Electric vehicle makers serving up customer location data to China on a silver platter

There's been quite a bit of bad ink surrounding Tesla electric vehicles this year: delays in production, growing rumors about subpar customer service, former employees blowing the whistle on dangerous, indifferent working conditions in Tesla assembly plants and logistical woes to name a few. According to The Washington Post, Tesla owners in China can add in-car state surveillance to the list.

Apparently, the Chinese government has demanded that Tesla vehicles purchased in China send a steady stream of information concerning the vehicle's whereabouts and who knows what else to the Chinese government, in real-time. It's some greasy, invasive bullshit that comes at a time when China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, has been cracking down on dissent, privacy and freedoms in the country.

At the very least, Tesla isn't alone: other makers of electric vehicles are being forced to make their customers' information available to the Chinese government as well.

From The Washington Post:

More than 200 manufacturers, including Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Mitsubishi and U.S.-listed electric vehicle start-up NIO, transmit position information and dozens of other data points to government-backed monitoring centers, The Associated Press has found. Generally, it happens without car owners’ knowledge.

The automakers say they are merely complying with local laws, which apply only to alternative energy vehicles. Chinese officials say the data is used for analytics to improve public safety, facilitate industrial development and infrastructure planning, and to prevent fraud in subsidy programs.

But other countries that are major markets for electronic vehicles — the United States, Japan, across Europe — do not collect this kind of real-time data.

Read the rest

Online customer service agents are watching what you type

When something goes wrong with a product you own or a service you pay for, it's reasonable to expect quick, effective customer service from the company responsible for whatever it is that's giving you trouble. Read the rest

Trevor Noah smacks around Trump and other climate change deniers on The Daily Show

"Why can't you respect science as much as Maury Povich does?"

It seems like a reasonable question, but these are unreasonable times. An unreasonable man has been put in charge. He refuses to listen to scientists or anyone else for that matter. Our planet is trying to kill us for what we've done with it. He carries on, regardless. It's an amazing, terrible thing to watch. Trevor Noah's got it nailed down. It might be funny, but man, it's hard to laugh. Read the rest

Canadian Intelligence warns against buying tech from state-owned companies

According to documents obtained by the Canadian Press, the Canadian government has been warning against investing in technology served up by state-owned companies as it's highly likely that the hardware could be used as a conduit for corporate espionage.

From The Globe & Mail:

The RCMP organized two workshops last March — one in Calgary, the other in Toronto — to raise awareness about threats to critical systems, including espionage and foreign interference, cyberattacks, terrorism and sabotage, newly disclosed documents show.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service materials prepared for the workshops advise that “non-likeminded countries,” state-owned enterprises and affiliated companies are engaged in a global pursuit of technology and know-how driven by economic and military ambitions.

The papers surrounding the RCMP and CSIS' warnings were heavily redacted: there's no mention of any specific countries that want to take a peek at what Canuck corporations have to offer. However, we've still got a good idea about some of what they were talking about. According to The Canadian Press, the document had a chunk of text in it pulled from a US government report that China and other competing countries have been swiping "hundreds of billions of dollars" worth of intellectual property every year. Additionally, back in 2016, CSIS warned Canadians that maybe allowing Huawei Technologies to have any part in the building of Canada's 5G telecommunications network might be a really bad idea. According to a number of intelligence sources, Huawei's ties to the Chinese government run deep.

It's fun to be reminded that billion dollar concerns like tech and oil companies have just as much to worry about with phishing, sloppy security practices and other digital hazards as everyone else. Read the rest

Video: What fascism is...and isn't

Fascism is a word we've been hearing a lot of over these past few years, but are the mouths it's falling out of using it correctly? Some times, yeah. Many times, not so much.

This brief video delves into the history of the word "fascism" and explains that, while we're collectively barreling towards a particular flavor of this unsavory state of being, there's plenty of ways, with left and right-wing leanings, to be a fascist. Read the rest

Cops catch Canadian clairvoyant and charge her for creeping on clients

Our current news cycle pushes out stories, scandals and tales of catastrophe faster than shit through a goose. There's no keeping on top of it all anymore. With this being the case, it's little wonder that we managed to miss the fact that a Canadian woman was charged with what amounts to witchcraft this past October.

From Vice:

This weekend police in Milton, a small town in Ontario, arrested 32-year-old Dorie Stevenson who was running a psychic business out of her basement. She was charged with extortion, fraud over $5,000 [$3,813 USD], and witchcraft/fortune telling. If you’re thinking, whoa, Canada has witchcraft laws? Well, the answer would be yes, but they’re probably not exactly what you think.

It's covered under section 365 in the Criminal Code under the title “pretending to practice witchcraft.” It focuses on anyone who “fraudulently” gets paid to tell fortunes, “pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment, or conjuration,” or using their “skill in or knowledge of an occult or crafty science” to find where lost things are.

Stevenson was picked up by Halton Regional Police after it was discovered that she was running a business, selling psychic insights to folks out of her basement. That's fine: there's plenty of folks in Canada doing much the same. What the cops took exception with, after a months-long investigation, was the fact that Stevenson was preying on her customers while they were in a vulnerable state. According to the police, Stevenson was routinely telling her customers that she could foresee terrible things happening to them if they didn't bring her cash, jewelry and other expensive bobbles that would help her to divert their encroaching disaster. Read the rest

After 18 days, California's deadliest fire in history is contained

The most devastating fire in California history has been contained.

From The Washington Post:

The Camp Fire — the deadliest, most destructive blaze in California history, which has killed 85 people, destroyed 14,000 residences and charred an area the size of Chicago — has been fully contained, authorities announced Sunday.

Cal Fire, the state’s forestry and fire protection agency, made the announcement after spending 17 days beating back a blaze that has roared through 153,000 acres of Butte County, which is north of Sacramento. Three straight days of rain helped more than 1,000 firefighters get a foothold.

While the news that first responders and prisoners roped into fighting the Camp Fire's flames have been able to bring this hellish inferno to heel, it's hardly a celebratory moment. Thousands have lost everything they've owned, save the clothes on their back. Where thriving towns once stood, there's nothing but ash. What's more, as multiple hospitals had to be evacuated, medical care in the areas effected by the fire isn't great. The overflowing shelters where thousands of displaced Californians currently call home are a perfect breeding ground for the spread of viruses and disease. Additionally, as the Washington Post points out, “Areas experiencing significant rainfall following a wildfire are at risk for debris flows and flash flooding."

Those who have been affected by the fire have a long way to go before their lives begin to resemble anything that could be called normal.

Image by Devin Cook - Own work, Public Domain. Read the rest

Use this guide to buy the right memory card for your Cyber Monday purchases

If you want to get the most out of dedicated digital audio players, smartphones, cameras, drones, tablets or game systems, you'll need to pair it with the right memory card. No problem: head down to Best Buy or log into Amazon and you ca--shit there's a ton of the frigging things. You can buy the first, least expensive one that you see. That'll work for some things... but not all of the things. Some devices can benefit from speedier, more expensive memory cards. Knowing which card to jam into which thing can be daunting. Thankfully, Gizmodo's David Neild has put together a quick, easy-to-understand guide to figuring it all out.

From Gizmodo:

To start with you’ve got a choice of sizes: The standard SD ones (mostly for digital cameras and bigger gear) and the smaller microSD ones (originally developed for, and still used in, smartphones). Extra letters after the SD mean a newer, improved standard, with room for greater capacities and faster speeds—these include HC (High Capacity) and the latest XC (Extended Capacity), and both are used across the SD and microSD form factors today.

Yeah, it's pretty dry stuff. But it's well presented and deeply useful.

So, before you buy a new memory card to go along with your new digital whatever this Monday, you'd do well to stop by Gizmodo first.

Image by CompactFlash.jpg: André Karwath aka AkaSecure_Digital_Kingston_512MB.png: Andrew pmkMS-PRO-DUO.JPG: KB AlphaXD_card_typeH_512M_Olympus.png: og-emmetMicroSD_card.jpg: KowejaMemory_Stick_Micro.JPG: The original uploader was J Di at English Wikipedia..Later version(s) were uploaded by Toehead2001 at en.wikipedia.derivative work: Moxfyre (talk) - CompactFlash.jpgSecure_Digital_Kingston_512MB.pngMS-PRO-DUO.JPGXD_card_typeH_512M_Olympus.pngMicroSD_card.jpgMemory_Stick_Micro.JPG, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link Read the rest

Behind the scenes with Hollywood's creature making wizards

Immortal Masks make a lot of masks, prosthetics and horrific creatures we see in films that later end up haunting our dreams. This video shows exactly how they do it. Read the rest

Will The Lion King remake be better than the original?

I never saw The Lion King when I was growing up. I was a little on my way out of high school by the time that it popped. But I know a lot of folks adore the film. Despite having never watched it, somehow, I know a reference to it when I see it on TV or in films. It's a cultural touchstone. It's a hell of a big deal, so much so that, instead of letting it stand as a classic, It's being remade.

The animation in the trailer of Jon Favreau’s rehash of the Lion King looks outstanding. It's got a blend of realism and cutesy cartoon going on that I think both kids and grownups will dig. But I have to wonder why this thing exists. Disney's well-known for pulling their intellectual property out of cold storage from time to time, making a bundle of money off of Blu-ray sales and digital downloads and then stashing it away again until for another decade. It's absolutely genius: who wouldn't want to share the films they adored when they were children with their own children. If you saw the original Lion King in a theater with your family, how excited would you be to share that experience with your own child? I'd imagine it'd feel pretty good. Currently, the Lion King is available to download from iTunes. I'd be very interested to understand the financial soothsaying that goes into determining that a whole new imagining of a classic film You can it from Amazon, too. Read the rest

Catch a glimpse of the BBC's The City and the City

I take a lot of comfort from China Miéville's The City & the City. It's a book I return and read at least once a year. It's a novel that dances on the cusp of the fantastical, but never seems to teeter over in a way that makes my imagination work too hard: the world that Miéville presents, where multiple cities uneasily exist in the same space at the same time, is easy for me to hold in my mind.

Also, I frigging love a good murder mystery.

When I heard that there was to be a TV adaption of the novel, I was worried that it might not feel the same as the book that I've become so familiar with over the years. This brief clip makes me feel that maybe, just maybe, those fears have been misplaced. The series made its debut with the BBC this past spring. It's not currently available to stream, but I'm hoping it may pop up as a digital download sooner or later.

Has anyone watched it? Did you enjoy it? Read the rest

All-wheel drive and four-wheel drive explained

Winter's here and, like clockwork, everyone's started driving like idiots.

If you recently bought a vehicle with part-time four wheel drive, four wheel drive, all wheel drive or anything else in between, this might be a good time to brush up on what your ride's good for and what you should avoid. Look no further than this video. Unless you really want to. If so, you'd do well to spend some time reading this story by Jalopnik. Read the rest

FedEx driver delivers racist attacker to the afterlife

Working as a delivery driver is an easy path to a long dark night of the soul. Eight hours of folks wondering why their package wasn't delivered earlier, miserable traffic conditions and heavy carrying heavy stuff up flights of stairs or wheeling boxes around tight corridors on a dolly and people that won't get the hell out of the way is enough to wear anyone down.

And that's before bringing racists into the equation.

From The Washington Post:

Timothy Warren was driving his FedEx truck through a verdant Portland, Ore., neighborhood when the man he would soon kill screamed that Warren was going too fast.

Warren stopped his truck. He was exhausted, he tried to explain to Joseph Magnuson that night in late September, and just wanted to get done with his work.

Magnuson was unrelenting and hurled numerous aggressive insults and racist slurs toward him.

That was something Warren, who is black, could not abide.

He stepped out of the truck, and both men yelled at one another.

Magnuson took a swing. Warren swung back, connecting a single blow above Magnuson’s left eye that sent him tumbling to the ground.

Magnuson, 55, briefly lost consciousness, then died later that evening.

When police began the task of piecing together what the hell had happened, they had plenty to work with. Six people witnessed Magnuson's racist rant. Three of the six had seen the whole thing go down, from soup to nuts. Everyone the cops spoke with said that Warren had been driving safely. Read the rest

the International Space Station has been in orbit for 20 years!

You read that headline right: the ISS has been bopping around our planet for two long decades. How do you celebrate one of the greatest collaborative scientific undertakings in human history? If you're the European Space Agency, you plop out the longest spacebound timelapse video ever taken for the world to enjoy. Read the rest

Amazon won't say how many accounts were affected in security lapse

Amazon admits that it leaked some users' email addresses and names. But it's not saying how the information was exposed, how many were affected, or otherwise talking to those affected or to the press. From the sound of things, it'll be a Christmas miracle if anyone finds out.

From TechCrunch:

TechCrunch that the issue exposed names as well as email addresses. “We have fixed the issue and informed customers who may have been impacted.” The company emailed all impacted users to be cautious.

In response to a request for specifics, a spokesperson said the company had “nothing to add beyond our statement.” The company denies there was a data breach of its website of any of its systems, and says it’s fixed the issue, but dismissed our request for more info including the cause, scale and circumstances of the error.

I guess the good news is that those who Amazon is certain of having been affected by their leaky ship have been contacted via email and told the following:

“We’re contacting you to let you know that our website inadvertently disclosed your email address due to a technical error... The issue has been fixed. This is not a result of anything you have done, and there is no need for you to change your password or take any other action.”

What a relief. After all, Who wants to know how or why a snafu that could have a deep impact on their personal finances occurred. Give me a vague explanation of a serious issue, any day. Read the rest

New EU border security pilot program is all kinds of creepy.

If you're planning on traveling to the European Union in the near future, you'd best grease up as a new border security project is planning on sliding into your background, personal story and biometrics before you have a chance top step off of your plane.

From Lonely Planet:

A new EU-funded project designed to ramp up security will put travelers from outside the European Union to the test by using lie-detecting technology. Countries participating in the project include Luxembourg, Greece, Cyprus, Poland, Spain, Hungary, Germany, Latvia and the UK.

The iBorderCtrl project has been implemented because more than 700 million people enter the EU every year, and the huge volume of travelers and vehicles is putting pressure on external borders. This makes it increasingly difficult for border staff to uphold strict security protocols including checking the travel documents and biometrics of every passenger, while keeping disruption to a minimum. The project aims to facilitate the work of border guards in spotting illegal immigrants, and contribute to the prevention of crime and terrorism.

As part of the project which was seemingly named by someone who's watched Hackers at least 90 times, iBorderCtrl will consist of two parts. The first is a creepy online component that visitors to countries enrolled in the program will have to endure before they leave home. Speaking to a virtual border guard, they'll be asked about their gender, ethnicity and to upload a photo of their passport in order to sort out their visa. The program will also inform travelers of their rights while they're in the EU. Read the rest

Peter Jackson's They Shall Not Grow Old is a stunning act of remembrance

Everyone raised in my hometown learned to recite In Flanders Fields in school. Every year, as November 11th, Remembrance Day, drew near, we were taught about the First World War. We made poppies. We prepared for a concert to honor our veterans. Elderly men with often vacant, watery eyes would visit our classrooms and talk to us about their time overseas. Sometimes they cried. Other times, they laughed as they talked about long absent friends and their lost youth. As I grew older, I marched in my town's annual Remembrance Day parade: first as an cadet and later in a different uniform. Each year as we gathered at the armory after the parade had ended, there were fewer survivors of the First and Second World War there to greet us. Decades have passed since those days. The men and women who served their fellows and the future generations that would become of them have largely passed on.

No matter where I am in the world, I take pause on November 11th, as many others do, to remember those that gave up their lives in the name of democracy and decency. I try to hold the millions that died from hate, xenophobia and greed. I give thanks that I am now too old and too broken to fight. I fear for those in uniform today that will see things that will never leave them and for those who deployed who will never come home.Amidst these meditations, I wonder over who will carry the torch of remembrance of wars and atrocities past, once those who survived them are no more. Read the rest

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