AI

Microsoft's AI Judges Age From Snapshots, With Mixed Results 50

Posted by timothy
from the are-humans-all-that-much-better? dept.
mikejuk writes: A Microsoft Research project that lets users upload photos and estimates their age and gender has attracted more attention than expected — not all of it complimentary. The How-Old.net site demonstrates of some of the capabilities of the Face API included in Microsoft's Project Oxford that was announced at Build. It may have been expected to be a source of amusement but instead it backfired when people started to upload their own photos and discovered just how wrong its estimates could be. It demonstrates not only that machine learning has a long way to go before it's good at estimating age, but also that machine learning may not be the most politically correct way to go about answering the question 'How Old Do I look'. It might be better to employ and algorithm that built in all the rules of how to make a polite answer to that request — such as always knock a decade off the age of anyone over 28. Perhaps this particular neural network needs to learn some social skills before pronouncing how old people look. However it is capable of telling some truths — a photo of Barak Obama in 2005 gives an estimated age of 46, close to his real age of 44, but just 9 years later in 2014 the age guessing robot places him at 65. It seems that Mr President aged 20 years in less than 10 years of office.
Patents

Patent Issued Covering Phone Notifications of Delivery Time and Invoice Quantity 59

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-should-patent-the-rubber-stamp dept.
eldavojohn writes: The staggering ingenuity of the U.S. Patent system has again been showcased by the EFF's analysis of recent patents. This week's patent and follow-up patent cover the futuristic innovative idea that when you order something, you can update your order and add additional amounts to your order while it's being processed. But wait, it gets even more innovative! You may one day be able to even to notify when you would like it delivered — on your phone! I know, you're busy wiping all that brain matter off your screen as your head seems to have exploded. Well, it turns out that inventor and patent holder Scott Horstemeyer (aka Eclipse IP, LLC of Delray Beach, FL) found no shortage of targets to go after with his new patents. It appears Tiger Fitness (and every other online retailer) was sending notices to customers about shipments. Did I mention Horstemeyer is a lawyer too? But not just a regular lawyer, a "SUPER lawyer" from the same firm that patented social networking in 2007, sued Uber for using location finding technologies in 2013 and sued Overstock.com as well as a small time shoe seller for using shipping notifications in 2014. A related article at Vox makes this case: "The primary problem with the patent system is, well, the patent system. The system makes it too easy to get broad, vague patents, and the litigation process is tilted too far toward plaintiffs. But because so many big companies make so much money off of this system, few in Congress are willing to consider broader reforms."
Open Source

How an Open Standard API Could Revolutionize Banking 72

Posted by samzenpus
from the cheap-money dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Open bank data will give us the freedom to access all banks in real time and from a single view, automatically calculating the best deals in complete transparency, which will be a significant step forward for social good and give people more control over their finances. Meanwhile, financial tech incubators, accelerators, and startups are creating a more experienced talent pool of developers ready to act upon these newly available assets. From the article: "The United Kingdom government has commissioned a study of the feasibility of UK banks giving customers the ability to share their transactional data with third parties via an open standard API. First mentioned alongside the autumn statement back in December, the chancellor has now outlined plans for a mandatory open banking API standard during the recent budget in March."
Social Networks

Can Riots Be Predicted By Social Media? 141

Posted by timothy
from the not-the-best-ones dept.
sciencehabit writes: The broken glass and burned wreckage are still being cleared in the wake of the riots that convulsed Baltimore's streets on 27 April. The final trigger of the unrest was the funeral of a 25-year-old African-American man who had died in police custody, but observers point to many other root causes, from income inequality to racial discrimination. But for a few researchers who are studying Baltimore's unrest, the question is not the ultimate causes of the riot but its mechanism: How do such riots self-organize and spread? One of those researchers, Dan Braha, a social scientist at the New England Complex Systems Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has been collecting data from Twitter that spans the riot from buildup to aftermath, part of a larger study of social media and social unrest around the world. He spoke to Science about how researchers are helping to predict the riots of the future.
Communications

Apple, IBM To Bring iPads To 5 Million Elderly Japanese 67

Posted by timothy
from the get-them-from-los-angeles-school-kids dept.
itwbennett writes: An initiative between Apple, IBM and Japan Post Holdings could put iPads in the hands of up to 5 million members of Japan's elderly population. The iPads, which will run custom apps from IBM, will supplement Japan Post's Watch Over service where, for a monthly fee, postal employees check on elderly residents and relay information on their well-being to family members.
Government

Tech Credited With Reducing Nigerian Election Death Toll 58

Posted by timothy
from the pat-answers dept.
jfruh writes: Dozens died in the runup to Nigeria's most recent election — a shocking statistic to many Westerners, but a relief in comparison to the much more serious violence that plagued earlier elections. Observers are crediting technology with making the election safer: the use of biometric IDs gave voters more confidence in the results, and social media gave people a chance to blow of anger that might've otherwise results in street brawls.
Bug

Tattoos Found To Interfere With Apple Watch Sensors 393

Posted by timothy
from the clashing-hipsterisms dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A number of early Apple Watch adopters have complained that their tattoos cause interference with many of the new product's key features. According to multiple tattooed sources, inked wrists and hands can disrupt communication with the wearable's sensors installed in the underside of the device leading to malfunction. Owners of Apple Watch have taken to social media to voice their frustration using the hashtag #tattoogate and sharing their disappointment over the newly discovered Apple flaw. One user reported that the Watch's lock system did not disable as it should when the device was placed on a decorated area of skin – forcing those affected to constantly enter their security pins. A further source suggested that notification alerts would fail to 'ping' as they are supposed to, and that heart rate monitoring differed significantly between tattooed and non-tattooed wrist readings.
Earth

Pope Attacked By Climate Change Skeptics 694

Posted by Soulskill
from the infallible-except-when-he-disagrees-with-them dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The Telegraph reports that as the Vatican forges an alliance with the UN to tackle climate change, skeptics accuse Pope Francis of being deeply ill-informed about global warming. The Pope discussed climate change with Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General, who then opened a one-day Vatican conference called "The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development". Organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, SDSN and Religions for Peace, the goal of the conference is to help strengthen the global consensus on the importance of climate change in the context of sustainable development.

But a group of British and American skeptics say the Pope is being fed "mistaken" advice from the UN and that he should stick to speaking out on matters of morality and theology rather than getting involved in the climate change debate. "The Pope has great moral authority but he's not an authority on climate science. He's a learned man but the IPCC has got it wrong," says Jim Lakely of the Heartland Institute, a conservative American pressure group partly funded by billionaire industrialists who question climate change. "The Pope would make a grave mistake if he put his moral authority behind scientists saying that climate change is a threat to the world. Many scientists have concluded that human activity is a minor player. The Earth has been warming since the end of the last Ice Age."

It was the first time the Heartland Institute, which is based in Chicago and has been described by the New York Times as "the primary American organization pushing climate change skepticism," has traveled to Rome to try to influence a pope. "The sideshow envisioned by these organizations will not detract from the deep concern that Pope Francis has for the truth and how it relates to the environment," says Dr. Bernard Brady, Professor and Chair of the Theology Department at the University of St. Thomas. "Pope Francis will probably follow his predecessor, Benedict XVI, recognizing the interrelatedness of climate change with other moral issues and calling for persons, organizations, communities, nations, and indeed the global community, to reconsider established patterns of behavior."
The Courts

Texas Admonishes Judge For Posting Facebook Updates About Her Trials 95

Posted by samzenpus
from the was-that-wrong? dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Michelle Slaughter, a Galveston County judge, says she will appeal a public admonition from state officials that criticized her Facebook posts about cases brought before her court. From the article: "The State Commission on Judicial Conduct ordered Michelle Slaughter, a Galveston County judge, to enroll in a four-hour class on the 'proper and ethical use of social media by judges.' The panel concluded that the judge's posts cast 'reasonable doubt' on her impartiality. At the beginning of a high-profile trial last year in which a father was accused of keeping his nine-year-old son in a six-foot by eight-foot wooden box, the judge instructed jurors not to discuss the case against defendant David Wieseckel with anyone. 'Again, this is by any means of communication. So no texting, e-mailing, talking person to person or on the phone or on Facebook. Any of that is absolutely forbidden,' the judge told jurors. But Slaughter didn't take her own advice, leading to her removal from the case and a mistrial. The defendant eventually was acquitted of unlawful-restraint-of-a-child charges."
Google

Google Insiders Talk About Why Google+ Failed 359

Posted by samzenpus
from the here's-what-happened dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with this story about what happened to Google+ from an employee perspective. "Last month, Google announced that it's changing up its strategy with Google+. In a sense, it's giving up on pitching Google+ as a social network aimed at competing with Facebook. Instead, Google+ will become two separate pieces: Photos and Streams. This didn't come as a surprise — Google+ never really caught on the same way social networks like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn did....Rumors have been swirling for months that Google would change its direction with Google+. Business Insider spoke with a few insiders about what happened to the network that Google believed would change the way people share their lives online. Google+ was really important to Larry Page, too — one person said he was personally involved and wanted to get the whole company behind it. The main problem with Google+, one former Googler says, is the company tried to make it too much like Facebook. Another former Googler agrees, saying the company was 'late to market' and motivated from 'a competitive standpoint.'"
Government

Woman Behind Pakistan's First Hackathon, Sabeen Mahmud, Shot Dead 493

Posted by samzenpus
from the trying-to-silence-the-future dept.
An anonymous reader sends word that Sabeen Mahmud, a prominent Pakistani social and human rights activist, has been shot dead. The progressive activist and organizer who ran Pakistan's first-ever hackathon and led a human rights and a peace-focused nonprofit known as The Second Floor (T2F) was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Karachi. Sabeen Mahmud was leaving the T2F offices with her mother some time after 9pm on Friday evening, reports the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. She was on her way home when she was shot, the paper reports. Her mother also sustained bullet wounds and is currently being treated at a hospital; she is said to be in critical condition.
Facebook

Nepal Earthquake: Facebook To Google, How Tech Is Helping Survivors Reach Out 39

Posted by samzenpus
from the safe-status-update dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Nepal, many social media sites and mobile applications have come up with features that could help locate friends and loved ones. From the Times of India: "Social networking website Facebook, and Google's Person Finder have helped locate the whereabouts of those stranded in quake-hit areas. For instance, members of one Himmatramka family residing in Birgunj in Nepal marked themselves safe on Facebook. 'Our relatives back in India were worried about our safety. So, we marked ourselves safe to inform them,' said Nitesh Himmatramka.
Censorship

Irish Legislator Proposes Law That Would Make Annoying People Online a Crime 114

Posted by Soulskill
from the turn-yourselves-in-at-the-local-pub dept.
An anonymous reader sends this report from TechDirt: Is Ireland looking to pass a law that would "outlaw ebooks and jail people for annoying others?" Well, no, not really, but that's the sort of unintended consequences that follow when laws are updated for the 21st century using little more than a word swap. Ireland has had long-standing laws against harassment via snail mail, telephones and (as of 2007) SMS messages. A 2014 report by the government's somewhat troublingly-named "Internet Content Governance Advisory Group" recommended updating this section of the law to cover email, social media and other internet-related transmissions. ... The broad language -- if read literally -- could make emailing an ebook to someone a criminal offense. Works of fiction are, by definition, false. ... It's the vestigial language from previous iterations of the law -- words meant to target scam artists and aggressive telemarketers -- that is problematic. Simply appending the words "electronic communications" to an old law doesn't address the perceived problem (cyberbullying is cited in the governance group's report). It just creates new problems.
United States

House Bill Slashes Research Critical To Cybersecurity 198

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-more-with-less dept.
dcblogs writes: A U.S. House bill that will set the nation's basic research agenda for the next two years increases funding for computer science, but at the expense of other research areas. The funding bill, sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the chair of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, hikes funding for computer science, but cuts — almost by half — social sciences funding, which includes the study of human behavior. Cybersecurity uses human behavior research because humans are often the weakest security link. Research funding social, behavioral and economic sciences will fall from $272 million to $150 million, a 45% decrease. The bill also takes a big cut out of geosciences research, which includes climate change study, from $1.3 billion to $1.2 billion, an 8% decrease. The insight into human behaviors that comes from the social science research, "is critical to understanding how best to design and implement hardware and software systems that are more secure and easier to use," wrote J. Strother Moore, the Computing Research Association chair and a professor of computer science at the University of Texas.
Facebook

Facebook's "Hello" Tells You Who's Calling Before You Pick Up 78

Posted by samzenpus
from the who-is-it? dept.
Mark Wilson writes: When you receive a call you'll usually see the number of the caller, but this may not be helpful in identifying them before you decide whether to pick up. Facebook's answer to this problem is Hello. This new app comes from the Facebook Messenger team and aims to tell you more about the person getting in touch with you even if you don't have their number saved in your address book. Currently available for Android, the dialer app also allows for the blocking of calls from individuals.
Facebook

Facebook Working To Weed Out Fake Likes 74

Posted by timothy
from the click-here-to-weed-out-fake-likes dept.
jfruh writes In the early days of brands on Facebook, it was crucial for companies to garner as many "likes" as possible to boost their image, and that led to some unethical businesses selling likes that came from fake accounts. Now Facebook is informing brands that they're working to root out fake likes, leaving like counts lower but realer. Now if only I could get my relatives to stop clicking on pictures that say they like puppies and are against cancer.
Privacy

The Upsides of a Surveillance Society 254

Posted by timothy
from the you-mean-it's-not-all-upside? dept.
theodp writes Citing the comeuppance of ESPN reporter Britt McHenry, who was suspended from her job after her filmed ad-hominem attack on a person McHenry deemed to be beneath her in terms of appearance, education, wealth, class, status went viral, The Atlantic's Megan Garber writes that one silver lining of the omnipresence of cameras it that the possibility of exposure can also encourage us to be a little kinder to each other. "Terrible behavior," Garber writes, "whether cruel or violent or something in between, has a greater possibility than it ever has before of being exposed. Just as Uber tracks ratings for both its drivers and its users, and just as Yelp can be a source of shaming for businesses and customers alike, technology at large has afforded a reciprocity between people who, in a previous era, would have occupied different places on the spectrum of power. Which can, again, be a bad thing — but which can also, in McHenry's case, be an extremely beneficial one. It's good that her behavior has been exposed. It's good that her story going viral might discourage similar behavior from other people. It's good that she has publicly promised 'to learn from this mistake.'"
Stats

Social Science Journal 'Bans' Use of p-values 208

Posted by Soulskill
from the let's-argue-about-sabermetrics-instead dept.
sandbagger writes: Editors of Basic and Applied Social Psychology announced in a February editorial that researchers who submit studies for publication would not be allowed to use common statistical methods, including p-values. While p-values are routinely misused in scientific literature, many researchers who understand its proper role are upset about the ban. Biostatistician Steven Goodman said, "This might be a case in which the cure is worse than the disease. The goal should be the intelligent use of statistics. If the journal is going to take away a tool, however misused, they need to substitute it with something more meaningful."
Sony

Wikileaks Publishes Hacked Sony Emails, Documents 143

Posted by samzenpus
from the take-a-look dept.
itwbennett writes Wikileaks has published a searchable database of thousands of emails and documents from Sony Pictures Entertainment that were leaked in late 2014 after the studio was attacked by hackers. Some of the 173,132 emails and 30,287 documents contain highly personal information about Sony employees including home addresses, personal phone numbers and social security numbers, a fact which is likely to raise new concerns about the use of stolen information online.
The Internet

India's Net Neutrality Campaign Picks Up Steam, Sites Withdraw From Internet.org 75

Posted by samzenpus
from the leaving-the-ship dept.
First time accepted submitter arvin (916235) writes The Huffington Post reports on prominent Indian websites withdrawing from Facebook's internet.org initiative. The net neutrality debate in the country has focused on zero-rating, where ISPs offer a free data plan which provides access to a set of websites that pay to be included. Internet.org provides free access to Facebook, Bing, Wikipedia and a few other websites. Another similar service, Airtel Zero, lost its flagship partner as e-commerce company Flipkart withdrew following a social media backlash.

Net neutrality activists believe that as these plans proliferate, access to the open internet will become extremely expensive or unavailable, innovation will slow as for startups are prevented from reaching the market, and the competitive consumer ISP market will be replaced with a cartel negotiating against internet companies. In a campaign similar to that in the US, over 630,000 Indians sent responses to their regulator through the website savetheinternet.in.