The Chicago Department of Transportation announced a new policy earlier this week that will increase the "grace period" -- the time between when a traffic light turns red to when a ticket is automatically issued. The decision has been made to increase the time from 0.1 seconds to 0.3 seconds, following recommendations part of a recent study of its red-light cameras. Ars Technica reports: This will bring the Windy City in line with other American metropolises, including New York City and Philadelphia. In a statement, the city agency said that this increase would "maintain the safety benefits of the program while ensuring the program's fairness." On Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune reported that the city would lose $17 million in revenue this year alone as a result of the expanded grace period. Michael Claffey, a CDOT spokesman, confirmed that figure to Ars. "We want to emphasize that extending this enforcement threshold is not an invitation to drivers to try to beat the red light," CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld also said in the statement. "By accepting the recommendation of the academic team, we are giving the benefit of the doubt to well-intentioned drivers while remaining focused on the most reckless behaviors."
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An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has ordered a "mandatory social media check" on all visa applicants who have ever visited ISIS-controlled territory, according to diplomatic cables obtained by Reuters. The four memos were sent to American diplomatic missions over the past two weeks, with the most recent issued on March 17th. According to Reuters, they provide details into a revised screening process that President Donald Trump has described as "extreme vetting." A memo sent on March 16th rescinds some of the instructions that Tillerson outlined in the previous cables, including an order that would have required visa applicants to hand over all phone numbers, email addresses, and social media accounts that they have used in the past. The secretary of state issued the memo after a Hawaii judge blocked the Trump administration's revised travel ban on citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries. In addition to the social media check, the most recent memo calls for consular officials to identify "populations warranting increased scrutiny." Two former government officials tell Reuters that the social media order could lead to delays in processing visa applications, with one saying that such checks were previously carried out on rare occasions.
Twitter is considering whether or not to build a premium version of its site for select users. It's unclear what the cost would be at this time, but it's very possible it could be in the form of a subscription. Reuters reports: Like most other social media companies, Twitter since its founding 11 years ago has focused on building a huge user base for a free service supported by advertising. Last month it reported it had 319 million users worldwide. Twitter is conducting a survey "to assess the interest in a new, more enhanced version of Tweetdeck," which is an existing tool that helps users navigate the network, spokeswoman Brielle Villablanca said in a statement on Thursday. She went on: "We regularly conduct user research to gather feedback about people's Twitter experience and to better inform our product investment decisions, and we're exploring several ways to make Tweetdeck even more valuable for professionals." There was no indication that Twitter was considering charging fees from all its users. Word of the survey had earlier leaked on Twitter, where a journalist affiliated with the New York Times posted screenshots of what a premium version of Tweetdeck could look like. That version could include "more powerful tools to help marketers, journalists, professionals, and others in our community find out what is happening in the world quicker," according to one of the screenshots posted on the account @andrewtavani.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Rolling Stone: Verizon, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and other major companies have pulled advertisements from YouTube after learning they were paired with videos promoting extremism, terrorism and other offensive topics, The New York Times reports. Among the other companies involved are pharmaceutical giant GSK, HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland and L'Oreal, amounting to a potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Google-owned company. The boycott began last week after a Times of London investigation spurred many major European companies to pull their ads from YouTube. American companies swiftly followed, even after Google promised Tuesday to work harder to block ads on "hateful, offensive and derogatory" videos. Like AT&T, most companies are only pulling their ads from YouTube and will continue to place ads on Google's search platforms, which remain the biggest source of revenue for Google's parent company, Alphabet. Still, the tech giant offered up a slew of promises to assuage marketers and ensure them that they were fixing the problems on YouTube. Due to the massive number of videos on YouTube -- about 400 hours of video is posted each minute -- the site primarily uses an automated system to place ads. While there are some failsafes in place to keep advertisements from appearing alongside offensive content, Google's Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler wrote in a blog post that the company would hire "significant numbers" of employees to review YouTube videos and mark them as inappropriate for ads. He also said Google's latest advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning will help the company review and flag large swaths of videos.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government announced plans to tax ride-sharing providers like Uber for the first time. According to CBC, the latest consumer tax changes included in Wednesday's federal budget "will add to the cost of Uber rides while ending a public-transit credit." The idea behind the decision is to "help level the playing field and create tax fairness." From the report: The proposed levy on Uber and other ride-hailing services would for the first time impose GST/HST on fares, in the same way they are charged on traditional taxi services. The change will broaden the definition of a taxi business to ensure Uber and other web-based ride-hailing services are required to charge and remit GST/HST, adding to the cost of each trip. The effect on federal revenues will be modest, just $3 million in additional revenue in 2017-18, but the budget suggests the measure is to help level the playing field and create tax fairness. The non-refundable public transit tax credit -- a so-called boutique tax credit introduced by the previous Conservative government -- will be phased out on July 1. The credit enabled public transit users to apply 15 per cent of their eligible expenses on monthly passes and other fares toward reducing the amount of tax they owe. Ending that tax break is expected to save Ottawa more than $200 million a year. Of course, Uber Canada isn't so fond of the idea, calling it a "tax on innovation" that would hurt Uber drivers and users. The company said in a statement: "At a time when Canadians spend far too much time stuck in traffic -- and people should be encouraged to leave their cars at home, take public transit, and share rides -- we should be supporting policies that make sustainable transportation more affordable, not more expensive. Federal tax laws already offer small business owners a break on collecting sales tax, but unfairly exclude taxi drivers. The best way to support taxi drivers and level the playing field is to extend the same exemption to them."
An anonymous reader shares an article: It takes money to make money. CSIR-Tech, the commercialisation arm of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), realised this the hard way when it had to shut down its operations for lack of funds. CSIR has filed more than 13,000 patents -- 4,500 in India and 8,800 abroad -- at a cost of $7.6 million over the last three years. Across years, that's a lot of taxpayers' money, which in turn means that the closing of CSIR-Tech is a tacit admission that its work has been an expensive mistake -- a mistake that we tax-paying citizens have paid for. Recently, CSIR's Director-General Girish Sahni claimed that most of CSIR's patents were "bio-data patents", filed solely to enhance the value of a scientist's resume and that the extensive expenditure of public funds spent in filing and maintaining patents was unviable. CSIR claims to have licensed a percentage of its patents, but has so far failed to show any revenue earned from the licences. This compulsive hoarding of patents has come at a huge cost. If CSIR-Tech was privately run, it would have been shut down long ago. Acquiring Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) comes out of our blind adherence to the idea of patenting as an index of innovation. The private sector commercializes patents through the licensing of technology and the sale of patented products to recover the money spent in R&D. But when the funds for R&D come from public sources, mimicking the private sector may not be the best option.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In new filings, prosecutors told a court in Washington, DC that within the coming weeks, they expect to extract all data from the seized cellphones of more than 100 allegedly violent protesters arrested during the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Prosecutors also said that this search is validated by recently issued warrants. The court filing, which was first reported Wednesday by BuzzFeed News, states that approximately half of the protestors prosecuted with rioting or inciting a riot had their phones taken by authorities. Prosecutors hope to uncover any evidence relevant to the case. Under normal judicial procedures, the feds have vowed to share such data with defense attorneys and to delete all irrelevant data. "All of the Rioter Cell Phones were locked, which requires more time-sensitive efforts to try to obtain the data," Jennifer Kerkhoff, an assistant United States attorney, wrote. Such phone extraction is common by law enforcement nationwide using hardware and software created by Cellebrite and other similar firms. Pulling data off phones is likely more difficult under fully updated iPhones and Android devices.
Twelve "new" types of cloud -- including the rare, wave-like asperitas cloud -- have been recognized for the first time by the International Cloud Atlas. From a report: The atlas, which dates back to the 19th Century, is the global reference book for observing and identifying clouds. Last revised in 1987, its new fully-digital edition includes the asperitas after campaigns by citizen scientists. Other new entries include the roll-like volutus, and contrails, clouds formed from the vapour trail of aeroplanes. Since its first publication in 1896, the International Cloud Atlas has become an important reference tool for people working in meteorological services, aviation and shipping. The first edition contained 28 coloured photographs and set out detailed standards for classifying clouds. The last full edition was published in 1975 with a revision in 1987, which quickly became a collector's item. Now, embracing the digital era, the new atlas will initially be available as a web portal, and accessible to the public for the first time.
Ian Barker, writing for BetaNews: Slow patching of security flaws is leaving many US mobile users at risk of falling victim to data breaches according to the findings of a new report. The study from mobile defense specialist Skycure analyzed patch updates among the five leading wireless carriers in the US and finds that 71 percent of mobile devices still run on security patches more than two months old. This is despite Google releasing Android patches every month, indeed six percent of devices are running patches that are six or more months old. Without the most updated patches, these devices are susceptible to attacks, including rapidly rising network attacks and new malware, also detailed in the report.
The Senate voted 50-48 along party lines Thursday to repeal an Obama-era law that requires internet service providers to obtain permission before tracking what customers look at online and selling that information to other companies. PCWorld adds: The Senate's 50-48 vote Thursday on a resolution of disapproval would roll back Federal Communications Commission rules requiring broadband providers to receive opt-in customer permission to share sensitive personal information, including web-browsing history, geolocation, and financial details with third parties. The FCC approved the regulations just five months ago. Thursday's vote was largely along party lines, with Republicans voting to kill the FCC's privacy rules and Democrats voting to keep them. The Senate's resolution, which now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration, would allow broadband providers to collect and sell a "gold mine of data" about customers, said Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat. Kate Tummarello, writing for EFF: [This] would be a crushing loss for online privacy. ISPs act as gatekeepers to the Internet, giving them incredible access to records of what you do online. They shouldn't be able to profit off of the information about what you search for, read about, purchase, and more without your consent. We can still kill this in the House: call your lawmakers today and tell them to protect your privacy from your ISP.
It looks like Hollywood studios are not kidding around the concept of making the movies available in the home mere weeks after their theatrical debuts. Variety has a new report this week that claims that six out of seven Hollywood studios are in discussions. From the report: However, the companies, particularly Fox and Warner Bros., are showing greater flexibility about timing. Initially, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara had kicked off negotiations with exhibitors by offering to cut them in on a percentage of digital revenues if they agreed to let them debut films on-demand for $50 a rental some 17 days after they opened. Currently, most major movies are only made available to rent some 90 days after their release. Some studios offer films for sale electronically roughly 70 days after their bow in theaters. Other studios, particularly Fox and Universal, felt that $50 was too steep a price to ask consumers to pay. They are now trying to get exhibitors to agree to a plan that would involve a lower priced premium on-demand option that was made available at a slightly later date, according to three studio insiders and two exhibition insiders. Fox and Warner Bros., for instance, are considering making films available between 30 to 45 days after their opening, but at $30 a rental, a price they believe won't give customers sticker shock. Universal, which is seen as being the most aggressive negotiator in these talks, would like the home entertainment debut to remain in the 20-day range.
German scientists are switching on "the world's largest artificial sun" in the hope that intense light sources can be used to generate climate-friendly fuel. From a report: The Synlight experiment in Julich, about 19 miles west of Cologne, consists 149 souped-up film projector spotlights and produces light about 10,000 times the intensity of natural sunlight on Earth. When all the lamps are swivelled to concentrate light on a single spot, the instrument can generate temperatures of around 3,500C -- around two to three times the temperature of a blast furnace. "If you went in the room when it was switched on, you'd burn directly," said Prof Bernard Hoffschmidt, a research director at the German Aerospace Center, where the experiment is housed in a protective radiation chamber. The aim of the experiment is to come up with the optimal setup for concentrating natural sunlight to power a reaction to produce hydrogen fuel.
An anonymous reader shares a report: For data and movie geeks, the MPAA's latest "Theatrical Market Statistics" report is a wealth of information about the health of the movie business. The big picture: 246 million people went to the movies in the United States and Canada last year, a 2% increase from the year before. But dig into the trends and things start to get a little more interesting. For instance, looking at per capita attendance broken down by age group shows 18- to 24-year-olds are hitting the big screen at lower rates than they were in 2012, although they saw an uptick last year.
Writing for The New Yorker, Jia Tolentino documents stories of several people -- a nine-month pregnant Lyft driver, for instance -- who contribute to companies that work on the model of gig economy. Through these tales, Tolentino underscores an increasingly growing pattern in the Silicon Valley (and elsewhere) where companies offer hard-labor contracts to people, pay them peanuts (with little liabilities), and yet find a reason to celebrate their business and encourage more to come onboard. From the article: Fiverr, which had raised a hundred and ten million dollars in venture capital by November, 2015, has more about the "In Doers We Trust" campaign on its Web site. In one video, a peppy female voice-over urges "doers" to "always be available," to think about beating "the trust-fund kids," and to pitch themselves to everyone they see, including their dentist. A Fiverr press release about "In Doers We Trust" states, "The campaign positions Fiverr to seize today's emerging zeitgeist of entrepreneurial flexibility, rapid experimentation, and doing more with less. It pushes against bureaucratic overthinking, analysis-paralysis, and excessive whiteboarding." This is the jargon through which the essentially cannibalistic nature of the gig economy is dressed up as an aesthetic. No one wants to eat coffee for lunch or go on a bender of sleep deprivation -- or answer a call from a client while having sex, as recommended in the video. It's a stretch to feel cheerful at all about the Fiverr marketplace, perusing the thousands of listings of people who will record any song, make any happy-birthday video, or design any book cover for five dollars. I'd guess that plenty of the people who advertise services on Fiverr would accept some "whiteboarding" in exchange for employer-sponsored health insurance. At the root of this is the American obsession with self-reliance, which makes it more acceptable to applaud an individual for working himself to death than to argue that an individual working himself to death is evidence of a flawed economic system. The contrast between the gig economy's rhetoric (everyone is always connecting, having fun, and killing it!) and the conditions that allow it to exist (a lack of dependable employment that pays a living wage) makes this kink in our thinking especially clear.
frank249 writes: Elon Musk says that the new NASA authorization legislation "changes almost nothing about what NASA is doing. Existing programs stay in place and there is no added funding for Mars." From a report via Ars Technica: "Musk is absolutely correct on two counts. First, an 'authorization' bill does not provide funding. That comes from appropriations committees. Secondly, while Congress has been interested in building rockets and spacecraft, it is far less interested in investing in the kinds of technology and research that would actually enable a full-fledged Mars exploration program." In other news, SpaceNews reports that "SpaceX has been working with NASA to identify potential landing sites on Mars for both its Red Dragon spacecraft (starting in 2020) and future human missions." From the report: "Paul Wooster of SpaceX said the company, working with scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and elsewhere, had identified several potential landing sites, including one that looks particularly promising -- Arcadia Planitia. Those landing sites are of particular interest, he said, for SpaceX's long-term vision of establishing a human settlement on Mars, but he said the company wouldn't rule out sending Red Dragon spacecraft elsewhere on the planet to serve other customers. 'We're quite open to making use of this platform to take various payloads to other locations as well,' he said. 'We're really looking to turn this into a steady cadence, where we're sending Dragons to Mars on basically every opportunity.' The Red Dragon spacecraft, he said, could carry about one ton of useful payload to Mars, with options for those payloads to remain in the capsule after landing or be deployed on the surface. 'SpaceX is a transportation company,' he said. 'We transport cargo to the space station, we deliver payloads to orbit, so we're very happy to deliver payloads to Mars.'" Fans of the book/movie "The Martian" would be happy if SpaceX does select Arcadia Planitia for their first landing site as that was the landing site of the Ares 3.
According to a recent indictment from the U.S. Department of Justice, a 48-year-old Lithuanian scammer named Evaldas Rimasauskas managed to trick two American technology companies into wiring him $100 million. He was able to perform this feat "by masquerading as a prominent Asian hardware manufacturer," reports The Verge, citing court documents, "and tricking employees into depositing tens of millions of dollars into bank accounts in Latvia, Cyprus, and numerous other countries." From the report: What makes this remarkable is not Rimasauskas' particular phishing scam, which sounds rather standard in the grand scheme of wire fraud and cybersecurity exploits. Rather, it's the amount of money he managed to score and the industry from which he stole it. The indictment specifically describes the companies in vague terms. The first company is "multinational technology company, specializing in internet-related services and products, with headquarters in the United States," the documents read. The second company is a "multinational corporation providing online social media and networking services." Both apparently worked with the same "Asia-based manufacturer of computer hardware," a supplier that the documents indicate was founded some time in the late '80s. What's more important is that representatives at both companies with the power to wire vast sums of money were still tricked by fraudulent email accounts. Rimasauskas even went so far as to create fake contracts on forged company letterhead, fake bank invoices, and various other official-looking documents to convince employees of the two companies to send him money. Rimasauskas has been charged with one count of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. In other words, he faces serious prison time of convicted -- each charge of wire fraud and laundering carries a max sentence of 20 years. The court documents don't reveal the names of the two companies. Though, one could surely think of a few candidates that would fit the descriptions provided in the court documents.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has formally put forward highly controversial digital rights management as a new web standard. "Dubbed Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), this anti-piracy mechanism was crafted by engineers from Google, Microsoft, and Netflix, and has been in development for some time," reports The Register. "The DRM is supposed to thwart copyright infringement by stopping people from ripping video and other content from encrypted high-quality streams." From the report: The latest draft was published last week and formally put forward as a proposed standard soon after. Under W3C rules, a decision over whether to officially adopt EME will depend on a poll of its members. That survey was sent out yesterday and member organizations, who pay an annual fee that varies from $2,250 for the smallest non-profits to $77,000 for larger corporations, will have until April 19 to register their opinions. If EME gets the consortium's rubber stamp of approval, it will lock down the standard for web browsers and video streamers to implement and roll out. The proposed standard is expected to succeed, especially after web founder and W3C director Sir Tim Berners-Lee personally endorsed the measure, arguing that the standard simply reflects modern realities and would allow for greater interoperability and improve online privacy. But EME still faces considerable opposition. One of its most persistent vocal opponents, Cory Doctorow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argues that EME "would give corporations the new right to sue people who engaged in legal activity." He is referring to the most recent controversy where the W3C has tried to strike a balance between legitimate security researchers investigating vulnerabilities in digital rights management software, and hackers trying to circumvent content protection. The W3C notes that the EME specification includes sections on security and privacy, but concedes "the lack of consensus to protect security researchers remains an issue." Its proposed solution remains "establishing best practices for responsible vulnerability disclosure." It also notes that issues of accessibility were ruled to be outside the scope of the EME, although there is an entire webpage dedicated to those issues and finding solutions to them.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: If the U.S. adopts a "dig once" policy, construction workers would install conduits just about any time they build new roads and sidewalks or upgrade existing ones. These conduits are plastic pipes that can house fiber cables. The conduits might be empty when installed, but their presence makes it a lot cheaper and easier to install fiber later, after the road construction is finished. The idea is an old one. U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) has been proposing dig once legislation since 2009, and it has widespread support from broadband-focused consumer advocacy groups. It has never made it all the way through Congress, but it has bipartisan backing from lawmakers who often disagree on the most controversial broadband policy questions, such as net neutrality and municipal broadband. It even got a boost from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who has frequently clashed with Democrats and consumer advocacy groups over broadband -- her "Internet Freedom Act" would wipe out the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules, and she supports state laws that restrict growth of municipal broadband. Blackburn, chair of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, put Eshoo's dig once legislation on the agenda for a hearing she held yesterday on broadband deployment and infrastructure. Blackburn's opening statement (PDF) said that dig once is among the policies she's considering to "facilitate the deployment of communications infrastructure." But her statement did not specifically endorse Eshoo's dig once proposal, which was presented only as a discussion draft with no vote scheduled. The subcommittee also considered a discussion draft that would "creat[e] an inventory of federal assets that can be used to attach or install broadband infrastructure." Dig once legislation received specific support from Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who said that he is "glad to see Ms. Eshoo's 'Dig Once' bill has made a return this Congress. I think that this is smart policy and will help spur broadband deployment across the country."
A hacker or group of hackers calling themselves the "Turkish Crime Family" claim they have access to at least 300 million iCloud accounts, and will delete the alleged cache of data if Apple pays a ransom by early next month. Motherboard is reporting that the hackers are demanding "$75,000 in Bitcoin or Ethereum, another increasingly popular crypto-currency, or $100,000 worth of iTunes gift cards in exchange for deleting the alleged cache of data." From the report: The hackers provided screenshots of alleged emails between the group and members of Apple's security team. One also gave Motherboard access to an email account allegedly used to communicate with Apple. "Are you willing to share a sample of the data set?" an unnamed member of Apple's security team wrote to the hackers a week ago, according to one of the emails stored in the account. (According to the email headers, the return-path of the email is to an address with the @apple.com domain). The hackers also uploaded a YouTube video of them allegedly logging into some of the stolen accounts. The hacker appears to access an elderly woman's iCloud account, which includes backed-up photos, and the ability to remotely wipe the device. Now, the hackers are threatening to reset a number of the iCloud accounts and remotely wipe victim's Apple devices on April 7, unless Apple pays the requested amount. According to one of the emails in the accessed account, the hackers claim to have access to over 300 million Apple email accounts, including those use @icloud and @me domains. However, the hackers appear to be inconsistent in their story; one of the hackers then claimed they had 559 million accounts in all. The hackers did not provide Motherboard with any of the supposedly stolen iCloud accounts to verify this claim, except those shown in the video.