Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the worldwide web, wrote an open-letter over the weekend to mark the 28th anniversary of his invention. In his letter, he shared three worrisome things that happened over the last twelve months. In his letter, Berners-Lee pointed out three things that occurred over the past 12 months that has him worried: we do not assume control of our personal data anymore; how easy it is for misinformation to spread on the web; and lack of transparency on political advertising on the web. Cyborg rights activist Aral Balkan wrote a piece yesterday arguing that perhaps Berners-Lee is being modest about the things that concern him. From the article: It’s important to note that these (those three worrisome things) are not trends and that they’ve been in the making for far longer than twelve months. They are symptoms that are inextricably linked to the core nature of the Web as it exists within the greater socio-technological system we live under today that we call Surveillance Capitalism. Tim says we’ve “lost control of our personal data.” This is not entirely accurate. We didn’t lose control; it was stolen from us by Silicon Valley. It is stolen from you every day by people farmers; the Googles and the Facebooks of the world. It is stolen from you by an industry of data brokers, the publishing behavioural advertising industry (“adtech”), and a long tail of Silicon Valley startups hungry for an exit to one of the more established players or looking to compete with them to own a share of you. The elephants in the room — Google and Facebook — stand silently in the wings, unmentioned except as allies later on in the letter where they’re portrayed trying to “combat the problem” of misinformation. Is it perhaps foolish to expect anything more when Google is one of the biggest contributors to recent web standards at the W3C and when Google and Facebook both help fund the Web Foundation? Let me state it plainly: Google and Facebook are not allies in our fight for an equitable future — they are the enemy. These platform monopolies are factory farms for human beings; farming us for every gram of insight they can extract. If, as Tim states, the core challenge for the Web today is combating people farming, and if we know who the people farmers are, shouldn’t we be strongly regulating them to curb their abuses? Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Archive for March 13th, 2017
Even the strongest human-made glue tends to fail when you dunk it underwater. Purdue researchers, however, think they have a simple solution to this: imitate nature. They’ve developed a polymer adhesive that’s based on the proteins mussels use to cling to rocks. The team’s synthetic creation takes advantage of compounds inside the proteins’ amino acids to bind directly to an intended surface, rather than interacting with water on the surface. The result is a material that not only outperforms the glue you see in the hardware store, but is 17 times stronger than the shellfish’s own adhesive — and that has scientists scratching their heads. Purdue speculates that mussels may only produce adhesives that are just strong enough to keep their bodies attached. A too-strong substance could actually backfire by making it difficult for a mussel to escape predators without hurting itself. The artificial version, meanwhile, is as powerful as humans want it to be. There’s still a long way to go before this glue is ready for real-world use. However, there’s a good chance that could happen. The US military’s Office of Naval Research funded the project, and it clearly has a vested interest in making sure that its constructions survive water. This doesn’t mean that you’ll see warships held together by glue instead of rivets, but the concept isn’t completely far-fetched. Source: Purdue University , ACS
When Volvo revealed its intentions to make its first all-electric car , it raised at least a few questions: would the EV carry a premium over Volvo’s already pricier-than-usual lineup? And would it have enough range to be more than an urban commuter car? Apparently, the answer to both is “yes.” The company’s US chief Lex Kerssemakers told the press that the 2019-era vehicle should carry a price between $35, 000 and $40, 000, and should have at least a 250-mile range. That would put it at the lower end of Volvo’s price spectrum, and pit it directly against the wave of new mainstream EVs like the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 . The company isn’t ready to talk about the finer details of the machine. However, the price and range suggest that this is most likely to be a sedan than either an SUV or a compact car like the old C30 Electric concept. And Kerssemakers stresses that range is important — he says that people won’t buy an EV unless it has “sufficient” range, even if it’s overkill for the daily commute. Volvo’s approach should be important for EVs as a whole by not only making them more accessible, but introducing them to a familiar brand associated with upscale cars. It may also be crucial to the company’s success in its home country. Tesla sales are exploding in Sweden, and it would be more than a little embarrassing if Volvo let a foreign rival go unchallenged for more than a few years. Via: Business Insider Source: Automotive News
Manhattan is just one of hundreds of metropolitan areas in the United States that has an eruv , which is a wire that symbolically turns public spaces into private spaces during the Jewish Sabbath. From Mental Floss : On the Sabbath, which is viewed as a day of rest, observant Jewish people aren’t allowed to carry anything — books, groceries, even children — in public places (doing so is considered “work”). The eruv encircles much of Manhattan, acting as a symbolic boundary that turns the very public streets of the city into a private space, much like one’s own home. This allows people to freely communicate and socialize on the Sabbath — and carry whatever they please—without having to worry about breaking Jewish law. Along with everything else in New York City, the eruv isn’t cheap. It costs a group of Orthodox synagogues $100,000 a year to maintain the wires, which are inspected by a rabbi every Thursday before dawn to confirm they are all still attached.
We’ve known for awhile that the upcoming seventh season of Game of Thrones will be a shorter run of episodes than usual—as will its follow-up, the (presumably) final season of the series . But now, after some umming and ahhing from HBO, we finally know that season eight will be six episodes long. Read more…
In 2011 a gynecology doctor took his computer for repairs at Best Buy’s Geek Squad. But the repair technician was a paid FBI informant — one of several working at Geek Squad — and the doctor was ultimately charged with possessing child pornography, according to OC Weekly. An anonymous reader quotes their new report: Recently unsealed records reveal a much more extensive secret relationship than previously known between the FBI and Best Buy’s Geek Squad, including evidence the agency trained company technicians on law-enforcement operational tactics, shared lists of targeted citizens and, to covertly increase surveillance of the public, encouraged searches of computers even when unrelated to a customer’s request for repairs. Assistant United States Attorney M. Anthony Brown last year labeled allegations of a hidden partnership as “wild speculation.” But more than a dozen summaries of FBI memoranda filed inside Orange County’s Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse this month in USA v. Mark Rettenmaier contradict the official line… Other records show how [Geek Squad supervisor Justin] Meade’s job gave him “excellent and frequent” access for “several years” to computers belonging to unwitting Best Buy customers, though agents considered him “underutilized” and wanted him “tasked” to search devices “on a more consistent basis”… evidence demonstrates company employees routinely snooped for the agency, contemplated “writing a software program” specifically to aid the FBI in rifling through its customers’ computers without probable cause for any crime that had been committed, and were “under the direction and control of the FBI.” The doctor’s lawyer argues Best Buy became an unofficial wing of the FBI by offering $500 for every time they found evidence leading to criminal charges. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
From a report on Bloomberg: The case for daylight saving time has been shaky for a while. The biannual time change was originally implemented to save energy. Yet dozens of studies around the world have found that changing the clocks has either minuscule or non-existent effects on energy use. The latest research suggests the time change can be harmful to our health and cost us money. The suffering of the spring time change begins with the loss of an hour of sleep. That might not seem like a big deal, but researchers have found it can be dangerous to mess with sleep schedules. Car accidents, strokes, and heart attacks spike in the days after the March time change. It turns out that judges, sleep deprived by daylight saving, impose harsher sentences. Some of the last defenders of daylight saving time have been a cluster of business groups who assume the change helps stimulate consumer spending. That’s not true either, according to recent analysis of 380 million bank and credit-card transactions by the JPMorgan Chase Institute. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Back in January , the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it was getting involved with a large outbreak of mumps in Washington state. At the time, it was uncertain if the problem was isolated to the region. It’s now becoming clear that the uptick of infections is occurring across the United… Read more…
CAPTCHA’s are an irritating but necessary evil. The system that is used to verify whether or not a user is human has been around a while and it had to evolve because machines were getting better at reading the text than humans. With its latest iteration, Google says you’ll no longer have to input anything at all. Read more…