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    - Antivirus Vendors and Non-Profits Join To Form 'Coalition Against Stalkerware'
    Ten organizations today announced the creation of the Coalition Against Stalkerware, the first global initiative of its kind, with the sole purpose of fighting against stalkerware. From a report: Also known as spouseware, stalkerware is a smaller category of the spyware class. Stalkerware refers to apps that abusive partners install on the devices of their loved ones without their knowledge or consent. They contain features that allow the abuser to track their significant other's geographical location, web browsing habits, social media activity, log keystrokes inside instant messaging apps, retrieve photos, or even record audio and video without the owner's knowledge. Stalkerware apps are available for both mobile and desktop operating systems and are often sold commercially under the guise of child trackers, pet trackers, phone-finding apps, remote access toolkits, and so on. This kind of apps live in a gray area of the current app ecosystem where they can be used for both legitimate and criminal purposes, giving app makers an easy excuse when confronted with abuse reports from victims -- albeit some apps are more blatant and advertise themselves as a way to catch cheating girlfriends, although, these cases are rare.

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    - Secretive Energy Startup Backed By Bill Gates Achieves Solar Breakthrough
    A secretive startup backed by Bill Gates has achieved a solar breakthrough aimed at saving the planet. From a report: Heliogen, a clean energy company that emerged from stealth mode on Tuesday, said it has discovered a way to use artificial intelligence and a field of mirrors to reflect so much sunlight that it generates extreme heat above 1,000 degrees Celsius. Essentially, Heliogen created a solar oven -- one capable of reaching temperatures that are roughly a quarter of what you'd find on the surface of the sun. The breakthrough means that, for the first time, concentrated solar energy can be used to create the extreme heat required to make cement, steel, glass and other industrial processes. In other words, carbon-free sunlight can replace fossil fuels in a heavy carbon-emitting corner of the economy that has been untouched by the clean energy revolution. "We are rolling out technology that can beat the price of fossil fuels and also not make the CO2 emissions," Bill Gross, Heliogen's founder and CEO, told CNN Business. "And that's really the holy grail."

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    - Google and Samsung Fix Android Spying Flaw. Other Makers May Still Be Vulnerable
    Until recently, weaknesses in Android camera apps from Google and Samsung made it possible for rogue apps to record video and audio and take images and then upload them to an attacker-controlled server -- without any permissions to do so. Camera apps from other manufacturers may still be susceptible. From a report: The weakness, which was discovered by researchers from security firm Checkmarx, represented a potential privacy risk to high-value targets, such as those preyed upon by nation-sponsored spies. Google carefully designed its Android operating system to bar apps from accessing cameras and microphones without explicit permission from end users. An investigation published Tuesday showed it was trivial to bypass those restrictions. The investigation found that an app needed no permissions at all to cause the camera to shoot pictures and record video and audio. To upload the images and video -- or any other image and video stored on the phone -- to an attacker-controlled server, an app needed only permission to access storage, which is among one of the most commonly given usage rights. The weakness, which is tracked as CVE-2019-2234, also allowed would-be attackers to track the physical location of the device, assuming GPS data was embedded into images or videos. Google closed the eavesdropping hole in its Pixel line of devices with a camera update that became available in July. Checkmarx said Samsung has also fixed the vulnerability, although it wasn't clear when that happened. Checkmarx said Google has indicated that Android phones from other manufacturers may also be vulnerable. The specific makers and models haven't been disclosed.

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    - People Are Having Sex With 3D Avatars of Their Exes and Celebrities
    samleecole writes: Using a photograph to algorithmically generate a person's face and some 3D-rendered body parts, anyone can make a realistic avatar of someone who is walking around in real life. Import the avatar into another program, and you can have sex with them in virtual reality, without the real person ever giving consent. On forums like Reddit, marketplaces like Patreon, and on standalone websites, communities of anonymous users are making and selling computer-generated likenesses of celebrities and other real people. The 3D models that emerge from these communities can be articulated into any position, animated, modified, interacted with in real time, and manipulated in ways that defy the constraints of physical reality. Like deepfake videos traded online, the technology to create photorealistic 3D models of real people is rapidly approaching -- and it's getting easier for the average user to access those tools and programs. Rendering a realistic human is a process which historically required the specialized technical knowledge of teams of artists in game and special effects studios. Those studios, traditionally, have to obtain the rights to use someone's likeness before rendering them, but many hobbyists seemingly make avatars of anyone, with or without their consent.

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    - Google Stadia Review: Gaming's Streaming Future Isn't Here Yet
    Scott Stein, reviews Google Stadia cloud gaming service for CNET: Stadia's launch day was earlier this week... sort of. Really, consider this the start of Stadia's early-access beta period. Because Google's big promises haven't arrived, and at the price of the Stadia's Founder's Edition, I can't recommend anyone jump onboard at the moment. Google's experimental game streaming service, Stadia, launches without many of its promised features, and just a handful of games. It works, but there's not much incentive to buy in. We've heard about the promises of streaming games over the internet for a decade. Stadia really does work as a way to stream games. I've only played a couple of the 12 games Google promised by Tuesday's launch, though. That short list pales compared to what Microsoft already has on tap for its in-beta game-streaming service, xCloud. It's no match for what Nvidia's game streaming GeForce Now already has or what PlayStation Now offers. Prices of Stadia games at launch in the US are below. They're basically full retail game prices. This could get crazy expensive fast. [...] Stadia has so few games right now, and I'm trying them with no one else online. It isn't clear how things will work now that the service is going live, and what other features will kick in before year's end. I'm curious, but I might lose interest. Others might, too. I have plenty of other great games to play right now: on Apple Arcade, VR and consoles such as the Switch. Stadia isn't delivering new games yet, it's just trying to deliver a new way to play through streaming. One that you can already get from other providers. Until Google finds a way to loop in YouTube and develop truly unique competitive large-scale games, Stadia isn't worth your time yet. Yes, the future is possibly wild, and you can see hints of the streaming-only cloud-based playground Stadia wants to become. But we'll see what it shapes into over the next handful of months and check back in. Raymond Wong, writing for Input Mag looks at the amount of data playing a game on Stadia consumes and how the current state of things require a very fast internet connection to work: Like streaming video, streaming games is entirely dependent on your internet speed. Faster internet delivers smooth, lag-free visuals, and slower internet means seeing some glitches and dropped framerates. Google recommends a minimum of connection of 10Mbps for 1080p Full HD streaming at 30 fps with stereo sound and 35Mbps for 4K resolution streaming (in HDR if display is supported) at 60 fps with 5.1 surround sound. Reality didn't reflect Google's advertising, though. Despite having a Wi-Fi connection with 16-20Mbps downloads in a hotel room in LA, streaming Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Destiny 2 to my 13-inch MacBook Pro wasn't 100% stable. The visuals would glitch out for a second or two about every 10 minutes of playtime. [...] A fast internet connection isn't the only thing you need for Stadia to work right. You need a lot of bandwidth, too. One hour of playing Red Dead Redemption 2 at 1080p resolution on my 46-inch HDTV via a Chromecast Ultra ate up 5.3GB of data. This seemed insane until I saw an hour of Destiny 2 on a Pixel 3a XL with 6-inch, 1080p-resolution display gobbled up 9.3GB of data!

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    - Watchmen Creator Alan Moore: Modern Superhero Culture is Embarrassing
    Is it embarrassing for adults to like superheroes? According to Alan Moore -- creator of the Watchmen series and widely considered one of the greatest comic book writers -- it is. From a report: He says superheroes are perfectly fine for 12 or 13-year-olds but adults should think again. "I think the impact of superheroes on popular culture is both tremendously embarrassing and not a little worrying," he says. Alan wrote Watchmen in 1986. The series depicts an alternate history where superheroes emerged in the 1940s and 1960s and their presence changed the course of history. He believes the characters are "perfectly suited" to the imaginations of a younger audience - but now, they serve a "different function, and are fulfilling different needs." The writer claims adults enjoy superhero films because they don't wish to leave their "relatively reassuring childhoods" behind, or move into the 21st century.

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    - Some Fitbit Users Say They're Getting Rid of the Devices Because They Don't Trust Google
    The trend of people throwing or threatening to throw out their Fitbit devices comes as Google faces a perception problem that has spanned everyday users and regulators alike. From a report: The company has paid data privacy fines in the EU and made recent strides into the stringently regulated healthcare industry, which has caused the public to re-think seemingly harmless tools. Privacy groups this week began pushing regulators to block the Fitbit acquisition, which the company originally hoped to close in early 2020. Google didn't respond to requests for comment. "I only recently got it and now I'm thinking I don't need Google watching literally my every step or my every heart beat," said Dan Kleinman, who said he is getting rid of his Fitbit Versa. Some people cited Google's 2014 acquisition of Nest Labs, which, at the time consisted of smart home thermostats. Since then, the company has tied Nest's technology, branding and device accounts to its digital assistant and smart speakers. Twitter users have been tweeting about their plans to get rid of their devices upon hearing of the acquisition.

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    - India Says Law Permits Agencies To Snoop on Citizens' Devices
    The Indian government said on Tuesday that it is "empowered" to intercept, monitor, or decrypt any digital communication "generated, transmitted, received, or stored" on a citizen's device in the country in the interest of national security or to maintain friendly relations with foreign states. From a report: Citing section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and section 5 of the Telegraph Act, 1885, Minister of State for Home Affairs G. Kishan Reddy said local law empowers federal and state government to "intercept, monitor or decrypt or cause to be intercepted or monitored or decrypted any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above or for investigation of any offence." Reddy's remarks were in response to the parliament, where a lawmaker had asked if the government had snooped on citizens' WhatsApp, Messenger, Viber, and Google calls and messages.

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    - Microsoft Teams Hits 20M Daily Users, Up 50% in 4 Months
    Microsoft Teams now has more than 20 million daily active users, a 50% spike in four months that puts the tool well ahead of its chief rival Slack. From a report: Microsoft revealed the number of Teams users for the first time in July, about a year after it first started offering a free version of the service. Teams has the advantage of being part of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem with a pool of millions of users to pull from, setting it up for rapid growth. Last month, Slack said it had more than 12 million daily users, a 37 percent increase over the prior year. Despite trailing Microsoft in the number of users, Slack has said its high level engagement -- the average paid customer spends 9 hours a day on Slack and more than 90 minutes actively using it -- gives it an advantage in shaping the future of work. The two companies are in the midst of a fierce, multi-year rivalry for dominance of the competitive market for chat-based collaboration tools, which also includes tech giants Google and Facebook. Microsoft and Slack have been aggressive in making splashy announcements this year to showcase the growth of their platforms.

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    - Sweden Drops Julian Assange Rape Investigation
    Sweden has dropped an investigation into a rape allegation made against Julian Assange. From a report: The deputy chief prosecutor, Eva-Marie Persson, told a news conference: "I want to inform about my decision to discontinue the preliminary investigation." The decision on Tuesday follows a ruling in June by a Swedish court that Assange, who denies the accusation, should not be detained. Two months earlier, the WikiLeaks founder was evicted from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had been living since 2012.

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    - Why Office Noise Bothers Some People More Than Others
    An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via the BBC: According to a 2015 survey of the most annoying office noises by Avanta Serviced Office Group, conversations were rated the most vexing, closely followed by coughing, sneezing and sniffing, loud phone voices, ringing phones and whistling. Why do we find it so hard to be around these everyday noises? What is it about them that allows them to lodge in our brains and make it impossible to think? [...] Back in 2011, researchers from University College London and the University of London decided to find out. First of all, the researchers asked 118 female secondary school students to complete a questionnaire, which revealed how extroverted or introverted each was -- essentially, whether they thrive on socializing and being immersed in the outside world or if they find these experiences exhausting. Next the students were subjected to a battery of cognitive challenges -- and to add extra difficulty, they were asked to complete them while listening to British garage music, or the clamor of a classroom. A control group completed them in silence. As the researchers suspected, all the students performed better in silence. But they also found that, in general -- with the exception of one test -- the more extroverted they were, the less they were affected by noise. A person's level of extroversion is thought to be a key aspect of their personality -- one of the so-called 'Big Five' factors that determines who we are, along with things like how open we are to new experiences. According to one prominent theory, extroverts are inherently "understimulated," so they tend to seek out situations which increase their level of arousal -- like noisy environments. Meanwhile, introverts have the opposite problem; as the famous poet, novelist and introvert Charles Bukowski put it: "People empty me. I have to get away to refill." With this in mind, it makes sense that more introverted workers would be more affected by the background noise, since anything that increases their level of arousal, like music or the chatter of colleagues, could be overwhelming.

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    - MIT Teaches Autonomous Cars How To Deal With Selfish Drivers
    Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have devised a system that can predict what different cars will do by determining how selfish or selfless a driver is. From a report: Specifically, they used something called social value orientation (SVO), which represents the degree to which someone is selfish ("egoistic") versus altruistic or cooperative ("prosocial"). The system then estimates drivers' SVOs to create real-time driving trajectories for self-driving cars. Testing their algorithm on the tasks of merging lanes and making unprotected left turns, the team showed that they could better predict the behavior of other cars by a factor of 25 percent. For example, in the left-turn simulations their car knew to wait when the approaching car had a more egoistic driver, and to then make the turn when the other car was more prosocial. To try to expand the car's social awareness, the CSAIL team combined methods from social psychology with game theory, a theoretical framework for conceiving social situations among competing players. The team modeled road scenarios where each driver tried to maximize their own utility and analyzed their "best responses" given the decisions of all other agents. Based on that small snippet of motion from other cars, the team's algorithm could then predict the surrounding cars' behavior as cooperative, altruistic, or egoistic -- grouping the first two as "prosocial." People's scores for these qualities rest on a continuum with respect to how much a person demonstrates care for themselves versus care for others. Here are some potential use cases of such a system: "Say you're a human driving along and a car suddenly enters your blind spot -- the system could give you a warning in the rear-view mirror that the car has an aggressive driver, allowing you to adjust accordingly. It could also allow self-driving cars to actually learn to exhibit more human-like behavior that will be easier for human drivers to understand." The team is planning to apply their system to pedestrians, bicycles, and other agents in driving environments. "In addition, they will be investigating other robotic systems acting among humans, such as household robots, and integrating SVO into their prediction and decision-making algorithms," the report says.

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    - China Now Launches More Rockets Than Anyone In the World
    Last year, China set a goal of 35 orbital launches and ended up with 39 launch attempts. "This year, China is set to pace the world again," reports Ars Technica. "Through Sunday, the country has launched 27 orbital missions, followed by Russia (19), and the United States (16). Although nearly a month and a half remain in this year, a maximum of six additional orbital launches are likely from the United States in 2019." From the report: To be fair, China's space launch program has not been without hiccups. The country's space program is still trying to bring its large Long March 5 vehicle back into service after a catastrophic failure during just its second mission, in July 2017. And the country had three failures in 2018 and 2019, compared to just one in the United States and Russia combined. The United States has taken a step back this year in part due to decreased activity by SpaceX. The company launched a record 21 missions last year but has so far launched 11 rockets in 2019. A flurry of missions remains possible in the next six weeks for the company, including a space station resupply mission in early December, a commercial satellite launch, and additional Starlink flights. Another big factor has been a slow year for United Launch Alliance. The Colorado-based company has launched just two Delta IV-Medium rockets this year, one Delta IV-Heavy, and a single Atlas V mission. The company may launch Boeing's Starliner spacecraft before the end of 2019, giving the Atlas V rocket a second launch. It is possible that Rocket Lab, which has flown its Electron rocket from New Zealand five times in 2019 and is planning at least one more mission before the end of the year, will have more launches than United Launch Alliance for the first time. Sometime next year, Rocket Lab should also begin to add to the US tally for orbital launches as it opens a new facility at Wallops Island, Virginia.

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    - 'Royalty-Free' Music Supplied By YouTube Results In Mass Video Demonetization
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: A YouTuber who used a royalty-free track supplied by YouTube itself has had all of his videos copyright claimed by companies including SonyATV and Warner Chappell. According to the music outfits, Matt Lownes' use the use of the track 'Dreams' by Joakim Karud means that they are now entitled to all of his revenue. [...] Worryingly, searches online show that not only are other people affected by similar mass complaints, but there may -- may -- be an explanation for what is going on here. "SonyATV & Warner Chappell have claimed 24 of my videos because the royalty free song Dreams by Joakim Karud (from the OFFICIAL YOUTUBE AUDIO LIBRARY BTW) uses a sample from Kenny Burrell Quartet's 'Weaver of Dream,'" a Twitter user wrote on Saturday. Sure enough, if one turns to the WhoSampled archive, Dreams is listed as having sampled Weaver of Dreams, a track from 1956 to which Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC and Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. own the copyrights. If the trend of claims against 'Dreams' continues, there is potential for huge upheaval on YouTube and elsewhere. Countless thousands of videos use the track and as a result it has become very well-known. Sadly, people trying to claim it as their own is nothing new but fingers crossed, common sense will sort out the present issues.

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    - Woman Who Inherited Huntington's Disease Sues Doctors
    AmiMoJo writes: A woman is suing a London NHS trust for not revealing her father had been diagnosed with Huntington's disease before she had her own child. She only discovered he carried the gene for the degenerative, incurable brain disorder after her daughter was born. The woman then found out she too carried the faulty gene, meaning her daughter has a 50% chance of having it. The story is tragic. In 2007 her father murdered her mother and was found to have Huntington's, which often results in confusion and violent behavior. She was already pregnant at the time and her father asked that she not be told as he feared she would abort the pregnancy. Doctors were in a bind, with doctor-patient confidentiality on one hand and a duty of care on the other. The woman is arguing that in cases of serious inherited diseases children should have a right to know. She says if she had known she would not have had a child, who has a 50:50 chance of also having Huntington's and will one day have to look after her confused and possibly violent mother.

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