Technology

Companies hoping to grow carbon-sucking kelp may be rushing ahead of the science
Technology

Companies hoping to grow carbon-sucking kelp may be rushing ahead of the science

In late January, Elon Musk tweeted that he planned to give $100 million to promising carbon removal technologies, stirring the hopes of researchers and entrepreneurs. A few weeks later, Arin Crumley, a filmmaker who went on to develop electric skateboards, announced that a team was forming on Clubhouse, the audio app popular in Silicon Valley, to compete for a share of the Musk-funded XPrize. A group of artists, designers, and engineers assembled there and discussed a variety of possible natural and technical means of sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. As the conversations continued and a core team coalesced, they formed a company, Pull To Refresh, and eventually settled on growing giant bladder kelp in the ocean. So far, the venture’s main efforts include growing the seaweed in...
Troll farms reached 140 million Americans a month on Facebook before 2020 election, internal report shows
Technology

Troll farms reached 140 million Americans a month on Facebook before 2020 election, internal report shows

Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesperson, said in a statement that the company “had already been investigating these topics” at the time of Allen’s report. “Since that time, we have stood up teams, developed new policies and collaborated with industry peers to address these networks. We’ve taken aggressive enforcement actions against these kinds of foreign and domestic inauthentic groups and have shared the results publicly on a quarterly basis.” In the process of fact checking this story shortly before publication, MIT Technology Review found that five of the troll-farm pages mentioned in the report remained active. The largest troll-farm page targeting African-Americans in October 2019, which remains active on Facebook. The report found that troll farms were reaching the same demographic gro...
This US company sold iPhone hacking tools to UAE spies
Technology

This US company sold iPhone hacking tools to UAE spies

Optiv spokesperson Jeremy Jones wrote in an email that his company has "cooperated fully with the Department of Justice" and that Optiv "is not a subject of this investigation." That's true: The subjects of the investigation are the three former US intelligence and military personnel who worked illegally with the UAE. However, Accuvant's role as exploit developer and seller was important enough to be detailed at length in Justice Department court filings. The iMessage exploit was the primary weapon in an Emirati program called Karma, which was run by DarkMatter, an organization that posed as a private company but in fact acted as a de facto spy agency for the UAE.  Reuters reported the existence of Karma and the iMessage exploit in 2019. But on Tuesday, the US fined three former US in...
Inspiration4: Why SpaceX’s first all-private mission is a big deal
Technology

Inspiration4: Why SpaceX’s first all-private mission is a big deal

Rather than docking with the International Space Station (ISS) like SpaceX’s other crewed missions, the mission’s Crew Dragon spacecraft will instead remain in Earth orbit for three days under its own power  The crew will eat, drink, sleep, and use the toilet within the confines of their spacecraft, named Resilience, which boasts about three times the interior volume of a large car. To keep them occupied, the docking port of the spacecraft, which would normally be used to connect to the ISS, has been converted into a glass dome, affording the crew glorious panoramic views of Earth and the universe beyond.Beyond this, the goals of the mission are limited. There are some scientific experiments planned, but the most notable aspect of the mission is what will not happe...
Activists are helping Texans get access to abortion pills online
Politics, Technology

Activists are helping Texans get access to abortion pills online

The process only requires an internet connection: patients go online and answer some HIPAA-compliant questions about their pregnancy, such as when the first day of their last period was. If it’s a straightforward case, it’s approved by the doctor—there are seven American doctors covering 15 states—and the medication arrives in a few days. In places like Texas, where Aid Access doesn’t have doctors in state, Aid Access founder Rebecca Gomperts prescribes the medication from Europe, where she is based. That can take around three weeks, Pitney says.  The ability to get a safe, discreet abortion at home with just an internet connection could be life-changing for Texans and others in need. “It’s really changed the face of abortion access,” says Elisa Wells, the cofounder of Plan C, which p...
Why Facebook is using Ray-Ban to stake a claim on our faces
Opinion, Technology

Why Facebook is using Ray-Ban to stake a claim on our faces

Facebook’s View app “promises to be a safe space,” according to one review, but uploading data through the View app to other Facebook apps makes it unclear which privacy policies apply and how content the glasses record could ultimately be used. People using Ray-Ban Stories may also be subjected to additional surveillance. The View app states that a wearer’s voice commands could be recorded and shared with Facebook to “improve and personalize [the wearer’s] experience.” The user must opt out to avoid this.When some (but not all) of the people we interact with are cloaked in Ray-Ban Stories, we may not be able to fully cooperate with each other. We may not want to be recorded. Or if we don’t own Facebook’s glasses, or aren’t on Facebook, we may not be able to participate in social activitie...
How AI simplifies data management for drug discovery
Technology

How AI simplifies data management for drug discovery

Calithera is running registered clinical trials on its products to study their safety, whether they’re effective in patients with specific gene mutations, and how well they work in combination with other therapies. The company must collect detailed data on hundreds of patients. While some of its trials are in early stages and involve only a small number of patients, others span more than 100 research centers across the globe.“In the life-sciences world, one of the biggest challenges we have is the enormous amount of data we generate, more than any other business,” says Behrooz Najafi, Calithera’s lead information technology strategist. (Najafi is also chief information and technology officer for health-care tech company Innovio.) Calithera must store and manage the data while making sure i...
Pandemic tech left out public health experts. Here’s why that needs to change.
Technology

Pandemic tech left out public health experts. Here’s why that needs to change.

Susan Landau, a Tufts University professor in cybersecurity and computer science, is the author of People Count, a book on how and why contact tracing apps were built. She also published an essay in Science last week arguing that new technology to support public health should be thoroughly vetted for ways that it might add to unfairness and inequities already embedded in society. “The pandemic will not be the last humans face,” Landau writes, calling for societies to “use and build tools and supporting health care policy” that will protect people’s rights, health, and safety and enable greater health-care equity. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. What have we learned since the rollout of covid apps, especially about how they could have worked differently or better?&...
A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click
Technology

A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click

From the beginning, deepfakes, or AI-generated synthetic media, have primarily been used to create pornographic representations of women, who often find this psychologically devastating. The original Reddit creator who popularized the technology face-swapped female celebrities’ faces into porn videos. To this day, the research company Sensity AI estimates, between 90% and 95% of all online deepfake videos are nonconsensual porn, and around 90% of those feature women.As the technology has advanced, numerous easy-to-use no-code tools have also emerged, allowing users to “strip” the clothes off female bodies in images. Many of these services have since been forced offline, but the code still exists in open-source repositories and has continued to resurface in new forms. The latest such site r...
There’s a gig-worker-sized hole in Biden’s vaccine mandate plan
Technology

There’s a gig-worker-sized hole in Biden’s vaccine mandate plan

Falling through the gaps: As we’ve written before, paid time off may be one of the best vaccine incentives. But again, Biden’s order only covers larger employers of 100 or more. Gig workers aren’t mentioned in the policy, even though they stand to benefit the most from policies that would offset the loss of hourly income, and they make up a significant and growing proportion of the US workforce. The mandates also won't help people who are out of work, which adds up to 8.4 million Americans.  Why he’s doing it: Biden has previously bet that incentives like money, food, and beer might help to nudge people to get vaccinated, yet 80 million people still haven't got their shots. Just 177 million Americans are fully vaccinated, which is just 62.5% of those eligible, and only 52% of the tota...