Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Ambitious Plan Behind Facebook’s Cryptocurrency, Libra | Wired

Final paragraphs from an extensive Libra reality check
"Facebook named Libra for three reasons: its use as an ancient Roman unit of measure, the astrological symbol depicting the scales of justice, and its phonetic resemblance to the French “libre,” meaning free. “A combination of money, justice and freedom,” explains Facebook. For the initiative to live up to those lofty values, it will have to draw not only powerful partners but be open to the grassroots developers in every place that receives an internet signal. Serious rivals to Facebook’s own Calibra wallet (in theory all Libra wallets will be interoperable) must emerge. The promises of privacy and security must be fulfilled. And the association must prove it can act independently of its corporate creator. Otherwise, the entire effort will come to be viewed as another self-interested move by Mark Zuckerberg—even if billions of people wind up spending Libras in Facebook applications.

As tough as it is to develop a groundbreaking global cryptosystem, Marcus says convincing people of Facebook’s intentions makes the job much harder. “This is by far the most difficult, intellectually stimulating and challenging thing I have ever done in my life,” he says.

Those challenges are only beginning. You can bet your last Libra on it."
The Ambitious Plan Behind Facebook’s Cryptocurrency, Libra | Wired

Facebook may have too many users for its cryptocurrency to fail — even if you don’t trust it | Recode

On a related note, see Facebook’s digital currency would be great — if it didn’t come from Facebook | Boston Globe
"Those who are skeptical about Libra’s potential point to Facebook’s approach to data collection and its well-known privacy missteps, which are particularly troublesome in a crypto industry that prizes “decentralized” power. Some crypto investors and executives are deeply skeptical that a company as rapacious as Facebook could ever seriously commit itself to the value of decentralization that’s at the core of the crypto industry.

But most people I’ve spoken with in recent days believe Libra can be successful, largely because of Facebook’s enormous scale. They’ve posited that the platform’s unprecedented user base is the only global population that’s big enough to organize around a single currency. In addition, Libra’s initial list of backers is impressive. Some think it might be an on-ramp to widespread consumer adoption of other digital currencies like bitcoin."
Facebook may have too many users for its cryptocurrency to fail — even if you don’t trust it | Recode

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Domino’s will start delivering pizzas via an autonomous robot this fall | Washington Post

Maybe time to revisit Snow Crash...
"For months now, the robotics company Nuro has been using electric, self-driving vehicles to deliver groceries to Kroger customers in Phoenix and Houston.

Now the Silicon Valley start-up’s autonomous, unmanned vehicles — which resemble a giant pill bug on wheels and can reach 25 mph as they operate on major roadways alongside cars — have announced plans for a new mission: delivering Domino’s pizzas to customers.

Nuro’s latest challenge will be limited to customers who place online orders in Houston, a sprawling metropolis crisscrossed by traffic-clogged highways. The company deployed its grocery delivery service in Houston in March. Nuro’s partnership with Domino’s initially will be limited to a single location and will begin in the fall."

Domino’s will start delivering pizzas via an autonomous robot this fall | Washington Post

Facebook Plans Global Financial System Based on Cryptocurrency | NYT

More Calibra and Libra details -- excerpt below; also see How Libra Would Work for You | NYT:
"While Libra is meant to be independent of Facebook, the social networking giant has clear plans for making money from the venture.

Initially, the Calibra subsidiary will offer little more than a wallet to hold and spend Libra. When Libra is released next year, the plan is to make the wallet available to the billions of people who have accounts with Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

If Libra catches on, company officials said, Facebook’s Calibra could offer financial services to customers, such as lending and investing."
Facebook Plans Global Financial System Based on Cryptocurrency | NYT

Mark Zuckerberg on Libra | Facebook

For more details, see the Libra.org site and this David Marcus thread
"We aspire to make it easy for everyone to send and receive money just like you use our apps to instantly share messages and photos. To enable this, Facebook is also launching an independent subsidiary called Calibra that will build services that let you send, spend and save Libra -- starting with a digital wallet that will be available in WhatsApp and Messenger and as a standalone app next year.
Calibra will be regulated like other payment service providers. Any information you share with Calibra will be kept separate from information you share on Facebook. From the beginning, Calibra will let you send Libra to almost anyone with a smartphone at low to no cost. Over time, we hope to offer more services for people and businesses -- like paying bills with the push of a button, buying coffee with the scan of a code, or riding local public transit without needing to carry cash or a metro pass."
Mark Zuckerberg on Libra | Facebook

Monday, June 17, 2019

U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid | NYT

Sign of the times: "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." Naturally, Trump tweeted the article is "a virtual act of Treason [sic]..." and ".....ALSO, NOT TRUE!"
"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 F.B.I. 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."
U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid | NYT

Samsung’s security reminder makes the case for not owning a Samsung smart TV | The Verge

Final paragraph: "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."
"Samsung has reminded owners of its smart TVs that they should be regularly scanning for malware using its built-in virus scanning software. “Prevent malicious software attacks on your TV by scanning for viruses on your TV every few weeks,” a tweet from the company’s US support account reads with a video attachment that demonstrates the laborious process.

The obvious question here is why in the world doesn’t Samsung automate this process. When so many people don’t even know how to turn off motion smoothing, what are the chances that they’re going to be mindful of security practices? It also illustrates how dumb some smart TVs can be."
Samsung’s security reminder makes the case for not owning a Samsung smart TV | The Verge

Friday, June 14, 2019

Facebook’s cryptocurrency to debut next week backed by Visa, Mastercard, Uber, and others: WSJ | The Verge

Pay to play
"Facebook has secured the backing of over a dozen companies for its upcoming Libra cryptocurrency set to be announced next week, The Wall Street Journal reports. These companies include major financial organizations like Visa and Mastercard, and internet darlings like PayPal, Uber, Stripe, and Booking.com. Each will invest around $10 million to fund development of the currency, and will become part of the Libra Association, an independent consortium that will govern the digital coin independently of Facebook.

The involvement of major financial firms like Visa and Mastercard is interesting, because cryptocurrencies are typically seen as providing a cheaper alternative to these payment networks. The WSJ speculates that these companies want to get involved so they can monitor Facebook’s payment ambitions, as well as benefit from the popularity of the currency should it take off with Facebook’s 2.4 billion monthly active users."
Facebook’s cryptocurrency to debut next week backed by Visa, Mastercard, Uber, and others: WSJ | The Verge

Tesla wants everyone to drive an electric car. Now it risks becoming a niche brand. | Washington Post

From a Tesla competitive landscape reality check
"Tesla wants everyone on the road to be in an electric car. That futuristic vision may soon become reality — thanks to rivals.

The automaker based in Palo Alto, Calif., is facing a raft of financial and safety issues just as a flood of competitors are hitting the market with their own electric vehicle offerings, posing perhaps the first serious threat to the company’s dominance of the nascent electric vehicle industry."
Tesla wants everyone to drive an electric car. Now it risks becoming a niche brand. | Washington Post

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Experts: Spy used AI-generated face to connect with targets | AP

FakedIn
"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.

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."
Experts: Spy used AI-generated face to connect with targets | AP

Tariffs are forcing Big Tech to move production out of China | Engadget

On a related note, see ‘My Peter’: Rising influence of controversial Trump trade adviser Navarro concerns his critics | Washington Post, which notes "Navarro’s ascension is frightening his critics, who have derided him as an ideologue who doesn’t let facts get in the way of his agenda, while cheering supporters of the president eager for Trump to emphasize his nationalist agenda ahead of his 2020 reelection campaign."
"In response to the Trump administration's trade war with China, major tech companies are preparing to relocate key manufacturing operations. According to Bloomberg, Google is moving production of its US-bound Nest thermostats and motherboards to Taiwan. The Wall Street Journal reports that Nintendo is shifting at least some production of its Switch console to Southeast Asia. At the same time, China has allegedly warned companies that they will face permanent consequences if they cooperate with Trump administration trade restrictions.
[...]
Some companies are better prepared than others to shift out of China if necessary. Apple Inc. partner Foxconn Technology Group said it would be able to manufacture all US-bound iPhones outside of China if it were forced to do so. Wistron Corp., a company that makes servers for Facebook and Microsoft, is reportedly looking to shift some production away from China, though it hasn't shared specifics."
Tariffs are forcing Big Tech to move production out of China | Engadget

Jet.com falls by wayside as Walmart focuses on its website, online grocery | Reuters

For the inevitable "mission accomplished" version, see Update on Our U.S. eCommerce Strategy and the Role of Jet | Walmart
"Walmart Inc on Wednesday announced a sweeping overhaul at Jet.com, an online start-up it acquired in 2016 for $3.3 billion, after it failed to live up to the world’s largest retailer’s e-commerce ambitions.

Walmart said it will integrate Jet.com’s retail, technology, marketing, analytics and product teams with its own online business. The current president of Jet.com, Simon Belsham, will leave in early August.

Walmart’s move reduces the scope and importance of Jet.com in its overall U.S. e-commerce business, which competes with Amazon.com Inc, according to interviews with six vendors, two consultants and three Walmart employees."
Jet.com falls by wayside as Walmart focuses on its website, online grocery | Reuters

Top AI researchers race to detect ‘deepfake’ videos: ‘We are outgunned’ | Washington Post

"... because of the reward structure of the modern web" and/or fundamental flaws in human cognition?
"Rachel Thomas, the co-founder of Fast.ai, a machine-learning lab in San Francisco, says a disinformation campaign using deepfake videos probably would catch fire because of the reward structure of the modern Web, in which shocking material drives bigger audiences — and can spread further and faster than the truth.

“Fakes often, particularly now, don’t have to be that compelling to still have an impact," Thomas said. “We are these social creatures that end up going with the crowd into seeing what the other people are seeing. It would not be that hard for a bad actor to have that kind of influence on public conversation.”"
Top AI researchers race to detect ‘deepfake’ videos: ‘We are outgunned’ | Washington Post