facebook CEO Marc Zuckerberg saying some outlandish things. You might think it is real -- but it's a deepfake. It's his image, and it sure sounds like him, but he never actually made that speech. "Can't be," you might think. "That has to be Zuckerberg talking." Wrong.
The Democratic Debate That Wasn't: How Tech Could Help Elections
July 1, 2019
I watched the Democratic debates last week and was struck by three things: I'd likely rather watch paint dry; the application of technology to improve the experience was nonexistent; and I'd bet that if the Democrats don't up their game President Trump will have them to thank when he wins re-election. I'll suggest some ways technology could be used to improve events.
The Growing Menace of Weaponized Deepfakes
June 27, 2019
The U.S. House Intelligence Committee recently heard expert testimony on the growing threat posed by "deepfakes" -- altered videos and other AI-generated false information -- and what it could mean for the 2020 general elections, as well as the country's national security overall. The technologies collectively known as "deepfakes" can be used to manipulate and falsify images and videos.
NSA Admits Improper Collection of Phone Data, 2nd Time Around
June 27, 2019
The ACLU has released documents showing the NSA improperly collected Americans' call and text logs in November 2017 and in February and October 2018. The unauthorized collections occurred just four months after the agency announced it was deleting more than 620 million call detail records acquired since 2015 under Title V of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Chinese Hackers Linked to Global Attacks on Telcos
June 26, 2019
Chinese hackers likely are responsible for a series of cyberattacks against telecommunications companies around the world, security researchers have reported. The campaign, dubbed "Operation Soft Cell," has been active since 2012, according to Cybereason. There is some evidence suggesting even earlier activity against the telecommunications providers, all of whom were outside North America.
Proposed Law Would Force Big Tech to Reveal Value of Consumer Data
June 25, 2019
A Democrat and a Republican have filed a U.S. Senate bill to require companies to report to financial regulators and to the public what consumer data they collect and how they leverage it for profit. "When a big tech company says its product is free, consumers are the ones being sold," said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. "These 'free' products track everything we do."
Uber Drones to Make Meal Drops This Summer
June 21, 2019
Uber Elevate, the aerial arm of rideshare service Uber, will test a fast food delivery by drone service later this summer in San Diego. Delivery destinations won't be houses or apartment buildings, however, but instead will be "designated safe landing zones." Those landing zones could include the roof of a parked Uber vehicle in one scenario. An Uber courier would hand-deliver it to the consumer.
In Zuck We Trust: Facebook to Launch Own Cryptocurrency
June 19, 2019
Facebook's plans to mint its own digital coin will test the company's consumer credibility. After being savaged for months for its cavalier attitude toward users' privacy, the social network will be asking those same users to trust its new cryptocurrency. The currency, called "Libra," will be stashed in a digital wallet, the first product of new Facebook financial services subsidiary Calibra.
China-US Trade Tension Is Causing Irreparable Damage to High-Tech
June 12, 2019
While trade disputes between countries are nothing new and seldom are remembered, the ongoing one between China and the United States may change the course of the electronics industry going forward. In the beginning of the dispute proposed tariffs excluded electronics for the most part. The U.S. even modified some initial proposals to avoid impacting Apple and other U.S. tech companies.
News Industry Ad Study Knocked as 'Tripe'
June 12, 2019
A study that estimates Google last year raked in $4.7 billion from news content has drawn widespread criticism. That $4.7 billion is a conservative estimate, according to the News Media Alliance, the trade group that released the study. That's because the estimate doesn't take into account Google's advertising revenue from publishers and data collected from news content.
New Antitrust Probe Tightens Screws on Big Tech
June 5, 2019
The U.S. House of Representatives Antitrust Subcommittee has opened an investigation into competition in digital markets, increasing the pressure on big tech companies over antitrust issues. The subcommittee is part of the House Judiciary Committee. The bipartisan investigation will include a series of hearings on antitrust, commercial and administrative law about the rise of market power online.
The Cannabis Rush: Where There's Smoke, There's E-Commerce
May 31, 2019
The budding online cannabis industry has a long way to go before it delivers bumper crops. The market for both recreational and medicinal cannabis has been plowed and pre-seeded by the previous underground market and the impetus of state laws legalizing its use. Still, the cannabis industry is almost invisible online, cloaked as it is in a broad ad and search engine blackout.
Qualcomm and Huawei: Now Things Are Just Getting Weird
May 27, 2019
Qualcomm just lost its seemingly no-lose case against the FTC, largely because it seems the judge was only physically in the room during the trial. The ruling makes it look like she and I observed very different trials. In addition, the U.S. apparently declared war against Huawei, which actually could benefit Huawei. The result of both efforts effectively could be to give the 5G market to China.
T-Mobile-Sprint Merger Teeters Between FCC Approval, DoJ Rejection
May 23, 2019
United States Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai this week gave the green light to a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, currently the third- and fourth-largest mobile carriers respectively. The nation's top telecom regulator agreed to the $26 billion merger, but with some conditions -- the most notable being that Sprint would sell off its Boost Mobile prepaid cellphone brand.
ARM Joins Firms Shunning Huawei's Business
May 23, 2019
British mobile device software design firm ARM has ordered its staff to stop working with Chinese smartphone giant Huawei, in compliance with a ban issued by President Trump. Under an executive order he signed last week, foreign companies and individuals are prohibited from buying United States technology and services without first obtaining special approval from the U.S. government.
US Post Office to Test-Drive Autonomous Trucks
May 22, 2019
The U.S. Postal Service has announced a pilot project using self-driving trucks. It will conduct the two-week experiment in collaboration with TuSimple, an autonomous driving technology company based in San Diego. TuSimple's contract with the postal service calls for one of the company's self-driving trucks to make five round trips hauling USPS trailers between Dallas and Phoenix.
EU's Counterattack on Junk News May Help Protect Elections
May 22, 2019
Government efforts to minimize the effects of junk and fake news circulating on social media ahead of this week's EU parliamentary elections may have succeeded, suggest results of a study conducted by Oxford University's Computational Propaganda Project. The European Commission undertook targeted actions to counter junk news last year.
Cybercriminals Score Billions in Cryptocurrency Thefts
May 21, 2019
Is anyone surprised to learn that in just the first quarter of 2019 more than $1.2 billion worth of cryptocurrency was stolen? Probably not. This story follows the old line from bank robber Willie Sutton who is credited with saying that he robbed banks "because that's where the money is." So not much has changed. Cryptocurrencies are not exactly money, though, even if they do have a market value.
5G Could Mess With Accuracy of Weather Forecasts
May 21, 2019
Next-generation 5G mobile communications technology could have a harmful impact on weather forecasting in the United States, based on expert testimony presented before a U.S. House committee during a hearing on the future of weather forecasting. Interference from 5G wireless phones could reduce the accuracy of weather forecasts by 30 percent, said Neil Jacobs, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at NOAA.
Baltimore Held Hostage in 2nd Ransomware Attack
May 10, 2019
Baltimore officials have admitted that the city government once again has been victimized by ransomware -- the second such attack in just over a year. City computers reportedly were infected with the RobinHood ransomware virus. Hackers told city officials that they would unlock the computers in return for payment of three bitcoins per system, or 13 bitcoins for the entire system.
Amazon Touts Small Biz Success on Its Platform
May 8, 2019
Third-party gross physical merchandise sales on Amazon, made primarily by SMBs, accounted for more than half the units sold in the company's stores and totaled more than $160 billion in 2018, according to Amazon's 2019 SMB Impact Report. SMBs selling on Amazon created about 1.6 million jobs worldwide, up from 900,000 in 2017. Amazon gave startups more than $500 million in AWS credits in 2018.
Cybersecurity Pros Join 'Right to Repair' Battle
May 2, 2019
An advocacy organization formed by cybersecurity professionals has joined the fight for "right to repair" legislation, which would allow consumers and third parties to repair electronic equipment without voiding manufacturers' warranties. Legislators in about 20 states have been working on some form of this legislation, but they have been stymied by a number of tech companies and industry groups.
Facebook's Ad Library API Draws Fire
May 1, 2019
Facebook has come under fire for its Ad Library API, which lets users perform customized keyword searches of all active and inactive ads related to politics or issues of national importance stored there. Released in beta last summer, the archive became available to everyone in March, following pressure from Mozilla ahead of the EU's upcoming parliamentary elections.
What Social Can Learn From CRM
April 25, 2019
There's been a chorus of calls from all corners for social media regulation -- from pundits like me to the halls of Congress and even from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself. The social media community seems tied up in knots over what to do about the abuse happening within their communities, but if you look elsewhere you might see signs of solutions that could solve some fundamental problems.
FAA Greenlights Wing Aviation Drone Deliveries
April 25, 2019
The Federal Aviation Administration has given its first air drone delivery certification in the United States to Alphabet's Wing Aviation, paving the way for the service to begin commercial package delivery in Blacksburg, Virginia. "This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy," said U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
EU Gives Nod to 'Big Brother' Biometrics Database
April 24, 2019
The European Parliament overwhelmingly approved two measures that would integrate the region's fragmented law enforcement and home affairs databases into a centralized one that would include biometric information on some 350 million EU and non-EU citizens. It approved creation of the new system on two votes -- one to merge border control systems, and one to merge law enforcement systems.
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