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Transportation

Mercedes Unveils Digital Headlights That Project Street Signs, Markings Onto the Road Ahead (newatlas.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Atlas: Mercedes has just announced a conceptual new set of lamps that can not only adapt their light distribution to cater to the environment, but can project high-res visual aids onto the road ahead, such as makeshift zebra crossings for nearby pedestrians. The new system is dubbed Digital Light and features two million pixels that, with the help of algorithms and sensors that analyze the vehicle's surroundings, can each adjust their individual brightness depending on the scenario. An example of this might be a partial dimming to avoid blinding a cyclist. We have seen this kind of adaptive lighting technology before in systems developed by Fraunhofer and indeed Mercedes itself, although tuning it to control millions of pixels individually does appear to be new territory. But where the Digital Light system gets quite interesting is with the ability to project different objects onto the road. Imagine you are rolling up to an intersection in a foreign city with unfamiliar streets signs and the car, having collected the necessary information, projects a stop sign onto the road out ahead. Perhaps just as practical is the ability to shoot out strips of light that represent the precise width of the car, which could be pretty hand just as you try to squeeze through that extremely narrow gap. For what it's worth, Mercedes says it has already fitted it to a number of demo vehicles and reckons it will be on the road "in the near future."
Security

Destructive Hacks Strike Saudi Arabia, Posing Challenge to Trump (bloomberg.com) 184

State-sponsored hackers have conducted a series of destructive attacks on Saudi Arabia over the last two weeks, erasing data and wreaking havoc in the computer banks of the agency running the country's airports and hitting five additional targets, according to two people familiar with an investigation into the breach. From a report on Bloomberg: Saudi Arabia said after inquiries from Bloomberg News that "several" government agencies were targeted in attacks that came from outside the kingdom, according to state media. Although a probe by Saudi authorities is still in its early stages, the people said digital evidence suggests the attacks emanated from Iran. That could present President-elect Donald Trump with a major national security challenge as he steps into the Oval Office. The use of offensive cyber weapons by a nation is relatively rare and the scale of the latest attacks could trigger a tit-for-tat cyber war in a region where capabilities have mushroomed ever since an attack on Saudi Aramco in 2012.
Movies

British Film Institute To Digitize 100,000 Old TV Shows Before They Disappear (bbc.com) 123

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Thousands of British TV programs are to be digitized before they are lost forever, the British Film Institute says. Anarchic children's show Tiswas and The Basil Brush Show are among the programs in line for preservation. The initiative was announced as part of the BFI's five-year strategy for 2017-2022. "Material from the 70s and early 80s is at risk," said Heather Stewart, the BFI's creative director. "It has a five or six-year shelf life and if we don't do something about it will just go, no matter how great the environment is we keep it in. "Our job is make sure that things are there in 200 years' time." The BFI has budgeted $14.3 million of Lottery funding towards its goal of making the UK's entire screen heritage digitally accessible. This includes an estimated 100,000 of the "most at-risk" British TV episodes and clips held on obsolete video formats. The list includes "early children's programming, little-seen dramas, regional programs and the beginnings of breakfast television." The issue for the BFI, Ms Stewart added, was also to do with freeing up storage space. "We have a whole vault which is wall-to-wall video. If we digitized it, it would be in a robot about the size of a wardrobe," she said.
Privacy

Uber Wants To Track Your Location Even When You're Not Using the App, Here's Why (businessinsider.com) 130

With the most recent update to Uber's ride-hailing app, the company has begun requesting users if they are willing to share their location data with Uber app even while the app is not in use. The company says it plans to use the data gained to improve user experience -- including offering improved pick-up times and locations. From an article on Business Insider: In August the company moved away from using Google Maps for its service and began using its own mapping technology. Google's lack of accuracy in many non-Western countries led to increased friction between consumers and drivers. This means the company needs to boost the amount of location data it has. Location data could also be used to provide new channels of revenue for the digital platform. This could include serving ads of local businesses or recommending nearby places of interest to users. Mobile marketing, which relies on accurate location data is a rapidly growing industry and could serve as a revenue windfall for Uber in the years ahead as it faces increasing competition. In fact, revenue from location-targeted mobile ads is expected to grow at an annualized rate of almost 34% between 2014 and 2019, surpassing $18 billion, according to a forecast from BIA/Kelsey.
Privacy

China Pilots a System That Rates Citizens on 'Social Credit Score' To Determine Eligibility For Jobs, Travel (technologyreview.com) 204

Speculations have turned out be true. The Chinese government is now testing systems that will be used to create digital records of citizens' social and financial behavior. In turn, these will be used to create a so-called social credit score, which will determine whether individuals have access to services, from travel and education to loans and insurance cover. Some citizens -- such as lawyers and journalists -- will be more closely monitored. From a report on MIT Technology Review: Planning documents apparently describe the system as being created to "allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step." The Journal claims that the system will at first log "infractions such as fare cheating, jaywalking and violating family-planning rules" but will be expanded in the future -- potentially even to Internet activity. Some aspects of the system are already in testing, but there are some challenges to implementing such a far-reaching apparatus. It's difficult to centralize all that data, check it for accuracy, and process it, for example -- let alone feed it back into the system to control everyday life. And China has data from 1.4 billion people to handle.
Businesses

GoPro Slashes 15% of Workforce, Shuts Down Entertainment Division (variety.com) 94

GoPro has announced that it will lay off more than 200 employees and freeze hiring, amounting to a reduction of about 15% of its workforce. As part of the restructuring, the company is also shutting down its entertainment division. In addition, the company said president Tony Bates will be leaving the company. From a report on Variety: Also Wednesday, GoPro also said Black Friday camera unit sales were up more than 35% year-over-year at leading U.S. retailers. GoPro said its Hero5 Black camera has been the best-selling digital-imaging device in the U.S. since it launched Oct. 2, citing NPD Group data. GoPro shares climbed more than 4% in premarket trading Wednesday on the news. The move appears to spell the end of the struggling company's ambitions to branch out beyond device sales into the entertainment biz, which had included plans to produce original shows. The GoPro entertainment unit has been led by Ocean MacAdams, who previously held programming posts at MTV, Warner Music Group, and the Madison Square Garden Co., after Zander Lurie left in January to become CEO of SurveyMonkey. The division at one point had about 200 staffers, including Bill McCullough, who produced award-winning sports documentaries for HBO, and Joe Lynch, who previously led Time Inc.'s live-streaming initiatives.
Canada

The Internet Archive Is Building a Canadian Copy To Protect Itself From Trump (theverge.com) 586

The Internet Archive, a digital library nonprofit that preserves billions of webpages for the historical record, is building a backup archive in Canada after the election of Donald Trump. The Verge adds: Today, it began collecting donations for the Internet Archive of Canada, intended to create a copy of the archive outside the United States. "On November 9th in America, we woke up to a new administration promising radical change," writes founder Brewster Kahle. "It was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change. For us, it means keeping our cultural materials safe, private and perpetually accessible. It means preparing for a web that may face greater restrictions. It means serving patrons in a world in which government surveillance is not going away; indeed it looks like it will increase."
Communications

The UK Is About to Legalize Mass Surveillance [Update] (vice.com) 394

From a report on Motherboard: On Tuesday, the UK is due to pass its controversial new surveillance law, the Investigatory Powers Act, according to the Home Office. The Act, which has received overwhelming support in both the House of Commons and Lords, formally legalizes a number of mass surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013. It also introduces a new power which will force internet service providers to store browsing data on all customers for 12 months. Civil liberties campaigners have described the Act as one of the most extreme surveillance laws in any democracy, while law enforcement agencies believe that the collection of browsing data is vital in an age of ubiquitous internet communications. "The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 will ensure that law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies have the powers they need in a digital age to disrupt terrorist attacks, subject to strict safeguards and world-leading oversight," a statement from the Home Office reads. Much of the Act gives stronger legal footing to the UK's various bulk powers, including "bulk interception," which is, in general terms, the collection of internet and phone communications en masse. In June 2013, using documents provided by Edward Snowden, The Guardian revealed that the GCHQ taps fibre-optic undersea cables in order to intercept emails, internet histories, calls, and a wealth of other data. Update: "Snooper's charter" bill has become the law. The home secretary said:"The Investigatory Powers Act is world-leading legislation, that provides unprecedented transparency and substantial privacy protection. "The government is clear that, at a time of heightened security threat, it is essential our law enforcement and security and intelligence services have the power they need to keep people safe. The internet presents new opportunities for terrorists and we must ensure we have the capabilities to confront this challenge. But it is also right that these powers are subject to strict safeguards and rigorous oversight."
AI

Amazon Said to Plan Premium Alexa Speaker With Large Screen (bloomberg.com) 84

Amazon's Echo speakers have garnered a lot of interest over the past few months. Many people believe that they like Amazon Echo because of how easy it's to operate -- there is no display, you talk with Alexa, Amazon's digital assistant, which is reasonably good at understanding your queries. But in what seems like a deviation from the idea that made Echos so popular, Amazon is reportedly working on an Echo-like speaker, only this time it is more premium and has a 7-inch display, too. From a report on Bloomberg: The new device will have a touchscreen measuring about seven inches, a major departure from Amazon's existing cylindrical home devices that are controlled and respond mostly through the company's voice-based Alexa digital assistant, according to two people familiar with the matter. This will make it easier to access content such as weather forecasts, calendar appointments, and news, the people said. The latest Amazon speaker will be larger and tilt upwards so the screen can be seen when it sits on a counter and the user is standing, one of the people said.
Businesses

CNN Acquires Social-Video Startup Beme, Co-Founded By YouTube Star Casey Neistat (variety.com) 61

CNN announced Monday that it has purchased video-sharing app Beme, and will work with its founder, Casey Neistat, to build a new media brand next year focused on storytelling for a younger audience. Casey Neistat is a YouTube celebrity and tech entrepreneur who launched Beme last year. Variety reports: CNN said the new venture that it's forming out of the acquisition -- aimed at reaching millennial viewers with the street cred of Neistat's reporting and commentary -- will launch in the summer of 2017. All 11 of Beme's employees will join CNN; the cable news network will be shutting down Beme, which had garnered more than 1 million downloads. New York-based filmmaker Neistat, who has more than 5.8 million subscribers on YouTube, announced earlier this month on his channel that he would be suspending his personal vlog to focus on new projects, one of which turns out is the pact with CNN. His daily vlog dispatches cover current political and news events as well as action sequences like his viral "Snowboarding With the NYPD" video last winter. Led by Hackett, formerly VP of engineering at Yahoo's Tumblr, Beme's development team will "build technology to enable the new company and also develop mobile video capabilities for CNN's portfolio of digital properties," according to the Turner-owned cable news network. Neistat, 35, will lead the new venture's "editorial vision" as executive producer. CNN said it will employ its global resources to launch the new media brand, and plans to hire dozens of producers, builders, developers, designers and content creators for the new company. CNN said the new Beme-based company will operate as a standalone business under the CNN Digital umbrella.
China

Microsoft Confirms Its Chinese-Language Chatbot Filters Certain Topics (fortune.com) 19

Microsoft's Chinese-language AI chat bot filters certain topics, the company confirmed Monday, although it did not clarify whether that included interactions deemed politically sensitive. From a report on Fortune: Last week, CNNMoney and China Digital Times reported that Xiaoice would not directly respond to questions surrounding topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese state. References to the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 or "Steamed Bun Xi," a nickname of Chinese President Xi Jinping, would draw evasive answers or non sequiturs from the chat bot, according to the report. "Am I stupid? Once I answer you'd take a screengrab," read one answer to a question that contained the words "topple the Communist Party." Even the mention of Donald Trump, the American President-elect, drew an evasive response from the chat bot, according to reports. "I don't want to talk about it," Xiaoice said, reports CNN Money. In response to inquiries from Fortune, Microsoft confirmed that there was some filtering around Xiaoice's interaction. "We are committed to creating the best experience for everyone chatting with Xiaoice," a Microsoft spokesperson tells Fortune. "With this in mind, we have implemented filtering on a range of topics." The tech giant did not further elaborate to which specific topics the filtering applied.
Google

Online Pranksters Mock Trump's $149 Christmas Ornament, Rename Trump Tower on Google Maps (yahoo.com) 524

An anonymous reader quotes a Digital Trends story about a suspicious malfunction on Google Maps: At some point yesterday, Donald Trump's Fifth Avenue home was given a rather unceremonious rechristening, and a search for "Trump Tower" revealed a pin for "Dump Tower" instead. It was rather tricky to find for some, and required zooming in on the building itself at just the right angle (which is perhaps how the culprit got away with the stunt in the first place). At a separate angle, someone else (or perhaps the same person) transliterated the skyscraper's name in Russian Cyrillic, perhaps meant to be a jab at Trump's alleged ties to President Vladimir Putin and company... While the team [at Google Maps] managed to put out this first fire, another quickly arose to take its place (as is often the case on the internet), and later in the day on Saturday, Trump International Hotel and Tower in Columbus Circle was renamed Dump International Hotel and Tower. Meanwhile, another anonymous reader writes: Earlier this week Donald Trump emailed his supporters selling a $149 collectible "Make America Great Again" Christmas ornament finished with 14k gold, to raise money for both his campaign and the Republican party. But Yahoo News reports that it's now getting some suspicious negative (and politically-charged) reviews on its page on Amazon. ("One Star. "It tried to put my nativity figures into an internment camp.") And another reviewer even wrote a satirical story about how their family decided on the ornament for the tree. "During our family meeting we overwhelmingly chose the other ornament but somehow we still ended up with this one. We're not sure what happened."
Businesses

Yesterday Saw $3.3 Billion In Online Purchases (cmo.com) 66

Friday humanity set a new record for the most money ever spent online in a single day -- and the most ever purchased on mobile devices. An anonymous reader writes: Online sales reached $3.34 billion yesterday, up 11.3% from the same day last year, according to a new report from Adobe Digital Insights. And most of that traffic came from mobile devices. In fact, yesterday became "the first day to ever generate over a billion dollars in online sales from mobile devices," according to their report. Although 64% of online sales came from desktop computers, 55% of the traffic to shopping sites still came from mobile devices -- 45% from smartphones, and 10% from tablets. (Just three years ago, only 20% of Black Friday sales came from mobile devices.)

The top-grossing products appeared to be iPads and Macbooks, Microsoft's Xbox, and Samsung and LG TVs, while the top-grossing toys were electric scooters, drones, Nerf guns and LEGO sets. The products mostly likely to be "out of stock" yesterday included the new NES Classic and the Nintendo 3DS XL Solgaleo Lunala (black edition), the Playstation VR bundle (and the PS4 "Call of Duty: Black Ops" bundle), and the Xbox One S bundle for Madden NFL 17.

The day after Black Friday is now being touted as "Small Business Saturday," a tradition started in 2010 when American Express partnered with the non-profit National Trust for Historic Preservation (and some civic-minded groups in Boston) to encourage people to shop in their local brick-and-mortar stores. American Express reported a $1.7 billion increase in sales on Small Business Saturday in 2015, "with 95 million customers reporting shopping small at local retailers, salons, restaurants and more."
EU

Uber Is About to Face a Landmark Battle in Europe (fortune.com) 106

In a case which could affect other app-based startups, Uber will seek to convince Europe's top court next week that it is a digital service, not a transport company. The outcome could determine whether app-based startups should be exempt from strict laws meant for regular companies. From a report on Fortune:The European Commission is trying to boost e-commerce, a sector where the EU lags behind Asia and the United States, to drive economic growth and create jobs. The U.S. taxi app, which launched in Europe five years ago, has faced fierce opposition from regular taxi companies and some local authorities, who fear it creates unfair competition because it is not bound by strict local licensing and safety rules. Supporters however say rigid regulatory obligations protect incumbents and hinder the entry of digital startups which offer looser work arrangements to workers in the 28-country European Union looking for more flexibility, albeit without basic rights.
Piracy

$1 Billion Getty Images Public Domain Photograph Dispute is Over (torrentfreak.com) 99

Earlier this year, photographer Carol Highsmith received a $120 settlement demand from Getty Images after she used one of her own public domain images on her website (which is she had donated to the Library of Congress and made available to the public to reproduce and display for free). Highsmith responded with a $1bn lawsuit but after a few short months, as TorrentFreak reports, the case is all over, with neither side a clear winner. From the report: To begin, on October 28, US District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff dismissed each of Carol Highsmith's federal copyright claims. "Defendants Getty Images (US), Inc., License Compliance Services, Inc., Alamy, including that Inc., and Alamy Ltd. collectively moved to dismiss all claims of plaintiffs Carol Highsmith and This is America!, Inc. under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act,... the Lanham Act,... New York General Business Law,... and New York common law of unfair competition," the Judge wrote. "Upon consideration, the Court grants defendants' motions,â he added. With the federal claims gone, three state law claims were including that Getty charged licensing fees for images when it shouldn't have and collected settlements from alleged infringers when it had no right. However, these claims have now also been dismissed, along with the rest of the case. "It is hereby stipulated and agreed, by and among the parties, that this action shall be dismissed with prejudice pursuant to Rule 41(a)(l)(A)(ii) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, each party to bear its own costs and fees," the Judge wrote in his dismissal. Since the case was dismissed with prejudice, it is done and cannot be brought back to court.
Businesses

Google Quietly Phases Out 'Google Cast' Branding for TVs, Speakers (variety.com) 9

Google can't seem to settle for a good name for its media-streaming device. The company is changing Google Cast branding to Chromecast, it subtly announced this week on Twitter. The tech giant has been jumping around on its branding for Cast, most recently switching from Google Cast to Google Home with the release of the company's smart speaker. From a report on Variety:Google has been phasing put the 'Google Cast' branding for TVs and internet-connected loudspeakers that are compatible with Google's own Chromecast streaming adapters. Instead, the company and its partners have switched to describing these products as having "Chromecast built-in."
Programming

American Computer Scientists Grace Hopper, Margaret Hamilton Receive Presidential Medals of Freedom (fedscoop.com) 126

An anonymous reader quotes a report from FedScoop: President Barack Obama awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom to two storied women in tech -- one posthumously to Grace Hopper, known as the "first lady of software," and one to programmer Margaret Hamilton. Hopper worked on the Harvard Mark I computer, and invented the first compiler. "At age 37 and a full 15 pounds below military guidelines, the gutsy and colorful Grace joined the Navy and was sent to work on one of the first computers, Harvard's Mark 1," Obama said at the ceremony Tuesday. "She saw beyond the boundaries of the possible and invented the first compiler, which allowed programs to be written in regular language and then translated for computers to understand." Hopper followed her mother into mathematics, and earned a doctoral degree from Yale, Obama said. She retired from the Navy as a rear admiral. "From cell phones to Cyber Command, we can thank Grace Hopper for opening programming up to millions more people, helping to usher in the Information Age and profoundly shaping our digital world," Obama said. Hamilton led the team that created the onboard flight software for NASA's Apollo command modules and lunar modules, according to a White House release. "At this time software engineering wasn't even a field yet," Obama noted at the ceremony. "There were no textbooks to follow, so as Margaret says, 'there was no choice but to be pioneers.'" He added: "Luckily for us, Margaret never stopped pioneering. And she symbolizes that generation of unsung women who helped send humankind into space."
Businesses

Symantec To Acquire LifeLock for $2.3B (usatoday.com) 41

Symantec is acquiring identity-theft protection firm LifeLock for $2.3 billion, the companies announced today. It's the company's latest move to branch out from malware protection into cybersecurity, following its purchase of Blue Coat, a company that safeguards web transactions. "With the combination of Norton and LifeLock, we will be able to deliver comprehensive cyber defense for consumers," Symantec said. From a report on USA Today:Symantec will finance the deal with a combination of cash and $750 million of new debt, the company said in a statement. The deal will close during the first calendar quarter of 2017. The combination of LifeLock and Norton, Symantec's suite of antivirus and anti-spyware tools, will help the company deliver "comprehensive" protection for consumers, said Symantec CEO Greg Clark. "This acquisition marks the transformation of the consumer security industry from malware protection to the broader category of digital safety for consumers," said Clark. Symantec sees a growing market for digital safety, estimated at $10 billion and 80 million consumers. "People's identity and data are prime targets of cybercrime," said Symantec board chairman Dan Schulman. "The security industry must step up and defend through innovation and vigilance."
Google

Is Google's AI-Driven Image-Resizing Algorithm Dishonest? (thestack.com) 79

The Stack reports on Google's "new research into upscaling low-resolution images using machine learning to 'fill in' the missing details," arguing this is "a questionable stance...continuing to propagate the idea that images contain some kind of abstract 'DNA', and that there might be some reliable photographic equivalent of polymerase chain reaction which could find deeper truth in low-res images than either the money spent on the equipment or the age of the equipment will allow." An anonymous reader summarizes their report: Rapid and Accurate Image Super Resolution (RAISR) uses low and high resolution versions of photos in a standard image set to establish templated paths for upward scaling... This effectively uses historical logic, instead of pixel interpolation, to infer what the image would look like if it had been taken at a higher resolution.

It's notable that neither their initial paper nor the supplementary examples feature human faces. It could be argued that using AI-driven techniques to reconstruct images raises some questions about whether upscaled, machine-driven digital enhancements are a legal risk, compared to the far greater expense of upgrading low-res CCTV networks with the necessary resolution, bandwidth and storage to obtain good quality video evidence.

The article points out that "faith in the fidelity of these 'enhanced' images routinely convicts defendants."
Bitcoin

IRS Demands Identities of All US Coinbase Traders Over Three Year Period (vice.com) 124

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: In bitcoin-related investigations, authorities will often follow the digital trail of an illegal transaction or suspicious user back to a specific account at a bitcoin trading company. From here, investigators will likely subpoena the company for records about that particular user, so they can then properly identify the person suspected of a crime. The Internal Revenue Service, however, has taken a different approach. Instead of asking for data relating to specific individuals suspected of a crime, it has demanded bitcoin trading site Coinbase to provide the identities of all of the firm's U.S. customers who made transactions over a three year period, because there is a chance they are avoiding paying taxes on their bitcoin reserves. Coinbase has a total of millions of customers. According to court filings, which were first flagged by financial blogger Zerohedge on Twitter, the IRS has launched an investigation to determine the correct amount of tax that those who use virtual currencies such as bitcoin are obligated to pay. But according to the documents, the IRS is asking for the identities of any U.S. Coinbase customer who transferred crypto-currency with the service between 2013 and 2015. "The John Does whose identities are sought by the summons are United States persons who, at any time during the period January 1, 2013, through December 31, 2015, conducted transactions in a convertible virtual currency," reads a memorandum written by Department of Justice attorneys and filed on Thursday, November 17.

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