United States

What Airbnb Did To New York City (citylab.com) 333

An anonymous reader shares a report: There are two kinds of horror stories about Airbnb. When the home-sharing platform first appeared, the initial cautionary tales tended to emphasize extreme guest (and occasionally host) misbehavior. But as the now decade-old service matured and the number of rental properties proliferated dramatically, a second genre emerged, one that focused on what the service was doing to the larger community: Airbnb was raising rents and taking housing off the rental market. It was supercharging gentrification while discriminating against guests and hosts of color. And as commercial operators took over, it was transforming from a way to help homeowners occasionally rent out an extra room into a purveyor of creepy, makeshift hotels.

Several studies have looked into these claims; some focused on just one issue at a time, or measured Airbnb-linked trends across wide swaths of the country. But a recent report by David Wachsmuth, a professor of Urban Planning at McGill University, zeroes in on New York City in an effort to answer the question of exactly what home sharing is doing to the city. [...] Their conclusion: Most of those rumors are true. Wachsmuth found reason to believe that Airbnb has indeed raised rents, removed housing from the rental market, and fueled gentrification -- at least in New York City. "

United States

Trump's Meeting With The Video Game Industry To Talk Gun Violence Could Get Ugly (washingtonpost.com) 498

Anonymous readers share a report: President Trump is set to pit the video game industry against some of its harshest critics at a White House meeting on Thursday that's designed to explore the link between violent games [Editor's note: the Washington Post article may be paywalled], guns and tragedies such as last month's shooting in Parkland, Fla. Following the attack at Marjory Stoneman High School, which left 17 students dead, Trump has said violent games are "shaping young people's thoughts." The president has proposed that "we have to do something about maybe what they're seeing and how they're seeing it." Trump has invited video game executives like Robert Altman, the CEO of ZeniMax, the parent company for games such as Fallout; Strauss Zelnick, the chief executive of Take Two Interactive, which is known for Grand Theft Auto, and Michael Gallagher, the leader of the Entertainment Software Association, a Washington-focused lobbying organization for the industry.

Three people familiar with the White House's planning, but not authorized to speak on the record, confirmed those invitees. A spokeswoman for the White House declined to share a full list of participants on Wednesday. ESA confirmed its attendance this week, but the others did not respond to questions. Opposite of them are expected to be some of the video-game industry's toughest critics, including Brent Bozell, the founder of the Parents Television Council, and Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Republican from Missouri, the three people said. After another shooting -- the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. -- they each called on government to focus its attention on violent media rather than just pursuing new gun restrictions.


Most Americans Think AI Will Destroy Other People's Jobs, Not Theirs (theverge.com) 268

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of U.S. adults believe artificial intelligence will "eliminate more jobs than it creates," according to a Gallup survey. But, the same survey found that less than a quarter (23 percent) of people were "worried" or "very worried" automation would affect them personally. Notably, these figures vary depending on education. For respondents with only a four-year college degree or less, 28 percent were worried about AI taking their job; for people with at least a bachelor degree, that figure was 15 percent. These numbers tell a familiar story. They come from a Gallup survey of more than 3,000 individuals on automation and AI. New details were released this week, but they echo the findings of earlier reports. The newly released findings from Gallup's survey also show that by one measure, the use of AI is already widespread in the U.S. Nearly nine out of 10 Americans (85 percent) use at least one of six devices or services that use features of artificial intelligence, says Gallup. Eighty-four percent of people use navigation apps like Waze, and 72 percent use streaming services like Netflix. Forty-seven percent use digital assistants on their smartphones, and 22 percent use them on devices like Amazon's Echo.

California Becomes 18th State To Consider Right To Repair Legislation (vice.com) 96

Jason Koebler shares a report from Motherboard: The right to repair battle has come to Silicon Valley's home state: Wednesday, a state assembly member announced that California would become the 18th state in the country to consider legislation that would make it easier to repair your electronics. "The Right to Repair Act will provide consumers with the freedom to have their electronic products and appliances fixed by a repair shop or service provider of their choice, a practice that was taken for granted a generation ago but is now becoming increasingly rare in a world of planned obsolescence," Susan Talamantes Engman, a Democrat from Stockton who introduced the bill, said in a statement. The announcement had been rumored for about a week but became official Wednesday. The bill would require electronics manufacturers to make repair guides and repair parts available to the public and independent repair professionals and would also would make diagnostic software and tools that are available to authorized and first-party repair technicians available to independent companies.

FBI Again Calls For Magical Solution To Break Into Encrypted Phones (arstechnica.com) 232

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: FBI Director Christopher Wray again has called for a solution to what the bureau calls the "Going Dark" problem, the idea that the prevalence of default strong encryption on digital devices makes it more difficult for law enforcement to extract data during an investigation. However, in a Wednesday speech at Boston College, Wray again did not outline any specific piece of legislation or technical solution that would provide both strong encryption and allow the government to access encrypted devices when it has a warrant. A key escrow system, with which the FBI or another entity would be able to unlock a device given a certain set of circumstances, is by definition weaker than what cryptographers would traditionally call "strong encryption." There's also the problem of how to compel device and software makers to impose such a system on their customers -- similar efforts were attempted during the Clinton administration, but they failed. A consensus of technical experts has said that what the FBI has asked for is impossible. "I recognize this entails varying degrees of innovation by the industry to ensure lawful access is available," Wray said Wednesday. "But I just don't buy the claim that it's impossible. Let me be clear: the FBI supports information security measures, including strong encryption. Actually, the FBI is on the front line fighting cyber crime and economic espionage. But information security programs need to be thoughtfully designed so they don't undermine the lawful tools we need to keep the American people safe."

Bitcoin Dives After SEC Says Crypto Platforms Must Be Registered (bloomberg.com) 81

Bitcoin slumped after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reiterated that many online trading platforms for digital assets should register with the agency as exchanges. From a report: The largest cryptocurrency dropped as much as 8.6 percent to $9,864 after the SEC statement boosted concern that tightening regulation may limit trading. [...] "If a platform offers trading of digital assets that are securities and operates as an 'exchange,' as defined by the federal securities laws, then the platform must register with the SEC as a national securities exchange or be exempt from registration," the SEC said in the statement Wednesday.

Some of the largest cryptocurrency trading platforms, like Coinbase's GDAX, aren't registered as a national exchange with the SEC, and instead have money transmission licenses with separate states. In the case of Gemini, it's regulated by the New York State Department of Financial Services as a trust company, according to its website.


Leaked Files Show How the NSA Tracks Other Countries' Hackers (theintercept.com) 66

An analysis of leaked tools believed to have been developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) gives us a glimpse into the methods used by the organization to detect the presence of other state-sponsored actors on hacked devices, and it could also help the cybersecurity community discover previously unknown threats. The Intercept: When the mysterious entity known as the "Shadow Brokers" released a tranche of stolen NSA hacking tools to the internet a year ago, most experts who studied the material honed in on the most potent tools, so-called zero-day exploits that could be used to install malware and take over machines. But a group of Hungarian security researchers spotted something else in the data, a collection of scripts and scanning tools the National Security Agency uses to detect other nation-state hackers on the machines it infects. It turns out those scripts and tools are just as interesting as the exploits. They show that in 2013 -- the year the NSA tools were believed to have been stolen by the Shadow Brokers -- the agency was tracking at least 45 different nation-state operations, known in the security community as Advanced Persistent Threats, or APTs. Some of these appear to be operations known by the broader security community -- but some may be threat actors and operations currently unknown to researchers.

The scripts and scanning tools dumped by Shadow Brokers and studied by the Hungarians were created by an NSA team known as Territorial Dispute, or TeDi. Intelligence sources told The Intercept the NSA established the team after hackers, believed to be from China, stole designs for the military's Joint Strike Fighter plane, along with other sensitive data, from U.S. defense contractors in 2007; the team was supposed to detect and counter sophisticated nation-state attackers more quickly, when they first began to emerge online. "As opposed to the U.S. only finding out in five years that everything was stolen, their goal was to try to figure out when it was being stolen in real time," one intelligence source told The Intercept. But their mission evolved to also provide situational awareness for NSA hackers to help them know when other nation-state actors are in machines they're trying to hack.

United States

US Calls Broadcom's Bid For Qualcomm a National Security Risk (nytimes.com) 91

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): The United States government said Broadcom's proposed acquisition of rival chipmaker Qualcomm could pose a national security risk and called for a full investigation into the hostile bid. The move complicates an already contentious deal and increases the likelihood that Broadcom, which is based in Singapore, will end its pursuit of Qualcomm. Such an investigation is often a death knell for a corporate acquisition. A government panel, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or Cfius, noted, in part, that the potential risk was related to Broadcom's relationships with foreign entities, according to a letter from a United States Treasury official. It also said that the deal could weaken "Qualcomm's technological leadership," giving an edge to Chinese companies like Huawei. "China would likely compete robustly to fill any void left by Qualcomm as a result of this hostile takeover," the official said in the letter. The letter and the public call for an investigation reflects a newly aggressive stance by Cfius. In most cases, the panel operates in secret and weighs in after a deal is announced. In this instance, Cfius, which is made up of representatives from multiple federal agencies, is taking a proactive role and investigating before an acquisition agreement has even been signed.

Silicon Valley Is Over, Says Silicon Valley (nytimes.com) 304

An anonymous reader shares a New York Times report: In recent months, a growing number of tech leaders have been flirting with the idea of leaving Silicon Valley. Some cite the exorbitant cost of living in San Francisco and its suburbs, where even a million-dollar salary can feel middle class. Others complain about local criticism of the tech industry and a left-wing echo chamber that stifles opposing views. And yet others feel that better innovation is happening elsewhere. "I'm a little over San Francisco," said Patrick McKenna, the founder of High Ridge Venture Partners who was also on the bus tour. "It's so expensive, it's so congested, and frankly, you also see opportunities in other places." Mr. McKenna, who owns a house in Miami in addition to his home in San Francisco, told me that his travels outside the Bay Area had opened his eyes to a world beyond the tech bubble. "Every single person in San Francisco is talking about the same things, whether it's 'I hate Trump' or 'I'm going to do blockchain and Bitcoin,'" he said. "It's the worst part of the social network."

[...] Complaints about Silicon Valley insularity are as old as the Valley itself. Jim Clark, the co-founder of Netscape, famously decamped for Florida during the first dot-com era, complaining about high taxes and expensive real estate. Steve Case, the founder of AOL, has pledged to invest mostly in start-ups outside the Bay Area, saying that "we've probably hit peak Silicon Valley." But even among those who enjoy living in the Bay Area, and can afford to do so comfortably, there's a feeling that success has gone to the tech industry's head. "Some of the engineers in the Valley have the biggest egos known to humankind," Mr. Khanna, the Silicon Valley congressman, said during a round-table discussion with officials in Youngstown.


Google Is Helping the Pentagon Build AI for Drones (gizmodo.com) 95

Google has partnered with the United States Department of Defense to help the agency develop artificial intelligence for analyzing drone footage, a move that set off a firestorm among employees of the technology giant when they learned of Google's involvement, Gizmodo reported on Tuesday. From the report: Google's pilot project with the Defense Department's Project Maven, an effort to identify objects in drone footage, has not been previously reported, but it was discussed widely within the company last week when information about the project was shared on an internal mailing list, according to sources who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the project. Some Google employees were outraged that the company would offer resources to the military for surveillance technology involved in drone operations, sources said, while others argued that the project raised important ethical questions about the development and use of machine learning.

Rhode Island Bill Would Impose Fee For Accessing Online Porn (providencejournal.com) 503

If a recently introduced bill passes the General Assembly this session, Rhode Island residents will have to pay a $20 fee to access sexually explicit content online. The bill, introduced by Sen. Frank Ciccone (D-Providence) and Sen. Hanna Gallo (D-Cranston), would require internet providers to digitally block "sexual content and patently offensive material." Consumers could then deactivate that block for a fee of $20. The Providence Journal reports: Each quarter the internet providers would give the money made from the deactivation fees to the state's general treasurer, who would forward the money to the attorney general to fund the operations of the Council on Human Trafficking, according to the bill's language. If online distributors of sexual content do not comply with the filter, the attorney general or a consumer could file a civil suit of up to $500 for each piece of content reported, but not blocked, according to the bill.

China's Xiaomi Confirms It Will Enter US Smartphone Market By the End of This Year or Early Next Year (venturebeat.com) 61

Sensing an opening, Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi says it plans to enter the U.S. smartphone market in late 2018 or 2019. From a report: The news comes just several weeks after rival Huawei, which appeared to have a head start, had its hopes dashed when a partnership with AT&T was scuttled. While both companies said the parting was mutual, the decision came after intense political blowback from U.S. politicians who worried that Huawei's technology poses security risks for U.S. businesses and customers. Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that Xiaomi chair Lei Jun told one of its reporters: "We've always been considering entering the U.S. market. We plan to start entering the market by end 2018, or by early 2019." In general, while Chinese tech companies have become massive primarily by succeeding on their home turf, they are facing challenges in exporting that success to Western markets.

2M Americans Lost Power After 'Bomb Cyclone' (apnews.com) 129

An anonymous reader quotes the Associated Press: Tens of thousands of utility workers in the Northeast raced to restore power to more than 1.5 million homes and businesses just days after a powerful nor'easter caused flooding and wind damage from Virginia to Maine... Flood waters had receded in most areas, but Friday's storm had taken huge chunks out of the coastline in Massachusetts and other states... Residents in other areas, meanwhile, bailed out basements and surveyed the damage while waiting for power to be restored, a process that power companies warned could take days in some areas.

Power outages on the East Coast dipped by about 500,000 from a peak of 2 million earlier Saturday, but officials said lingering wind gusts were slowing repair efforts. The storm's aftermath also was still affecting travel, with airports from Washington, D.C. to Boston reporting dozens of delays and cancellations, while service was slowly returning to normal on rail systems throughout the region... The death toll from the storm increased by four, with authorities saying at least nine people had lost their lives.

Airlines canceled more than 2,800 flights, according to the Associated Press, while Amtrak suspended service along the northeast corridor (though it's saying they should all return to service on Sunday).

CNN reported roughly 1 in 4 Americans were in the storm's path, facing winds as high as 50 mph, while the Associated Press reports gusts up to 90 mph on Cape Cod.

Equifax Identifies Additional 2.4 Million Customers Hit By Data Breach (nbcnews.com) 15

Credit score giant Equifax said on Thursday it had identified another 2.4 million U.S. consumers whose names and driver's license information were stolen in a data breach last year that affected half the U.S. population. From a report: The company said it was able confirm the identities of U.S. consumers whose driver's license information was taken by referencing other information in proprietary company records that the attackers did not steal. "Equifax will notify these newly identified U.S. consumers directly, and will offer identity theft protection and credit file monitoring services at no cost to them," the company said.

Best Buy To Close All 250 of Its Smaller, Mobile Phone Stores (cnbc.com) 15

Best Buy is planning to close all of its roughly 250 smaller-format mobile phone stores, CEO Hubert Joly said to employees Wednesday in an internal memo, which was reviewed by CNBC. From a report: The stores, which are about 1,400 square feet in size compared with Best Buy's bigger boxes of 40,000 square feet, are scheduled to close by the end of May, he said. The mobile stores are almost exclusively located within malls, with a few scattered throughout open-air strip centers. "We feel good about the opportunity to retain customers and transition them to another one of our sales channels," Joly wrote to workers. "85 percent of existing standalone Mobile stores are within three miles of a Big Box store."

US Response 'Hasn't Changed The Calculus' Of Russian Interference, NSA Chief Says (npr.org) 126

An anonymous reader shares an NPR report: The admiral in charge of both the nation's top electronic spying agency and the Pentagon's cybersecurity operations would seem a logical point man for countering Russia's digital intrusions in U.S. election campaigns. But National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command chief Adm. Michael Rogers told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday there is only so much he can do. That is because, according to Rogers, President Trump has not ordered him to go after the Russian attacks at their origin. Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the committee's ranking Democrat, asked Rogers, "Have you been directed to do so, given this strategic threat that faces the United States and the significant consequences you recognize already?" "No, I have not," Rogers replied. But the spy chief pushed back on suggestions that he should seek a presidential signoff. "I am not going to tell the president what he should or should not do," Rogers said when Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal pressed him on whether Trump should approve that authority.

"I'm an operational commander, not a policymaker," he added. "That's the challenge for me as a military commander." Rogers agreed with Blumenthal's estimation that Russian cyber operatives continue to attack the U.S. with impunity and that Washington's response has fallen short. "It hasn't changed the calculus, is my sense," the spy chief told Blumenthal. "It certainly hasn't generated the change in behavior that I think we all know we need."

The Internet

US House Passes Bill To Penalize Websites For Sex Trafficking (trust.org) 190

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Thomson Reuters Foundation News: The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed legislation to make it easier to penalize operators of websites that facilitate online sex trafficking, chipping away at a bedrock legal shield for the technology industry. The bill's passage marks one of the most concrete actions in recent years from the U.S. Congress to tighten regulation of internet firms, which have drawn heavy scrutiny from lawmakers in both parties over the past year due to an array of concerns regarding the size and influence of their platforms. The House passed the measure 388-25. It still needs to pass the U.S. Senate, where similar legislation has already gained substantial support, and then be signed by President Donald Trump before it can become law.

Several major internet companies, including Alphabet Inc's Google and Facebook Inc, had been reluctant to support any congressional effort to dent what is known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a decades-old law that protects them from liability for the activities of their users. But facing political pressure, the internet industry slowly warmed to a proposal that gained traction in the Senate last year, and eventually endorsed it after it gained sizable bipartisan support. The legislation is a result of years of law-enforcement lobbying for a crackdown on the online classified site backpage.com, which is used for sex advertising. It would make it easier for states and sex-trafficking victims to sue social media networks, advertisers and others that fail to keep exploitative material off their platforms.


Net Neutrality Repeal Will Get a Senate Vote In the Spring, Democrats Say (arstechnica.com) 127

Congressional Democrats today introduced legislation that would prevent the repeal of net neutrality rules, but they still need more support from Republicans in order to pass the measure. According to Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), they will force a vote on the Senate version of the resolution sometime this spring. Ars Technica reports: Democrats have been promising to introduce a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution ever since the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal its net neutrality rules in December. But lawmakers had to wait for the FCC's repeal order to be published in the Federal Register, which only happened last week. The CRA resolution would nullify the FCC's repeal order, allowing net neutrality rules that were passed in 2015 to remain in place. The resolution has public support from 50 out of 100 senators (all Democrats, all Independents, and one Republican), putting it one vote shy of passage in the Senate.

"The grassroots movement to reinstate net neutrality is growing by the day, and we will get that one more vote needed to pass my CRA resolution," Markey said. "I urge my Republican colleagues to join the overwhelming majority of Americans who support a free and open Internet. The Internet is for all -- the students, teachers, innovators, hard-working families, small businesses, and activists, not just Verizon, Charter, AT&T, and Comcast and corporate interests."


Supreme Court Wrestles With Microsoft Data Privacy Fight (reuters.com) 163

Supreme Court justices on Tuesday wrestled with Microsoft's dispute with the U.S. Justice Department over whether prosecutors can force technology companies to hand over data stored overseas, with some signaling support for the government and others urging Congress to pass a law to resolve the issue. From a report: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both conservatives, hinted during an hour-long argument in the case at support for the Justice Department's stance that because Microsoft is based in the United States it was obligated to turn over data sought by prosecutors in a U.S. warrant. As the nine justices grappled with the technological complexities of email data storage, liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor questioned whether the court needed to act in the data privacy case in light of Congress now considering bipartisan legislation that would resolve the legal issue. A ruling is due by the end of June.

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