EU

Facebook To Put 1.5 Billion Users Out of Reach of New EU Privacy Law (reuters.com) 95

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Facebook: If a new European law restricting what companies can do with people's online data went into effect tomorrow, almost 1.9 billion Facebook users around the world would be protected by it. The online social network is making changes that ensure the number will be much smaller. Facebook members outside the United States and Canada, whether they know it or not, are currently governed by terms of service agreed with the company's international headquarters in Ireland. Next month, Facebook is planning to make that the case for only European users, meaning 1.5 billion members in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America will not fall under the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which takes effect on May 25. That removes a huge potential liability for Facebook, as the new EU law allows for fines of up to 4 percent of global annual revenue for infractions, which in Facebook's case could mean billions of dollars.
Australia

UK, Australia Investigating Facebook Amid Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal (go.com) 40

Both the United Kingdom and Australia said Thursday that they have opened formal investigations into Facebook amid allegations that their citizens' data was improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. ABC News reports: The Information Commissioner's Office in the U.K. is "looking at how data was collected from a third party app on Facebook and shared with Cambridge Analytica. We are also conducting a broader investigation into how social media platforms were used in political campaigning," according to Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. The office will investigate Facebook, along with 29 other organizations that have not been named.

Earlier Thursday, Australia said it had opened a formal investigation into the tech giant amid allegations that Australian users' data was improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. "Today I have opened a formal investigation into Facebook, following confirmation from Facebook that the information of over 300,000 Australian users may have been acquired and used without authorization," Angelene Falk, Australia's acting information commissioner and acting privacy commissioner, said. According to Falk, Australia will work with international regulatory agencies to investigate whether Facebook violated the country's privacy act. Under Australian law, the commissioner has the power to issue fines of up to $1.6 million to organizations that fail to comply with the act, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Australia and the U.K. joined the United States and Israel in investigating Facebook's breach of privacy.

Transportation

The World's Fastest Delivery Drone Takes Off (technologyreview.com) 44

A couple of years ago, Zipline, a California-based startup, created a national drone delivery system to ship blood and drugs to remote medical centers in Rwanda. Now it has developed what it claims is the world's swiftest commercial delivery drone, with a top speed of 128 kilometers an hour (a hair shy of 80 miles per hour). From a report: Zipline is hoping its new fixed-wing aerial robot, which is both speedier and easier to maintain than its predecessor, will help it win business in an industry that's attracted plenty of big players. They include Amazon, which has been testing its Prime Air drone delivery service for years in the UK and elsewhere, and Project Wing, part of Alphabet's secretive X lab, which is using its drones to deliver pharmaceuticals and burritos in a pilot project in Australia.
It's funny.  Laugh.

April Fool's Day Roundup 95

It might be a holiday for most of us today, but for tech companies, April Fool's is the day when they work overtime to send weird press releases. So far we have seen Google Maps help users find Waldo, and Google Australia rethink its brand name (to Googz). T-Mobile has revivedthe Sidekick as the world's first smart shoe phone. Google has also added a feature to its file manager app Files Go that detects bad jokes from your phone. Snapchat has finally found a way to make fun of Facebook. Languages learning app Duolingo has launched a range of craft beers. Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus has launched a cryptocurrency. Some more here. What's your favorite prank so far today?
Software

Software Glitch Robs Formula 1 World Champ of Season's First Win (theregister.co.uk) 123

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton was left fuming after a software glitch denied him an easy win in the first race of the 2018 season on Sunday. From a report: Hamilton held a comfortable lead in Australia's Melbourne grand prix from the start. After pitting for fresh rubber ahead of the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton looked set for an easy win. Then both of the American Haas team's cars had to be taken off the circuit after their wheel nuts became loose. That triggered a virtual safety car (VSC). The VSC is a fairly new concept: while active, the drivers have to slow down, they cannot overtake, and they must not go below minimum times for each circuit sector. Failure to follow the rules will result in penalties. This is all done to preserve the race state while giving safety marshals time to clear debris or vehicles off the track.

While the VSC was active on Sunday, second-placed Vettel ducked into the pit lane, where the virtual car's speed rules did not apply, picked up fresh tires, and emerged ahead of Hamilton to take first place. Vettel was able to do this because Hamilton's car software miscalculated the minimum sector time according to the VSC rules, causing the Brit to slow down more than was necessary. The code thought Vettel would spend 15 seconds in the pits; the Ferrari driver and his team took just 11 seconds.

Australia

'How I Went Dark In Australia's Surveillance State For 2 Years' (cnet.com) 235

schwit1 shares a report from CNET, written by Claire Reilly: In 2015, during the transition from paper to Opal [contactless public transit cards], Australia passed sweeping new data retention laws. These laws required all Australian internet service providers and telecommunications carriers to retain customers' phone and internet metadata for two years -- details like the phone number a person calls, the timestamps on text messages or the cell tower a phone pings when it makes a call. Suddenly, Australians were fighting for the right to stay anonymous in a digital world. On one side of the fence: safety-conscious civilians. They argued that this metadata was a powerful tool and that the ability to track a person's movements through phone pings or call times was vital for law enforcement. On the other side of the fence: digital civil libertarians. They argued that the data retention scheme was invasive and that this metadata could be used to build up an incredibly detailed picture of someone's life. And sitting in a barn two paddocks away from that fence: me, switching out burner phones and researching VPNs. When it emerged that police had the power to search Opal card data, track people's movements and match this to individual users, it was the last straw. August 2016 rolled around, paperless tickets were phased out and I hatched my plan. The Black Opal. The concept of the Black Opal is simple. Buy your transport card. Pay cash. Top up with cash (preferably in a new location each time). Never register it. Never link it to your credit or debit card. Live off the grid. Stay away from The Man.

[Reilly discusses the problems she faced:] All the top-up machines at train stations, light rail stops and ferry terminals were card-only affairs. One tap on that baby and you were back in the system. So, if I was busing downtown for a work meeting, I'd have to factor in extra time to get to an ATM, get cash out and then find somewhere to top up my card. Running for the train with friends, I was the one who had to divert three blocks, change jackets, burn off my fingerprints and find a nondescript corner store to top up. Here's what I learned. No one likes the paranoid one. [...] I finally came undone last week. Racing for a flight, I forgot about my Black Opal. I'd had an unusually busy week on public transport, and my balance was low. On the train to the airport terminal, it hit me. Did I have enough money on my card to pay the AU$17.76 tap-off fee that they use to gouge tourists at the airport? As I rode up the escalators and the exit turnstiles came into view, my heart sank. No ATM. No cash in my wallet. Just a row of bright green Opal readers and a top-up machine. Card only. With one trip, my years of off-grid living were undone. I slumped against the top-up machine and swiped my debit card. I was just 9 cents short, but it cost me so much more than that. My Black Opal was dead.

Earth

World Cities Go Dark For 'Earth Hour' Climate Campaign (afp.com) 141

An anonymous reader quotes the AFP: Earth Hour, which started in Australia in 2007, is being observed by millions of supporters in 187 countries, who are turning off their lights at 8.30pm local time in what organisers describe as the world's "largest grassroots movement for climate change"... In Paris, the Eiffel Tower plunged into darkness as President Emmanuel Macron urged people to join in and "show you are willing to join the fight for nature". "The time for denial is long past. We are losing not only our battle against climate change, but also our battle against the collapse of biodiversity," he said on Twitter. Moscow's Red Square also fell dark and the Russian section of the International Space Station dipped its lights, the Ria Novisti news agency said... UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the event "comes at a time of huge pressure on people and planet alike. Resources and ecosystems across the world are under assault. Earth hour is an opportunity to show our resolve to change."
Other landmarks "going dark" include the Empire State Building in New York and the Sydney Opera House, as well as the harbour skylines of Hong Kong and Singapore.
Bitcoin

UK Launches Task Force To Scrutinize Cryptocurrency Risks and Benefits (cnbc.com) 27

U.K. Finance Minister Philip Hammond unveiled a task force that examines the risks and benefits of cryptocurrencies on Thursday. From a report: Hammond announced Thursday that the task force includes Britain's central bank, the Bank of England (BOE), and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) watchdog. He said that the BOE and FCA would also take the "first steps" toward automating financial compliance in Britain. The cryptocurrency task force is part of a wider fintech, or financial technology, strategy laid out by Westminster. As part of its initiative, the U.K. signed an agreement dubbed a "fintech bridge" with Australia on Thursday that will enable British fintech firms to sell products and services in Australia. The deal will also look to build cooperation on policies and regulation surrounding the sector, Hammond said. Hammond said he wanted to make the U.K. the "most attractive home" for global fintech firms.
The Courts

Man Fined For Implanting NFC Train Ticket In Hand (cnet.com) 107

Unhappy Windows User writes: An Australian man, when checked by a ticket inspector, claimed his smart travel card was implanted in his hand. He took the case to court and lost; the fine and legal fees add up to AU$1220 (USD $950). The man, who self-identifies as a biohacker and is a member of the Science Party, accepts the ruling but states that it won't discourage him from further biohacking. He claimed he was ahead of the law. The prosecution argued that, by cutting the chip out of the card, the ticket was invalidated. It is not clear from the article whether the NFC chip was working correctly and could be read by the inspector, or not. Further reading: BuzzFeed News
Earth

Scientists Unsure Where Chinese Space Station Will Crash To Earth 78

In 2016, the Chinese space agency lost control of its Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace, spacecraft, five years after it blasted into orbit. Scientists have determined that it will come crashing down to Earth in the coming weeks, be they do not know exactly where on Earth it will hit. The Guardian reports: The defunct module is now at an altitude of 150 miles and being tracked by space agencies around the world, with the European Space Agency's center in Darmstadt predicting a fiery descent for it between March 27 and April 8. Hurtling around the Earth at about 18,000mph, the module ranks as one of the larger objects to re-enter the atmosphere without being steered towards the ocean, as is standard for big and broken spacecraft, and cargo vessels that are jettisoned from the International Space Station (ISS), to reduce the risk to life below. The spacecraft's orbit ranges from 43 degrees north to 43 degrees south, which rules out a descent over the UK but includes vast stretches of North and South America, China, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, parts of Europe -- and great swaths of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Western analysts cannot be sure how much of the spacecraft will survive re-entry, because China has not released details of the design and materials used to make Tiangong-1. But the spacecraft may have well-protected titanium fuel tanks containing toxic hydrazine that could pose a danger if they land in populated areas.
Australia

132-Year-Old Science Experiment Washes Ashore In Australia (npr.org) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): A message in a bottle was tossed off the side of a German ship on June 12, 1886, as it sailed through the Indian Ocean, the date and location penned carefully in script on the scroll inside. In January, more than 131 years after the bottle was set adrift, an Australian woman walking on the beach noticed the thick, discolored glass of an old bottle poking through the sand. The bottle -- and the message -- had been found. It is believed to be the oldest known message in a bottle ever recovered. The woman, Tonya Illman, discovered the tokens from another era while walking on a beach near Wedge Island, in Western Australia.

The Illmans took their discovery to the Western Australian Museum, which verified that the bottle and the note date back to the 19th century. The museum contacted experts in the Netherlands and Germany for more information, and confirmed that the bottle had been dropped from a German vessel called the Paula. A search of German archives uncovered the Paula's original Meteorological Journal, and in a captain's entry from June 12, 1886, researchers discovered a reference to the bottle, thrown overboard as the ship was sailing from Cardiff, Wales, to Makassar, Indonesia. The date and the coordinates matched. The bottle had been tossed into the Indian Ocean from the ship as part of a decades-long experiment by the German Naval Observatory to understand ocean currents. Thousands of bottles were thrown into the ocean around the world from German ships between the 1860s and the 1930s, each with a form bearing the date and location where it had been tossed into the sea, the name of the ship, its home port and the travel route, the Western Australian Museum said.

Australia

Australia Considers Making It Illegal For ISPs To Advertise Inflated Speeds (vice.com) 70

The Australian government is currently considering a bill that would make it illegal for internet service providers to exaggerate speeds, or else face a fine of up to $1 million. "One constituent says he's being charged for a 25 megabit per second download speed and a five megabit per second upload and he's actually getting less than one tenth of that," said Andrew Wilkie, the Member of Parliament who introduced the bill. "In other words, people are getting worse than dial-up speed when they've been promised a whizz-bang, super-fast connection." Motherboard reports: Internet speeds can vary based on how many people are on the network and even the hardware you use, but while we can't expect ISPs to deliver maximum speed 100 percent of the time, previous probes into their performance have shown many ISPs in the U.S. aren't delivering even the minimum advertised speeds a majority of the time for the average user. Under the proposed Australian law, ISPs are simply required to be more transparent about what consumers can expect with a specific plan. Rather than advertising only the maximum speeds, they would have to include typical speeds for the average user, indicate busy periods, and clearly list any other factors that might impact service. The bill was only introduced this week, so it's yet to be seen if it will gain traction.
Communications

119,000 Passports, Photo IDs of FedEx Customers Found On Unsecured Amazon Server (gizmodo.com) 34

FedEx left scanned passports, drivers licenses, and other documentation belonging to thousands of its customers exposed on a publicly accessible Amazon S3 server, reports Gizmodo. "The scanned IDs originated from countries all over the world, including the United States, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Japan, China, and several European countries. The IDs were attached to forms that included several pieces of personal information, including names, home addresses, phone numbers, and zip codes." From the report: The server, discovered by researchers at the Kromtech Security Center, was secured as of Tuesday. According to Kromtech, the server belonged to Bongo International LLC, a company that aided customers in performing shipping calculations and currency conversations, among other services. Bongo was purchased by FedEx in 2014 and renamed FedEx Cross-Border International a little over a year later. The service was discontinued in April 2017. According to Kromtech, more than 119,000 scanned documents were discovered on the server. As the documents were dated within the 2009-2012 range, its unclear if FedEx was aware of the server's existence when it purchased Bongo in 2014, the company said.
Businesses

Where Old, Unreadable Documents Go to Be Understood (atlasobscura.com) 44

From a report: On any given day, from her home on the Isle of Man, Linda Watson might be reading a handwritten letter from one Confederate soldier to another, or a list of convicts transported to Australia. Or perhaps she is reading a will, a brief from a long-forgotten legal case, an original Jane Austen manuscript. Whatever is in them, these documents made their way to her because they have one thing in common: They're close to impossible to read. Watson's company, Transcription Services, has a rare specialty -- transcribing historical documents that stump average readers. Once, while talking to a client, she found the perfect way to sum up her skills.

[...] Since she first started specializing in old documents, Watson has expanded beyond things written in English. She now has a stable of collaborators who can tackle manuscripts in Latin, German, Spanish, and more. She can only remember two instances that left her and her colleagues stumped. One was a Tibetan manuscript, and she couldn't find anyone who knew the alphabet. The other was in such bad shape that she had to admit defeat. In the business of reading old documents, Watson has few competitors. There is one transcription company on the other side of the world, in Australia, that offers a similar service. Libraries and archives, when they have a giant batch of handwritten documents to deal with, might recruit volunteers.

Earth

Researchers Discover Efficient Way To Filter Salt, Metal Ions From Water (phys.org) 67

schwit1 shares a report on a new study, published in Sciences Advances, that offers a new solution to providing clean drinking water for billions of people worldwide: It all comes down to metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), an amazing next generation material that have the largest internal surface area of any known substance. The sponge like crystals can be used to capture, store and release chemical compounds. In this case, the salt and ions in sea water. Dr Huacheng Zhang, Professor Huanting Wang and Associate Professor Zhe Liu and their team in the Faculty of Engineering at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, in collaboration with Dr Anita Hill of CSIRO and Professor Benny Freeman of the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, have recently discovered that MOF membranes can mimic the filtering function, or "ion selectivity," of organic cell membranes. With further development, these membranes have significant potential to perform the dual functions of removing salts from seawater and separating metal ions in a highly efficient and cost effective manner, offering a revolutionary new technological approach for the water and mining industries. Currently, reverse osmosis membranes are responsible for more than half of the world's desalination capacity, and the last stage of most water treatment processes, yet these membranes have room for improvement by a factor of 2 to 3 in energy consumption. They do not operate on the principles of dehydration of ions, or selective ion transport in biological channels.
Security

Meet the Tiny Startup That Sells IPhone and Android Zero Days To Governments (vice.com) 51

An anonymous reader writes: The story of Azimuth Security, a tiny startup in Australia, provides a rare peek inside the secretive industry that helps government hackers get around encryption. Azimuth is part of an opaque, little known corner of the intelligence world made of hackers who develop and sell expensive exploits to break into popular technologies like iOS, Chrome, Android and Tor.
Power

Tesla To Construct 'Virtual Solar Power Plant' Using 50,000 Homes (cleantechnica.com) 199

Long-time Slashdot readers denbesten, haruchai, and Kant all submitted this story. CleanTechnica reports: Tesla and the government of South Australia have announced a stunning new project that could change how electricity is generated not only in Australia but in every country in the world. They plan to install rooftop solar system on 50,000 homes in the next four years and link them them together with grid storage facilities to create the largest virtual solar power plant in history. And here's the kicker: The rooftop solar systems will be free. The cost of the project will be recouped over time by selling the electricity generated to those who consume it.

"We will use people's homes as a way to generate energy for the South Australian grid, with participating households benefiting with significant savings in their energy bills," says South Australia's premier Jay Weatherill. "More renewable energy means cheaper power for all South Australians..." Price predicts utility bills for participating households will be slashed by 30%.

Electrek reports that the project will result in at least 650 MWh of additional energy storage capacity, and Tesla points out that "At key moments, the virtual power plant could provide as much capacity as a large gas turbine or coal power plant."
Power

Giant Tesla Battery In Australia Earns A Million Bucks In a Few Days (electrek.co) 222

Long-time Slashdot reader drinkypoo writes: Last week, Neoen's and Tesla's massive battery was paid up to $1000/MWh to charge itself and now it could have earned up to 1 million AUD in the last few days by selling the power back to the grid to cover a coal plant outage. Unlike other forms of power storage, battery systems can be switched between states (charging, discharging, or idle) effectively instantly, which permits a stabilizing effect on the grid.
"What we are seeing here," writes Fred Lambert at Electrek.co, "is the Powerpack system enabling Neoen to sell electricity at up to $14,000 AUD per MWh and charging itself at almost no cost during overproduction."
Earth

Plastic Pollution Is Killing Coral Reefs, 4-Year Study Finds (npr.org) 90

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: A new study based on four years of diving on 159 reefs in the Pacific shows that reefs in four countries -- Australia, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar -- are heavily contaminated with plastic. It clings to the coral, especially branching coral. And where it clings, it sickens or kills. "The likelihood of disease increases from 4 percent to 89 percent when corals are in contact with plastic," researchers report in the journal Science. Study leader Drew Harvell at Cornell University says the plastic could be harming coral in at least two ways. First, bacteria and other harmful microorganisms are abundant in the water and on corals; when the coral is abraded, that might invite pathogens into the coral. In addition, Harvell says, plastic can block sunlight from reaching coral. Based on how much plastic the researchers found while diving, they estimate that over 11 billion plastic items could be entangled in coral reefs in the Asia-Pacific region, home to over half the world's coral reefs. And their survey did not include China, one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution.
Australia

1.7-Billion-Year-Old Chunk of North America Found Sticking To Australia (livescience.com) 122

walterbyrd shares a report from Live Science: Geologists matching rocks from opposite sides of the globe have found that part of Australia was once attached to North America 1.7 billion years ago. Researchers from Curtin University in Australia examined rocks from the Georgetown region of northern Queensland. The rocks -- sandstone sedimentary rocks that formed in a shallow sea -- had signatures that were unknown in Australia but strongly resembled rocks that can be seen in present-day Canada. The researchers, who described their findings online Jan. 17 in the journal Geology, concluded that the Georgetown area broke away from North America 1.7 billion years ago. Then, 100 million years later, this landmass collided with what is now northern Australia, at the Mount Isa region.

"This was a critical part of global continental reorganization when almost all continents on Earth assembled to form the supercontinent called Nuna," Adam Nordsvan, Curtin University doctoral student and lead author of the study, said in a statement. Nordsvan added that Nuna then broke apart some 300 million years later, with the Georgetown area stuck to Australia as the North American landmass drifted away.

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