Government

India's Top Court Rules Privacy a Fundamental Right in Blow To Government

India's top court unanimously ruled on Thursday that individual privacy is a fundamental right, a verdict that will impact everything from the way companies handle personal data to the roll-out of the world's largest biometric ID card program. From a report: A nine-member bench of India's Supreme Court announced the ruling in a big setback for the Narendra Modi-led government, which argued that privacy was not a fundamental right protected by the constitution. The ruling comes against the backdrop of a large multi-party case against the mandatory use of national identity cards, known as Aadhaar, as an infringement of privacy. There have also been concerns over breaches of data. Critics say the ID cards link enough data to create a comprehensive profile of a person's spending habits, their friends and acquaintances, the property they own and a trove of other information. "This is a blow to the government, because the government had argued that people do not have a right to privacy," said Prashant Bhushan, a senior lawyer involved in the case.
Google

Google Pulls 500+ Backdoored Apps With Over 100 Million Downloads From Google Play (helpnetsecurity.com)

Orome1 shares a report from Help Net Security: Security researchers have identified over 500 apps on Google Play containing an advertising software development kit (SDK) called Igexin, which allowed covert download of spying plugins. The apps in question represent a wide selection of photo editors, Internet radio and travel apps, educational, health and fitness apps, weather apps, and so on, and were downloaded over 100 million times across the Android ecosystem. Lookout researchers did not name the apps that were found using the malicious SDK, but notified Google of the problem. The latter then proceeded to clean up house, either by removing the offending apps altogether, or by forcing app developers to upload an updated version with the invasive features (i.e. the Igexin SDK) removed. "Users and app developers have no control over what will be executed on a device after the remote API request is made. The only limitations on what could potentially be run are imposed by the Android permissions system," the researchers pointed out. "It is becoming increasingly common for innovative malware authors to attempt to evade detection by submitting innocuous apps to trusted app stores, then at a later time, downloading malicious code from a remote server. Igexin is somewhat unique because the app developers themselves are not creating the malicious functionality -- nor are they in control or even aware of the malicious payload that may subsequently execute. Instead, the invasive activity initiates from an Igexin-controlled server."
Space

Elon Musk Posts First Photo of SpaceX's New Spacesuit (arstechnica.com) 43

Early Wednesday morning, SpaceX founder Elon Musk posted a photo of the spacesuit that will be used by astronauts flying aboard the company's Dragon spacecraft, perhaps as early as next year. Ars Technica reports: In his Instagram post, Musk added that this suit was not a mock-up but rather a fully functional unit. "Already tested to double vacuum pressure," he wrote. "Was incredibly hard to balance aesthetics and function. Easy to do either separately." (Double vacuum pressure simply means the suit was probably inflated to twice the pressure of sea level and then put into a vacuum chamber.) Musk gave no other technical information about the suit. Most strikingly, it is white, in contrast to the very blue spacesuits unveiled by Boeing in January. These are not, strictly speaking, "space suits." Rather, they are more properly flight suits designed to be worn during the ride to space and again on the ride back down to Earth. They have a limited time in which they can operate in a full vacuum and are not intended for spacewalks.
Communications

Engineers Discover How To Make Antennas For Wireless Communication 100x Smaller Than Their Current Size (sciencemag.org) 59

Engineers have figured out how to make antennas for wireless communication 100 times smaller than their current size, an advance that could lead to tiny brain implants, micro-medical devices, or phones you can wear on your finger. Science Magazine reports: The new mini-antennas play off the difference between electromagnetic (EM) waves, such as light and radio waves, and acoustic waves, such as sound and inaudible vibrations. EM waves are fluctuations in an electromagnetic field, and they travel at light speed -- an astounding 300,000,000 meters per second. Acoustic waves are the jiggling of matter, and they travel at the much slower speed of sound -- in a solid, typically a few thousand meters per second. So, at any given frequency, an EM wave has a much longer wavelength than an acoustic wave. Antennas receive information by resonating with EM waves, which they convert into electrical voltage. For such resonance to occur, a traditional antenna's length must roughly match the wavelength of the EM wave it receives, meaning that the antenna must be relatively big. However, like a guitar string, an antenna can also resonate with acoustic waves. The new antennas take advantage of this fact. They will pick up EM waves of a given frequency if its size matches the wavelength of the much shorter acoustic waves of the same frequency. That means that that for any given signal frequency, the antennas can be much smaller. The trick is, of course, to quickly turn the incoming EM waves into acoustic waves.

The team created two kinds of acoustic antennas. One has a circular membrane, which works for frequencies in the gigahertz range, including those for WiFi. The other has a rectangular membrane, suitable for megahertz frequencies used for TV and radio. Each is less than a millimeter across, and both can be manufactured together on a single chip. When researchers tested one of the antennas in a specially insulated room, they found that compared to a conventional ring antenna of the same size, it sent and received 2.5 gigahertz signals about 100,000 times more efficiently, they report in Nature Communications.

Businesses

Bill Gates and Richard Branson Back Startup That Grows 'Clean Meat' (bloomberg.com) 98

A large global agricultural company has joined Bill Gates and Richard Branson to invest in a nascent technology to make meat from self-producing animal cells. "Memphis Meats, which produces beef, chicken and duck directly from animal cells without raising and slaughtering livestock or poultry, raised $17 million from investors including Cargill, Gates and billionaire Richard Branson, according to a statement Tuesday on the San Francisco-based startup's website," reports Bloomberg. From the report: This is the latest move by an agricultural giant to respond to consumers, especially Millennials, who are rapidly leaving their mark on the U.S. food world. That's happening through surging demand for organic products, increasing focus on food that's considered sustainable and greater attention on animal treatment. Big poultry and livestock processors have started to take up alternatives to traditional meat. To date, Memphis Meats has raised $22 million, signaling a commitment to the "clean-meat movement," the company said.
Chrome

Chrome Adds Warning For Extensions That Take Over Your Proxy Settings (bleepingcomputer.com) 24

An anonymous reader writes: "Google engineers have added two new features to the Chrome browser that will alert users of extensions that hijack proxy settings or the new tab page," reports Bleeping Computer. Google has been testing these two techniques sparingly with a small subset of users for more than a year, but they have now landed in Google Canary. The techniques are used by malicious Chrome extensions to hijack traffic and insert ads, or to redirect search traffic to affiliate search engine programs. The addition of these popup alerts are part of Google's plan to fight malicious Chrome extensions that have been starting to plague the Web Store.
United States

Roku Is the Top Streaming Device In the US and Still Growing, Report Finds (techcrunch.com) 51

Roku is the top streaming media player device in the U.S., and its growth is only increasing. According to the latest industry report from market intelligence firm Parks Associates, 37 percent of streaming devices in U.S. households are Roku devices, as of the first quarter of this year. That's up from 30 percent in the same quarter last year, the report notes. TechCrunch reports: The growth is coming at the expense of Roku's top competitors, like Apple and Google, with only Amazon's Fire TV able to increase its install base during the same timeframe. Fire TV devices are in 24 percent of U.S. households, as of Q1 2017, up from 16 percent last year. That climb allowed Amazon to snag the second position from Google's Chromecast, which has an 18 percent share. Lagging behind, Apple TV's market share fell to 15 percent -- a drop that Parks Associates Senior Analyst Glenn Hower attributes to Apple TV's price point. Roku last fall overhauled its line of streaming players with the intention of plugging every hole in the market. That strategy is seemingly paying off. There's now a Roku device to meet any consumer's needs -- whether that's an entry-level, portable and affordable "stick," to rival the Fire TV Stick or the Chromecast dongle, or a high-end player with 4K and HDR support, lots of ports, voice search remote, and other premium bells and whistles.
Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg Says Facebook Will Add Subscriptions For News Stories (mashable.com) 47

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mashable: After years of simply forcing news organizations to heel to the almighty algorithm and craft their content for the News Feed, Facebook has added several features in the hopes of winning back the love of publishers. One of the biggest changes to come is subscriptions via Facebook. Here's how it works: Publishers using Instant Articles, Facebook's fast-loading article pages, will be able to have a paywall (certain number of articles per month) or have locked articles (freemium model). For either case, Facebook users will be prompted to subscribe to read more. All payments will be processed directly via publishers' websites, and Facebook will not take a cut -- at least not now. "If people subscribe after seeing news stories on Facebook, the money will go directly publishers who work hard to uncover the truth, and Facebook won't take a cut. We plan to start with a small group of U.S. and European publishers later this year and we'll listen to their feedback," Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.
Google

Google Invites Users To 'Check If You're Clinically Depressed' (theverge.com) 84

Google will now invite U.S. users to "check if you're clinically depressed" by using a clinically-validated screening questionnaire. "The move announced on Wednesday comes out of work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and represents the first time that the search giant has promoted a mental health self-assessment tool in search results," reports Financial Times. From the report: The intervention by the world's most popular search engine comes as people increasingly seek medical advice online: Google says one in 20 searches are health-related, although it will not disclose what proportion are about depression. It is also the latest public move by a technology business to take greater responsibility for content that users see on its platform, after criticism that companies such as Facebook and Google failed to help people distinguish verified from false information. A box of verified information about symptoms and treatments for clinical depression already tops U.S. Google search results for "depression" or queries such as "do I have depression." Google does this for other common conditions, including flu and tonsillitis, and symptoms such as headaches, using information provided by the Mayo Clinic, a non-profit medical organization. But for depression it has added a link inviting users to "check if you're clinically depressed." This takes searchers to a questionnaire widely used by doctors to measure levels of depressive symptoms. People who complete the test get a score indicating the severity of their symptoms, which can aid a physician's diagnosis.
Windows

Microsoft .NET Core 2.0 For Linux Released; Redhat Will Bundle Microsoft's .NET (zdnet.com) 125

Billly Gates writes: Microsoft recently released Visual Studio 15.3 for Windows and Visual Studio 7.1 for Mac with .NET core 2.0. In addition to porting Microsoft Code and SQL Server to Linux, they have ported .NET. Redhat will bundle .NET in their software offerings instead of relying on Mono. .NET core is Microsoft's open-source .NET platform which is not based off Mono and available for Linux, Mac, and Windows here.
Government

FTC Approves Amazon's Acquisition of Whole Foods (cnbc.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The Federal Trade Commission will allow Amazon to continue its $13.7 billion deal to acquire Whole Foods. The FTC conducted an investigation to gauge whether the merger would decrease competition under federal regulations, Bruce Hoffman, acting director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Competition, said in a statement Wednesday. It ultimately decided not to pursue the matter further. Whole Foods shareholders approved Amazon's acquisition deal hours before the FTC's announcement.The two companies expect to finalize the agreement during the second half of the year. However, source familiar with the matter told CNBC the deal could happen sooner rather than later.
Bitcoin

Here's Why People Don't Buy Things With Bitcoin (vice.com) 246

An anonymous reader shares a report: One reason for this, if you live in Toronto like me (or anywhere else for that matter), is that there's basically nowhere to spend digital coins in the real world. Coinmap, a service that maps bitcoin-accepting locations all over the world, shows a few places that accept bitcoin in Toronto, but it's clearly out of date -- I called several businesses listed on the site and they had no idea what bitcoin even is. A bigger problem is perfectly illustrated in a Reddit post from Wednesday morning complaining that a bitcoin transaction worth just $9 still hasn't gone through the network after two days of waiting. Two. Days. The likely reason is that the fee attached to the transaction in order to incentivize faster confirmation -- 50 cents, which is about as much of a premium as I'd pay for a $9 transaction -- simply wasn't enough. "Should I have paid $3 on a $9 transfer to get it processed?" the person wrote.
Privacy

Wading Through AccuWeather's Response (daringfireball.net) 70

On Tuesday, ZDNet reported that popular weather app AccuWeather was sending location-identifying information to a monetization firm, even when a person had disabled location data from the app. In a response, AccuWeather said today "if a user opts out of location tracking on AccuWeather, no GPS coordinates are collected or passed without further opt-in permission from the user." But it is misleading people. John Gruber of DaringFireball writes: The accusation has nothing to do with "GPS coordinates." The accusation is that their iOS app is collecting Wi-Fi router names and MAC addresses and sending them to servers that belong to Reveal Mobile, which in turn can easily be used to locate the user. Claiming this is about GPS coordinates is like if they were caught stealing debit cards and they issued a denial that they never stole anyone's cash. The accusation comes from Will Strafech, a respected security researcher who discovered the "actual information" by observing network traffic. He saw the AccuWeather iOS app sending his router's name and MAC address to Reveal Mobile. This isn't speculation. They were caught red-handed. GPS information is more precise, and if you grant the AccuWeather app permission to access your location (under the guise of showing you local weather wherever you are, as well as localized weather alerts), that more precise data is passed along to Reveal Mobile as well. But Wi-Fi router information can be used to locate you within a few meters using publicly available databases. Seriously, go ahead and try it yourself: plug your Wi-Fi router's BSSID MAC address into this website, and there's good chance it'll pinpoint your location on the map. "Other data, such as Wi-Fi network information that is not user information, was for a short period available on the Reveal SDK, but was unused by AccuWeather," the company writes. In what way is the name and MAC address of your router not "user information"? And saying the information was "unused by AccuWeather" is again sleight of hand. The accusation is not that AccuWeather itself was using the location of the Wi-Fi router, but that Reveal Mobile was. Here are Reveal Mobile's own words about how they use location data.
Google

Google Unveils a New, Cheaper Networking Option For Cloud Customers: the Public Internet (geekwire.com) 18

Google Cloud Platform customers will have a new option when selecting the type of network used to deliver their traffic to their users: they can keep using Google's network, or they can save some money with the new option of using public transit networks. An anonymous reader shares a report: Google has long argued that one of the best reasons to use its public cloud service is the strength of its fiber network, developed and enhanced for more than a decade to support the global data centers powering its search engine. But there are some applications that don't require that level of performance, and so Google is now offering a cheaper networking service -- costing between 24 percent to 33 percent less -- that uses the transit networks that deliver the bulk of traffic to internet service providers, said Prajakta Joshi, product manager for cloud networking at Google. The new "Standard Tier" should offer performance comparable to what customers would experience through "other cloud providers," Joshi said, although both Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure operate fiber networks outside of the public internet.
Microsoft

Microsoft Will Never Again Sneakily Force Windows Downloads on Users (betanews.com) 172

A reader shares a report Windows users in Germany were particularly unimpressed when Microsoft forcibly downloaded many gigabytes of files to upgrade from Windows 7 and 8 to Windows 10. Having held out for 18 months, and losing its case twice, Microsoft has finally agreed to stop its nefarious tactics. After a lengthy battle with Germany's Baden-Wurtenberg consumer rights center, Microsoft made the announcement to avoid the continuation of legal action. A press release on the Baden-Wurtenberg website reveals that Microsoft has announced it will no longer download operating system files to users' computers without their permission: Microsoft will not download install files for new operating systems to a user system's hard disk without a user's consent. The consumer rights center hoped for this resolution to be reached much sooner, but Microsoft's decision will please the courts and could have a bearing on how the company acts in other countries.

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