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Cambridge Analytica accessed Mark Zuckerberg’s data, too

Mark Zuckerberg had his data accessed by Cambridge Analytica, too. In today’s Congressional hearings, the Facebook CEO admitted that even his personal information wasn’t safe. As part of a rapid-fire four-minute question and answer session, congresswoman Anna Eshoo from California asked Zuckerberg, simply, if his personal data was sold to malicious third parties along with that of 87 million other Facebook account holders. “Yes,” he answered. See, tech CEOs are just like us.


Facebook CEO: Europe’s GDPR standards to be implemented worldwide

Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional testimony continues today as he speaks to the House Energy & Commerce Committee. During questioning, Congressman Gene Green asked the Facebook CEO about Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and inquired as to whether the requirements set by that set of regulations will be applied outside of Europe. Previously, Zuckerberg has said that the company wouldn’t necessarily be extending those user protections in full elsewhere in the world, telling Reuters earlier this month that he agreed with GDPR “in spirit” but not going so far as to say that it would be adopted as a worldwide standard. “We’re still nailing down details on this, but it should directionally be, in spirit, the whole thing,” he said at the time. Today, however, Zuckerberg changed his tune a little saying GDPR would be the standard going forward.

Congressman Green asked Zuckerberg directly if he would commit to extending GDPR protections to Americans and the CEO replied, “Yes, Congressman. We believe that everyone around the world deserves good privacy controls. We have had a lot of these controls in place for years. The GDPR requires us to do a few more things and we are going to extend that to the world.”

Green also asked specifically about GDPR requirements to make requests for user content clear, concise and understandable and how Facebook would implement that in the US. Zuckerberg said that every users’ Facebook app will feature a tool at the top of the page that will walk them through settings and ask them to make decisions about what settings they want to implement. The Congressman then asked if Facebook would also be implementing GDPR rules that require it to allow all users to get a full copy of their information and share it with any company they would like. The Facebook CEO replied that while the company may be updating these tools a bit, it has allowed users to download their data, delete it and move it as they wish for years.

Lastly, Green referred to the GDPR feature that gives users the right to object to having their personal data used for marketing purposes. “Will the same right to object be available to Facebook users in the United States and how will that be implemented,” he asked. Zuckerberg said that he wasn’t sure how the company would be implementing that in the US and said he would follow up with the Congressman.

Zuckerberg’s testimony is ongoing and you can follow along with us here.


A disused coal power station will reopen to solely power crypto

A closed-down coal plant in Australia’s Hunter Valley, about a two-hour drive north of Sydney, is reopening in order to provide inexpensive power for Bitcoin miners. A tech company called IOT Group has partnered with the local power company to revive the power plant and set up cryptocurrency mining operations, called a Blockchain Operations Centre, inside it. This would give the group direct access to energy at wholesale prices.

According to The Age, the Hunter Valley coal power plant was closed back in 2014. Hunter Energy plans to restart the generator in early 2019. The company understands the demands of cryptocurrency mining, and hopes to make the power plant even more attractive to tech companies by adding cleaner energy sources, such as solar power or batteries.

Cryptocurrency mining is an incredibly power-intensive process. It involves using energy hungry computers to solve complex problems, generating intense amounts of heat and using quite a bit of electricity. As a result, miners and mining companies have been on the hunt for inexpensive electricity. Operating from within a coal plant meets that requirement for sure.

The problem here is that coal-fired electricity isn’t exactly the cleanest source of power. One of the main arguments against cryptocurrency mining, and a reason why countries like China are seeking to ban it, is that the energy required generates a lot of pollution. Bringing a dirty, pollution spewing power plant back online specifically for cryptocurrency mining doesn’t seem like the best or most thoughtful long-term solution to this issue, even if the company is exploring plans for greener energy in the future.


Source: The Age


Google caters to productivity pros with macro recording in Sheets

If your work revolves around spreadsheets, there’s a good chance you depend on macros — those automated actions can save you hours upon hours of repetitive effort. They’ve been a pain in Google Sheets, however, as you’ve had to rely on complicated scripts. It should be much easier after today. Google has added macro recording to Sheets, making automation just a matter of walking through the necessary steps yourself. You still have to dive into scripts when you want to edit macros, but this should help you spend more time working on budget reports and less time getting ready to work.

Sheets is also receiving a few seemingly minor updates that could be huge in the right circumstances. You can now add printing page breaks, custom paper sizes and checkboxes in cells. You have more options for grouping columns and rows, and you can group data by time in pivot tables. Is this going to be meaningless for most people? You bet — but Google needs these kinds of niche case features if it’s going to lure you away from Excel.

Source: Google


Google plans redesign for Gmail on the web

Apparently, Google has been working on a redesign for the web version of Gmail, and G Suite customers are the first to know about it. While the public announcement hasn’t gone out yet (it’s coming to the Early Adopter Program for both regular Gmail and G Suite users in the next few weeks), here’s what we do know.

The email, which was sent out to G Suite Administrators to prepare them for questions once the Early Adopter Program opens, touts a new look for Gmail on the web, as well as easy access to G Suite apps from directly within Gmail. Users will also be able to take advantage of Smart Reply on the web, not just mobile, and snooze emails, choosing when they show back up in your inbox.

Google is also introducing native offline support for Gmail, as the company is moving Chrome apps to the web. Once this feature is live, Google will retire the Gmail Offline Chrome app, though a timeline has not been set.

We should be hearing more about these new features, and the overall Gmail redesign, “in the coming weeks.” In the meantime, those of you who hate change should brace yourself for a new look for Gmail on the web.


Trump signs controversial FOSTA-SESTA bill into law

Donald Trump has signed the controversial FOSTA-SESTA bill into law, as he was widely expected to do. While touted as a way to crack down on sex trafficking in the US, many are concerned that the law will give way to online censorship and make sex workers less safe. The bill’s many detractors included the Department of Justice, the ACLU, the EFF, anti-trafficking groups and sex worker organizations. It has been backed by the Internet Association as well as high profile individuals like Amy Schumer and Seth Meyers.

Great news! @POTUS has signed #SESTA into law! A momentous day for survivors of online trafficking and a big victory in our fight to help end online #SexTrafficking in this country.

— Rob Portman (@senrobportman) April 11, 2018

The Senate passed a version of the bill last month and the EFF tweeted at the time that it was “a dark day for the internet.” Sex workers have said that online platforms have made them safer — some saying they’ve even saved their lives — and that the legislation would make it much more difficult for them to do their work through those platforms going forward. In reaction to Congress’ approval of the bill, Craigslist shut down its personals section before it was even signed into law.

The new law removes Communications Decency Act protections for websites that knowingly host content loosely defined as sex trafficking and “prostitution” content. Congressional leaders have claimed that such a bill will make it easier to root out child and sex trafficking in the country. But while contentious sites like were said to be inspiration for such a law, the federal government took action against Backpage executives last week, before the bill became law, which led some to question why FOSTA-SESTA was needed if such action was able to be taken without it.

BREAKING: President @realDonaldTrump has signed SESTA/FOSTA into law. As we’ve already seen, this bill silences online speech by forcing Internet platforms to censor their users.

— EFF (@EFF) April 11, 2018


Sony Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact arrive in the US on April 20th

If you’re an American and have had your curiosity piqued by Sony’s heavily redesigned Xperia XZ2, you can indulge your curiosity in the very near future. Sony will sell both the XZ2 and the XZ2 Compact through Best Buy starting online April 20th (with pre-orders beginning April 13th), and retail on May 6th. Amazon and other retailers will sell the handsets on May 20th. Be prepared to pay a premium for the cachet of owning a relatively uncommon phone in the country, though: the XZ2 Compact will cost $650, while its full-size counterpart will carry a $800 price tag.

The XZ2 Compact is the first XZ-series phone to be Verizon-certified, Sony adds, so you don’t have to turn to AT&T or T-Mobile if you’re going with a major carrier. And in case you’re wondering: unlike many past Sony phone releases in the US, both models have fingerprint readers.

In both cases, you’re primarily springing for a combination of Sony’s distinctive design (which no longer includes gigantic bezels) with some camera chops. Both phones can record 4K HDR and 1080p super-slow motion (960FPS) video, and display HDR as well. The allure varies widely after that, however. The regular XZ2 is more for those who want a straightforward alternative to Android flagships like the Galaxy S9. It’s a tougher sell, but it might be appealing if you can accept a less dramatic display in return for a ‘cleaner’ take on Android and some superior video features.

The XZ2 Compact, meanwhile, is one of the precious few options beyond the Pixel 2 for a smaller Android phone that still packs a punch. It’s an easier recommendation — many Android vendors equate a small size with slow performance, so it may be your only real option if Google’s phone rubs you the wrong way.

Source: Sony Mobile


Researchers use machine learning to quickly detect video face swaps

We all know that AI can be used to swap faces in photos and videos. People have, of course, taken advantage of this tool for some disturbing uses, including face-swapping people into pornographic videos — the ultimate revenge porn. But if AI can be used to face swap, can’t it also be used to detect when such a practice occurs? According to a new paper on, a new algorithm promises to do just that, identifying forged videos as soon as they are posted online.

The team, led by Andreas Rossler at the Technical University of Munich, developed machine learning that is able to automatically detect when videos are face swapped. They trained the algorithm using a large set of face swaps that they made themselves, creating the largest database of these kind of images available. They then trained the algorithm, called XceptionNet, to detect the face swaps.

XceptionNet clearly outperforms its rival techniques in detecting this kind of fake video, but it also actually improves the quality of the forgeries. Rossler’s team can use the biggest hallmarks of a face swap to make the manipulation more seamless. It doesn’t fool XceptionNet, but in the long run, it could make it harder for other methods to detect faked videos.

Via: MIT News



Google’s phone app will boot spam calls to voicemail automatically

Google is taking spam calls seriously. An upcoming update to the default Phone app on Android One, Nexus and Pixel devices will send potential spam calls directly to voicemail, as spotted by 9to5 Google. The feature works like this: A potential spam call comes in, and automatically goes to voicemail. You won’t receive a notification for the missed call, and your phone won’t ring. However, calls will still show up in your call history and voicemail. Presumably, Google is using AI to filter these calls, much in the way it does spam messages in Gmail.

It’s in beta right now, but the update will begin rolling out to the wider Android community over the next few weeks. You can also opt in to test the feature. Don’t have voice mail set up? Congratulations: You just wasted a spam caller’s time.

Via: 9to5 Google

Source: Google Play


Uber Announces Partners for Expansion Into Car Rentals and Public Transport

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi today announced a series of updates and expansions coming to the Uber mobile app, which will provide users with “a great variety of transportation modes” all in one place.

Uber’s new updates include the ability for customers to gain access to bikes, car rentals, and public transportation tickets, all in addition to the app’s traditional ride-hailing services.

To start, today the company is expanding “Uber Bike by JUMP” into Washington, DC, following an initial pilot in San Francisco in January.

JUMP provides customers with “pedal-assist” electric bicycles to get to their destinations, which Uber says is “often faster” in cities with dense traffic. With the partnership, users can find and book a JUMP bike from within the Uber app.

Later in April, Uber will launch “Uber Rent powered by Getaround” in San Francisco, allowing users to quickly and easily rent cars from people nearby. Through the integration with Getaround, the rental service’s cars will be available “instantly” for rent in the Uber app, with rental periods lasting from hours to days and insurance included, according to Getaround.

Getaround for iOS
Lastly, Uber is partnering with Masabi to provide users the ability to book and use transit tickets within the Uber app. Masabi’s mobile ticketing services will fuel the new feature in Uber so that customers can “seamlessly combine public transport with other transportation options,” like ridesharing or the new bike rentals.

Ultimately Khosrowshahi called the new series of updates to Uber a “new direction” for the company, hoping that the addition of transportation options within the mobile app will help “make it increasingly easy to live without a car.” He continued: “That’s why we want to provide alternatives to personal car ownership by bringing together multiple modes of transportation right in our app.”

Uber also provided an update on data sharing and its privacy policies, including a “SharedStreets” pilot that the company says will “respect the need for rider and driver privacy,” while still understanding the “competitive landscape of the industry.”

Successful collaboration with cities depends on open, non-proprietary data standards and replicable models for sharing insights. To this end we’re working with the DC Departments of Transportation and For Hire Vehicles and SharedStreets to create new methods for public-private collaboration and data sharing that respect the need for rider and driver privacy as well as the competitive landscape of the industry.

We’re starting with a pilot in DC to share data on curb usage across all modes of transportation. Better understanding curb utilization can help cities around the world prepare for a future where more and more of us are accessing transportation through a combination of shared modes, rather than relying on our own vehicles. We’re looking forward to building on what we learn from working with DC to support data partnerships in other cities using SharedStreets data standards.

To read more about Uber’s updates, check out Khosrowshahi’s blog post. Yesterday, the company revealed a revamp of the Uber Driver app with a real-time earnings tracker, Status Bar, enhanced notifications, enhanced Driver Profiles, and more.

Tag: Uber
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