Police have now one less tool to monitor users on Twitter. The Daily Dot is reporting that Twitter has cut ties with a third-party social network surveillance firm, citing company policies intended to safeguard users against the surreptitious collection of data by law enforcement agencies. From the report: The severed contract follows Twitter nullifying the commercial data agreements of two other leading social-network-surveillance firms, Geofeedia and Snaptrends. Previously unreported, Twitter severed the access of Media Sonar, an Ontario-based company founded in 2012, which has sold surveillance software to police departments across the United States. Nineteen local government services are known to have each spent at least $10,000 on the software between 2014 and 2016, according to documents acquired under state open-records laws. Twitter informed the Daily Dot this week that it had terminated Media Sonar's access to its public API in October. If the company attempts to create other API keys, Twitter said, "we will terminate those as well and take further action as appropriate."
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Digital currency bitcoin hit its highest levels in almost three years on Friday, extending gains since India sparked a cash shortage by removing high-denomination bank notes from circulation a month ago. From a report on Reuters: Bitcoin was trading as high as $774 on the New York-based itBit exchange, up almost 1 percent on the day and the highest since February 2014, having climbed almost 9 percent in the past month. It has climbed around 80 percent so far this year, far exceeding its 35 percent rise in 2015.
The employee perks at Google are legendary, and they've always included an over-the-top holiday gift for every employee. In the past, the company has surprised its 70,000 employees with Nexus phones, Android smartwatches, and Chromebooks. Fortune adds:This year employees speculated they might get Google's new Pixel phones or a Google Home unit, the company's competitor to Amazon's Echo. But they forgot: They don't work for Google anymore. They work for Alphabet. Instead of a shiny new gadget, Alphabet employees got an email. On Thursday Bloomberg published a bruising story about the new, cost-conscious regime of Alphabet, driven by its corporate re-organization and its ex-Wall Street CFO, Ruth Porat. Shortly after the story hit, employees were informed that their holiday gift this year was a donation to charity, Fortune has learned. Alphabet donated $30 million worth of Chromebooks, phones, and associated tech support to schools on its employees' behalf.
Samsung confirmed on Friday that it will indeed release an update to Galaxy Note7 smartphones in the United States to "prevent US Galaxy Note7 devices from charging and will eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices." In a new wrinkle to this whole situation, Verizon said today it will not be releasing Samsung's software update to Galaxy Note7 users on Verizon network. In a blog post, Verizon said: "Verizon will not be taking part in this update because of the added risk this could pose to Galaxy Note 7 users that do not have another device to switch to. We will not push a software upgrade that will eliminate the ability for the Note 7 to work as a mobile device in the heart of the holiday travel season. We do not want to make it impossible to contact family, first responders or medical professionals in an emergency situation." To recall, the Galaxy Note7 remains banned on airlines by the FAA and has also been prohibited from being used on many other public transit services in the United States. Elsewhere in the world, similar bans have been imposed on the phone.
Companies can now test self-driving cars on Michigan public roads without a driver or steering wheel under new laws that could push the state to the forefront of autonomous vehicle development. From a report on ABC: The package of bills signed into law Friday comes with few specific state regulations and leaves many decisions up to automakers and companies like Google and Uber. It also allows automakers and tech companies to run autonomous taxi services and permits test parades of self-driving tractor-trailers as long as humans are in each truck. And they allow the sale of self-driving vehicles to the public once they are tested and certified, according to the state. The bills allow testing without burdensome regulations so the industry can move forward with potential life-saving technology, said Gov. Rick Snyder, who was to sign the bills. "It makes Michigan a place where particularly for the auto industry it's a good place to do work," he said.
President Barack Obama has ordered a full review of hacking activities aimed at disrupting last month's presidential election, media outlets reported Friday citing a top White House official. The results are to be delivered to Obama before he leaves the office. From a report on Reuters: "The president has directed the intelligence community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process ... and to capture lessons learned from that and to report to a range of stakeholders, to include the Congress," homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco said during an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
An anonymous reader shares an article on MarketingLand: For the third time since September, Facebook is disclosing new measurement errors. The two new errors affected the reaction counts Facebook reports on Pages' Live videos, as well as the engagement figures Facebook reports for off-Facebook links; the latter link engagement metrics were recently used in investigations by BuzzFeed and The New York Times into fake news articles' performance on Facebook. In addition to acknowledging the two new errors -- of which one has been corrected and one is still being inspected -- Facebook has refined a measurement marketers may reference when buying ads through the social network. None of the aforementioned metrics had any impact on how much money Facebook charges advertisers for their campaigns. But they may have informed brands' Facebook ad-buying strategies as well as brands', publishers' and others' Facebook-related content-publishing strategies.
New submitter drunkdrone writes: Magic Leap's coveted mixed reality technology has been the subject of intense speculation since it broke ground in 2014. Having secured billions of dollars in funding from some of the world's biggest tech giants, the secretive start-up has managed to stay at the centre of the VR/AR conversation despite showing little of the so-called revolutionary technology it has in the works. Now, the Magic Leap hype bubble may be about to burst in spectacularly disappointing fashion. According to reports, the Florida-based start-up is years behind on its plans and may have used deceptive product demos in order to keep interest in its tech alive. The Verge, which quotes an exclusive article from The Information, reports that Magic Leap's mixed reality technology has long since been overtaken by other products already on the market such as Microsoft's HoloLens, which Magic Leap's technology is said to most closely resemble. Allegedly, Magic Leap has struggled to scale-down a bulky piece of laser projection equipment used within the headset's display. "The crux of the problem appears to be Magic Leap's gamble on a so-called fibre scanning display, which shines a laser through a fibre optic cable that moves rapidly back and forth to draw images out of light," reports the Verge.
Mars One says its project to start a human colony on the Red Planet will be delayed by five years. The Dutch company says it will send its first crews to Mars in 2031 instead of its previous target date of 2026. From a report on Time: The venture is delaying its missions so it can raise more money, according to CEO Bas Lansdorp. "Of course the whole Mars One team would have preferred to be able to stick to the original schedule, but this new timeline significantly improves our odds of successfully achieving this mission roadmap," he said in a statement. This is far from the first time Mars One has delayed its project. Despite Lansdorp's confidence, other scientists have expressed significant doubts about the mission's feasibility.
The White House said on Thursday that it raised concerns about China's new cyber security law during a meeting with a Chinese official after the latest round of talks between the two countries on cyber crime. From a report on Reuters: U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice met with Chinese State Councilor Guo Shengkun to discuss the importance "of fully adhering" to an anti-hacking accord signed last year between the China and the United States, National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said. The deal, brokered during Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Washington in 2015, included a pledge that neither country would knowingly carry out hacking for commercial advantages. Rice told Guo that the United States was concerned "about the potential impacts" of a law that China adopted in November aimed at combating hacking and terrorism.
Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo's legendary game designer, and his fellow developers were tinkering with a "one-button control scheme" for Mario, where all a player can do is make Mario jump. This dead simple idea became the crux of the company's new Super Mario Run, one of the most anticipated mobile-app games of the year. CNET adds: "We found a great way to make an accessible Mario game and bring it to iPhone and reach a lot of people," Miyamoto said Thursday through his translator. "That's when we decided to make Super Mario Run." Super Mario Run may become a critical next step for Nintendo, which has struggled for years to maintain its relevance in gaming against Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox, as well as a surge of mobile gaming apps. This year, it garnered some attention from Pokemon Go, though it's only partly involved in that game. Now, two more Nintendo mobile gaming apps -- Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem -- are on the way, which could provide the Japanese company with a big boost.
Those who are still clinging on to their Galaxy Note 7, even after Samsung recalled the devices due to faulty batteries in mid-September, may want to seriously reconsider returning them to the Korean company. The Verge has obtained an image of an alert that went out to at least one Note 7 owner on U.S. Cellular today stating that, "As of December 15th, Samsung will modify the software to prevent the Galaxy Note 7 from charging. The phone will no longer work." The Verge reports: It's not clear whether Note 7s will be disabled across the major U.S. carriers as well, but it seems likely that'll be the case. In the past, updates disabling Note 7 features have rolled out across Verizon, ATT, and other carriers within a matter of days. That's probably what'll happen here, as well. By preventing the phone from charging, Samsung takes the final step to making the phone entirely unusable. It's still offering Note 7 owners the ability to fully return the phone or exchange it for another Samsung device. As of November 4th, when Samsung last provided an update, 85 percent of Note 7s sold in the U.S. had been recovered. That still left around 285,000 phones unaccounted for. Completely disabling the phone seems to be Samsung's last-ditch effort to either recover the remaining devices or remove what risk they still pose to consumers.
Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: Malware gangs, like sad wedding bands bands, love to play the hits. And one of the hits they keep running back over and over is the Zeus banking Trojan, which has been in use for many years in a number of different forms. Researchers have unearthed a new piece of malware called Floki Bot that is based on the venerable Zeus source code and is being used to infect point-of-sale systems, among other targets. Flashpoint conducted the analysis of Floki Bot with Cisco's Talos research team, and the two organizations said that the author behind the bot maintains a presence on a number of different underground forums, some of which are in Russian or other non-native languages for him. Kremez said that attackers sometimes will participate in foreign language forums as a way to expand their knowledge. Along with its PoS infection capability, Floki Bot also has a feature that allows it to use the Tor network to communicate. "During our analysis of Floki Bot, Talos identified modifications that had been made to the dropper mechanism present in the leaked Zeus source code in an attempt to make Floki Bot more difficult to detect. Talos also observed the introduction of new code that allows Floki Bot to make use of the Tor network. However, this functionality does not appear to be active for the time being," Cisco's Talos team said in its analysis.
Google today announced it will open up Home to third-party developers, allowing all developers to start bringing their applications and services to the Google Assistant. Developers can start building "conversation actions" for the Google Assistant, which "allows developers to create back-and-forth conversations with users through the Assistant," writes Frederic Lardinois via TechCrunch. "Users can simply start these conversations by using a phrase like 'OK Google, talk to Eliza.'" TechCrunch reports: While the Assistant also runs on the Pixel phones and inside the Allo chat app, Google says it plans to bring actions to these other "Assistant surfaces" in the future, but it's unclear when exactly this will happen. To help developers who want to build these new Conversation Actions get started, Google has teamed up with a number of partners, including API.AI, GupShup, DashBot and VoiceLabs, Assist, Notify.IO, Witlingo and Spoken Layer. Google has also allowed a small number of partners to enable their apps on Google Home already. These integrations will roll out as early as next week. Given that users will be able to invoke these new actions with a simple command (and without having to first enable a skill, like on Alexa), Google's platform looks to be a rather accessible and low-friction way for developers to get their voice-enabled services to users. Google will have the final say over which actions will be enabled on Google Home.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Post: For the first time in more than two decades, life expectancy for Americans declined last year (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source) -- a troubling development linked to a panoply of worsening health problems in the United States. Rising fatalities from heart disease and stroke, diabetes, drug overdoses, accidents and other conditions caused the lower life expectancy revealed in a report released Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics. In all, death rates rose for eight of the top 10 leading causes of death. The new report raises the possibility that major illnesses may be eroding prospects for an even wider group of Americans. Its findings show increases in "virtually every cause of death. It's all ages," said David Weir, director of the health and retirement study at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Over the past five years, he noted, improvements in death rates were among the smallest of the past four decades. "There's this just across-the-board [phenomenon] of not doing very well in the United States." Overall, life expectancy fell by one-tenth of a year, from 78.9 in 2014 to 78.8 in 2015, according to the latest data. The last time U.S. life expectancy at birth declined was in 1993, when it dropped from 75.6 to 75.4, according to World Bank data. The overall death rate rose 1.2 percent in 2015, its first uptick since 1999. More than 2.7 million people died, about 45 percent of them from heart disease or cancer.