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McDonald's Bites on Big Data With $300 Million Acquisition

An anonymous reader shares a report: Mention McDonald's to someone today, and they're more likely to think about Big Mac than Big Data. But that could soon change: The fast-food giant has embraced machine learning, in a fittingly super-sized way. McDonald's is set to announce that it has reached an agreement to acquire Dynamic Yield, a startup based in Tel Aviv that provides retailers with algorithmically driven "decision logic" technology. When you add an item to an online shopping cart, it's the tech that nudges you about what other customers bought as well. Dynamic Yield reportedly had been recently valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars; people familiar with the details of the McDonald's offer put it at over $300 million. That would make it the company's largest purchase since it acquired Boston Market in 1999.

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We Transition Between 19 Different Brain Phases When Sleeping, Study Finds

A new study suggests that instead of the traditional four sleep stages we generally understand the brain moves through, there are in fact at least 19 different identifiable brain patterns transitioned through while sleeping. New Atlas reports: Traditionally scientists have identified four distinct stages our brain transitions through in a general sleep cycle -- three non-REM sleep phases (N1-3) that culminate in an REM phase. The four stages have been classically determined and delineated using electroencephalographic (EEG) brainwave recordings. The new research set out to more comprehensively record whole-brain activity in a number of subjects by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The study began by studying 57 healthy subjects in an fMRI scanner. Each subject was asked to lie in the scanner for 52 minutes with their eyes closed. At the same time, each subject was tracked using an EEG. This allowed the researchers to compare traditional brainwave sleep cycle data with that from the fMRI. Due to the limited duration of the fMRI data, no subjects were found to enter REM sleep, however, 18 subjects did completely transition from wakefulness through the three non-REM sleep phases according to the EEG data. Highlighting the complexity of brain activity during our wake-to-sleep cycle the researchers confidently chronicled 19 different recurring whole-brain network states. Mapping these whole-brain states onto traditional EEG-tracked sleep phases revealed a number of compelling correlations. Wakefulness, N2 sleep and N3 sleep all could be represented by specific whole brain states. The range of different fMRI-tracked brain states did reduce as subjects fell into deeper sleep phases, with two different fMRI brain states correlating with N2 sleep, and only one with N3. However, N1 sleep as identified by EEG data, the earliest and least clearly defined sleep phase, did not consistently correspond with any fMRI brain state. The researchers conclude from this data that N1 is actually a much more complex sleep phase than previously understood. This phase, a strange mix of wakefulness and sleep, seemed to encompass a large range of the 19 different whole-brain network states identified in the fMRI data. The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

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Gmail App Changes Will Cause Most IFTTT Features To Stop Working

Almost all of Gmail's IFTTT routines and actions will stop working at the end of the month as Google alters the Gmail API to make it more secure. The only functionality of IFTTT-Gmail integration will be sending yourself an email and sending an email to someone else. TechSpot reports: The roots of this problem reach back to a breathless report in the Wall Street Journal in the summer of 2018 that claimed Gmail app developers have been reading your email. What it actually meant was that Gmail's OAuth account access was too simple -- if you allowed an application to access to Gmail, it had access to all of it. Even apps that didn't need the full text of emails for their intended function would have access to that after you signed in. Google began tightening access to Gmail content for third-party apps, and that's where IFTTT comes in. As of March 31, Google is placing new restrictions on Gmail apps. Apps can no longer read, create, or modify message bodies. None of IFTTT's seven Gmail triggers will work anymore after the new API rules go into effect. In conversations with Google, IFTTT was able to keep two of the Gmail actions: sending yourself an email and sending an email to someone else. However, the trigger needs to be from another service. You can log into your IFTTT account to see which of your Applets are affected by the change. The new API rules only affect Gmail. Other G Suite services like Google Drive and Assistant will remain operating normally.

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Music Labels Sue Charter, Complain That High Internet Speeds Fuel Piracy

The music industry is suing Charter Communications, claiming that the cable Internet provider profits from music piracy by failing to terminate the accounts of subscribers who illegally download copyrighted songs. The lawsuit also complains that Charter helps its subscribers pirate music by selling packages with higher Internet speeds. Ars Technica reports: While the act of providing higher Internet speeds clearly isn't a violation of any law, ISPs can be held liable for their users' copyright infringement if the ISPs repeatedly fail to disconnect repeat infringers. The top music labelsā"Sony, Universal, Warner, and their various subsidiariesā"sued Charter Friday in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Colorado. While Charter has a copyright policy that says repeat copyright infringers may be disconnected, Charter has failed to disconnect those repeat infringers in practice, the complaint said: "Despite these alleged policies, and despite receiving hundreds of thousands of infringement notices from Plaintiffs, as well as thousands of similar notices from other copyright owners, Charter knowingly permitted specifically identified repeat infringers to continue to use its network to infringe. Rather than disconnect the Internet access of blatant repeat infringers to curtail their infringement, Charter knowingly continued to provide these subscribers with the Internet access that enabled them to continue to illegally download or distribute Plaintiffs' copyrighted works unabated. Charter's provision of high-speed Internet service to known infringers materially contributed to these direct infringements." The complaint accuses Charter of contributory copyright infringement and vicarious copyright infringement. Music labels asked for statutory damages of up to $150,000 for each work infringed or for actual damages including any profit Charter allegedly made from allowing piracy. The complaint focuses on alleged violations between March 24, 2013 and May 17, 2016. During that time, plaintiffs say they sent infringement notices to Charter that "advised Charter of its subscribers' blatant and systematic use of Charter's Internet service to illegally download, copy, and distribute Plaintiffs' copyrighted music through BitTorrent and other online file-sharing services." The music industry's complaint repeatedly focused on BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer networks, saying that "online piracy committed via BitTorrent is stunning in nature, speed, and scope."

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The Adult Brain Does Grow New Neurons After All, Study Says

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American: For decades, scientists have debated whether the birth of new neurons -- called neurogenesis -- was possible in an area of the brain that is responsible for learning, memory and mood regulation. A growing body of research suggested they could, but then a Nature paper last year raised doubts. Now, a new study published today in another of the Nature family of journals -- Nature Medicine -- tips the balance back toward "yes." In light of the new study, "I would say that there is an overwhelming case for the neurogenesis throughout life in humans," Jonas Frisen, a professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said in an e-mail. Frisen, who was not involved in the new research, wrote a News and Views about the study in the current issue of Nature Medicine. The researchers, from Spain, tested a variety of methods of preserving brain tissue from 58 newly deceased people. They found that different methods of preservation led to different conclusions about whether new neurons could develop in the adult and aging brain. Brain tissue has to be preserved within a few hours after death, and specific chemicals used to preserve the tissue, or the proteins that identify newly developing cells will be destroyed, said Maria Llorens-Martin, the paper's senior author. Other researchers have missed the presence of these cells, because their brain tissue was not as precisely preserved, says Llorens-Martin, a neuroscientist at the Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain. Jenny Hsieh, a professor at the University of Texas San Antonio who was not involved in the new research, said the study provides a lesson for all scientists who rely on the generosity of brain donations. "If and when we go and look at something in human postmortem, we have to be very cautious about these technical issues."

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Google Fixes Chrome 'Evil Cursor' Bug Abused by Tech Support Scam Sites

Google has patched a Chrome bug that was being abused in the wild by tech support scammers to create artificial mouse cursors and lock users inside browser pages by preventing them from closing and leaving browser tabs. From a report: The trick was first spotted in September 2018 by Malwarebytes analyst Jerome Segura. Called an "evil cursor," it relied on using a custom image to replace the operating system's standard mouse cursor graphic. A criminal group that Malwarebytes called Partnerstroka operated by switching the standard OS 32-by-32 pixels mouse cursor with one of 128 or 256 pixels in size. A normal cursor would still appear on screen, but in the corner of a bigger transparent bounding box. [...] The "evil cursor" fix is currently live for Google Canary users, and is scheduled to land in the Chrome 75 stable branch, to be released later this spring.

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Android Users' Security and Privacy At Risk From Shadowy Ecosystem of Pre-Installed Software, Study Warns

Researchers behind a large-scale independent study of pre-installed Android apps "unearthed a complex ecosystem of players with a primary focus on advertising and 'data-driven services' -- which they argue the average Android user is likely to be unaware of (while also likely lacking the ability to uninstall/evade the baked in software's privileged access to data and resources themselves)," reports TechCrunch. From the report: The study, which was carried out by researchers at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and the IMDEA Networks Institute, in collaboration with the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) at Berkeley (USA) and Stony Brook University of New York (US), encompassed more than 82,000 pre-installed Android apps across more than 1,700 devices manufactured by 214 brands, according to the IMDEA institute. "The study shows, on the one hand, that the permission model on the Android operating system and its apps allow a large number of actors to track and obtain personal user information," it writes. "At the same time, it reveals that the end user is not aware of these actors in the Android terminals or of the implications that this practice could have on their privacy. Furthermore, the presence of this privileged software in the system makes it difficult to eliminate it if one is not an expert user." In all 1,200 developers were identified behind the pre-installed software they found in the data-set they examined, as well as more than 11,000 third party libraries (SDKs). Many of the preloaded apps were found to display what the researchers dub potentially dangerous or undesired behavior. The data-set underpinning their analysis was collected via crowd-sourcing methods -- using a purpose-built app (called Firmware Scanner), and pulling data from the Lumen Privacy Monitor app. The latter provided the researchers with visibility on mobile traffic flow -- via anonymized network flow metadata obtained from its users. They also crawled the Google Play Store to compare their findings on pre-installed apps with publicly available apps -- and found that just 9% of the package names in their dataset were publicly indexed on Play. Another concerning finding relates to permissions. In addition to standard permissions defined in Android (i.e. which can be controlled by the user) the researchers say they identified more than 4,845 owner or "personalized" permissions by different actors in the manufacture and distribution of devices. So that means they found systematic user permissions workarounds being enabled by scores of commercial deals cut in a non-transparency data-driven background Android software ecosystem. The researchers address the lack of transparency and accountability in the Android ecosystem by suggesting the introduction and use of certificates signed by globally-trusted certificate authorities, or a certificate transparency repository "dedicated to providing details and attribution for certificates used to sign various Android apps, including pre-installed apps, even if self-signed." They also suggest Android devices should be required to document all pre-installed apps, plus their purpose, and name the entity responsible for each piece of software -- and do so in a manner that is "accessible and understandable to users."

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Comcast To Spend $50 Million To Create the Nation's First Video Gaming Arena

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Philly: Comcast Spectacor, which owns the Flyers, is to announce Monday morning that it will construct the first arena for gaming fans in the U.S. for the Comcast-owned Fusion, company officials say. The $50 million project is a testament to the surging popularity of esports, in which players compete in video games before large crowds. The company plans to break ground this summer on part of the 47-acre stadium complex site that Comcast Spectacor leases in South Philadelphia. The 3,500-seat arena will rise on a parking lot, next to Xfinity Live! and within walking distance of the Linc, Citizens Bank Park, and the Wells Fargo Center. Nate Nanzer, commissioner of the 20-team Overwatch League, said there has never been a special-purpose esports arena "built anywhere. This is a huge step for esports. This is something we will see pop up all over the world." Besides housing Comcast's Fusion, one of the Overwatch League's teams, the venue is planned to be a major east coast hub for gaming events, company executives said. Comcast Spectacor expects to hold about 120 events a year in the new arena, with other gigs ranging from TED Talks to electronic dance music and K-pop concerts. K-pop is a music genre from South Korea that is popular with Fusion fans, Comcast Spectacor officials said. The Fusion Arena is looking to sell naming rights to the venue.

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Apple Arcade Is a New Game Subscription Service For iOS, Mac, and Apple TV

Apple has unveiled a few different subscription services today at its "show time" event, including a new Apple Arcade game subscription service for titles that can be installed from the App Store. The company is aiming to curate some of the 300,000 games currently available from the App Store into this new ad-free subscription service. "There will be 100 new and exclusive games available on Apple Arcade, which will launch on the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV," reports The Verge. From the report: These games won't be available on any other mobile platform or any subscription service other than Apple Arcade. Games will be downloaded and played straight from the App Store, and subscribers will be able to try games whenever they want and resume them across devices. All of the game features, content, and future updates will be included, and there will be no ads shown within the games. SimCity creator Will Wright is also making a game for the service. Apple is promising games from Annapurna Interactive, Bossa Studios, Cartoon Network, Finji, Giant Squid, Klei Entertainment, Konami, Lego, Mistwalker Corporation, SEGA, Snowman, ustwo games, and more. Apple isn't just curating the games for Apple Arcade; it's actually planning to contribute to the development costs of creating them. Apple might not have announced its own game studio today, but it's certainly a big step toward that. Apple Arcade is launching this fall in more than 150 countries, but Apple is not yet revealing pricing for this subscription service. Apple does say that "access for up to six family members," will be available, suggesting you'll be able to share the subscription. While the full list of games isn't available yet, some of the titles revealed on Apple Arcade's website include: LEGO Brawls, HitchHiker, Kings of the Castle, Where Cards Fall, and Frogger in Toy Town. If you're a game developer, you can sign up for more information about the service here.

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Apple TV+, With Shows From Spielberg, Oprah and J.J. Abrams, is Coming This Fall

Alongside its new news and payment services, Apple today also unveiled Apple TV+, a place for its new slate of original shows. The new service, billed as a place for the "highest-quality storytelling," will be available in over 100 countries and released starting this fall through the Apple TV app. From a report: It will be ad-free, on-demand and available both streaming online and downloadable. Pricing will be announced this fall. Apple TV Plus is the company's way of jumping into the streaming video game, where Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and others have already established themselves and brought in millions of cord-cutter customers fleeing cable subscriptions. The new service also works as a way for Apple to grow its thriving services business, helping it continue to grow despite lagging iPhone sales. The company in 2017 hired Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg from Sony Pictures Television to oversee "all aspects of video programming." The two were responsible for shows such as Breaking Bad, The Crown and Rescue Me. And in the past year, Apple has continually announced original content it's producing -- including a multiyear partnership deal with Oprah and deals with Reese Witherspoon, J.J. Abrams and dozens of others. The company has reportedly gone well past its original $1 billion budget to bring in this list of movie and television A-listers, who are slated to create about 30 shows and a handful of movies.

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The Adult Brain Does Grow New Neurons After All, Study Says

A new study points toward lifelong neuron formation in the human brain's hippocampus, with implications for memory and disease. From a report: For decades, scientists have debated whether the birth of new neurons -- called neurogenesis -- was possible in an area of the brain that is responsible for learning, memory and mood regulation. A growing body of research suggested they could, but then a Nature paper last year raised doubts. Now, a new study published today in another of the Nature family of journals -- Nature Medicine -- tips the balance back toward "yes." In light of the new study, "I would say that there is an overwhelming case for the neurogenesis throughout life in humans," Jonas Frisen, a professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said in an e-mail. Frisen, who was not involved in the new research, wrote a News and Views about the study in the current issue of Nature Medicine.

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Apple Unveils $9.99 News Subscription Service Dubbed Apple News+

Apple today unveiled a news subscription service called Apple News+ at its services event in Cupertino, Calif. The $9.99 service gives paying subscribers access to over 300 magazines as well as select newspapers and premium digital news services. From a report: "We believe in the power of journalism and the impact it will have on your lives," said Apple CEO Tim Cook. Some of the magazines part of the service are including GQ, Esquire, Popular Science, The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, New York Magazine and Vogue, as well as Variety and the Rolling Stone. Newspapers included in the package are the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. Digital publications include theSkimm, TechCrunch and The Highlight by Vox. For now, it is available just in the U.S., and come to three more markets -- Canada, Australia, and the U.K., later this year.

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Apple Debuts Apple Card To Transform the Credit Card Experience

An anonymous reader shares a report: iPhone users are already using Apple's Wallet app, Apple Pay, and Apple Pay Cash -- wouldn't they like an Apple credit card, too? The Cupertino company and bank partner Goldman Sachs believe the answer is "yes," so they've teamed up for Apple Card. In addition to offering major rewards for users, the new payment solution promises to improve the credit card experience by offering a healthier approach to spending. The Wallet app will include a more transparent list of transactions, organized in an easy to read format, plus a more flexible way of making payments on outstanding balances. Apple Card is designed to complement existing Apple-branded payment options, as well as displacing other credit cards that might be in a user's wallet. Though the end goal is to increase Apple's share of the dollars spent by its users, the pinch this time will be felt by rival payment providers, and come with incentives for new card users. Every time you spend with Apple Card, you get 2 percent cash back -- a feature the company calls Daily Cash. Purchases directly from Apple come with 3 percent cash back.

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Telegram Adds 'Delete Everywhere' Nuclear Option -- Killing Chat History

Instant messaging service Telegram has added a feature that lets a user delete messages in one-to-one and/or group private chats, after the fact, and not only from their own inbox. From a report: The new 'nuclear option' delete feature allows a user to selectively delete their own messages and/or messages sent by any/all others in the chat. They don't even have to have composed the original message or begun the thread to do so. They can just decide it's time. Let that sink in. All it now takes is a few taps to wipe all trace of a historical communication -- from both your own inbox and the inbox(es) of whoever else you were chatting with (assuming they're running the latest version of Telegram's app).

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Hacking Lawyers or Journalists Is Totally Fine, Says Notorious Cyberweapons Firm

The founder and CEO of NSO Group, the notorious Israeli hacking company with customers around the world, appeared on CBS's 60 Minutes Sunday night to defend the use of his company's tools in hacking and spying on lawyers, journalists, and minors when the country's customers determine the ends justify the means. From a report: NSO Group has reportedly sold hacking tools to dictators including those in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and across Central Asia -- a group of decision-makers whose track record includes numerous examples of human rights abuses and oppression of dissent. NSO's tools have been directly involved in the arrest of human rights activists and, in Mexico at least, spying on lawyers and journalists in an effort to catch the drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. "In order to catch El Chapo, for example, they had to intercept a journalist, an actress, and a lawyer," NSO Group founder Shalev Hulio told 60 minutes. "Now, by themselves, they are not criminals, right? But if they are in touch with a drug lord and in order to catch them, you need to intercept them, that's a decision an intelligence agency should get."

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