Spotify Says 2 Million Users Hacked Apps To Suppress Ads On Its Free Service ( 46

Earlier this month, Spotify revealed that it had begun cracking down on people using hacked versions of apps. These apps allowed users with free accounts to suppress advertising and take advantage of paid features. Now, Spotify has disclosed just how many people have been taking advantage of this hack: around 2 million users. Engadget reports: That's not an insignificant number, and it's understandable why Spotify is cracking down on them. As the company explains in an amended F1 filing with the SEC this week, these users forced the company to adjust its metrics and key performance indicators. The disclosure notes, "Unauthorized access to our Service may cause us to misstate key performance indicators, which once discovered, corrected, and disclosed, could undermine investor confidence in the integrity of our key performance indicators and could cause our stock price to drop significantly." As a result, Spotify has adjusted its monthly active users from 159 million at the end of 2017 to 157 million.

Apple To Unveil a Cheaper iPad Next Week At Its Educational Event 46

Apple is holding an education-focused event on Tuesday where it's expected to launch a "low-cost iPad" alongside new education software. The goal is to win back students and teachers who have adopted similar products/services from rivals Google and Microsoft. Bloomberg reports: In its first major product event of the year, Apple will return to its roots in the education market. The event on Tuesday at Lane Technical College Prep High School in Chicago will mark the first time Apple has held a product launch geared toward education since 2012 when it unveiled a tool for designing e-books for the iPad. It's also a rare occasion for an Apple confab outside its home state of California. In Chicago, the world's most-valuable technology company plans to show off a new version of its cheapest iPad that should appeal to the education market, said people familiar with the matter. The company will also showcase new software for the classroom, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private plans. Apple declined to comment.
Social Networks

My Cow Game Extracted Your Facebook Data ( 50

Ian Bogost, writing for The Atlantic: Already in 2010, it felt like a malicious attention market where people treated friends as latent resources to be optimized. Compulsion rather than choice devoured people's time. Apps like FarmVille sold relief for the artificial inconveniences they themselves had imposed. In response, I made a satirical social game called Cow Clicker. Players clicked a cute cow, which mooed and scored a "click." Six hours later, they could do so again. They could also invite friends' cows to their pasture, buy virtual cows with real money, compete for status, click to send a real cow to the developing world from Oxfam, outsource clicks to their toddlers with a mobile app, and much more. It became strangely popular, until eventually, I shut the whole thing down in a bovine rapture -- the "cowpocalypse." It's kind of a complicated story.

But one worth revisiting today, in the context of the scandal over Facebook's sanctioning of user-data exfiltration via its application platform. It's not just that abusing the Facebook platform for deliberately nefarious ends was easy to do (it was). But worse, in those days, it was hard to avoid extracting private data, for years even, without even trying. I did it with a silly cow game. Cow Clicker is not an impressive work of software. After all, it was a game whose sole activity was clicking on cows. I wrote the principal code in three days, much of it hunched on a friend's couch in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I had no idea anyone would play it, although over 180,000 people did, eventually. And yet, if you played Cow Clicker, even just once, I got enough of your personal data that, for years, I could have assembled a reasonably sophisticated profile of your interests and behavior. I might still be able to; all the data is still there, stored on my private server, where Cow Clicker is still running, allowing players to keep clicking where a cow once stood, before my caprice raptured them into the digital void.


Experts Say Video of Uber's Self-Driving Car Killing a Pedestrian Suggests Its Technology May Have Failed ( 312

Ever since the Tempe police released a video of Uber's self-driving car hitting and killing a pedestrian, experts have been racing to analyze the footage and determine what exactly went wrong. (If you haven't watched the video, you can do so here. Warning: it's disturbing, though the actual impact is removed.) In a blog post, software architect and entrepreneur Brad Templeton highlights some of the big issues with the video:
1. On this empty road, the LIDAR is very capable of detecting her. If it was operating, there is no way that it did not detect her 3 to 4 seconds before the impact, if not earlier. She would have come into range just over 5 seconds before impact.
2.On the dash-cam style video, we only see her 1.5 seconds before impact. However, the human eye and quality cameras have a much better dynamic range than this video, and should have also been able to see her even before 5 seconds. From just the dash-cam video, no human could brake in time with just 1.5 seconds warning. The best humans react in just under a second, many take 1.5 to 2.5 seconds.
3. The human safety driver did not see her because she was not looking at the road. She seems to spend most of the time before the accident looking down to her right, in a style that suggests looking at a phone.
4.While a basic radar which filters out objects which are not moving towards the car would not necessarily see her, a more advanced radar also should have detected her and her bicycle (though triggered no braking) as soon as she entered the lane to the left, probably 4 seconds before impact at least. Braking could trigger 2 seconds before, in theory enough time.)

To be clear, while the car had the right-of-way and the victim was clearly unwise to cross there, especially without checking regularly in the direction of traffic, this is a situation where any properly operating robocar following "good practices," let alone "best practices," should have avoided the accident regardless of pedestrian error. That would not be true if the pedestrian were crossing the other way, moving immediately into the right lane from the right sidewalk. In that case no technique could have avoided the event.
The overall consensus among experts is that one or several pieces of the driverless system may have failed, from the LIDAR system to the logic system that's supposed to identify road objects, to the communications channels that are supposed to apply the brakes, or the car's automatic braking system itself. According to Los Angeles Times, "Driverless car experts from law and academia called on Uber to release technical details of the accident so objective researchers can help figure out what went wrong and relay their findings to other driverless system makers and to the public."

KeepVid Site No Longer Allows Users To 'Keep' Videos ( 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: For many years, KeepVid has been a prime destination for people who wanted to download videos from YouTube, Dailymotion, Facebook, Vimeo, and dozens of other sites. The web application was free and worked without any hassle. This was still the case earlier this month when the site advertised itself as follows: "KeepVid Video Downloader is a free web application that allows you to download videos from sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitch.Tv, Vimeo, Dailymotion and many more." However, a few days ago the site radically changed its course. While the motivation is unknown at the time, KeepVid took its popular video download service offline without prior notice. Today, people can no longer use the KeepVid site to download videos. On the contrary, the site warns that using video download and conversion tools might get people in trouble. "Video downloading from the Internet will become more and more difficult, and KeepVid encourages people to download videos via the correct and legal ways," the new KeepVid reads. The site now lists several alternative options to enjoy videos and music, including Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and Pandora.
Social Networks

Instagram Will Show More Recent Posts Due To Algorithm Backlash ( 29

Instagram announced today that it will show more new posts and stop suddenly bumping you to the top of the feed while you're scrolling. "With these changes, your feed will feel more fresh, and you won't miss the moments you care about," Instagram writes. TechCrunch reports: Instagram switched from a reverse chronological feed to a relevancy-sorted feed in June 2016, leading to lots of grumbling from hardcore users. While it made sure you wouldn't miss the most popular posts from your close friends, showing days-old posts made Instagram feel stale. And for certain types of professional content creators and merchants, cutting their less likable posts out of the feed -- like their calls to buy their products or follow their other social accounts -- was detrimental to their business. Instagram and Facebook moved to hide these posts over time because they can feel spammy.

Atlanta City Government Systems Down Due To Ransomware Attack ( 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The city of Atlanta government has apparently become the victim of a ransomware attack. The city's official Twitter account announced that the city government "is currently experiencing outages on various customer facing applications, including some that customers may use to pay bills or access court-related information." According to a report from Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA, a city employee sent the station a screen shot of a ransomware message demanding a payment of $6,800 to unlock each computer or $51,000 to provide all the keys for affected systems. Employees received emails from the city's information technology department instructing them to unplug their computers if they noticed anything suspicious. An internal email shared with WXIA said that the internal systems affected include the city's payroll application. "At this time, our Atlanta Information Management team is working diligently with support from Microsoft to resolve the issue," a city spokesperson told Ars. "We are confident that our team of technology professionals will be able to restore applications soon." The city's primary website remains online, and the city government will continue to post updates there, the spokesperson added.

BMW Says Electric Car Mass Production Not Viable Until 2020 ( 139

BMW will not mass produce electric cars until 2020 because its current technology is not profitable enough to scale up for volume production, the chief executive said on Thursday. From a report: Munich-based BMW unveiled its first battery electric car in 2013, and has been working on different generations of battery, software and electric motor technology since then. The i8 Roadster model, due to hit showrooms in May, is equipped with what BMW calls its fourth-generation electric drive technology. Advances in battery raw materials and chemistry has increased its range by 40 percent over the previous version, BMW said. BMW is working to make electric car technology more modular and scalable to make mass production commercially viable. "We wanted to wait for the fifth generation to be much more cost competitive," Chief Executive Harald Krueger told analysts in Munich. "We do not want to scale up with the fourth generation."

Google Is Buying Innovative Camera Startup Lytro For $40 Million ( 36

According to TechCrunch, Google is acquiring Lytro, the imaging startup that began as a ground-breaking camera company for consumers before pivoting to use its depth-data, light-field technology in VR. From the report: One source described the deal as an "asset sale" with Lytro going for no more than $40 million. Another source said the price was even lower: $25 million and that it was shopped around -- to Facebook, according to one source; and possibly to Apple, according to another. A separate person told us that not all employees are coming over with the company's technology: some have already received severance and parted ways with the company, and others have simply left. Assets would presumably also include Lytro's 59 patents related to light-field and other digital imaging technology. The sale would be far from a big win for Lytro and its backers. The startup has raised just over $200 million in funding and was valued at around $360 million after its last round in 2017, according to data from PitchBook. Its long list of investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Foxconn, GSV, Greylock, NEA, Qualcomm Ventures and many more. Rick Osterloh, SVP of hardware at Google, sits on Lytro's board. A pricetag of $40 million is not quite the exit that was envisioned for the company when it first launched its camera concept, and in the words of investor Ben Horowitz, "blew my brains to bits."

Ask Slashdot: Were Developments In Technology More Exciting 30 Years Ago? 230

dryriver writes: We live in a time where mainstream media, websites, blogs, social media accounts, your barely computer literate next door neighbor and so forth frequently rave about the "innovation" that is happening everywhere. But as someone who experienced developments in technology back in the 1980s and 1990s, in computing in particular, I cannot shake the feeling that, somehow, the "deep nerds" who were innovating back then did it better and with more heartfelt passion than I can feel today. Of course, tech from 30 years ago seems a bit primitive compared to today -- computer gear is faster and sleeker nowadays. But it seems that the core techniques and core concepts used in much of what is called "innovation" today were invented for the first time one-after-the-other back then, and going back as far as the 1950s maybe. I get the impression that much of what makes billions in profits today and wows everyone is mere improvements on what was actually invented and trail blazed for the first time, 2, 3, 4, 5 or more decades ago. Is there much genuine "inventing" and "innovating" going on today, or are tech companies essentially repackaging the R&D and knowhow that was brought into the world decades ago by long-forgotten deep nerds into sleeker, sexier 21st century tech gadgets? Is Alexa, Siri, the Xbox, Oculus Rift or iPhone truly what could be considered "amazing technology," or should we have bigger and badder tech and innovation in the year 2018?

Kaspersky Lab Plans Swiss Data Center To Combat Spying Allegations, Report Says ( 47

An anonymous reader shares a report: Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab plans to open a data center in Switzerland to address Western government concerns that Russia exploits its anti-virus software to spy on customers, according to internal documents seen by Reuters. Kaspersky is setting up the center in response to actions in the United States, Britain and Lithuania last year to stop using the company's products, according to the documents, which were confirmed by a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The action is the latest effort by Kaspersky, a global leader in anti-virus software, to parry accusations by the U.S. government and others that the company spies on customers at the behest of Russian intelligence.

The NSA Worked To 'Track Down' Bitcoin Users, Snowden Documents Reveal ( 60

An anonymous reader shares a report: Classified documents provided by the whistleblower Edward Snowden show the National Security Agency worked urgently to target Bitcoin users around the world -- and wielded at least one mysterious source of information to "help track down senders and receivers of Bitcoins," according to a top-secret passage in an internal NSA report dating to March 2013. The data source appears to have leveraged NSA's ability to harvest and analyze raw, global internet traffic while also exploiting an unnamed software program that purported to offer anonymity to users, according to other documents.

Although the agency was interested in surveilling some competing cryptocurrencies, "Bitcoin is #1 priority," a March 15, 2013 internal NSA report stated. The documents indicate that "tracking down" Bitcoin users went well beyond closely examining Bitcoin's public transaction ledger, known as the Blockchain, where users are typically referred to through anonymous identifiers; the tracking may also have involved gathering intimate details of these users' computers. The NSA collected some Bitcoin users' password information, internet activity, and a type of unique device identification number known as a MAC address, a March 29, 2013 NSA memo suggested. In the same document, analysts also discussed tracking internet users' internet addresses, network ports, and timestamps to identify "BITCOIN Targets."


NVIDIA RTX Technology To Usher In Real-Time Ray Tracing Holy Grail of Gaming Graphics ( 149

HotHardware writes: NVIDIA has been dabbling in real-time ray tracing for over a decade. However, the company just introduced NVIDIA RTX, which is its latest effort to deliver real-time ray tracing to game developers and content creators for implementation in actual game engines. Historically, the computational horsepower to perform real-time ray tracing has been too great to be practical in actual games, but NVIDIA hopes to change that with its new Volta GPU architecture and the help of Microsoft's new DirectX Raytracing (DXR) API enhancements. Ray tracing is a method by which images are enhanced by tracing rays or paths of light as they bounce in and around an object (or objects) in a scene. Under optimum conditions, ray tracing delivers photorealistic imagery with shadows that are correctly cast; water effects that show proper reflections and coloring; and scenes that are cast with realistic lighting effects. NVIDIA RTX is a combination of software (the company's Gameworks SDK, now with ray tracing support), and next generation GPU hardware. NVIDIA notes its Volta architecture has specific hardware support for real-time ray tracing, including offload via its Tensor core engines. To show what's possible with the technology, developers including Epic, 4A Games and Remedy Entertainment will be showcasing their own game engine demonstrations this week at the Game Developers Conference. NVIDIA expects the ramp to be slow at first, but believes eventually most game developers will adopt real-time ray tracing in the future.

AI Can Diagnose Prostate Cancer As Well As a Pathologist ( 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Business: Chinese researchers have developed an artificial intelligence system which can diagnose cancerous prostate samples as accurately as any pathologist, holding out the possibility of streamlining and eliminating variation in the process of cancer diagnosis. The system may also help overcome shortages of trained pathologists and in the longer term lead to automated or partially-automated prostate diagnosis. Confirmation of a prostate cancer diagnosis normally requires a biopsy sample to be examined by a pathologist. Now the Chinese AI system has shown similar levels of accuracy to pathologists and can also accurately classify the level of malignancy of the cancer, eliminating the variability which can creep into human diagnoses. [Hongqian Guo, who led the research group] took 918 prostate samples from 283 patients and ran these through the AI system, with the software gradually learning and improving diagnosis. The pathology images were subdivided into 40,000 smaller samples of which 30,000 were used to train the software while the remaining 10,000 were used to test accuracy. The results showed an accurate diagnosis in 99.38 per cent of cases, using a human pathologist as a gold standard. Guo said that means the AI system is as accurate as a pathologist. The research was presented at the 33rd European Association of Urology Congress in Copenhagen.

Magic Leap Lifts the Curtains (A Little) ( 60

Magic Leap just announced a preview of its software development kit and "creator portal," which will offer resources for people who want to build for its yet-unreleased Magic Leap One headset. You can now download a preview build of the Unreal or Unity engines, designed for what Magic Leap dubs "spatial computing." This is one of Magic Leap's juiciest announcements, marking one of the secretive company's first steps toward establishing itself as an open platform. It also may be a sign that the company is finally close to releasing hardware. The Verge reports: The creator portal touts a set of tutorials, a community for technical support, and a "Magic Leap Simulator" that will presumably help people preview apps before they get a headset. The Magic Leap One was announced late last year, and it's supposed to be released this year, but we still don't know details about the exact date or pricing. The portal says that a marketplace called "Magic Leap World" will launch soon.
Open Source

Microsoft Joins Group Working To 'Cure' Open-Source Licensing Issues ( 102

Microsoft is joining Red Hat, Facebook, Google and IBM in committing to extending right to "cure" open source licensing noncompliance before taking legal measures. From a report: On March 19, officials from Microsoft -- along with CA Technologies, Cisco, HPE, SAP and SUSE -- said they'd work with open together with the already-committed vendors to provide more "predictability" for users of open source software. "The large ecosystems of projects using the GPLv2 and LGPLv2.x licenses will benefit from adoption of this more balanced approach to termination derived from GPLv3," explained Red Hat in a press release announcing the new license-compliance partners. The companies which have agreed to adopt the "Common Cure Rights Commitment" said before they file or continue to prosecute those accused of violating covered licenses, they will allow for users to cure and reinstate their licenses.

Hackers Are So Fed Up With Twitter Bots They're Hunting Them Down Themselves ( 45

An anonymous reader writes: Even if Twitter hasn't invested much in anti-bot software, some of its most technically proficient users have. They're writing and refining code that can use Twitter's public application programming interface, or API, as well as Google and other online interfaces, to ferret out fake accounts and bad actors. The effort, at least among the researchers I spoke with, has begun with hunting bots designed to promote pornographic material -- a type of fake account that is particularly easy to spot -- but the plan is to eventually broaden the hunt to other types of bots. The bot-hunting programming and research has been a strictly volunteer, part-time endeavor, but the efforts have collectively identified tens of thousands of fake accounts, underlining just how much low-hanging fruit remains for Twitter to prune.

Among the part-time bot-hunters is French security researcher and freelance Android developer Baptiste Robert, who in February of this year noticed that Twitter accounts with profile photos of scantily clad women were liking his tweets or following him on Twitter. Aside from the sexually suggestive images, the bots had similarities. Not only did these Twitter accounts typically include profile photos of adult actresses, but they also had similar bios, followed similar accounts, liked more tweets than they retweeted, had fewer than 1,000 followers, and directed readers to click the link in their bios.


Mapping Apps Like Waze, Google Maps, and Apple Maps May Make Traffic Conditions Worse in Some Areas, New Research Suggests ( 282

From an Atlantic story, originally titled "The Perfect Selfishness of Mapping Apps": In the pre-mobile-app days, drivers' selfishness was limited by their knowledge of the road network. In those conditions, both simulation and real-world experience showed that most people stuck to the freeways and arterial roads. Sure, there were always people who knew the crazy, back-road route, but the bulk of people just stuck to the routes that transportation planners had designated as the preferred way to get from A to B. Now, however, a new information layer is destroying the nudging infrastructure that traffic planners built into cities. Commuters armed with mobile mapping apps, route-following Lyft and Uber drivers, and software-optimized truckers can all act with a more perfect selfishness.

In some happy universe, this would lead to socially optimal outcomes, too. But a new body of research at the University of California's Institute of Transportation Studies suggests that the reality is far more complicated. In some scenarios, traffic-beating apps might work for an individual, but make congestion worse overall. And autonomous vehicles, touted as an answer to traffic-y streets, could deepen the problem. "This problem has been vastly overlooked," Alexandre Bayen, the director of UC Berkeley's Institute of Transportation Studies, told me. "It is just the beginning of something that is gonna be much worse." Bayen and a team of researchers presented their work earlier this year at the Transportation Research Board's annual meeting and at the Cal Future conference at Berkeley in May 2017. They've also published work examining the negative externalities of high levels of automatic routing.


The Road to Deep Decarbonization ( 160

Michael Liebreich, writing for Bloomberg New Energy Finance: In the past fifteen years we have witnessed several pivotal points along the route towards clean energy and transport. In 2004, renewables were poised for explosive growth; in 2008, the world's power system started to go digital; in 2012, it became clear that EVs would take over light ground transportation. Today I believe it is the turn of sectors that have resisted change so far -- heavy ground transportation, industry, chemicals, heat, aviation and shipping, agriculture. One after the other, or more likely as a tightly-coupled system, they are all going to go clean during the coming decades.

Astonishing progress is being made on super-efficient industrial processes, connected and shared vehicles, electrification of air transport, precision agriculture, food science, synthetic fuels, industrial biochemistry, new materials like graphene and aerogels, energy and infrastructure blockchain, additive manufacturing, zero-carbon building materials, small nuclear fusion, and so many other areas. These technologies may not be cost-competitive today, but they all benefit from the same fearsome learning curves as we have seen in wind, solar and batteries. In addition, in the same way that ubiquitous sensors, cloud and edge-of-grid computing, big data and machine learning have enabled the transformation of our electrical system, they will unlock sweeping changes to the rest of our energy, transportation and industrial sectors.


Did Cambridge Analytica Harvest 50 Million Facebook Profiles? ( 135

Slashdot reader umafuckit shared this article from The Guardian: The data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump's election team and the winning Brexit campaign harvested millions of Facebook profiles of U.S. voters, in one of the tech giant's biggest ever data breaches, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box... Christopher Wylie, who worked with a Cambridge University academic to obtain the data, told the Observer: "We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people's profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on."

Documents seen by the Observer, and confirmed by a Facebook statement, show that by late 2015 the company had found out that information had been harvested on an unprecedented scale. However, at the time it failed to alert users and took only limited steps to recover and secure the private information of more than 50 million individuals... On Friday, four days after the Observer sought comment for this story, but more than two years after the data breach was first reported, Facebook announced that it was suspending Cambridge Analytica and Kogan from the platform, pending further information over misuse of data. Separately, Facebook's external lawyers warned the Observer on Friday it was making "false and defamatory" allegations, and reserved Facebook's legal position...

The evidence Wylie supplied to U.K. and U.S. authorities includes a letter from Facebook's own lawyers sent to him in August 2016, asking him to destroy any data he held that had been collected by GSR, the company set up by Kogan to harvest the profiles... Facebook did not pursue a response when the letter initially went unanswered for weeks because Wylie was travelling, nor did it follow up with forensic checks on his computers or storage, he said. "That to me was the most astonishing thing. They waited two years and did absolutely nothing to check that the data was deleted. All they asked me to do was tick a box on a form and post it back."

Wylie worked with Aleksandr Kogan, the creator of the "thisisyourdigitallife" app, "who has previously unreported links to a Russian university and took Russian grants for research," according to the article. Kogan "had a licence from Facebook to collect profile data, but it was for research purposes only. So when he hoovered up information for the commercial venture, he was violating the company's terms...

"At the time, more than 50 million profiles represented around a third of active North American Facebook users, and nearly a quarter of potential U.S. voters."

Slashdot Top Deals