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Comments:117 | Votes:91

posted by Fnord666 on Saturday February 20, @08:50PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

The Grim Consequences of a Misleading Study on Disinformation:

Last month the esteemed Oxford Internet Institute [(OII)] announced a major report on disinformation and "cyber troops" with a press release describing an "industrial-scale problem." Worldwide press coverage echoed claims that OII had revealed the "increasing role" private firms play in spreading computational propaganda. Actual evidence presented in the annual "survey" of social media manipulation, however, is much thinner than the hype.

While the report's website declares, "Cyber troop activity continues to increase around the world," inside the report, OII claim they show "publicly identified" cases of disinformation operations have "grow[n] in number over time." They point to their own studies counting public reporting as evidence of actual operations increasing since 2017. Citing OII's last report, which was based on similar evidence, The New York Times in 2019 heralded that "the number of countries with political disinformation campaigns more than doubled to 70 in the last two years."

The big problem here is the phrase "publicly identified."

[N.B. - This is an opinion piece from the Wired web site.]

As a longtime propaganda scholar, I know we struggled to get disinformation and propaganda reported on before the 2016 US election and Brexit, when journalistic interest suddenly grew. In 2015, a NexisUni search reveals, the Times mentioned disinformation in just 33 articles; there were 95 in 2016, 274 in 2017, 586 in 2018, and 684 in 2019. This is, of course, an indication of increased reporting of disinformation.

[...] OII's methodology also acknowledges that its findings may be impacted by "media bias." This is unacceptable in a study assessing disinformation. The problem is worse than they admit, because their evidence appears to hang on the hope that all the media reporting I describe above reflects the scale of disinformation, not reporters' sudden discovery of it.

Once one knows all this, numbers in the report come to seem largely meaningless. Take the claim that disinformation has increased to 76 out of the 81 countries they found using computational propaganda. If so, politicians in five of these countries apparently never lie online. Wherever that is, I'm going.

The problem is that figures are then presented as authoritative with colorful tables and charts. Statistics look more persuasive than anecdotal examples. And many journalists seem to have taken away from the press release a few impressive numbers without examining the methods.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Saturday February 20, @04:05PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

WhatsApp to move ahead with privacy update despite backlash:

Facebook Inc's WhatsApp said on Thursday it will go ahead with its controversial privacy policy update but will allow users to read it at "their own pace" and will also display a banner providing additional information.

In January, the messaging platform informed users it was preparing a new privacy policy, under which it could share limited user data with Facebook and its group firms.

It sparked a global outcry and sent users to rival apps Telegram and Signal, among others, prompting WhatsApp to delay the new policy launch to May and to clarify the update was focused on allowing users to message with businesses and would not affect personal conversations.

[...] In its latest blog bit.ly/3ufc9Eq, WhatsApp said it will start reminding users to review and accept updates to keep using the messaging platform.

"We've also included more information to try and address concerns we're hearing," it added.

Also at TheVerge, PCMag, and Engadget.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Saturday February 20, @11:20AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

This morning, Nvidia announced that it would artificially reduce the performance of its upcoming $329 GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card when it comes to one specific task: Ethereum cryptocurrency mining. As weird as that news might sound, it was music to the ears of some gamers — who have been trying and failing to get their hands on graphics cards for months due to the great GPU shortage, and blaming miners for part of that.

You might be wondering: what does this mean for other GPUs? Nvidia isn't talking about its plans for future graphics cards just yet, but the company tells The Verge (in no uncertain terms) that it won't nerf existing GPUs. "We are not limiting the performance of GPUs already sold," says a spokesperson.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2021/2/18/22290362/nvidia-will-not-reduce-3060-ti-3070-3080-3090-eth-mining

Previously: Nvidia Cripples Ethereum Mining Capability for Upcoming RTX 3060, Announces Dedicated Mining Cards


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday February 20, @04:37AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Brave privacy bug exposes Tor onion URLs to your DNS provider:

Websites located on Tor use onion URL addresses that users can only access through the Tor network. For example, DuckDuckGo's Tor address is https://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion/ and the New York Time's address is https://www.nytimes3xbfgragh.onion/.

To access Tor onion URLs, Brave added a 'Private Window with Tor' mode that acts as a proxy to the Tor network. When you attempt to connect to an onion URL, your request is proxied through volunteer-run Tor nodes who make the request for you and send back the returned HTML.

[...] However, a bug in Brave's 'Private window with Tor' mode is causing the onion URL for any Tor address you visit to also be sent as a standard DNS query to your machine's configured DNS server.

This bug was first reported in a Reddit post and later confirmed by James Kettle, the Director of Research at PortSwigger.

This issue is caused by Brave's CNAME decloaking ad-blocking feature that blocks third-party tracking scripts that use CNAME DNS records to impersonate a first-party script.

To prevent Tor URLs from being sent to configured DNS servers, Brave has disabled the CNAME adblocking feature when in the Tor browsing mode.

[*] tweet.

See the bug report on GitHub.

pretty big bug!


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday February 20, @02:01AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the data-hoover dept.

Valve gets dragged into Apple and Epic's legal fight over Fortnite:

Apple's bitter legal dispute with Epic Games over the distribution of Fortnite on iOS has now managed to rope in Valve. Apple has subpoenaed the Steam maker for a wide range of PC game sales data it says is crucial to its case. But Valve is fighting back against that subpoena, saying its information is proprietary, not relevant to Apple's case, and would be costly and difficult to generate.

As discussed in a joint letter from Apple and Valve filed with the Northern District of California court this week, Apple's November subpoena seeks two large categories of information that Valve is refusing to provide:

[...] Valve argues that Steam is an unrelated sideshow in the battle between Apple and Epic. "Valve does not make or sell phones, tablets, or video games for mobile devices, or otherwise compete in the mobile market," the company writes. "Fortnite is not available on Steam, and Epic has publicly and unequivocally stated it will not offer Fortnite on Steam unless Valve changes its business model."

[...] "Valve does not disclose its sales and revenue information and projections, and Valve derives a significant value and edge from the confidentiality of such information, including by keeping it out of the hands of companies like Epic who also sell PC games."


Original Submission

posted by Subsentient on Friday February 19, @11:21PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the never-gonna-let-you-down dept.

upstart writes in with an IRC submission for Fnord666:

AI has remastered Rick Astley's 'Never Gonna Give You Up' in glorious 4K:

Word of warning, prepare to be rickrolled like you've never been rickrolled in the past. Thanks to AI software, you can now troll your friends with Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" in crisp UHD.

CNET spotted the video, which was uploaded by YouTube user Revideo at the end of January only to be recently discovered by the internet at large this week. Revideo said they used Topaz Video Enhance, an AI-powered program for upscaling video, to remaster the clip in 4K and RIFE (Flowframes) to smooth it out to 60 frames per second.

Direct YouTube link to the video.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday February 19, @09:47PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:

China is exploring limiting the export of rare earth minerals that are crucial for the manufacture of American F-35 fighter jets and other sophisticated weaponry, according to people involved in a government consultation.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology last month proposed draft controls on the production and export of 17 rare earth minerals in China, which controls about 80 percent of global supply.

Industry executives said government officials had asked them how badly companies in the US and Europe, including defense contractors, would be affected if China restricted rare earth exports during a bilateral dispute.

“The government wants to know if the US may have trouble making F-35 fighter jets if China imposes an export ban,” said a Chinese government adviser who asked not to be identified. Industry executives added that Beijing wanted to better understand how quickly the US could secure alternative sources of rare earths and increase its own production capacity.

Fighter jets such as the F-35, a Lockheed Martin aircraft, rely heavily on rare earths for critical components such as electrical power systems and magnets. A Congressional Research Service report said that each F-35 required 417kg of rare-earth materials.

[...] “China’s own rare earth security isn’t guaranteed,” said David Zhang, an analyst at Sublime China Information, a consultancy. “It can disappear when the US-China relationship deteriorates or Myanmar’s generals decide to shut the border.”

While China’s dominance in rare earth mining is under threat, it maintains a near monopoly in the refining process that turns ores into materials ready for manufacturers.

The country controls about four-fifths of global rare earth refining capacity. Ores mined in the US must be sent to China as the US has no refining capacity of its own yet.

Industry executives, however, said China’s strength in refining had more to do with its higher tolerance for pollution than any technological edge.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday February 19, @07:14PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the and-it's-a-great-sunscreen dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:

A group of researchers from the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society and the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin have found out that a semiconductor can be converted to a metal and back by light more easily and more quickly than previously thought. This discovery may increase the processing speed and simplify the design of many common technological devices.

[...] The scientists involved in this study have investigated the popular semiconductor zinc oxide and figured out that by illuminating it with a laser, the semiconductor surface can be turned into a metal—and back again. This "photo-doping" is achieved by photoexcitation: The light modifies the electronic properties such that electrons suddenly move freely and an electrical current can flow, as it would in metal. Once the light is switched back off, the material also quickly goes back to being a semiconductor.

"This mechanism is a completely new and surprising discovery," says Lukas Gierster, lead author and Ph.D. student in Stähler's group. "Three things in particular have surprised us: For one, photo- and chemical doping behave so much alike despite being fundamentally different mechanisms; two, gigantic changes can be reached with very low laser power; and three, switching the metal on and off happens quickly."

[...] This discovery could be highly beneficial for high-frequency device applications and ultrafast optically controlled transistors by increasing processing speed and simplifying device design. "Our gadgets could become faster—and thus smarter," Julia Stähler says and adds: "Low-power, ultrafast switching of conduction properties will provide us with high speed and design flexibility." She and her group are convinced that the same will prove true for other semiconducting materials, so that their discovery will likely reach much further than just zinc oxide.

Journal Reference:
L. Gierster, S. Vempati, J. Stähler. Ultrafast generation and decay of a surface metal [open], Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-21203-6)


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday February 19, @04:43PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Every-breath-you-take-every-move-you-make dept.

No one here will be surprised by the size and reach of the data broker industry and the desire to identify and track individual users. From a data standpoint, the majority of human interaction now happens on mobile devices, and these devices end up collecting and storing a very large amount of our information. US privacy laws allow sharing and selling of anonymized data, which are those that do not contain Personally Identifying Information (PII), and the much ballyhooed GDPR imposes strict inform and consent requirements on collecting and using personal information. To comply with these laws many entities simply throw away all the personal information and keep the rest of the data, which sounds like a great thing until one realizes that it turns out to be relatively easy to deanonymize this data using otherwise innocuous data on the mobile device anyway.

The reason that so many apps report to third parties what other apps are installed on a phone is because these other apps create a remarkably unique fingerprint of each person. The aggregate of the installed apps and their relative usage turn out to be very unique for over 99% of people. So ad blockers can block cookies, and users can reset things like the Android Advertisement ID, but users can't reset or fake their app usage stats.

Some researchers looked at a data set of millions of people spanning 12 months and 33 countries and found that 91% of the people could be identified by looking at just the usage of four apps. They also looked at seasonal and cultural differences for identifying users. They found that people have more unique app fingerprints during summer months making them easier to identify then. They also saw significant variations in uniqueness across countries and found that American users are the easiest to identify while Finns have the least unique app fingerprints.

Sekara, V., Alessandretti, L., Mones, E. et al. Temporal and cultural limits of privacy in smartphone app usage [open]. Sci Rep 11, 3861 (2021).
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-82294-1


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday February 19, @02:12PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Pictures-from-the-wood-make-you-feel-much-better dept.

From a recent Scientific Reports paper:

Nowadays, individuals spend more and more time in artificially designed living spaces, in particular, humans spend up to 90% indoors. This tendency has led to an isolation of individuals from regular contact with nature which has a negative impact on their mental and physical health. Several studies have demonstrated that such artificial stimulation and being in purely human-generated environments can lead to mental fatigue as well as a loss of vitality and health.

These negative effects can be reduced by means engaging in interactions with nature. There is evidence to suggest that natural environments have a positive influence on human psychology, physiology, and cognition. According to the Attention Restoration Theory (ART), natural environments capture less cognitive resources, and therefore, allow an interruption of attention-grabbing tasks inherent in urban environments and thus, elicit attention restoration and recovery from mental fatigue. Natural elements such as green landscapes and flowing waters have a calming effect on physiological arousal. One of the long-term effects of access to nature is a positive attitude towards life and an increased satisfaction with one's own home, one's own work and generally one's own life.

Researchers from Germany subjected subjects to forest and urban scenes via a head-mounted display. They presented the scenes as pictures and as 360-degree videos. They found that forest scenes had a positive effect on cognition and urban scenes disturbed mood. Interestingly they found that the photos of either urban or forest environments were more effective in reducing physiological arousal compared to the immersive videos. So it seems it is less stressful to look at a forest than to be in the middle of one.

Mostajeran, F., Krzikawski, J., Steinicke, F. et al. Effects of exposure to immersive videos and photo slideshows of forest and urban environments [open]. Sci Rep 11, 3994 (2021).
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-83277-y

Abstract
A large number of studies have demonstrated the benefits of natural environments on people's health and well-being. For people who have limited access to nature (e.g., elderly in nursing homes, hospital patients, or jail inmates), virtual representations may provide an alternative to benefit from the illusion of a natural environment. For this purpose and in most previous studies, conventional photos of nature have been used. Immersive virtual reality (VR) environments, however, can induce a higher sense of presence compared to conventional photos. Whether this higher sense of presence leads to increased positive impacts of virtual nature exposure is the main research question of this study. Therefore, we compared exposure to a forest and an urban virtual environment in terms of their respective impact on mood, stress, physiological reactions, and cognition. The environments were presented via a head-mounted display as (1) conventional photo slideshows or (2) 360∘ videos. The results show that the forest environment had a positive effect on cognition and the urban environment disturbed mood regardless of the mode of presentation. In addition, photos of either urban or forest environment were both more effective in reducing physiological arousal compared to immersive 360∘ videos.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday February 19, @11:41AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the How-to-decide-on-a-mining-card?-Take-your-pick!-(Not-your-shovel) dept.

NVIDIA Nerfs Ethereum Hash Rate & Launches CMP Dedicated Mining Hardware

NVIDIA's announcement today is two-fold: firstly addressing the upcoming launch of the RTX 3060 graphics on February 25th, and secondly announcing a new range of dedicated mining hardware.

[...] For the upcoming RTX 3060, the software drivers for this graphics card will automatically limit cryptocoin hashing rates to half – making how much they can earn specifically halved. The software drivers will do this by detecting the math coming through the pipeline and restricting access to the hardware for those operations. At this point we're not sure if it's a cut in frequency that the drivers will cause or simply limiting the operations to half of the hardware, but either way NVIDIA is hoping this will detract professional miners from buying these cards if the return on them is halved.

Update: NVIDIA has also confirmed that performance restrictions will be going in for their Linux drivers as well as their Windows drivers. The inclusion of Linux drivers is incredibly important, as most dedicated miners are thought to be using Linux rather than Windows.

[...] In the same way that 'crypto' cards without video outputs were pushing into the market for balance, NVIDIA is going a step further and removing the video outputs from the silicon entirely. There are other potential optimizations that could be made for power and performance, but at this point NVIDIA is simply stating as graphics-less silicon. This could be a mix of customized new silicon, or simply silicon already manufactured that had defects in the video output pipeline.

The new NVIDIA CMP HX dedicated mining cards will come in four variants up to 320 W, and from authorized partners including ASUS, Colorful, EVGA, Gigabyte, MSI, Palit, and PC Partner. These cards (along with drivers) are also set to be designed such that more of these cards can be enabled in a single system.

The CMP HX mining cards have lower advertised hash rates than the RTX 3090, 3080, 3070, and 3060 Ti achieve. This could mean lower or higher efficiency depending on the actual power consumption of the cards.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday February 19, @09:05AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the get-a-lawyer..and-popcorn dept.

Uber Shuts Down App That Told Drivers If Uber Underpaid Them:

The creator of the Chrome extension 'UberCheats' Armin Samii said Uber claimed it violated its trademark. "Uber filed a false trademark claim against UberCheats, so it's been taken off the Chrome app store," he said on Twitter. "They claim that people might confuse it for an actual Uber product."

UberCheats was a Chrome extension that helped drivers figure out if they'd been underpaid by for Uber.

[...] Samii's app helped keep Uber accountable, kept drivers informed, and was incredibly simple. "Sometimes Uber calculates the distance from point A to point B incorrectly," he told Motherboard in an email. "My guess is that they use the 'straight line' distance rather than the actual distance traveled. In my area, that has led to a '6 minute trip' taking 50 minutes, since they thought I could...fly, I guess? Technically, the app is quite simple. It looks at the start/end destination of the trip, plugs it into google maps, and checks to see if the distance you were paid for matches the distance Google says."

[...] Samii launched his Chrome extension in August 2020 and hadn't had any problems keeping it online until now.

[...] In the email Samii showed Motherboard, Google forwarded the original complaint it received from Uber. "The application uses, without authorization, the mark Uber, a trademark owned and controlled by Uber Technologies, Inc. Any use by the application of the Infringing Marks constitutes a trademark infringement under Section 32 of the Lanham Act," it said.

[...] UberCheats could relaunch with a new name and continue just fine, but Samii said he won't do that. "I plan to fight this," he said. "I will not be bullied by corporate lawyers trying to scare the little guy. I am in the right, and they know it. I have appealed it with both Google and Uber."


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday February 19, @06:33AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the mammoth-discovery dept.

Million-year-old mammoth DNA rewrites animal's evolutionary tree

DNA from three ancient molars, one likely to be over a million years old, has revealed that there is a ghost lineage of mammoths that interbred with distant relatives to produce the North American mammoth population.

[...] We don't have precise dates for any of the teeth, as they appear to be too old for carbon dating. Instead, dates have been inferred using a combination of the species present in the deposits and the known timing of flips in the orientation of Earth's magnetic field. In addition, the shape of the teeth provide some hints about what species they group with and provide some further indication of when they were deposited. In all, one tooth is likely to be at least a half-million years old, another about a million years old, and a third somewhat older still.

Previously, the oldest DNA obtained from animal remains is roughly the age of the youngest of these samples. But the researchers were able to recover some elephant-like DNA from each of the molars, although it was badly fragmented, and many individual bases were damaged. Researchers were able to isolate the full mitochondrial genome for each of the three teeth, as each cell contains many copies of this genome in each of its mitochondria. Only fragments of the nuclear genome could be obtained, however—at most, about 10 percent of one genome, and at worst under two percent. (Although less than two percent is still tens of millions of individual bases.)

Using the differences between the mammoth and elephant DNA and assuming a constant rate of mutation, the research team was able to derive independent dates for when each of the animals that left a tooth must have lived. Based on the mitochondria genome, the dates were 1.6 million, 1.3 million, and 900,000 years ago. For the two that had enough nuclear genome to analyze, the dates were 1.3 million and 600,000 years ago. The DNA-based dates for these two lined up nicely with each other and the date of the material they were found in. The oldest sample might be older than the deposit it's in, and thus it might have been moved after death.

Million-year-old DNA sheds light on the genomic history of mammoths (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03224-9) (DX)


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday February 19, @04:06AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the inspiration-for-the-Muppet's-Swedish-Chef? dept.

https://if50.substack.com/p/1977-zork

Zork
a.k.a Dungeon
by Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling
First Appeared: late June 1977
First Commercial Release: December 1980
Language: MDL
Platform: PDP-10

Opening Text:

You are in an open field west of a big white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here.

If Adventure had introduced hackers to an intriguing new genre of immersive text game, Zork was what brought it to the public at large. In the early 1980s, as the personal computer revolution reached into more and more homes, a Zork disk was a must-buy for first-time computer owners. By 1982 it had become the industry's bestselling game. In 1983, it sold even more copies. Playboy covered it; so did Time, and American astronaut Sally Ride was reportedly obsessed with it. In 1984 it was still topping sales charts, beating out much newer games including its own sequels. At the end of 1985 it was still outselling any other game for the Apple II, half a decade after its first release on the platform, and had become the bestselling title of all time on many other systems besides.

Its creation can be traced to a heady Friday in May 1977 on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was the last day of finals week, and summer was kicking off with a bang for the school's cohort of tech-obsessed engineers: a new movie called Star Wars opened that day in theaters, the groundbreaking Apple II had just been released, and Adventure was exploding across the terminals of computer labs nationwide, thousands of students having no further distractions, at last, to keep them from solving it.

Among those obsessive players were four friends at a campus research lab, the Dynamic Modeling Group. Within two weeks they'd solved Adventure, squeezing every last point from it through meticulous play and, eventually, the surgical deployment of a machine-language debugger. Once the game was definitively solved, they immediately hatched plans to make something better. Not just to prove the superiority of their school's coding prowess over Don Woods at Stanford—though that was undoubtedly part of it—nor simply because many were dragging their feet on graduating or finding jobs, and a challenging new distraction seemed immensely appealing—though that was part of it too. But the most important factor was that Adventure had been so incredibly fun and, regrettably, there wasn't any more of it. "It was like reading a Sherlock Holmes story," one player recalled, "and you wanted to read another one of them immediately. Only there wasn't one, because nobody had written it."

Play Zork On-line.

Jargon File entry on Zork.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday February 19, @01:37AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the waiting-to-find-the-square-pants dept.

Unique life forms accidentally found under 3,000 feet of Antarctica ice, scientists say

Scientists have found life under 3,000 feet under of ice in Antarctica. The previous theory was that life couldn't exist in such extreme conditions: freezing temperatures, no food and complete darkness.

The creatures were found attached to a boulder in the frigid seas under the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf – a huge sheet of ice that stretches out from Antarctica, according to a report on Business Insider.

Experts from the British Antarctic Survey drilled holes through 2,860 feet of ice, then lowered cameras through the ice and then through another 1,549 feet of water before making the discovery.

[...] The video reveals two types of unidentified animals. The animals in[sic] outlined in red on the video seem to be hanging from long stalks, while the other (highlighted in white), looks like a round, sponge-like animal.

https://twitter.com/BAS_News/status/1361198123213852673


Original Submission