Space

It's Official: LIGO Scientists Make First-Ever Observation of Gravity Waves (economist.com) 371

A few days ago, we posted reports that a major finding -- the discovery of the long-predicted gravity waves -- was expected to be formally announced today, and reader universe520 is the first to note this coverage in the Economist : It is 1.3 billion years after two black holes merged and sent out gravitational waves. On Earth in September 2015, the faintest slice of those waves was caught. That slice, called GW150914 and announced to the world on February 11th, is the first gravitational wave to be detected directly by human scientists. It is a triumph that has been a century in the making, opening a new window onto the universe and giving researchers a means to peer at hitherto inaccessible happenings, perhaps as far back in time as the Big Bang. Reader DudeTheMath adds: NPR has a nice write-up of the newly-published results: "[R]esearchers say they have detected rumblings from that cataclysmic collision as ripples in the very fabric of space-time itself. The discovery comes a century after Albert Einstein first predicted such ripples should exist. ... The signal in the detector matches well with what's predicted by Einstein's original theory, according to [Saul] Teukolsky [of Cornell], who was briefed on the results." Update: 02/11 18:08 GMT by T : Worth reading: this letter, inspirational and informative, from MIT president L. Rafael Reif, about the discovery. (Hat tip to Brian Kulak.)
Facebook

France Launches Second Salvo Against Facebook (liberation.fr) 83

Eunuchswear writes: After Mondays decision by the French CNIL (National Center for Computers and Freedom) that Facebook must stop tracking non-users, the DGCCRF (General Direction for Competition, Consumption and Repression of Fraud), has ruled that Facebooks terms of use are abusive and must be changed within 60 days." The linked story is in French, but for those of us who don't speak the language, Google translate works. Here's the DGCCRF's Facebook page.
Government

Identity Thieves Obtain 100,000 Electronic Filing PINs From IRS System (csoonline.com) 89

itwbennett writes: In January attackers targeted an IRS Web application in an attempt to obtain E-file PINs corresponding to 464,000 previously stolen social security numbers (SSNs) and other taxpayer data. The automated bot was blocked by the IRS after obtaining 100,000 PINs. The IRS said in a statement Tuesday that the SSNs were not stolen from the agency and that the agency would be notifying affected taxpayers.
Facebook

French Gov't Gives Facebook 3 Months To Stop Tracking Non-User Browsers 174

Reader iamthecheese writes RT reports that France's National Commission of Information and Freedoms found Facebook tracking of non-user browsers to be illegal. Facebook has three months to stop doing it. The ruling points to violations of members and non-members privacy in violation of an earlier ruling. The guidance, published last October, invalidates safe harbor provisions. If Facebook fails to comply the French authority will appoint someone to decide upon a sanction. Related: A copy of the TPP leaked last year no longer requires signing countries to have a safe harbor provision.
Social Networks

Instagram Launches Account Switching On iOS and Android (google.com) 29

Today, Instagram announced that users will be able to switch between up to five different accounts when using the app on iOS and Android. This new feature will be available later this week, when users download version 7.15 of the app. According to a blog post from the company, "Go to your profile settings to add an additional account. From there, tap your username at the top of your profile to switch between accounts. Once you have multiple accounts added, you'll see your profile photo appear in places throughout the app so you can always tell which one you're using at the moment."
Stats

Video Gamers From the '90s Have Turned Out Mostly OK (arstechnica.com) 239

A study reported on by Ars Technica indicates that video games, much ballyhooed (alleged) source of mental, physical and psycho-social ills for the kids who spent a lot of time playing them, don't seem to have had quite as big a negative effect on those kids as the moral panic of the past few decades would have you believe. Instead, There didn't seem to be an association between the number of games the children reported owning and an increase in risk for conduct disorder. When examining depression among shoot-em-up players, there was evidence for increased risk before the researchers controlled for all the confounding factors, but not afterwards. Of course, there's a lot of data to go around in the several studies referred to here, and the upshot seems to both less exciting and less simple than "Video games are good, not bad!"
Social Networks

Facebook Knocks "Six Degrees of Separation" Down a Few Notches (i-programmer.info) 89

mikejuk writes: Six degrees of separation is the, already well established, idea that any individual is connected to any other via six network nodes. New research has discovered that the average between Facebook users is just three and a half: "We know that people are more connected today than ever before. Over the past five years, the global Facebook community has more than doubled in size. Today we're announcing that during that same time period, the degrees of separation between a typical pair of Facebook users has continued to decrease to 3.57 degrees, down from 3.74 degrees in 2011. This is a significant reflection of how closely connected the world has become." This may all be true and Facebook makes us better connected, but it leaves the question of the quality of the connections open. Are Facebook friends anything like real friends?
Facebook

Study Finds Sleep Deprivation Increases Compulsive Facebook Usage (thestack.com) 50

An anonymous reader writes: A study at UC Irvine has taken a reverse approach to the customary interest in the relationship between technology and tiredness, finding that people who make themselves tired through excessive use of social media such as Facebook are considerably more likely to continue compulsive use of it and deepen their exhaustion. Lead researcher Gloria Mark says "If you're being distracted, what do you do? You go to Facebook. It's lightweight, it's easy, and you're tired."
Twitter

Twitter Tackles Terrorists In Targeted Takedown (betanews.com) 100

Mark Wilson writes: Having previously battled trolls, Twitter has now turned its attention to terrorists and their supporters. The site has closed down more than 125,000 accounts associated with terrorism since the middle of 2015, it announced in a statement. Although a full breakdown of figures is not provided, Twitter says most of these accounts were related to ISIS. Having increased the size of its account review team, the site has reduced the time it takes to investigate accounts that are reported, and has also started to investigate 'accounts similar to those reported'.
Education

K-12 CS Framework Draft: Kids Taught To 'Protect Original Ideas' In Early Grades 132

theodp writes: Remember that Code.org and ACM-bankrolled K-12 Computer Science Education Framework that Microsoft, Google, Apple, and others were working on? Well, a draft of the framework was made available for review on Feb. 3rd, coincidentally just 3 business days after U.S. President Barack Obama and Microsoft President Brad Smith teamed up to announce the $4+ billion Computer Science for All initiative for the nation's K-12 students. "Computationally literate citizens have the responsibility to learn about, recognize, and address the personal, ethical, social, economic, and cultural contexts in which they operate," explains the section on Fostering an Inclusive Computing Culture, one of seven listed 'Core K-12 CS Practices'. "Participating in an inclusive computing culture encompasses the following: building and collaborating with diverse computational teams, involving diverse users in the design process, considering the implication of design choices on the widest set of end users, accounting for the safety and security of diverse end users, and fostering inclusive identities of computer scientists." Hey, do as they say, not as they do! Also included in the 10-page draft (pdf) is a section on Law and Ethics, which begins: "In early grades, students differentiate between responsible and irresponsible computing behaviors. Students learn that responsible behaviors can help individuals while irresponsible behaviors can hurt individuals. They examine legal and ethical considerations for obtaining and sharing information and apply those behaviors to protect original ideas."
Google

Google Targets Fake "Download" and "Play" Buttons (torrentfreak.com) 117

AmiMoJo writes: Google says it will go to war against the fake 'download' and 'play' buttons that attempt to deceive users on file-sharing and other popular sites. According to a new announcement from the company titled 'No More Deceptive Download Buttons', Google says it will expand its eight-year-old Safe Browsing initiative to target some of the problems highlighted above. 'You may have encountered social engineering in a deceptive download button, or an image ad that falsely claims your system is out of date. Today, we're expanding Safe Browsing protection to protect you from such deceptive embedded content, like social engineering ads,' the company says.
Facebook

Facebook Celebrates Turning 12 Today (cnbc.com) 153

12 years ago today, Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, and since then the site has grown at a nearly unbelievable pace. Now, with about 1.6 billion monthly active users, Facebook makes an average of $3.73 in revenue per user worldwide. And as the company continues to grow, engagement is only getting higher. According to an analysis by CNBC, users spend an aggregate of 10.5 billion minutes per day on the social media platform -- that's around $3.5 trillion in squandered productivity, by their estimate. Facebook is celebrating its birthday by marking today "Friends Day" and adding personalized videos to each user's account showing their best moments with friends, or at least what Facebook's algorithms think are the best moments. (Users can opt to share the video or keep it private.) The company's also announced an updated degrees-of-separation metric to make it easier to connect with other users.

Video What Is Social Engineering? 2

CSO presents an animated explainer on how data criminals exploit human psychology to gain access to a company's data, rather than by hacking or technical measures.
The Internet

How the Raspberry Pi Can Automatically Tweet Complaints About Your Slow Internet (ibtimes.co.uk) 154

An anonymous reader writes: Contacting your internet provider to complain about slow browsing speeds is a tiresome chore which none of us enjoy, but one man has found a solution. He has configured a Raspberry Pi computer to automatically tweet a complaint to Comcast when his internet falls below 50Mbps, well below the 150Mbps he pays for. Wouldn't it be nice if ISPs wrote a rebate check each month to reflect the percentage of their promised throughput that was actually available?
Social Networks

Why Does Twitter Refuse To Shut Down Donald Trump? (vortex.com) 832

Lauren Weinstein writes: The conclusion appears inescapable. Twitter apparently has voluntarily chosen to 'look the other way' while Donald Trump spews forth a trolling stream of hate and other abuses that would cause any average Twitter user to be terminated in a heartbeat. There's always room to argue the proprietary or desirability of any given social media content terms of service — or the policy precepts through which they are applied. It is also utterly clear that if such rules are not applied to everyone with the same vigor, particularly when there's an appearance of profiting by making exceptions for particular individuals, the moral authority on which those rules are presumably based is decimated, pointless, and becomes a mere fiction. Would you rather Twitter shut down no account ever, apply a sort of white-listing policy, or something in the middle?
Facebook

Facebook Expands Online Commerce Role, But Says "No Guns, Please" 190

The New York Times reports that Facebook's newly staked-out role as a site to facilitate local, person-to-person sales (ala Craigslist) has a new wrinkle: the site has announced a site-wide policy restricting firearms sales that applies to personal sales, though not to licensed dealers or gun clubs. According to the story, Although Facebook was not directly involved in gun sales, it has served as a forum for gun sales to be negotiated, without people having to undergo background checks. The social network, with 1.6 billion monthly visitors, had become one of the worldâ(TM)s largest marketplaces for guns and was increasingly evolving into an e-commerce site where it could facilitate transactions of goods. ... Facebook said it would rely on its vast network of users to report any violations of the new rules, and would remove any post that violated the policy. Beyond that, the company said it could ban users or severely limit the ways they post on Facebook, depending on the type and severity of past violations. If the company believed someoneâ(TM)s life was in danger, Facebook would work with law enforcement on the situation. The policy applies as well to private sales that occur using Facebook Messenger, though the company does not scan Messenger exchanges and must rely on user reports.
Facebook

Facebook Introduces Emojis, Live Video (thestack.com) 70

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook has announced that it would roll out a new live video tool called Live, available immediately for US iPhone users, and expanding to the rest of the world and Android users over the next few weeks. It is also expanding the 'Like' button to a range of emojis called 'Reactions'. The 'Live' video service has had a limited testing group since December, according to Product Manager Vadim Lavrusik. Starting today, Facebook users can access the service through the existing Update Status tool, and can control the audience for the video before uploading. Facebook also announced that it will roll out an expansion of the 'Like' button to a range of emojis called 'Reactions'.The 'Like' function will now include emojis for Love, Sad, Angry, Happy and Wow. The emoji for 'Yay' was discarded after testing.
Communications

The Widely Reported ISIS Encrypted Messaging App Is Not Real 113

blottsie writes: Despite widespread reports to the contrary, an app created for Islamic State militants to send private encrypted messages does not exist, a week-long Daily Dot investigation found. All of the media articles on the Alrawi app showed screenshots of a different app entirely, one that is a glorified RSS reader with a totally different name. The Defense One journalist who first reported on GSG's claims about the app told the Daily Dot that he hadn't seen any version of Alrawi at all, and the subsequent reports on the app largely relied on Defense One's reporting. The Daily Dot was the first media outlet to receive, on Jan. 18, what GSG claimed was the Alrawi encryption app. The app, called "Alrawi.apk," contained no ability to send or encrypt messages. It was created using MIT's App Inventor, a plug-and-play tool meant primarily for children.
Twitter

A Customer-Driven Business Model For Twitter (jeffreifman.com) 65

reifman writes: As revolving door of Twitter executives makes headlines and its $100+ million quarterly losses continue, it's not clear the company will survive the year without being acquired for a quarter of its offering price. The solution for Twitter's business challenges could be to adopt an engaging feature rich subscriber model that reaffirms its status as the platform of a global democratic communication hub. Here are fifteen ideas for Twitter to transform into a profitable user-centered business including integration of open source Signal for secure phone calls and direct messaging, Stellar for payments and domain mapping and blog hosting with your feed front and center.
Data Storage

Six Missing HDDs Contain Health Information of Nearly a Million Patients (corporate-ir.net) 87

Lucas123 writes: Health insurer Centene Corp. revealed that it is looking for six HDDs with information on 950,000 customers that went missing during a data project that was using laboratory results to improve the health outcomes of patients. The drives not only contain sensitive personal identification information, such as addresses, dates of birth and social security numbers, but they also contain health information. "While we don't believe this information has been used inappropriately," said Michael Neidorff, CEO of Centene.

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