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UK protests over access to Twitter data

Today, 07:15 AM

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The British government is protesting against Twitter's decision to withdraw access to user data used to investigate potential terrorist plots.


The information was previously used by the police and the MI5 intelligence agency.

However the Telegraph newspaper cited industry sources, in a report on 25 April, saying the government's access had been "blocked".

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"We are protesting this decision. We are in talks with Twitter on getting access to this data," a government spokesman said, according to the Reuters news agency.


The BBC understands that the data in question is available to private companies but the Home Office has been denied access to it.

Recent reports of Twitter data being used for surveillance had caused the company "great concern", vice president Chris Moody wrote in a blog post last November.

"Our commitment to social justice is core to our mission and well established," he wrote.

Prior to that, the firm had already blocked the FBI and CIA from purchasing data on Twitter users from the data-gathering service Dataminr.

More to follow

Source: http://www.bbc.com/n...nology-39721632


Driverless cars trial set for UK motorways in 2019

24 April 2017 - 10:17 AM

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A consortium of British companies has unveiled a plan to test driverless cars on UK roads and motorways in 2019.

The Driven group also plans to try out a fleet of autonomous vehicles between London and Oxford.
The cars will communicate with each other about any hazards and should operate with almost full autonomy - but will have a human on board as well.
Previous tests of driverless vehicles in the UK have mainly taken place at slow speeds and not on public roads.
The Driven consortium is led by Oxbotica, which makes software for driverless vehicles.

Founder Prof Paul Newman, of Oxford University, said: "We're moving from the singleton autonomous vehicle to fleets of autonomous vehicles - and what's interesting is what data the vehicles share with one another, when, and why."
The project is backed by an £8.6m government grant and involves an insurance company, which will assess the risks involved at each stage of the journey.
The UK government has committed about £100m in total towards autonomous driving projects and has said it wants Britain to "lead the way in developing" the tech.

But one expert said the country risks falling behind what is being done abroad.
"Britain is trying to keep up, but the big development in the field is going on elsewhere," said Prof David Bailey from Aston Business School.
"That includes Google in the US, Volvo in China and Daimler in Germany.
"And amounts being committed [by the UK] are relatively small beer.
"The Obama government, for example, proposed spending billions of dollars over 10 years."

Calum Chace, author of Surviving AI, agreed that the UK appears to have fallen behind.
"I don't know why we have to wait until 2019," he said.
"But in a way it doesn't matter how aggressively the UK pushes this tech. When the US does this large-scale technology we will have to adopt it too.
"It will save so many lives and so much money."

Source: http://www.bbc.com/n...nology-39691540

Google's new VR camera has 17 lenses and costs $18,000

24 April 2017 - 10:16 AM

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What has 17 lenses, costs $18,000, and can make you feel like you're anywhere in the world? The YI Halo, a new virtual reality camera that runs on Google's Jump VR platform.

Made by Chinese camera company YI with Google (GOOG), the Halo shoots 4k video simultaneously on all 17 cameras. It uses Google's Jump software to stitch the footage together into a single, immersive 360-degree VR film.

Google announced the new hardware Monday, barely a week after Facebook (FBTech30) revealed plans for a pair of its own VR cameras: the x24 and x6.

"Cameras are hot. That's good. We planned this a while ago," Amit Singh, Google's VP of business for VR, said at a briefing with reporters in San Francisco ahead of the news release.

The YI Halo will go on sale this summer, and Google says some early partners will get rigs right away.

 

Why are consumer tech companies competing to make expensive hardware for a niche professional market? They really just want to sell more virtual reality headsets. But first, they need content people can actually watch on their futuristic face-mounted TVs.

The tech industry has spent the past year pushing virtual reality goggles like Facebook's Oculus Rift, the Samsung Gear VR and the Sony PlayStation VR. Google has two of its own lower-cost products, the Cardboard and the Google Daydream View.

But virtual reality experiences are in short supply, in part because of how much time and money it takes to produce quality VR movies.

Like most VR camera rigs, the YI Halo is a bunch of action cameras cobbled together into a ring with a single camera on top. It looks like an old-school slide carousel and weight about eight pounds.

Though it has dabbled in other hardware, including phones and routers, Google partnered with a camera company on the Halo instead of making its own. Google is instead focused on the underlying technology, like algorithms that can stitch footage together with minimal mistakes in hours instead of months.

One early YI Halo tester is virtual reality filmmaker Armando Kirwin of Milk VR, who said at the press briefing that Facebook's cameras aren't really direct competition. Instead, the Halo is aimed at lengthy multi-million dollar productions that use expensive special effects artists to put together the footage. As YouTube-owner Google knows well, there can be an advantage to volume over quality when it comes to content.

To get more people shooting, Google is launching a program called Jump Start. Filmmakers can apply for free cameras and use of the Jump software.

Source: http://money.cnn.com...halo/index.html


U.S. Homeland Security probes possible abuse in Twitter summons case

22 April 2017 - 05:18 AM

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The U.S. Homeland Security Department's inspector general said on Friday he was investigating possible abuse of authority in a case that triggered a lawsuit against the department by Twitter Inc 
 

Inspector General John Roth described the probe in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who had asked for an investigation due to concerns about free speech protections.
 
In a lawsuit on April 6, Twitter disclosed that it received a summons in March from the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, an agency within Homeland Security, demanding records about an account on the social media platform identified by the handle @ALT_uscis.
 
The account has featured posts critical of President Donald Trump's immigration policies, leading Twitter to complain in its lawsuit that the summons was an unlawful attempt to suppress dissent.
 
The agency dropped its demand of Twitter the day after the suit was filed.
 
Customs bureau spokesman Mike Friel said on Friday that the bureau requested the inspector general's review and will fully support it.
 
The people behind the Twitter account have not disclosed their identities, but the use of "ALT" with a government agency acronym has led many to assume government employees were behind the tweets critical of Trump.
 
The lawsuit said the account "claims to be" the work of at least one federal immigration employee. USCIS is the acronym of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, a component of Homeland Security.

Roth's office is charged with investigating waste, fraud and abuse within Homeland Security. He wrote in his letter that he was looking at whether the summons to Twitter "was improper in any way, including whether CBP abused its authority."
 
"DHS OIG is also reviewing potential broader misuse of summons authority at the department," he added.
 
Wyden's office posted the letter online. A representative for Roth could not immediately be reached for comment. A Twitter spokeswoman declined to comment.

Source: http://www.reuters.c...y-idUSKBN17N2IY

 


Experts excited by brain 'wonder-drug'

20 April 2017 - 01:04 AM

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Scientists hope they have found a drug to stop all neurodegenerative brain diseases, including dementia.

In 2013, a UK Medical Research Council team stopped brain cells dying in an animal for the first time creating headline news around the world.

But the compound used was unsuitable for people, as it caused organ damage.

Now two drugs have been found that should have the same protective effect on the brain and are already safely used in people.


"It's really exciting," said Prof Giovanna Mallucci, from the MRC Toxicology Unit in Leicester.

She wants to start human clinical trials on dementia patients soon and expects to know whether the drugs work within two to three years.

Why might they work?

The novel approach is focused on the natural defence mechanisms built into brain cells.

When a virus hijacks a brain cell it leads to a build-up of viral proteins.

Cells respond by shutting down nearly all protein production in order to halt the virus's spread.


Many neurodegenerative diseases involve the production of faulty proteins that activate the same defences, but with more severe consequences.

The brain cells shut down production for so long that they eventually starve themselves to death.

This process, repeated in neurons throughout the brain, can destroy movement, memory or even kill, depending on the disease.

It is thought to take place in many forms of neurodegeneration, so safely disrupting it could treat a wide range of diseases.


In the initial study, the researchers used a compound that prevented the defence mechanism kicking in.

It halted the progress of prion disease in mice - the first time any neurodegenerative disease had been halted in any animal.

Further studies showed the approach could halt a range of degenerative diseases.

The findings were described as a "turning point" for the field even though the compound was toxic to the pancreas.

Neurodegeneration

  • A neurodegenerative disease is one in which the cells of the brain and spinal cord are lost
  • The functions of these cells include decision making and control of movements
  • These cells are not easily regenerated, so the effects of diseases can be devastating
  • Neurodegenerative diseases include Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and Huntington's

Source: London Brain Centre

Safe drugs?

Since 2013, the research group has tested more than 1,000 ready-made drugs on nematode worms, human cells in a dish and mice.

Two were shown to prevent both a form of dementia and prion disease by stopping brain cells dying.

Prof Mallucci told the BBC News website: "Both were very highly protective and prevented memory deficits, paralysis and dysfunction of brain cells."

The best known drug of the pair is trazodone, which is already taken by patients with depression.

The other, DBM, is being tested in cancer patients.


Prof Mallucci said: "It's time for clinical trials to see if there's similar effects in people and put our money where our mouth is.

"We're very unlikely to cure them completely, but if you arrest the progression you change Alzheimer's disease into something completely different so it becomes liveable with."

But, although trazodone is a current medication, she added: "As a professional, a doctor and a scientists, I must advise people to wait for the results."

What do the experts think?


Dr Doug Brown, from the Alzheimer's Society, said: "We're excited by the potential of these findings, from this well conducted and robust study.

"As one of the drugs is already available as a treatment for depression, the time taken to get from the lab to the pharmacy could be dramatically reduced."

Dr David Dexter, from Parkinson's UK, said: "This is a very robust and important study.

"If these studies were replicated in human clinical trials, both trazodone and DBM could represent a major step forward."

Source: http://www.bbc.com/n...health-39641123