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Social Networks

Researchers Create Algorithm That Diagnoses Depression From Your Instagram Feed (inverse.com) 2

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Inverse: Harvard University's Andrew Reece and the University of Vermont's Chris Danforth crafted an algorithm that can correctly diagnose depression, with up to 70 percent accuracy, based on a patient's Instagram feed alone. After a careful screening process, the team analyzed almost 50,000 photos from 166 participants, all of whom were Instagram users and 71 of whom had already been diagnosed with clinical depression. Their results confirmed their two hypotheses: first, that "markers of depression are observable in Instagram user behavior," and second, that "these depressive signals are detectable in posts made even before the date of first diagnosis." The duo had good rationale for both hypotheses. Photos shared on Instagram, despite their innocent appearance, are data-laden: Photos are either taken during the day or at night, in- or outdoors. They may include or exclude people. The user may or may not have used a filter. You can imagine an algorithm drooling at these binary inputs, all of which reflect a person's preferences, and, in turn, their well-being. Metadata is likewise full of analyzable information: How many people liked the photo? How many commented on it? How often does the user post, and how often do they browse? Many studies have shown that depressed people both perceive less color in the world and prefer dark, anemic scenes and images. The majority of healthy people, on the other hand, prefer colorful things. [Reece and Danforth] collected each photo's hue, saturation, and value averages. Depressed people, they found, tended to post photos that were more bluish, unsaturated, and dark. "Increased hue, along with decreased brightness and saturation, predicted depression," they write. The researchers found that happy people post less than depressed people, happy people post photos with more people in them than their depressed counterparts. and that depressed participants were less likely to use filters. The majority of "healthy" participants chose the Valencia filter, while the majority of "depressed" participants chose the Inkwell filter. Inverse has a neat little chart embedded in their report that shows the usage of Instagram filters between depressed and healthy users.
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Under Tim Cook: More Socially Responsible, Less Visionary (cnn.com) 125

Let's talk about Apple, unarguably one of the most remarkable companies on the face of the earth. (Remarkable doesn't necessarily mean great -- it just means that the company is something worth making a remark). You can like it, or hate it, but you can simply not ignore Apple. But what's the occasion, you ask? It's been five years since Tim Cook took over as Apple CEO. (Editor's note: auto-playing video ahead, which may annoy you) Under his leadership, Apple has grown to become the world's most successful company, doubling the stock price and registering a staggering 84 percent growth in its net worth. Media outlets are abuzz with articles, analysis, and over-analysis of Tim Cook's Apple today. Some excerpts from a CNN article: Apple's culture has changed noticeably, both for the better and the worse. [...] If Jobs put a dent in the universe through Apple's coveted products, Cook is making his mark by highlighting the importance of social efforts: LGBT rights, philanthropy, corporate diversity, renewable energy and improving manufacturing conditions abroad. Under Cook's leadership, Apple finally began matching charitable contributions from employees, which had long been a sore spot for staff. Apple had 110,000 full-time employees as of the end of September 2015, nearly doubling from the 60,400 employees it reported having in September 2011, shortly after Cook took over, according to annual filings with the SEC. [...] There's now a feeling among some Apple insiders that the company is just running the same product playbook that Jobs created in his final years at the helm. "For four or five years, the playbook is the same that's been done," says Amit Sharma, a former Apple exec on the online store team. But, he adds, "just because everybody is looking for new doesn't mean it's not working."
Communications

Facebook Is Testing Autoplaying Video With Sound (thenextweb.com) 142

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook is testing a "feature" that autoplays video clips on your feed with sound. It's not a very big test, but there's a possibility the company could roll it out to a larger group of users. The Next Web reports: "The company is currently trying two methods of getting people to watch video with sound in Australia: the aforementioned autoplaying, and an unmute button on the lower right corner of videos, like Vine videos on a desktop. The latter certainly sounds more reasonable; the last thing you want is to be checking Facebook quickly during a meeting or class, and suddenly have your phone blaring out an advert because you happened to stop on a video. Thankfully, you can disable the 'feature' from your settings, but the point is there's nothing wrong with the current opt-in approach, especially considering how many companies are embracing video captioning, and that Facebook even has its own auto-caption tool for advertisers." "We're running a small test in News Feed where people can choose whether they want to watch videos with sound on from the start," a Facebook spokesperson told Mashable Australia. "For people in this test who do not want sound to play, they can switch it off in Settings or directly on the video itself. This is one of several tests we're running as we work to improve the video experience for people on Facebook."
PlayStation (Games)

Sony Tries To Remove News Articles About PlayStation 4 Slim Leak From The Internet (techdirt.com) 80

Sony is expected to announce two new PlayStation 4 consoles at a scheduled event on September 7th in New York City, but as that date nears more leaks of the consoles have emerged. The most recent leak appears to show the upcoming PlayStation 4 Slim, which Sony is trying to remove from the internet by taking down news articles from social media accounts about the leak. Erik Kain via @erikkain on Twitter tweeted (Tweet no longer exists): "Sony issued a takedown and had this post removed from my Facebook page: https://t.co/fIjP0buTdY (Warning: may be paywalled)." Techdirt reports: "[The Forbes post] references the work Eurogamer did in visiting the leaker of the image to confirm the console is for real (it is), as well as generating its own image and even video of the console working for its story on the leak. But if you go today to the Eurogamer post about the leak, the video has been replaced by the following update. UPDATE, 7.30pm: Upon taking legal advice, we have removed the video previously referenced in this article. Left unsaid is whether or not any contact had been made by Sony with Eurogamer, thus prompting this 'legal advice,' but one can imagine that being the case, particularly given Sony's threats to social media users sharing images and reporting of Sony leaks and, more to the point, threats against any media that might report on those leaks."
Canada

Ashley Madison Security Protocols Violated Canada, Austrialia Privacy Laws (www.cbc.ca) 26

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said Tuesday that the Canada-based online dating and social networking service Ashely Madison used inadequate privacy and security technology while marketing itself as a discreet and secure way for consenting adults to have affairs. CBC.ca reports: "In a report Tuesday, the privacy watchdog says the Toronto-based company violated numerous privacy laws in Canada and abroad in the era before a massive data breach exposed confidential information from their clients to hackers. The hack stole correspondence, identifying details and even credit card information from millions of the site's users. The resulting scandal cost the company about a quarter of its annual revenues from irate customers who demanded refunds and cancelled their accounts. Working with a similar agency in Australia, the privacy group says the company knew that its security protocols were lacking but didn't do enough to guard against being hacked. The company even adorned its website with the logo of a 'trusted security award' -- a claim the company admits it fabricated." The report found that "poor habits such as inadequate authentication processes and sub-par key and password management practices were rampant at the company" and that "much of the company's efforts to monitor its own security were 'focused on detecting system performance issues and unusual employee requests for decryption of sensitive user data.'" What's more is that Ashley Madison continued to store personal information of its users even after some of which had deleted or deactivated their account(s). These people then had their information included in databases published online after the hack.
Facebook

Facebook Knows Your Political Preferences (businessinsider.com) 183

Facebook knows a lot more about its users than they think. For instance, the New York Times reports, the company is categorizing its users as liberal, conservative, or moderate. These details are valuable for advertisers and campaign managers, especially ahead of the election season. From a BusinessInsider report: For some, Facebook is able to come to conclusions about your political leanings easily, if you mention a political party on your page. For those that are less open about politics on social media, Facebook makes assumptions based on pages you like. As The New York Times explained, if you like Ben and Jerry's Facebook page and most of the other people that like that page identify as liberal, Facebook might assume you too are liberal.
The Internet

Internaut Day Might Not Be the Web Anniversary You're Looking For (fortune.com) 70

David Meyer, reporting for Fortune: The web arguably went public before August 23, 1991. Social media users are enthusiastically celebrating "Internaut Day" on Tuesday. They're thanking Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, for first providing public access to it on this day in 1991, precisely a quarter of a century back. The only problem is that the supposed importance of Internaut Day doesn't seem to be supported by much evidence. Berners-Lee submitted his seminal proposal for a new information management system to CERN on March 12, 1989, a date which Berners-Lee celebrates as the birthday of the web. The building blocks were specified and written up by October 1990, and the first webpage went live in December that year. So when somebody celebrates the "Internaut Day" today, it really doesn't seem like the right occasion. The report adds: According to Wikipedia, that's when "new users could [first] access" the web -- and that's what a gazillion news stories on Tuesday are supposedly celebrating. But it doesn't square with what the Web Foundation and CERN say.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

US Customs and Border Protection Wants To Know Who You Are On Twitter (eff.org) 344

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electronic Frontier Foundation: U.S. border control agents want to gather Facebook and Twitter identities from visitors from around the world. But this flawed plan would violate travelers' privacy, and would have a wide-ranging impact on freedom of expression -- all while doing little or nothing to protect Americans from terrorism. A proposal has been issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to collect social media handles from visitors to the United States from visa waiver countries. The Electronic Frontier Foundation opposes the proposal and has commented on it individually and as part of a larger coalition. "CBP specifically seeks 'information associated with your online presence -- Provider/Platform -- Social media identifier' in order to provider DHS 'greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections' for 'vetting purposes,'" reports EFF. "In our comments, we argue that would-be terrorists are unlikely to disclose social media identifiers that reveal publicly available posts expressing support for terrorism." They say this plan "would unfairly violate the privacy of innocent travelers," would cause "innocent travelers" to "engage in self-censorship, cutting back on their online activity out of fear of being wrongly judged by the U.S. government," and would lead to a "slippery slope, where CBP would require U.S. citizens and residents returning home to disclose their social media handles, or subject both foreign visitors and U.S. persons to invasive device searches at ports of entry with the intent of easily accessing any and all cloud data."
Twitter

Twitter Announces New Blocking and Filtering Features (wired.co.uk) 117

Twitter just began rolling out "new ways to control your experience," promising the two new features "will give you more control over what you see and who you interact with on Twitter." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes a report from Wired UK: First up, notification settings will allow those using Twitter on the web or on desktop to limit the notifications they receive for @ mentions, RTs, and other interactions to just be from people they follow. The feature can be turned on through the notifications tab. Twitter is also expanding its quality filter -- also accessible through notifications. "When turned on, the filter can improve the quality of Tweets you see by using a variety of signals, such as account origin and behavior," the company's product manager Emil Leong said in a blog post.

In December 2015, the company changed its rules to explicitly ban "hateful conduct" for the first time, while back in February last year, Twitter's then-CEO Dick Costolo admitted the network needed to improve how it handled trolls and abuse. In a leaked memo he said: "I'm frankly ashamed of how poorly we've dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It's absurd. There's no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It's nobody else's fault but mine, and it's embarrassing."

Meanwhile, the Twitter account of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales was hacked on Saturday.
AI

Chicago's Experiment In Predictive Policing Isn't Working (theverge.com) 191

The U.S. will phase out private prisons, a move made possible by fewer and shorter sentences for drug offenses, reports the BBC. But when it comes to reducing arrests for violent crimes, police officers in Chicago found themselves resorting ineffectively to a $2 million algorithm which ultimately had them visiting people before any crime had been committed. schwit1 quotes Ars Technica: Struggling to reduce its high murder rate, the city of Chicago has become an incubator for experimental policing techniques. Community policing, stop and frisk, "interruption" tactics --- the city has tried many strategies. Perhaps most controversial and promising has been the city's futuristic "heat list" -- an algorithm-generated list identifying people most likely to be involved in a shooting.

The hope was that the list would allow police to provide social services to people in danger, while also preventing likely shooters from picking up a gun. But a new report from the RAND Corporation shows nothing of the sort has happened. Instead, it indicates that the list is, at best, not even as effective as a most wanted list. At worst, it unnecessarily targets people for police attention, creating a new form of profiling.

The police argue they've updated the algorithm and improved their techniques for using it. But the article notes that the researchers began following the "heat list" when it launched in 2013, and "found that the program has saved no lives at all."
China

China's Xiaomi Gearing Up For US Debut (bloomberg.com) 42

An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg report: Xiaomi is preparing to enter the U.S. smartphone market "in the near future," employing the same online sales and social media marketing tactics that helped the six-year-old startup become China's largest privately funded startup. Xiaomi can no longer afford to ignore the world's largest smartphone arena by revenue, company vice president Hugo Barra said in an interview. Its international expansion is taking on new-found urgency as growth at home slows and rivals such as Huawei erode its market share. "The U.S. is a market that we definitely have in our sights," Barra said on Bloomberg Television. "We will lead with social media, with the channels that allow us to get in touch with the young generation that are enthusiastic about new technology. We are definitely going there." Barra, who oversees the Chinese company's international expansion, has signaled Xiaomi's U.S. debut before. But the smartphone vendor is now in a better position to launch an incursion onto Apple's turf. In June, the Beijing-based company announced the acquisition of nearly 1,500 technology patents from Microsoft -- a deal that may smooth potential legal tangles over intellectual property as it pushes abroad.
Bitcoin

Eleven Reasons To Be Excited About The Future of Technology (medium.com) 282

Chris Dixon, an American internet entrepreneur and investor in a range of tech and media companies including Kickstarter and Foursquare has written an essay on Medium highlighting some of the reasons why we should be excited about the future of technology. The reasons he has listed are as follows: 1. Self-Driving Cars: Self-driving cars exist today that are safer than human-driven cars in most driving conditions. Over the next 3-5 years they'll get even safer, and will begin to go mainstream.
2. Clean Energy: Attempts to fight climate change by reducing the demand for energy haven't worked. Fortunately, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs have been working hard on the supply side to make clean energy convenient and cost-effective.
3. Virtual and Augmented Reality: Computer processors only recently became fast enough to power comfortable and convincing virtual and augmented reality experiences. Companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are investing billions of dollars to make VR and AR more immersive, comfortable, and affordable.
4. Drones and Flying Cars: GPS started out as a military technology but is now used to hail taxis, get mapping directions, and hunt Pokemon. Likewise, drones started out as a military technology, but are increasingly being used for a wide range of consumer and commercial applications.
5. Artificial Intelligence: Artificial intelligence has made rapid advances in the last decade, due to new algorithms and massive increases in data collection and computing power.
6. Pocket Supercomputers for Everyone: By 2020, 80% of adults on earth will have an internet-connected smartphone. An iPhone 6 has about 2 billion transistors, roughly 625 times more transistors than a 1995 Intel Pentium computer. Today's smartphones are what used to be considered supercomputers.
7. Cryptocurrencies and Blockchains: Protocols are the plumbing of the internet. Most of the protocols we use today were developed decades ago by academia and government. Since then, protocol development mostly stopped as energy shifted to developing proprietary systems like social networks and messaging apps. Cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies are changing this by providing a new business model for internet protocols. This year alone, hundreds of millions of dollars were raised for a broad range of innovative blockchain-based protocols.
8. High-Quality Online Education: While college tuition skyrockets, anyone with a smartphone can study almost any topic online, accessing educational content that is mostly free and increasingly high-quality.
9. Better Food through Science: Earth is running out of farmable land and fresh water. This is partly because our food production systems are incredibly inefficient. It takes an astounding 1799 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef. Fortunately, a variety of new technologies are being developed to improve our food system.
10. Computerized Medicine: Until recently, computers have only been at the periphery of medicine, used primarily for research and record keeping. Today, the combination of computer science and medicine is leading to a variety of breakthroughs.
11. A New Space Age: Since the beginning of the space age in the 1950s, the vast majority of space funding has come from governments. But that funding has been in decline: for example, NASA's budget dropped from about 4.5% of the federal budget in the 1960s to about 0.5% of the federal budget today.

Security

Millions Of Steam Game Keys Stolen After Hacker Breaches Gaming Site (zdnet.com) 68

An anonymous reader writes:A little over nine million keys used to redeem and activate games on the Steam platform were stolen by a hacker who breached a gaming news site last month. The site, DLH.net, provides news, reviews, cheat codes, and forums, was breached on July 31 by an unnamed hacker, whose name isn't known but was also responsible for the Dota 2 forum breach. The site also allows users to share redeemable game keys through its forums, which along with the main site has around 3.3 million unique registered users, according to breach notification site LeakedSource.com, which obtained a copy of the database. A known vulnerability found in older vBulletin forum software, which powers the site's community, allowed the hacker to access the databases. The data stolen from the forum includes full names, usernames, scrambled passwords, email addresses, dates of birth, join dates, avatars, Steam usernames, and user activity data. Facebook access tokens were stolen for those who signed in with their social account.
Science

When We're Happy, We Actively Sabotage Our Good Moods With Grim Tasks (arstechnica.com) 85

Beth Mole, writing for Ars Technica: Always keeping your house tidy and spotless may earn you the label of "neat freak" -- but "super happy" may be a more accurate tag. When people voluntarily take on unpleasant tasks such as housework, they tend to be in particularly happy states, according to a new study on hedonism. The finding challenges an old prediction by some researchers that humans can be constant pleasure-seekers. Instead, the new study suggests we might seek out fun, uplifting activities mainly when we're in bad or down moods. But when we're on the up, we're more likely to go for the dull and dreary assignments. This finding of "flexible hedonism," reported this week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may seem counterintuitive because it suggests we sabotage our own high spirits. But it hints at the idea that humans tend to make sensible short-term trade-offs on happiness for long-term gains. "Although our data cannot directly tell us whether regularly engaging in unpleasant activities predicts psychological and social adjustment five or 10 years down the line, a large body of work has consistently demonstrated the importance of sleeping, employment, and living in a reasonably clean and organized home on mental and physical health," according to the study authors, led by Maxime Taquet of Harvard and Jordi Quoidbach of the University Pompeu Fabra in Spain.
Twitter

Twitter Has Suspended 235,000 Accounts Since February For Promoting Terrorism (theverge.com) 132

An anonymous reader writes: Twitter has suspended 235,000 accounts since February for promoting terrorism, the company said in a blog post today. "Daily suspensions are up over 80 percent since last year, with spikes in suspensions immediately following terrorist attacks," the company wrote. "Our response time for suspending reported accounts, the amount of time these accounts are on Twitter, and the number of followers they accumulate have all decreased dramatically." The company said it's also expanded the team that works on flagging such content, and claims to have made progress on stopping accounts from starting again under a new handle. In a previous post from February, Twitter said it had suspended 125,000 accounts since mid-2015.
Communications

'Only Voice Memos Can Save Us From the Scourge of Email' (qz.com) 290

Emails are great -- so much so that many believe that it's one of the best inventions of all time. But when you get hundreds of emails everyday, things could get harder to handle. Understandably, many have resorted to alternatives such as Slack, Gchat, and other IM services to offload many of the things they previously did exclusively via emails. An article on Quartz today argues that perhaps voice notes is the best alternative to emails. From their article: There's a solution staring us right in the face: a technological tool that preserves the intimacy of the human voice without requiring people to sync up their schedules. As a number of remote workers, diaspora communities and expats have already discovered, voice notes might just be the answer we've been waiting for. Barcelona-based filmmaker Philippa Young, for example, relies on WhatsApp's voice notes to communicate with her nomadic yet tight-knit team of 15. She sends audio notes throughout the day that range from just a few seconds in length to 10 minutes. The system allows her far-flung coworkers to respond whenever the sun rises in their time zone or they manage to find a stable wifi connection. [...] Voice notes also offer an antidote to one of the primary anxieties of the digital era "the fear that emails, texts and instant messaging rob conversation of emotional nuance, leading to endless misunderstandings and social blunders. "The thing that I really value about it for our team spread out across the world is that when I get a voice note from someone, they've spoken to me and I hear their tone of voice," Young adds. "You can hear in someone's voice how they're feeling."
Facebook

Facebook Teams Up With Unity To Create a Gaming Platform To Rival Steam (betanews.com) 103

Facebook is now shifting its attention back to capturing the gaming market. The company said Thursday that it's working with game engine Unity to build a dedicated, downloadable desktop gaming platform. The social juggernaut added that it is also broadening the Facebook.com experience for gamers. BetaNews reports: Facebook is starting to take gaming far more seriously. Not content with funneling the likes of Candy Crush through its servers, the social network is now joining forces with the company behind the Unity game engine to create its own desktop gaming platform. The aim is to tap into not only the millions of gamers that are already on Facebook, but also to gather more from the PC-gaming community. It's a new venture that very clearly treads on the toes of Steam, and is likely to cause ripples in the gaming world. The scope of the work between Facebook and Unity Technologies is quite wide. It will bring together Unity's 2D, 3D, VR and AR development platform with Facebook's own game development tools. While Facebook is currently associated with very casual gaming, hooking up with an established serious player in the field means we're likely to see the social network appealing more to hardcore gamers.
Businesses

WSJ: Facebook's Point System Fails To Close Diversity Gap 414

theodp writes: Gizmodo and others are picking up on a Wall Street Journal story (Warning: may be paywalled) which reported that Facebook's failure to move the needle on diversity is all the more surprising because the social network awarded Facebook recruiters double points for a "diversity hire" -- a female, Black, or Hispanic engineer -- compared to the hire of a White or Asian male. Facebook declined to comment on whether this points-based system is still in effect. The WSJ also notes that Intel has paid its employees double referral bonuses for women, minorities, and veterans. The reward schemes evoke memories of gender-based (and later race-based) incentives offered for K-12 coding and STEM programs run by tech-backed Code.org (to which Facebook just pledged $15 million) and Google, which offered lower funding or no funding at all to teachers if participation by female students was deemed unacceptable to the sponsoring organizations. Facebook's efforts also seem consistent with the tech-backed Every Student Succeeds Act, which calls for increasing CS and STEM access to address a tech-declared national crisis, but only "for students through grade 12 who are members of groups underrepresented in such subject fields, such as female students, minority students, English learners, children with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students." Hey, sometimes "every" doesn't mean "every!"
Google

Malware That Fakes Bank Login Screens Found In Google Ads (fastcompany.com) 120

tedlistens quotes a report from Fast Company: For years, security firms have warned of keystroke logging malware that surreptitiously steals usernames and passwords on desktop and laptop computers. In the past year, a similar threat has begun to emerge on mobile devices: So-called overlay malware that impersonates login pages from popular apps and websites as users launch the apps, enticing them to enter their credentials to banking, social networking, and other services, which are then sent on to attackers. Such malware has even found its way onto Google's AdSense network, according to a report on Monday from Kaspersky Lab. The weapon would automatically download when users visited certain Russian news sites, without requiring users to click on the malicious advertisements. It then prompts users for administrative rights, which makes it harder for antivirus software or the user to remove it, and proceeds to steal credentials through fake login screens, and by intercepting, deleting, and sending text messages. The Kaspersky researchers call it "a gratuitous act of violence against Android users." "By simply viewing their favorite news sites over their morning coffee users can end up downloading last-browser-update.apk, a banking Trojan detected by Kaspersky Lab solutions as Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Svpeng.q," according to the company. "There you are, minding your own business, reading the news and BOOM! -- no additional clicks or following links required." The good news is that the issue has since been resolved, according to a Google spokeswoman. Fast Company provides more details about these types of attacks and how to stay safe in its report.
Businesses

Twitch Acquires Curse, Its Sites, Tools For Gamers, and Databases (venturebeat.com) 25

An anonymous reader writes from a report via VentureBeat: The Amazon-owned, game-streaming site Twitch has announced today that it has acquired Curse, a company that creates programs like voice clients, databases, and mod managers for PC games for some 30 million users. Twitch did not disclose how much they paid for Curse. VentureBeat reports: "Twitch has more than 100 million users a month, and it has helped to popularize new trends gaming like esports and the rise of influencers and personalities who create fanbases that watch them (and donate money to them) while they play. Curse has over 30 million users a month across its website, social media channels, and desktop applications. The company hosts popular websites for hit PC games like Hearthpwn for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and MMO Champion for World of Warcraft. Outside of its site, Twitch hasn't made many services for gamers. It could use this acquisition to extend a reach into that field."

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