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Cellphones

Smartphone Malware Planted In Popular Apps Pre-sale 41

An anonymous reader writes with news from The Stack that makes it a little harder to scoff at malware on phones as being largely the fruit of dodgy sideloaded software, game cracks, et cetera. They report that even phones marketed as brand new, from well-known brands like Lenovo and Xiaomi, have been tampered with and "infected prior to sale with intelligent malware disguised in popular apps such as Facebook." (To U.S. buyers, those makers may be slightly obscure as cellphone vendors; the scheme this article addresses involves handsets sold by vendors in Europe and Asia, involving more than 20 different handset types.)
Google

Google Facing Fine of Up To $1.4 Billion In India Over Rigged Search Results 151

An anonymous reader writes: The Competition Commission of India has opened an investigation into Google to decide whether the company unfairly prioritized search results to its own services. Google could face a fine of up to $1.4 billion — 10% of its net income in 2014. A number of other internet companies, including Facebook and FlipKart, responded to queries from the CCI by confirming that Google does this. "The CCI's report accuses Google of displaying its own content and services more prominently in search results than other sources that have higher hit rates. It also states that sponsored links shown in search results are dependent on the amount of advertising funds Google receives from its clients. Ecommerce portal Flipkart noted that it found search results to have a direct correlation with the amount of money it spent on advertising with Google." The company has faced similar antitrust concerns in the EU and the U.S
Censorship

Germany Wants Facebook To Obey Its Rules About Holocaust Denial 716

Bruce66423 writes: In a classic example of the conflict of cultures bought about by the internet, Germany is trying to get Facebook to obey its rules about banning holocaust denial posts. From the linked Jerusalem Post article: [Justice Minister Heiko] Maas, who has accused Facebook of doing too little to thwart racist and hate posts on its social media platform, said that Germany has zero tolerance for such expression and expects the US-based company to be more vigilant. "One thing is clear: if Facebook wants to do business in Germany, then it must abide by German laws," Maas told Reuters. "It doesn't matter that we, because of historical reasons, have a stricter interpretation of freedom of speech than the United States does." "Holocaust denial and inciting racial hatred are crimes in Germany and it doesn't matter if they're posted on Facebook or uttered out in the public on the market square," he added. ... "There's no scope for misplaced tolerance towards internet users who spread racist propaganda. That's especially the case in light of our German history."
Programming

Deep Learning Pioneer On the Next Generation of Hardware For Neural Networks 45

An anonymous reader writes: While many recognize Yann LeCun as the father of convolutional neural networks, the momentum of which has ignited artificial intelligence at companies like Google, Facebook and beyond, LeCun has not been strictly rooted in algorithms. Like others who have developed completely new approaches to computing, he has an extensive background in hardware, specifically chip design and this recognition of specialization of hardware, movement of data around complex problems, and ultimately core performance, has proven handy. He talks in depth this week about why FPGAs are coming onto the scene as companies like Google and Facebook seek a move away from "proprietary hardware" and look to "programmable devices" to do things like, oh, say, pick out a single face of one's choosing from an 800,000 strong population in under five seconds.
Facebook

Facebook Is Now Working On Its Own Digital Assistant Called M 56

Mark Wilson writes: Sounding like a character from a James Bond movie, M is Facebook's personal digital assistant. Ready to compete with the likes of Cortana, M will live inside Facebook Messenger and take artificial intelligence a step further. Rather than just helping you to find information or create calendar entries, M will actually perform tasks on your behalf.

Once up and running, M will be able to book restaurants for you, purchase shopping, and more. It will also be possible to use the service to ask for advice — such as looking for somewhere to visit nearby, or gift suggestions — and Facebook says the AI behind M is "trained and supervised by people".
Security

Why Car Info Tech Is So Thoroughly At Risk 192

Cory Doctorow reflects in a post at Boing Boing on the many ways in which modern cars' security infrastructure is a white-hot mess. And as to the reasons why, this seems to be the heart of the matter, and it applies to much more than cars: [M]anufacturers often view bugs that aren't publicly understood as unimportant, because it costs something to patch those bugs, and nothing to ignore them, even if those bugs are exploited by bad guys, because the bad guys are going to do everything they can to keep the exploit secret so they can milk it for as long as possible, meaning that even if your car is crashed (or bank account is drained) by someone exploiting a bug that the manufacturer has been informed about, you may never know about it. There is a sociopathic economic rationality to silencing researchers who come forward with bugs.
Robotics

Video HooperFly is an Open Source, Modular Drone (Video) 24

Tricopters, quadcopters, hexicopters. A HooperFly can be any of these, or an octocopter or possibly even a larger number than that. The HooperFly is a modular creation, and spokesman Rich Burton says the design is open source (and was showing off the HooperFly at OSCON), so the flier's configuration is limited only by your imagination. The main construction material is plastic tubing available from most building supply and hardware stores. The electronics? We didn't see schematics or code, but presumably they're out there. One thing for sure is that the HooperFly is good for making music videos like M.I.A. & The Partysquad's Double Bubble Trouble (NSFP; i.e. NotSafeForPrudes; has images of 3-D printed guns, flying copters, etc.) and the lyrical Peace Drone at Twilight. It looks like HooperFly lives at the intersection of technology and art, which is a good place to be -- not that there aren't plenty of HooperFly skateboard videos, too, because one of the first things it seems most skateboarders do when they get a camera-equipped drone is shoot a skateboard video and post it to YouTube. But beyond that, intrepid drone pilots can work with the HooperFly's autopilot features to do many beautiful (and hopefully legal) things.
Democrats

Former Rep. Louis Stokes, the Man Who Saved the Space Station, Dies At Age 90 50

MarkWhittington writes: The Associated Press noted the passing of former Rep. Louis Stokes at the age of 90. Since Stokes was an African American Democrat first elected in 1968, most of the accolades touch on his effect on the civil rights struggle and his lifelong fight against racism. However, as George Abbey, former NASA Director of the Johnson Spaceflight Center and current Fellow in Space Policy at the Baker Institute of Rice University pointed out on his Facebook Page, Stokes can be rightly be said to be the man who saved the International Space Station and perhaps human space flight in America.
The Internet

Another Wave of Publications Shut Down Online Comments 226

AmiMoJo writes: The debate about comment sections on news sites is often as divisive as the comments themselves. Recently outlets such as The Verge and The Daily Dot have closed their comments sections because they've become too hard to manage. And they're far from alone. Moderating comments is a full-time job (or several full-time jobs) at many news organisations. Nicholas White, editor at The Daily Dot, noted that "in our experience, our community hasn't evolved in our comments. It's evolved in our social media accounts. To have comments, you have to be very active, and if you're not incredibly active, what ends up happening is a mob can shout down all the other people on your site. In an environment that isn't heavily curated it becomes about silencing voices and not about opening up voices."

Riese, co-founder and editor-in-chief of LGBT site Autostraddle, adds, "I completely understand why The Daily Dot wouldn't want to have comments — or in fact why most websites wouldn't want to have comments. I think 75% of the time they're more trouble than they're worth, and for us it's still a lot of work to keep up on. Not all of our users are necessarily on Facebook or are out as gay on Facebook, or are comfortable talking about queer stuff on Facebook. We keep comments on the site which is a safe space for people to exchange ideas — and that's a big factor for us."
Businesses

Data-Crunching Could Kill Your Downtime At Work 170

An anonymous reader writes: How many of you are reading this at work? One of the unspoken perks of many white collar jobs is that you can waste time while still appearing productive. Workplaces are aware that this goes on, and they police it to some extent by blocking Facebook or simply looking over your shoulder — but there's only so much they can do. The new generation of workplace analytics software is starting to change that. "Employers of all types — old-line manufacturers, nonprofits, universities, digital start-ups and retailers — are using an increasingly wide range of tools to monitor workers' efforts, help them focus, cheer them on and just make sure they show up on time." This inevitably leads to the question: does cracking the whip more often actually increase productivity? To hear the makers of this software tell it, the value is almost limitless, and it will never be misused to micromanage your job. But the article lacks any independent support for that idea, and I'm sure many of you could provide examples where time-keeping software has only been a hindrance.
Facebook

Facebook CIO Discusses Zuckerberg's "Will You Resign?" Email 141

CarlaRudder writes: When Mark Zuckerberg sends an email with the subject line, "Will you resign?" people remember it. In this case, the email went to the entire company after someone leaked damaging information, but CIO Tim Campos talks about his hesitation to open the email, thinking it was addressed to him personally. He goes on to share an insider's perspective on the power of culture at Facebook, the benefits of giving employees time and space to both fail and create, and why data is at the core of every decision made in the company.
Security

Facebook Intern Gets Preemptive Ax For Exposing Security Flaw 103

Engadget reports that Harvard student Aran Khanna, who was about to begin an internship at Facebook, had that internship yanked after he created (and took down, but evidently too slowly for the company's taste) a browser plug-in that exposed a security flaw in Facebook, by allowing users to discover the location of other users when they use the Messenger app. Surely Khanna won't be jobless or internship-less for long. (Don't expect the app to work now; it's still in the Chrome store as a historical artifact, though, and at GitHub.)
Security

Facebook Awards Researchers $100k For Detecting Emerging Class of C++ Bugs 73

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook has awarded $100,000 to a team of researchers from Georgia Tech University for their discovery of a new method for identifying "bad-casting" vulnerabilities that affect programs written in C++. "Type casting, which converts one type of an object to another, plays an essential role in enabling polymorphism in C++ because it allows a program to utilize certain general or specific implementations in the class hierarchies. However, if not correctly used, it may return unsafe and incorrectly casted values, leading to so-called bad-casting or type-confusion vulnerabilities," the researchers explained in their paper.
Privacy

Finnish Politician Suggests Embedding Chips In Citizens To Protect the Welfare State 312

New submitter janit writes that social benefits to Finnish citizens living outside of Finland have in recent days been the cause of controversy, and links to an article which suggests just how much of a controversy: A politician from the True Finns Party, Pasi Mäenranta, is also worried about the abuse of the benefits. He published a post on Facebook, where he suggests that all Finnish citizens leaving the country be embedded with an identification chip. Sounds like a parallel system might be a popular idea with some U.S. presidential candidates, too.
Google

Google, Facebook and Twitter To Block "Hash Lists" of Child Abuse 177

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook, Google, and Twitter are teaming up with the UK's Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to share hash lists of blocked indecent images. The move is intended to ensure that a picture pulled from one site can't show up again elsewhere. The BBC reports: "Online security specialists welcomed the move as a positive step, but said it would not block content on the 'darknet' — a network with restricted access — where abusers often posted images."
The Internet

The Man Who's Kept His Face Off the Internet for 20 Years 134

An anonymous reader writes: Jonathan Hirshon is a 48-year-old Silicon Valley PR guy. He was an adult when the internet went mainstream, and he went online with a unique bit of forethought: "I decided to play a game with myself: How long could I keep my picture off the Internet." He's managed to keep the internet free of his image for two decades, and he's expanding the game. Hirshon is rallying the troops to outsmart Facebook and Google facial recognition. He asked his friends, "If you're so inclined, take a moment and tag me in some random picture or image. A leaf on the wind, a howler monkey, geometry equations, George Clooney, a large steaming pile of excrement—select an image that you think best suits me or [is] based solely on your whim."
Social Networks

Facebook Allows Turkish Government To Set the Censorship Rules 121

New submitter feylikurds writes: Facebook has been blocking and banning users for posting Kurdish or anti-Turkish material. Many screenshots exists of Facebook notifying people for such. You can insult any single historical figure that you like on Facebook except one: Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal 'Ataturk'. However, he should not receive special treatment and be protected from criticism, but rather should be treated and examined like everyone else. In order to be accessible within Turkey, Facebook has allowed the repressive Turkish government to set the censorship rules for billions of their users all around the globe. Facebook censors Kurds on behalf of Turkey. To show the world how unjust this policy is, this group discusses Facebook's censorship policy as it relates to Kurds (Facebook account required) and how to get Facebook to change its unfair and discriminatory policy. Makes re-reading Hossein Derakhshan's piece worth the time.
NASA

Buzz Aldrin Publishes Moon Expenses Form 100

An anonymous reader writes: Proving once again that the government has a form for everything, Buzz Aldrin has unveiled his Apollo 11 documentation on social media over the past few days, including a travel voucher detailing his expenses on his trip to the moon. The papers listed him as having been on a "work trip" from his home in Houston, Texas that had taken him to the moon and then back again with a total expenses claim of just $33.31. The report notes : "Government meals and quarters [were] furnished for all of the above dates."
Google

Inside the Failure of Google+ 279

An anonymous reader writes: An article at Mashable walks through the rise and fall of Google+, from the company's worries of being displaced by Facebook to their eventual realization that Google services don't need social hooks. There are quotes from a number of employees and insiders, who mostly agree that the company didn't have the agility to build something so different from their previous services. "Most Google projects started small and grew organically in scale and importance. Buzz, the immediate predecessor to Plus, had barely a dozen people on staff. Plus, by comparison, had upwards of 1,000, sucked up from divisions across the company." Despite early data indicating users just weren't interested in Google+, management pushed for success as the only option. One employee said, "The belief was that we were always just one weird feature away from the thing taking off." Despite a strong feature set, there was no acknowledgment that to beat Facebook, you had to overcome the fact that everybody was already on Facebook.
The Internet

Facebook's Slender 'Aquila' Drone To Provide Internet In Remote Areas 55

Mickeycaskill writes: Facebook will start testing a 400kg drone with the wingspan of a Boeing 737 next year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said, as part of the company's drive to connect people in remote areas to the Internet. Aquila will fly between 60,000ft and 90,000ft as to avoid adverse weather conditions and commercial air routes, while the attached laster can transmit data at 10Gbps. Facebook claims it can accurately connect with a point the size of a US 5-cent coin from more than 10 miles away.