Google to boycott Saudi conference over missing journalist

Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday became the latest company to say it would boycott a business conference in Saudi Arabia, after the disappearance of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.

Donald Daters, a dating app for Trump supporters, leaked its users’ data

A new dating app for Trump supporters that wants to “make America date again” has leaked its entire database of users — on the day of its launch.

The app, called “Donald Daters,” is aimed at “American-based singles community connecting lovers, friends, and Trump supporters alike” and has already received rave reviews and coverage in Fox News, Daily Mail and The Hill.

On its launch day alone, the app had a little over 1,600 users and counting.

We know because a security researcher found issues with the app that made it possible to download the entire user database.

Elliot Alderson, a French security researcher, shared the database with TechCrunch, which included user’s names, profile pictures, device type, their private messages — and access tokens, which can be used to take over accounts.

The data was accessible from a public and exposed Firebase data repository, which was hardcoded in the app. Shortly after TechCrunch contacted the app maker, the data was pulled offline.

We reached out to Emily Moreno, the app’s founder and a former aide to Sen. Marco Rubio, did not comment.

According to the app’s website, “all your personal information is kept private.” Except, as it happens, when it’s not.

U.S. government, but not Trump, can be sued over climate: judge

A group of young Americans suing the federal government over lack of action to fight climate change can proceed with their lawsuit, but U.S. President Donald Trump cannot be named as a defendant, a federal judge ruled on Monday.

U.S. government, but not Trump, can be sued over climate: judge

A group of young Americans suing the federal government over lack of action to fight climate change can proceed with their lawsuit, but U.S. President Donald Trump cannot be named as a defendant, a federal judge ruled on Monday.

U.S. government, but not Trump, can be sued over climate: judge

A group of young Americans suing the federal government over lack of action to fight climate change can proceed with their lawsuit, but U.S. President Donald Trump cannot be named as a defendant, a federal judge ruled on Monday.

This robot uses lasers to ‘listen’ to its environment

A new technology from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University will add sound and vibration awareness to create truly context-aware computing. The system, called Ubicoustics, adds additional bits of context to smart device interaction, allowing a smart speaker to know it’s in a kitchen or a smart sensor to know you’re in a tunnel versus on the open road.

“A smart speaker sitting on a kitchen countertop cannot figure out if it is in a kitchen, let alone know what a person is doing in a kitchen,” said Chris Harrison a researcher at CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute. “But if these devices understood what was happening around them, they could be much more helpful.”

The first implementation of the system uses built-in speakers to create “a sound-based activity recognition.” How they are doing this is quite fascinating.

“The main idea here is to leverage the professional sound-effect libraries typically used in the entertainment industry,” said Gierad Laput, a PhD student. “They are clean, properly labeled, well-segmented and diverse. Plus, we can transform and project them into hundreds of different variations, creating volumes of data perfect for training deep-learning models.”

From the release:

Laput said recognizing sounds and placing them in the correct context is challenging, in part because multiple sounds are often present and can interfere with each other. In their tests, Ubicoustics had an accuracy of about 80 percent — competitive with human accuracy, but not yet good enough to support user applications. Better microphones, higher sampling rates and different model architectures all might increase accuracy with further research.

In a separate paper, HCII Ph.D. student Yang Zhang, along with Laput and Harrison, describe what they call Vibrosight, which can detect vibrations in specific locations in a room using laser vibrometry. It is similar to the light-based devices the KGB once used to detect vibrations on reflective surfaces such as windows, allowing them to listen in on the conversations that generated the vibrations.

This system uses a low-power laser and reflectors to sense whether an object is on or off or whether a chair or table has moved. The sensor can monitor multiple objects at once and the tags attached to the objects use no electricity. This would let a single laser monitor multiple objects around a room or even in different rooms, assuming there is line of sight.

The research is still in its early stages, but expect to see robots that can hear when you’re doing the dishes and, depending on their skills, hide or offer to help.

Ahead of midterm elections, Facebook expands ban on posts aimed at voter suppression

Facebook is expanding its ban on false and misleading posts that aim to deter citizens from voting in the upcoming midterm elections.

The social media giant is adding two more categories of false information to its existing policy, which it introduced in 2016, in an effort to counter new types of abuse.

Facebook already removes verifiably false posts about the dates, times and locations of polling stations — but will now exclude false posts that wrongly describe methods of voting — such as by phone or text message — as well as posts that aim to exclude portions of the population, such as based on a voter’s age, for example.

But other posts that can’t be immediately verified will be sent to the company’s fact checkers for review.

more 2018 US Midterm Election coverage

Facebook’s public policy manager Jessica Leinwand said in a blog post announcing the changes that users will also be given a new reporting option to flag false posts.

The expanded policy is part of the company’s ongoing work to counter misleading or maliciously incorrect posts that try to suppress voters from casting their ballot, which could alter the outcome of a political race.

The ban comes into effect with less than a month before the U.S. midterm elections, after facing heavy criticism from lawmakers that Facebook has not done enough to prevent election meddling and misinformation campaigns on its site. Facebook has largely shied away from banning the spread of deliberately false news and information, including about candidates and other political issues, amid concerns that the platform would be accused of stifling free speech and expression.

But the company didn’t have much room to maneuver after a prominent Democratic senator challenged Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg during a congressional hearing about how the company planned to prevent content that suppresses votes.

During that hearing, Sandberg admitted the company could have done more to prevent the spread of false news on its platform, but argued that U.S. intelligence could have helped.

Wyden said in a statement that it was a “good step,” but that he’ll be looking for results. “We can’t have a repeat of 2016, when scammers micro-targeted lies at people of color to steal their right to vote,” the senator said.