Amazon Echo Dot ad cleared over cat food order

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A television ad for Amazon’s Echo Dot smart speaker that caused a viewer’s device to try to order cat food has been cleared by a UK regulator. The advert, which aired in October, featured a man asking Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa to order Purina cat food. A viewer said the ad caused their Echo Dot device to respond after hearing the ad on the television. The viewer complained that the ad was “socially irresponsible”. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced that it would not uphold the consumer’s complaint because it…

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Dutch DDoS mystery: Who’s behind the sudden massive wave of attacks on banks?

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There is as yet no indication of who is behind the massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on Netherlands banks and government websites that ran from last weekend to Tuesday. Initial reports suggesting a Russian connection appear baseless. The attacks began just a couple of days after media reports stated that Dutch intelligence tipped off their American counterparts about state-sponsored Russian spies hacking the apparatus of the Democratic Party and stealing the infamous “leaked emails” that may have swayed the 2016 election. “This weekend’s DDoS attacks were heavier than…

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Firms warned on technology distractions

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Technology can distract workers rather than make them more productive, suggests a survey carried out by software giant Microsoft. Many of the 20,000 European workers questioned said a steady stream of emails, messages and notifications kept them from concentrating. Others said the way their employer deployed technology also stopped them being more productive. One expert said many staff suffered high levels of technostress. The report, which sampled views in 21 European nations including the UK, found that only 11.4% of European workers said they felt highly productive. “Modern workers have…

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Research Reveals that Cellphone Radiation Poses no Real Harm to Humans

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Male rats showed a small increase in a kind of heart tumor after exposure to massive amounts of cellphone radiation, a new government study reports. But don’t read too much into that, experts say — because those rats bathed in more radiation than even the heaviest cellphone users would experience. There are ongoing worries about whether cellphones can give you cancer — especially brain cancer, since our phones spend so much time near our faces. It’s true that cell phones do emit radiation but it’s radiofrequency radiation, which is much…

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You can now use Alexa to send SMS messages

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Amazon announced the launching a new messaging feature for Alexa devices in the U.S. that will allow you to send texts – yes, SMS messages – to your friends and other contacts using your voice. Customers can now ask Alexa to send a message to a specific contact, and Alexa will figure out how to route it appropriately – using either the previously launched Alexa messaging system, or by sending it out as an SMS instead, if the recipient doesn’t have an Alexa device of their own. There is one big…

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Fitness app Strava exposes the location of military bases

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Strava, the popular app for tracking running, cycling and swimming, is not the most obvious go-to for exposing national secrets, but a heatmap of activity from users has been found to unearth the locations of U.S. military bases worldwide. The company’s review of 2017 showed all routes taken by its users across the world. It was released back in November 2017, but it came to the fore this weekend when Australian student Nathan Ruser noticed that trails from Strava users in certain countries made it possible to identify military from the U.S. and…

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Bank-based blockchain projects will transform the financial services industry

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At the core of Bitcoin and Ethereum cryptocurrencies is the cryptographically secure digital ledger known as the blockchain. It’s a digital ledger where cryptocurrency transactions are recorded chronologically and publicly. Indeed, as the popularity of cryptocurrencies has grown, so has the banking industry’s interest in blockchain for fintech, with an increased and focused push on bank-backed blockchain projects. Some of the largest projects underway include the IBM-backed Hyperledger Fabric project, the Utility Settlement Coin, and R3’s blockchain consortium, signifying a growing acceptance in institutional policy to support blockchain growth. Currently, banks transact with each…

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People Can Now Hide Pestering ads on Google

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Google will now let people mute advertisements that encourage them to buy products from websites they have previously visited. So-called reminder ads track which products people have looked at online and then promote them across the web. Google said reminder ads were “useful” but said it wanted to give people “more control” over what they see online. Individual reminder ads will be “mutable” on websites that use Google’s services to provide adverts. Muted promotions will be replaced with other adverts. There will not be a way to opt out of…

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Full-body Tracking at Facebook Suggests Broader AR/VR Ambitions

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It is worth noting that Facebook is big on both Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), both for entertainment and communication purposes. And new research suggests it is working on AR applications that could not just modify or replace your face, but your entire body. A blog post today has the AI Camera Team showing off a bit of work clearly aimed at doing full-body replacement or tracking in a VR or AR context. “We recently developed a new technology that can accurately detect body poses and segment a…

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Study Shows that Top Video Games Depict Unrealistic Drugs Use

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Harmful narcotics often give unlikely strength and health boosts to characters, a study of real and made-up drugs in best-selling video games has highlighted. The report also details how players are often prompted to create drug cocktails to gain new or enhanced abilities. The work was done by Archstone, an addiction awareness organisation. It said parents needed to be cautious about what their children are playing and learning. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which assigns age and content ratings to games in the US, says it is happy with…

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