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This is a discussion on interesting tech stories within the Science and Technology forums, part of the Topics of Interest category; 2 minutes The suit notes that while this sort of data can be valuable to Bose, selling it to ...

  1. #21

    Bose accused of secretly sharing your listening habits 2 minutes

    The suit notes that while this sort of data can be valuable to Bose, selling it to third-parties represents a "wholesale disregard for consumer privacy rights," as well as violating several federal and state laws.

    "Indeed, one's personal audio selections -- including music, radio broadcast, podcast, and lecture choices -- provide an incredible amount of insight into his or her personality, behavior, political views and personal identity," the complaint explains.

    Bose Connect acts as a companion app to several models of the company's wireless products, including the well-reviewed QuietComfort 35 headphones. The app provides users with the ability to setup and control parts of their audio experience from a smartphone. During the download and install process, the complaint notes "Bose fails to notify or warn customers that Bose Connect monitors and collects -- in real time -- the music and audio tracks played through their Bose wireless products. Nor does Bose disclose that it transmits the collected listening data to third parties."

    This isn't the first time a tech company has come under fire around privacy issues. TV maker Vizio settled with the FTC for $2.2 million in February over claims that it analyzed the viewing habits of its users without consent. Personal vibrator maker We-Vibe also settled a lawsuit over privacy concerns and promised to stop collecting user data.

    The current lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop Bose from continuing to track personal data and disclose it, as well as actual and statutory damages. We reached out to Bose for a comment on the matter and we will update this post when we hear back.

  2. #22

    EFF Says Google Chromebooks Are Still Spying on Students Gabriela Vatu

    Google still hasn't shed its "bad guy" clothes when it comes to the data it collects on underage students. In fact, the Electronic Frontier Foundation says the company continues to massively collect and store information on children without their consent or their parents'. Not even school administrators fully understand the extent of this operation, the EFF says.

    This isn't the first time the EFF has had something to say against Google on this topic. In fact, two years ago, it even filed a federal complaint against the company, alleging that it was "collecting and data mining school children's personal information, including their Internet searches."

    According to the latest status report from the EFF, Google is still up to no good, trying to eliminate students' privacy without their parent's notice or consent and "without a real choice to opt out." This, they say, is done via the Chromebooks Google is selling to schools across the United States.

    "Educational technology services often collect far more information on kids than is necessary and store this information indefinitely," the EFF said.

    A mass-collection of student data

    The main issue, it seems, is the fact that the education system is changing the way it treats the students' privacy, mostly due to a rollout of low-priced Chromebooks that come with educations services. Often, they are available for a reduced price or even given out for free."Educational technology services often collect far more information on kids than is necessary and store this information indefinitely," the EFF says in its investigation. In fact, they tie personally identifying information, such as kids' names, birthdays, browsing history, search terms, location data, contact lists, and behavioral information.

    The worst part is that some programs used on these school-issued Chromebooks upload student data to the cloud automatically and by default. This happens without the express consent of the students or their families', or even their awareness of the situation.

    Many complaints about this situation were filed to the EFF by parents who found out schools had mass-enrolled their kids into Google email accounts, using their full names. Furthermore, they posted photos of them on social media sites and enrolled them into other services that collect data without any notification. To make matters worse, the passwords students are assigned are easy to guess, featuring their birthdays or student ID numbers, which makes them extremely easy to guess. Students are also prohibited from changing their passwords.

    The EFF investigated 152 ed-tech services that survey respondents reported were in use in their classrooms. The findings weren't too great, as most of these services had privacy policies lacking in encryption, data retention or data sharing rules. One school Chromebook administrator has told the EFF that they're "putting all [their] eggs in one basket that we're not in control of. We don't know where this student data is going."

  3. #23
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  5. #24

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  6. #25

    The Electric Lilium Jet Hints at Future Air Taxis

    A prototype of the Lilium Jet takes off on a vertical takeoff and landing test flight. Credit: Lilium

    The old science fiction fantasy of a flying car that both drives on the ground and flies in the air is unlikely to revolutionize daily commutes. Instead, Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs and aerospace companies dream of electric-powered aircraft that can take off vertically like helicopters but have the flight efficiency of airplanes. The German startup Lilium took a very public step forward in that direction by demonstrating the first electric-powered jet capable of vertical takeoff and landing last week.

    The Lilium Jet prototype that made its maiden debut resembles a flattened pod with stubby thrusters in front and a longer wing with engines in back. The final design concept shows two wings hold a combined 36 electric turbofan engines that can tilt to provide both vertical lifting thrust and horizontal thrust for forward flight. Such electric engines powered by lithium-ion batteries could enable a quieter breed of aircraft that someday cut travel times for ride-hailing commuters from hours to minutes in cities such as San Francisco or New York. On its website, Lilium promises an air taxi that could eventually carry up to five people at speeds of 190 miles per hour: about the same speed as a Formula One racing car. And it’s promising that passengers could begin booking the Lilium Jet as part of an air taxi service by 2025.
    “From a technology point of view, there is not a challenge that cannot be solved,” says Patrick Nathen, a cofounder and head of calculation and design for Lilium. “The biggest challenge right now is to build the company as fast as possible in order to catch that timeline.”

    Nathen and his cofounders met just three and a half years ago. But within that short time, they put together a small team and began proving their dream of an electric jet capable of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL). Lilium began with seed funding from a tech incubator under the European Space Agency, but has since attracted financial backing from private investors and venture capital firms.

    Getting Lilium off the ground probably would not have been possible just five years ago, Nathen says. But the team took full advantage of the recent technological changes that have lowered the price on both materials—such as electric circuits and motors—and manufacturing processes such as 3D printing. Lower costs enabled Lilium to quickly and cheaply begin assembling prototypes to prove that their computer simulations could really deliver on the idea of an electric VTOL jet.

    Meet the Air Taxi Competition

    Of course, Lilium is not alone in the race to rule the air taxi services of the future. More than a dozen startups worldwide have been developing some version of an air taxi vehicle, including the Silicon Valley startups Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk that both have backing from Google cofounder Larry Page. Last week, Lilium joined many additional startups and aerospace giants alike in attending the Uber Elevate Summit hosted by the ride-hailing giant in Dallas, Texas. At the start of the event, Uber announced it had enlisted partners to help demonstrate the first flying taxi services in the cities of Dallas and Dubai by 2020.

    Still, Lilium seems confident that its electric VTOL jet can win out over the competition. Nathen pointed to the Lilium Jet’s design as being fairly seamless in moving from the vertical takeoff phase into the forward flight phase. The vertical takeoff phase consumes the most power because the aircraft depends entirely upon the engines to produce downward thrust and lift during that stage. But once a VTOL aircraft transitions into forward flight, it achieves a “very efficient flight state” that requires much less thrust and power from the electric propulsion system.
    A concept illustration of Lilium Jets acting as air taxis in the future. Credit: Lilium

    Other competitors are likely aiming to achieve a similarly smooth transition into the more efficient flight phase. But Nathen says that the Lilium Jet has an edge because its design gives the pilot full maneuverability and control during the tricky transition phase from vertical takeoff to forward flight.

    “With this propulsion system and also the flaps that are always sucking air over the airfoil, we always have attached flow over the wing, and with the moving flaps we are able to steer the body as well,” Nathen says. “This is the main difference compared with the other VTOL concepts that are currently being developed all over the world.”

    Next Steps for Lilium

    The vertical takeoff and landing test performed remotely without a pilot last week was just the beginning for Lilium. The German startup still needs to test its two-seater prototype in the other flight phases beyond vertical takeoff by going through the transition phase and finally achieving forward flight. A first manned flight test with a fully-functioning jet is planned for 2019. The Munich-based startup also has yet to build and test the larger five-person version of the electric VTOL jet that it envisions as a safe, cost-effective and speedy form of travel for future commuters.

    Many companies and experts believe that the future belongs to fully-automated air taxis flying on autopilot. Nathen acknowledged that seems to be the direction the industry is moving toward. But he added that Lilium plans to have human pilots operating the Lilium Jets with very simplified manual controls. The startup aims to replace most of the typical cockpit instruments found in modern aircraft with a joystick-steered control system that can give pilots “an extremely easy way to fly this aircraft.”

    It sounds like a lot to do before Lilium can deliver on its 2025 promise. But Nathen says he and his cofounders calculated the timeline as a “realistic but conservative” estimate based on their experience with the development process. Lilium has also already begun talking with the European regulators who would need to sign off before the Lilium Jet—or any competitor—takes to the skies.

  7. #26

    A "World First" Fusion Reactor Just Created Its First Plasma

    In Brief

    • Tokamak Energy's fusion reactor has achieved first plasma and is on track to produce temperatures of 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit) by 2018.
    • Tokamak Energy CEO says to expect fusion energy "in years, not decades.”

    Achieving First Plasma

    After being turned on for the first time, the UK’s newest fusion reactor has achieved first plasma. This simply means that the reactor was able to successfully generate a molten mass of electrically-charged gas — plasma — inside its core.

    Called the ST40, the reactor was constructed by Tokamak Energy, one of the leading private fusion energy companies in the world. The company was founded in 2009 with the express purpose of designing and developing small fusion reactors to introduce fusion power into the grid by 2030.
    Click to View Full Infographic Now that the ST40 is running, the company will commission and install the complete set of magnetic coils needed to reach fusion temperatures. The ST40 should be creating a plasma temperature as hot as the center of the Sun — 15 million degrees Celsius (27 million degrees Fahrenheit) — by Autumn 2017.

    By 2018, the ST40 will produce plasma temperatures of 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit), another record-breaker for a privately owned and funded fusion reactor. That temperature threshold is important, as it is the minimum temperature for inducing the controlled fusion reaction. Assuming the ST40 succeeds, it will prove that its novel design can produce commercially viable fusion power.

    Tokamak Energy CEO David Kingham commented in a press release: “Today is an important day for fusion energy development in the UK, and the world. We are unveiling the first world-class controlled fusion device to have been designed, built, and operated by a private venture. The ST40 is a machine that will show fusion temperatures – 100 million degrees – are possible in compact, cost-effective reactors. This will allow fusion power to be achieved in years, not decades.”

    Fusion Power: Coming Sooner

    Nuclear fusion is a potentially revolutionary power source. It is the same process that fuels stars like our Sun, and could produce a potentially limitless supply of clean energy without producing dirty waste or any significant amount of carbon emissions. In contrast to nuclear fission, the atom splitting that today’s nuclear reactors engage in, nuclear fusion requires salt and water, and involves fusing atoms together. Its primary waste product is helium. It’s easy to see why scientists have tried to figure out how to achieve this here on Earth, but thus far it’s been elusive.

    The journey toward fusion energy undertaken by Tokamak Energy is planned in the short-term and moving quickly; the company has already achieved its half-way goal for fusion power delivery. Their ultimate targets include producing the first electricity using the ST40 by 2025 and producing commercially viable fusion power by 2030.

    Kingham remarked in the press release: “We will still need significant investment, many academic and industrial collaborations, dedicated and creative engineers and scientists, and an excellent supply chain. Our approach continues to be to break the journey down into a series of engineering challenges, raising additional investment on reaching each new milestone.”

  8. #27

    234 Android Applications Are Currently Using Ultrasonic Beacons to Track Users

    Catalin Cimpanu

    A team of researchers from the Brunswick Technical University in Germany has discovered an alarming number of Android applications that employ ultrasonic tracking beacons to track users and their nearby environment.

    Their research paper focused on the technology of ultrasound cross-device tracking (uXDT) that became very popular in the last three years.

    uXDT is the practice of advertisers hiding ultrasounds in their ads. When the ad plays on a TV or radio, or some ad code runs on a mobile or computer, it emits ultrasounds that are picked up by the microphone of nearby laptops, desktops, tablets or smartphones.

    SDKs embedded in apps installed on those devices relay the beacon back to the online advertiser, who then knows that the user of TV "x" is also the owner of smartphone "Y" and links their two previous advertising profiles together, creating a broader picture of the user's interests, device portfolio, home, and even family members.

    uXDT trackers found at four stores in the EU

    SDKs created by Shopkick, Lisnr, or SilverPush provide most of today's support for embedding ultrasonic beacons inside web and classic media streams.

    In research sponsored by the German government, a team of researchers conducted extensive tests across the EU to better understand how widespread this practice is in the real world.

    Their results revealed Shopkick ultrasonic beacons at 4 of 35 stores in two European cities. The situation isn't that worrisome, as users have to open an app with the Shopkick SDK for the beacon to be picked up.

    In the real world, this isn't an issue, as store owners, advertisers, or product manufactures could incentivize users to open various apps as a way to get discounts.

    No uXDT beacons found in TV streams — for now

    The only good news found in this research was that after searching TV streams from seven different countries, researchers failed to discover any ultrasonic beacons, meaning uXDT is not as widespread in television ads as some might have believed.

    But researchers don't feel that safe about their findings. "[E]ven if the tracking through TV content is not actively used yet, the monitoring functionality is already deployed in mobile applications and might become a serious privacy threat in the near future," researchers said.

    Their worries are based on a scan of 1,3 million applications, which unearthed that 234 Android apps are already using uXDT beacons.

    uXDT is spreading in Android apps

    This number is up from previous scans. For example, a scan of the same data set in April 2015 found only 6 apps using uXDT beacons, while another scan in December 2015, found 39 apps.

    The jump from 39 to 234 is staggering, to say the least, especially since some of these apps have millions of downloads and belong to reputable companies, such as McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme.

    Earlier this year, researchers showcased a method of tracking and unmasking Tor users using uXDT ultrasonic beacons.

    The team's research is entitled Privacy Threats through Ultrasonic Side Channels on Mobile Devices.
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  9. #28
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  11. #30

    Why Amazon Dreams of Flying Warehouses

    A delivery drone prototype operated by Amazon Prime Air. Credit: Amazon

    Amazon gets to play full-time Santa Claus by delivering almost any imaginable item to customers around the world. But the tech giant does not have a magical sleigh pulled by flying reindeer to carry out its delivery orders. Instead, a recent Amazon patent has revealed the breathtaking idea of using giant airships as flying warehouses that could deploy swarms of delivery drones to customers below.

    Many patent filings related to new technology often indulge in fantastical flights of fancy. But it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate some of the truly wilder scenarios being imagined within this Amazon patent filing. One scene envisions human or robot workers going to work busily sorting packages aboard airships hovering 45,000 feet above major cities. Another scene imagines the airship’s kitchen whipping up hot or cold food orders that would be loaded onto delivery drones for delivery within minutes.

    A third scene anticipates swarms of delivery drones dropping off orders of food or t-shirts to people attending concerts or sports games. Amazon’s patent filing even considers how the airships could fly at much lower altitudes to act as giant billboards or megaphones that advertise and sell items directly to the crowds below.

    There is a method to the madness. Amazon currently aims to attract customers with the promise of getting almost anything—clothing, electronics and groceries—delivered within days or even hours. It is currently racing against Google and delivery drone startups such as Flirtey to become the go-to service for customers who expect speedy deliveries of their purchases. The Amazon patent idea for an “airborne fulfillment center” may never become reality, but it speaks to the company’s ambition to enable an “instant gratification” world for customers.

    At its heart, Amazon’s idea for flying warehouses aims to solve two problems. First, a mobile warehouse flying high above cities would theoretically enable Amazon to move its packages and products even closer to customers’ homes and businesses and shorten the time needed for last-mile deliveries. The company could even strategically move certain flying warehouses to different locations depending on temporary demand (such as crowds gathering at stadiums for sporting events or concerts).

    Second, the flying warehouse scheme tries to tackle the range problem for delivery drones. The small delivery drones being tested by Amazon have fairly limited range of approximately 10 miles (or 20 miles roundtrip). That poses a challenge for Amazon’s Prime Air service, which recently began its first deliveries near Cambridge, UK with the promise of delivering packages within 30 minutes.

    By acting as flying motherships, the lighter-than-air airships could could better enable delivery drones to fulfill that half-hour promise. Normally, delivery drones must use their own battery power starting from the time they take off with a package until they reach the delivery location and then return home. That battery power necessarily limits their delivery range.
    By comparison, Amazon’s patent filing envisions the delivery drones simply gliding down from their motherships and relying mostly on gravity instead of their own power. The power savings combined with the extended range provided by the mobile airships could theoretically go a long way toward speedier deliveries. The patent states:

    This speed of delivery provides near instant gratification to users for item purchases and greatly increases the breadth of items that can be delivered. For example, perishable items or even prepared meals can be delivered in a timely fashion to a user.
    The small delivery drones would not have to struggle under their own power to return to their motherships hovering at eye-watering heights of 45,000 feet. Instead, Amazon’s patent filing suggests that smaller airships could act as “shuttles” to carry the delivery drones back up to the mothership. Such shuttle airships could also resupply the flying warehouses with new inventory, supplies, fuel and human or robot workers.

    Amazon’s patent filing spends much of its time talking about using the airships as flying advertising. Using lighter-than-air aircraft such as blimps for advertising is certainly nothing new. But Amazon’s idea takes this all one step farther because the airship advertising would be dangling the possibility of getting that popular new shoe or hot food delivery within minutes of seeing it being advertised. The patent filing even imagines the airship’s advertising display updating the quantity count of certain items as they sell out.

    There is a very long way to go before Amazon’s flying warehouses could ever become remotely feasible. For one thing, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has yet to figure out a scheme that would allow swarms of delivery drones to operate safely in the skies above densely populated cities. The FAA currently bans any drone from flying within a certain range of the crowded sporting events or concerts. And even if the airships would theoretically fly above the normal operating altitudes of commercial airline flights, it’s less clear how that airspace would be kept safe if dozens of delivery drones were dropping down from the motherships toward the ground at any given moment.

    This is only one of several wild Amazon patents related to drones to have surfaced recently. But if you one day see Amazon’s airships flying low overhead and advertising a trip aboard a SpaceX rocket to the Mars colonies, you might want to pinch yourself and check that you’re not having a dream based on a recent viewing of the 1982 science fiction film “Blade Runner.”
    MORE ABOUT: Amazon airships,

    Amazon patents,
    Amazon Prime Air,
    delivery drones,
    drone delivery,
    drone food delivery,
    flying warehouse,
    unmanned aerial vehicles

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