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    - Marco Rubio Introduces Privacy Bill To Create Federal Regulations On Data Collection
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced a bill Wednesday aimed at creating federal standards of privacy protection for major internet companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google. The bill, titled the American Data Dissemination Act, requires the Federal Trade Commission to make suggestions for regulation based on the Privacy Act of 1974. Congress would then have to pass legislation within two years, or the FTC will gain the power to write the rules itself (under current laws, the FTC can only enforce existing rules). While Rubio's bill is intended to reign in the data collection and dissemination of companies like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Netflix, it also requires any final legislation to protect small businesses from being stifled by new rules. The caveat comes when one considers states' rights to create their own privacy laws. Under Rubio's legislation, any national regulations would preempt state laws -- even if the state's are more strict. "While we may have disagreements on the best path forward, no one believes a privacy law that only bolsters the largest companies with the resources to comply and stifles our start-up marketplace is the right approach," Rubio wrote in an op-ed for The Hill, announcing his bill.

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    - Federal Prosecutors Are Investigating Huawei For Allegedly Stealing Trade Secrets, Says Report
    According to The Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation to see if Huawei allegedly stole trade secrets from U.S. companies. The probe is reportedly built out of civil lawsuits against the telecommunications firm. The Hill reports: People familiar with the probe told the Journal that it is at an advanced stage and that an indictment could soon be coming. Huawei has long faced scrutiny from both lawmakers and national security officials, who have labeled the firm as a national security threat over its ties to the Chinese government. The company has denied that characterization, and China this week called for other countries to end âoethe groundless fabrications and unreasonable restrictionsâ on Huawei and other firms.

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    - New Satellite Network Will Make It Impossible For a Commercial Airplane To Vanish
    pgmrdlm quotes a report from CBS News: For the first time, a new network of satellites will soon be able to track all commercial airplanes in real time, anywhere on the planet. Currently, planes are largely tracked by radar on the ground, which doesn't work over much of the world's oceans. The final 10 satellites were launched Friday to wrap up the $3 billion effort to replace 66 aging communication satellites, reports CBS News' Kris Van Cleave, who got an early look at the new technology. On any given day, 43,000 planes are in the sky in America alone. When these planes take off, they are tracked by radar and are equipped with a GPS transponder. All commercial flights operating in the U.S. and Europe have to have them by 2020. It's that transponder that talks to these new satellites, making it possible to know exactly where more than 10,000 flights currently flying are.

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    - Google Play Starts Manually Whitelisting SMS, Phone Apps
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Google is implementing major new Play Store rules for how Android's "SMS" and "Call Log" permissions are used. New Play Store rules will only allow certain types of apps to request phone call logs and SMS permissions, and any apps that don't fit into Google's predetermined use cases will be removed from the Play Store. The policy was first announced in October, and the policy kicks in and the ban hammer starts falling on non-compliant apps this week. Google says the decision to police these permissions was made to protect user privacy. SMS and phone permissions can give an app access to a user's contacts and everyone they've ever called, in addition to allowing the app to contact premium phone numbers that can charge money directly to the user's cellular bill. Despite the power of these permissions, a surprising number of apps ask for SMS or phone access because they have other, more benign use cases. So to clean up the Play Store, Google's current plan seems to be to (1) build more limited, replacement APIs for these benign use cases that don't offer access to so much user data and (2) kick everyone off the Play Store who is still using the wide-ranging SMS and phone permissions for these more limited use cases. Google provides a help page that helps explain the new rules and offer workarounds for some use cases.

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    - YouTube Cracks Down on 'Harmful and Dangerous' Challenges and Pranks
    YouTube has set stricter guidelines for "harmful and dangerous" prank and challenge videos. From a report: "We've always had policies to make sure what's funny doesn't cross the line into also being harmful or dangerous," reads the YouTube guidelines. "Our Community Guidelines prohibit content that encourages dangerous activities that are likely to result in serious harm, and today clarifying what this means for dangerous challenges and pranks." YouTube's guidelines now further detail which of these popular videos push the line, including challenges such as the Tide Pod challenge and the Fire challenge -- anything "that can cause death and/or have caused death in some instances." As for pranks, videos that make the victims believe they're in serious danger or cause severe emotional distress to children (further clarified with examples like faking the death of a parent) are no longer acceptable on the platform. Creators who host these types of videos on their channels will receive a grace period of two months to clean up their channel.

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    - Federal Prosecutors Pursuing Criminal Case Against Huawei for Alleged Theft of Trade Secrets: Report
    Federal prosecutors are pursuing a criminal investigation of China's Huawei for allegedly stealing trade secrets from U.S. business partners, including the technology behind a robotic device that T-Mobile used to test smartphones, WSJ reported Wednesday. From a report: The investigation grew in part out of civil lawsuits against Huawei, including one in which a Seattle jury found Huawei liable for misappropriating robotic technology from T-Mobile's Bellevue, Wash., lab, the people familiar with the matter said. The probe is at an advanced stage and could lead to an indictment soon, they said. The link to the source article may be paywalled; here's an alternative source.

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    - Happy 18th Birthday, Wikipedia
    This week, Wikipedia celebrates its 18th birthday. If the massive crowdsourced encyclopedia project were human, then in most countries, it would just now be considered a legal adult. But in truth, the free online encyclopedia has long played the role of the Internet's good grown-up. From a story: Wikipedia has grown enormously since its inception: It now boasts 5.7 million articles in English and pulled in 92 billion page views last year. The site has also undergone a major reputation change. If you ask Siri, Alexa or Google Home a general-knowledge question, it will likely pull the response from Wikipedia. The online encyclopedia has been cited in more than 400 judicial opinions, according to a 2010 paper in the Yale Journal of Law & Technology. Many professors are ditching the traditional writing assignment and instead asking students to expand or create a Wikipedia article on the topic. And YouTube Chief Executive Susan Wojcicki announced a plan last March to pair misleading conspiracy videos with links to corresponding articles from Wikipedia. Facebook has also released a feature using Wikipedia's content to provide users more information about the publication source for articles in their feed.

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    - Microsoft is Separating Cortana From Search in Windows 10
    Microsoft is making some big changes to Cortana in Windows 10. The company intends to decouple search and Cortana in the Windows 10 taskbar, allowing voice queries to be handled separately to typing in a search box to find documents and files. From a report: This change will be implemented in the next major Windows 10 update, currently scheduled for April. Windows 10 will direct you towards an built-in search experience for text queries, while Cortana will exist for voice queries instead of them both bundled together. "This will enable each experience to innovate independently to best serve their target audiences and use cases," explains Dona Sarkar, Microsoft's Windows Insider chief. "This change is one of several we've made throughout this release to improve your experience in this space, including updating the search landing page design, enhancing your search results, and integrating Microsoft To-Do with Cortana."

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    - Google's Transition To 64-Bit Apps Begins in August, 32-Bit Support To End in 2021
    In a bid to deliver better software experience on devices powered by 64-bit processors in the coming years, Google aims to shift Android towards a 64-bit app ecosystem. From a report: The company has now shed more light on the transition and has announced that developers will have to submit a 64-bit version of their Android apps starting August this year. This move will eventually culminate in a universal implementation of the 64-bit app policy that will be enforced in 2021, after which, Google will no longer host 32-bit apps on the Play Store accessed on a device based on 64-bit hardware. Google announced the move towards 64-bit apps in 2017, claiming that apps with 64-bit code offer significantly better performance. However, the search giant did not provide any details regarding the exceptions to the new rule or when the Play Store will cease to serve 32-bit apps. Google has now revealed that starting August 1 this year, developers must submit 64-bit versions of all new apps and app updates, alongside the old 32-bit versions prior to their publishing from the Play Store.

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    - Mozilla Kills Its Experimental Firefox Test Pilot Program 3 Years After Launch
    Mozilla has announced that it is closing Firefox Test Pilot, an experimental program it launched three years ago. Firefox Test Pilot allowed users to try out potential new built-in Firefox features and offer feedback to the browser maker. The company says the program was used by an average of 100,000 daily users. A report adds: It's worth noting here that Test Pilot is separate from the various beta versions of Firefox, which are early iterations designed to fine-tune features intended for the prime-time Firefox. Test Pilot, on the other hand, is more about Mozilla dipping its toes in the water to see whether a new feature is worth pursuing at all in the main version of the app, or even as a standalone product. Ultimately, it allows Firefox developers to take bigger risks with their ideas.

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    - Most Facebook Users Don't Know That it Records a List of Their Interests, New Study Finds
    Seventy-four percent of Facebook users are unaware that Facebook records a list of their interests for ad-targeting purposes, according to a new study from the Pew Institute. From a report: Participants in the study were first pointed to Facebook's ad preferences page, which lists out a person's interests. Nearly 60 percent of participants admitted that Facebook's lists of interests were very or somewhat accurate to their actual interests, and 51 percent said they were uncomfortable with Facebook creating the list.

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    - Finland's Ambitious Plan To Teach Anyone the Basics of AI
    In the era of AI superpowers, Finland is no match for the US and China. So the Scandinavian country is taking a different tack. From a report: It has embarked on an ambitious challenge to teach the basics of AI to 1% of its population, or 55,000 people. Once it reaches that goal, it plans to go further, increasing the share of the population with AI know-how. The scheme is all part of a greater effort to establish Finland as a leader in applying and using the technology. Citizens take an online course that is specifically designed for non-technology experts with no programming experience. The government is now rolling it out nationally. As of mid-December, more than 10,500 people, including at least 4,000 outside of Finland's borders, had graduated from the course. More than 250 companies have also pledged to train part or all of their workforce.

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    - The Motorola Razr Could Return as a $1,500 Foldable Smartphone
    The iconic Motorola RAZR might be making a comeback as a $1,500 foldable screen smartphone, and it could launch as early as February, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. From a report: The price point puts the handset north of even Apple and Samsung's flagships, at $1,500. Of course, there isn't really a standardized price point for the emerging foldables category yet. The Royole FlexPai starts at around $1,300 -- not cheap, especially for a product from a relative unknown. And Samsung, the next on the list to embrace the foldable, has never been afraid to hit a premium price point. Ultimately, $1,500 could well be standard for these sorts of products. Whether or not consumers are willing to pay that, however, is another question entirely.

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    - WhatsApp Now Has More Monthly Active Users Than Facebook App
    Facebook's $19 billion bet on WhatsApp in 2014, when the messaging app had 450 million active users, is beginning to pay off. From a report: In recent months, WhatsApp has surpassed Facebook's own marquee app in popularity, according to industry estimates. In September of last year, WhatsApp for the first time had more monthly active users worldwide on Android and iPhone platforms than the Facebook app, research firm App Annie said today in its annual State of Mobile report. App Annie did not share specific figures but told VentureBeat that WhatsApp has maintained its lead over the Facebook app since September.

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    - Sprint To Stop Selling Location Data To Third Parties
    After AT&T and T-Mobile said they would stop selling their customers' phone location data to third parties, Sprint has followed suit. From a report: Last week, Motherboard revealed that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint had been selling their customers' real-time location data that ultimately ended up in the hands of bounty hunters and people unauthorized to handle it. Motherboard found this by purchasing the capability to geolocate a phone for $300 on the black market. In response, AT&T and T-Mobile said they were stopping all sales of location data to third parties. Nearly a week later Sprint has committed to doing the same, in a statement to Motherboard. "As a result of recent events, we have decided to end our arrangements with data aggregators," a Sprint spokesperson told Motherboard in an email. Sprint did not provide a timeline of when this data access selling may end, but T-Mobile and AT&T have previously said their processes will be complete in March.

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