Businesses

US Treasury Secretary Calls For Google Monopoly Probe (theregister.co.uk) 85

After a 60 Minutes episode that focused on Google and its effective search monopoly, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin called for large tech companies to be investigated for potential antitrust violations. Asked whether Google was abusing its market dominance as a monopoly, Mnuchin told CNBC on Monday "these are issues that the Justice Department needs to look at seriously," and argued that it was important to "look at the power they have" noting that companies like Google "have a greater and greater impact on the economy." The Register reports: Mnuchin's willingness to directly criticize Google and other tech companies and argue that they should be under investigation is just the latest sign that Washington DC is serious about digging in the market power of Big Internet. It is notable that it was 20 years ago, almost to the day, that America finally dealt with another tech antitrust problem when the Justice Department and 20 state attorneys general filed suit -- on May 18, 1998 -- against what was then the most powerful tech company in the country: Microsoft.
Privacy

Most GDPR Emails Unnecessary and Some Illegal, Say Experts (theguardian.com) 86

The vast majority of emails flooding inboxes across Europe from companies asking for consent to keep recipients on their mailing list are unnecessary and some may be illegal, privacy experts have said, as new rules over data privacy come into force at the end of this week. From a report: Many companies, acting based on poor legal advice, a fear of fines of up to $23.5 million and a lack of good examples to follow, have taken what they see as the safest option for hewing to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): asking customers to renew their consent for marketing communications and data processing. But Toni Vitale, the head of regulation, data and information at the law firm Winckworth Sherwood, said many of those requests would be needless paperwork, and some that were not would be illegal.
Google

Google Sued For 'Clandestine Tracking' of 4.4 Million UK iPhone Users' Browsing Data (theguardian.com) 32

Google is being sued in the high court for as much as $4.3 billion for the alleged "clandestine tracking and collation" of personal information from 4.4 million iPhone users in the UK. From a report: The collective action is being led by former Which? director Richard Lloyd over claims Google bypassed the privacy settings of Apple's Safari browser on iPhones between August 2011 and February 2012 in order to divide people into categories for advertisers. At the opening of an expected two-day hearing in London on Monday, lawyers for Lloyd's campaign group Google You Owe Us told the court information collected by Google included race, physical and mental heath, political leanings, sexuality, social class, financial, shopping habits and location data.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing Lloyd, said information was then "aggregated" and users were put into groups such as "football lovers" or "current affairs enthusiasts" for the targeting of advertising. Tomlinson said the data was gathered through "clandestine tracking and collation" of browsing on the iPhone, known as the "Safari Workaround" -- an activity he said was exposed by a PhD researcher in 2012. Tomlinson said Google has already paid $39.5m to settle claims in the US relating to the practice. Google was fined $22.5m for the practice by the US Federal Trade Commission in 2012 and forced to pay $17m to 37 US states.

Space

Astronomers Discovered the Fastest-Growing Black Hole Ever Seen (wral.com) 69

Long-time Slashdot reader Yhcrana shares "some good old fashioned astronomy news." Astronomers have discovered "a black hole 20 billion times the mass of the sun eating the equivalent of a star every two days," reports the New York Times. The black hole is growing so rapidly, said Christian Wolf, of the Australian National University, who led the team that found it in the depths of time, "that it is probably 10,000 times brighter than the galaxy it lives in." So bright, that it is dazzling our view and we can't see the galaxy itself. He and his colleagues announced the discovery in a paper to be published in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia...

The blaze from material swirling around this newly observed drainpipe into eternity -- known officially as SMSS J215728.21-360215.1 -- is as luminous as 700 trillion suns, according to Wolf and his collaborators. If it were at the center of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, it would be 10 times brighter than the moon and bathe the Earth in so many X-rays that life would be impossible. Luckily it's not anywhere nearby. It is in fact 12 billion light years away, which means it took that long for its light to reach us, so we are glimpsing this cataclysm as it appeared at the dawn of time, only 2 billion years after the Big Bang, when stars and galaxies were furiously forming.

United Kingdom

FM Radio Faces UK Government Switch-Off As Digital Listening Passes 50 Percent Milestone (inews.co.uk) 99

The Amazon Echo and other smart speakers have helped push the audience for digital radio past that of FM and AM in the UK for the first time. According to Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR), digital listening has reached a new record share of 50.9%, up from 47.2% a year ago. This milestone will trigger a government review into whether the analog FM radio signal should be switched off altogether. iNews reports: The BBC said it would be "premature" to switch off the FM signal. It could cut off drivers with analogue car radios and disenfranchise older wireless listeners. Margot James, Digital minister, welcomed "an important milestone for radio." She confirmed that the Government will "work closely with all partners -- the BBC, commercial radio, (transmitter business) Arqiva, car manufacturers and listeners" before committing to a timetable for analogue switch-off.

James Purnell, BBC Director of Radio and Education, said: "We're fully committed to digital, and growing its audiences, but, along with other broadcasters, we've already said that it would be premature to switch off FM." Mr Purnell said that BBC podcast listening was up a third across all audiences since the same time last year, accounting now for 40,000 hours a week. But younger audiences have not inherited the habit of listening to "live" radio, even on digital.

Education

Scottish Students Used Spellchecker Glitch To Cheat In Literacy Test (bbc.com) 166

Thelasko shares a report from the BBC: Schools are to be given advice on how to disable a glitch that allows pupils sitting online spelling tests to right-click their mouse and find the answer. It follows the discovery by teachers that children familiar with traditional computer spellcheckers were simply applying it to the tests. The Scottish National Standardized Assessments were introduced to assess progress in four different age groups. A spokesman said the issue was not with the Scottish National Standardized Assessments (SNSA) but with browser or device settings on some machines.

Introduced in 2017, the spelling test asks children to identify misspelt words. However, on some school computers the words were highlighted with a red line. Pupils who right-clicked on the words were then able to access the correct spelling. The web-based SNSA tool enables teachers to administer online literacy and numeracy tests for pupils in P1, P4, P7 and S3, which are marked and scored automatically. Advice is being given to schools about how to disable the spellchecking function.

Medicine

Scientists Find Physically Demanding Jobs Are Linked To Greater Risk of Early Death (metro.co.uk) 169

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Metro: Researchers in the Netherlands claim that a "physical activity paradox" exists, where exercise may only be good for you if it's done outside of your job. Manual laborers may be physically active all day but that doesn't actually help them. In fact, the research claims that it might actually increase their risk of dying early. "While we know leisure-time physical activity is good for you, we found that occupational physical activity has an 18% increased risk of early mortality for men," says Pieter Coenen, public health researcher at UV University medical centre in Amsterdam. "These men are dying earlier than those who are not physically active in their occupation."

He says that it's all down to the type of exercise you do in your spare time, versus occupational physical activity. When you choose to exercise, you can take rest periods when you want -- something that often may not be available to you if you're working on a building site (for example). The research combined results from 17 studies, dated between 1960 and 2010 -- looking at data on almost 200,000 people.
The study has been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The Almighty Buck

Ecuador Spent $5 Million Protecting and Spying On Julian Assange, Says Report (theverge.com) 165

Citing reports from The Guardian and Focus Ecuador, The Verge reports that Ecuador's intelligence program spent at least $5 million "on an elaborate security and surveillance network around WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange." The intelligence program was known as "Operator Hotel," which began as "Operation Guest" when Assange took refuge in Ecuador's UK embassy in 2012. From the report: Operation Hotel has allegedly covered expenses like installing CCTV cameras and hiring a security team to "secretly film and monitor all activity in the embassy," including Assange's daily activities, moods, and interactions with staff and visitors. The Guardian estimates Ecuadorian intelligence agency Senain has spent at least $5 million on Assange-related operations, based on documents they reviewed. The report details attempts to improve Assange's public image and potentially smuggle him out of the embassy if he was threatened. But it also writes that relations between Assange and Ecuador have badly deteriorated over the past several years. In 2014, Assange allegedly breached the embassy's network security, reading confidential diplomatic material and setting up his own secret communications network.
Power

Tesla Unveils New Large Powerpack Project For Grid Balancing In Europe (electrek.co) 99

Tesla has unveiled a new large Powerpack energy storage project to be used as a virtual power plant for grid balancing in Europe. It consists of 140 Powerpacks and several Tesla inverters for a total power output of 18.2 MW. Electrek reports: Tesla partnered with Restore, a demand response aggregator, to build the system and offer balancing services to European transmission system operators. Instead of using gas generators and steam turbines kicking to compensate for losses of power on the grid, Tesla's batteries are charged when there's excess power and then discharge when there's a need for more power.

Restore UK Vice President Louis Burford told The Energyst that they are bundling their assets like batteries as a "synthetic pool": "By creating synthetic pools or portfolios, you reduce the technical requirements on individual assets that otherwise would not be able to participate [in certain balancing services]. By doing so you create value where it does not ordinarily exist. That is only achievable through synthetic portfolios."
For those interested, Tesla has released promo video on YouTube about the project.
Science

Stephen Hawking Service: Possibility of Time Travellers 'Can't Be Excluded' (bbc.com) 199

Organisers of Prof Stephen Hawking's memorial service have seemingly left the door open for time travellers to attend. From a report: Those wishing to honour the theoretical physicist, who died in March aged 76, can apply via a public ballot. Applicants need to give their birth date - which can be any day up to 31 December 2038. Prof Hawking's foundation said the possibility of time travel had not been disproven and could not be excluded. It was London travel blogger IanVisits who noticed that those born from 2019 to 2038 were theoretically permitted to attend the service at Westminster Abbey. He said: "Professor Hawking once threw a party for time travellers, to see if any would turn up if he posted the invite after the party. None did, but it seems perfect that the memorial website allows people born in the future to attend the service. Look out for time travellers at the Abbey."
United Kingdom

London Plans To Ban Junk Food Advertising On Public Transport (bloomberg.com) 175

Junk food advertising could be banned from the entire Transport for London network under proposals announced by Mayor Sadiq Khan, as he tries to tackle rising levels of childhood obesity in the city. From a report: "I want to reduce the influence and pressure that can be put on children and families to make unhealthy choices," Khan said in a statement announcing the proposals to ban advertisements for unhealthy food and drink on London's trains, buses and bus shelters. The mayor also proposed a ban on new hot food takeaway stores opening within 400 meters of schools.

London has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in Europe -- nearly 40 percent of 10-11 year-olds in the capital are overweight or obese, according to the statement. Children from poorer areas are disproportionately affected by the "obesity epidemic," Khan said, adding that young people from Barking and Dagenham in East London are almost twice as likely to be overweight as children from the upmarket Richmond neighborhood.

GNU is Not Unix

Richard Stallman Demands Return Of Abortion Joke To libc Documentation (theregister.co.uk) 522

An anonymous reader quotes The Register: Late last month, open-source contributor Raymond Nicholson proposed a change to the manual for glibc, the GNU implementation of the C programming language's standard library, to remove "the abortion joke," which accompanied the explanation of libc's abort() function... The joke, which has been around since the 1990s and is referred to as a censorship joke by those supporting its inclusion, reads as follows:

25.7.4 Aborting a Program... Future Change Warning: Proposed Federal censorship regulations may prohibit us from giving you information about the possibility of calling this function. We would be required to say that this is not an acceptable way of terminating a program.

On April 30, the proposed change was made, removing the passage from the documentation. That didn't sit well with a number of people involved in the glibc project, including the joke's author, none other than Free Software Foundation president and firebrand Richard Stallman, who argued that the removal of the joke qualified as censorship... Carlos O'Donnell, a senior software engineer at Red Hat, recommended avoiding jokes altogether, a position supported by many of those weighing in on the issue. Among those voicing opinions, a majority appears to favor removal.

But in a post to the project mailing list, Stallman wrote "Please do not remove it. GNU is not a purely technical project, so the fact that this is not strictly and grimly technical is not a reason to remove this." He added later that "I exercise my authority over glibc very rarely -- and when I have done so, I have talked with the official maintainers. So rarely that some of you thought that you are entirely autonomous. But that is not the case. On this particular question, I made a decision long ago and stated it where all of you could see it."

The Register reports that "On Monday, the joke was restored by project contributor Alexandre Oliva, having taken Stallman's demand as approval to do so."
IBM

IBM Bans Staff From Using Removable Storage Devices (theregister.co.uk) 167

An anonymous reader shares a report: In an advisory to employees, IBM global chief Information security officer Shamla Naidoo said the company "is expanding the practise of prohibiting data transfer to all removable portable storage devices (eg: USB, SD card, flash drive)." The advisory stated some pockets of IBM have had this policy for a while, but "over the next few weeks we are implementing this policy worldwide." Big Blue's doing this because "the possible financial and reputational damage from misplaced, lost or misused removable portable storage devices must be minimised." IBMers are advised to use Big Blue's preferred sync 'n' share service to move data around.
Music

Surging Demand For Vinyl LPs Has Raised Hopes For Reel-to-Reel Tape Deck, Which is Returning To Sale For First Time in Decades (bloomberg.com) 244

It's no secret that sales of vinyl music are at the highest in decades. Even the lowly cassette tape is regaining popularity as some millennials embrace analog music over digital downloads and streaming services. But for the first time in more than two decades, a German company is reviving what may be the ultimate format: a new reel-to-reel tape machine. From a report: Dusseldorf-based Roland Schneider Precision Engineering this week will introduce four Ballfinger reel-to-reel machines, bringing back a technology that dominated professional music recording for most of the 20th century and is now making a comeback with audiophiles and artists including Lady Gaga. The sleek machines, some of them customizable, will retail from about 9,500 euros ($11,400) for the basic version to about 24,000 euros for the high-end model, which features three direct-drive motors, an editing system and walnut side panels. "Digital media is great, but experiencing music is more than just listening to a sound file -- it's sensual, it's reels that turn and can be touched," says Roland Schneider, the machine's designer. "When it comes to audio quality, nothing else in the analog world gets you closer to the experience of being right there in the recording studio than reel-to-reel tape."
Unix

Windows Notepad Finally Supports Unix, Mac OS Line Endings (theregister.co.uk) 291

Microsoft's text editing app, Notepad, which has been shipping with Windows since version 1.0 in 1985, now supports line endings in text files created on Linux, Unix, Mac OS, and macOS devices. "This has been a major annoyance for developers, IT Pros, administrators, and end users throughout the community," Microsoft said in a blog post today. The Register reports: Notepad previously recognized only the Windows End of Line (EOL) characters, specifically Carriage Return (CR, \r, 0x0d) and Line Feed (LF, \n, 0x0a) together. For old-school Mac OS, the EOL character is just Carriage Return (CR, \r, 0x0d) and for Linux/Unix it's just Line Feed (LF, \n, 0x0a). Modern macOS, since Mac OS X, follows the Unix convention. Opening a file written on macOS, Mac OS, Linux, or Unix-flavored computers in Windows Notepad therefore looked like a long wall of text with no separation between paragraphs and lines. Relief arrives in the current Windows 10 Insider Build.

Notepad will continue to output CRLF as its EOL character by default. It's not changing its stripes entirely. But it will retain the formatting of the files it opens so users will be able to view, edit and print text files with non-Windows line ends. Microsoft has thoughtfully provided an out for Windows users counting on the app's past inflexibility: the new behavior can be undone with a registry key change.

Security

Equifax's Data Breach By the Numbers: 146 Million Social Security Numbers, 99 Million Addresses, and More (theregister.co.uk) 69

Several months after the data breach was first reported, Equifax has published the details on the personal records and sensitive information stolen in the cybersecurity incident. The good news: the number of individuals affected by the network intrusion hasn't increased from the 146.6 million Equifax previously announced, but extra types of records accessed by the hackers have turned up in Mandiant's ongoing audit of the security breach," reports The Register. From the report: Late last week, the company gave the numbers in letters to the various U.S. congressional committees investigating the network infiltration, and on Monday, it submitted a letter to the SEC, corporate America's financial watchdog. As well as the -- take a breath -- 146.6 million names, 146.6 million dates of birth, 145.5 million social security numbers, 99 million address information and 209,000 payment cards (number and expiry date) exposed, the company said there were also 38,000 American drivers' licenses and 3,200 passport details lifted, too.

The further details emerged after Mandiant's investigators helped "standardize certain data elements for further analysis to determine the consumers whose personally identifiable information was stolen." The extra data elements, the company said, didn't involve any individuals not already known to be part of the super-hack, so no additional consumer notifications are required.

United Kingdom

UK Police Say 92 Percent False Positive Facial Recognition Is No Big Deal (arstechnica.com) 189

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A British police agency is defending its use of facial recognition technology at the June 2017 Champions League soccer final in Cardiff, Wales -- among several other instances -- saying that despite the system having a 92-percent false positive rate, "no one" has ever been arrested due to such an error. New data about the South Wales Police's use of the technology obtained by Wired UK and The Guardian through a public records request shows that of the 2,470 alerts from the facial recognition system, 2,297 were false positives. In other words, nine out of 10 times, the system erroneously flagged someone as being suspicious or worthy of arrest.

In a public statement, the SWP said that it has arrested "over 450" people as a result of its facial recognition efforts over the last nine months. "Of course, no facial recognition system is 100 percent accurate under all conditions. Technical issues are normal to all face recognition systems, which means false positives will continue to be a common problem for the foreseeable future," the police wrote. "However, since we introduced the facial recognition technology, no individual has been arrested where a false positive alert has led to an intervention and no members of the public have complained." The agency added that it is "very cognizant of concerns about privacy, and we have built in checks and balances into our methodology to make sure our approach is justified and balanced."

Bitcoin

Aventus Blockchain-Based Ticketing System Aims To Wipe Out Ticket Touts (theguardian.com) 94

umafuckit writes: The Guardian reports on Aventus, an open-source protocol designed to eliminate fraud and touting for large events. The Aventus Protocol "would allow event organizers to give each ticket a unique identity that is tied to its owner. Since each ticket is a linked list of records, where each new one contains an encrypted version of the previous one, they cannot be faked. The software also allows event promoters to keep an easy record of who owns the ticket, which means they can control the prices. The protocol was launched at Imperial College London last week and will be trialed at this year's world cup, where it will handle 10,000 ticket sales.
United Kingdom

UK Car Industry On Alert Over Reports Some Hybrids Face a Ban (bbc.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: The UK's car industry has hit out at the government over unconfirmed reports ministers will target hybrid vehicles as part of a new emissions crackdown. New cars unable to do at least 50 miles on electric power may be banned by 2040, a ruling that would hit the UK's best-selling hybrid, Toyota's Prius. The SMMT car trade body said "misleading" government messages were damaging the industry and hitting jobs. In a short statement, the Department for Transport denied plans for a ban.

The Financial Times and Autocar said that the government's Road to Zero car emissions strategy was due to be unveiled imminently. It follows last year's announcement by the government that it would ban the sale of all new diesel and petrol cars in the UK by 2040. But the position on electrified models was unclear, and Road to Zero is due to clarify the situation. The FT and Autocar reported that vehicles which could not travel at least 50 miles using only electric power would be outlawed.
"Unrealistic targets and misleading messaging on bans will only undermine our efforts to realize this future, confusing consumers and wreaking havoc on the new car market and the thousands of jobs it supports," said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. "We cannot support ambition levels which do not appreciate how industry, the consumer or the market operate and which are based neither on fact nor substance. Consumers need clear information about the right vehicles for their driving needs and it is again disappointing for both industry and consumers that vitally important information about government policy is being communicated by leaks."
Businesses

Cambridge Analytica Shuts Down Amid Scandal Over Use of Facebook Data (gizmodo.com) 67

Gizmodo reports that Cambridge Analytica and its parent company, the SCL Group, are shutting down. "The news was announced during a conference call led by Julian Wheatland, the current chairman of the SCL Group who was reportedly tapped to take over as Cambridge Analytica's next CEO," reports Gizmodo. "Both Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections will now close their doors." From the report: During the call, Wheatland said that the board determined that rebranding the company's current offerings in the current environment is "futile." Cambridge Analytica and SCL have offices in London, New York City, Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. The conference call was originally scheduled for Tuesday morning, but was repeatedly pushed back until early Wednesday afternoon, ultimately getting rescheduled more than half a dozen times. In explaining the decision to close the offices, Wheatland cited the ongoing investigations into Cambridge Analytica's massive data harvesting scandal, damage to the company's reputation, and loss of clients. In March, Britain's information commissioner announced that she was seeking a warrant to investigate any misconduct by the data analytics firm, looking to search both its offices and its servers. UK authorities raided the London office later that month, but have yet to release their findings. Meanwhile, embattled former CEO Alexander Nix refused to testify before the British Parliamentary media committee regarding the firm's misuse of Facebook user data.

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