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Apple to Fix FaceTime Bug that Allows Eavesdropping

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 21:48
Apple has made the group chat function in FaceTime unavailable after users said there was a bug that could allow callers to activate another user's microphone remotely.   The bug was demonstrated through videos online and reported on this week by tech blogs. Reports said the bug in the video chat app could allow an iPhone user calling another iPhone through Group Facetime to hear the audio from the other handset — even if the receiver did not accept the call.   "We're aware of this issue and we have identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week," Apple said in a statement Tuesday.   Its online support page noted there was a technical issue with the application and that Group Facetime "is temporarily unavailable."   The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, issued a statement warning people about the bug and urging people to disable the app until Apple fixes the issue.  

Hacks and Facts: 10 Things to Know About Data Privacy

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 03:58
From hackers exposing private information online to the handling of users' data by internet giants, online privacy has become a matter of growing concern for countries, companies and people alike. On Monday, countries around the world marked Data Privacy Day, also known as Data Protection Day — an initiative to raise awareness of internet safety issues. Here are 10 facts about online privacy: * Less than 60 percent of countries have laws to secure the protection of data and privacy. * Europe's data protection regulators have received more than 95,000 complaints about possible data breaches since the adoption of a landmark EU privacy law in May. * More than one in two respondents to a 2018 global survey by pollster CIGI-Ipsos said they had grown more concerned about their online privacy compared to the previous year. * Almost 40 percent of respondents to another survey by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab said they did not know how to protect themselves from cybercrime. * A survey of tech professionals by security key maker Yubico suggested experts might not live up to safety standards. It found almost 70 percent of respondents shared passwords with colleagues. * More than half reused an average of five passwords across their work and personal accounts. * About 4 percent of people targeted by an email phishing campaign would click on it. * In 2017, almost 17 million U.S. consumers experienced identity fraud — the unauthorized use of personal information, such as credit card data, for financial gain. * Data breaches carried out by hackers are expected to go up 22 percent annually, exposing some 146 billion records, including personal information such as name, address and credit card numbers by 2023. * Data breaches cost companies worldwide almost $4 million on average for every incident.

Internet Addiction Spawns US Treatment Programs

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 03:31
When Danny Reagan was 13, he began exhibiting signs of what doctors usually associate with drug addiction. He became agitated, secretive and withdrew from friends. He had quit baseball and Boy Scouts, and he stopped doing homework and showering. But he was not using drugs. He was hooked on YouTube and video games, to the point where he could do nothing else. As doctors would confirm, he was addicted to his electronics. "After I got my console, I kind of fell in love with it," Danny, now 16 and a junior in a Cincinnati high school, said. "I liked being able to kind of shut everything out and just relax.” Danny was different from typical plugged-in American teenagers. Psychiatrists say internet addiction, characterized by a loss of control over internet use and disregard for the consequences of it, affects up to 8 percent of Americans and is becoming more common around the world. "We're all mildly addicted. I think that's obvious to see in our behavior," said psychiatrist Kimberly Young, who has led the field of research since founding the Center for Internet Addiction in 1995. "It becomes a public health concern obviously as health is influenced by the behavior.” Psychiatrists such as Young who have studied compulsive internet behavior for decades are now seeing more cases, prompting a wave of new treatment programs to open across the United States. Mental health centers in Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and other states are adding inpatient internet addiction treatment to their line of services. Some skeptics view internet addiction as a false condition, contrived by teenagers who refuse to put away their smartphones, and the Reagans say they have had trouble explaining it to extended family. Anthony Bean, a psychologist and author of a clinician's guide to video game therapy, said that excessive gaming and internet use might indicate other mental illnesses but should not be labeled independent disorders. "It's kind of like pathologizing a behavior without actually understanding what's going on," he said. 'Reboot' At first, Danny's parents took him to doctors and made him sign contracts pledging to limit his internet use. Nothing worked, until they discovered a pioneering residential therapy center in Mason, Ohio, about 22 miles (35 km) north of Cincinnati. The "Reboot" program at the Lindner Center for Hope offers inpatient treatment for 11 to 17-year-olds who, like Danny, have addictions including online gaming, gambling, social media, pornography and sexting, often to escape from symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Danny was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder at age 5 and Anxiety Disorder at 6, and doctors said he developed an internet addiction to cope with those disorders. "Reboot" patients spend 28 days at a suburban facility equipped with 16 bedrooms, classrooms, a gym and a dining hall. They undergo diagnostic tests, psychotherapy, and learn to moderate their internet use. Chris Tuell, clinical director of addiction services, started the program in December after seeing several cases, including Danny's, where young people were using the internet to "self-medicate" instead of drugs and alcohol. The internet, while not officially recognized as an addictive substance, similarly hijacks the brain's reward system by triggering the release of pleasure-inducing chemicals and is accessible from an early age, Tuell said. "The brain really doesn't care what it is, whether I pour it down my throat or put it in my nose or see it with my eyes or do it with my hands," Tuell said. "A lot of the same neurochemicals in the brain are occurring.” Even so, recovering from internet addiction is different from other addictions because it is not about "getting sober," Tuell said. The internet has become inevitable and essential in schools, at home and in the workplace. "It's always there," Danny said, pulling out his smartphone. "I feel it in my pocket. But I'm better at ignoring it.” Is it a real disorder? Medical experts have begun taking internet addiction more seriously. Neither the World Health Organization (WHO) nor the American Psychiatric Association recognize internet addiction as a disorder. Last year, however, the WHO recognized the more specific Gaming Disorder following years of research in China, South Korea and Taiwan, where doctors have called it a public health crisis. Some online games and console manufacturers have advised gamers against playing to excess. YouTube has created a time monitoring tool to nudge viewers to take breaks from their screens as part of its parent company Google's "digital wellbeing" initiative. WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said internet addiction is the subject of "intensive research" and consideration for future classification. The American Psychiatric Association has labeled gaming disorder a "condition for further study.” "Whether it's classified or not, people are presenting with these problems," Tuell said. Tuell recalled one person whose addiction was so severe that the patient would defecate on himself rather than leave his electronics to use the bathroom. Research on internet addiction may soon produce empirical results to meet medical classification standards, Tuell said, as psychologists have found evidence of a brain adaptation in teens who compulsively play games and use the internet. "It's not a choice, it's an actual disorder and a disease," said Danny. "People who joke about it not being serious enough to be super official, it hurts me personally.”      

EU Agency Says Iran Likely to Step Up Cyberespionage

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 03:04
Iran is likely to expand its cyberespionage activities as its relations with Western powers worsen, the European Union digital security agency said Monday. Iranian hackers are behind several cyberattacks and online disinformation campaigns in recent years as the country tries to strengthen its clout in the Middle East and beyond, a Reuters Special Report published in November found. This month the European Union imposed its first sanctions on Iran since world powers agreed to a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, in a reaction to Iran's ballistic missile tests and assassination plots on European soil. "Newly imposed sanctions on Iran are likely to push the country to intensify state-sponsored cyber threat activities in pursuit of its geopolitical and strategic objectives at a regional level," the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) said in a report. A senior Iranian official rejected the report, saying "these are all part of a psychological war launched by the United States and its allies against Iran." ENISA lists state-sponsored hackers as among the highest threats to the bloc's digital security. It said that China, Russia and Iran are "the three most capable and active cyber actors tied to economic espionage." Iran, Russia and China have repeatedly denied U.S. allegations that their governments conduct cyberattacks. A malicious computer worm known as Stuxnet that was used to attack a uranium enrichment facility at Iran's Natanz underground nuclear site a decade ago is widely believed to have been developed by the United States and Israel. When Washington imposed sanctions on several Iranians in March 2018 for hacking on behalf of the Iranian government, Iran's foreign ministry denounced the move as "provocative, illegitimate, and without any justifiable reason." In November, the United States indicted two Iranians for launching a major cyberattack using ransomware known as SamSam and sanctioned two others for helping exchange the ransom payments from Bitcoin digital currency into rials. Cyber activities are expected to increase in coming months, particularly if Iran fails to keep the EU committed to a 2015 landmark nuclear deal, ENISA said.

Facebook Tightens Paid Ads Rules Ahead of EU Elections

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 23:05
Facebook said on Monday it will beef up its rules and safeguards around political ads to prevent foreign interference in elections, including those in Europe this year. The world's largest social network has faced pressure from regulators and the public after last year's revelation that British consultancy Cambridge Analytica had improperly acquired data on millions of U.S. users to target election advertising. "We will require those wanting to run political and issue ads to be authorized, and we will display a 'paid for by' disclaimer on those ads," Facebook's recently-appointed head of global affairs Nick Clegg told a news conference. Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister hired by Facebook in October last year, said the new tools to be launched in late March aim to help protect the integrity of European Union elections due to be held this spring. Facebook said that the transparency tools for electoral ads would be expanded globally before the end of June, while the tools would be in launched in India in February before its elections and in Ukraine and Israel before polls in both. The tools are similar to those adopted for the U.S. mid-term elections, Clegg said, adding that all political ads will be stored in a publicly searchable library for up to seven years. This will contain information such as the amount of money spent and the number of impressions displayed, who paid for them and the demographics of those who saw them, including age, gender and location. The new tools, which will be launched in March, will also cover 'issue ads' which do not explicitly back one candidate or political party but which focus on highly politicized topics like immigration. Facebook said it will also set up two new regional operations centers focused on monitoring election-related content in its Dublin and Singapore offices. Clegg denied that Facebook sells users' data. "Selling people's information to advertisers would not only be the wrong thing to do, it would undermine the way we do business, because it would reduce the unique value of our service to advertisers," he said.    

Brewing the Perfect Cup of Coffee with Blockchain

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 14:13
Blockchain technology – a high-tech way to securely manage and protect data – is best-known as the driver of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Now, a U.S. coffee importer is using it to improve the lives of coffee farmers and some of the poorest communities in Central America. Faith Lapidus reports.

Southern India Boasts World’s First Fully Solar Powered Airport

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 16:05
Entering or exiting Cochin International airport in India’s southern Kochi city, it is hard to miss the sea of solar panels glinting under the sun on a vast stretch of land on one side of the road and on top of a massive car park. Close by, a huge billboard proclaims the airport’s status as the world’s first airport fully powered by solar energy. The journey to that title began with a pilot project five years ago as airport authorities searched for ways to minimize ever-growing power bills.  “We put solar panels on the rooftop of Terminal One, we observed it for a year and we found it is quite good and can be safely scaled up,” said the airport’s managing director, V.J.Kurian. Now, the energy being produced by the sun-drenched airport’s solar plant meets its needs round the clock. The excess power harnessed by tens of thousands of solar panels during the day is stored in the city’s energy grid.  “We will produce the entire energy during these morning 10 hours and directly we will use some part of energy,” explained project manager Jerrin John Parakkal. “Excess energy we will bank to grid and then during nighttime we will take it back.” ​UN award In 2018 Cochin airport won one of the United Nations top environmental awards: Champions of the Earth Award for Entrepreneurial Vision. The project is a testament to India’s ambitions of rapidly scaling up the use of solar power to reduce its carbon emissions and has prompted other airports and infrastructure projects to explore the potential of solar energy. Kurian, who led the project, recalls that initially there were doubts about the project’s financial viability — the cost of producing one megawatt of power was pegged at $1 million. But the falling price of solar panels in recent years brought down costs and helped make the ambitious project a reality.  “We get back our investment in less than six years time, which I thought was an excellent investment opportunity and next 25 years is meant for all profit,” Kurian said. Expanding capacity To retain the title it received in 2015 as the world’s first fully solar powered airport, the facility has steadily expanded capacity. The more than 29 megawatts currently produced will soon be scaled up to nearly 40 megawatts to meet the needs of ever-growing passenger traffic in a city that is Kerala’s commercial capital and a gateway to tourist destinations.  The solar panels had been placed on a large tract of unused land set aside for future cargo, but because usable land is the biggest challenge for solar projects, airport authorities have searched for alternatives. They found available space on top of the airport’s car park and a 2-kilometer canal. Airport authorities estimate that the elimination of carbon emissions over 25 years would be equal to planting 3 million trees. And to make the green project even greener, organic vegetables are being grown under the solar panels and on spare land on the side. About 60 tons were produced last year and were sold to airport staff. Interest in solar grows The project has prompted interest from other airports in India and in some African countries, which are also eyeing the potential of solar power.  “We have signed an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the government of Ghana. We have had a team from Liberia who were interested in us helping them to put up solar panels specially in the airport sector,” Kurian said. The Cochin airport is being seen as a model of how from household rooftops to big infrastructure projects, sunny India is increasingly turning to solar power.  “They have a demonstration effect also. So many people walk through the airport. If they get to know that solar energy is being utilized on such a scale, that means it is a viable solution,” said Amit Kumar, a solar energy expert with the Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi. India’s massive rail sector is also turning to solar energy. Solar panels are being placed on top of some train coaches. A rail station in the northeastern city of Guwahati has begun generating enough solar power to meet its needs. The government is also exploring how highways could be lighted with solar lights. India’s target of increasing its solar capacity to 100,000 megawatts by 2022 has attracted big investments in the sector. Japan’s SoftBank has promised to invest $20 billion in Indian solar projects, and some of the world’s largest solar parks are being built in the country. That has raised hopes that India will be able to meet its commitment of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions about 35 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. However experts warn that the imposition of import duties last year on solar panels from China and Malaysia amid a push to increase indigenous manufacturing has affected the momentum of growth. “It is moving fast, but in recent times there have been some hiccups (disruptions). I would say it is moving towards its target, at the moment a bit slowly,” Kumar said.

Southern Indian city of Kochi Boasts World's First Fully Solar Powered Airport

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 16:00
India's southern Kochi city in Kerala state is among the world's most innovative airports, completely powered by solar energy. Winner of the United Nations Champions of the Earth Award for Entrepreneurial Vision in 2018, the project is testimony to India's ambitions of rapidly scaling up the use of solar power to reduce its carbon emissions. Anjana Pasricha has this report.

Seattle's Bullitt Center: A Green Building Inspiring Visitors

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 14:58
Called the "greenest office building in the world," the Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington, generates its own electricity and its own water, collected from rain falling on the roof. Opened on Earth Day in 2013, the Bullitt Center has been nicknamed a "Living Building." Natasha Mozgovaya visited the green building to see for herself what makes it so unusual. Anna Rice narrates her report.

Commission: Put People First in Drive to Automate Jobs

Sat, 01/26/2019 - 17:32
The world of work is going through a major transformation. Technological advances are creating new jobs and at the same time leaving many people behind as their skills are no longer needed. A new study by the International Labor Organization’s Global Commission on the Future of Work addresses the many uncertainties arising from this new reality. The International Labor Organization agrees artificial intelligence, automation and robotics will lead to job losses, as people’s skills become obsolete. But it says these same technological advances, along with the greening of economies also will create millions of new jobs. Change is coming The co-chair of the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, says these advances offer many opportunities. But he warns people must harness the new technologies for the world of work and not be allowed to control the future shape of work. “In the 20th century, we established that labor is not a commodity. In the 21st century, we must also ensure that labor is not a robot. We propose a human in command type of approach ensuring that technology frees workers and improves work rather than reducing their control,” he said. Ramaphosa says change is inevitable and will happen whether people like it or not. “We believe that we would rather be ahead of the curve rather than behind it and get the developments that are unfolding to shape us and to lead us. We need to be ahead so that we can shape the type of world of work that we want to see,” he said. Human-centered conversation In its study, the 27-member commission has adopted a human-centered approach. At this time of unprecedented change, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder says having people at the heart of this debate is critical for achieving a decent future of work. “I think people, families, countries around the world are indeed grappling with the challenges and the opportunities of transformative change at work and the ambition of our commission … is, in a very concise and a very clear, and I think above all an action oriented way to try to set out a road map of how we can indeed seize the opportunities and deal satisfactorily with those challenges,” Ryder said. Ten recommendations After 15 months of work, the commission has come up with 10 recommendations for attaining decent and sustainable work. They include a call for a universal labor guarantee to protect workers’ rights, an adequate living wage and a safe workplace. The commission proposes social protection measures from birth to old age. It says technological change must be managed to boost decent work. It says the gender gap should be closed and equality achieved in the workplace. Ryder says the report puts a heavy emphasis on life-long learning and the renewal of skills throughout one’s working life. “With the rapidity of change being what it is at work today,” he said, “it is simply not realistic to believe that the skills that we acquire at the beginning of our lives in our education, what we tend to think of as a period of our education will serve us throughout a working life. I mean, the shelf life of skills acquired at the beginning is a lot shorter than working life is going to be.” Ryder notes the future number of jobs or the future of employment will not be determined alone by the autonomous forward march of technology. He says that will depend on the choices of policymakers. The commission study indicates it is reasonable to assume that humans and robots will be able to live in harmony with one another — if humans are put in control of the forward application of technology.

At Davos, Nearly Half of WTO Members Agree to Talks on New e-Commerce Rules

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 20:23
Impatient with the lack of World Trade Organization rules to cover the explosive growth of e-commerce, 76 countries and regions agreed on Friday to start negotiating this year on a set of open and predictable regulations. The WTO’s 164 members were unable to consolidate some 25 separate e-commerce proposals at the body’s biennial conference at Buenos Aires in December, including a call to set up a central e-commerce negotiating forum. In a gathering on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, ministers from a smaller group of countries including the United States, the European Union and Japan, agreed to work out an agenda for negotiations they hope to kick off this year on setting new e-commerce rules. “The current WTO rules don’t match the needs of the 21st century. You can tell that from the fact there are no solid rules on e-commerce,” Japan’s trade minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters in Davos. Asked whether China could join the negotiations, Seko said: “What’s very important is to first set high-standard rules. If China could join, we would welcome that.” The WTO failed to reach any new agreements at a ministerial conference in December, which ended in discord in the face of stinging U.S. criticism of the group. The stalemate dashed hopes for new deals on regulating the widening presence of e-commerce. The emergence of the coalition willing to press ahead with new e-commerce rules, despite others’ reservations, reinforces a trend toward the fragmentation of WTO negotiations and away from global “rounds” of talks that have run out of steam. “We will seek to achieve a high-standard outcome that builds on existing WTO agreements and frameworks with the participation of as many WTO members as possible,” members of the coalition said in a joint statement issued on Friday. “We continue to encourage all WTO members to participate in order to further enhance the benefits of electronic commerce for businesses, consumers and the global economy.” E-commerce, which developed largely after the WTO’s creation in 1995, was not part of the Doha round of talks that began in 2001 and eventually collapsed more than a decade later. Many countries insist that Doha-round development issues must be dealt with before new issues can be tackled. But other countries say the WTO needs to move with the times, and note that 70 regional trade agreements already include provisions or chapters on e-commerce, according to a recent study. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration says the WTO is dysfunctional because it has failed to hold China to account for not opening up its economy as envisaged when Beijing joined in 2001. To force reform at the WTO, Trump’s team has refused to allow new appointments to the Appellate Body, the world’s top trade court, a process which requires consensus among member states. As a result, the court is running out of judges, and will be unable to issue binding rulings in disputes.  

Microsoft’s Bing Blocked in China for Two Days

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 11:29
Chinese internet users lost access to Microsoft’s Bing search engine for two days, setting off grumbling about the ruling Communist Party’s increasingly tight online censorship. Microsoft Corp. said Friday that access had been restored. A brief statement gave no reason for the disruption or other details. Comments on social media had accused regulators of choking off access to information. Others complained they were forced to use Chinese search engines they say deliver poor results. “Why can’t we choose what we want to use?” said a comment signed Aurelito on the Sina Weibo microblog service. Government censorship Bing complied with government censorship rules by excluding foreign websites that are blocked by Chinese filters from search results. But President Xi Jinping’s government has steadily tightened control over online activity. The agency that enforces online censorship, the Cyberspace Administration of China, didn’t respond to questions sent by fax. China has by far the biggest population of internet users, with some 800 million people online, according to government data. Foreign sites blocked The Communist Party encourages internet use for business and education but blocks access to foreign websites run by news organizations, human rights and Tibet activists and others deemed subversive. Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has promoted the notion of “internet sovereignty,” or the right of Beijing and other governments to dictate what their publics can do and see online. Chinese filters block access to global social media including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Officials argue such services operating beyond their control pose a threat to national security. Xi’s government also has tightened controls on use of virtual private network technology that can evade its filters. Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit operated a search engine in China until 2010 that excluded blocked sites from results. The company closed that after hacking attacks aimed at stealing Google’s source code and breaking into email accounts were traced to China. That has helped Chinese competitors such as search engine Baidu.com to flourish. But Baidu has been hit by repeated complaints that too many search results are irrelevant or are paid advertising.

Few Responsible for Most Twitter Fakery, Study Finds

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 03:37
A tiny fraction of Twitter users spread the vast majority of fake news in 2016, with conservatives and older people sharing misinformation more, a new study finds.    Scientists examined more than 16,000 U.S. Twitter accounts and found that 16 of them — less than one-tenth of 1 percent — tweeted out nearly 80 percent of the misinformation masquerading as news, according to a study Thursday in the journal Science. About 99 percent of the Twitter users spread virtually no fake information in the most heated part of the election year, said study co-author David Lazer, a Northeastern University political and computer science professor.  Spreading fake information "is taking place in a very seamy but small corner of Twitter,'' Lazer said.    Lazer said misinformation "super sharers'' flood Twitter: an average of 308 pieces of fakery each between Aug. 1 and Dec. 6 in 2016.      And it's not just that few people are spreading it — few people are reading it, Lazer said.    "The vast majority of people are exposed to very little fake news despite the fact that there's a concerted effort to push it into the system,'' Lazer said.    The researchers found the 16,442 accounts they analyzed by starting with a random pool of voter records, matching names to Twitter users and then screening out accounts that appeared to not be controlled by real people.    Their conclusions are similar to those of a study released earlier this month that looked at the spread of false information on Facebook. It also found that few people shared fakery, but those who did were more likely to be over 65 and conservatives.  ​Boost to credibility   That makes this study more believable, because two groups of researchers using different social media platforms, measuring political affiliation differently and with different panels of users came to the same conclusion, said Yonchai Benkler, co-director of Harvard Law School's center on the internet and society. He wasn't part of either study but praised them, saying they should reduce misguided postelection panic about how "out-of-control technological processes had rendered us as a society incapable of telling truth from fiction.''    Experts say a recent showdown between Kentucky Catholic school students and a Native American elder at the Lincoln Memorial seemed to be stoked by a single, now-closed Twitter account. Lazer said the account fit some characteristics of super sharers from his study but it was more left-leaning, which didn't match the study.    Unlike the earlier Facebook study, Lazer didn't interview the people but ranked people's politics based on what they read and shared on Twitter.    The researchers used several different sources of domains for false information masquerading as news — not individual stories but overall sites — from lists compiled by other academics and BuzzFeed. While five outside experts praised the study, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, head of the public policy center at the University of Pennsylvania, found several problems, especially with how they determined fake information sites.    Lazer's team found that among people they categorized as left-leaning and centrists, less than 5 percent shared any fake information. Among those they determined were right-leaning, 11 percent of accounts shared misinformation masquerading as news. For those on the extreme right, it was 21 percent.    This study shows "most of us aren't too bad at circulating information, but some of us are determined propagandists who are trying to manipulate the public sphere,'' said Texas A&M University's Jennifer Mercieca, a historian of political rhetoric who wasn't part of the study. 

Chefs, Truck Drivers Beware: AI Is Coming for Your Jobs

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 00:45
Robots aren't replacing everyone, but a quarter of U.S. jobs will be severely disrupted as artificial intelligence accelerates the automation of existing work, according to a new Brookings Institution report. The report, published Thursday, says roughly 36 million Americans hold jobs with “high exposure” to automation — meaning at least 70 percent of their tasks could soon be performed by machines using current technology. Among those most likely to be affected are cooks, waiters and others in food services; short-haul truck drivers; and clerical office workers. “That population is going to need to upskill, reskill or change jobs fast,” said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings and lead author of the report. Muro said the timeline for the changes could be “a few years or it could be two decades.” But it's likely that automation will happen more swiftly during the next economic downturn. Businesses are typically eager to implement cost-cutting technology as they lay off workers. Some economic studies have found similar shifts toward automating production happened in the early part of previous recessions — and may have contributed to the “jobless recovery” that followed the 2008 financial crisis. But with new advances in artificial intelligence, it's not just industrial and warehouse robots that will alter the American workforce. Self-checkout kiosks and computerized hotel concierges will do their part. Most jobs will change somewhat as machines take over routine tasks, but a majority of U.S. workers will be able to adapt to that shift without being displaced. The changes will hit hardest in smaller cities, especially those in the heartland and Rust Belt and in states like Indiana and Kentucky, according to the report by the Washington think tank. They will also disproportionately affect the younger workers who dominate food services and other industries at highest risk for automation. Some chain restaurants have already shifted to self-ordering machines; a handful have experimented with robot-assisted kitchens. Google this year is piloting the use of its digital voice assistant at hotel lobbies to instantly interpret conversations across a few dozen languages. Autonomous vehicles could replace short-haul delivery drivers. Walmart and other retailers are preparing to open cashier-less stores powered by in-store sensors or cameras with facial recognition technology. “Restaurants will be able to get along with significantly reduced workforces,” Muro said. “In the hotel industry, instead of five people manning a desk to greet people, there's one and people basically serve themselves.” Many economists find that automation has an overall positive effect on the labor market, said Matias Cortes, an assistant professor at York University in Toronto who was not involved with the Brookings report. It can create economic growth, reduce prices and increase demand while also creating new jobs that make up for those that disappear. But Cortes said there's no doubt there are “clear winners and losers.” In the recent past, those hardest hit were men with low levels of education who dominated manufacturing and other blue-collar jobs, and women with intermediate levels of education who dominated clerical and administrative positions. In the future, the class of workers affected by automation could grow as machines become more intelligent. The Brookings report analyzed each occupation's automation potential based on research by the McKinsey management consulting firm. Those jobs that remain largely unscathed will be those requiring not just advanced education, but also interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. “These high-paying jobs require a lot of creativity and problem-solving,” Cortes said. “That's going to be difficult for new technologies to replace.”  

A Peek Inside Amazon Headquarters

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 07:27
Amazon's long search for a new headquarters location — nicknamed HQ2 — came to an end in November 2018, as the company decided to open offices in New York City and Crystal City in Northern Virginia. And while the opening of HQ2 is still months away, Natasha Mozgovaya visited the original Amazon HQ in Seattle.

Impact of Drone Sightings on Newark Airport Detailed

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 04:14
The Federal Aviation Administration said on Wednesday that 43 flights into New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport were required to hold after drone sightings at a nearby airport Tuesday, while nine flights were diverted. The incident comes as major U.S. airports are assessing the threat of drones and have been holding meetings to address the issue. The issue of drones impacting commercial air traffic came to the fore after London's second busiest airport, Gatwick Airport, was severely disrupted in December when drones were sighted on three consecutive days. An FAA spokesman said that Tuesday's event lasted for 21 minutes. The flights into Newark, the 11th busiest U.S. airport, were suspended after a drone was seen flying at 3,500 feet over nearby Teterboro Airport, a small regional airport about 17 miles (27.3 kilometers) away that mostly handles corporate jets and private planes. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Newark and Teterboro airports, as well as New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, said Wednesday that it hosted a working session with the FAA, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies last week "to review and enhance protocols for the rapid detection and interdiction of drones." It declined to discuss specifics for security reasons. The Port Authority added that it is "committed to continuing our collaboration with the FAA and federal and state law enforcement partners to protect against any and all drone threats to the maximum extent possible." The Chicago Department of Aviation said Wednesday it is working closely with the FAA and law enforcement "to ensure safe and secure operations at both O'Hare and Midway" but would not discuss drone preparations. The FAA declined to comment on meetings with major airports, but said it has been in "close coordination" with security agency partners "to address drone security challenges." Drone sightings, rules The drone sightings at London's Gatwick Airport last month resulted in about 1,000 flights being canceled or diverted and affected 140,000 passengers. The U.S. Congress last year gave the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security new powers to disable or destroy threatening drones after officials raised concerns about the use of drones as potential weapons. United Airlines, the largest carrier at Newark, said Tuesday that the impact to its operations had been minimal. The FAA initially said it had reports of two drones on Tuesday evening, but it since clarified to say it had two reports of one drone in northern New Jersey airspace. Earlier this month, the U.S. Transportation Department proposed rules that would allow drones to operate over populated areas and end a requirement for special permits for night use, long-awaited actions that are expected to help speed their commercial use. There are nearly 1.3 million registered drones in the United States and more than 116,000 registered drone operators. Officials say there are hundreds of thousands of additional drones that are not registered.

Blue Origin Shoots NASA Experiments Into Space in Test

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 23:22
Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, Blue Origin, has launched NASA experiments into space on a brief test flight. The New Shepard rocket blasted off Wednesday from West Texas, hoisting a capsule containing the experiments. The eight experiments were exposed to a few minutes of weightlessness, before the capsule parachuted down. The rocket also landed successfully, completing its fourth spaceflight. This was Blue Origin’s 10th test flight, all precursors to launching passengers by year’s end. The capsules have six windows, one for each customer. Blue Origin isn’t taking reservations just yet. Instead, the Kent, Washington, company is focusing on brief research flights. Wednesday’s flight lasted just over 10 minutes, with the capsule reaching 66 miles high, or 107 kilometers, well within the accepted boundary of space. Bezos is the founder of Amazon.  

On the Night Shift, an Office Security Guard Makes the Rounds

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 09:12
Cameras and alarms keep offices and warehouses safe worldwide. But a new kind of security guard is making the rounds looking for anything that is unusual. Michelle Quinn reports.

Google Opens New Office in Berlin With Eye on Expansion

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 20:28
American tech giant Google has opened a new office in Berlin that it says will give it the space to expand in the German capital.   CEO Sundar Pichai said Tuesday the space means Google could more than double the number of Berlin employees to 300. Google currently has 1,400 employees in Germany. Pichai says “the city has long been a capital of culture and media. Now it's also home to a fast-growing startup scene and an engine for innovation.” Google has faced regulatory headwinds in Europe, and was fined 50 million euros ($57 million) Monday in France for alleged violations of European data privacy rules. Google Central Europe vice president Philipp Justus didn't directly address the fine, but said Google's committed to transparency and clarity on what data is collected and how it's used.

France Fines Google $57M for Data Privacy Violation

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 01:24
France's data watchdog fined Google nearly $57 million on Monday, saying the tech giant failed to provide users with transparent information on its data consumer policies and how their personal information was used to display advertising targeting them. The French agency CNIL said U.S.-based Google made it too difficult for internet users to understand and manage their personal preferences online. "The information provided is not sufficiently clear," the regulatory agency said, "for the user to understand the legal basis for targeted advertising is consent, and not Google's legitimate business interests." It was the first ruling using the European Union's strict new General Data Protection Regulation since it was implemented last year, a sweeping set of rules that has set a global standard forcing large American technology firms to examine their practices or risk huge fines. Google said it was studying the ruling to determine its next steps. "People expect high standards of transparency and control from us," Google said. "We're deeply committed to meeting those expectations and the consent requirements" of the new regulations.  

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