Youtube took down MEP's videos about torture debate


Marietje Schaake (previously) is a Dutch Member of the European Parliament who has a fantastic track-record for getting it right on issues related to technology, free speech, human rights, and privacy; she is the author of a report on export controls for spying technology used to identify dissidents to torture. Read the rest

Google's Pixelphone leaked, is just another boring phone


UK retailer Carphone Warehouse broke Google's embargo on its much-awaited Pixel Phone, revealing it a day early.

Both devices will be powered by a Snapdragon 821 CPU clocked at 2.15GHz, with 4GB of RAM and with either 32GB or 128GB of internal storage. They have AMOLED displays with Gorilla Glass 4, at 1080p for the Pixel and 1440p for the Pixel XL.

The battery size on the Pixel is 2770mAh, just a bit larger than the 2700mAh cell found in the Nexus 5X. The Pixel XL has a larger 3450mAh battery, identical to the Nexus 6P. Both devices run Android 7.1 out of the box and have fingerprint sensors, as well as nanoSIM slots for cellular connectivity.According to the listing, both have 8MP front and 12MP back cameras with optical image stabilization

It looks just like all the other smartphones. Great work from the Subcommittee For Avoidance of Negative Reactions. Read the rest

Google: if you support Amazon's Echo, you're cut off from Google Home and Chromecast


A closed-door unveiling of the forthcoming Google Home smart speaker platform included the nakedly anticompetitive news that vendors whose products support Amazon's Echo will be blocked from integrating with Google's own, rival platform. Read the rest

Youtube's new "offline first" product for India treats telcos as damage and routes around them


Yesterday, Google announced "Youtube Go," an "offline first" version of the popular video service designed for the Indian market where internet coverage is intermittent, provided by monopolistic carriers that have a history of network discrimination, and where people have a wide variety of devices, including very low-powered ones. Read the rest

The democratization of censorship: when anyone can kill as site as effectively as a government can


On the eve of the Stuxnet attacks, half a decade ago, I found myself discussing what it all meant with William Gibson (I'd just interviewed him on stage in London), and I said, "I think the most significant thing about any of these sophisticated, government-backed attacks is that they will eventually turn into a cheap and easy weapon that technically unskilled people can deploy for petty grievances." We haven't quite got there yet with Stuxnet, but there's a whole class of "advanced persistent threat" techniques that are now in the hands of fringey criminals who deploy them at the smallest provocation. Read the rest

Racist trolls moot using "google" as a euphemism for the n-word


Google is downranking websites that use pejorative, racist terms like n*gger, so the awful people of 4chan and /pol/ are replacing that word with "google." Read the rest

US endorses self-driving cars, with a catch: Feds want to control tech approval, not states

Lexus SUV Google prototype autonomous vehicle in Mountain View, 2015.  REUTERS

Federal auto safety regulators today said that self-driving cars “will save time, money and lives,” but also sent a clear signal that they want the power to inspect and approve technology before it hits the highways, rather than each U.S. state setting its own safety standards.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said on a press call today that a new federal premarket approval system "would require a lot more upfront discussion, dialogue and staffing on our part."

The government's statement today is big news for Uber, Google, Apple, and other Silicon Valley firms pouring millions of R&D dollars into figuring out how to swap human drivers for smart machines, or at least allow us to share control in “semiautonomous” setups.

Read the rest

Jigsaw: "wildly ambitious" Google spin-out aimed at tackling "surveillance, extremist indoctrination, censorship"

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Technologists have a dismal pattern: when it comes to engineering challenges ("build a global-scale comms platform") they rub their hands together with excitement; when it comes to the social challenges implied by the engineering ones ("do something about trolls") they throw their hands up and declare the problem to be too hard to solve. Read the rest

Santa Monica's lost Googie diner may reopen

Via Santa Monica Public Library

In my late teens and early 20s the Penguin was an amazing spot to hang out. The restaurant was an absolute time machine, right down to their 'eat this giant hamburger and win a t-shirt' challenge. After spending around two decades as an orthodontists office, LA Eater reports that Mel's Diner is trying to move in!

Per planning commission reports in Santa Monica, it appears Mel's is looking to re-open the location as a 24x7 diner.

Via the Eater:

A tipster points to this Planning Commission report for Santa Monica, which points towards a meeting to be held in just one week’s time that will (hopefully) establish a conditional use permit for one Mel’s Drive in right in Lincoln Boulevard. It's a nice replacement of sorts for Norm's, which had to close to make way for some development.

The 5,352 square foot property sits right off the freeway on Lincoln in a former orthodontics business, but carries the peaked roof and wide frontage of a Googie restaurant — making it perfect for Mel’s to arrive. Originally built in 1959 as the Penguin Coffee Shop, the spot could once again be hosting diners twenty-four hours a day if Mel’s gets their way.

Every time I'd be exiting the 10 at Lincon, westbound, the Dr. Beauchamp's sign would break my heart a bit. Mel's isn't my favorite diner but it is wonderful to think of that space being used as a restaurant again. I remain confident there are plenty of orthodontists in West L.A. Read the rest

How to pay no taxes at all! (if you're Apple, Google or Facebook)


In only 7 minutes, Australian comedy show The Undercurrent explains exactly how companies like Apple, Google and Facebook use offshore registration, transfer payments, debt loading and tax havens to get a lower tax rate than nurses, starving their host countries like Australia of so much money that they're cutting schools, medicare, public broadcasting, climate change and indigenous services. Read the rest

Sheepview: cameras attached to roaming ruminants in the Faeroe Islands

Photo: Visit Faeroe Islands

Sheep in the remote Faeroe islands, between Scotland and Norway, have been fitted with cameras to provide a vast corpus of sheepcam footage. At Sheepview, you may soon be able to explore the windblasted heaths and crags as if you were yourself an ambling, grass-munching ruminant—and help Google to catch up and generate street-view imagery that islanders need.

As the sheep walk and graze around the island, the pictures are sent back to Andreassen with GPS co-ordinates, which she then uploads to Google Street View.

“Here in the Faroe Islands we have to do things our way,” says Andreassen. “Knowing that we are so small and Google is so big, we felt this was the thing to do.”

So far the Sheep View team have taken panoramic images of five locations on the island. They have also produced 360 video so you can explore the island as if you are, quite literally, a sheep.

Read the rest

Google "deletes" artist's blog, erasing 12 years of work

Photo: Todd BInger (cc)

Artist Dennis Cooper reports that Google shut down his website, without explanation, erasing 12 years of work.

Along with his blog, Google disabled Cooper’s email address, through which most of his correspondence was conducted, he told me via Facebook message. He got no communication from Google about why it decided to kill his email address and blog. Cooper used the blog to post his fiction, research, and visual art, and as Artforum explains, it was also “a platform through which he engaged almost daily with a community of followers and fellow artists.” His latest GIF novel (as the term suggests, a novel constructed with animated GIFs) was also mostly saved to the blog.

“It seems that the only option I have left is to sue Google,” Cooper told Artforum. “This will not be easy for me for the obvious reasons, but I’m not going to just give up ten years of my and others’ work without doing everything possible.”

You're savvy, you know the drill. You don't have to blame the victim, a nontechnical person who had no idea how or why a data host could screw him. Just keep nagging everyone you know to keep multiple backups of everything and to be wary of becoming dependent on specific online services for reaching friends, colleagues, customers, and audiences.

Even people smart to these issues still get suckered, too. For example, consider your "cloud storage". Just as susceptible to Dennis Cooper's experience, which in the coming years many of us will also enjoy. Read the rest

Google is restructuring to put machine learning at the core of all it does

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Steven Levy is in characteristic excellent form in a long piece on Medium about the internal vogue for machine learning at Google; drawing on the contacts he made with In the Plex, his must-read 2012 biography of the company, Levy paints a picture of a company that's being utterly remade around newly ascendant machine learning techniques. Read the rest

Cataloging the problems facing AI researchers is a cross between a parenting manual and a management book

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Concrete Problems in AI Safety, an excellent, eminently readable paper from a group of Google AI researchers and some colleagues, sets out five hard problems facing the field: robots might damage their environments to attain their goals; robots might figure out how to cheat to attain their goals; supervising robots all the time is inefficient; robots that are allowed to try novel strategies might cause disasters; and robots that are good at one task might inappropriately try to apply that expertise to another unrelated task. Read the rest

Google Fiber now forces subscribers into binding arbitration; days left to opt out


Borrowing a trick from the Comcast/AT&T playbook, Google Fiber now forces customers who are unhappy with the service to surrender their right to sue and to join class actions in favor of binding arbitration, a one-sided system of shadow courts that overwhelmingly delivers rulings in favor of the big companies that pay for it. Read the rest

Neo-Nazis make a Chrome extension that alerts you to potential Jewish names


If you install "Coincidence Detector," a Chrome plugin from Altrightmedia, then every time a Jewish-seeming name appears in your browser, it will be surrounded in (((triple parentheses))) (the extension also uses a crowdsourced list of known Jews to enfold their names in parenthetical hugs where they appear). Read the rest

Google may abandon passwords for 'trust score'


Hate passwords? Google does too, and may begin doing away with conventional passwords on Android devices this year. At Google I/O, the company announced the next steps in its plans to begin using a password alternative: "trust scores" that determine your creds based on various data points. Developed by Google's Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group, the Trust API will roll out to "several very large" financial institutions within the next few weeks.

Read the rest

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