Monday, October 22, 2018

Tech lobby outlines its own set of privacy regulations | Axios

See this ITI press release for details
"A leading tech lobbying group in Washington Monday introduced a plan for regulations to protect user privacy online, becoming the latest player to try to shape new legislation that the industry sees as increasingly likely.

The big picture: Lawmakers in Washington — spurred on by new rules enacted in Europe and California — are trying to craft their own privacy legislation. Industry groups are laying out their own guidelines for policymakers as they look to shape the debate.

Details: The framework from ITI, whose members include Google and Facebook, is designed to guide policymakers in the United States and around the world as they weigh concerns about data privacy online, said ITI president Dean Garfield."
Tech lobby outlines its own set of privacy regulations | Axios

Republicans Find a Facebook Workaround: Their Own Apps | NYT

Later in the article: "“It’s creating a safe space for people who share a viewpoint, who feel like the open social networks are not fun places for them.”" On a related note, see To Curb Terrorist Propaganda Online, Look to YouTube. No, Really. | Wired
"The apps deliver curated partisan news feeds on what are effectively private social media platforms, free from the strictures and content guidelines imposed by Silicon Valley giants. Some allow supporters to comment on posts or contribute their own, with less risk that their posts will be flagged as offensive or abusive.

Many apps have video-game-like features where users can earn points for making campaign donations or contacting their legislators. Amass enough points and a supporter can attain increasing status levels — like “BigLeague” or “Patriot” — or even gain a spot on the app’s leader board.

Crucially, these mini-platforms harness the powerful reach of platforms like Facebook and Twitter even while competing with them. Some apps give users the option of posting on Twitter or Facebook messages that are scripted by the campaigns, combining the seeming authenticity of organic social media posts with the message discipline of paid advertising."
Republicans Find a Facebook Workaround: Their Own Apps | NYT

Elon Musk says first tunnel for proposed underground transportation network will open in December | LA Times

Also see Elon Musk’s Boring Company announces completion and launch of first tunnel by December | Electrek
"Elon Musk announced Sunday that the first tunnel of a proposed underground transportation network across Los Angeles County would open Dec. 10.
“The first tunnel is almost done,” Musk wrote to his 23.1 million followers shortly after 5 p.m.
Musk’s Boring Co. is building the tunnel beneath the city of Hawthorne, part of his grand vision for a transportation network that whisks commuters across the county.
The company has said its technology could move drivers, as well as pods carrying passengers and bicyclists, through tunnels at speeds of up to 130 mph."
Elon Musk says first tunnel for proposed underground transportation network will open in December | LA Times

Friday, October 19, 2018

Facebook hires former deputy PM Sir Nick Clegg | BBC

Later in the article: "The BBC understands Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg were personally involved in the recruitment."
"Facebook has hired former deputy prime minister Sir Nick Clegg as head of its global affairs and communications team.
The 51-year-old politician was leader of the Liberal Democrats and formed a coalition government with David Cameron and the Conservatives in 2010."
Facebook hires former deputy PM Sir Nick Clegg | BBC

Exclusive: Twitter pulls down bot network that pushed pro-Saudi talking points about disappeared journalist | NBC News

Also see Conservatives mount a whisper campaign smearing Khashoggi in defense of Trump | The Washington Post
"Twitter suspended a network of suspected Twitter bots on Thursday that pushed pro-Saudi Arabia talking points about the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the past week.

Twitter became aware of some of the bots on Thursday when NBC News presented the company with a spreadsheet of hundreds of accounts that tweeted and retweeted the same pro-Saudi government tweets at the same time.

The list was compiled by Josh Russell, an Indiana-based information technology professional who has previously identified foreign influence campaigns on Twitter and Reddit."
Exclusive: Twitter pulls down bot network that pushed pro-Saudi talking points about disappeared journalist | NBC News

Facebook has a fake news 'war room' – but is it really working? | The Guardian

Also see Inside Facebook's Plan to Safeguard the 2018 Election | Wired and Fighting Election Interference in Real Time | Facebook Newsroom
"The stakes are high as the US approaches critical midterm elections in November and the 2020 presidential race. WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service, has also been linked to widespread false news stories that have led to violence and mob lynchings in India. The platform has further struggled to mitigate harms it is causing in Myanmar, where an explosion of social media hate speech has contributed to violence and genocide. American hate groups and far-right activists have also weaponized the site.

On Wednesday morning, a group of journalists crowded outside a windowless room, snapping iPhone photos of a closed door with a small sign stuck to it that said “WAR ROOM” in red letters. Inside, digital dashboards displayed real-time information about activity on the platform. CNN played in the background, and the wall displayed a large American flag and motivational posters saying “Focus on impact” and “Bring the world closer together”."
Facebook has a fake news 'war room' – but is it really working? | The Guardian

Apple announces iPad Pro and Mac event for October 30th | The Verge

10/30 10:00 Eastern
"Apple isn’t done with product events for 2018. Today the company issued media invites for an October 30th event in Brooklyn, New York where it’s widely expected we’ll see new iPad Pro tablets and potentially several updates to the Mac lineup. The event’s tagline is “there’s more in the making,” and its location is a bit of a surprise. It was reasonable to believe Apple would again present its new products in the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Park after last month’s iPhone event.
[...]
The new iPad Pro is rumored to have slim bezels and Face ID, expanding Apple’s your-face-is-your-passcode technology beyond the iPhone for the first time. It’s also been reported that this year’s iPad Pro will switch over from Lightning to USB-C and be available in 11- and 12.9-inch display sizes.

The October event is where Apple will likely announce its long-awaited successor to the MacBook Air laptop. In August, Bloomberg reported that the laptop will have slimmer bezels than the Air and have a high-resolution Retina display. It’s expected to slot in beneath the 12-inch MacBook as the company’s new low-cost laptop option."
 Apple announces iPad Pro and Mac event for October 30th | The Verge

Tesla chief Elon Musk unveils a $35,000 Model 3 (that actually costs a bit more) | The Washington Post

New Musk math; on a related note, see 5 Automakers Closest To Losing The Federal Tax Credit (Inside EVs)
"Musk said on Twitter that the sedan, with its “mid-range” battery pack, would cost $35,000, bringing it in line with the mass-market model he had promised for years would revolutionize the availability of electric cars.

But that price takes into account federal and state tax rebates. Before the discounts, it will sell for $45,000 — though the company says buyers should think of the car as far cheaper, because of the money they’ll save on gas.

Musk sparked a frenzy of customer reservations in 2016 when he said the Model 3 would cost $35,000 before incentives, such as a $7,500 federal tax credit — a price point that would help Tesla expand beyond its traditional range of well-heeled buyers. That model, however, remains delayed until 2019, the company said Thursday."
Tesla chief Elon Musk unveils a $35,000 Model 3 (that actually costs a bit more) | The Washington Post

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Facebook tentatively concludes spammers were behind recent data breach: WSJ | Reuters

Back to business as usual?...
"Facebook Inc. has tentatively concluded that spammers looking to make money, and not a nation-state, were behind the largest-ever data theft at the social media company, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
The people behind the attack were a group of Facebook and Instagram spammers that present themselves as a digital marketing company, and whose activities were previously known to Facebook’s security team, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the company's internal investigation."
Facebook tentatively concludes spammers were behind recent data breach: WSJ | Reuters

Are Consumers Worried Enough to Buy a Personal Computer Server? | Bloomberg

Perhaps a less cloudy future for personal information management?
"Servers make the modern internet possible. Millions of these workhorse computers hum away in remote data centers of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. running websites, sending information to smartphone apps and crunching data for cloud-based software programs.

Privacy Labs Inc., a startup based near Microsoft headquarters just outside Seattle, wants to upend all this in the name of digital security. On Wednesday, it began selling a server that runs email, contacts and calendar services through a personal web domain. The Helm Personal Server is an angular gadget, about the size of an open paperback book, that sits on a side table or desk rather than in a data center. Information is stored and encrypted on the device, not in the cloud."
Are Consumers Worried Enough to Buy a Personal Computer Server? | Bloomberg

Watch Out Workers, Algorithms Are Coming to Replace You — Maybe -- NYT

From a timely AI reality check, part of a NYT AI special report
"Over the past five years, the Israeli author and historian Yuval Noah Harari has quietly emerged as a bona fide pop-intellectual. His 2014 book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” is a sprawling account of human history from the Stone Age to the 21st century; Ridley Scott, who directed “Alien,” is co-leading its screen adaptation. Mr. Harari’s latest book, “21 Lessons for the 21st Century,” is an equally ambitious look at key issues shaping contemporary global conversations — from immigration to nationalism, climate change to artificial intelligence. Mr. Harari recently spoke about the benefits and dangers of A.I. and its potential to upend the ways we live, learn and work. The conversation has been edited and condensed."
Watch Out Workers, Algorithms Are Coming to Replace You — Maybe -- NYT

Craig Newmark, Newspaper Villain, Is Working to Save Journalism -- NYT

From a profile of Craig's to-do list
"Craigslist was fast, free and popular, which means you could be pretty sure of getting what you wanted or getting rid of what you didn’t want.

Newspaper income from classifieds, which had provided up to 40 percent of the industry’s revenue, immediately plummeted. Researchers eventually estimated that Craigslist had drained $5 billion from American newspapers over a seven-year period. In the Bay Area, the media was especially hard hit
Mr. Newmark is trying to stop the bleeding — although not here. He is among a gaggle of West Coast technology moguls who are riding to the rescue of the beleaguered East Coast media."
Craig Newmark, Newspaper Villain, Is Working to Save Journalism -- NYT

Computer Stories: A.I. Is Beginning to Assist Novelists -- NYT

Author different
"Unlike Mr. French a quarter-century ago, Mr. Sloan probably will not use his computer collaborator as a selling point for the finished book. He’s restricting the A.I. writing in the novel to an A.I. computer that is a significant character, which means the majority of the story will be his own inspiration. But while he has no urge to commercialize the software, he is intrigued by the possibilities. Megasellers like John Grisham and Stephen King could relatively easily market programs that used their many published works to assist fans in producing authorized imitations.

As for the more distant prospects, another San Francisco Bay Area science fiction writer long ago anticipated a time when novelists would turn over the composing to computerized “wordmills.” In Fritz Leiber’s “The Silver Eggheads,” published in 1961, the human “novelists” spend their time polishing the machines and their reputations. When they try to rebel and crush the wordmills, they find they have forgotten how to write."
Computer Stories: A.I. Is Beginning to Assist Novelists -- NYT

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Scribd partners with The New York Times for a cheaper joint subscription -- The Verge

For anyone looking for a lot more to read... (Note: the offer is for new subscribers only, but I assume current NYT subscribers can cancel their existing subscriptions and sign up for the bundle)
"If you already have or are looking into a subscription for The New York Times, then Scribd has a bundle for you that’s a great deal: for $12.99 a month, you can subscribe to both NYT and Scribd.

Scribd is an unlimited reading subscription service that enables you to read books, newspapers, and magazines, as well as listen to audiobooks. The new plan extends beyond just Scribd — which is $8.99 monthly — and includes the entirety of The New York Times website. As part of the bundle, you also get access to The New York Times Digital Archive, and The New York Times app via their Basic Digital Access plan. Usually, a full NYT subscription costs $14.99 monthly."
Scribd partners with The New York Times for a cheaper joint subscription -- The Verge

Facebook is reportedly working on a TV camera that can stream video -- The Verge

In other Facebook news, see It turns out that Facebook could in fact use data collected from its Portal in-home video device to target you with ads (Recode)
"Earlier this month, Facebook announced Portal, a camera-equipped smart device that’s meant to compete with Amazon’s Echo Show. But the company’s hardware ambitions apparently go far beyond that: Cheddar is reporting that Facebook is working on a TV camera that would offer Portal-like video chatting on a bigger screen and allow users to stream content from Facebook Watch.

If the device — said to be codenamed “Ripley” — makes it to market, Facebook would enter into another massive smart home battleground, facing off against Amazon, Apple, Google, and Roku for valuable set-top box space. Facebook’s addition of a camera, which essentially turns your entire TV into a massive Facebook Portal, would be a differentiator for the current marketplace. (Microsoft already tried this exact thing with Skype for the Xbox One’s Kinect camera, down to the in-room tracking.)"
Facebook is reportedly working on a TV camera that can stream video -- The Verge

Civil’s token sale has failed. Now what? Refunds, for one thing — and then another sale -- NiemanLab

Also see What's Next for Civil (Civil founder Matthew Iles)
"It was clear — definitely by midnight last night, but also in the days and weeks leading up to yesterday — that journalism blockchain platform Civil’s initial coin offering, in which it aimed to raise $8 million, was not going to work. Civil ended up raising about $1.4 million, and around three-quarters of that was acquired by ConsenSys, Civil’s seed investor.

Some of the things that went wrong are clear. It was very hard to buy into Civil, though in the last couple of weeks the company had started letting people buy tokens with cash and was also, up to the last minute, asking possible contributors to email Civil customer service for help buying tokens.

“The biggest things to know are that a) we’re going to try this again in the near future, under more reasonable terms; and b) this doesn’t impact the grant funding for any of Civil’s initial, ‘First Fleet’ newsrooms, which will continue publishing per the terms of their respective agreements,” Civil cofounder Matt Coolidge told me in an email."
Civil’s token sale has failed. Now what? Refunds, for one thing — and then another sale -- NiemanLab

'Swipe right to sue’: Now you can file lawsuits the same way you find hookups on Tinder -- The Washington Post

Sue different
"Exorbitant legal fees, seemingly endless bureaucracy and an uncertain time investment mean that the decision to pursue legal action against a company or an individual is often fraught with hesitation.

But the founder of a legal-services app says his product now allows users to sue someone with their smartphones and claim awards from class-action lawsuits the same way they’d select a match on Tinder -- with a quick “swipe right to sue.”

Since those new services launched Wednesday, the app, known as DoNotPay, has been downloaded more than 10,000 times, according to its founder, Joshua Browder, a 21-year-old senior at Stanford University who has been labeled the “Robin Hood of the Internet.” As an 18-year-old, Browder created a bot that helped people fight parking tickets in New York, London and Seattle, and he later created another bot to help people sue Equifax after a data breach left 143 million American consumers vulnerable to identity theft last year."
'Swipe right to sue’: Now you can file lawsuits the same way you find hookups on Tinder -- The Washington Post

Facebook’s former security chief warns of tech’s ‘negative impacts’ — and has a plan to help solve them -- The Washington Post

Also see Facebook’s ex-security chief will start a new center to bring Washington and Silicon Valley together (The Verge)
"“There aren’t processes to thoughtfully think through these trade-offs,” he said in an interview ahead of his talk at the university’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. “You end up with these for-profit, very powerful organizations that are not democratically accountable, making decisions that are in their best and often short-term interest … without there being a much more open and democratic discussion of what these issues are.”

He hopes the new initiative, called the Stanford Internet Observatory, will help unite “sometimes warring factions” of academia, tech companies and Washington policymakers to work together to help solve “the negative impacts technology can have on society,” he said."
Facebook’s former security chief warns of tech’s ‘negative impacts’ — and has a plan to help solve them -- The Washington Post

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

As the Internet Splinters, the World Suffers -- NYT

Final paragraphs:
"What this future will bring for Europe and the United States is not clear. Mr. Gomes’s leaked speech from inside Google sounded almost dystopian at times. “This is a world none of us have ever lived in before,” Mr. Gomes told employees. “All I am saying, we have built a set of hacks, and we have kept them.” He seemed to hint at scenarios the tech sector had never imagined before. The world may be a very different place since the election of Donald Trump, but it’s still hard to imagine that what’s deployed in China will ever be deployed at home. Yet even the best possible version of the disaggregated web has serious — though still uncertain — implications for a global future: What sorts of ideas and speech will become bounded by borders? What will an increasingly disconnected world do to the spread of innovation and to scientific progress? What will consumer protections around privacy and security look like as the internets diverge? And would the partitioning of the internet precipitate a slowing, or even a reversal, of globalization?

A chillier relationship with Europe and increasing hostilities with China spur on the trend toward Balkanization — and vice versa, creating a feedback loop. If things continue along this path, the next decade may see the internet relegated to little more than just another front on the new cold war."
As the Internet Splinters, the World Suffers -- NYT

Fidelity just made it easier for hedge funds and other pros to invest in cryptocurrencies -- CNBC

Highlights below; for more details, see Fidelity Digital Assets: The Journey From Idea To Market (Fidelity Digital Assets on Medium):
  • "Fidelity Investments, which administers more than $7.2 trillion in client assets, announced a new and separate company called Fidelity Digital Asset Services on Monday.
  • The firm will handle custody for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and will execute trades on multiple exchanges for investors such as hedge funds and family offices. 
  • Other crypto companies have debuted similar products, but Fidelity is the first Wall Street incumbent to officially provide cryptocurrency solutions such as custody. 
  • “Our goal is to make digitally native assets, such as bitcoin, more accessible to investors,” Fidelity Investments Chairman and CEO Abigail Johnson says."
Fidelity just made it easier for hedge funds and other pros to invest in cryptocurrencies -- CNBC

M.I.T. Plans College for Artificial Intelligence, Backed by $1 Billion -- NYT

For more details, see MIT reshapes itself to shape the future (MIT News)
"Every major university is wrestling with how to adapt to the technology wave of artificial intelligence — how to prepare students not only to harness the powerful tools of A.I., but also to thoughtfully weigh its ethical and social implications. A.I. courses, conferences and joint majors have proliferated in the last few years.

But the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is taking a particularly ambitious step, creating a new college backed by a planned investment of $1 billion. Two-thirds of the funds have already been raised, M.I.T. said, in announcing the initiative on Monday.
[...]
The goal of the college, said L. Rafael Reif, the president of M.I.T., is to “educate the bilinguals of the future.” He defines bilinguals as people in fields like biology, chemistry, politics, history and linguistics who are also skilled in the techniques of modern computing that can be applied to them."
M.I.T. Plans College for Artificial Intelligence, Backed by $1 Billion -- NYT

Did Uber Steal Google's Intellectual Property? -- The New Yorker

Final paragraphs from an approximately 9.7K-word profile:
"Levandowski is upset that some people have cast him as the bad guy. “I reject the notion that I did something unethical,” he said. “Was I trying to compete with them? Sure.” But, he added, “I’m not a thief, and I’m not dishonest.” Other parents sometimes shun him when he drops his kids off at school, and he has grown tired of people taking photographs of him when he walks through airports. But he is confident that his notoriety will subside. Although he no longer owns the technology that he brought to Google and Uber, plenty of valuable information remains inside his head, and he has a lot of new ideas. An investment fund recently started due diligence on one of his proposals: a new self-driving-truck company. He anticipates that some of the funding for it will come from overseas, including from Chinese investors. It is ironic, given that federal trade-secret laws were written to prevent intellectual property from travelling abroad, that a trade-secret prosecution may push Levandowski into foreign hands. But he’s fine with it; what he cares about is having a next act. There are work-arounds, it seems, for everything, even for an unsavory past.

“The only thing that matters is the future,” he told me after the civil trial was settled. “I don’t even know why we study history. It’s entertaining, I guess—the dinosaurs and the Neanderthals and the Industrial Revolution, and stuff like that. But what already happened doesn’t really matter. You don’t need to know that history to build on what they made. In technology, all that matters is tomorrow.”"
Did Uber Steal Google's Intellectual Property? -- The New Yorker

How Sears Was the Amazon of Its Day -- NYT

Excerpts:
"High up in the Sears Tower, management couldn’t see that the retail landscape was changing. Sears couldn’t compete effectively with Walmart and the growth of big box merchandisers such as Toys “R” Us. But more important, the company could not summon the vision to anticipate the internet. By 1993, Sears had closed its national network of warehouses and exited the catalog business — which is basically e-retailing without the “e.” Amazon shipped its first book in 1995.
[...]
Certainly, Amazon looks unassailable in its current form. So did every retailer that became the biggest dog on retail’s porch. They were all innovative. They all pushed the boundaries on pricing, sourcing, marketing, regulation, employment, expansion and tax breaks. They all ultimately lost their way. Sears is the latest chapter in that story. And probably not the last."
How Sears Was the Amazon of Its Day -- NYT

Expanding Our Policies on Voter Suppression -- Facebook Newsroom

No, Brad Parscale, the post subject is not about new Facebook service offerings for political campaigns; also see Exclusive: Facebook to ban misinformation on voting in upcoming U.S. elections (Reuters)
"As part of our ongoing efforts to prevent people from misusing Facebook during elections, we’re broadening our policies against voter suppression — action that is designed to deter or prevent people from voting. These updates were designed to address new types of abuse that we’re seeing online.

We already prohibit offers to buy or sell votes as well as misrepresentations about the dates, locations, times and qualifications for casting a ballot. We have been removing this type of content since 2016. Here is an example:










Last month, we extended this policy further and are now banning misrepresentations about how to vote, such as claims that you can vote by text message, and statements about whether a vote will be counted. (e.g. “If you voted in the primary, your vote in the general election won’t count.”) We’ve also recently introduced a new reporting option on Facebook so that people can let us know if they see voting information that may be incorrect, and have set up dedicated reporting channels for state election authorities so that they can do the same."
Expanding Our Policies on Voter Suppression -- Facebook Newsroom