Comey Exit Privacy Erosion, Better Translation AI, and Coffee Shops Without Wi-Fi—The Download, May 10, 2017
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A simple tweak could unlock the Web for millions of people.
The letters to the right of the dot in a URL look harmless, but for many users they’re a barrier. In 2011, the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers decided to grow the number of top-level domains from 12 to 1,200, including some that use non-Latin characters. But that revealed a problem: many applications simply don’t recognize those new characters. Our own Mike Orcutt explains how a simple tweak could change that and help millions of people use the Internet more effectively.
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With James Comey out at the FBI, American privacy could take a hammering.
Donald Trump’s decision to fire James Comey as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is causing consternation. But what will it mean for tech? Comey has historically been in opposition of widespread use of encryption—most famously during the Apple-FBI battle over unlocking the San Bernardino iPhone. But as Recode’s analysis points out, Donald Trump could appoint an even more militant replacement who is happy to dramatically expand government surveillance powers.
Facebook’s new translation AI is ultra-efficient.
The social network has a new machine learning approach to help you read posts in other languages. But while it's only marginally more accurate than a system announced by Google last fall, Facebook’s learns nine times faster because it considers whole sentences at a time, rather than words one after the next. Wired reports that the advance will soon be rolled out to the social network’s 1.8 billion users, where it will form part of Facebook’s quest to build the perfect chabot.
Ten Fascinating Things
- Adding just a few driverless cars to our roads will bring its own problems, but gridlock may not be one. A new study says they could calm traffic congestion.
- In China, scientists are facing up to a large and troubling problem: many of the reagents they use in their experiments may be fake.
- Wal-Mart has automated tools to track Amazon's pricing throughout the day—but now the e-tailer is fighting back. This is the battle of the bots.
- As few as three U.S. Coast Guard ships patrol 6 million square miles of sea to stop South American drug smugglers. Now tech's making the job easier.
- Barack Obama has given his first speech outside the U.S. since leaving office, and he used it to declare war on CO2 emissions from agriculture.
- You’ve never heard of Baillie Gifford. But here’s how the 109-year-old Scottish asset management firm became one of tech's biggest investors.
- The Uber-slaying Chinese ride-hailer Didi Chuxing has finally hit a roadblock: a city in Mongolia is the first to ban its service from operating.
- How did you sleep? Apple’s keen to know, so it’s just acquired the sleep-tracking firm Beddit.
- A tunnel holding radioactive waste at the Hanford nuclear reservation in south-east Washington has collapsed.
- Ah, the local coffee shop: espresso to sip, pastries to nibble, chairs to lounge in, but ... no Wi-Fi? Here’s why baristas are banning Internet access.
Quote of the Day
"We think of censorship as denying information to people, but that’s a very limited, 20th Century way of looking at it."
— Zeynep Tufecki, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of Twitter and Teargas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest, describes some of the difficulties facing modern activism.