20 May 2018

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People Hate Canada's New 'Amber Alert' System

The CBC reports: When the siren-like sounds from an Amber Alert rang out on cellular phones across Ontario on Monday, it sparked a bit of a backlash against Canada's new mobile emergency alert system. The Ontario Provincial Police had issued the alert for a missing eight-year-old boy in the Thunder Bay region. (The boy has since been found safe)... On social media, people startled by the alerts complained about the number of alerts they received and that they had received separate alerts in English and French... Meanwhile, others who were located far from the incident felt that receiving the alert was pointless. "I've received two Amber Alerts today for Thunder Bay, which is 15 hours away from Toronto by car," tweeted Molly Sauter. "Congrats, you have trained me to ignore Emergency Alerts...." The CRTC ordered wireless providers to implement the system to distribute warnings of imminent safety threats such as tornadoes, floods, Amber Alerts or terrorist threats. Telecom companies had favoured an opt-out option or the ability to disable the alarm for some types of alerts. But this was rejected by the broadcasting and telecommunications regulator. Individuals concerned about receiving these alerts are left with a couple of options: they can turn off their phone -- it will not be forced on by the alert -- or mute their phone so they won't hear it. Long-time Slashdot reader knorthern knight complains that the first two alerts-- one in English, followed by one in French -- were then followed by a third (bi-lingual) alert advising recipients to ignore the previous two alerts, since the missing child had been found.

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20 May 2018 7:34am GMT

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Brumby reprieve: Australia to ban wild horses cull at national park

Brumby reprieve: Australia to ban wild horses cull at national parkAustralia said Sunday the culling of wild horses in a unique national park would be banned despite fears the animals were threatening native species. An estimated 6,000 feral horses, known locally as "brumbies", live in Kosciuszko National Park, a UNESCO-recognised biosphere reserve some 470 kilometres (292 miles) south of Sydney that has plant species found nowhere else in the world. Conservationists have called for the brumbies to be culled, saying the introduced animals were causing environmental damage and that their rising numbers were posing a growing threat.


20 May 2018 5:33am GMT

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Did Google's Duplex Testing Break the Law?

An anonymous reader writes: Tech blogger John Gruber appears to have successfully identified one of the restaurants mentioned in a post on Google's AI blog that bragged about "a meal booked through a call from Duplex." Mashable then asked a restaurant employee there if Google had let him know in advance that they'd be receiving a call from their non-human personal assistant AI. "No, of course no," he replied. And "When I asked him to confirm one more time that Duplex had called...he appeared to get nervous and immediately said he needed to go. He then hung up the phone." John Gruber now asks: "How many real-world businesses has Google Duplex been calling and not identifying itself as an AI, leaving people to think they're actually speaking to another human...? And if 'Victor' is correct that Hong's Gourmet had no advance knowledge of the call, Google may have violated California law by recording the call." Friday he added that "This wouldn't send anyone to prison, but it would be a bit of an embarrassment, and would reinforce the notion that Google has a cavalier stance on privacy (and adhering to privacy laws)." The Mercury News also reports that legal experts "raised questions about how Google's possible need to record Duplex's phone conversations to improve its artificial intelligence may come in conflict with California's strict two-party consent law, where all parties involved in a private phone conversation need to agree to being recorded." For another perspective, Gizmodo's senior reviews editor reminds readers that "pretty much all tech demos are fake as hell." Speaking of Google's controversial Duplex demo, she writes that "If it didn't happen, if it is all a lie, well then I'll be totally disappointed. But I can't say I'll be surprised."

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20 May 2018 4:34am GMT

Repo Men Scan Billions of License Plates -- For the Government

The Washington Post notes the billions of license plate scans coming from modern repo men "able to use big data to find targets" -- including one who drives "a beat-up Ford Crown Victoria sedan." It had four small cameras mounted on the trunk and a laptop bolted to the dash. The high-speed cameras captured every passing license plate. The computer contained a growing list of hundreds of thousands of vehicles with seriously late loans. The system could spot a repossession in an instant. Even better, it could keep tabs on a car long before the loan went bad... Repo agents are the unpopular foot soldiers in the nation's $1.2 trillion auto loan market... they are the closest most people come to a faceless, sophisticated financial system that can upend their lives... Derek Lewis works for Relentless Recovery, the largest repo company in Ohio and its busiest collector of license plate scans. Last year, the company repossessed more than 25,500 vehicles -- including tractor trailers and riding lawn mowers. Business has more than doubled since 2014, the company said. Even with the rising deployment of remote engine cutoffs and GPS locators in cars, repo agencies remain dominant. Relentless scanned 28 million license plates last year, a demonstration of its recent, heavy push into technology. It now has more than 40 camera-equipped vehicles, mostly spotter cars. Agents are finding repos they never would have a few years ago. The company's goal is to capture every plate in Ohio and use that information to reveal patterns... "It's kind of scary, but it's amazing," said Alana Ferrante, chief executive of Relentless. Repo agents are responsible for the majority of the billions of license plate scans produced nationwide. But they don't control the information. Most of that data is owned by Digital Recognition Network (DRN), a Fort Worth company that is the largest provider of license-plate-recognition systems. And DRN sells the information to insurance companies, private investigators -- even other repo agents. DRN is a sister company to Vigilant Solutions, which provides the plate scans to law enforcement, including police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Both companies declined to respond to questions about their operations... For repo companies, one worry is whether they are producing information that others are monetizing.

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20 May 2018 1:34am GMT

19 May 2018

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Surgically Implanted Sensor Designed to Track Cows

Surgically Implanted Sensor Designed to Track CowsThe subcutaneous devices are designed to monitor cattle and provide data...but their inventor really wants them to be used in humans.


19 May 2018 7:05pm GMT

Houston Texans Star J.J. Watt Will Pay for the Santa Fe High School Victims' Funerals

Houston Texans Star J.J. Watt Will Pay for the Santa Fe High School Victims' FuneralsTen people were killed in the attack


19 May 2018 6:54pm GMT

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Blunder burns unicorn attack that exploited Windows and Reader

Clicking on a PDF was all it took to infect older versions of Windows.

19 May 2018 6:00pm GMT

FCC investigates site that let most US mobile phones’ location be exposed

Wyden: mobile phone companies', contractors' view of security is "negligent."

19 May 2018 3:15pm GMT

A dozen years after near-death, Star Trek’s future may be stronger than ever

2005's Enterprise finale stopped ~18 years of Trek on TV-how did today's renaissance occur?

19 May 2018 2:00pm GMT