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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 18th Jul 2018

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Google is to be fined a record 4.3 billion euros ($5bn; £3.8bn) over its Android operating system, the BBC has learned.

The European Commission's action followed a three year probe into claims the firm's mobile device strategy had unfairly strengthened its dominance of search.

The penalty is set to be confirmed at a press conference in Brussels later.

It will be the largest fine imposed by the regulator against a single firm.

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However, Google may challenge the ruling.

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager previously fined Google 2.4bn euros ($2.8bn; £2.1bn ) over a separate probe into its shopping comparison service - a ruling Google is in the process of appealing against.

In addition, her team has a third investigation underway into the firm's advert-placing business AdSense.

Commissioner Vestager is pursuing three separate anti-trust cases against Google

Ms Vestager is due to discuss the Android case at 13:00 CEST (12:00 BST).

Market leader

The European Commission first began scrutinising Android in April 2015, following a complaint by Fairsearch - a trade group that originally included Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle among its members.

At that point, Android had a 64% share of Europe's handset market, according to research firm Statcounter. It has since grown to 74%.

The commission subsequently made three specific allegations of anti-competitive behaviour, saying Google was:

  • requiring Android handset and tablet manufacturers to set its search engine as the default and pre-install the Chrome browser before allowing them to offer access to its Play app store
  • preventing manufacturers from selling mobile devices powered by rival operating systems based on Android's open source code
  • giving device manufacturers and mobile networks financial incentives to provide its own search service as the sole pre-installed option

In response, Google had denied obliging device-makers to preload any of its apps.

It had also claimed that distributing Google Search and the Play store together had made it possible to offer its services for free.

"The commission's approach... would mean less innovation, less choice, less competition, and higher prices," its global affairs chief blogged in 2016.

He added that in any case, Apple and its rival iOS operating system gave consumers an alternative.

Russia's push-back

Google has already made concessions in Russia, where the local competition regulator pursued similar complaints.

There, Android users are now offered a choice between Google, Yandex and Mail.ru as the default search engine the first time they use the Chrome browser.

Yandex has seen its share of mobile search rise from about 34% to 46% since the change, according to Statcounter.

But one legal expert said the EU's dispute could take much longer to resolve.

"Google has shown in the past that it is prepared to assert its legal rights," Suzanne Rab, a barrister at Serle Court Chambers, told the BBC.

"It can appeal to the EU courts, and as we've seen in the European Commission's abuse of dominance case against Intel, such litigation can be measured in years and not months."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 17th Jul 2018

Madagascar offers faster average broadband speeds than the UK

The UK has slipped further down the Worldwide Broadband Speed League table, falling four places to number 35.

At an average of 18.57Mbps, the UK is behind 25 other European countries and among the bottom third in the European Union.

Cable's Broadband internet Top-50 
  Country Region Av. spd
1 Singapore Asia & Pacific 60.39
2 Sweden Europe 46.00
3 Denmark Europe 43.99
4 Norway Europe 40.12
5 Romania Europe 38.60
6 Belgium Europe 36.71
7 Netherlands Europe 35.95
8 Luxembourg Europe 35.14
9 Hungary Europe 34.01
10 Jersey Europe 30.90
11 Switzerland Europe 29.92
12 Japan Asia & Pacific 28.94
13 Latvia Europe 28.63
14 Taiwan Asia & Pacific 28.09
15 Estonia Europe 27.91
16 Spain Europe 27.19
17 Lithuania Europe 27.17
18 Andorra Europe 27.14
19 Hong Kong Asia & Pacific 26.45
20 United States North America 25.86
21 Slovakia Europe 25.30
22 Madagascar Africa 24.87
23 France Europe 24.23
24 Finland Europe 24.00
25 Germany Europe 24.00
26 New Zealand Asia & Pacific 23.77
27 Czechia Europe 23.71
28 Slovenia Europe 21.41
29 Portugal Europe 21.28
30 South Korea Asia & Pacific 20.63
31 Bulgaria Europe 20.20
32 Poland Europe 19.73
33 Canada North America 19.48
34 Iceland Europe 18.85
35 UK Europe 18.57
36 Ireland Europe 18.22
37 Liechtenstein Europe 17.71
38 Austria Europe 17.51
39 Barbados South/LatAm 17.08
40 Thailand Asia & Pacific 17.06
41 Macao Asia & Pacific 16.12
42 Croatia Europe 15.60
43 Italy Europe 15.10
44 Gibraltar Europe 14.71
45 Moldova Europe 13.88
46 Malta Europe 13.60
47 Russia Europe 13.51
48 Malaysia Asia & Pacific 13.30
49 Aruba South/LatAm 13.27
50 Serbia Europe 13.00

In particular, broadband speeds in the UK now trail Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Slovenia - among others - in Europe, and has even been leapfrogged by Madagascar.

The annual broadband league table from communications analyst group Cable tests internet speeds across 200 countries, taking an average of fastest and slowest.

The city state of Singapore, once again, comes out on top, with an average broadband speed of 60.39Mbps, while war ravaged Yemen brings up the rear with an average of just 0.31Mbps.

The tests, though, indicate that while speeds are being improved almost across the board around the world, they are growing fastest in the wealthiest economies.

"With average broadband speeds rising by 23 per cent in just one year it would be easy to assume an overall positive global picture," said Cable consumer telecoms analyst Dan Howdle.

He continued: "However, a closer look reveals the acceleration is concentrated towards the top end: the faster countries are improving more quickly, with those towards the bottom end of the table verging on stagnation."

In particular, Europe, the US, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong are enjoying the biggest broadband speed boosts, he added, while relatively the UK is falling further behind.

The UK's communications infrastructure is dominated by BT via its wholly owned infrastructure arm, Openreach. It has been accused of not rolling out fibre broadband nearly aggressively enough. 

The failure of BT-owned Openreach to keep pace is reflected by its inability to roll out even fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband to large parts of London, let alone the rest of the country.

The organisation is now committed to rolling out fibre-to-the-premises, but the company's plans means that it will take a decade or more before the task is completed.

It is currently pledged to bring fibre to three million homes by 2020 and earlier this year promised to hire 3,000 engineers to help deliver that promise. 


Source: v3.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 17th Jul 2018

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Google has secured several of the UK's largest recruitment services for a local version of its jobs-hunting tool.

Reed, Guardian Jobs, Haymarket and Totaljobs.com are among those providing listings, in addition to global sites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor.

The facility automatically shows the "freshest and most relevant" openings based on a user's location when they type relevant terms into Google Search.

But one expert said those involved might come to regret the tie-up.

For now, the US tech giant is not charging employment sites to feature their listings nor using the service to place any extra adverts beyond those that normally appear within its results.

Google lets users search for recent vacancies across a wide range of sites simultaneously

In addition, applicants must still click through to the individual third-party jobs platforms to apply for a post.

But one industry-watcher suggested this arrangement could change.

"Google is a behemoth of search, it controls the gateway to the internet - so I can understand why others feel they have to be part of its jobs service," commented Robert Jeffrey, editor of People Management magazine.

"But undoubtedly it will start charging for placement and other premium services.

"And for third-party sites that represents a risk."

Commute times

The Google For Jobs service already exists in the US, Spain and parts of Africa, where the firm claims to have already connected millions of people to new job opportunities.

In addition to the larger listing sites, Google has also partnered with thousands of smaller specialist platforms.

The Google For Jobs service is triggered by relevant queries within its main search facility

"What job seekers get is the ability to find jobs from all over the internet," product manager Joy Xi explained.

"What the employers get is easier discoverability."

She added that there were also other advantages over individual sites.

For example, Ms Xi said Google's "search smarts" meant applicants would not have to carry out multiple searches to find similar posts listed under different titles - for example: programmer, software engineer and developer.

In addition, she said, the firm's Maps data had been referenced to let users see how long it would take to commute to each post.

Even so, one major vacancies site is refusing to share its data - Indeed.

The 14-year-old firm also acts as a listings aggregator and claims to be the world's most popular jobs hunt service with more than 200 million unique visitors a month.

US-based Indeed is a subsidiary of Japan's Recruit Holdings

"At this time, Indeed has decided not to partner because we feel that's the best decision for jobseekers," its marketing chief Paul D'Arcy told the BBC.

"Moving forward, we will continue to evaluate this and other partnerships."

Indeed's recent efforts to maintain its lead include the acquisition of the CV-building service Resume.com, and launch of new tools for employers to help them tackle any hiring biases.

However, its decision to avoid the new service means links to Indeed pages now appear further down Google's results pages.

"Indeed is the biggest in the market at the moment, and it may feel like it's got the most to lose by getting into bed with Google," said Mr Jeffrey.

"But it's a brave move."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 11th Jul 2018

The UK's data protection watchdog intends to fine Facebook £500,000 for data breaches - the maximum allowed.

The Information Commissioner's Office said Facebook had failed to ensure another company - Cambridge Analytica - had deleted users' data.

The ICO will also bring a criminal action against Cambridge Analytica's defunct parent company SCL Elections.

And it has raised concerns about political parties buying personal information from "data brokers".

Specifically it named one company, used by the Labour Party, called Emma's Diary, a company that gives medical advice and free baby-themed goods to parents.

Facebook said it would respond to the report "soon".

The ICO also said another company - Aggregate IQ - which worked with the Vote Leave campaign in the run up to the EU Referendum - must stop processing UK citizens' data.

Kyle Taylor, director of campaigning group Fair Vote UK said "Under new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) laws, the ICO could fine Facebook £479m.

"Unfortunately, because they had to follow old data protection laws, they were only able to fine them the maximum of £500,000. This is unacceptable," he said.

In 2017 Facebook was fined 110m euros (£95m) by the European Commission and in the same year they imposed a fine on Google of 2.42bn euros (£2.1bn).

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said "this is not all about fines" adding that companies were also worried about their reputation.

She said the impact of behavioural advertising, when it came to elections, was "significant" and called for a code of practice to "fix the system".

Such a code, she argued, would ensure that "elections are fair and people understand how they are being micro-targeted".

The action comes 16 months after the ICO began its probe into political campaigners' use of personal data following concerns raised by whistleblower Christopher Wylie, among others.

Mr Wylie, a former employee of Cambridge Analytica - a London-based political consulting firm - told the Observer and New York Times his company had made unauthorised use of personal data harvested from millions of Facebook users.

The ICO found that Facebook had breached its own rules and failed to make sure that Cambridge Analytica had deleted this personal data.

While Cambridge Analytica insisted it had indeed wiped the data after Facebook's erasure request in December 2015, the ICO said it had seen evidence that copies of the data had been shared with others.

"This potentially brings into question the accuracy of the deletion certificates provided to Facebook," said an ICO spokesperson.

How was Facebook users' data misused?

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Responding to the ICO report, Mr Wylie said: "Months ago, I reported Facebook and Cambridge Analytica to the UK authorities.

"Based on that evidence, Facebook is today being issued with the maximum fine allowed under British law.

"Cambridge Analytica, including possibly its directors, will be criminally prosecuted."

Lifestyle information

The ICO has also written to the UK's 11 main political parties compelling them to have their data protection practices audited.

It is concerned the parties may have bought lifestyle information about members of the public from data brokers, who might have not have obtained the necessary consent.

In particular, the ICO raised concern about one data broker: Emma's Diary. The firm offers medical advice to pregnant women and gift packs after babies are born.

The ICO said it was concerned about how transparent the firm had been about its political activities.

Emma's Diary requires users to download an app to get a free bundle of baby-themed goods

It said that the Labour Party had confirmed using the firm, but did not provide other details at this point beyond saying it intended to take some form of regulatory action.

The service's owner Lifecycle Marketing told the BBC that it did not agree with the ICO's initial findings.

"For over 25 years we have operated with integrity and within the spirit of data regulation," said a spokeswoman.

"As the ICO investigation continues we will freely cooperate... and cannot comment further at this stage."

Data Protection Act

Facebook's chief executive has repeatedly declined to answer questions from UK MPs about the scandal

Looking wider, the ICO noted that Facebook had been the biggest recipient of digital advertising by political parties and campaigns to date.

Yet, it said, the US firm had neither done enough to explain to its members how they were being targeted as a consequence, nor given them enough control over how their sensitive personal data was used.

As a result, it said, Facebook was guilty of two breaches of the Data Protection Act.

Facebook has a chance to respond to the Commissioner's Notice of Intent, after which a final decision will be made.

The tech firm's chief privacy officer has issued a brief response.

"As we have said before, we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and take action in 2015," said Erin Egan.

"We have been working closely with the ICO in their investigation of Cambridge Analytica, just as we have with authorities in the US and other countries. We're reviewing the report and will respond to the ICO soon."

How will Cambridge Analytica be dealt with?

In March, Channel 4 News aired undercover footage of Cambridge Analytica's CEO, Alexander Nix, giving examples of how the firm could swing elections around the world.

Cambridge Analytica and its parent SCL Elections began insolvency proceedings in May.

But the ICO said it was still taking legal steps to bring a criminal prosecution against the business.

The basis for this would be that SCL Elections had failed to properly respond to an earlier demand that it give a US academic a copy of any personal information it held on him along with an explanation as to its source and usage.

In March, Cambridge Analytica offices were searched by ICO officers

Prof David Carroll first asked for the data in January 2017, and the ICO served a related enforcement order four months later.

Bearing in mind SCL Elections is now out of business, the ICO said it might consider taking action against the company's directors.

"A successful prosecution may result in a conviction and an unlimited fine," added a spokeswoman.

How is AggregateIQ involved?

The ICO said it had established that the Canadian data analytics firm AggregateIQ - AIQ - had access to UK voters' personal data provided by the Brexit referendum's Vote Leave campaign.

It said it was now investigating whether this information had been transferred and accessed outside the UK and whether this amounted to a breach of the data protection act.

The watchdog added that it continued to investigate to what degree AIQ and SCL Elections had shared UK personal data.

And it said it had served an enforcement notice forbidding AIQ from continuing to make use of a list of UK citizens' email addresses and names that it still holds.

What else is the regulator doing?

Other action includes:

  • an investigation into allegations that Arron Banks' Eldon Insurance Services illegally shared customer data with the Leave.EU group he co-founded, and used the business' call centre staff to make calls on behalf of the campaign - claims the firm has previously denied
  • a probe into the collection and sharing of personal data by the official Remain campaign - Britain Stronger In Europe - and a linked data broker
  • an audit of the University of Cambridge's Psychometrics Centre. The department carries out its own research into social media profiles. The ICO said it had been told of an alleged security breach involving one of the centre's apps and had additional concerns about its data protection efforts
  • a call for the government to introduce a code of practice limiting how personal information can be used by political campaigns before the next general election
  • efforts to ensure ex-staff from SCL Elections and Cambridge Analytica do not illegally use materials obtained from the business before its collapse

The ICO said it expects the next stage of its investigation to be complete by the end of October.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 10th Jul 2018

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A roadside system that detects if a mobile phone is in use in a passing vehicle is being piloted in a UK first.

Despite being unable to pick up whether the driver is using the phone, it is hoped it will act as a deterrent to people making calls behind the wheel.

The technology picks up the phone signal in the vehicle and activates a roadside warning sign of a mobile with a red line through it.

Being initially tested in Norfolk, the system cannot record footage.

However, the it is designed to pick up whether the phone is being used hands-free or via a vehicle's Bluetooth system and will not trigger the sign in those circumstances.

'Huge problem'

Chris Spinks, of Westcotec the firm behind it and former head of roads policing in Norfolk, said: "So many people, by force of habit, can't resist using their phone.

"It's a huge problem on our roads and drivers know there is no remote detection system.

"The system cannot differentiate between a driver and the passengers on a bus, for example, but this goes some way towards remotely warning drivers that they can be detected using their phone.

"Hopefully, as time goes on it will become as socially unacceptable as drink driving."

The signs are in place in four locations in Norfolk before being moved on to new sites within the county in a month's time.

Statistics from the devices will be shared with Norfolk Police, the county council said.

The council said that enabling the system to record specific number plates could be a "future development" with it.

Insp Jonathan Chapman, of Norfolk Roads Policing unit, said: "Any scheme which prevents this kind of behaviour is welcomed.

"Using a mobile phone at the wheel is one of the fatal four road offences which can have devastating consequences if it causes a fatal or serious collision.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 9th Jul 2018

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Tracking your phone's gyroscope, scanning your messages and giving your data to third-party companies.

These are just three of the things you agree to when signing up to some tech companies' apps and sites.

BBC research has found some of the language used in privacy policies and terms requires a university education to be understood.

But dig down beneath the jargon, and there are some surprising realities about how your data is used.

1. Your location is tracked - even if you don't allow it

Many apps ask permission to track your precise location through your phone's Global Positioning System (GPS), which users can refuse.

But even if you refuse the app permission, they can still see where you are.

Facebook, for example, collects location-related information aside from your phone's GPS. It still tracks where you are through IP addresses, "check-ins or events you attend".

Twitter also "requires" information about your current location, "which we get from signals such as your IP address or device settings". This is so it can "securely and reliably set up and maintain your account".

2. Companies pass your data to affiliates...

When you agree to terms and conditions, you often don't just give your data to that specific app - there's a lot of intra-group data sharing.

For example, the data that dating app Tinder collects is shared with other members of the Match Group, which includes other dating sites OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, and Match.com.

Tinder says it does so for "maintenance, customer care, marketing and targeted advertising", and to remove users who violate their terms of use.

Elsewhere, LinkedIn was bought by Microsoft in 2016, and according to its privacy policy, receives data "about you when you use some of the other services provided by us or our affiliates, including Microsoft."

3. ...and you're also bound by third-party terms

If having to read the tech giant's terms itself wasn't enough, you might also have to read those of other companies that deal with your data.

Amazon says they may share your information with third parties: as well as their own terms, users should "carefully review their privacy statements and other conditions of use".

Or, if you use Apple products, your personal data is shared with companies "who provide services such as information processing, extending credit [...] and assessing your interest in our products and services".

The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force in May, does not order companies to list these third parties in their terms.

However, Ailidh Callander, legal officer at Privacy International, a charity, says this has worrying implications: "It means that companies like data brokers are able to use your location, your interests, your contacts and much more to profile you.

"Privacy policies can be overwhelming, but it is really important to take the time to look not only at what data is being collected and why, but also who it is being shared with (and for what purposes)", she adds.

Wikipedia, on the other hand, does not share your personal information with third parties for marketing purposes. Their terms also make a point of saying how they "don't allow tracking by third-party websites you have not visited".

4. Tinder collects gyroscope data

Sometimes data collection goes beyond name, age and location.

Tinder says that the app collects data from your phone's accelerometers (for measuring movement), gyroscopes (which measure the angle you're holding your phone at), and compasses.

It doesn't, however, say exactly what that data is used for.

5. Facebook keeps your deleted searches...

Facebook offers the option to delete searches from their history, giving the user the impression that records of their searches are wiped clean.

The problem, however, is that they aren't.

Their data policy states that while search history can be deleted at any time, "the log of that search is deleted after 6 months".

6. ...and tracks you even if you're off the app

Facebook even tracks what you do when you're not signed in to it - or when you don't have an account.

According to its data policy, it works with "advertisers, app developers and publishers", who can send them information "about your activities off Facebook", through something called Facebook Business Tools.

These partners "provide information about your activities off Facebook - including information about your device, websites you visit, purchases you make, [and] the ads you see".

This happens "whether or not you have a Facebook account or are logged into Facebook".

7. LinkedIn scans your private messages

If you thought private messages were private, think again.

LinkedIn uses "automatic scanning technology on messages", according to its privacy policy.

The company says it does this in order to provide protection from malicious sites or spam, and to suggest automatic replies.

Twitter, meanwhile, stores and processes your messages.

It uses data about "whom you have communicated with and when (but not the content of those communications) to better understand the use of our services, to protect the safety and integrity of our platform."

8. And if you're under 18, your parents should have read this with you

Apple's terms say that "children under the age of majority should review this Agreement with their parent or guardian to ensure that the child and parent or legal guardian understand it."

Yet as BBC research found, to sit through and read their privacy policy and terms would take the average adult more than 40 minutes - let alone the average 13-year-old.

And if reading the privacy policy once wasn't enough, Amazon invites you back to check again: "Our business changes constantly and our Privacy Notice will change also. You should check our website frequently to see recent changes."

9. Don't use your iPhone to make nuclear weapons

Finally, Apple has a line in its UK terms of use telling customers not to use their products "for any purposes prohibited by United States law".

According to their definition, that includes "without limitation, the development, design, manufacture or production of nuclear, missile or chemical or biological weapons".

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 9th Jul 2018

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Elon Musk is testing equipment designed to help rescue the remaining members of a Thai youth soccer team who are trapped in a cave, the Tesla CEO tweeted on Sunday.

Hours after four boys were confirmed to have been rescued from the cave, Musk tweeted a video of a small submarine-like vessel being tested in a swimming pool.

Earlier this week, Musk offered engineers from two of his other companies — SpaceX and The Boring Company — to assist the Thai government. The video shows three people in scuba gear pushing and pulling the tube across a pool.

One video that Musk tweeted shows the submarine being lifted out of the pool and a person popping out of the submarine completly dry. 

Another video shows the submarine underwater for 35 seconds

Sam Teller, the spokesperson for the Boring Company, said four company engineerswere "offering support in any way the government deems useful."

Musk first tweeted about the boys trapped in the cave on July 4 after somebody asked him if he would assist. He wrote that he would be "happy to help if there was a way to do so."

I suspect that the Thai govt has this under control, but I’m happy to help if there is a way to do so

Musk then started brainstorming ideas to help via tweet. On Friday, he tweeted that "SpaceX & Boring Co engineers heading to Thailand tomorrow to see if we can be helpful to govt."

In one tweet, he suggested that a tube or series of tubes be sent through the cave network and inflated, creating a tunnel for the team to travel through without needing to scuba dive.

On Saturday, Musk tweeted that he was interested in designing "a tiny, kid-sized submarine" that would be "light enough to be carried by 2 divers, small enough to get through narrow gaps."

In later tweets, Musk said that the submarine he is working on has four handles in the front and four in the rear, along with four air tank connections. He also confirmed that the device could maneuver through the most narrow passages.

Eight members of the soccer team, ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach remain trapped in the cave. Officials said the rescue could take four days to complete. The team has been trapped in the cave for two weeks.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 4th Jul 2018

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For many of us, meetings are a boring waste of time but technology could soon help make them more interesting and productive.

What do you do during a boring meeting? I canvassed some opinions on Twitter and the results were enlightening.

Some people compose haikus, others play meeting bingo, seeing how many pre-agreed words they can chuck in to the conversation.

Some secretly check out Grindr on their phones or watch catch-up TV, while others fiddle with their jewellery, doodle, or simply nod off.

What's frankly worrying - if you're the meeting holder, that is - surveys show that the vast majority of us confess to doing other things during meetings.

And there's always one person - often a man who loves the sound of his own voice - who drones on and on so no-one else can get a word in edgeways.

Wouldn't it be fantastic if an artificially intelligent (AI) meeting bot could tell him to shut up?

Well, that day may not be too far away.

Many women feel they don't have a voice in meetings

It is "very feasible" for an AI to recognise when one person is dominating a meeting, or when a circular discussion keeps coming back to the same point, says James Campanini from videoconferencing company, BlueJeans.

"If no new points are made after a while, the AI could suggest to wrap up," says Cynthia Rudin, a computer science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"While it's a lovely idea to think everybody will be fabulous at running meetings, everybody is not," observes Elise Keith from Lucid Meetings, a US-based meeting management platform.

An AI agent "might be able to determine whether a meeting leader is ensuring that each participant is being heard equally and fairly," she says.

Voicera, founded in 2016 in Silicon Valley, has created an AI assistant called Eva. As well as taking notes, Eva identifies a meeting's action items and decisions.

"If AI can do most of the mundane and drudgery work during business meetings, that leaves more space for humans to think about strategy and vision," argues Niki Iliadis at the London-based Big Innovation Centre, an innovation hub working in AI.

In Japan earlier this year, the prefecture of Osaka - which is responsible for nine million people -started using AI to transcribe and summarise the 450 cabinet meetings it holds annually.

The AI recognises from the context whether speakers are using the Tokyo or Osaka dialects, and who is speaking as it transcribes.

So far it has halved the time needed to produce summaries and has cut staff overtime, the prefecture says.

BlueJeans is trying to make meetings more efficient

How about not even having to be physically present at a meeting?

One feature which shouldn't be far away is having an AI avatar join meetings for you, when you're running late, says Mr Campanini.

So "my AI identifiable creature joins the meeting, takes notes for me, and when I join, it stops and sends me the notes," he says.

Quite often we find we've been invited to a meeting that isn't relevant to us or is at a very inconvenient time. So tech firms are also working on AIs to help decide who should attend and when the meeting should be, Ms Keith says.

One Stockholm start-up, Mentimeter, is making it easier for meeting participants to give instant anonymous feedback about whether they find a discussion useful or tedious.

"One way of solving sucky meetings is letting the audience take part in a simple way," says Johnny Warstrom, the start-up's chief executive.

Mentimeter thinks instant feedback makes for better discussions in meetings

Participants using the software can make open-ended responses or vote in multiple-choice quizzes.

When the presenter turns on the word cloud feature, a screen is updated as participants submit comments, and the most frequently used words appear largest on the screen.

Such anonymous live feedback has "fundamentally changed the dynamics of a presentation", says Austin Broad from financial services firm AFH Wealth Management.

He now spends more time discussing unexpected responses than "simply confirming comprehension", he says.

Mr Warstrom believes the software allows less assertive participants to have a say for once.

"All of a sudden everyone has a voice, someone at the back of the room as much as the person speaking loudest," he says.

He thinks this is probably why Mentimeter, which has 20 million users and is Sweden's fastest growing start-up, has more female than male customers.

But until such smart meeting tech becomes more widespread, it seems we'll continue wasting time in the office.

According to the MIT Sloan Management Review, executives now spend 23 hours a week in meetings - up from under 10 in the 1960s.

And in one large company, a single weekly status meeting, and the preparations for it, took up 300,000 employee hours a year, the Harvard Business Review discovered.

Surveys show that the vast majority of us think they're a waste of time. Even bosses have been increasingly critical.

Tesla boss Elon Musk, for example, told his employees in an April e-mail to "walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren't adding value."

"It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time," he added.

And Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has banned PowerPoint - the bane of many meetings, particularly when speakers simply read out exactly what's on the slides.

Many meetings duplicate work that's already been done, so making meeting notes easily searchable could help, says Neale Martin from MeetingSense, a US-based meeting software firm.

Tools that can create agendas, send meeting invitations, distribute notes, and keep track of action items should improve effectiveness, he believes.

Otherwise, he says, "we have all this videoconferencing and other tech to link us, but we're still doing things as we always did."

A lot of this may sound like wishful thinking, particularly when you think how often basic tele- and video-conferencing tech fails to work.

But anything that helps meetings become slightly less painful must surely be welcomed.

Now, back to your doodling.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 4th Jul 2018

Image result for social media infinite scroll

Social media companies are deliberately addicting users to their products for financial gain, Silicon Valley insiders have told the BBC's Panorama programme.

"It's as if they're taking behavioural cocaine and just sprinkling it all over your interface and that's the thing that keeps you like coming back and back and back", said former Mozilla and Jawbone employee Aza Raskin.

"Behind every screen on your phone, there are generally like literally a thousand engineers that have worked on this thing to try to make it maximally addicting" he added.

In 2006 Mr Raskin, a leading technology engineer himself, designed infinite scroll, one of the features of many apps that is now seen as highly habit forming. At the time, he was working for Humanized - a computer user-interface consultancy.

Aza Raskin says he did not recognise how addictive infinite scroll could be

Infinite scroll allows users to endlessly swipe down through content without clicking.

"If you don't give your brain time to catch up with your impulses," Mr Raskin said, "you just keep scrolling."

He said the innovation kept users looking at their phones far longer than necessary.

Mr Raskin said he had not set out to addict people and now felt guilty about it.

But, he said, many designers were driven to create addictive app features by the business models of the big companies that employed them.

"In order to get the next round of funding, in order to get your stock price up, the amount of time that people spend on your app has to go up," he said.

"So, when you put that much pressure on that one number, you're going to start trying to invent new ways of getting people to stay hooked."

Mr Raskin has set his handset to work in a monochrome mode to minimise its apps' addictive powers

Lost time

A former Facebook employee made a related point.

"Social media is very similar to a slot machine," said Sandy Parakilas, who tried to stop using the service after he left the company in 2012.

"It literally felt like I was quitting cigarettes."

During his year and five months at Facebook, he said, others had also recognised this risk.

Mr Parakilas made headlines when he wrote a newspaper column in 2017, saying that Facebook could not be trusted to regulate itself

"There was definitely an awareness of the fact that the product was habit-forming and addictive," he said.

"You have a business model designed to engage you and get you to basically suck as much time out of your life as possible and then selling that attention to advertisers."

Facebook told the BBC that its products were designed "to bring people closer to their friends, family, and the things they care about".

It said that "at no stage does wanting something to be addictive factor into that process".

Like's legacy

One of the most alluring aspects of social media for users is "likes", which can come in the form of the thumbs-up sign, hearts, or retweets.

Leah Pearlman, co-inventor of Facebook's Like button, said she had become hooked on Facebook because she had begun basing her sense of self-worth on the number of "likes" she had.

Leah Pearlman worked at Facebook between 2006 and 2010

"When I need validation - I go to check Facebook," she said.

"I'm feeling lonely, 'Let me check my phone.' I'm feeling insecure, 'Let me check my phone.'"

Ms Pearlman said she had tried to stop using Facebook after leaving the company.

"I noticed that I would post something that I used to post and the 'like' count would be way lower than it used to be.

"Suddenly, I thought I'm actually also kind of addicted to the feedback."

Vulnerable teens

Studies indicate there are links between overusing social media and depression, loneliness and a host of other mental problems.

In Britain, teenagers now spend about an average of 18 hours a week on their phones, much of it using social media.

Ms Pearlman believes youngsters who recognise that social media is problematic for them should also consider steering clear of such apps.

"The first things I would say is for those teenagers to step into a different way of being because with a few leaders, it can help others follow," she said.

Last year Facebook's founding president, Sean Parker, said publicly that the company set out to consume as much user time as possible.

He claimed it was "exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology".

Image result for social media sean parker

Media captionWATCH: Sean Parker shared his worries about social media last November

"The inventors", he said, "understood this consciously and we did it anyway."

But Ms Pearlman said she had not intended the Like button to be addictive.

She also believes that social media use has many benefits for lots of people.

When confronted with Mr Parker's allegation that the company had effectively sought to hook people from the outset, senior Facebook official Ime Archibong told the BBC it was still looking into the issue.

"We're working with third-party folks that are looking at habit-forming behaviours - whether it's on our platform or the internet writ large - and trying to understanding if there are elements that we do believe are bringing harm to people," he said, "so that we can shore those up and we can invest in making sure those folks are safe over time."

Recent reports indicate Facebook is working on features to let users see how much time they have spent on its app over the previous seven days and to set daily time limits.

The Panorama programme also explores the use of colour, sounds and unexpected rewards to drive compulsive behaviour.

Twitter declined to comment.

Snap said it was happy to support frequent creative use of its app, Snapchat. But it denied using visual tricks to achieve this and added that it had no desire to increase empty engagement of the product.

Panorama - Smartphones: The Dark Side - will be shown on BBC One at 19:00 BST on 4 July and on BBC World News at a later date.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 2nd Jul 2018

"If you opened your curtains in the morning and found that the grass was scorched, somebody had dumped a load of rubbish in your garden and animals were eating it - you'd be appalled. But's that's what's happening in the oceans," says Sarah La Grue.

"The reefs are being scorched, there's rubbish on beaches and animals are eating it and getting tangled up in it. But we don't generally see much of this because it's in the oceans. Out of sight, out of mind."

Sarah is a yachtswoman who lives aboard her boat and is about to set out on a global voyage for science.

She and husband, Conor, have a vision to co-ordinate other like-minded sailors into a kind of research fleet to address some of the biggest issues facing our seas.

Their project - and the name of their 12m boat - is called Given Time.

The idea is to build a community of vessels that can gather data and conduct simple experiments, all at the behest of scientists.


Media captionProf Steve Simpson: Yachts run silent, making them perfect for sound research

Some of this information - water temperature, salinity, and turbidity - can be used to ground-truth oceanographic models and satellite observations. Other data, such as fish tissue samples, can help build a picture of animal health and the waters in which they live.

Just documenting places visited would compile "baselines" from which future change can be properly assessed.

Sarah's and Conor's open-source, crowd-science project will run off a website and an app.

"Beta boats" are being recruited to trial the basic research programme. The intention is that these vessels would then cascade the ideas and skills to other sailors wanting to join the programme.

"There's something like 4,000 long-term, live-aboard boats cruising the world," explains Conor.

"These are individuals, families, groups of friends; and they've made the oceans their home, and they want to look after them and get involved.

"These boats are increasingly going to some really interesting places - even into high latitudes like Antarctica and the North West Passage. These are places that professional research vessels may not often go, so we represent a fantastic additional resource."

World map showing coastal countries which contribute most to plastic waste in oceans

Given Time is taking direction from scientific advisers, such as Dr Steve Simpson from Exeter University.

He envisages scientists plugging into the cruiser community to find boats in places of interest to their particular field of research.

Perhaps these scientists have a new instrument they want to trial or a new data-set they want to acquire.

A community yacht could make that happen quickly and cheaply.

"For us, ship time is the most expensive thing and that limits what we can do," says Steve. "And yet to understand the oceans, we really need big spatial coverage for our data-sets, and we need long time-series.

"So, the opportunity to work with people where the ocean is their home, to be gathering these global data-sets that build up year on year - that's a very exciting prospect."

"Beta boats" are currently being recruited to cascade the programme

Steve himself wants to use the boats as part of his research into ocean acoustics.

He's interested in underwater sounds to help interpret what's living in the oceans and how this environment is being affected by human-produced noise.

Yachts run silent, which makes it much easier to record and interpret the soundscapes picked up by his hydrophones.

"One of the real values of time-series like those cruisers could collect - is that we would see success stories," says Steve.

"An example: the beach clean-ups around the UK have demonstrated the impact of the 5p plastic bag charge.

"Since that charge came in, there's been a 40% reduction in plastic bags found on beaches. And you only know that because lots of people have been collecting data. That helps shore up policy."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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