Archives January 2018

Car Manufacturers Are Tracking Millions of Cars

Millions of new cars sold in the US and Europe are “connected,” having some mechanism for exchanging data with their manufacturers after the cars are sold; these cars stream or batch-upload location data and other telemetry to their manufacturers, who argue that they are allowed to do virtually anything they want with this data, thanks to the “explicit consent” of the car owners — who signed a lengthy contract at purchase time that contained a vague and misleading clause deep in its fine-print.

Slashdot reader Luthair adds that “OnStar infamously has done this for some time, even if the vehicle’s owner was not a subscriber of their services.” But now 78 million cars have an embedded cyber connection, according to one report, with analysts predicting 98% of new cars will be “connected” by 2021. The Washington Post calls it “Big Brother on Wheels.”

“Carmakers have turned on a powerful spigot of precious personal data, often without owners’ knowledge, transforming the automobile from a machine that helps us travel to a sophisticated computer on wheels that offers even more access to our personal habits and behaviors than smartphones do.”

Facebook should be ‘regulated like cigarette industry’, says tech CEO

Facebook should be regulated like a cigarette company, because of the addictive and harmful properties of social media, according to Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff.

Last week, venture capitalist Roger McNamee – an early investor in Facebook – wrote a Guardian column warning that the company would would have to “address the harm the platform has caused through addiction and exploitation by bad actors”.

“I was once Mark Zuckerberg’s mentor, but I have not been able to speak to him about this. Unfortunately, all the internet platforms are deflecting criticism and leaving their users in peril,” McNamee wrote.

Earlier, Sean Parker, Facebook’s first President, had described the business practice of social media firms as “a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology”. Parker now describes himself as “something of a conscientious objector” to social media.

As part of its attempt to win back control of the narrative, Facebook has announced it will begin taking into account how trusted a publisher is as part of its News Feed algorithm. The company’s metric for determining trust, however, is a simple two-question survey, causing some to query its potential.

Study links decline in teenagers’ happiness to smartphones

A precipitous drop in the happiness, self-esteem and life satisfaction of American teenagers came as their ownership of smartphones rocketed from zero to 73 percent and they devoted an increasing share of their time online. Coincidence? New research suggests it is not. In a study published Monday in the journal Emotion, psychologists from San Diego State University and the University of Georgia used data on mood and media culled from roughly 1.1 million U.S. teens to figure out why a decades-long rise in happiness and satisfaction among U.S. teenagers suddenly shifted course in 2012 and declined sharply over the next four years.

In the new study, researchers tried to find it by plumbing a trove of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders’ responses to queries on how they felt about life and how they used their time. They found that between 1991 and 2016, adolescents who spent more time on electronic communication and screens — social media, texting, electronic games, the internet — were less happy, less satisfied with their lives and had lower self-esteem. TV watching, which declined over the nearly two decades they examined, was similarly linked to lower psychological well-being.

By contrast, adolescents who spent more time on non-screen activities had higher psychological well-being. They tended to profess greater happiness, higher self-esteem and more satisfaction with their lives. While these patterns emerged in the group as a whole, they were particularly clear among eighth- and 10th-graders, the authors found: “Every non-screen activity was correlated with greater happiness, and every screen activity was correlated with less happiness.”

An AI-Powered App Has Resulted in an Explosion of Convincing Face-Swap Porn

In December, Motherboard discovered a Redditor named ‘deepfakes’ quietly enjoying his hobby: Face-swapping celebrity faces onto porn performers’ bodies. He made several convincing porn videos of celebrities — including Gal Gadot, Maisie Williams, and Taylor Swift — using a machine learning algorithm, his home computer, publicly available videos, and some spare time. Since we first wrote about deepfakes, the practice of producing AI-assisted fake porn has exploded. More people are creating fake celebrity porn using machine learning, and the results have become increasingly convincing. A redditor even created an app specifically designed to allow users without a computer science background to create AI-assisted fake porn. All the tools one needs to make these videos are free, readily available, and accompanied with instructions that walk novices through the process.

An incredibly easy-to-use application for DIY fake videos—of sex and revenge porn, but also political speeches and whatever else you want—that moves and improves at this pace could have society-changing impacts in the ways we consume media. The combination of powerful, open-source neural network research, our rapidly eroding ability to discern truth from fake news, and the way we spread news through social media has set us up for serious consequences.

Stare Into The Lights My Pretties

You spend nearly a whole day each week on the internet

Since 2000, our time spent online each week has steadily increased, rising from 9.4 hours to 23.6 hours — nearly an entire day, according to a recent report by the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future. The internet has become an integral component of our home lives as well, with time spent rising more than 400 percent over that period from 3.3 hours to 17.6 hours each week, according to the report, which surveys more than 2,000 people across the U.S. each year. The center’s 15th annual Digital Future Report illustrates the internet’s dramatic evolution since 2000 from a secondary medium to an indispensable component of our daily lives — always on and always with us. It also comes as many fear for the future of the unlimited internet we have largely taken for granted over the past two decades. The report also found that the internet has had a dramatic impact on how we get our news. News consumption for all ages went from a print-to-online ratio of 85-15 in 2001 to a near even 51-49 in 2016.

Stare Into The Lights My Pretties

Apple says it looks out for kids, as investors cite phone ‘addiction’

Apple Inc said it “has always looked out for kids”, defending its technology policy for children, after two major investors urged it to address what they said was a growing problem of young people getting addicted to Apple’s iPhones.

Shareholders Jana Partners, a leading activist shareholder, and California teacher pension investor CalSTRS, one of the nation’s largest public pension plans, delivered a letter to Apple on Saturday asking the company to consider developing software that would allow parents more options to limit children’s phone use.

The issue of phone addiction among young people has become a growing concern in the United States as parents report their children cannot give up their phones. CalSTRS and Jana worry that “even” Apple’s reputation could be hurt if it does not address those concerns. Their letter was originally reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Pentagon Seeks Laser-Powered Bat Drones

On Wednesday, the the Defense Enterprise Science Initiative, or DESI, announced a competition for basic science grants to build “new paradigms for autonomous flight, with a focus on highly-maneuverable platforms and algorithms for flight control and decision making.”

Biomimetic, or nature-imitating, designs for crawling, slinking and even swimming robots go back decades.

But getting flying machines to mimic nature is a good deal more difficult and more complicated than teaching robots to swim and crawl, which is why even the military’s smallest drones have followed conventional aerodynamic designs.

Susan Greenfield’s Reading list and other links to scientific resources