Google Announces a Security Flaw That Could Let an Attacker Access Your Device
Google is replacing some versions of its Titan Security Key because of a known issue with Bluetooth pairing that could leave your device and account vulnerable.

Advisory: Security Issue with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Titan Security Keys

We’ve become aware of an issue that affects the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) version of the Titan Security Key available in the U.S. and are providing users with the immediate steps they need to take to protect themselves and to receive a free replacement key. This bug affects Bluetooth pairing only, so non-Bluetooth security keys are not affected. Current users of Bluetooth Titan Security Keys should continue to use their existing keys while waiting for a replacement, since security keys provide the strongest protection against phishing.

What is the security issue?

Due to a misconfiguration in the Titan Security Keys’ Bluetooth pairing protocols, it is possible for an attacker who is physically close to you at the moment you use your security key — within approximately 30 feet — to (a) communicate with your security key, or (b) communicate with the device to which your key is paired. In order for the misconfiguration to be exploited, an attacker would have to align a series of events in close coordination:

  • When you’re trying to sign into an account on your device, you are normally asked to press the button on your BLE security key to activate it. An attacker in close physical proximity at that moment in time can potentially connect their own device to your affected security key before your own device connects. In this set of circumstances, the attacker could sign into your account using their own device if the attacker somehow already obtained your username and password and could time these events exactly.
  • Before you can use your security key, it must be paired to your device. Once paired, an attacker in close physical proximity to you could use their device to masquerade as your affected security key and connect to your device at the moment you are asked to press the button on your key. After that, they could attempt to change their device to appear as a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse and potentially take actions on your device.

This security issue does not affect the primary purpose of security keys, which is to protect you against phishing by a remote attacker. Security keys remain the strongest available protection against phishing; it is still safer to use a key that has this issue, rather than turning off security key-based two-step verification (2SV) on your Google Account or downgrading to less phishing-resistant methods (e.g. SMS codes or prompts sent to your device). This local proximity Bluetooth issue does not affect USB or NFC security keys.

Am I affected?

This issue affects the BLE version of Titan Security Keys. To determine if your key is affected, check the back of the key. If it has a “T1” or “T2” on the back of the key, your key is affected by the issue and is eligible for free replacement.

Steps to protect yourself

If you want to minimize the remaining risk until you receive your replacement keys, you can perform the following additional steps:

iOS devices:

On devices running iOS version 12.2 or earlier, we recommend using your affected security key in a private place where a potential attacker is not within close physical proximity (approximately 30 feet). After you’ve used your key to sign into your Google Account on your device, immediately unpair it. You can use your key in this manner again while waiting for your replacement, until you update to iOS 12.3.

Once you update to iOS 12.3, your affected security key will no longer work. You will not be able to use your affected key to sign into your Google Account, or any other account protected by the key, and you will need to order a replacement key. If you are already signed into your Google Account on your iOS device, do not sign out because you won’t be able to sign in again until you get a new key. If you are locked out of your Google Account on your iOS device before your replacement key arrives, see these instructionsfor getting back into your account. Note that you can continue to sign into your Google Account on non-iOS devices.

On Android and other devices:

We recommend using your affected security key in a private place where a potential attacker is not within close physical proximity (approximately 30 feet). After you’ve used your affected security key to sign into your Google Account, immediately unpair it. Android devices updated with the upcoming June 2019 Security Patch Level (SPL) and beyond will automatically unpair affected Bluetooth devices, so you won’t need to unpair manually. You can also continue to use your USB or NFC security keys, which are supported on Android and not affected by this issue.

How to get a replacement key

We recommend that everyone with an affected BLE Titan Security Key get a free replacement by visiting google.com/replacemykey.

Is it still safe to use my affected BLE Titan Security Key?

It is much safer to use the affected key instead of no key at all. Security keys are the strongest protection against phishing currently available

That mental health app might share your data without telling you.
You don’t have to be a user of Facebook’s or Google’s services for them to have enough breadcrumbs to ID you.

By intercepting the data transmissions, they discovered that 92 percent of the 36 apps shared the data with at least one third party — mostly Facebook- and Google-run services that help with marketing, advertising, or data analytics. (Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.) But about half of those apps didn’t disclose that third-party data sharing, for a few different reasons: nine apps didn’t have a privacy policy at all; five apps did but didn’t say the data would be shared this way; and three apps actively said that this kind of data sharing wouldn’t happen. Those last three are the ones that stood out to Steven Chan, a physician at Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, who has collaborated with Torous in the past but wasn’t involved in the new study. “They’re basically lying,” he says of the apps.

The researchers don’t know what these third-party sites were doing with this user data. “We live in an age where, with enough breadcrumbs, it’s possible to reidentify people,” Torous says. It’s also possible the breadcrumbs just sit there, he says — but for now, they just don’t know. “What happens to this digital data is kind of a mystery.”

 

Nancy Pelosi Declares a ‘New Era’ of Internet Regulation; E.U. Threatens Same
Nancy Pelosi wants to gut Section 230

Little wanna-be tyrants…some with dementia.

We’ve all been watching this develop for years now: The internet is being slow-choked, not by rapacious ISPs forcing users to pay for “fast lanes,” but by politicians on both sides of the Atlantic who want to have a bigger role in what we’re allowed to do and say online. To be sure, lawmakers are being greatly aided in their efforts by major tech players such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Apple’s Tim Cook, who are explicitly calling for regulation to maintain current market positions in a sector defined by creative destruction (all hail MySpace and Blackberry!).

In an interview with Recode‘s Kara Swisher, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) pronounced that in the tech sector, the “era of self-regulation” is over when it comes to privacy and speech rules. Sounding a lot like conservative Republicans such as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, she zeroes in especially on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as the thing that needs to be torched.

As the title of a new book puts it, Section 230 comprises “the twenty-six words that created the internet.” Author Jeff Kosseff explains that by immunizing websites, platforms, and service providers from “lawsuits over materials that their users upload,” Section 230 “fundamentally changed American life.” Indeed, the internet as we know it is based on both “content created not only by large companies, but by users,” writes Kosseff, who observes that of the top 10 most-trafficked websites in the United States in 2018, only Netflix “mostly provides its own content.” All the rest—Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube, Twitter, et al.—either rely heavily on user-generated content (including potentially actionable reviews and comments about everything under the sun) or exist to guide users to such content (Google, Yahoo).

Pelosi is done with all that, telling Swisher that the freedom of expression empowered by Section 230 is “a gift” and a “privilege” that can be rescinded if major tech companies don’t move in the direction she and other politicians want.

Amazon Workers Are Listening to What You Tell Alexa

Only if you have one of these spybots in your house.

Tens of millions of people use smart speakers and their voice software to play games, find music or trawl for trivia. Millions more are reluctant to invite the devices and their powerful microphones into their homes out of concern that someone might be listening.

Amazon.com Inc. employs thousands of people around the world to help improve the Alexa digital assistant powering its line of Echo speakers. The team listens to voice recordings captured in Echo owners’ homes and offices. The recordings are transcribed, annotated and then fed back into the software as part of an effort to eliminate gaps in Alexa’s understanding of human speech and help it better respond to commands.

The Alexa voice review process, described by seven people who have worked on the program, highlights the often-overlooked human role in training software algorithms. In marketing materials Amazon says Alexa “lives in the cloud and is always getting smarter.” But like many software tools built to learn from experience, humans are doing some of the teaching.

The team comprises a mix of contractors and full-time Amazon employees who work in outposts from Boston to Costa Rica, India and Romania, according to the people, who signed nondisclosure agreements barring them from speaking publicly about the program. They work nine hours a day, with each reviewer parsing as many as 1,000 audio clips per shift, according to two workers based at Amazon’s Bucharest office, which takes up the top three floors of the Globalworth building in the Romanian capital’s up-and-coming Pipera district. The modern facility stands out amid the crumbling infrastructure and bears no exterior sign advertising Amazon’s presence.

 

 

The EU releases guidelines to encourage ethical AI development.

Real AI has the capability to write its own code.
Q: So what could keep it from overwriting such ‘ethical’ programming?
A: Nothing.

Prepare to bow to your cybernetic overlords!

Human agency and oversight: AI systems should enable equitable societies by supporting human agency and fundamental rights, and not decrease, limit or misguide human autonomy.

Robustness and safety: Trustworthy AI requires algorithms to be secure, reliable and robust enough to deal with errors or inconsistencies during all life cycle phases of AI systems.

Privacy and data governance: Citizens should have full control over their own data, while data concerning them will not be used to harm or discriminate against them.

Transparency: The traceability of AI systems should be ensured.

Diversity, non-discrimination and fairness: AI systems should consider the whole range of human abilities, skills and requirements, and ensure accessibility.

Societal and environmental well-being: AI systems should be used to enhance positive social change and enhance sustainability and ecological responsibility.

Accountability: Mechanisms should be put in place to ensure responsibility and accountability for AI systems and their outcomes.

Brain zaps boost memory in people over 60.

Maybe a cure for CRS?

NEW YORK (AP) — Zapping the brains of people over 60 with a mild electrical current improved a form of memory enough that they performed like people in their 20s, a new study found.

Someday, people might visit clinics to boost that ability, which declines both in normal aging and in dementias like Alzheimer’s disease, said researcher Robert Reinhart of Boston University.

The treatment is aimed at “working memory,” the ability to hold information in mind for a matter of seconds as you perform a task, such as doing math in your head. Sometimes called the workbench or scratchpad of the mind, it’s crucial for things like taking medications, paying bills, buying groceries or planning, Reinhart said.

“It’s where your consciousness lives … where you’re working on information,” he said.

The new study is not the first to show that stimulating the brain can boost working memory. But Reinhart, who reported the work Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience, said it’s notable for showing success in older people and because the memory boost persisted for nearly an hour minimum after the brain stimulation ended.

One scientist who has previously reported boosting working memory with electrical stimulation noted that the decline in this ability with normal aging is not huge. But “they removed the effects of age from these people,” said Dr. Barry Gordon, a professor of neurology and cognitive science at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

“It’s a superb first step” toward demonstrating a way to improve mental performance, said Gordon, who was not involved in the new study.

Reinhart agreed that more research is needed before it can be formally tested as a treatment.

 

Google’s Best AI Just Flunked a High School Math Test

The Singularity Is Here. Unfortunately for our new AI overlords, the crusade to take over the world has been stopped in its tracks by an unlikely hurdle: a 16-year-old’s math test.

Faced with the same level of exam that a 16-year-old in the U.K. would take, according to a new paper by Google’s DeepMind, its cutting-edge AI flunked…

It turns out, according to the research, that even a simple math problem involves a great deal of brainpower, as people learn to automatically learn to make sense of mathematical operations, memorize the order in which to perform them, and know how to turn word problems into equations.

But artificial intelligence is quite literally built to pore over data, scanning for patterns and analyzing them. In that regard, the results of the test — on which the algorithm scored a 14 out of 40 — aren’t reassuring.

GPS “rollover” event on April 6 could have some side-effects
GPS’ UTC clock, used for more than navigation, is about to reset. There might be some surprises.

On April 6, the Global Positioning System will reach the end of an era—or more correctly, an epoch. That’s when the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) clock used by the satellite navigation system will reach the limit for its 10-bit “week number” (WN) counter and flip back to 0000000000.

GPS time is linked to the official UTC clock time provided by the US Naval Observatory. But the GPS version of the clock tracks the date by counting the number of weeks since the beginning of the current GPS “epoch”—August 21, 1999. So as the clock reaches midnight tonight on the prime meridian, the GPS calendar will suddenly become 20 years out of date.

This should not come as a surprise for most newer GPS navigation systems. There has been plenty of warning—GPS went through a similar flip once before. And the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center issued a warning in April 2018 that this rollover was coming, as it will every 1,024 weeks—until the modernization of the GPS constellation is complete, and then the WN counter will be increased in size to 13 bits.

Most newer GPS receivers will shrug off the rollover because they’ve been programmed to accommodate the epoch change. But older systems won’t—and this may prove to have some interesting side-effects, as timing data suddenly jumps by 19.7 years. The clock change won’t directly affect location calculations. But if GPS receivers don’t properly account for the rollover, the time tags in the location data could corrupt navigation data in other ways.

But navigation isn’t the only concern. There are many systems that use the time for other purposes—cellular networks, electrical utilities, and other industrial systems use GPS receivers for timing and control functions. Since many of these systems have extremely long lifecycles, they’re the ones most likely to have not been updated.

The rollover issue isn’t limited to one day. Because of the way some manufacturers accounted for the rollover date in the past—by hard-coding a date correction into receivers’ firmware—their systems might fail at some arbitrary future date. Some have already succumbed: in July of 2017, an older NovAtel GPS system failed, and while the company issued a notice months earlier warning users to upgrade firmware, many remained ignorant of the notice until it happened. Motorola OncoreUT+ systems and some receivers using Trimble’s GPS engines also have failed over the past three years for similar reasons.

If you have a GPS receiver embedded in anything you own that has been around for a few years, do yourself a favor today and check for a firmware update.

Ancestry Testing Company: It’s Our ‘Moral Responsibility’ to Give The FBI Access to Your DNA 

Understand this; If any of your relatives have had their DNA tested by these companies, you’ve been profiled as well. One of my paternal cousins had hers tested a few years ago and when one of our paternal aunts had hers done this past year, the two were connected right off. So don’t go thinking that since you haven’t, your DNA profile is still private, or for that matter secure from whoever wants to catalog it for further consideration.

A popular DNA testing company seems to be targeting true crime fans with a new pitch to let them share their genetic information with law enforcement so cops can catch violent criminals.

Two months ago, FamilyTreeDNA raised privacy concerns after BuzzFeed revealed the company had partnered with the FBI and given the agency access to the genealogy database. Law enforcement’s use of DNA databases has been widely known since last April when California officials revealed genealogy website information was instrumental in determining the identity of the Golden State Killer. But in that case, detectives used publicly shared raw genetic data on GEDmatch. The recent news about FamilyTreeDNA marked the first known time a home DNA test company had willingly shared private genetic information with law enforcement.

Several weeks later, FamilyTreeDNA changed their rules to allow customers to block the FBI from accessing their information. “Users now have the ability to opt out of matching with DNA relatives whose accounts are flagged as being created to identify the remains of a deceased individual or a perpetrator of a homicide or sexual assault,” the company said in a statement at the time.

But now the company seems to be embracing this partnership with law enforcement with their new campaign called, “Families Want Answers.”

The company plans to air a new advertisement this week in San Francisco that features Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted in 2002 and held captive for nine months before being rescued.

In the ad, Ed Smart makes a plea for people to share their DNA so they can help families who have lost a child. “When a loved one is a victim of a violent crime families want answers,” he says as the ad shows footage of a child’s shoe on a playground, crime scene tape, and parents embracing. “There is more DNA available at crime scenes than any other evidence. If you are one of the millions of people who have taken a DNA test your help can provide the missing link.”

FamilyTreeDNA did not immediately respond to a Gizmodo request for comment on whether the new ad campaign was a response to recent reporting on the company’s arrangement with FBI.

In a public statement, FamilyTreeDNA’s president and founder, Bennett Greenspan, seemed to appeal to both genealogy hobbyists and true crime fans. “The genealogy community has the ability to crowd-source crime solving,” Greenspan said. “If FamilyTreeDNA can help prevent violent crimes, save lives, or bring closure to families, then we feel the company has a moral responsibility to do so.”

 

Wrecked Cars Are Now a Treasure Trove of Personal Information

If you think it’s just Teslas with this ‘problem’, you need to think again. Any and every new computer with attached seats and wheels that you can drive around- which is what your current newer cars really are – have this capability.

As cars grow more dependent upon computer-controlled driving aids and automakers implement permanent internet connectivity, we’ve grown increasingly concerned with how automakers handle their customer’s data.

It sounds conspiratorial, but there’s a series of events to hang the tinfoil hat on. In 2017, General Motors announced it had successfully monitored the listening habits of 90,000 motorists in a study aimed at improving marketing insights. It also rejiggered OnStar and introduced the Marketplace app for seamless in-car purchasing options. Our take was that it was as impressive as it was ominous — and GM is only leading the charge into a what analysts believe will eventually become a multi-billion dollar industry.

Naturally, this led to privacy concerns over how automakers will protect customer data on future models. But we might want to start worrying about the cars we have now. A couple of white-hat hackers (those are the good ones) recently probed the internal computer networks of wrecked and salvaged Teslas and found a mother lode of personal information waiting inside.

According to a report from CNBC, GreenTheOnly and fellow hacker Theo, a Tesla proponent who has repaired hundreds of wrecked Teslas, purchased a wrecked Model 3 for research purposes in 2018. During their time with the vehicle, the pair found it was owned by a Boston-area construction company and had held onto unencrypted data from at least 17 different devices.

From CNBC:

Mobile phones or tablets had paired to the car around 170 times. The Model 3 held 11 phonebooks’ worth of contact information from drivers or passengers who had paired their devices, and calendar entries with descriptions of planned appointments, and e-mail addresses of those invited. (CNBC called and e-mailed several of the people who had paired their phones to the vehicle to verify their information was authentic.)

The data also showed the drivers’ last 73 navigation locations including residential addresses, the Wequassett Resort and Golf Club, and local Chik-Fil-A and Home Depot locations.

The car also stored the crash data, which included video footage from months prior. This allowed the hackers to pair the iPhone in use at the time of the wreck to a relative of the founder and chairman of the company that owned the Model 3. They even had the call logs and could tell that a family member had contacted the driver moments before the crash.

GreenTheOnly claims to have been able to yank similar data off other salvaged Teslas, saying he has amassed a small fortune off Tesla’s bug bounties. However, as willing as the company is to pay good-natured hackers to find flaws in its software, it’s also very protective of the data it collects. Tesla has gone to court to avoid handing the information over to customers. In fact, owners without hacker know-how have to purchase proprietary cables and software from the manufacturer just to get basic information out of the vehicle.

It’s also clear that the data is not being automatically erased in the event of a crash or after a change in ownership. But Tesla claims it’s on it.

“Tesla already offers options that customers can use to protect personal data stored on their car, including a factory reset option for deleting personal data and restoring customized settings to factory defaults, and a Valet Mode for hiding personal data (among other functions) when giving their keys to a valet,” explained a Tesla spokesperson. “That said, we are always committed to finding and improving upon the right balance between technical vehicle needs and the privacy of our customers.”

Admirable, but we already know that a large swath of motorists don’t understand all the features in their car. And that’s not likely to improve as automobiles become increasingly complicated. There will always be a subset of drivers who won’t understand how to protect stored data or even care to learn how.

GreenTheOnly and Theo noted that Tesla cameras can record while the car is parked, and that there’s no way for an owner to know when they might be doing so. The cameras enable features like “sentry mode” and trigger the car’s automatic wipers. “Tesla is not super transparent about what and when they are recording, and storing on internal systems,” GreenTheOnly explained. “You can opt out of all data collection. But then you lose [over-the-air software updates] and a bunch of other functionality. So, understandably, nobody does that, and I also begrudgingly accepted it.”

While Tesla found itself the focus of the hackers’ research, data protection is an issue that isn’t likely to be isolated to a single manufacturer. Several large automakers are already in the process of finishing data storage centers and deciphering how to best monetize information as cars grow increasingly connected to the internet. Meanwhile, the European Union voted in 2018 to make all telemetry data copyrighted by the automaker — which includes information accrued via a vehicle’s navigational systems — and China is pushing for the full-time monitoring of all new alternative-energy vehicles.

You can’t stop the signal

“This is the result of several months of experimentation in order to have a base Glock platform that the gun community can design around.
This had been done before in .22lr and then I was contacted by FreeMenDontAsk via Twitter where he told me he had a method for making 9mm Glock pistols that worked well.
Much of his original work was lost in a computer crash so we recreated his work.
The key to this project is the DIY-friendliness. Given the laws regulating the components of firearms, a Glock frame that is customizable is exactly what FOSSCAD needs.
The system relies on a DIY metal rail system which is added to a printed frame.
This results in longevity of use, reliability and safety, all while keeping the costs and complexity to manufacture low.
The use of simple metal parts in combination with printed components holds a lot of potential for the future; FreeMenDontAsk is already working on other handgun models. Even outside of gun making, this could be useful for a wide array of printed projects.
The difficultly level of this build varies with the user.
We are good with tools and I’d say this build is not any harder than making an 80% lower for an AR-15.
As time goes on the gun community with gain a better understanding for this design.”

Trump orders historic plan to thwart EMP, warns attack would be ‘debilitating.’

In the first step of its kind, President Trump has signed an executive order calling for a government wide war on EMP, the types of electromagnetic pulses that can wipe out every computer, electric grid, and jet.

In joining the voices of those warning of EMP attacks, Trump called on his government to quickly generate a plan to detect EMP, protect critical infrastructure like water and electric sources, and also to recover if a hit lands.

“It is the policy of the United States to prepare for the effects of EMPs through targeted approaches that coordinate whole-of-government activities and encourage private-sector engagement,” said the executive order released by the White House.

“The federal government must provide warning of an impending EMP; protect against, respond to, and recover from the effects of an EMP through public and private engagement, planning, and investment; and prevent adversarial events through deterrence, defense, and nuclear nonproliferation efforts. To achieve these goals, the federal government shall engage in risk-informed planning, prioritize research and development (R&D) to address the needs of critical infrastructure stakeholders, and, for adversarial threats, consult Intelligence Community assessments,” it added.

How Microsoft found a Huawei driver that opened systems to attack.

Maybe more interesting is maybe how many other .dll files are like this that Microsoft hasn’t found and the Chinese are still exploiting?

Huawei MateBook systems that are running the company’s PCManager software included a driver that would let unprivileged users create processes with superuser privileges. The insecure driver was discovered by Microsoft using some of the new monitoring features added to Windows version 1809 that are monitored by the company’s Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) service.

First things first: Huawei fixed the driver and published the safe version in early January, so if you’re using a Huawei system and have either updated everything or removed the built-in applications entirely, you should be good to go.

The interesting part of the story is how Microsoft found the bad driver in the first place.

To rival Amazon, UPS enters healthcare—with doorstep nurse delivery
A test is set to launch this year, but UPS mum on which vaccines it will deliver.

UPS is crossing the threshold into healthcare, with plans for a new service that will deliver vaccine-toting nurses to customers’ doorsteps.

A test for the new service is scheduled for later this year, but UPS didn’t name where it will take place or which vaccine it will offer, only saying that it would be an immunization for adults against a viral illness. Vaccine-maker Merck & Co is reportedly considering partnering with UPS on the service.

News of the plan was first reported by Reuters. Ars confirmed the report with UPS, but a UPS spokesperson specifically working on the project did not immediately get back to us. This post will be updated with any additional information we receive.

The test is to see if UPS can “connect all these dots,” Wes Wheeler told Reuters. Wheeler is the chief executive at Marken, UPS’ clinical trial logistics unit, acquired in 2016, that is overseeing the vaccine project.

UPS’ entrance into healthcare follows news and buzz about Amazon’s gate-crashing foray into the industry, which has rattled major healthcare players, including insurance companies and pharmacies. Last year, Amazon purchased the online pharmacy PillPack, which sells presorted medication packets in one-month supplies to customers nationwide. News of the purchase sent shares of Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid plummeting at the time.

But Amazon reportedly uses UPS and FedEx to deliver PillPack orders, lacking specialized medical facilities and temperature-controlled shipping infrastructure of its own. This leaves an opening for UPS and other shippers to get into healthcare logistics.

“Over-the-threshold services is where the world is headed,” Chris Cassidy told Reuters. Cassidy oversee global healthcare logistics strategy at UPS and is a former employee at GlaxoSmithKline PLC.

Still, there will be obstacles to the new plan, including getting insurance companies to cover the home-delivered vaccines and keeping costs low to make the service competitive with other strategies, such as relatively cheap in-pharmacy vaccinations.

Ethiopia crash of Boeing 737 Max might be latest example of backfiring safety efforts.

“The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.”

As you’ve probably already heard, this is the second 737 MAX to have crashed after only being in service a short while.

Investigators have only begun sorting out this tragedy but some experts suggest that the plane’s automated safety software may have prevented the pilot from preventing the fatal plunge. If software and sensors designed to prevent crashes actually increased the risk of catastrophe, then the Boeing accidents are another reminder that safety policies can have unintended fatal consequences.

And to end today:

On this day on 1876 Alexander Graham Bell transmitted the first discernible speech over a wire system, speaking to his assistant, Thomas Watson.

Bell remembered the words as: “Mr. Watson, come here – I want to see you.”
Watson as: “Mr. Watson come here, I want you.”

No matter the difference, away the horse charged out of the barn and now many have the descendants of wire communication  – cell phones – stuck in their pockets.
I wonder what Alex would have thought if he were able to look into the future and see what he was loosing upon the world.

In any case, his invention and the technology it inspired, provided me a living keeping it working and thus provided me the wherewithal to indulge my real interest; guns.

 

Creeping on You in the Cold Drinks Aisle.

A new digital door technology from a company called Cooler Screens is now being tested in Walgreens, and it sounds absolutely awful. Rather than a basic, transparent glass door, coolers and freezers will be sealed by screens that show a sanitized image of the products behind them. Supposedly, these screens will:

• Save energy

• Help monitor inventory

• Help customers with poor eyesight

• Make products more visually appealing

That’s all nice enough, and those mild benefits might even be worth replacing a simple glass pane with a complex TV screen. However, further reading ultimately makes those benefits sound like nothing so much as an after-the-fact justification for the real motives behind this technology.

Flashing banner ads float between the digital rows of goods…in addition to the flashy ads and “smart” merchandising, these screens are equipped with sensors and cameras designed to watch and profile the appearance and actions of customers who find themselves in their path, like me. Approximate age and gender. How long my gaze lingers on the bottles of tea.

Report: Home Assistants with ‘Moral AI’ Could Call Police on Owners

I’ve got an easy solution.
Just don’t have this crap tech in your house. I see no reason for a world like ‘Farewell to the Master’ or ‘Colossus, the Forbin Project.

The Daily Mail reported that home assistants could soon report their owners to the police for breaking the law based on a “Moral A.I.” system, if the ideas of academics in Europe are implemented.
The newspaper reported that academics at the University of Bergen in Norway discussed the idea of a “moral A.I.” for smart home assistants, like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod, during a conference.

Moral A.I. would reportedly make home assistants have to “decide whether to report their owners for breaking the law,” or whether to stay silent.

“This would let them to weigh-up whether to report illegal activity to the police, effectively putting millions of people under constant surveillance,” the Daily Mail explained, adding that Dr. Marija Slavkovik, who led the research, “suggested that digital assistants should possess an ethical awareness that simultaneously represents both the owner and the authorities — or, in the case of a minor, their parents.”

“Devices would then have an internal ‘discussion’ about suspect behaviour, weighing up conflicting demands between the law and personal freedoms, before arriving at the ‘best’ course of action,” the Mail noted.

After a big privacy backlash, Google’s Nest explains which of its products have microphones and why.

Last week, Google told Business Insider that the microphone in its Nest Guard security device was “never intended to be a secret,” but had been erroneously omitted from the tech specs.

The revelation that the device unexpectedly had a microphone didn’t sit well with plenty of consumers, and the backlash made its way to Capitol Hill. On Wednesday, California Senator Kamala Harris told Business Insider: “Americans shouldn’t have to fear that the products in their home could be spying on them.”

The incident left some people wondering: Do other Nest products have microphones they’re not aware of?

A Google spokesperson confirmed with Business Insider this week that there is no microphone in the Nest Learning Thermostat, its flagship device. A teardown of the lower-cost Nest Thermostat E from 2017 further confirmed that there was no mic in that device.

Perhaps most surprising was that the second-generation model of the Nest Protect, its smoke and carbon monoxide alarm, does contain a microphone. Nest has made the microphone’s existence clear in all of its marking materials and spec sheets.

On its support page, the company says that the microphone is there for routine alarm checks. Once a month, the device will automatically run a “sound check” and the microphone helps detect if its speaker and horn are working properly. Users can also run a manual “safety checkup” to test their Nest Protect, in which case the microphone is also enabled.

Google also told us that all of its Nest camera products — Nest Cam IQ outdoor, Nest Cam IQ indoor, Nest Cam outdoor, Nest Cam indoor, and its smart doorbell, Nest Hello — have microphones. These were also clearly called out by the company from the beginning, it says.

With these confirmations from Google, it appears that no other Nest devices have unknown microphones, which may come as a relief to worried users.

You Give Apps Sensitive Personal Information. Then They Tell Facebook.

Millions of smartphone users confess their most intimate secrets to apps, including when they want to work on their belly fat or the price of the house they checked out last weekend. Other apps know users’ body weight, blood pressure, menstrual cycles or pregnancy status.

Unbeknown to most people, in many cases that data is being shared with someone else: Facebook Inc.

The social-media giant collects intensely personal information from many popular smartphone apps just seconds after users enter it, even if the user has no connection to Facebook, according to testing done by The Wall Street Journal. The apps often send the data without any prominent or specific disclosure, the testing showed.

It is already known that many smartphone apps send information to Facebook about when users open them, and sometimes what they do inside. Previously unreported is how at least 11 popular apps, totaling tens of millions of downloads, have also been sharing sensitive data entered by users. The findings alarmed some privacy experts who reviewed the Journal’s testing.

Facebook is under scrutiny from Washington and European regulators for how it treats the information of users and nonusers alike. It has been fined for allowing now defunct political-data firm Cambridge Analytica illicit access to users’ data and has drawn criticism for giving companies special access to user records well after it said it had walled off that information.

In the case of apps, the Journal’s testing showed that Facebook software collects data from many apps even if no Facebook account is used to log in and if the end user isn’t a Facebook member.

Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which operate the two dominant app stores, don’t require apps to disclose all the partners with whom data is shared. Users can decide not to grant permission for an app to access certain types of information, such as their contacts or locations. But these permissions generally don’t apply to the information users supply directly to apps, which is sometimes the most personal.

In the Journal’s testing, Instant Heart Rate: HR Monitor, the most popular heart-rate app on Apple’s iOS, made by California-based Azumio Inc., sent a user’s heart rate to Facebook immediately after it was recorded.

Flo Health Inc.’s Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker, which claims 25 million active users, told Facebook when a user was having her period or informed the app of an intention to get pregnant, the tests showed.

Real-estate app Realtor.com, owned by Move Inc., a subsidiary of Wall Street Journal parent News Corp , sent the social network the location and price of listings that a user viewed, noting which ones were marked as favorites, the tests showed.

None of those apps provided users any apparent way to stop that information from being sent to Facebook.

The Real Reason They Hate Nuclear Is Because It Means We Don’t Need Renewables.

Why is it that, from the U.S. and Canada to Spain and France, it is progressives and socialists who say they care deeply about the climate, not conservative climate skeptics, who are seeking to shut down nuclear plants?

After all, the two greatest successes when it comes to nuclear energy are Sweden and France, two nations held up by democratic socialists for decades as models of the kind of societies they want.

It is only nuclear energy, not solar and wind, that has radically and rapidly decarbonized energy supplies while increasing wages and growing societal wealth.

And it is only nuclear that has, by powering high-speed trains everywhere from France to Japan to China, decarbonized transportation, which is the source of about one-third of the emissions humankind creates.

For many people the answer is obvious: ignorance. Few people know that nuclear is the safest source of electricity. Or that low levels of radiation are harmless. Or that nuclear waste is the best kind of waste.

To a large extent, I agree with this view. In order to address widespread fear and ignorance, my colleagues and I have created The Complete Case for nuclear, which summarizes the best-available science.

But ignorance can’t be the whole story. After all, the leaders of the anti-nuclear movement are public intellectuals — Al Gore, Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein. They are highly-educated, do extensive research, and publish in fact-checked publications like The New Yorker, The NationThe New York Times.

Is the problem that progressives unconsciously associate nuclear energy with nuclear bombs? Without a doubt that’s a big part of it. Psychologists have since the seventies documented how people displace anxieties about the bomb onto nuclear plants.

But anti-nuclear Millennials like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, grew up more in fear of climate change than the bomb.

And few things have proven worse for the climate than shutting down nuclear plants………

In the pages of respected liberal publications like The New Yorker and Foreign Affairs, they made the case for renewables as better for society, not just the environment, using identical arguments to those advanced for the Green New Deal.

“Even if nuclear power were clean, safe, economic, assured of ample fuel, and socially benign,” said the god head of renewables, Amory Lovins, in 1977, “it would still be unattractive because of the political implications of the kind of energy economy it would lock us into.”

What kind of an energy economy would that be, exactly? A prosperous, clean, and high-energy one. “If you ask me, it’d be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it,” explained Lovins.

Eight years ago, the socialist-turned-environmentalist writer, Naomi Klein, made the identical arguments as Bookchin and Lovins in a long piece for The Nation called “Capitalism vs. the Climate.”

“Real climate solutions,” she insisted, “are ones that steer… power and control to the community level, whether through community-controlled renewable energy, local organic agriculture, or transit systems genuinely accountable to their users…”

Klein expanded her argument into a book. To underscore the totalizing nature of her agenda, she titled the book, This Changes Everything.

“In short,” explained Klein, “climate change supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand on the books, binding them into a coherent agenda based on a clear scientific imperative.”

Little wonder, then, that the Green New Deal includes every progressive demand on the books: retrofitting buildings and power grids; subsidizing sustainable agriculture by family farmers; public transit; restoring ecosystems; cleaning up hazardous waste; international aid; worker training. This list goes on and on.

“It is in no context a ‘program,’” observes Charlie Cook in National Review. “It is, rather, an all-compassing wish list — an untrammeled Dear Santa letter without form, purpose, borders, or basis in reality.”

True — and one that is simply unnecessary for reducing greenhouse gas emissions if you have nuclear power.