Microsoft will have to pay $20 million to settle charges brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that the company violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). In the complaint filed by the DOJ on behalf of the FTC, the department accused the tech giant of collecting its underage Xbox users’ information and retaining their data even without their parents’ consent. To be able to play Xbox games and use services like Xbox Live, users have to sign up for an account and provide their personal information, including their full name, email address and place of birth.
Until 2021, users were also asked for their phone number and to agree to Microsoft’s advertising policy. The FTC found that Microsoft only asked users under 13 to get their parents to complete their account creation after they had already provided their personal information. And apparently, from 2015 until 2020, Microsoft collected and retained data from underage users, even if their parents didn’t complete the registration process. Under COPPA, online services and websites must obtain verifiable parental consent before using any personal information from children.
The FTC also explained that Microsoft combines a user’s gamertag with a unique persistent identifier that it could share with third-party developers, even for accounts owned by underage users. In a blog post, Dave McCarthy, the CVP Xbox Player Services, said Microsoft didn’t intentionally keep child accounts that weren’t completed by their parents. The company found a technical glitch that caused data retention during its investigation, he said, and its engineering team deleted affected children’s data after fixing the issue. “The data was never used, shared, or monetized,” he added.
In addition to paying $20 million to settle the FTC’s charges, Microsoft will also be required under the DOJ’s proposed order to change its account creation process for underage users. The tech giant has already updated the process so that it asks somebody’s date of birth first and, if needed, ask for parental consent before it requires users to key in any other identifiable information. It will also ask users under the age of 13 who created an account before May 2021 to have their parent reverify their account over the coming months.
The FTC requires Microsoft to establish a system that would delete all the personal information it collects from kids within two weeks if their parents don’t complete their account creation, as well. Plus, it wants the company to notify video game publishers if the personal information shared is from a child, so that it can protected by COPPA. While Microsoft has already implemented changes to its sign-up process, the proposed order must still be approved by a federal court before it can go into effect.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/microsoft-will-pay-the-ftc-20-million-to-settle-charges-over-collecting-childrens-data-074602067.html?src=rss
A former intelligence official turned whistleblower, David Charles Grusch, has provided extensive classified information to Congress and the Intelligence Community Inspector General about covert programs involving the retrieval of intact and partially intact vehicles of non-human origin. Grusch alleges that this information has been illegally withheld from Congress, and he has filed a complaint claiming illegal retaliation for his disclosures. Other intelligence officials, both active and retired, have independently corroborated similar information about these programs. The Debrief reports: The whistleblower, David Charles Grusch, 36, a decorated former combat officer in Afghanistan, is a veteran of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). He served as the reconnaissance office’s representative to the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force from 2019-2021. From late 2021 to July 2022, he was the NGA’s co-lead for UAP analysis and its representative to the task force. The task force was established to investigate what were once called “unidentified flying objects,” or UFOs, and are now officially called “unidentified anomalous phenomena,” or UAP. The task force was led by the Department of the Navy under the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security. It has since been reorganized and expanded into the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office to include investigations of objects operating underwater.
Grusch said the recoveries of partial fragments through and up to intact vehicles have been made for decades through the present day by the government, its allies, and defense contractors. Analysis has determined that the objects retrieved are “of exotic origin (non-human intelligence, whether extraterrestrial or unknown origin) based on the vehicle morphologies and material science testing and the possession of unique atomic arrangements and radiological signatures,” he said. In filing his complaint, Grusch is represented by a lawyer who served as the original Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG). “We are not talking about prosaic origins or identities,” Grusch said, referencing information he provided Congress and the current ICIG. “The material includes intact and partially intact vehicles.” In accordance with protocols, Grusch provided the Defense Office of Prepublication and Security Review at the Department of Defense with the information he intended to disclose to us. His on-the-record statements were all “cleared for open publication” on April 4 and 6, 2023, in documents provided to us.
“Wow, wow, wow. Bellissimo.” That was the first thing I heard from one excited WWDC attendee as I waited to test Apple’s Vision Pro mixed reality headset. That level is excitement is exactly what Apple is hoping for. Realistically, not everyone will be able to afford a $3,499 device. But if Apple can get mainstream consumers excited about the idea of spatial computing, then it’ll be able to make a bigger splash when it inevitably unveils a more affordable follow-up.
After spending thirty minutes with the Vision Pro, my reaction is more tempered than that excitable attendee. It’s undoubtedly the best mixed reality (VR/AR) experience I’ve had yet, delivering an unparalleled sense of immersion, displays sharp enough to read text on websites, and an intuitive gesture-based user interface. And yet… it’s still ultimately a VR headset, with many of the issues endemic to the entire category.
But let’s start at the beginning: Before I was anywhere near the Vision Pro, I had to jump through a few setup hoops on an iPhone. First I rotated my head around to map my face, then I gave the phone a full view of my ears for it to personalize the headset’s spatial audio. I hopped into another room, took off my glasses, and an Apple representative used a machine to detect my prescription. The Vision Pro can’t be used with glasses, so anyone who needs vision correction will have to order additional lenses.
After a few minutes of admiring Apple’s meticulously designed corporate campus, I entered a room to see the Vision Pro in action. It looked even more impressive than when I first caught a glimpse of it in the morning, but that’s probably because I didn’t have to fight off desperate Apple media at the same time. I slipped it on like any other VR headset: I held the front lenses in my left hand, pulled the rear headstrap back a bit, and gently guided the device over my head.
The Vision Pro’s stretchy rear headband felt better on my noggin than any of Meta’s VR devices, but the headset still placed a bit of pressure against my eyes and around my nose once I securely tightened it with a rear dial. The prototype unit also had a velcro strap going over my head, just like the Meta Quest. That’s not visible on any of Apple’s promotional materials, but the company tells me that the headset’s modular design supports additional straps if necessary.
Even without the overhead strap, though, I’d wager the Vision Pro would still feel noticeable against your eyes. You probably won’t forgot you’re wearing it, which would ultimately cut into its sense of immersion.
But I’ll admit, I mostly forgot about that slight discomfort once I saw the Vision Pro in action. When the screen lit up, I was confronted with the same posh meeting room I initially entered, except this time I could also see an array of app icons hovering in front of me. Thanks to the headset’s high-resolution front cameras, I had a clear view of my surroundings, along with the Apple representatives guiding my demo. It wasn’t a perfect representation of reality, but it was better than any VR or AR product I’ve seen yet.
After a bit of eye tracking training, which involved following dots moving around the screen with just my eyes, it also felt like I gained a superpower. A mere glance at an app icon, or a specific menu or button, would instantly highlight it. Then I learned two key gestures, a finger pinch for selecting things, and a pinch-slide motion for scrolling up/down, or left/right. Unlike the Quest, you can also make those hand gestures comfortable on your lap, you don’t have to hold your hands up like an amateur symphony conductor.
It may be a cliche to say this, but after just a few seconds of learning those gestures, I felt like Tom Cruise in Minority Report. A glance and a pinch is all it took for me to open up apps and breeze through the interface. I also figured out a flick and pinch motion could quickly scroll through websites, a genuinely intuitive gesture that simply felt delightful. After years of living with touchscreen interfaces on iOS and iPadOS, I don’t think anyone is going to have trouble learning how to use the Vision Pro.
With the basics down, I was ready to experience the Vision Pro’s most wondrous bits of hardware: Its dual 4K micro-OLED displays. They look sharper than any screen I’ve seen before, be it a VR headset or a TV. Photos look incredibly crisp, especially panoramic pictures, which completely fill your entire field of vision. And 3D videos shot with the Vision Pro’s front cameras look eerily lifelike — almost as if you were replaying a perfectly captured memory.
I was most impressed with how the Vision Pro handled a 3D clip of Avatar: The Way of Water. The movie looked crisp and clear with all of the 3D depth I remembered from the theater. At times, the 3D looked even better than in cinemas, since I didn’t have to reduce the brightness of the film with shaded 3D glasses. Apple wouldn’t confirm if the Vision Pro could play The Way of Water in in a 48fps high frame rate — the film initially swapped between 24fps and 48fps footage in theaters — but even without that capability, it’s something I’d still prefer to watch on headset instead of a 2D 4K TV.
Like other VR headsets, you can also hop into a virtual cinema to watch videos. By default, that mode puts you in the middle of a theater, but as a dedicated front row sitter, it wasn’t nearly close enough for me. (Fight me, I don’t care.) Thankfully, the Vision Pro gives you options: I was able to virtually move much closer to the screen, while back row weirdos can also create that experience. Seeing Avatar: The Way of Water projected in clear 3D, at a size close to my local multiplex, felt miraculous. Just imagine slipping this thing on during a long flight and having a movie marathon.
The Vision Pro’s side speakers also do a great job of recreating cinematic spatial sound. Since they’re basically just tiny speakers, though, other people can also hear them. For a truly private experience, you’ll have to slip in a pair of AirPods or AirPods Max.
While I’m mainly dreaming of the private cinema possibilities of the Vision Pro, Apple is positioning it as a next-generation computing platform. You can launch many of the company’s native apps from its home screen, including Safari, the aforementioned Photos, and Messages. Keeping the dream of Minority Report alive, you can also drag windows to specific spots in your room. As you open new windows, apps also reposition themselves to make room, as you’d expect.
Apple’s visionOS, which powers the headset, feels like a cross between iOS and macOS. Apple fans will be right at home. Tapping the Digital Crown on the upper right side of the headset brings you to the home screen, which is organized into Apps, People and Environments. The latter includes 3D captures of scenic spaces, like Oregon’s Mount Hood.
When I loaded that space, I found myself sitting in front of a peaceful lake, but I could still see the Apple meeting room around the edges of my vision. As I rotated the Digital Crown, the 3D environment completely overtook what I was seeing, transforming into a fully VR experience. That seamlessness was astonishing — it’s even better than a similar feature I saw on the Magic Leap 2.
I was similarly impressed with a glimpse at Apple’s new video format, Apple Immersive Video, which delivers razor-sharp 180-degree videos in 3D. While 360-degree VR videos are nothing new, even the best of them look fuzzier than real life. Apple’s tech, which relies on 8K footage from a new camera developed by the company, looks startlingly real. It captured the wonder of flying through the air, as well as the thrilling moment of a well-placed soccer goal. If Apple’s spatial vision tech gains some traction, I’m sure plenty of sports fans would be eager to have a field-level view of the action. Notably, the footage still managed to feel immersive, even though it didn’t fully wrap me in 360-degrees of video.
A Mindfullness app demo also showed off how effortlessly the Vision Pro can take over your reality. As I worked through a calm breathing exercise for a minute, my field of vision was slowly filled with a virtual flower, which blocked out my view of the meeting room.
As impressed as I was by much of the Vision Pro, it’s clear that Apple’s mixed reality universe isn’t fully baked. While it was fascinating to have a FaceTime chat with another Apple representative wearing her own headset, I found the computer-generated “Persona” avatar to be strangely off-putting. It looked human, but it was stiff and robotic, the uncanniest of valleys. If you were to FaceTime your parent, I’d bet they’d rather see your actual face, with all of its imperfections, instead of a cold CG simulacrum.
I thought back to that 3D video that initially wowed me: It showed a child blowing out their birthday candles and having fun with their siblings. But to take that video, a parent had to be wearing the Vision Pro headset, effectively separating themselves from fully experiencing that moment. Is a moment captured in time worth not being present for the actual moment? (It also brings to mind another scene from Minority Report, where a broken Tom Cruise finds a brief moment of solace by watching a hologram of his missing son.) Perhaps the Vision Pro could be placed on a stand to shoot 3D video, but that doesn’t fully solve the odd inhumanity of Apple’s initial pitch.
I ended my Vision Pro demo with an encounter with a dinosaur. When I launched the experience, the far wall of my meeting room transformed into an enormous prehistoric portal. I could see small reptiles crawling around the grown, and in the distance, I could hear an enormous dinosaur approaching. After asking if I was comfortable with being up close with a dino, the Apple reps suggested that I get up out of my seat and walk towards the wall. The dinosaur approached end eventually walked through the portal and partially entered the meeting room. It sniffed my hand when I held it out. Its scales looked impossibly real.
But, like so many VR experiences, it was a completely solitary endeavor. Maybe someone could have joined me if they had their own Vision Pro headset nearby, but how many people will actually buy this $3,499 device? Apple is positioning the headset as an alternative to an expensive home theater, but that’s also something you can enjoy with other people. I’m pretty sure my wife would rather see Avatar: The Way of Water in 2D on our TV, instead of just hearing me wax about how great it looks in the Vision Pro. (More than one Apple representative suggested that problem could eventually be solved by buying multiple headsets. I laughed.)
Apple is still straddling the line between immersion and isolation with the Vision Pro. Some features, like EyeSight, which projects your eyes onto an OLED screen on the front of the device, can connect the headset’s users with others nearby. I also thought the ability to see your hands in mixed reality, as well as to see others when they got close, was all pretty thoughtful. But those hands you see aren’t real. The eyes on the headset are just a replication of your own. They’re efforts to solve some of the more annoying issues with VR, but they aren’t complete fixes.
Perhaps I’d be more enamored with the Vision Pro as a computing platform if I saw more of its capabilities. I couldn’t try out the virtual keyboard, or its integration with Bluetooth keyboards, trackpads and mice. I couldn’t see what it was like to project my MacBook’s screen into a virtual display — something I predicted we’d see last week.
At the very least, Apple has succeeded in crafting the most impressive pitch for spatial computing yet. It’s not just about games or forcing people to care about the metaverse. The Vision Pro wants to bring the things you already do on your computers into mixed reality. Perhaps this will lead to cheaper and more consumer-friendly headsets down the line. Maybe it sets Apple up for a hologram-filled future, where you don’t even need to wear glasses to see digital elements. So much is uncertain. But for Apple, jumping into spatial computing could be worth the risk.
Follow all of the news from Apple’s WWDC 2023 right here.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/apple-vision-pro-hands-on-a-new-milestone-for-mixed-reality-060943291.html?src=rss
The Federal Trade Commission just announced that Microsoft has been fined $20 million “over charges it illegally collected personal information from children who signed up for its Xbox gaming system without their parents’ consent”.
This week, Variscite revealed at Computer that they will soon release a low-cost System-on-Module based on the latest NXP i.MX 91 processor optimized for Linux-based applications. According to the press release, the new VAR-SOM-MX91 will be featured in a similar form-factor as other Variscite products from the VAR-SOM Pin2Pin family (i.e. VAR-SOM-MX93). This will allow […]
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Mycorrhizal fungi have been supporting life on land for at least 450 million years by helping to supply plants with soil nutrients essential for growth. In recent years, scientists have found that in addition to forming symbiotic relationships with nearly all land plants, these fungi are important conduits to transport carbon into soil ecosystems. In a meta-analysis published June 5 in the journal Current Biology, scientists estimate that as much as 13.12 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) fixed by terrestrial plants is allocated to mycorrhizal fungi annually — roughly equivalent to 36% of yearly global fossil fuel emissions. Because 70% to 90% of land plants form symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizal fungi, researchers have long surmised that there must be a large amount of carbon moving into the soil through their networks.
Mycorrhizal fungi transfer mineral nutrients to and obtain carbon from their plant partners. These bi-directional exchanges are made possible by associations between fungal mycelium, the thread-like filamentous networks that make up the bulk of fungal biomass, and plant roots. Once transported underground, carbon is used by mycorrhizal fungi to grow a more extensive mycelium, helping them to explore the soil. It is also bound up in soil by the sticky compounds exuded by the fungi and can remain underground in the form of fungal necromass, which functions as a structural scaffold for soils. The scientists know that carbon is flowing through fungi, but how long it stays there remains unclear.
The paper is part of a global push to understand the role that fungi play in Earth’s ecosystems. “We know that mycorrhizal fungi are vitally important ecosystem engineers, but they are invisible,” says senior author Toby Kiers, a professor of evolutionary biology at Vrije University Amsterdam and co-founder of the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks (SPUN). “Mycorrhizal fungi lie at the base of the food webs that support much of life on Earth, but we are just starting to understand how they actually work. There’s still so much to learn.” But there’s a race against time to understand and protect these fungi. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization warns that 90% of soils could be degraded by 2050, and fungi are left out of most conservation and environmental policy. Without the fertility and structure that soil provides, the productivity of both natural and crop plants will rapidly decline.
Creative types know all too well how many apps come on the market every year promising to help them execute their vision. While many of these programs are great, unfortunately that means a whole lot of subscription fees and App Store purchases for those who need a bunch of different tools to handle different aspects…
Organizations big and small are falling prey to the mass exploitation of a critical vulnerability in a widely used file-transfer program. The exploitation started over the Memorial Day holiday—while the critical vulnerability was still a zeroday—and continues now, some nine days later.
As of Monday evening, payroll service Zellis, the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, British Airways, the BBC, and UK retailer Boots were all known to have had data stolen through the attacks, which are fueled by a recently patched vulnerability in MOVEit, a file-transfer provider that offers both cloud and on-premises services. Both Nova Scotia and Zellis had their own instances or cloud services breached. British Airways, the BBC, and Boots were customers of Zellis. All of the hacking activity has been attributed to the Russian-speaking Clop crime syndicate.
Widespread and rather substantial
Despite the relatively small number of confirmed breaches, researchers monitoring the ongoing attacks are describing the exploitation as widespread. They liken the hacks to smash-and-grab robberies, in which a window is broken and thieves grab whatever they can, and warned that the quick-moving heists are hitting banks, government agencies, and other targets in alarmingly high numbers.
The cd command is a crucial tool for accessing the file system by altering the current working directory when using the Linux command line interface. You can navigate between directories and access files and directories on your Linux system by learning how to use the cd command. We’ll go through how to use the cd command correctly in this post and examine all of its features.
At WWDC today, Apple debuted iOS 17. “Highlights include new safety features, a built-in journaling app, a new nightstand mode, redesigned contact cards, better auto-correct and voice transcription, and live voicemail,” reports The Verge. “And you’ll be able to drop the ‘hey’ from ‘Hey Siri.'” From the report: Your contact book is getting an update with a new feature called posters, which turns contact cards into flashy marquee-like images that show up full-screen on your recipient’s iPhone when you call them. They use a similar design language as the redesigned lock screens, with bold typography options and the ability to add Memoji, and will work with third-party VoIP apps. There’s also a new live transcription feature for voicemail that lets you view a transcript of the message a caller is leaving in real time. You can choose to ride it out or pick up the call, and it’s all handled on-device. You’ll also be able to leave a message on FaceTime, too.
Some updates to messages include the ability to filter searches with additional terms, a feature that jumps to the most recent message so you can catch up more easily, transcriptions of voice messages — similar to what the Pixel 7 series introduced — and a series of new features called Check In that shares your live location and status with someone else. It can automatically send a message to a friend when you’ve arrived home, and it can share your phone’s battery and cell service status to help avoid confusion if you’re in a dead zone. Stickers are getting an overhaul, too, with the ability to add any emoji or photo cutout as a “sticker” positioned on iMessages or anywhere within the system. Live photos can be turned into animated stickers, too, and you can now add effects to stickers.
AirDrop gets an update to send contact information — cleverly called NameDrop — which will send your selected email addresses and phone numbers (and your poster) just by bringing two iPhones near each other. It also works between an iPhone and an Apple Watch. Photos can be shared the same way, and if the file is a big one, it’s now possible to move out of range while continuing the download. iOS 17 also includes keyboard updates, including enhancements to autocorrect. It now relies on a new language model for better accuracy, plus an easier shortcut to revert to the original word you wrote if necessary. There’s now in-line predictive typing and sentence-level autocorrections to correct more grammatical mistakes. It’ll finally learn your favorite cuss words, too; Apple’s Craig Federighi even made a “ducking” joke onstage. Dictation uses a new AI model, too, that’s more accurate.
A new app called Journal automatically suggests moments that you might want to commemorate in a journal entry. Your entries can include photos, music, and activities, and you can schedule reminders for yourself to start writing. It’s end-to-end encrypted, too, to keep things private. StandBy is a new mode for charging that turns the screen into a status display with the date and time. It can show information from Live Activities, widgets, and smart stacks and automatically turns on when your phone is in landscape mode while charging. You can swipe to the right to see some of your highlighted photos, and it comes with customizable clockfaces. Siri will surface visual results in StandBy, and the display shifts to a red tone at night to avoid disrupting sleep. Last but not least, Siri gets a boost, too, and finally lets you drop the “hey” from “Hey Siri.” It will also recognize back-to-back commands. iOS 17 is available to developers today, with a public beta released next month.
Moderators of Stack Overflow have announced a strike in protest of the company’s ban on moderating AI-generated content, claiming that this policy allows incorrect information and plagiarism to proliferate on the platform. Gizmodo reports: Last week in a post — which has been downvoted at least 283 times — Stack Overflow announced its new moderation policy that will only remove AI-generated content in specific instances, claiming that over-moderation of posts made with artificial intelligence was turning away human contributors. The company also said in its post that a strict standard of evidence needed to be used moving forward in order to manage AI content, and that that standard of evidence hasn’t applied to most suspensions issued by moderators thus far. This directive was also communicated to the platform’s moderation team privately before being posted publicly. The moderators of the website are claiming that this directive will allow AI content, which can frequently be incorrect, to run rampant on the forum while expressing discontent with Stack Overflow for not communicating this new policy more effectively.
“Stack Overflow, Inc. has decreed a near-total prohibition on moderating AI-generated content in the wake of a flood of such content being posted to and subsequently removed from the Stack Exchange network, tacitly allowing the proliferation of incorrect information (“hallucinations”) and unfettered plagiarism on the Stack Exchange network. This poses a major threat to the integrity and trustworthiness of the platform and its content,” the mods write in their letter to Stack Overflow. “Stack Overflow, Inc. has decreed a near-total prohibition on moderating AI-generated content in the wake of a flood of such content being posted to and subsequently removed from the Stack Exchange network, tacitly allowing the proliferation of incorrect information (“hallucinations”) and unfettered plagiarism on the Stack Exchange network. This poses a major threat to the integrity and trustworthiness of the platform and its content,” the mods write in their letter to Stack Overflow.
Stack Overflow moderators, like those at Wikipedia, are volunteers tasked with maintaining the integrity of the platform. The moderators say that they tried to express their concerns with the company’s new policy through proper channels, but their anxieties fell on deaf ears. The mods plan to strike indefinitely, and will cease all actions including closing posts, deleting posts, flagging answers, and other tasks that help with website upkeep until AI policy has been retracted.
Apple’s WWDC 2023 keynote was today, and with it came the company’s long-awaited mixed reality headset. Apple Vision Pro is the company’s name for its much-hyped entrance into spatial computing. The headset runs a new operating system called visionOS and starts at $3,499 when it launches next year.
A few weeks ago Critical Roledebuted its newest campaign: Candela Obscura. io9 had a chance to talk with Matt Mercer, Candela Obscura’s Game Master, and two players—Laura Bailey and Robbie Daymond—about the game, the production, and what’s next for the game at hand.
The Firefox 114 is now available for download ahead of its official unveiling on June 6th, 2023, as another worthy update for this popular open-source web browser used by numerous GNU/Linux distributions by default.