Twitter Rewrites Developer Policy To Better Support Academic Research and Use of ‘Good’ Bots

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Twitter today updated its Developer Policy to clarify rules around data usage, including in academic research, as well as its position on bots, among other things. The policy has also been entirely rewritten in an effort to simplify the language used and make it more conversational, Twitter says. The new policy has been shortened from eight sections to four, and the accompanying Twitter Developer Agreement has been updated to align with the Policy changes, as well. One of the more notable updates to the new policy is a change to the rules to better support non-commercial research.

Twitter data is used to study topics like spam, abuse, and other areas related to conversation health, the company noted, and it wants these efforts to continue. The revised policy now allows the use of the Twitter API for academic research purposes. In addition, Twitter is simplifying its rules around the redistribution of Twitter data to aid researchers. Now, researchers will be able to share an unlimited number of Tweet IDs and/or User IDs, if they’re doing so on behalf of an academic institution and for the sole purpose of non-commercial research, such as peer review, says Twitter. The company is also revising rules to clarify how developers are to proceed when the use cases for Twitter data change. In the new policy, developers are informed that they must notify the company of any “substantive” modification to their use case and receive approval before using Twitter content for that purpose. Not doing so will result in suspension and termination of their API and data access, Twitter warns.

The policy additionally outlines when and where “off-Twitter matching” is permitted, meaning when a Twitter account is being associated with a profile built using other data. Either the developer will need to obtain opt-in consent from the user in question, or they can only proceed if the information was provided by the person or is based on publicly available data. […] Finally, the revamped policy clarifies that not all bots are bad. Some even enhance the Twitter experience, the company says, or provide useful information. Going forward, developers must specify if they’re operating a bot account, what the account is, and who is behind it. This way, explains Twitter, “it’s easier for everyone on Twitter to know what’s a bot – and what’s not.”

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Huawei Expects 20 Percent Drop In Android Smartphone Sales, Thanks To Lack of Google Apps

According to a report from The Information, Huawei expects to see a 20% drop in sales of its Android smartphones during 2020, thanks largely to U.S. government restrictions on Huawei’s access to American technology, including Google software. 9to5Google reports: “Huawei’s overseas smartphone sales didn’t collapse last year in part because the company could keep selling some of its old models that the Google ban didn’t affect,” reports The Information. “But this year, Huawei expects its shipments to fall to around 190 million to 200 million smartphones, according to these people.” The 240 million figure in 2019 was thanks largely in part to the timing of the U.S. ban. Huawei’s extremely popular P30 and P30 Pro smartphones still shipped with Google apps in most regions and, because they were launched before the ban took place, Huawei was able to continue updating the devices, even launching a slightly revamped variant to boost sales. This year will certainly be bleaker as Huawei won’t be able to support Google apps on its P40 series, set to launch later this month. Other factors such as the coronavirus outbreak could only further have an impact on Huawei’s sales this year.

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MIT Moves All Classes Online For the Rest of the Semester

In a letter to the MIT community, President L. Rafael Reif says the university is moving all classes online for the rest of the semester to slow the spread of COVID-19. Here’s an excerpt: The overall plan is this:
1. All classes are cancelled for the week of Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 20. Because the following week is spring break, this will allow faculty and instructors two weeks to organize a full transition to online instruction.
2. Online instruction, which some units are already experimenting with this week, will begin for all classes on Monday, March 30, and continue for the remainder of the semester.
3. Undergraduates should not return to campus after spring break. Undergraduates who live in an MIT residence or fraternity, sorority or independent living group (FSILG) must begin packing and departing this Saturday, March 14. We are requiring undergraduates to depart from campus residences no later than noon on Tuesday, March 17. Please see below for details on graduate students.
4.Classes will continue this week as we continue to prepare for this transition.

We are taking this dramatic action to protect the health and safety of everyone at MIT — staff, students, post-docs and faculty — and because MIT has an important role in slowing the spread of this disease. As at any residential college, our residence halls and FSILGs put students in close quarters. What’s more, the intense and free-flowing collaboration MIT is known for comes with close contact and shared spaces, equipment and supplies. These characteristics, which we cherish in normal times, increase the risk of COVID-19 spreading on our campus. Our plan follows directly from state health guidance that universities take steps to reduce the density of the population on campus and increase social distancing. By doing so, we are doing our part to reduce the spread of the disease overall, while directly reducing risk for our own community — for departing students, of course, but equally for those of us who continue to work on campus.

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Elon Musk: Starlink Latency Will Be Good Enough For Competitive Gaming

In a conference yesterday, Elon Musk said SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband will have latency below 20 milliseconds — low enough to support competitive online gaming. “Despite that, the SpaceX CEO argued that Starlink won’t be a major threat to telcos because the satellite service won’t be good enough for high-population areas and will mostly be used by rural customers without access to fast broadband,” reports Ars Technica. From the report: Latency of less than 20ms would make Starlink comparable to wired broadband service. When SpaceX first began talking about its satellite plans in late 2016, it said latency would be 25ms to 35ms. But Musk has been predicting sub-20ms latency since at least May 2019, with the potential for sub-10ms latency sometime in the future. The amount of bandwidth available will be enough to support typical Internet usage, at least in rural areas, Musk said. “The bandwidth is a very complex question. But let’s just say somebody will be able to watch high-def movies, play video games, and do all the things they want to do without noticing speed,” he said.

So will Starlink be a good option for anyone in the United States? Not necessarily. Musk said there will be plenty of bandwidth in areas with low population densities and that there will be some customers in big cities. But he cautioned against expecting that everyone in a big city would be able to use Starlink. “The challenge for anything that is space-based is that the size of the cell is gigantic… it’s not good for high-density situations,” Musk said. “We’ll have some small number of customers in LA. But we can’t do a lot of customers in LA because the bandwidth per cell is simply not high enough.” […] On the ground, Starlink’s future customers will rely on user terminals that “look like a UFO on a stick,” Musk said. The devices will have actuators that let them point themselves in the right direction as long as they’re pointed at the sky. “It’s very important that you don’t need a specialist to install it,” Musk said. “The goal is that… there’s just two instructions and they can be done in either order: point at sky, plug in.” As for the cost, the company previously pointed out that many U.S. residents pay $80 per month for “crappy service,” perhaps indicating that Starlink will cost less than that.

Musk also addressed concerns from astronomers who say Starlink’s satellites will interfere with astronomical observations. “I am confident that we will not cause any impact whatsoever in astronomical discoveries. Zero. That’s my prediction. We’ll take corrective action if it’s above zero,” Musk said, adding that SpaceX has worked with astronomers “to minimize the potential for reflection of the satellites.”

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Intel SGX is vulnerable to an unfixable flaw that can steal crypto keys and more

Stylized illustration of a microchip with a padlock symbol on it

Enlarge (credit: Intel)

For the past 26 months, Intel and other CPU makers have been assailed by Spectre, Meltdown, and a steady flow of follow-on vulnerabilities that make it possible for attackers to pluck passwords, encryption keys, and other sensitive data out of computer memory. On Tuesday, researchers disclosed a new flaw that steals information from Intel’s SGX, short for Software Guard eXtensions, which acts as a digital vault for securing users most sensitive secrets.

On the surface, Load Value Injection, as researchers have named their proof-of-concept attacks, works in ways similar to the previous vulnerabilities and accomplishes the same thing. All of these so-called transient-execution flaws stem from speculative execution, an optimization in which CPUs attempt to guess future instructions before they’re called. Meltdown and Spectre were the first transient execution exploits to become public. Attacks named ZombieLoad, RIDL, Fallout, and Foreshadow soon followed. Foreshadow also worked against Intel’s SGX.

Breaking the vault

By getting a vulnerable system to run either JavaScript stored on a malicious site or code buried in a malicious app, attackers can exploit a side channel that ultimately discloses cache contents belonging to other apps and should normally be off limits. This latest vulnerability, which like other transient-execution flaws can only be mitigated and not patched, gives way to exploits that completely upend a core confidentiality guarantee of SGX.

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Biz & IT – Ars Technica

Tesla Produces Its One Millionth Car

Elon Musk announced on Twitter that Tesla has produced one million electric cars. The Verge reports: Musk made the announcement by sharing a picture of the car, a red Model Y, and congratulated the Tesla team on hitting the milestone. It’s a significant moment for an automaker that was only founded in 2003. Tesla released its first consumer car, the Roadster, back in 2008, meaning it’s taken a little over twelve years to hit this million-car milestone. However, it could end up hitting the two million mark a lot sooner based on current targets.

In its January earnings report, the company said it hopes to ship over 500,000 cars worldwide in 2020. Established automakers like Toyota or the Volkswagen Group each produce over ten million vehicles a year. Nevertheless, Tesla’s milestone is a tremendous accomplishment for an automotive startup that only produces electric vehicles.

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Engineer Who Attended RSA Cybersecurity Event Contracts Coronavirus

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Two cybersecurity company employees who attended an annual industry conference last month in San Francisco have tested positive for the coronavirus. At least one is seriously ill with respiratory issues. One of the workers at Exabeam Inc. is a 45-year-old engineer who began experiencing symptoms when he returned home to Connecticut from California on Feb. 28 after attending the RSA cybersecurity conference, his wife said in an email. His condition deteriorated the following week and he was hospitalized in respiratory distress on March 6, she said. The man was placed into a medically induced coma and is now on a ventilator in “guarded condition.”

The individual is predisposed for pneumonia due to an underlying heart condition, his wife said. Bloomberg is withholding the man’s name to protect his privacy. The second person, who is unidentified, also worked at Exabeam and attended RSA, the Foster City, California-based company said Tuesday in a statement. “While we cannot confirm whether they contracted COVID-19 prior to, at or after the conference, if you came into contact with our staff, please be vigilant in monitoring yourself for symptoms,” Exabeam said. The company said it instituted a work-at-home policy for its offices in Foster City and Atlanta.

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Google Tells All North America Staff To Work From Home

Alphabet’s Google told its staff in North America to not go into their offices unless they have to, becoming one of the latest companies seeking to protect workers from the spreading coronavirus. From a report: The Mountain View, California-based tech giant is “recommending” workers stay home until at least April 10, according to an internal memo seen by Bloomberg. The company had already sent home its Seattle-area workers, where the virus has had the highest number of cases in the U.S.

The note also told contract workers, which make up as much as half of the company’s overall workforce, to work from home if they were able. Google also said last week it would keep paying the thousands of hourly workers who do jobs such as serving food, cleaning offices and providing security, through the crisis. Amazon, Twitter, Microsoft, and a slew of other major tech companies are also encouraging employees to work from home to prevent the spread of the virus.

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Leaked iOS 14 Build Hints at Unreleased Apple Hardware and Software Features

News outlet 9to5Mac, which tracks Apple news, has gotten hold of an iOS 14 build that uncovers a range of hardware details and software features that Apple intends to reveal later this year. The devices are:
1. An upcoming iPad Pro will include three cameras — like the iPhone Pro — plus an additional time-of-flight sensor for help with AR.
2. An iPhone with Touch ID is in the works. This is presumably the lower-end iPhone 9 or iPhone SE 2.
3. A new Apple TV box is in the works along with a new Apple TV remote.
4. AirTags, Apple’s rumored Tile-like item tracker, will have user-replaceable batteries.

Software features: 1. The iOS home screen will get a new list view, letting you more easily find and filter through your apps. It’s not clear exactly where this screen will appear, but it’d offer a major change from the grid.
2. A new AR app will let you point your phone’s camera at objects in the real world and have the phone display more information about what you’re seeing. At an Apple store, for instance, it could display pricing information and product features. Apple is reportedly working with Starbucks to support the feature, too.
3. Third-party apps will be able to integrate wallpapers into the wallpapers section of the Settings app. This should make it easier to switch wallpapers and could finally open dynamic wallpapers up to outside developers.
4. HomeKit will be able to change the color temperature of lights throughout a day to match the sunlight.
5. An accessibility feature will let phones identify sounds like alarms and doorbells for people with hearing loss.

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DHS Official Claims 2020 Will Be ‘Most Secure’ Election in US History

The 2020 election will be “the most secure, most protected election in the history of the United States of America,” Christopher Krebs, the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said on Tuesday. From a report: State and local officials, even before the start of party primaries, have voiced concerns that outside interference could disrupt elections in 2020. The recent outbreak of coronavirus has also impacted some state primaries. “People need to keep in mind that [election security] is something that we’ve been plugging away at for a long time. Get out there and vote. That’s the best defense against any sort of interference,” said Krebs. Krebs said the Trump administration is working with state and local election officials to develop contingencies for elections in communities affected by the virus.

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