Appiness.io blog

10 Jan 2018
by Admin
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YouTube’s ‘Open Letter’ About Logan Paul Isn’t Very Open At All

YouTube’s corporate communications team doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of the words “open letter.”

On Tuesday, the video platform released a Twitter thread that it claimed was “an open letter to our community.”

The “open letter” thread appeared to be a response to the recent controversy over Logan Paul’s dead body video, but it was vague, oblique and the opposite of any definition of “open.”

The “open letter” seemed to address Paul’s video titled “We Found a Dead Body in Japan’s Suicide Forest.” It shows the YouTube celebrity coming across a body and seeming to make light of the situation.

However, the “open letter” thread never mentions Paul by name nor what penalties he might face.

YouTube did not mention what steps it took against Paul, nor did it mention that he, not YouTube, is the person who removed the controversial video from the platform.

The website did say it was taking steps to ensure a video like Paul’s will never be posted again.

HuffPost reached out to YouTube to get more specifics on what penalties Paul and others could face for videos that violate guidelines, but no one immediately responded.

However, many Twitter users were quick to call out YouTube for its slow, hypocritical reactions to the Paul controversy.

Others just wanted a straight answer to concerns that weren’t openly addressed in the so-called open letter.

Others just didn’t understand why YouTube never gives a straight answer about its working process.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.

09 Jan 2018
by Admin
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Former Google Engineer Suing Company Over Perceived Discrimination Against White Men

An engineer fired from Google last summer over a controversial memo is suing the company for discrimination.

James Damore, 28, filed a class-action lawsuit against Google in the Santa Clara Superior Court in northern California on Monday. He is joined in the suit by David Gudeman, another former Google engineer. Together they are accusing the tech giant of discriminating against employees who are white, male and/or who hold conservative beliefs. 

Damore is the author of a 3,000-word memo in which he argued that the gender gap “in tech and leadership” is due to biological differences between men and women.

Now, he claims the company’s efforts to increase diversity and eradicate misogyny have had the consequence of leaving men and conservative individuals feeling silenced.

In a press conference on Monday, Damore and Gudeman’s attorney Harmeet Dhillon said the lawsuit isn’t just about preserving the rights of conservative white men.

Instead, she argued, it aims to protect “three subclasses of individuals” ― men, Caucasian people, and those who hold conservative viewpoints ― from unfair business practices. Those subclasses could include women and members of racial minorities who identify with one or more of those three groups, she said.

Dhillon said her law firm has spoken with “dozens” of current and former Google employees who describe a company culture where white men and conservatives are frequently shamed, belittled and threatened with blacklisting. She claimed Google has cultivated a “Lord of the Flies mentality,” where “someone can be singled out and group shamed” for expressing views or identities that are deemed unpopular by management.

Debate surrounding discrimination in the male-dominated tech world has raged for months, with women at many of the major Silicon Valley companies coming forward with stories of bias and sexual harassment. Google is currently facing another lawsuit accusing the company of paying female employees less than their male counterparts.

The tech giant has denied the claim that its diversity programs are in any way illegal. In a statement to HuffPost, a Google spokesperson said, “We look forward to defending against Mr. Damore’s lawsuit in court.”

Google fired Damore in August after the engineer circulated his memo, addressing what he deemed to be an “ideological echo chamber” at the company. He claimed that women’s “neuroticism” and men’s “higher drive for status” are among the factors that contribute to gender disparities in tech. Damore also accused Google’s senior leadership of silencing conservative views.

CEO Sundar Pichai said in a note to employees distributed in August that portions of Damore’s memo “violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

Pichai said Damore raised some important questions about Google’s diversity programs, but crossed a line when he suggested, as he paraphrased, that his female colleagues may “have traits that make them less biologically suited” to competitive positions in engineering. 

During a press tour after his firing, Damore said being conservative at Google was comparable to “being gay in the 1950s.” He claimed that employees with conservative beliefs “have to stay in the closet” for fear of retaliation.

Asked during Monday’s press conference why he didn’t report the alleged discrimination to human resources prior to circulating the memo, Damore blamed the company’s culture.

“We were sort of brainwashed to believe this was just the natural course of things,” he said.

But Damore said he would “welcome” the chance to go back to work for Google ― whose workforce is still disproportionately white and male ― and continue fighting for the rights of men, Caucasian people and conservatives.

He said: “I think this would help make Google a truly diverse place.”

08 Jan 2018
by Admin
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Investors Urge Apple To Tackle ‘Growing’ Evidence Of Device Addiction In Kids

Two major Apple shareholders are calling on the company to do more to protect children from the potentially harmful side effects of excessive technology use.

In a letter delivered to Apple on Saturday, representatives from the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and the investment firm Jana Partners LLC urged the tech giant to address the “growing body of evidence” that suggests frequent digital-device use can have “unintentional negative consequences” for children and teens.

“We’re not software engineers, and we don’t pretend to be,” Charles Penner, a partner at Jana, told HuffPost. “And we’re not doctors and we don’t pretend to be. What we’re saying is, hey, software engineers, hey doctors, get together and form a real effort to understand this issue better and go where the research takes you.”

In their letter, representatives of the two investors  ― which collectively control roughly $2 billion worth of Apple shares ― cite several recent studies conducted by universities, medical centers and mental health advocacy groups. Those findings suggest that children who often use smartphones or other digital devices are more likely to be distracted at school, develop depression and sleep less.

“It would defy common sense to argue that this level of usage, by children whose brains are still developing, is not having at least some impact,” the letter reads, “or that the maker of such a powerful product has no role to play in helping parents to ensure it is being used optimally.”

Dr. Michael Rich, founder and director of Harvard University’s Center on Media and Child Health, partnered with the investors to help them craft their call to action.

Smartphones and other digital devices are “dramatically changing the way we behave, the way we relate to each other and the way our society really works,” Rich told HuffPost. 

Apple “can be part of the solution and thus improve their product, and thus improve their customer satisfaction and loyalty,” he said. “There’s more than profits at stake here. There’s actual social change.”

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this article.

The shareholders outlined five steps Apple could take to address their concerns, such as developing new parental controls that would allow for more variations of restricted use, and creating an expert committee of childhood development specialists to help study the issue.

There’s more than profits at stake here. There’s actual social change. Dr. Michael Rich, director of Harvard University’s Center on Media and Child Health

“It’s not the tools themselves that are the problem ― it is actually what we do with them,” Rich said. “You wouldn’t give a power saw to an infant or a toddler, but you would introduce it to a child who is old enough to handle it effectively and do good things with it.”

Penner said the vast majority of reactions to the letter have been favorable. Jim Steyer, chief executive officer of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that promotes safe technology use for children, called the letter a “hugely important development” in curbing “digital addiction.”

A handful of tech leaders have recently spoken out against the potential negative effects of social media and device usage on children. Last year, two former Facebook executives separately argued that the social network is harmful to society.

“It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways,” Sean Parker, Facebook’s founding president, said in an interview with Axios in November. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”

Penner says it’s time for tech companies to evolve with the research.

“The days of just kind of coming up with technology and throwing it out there,” he said, “and 10 years later, seeing what the potentially unintended consequences are, should be over.”

05 Jan 2018
by Admin
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Apple Eyes Fix For Chip Flaw Leaving Consumers Without Secure Web Browsing

FRANKFURT/BENGALURU, Jan 5 (Reuters) – Security issues with Intel Corp microchips are only slowing computers slightly, technology companies said, as researchers played down the need for mass hardware replacements to protect millions of devices from hackers.

Google and other security researchers this week disclosed two major chip flaws – one called Meltdown affecting only Intel Corp chips and one called Spectre affecting nearly all computer chips made in the last decade.

That raised the prospect of Intel being on the hook for lawsuits claiming that software patches to fix the issue would slow computers and effectively force consumers to buy new hardware, driving the company’s shares down.

But Intel said in a statement after U.S. stock markets closed on Thursday that the performance impact of the recent security updates should not be significant and would be mitigated over time.

It said Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Google and Microsoft Corp had all reported little to no performance impact from security patches. 

“Intel continues to believe that the performance impact of these updates is highly workload-dependent and, for the average computer user, should not be significant,” it said.

The company confirmed that the flaws reported by the researchers could allow hackers to steal information from computers, phones and other devices, but insisted that the issue was not a design flaw.

The chipmaker said it would require users to download a patch and update their operating system to fix the issue.

Microsoft and Google have said they expect few performance problems for most of their cloud computing customers.

Apple said in a separate statement late on Thursday that its tests showed patches would not significantly affect processing speeds.

“Our testing with public benchmarks has shown that the changes in the December 2017 updates resulted in no measurable reduction in the performance of macOS and iOS … or in common Web browsing benchmarks,” the California-based firm said.

WHAT EXPERTS SAY

CERT, the cyber security project at Carnegie Mellon University sponsored by the U.S. government, on Friday withdrew its recommendation for the replacement of the central processing units (CPUs) of affected systems.

In the updated guidance, CERT said “operating system and some application updates mitigate these attacks.”

Daniel Gruss, the 31-year-old information security researcher and post-doctoral fellow at Austria’s Graz Technical University who discovered the Meltdown flaw, welcomed Intel’s white paper on the issue.

“This looks much more professional now,” Gruss said in comments emailed to Reuters.

On the change in recommendation from CERT, Gruss said, however, that there were no replacements yet that could address the flaws in processors that he and other researchers have found.

“All CPUs are affected, also very recent ones,” Gruss said. “Furthermore, software updates can fix most of the problems, leaving only a small remaining attack surface.”

Browser makers Google, Microsoft Corp and Mozilla Corp’s Firefox confirmed to Reuters on Thursday that the patches they currently have in place do not protect iOS users.

With Safari and virtually all other popular browsers not patched, hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad users may not have secure means of web browsing until Apple issues its patch.

Apple said it would release a patch for the Safari web browser on its devices within days. It said that there were no known instances of hackers taking advantage of the flaw to date.

(Writing by Abinaya Vijayaraghavan; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri and Patrick Graham)

03 Jan 2018
by Admin
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Silicon Valley’s Problematic Sex Parties On Blast In Upcoming Book

It’s no secret that women looking to get ahead in the tech industry often grapple with sacrifices and risks that their male counterparts don’t, but an upcoming book offers a glimpse at a lesser known element at play: exclusive, drug-fueled sex parties where claims of carnal liberation mask a problematic power dynamic. 

Bloomberg veteran Emily Chang’s upcoming book, Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley, denounces these freewheeling gatherings. An adaptation appeared in Vanity Fair on Tuesday.

Chang spoke to nearly two dozen people familiar with these parties, in which men ― typically first-round investors, prominent entrepreneurs and high-ranking executives ― mingle with young, attractive women working in tech or other tech-aligned industries. 

Anonymous sources described gatherings that are kept under wraps and often involve drugs, Chang wrote:

This is how the night goes down, according to those who have attended. Guests arrive before dinner and are checked in by private security guards, who will turn you away if you’re not on the list. … Alcohol lubricates the conversation until, after the final course, the drugs roll out. Some form of MDMA, a.k.a. Ecstasy or Molly, known for transforming relative strangers into extremely affectionate friends, is de rigueur, including Molly tablets that have been molded into the logos of some of the hottest tech companies. Some refer to these parties as “E-parties.”

The sources said attendees are encouraged to become intimate with other guests. Oftentimes, the hosts enforce a higher ratio of women to men and lean “heavily toward male-heterosexual fantasies,” Chang observed. “Women are often expected to be involved in threesomes that include other women; male gay and bisexual behavior is conspicuously absent.”

While many of the men Chang spoke to view these gatherings as another way they’re disrupting the world, women face a dilemma: Skipping the party means missing out on the business deals and networking that take place there, but attending may have its own set of consequences. 

“If you do participate in these sex parties, don’t ever think about starting a company or having someone invest in you,” one female entrepreneur told Chang. “Those doors get shut. But if you don’t participate, you’re shut out. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

Other women who spoke to Chang said their male colleagues aggressively pursued and sexually harassed them after they found out they had attended some of the gatherings.

That predicament isn’t surprising, given Silicon Valley’s history of gender discrimination: Women in tech are paid less, kept out of high-ranking roles and face rampant sexual harassment. The biggest tech sexual misconduct scandal to unfold last year was at Uber, which fired 20 employees after harassment allegations blew up. 

Chang’s book is due to be published next month. You can read the full adaptation here

30 Dec 2017
by Admin
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2017 Was The Year Of Hacks. 2018 Probably Won’t Be Better.

Once more unto the (data) breach, dear friends.

2017 was notable for some massive data breaches, unintended exposures of sensitive information on the internet and other unfortunate tech incidents. Some were intentional (looking at you, North Korea), and some were not (hello Equifax, nice of you to join us).

2018 probably won’t be any better.

Despite the promise of advancements in fields like AI and machine learning, and despite the hope that we would learn from our mistakes and adhere to better practices in the future, it isn’t clear yet those technologies ― or our own marginally improved habits ― will adequately defend us against increasingly more sophisticated attacks.

That conclusion comes from the cybersecurity company UpGuard, which detailed our current information security environment and the risks to it in its annual cyber risk report published Dec. 18.

“Unfortunately, with the increased pervasiveness of information technology, there has been no concomitant revolution in how professionals tasked with administering these increasingly multifaceted and complex systems do their jobs,” the authors said.

“Indeed, they are fighting this battle with weapons from the last war, and the results have been disastrous.”

With that in mind, here’s a look back at some of this year’s other notable data breaches, leaks and hacks:

Equifax 

In September, consumer credit ratings agency Equifax revealed hackers had stolen the personal details of 143 million Americans (roughly half of all Americans), including highly sensitive information like their Social Security numbers.

Even more infuriating: Equifax waited five months to tell anyone. (The hack itself happened in the spring.) Then it bungled its response, initially forcing those affected to sign a legal document prohibiting them from joining a class-action suit, then inadvertently directing potential victims to a fake phishing site which proceeded to steal yet more information.

Dallas Emergency Sirens

Just before midnight on a Friday in early April, all 156 of the city of Dallas’ emergency sirens started sounding, simultaneously, for no apparent reason.

The hubbub lasted a full 90 minutes before the sirens could be manually overridden and shut down, during which time panicked residents flooded 911 with calls. Dispatchers who typically pick up within 10 seconds were so overwhelmed the wait time hit six minutes.

Officials blamed hackers for the intrusion into their emergency alert system ― a possibility Rocky Vaz, Dallas’ director of emergency management, said nobody had ever considered until it happened.

Deep Root Analytics

This summer, a Republican data analysis company called Deep Root Analytics left exposed a 1.1-terabyte online database containing the personal information of almost all of America’s 200 million registered voters.

In addition to the now-familiar leak of basic information like names, birthdays, addresses and phone numbers, Deep Root exposed deeply personal information about individual voters, including their likely stance on abortion, gun control, stem cell research, environmental issues and 44 other categories.

WannaCry

Not helping our situation: The National Security Agency has for years been diligently finding major weaknesses in commonly used pieces of software. Instead of alerting the affected companies about the vulnerabilities, however, it’s been hiding those aces up its sleeve for future use.

This year, a group of hackers calling themselves the Shadow Brokers stole a bunch of those exploits, then proceeded to turn them loose on the internet. North Korea used one such NSA-developed hacking technique to target Windows, resulting in a piece of ransomware called “WannaCry” that crippled an estimated 230,000 computers around the world.

“Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage,” Microsoft Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith remarked afterward, clearly not happy the NSA failed to alert the company to the vulnerability before North Korea stole the hacking idea. “An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.”

Power Quality Engineering

This Texas-based electrical engineering firm left a port open for an indeterminate amount of time this summer. UpGuard Cyber Risk Research Director Chris Vickery, who discovered the breach, was able to access and download highly sensitive data and schematics for PQE’s customers, including the city of Austin, Dell, Oracle, SBC Telecom (a subsidiary of AT&T), Texas Instruments and others.

And we aren’t using the term “highly sensitive” lightly here. One document, labeled, “Director of Central Intelligence Directive No. 6/9,” described in detail how to configure a “Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.” If you aren’t familiar, the government uses SCIFs for its most sensitive intelligence briefings. The White House Situation Room? Yep, that’s a SCIF.

State Election Systems

We also learned this year that Russian hackers targeted election systems in 21 states during the 2016 presidential election (to say nothing of their activity on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc.), as part of what the Department of Homeland Security called “a decade-long campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. Government and its citizens.”

Jeanette Manfra, acting deputy under secretary for cybersecurity and communications, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in June that there’s no evidence the Russians successfully changed votes or altered the outcome of the election. Instead, it’s more likely the cyberattacks were “intended or used to undermine public confidence in electoral processes.”

Uber

In November, yet another skeleton fell out of Uber’s closet when it acknowledged it paid hackers $100,000 to keep quiet about an October 2016 breach that led to the disclosure of 57 million customers’ personal data. 600,000 Uber drivers also had their names and driver’s license numbers stolen.

Uber maintains there’s no evidence the data was used for nefarious purposes. While that may be true, it’s nevertheless deeply concerning the company tried to bury the news instead of disclosing the breach immediately to the affected customers and proper government authorities.

Pentagon and Defense Contractor Blunders

2017 saw several breaches of sensitive information from both the Pentagon and the contractors it works with. In one of the more egregious instances, a defense contractor failed to secure a web server containing top-secret intelligence documents. Satellite surveillance of North Korea’s missile arsenal, battlefield imagery from Afghanistan, and what appears to be authentication keys that granted access to Pentagon servers were all left exposed.

In another, separate breach, the Pentagon itself was at fault when United States Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) accidentally left critical data exposed, including intelligence so sensitive it was marked as restricted from even being shared with US allies. 

Alteryx 

This marketing and analytics firm left a database containing detailed information on 123 million American households (that’s basically all of them) unsecured and open to the public. The database in question likely came from Experian, another consumer credit rating agency, and contained 248 data points on each household in question, including basic information like addresses and phone numbers, and more descriptive data like whether you’re more of a dog person or a cat person, what magazines you subscribe to, and the number and ages of your kids.

“If you’re an American, your information probably was exposed,” Vickery told HuffPost. 

Where do we go from here?

Are hacks and breaches like these just the new normal? Absolutely not, UpGuard co-founder Mike Baukes told HuffPost in an email.

“We should never accept this systemic insecurity as the new normal,” he said. “That is a cop-out that excuses the status quo as somehow acceptable, instead of a frighteningly insecure state of affairs in which the personal and financial information of the most vulnerable citizens is endangered by cyber risk.”

We should never accept this systemic insecurity as the new normal.
UpGuard co-founder Mike Baukes

Rather than acceptance, Baukes said he hopes these increasingly more brazen and damaging attacks will spur people to action. Fortune 500 companies and civil servants alike need to commit more resources to mitigating the risk, and politicians at the federal level need to step up as well to protect constituents who are hacking victims.

“As of right now, there is no federal, unified breach disclosure law; state laws vary greatly on just when breaches must be disclosed to affected individuals,” he noted.

“While regulations already exist governing the disclosure of particularly sensitive information, like medical records, there should be a federal breach disclosure law mandating timely notification and the preservation of relevant data by any government agencies or private corporations falling prey to data theft.” 

28 Dec 2017
by Admin
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Spend Winter Curled Up With Your Favorite On-Sale Movies And Shows

Bitter-cold weather has arrived, which means one thing: It’s officially movie-nights-curled-up-on-the-couch season.

Lucky for you (and your wallet), Amazon has just kicked off its second annual sale on digital content via Amazon’s Digital Day. In layman’s terms, that means they’re deeply discounting digital products, like apps, games, TV shows, movies, digital comics, and more. Some of the cuts go as deep as 80 percent, and that’s something we can get behind. But, these deals only last Dec. 29, so act fast!

And, with much of the U.S. battening down for the winter to wait out the icy cold, it’s kind of the perfect time to snag good deals on your favorite flicks to enjoy while cozied up under your favorite blanket. 

Below, we’ve pulled together some of our favorite movies and TV shows on sale on Amazon right now, so you can get back to your movie night: 

Moonlight

Not looking for a new movie or TV show? Here are some of the other great deals on Amazon right now: 

– $10 Amazon.com credit when you subscribe to HBO NOW on Amazon

– Save 30% or more off video games like Sonic Forces, Civilization VI, NBA 2K18, and WWE 2K18

– 25% or more off PC software like Rosetta Stone, Adobe Creative Cloud Photography and Quickbooks

– Save up to 80% off mobile games from Nickelodeon including Dora’s Great Big World, PAW Patrol Pups to the Rescue, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Half-Shell Heroes

– 3 Months for $1 of Amazon Music Unlimited. Only new subscribers are eligible for this deal

HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page.

24 Dec 2017
by Admin
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The Bitcoin Hoax

Imagine an unholy alliance between cyber-utopians, money-launderers, financial fraudsters and ultra free-marketeers. What sort of toxic contraption might they dream up?

That would be Bitcoin.

Remind me, what is the problem for which Bitcoin is a supposed solution? More on that in a moment.

For the time being, the immediate Bitcoin problem is that speculators in the virtual currency have been on a wild ride, with the price of a Bitcoin rising from under $1,000 to as high as over $18,000 and back down to $12,000 before setting for the moment around $14,000. This makes a few early bettors very rich, but exactly what real economic good does that do?

Okay, in case you missed it, here’s the pitch. Paying with checks, credit cards or bank transfers leaves a trail. But there is no trail with Bitcoin. In a world of drug traffickers, terrorists and Kremlin weaponizing of all things cyber, this is supposed to be a plus. Say what?

Conventional forms of money other than cash have transaction costs. Your checkbook, your credit cards, not to mention digital forms of money transfer such as the PayPal and Venmo, nick you for fees. But there is no fee with Bitcoin. (Actually, if you manage your money carefully you can reduce credit card and checking account fees to next to nothing.)

Thanks to its ingenious, tamper-proof “blockchain” cryptotechnology (don’t ask), Bitcoin is absolutely safe. If you believe that, I have a Russian bridge for you to buy.

And unlike nasty governments, which do things like managing the money supply or preventing de-stabilizing speculation, Bitcoin is independent of any government. This is also billed as a plus.

In case you missed it, check out the era of 19th century “free banking” in the U.S. It was a time when tiny banks could create infinite amounts of credit. The result was an era of euphoric credit booms followed by bank panics and depressions.

Ah, but the number of Bitcoins in circulation is strictly limited to $21 million. That was the claim, anyway. Well, there are now hundreds of other digital currencies, and thanks to the miracle of leverage and speculation in Bitcoins, the true sum is far higher. Exactly how much higher? We don’t really know.

Now in fairness, central banks and bank regulators did a pretty good job of managing the money supply for half a century after the Great Depression, and then they messed up big time. In the 1980s, regulators started getting captured by fin-tech wizards—people not unlike Bitcoin enthusiasts—who started inventing new forms of infinite leverage. It took about 20 years for this brew to become truly toxic. The result was the collapse of 2008.

We have a lot of work to do in order to return the business of financial regulation and good monetary policy to democratic control. But if you think that task can be entrusted to an algorithm, consider this. It’s an old idea—economists Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek advocated putting the money supply on auto-pilot.

But if that policy had been in effect when the financial collapse of 2008 occurred, and the economy had been left to the tender mercies of the invisible hand (much less the invisible cyber-hand), all of the banks would have gone bust and the economy, instead of experiencing the Great Recession, would have been in total collapse. Ben Bernanke, a Friedman enthusiast who was chairman of the Federal Reserve at the time, acknowledged that a hands-off policy was the opposite of what was needed.

So the next time the wizards of speculation produce yet another financial collapse, who ya gonna call? Bitcoin? Sorry, there’s nobody home.

I realize I’m in awkward company, here. The CEO of Morgan Stanley, Jamie Dimon (who helped bring us the financial collapse, doesn’t like Bitcoin. The big banks don’t like the competition, right? 

“No government will ever support a virtual currency that goes around borders and doesn’t have the same controls,” said Dimon. “It’s not going to happen.”

Dimon is right that the world’s central bankers should shut down virtual currencies, as both an invitation to money laundering and as a threat to monetary stability. Some central banks, such as the bank of Japan, are planning to create official digital currencies for cheap or free transactions, but in a context of regulated monetary policy. Europe has long had a less whiz-bang version of this, known as giro transfers, in which people instruct their banks to make payments on their behalf to vendors’ banks, rather than writing checks

And if the issue is more competition, the remedy is to break up the big banks, not to return to a digitized version of 19th century boom and bust credit creation. I may agree with Dimon on Bitcoin – I agreed with Steve Bannon on not going to nuclear war with North Korea – but that doesn’t mean I support either Bannon’s racism or Dimon’s predatory banking.

In sum, we should hardly be surprised that Bitcoin is on a wild speculative ride—that’s the essence of privatized credit creation. And if you think this gambling is zero-sum and victimless, kindly Google these: Panic of 1837, Panic of 1857, Panic of 1873, Panic of 1893, Panic of 1907 and, of course, the Great Depression of 1929-1940 and the Collapse of 2008.

Sorry, but cyber-Santa is an illusion. Wishing us all a Merry Christmas and a Solvent New Year.

Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect and professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School. His forthcoming book is Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism?

Like Robert Kuttner on Facebook: http://facebook.com/RobertKuttner

Follow Robert Kuttner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rkuttner

21 Dec 2017
by Admin
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Apple Confirms It Slows Down Old iPhones As Their Batteries Age

Do you have an iPhone that suddenly feels … slower … than … it … used … to?

There might be a good reason for that, Apple confirmed to media outlets Thursday: The company is deliberately slowing down some iPhones, albeit for a good reason.

The batteries in older phones start to lose their oomph, especially if the devices have been repeatedly exposed to extreme temperatures. Phones used to abruptly shut themselves off if too much was asked of their decrepit batteries, since that helped protect sensitive electrical components.

Beginning with a software update it pushed out last year, however, Apple tried a new tactic: slowing down devices during moments of high demand so their beleaguered batteries could keep up.

Here’s how the company explained it in a statement to TechCrunch:

Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices. Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components. 

Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.


Some outraged consumers see this as a plot by Apple to force people to upgrade their iPhones more often ― and it could certainly have that effect ― but there is a cheaper fix: replacing your battery.

Before you go through the hassle, though, dig through your iPhone’s settings (here’s how) and see if your battery actually needs to be replaced. Look for this warning:

Apple will replace your battery for free if your phone is under warranty, according to The Verge. Otherwise, it costs about $80. If you’re willing to make the replacement yourself, you can expect to spend around $30 on the battery and necessary tools. 

20 Dec 2017
by Admin
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Facebook Is The Enemy Now

It’s long past time for the biggest internet companies to pull their weight in society. Trembling startups not long ago, the global technology superelite have amassed the effective power of major nation-states, but without accountability, responsibility for their public influence, transparency, checks and balances or even awareness that they might be a problem rather than a solution. Focus on Facebook and Google, plus Twitter. They are radically unregulated. They hold our most intimate personal information. They have destabilized traditional, fact-based journalism. They have vast wealth ― a combined market value of $1.2 trillion ― and the power that accompanies it. In Washington and other capitals, they lobby hard for their self-interests, often against ours. And during an era when even the National Security Agency gets hacked, they have created data stores that could fundamentally threaten our democracy and others.

The internet’s aristocracy arose with the commercialization of the web, starting 20 years ago. To the hectic leaders of Silicon Valley, two decades seems like geologic time – but in the evolving social and political cultures of our species, two decades is the blink of an eye. We haven’t yet absorbed the implications of these potent, purposefully disruptive technologies. We’re addicted to smartphones. We’ve lost control of much of our personal data. The corporate and governmental entities that so voraciously collect our secrets seem indifferent to their protection. Our biometrics will be hacked. Baseless accusations of “fake” corrode the foundations of our civilization. 

In December, Facebook posted a response to the question: “Is spending time on social media bad for us?” Among the studies reaching that conclusion is one published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, stating: “Our results showed that overall, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with well-being… The negative associations of Facebook use were comparable to or greater in magnitude than the positive impact of offline interactions, which suggests a possible tradeoff between offline and online relationships.” Such are the unintended, faintly understood consequences of commercialized internet technology.

Technology alone is not the problem. Our vulnerabilities arise from commerce – specifically, the tech-enabled exploitation of personal data by businesses.

You’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors… understood this consciously. And we did it anyway. Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president

Imagine that back in the 1950s, the U.S. Postal Service opened every letter and recorded its contents, while the phone company taped every call. What’s happening now is like that. Back then, though, no one had the computing power, digital storage capacity, or algorithms to make sense of so much data. Now it’s easy. And folks then would have raised hell if the post office or Ma Bell had invaded their privacy; now we give our privacy away. That has enabled a tiny group of companies to establish themselves as hosts of much of our public discourse, by accumulating and exploiting data better than the competition.

Unlike businesses that make money principally by selling things, Facebook, Google and Twitter offer services for “free.” In business, “free” almost always is a lie. As an executive taught me ages ago, “If you are not paying for a service, you are what’s being sold.” In exchange for their services, many free-model companies spy on us — memorizing our data, noting our interests, often capturing our keystrokes and following us wherever we venture online. Then they exploit us, by selling advertising individually targeted to us and others, to anyone with a dollar or a ruble. With data on at least two billion users each, Facebook and Google consume consumers the way whales eat krill. According to research firm eMarketer, the two companies together control 60 percent of digital advertising in the U.S.

Companies selling digital ads rely on two sources of value: data on individuals and engagement. The more time we spend on Facebook, the more engaged we are, the more ads we see, and the more valuable those ads become. That’s the essence of Facebook’s business. “The thought process that went into building these applications… was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president, recently recalled. “And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while… You’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors… understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.”

Roger McNamee, co-founder of Elevation Partners, is a venture capitalist who invested early in Facebook. Now he is terrified of Facebook and disappointed. “They’ve taken techniques that were around for hundreds of years and married them to invasive techniques. The result is brain hacks. People are losing agency, and they don’t realize it. It affects civilization,” he said.

It’s normal for media to try to engage consumers, and many stoke interest with sensation. But on a platform like Facebook, human bias for the sensational actually disadvantages rational, fact-based discourse relative to the crazy nonsense freely forwarded by conspiracy nuts, bots and trolls. Socially destructive messages get cheaper and better distribution than constructive ones. And Facebook’s reach – a quarter of the entire human population – dramatically raises the stakes.

Danah Boyd, a social network expert and founder of the Data & Society think tank, warns, “Tech companies are ill-prepared for how decentralized networks of people manipulate their systems for fun, profit, politics, and ideology. They often think that they can build better technology to solve the problem, failing to recognize how agile their adversaries truly are.”

In this context, Facebook emerges as public enemy number one. It’s by far the biggest social network, 35 times bigger than Twitter. Google purveys such invasive offerings as Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Home. Nevertheless, core Google offerings such as search and maps are grounded in actual reality. Thus, while Facebook’s vulnerability to malicious abuse is bone-deep, deriving from the algorithms that made it successful, Google has a compelling economic interest in what might be called objective truth. “We came from … a more naive position,” says Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company. “But now, faced with the data and what we’ve seen from Russia in 2016 and with other actors around the world, we have to act.”

No such considerations may inhibit Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook’s CEO shows every sign of being in denial. At the Techonomy conference two days after Trump’s victory, Zuckerberg called the idea of Facebook influence on the election “crazy.” When Facebook, Google, and Twitter were called before Congress to testify about Russian meddling in the election, none of their CEOs showed up. Zuckerberg went to Beijing instead, paying homage to China’s Xi Jinping. The fifth-wealthiest person on the planet, and a tireless promoter said to harbor presidential ambitions, Zuckerberg structured even his putative philanthropy, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, as a for-profit LLC that’s free to invest in lobbying. Perhaps disingenuously, he framed Russian interference as a security problem, rather than as a feature of Facebook’s core business. “We’re serious about preventing abuse on our platforms. We’re investing so much in security that it will impact our profitability,” Zuckerberg said. “Protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits.”

McNamee reports that, in 2016, he emailed a friendly warning to Zuckerberg and Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg. He documented seven instances of bad actors abusing Facebook to harm powerless people, “Jim Crow stuff,” he says now. “I hoped they’d take a look.” After waiting four months, a period that included Trump’s election, McNamee began publicly airing his concerns. “They treated it as a PR problem,” he recalls. “They never took it seriously. And now they are lobbying like crazy to protect themselves.” (Facebook has announced the belated implementation of one of McNamee’s suggestions: informing users of their contacts with Russian agents.)

Chamath Palihapitiya, formerly Facebook’s head of user growth, told an audience at Stanford University last month, “Even though we feigned this whole line of, like, ‘There probably aren’t any really bad unintended consequences,’ I think in the back, deep, deep recesses of our minds, we kind of knew something bad could happen,” he said. “We have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.” Facebook’s PR apparatus lashed back, “Chamath has not been at Facebook for over six years. When Chamath was at Facebook we were focused on building new social media experiences and growing Facebook around the world. Facebook was a very different company back then and as we have grown we have realised how our responsibilities have grown too. We take our role very seriously and we are working hard to improve.”

Now, if ever, is the time for CEOs, writers of algorithms and other architects of our future to take responsibility – before, crippled by self-interest, they irreparably harm us all. Artificial intelligence looms, ominous and unknowable as a Kubrick monolith. AI, like any complex digital product, is a mysterious black box guided, but not illuminated, by data and algorithms. Once set in motion, AIs make decisions that even their makers cannot fathom, much as a major airline today doesn’t know precisely how its computers priced a seat. It may not be long before AIs shape the fates of our species and our planet.

But even cadres of enlightened CEOs will not suffice to turn things around, warns Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which advocates to protect democratic institutions from digital threats. “We need to realize that the tech world cannot regulate itself,” he says. “We need to end the myth that there are technological solutions to all problems provoked by technology. We need to develop social and political solutions.”

Our ultimate champions must be ourselves. Start by quitting Facebook. Here’s how: After downloading your data, go here and click on the blue button marked “Delete My Account.” I just did it, and I feel better already. Pass it on.

Stratford Sherman, a former member of Fortune’s Board of Editors, reported on business and technology for 20 years, and co-authored Control Your Destiny or Someone Else Will.  He currently works as a leadership advisor and coach, with a clientele of Silicon Valley CEOs. He has consulted for Google and OpenAI.

© 2018