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eBay Embraces NFTs

Slashdot - Tue, 2021-05-11 23:50
eBay is joining the NFT frenzy, telling Reuters today that going forward it will allow the sales of NFTs on its platform, a mainstream embrace that follows billions of dollars in NFT purchases over the past few months. TechCrunch reports: The e-commerce company seems poised to slowly build up sales of digital collectibles on the platform, starting with a smaller group of verified sellers on the platform. "In the coming months, eBay will add new capabilities that bring blockchain-driven collectibles to our platform," eBay exec Jordan Sweetnam told them. eBay has invested heavily in infrastructure for physical collectibles like trading cards, as well as items like sneakers and watches which they help verify for buyers.

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Amazon and Others Ordered To Slash Diesel Pollution From Warehouse Trucks

Slashdot - Tue, 2021-05-11 23:10
Southern California has adopted a new air pollution rule aimed at slashing noxious emissions from warehouse trucks that move goods sold by Amazon and other e-commerce retailers. Ars Technica reports: Diesel pollution from heavy trucks causes everything from asthma to heart attacks, and even Parkinson's disease. Previously, such pollution tended to be concentrated around shipping ports and highways, but the growth of e-commerce has created a new source that is affecting neighborhoods farther inland. There are nearly 34,000 warehouses enclosing 1.17 billion square feet of space in the Los Angeles region alone. The rule, which was adopted late last week by a 9-4 vote of the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), would cover around 3,300 warehouses that are larger than 100,000 square feet. The rule seeks to reduce the amount of diesel particulate matter and nitrogen oxides produced by trucks serving these facilities. The district covers more than 17 million people, or nearly half the state's population. The way the South Coast AQMD is approaching warehouse-related pollution is novel. Rather than attempting to control traffic flow to and from the facilities, the regulator will require warehouse owners to take various steps to reduce pollution in the area. That could include buying electric or fuel-cell trucks, adding solar panels to the building roofs, or installing air filters at nearby homes, hospitals, and schools. Each of these measures is assigned a point value, and warehouse operators must achieve a certain total to offset the emissions from their truck traffic. If they cannot meet the goal through mitigation measures, they can pay a fee instead. South Coast AQMD is phasing in compliance depending on the size of the facility. Warehouses that are over 250,000 square feet must meet their goals by June 30, 2022. Warehouses over 150,000 square feet must comply by the same day the following year, and those over 100,000 square feet get until June 30, 2024. Amazon's typical warehouses, for example, range in size from 600,000 to 1 million square feet. [...] The new rule is expected to save 150 to 300 lives and prevent 2,500 to 5,800 asthma attacks between 2022 and 2031. Overall, the public health benefits could be as large as $2.7 billion over the same timeframe.

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Army of Fake Fans Boosts China's Messaging on Twitter

Slashdot - Tue, 2021-05-11 22:30
China's ruling Communist Party has opened a new front in its long, ambitious war to shape global public opinion: Western social media. From a report: Liu Xiaoming, who recently stepped down as China's ambassador to the United Kingdom, is one of the party's most successful foot soldiers on this evolving online battlefield. He joined Twitter in October 2019, as scores of Chinese diplomats surged onto Twitter and Facebook, which are both banned in China. Since then, Liu has deftly elevated his public profile, gaining a following of more than 119,000 as he transformed himself into an exemplar of China's new sharp-edged "wolf warrior" diplomacy, a term borrowed from the title of a top-grossing Chinese action movie. "As I see it, there are so-called 'wolf warriors' because there are 'wolfs' in the world and you need warriors to fight them," Liu, who is now China's Special Representative on Korean Peninsula Affairs, tweeted in February. His stream of posts -- principled and gutsy ripostes to Western anti-Chinese bias to his fans, aggressive bombast to his detractors -- were retweeted more than 43,000 times from June through February alone. But much of the popular support Liu and many of his colleagues seem to enjoy on Twitter has, in fact, been manufactured. A seven-month investigation by the Associated Press and the Oxford Internet Institute, a department at Oxford University, found that China's rise on Twitter has been powered by an army of fake accounts that have retweeted Chinese diplomats and state media tens of thousands of times, covertly amplifying propaganda that can reach hundreds of millions of people -- often without disclosing the fact that the content is government-sponsored. More than half the retweets Liu got from June through January came from accounts that Twitter has suspended for violating the platform's rules, which prohibit manipulation. Overall, more than one in ten of the retweets 189 Chinese diplomats got in that time frame came from accounts that Twitter had suspended by Mar. 1. But Twitter's suspensions did not stop the pro-China amplification machine. An additional cluster of fake accounts, many of them impersonating U.K. citizens, continued to push Chinese government content, racking up over 16,000 retweets and replies before Twitter kicked them off late last month and early this month, in response to the AP and Oxford Internet Institute's investigation.

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Voice Actor Reportedly Responsible For Amazon Alexa Revealed

Slashdot - Tue, 2021-05-11 21:50
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Amazon's Alexa has a voice familiar to millions: calm, warm, and measured. But like most synthetic speech, its tones have a human origin. There was someone whose voice had to be recorded, analyzed, and algorithmically reproduced to create Alexa as we know it now. Amazon has never revealed who this "original Alexa" is, but journalist Brad Stone says he tracked her down, and she is Nina Rolle, a voiceover artist based in Boulder, Colorado. The claim comes from Stone's upcoming book on the tech giant, Amazon Unbound, an excerpt of which is published here in Wired. Neither Amazon nor Rolle confirmed or denied Stone's reporting, which he says is based on conversations with the professional voiceover community, but Rolle's voice alone makes for a compelling case. Here's how Stone writes up the process in selecting Alexa's voice: "Believing that the selection of the right voice for Alexa was critical, [then-Amazon exec Greg] Hart and colleagues spent months reviewing the recordings of various candidates that GM Voices produced for the project, and presented the top picks to Bezos. The Amazon team ranked the best ones, asked for additional samples, and finally made a choice. Bezos signed off on it. Characteristically secretive, Amazon has never revealed the name of the voice artist behind Alexa. I learned her identity after canvasing the professional voice-over community: Boulder, Colorado -- based voice actress and singer Nina Rolle. Her professional website contains links to old radio ads for products such as Mott's Apple Juice and the Volkswagen Passat -- and the warm timbre of Alexa's voice is unmistakable. Rolle said she wasn't allowed to talk to me when I reached her on the phone in February 2021. When I asked Amazon to speak with her, they declined."

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WhatsApp: Share your data with Facebook, or we'll make our own app useless to you

TheRegister - Tue, 2021-05-11 21:41
Facebook gets tough just as Germany blocks privacy policy roll-out

WhatsApp users who refuse to share their personal information with Facebook's internet empire will slowly but surely be cut off from the chat app, the social network has confirmed.…

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Chinese TV Maker Skyworth Under Fire For Excessive Data Collection That Users Call Spying

Slashdot - Tue, 2021-05-11 21:10
Chinese television maker Skyworth has issued an apology after a consumer found that his set was quietly collecting a wide range of private data and sending it to a Beijing-based analytics company without his consent. From a report: A network traffic analysis revealed that a Skyworth smart TV scanned for other devices connected to the same local network every 10 minutes and gathered data that included device names, IP addresses, network latency and even the names of other Wi-Fi networks within range, according to a post last week on the Chinese developer forum V2EX. The data was sent to the Beijing-based firm Gozen Data, the forum user said. Gozen is a data analytics company that specialises in targeted advertising on smart TVs, and it calls itself Chinaâs first "home marketing company empowered by big data centred on family data." The user did not identify himself, and efforts to contact the person received no reply. However, the post quickly picked up steam, touching a nerve among Chinese consumers and prompting angry comments. "Isn't this already the criminal offence of spying on people?" asked one user on Sina.com, a Chinese financial news portal. "Whom will the collected data be sold to, and who is the end user of this data?"

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East Coast Facing Gas Shortage Due To Ransomware Attack

Slashdot - Tue, 2021-05-11 20:30
New submitter TheCowSaysMoo writes: Gas stations from Florida to Virginia began running dry and prices at the pump jumped on Tuesday as the shutdown of the biggest U.S. fuel pipeline by hackers extended into a fifth day and sparked panic buying by motorists. About 7.5% of gas stations in Virginia and 5% in North Carolina had no fuel on Tuesday as demand jumped 20%, tracking firm GasBuddy said. Prices rose to their highest in more than six years, and Georgia suspended sales tax on gas until Saturday to ease the strain on consumers. North Carolina declared an emergency. Colonial Pipeline has forecast that it will not substantially restore operations of the 5,500-mile pipeline network that supplies nearly half of the East Coast's fuel until the end of the week. The company preventively shut the pipeline on Friday after hackers locked its computers and demanded ransom, underscoring the vulnerability of U.S. energy infrastructure to cyberattack.

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SolarWinds CEO describes overhauled Orion build system after that 'very small, unique' security breach

TheRegister - Tue, 2021-05-11 19:59
'This can happen to anybody. There's always learning in any crisis. And we were no exception'

CyberUK 21 SolarWinds’ chief exec has described the 18,000 customers who downloaded backdoored versions of its Orion software as a “very small” number while giving a speech to an infosec event.…

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Google Plans To Double AI Ethics Research Staff

Slashdot - Tue, 2021-05-11 19:56
Alphabet's Google plans to double the size of its team studying artificial-intelligence ethics in the coming years, as the company looks to strengthen a group that has had its credibility challenged by research controversies and personnel defections. From a report: Vice President of Engineering Marian Croak said at The Wall Street Journal's Future of Everything Festival that the hires will increase the size of the responsible AI team that she leads to 200 researchers. Additionally, she said that Alphabet Chief Executive Sundar Pichai has committed to boost the operating budget of a team tasked with evaluating code and product to avert harm, discrimination and other problems with AI. "Being responsible in the way that you develop and deploy AI technology is fundamental to the good of the business," Ms. Croak said. "It severely damages the brand if things aren't done in an ethical way." Google announced in February that Ms. Croak would lead the AI ethics group after it fired the division's co-head, Margaret Mitchell, for allegedly sharing internal documents with people outside the company. Ms. Mitchell's exit followed criticism of Google's suppression of research last year by a prominent member of the team, Timnit Gebru, who says she was fired because of studies critical of the company's approach to AI. Mr. Pichai pledged an investigation into the circumstances around Ms. Gebru's departure and said he would seek to restore trust.

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Microsoft emits more fixes for Exchange Server plus patches for remote-code exec holes in HTTP stack, Visual Studio

TheRegister - Tue, 2021-05-11 19:08
Plus: Grab your updates for Adobe, SAP, Android, Intel

Patch Tuesday Microsoft's May Patch Tuesday brought a lighter-than-usual load of 55 fixes for 32 of the Windows giant's applications and services, which is about half what was served up in April.…

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IBM wheels out AutoSQL, Watson Orchestrate in bid to fend off cloud irrelevance

TheRegister - Tue, 2021-05-11 17:58
AI here, there and everywhere

Think IBM's latest attempt at relevance in the cloud world continued at its Think conference by giving its Cloud Pak for Data another beating with the AI stick and unleashing Watson on IT pros.…

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Rude awakening for O2 customers after network runs surprise test of emergency mobile alert system

TheRegister - Tue, 2021-05-11 17:01
Sorry, there's no nuclear missile inbound. You have to go to work

Birds chirping, the gentle burbling of coffee brewing – these are the sounds we typically associate with the dawn hours.…

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Tech Giants Join Call for Funding Chip Production

Slashdot - Tue, 2021-05-11 16:52
Some of the world's biggest chip buyers, including Apple, Microsoft and Alphabet's Google, are joining top chip-makers such as Intel to create a new lobbying group to press for government chip manufacturing subsidies. From a report: The newly formed Semiconductors in America Coalition, which also includes Amazon.com's Amazon Web Services, said Tuesday it has asked U.S. lawmakers to provide funding for the CHIPS for America Act, for which President Joe Biden has asked Congress to provide $50 billion. "Robust funding of the CHIPS Act would help America build the additional capacity necessary to have more resilient supply chains to ensure critical technologies will be there when we need them," the group said in a letter to Democratic and Republican leaders in both houses of the U.S. Congress. A global chip shortage has hit automakers hard, with Ford Motor saying it could halve second-quarter production. Automotive industry groups have pressed the Biden administration to secure chip supply for car factories. But Reuters last week reported administration officials were reluctant to use a national security law to redirect computer chips to automakers because doing so could hurt other industries. The new coalition includes some of those other chip-consuming industries, with members such as AT&T, Cisco Systems, General Electric, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Verizon Communications. It cautioned against government actions to favor a single industry such as automakers.

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Intel Unveils Full Tiger Lake-H Processor Line-Up For Higher Performance Laptops

Slashdot - Tue, 2021-05-11 16:05
MojoKid writes: In January, Intel officially announced its Tiger Lake-H mobile platform, but today disclosed full details on the new, higher-end variant of Tiger Lake manufactured using 10nm SuperFIN technology, that brings with it a few significant platform enhancements beyond just its clock speed and core count boost. Intel is refreshing the lineup with higher-power and higher-performance Tiger Lake-H45 processors, with up to 8 physical cores (16 threads). In addition, the CPUs feature 20 reconfigurable PCI Express 4.0 lanes attached directly to the processor, which enable PCIe 4.0 NVMe RAID -- a first for any mobile platform. The platform features all of the latest IO and connectivity technologies, like Killer Wi-Fi 6 / 6E, Thunderbolt 4, and support for Resizable BAR. There are an array of consumer and commercial Tiger Lake-H based 11th Gen Intel Core H-series processors coming down the pipeline. The top-end consumer SKU is the Core i9-11980HK, which is an 8-core / 16-thread processor, with a base clock of 2.6GHz and maximum turbo clock of 5GHz on one or two cores. What also makes this particular processor interesting is that it is fully unlocked and overclockable via Intel's XTU utility. Intel has shipped millions of units volume to laptop OEMs already and expects to have laptops in market from all of the majors this month.

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UK's Computer Misuse Act to be reviewed, says Home Secretary as she condemns ransomware payoffs

TheRegister - Tue, 2021-05-11 16:00
Priti Patel doesn't say a word about encryption, though

CyberUK 21 Priti Patel has promised a government review of the UK's 30-year-old Computer Misuse Act "this year" as well as condemning companies that buy off ransomware criminals.…

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FCC Approves $7B Broadband Connectivity Fund

Slashdot - Tue, 2021-05-11 15:34
The US Federal Communications Commission has unanimously approved the final rules to implement the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. The FCC program will provide funding for schools and libraries across the country to buy laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots and broadband connections to help students and teachers to access the internet for online learning during the pandemic. From a report: The program is part of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. It also follows the FCC approving a plan in February to administer $3.2 billion in emergency relief to subsidize broadband for millions of Americans during the pandemic. That program will provide $50 per month to low-income households and $75 per month to households on Native American lands to cover the cost of broadband services starting May 12. It also provides $100 toward buying a laptop or tablet. "Between this Emergency Connectivity Fund Program and the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, we are investing more than $10 billion in American students and households," Jessica Rosenworcel, acting chairwoman of the FCC, said in a statement Monday. "These investments will help more Americans access online education, healthcare and employment resources. They will help close the homework gap for students nationwide."

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NHS App gets go-ahead for UK vaccine passport use despite protest from privacy groups

TheRegister - Tue, 2021-05-11 15:15
Big Brother Watch warns app contains too much sensitive medical information

The UK will next week begin using the NHS App to confer an individual's vaccination status, in the face of warnings that the technology could lead to identifiable medical information being exposed.…

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Apple Gave Zoom Access To Special API to Use iPad Camera During Split View Multitasking

Slashdot - Tue, 2021-05-11 14:42
AmiMoJo writes: Zoom, a hallmark platform used by millions during the global health crisis, has been given access to a special iPadOS API that allows the app to use the iPad camera while the app is in use in Split View multitasking mode. This case of special treatment was first brought to attention by app developer Jeremy Provost, who, in a blog post, explains that Zoom uses a special API that allows the app to continue using and accessing the iPad camera while the app is being used in Split View mode. Zoom can do this thanks to an "entitlement," which grants developers the ability to execute a particular capability with an API. As Provost notes, Apple publicly documents the ability for developers to apply for several different entitlements, such as ones related to CarPlay, HomeKit, and more. However, the special API that Zoom has been given is not offered to other developers by Apple, nor is its existence acknowledged by the company itself. On the Zoom Developer Forum, a staff member for the video conferencing platform had confirmed earlier in February that Zoom has access to the "com.apple.developer.avfoundation.multitasking-camera-access," or iPad Camera Multitasking entitlement. Further reading: Apple Offered Special App Store API Access To Hulu and Other Developers.

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Copper load of this: Openreach outlines 77 new locations where it'll stop selling legacy phone and broadband products

TheRegister - Tue, 2021-05-11 14:27
You can't buy this kind of service. No, literally

BT-owned infrastructure provider Openreach has confirmed plans to stop sales of copper-based phone and broadband services in 77 exchange locations across the UK, affecting roughly 700,000 premises.…

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Facebook Ordered To Stop Collecting German WhatsApp Data

Slashdot - Tue, 2021-05-11 14:12
Facebook was ordered to stop collecting German users' data from its WhatsApp unit, after a regulator in the nation said the company's attempt to make users agree to the practice in its updated terms isn't legal. From a report: Johannes Caspar, who heads Hamburg's privacy authority, issued a three-month emergency ban, prohibiting Facebook from continuing with the data collection. He also asked a panel of European Union data regulators to take action and issue a ruling across the 27-nation bloc. The new WhatsApp terms enabling the data scoop are invalid because they are intransparent, inconsistent and overly broad, he said. "The order aims to secure the rights and freedoms of millions of users which are agreeing to the terms Germany-wide," Caspar said in a statement on Tuesday. "We need to prevent damage and disadvantages linked to such a black-box-procedure." The order strikes at the heart of Facebook's business model and advertising strategy. It echoes a similar and contested step by Germany's antitrust office attacking the network's habit of collecting data about what users do online and merging the information with their Facebook profiles. That trove of information allows ads to be tailored to individual users -- creating a cash cow for Facebook.

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