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President Trump Pardons Anthony Levandowski, Ex-Uber Engineer Sentenced To Prison For Stealing Trade Secrets From Google (whitehouse.gov)

(Wednesday January 20, 2021 @05:00AM (BeauHD) from the full-pardon dept.)

On his final night in office, President Trump [1]granted clemency to a total of 143 people , ranging from former adviser Stephen K. Bannon to rapper Lil Wayne. One name in particular that stands out in the tech community is none other than Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer that was [2]sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing trade secrets from Google.

"Levandowski [3]left Google in 2016 to start his own self-driving truck company, which was quickly acquired by Uber for $680 million," reports CNET. "These actions set off a chain of events that led to Google's autonomous vehicle unit, Waymo, [4]suing Uber over alleged theft of self-driving car trade secrets."

Why would this tech executive be pardoned you may ask? The Press Secretary [5]writes : "This pardon is strongly supported by James Ramsey, Peter Thiel, Miles Ehrlich, Amy Craig, Michael Ovitz, Palmer Luckey, Ryan Petersen, Ken Goldberg, Mike Jensen, Nate Schimmel, Trae Stephens, Blake Masters, and James Proud, among others..."



[1] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-press-secretary-regarding-executive-grants-clemency-012021/

[2] https://yro.slashdot.org/story/20/08/04/2350207/anthony-levandowski-sentenced-to-18-months-in-prison-as-new-4-billion-lawsuit-against-uber-is-filed

[3] https://yro.slashdot.org/story/20/03/20/2036203/ex-uber-engineer-pleads-guilty-to-stealing-trade-secrets-from-google

[4] https://yro.slashdot.org/story/17/02/24/023234/alphabets-waymo-sues-uber-for-allegedly-stealing-self-driving-secrets

[5] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-press-secretary-regarding-executive-grants-clemency-012021/

Reddit's Former CEO Is Now In the Forest-Planting Business (fastcompany.com)

(Wednesday January 20, 2021 @05:00AM (BeauHD) from the carbon-capture dept.)

[1]Terraformation , a startup led by Yishan Wong, former CEO of Reddit, [2]is demonstrating an approach to reforest the planet quickly enough to fight climate change . Fast Company reports:

> Trees can play a key role in capturing carbon at scale -- by one estimate, nearly a trillion hectares of land could feasibly be reforested, and those trees could potentially store more than 200 gigatons of carbon. But efforts at reforestation are moving too slowly. "Essentially, we need to scale the solution in about 10 years, so that there is time for the forest to mature and become a carbon sink of reasonable size to meet various nations' commitments to be net zero around 2040 or 2050," says Yishan Wong, CEO of the Hawaii-based startup, called Terraformation.

>

> One of the challenges the company identified was the lack of land: Some land that was originally forested is now covered by cities or used for farming. Other areas might not be available for sale. But there's a large amount of desertified land that is available. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification reports that around 4.7 billion acres on the planet -- about twice the size of China -- have been affected by drought or desertification, but could potentially be restored. Finding enough water to grow trees there is a challenge. But the folks at Terraformation believe that if desalinated water is used to irrigate seedlings, a restored forest will eventually be able to sustain itself.

>

> In Hawaii, the startup built the world's largest fully off-grid, solar-powered desalination system. With a half-acre of solar panels, there's enough power to desalinate around 34,000 gallons of water per day, taken from a well on the site. A drip irrigation system sends the water to the roughly 1,900 native trees and shrubs that have been planted in the area so far. As the forest grows, proving that the system works, the company is working to replicate the same idea around the world. It's creating seed banks that fit inside shipping containers and can store the millions of native seeds that are necessary for large planting projects. It's also building open-source software that groups can use to collect data and track progress after trees are planted.



[1] https://terraformation.com/

[2] https://www.fastcompany.com/90593687/reddits-former-ceo-is-now-in-the-forest-planting-business

Gaming the System: How GameStop Stock Surged 1,500% In Nine Months (arstechnica.com)

(Wednesday January 20, 2021 @05:00AM (BeauHD) from the behind-the-scenes dept.)

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:

> Nine months ago, GameStop stock bottomed out at $2.80 a share, a reflection of the myriad problems facing the retailer specifically and brick-and-mortar game retail as a whole. As of Tuesday morning, though, [1]that stock price is hovering around $40 a share (peaking at $44.74 as of this writing), with the vast majority of those gains coming in the last couple of weeks.

>

> Is GameStop really worth up to 16 times as much as it was back in April? Is the company's ambitious turnaround plan finally (and suddenly) turning things around? Is GameStop roaring its way back to the nearly $10 billion market cap it enjoyed at the height of the Wii phenomenon? Probably not. Analysts suggest the recent surge in GameStop's stock price is the result of a massive short squeeze bubble that will pop eventually. But beyond the sky-high valuations of recent weeks, analysts also suggest there's some reason to believe GameStop's long-term health is more robust than last year's stock doldrums suggest.

Investor Ryan Cohen, best known as the founder of pet food superstore Chewy.com, bought in to a roughly 10 percent ownership stake in the retailer back in August. "Since August, Cohen has bought even more GameStop shares, and he and two former Chewy executives have been named to the company's board of directors," reports Ars. "That gives Cohen, along with fellow activist investors from Hestia, the potential capability to steer the company in a new direction."

"There's nothing wrong with GameStop," says Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter, who has a target price of $16 for GameStop stock. "I'm absolutely convinced they're going to thrive and survive. They don't have net debt, so they're not going bankrupt or anything. And with the new console launch, they're probably going to sell a lot of consoles and be fine." As long as there's demand for new and used physical games, there will be demand for GameStop, suggests Pachter.



[1] https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2021/01/gaming-the-system-how-gamestop-stock-surged-1500-in-nine-months/

Penn State Engineers Are Developing An Inexpensive, Thermally-Modulated Battery For Electric Cars (psu.edu)

(Wednesday January 20, 2021 @05:00AM (BeauHD) from the currently-in-the-works dept.)

[1]schwit1 shares a report from Penn State University:

> Range anxiety, the fear of running out of power before being able to recharge an electric vehicle, may be a thing of the past, according to a team of Penn State engineers who are looking at lithium iron phosphate batteries that [2]have a range of 250 miles with the ability to charge in 10 minutes . "We developed a pretty clever battery for mass-market electric vehicles with cost parity with combustion engine vehicles," said Chao-Yang Wang, William E. Diefenderfer Chair of mechanical engineering, professor of chemical engineering and professor of materials science and engineering, and director of the Electrochemical Engine Center at Penn State. "There is no more range anxiety and this battery is affordable." The researchers also say that the battery should be good for 2 million miles in its lifetime.

>

> They [3]report today (Jan. 18) in Nature Energy that the key to long-life and rapid recharging is the battery's ability to quickly heat up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, for charge and discharge, and then cool down when the battery is not working. The battery uses a self-heating approach previously developed in Wang's center. The self-heating battery uses a thin nickel foil with one end attached to the negative terminal and the other extending outside the cell to create a third terminal. Once electrons flow it rapidly heats up the nickel foil through resistance heating and warm the inside of the battery. Once the battery's internal temperature is 140 degrees F, the switch opens and the battery is ready for rapid charge or discharge. [...] Because of the self-heating, the researchers said they do not have to worry about uneven deposition of lithium on the anode, which can cause lithium spikes that are dangerous.



[1] https://slashdot.org/~schwit1

[2] https://news.psu.edu/story/643897/2021/01/18/research/inexpensive-battery-charges-rapidly-electric-vehicles-reduces-range

[3] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41560-020-00757-7

'Anti-Facebook' MeWe Social Network Adds 2.5 Million New Members In One Week

(Wednesday January 20, 2021 @05:00AM (BeauHD) from the privacy-first dept.)

Los Angeles-based social media network [1]MeWe , touted to be the ad-free future of social networking, is currently the No. 1 downloaded social app in the Google Play Store, and the No. 3 downloaded app out of all apps in the store. The privacy-first "anti-Facebook" platform [2]added 2.5 million new members in the last week . ZDNet reports:

> Since launching in 2016, it surged to nine million users in October 2020, doubling its membership during each of the last three years. The platform is currently sitting at 15.5 million members -- 50% of whom are outside of North America. MeWe is now translated into 20 languages and is currently the No. 1 social app in Hong Kong. The company says that its membership spikes frequently -- as people worldwide seek a social network that respects them as customers to be delighted, not with "data to share, target, or sell."

>

> MeWe claims to be the new mainstream social network with the features people love and no ads, no targeting, and no newsfeed manipulation. MeWe is the most downloaded social app and No. 3 in the list of most downloaded apps as of Jan. 15, 2021. It was knocked off the top slot by WhatsApp alternatives Signal and Telegram, which are benefitting from the brouhaha over WhatsApp's data privacy changes.



[1] http://www.mewe.com/

[2] https://www.zdnet.com/article/mewe-the-anti-facebook-social-network-adds-2-5-million-new-members-in-1-week/

Netflix Is Finally Adding a Streaming Roulette Feature As It Clinches 200 Million Subscribers (gizmodo.com)

(Wednesday January 20, 2021 @05:00AM (BeauHD) from the king-of-the-streaming-space dept.)

Netflix [1]has officially amassed 200 million subscribers , sending shares soaring 12%. As it continues to compete with rival services, Netflix says it's preparing to roll out a new feature that will allow the service to pick a title based on a user's preferences rather than requiring them to browse for something to watch. Gizmodo reports:

> Netflix said in its fourth-quarter shareholders letter released Tuesday that it managed to secure 8.5 million more paid subscriptions to help the streaming giant cross the 200 million mark. All told, the company added a total of 37 million paid subscriptions during 2020, no doubt helped by the surge in TV viewing and streaming that resulted from lockdown orders and quarantine measures amid the coronavirus pandemic. For some context, Netflix says memberships were up 23 percent from the previous year in the fourth quarter.

>

> Even with the pandemic significantly delaying production timelines and release dates, Netflix says it's still on track to release at least one original film [2]every week of 2021. Plus, the company said it has a staggering 500-plus titles either in post-production or ready to hit its service. Most surprising, though, was Netflix's claim that it is "every close" to being cash-flow positive and no longer needs to raise external financing. Additionally, the company plans "on repaying the bond at maturity out of cash on hand, as we are currently well above our minimum cash needs."



[1] https://gizmodo.com/netflix-is-finally-adding-a-streaming-roulette-feature-1846089000

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9t86v_JMG0

Global Sales of Electric Cars Accelerate Fast In 2020 Despite Pandemic (theguardian.com)

(Wednesday January 20, 2021 @05:00AM (BeauHD) from the better-technology dept.)

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian:

> Global sales of electric cars accelerated fast in 2020, [1]rising by 43% to more than 3 million , despite overall car sales slumping by a fifth during the coronavirus pandemic. Tesla was the brand selling the most electric cars, delivering almost 500,000, followed by Volkswagen. Sales of electric cars more than doubled in Europe, pushing the region past China as the world's biggest market for them, according to data published on Tuesday by EV-volumes.com, a Sweden-based consultancy.

>

> Sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) made up 4.2% of the global car market, up from 2.5% in 2019. The rising sales are being driven by government policies to reduce carbon emissions, but a key factor is that electric cars are simply a better technology, said Viktor Irle, sales and marketing analyst at EV-volumes.com. Sales of electric cars did fall below 2019's levels from March to June, at the height of the Covid-19 lockdowns, but recovered strongly after that and by December were at double the level in December 2019.

>

> There are about 150 new BEV and PHEV models expected on the market in 2021. This indicates that 2021 will see continued growth, said Irle, who estimates sales of about 4.6m electric cars by the end of the year. The EV-volumes.com data showed the five highest national sales were in China (1.3m), Germany (0.4m), the US (0.3m), France and the UK (both 0.2m). However, growth in the US was only 4% in 2020, due to few new models being available.



[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/19/global-sales-of-electric-cars-accelerate-fast-in-2020-despite-covid-pandemic

Instagram Lead Says He's Not Happy With Reels Yet, Might 'Consolidate' Video Formats (theverge.com)

(Wednesday January 20, 2021 @05:00AM (BeauHD) from the what-to-expect dept.)

In an interview with [1]The Verge's Decoder podcast , the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, [2]says he's "not yet happy" with the platform's TikTok competitor Reels . The Verge reports:

> "I'm not yet happy with it," he says. "We're growing both in terms of how much people are sharing and how much people are consuming, but we have a long way to go. And we have to be honest that TikTok is ahead." He went on to say the team is mostly focused on "table stakes" right now, and not honed in on how to differentiate itself. Specifically, he calls out TikTok's innovative creative tools, like filters and effects that spur new video meme formats as something Instagram isn't making on its own yet but needs to eventually do.

>

> "I think we have to get better at building more powerful and creative tools that aren't necessarily a meme or a sort of moment in a package, but give people who are more creative than us and make content for a living the ability to make something that's going to pop," he says. Instagram is also seeing a conflict between its many different video formats. Mosseri says "most people" likely don't know the difference between videos posted to Instagram and IGTV, the app's format for longer videos that's existed since 2018. "That's probably too nuanced a distinction to resonate with anybody, so we're looking about how we can -- not just with IGTV, but across all of Instagram -- simplify and consolidate ideas, because last year we placed a lot of new bets," he says. "I think this year we have to go back to our focus on simplicity and craft."



[1] https://www.theverge.com/22237648/instagram-adam-mosseri-interview-trump-ban

[2] https://www.theverge.com/2021/1/19/22238513/instagram-adam-mosseri-reels-decoder-interview-podcast

Malwarebytes Said It Was Hacked By the Same Group Who Breached SolarWinds (zdnet.com)

(Wednesday January 20, 2021 @05:00AM (BeauHD) from the latest-developments dept.)

US cyber-security firm Malwarebytes [1]said it was hacked by "Dark Halo ," the same group which [2]breached IT software company SolarWinds last year . ZDNet reports:

> Malwarebytes said its intrusion is not related to the SolarWinds supply chain incident since the company doesn't use any of SolarWinds software in its internal network. Instead, the security firm said the hackers breached its internal systems by exploiting an Azure Active Directory weakness and abusing malicious Office 365 applications. Malwarebytes said it learned of the intrusion from the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC) on December 15.

>

> At the time, Microsoft was auditing its Office 365 and Azure infrastructures for signs of malicious apps created by the SolarWinds hackers, also known in cyber-security circles as UNC2452 or Dark Halo. Malwarebytes said that once it learned of the breach, it began an internal investigation to determine what hackers accessed. "After an extensive investigation, we determined the attacker only gained access to a limited subset of internal company emails," [3]said Marcin Kleczynski, Malwarebytes co-founder and current CEO.



[1] https://www.zdnet.com/article/malwarebytes-said-it-was-hacked-by-the-same-group-who-breached-solarwinds/

[2] https://it.slashdot.org/story/20/12/15/1810225/solarwinds-says-18000-customers-were-impacted-by-recent-hack

[3] https://blog.malwarebytes.com/malwarebytes-news/2021/01/malwarebytes-targeted-by-nation-state-actor-implicated-in-solarwinds-breach-evidence-suggests-abuse-of-privileged-access-to-microsoft-office-365-and-azure-environments/

The English Language Wikipedia Just Had Its Billionth Edit (vice.com)

(Wednesday January 20, 2021 @05:00AM (BeauHD) from the quite-the-milestone dept.)

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard:

> Just after 1 A.M. on January 12, a prolific Wikiepdian edited the entry for the album Death Breathing. The small edit was the addition of a hyperlink and it [1]was the billionth edit done to the English language Wikipedia . "The article on the album Death Breathing was amended by Wikipedian Ser Amantio di Nicolao, one of over 3.9 million edits done by the Wikipedian with the highest edit count other than bots," said a [2]note in Wikimedia-l , a listserv that documents various Wikimedia matters. Wikipedia relies on volunteers who constantly assess, edit, and argue over the specifics of the information in its vast online encyclopedia. Every edit is catalogued, tagged, and assigned a unique URL when it's pushed through. The Death Breathing edit secured the billionth.

"Pedants may be aware that this is only the thousand million since the move to MediaWiki software and not all of the hundreds of thousands of previous edits have since been reloaded," the notice said. "So if we could work out the true counts since edit one it probably came one, maybe two days earlier."

"I don't have the exact numbers but there were definitely many edits made that aren't recorded in the current system," Wikiepdian "The Cunctator" told Motherboard in an email. "Many of the UseModWiki edits were reintegrated with the history but there is a lacuna that covers my peak of editing in about August 2001 to February 2002 (I was the primary editor of September 11 related content). I don't know if the edit count reflects deleted edits or edits on deleted pages. One point that isn't made enough when discussing Wikipedia is how much of Google's wealth is built on its abuse of Wikipedia copyleft. But Death Breathing got the edit with the thousand million counter."



[1] https://www.vice.com/en/article/k7appn/the-english-language-wikipedia-just-had-its-billionth-edit

[2] https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2021-January/096101.html

Facebook Has No Plans To Lift Trump Ban, Report Says (nbcnews.com)

(Wednesday January 20, 2021 @05:00AM (msmash) from the breaking-news dept.)

Facebook has no plan in place to lift the indefinite suspension on President Donald Trump's Facebook account following his departure from the White House on Wednesday, NBC News [1]reported Tuesday , citing sources familiar with the company's plans said. From the report:

> The ban on Trump's account remains indefinite, the sources said, and there is no current plan in place to lift it. The social media giant said on Jan. 7 that it would "indefinitely" ban the president's account due to his role in inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol a day earlier. The company said the ban would last at least through the end of his term. Facebook's suspension stopped short of [2]the permanent ban that other social media companies like Twitter and Snapchat lated placed on Trump's accounts.



[1] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/live-blog/2021-01-19-biden-inauguration-n1254610/ncrd1254767#liveBlogHeader

[2] https://tech.slashdot.org/story/21/01/08/2134230/reddit-bans-rdonaldtrump-forum-for-inciting-violence

FireEye Releases Tool For Auditing Networks for Techniques Used by SolarWinds Hackers (zdnet.com)

(Wednesday January 20, 2021 @05:00AM (msmash) from the moving-forward dept.)

Cybersecurity firm FireEye has released today a report [1]detailing the techniques used by the SolarWinds hackers inside the networks of companies they breached. From a report:

> Together with the report, FireEye researchers have also released a free tool on GitHub named [2]Azure AD Investigator that they say can help companies determine if the SolarWinds hackers (also known as UNC2452) used any of these techniques inside their networks. Today's FireEye report comes as the security firm has spearheaded investigations into the SolarWinds supply chain compromise, together with Microsoft and CrowdStrike. The SolarWinds hack came to light on December 13, 2020, when FireEye and Microsoft confirmed that a threat actor broke into the network of IT software provider SolarWinds and poisoned updates for the Orion app with malware.



[1] https://www.zdnet.com/article/fireeye-releases-tool-for-auditing-networks-for-techniques-used-by-solarwinds-hackers/

[2] https://github.com/fireeye/Mandiant-Azure-AD-Investigator

Brave Becomes First Browser To Add Native Support For the IPFS Protocol (zdnet.com)

(Wednesday January 20, 2021 @05:00AM (msmash) from the moving-forward dept.)

With the release of Brave 1.19 today, Brave has become the [1]first major browser maker to support IPFS , a peer-to-peer protocol meant for accessing decentralized or censored content. From a report:

> Released in 2015, IPFS stands for InterPlanetary File System. It is a classic peer-to-peer protocol similar to BitTorrent and designed to work as a decentralized storage system. IPFS allows users to host content distributed across hundreds or thousands of systems, which can be public IPFS gateways or private IPFS nodes. Users who want to access any of this content must enter an URL in the form of ipfs://{content_hash_ID}. Under normal circumstances, users would download this content from the nearest nodes or gateways rather than a central server. However, this only works if users have installed an IPFS desktop app or a browser extension.

>

> Brave says that with version 1.19, users will be able to access URLs that start with ipfs://, directly from the browser, with no extension needed, and that Brave will natively support ipfs:// links going forward. Since some major websites like Wikipedia have IPFS versions, users in oppressive countries can now use Brave's new IPFS support to go around national firewalls and access content that might be blocked inside their country for political reasons and is available via IPFS.



[1] https://www.zdnet.com/article/brave-becomes-first-browser-to-add-native-support-for-the-ipfs-protocol/

iFixit Says Teardown of AirPods Max Made Competitors Look Like Toys

(Tuesday January 19, 2021 @10:30PM (msmash) from the how-about-that dept.)

After looking at the innards of Apple's new over-the-ear headphones, the AirPods Max, tech site iFixit concluded that the intricate engineering made the lofty $550 price seem almost reasonable. iFixit cracked open the headphones and in summation said, that after looking at competitors, "internally, the AirPods Max's obsessive craftsmanship [1]makes those other extremely capable devices look like toys by comparison ."



[1] https://www.cnet.com/news/ifixits-says-teardown-of-airpods-max-made-competitors-look-like-toys/

India Asks WhatsApp To Withdraw New Privacy Policy Over 'Grave Concerns' (techcrunch.com)

(Wednesday January 20, 2021 @05:00AM (msmash) from the closer-look dept.)

India has asked WhatsApp to [1]withdraw the planned change to its privacy policy , posing a new headache to the Facebook-owned service that identifies the South Asian nation as its biggest market by users. From a report:

> In an email to WhatsApp head Will Cathcart, the nation's IT ministry said the upcoming update to the app's data-sharing policy has raised "grave concerns regarding the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens... Therefore, you are called upon to withdraw the proposed changes." The ministry is additionally seeking clarification from WhatsApp on its data-sharing agreement with Facebook and other commercial firms and has asked why users in the EU are exempt from the new privacy policy but their counterpoint in India have no choice but to comply. "Such a differential treatment is prejudicial to the interests of Indian users and is viewed with serious concern by the government," the ministry wrote in the email, a copy of which was obtained by TechCrunch. "The government of India owes a sovereign responsibility to its citizens to ensure that their interests are not compromised and therefore it calls upon WhatsApp to respond to concerns raised in this letter."



[1] https://techcrunch.com/2021/01/19/india-asks-whatsapp-to-withdraw-new-privacy-policy-expresses-grave-concerns/

CDPR CEO Blames 'In-Game Streaming' For Cyberpunk's Console Problems (arstechnica.com)

(Tuesday January 19, 2021 @10:30PM (msmash) from the closer-look dept.)

CD Projekt Red is still trying to contain the damage from widespread reports of major technical problems in the versions of Cyberpunk 2077 released for the PS4 and Xbox One last month. From a report:

> To that end, studio co-founder and CEO Marcin Iwinski today tweeted a video message seeking to [1]explain the internal situation leading up to the problematic launch . "Despite good reviews on PC, the console version of Cyberpunk 2077 did not meet the quality standard we wanted it to meet," Iwinski said in the message. "I, and the entire leadership team, are deeply sorry for this, and this video is me publicly owning up to that." The core of the problem, Iwinski said, was the "in-game streaming system" that Cyberpunk 2077 used to "feed" content and game mechanics to the engine without frequent breaks for loading. That system had to be "constantly improved" for last-gen consoles during development, Iwinski said, in order to keep up with the "epic" look of the PC version (which saw its graphics and other assets scaled down to work on more limited, older console hardware).

>

> "Things did not look super difficult at first, [but] I think that time has proven we underestimated the task," Iwinski said. "Because the city is so packed and the disk bandwidth of old-gen consoles is what it is, it constantly challenged us." winski was less direct about why these problems with the console versions weren't discovered and either fixed or delayed before launch. "Every change and improvement needed to be tested, and as it turned out, our testing did not show a big part of the issues you experienced while playing the game," Iwinski said. He added that communication problems caused by the team working from home amid COVID-related restrictions meant some issues got lost over video calls or emails. "We saw significant improvements each and every day leading up to release [and] really thought we'd deliver in the day zero [version on consoles]," he said.



[1] https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2021/01/cdpr-ceo-blames-in-game-streaming-for-cyberpunks-console-problems/

GDPR: German Laptop Retailer Fined $12.6M For Video-Monitoring Employees (zdnet.com)

(Tuesday January 19, 2021 @10:30PM (msmash) from the closer-look dept.)

The data regulator for the German state of Lower Saxony has [1]fined a local laptop retailer a whopping $12.6 million for keeping its employees under constant video surveillance at all times for the past two years without a legal basis. From a report:

> The penalty represents one of the largest fines imposed under the 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) not only in Germany but across Europe as well. The recipient is notebooksbilliger.de AG (doing business as NBB), an online e-commerce portal and retail chain dedicated to selling laptops and other IT supplies. The State Commissioner for Data Protection (LfD) for the state of Lower Saxony said that the company installed two years ago a video monitoring system inside its warehouses, salesrooms, and common workspaces for the purpose of preventing and investigating thefts and tracking product movements. Officials said the video surveillance system was active at all times, and recordings were saved for as much as 60 days in the company's database.



[1] https://www.zdnet.com/article/gdpr-german-laptop-retailer-fined-eur10-4m-for-video-monitoring-employees/

Qualcomm's New Snapdragon 870 Reheats the Snapdragon 865 for 2021 Phones (theverge.com)

(Tuesday January 19, 2021 @05:40PM (msmash) from the how-about-that dept.)

Qualcomm has announced a new mobile phone processor: [1]the Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 , a successor to last year's Snapdragon 865 and 865 Plus models. To be clear, the 870 isn't a new next-gen design -- that title goes to the Snapdragon 888, which makes far more substantial improvements in performance and new features. From a report:

> The 870, on the other hand, is virtually identical to the 865 and 865 Plus, with the same design right down to the Kryo 585 CPU and Adreno 650 GPU cores. The 870 is clocked at 3.2GHz, however, making it about 10 percent faster than the original 865's 2.84GHz and about 3 percent faster than the 865 Plus (which offered 3.1GHz speeds). Think of it almost like a Snapdragon 865 Plus-plus. Qualcomm says that the reason for the new chip is in response to manufacturer and market demands. The 870 is designed for companies that want to offer a top-tier processor but don't need the absolute best features that the flagship Snapdragon 888 offers and the higher price tag that it demands. Instead, the company says that it expects that Snapdragon 870 phones should hit a sub-$800 price tag (although, confusingly, we've already seen Snapdragon 888 phones like the $799 Galaxy S21 start to bleed into that range).



[1] https://www.theverge.com/2021/1/19/22233584/qualcomm-snapdragon-870-865-plus-refresh-processor-smartphones-2021

Microsoft Joins $2 Billion Deal With GM To Roll Out Self-Driving Cars (axios.com)

(Tuesday January 19, 2021 @05:40PM (msmash) from the shape-of-things-to-come dept.)

Microsoft is joining GM, Honda and others in a $2 billion investment round in Cruise to [1]help commercialize its self-driving cars . The deal bumps Cruise's valuation to $30 billion, from $19 billion last year. From a report:

> The investment is part of a broader commitment by GM and Cruise to use Microsoft's Azure cloud-computing platform across their companies, especially as they roll out increasingly complex vehicles that rely on digital technologies. Self-driving vehicles devour massive amounts of data to operate safely. They collect and process data from cameras, radar and lidar sensors for perception, location mapping and decision-making. Commercialization requires even more data to optimize routes and to create consumer-facing apps and websites. "Microsoft, as the gold standard in the trustworthy democratization of technology, will be a force multiplier for us as we commercialize our fleet of self-driving, all-electric, shared vehicles," said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann.



[1] https://www.axios.com/microsoft-gm-cruise-25d0e090-73af-4d2d-8c47-7a22f23b5564.html

Turkey Slaps Ad Ban on Twitter Under New Social Media Law (reuters.com)

(Tuesday January 19, 2021 @05:40PM (msmash) from the how-about-that dept.)

Ankara has [1]imposed advertising bans on Twitter, Periscope and Pinterest after they failed to appoint local representatives in Turkey under a new social media law, according to decisions published on Tuesday. From a report:

> Under the law, which critics say stifles dissent, social media companies that do not appoint such representatives are liable for a series of penalties, including the latest move by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK). The law allows authorities to remove content from platforms, rather than blocking access as they did in the past. It has caused concern as people turn more to online platforms after Ankara tightened its grip on mainstream media. The latest decisions in the country's Official Gazette said the advertising bans went into effect from Tuesday. Twitter, its live-streaming app Periscope, and image sharing app Pinterest were not immediately available to comment.



[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/turkey-twitter-int-idUSKBN29O0CM

What You Should Know Before Leaking a Zoom Meeting (theintercept.com)

(Tuesday January 19, 2021 @05:40PM (BeauHD) from the public-service-announcement dept.)

The Intercept's Nikita Mazurov warns that Zoom has digital watermarks that [1]could expose sources working with journalists or government officials . An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from the report:

> Many users may not realize it, but Zoom has the capability to insert both video and audio watermarks into a meeting. The video watermarks are readily perceptible to meeting participants. When enabled, the video watermarking feature superimposes the username portion of each participant's email address over the content they are viewing when another participant shares their screen and places the same watermark over the current active speaker. Because the video watermark appears across the entirety of the video frame, blurring may adversely impact the visibility of the underlying material. In contrast, the audio watermarks are not readily perceptible to casual listeners, though they are what in watermarking parlance is known as "overt." That means the fact that they are embedded is easily discerned by meeting participants: When a Zoom meeting has the audio watermark, or what Zoom also calls the "audio signature," feature enabled, the meeting will have a green circular icon with a sound wave and a padlock at the top left of the frame next to the encryption icon.

>

> It is not immediately apparent at what point Zoom injects its "ultrasonic" audio watermark into the audio stream -- whether this happens only if a meeting attendee presses the Record button in Zoom or if the audio stream is watermarked prior to that point. Nonetheless, when recording a Zoom meeting, it is best to avoid using Zoom's built-in recording option and to capture the meeting using a third-party audio/video recorder. Zoom mentions that in order to identify the participant who recorded the meeting, they need at least two minutes of audio from the meeting, though it stands to reason that shorter snippets may also be identifiable if they happen to contain the audio watermark. Journalists should also be wary of publishing raw audio leaked from Zoom meetings, particularly if the source is not sure whether audio watermarking was enabled or not.

>

> Aside from Zoom's own watermarks, a number of elements appearing on an individual's own device may inadvertently give away the identity of the person who is recording. If the meeting video is being recorded either via screen recording software or a camera, there are a number of elements to watch out for...



[1] https://theintercept.com/2021/01/18/leak-zoom-meeting/

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