Make Chiangmai Mail | your Homepage | Bookmark

Chiangmai 's First English Language Newspaper

Pattaya Blatt | Pattaya Mail |

 

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Update June 2018


Home
Thailand News
World News
World Sports
Arts - Entertainment - Lifestyles
Book Review
Health & Wellbeing
Odds & Ends
Science & Nature
Technology
Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
Technology
 

June 23, 2018 - June 29, 2018

Sleep mode? Tech giants ‘kids’ ‘fixes’ amount to baby steps

Facebook is adding a “sleep” mode to its Messenger Kids service so parents can limit how much time children spend on it. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Barbara Ortutay

New York (AP) - Facebook is adding a “sleep” mode to its Messenger Kids service to let parents limit when their kids can use it.

It’s the latest concession that tech companies are making as critics question whether they should be targeting kids at all. Among their chief concerns: The effects on kids are not yet known, and companies might not have children’s best interests at heart when tech for kids is such a lucrative market.

Rather than kill the services completely, as some critics want, Facebook, Amazon and Google are mostly tinkering at the edges. That leaves open the underlying questions of whether their products truly serve a need for the youngest set and if they are good for them.

Here’s a look at the changes announced last week:

Facebook’s
Messenger Kids

In December, Facebook created a kids-friendly version of its Messenger app. It has no ads and gives parents plenty of controls over whom their children can chat with. The thinking was that while the regular apps are designed for people 13 or over, younger kids were on it anyway. Facebook saw Messenger Kids as a way to give the younger set a safer option.

- The changes: Parents can now specify the times kids aren’t allowed on - either as a one-time restriction or something recurring, such as after 9 p.m. every school night. While the app is in sleep mode, kids will get a message when they open it telling them so, and they won’t be able to use it.

- The shortcomings: Critics say that Messenger Kids isn’t responding to a need, but rather creating one. “It appeals primarily to children who otherwise would not have their own social media accounts,” states a letter signed by 100 child development experts and advocates. Merely offering time controls falls short of killing the app completely.

YouTube Kids

Since 2015, the Google-owned service has had a child-oriented app, YouTube Kids, described as a “safer” experience for finding “Peppa Pig” episodes or user-generated videos of people unboxing toys.

Nonetheless, the company has been under fire for not vetting out computer-generated, sometimes-disturbing video, such as your favorite cartoon characters having painful dental surgery - or worse.

The nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has also asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether YouTube’s data collection and advertising practices violate federal child privacy rules.

- The changes: YouTube said this week that it is overhauling its kids app so parents can limit video to those vetted by humans, rather than computers. With this option, kids can watch only a selection of children’s programming such as “Sesame Street” and PBS Kids.

- The shortcomings: The old automated system is on by default, meaning parents need to actively choose the human-only option. And YouTube is continuing to show ads on its kid-focused service.

It also doesn’t help that many kids (with or without their parents) use the main YouTube site for video, meaning they miss out on both human and automated controls for kids.

Amazon’s Alexa

Sure, it’s fun to ask Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant to fart - as many kids have discovered after parents buy an Alexa-enabled Echo speaker. But parents and childhood experts have been wondering what effects smart speakers may have on young kids, who may not quite understand whether Alexa is human and maybe learn from barking orders at her that barking orders is OK.

- The changes: Alexa will soon thank kids for shouting out questions “nicely” if they say “please,” the online retail giant announced Wednesday. The new response is part of a kid-friendly update that’s coming next month, giving parents more control over the voice assistant. Adults can also set Alexa to go silent at bedtime or block music with explicit lyrics.

- The shortcoming: This may be appeasing parents just enough to buy more Amazon products. After all, the company did not get to where it is today by missing out on new business opportunities. Amazon said it will now sell an $80 Echo Dot aimed at children, complete with colorful cases and a two-year warranty (regular Echo Dots are $50).


June 16, 2018 - June 22, 2018

Distracted by technology? Microsoft tries to help

 .

Microsoft rolled out a free update to its Windows 10 computer operating system Monday, April 30, 2018, that includes new features to keep people in a distraction-free zone.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Matt O'Brien 

(AP) - Technology companies whose devices and constantly scrolling online services have driven us to distraction are beginning to acknowledge that their products can be a waste of time. Some of them now say they're trying to help.

Microsoft is rolling out a free update to its Windows 10 computer operating system Monday with new features to keep people in a distraction-free zone.

The "Focus Assist" feature enables workers to temporarily switch off email and social media notifications during times when they need to keep their heads down. They can allow messages from certain people to break through.

Microsoft says the update is inspired by research showing office workers are being interrupted or having to switch tasks about every three minutes - and it takes 23 minutes to get back in focus. Microsoft is also adding a "Timeline" feature aimed at saving time by more easily retrieving documents or unfinished work from the past 30 days.

"Almost every application and web service is vying for your attention," said Aaron Woodman, a marketing general manager for Microsoft Windows. "Increasingly, people are going to prefer environments where they can control and manage their distractions."

It may be easier for Microsoft to create such limits, as its business is far less reliant on advertising than Google and Facebook. With advertising in the mix, more time spent means more revenue.

Apple's iPhone and Google's Android phones have "Do Not Disturb" modes for muting notifications. Microsoft's biggest email rival, Gmail, began rolling out a redesign this week that includes time-saving measures. One uses artificial intelligence to allow Google to help respond to emails with quick answers such as "Will do, thanks!" or "Sorry, I won't be able to attend."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg surprised investors earlier this year when he said he welcomed the idea of fewer hours spent on his site, arguing that "helping people connect is more important than maximizing the time people spend on Facebook."

The social network also on Friday said it is adding a "sleep" mode to its Messenger Kids service to let parents limit when their kids can use it.


Facebook kills 'trending' topics, tests breaking news label

This Thursday, May 31, 2018, photo shows the Trending section on a Facebook account in New York. Facebook is shutting down its ill-fated "trending" news section after four years. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Barbara Ortutay

New York (AP) - Facebook is shutting down its ill-fated "trending" news section after four years, a company executive told The Associated Press.

The company claims the tool is outdated and wasn't popular. But the trending section also proved problematic in ways that would presage Facebook's later problems with fake news, political balance and the limitations of artificial intelligence in managing the messy human world.

When Facebook launched "trending" in 2014 as a list of headlines to the side of the main news feed, it was a straightforward move to steal users from Twitter by giving them a quick look at the most popular news of the moment. It fit nicely into CEO Mark Zuckerberg's pledge just a year earlier to make Facebook its users' "personal newspaper."

But that was then. "Fake news" wasn't yet a popular term, and no foreign country had been accused of trying to influence the U.S. elections through social media, as Russia later would be. Trending news that year included the death of Robin Williams, Ebola and the World Cup.

Facebook is now testing new features, including a "breaking news" label that publishers can add to stories to distinguish them from other chatter. Facebook also wants to make local news more prominent.

"It's very good to get rid of 'trending,'" said Frank Pasquale, a law professor at the University of Maryland and expert on algorithms and society. He said algorithms are good for very narrow, well-defined tasks. By contrast, he said, deciding what news stories should go in "trending" requires broad thinking, quick judgments about context and decisions about whether someone is trying to game the system.

In an interview ahead of Friday's announcement, Facebook's head of news products, Alex Hardiman, said the company is still committed to breaking and real-time news. But instead of having Facebook's moderators, human or otherwise, make editorial decisions, there's been a subtle shift to let news organizations do so.

According to the Pew Research Center, 44 percent of U.S. adults get some or all of their news through Facebook.

Troubles with the trending section began to emerge in 2016, when the company was accused of bias against conservatives, based on the words of an anonymous former contractor who said Facebook downplayed conservative issues in that feature and promoted liberal causes. Zuckerberg met with prominent right-wing leaders at the company's headquarters in an attempt at damage control. Yet two years later, Facebook still hasn't been able to shake the notion of bias.

In late 2016, Facebook fired the human editors who worked on the trending topics and replaced them with software that was supposed to be free of political bias. Instead, the software algorithm began to pick out posts that were getting the most attention, even if the information in them was bogus. In early 2017, Facebook made another attempt to fix the trending section, this time by including only topics covered by several news publishers. The thinking was that coverage by just one outlet could be a sign that the news is fake.

The troubles underscore the difficulty of relying on computers, even artificial intelligence, to make sense of the messy human world without committing obvious, sometimes embarrassing and occasionally disastrous errors.

Ultimately, Facebook appears to conclude that trying to fix the headaches around trending wasn't worth the meager benefit the company, users and news publishers saw in it.

"There are other ways for us to better invest our resources," Hardiman said.

Pasquale said Facebook's new efforts represent "very slow steps" toward an acknowledgement that the company is making editorial judgments when it decides what news should be shown to users - and that it needs to empower journalists and editors to do so.

But what needs to happen now, he added, is a broad shift in the company's corporate culture, recognizing the expertise involved in journalistic judgment. The changes and features Facebook is putting out, he said, are being treated as "bug fixes" - addressing single problems the way engineers do.

"What they are not doing is giving an overall account of their mission on how these fixes fit together," Pasquale said.

The "breaking news" label that Facebook is testing with 80 news publishers around the world will let outlets such as The Washington Post add a red label to indicate that a story is breaking news, highlighting it for users who want accurate information as things are happening.

"Breaking news has to look different than a recipe," Hardiman said.

Another feature, called "Today In," shows people breaking news in their area from local publishers, officials and organizations. It's being tested out in 30 markets in the U.S. Hardiman says the goal is to help "elevate great local journalism." The company is also funding news videos, created exclusively for Facebook by outside publishers it would not yet name. It plans to launch this feature in the next few months.

Facebook says the trending section wasn't a popular feature to begin with. It was available only in five countries and accounted for less than 1.5 percent of clicks to the websites of news publishers, according to the company.

While Facebook got outsized attention for the problems the trending section had - perhaps because it seemed popular with journalists and editors - neither its existence nor its removal makes much of a difference when it comes with Facebook's broader problems with news.

Hardiman said ending the trending section feels like letting a child go. But she said Facebook's focus now is prioritizing trustworthy, informative news that people find useful.


June 9, 2018 - June 15, 2018

France to beef up emergency alert system on social media

In this Thursday, March 16, 2017 file photo, a French police message alert of an attack at the Alexis de Tocqueville high school in the southern French town of Grasse is displayed on a cell phone in Paris. France’s Interior Ministry has announced plans to beef up its danger alert system to the public across social media. (AP Photo, File)

Paris (AP) - France’s Interior Ministry announced plans on Tuesday, May 30, to beef up its emergency alert system to the public across social media.

The ministry said in a statement that from June during immediate threats of danger, such as a terror attack, the ministry’s alerts will be given priority broadcast on Twitter, Facebook and Google as well as on French public transport and television.

The statement said that Twitter will give “special visibility” to the ministry’s alerts with a banner.

In a specific agreement, Facebook will also allow the French government to communicate to people directly via the social network’s “safety check” tool, created in 2014.

The ministry said that this is the first time in Europe that Facebook has allowed public authorities to use this tool in this way.

This announcement comes as a much-derided attack alert app launched in 2016 called SAIP is being withdrawn after malfunctions.


Insider Q&A: Mozilla exec says to demand better internet

In this May 14, 2018, file photo, Mitchell Baker attends the 22nd Annual Webby Awards at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)

Matt O’Brien

Cambridge, Mass. (AP) - The manifesto Mitchell Baker wrote for the free software community Mozilla declared the internet to be a global public resource and privacy a fundamental right that “must not be treated as optional.”

Twenty years later, as executive chairwoman and “chief lizard wrangler” of the Mozilla Foundation, Baker says she’s on a mission to reassert those principles and update them for an era when online privacy, rational discourse and verifiable information seem elusive. She’s also working to refresh interest in Mozilla’s flagship product, the Firefox browser.

Baker spoke with The Associated Press on the sidelines of MIT’s Solve conference. Questions and comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: How did you come up with “Demand better of the internet” as your five-word acceptance speech for the Webby Awards’ Lifetime Achievement Award?

A: I thought of one that was wildly aspirational - “global, safe, trustworthy, open internet”- but felt that didn’t capture some of what’s in the air right now - how the internet can amplify good things but also anti-social behavior. I thought it would be good to acknowledge that.

Q: What do you think of Europe’s new, stricter data rules?

A: As a signal that some set of societies will take action, they’re extremely helpful. The options are to do nothing and hope that things resolve themselves. Or take action, as the European Union has, knowing that some things will work and others won’t, but that we must take a stand as a society that the current path of commercial enterprise is unacceptable.

Q: What data does Mozilla have?

A: For many years we tried to collect absolutely nothing, thinking that was the best way to ensure privacy and security. We shifted in the last few years. But the spirit of the (EU) law, Mozilla’s always been trying to meet. The data we do have is mostly about our own product. We don’t sell it. We’re not monetizing against it.

Q: How is Firefox doing?

A: There’s no question that for a few years, (Google) Chrome has beaten us. They had the newest generation of technology, and it showed. Once you’ve got a product out, it’s hard to change something so deep in the guts. But we found a way to do it.

As of November, with our Firefox Quantum release, we have the technical crown again. It’s not easy to reach consumers about it because you get used to the browsers you’re using, but we do have some reaction.

Q: What’s Mozilla’s approach to virtual reality and augmented reality?

A: Our vision is that thing we used to call the web. Send a link, and anyone can click on that. That seems obvious. But that’s not how AR and VR are today, where you have to pick (a system). If I want to see that content, I have to move to the next closed system. We’re trying to make it interoperable so developers really have a chance to do something new and consumers like us can find and see what we want.


June 2, 2018 - June 8, 2018

Amazon urged not to sell facial recognition tool to police

Gene Johnson

Seattle (AP) - Amazon’s decision to market a powerful face recognition tool to police is alarming privacy advocates, who say the tech giant’s reach could vastly accelerate a dystopian future in which camera-equipped officers can identify and track people in real time, whether they’re involved in crimes or not.

It’s not clear how many law enforcement agencies have purchased the tool, called Rekognition, since its launch in late 2016 or since its update last fall, when Amazon added capabilities that allow it to identify people in videos and follow their movements almost instantly.

Seattle police officer Debra Pelich (right) wears a video camera on her eyeglasses as she talks with Alex Legesse before a small community gathering in Seattle. The ACLU and other organizations on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, asked Amazon to stop selling its facial-recognition tool, called Rekognition, to law enforcement agencies. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon has used it to quickly compare unidentified suspects in surveillance images to a database of more than 300,000 booking photos from the county jail - a common use of such technology around the country - while the Orlando Police Department in Florida is testing whether it can be used to single out persons-of-interest in public spaces and alert officers to their presence.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy advocates on Tuesday asked Amazon to stop marketing Rekognition to government agencies, saying they could use the technology to “easily build a system to automate the identification and tracking of anyone.”

That could have potentially dire consequences for minorities who are already arrested at disproportionate rates, immigrants who may be in the country illegally or political protesters, they said.

“People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government,” the groups wrote in a letter to Amazon on Tuesday. “Facial recognition in American communities threatens this freedom.”

In an emailed statement, Amazon Web Services stressed that it requires all of its customers to comply with the law and to be responsible in the use of its products.

The statement said some agencies have used the program to find abducted people, and amusement parks have used it to find lost children. British broadcaster Sky News used Rekognition to help viewers identify celebrities at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last month.

Amazon’s technology isn’t that different from what face recognition companies are already selling to law enforcement agencies. But its vast reach and its interest in recruiting more police departments - at extremely low cost - are troubling, said Clare Garvie, an associate at the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University Law Center.

“This raises very real questions about the ability to remain anonymous in public spaces,” Garvie said.

While police might be able to videotape public demonstrations, face recognition is not merely an extension of photography but a biometric measurement - more akin to police walking through a demonstration and demanding identification from everyone there, she said.

Some police departments, including Seattle, have policies that bar the use of real-time facial recognition in body camera videos.

Amazon released Rekognition in late 2016, and the sheriff’s office in Washington County, west of Portland, became one of its first law enforcement agency customers.

A year later, deputies were using it about 20 times a day - for example, to identify burglary suspects in store surveillance footage. Last month, the agency adopted policies governing its use, noting that officers in the field can use real-time face recognition to identify suspects who are unwilling or unable to provide their own ID, or if someone’s life is in danger.

“We are not mass-collecting. We are not putting a camera out on a street corner,” said Deputy Jeff Talbot, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. “We want our local community to be aware of what we’re doing, how we’re using it to solve crimes - what it is and, just as importantly, what it is not.”

It cost the sheriff’s office just $400 to load 305,000 booking photos - which are already public records - into the system and $6 a month in fees to continue the service, according to an email obtained by the ACLU under a public records request.

Last year, the Orlando, Florida, Police Department announced it would begin a pilot program relying on Amazon’s technology to “use existing city resources to provide real-time detection and notification of persons-of-interest, further increasing public safety.”

Orlando has a network of public safety cameras, and in a presentation posted to YouTube this month, Ranju Das, who leads Amazon Rekognition, said the company would receive feeds from the cameras, search them against photos of people being sought by law enforcement and notify police of any hits.

“It’s about recognizing people, it’s about tracking people, and then it’s about doing this in real time, so that the law enforcement officers ... can be then alerted in real time to events that are happening,” he said.

The Orlando Police Department said in an email that it “is not using the technology in an investigative capacity or in any public spaces at this time.”

The testing has been limited to eight city-owned cameras and a handful of officers who volunteered to have their images used to see if the technology works, Sgt. Eduardo Bernal wrote in an email.

“As this is a pilot and not being actively used by OPD as a surveillance tool, there is no policy or procedure regarding its use as it is not deployed in that manner,” Bernal wrote.

The privacy advocates’ letter to Amazon followed public records requests from ACLU chapters in California, Oregon and Florida. More than two dozen organizations signed it, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Human Rights Watch.
 


DAILY UPDATE

|

Back to Main Page

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Sleep mode? Tech giants ‘kids’ ‘fixes’ amount to baby steps


Distracted by technology? Microsoft tries to help

Facebook kills 'trending' topics, tests breaking news label


France to beef up emergency alert system on social media

Insider Q&A: Mozilla exec says to demand better internet


Amazon urged not to sell facial recognition tool to police


 



Chiangmai Mail Publishing Co. Ltd.
189/22 Moo 5, T. Sansai Noi, A. Sansai, Chiang Mai 50210
THAILAND
Tel. 053 852 557, Fax. 053 014 195
Editor: 087 184 8508
E-mail: [email protected]
www.chiangmai-mail.com
Administration: [email protected]
Website & Newsletter Advertising: [email protected]

Copyright © 2004 Chiangmai Mail. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.