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US agency probes Tesla crashes that killed 2 motorcyclists

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Two crashes involving Teslas apparently running on Autopilot are drawing scrutiny from federal regulators and point to a potential new hazard on U.S. freeways: The partially automated vehicles may not stop for motorcycles
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LinuxGeek
4 days ago
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They should immediately disable Autopilot - at least in my state.
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Textbook publisher: NFTs will let us squeeze even more money out of students

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Textbook publisher Pearson suggests blockchain tech could let it take a cut of secondary textbook sales, capturing a section of the book market that’s so far escaped it. As quoted by Bloomberg, Pearson CEO Andy Bird believes non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, could help publishers make money off textbook resales, although he stopped short of describing concrete plans.

“In the analog world, a Pearson textbook was resold up to seven times, and we would only participate in the first sale,” said Bird after the company announced its latest quarterly earnings this week. “The move to digital helps diminish the secondary market, and technology like blockchain and NFTs allows us to participate in every sale of that particular item as it goes through...

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LinuxGeek
6 days ago
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Textbook publishers lack any morals. When I was in school, their scam was to release a new edition every year - and of course all the teachers required students to have the latest edition even though it was nearly identical. Textbooks are outrageously priced. I applaud any hackers who strip the DRM and allow more students to learn.
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Surveillance of Your Car

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TheMarkup has an extensive analysis of connected vehicle data and the companies that are collecting it.

The Markup has identified 37 companies that are part of the rapidly growing connected vehicle data industry that seeks to monetize such data in an environment with few regulations governing its sale or use.

While many of these companies stress they are using aggregated or anonymized data, the unique nature of location and movement data increases the potential for violations of user privacy.

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LinuxGeek
7 days ago
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I didn't sign up for Sirius XM or OnStar = but are they still tracking me? . . . probably. Now that Right to Repair appears to be gaining acceptance, maybe we also need to fight for Right to Disconnect.
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ShotSpotter Asks Court To Hold It In Contempt Rather Than Turn Over Information To Defense Lawyer

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ShotSpotter — the gunshot analytic company with the rather sketchy reputation — is, once again, endearing itself to the public by doing things that seem… well… sketchy.

On Friday, an attorney representing ShotSpotter, a gunshot-detection technology company, made the unusual request that a judge in a criminal case hold the company in contempt of court to prevent ShotSpotter from being compelled to release documents about how it assesses gunshot alerts. 

The request is unusual in the sense that it doesn’t happen often. (It’s not unusual in terms of the judicial process. ShotSpotter has no way to directly challenge this discovery request. Asking to be held in contempt gives it an avenue to challenge the request by challenging the contempt order. Yes, it’s all very circuitous but that’s why you really want to hire a lawyer if you find yourself interacting with the criminal justice system or the US legal system in general.) And the reason it doesn’t happen often is because normally discovery requests in criminal trials target information held by law enforcement agencies and prosecutors.

But it’s bound to become less unusual as law enforcement agencies place greater reliance on private companies to do their investigative and analytic work for them. That means more private contractors will be inserting themselves into court cases solely for the purpose of denying defendants (and FOIA requesters) access to information that’s being paid for with public funds.

That’s what appears to be happening here. A man arrested and charged with driving under the influence was apparently stopped by officers because he happened to be near a gunshot reported by Chicago’s ShotSpotter system. If so, then it provides an opportunity to challenge the stop since it doesn’t appear the crime charged had anything to do with the reported gunshot. And it’s a well-known fact cops have been instructed (or simply chosen) to view anyone near the area of a reported gunshot as innately suspicious.

It’s also a known fact (taken directly from ShotSpotter expert testimony in court) that the company will sometimes alter gunshot reports at the request of police officers.

What the defense is seeking is anything that calls ShotSpotter’s analytics and reports into question. Eight Chicago PD officers responded to a ShotSpotter alert. Two of those officers arrested the defendant a few blocks away from the alleged gunshot.

The defense’s request included ShotSpotter analysts’ qualifications and training materials; any instances in which the company’s analysts reclassified alerts or the Chicago police asked ShotSpotter to do so; and the methods analysts use to reclassify alerts. The defense also requested ShotSpotter produce any data on sensors misidentifying gunfire or the location of alerts, as well as data on gunfire ShotSpotter failed to identify.

It’s tough to say what a judge will find admissible, but ShotSpotter’s past history suggests it is willing in some cases to alter reports to justify arrests that have already occurred. If the PD contacted ShotSpotter post-arrest to get a report altered, it may show officers had no reasonable suspicion to stop the arrestee — a stop that resulted in his arrest.

For whatever reason, the adage tossed at us by authoritarians, cops (but I repeat myself), and developers of pervasive surveillance tech — “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” — never seems to apply to the people delivering this phrase. ShotSpotter could turn over these records, ask a judge to determine whether any of it can be legitimately redacted, and let the whole thing play out.

Instead, ShotSpotter has asked to be held in contempt of court — a strategic move that plays within the confines of the legal system while simultaneously making it clear the company will do whatever it can to keep information about its activities from making its way into the hands of the people who are actually paying for its services: the general public, including those who have been arrested with the apparent assistance of tech they’re not being allowed to examine in court.

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LinuxGeek
8 days ago
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The constitution may protect citizens from some government abuses of power - but what if the government agencies outsource their abuse of power to private companies? In this story, it sounds like ShotSpotter has no problem falsifying reports.
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Tesla driver using Autopilot kills motorcyclist, prompting another NHTSA investigation

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Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

A motorcyclist in Draper, Utah, was killed early Sunday morning when a Tesla driver using Autopilot slammed into the rear of his bike. It is the latest crash involving Tesla’s advanced driver-assist system to draw scrutiny from federal investigators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The incident occurred just after 1AM Sunday on southbound Interstate 15, according to local reports. The motorcyclist, who has not been identified, was traveling southbound near the Salt Lake and Utah County lines when the Tesla approached from behind. The Utah Department of Public Safety said the Tesla driver collided with the back of the motorcycle, throwing the motorcyclist to the ground and killing him instantly.

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LinuxGeek
13 days ago
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As a motorcyclist, this story scares the s... out of me. Luckily, Teslas are too expensive for people in my area.
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Some Pixel 6a Phones Can Be Unlocked with Unregistered Fingerprints

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Google’s new Pixel 6a smartphone has only just started shipping to those who pre-ordered, but some reviewers have noted a potentially serious bug. According to multiple reports, the latest Google phone can be unlocked with a fingerprint — any fingerprint, even if it’s not the one you registered or one that belongs to someone else entirely. 

The Pixel 6a has an in-display fingerprint sensor, which is still a relatively new technology for Google. It first offered this feature on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, which launched in late 2021. There were no reports of this multi-fingerprint bug with those phones, but they were sluggish to unlock. The Pixel 6a, which uses a Goodix optical fingerprint sensor very similar to the Pixel 6, is much faster. Perhaps that’s part of the problem. 

Optical fingerprint sensors are essentially high-contrast cameras that sit under the screen. Your device’s OLED panel lights up above the sensor to illuminate your fingerprint. The way it’s supposed to work, as you might expect, is that tapping the sensor with a registered finger unlocks the phone, but an unregistered print should be rejected. Several YouTubers and reviewers have now reported that their Pixels will unlock with unregistered fingerprints. One even showed it working with a fingerprint from someone else’s hand. This is a major security issue, but not a unique one. 

Several years back, Samsung began using ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensors. The Galaxy S10 mistakenly interpreted the patterns in some screen protectors as elements of the user’s fingerprint. Over time, the algorithm would get confused and allow anyone to unlock the phone because it could still see the screen protector patterns no matter who tapped. It’s hard to get this stuff right, and it appears Google still has some work to do. 

That said, I’ve been testing a Pixel 6a for several weeks, and I have been unable to reproduce the error. The phone only unlocks with my registered fingerprints, and yes, it’s a bit faster than the Pixel 6 in that regard. I have no doubt Google will investigate the issue, and there will be an update that addresses the lax security. Whether or not that makes the Pixel 6a’s sensor as lethargic as the Pixel 6, only time will tell.

The Pixel 6a is still available for pre-order at the Google Store, where it can be yours in black, white, or green for $449. It’s unlocked for use on any carrier.

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LinuxGeek
13 days ago
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Biometrics are convenient, but not as accurate as people seem to think. Too many false positives and false negatives for any serious data protection needs.
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