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Top Stories for the Week of June 20, 2018

  • Episode 561
  • June 20, 2018

Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday June 20, 2018


The inventor of a sophisticated compression technique fights back as Google tries to patent his work.

The inventor of a sophisticated compression technique is fighting back as Google tries to patent his open source work.

When Jarek Duda invented an important new compression technique called “asymmetric numeral systems” (ANS) a few years ago, he wanted to make sure it would be available for anyone to use. So instead of seeking patents on the technique, he dedicated it to the public domain. Since 2014, Facebook, Apple, and Google have all created software based on Duda's breakthrough.

But now Google is seeking a patent that would give it broad rights over the use of ANS for video compression. And Duda, a computer scientist in Poland, isn't happy about it.

Google denies that it's trying to patent Duda's work. A Google spokesperson says that Duda came up with a theoretical concept that isn't directly patentable, while Google's lawyers are seeking to patent a specific application of that theory that reflects additional work by Google's engineers.

But Duda says that he suggested the exact technique Google is trying to patent in a 2014 email exchange with Google engineers—a view largely endorsed by a preliminary ruling in February by European patent authorities.

The European case isn't over, though, and Google is also seeking a patent in the United States.

Source: arstechnica.com

Sent to us by: Jeff Weston


Urban robots have been rolled out in both Dubai and China.

Both Dubai and China have rolled out urban robots.

It is a terrifying vision of the future: a robot police officer with dark eyes and no discernible mouth that can identify criminals and collect evidence.

The robocop, complete with police hat to give it that eerie uncanny-valley feel, was shown off in Dubai last June.

But since then what has it done?

PAL Robotics, the company behind the robot, shed some light on its duties, which makes the robot seem more like a tourist guide than a police officer: "This robot joined the Dubai police to help citizens in an innovative and engaging way, and it is located by now in tourist attractions and shopping malls."

While describing the robot as a means of citizens to contact police, the company points out its current capabilities: "The robot can provide useful information in multiple languages thanks to its software, and can also guide people to a requested point of interest."

The robot is part of a wider move to make the region's police service "smarter," which will include many more computer-controlled, unstaffed police stations. The Dubai government wants robot police to make up 25% of the force by 2030.

Source: www.bbc.com

Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash


A couple who admitted to stealing more than a $1.2m worth of goods from Amazon has been sentenced to nearly six years in jail.

A couple who admitted to stealing more than $1.2m worth of goods from Amazon has been sentenced to nearly six years in jail.

Erin and Leah Finan had previously pleaded guilty to charges of postal fraud and money laundering, and we spoke about them back on Episode 525 last October.
Here's an updated warning to anyone who thinks they can scam Amazon:

The couple exploited Amazon's customer service policy by claiming electronics they ordered were damaged and receiving replacements at no charge.

Prosecutors said that the sentence should serve as a warning to others.

US Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, Josh Minkler said, "Consumer fraud not only unjustly enriches the perpetrator, it causes all of us to pay higher retail prices."

He then reminds people, "To those who seek to exploit the convenience of online shopping through fraud, remember this case. You will be caught. You will be prosecuted. And you will go to federal prison for a long time."

And then, we presume, he dropped his mic and walked off the stage.

The couple used hundreds of fake identities to order gadgets from Amazon, then reported fake issues with the devices that led to replacements being sent out which they sold on for profit.

They were due to be sentenced last November but it was delayed after they were accused of defrauding yet another internet retailer.

Source: www.bbc.com

Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash


A software bug meant millions of Facebook users may have unknowingly posted private information to the public.

A software bug meant millions of Facebook users may have unknowingly posted private information to the public.

The glitch set a user’s post to be shared to "everyone", even if a user had previously chosen a more restricted option, such as “friends of friends”.

Users who may have been affected will be notified on the site’s newsfeed.

Here's what Erin Egan, Facebook’s head of privacy said, "To be clear, this bug did not impact anything people had posted before - and they could still choose their audience just as they always have. We’d like to apologise for this mistake."

The glitch was active between May 18 and 22, but it took the site until May 27 to switch posts back to private - or whatever the user had typically used before the bug became apparent.

While relatively minor compared to recent issues facing the company, the glitch is another embarrassing slip-up for a firm already under heavy fire over privacy concerns.

Source: www.bbc.com

Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash


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