Everything You Need to Know About Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

On March 17, 2018, The New York Times, alongside The Guardian and The Observer, reported that Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis firm that worked on President Trump’s 2016 campaign, and its related company, Strategic Communications Laboratories, pilfered the data of 50 million Facebook users and secretly kept it. This revelation and its implications, that Facebook allowed data from millions of its users to be captured and improperly used to influence the presidential election, ignited a conflagration that threatens to engulf the already tattered reputation of the embattled social media giant.

For five days, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, remained what many called “deafeningly silent,” before finally posting a lengthy response to his personal Facebook page. He then spoke to a small handful of news outlets, including WIRED, offering apologies, conceding mistakes, and, surprisingly, even entertaining regulation for his sprawling company.

From the moment the read more

The Ryan Coogler Effect: What the Success of ‘Black Panther’ Means for Black Directors

If you had to take a guess, how many studios would you say are desperate to greenlight a superhero film by a black director? One? Just a few? All of the majors? I cynically volleyed that question to coworkers in Slack last week when reports started circling that Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, She’s Gotta Have It) was in consideration to direct an adaptation of Nightwatch for Sony, possibly with a script from Luke Cage’s Cheo Hodari Coker. My colleagues debated the query gamely, but the discussion didn’t end with the possibility of Lee taking on a Marvel hero. One day later, there was a report that Ava DuVernay (A Wrinkle in Time, Selma) would be directing New Gods, a DC saga of virtue and immorality that takes place in a realm of immortal beings known as the Fourth World. I was starting to get answers.

There’s a renewed sense of excitement afoot in Hollywood, and much of it has to do with the singular and sweeping success of director Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, read more

Spending Bill Gives Green Energy Its R&D Budget—But That’s Not All It Needs

Computers and iPhones don’t go to heaven. Instead, 80 percent of US electronic waste ends up in landfills or incineration furnaces. Materials scientist Victoria Chernow thinks that science will be able to change that. She says there might be a way to salvage the more than five pounds of gold, nearly 2,000 pounds of copper, and 55 pounds of silver hidden in a haul of 100,000 smart phones—using microbes. Basically, synthetic probiotics that act as tiny garbage collectors.

Chernow is a fellow at the Advanced Research Projects-Energy, an agency created by the Bush administration in 2007 that got its inaugural $400 million budget during the stimulus package in 2009. Its mission is to incubate disruptive energy technologies—like Darpa, but for energy instead of the military. President Trump’s proposed budgets for 2018 defunded ARPA-E. But in the spending bill Trump signed on Friday afternoon, ARPA-E got a budget bump, up to $353.3 million up from $306 million in 2017.

Which read more

Gadget Lab Podcast: More Questions Than Answers in Uber’s Fatal Arizona Crash

This week, a self-driving Volvo owned by Uber struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. We won’t know the exact details of what happened until much later once Uber, the local police, and the federal government have completed their investigations. But the tragedy has opened up many questions about how self-driving car technology works, and particularly how well these robotic cars can see what’s happening around them. Alex Davies and Aarian Marshall from WIRED’s transportation desk join us this week to talk about autonomous vehicle safety, Lidar, street design, and the human component.

Some notes: Aarian’s initial report about the Tempe crash. Her analysis of Uber’s dashcam video. The crash comes at a time when pedestrian deaths are spiking. read more

Craigslist Shuts Personal Ads for Fear of New Internet Law

Online classified site Craigslist abruptly shut its personals section just days after Congress approved a bill expanding the criminal and civil liability of website operators over user-generated content. President Trump is expected to soon sign the measure into law.

In an attempt to curb sex trafficking, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) amends a bedrock law — Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — that helped the internet flourish by shielding websites from liability for outside content.

Reddit also shuttered sections of its website as part of a policy update that prohibited “paid services involving physical sexual contact,” but the company did not specifically call out FOSTA. Reddit’s policy change appears to have affected the sections Escorts, Male Escorts, Hookers, and SugarDaddy.

Those moves, and others by less popular sites, appeared to validate the concerns of the bill’s opponents, who said the measure would read more

“Eye Tracking Is Coming to Virtual Reality Sooner Than You Think. What Now?”

Joakim Karlén handed me the headset, such as it was. It was a reference design only; the hard plastic box lacked a headstrap, and had a utilitarian form factor only a dystopian sci-fi fan would love. However, it was also completely self-contained—no cables trailing away from it to a nearby PC, no cellphone to power it. This was Qualcomm’s latest “standalone” headset reference, a prototype and platform architecture that the company would provide to developers in order to create all-in-one devices.

When I held the headset up to my eyes (no headstrap, remember?) I found myself looking into a mirror, seeing the reflection of the young woman who was my avatar. When I turned my head from side to side, so did the reflection—except her eyes stayed centered in their sockets. I could look at the mirror out of the corner of my eye, but my avatar couldn’t.

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Enter read more

Everyone Knows How to Secure Elections. So Do It

After months of stalled progress in Congress, efforts to promote and fund nationwide election security improvements have finally gained some momentum this week. The Senate Intelligence Committee released its long-awaited election infrastructure defense recommendations. Senate leaders got behind a revised version of the Secure Elections Act. And late Thursday night, the Senate passed the omnibus spending bill, which includes $380 million for securing digital election systems. All the pieces are in place. The solutions are clear. All that’s left is the doing.

But, of course, that turns out to be the hardest part. Experts say that while Congress did take meaningful action this week, it likely comes too late to play an extensive role in securing this year’s midterm elections.

“This is a great first step, but it’s not going to solve the problem,” says Marian Schneider, president of Verified Voting, a group that promotes election system best practices. read more

Tumblr Names Russian Propaganda Accounts After Long Silence

After months of silence, Tumblr Friday released a list of 84 usernames and their aliases that it says were connected to “state-sponsored disinformation and propaganda campaigns.” It’s the first time the company has publicly acknowledged what journalists and researchers have known now for months: Russian trolls also used Tumblr to spread their divisive memes and gifs, reportedly to the tune of hundreds of thousands of interactions.

“Democracy requires transparency and an informed electorate, and we take our responsibilities very seriously,” Tumblr wrote in a brief introduction to the list. “We aggressively monitor Tumblr for signs of state-sponsored disinformation campaigns, and take the appropriate action when we uncover anything.” A company spokesperson declined to answer follow-up questions about what form that monitoring takes, how comprehensive the current list is, and what took Tumblr so long to make this information public.

‘It was read more

DOJ Indicts 9 Iranians For Brazen University Cyberattacks

In its latest drumbeat against the cyber activities of Iran, the US government Friday charged nine Iranian hackers with a massive three-year campaign to penetrate and steal more than 31 terabytes of information—totaling more than $3 billion in intellectual property—from more than 300 American and foreign universities.

The effort, detailed in a 21-page indictment unsealed Friday, amounted to “one of the largest state-sponsored hacking campaigns ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice,” said Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District, which brought the case. The effort netted a lengthy list of victims, including 144 universities based in the US, and another 176 spread across 21 foreign countries. The group also hit 47 private sector companies, government targets as varied as the US Department of Labor, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the states of Hawaii and Indiana, along with the United Nations.

The hacking campaign focused on read more

Best Travel Gear: Mophie, Amazon Kindle, Allbirds, Lululemon, Hex

Fit everything for your trip into a bag that slides under the seat in front of you.

1. Lululemon City Trek Trouser II
Minimize the load in your carry-on bag by bringing only one pair of pants. The moisture-­wicking, extra-stretchy fabric in these trousers is designed for extended wrinkle-­free wear. Slip them on for your evening flight, then wear them to your morning meeting the next day.

2. Allbirds Wool Loungers
Made from superfine merino wool, these shoes are as supportive as sneakers when you’re racing to the gate, as soft as slippers when you’re waiting to board, and as warm as fuzzy socks when the cabin gets chilly. Laceless construction makes them easy to slip on and off at security.

3. Mophie Powerstation AC
Don’t count on there being an outlet underneath your seat. This portable 22,000-mAh power brick lets you charge your laptop anywhere, anytime, with its built-in AC outlet. USB ports let you charge your phone, headphones, and other devices multiple times over.

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