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NASA’s Perseverance rover sends back Mars soundscape playlist

<p>Nearly two years after its <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/space/mars-is-the-place-in-space-to-be/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">launch</a>, and almost 18 months after <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/science/mars-news-all-good/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">landing on Mars</a>, NASA’s Perseverance rover has hours of audio recordings from the red planet’s atmosphere.</p> <p>So, what does Mars sound like? On the whole, it’s quiet. Very quiet. But the recordings did pick up interesting weather events and changes which give us a better overall picture of Mars’s clime.</p> <p>Perseverance’s primary mission is to explore sediments in a dormant river delta on the edge of the 45 kilometre-wide <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/weekly-edition/one-year-mars-perseverance-rover/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Jezero Crater</a>, to learn about the crater’s formation and hopefully find signs of ancient life. But microphones are light and cheap, so it made sense to add a couple to the rover’s instruments.</p> <p>The <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/science/engineering/the-bizarre-acoustics-of-mars/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">first audio from Mars</a> was sent by Perseverance earlier this year. Now, a year’s worth of recording from the Martian atmosphere has been condensed into about five hours of sound.</p> <p>The findings are due to be presented by Baptiste Chide of the Los Alamos National Lab during a seminar, “Mars soundscape: Review of the first sounds recorded by the Perseverance microphones,” at the <a href="https://acoustics.org/world-wide-press-room/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">182nd Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America</a> tomorrow, May 25, in Denver  in the US.</p> <p>With no large dynamical natural phenomena, extant animal species (that we know of), industrial civilisation, or extreme weather events, you’d expect Mars to be pretty silent. And it is. Under the same conditions on Earth, sounds are 20 decibels louder than on Mars.</p> <div class="newsletter-box"> <div id="wpcf7-f6-p192195-o1" class="wpcf7" dir="ltr" lang="en-US" role="form"> <form class="wpcf7-form mailchimp-ext-0.5.61 spai-bg-prepared init" action="/space/nasa-perseverance-rover-soundscape/#wpcf7-f6-p192195-o1" method="post" novalidate="novalidate" data-status="init"> <p style="display: none !important;"><span class="wpcf7-form-control-wrap referer-page"><input class="wpcf7-form-control wpcf7-text referer-page spai-bg-prepared" name="referer-page" type="hidden" value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/" data-value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/" aria-invalid="false" /></span></p> <p><!-- Chimpmail extension by Renzo Johnson --></form> </div> </div> <p>“It is so quiet that, at some point, we thought the microphone was broken!” says Chide.</p> <p>But, like giving a new music album a second run-through, closer listening revealed some fascinating phenomena. The group heard much variability in the wind and abrupt changes in the atmosphere, see-sawing from calm to intense gusts.</p> <p>The team noticed that the red planet’s soundscape is seasonal. During winter, carbon dioxide freezes in the polar caps. This causes changes in atmospheric density, and environmental volume fluctuates by about 20%. Atmospheric CO<sub>2</sub> also causes high-pitched sounds in the distance to become fainter.</p> <p>The rover also used laser sparks to calculate the speed of sound’s dispersion, confirming a theory that high-frequency sounds travel faster than low frequencies.</p> <p>“Mars is the only place in the solar system where that happens in the audible bandwidth because of the unique properties of the carbon dioxide molecule that composes the atmosphere,” notes Chide. While the rover will continue to record audio as it travels across Mars’s surface, Chide believes that the technique could be applied to studies of other celestial bodies. Planets and moons with denser and more volatile atmospheres, such as Venus and Titan, may yield even more information as sound waves interact more strongly and travel further.</p> <p><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --></p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=192195&amp;title=NASA%E2%80%99s+Perseverance+rover+sends+back+Mars+soundscape+playlist" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><!-- End of tracking content syndication --></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/space/nasa-perseverance-rover-soundscape/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/evrim-yazgin" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Evrim Yazgin</a>. Evrim Yazgin has a Bachelor of Science majoring in mathematical physics and a Master of Science in physics, both from the University of Melbourne.</em></p> <p><em>Image: NASA</em></p> </div>

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One young woman's plight to recover her stolen Airpods

<p>A young woman who tirelessly tracked down her missing Airpods has captured the moment she confronted a Woolies worker who allegedly stole them from her.</p> <p>Juliette Fox shared a video on Sunday that showed her speaking to a Woolworths shift supervisor about the pair of missing earphones.</p> <p>The dramatic video showed Ms Fox telling the employee that she had been tracking her missing earphones via the 'Find My’ iPhone feature and knew they were in the store.</p> <p>Ms Fox said she had been at an arcade earlier that week while visiting friends and family in Melbourne and left her earphones, keys, and phone in her coat pocket next to her. Later the woman discovered the Airpods were missing.</p> <p>She said she then started receiving notifications that her AirPods were being used in a strangers apartment. The notifications and tracking were so specific that Ms Fox knew the apartment building the alleged thief lived in, the train stations the employee had walked in and out of, and where she had gone for dinner.</p> <p>"I've been clicking on this every single day, it became the bane of my existence," she said.</p> <p>"I have the receipts, I knew when you used them. So don't lie to me, don't pretend you didn't have them."</p> <p>Ms Fox said she had tried to recover her earphones from the couple's apartment but was unable to gain access so left her name and phone number with the doorman.</p> <p>However, being dedicated to the mission ,Ms Fox decided to take matters into her own hands and confronted the Woolworths employee at the store.</p> <p>"I know the AirPods are still here," she told the employee.</p> <p>"So you're either going to give them to me or I'm going to go back to the cop station."</p> <p>"You can look but I don't have it," the employee told her.</p> <p>Ms Fox then showed the employee her tracking notifications that alerted her the AirPods had recently been used in the store and the employee called her partner.</p> <p>"That lady whose the AirPods are, she's here," the employee said.</p> <p>"You know how you can track it? She tracked it."</p> <p>The employee ended the phone call and told Ms Fox that her partner had put the AirPods in her work bag, blaming him for making the situation "so messy".</p> <p>She then told Ms Fox that she would go look for the AirPods.</p> <p>"I don't know where he put it but if you want to go, I'm happy, you can go."</p> <p>"No, I want my AirPods," Ms Fox said, as the employee walked away.</p> <p>Luckily the employee was able to find the AirPods and return them to the rightful owner. </p> <p>Commenters were left shocked by the employee's dismissive behaviour and alleged she intentionally stole them.</p> <p><em>Image: TikTok</em></p>

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Pay ‘with a smile or a wave’: Why Mastercard’s new face recognition payment system raises concerns

<p>Mastercard’s <a href="https://www.mastercard.com/news/press/2022/may/with-a-smile-or-a-wave-paying-in-store-just-got-personal/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">“smile to pay”</a> system, announced last week, is supposed to save time for customers at checkouts. It is being trialled in Brazil, with future pilots planned for the Middle East and Asia.</p> <p>The company argues touch-less technology will help speed up transaction times, shorten lines in shops, heighten security and improve hygiene in businesses. But it raises concerns relating to customer privacy, data storage, crime risk and bias.</p> <p><strong>How will it work?</strong></p> <p>Mastercard’s biometric checkout system will provide customers facial recognition-based payments, by linking the biometric authentication systems of a number of third-party companies with Mastercard’s own payment systems.</p> <p>A Mastercard spokesperson told The Conversation it had already partnered with NEC, Payface, Aurus, Fujitsu Limited, PopID and PayByFace, with more providers to be named.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/464953/original/file-20220524-22-ga0v7l.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/464953/original/file-20220524-22-ga0v7l.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/464953/original/file-20220524-22-ga0v7l.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464953/original/file-20220524-22-ga0v7l.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464953/original/file-20220524-22-ga0v7l.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464953/original/file-20220524-22-ga0v7l.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464953/original/file-20220524-22-ga0v7l.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464953/original/file-20220524-22-ga0v7l.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="The 'Fujitsu' logo in red is displayed on a building's side" /></a><figcaption><em><span class="caption">Mastercard has partnered with Fujitsu, a massive information and communications technology firm offering many different products and services.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p>They said “providers need to go through independent laboratory certification against the program criteria to be considered” – but details of these criteria aren’t yet publicly available.</p> <p>According to <a href="https://www.siliconrepublic.com/business/mastercard-facial-recognition-biometric-payments" target="_blank" rel="noopener">media</a> reports, customers will have to install an app which will take their picture and payment information. This information will be saved and stored on the third-party provider’s servers.</p> <p>At the checkout, the customer’s face will be matched with the stored data. And once their identity is verified, funds will be deducted automatically. The “wave” option is a bit of a trick: as the customer watches the camera while waving, the camera still scans their face – not their hand.</p> <p>Similar authentication technologies are used on smartphones (face ID) and in many airports around the world, including “<a href="https://www.abf.gov.au/entering-and-leaving-australia/smartgates/arrivals" target="_blank" rel="noopener">smartgates</a>” in Australia.</p> <p><a href="https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/4/16251304/kfc-china-alipay-ant-financial-smile-to-pay" target="_blank" rel="noopener">China</a> started using biometrics-based checkout technology back in 2017. But Mastercard is among the first to launch such a system in Western markets – competing with the “pay with your palm” <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2020/09/29/amazon-introduces-the-amazon-one-a-way-to-pay-with-your-palm-when-entering-stores/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">system</a> used at cashier-less Amazon Go and Whole Foods brick and mortars in the United States.</p> <p><strong>What we don’t know</strong></p> <p>Much about the precise functioning of Mastercard’s system isn’t clear. How accurate will the facial recognition be? Who will have access to the databases of biometric data?</p> <p>A Mastercard spokesperson told The Conversation customers’ data would be stored with the relevant biometric service provider in encrypted form, and removed when the customer “indicates they want to end their enrolment”. But how will the removal of data be enforced if Mastercard itself can’t access it?</p> <p>Obviously, privacy protection is a major concern, especially when there are many potential third-party providers involved.</p> <p>On the bright side, Mastercard’s <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/articles/markets/032615/how-mastercard-makes-its-money-ma.asp" target="_blank" rel="noopener">customers</a> will have a choice as to whether or not they use the biometrics checkout system. However, it will be at retailers’ discretion whether they offer it, or whether they offer it exclusively as the only payment option.</p> <p>Similar face-recognition technologies used in airports, and <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/police-surveillance-and-facial-recognition-why-data-privacy-is-an-imperative-for-communities-of-color/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">by police</a>, often offer no choice.</p> <p>We can assume Mastercard and the biometrics provider with whom they partner will require customer consent, as per most privacy laws. But will customers know what they are consenting to?</p> <p>Ultimately, the biometric service providers Mastercard teams up with will decide how they use the data, for how long, where they store it, and who can access it. Mastercard will merely decide what providers are “good enough” to be accepted as partners, and the minimum standards they must adhere to.</p> <p>Customers who want the convenience of this checkout service will have to consent to all the related data and privacy terms. And as reports have noted, there is potential for Mastercard to integrate the feature with loyalty schemes and make personalised recommendations <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2022/05/17/mastercard-launches-tech-that-lets-you-pay-with-your-face-or-hand.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">based on purchases</a>.</p> <p><strong>Accuracy is a problem</strong></p> <p>While the accuracy of face recognition technologies has previously been challenged, the current <em>best</em> facial authentication algorithms have an error of just 0.08%, according to tests by the <a href="https://github.com/usnistgov/frvt/blob/nist-pages/reports/1N/frvt_1N_report_2020_03_27.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">National Institute of Standards and Technology</a>. In some countries, even banks have <a href="https://techhq.com/2020/09/biometrics-the-most-secure-solution-for-banking/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">become comfortable</a> relying on it to log users into their accounts.</p> <p>Yet we can’t know how accurate the technologies used in Mastercard’s biometric checkout system will be. The algorithms underpinning a technology can work almost perfectly when trailed in a lab, but perform <a href="https://www.csis.org/blogs/technology-policy-blog/how-accurate-are-facial-recognition-systems-%E2%80%93-and-why-does-it-matter" target="_blank" rel="noopener">poorly</a> in real life settings, where lighting, angles and other parameters are varied.</p> <p><strong>Bias is another problem</strong></p> <p>In a 2019 study, NIST <a href="https://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/ir/2019/NIST.IR.8280.pdf#page=5" target="_blank" rel="noopener">found</a> that out of 189 facial recognition algorithms, the majority were biased. Specifically, they were less accurate on people from racial and ethnic minorities.</p> <p>Even if the technology has improved in the past few years, it’s not foolproof. And we don’t know the extent to which Mastercard’s system has overcome this challenge.</p> <p>If the software fails to recognise a customer at the check out, they might end up disappointed, or even become irate – which would completely undo any promise of speed or convenience.</p> <p>But if the technology misidentifies a person (for instance, John is recognised as Peter – or <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8-yupM-6Oc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">twins are confused</a> for each other), then money could be taken from the wrong person’s account. How would such a situation be dealt with?</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/464424/original/file-20220520-19-5hfuvx.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/464424/original/file-20220520-19-5hfuvx.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/464424/original/file-20220520-19-5hfuvx.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=617&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464424/original/file-20220520-19-5hfuvx.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=617&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464424/original/file-20220520-19-5hfuvx.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=617&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464424/original/file-20220520-19-5hfuvx.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=776&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464424/original/file-20220520-19-5hfuvx.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=776&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464424/original/file-20220520-19-5hfuvx.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=776&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /></a><figcaption><em><span class="caption">There’s no evidence facial recognition technology is infallible. These systems can misidentify and also have biases.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p><strong>Is the technology secure?</strong></p> <p>We often hear about software and databases being hacked, even in <a href="https://www.csoonline.com/article/2130877/the-biggest-data-breaches-of-the-21st-century.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cases of</a> supposedly very “secure” organisations. Despite Mastercard’s <a href="https://wwmastw.cnbc.com/2022/05/17/mastercard-launches-tech-that-lets-you-pay-with-your-face-or-hand.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">efforts</a> to ensure security, there’s no guarantee the third-party providers’ databases – with potentially millions of people’s biometric data – won’t be hacked.</p> <p>In the wrong hands, this data could lead to <a href="https://www.comparitech.com/identity-theft-protection/identity-theft-statistics/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">identity theft</a>, which is one of the fastest growing types of crime, and financial fraud.</p> <p><strong>Do we want it?</strong></p> <p>Mastercard suggests 74% of customers are in favour of using such technology, referencing a stat from its <a href="https://www.mastercard.com/news/ap/en/newsroom/press-releases/en/2020/april/mastercard-study-shows-consumers-moving-to-contactless-payments-for-everyday-purchases/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">own study</a> – also used by <a href="https://www.mastercard.com/news/ap/en/newsroom/press-releases/en/2020/october/mastercard-idemia-and-matchmove-pilot-fingerprint-biometric-card-in-asia-to-enhance-security-and-safety-of-contactless-payments" target="_blank" rel="noopener">business partner</a> Idemia (a company that sells biometric identification products).</p> <p>But the report cited is vague and brief. Other studies show entirely different results. For example, <a href="https://www.getapp.com/resources/facial-recognition-technology/#how-comfortable-are-consumers-with-facial-recognition-technology" target="_blank" rel="noopener">this study</a> suggests 69% of customers aren’t comfortable with face recognition tech being used in retail settings. And <a href="https://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/93521-are-consumers-comfortable-with-facial-recognition-it-depends-says-new-study" target="_blank" rel="noopener">this one</a> shows only 16% trust such tech.</p> <p>Also, if consumers knew the risks the technology poses, the number of those willing to use it might drop even lower.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/183447/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rita-matulionyte-170113" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Rita Matulionyte</a>, Senior Lecturer in Law, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Macquarie University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/pay-with-a-smile-or-a-wave-why-mastercards-new-face-recognition-payment-system-raises-concerns-183447" target="_blank" rel="noopener">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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Digital inequality: why can I enter your building – but your website shows me the door?

<p>When people hear the term “accessibility” in the context of disability, most will see images of ramps, automatic doors, elevators, or tactile paving (textured ground which helps vision impaired people navigate public spaces). These are physical examples of inclusive practice that most people understand.</p> <p>You may even use these features yourself, for convenience, as you go about your day. However, such efforts to create an inclusive physical world aren’t being translated into designing the digital world.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463211/original/file-20220516-25-nl8hd8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463211/original/file-20220516-25-nl8hd8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463211/original/file-20220516-25-nl8hd8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463211/original/file-20220516-25-nl8hd8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463211/original/file-20220516-25-nl8hd8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463211/original/file-20220516-25-nl8hd8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463211/original/file-20220516-25-nl8hd8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463211/original/file-20220516-25-nl8hd8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="A large wheelchair sign is visible to the left of a wheelchair ramp." /></a><figcaption><em><span class="caption">New buildings are required to comply with a range of physical access requirements, which may include tactile paving (seen in yellow).</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p><strong>Accessibility fails</strong></p> <p>Digital accessibility refers to the way people with a lived experience of disability interact with the cyber world.</p> <p>One example comes from an author of this article, <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2019-07-13/dark-patterns-online-captcha-accessibility-disability-community/11301054" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Scott</a>, who is legally blind. Scott is unable to purchase football tickets online because the ticketing website uses an image-based “CAPTCHA” test. It’s a seemingly simple task, but fraught with challenges when considering accessibility issues.</p> <p>Despite Scott having an IT-related PhD, and two decades of digital accessibility experience in academic and commercial arenas, it falls on his teenage son to complete the online ticket purchase.</p> <p>Screen readers, high-contrast colour schemes and text magnifiers are all assistive technology tools that enable legally blind users to interact with websites. Unfortunately, they are useless if a website has not been designed with an inclusive approach.</p> <p>The other author of this article, Justin, uses a wheelchair for mobility and can’t even purchase wheelchair seating tickets over the web. He has to phone a special access number to do so.</p> <p>Both of these are examples of digital accessibility fails. And they’re more common than most people realise.</p> <p><strong>We can clearly do better</strong></p> <p>The term “disability” covers a spectrum of <a href="https://www.apsc.gov.au/working-aps/diversity-and-inclusion/disability/definition-disability" target="_blank" rel="noopener">physical and cognitive conditions</a>. It can can range from short-term conditions to lifelong ones.</p> <p>“Digital accessibility” applies to a broad range of users <a href="https://www.w3.org/WAI/people-use-web/abilities-barriers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">with varying abilities</a>.</p> <p>At last count, nearly <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/disability/disability-ageing-and-carers-australia-summary-findings/2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">one in five Australians (17.7%)</a> lived with some form of disability. This figure increases significantly when you consider the physical and cognitive impacts of ageing.</p> <p>At the same time, Australians are becoming increasingly reliant on digital services. According to a <a href="https://www.pwc.com.au/consulting/connected-government/potential-of-digital-inclusion.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2022 survey</a> by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, 45% of respondents in New South Wales and Victoria increased their use of digital channels during the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> <p>In contrast, research undertaken by <a href="https://www.infosys.com/australia/digital-accessibility-journey/executive-summary.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Infosys in December 2021</a> found only 3% of leading companies in Australia and New Zealand had effective digital accessibility processes.</p> <p><strong>But have we improved?</strong></p> <p>Areas that <em>have</em> shown accessibility improvement include <a href="https://blog.hootsuite.com/inclusive-design-social-media/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">social media platforms</a> such as YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, food ordering services such as <a href="https://www.afb.org/aw/20/4/16411" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Uber Eats</a>, and media platforms such as the ABC News app.</p> <p>Challenges still persist in <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/cognizant/2022/03/03/how-to-make-online-banking-disabled-people-friendly/?sh=21a3d5dda4a5" target="_blank" rel="noopener">online banking</a>, <a href="https://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Travel-Agent-Issues/Websites-critiqued-on-accessibility-to-disabled-customers" target="_blank" rel="noopener">travel booking sites</a>, <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahkim/2020/12/30/accessibility-of-online-shopping/?sh=66a9d883e49e" target="_blank" rel="noopener">shopping sites</a> and <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10209-021-00792-5" target="_blank" rel="noopener">educational websites and content</a>.</p> <p>Data from the United States indicates lawsuits relating to accessibility <a href="https://www.essentialaccessibility.com/blog/web-accessibility-lawsuits">are on the rise</a>, with outcomes including financial penalties and requirements for business owners to remedy the accessibility of their website/s.</p> <p>In Australia, however, it’s often hard to obtain exact figures for the scale of accessibility complaints lodged with site owners. <a href="https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/disability-rights/publications/overlooked-consumers-20-australian-population-disabilities" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This 1997 article</a> from the Australian Human Right Commission suggests the conversation hasn’t shifted much in 25 years.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><em><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463213/original/file-20220516-19-vjfht8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463213/original/file-20220516-19-vjfht8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463213/original/file-20220516-19-vjfht8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=257&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463213/original/file-20220516-19-vjfht8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=257&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463213/original/file-20220516-19-vjfht8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=257&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463213/original/file-20220516-19-vjfht8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=323&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463213/original/file-20220516-19-vjfht8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=323&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463213/original/file-20220516-19-vjfht8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=323&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="A rendered illustration of a disabled man in a wheelchair and woman with a hearing aid lifting weights." /></a></em><figcaption><em><span class="caption">It’s a human right to have fair and equal access to the web and all its services.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p><strong>There are solutions at hand</strong></p> <p>There’s a clear solution to the digital divide. The World Wide Web Consortium’s <a href="https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Web Content Accessibility Guidelines</a> (WCAG) standard has been widely adopted across the globe. It’s universally available, and is a requirement for all Australian public-facing government websites.</p> <p>It guides website and app developers on how to use web languages (such as HTML and CSS) in ways that enable end users who rely on assistive technologies. There are no specialist technologies or techniques required to make websites or apps accessible. All that’s needed is an adherence to good practice.</p> <p>Unfortunately, WCAG is rarely treated as an <a href="https://www.rev.com/blog/web-accessibility-laws-australia-new-zealand" target="_blank" rel="noopener">enforceable standard</a>. All too often, adherence to WCAG requirements in Australia is reduced to a box-ticking exercise.</p> <p>Our academic work and experience liaising with a range of vendors has revealed that even where specific accessibility requirements are stated, many vendors will tick “yes” regardless of their knowledge of accessibility principles, or their ability to deliver against the standards.</p> <p>In cases where vendors do genuinely work towards WCAG compliance, they often rely on automated testing (via online tools), rather than human <a href="https://zoonou.com/resources/blog/why-automated-accessibility-testing-tools-are-not-enough/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">testing</a>. As a result, genuine accessibility and usability issues can go <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262352732_Benchmarking_web_accessibility_evaluation_tools_Measuring_the_harm_of_sole_reliance_on_automated_tests" target="_blank" rel="noopener">unreported</a>. While the coding of each element of a website might be WCAG compliant, the sum of all the parts may not be.</p> <p>In 2016, the Australian government adopted <a href="https://www.accessibility.org.au/policy-and-research/australian-policy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">standard EN 301549</a> (a direct implementation of an existing European standard). It’s aimed at preventing inaccessible products (hardware, software, websites and services) entering the government’s digital ecosystem. Yet the new standard seems to have achieved little. Few, if any, references to it appear in academic literature or the public web.</p> <p>It seems to have met a similar fate to the government’s <a href="https://www.governmentnews.com.au/national-transition-strategy-web-accessibility-in-transition/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">National Transition Strategy</a> for digital accessibility, which quietly disappeared in 2015.</p> <p><strong>The carrot, not the stick</strong></p> <p>Accessibility advocates take different approaches to advancing the accessibility agenda with reticent organisations. Some instil the fear of legal action, often citing the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1RbzjUBT1s" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Maguire v SOCOG case</a>, where the 2000 Olympic website was found to be inaccessible.</p> <p>In a more recent example, the <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-05/blind-woman-launches-court-action-against-coles-over-its-website/5869874?nw=0&amp;r=HtmlFragment" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Manage v Coles settlement</a> saw Coles agree to make improvements to their website’s accessibility after being sued by a legally blind woman.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463210/original/file-20220516-21-7tu89a.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463210/original/file-20220516-21-7tu89a.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463210/original/file-20220516-21-7tu89a.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=448&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463210/original/file-20220516-21-7tu89a.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=448&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463210/original/file-20220516-21-7tu89a.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=448&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463210/original/file-20220516-21-7tu89a.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=563&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463210/original/file-20220516-21-7tu89a.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=563&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463210/original/file-20220516-21-7tu89a.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=563&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="Screenshot of the top of Coles's 'accessibility' section on the company's website, with a red Coles logo on the top-left." /></a><figcaption><em><span class="caption">After getting sued by a legally blind customer in 2014, Coles made improvements to its website’s accessibility features.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Screenshot/Coles</span></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p>In the Coles case, the stick became the carrot; Coles went on to win a <a href="https://www.accessibility.org.au/award-winners-2019/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">national website accessibility award</a> after the original complainant nominated them following their remediation efforts.</p> <p>But while the financial impact of being sued might spur an organisation into action, it’s more likely to commit to genuine effort if this will generate a <a href="https://www.w3.org/WAI/business-case/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">positive return on investment</a>.</p> <p><strong>Accessible by default</strong></p> <p>We can attest to the common misconception that disability implies a need for help and support. Most people living with disability are seeking to live independently and with self-determination.</p> <p>To break the cycle of financial and social dependence frequently associated with the equity space, governments, corporations and educational institutions need to become accessible by default.</p> <p>The technologies and policies are all in place, ready to go. What is needed is leadership from government and non-government sectors to define digital accessibility as a right, and not a privilege. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/182432/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/scott-hollier-1337594" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Scott Hollier</a>, Adjunct Senior Lecturer - Science and Mathematics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Edith Cowan University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/justin-brown-1344442" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Justin Brown</a>, Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning), School of Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Edith Cowan University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/digital-inequality-why-can-i-enter-your-building-but-your-website-shows-me-the-door-182432" target="_blank" rel="noopener">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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The variation advantage: how to master tennis, learn a language, or build better AI

<p>Want to become a better tennis player? If you repeatedly practise serving to the same spot, you’ll master serving to that <em>exact</em> location, if conditions remain similar. Practising your serve to a variety of locations will take much longer to master, but in the end you’ll be a better tennis player, and much more capable of facing a fierce opponent.</p> <p>The reason why is all about variability: the more we’re exposed to, the better our neural networks are able to generalise and calculate which information is important to the task, and what is not. This also helps us learn and make decisions in new contexts.</p> <p><strong>From fox to hounds</strong></p> <p>This generalisation principle can be applied to many things, including learning languages or recognising dog breeds. For example, an infant will have difficulty learning what a ‘dog’ is if they are only exposed to chihuahuas instead of many dog breeds (chihuahuas, beagles, bulldogs etc.), which show the real variation of <em>Canis lupus familiaris</em>. Including information about what is <em>not</em> in the dog category – for example foxes – also helps us build generalisations, which helps us to eliminate irrelevant information.</p> <p>“Learning from less variable input is often fast, but may fail to generalise to new stimuli,” says Dr Limor Raviv, the senior investigator from the Max Planck Institute (Germany). “But these important insights have not been unified into a single theoretical framework, which has obscured the bigger picture.”</p> <p>To better understand the patterns behind this generalisation framework, and how variability effects the human learning process and that of computers, Raviv’s research team explored over 150 studies on variability and generalisation across the fields of computer science, linguistics, motor learning, visual perception and formal education.</p> <p><strong>Wax on, wax off</strong></p> <p>The researchers found that there are at least four kinds of variability, including:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Numerosity</strong> (set size), which is the number of different examples; such as the number of locations on the tennis court a served ball could land</li> <li><strong>Heterogeneity</strong> (differences between examples); serving to the same spot versus serving to different spots</li> <li><strong>Situational</strong> (context) diversity; facing the same opponent on the same court or a different component on a different court</li> <li><strong>Scheduling</strong> (interleaving, spacing); how frequently you practice, and in what order do you practice components of a task</li> </ul> <p>“These four kinds of variability have never been directly compared—which means that we currently don’t know which is most effective for learning,” says Raviv.</p> <div class="newsletter-box"> <div id="wpcf7-f6-p191362-o1" class="wpcf7" dir="ltr" lang="en-US" role="form"> </div> </div> <p>According to the ‘Mr Miyagi principle’, inspired by the 1984 movie <em>The Karate Kid</em>, practising unrelated skills – such as waxing cars or painting fences – might actually benefit the learning of other skills: in the movie’s case, martial arts.</p> <p><strong>Lemon or lime?</strong></p> <p>So why does including variability in training slow things down? One theory is that there are always exceptions to the rules, which makes learning and generalising harder.</p> <p>For example, while colour is important for distinguishing lemons from limes, it wouldn’t be helpful for telling cars and trucks apart. Then there are atypical examples – such as a chihuahua that doesn’t look like a dog, and a fox that does, but isn’t.</p> <p>So as well as learning a rule to make neural shortcuts, we also have to learn exceptions to these rules, which makes learning slower and more complicated. This means that when training is variable, learners have to actively reconstruct memories, which takes more effort.</p> <p><strong>Putting a face to a name</strong></p> <p>So how do we train ourselves and computers to recognise faces? The illustration below is an example of variations of a fox for machine learning. Providing several variations – including image rotation, colour and partial masking – improves the machine’s ability to generalise (in this case, to identify a fox). This data augmentation technique is an effective way of expanding the amount of available data by providing variations of the same data point, but it slows down the speed of learning.</p> <p>Humans are the same: the more variables we’re presented with, the harder it is for us to learn – but eventually it pays off in a greater ability to generalise knowledge in new contexts.</p> <p>“Understanding the impact of variability is important for literally every aspect of our daily life. Beyond affecting the way we learn language, motor skills, and categories, it even has an impact on our social lives.” explains Raviv. “For example, face recognition is affected by whether people grew up in a small community (fewer than 1000 people) or in larger community (over 30,000 people). Exposure to fewer faces during childhood is associated with diminished face memory.”</p> <p>The learning message for both humans and AI is clear: variation is key. Switch up your tennis serve, play with lots of different dogs, and practice language with a variety of speakers. Your brain (or algorithm) will thank you for it… eventually.</p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=191362&amp;title=The+variation+advantage%3A+how+to+master+tennis%2C+learn+a+language%2C+or+build+better+AI" width="1" height="1" /></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/people/behaviour/the-variation-advantage-how-to-master-tennis-learn-a-language-or-build-better-ai/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/qamariya-nasrullah" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Qamariya Nasrullah</a>. Qamariya Nasrullah holds a PhD in evolutionary development from Monash University and an Honours degree in palaeontology from Flinders University.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> </div>

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Australia to put “selfie sticks” in space

<p>A “selfie stick” for a satellite? It sounds strange. And simple. But it’s one of those typically tricky – and necessary – challenges facing Australia’s emerging space industry.</p> <p>The University of South Australia was one of three universities and 23 businesses of the iLAUNCH hub to share $180 million in funding this week to secure a future sovereign space industry.</p> <p>They all face the same challenge: to build lightweight but resilient satellite components locally.</p> <p>For UniSA, manufacturing specialists Amaero and SMR Australia, and the Defence Science Technology Group in Adelaide, the focus is on 3D printing.</p> <p>“The selfie stick is a concept to give the public an appreciation of what we’re trying to do,” says Industry Associate Research Professor Colin Hall.</p> <p>And that’s being able to fabricate complex optical components for satellite imaging systems.</p> <p>So why do satellites need “selfie sticks”?</p> <p>“We need to know what’s happening to them,” he says. “We want to see everything. Did it deploy right? Did an electrical short cause a malfunction? Or was it some sort of external influence – like a solar flare?”</p> <p>It’s part of a project to develop a “black box” flight data recording system for satellites.</p> <p>“It’s very challenging to get anything to operate properly in space, and that’s after getting it qualified and certified,” he says.</p> <p>It must be of high quality. It must be reliable. It must be lightweight. It must be durable.</p> <p>It also must burn up in re-entry and not punch any unexpected holes in the ground.</p> <div class="newsletter-box"> <div id="wpcf7-f6-p191600-o1" class="wpcf7" dir="ltr" lang="en-US" role="form"> <form class="wpcf7-form mailchimp-ext-0.5.61 resetting" action="/technology/robotics/selfie-sticks-space/#wpcf7-f6-p191600-o1" method="post" novalidate="novalidate" data-status="resetting"> <p style="display: none !important;"><span class="wpcf7-form-control-wrap referer-page"><input class="wpcf7-form-control wpcf7-text referer-page" name="referer-page" type="hidden" value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/" data-value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/" aria-invalid="false" /></span></p> <p><!-- Chimpmail extension by Renzo Johnson --></form> </div> </div> <p>That makes something as traditional as an optic lens a challenge.</p> <p>“You can take the traditional manufacturing route with a block of aluminium alloy or titanium, machine it into shape and polish it to the right tolerances,” says Dr Hall. “But we came from a different position not normally associated with high-end optics – 3D printed plastic”.</p> <p>UniSA’s done something similar before. In 2011, it came up with the first plastic mirrors for the automotive industry. </p> <p>“We had to pass all the certifications such as being resistant to harsh chemicals, abrasion, pressure and heat,” Dr Halls says. “It was a matter of having a lightweight mirror and finding new places to put it”.</p> <p>A 3D printer builds a space-grade plastic formulation into the necessary interlocking shapes. Then a vacuum deposition technique applies a 50-nanometer thick layer of reflective metal. This is then given a protective clear ceramic coating.</p> <p>“You have to get the chemistry right, the temperature right and the pressure right,” he says. </p> <p>The end result is a high-quality optic finish on a set of perfectly fitting lenses. While the manufacturing process is complex, the end product is as simplified as possible.</p> <p>“It’s more easy to create complex shapes,” says Dr Hall. “That means you can simplify the optics to the point where you may only need one camera lens capturing an image of the whole satellite”.</p> <p>Another advantage of 3D printed optics is their weight and density. They’re about half that of comparable glass and one third that of titanium-based components.</p> <p>Challenges remain.</p> <p>Among them is establishing the thermal expansion properties of any 3D printed plastic framework. One side can be facing the extreme heat of the sun. The other is in the cold black shadow of space.</p> <p>At stake is a place in the burgeoning low-Earth observation satellite industry.</p> <p>“There’s much more demand now for high-end optical components,” Dr Hall says. His team is also working with the CSIRO to produce selective filters for the sensors on its upcoming Aquawatch water quality observation satellite.</p> <p><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --></p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=191600&amp;title=Australia+to+put+%E2%80%9Cselfie+sticks%E2%80%9D+in+space" width="1" height="1" data-spai-target="src" data-spai-orig="" data-spai-exclude="nocdn" /></p> <p><!-- End of tracking content syndication --></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/robotics/selfie-sticks-space/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/jamie-seidel" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Jamie Seidel</a>. Jamie Seidel is a freelance journalist based in Adelaide.</em></p> <p><em>Image: University of South Australia</em></p> </div>

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Why your iPod could now be worth a fortune

<p dir="ltr">After Apple announced the discontinuation of the iconic iPod, the amount of listings for the popular device has skyrocketed on online marketplaces - and so have the prices themselves. </p> <p dir="ltr">The first iPod Classic was first launched in 2001 with a $399 price tag that shocked fans at the time, and now, the news has brought some prices back up with some caveats.</p> <p dir="ltr">“With iPods discontinued, you might be asking whether it’s time to cash in on some of your old tech,” James Andrews, <em>money.co.uk</em>’s personal finance editor, told <em><a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-10805019/iPods-selling-THOUSANDS-eBay-Apple-announces-discontinuing-20-years.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Daily Mail</a></em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The first thing to say is don’t get excited by list prices on eBay. While a few models are selling for thousands, the vast majority are selling for far less.</p> <p dir="ltr">“But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t pick up a reasonable amount. Do a search and check recent sold prices for models like your own to see what you’re likely to get.</p> <p dir="ltr">“In general, the best prices go to iPod Classic models, in great conditions and with all the leads needed included. If you're lucky enough to have an unopened U2 Special Edition iPod from 2004 in the back of a cupboard, it could make you thousands.”</p> <p dir="ltr">If you’re wondering just how much you can get for your devices, here’s a rundown.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>iPod Classic</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">The original model, which launched in 2001 and went for six generations, could bring you some decent profits - particularly if you have a first generation model.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the Daily Mail, a first-generation 5GB iPod Classic sold on eBay for $1,599 plus a hefty $114.60 for shipping.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>iPod Mini</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">The smaller model, which came in a range of bright colours, was also slightly cheaper than its predecessor - but sellers seem to have also made smaller profits so far.</p> <p dir="ltr">Originally retailing at $249, one eBay seller offloaded their second generation device for $324.99, while another sold their first-gen iPod for $290.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>iPod Shuffle</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">The cutesy model came without a screen and retailed for just $99, and it appears it also hasn’t seen a huge increase in value.</p> <p dir="ltr">In February this year, one first-generation iPod sold for $129.99, while a second-gen device sold for a slightly heftier $199.99 in March.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>iPod Nano</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">A slim version of the iPod Mini, this version retailed for $149 and came with a big tech development: colour screens.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to recent eBay sales, the iPod Nano has more than doubled in value, with two second-gen iPods selling for over $380 in February.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>iPod Touch</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">The last ‘new’ line of iPods, the iPod Touch was revolutionary in that it introduced us to touch screens, it could surf the web, and it had heaps of storage for music.</p> <p dir="ltr">Originally selling for just shy of $300 in 2007, the device has earned some online sellers between $3,470 for a sixth-generation device and a whopping $6524 for a fourth-generation version.</p> <p dir="ltr">But, no matter which kind of iPod you have, the amount you’ll get from selling it off will depend on the condition it’s in and whether it has all the cords it first came with.</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-5f90ef2d-7fff-7042-2686-32faeb59c531"></span></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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How QR codes work and what makes them dangerous – a computer scientist explains

<p>Among the many changes brought about by the pandemic is the widespread use of QR codes, graphical representations of digital data that can be printed and later scanned by a smartphone or other device.</p> <p>QR codes have a <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2021/03/25/how-the-pandemic-saved-the-qr-code-from-extinction/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">wide range of uses</a> that help people avoid contact with objects and close interactions with other people, including for sharing <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/21/qr-codes-have-replaced-restaurant-menus-industry-experts-say-it-isnt-a-fad.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">restaurant menus</a>, email list sign-ups, car and home sales information, and checking in and out of medical and professional appointments.</p> <p>QR codes are a close cousin of the bar codes on product packaging that cashiers scan with infrared scanners to let the checkout computer know what products are being purchased.</p> <p>Bar codes store information along one axis, horizontally. QR codes store information in both vertical and horizontal axes, which allows them to hold significantly more data. That extra amount of data is what makes QR codes so versatile.</p> <p><strong>Anatomy of a QR code</strong></p> <p>While it is easy for people to read Arabic numerals, it is hard for a computer. Bar codes encode alphanumeric data as a series of black and white lines of various widths. At the store, bar codes record the set of numbers that specify a product’s ID. Critically, data stored in bar codes is redundant. Even if part of the bar code is destroyed or obscured, it is still possible for a device to read the product ID.</p> <p>QR codes are designed to be scanned using a camera, such as those found on your smartphone. QR code scanning is built into many camera apps for Android and iOS. QR codes are most often used to store web links; however, they can store arbitrary data, such as text or images.</p> <p>When you scan a QR code, the QR reader in your phone’s camera deciphers the code, and the resulting information triggers an action on your phone. If the QR code holds a URL, your phone will present you with the URL. Tap it, and your phone’s default browser will open the webpage.</p> <p>QR codes are composed of several parts: data, position markers, quiet zone and optional logos.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><em><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/451140/original/file-20220309-17-1jkfl5t.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/451140/original/file-20220309-17-1jkfl5t.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/451140/original/file-20220309-17-1jkfl5t.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=372&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/451140/original/file-20220309-17-1jkfl5t.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=372&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/451140/original/file-20220309-17-1jkfl5t.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=372&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/451140/original/file-20220309-17-1jkfl5t.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=467&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/451140/original/file-20220309-17-1jkfl5t.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=467&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/451140/original/file-20220309-17-1jkfl5t.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=467&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="a black-and-white pattern with four numerical markers attached to arrows pointing to portions of the pattern" /></a></em><figcaption><em><span class="caption">The QR code anatomy: data (1), position markers (2), quiet zone (3) and optional logos (4).</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Scott Ruoti</span>, <a class="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">CC BY-ND</a></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p>The data in a QR code is a series of dots in a square grid. Each dot represents a one and each blank a zero in binary code, and the patterns encode sets of numbers, letters or both, including URLs. At its smallest this grid is 21 rows by 21 columns, and at its largest it is 177 rows by 177 columns. In most cases, QR codes use black squares on a white background, making the dots easy to distinguish. However, this is not a strict requirement, and QR codes can use any color or shape for the dots and background.</p> <p>Position markers are squares placed in a QR code’s top-left, top-right, and bottom-left corners. These markers let a smartphone camera or other device orient the QR code when scanning it. QR codes are surrounded by blank space, the quiet zone, to help the computer determine where the QR code begins and ends. QR codes can include an optional logo in the middle.</p> <p>Like barcodes, QR codes are designed with data redundancy. Even if as much as 30% of the QR code is destroyed or difficult to read, <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-a-qr-code?op=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the data can still be recovered</a>. In fact, logos are not actually part of the QR code; they cover up some of the QR code’s data. However, due to the QR code’s redundancy, the data represented by these missing dots can be recovered by looking at the remaining visible dots.</p> <p><strong>Are QR codes dangerous?</strong></p> <p>QR codes are not inherently dangerous. They are simply a way to store data. However, just as it can be hazardous to click links in emails, visiting URLs stored in QR codes can also be risky in several ways.</p> <p>The QR code’s URL can take you to a phishing website that tries to <a href="https://www.ic3.gov/Media/Y2022/PSA220118" target="_blank" rel="noopener">trick you</a> into entering your username or password for another website. The URL could take you to a legitimate website and trick that website into doing something harmful, such as giving an attacker access to your account. While such an attack requires a flaw in the website you are visiting, such vulnerabilities are <a href="https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Glossary/Cross-site_scripting" target="_blank" rel="noopener">common on the internet</a>. The URL can take you to a malicious website that tricks another website you are logged into on the same device to take an unauthorized action.</p> <p>A malicious URL could open an application on your device and cause it to take some action. Maybe you’ve seen this behavior when you clicked a Zoom link, and the Zoom application opened and automatically joined a meeting. While such behavior is ordinarily benign, an attacker could use this to trick some apps into revealing your data.</p> <p>It is critical that when you open a link in a QR code, you ensure that the URL is safe and comes from a trusted source. Just because the QR code has a logo you recognize doesn’t mean you should click on the URL it contains.</p> <p>There is also a slight chance that the app used to scan the QR code could contain a vulnerability that allows <a href="https://www.lifewire.com/how-to-protect-yourself-from-malicious-qr-codes-2487772" target="_blank" rel="noopener">malicious QR codes to take over your device</a>. This attack would succeed by just scanning the QR code, even if you don’t click the link stored in it. To avoid this threat, you should use trusted apps provided by the device manufacturer to scan QR codes and avoid downloading custom QR code apps.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/177217/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/scott-ruoti-1318954" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Scott Ruoti</a>, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-tennessee-688" target="_blank" rel="noopener">University of Tennessee</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-qr-codes-work-and-what-makes-them-dangerous-a-computer-scientist-explains-177217" target="_blank" rel="noopener">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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Stuff-up or conspiracy? Whistleblowers claim Facebook deliberately let important non-news pages go down in news blackout

<p>On Friday, the Wall Street Journal published information from Facebook whistleblowers, alleging Facebook (which is owned by Meta) deliberately caused havoc in Australia last year <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-deliberately-caused-havoc-in-australia-to-influence-new-law-whistleblowers-say-11651768302">to influence the News Media Bargaining Code</a> before it was passed as law.</p> <p>During Facebook’s news blackout in February 2021, thousands of non-news pages were also blocked – including important emergency, health, charity and government pages.</p> <p>Meta has continued to argue the takedown of not-for-profit and government pages was a technical error. It remains to be seen whether the whistleblower revelations will lead to Facebook being taken to court.</p> <p><strong>The effects of Facebook’s “error”</strong></p> <p>The <a href="https://theconversation.com/in-a-world-first-australia-plans-to-force-facebook-and-google-to-pay-for-news-but-abc-and-sbs-miss-out-143740">News Media Bargaining Code</a> was first published in July 2020, with a goal to have Facebook and Google pay Australian news publishers for the content they provide to the platforms.</p> <p>It was passed by the House of Representatives (Australia’s lower house) on February 17 2021. That same day, Facebook retaliated by issuing a <a href="https://about.fb.com/news/2021/02/changes-to-sharing-and-viewing-news-on-facebook-in-australia/">statement</a> saying it would remove access to news media business pages on its platform – a threat it had first made in August 2020.</p> <p>It was arguably a reasonable threat of capital strike by a foreign direct investor, in respect to new regulation it regarded as “harmful” – and which it believed fundamentally “misunderstands the relationship between [its] platform and publishers who use it to share news content”.</p> <p>However, the range of pages blocked was extensive.</p> <p>Facebook has a label called the “News Page Index” which can be applied to its pages. News media pages, such as those of the ABC and SBS, are included in the index. All Australian pages on this index were taken down during Facebook’s news blackout.</p> <p>But Facebook also blocked access to other pages, such as the page of the satirical website <a href="https://www.betootaadvocate.com">The Betoota Advocate</a>. The broadness of Facebook’s approach was also evidenced by the blocking of its own corporate page.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/feb/18/time-to-reactivate-myspace-the-day-australia-woke-up-to-a-facebook-news-blackout">most major harm</a>, however, came from blocks to not-for-profit pages, including cancer charities, the Bureau of Meteorology and a variety of state health department pages – at a time when they were delivering crucial information about COVID-19 and vaccines.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Whistleblowers emerge</strong></p> <p>The whistleblower material published by the Wall Street Journal, which was also filed to the US Department of Justice and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), includes several email chains that show Facebook decided to implement its blocking threat through a broad strategy.</p> <p>The argument for its broad approach was based on an anti-avoidance clause in the News Media Bargaining Code. The effect of the clause was to ensure Facebook didn’t attempt to avoid the rules of the code by simply substituting Australian news with international news for Australian users. In other words, it would have to be all or nothing.</p> <p>As a consequence, Facebook did not use its News Page Index. It instead classified a domain as “news” if “60% [or] more of a domain’s content shared on Facebook is classified as news”. One product manager wrote:</p> <blockquote> <p>Hey everyone – the [proposed Australian law] we are responding to is extremely broad, so guidance from the policy and legal team has been to be over-inclusive and refine as we get more information.</p> </blockquote> <p>The blocking approach was algorithmic and based on these rules. There were some exceptions, that included not blocking “.gov” – but no such exclusion for “.gov.au”. The effect of this was the taking down of many charity and government pages.</p> <p>The whistleblower material makes it clear a number of Facebook employees offered solutions to the perceived overreach. This included one employee proposal that Facebook should “proactively find all the affected pages and restore them”. However, the documents show these calls were ignored.</p> <p>According to the Wall Street Journal:</p> <blockquote> <p>The whistleblower documents show Facebook did attempt to exclude government and education pages. But people familiar with Facebook’s response said some of these lists malfunctioned at rollout, while other whitelists didn’t cover enough pages to avoid widespread improper blocking.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Amendments following the blackout</strong></p> <p>Following Facebook’s news blackout, there were last-minute amendments to the draft legislation before it was passed through the Senate.</p> <p>The main change was that the News Media Bargaining Code would only apply to Facebook if deals were not struck with a range of key news businesses (which so far has not included SBS or <a href="https://twitter.com/ConversationEDU/status/1440562209206128653?s=20&amp;t=FsviAWBLX7mKumr80Qiwzg">The Conversation</a>).</p> <p>It’s not clear whether the amendment was as a result of Facebook’s actions, or if it would have been introduced in the Senate anyway. In either case, Facebook said it was “<a href="https://about.fb.com/news/2021/02/changes-to-sharing-and-viewing-news-on-facebook-in-australia/">satisfied</a>” with the outcome, and ended its news blackout.</p> <p><strong>Facebook denies the accusations</strong></p> <p>The definitions of “core news content” and “news source” in the News Media Bargaining Code were reasonably narrow. So Facebook’s decision to block pages so broadly seems problematic – especially from the perspective of reputational risk.</p> <p>But as soon as that risk crystallised, Facebook denied intent to cause any harm. A Meta spokesperson said the removal of non-news pages was a “mistake” and “any suggestion to the contrary is categorically and obviously false”. Referring to the whistleblower documents, the spokesperson said:</p> <blockquote> <p>The documents in question clearly show that we intended to exempt Australian government pages from restrictions in an effort to minimise the impact of this misguided and harmful legislation. When we were unable to do so as intended due to a technical error, we apologised and worked to correct it.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Possible legal action</strong></p> <p>In the immediate aftermath of Facebook’s broad news takedown, former ACCC chair Allan Fels <a href="https://www.news.com.au/technology/online/social/facebook-could-face-lawsuits-for-unconscionable-conduct-over-nonnews-wipe-out/news-story/b312cef33b8e2261e8b5743f9bf87ca6">suggested</a> there could be a series of class actions against Facebook.</p> <p>His basis was that Facebook’s action was unconscionable under the <a href="http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/caca2010265/toc-sch2.html">Australian Consumer Law</a>. We have not seen these actions taken.</p> <p>It’s not clear whether the whistleblower material changes the likelihood of legal action against Facebook. If legal action is taken, it’s more likely to be a civil case taken by an organisation that has been harmed, rather than a criminal case.</p> <p>On the other hand, one reading of the material is Facebook did indeed overreach out of caution, and then reduced the scope of its blocking over a short period.</p> <p>Facebook suffered reputational harm as a result of its actions and apologised. However, if it engaged in similar actions in other countries, the balance between its actions being a stuff up, versus conspiracy, changes.</p> <p>The Wall Street Journal described Facebook’s approach as an “overly broad and sloppy process”. Such a process isn’t good practice, but done once, it’s unlikely to be criminal. On the other hand, repeating it would create a completely different set of potential liabilities and causes of action.</p> <hr /> <p><em>Disclosure: Facebook has refused to negotiate a deal with The Conversation under the News Media Bargaining Code. In response, The Conversation has called for Facebook to be “designated” by the Treasurer under the Code. This means Facebook would be forced to pay for content published by The Conversation on its platform.</em><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/182673/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rob-nicholls-91073" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Rob Nicholls</a>, Associate professor in regulation and governance, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414" target="_blank" rel="noopener">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/stuff-up-or-conspiracy-whistleblowers-claim-facebook-deliberately-let-important-non-news-pages-go-down-in-news-blackout-182673" target="_blank" rel="noopener">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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Wearable technology for plants can help us tell when they’re thirsty

<p>Unlike humans, plants can’t just speak up when they’re parched. And unfortunately for them the visual signs of dehydration, such as shrivelled or browning leaves, don’t show up until most of their moisture is gone.</p> <p>To overcome this communication barrier, nanotechnologists have created a <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/materials/new-transistor-shows-promise-for-wearable-tech/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">wearable technology</a> for plant leaves that senses and wirelessly transmits data to a smartphone app, reported in a <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acsami.2c02943" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">new study</a> in <em>ACS Applied Materials &amp; Interfaces</em>.</p> <p>The electrodes come in two different patterns to satisfy your plant fashion needs – one made of nickel deposited in a narrow, squiggly shape, and the other cut from partially burnt paper coated in a waxy film, though the nickel-based electrodes perform better.</p> <p>This plant-wearable technology could help farmers and gardeners to remotely monitor their plants’ health, including leaf water content, which is a key marker of metabolism and drought stress, kind of like how physicians can monitor and assess their patients’ health with a smartwatch.</p> <div class="newsletter-box"> <div id="wpcf7-f6-p190363-o1" class="wpcf7" dir="ltr" lang="en-US" role="form"> <form class="wpcf7-form mailchimp-ext-0.5.61 resetting" action="/technology/wearable-technology-for-plants/#wpcf7-f6-p190363-o1" method="post" novalidate="novalidate" data-status="resetting"> <p style="display: none !important;"><span class="wpcf7-form-control-wrap referer-page"><input class="wpcf7-form-control wpcf7-text referer-page" name="referer-page" type="hidden" value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/" data-value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/" aria-invalid="false" /></span></p> <p><!-- Chimpmail extension by Renzo Johnson --></form> </div> </div> <p>The researchers created the two types of electrodes and stuck them onto soybean leaves with clear adhesive tape. They found that the nickel electrodes adhered more strongly in the wind (from a fan) – likely because the thin squiggly design of the metallic film allowed more tape to connect with the hairy leaf surface – and also produced larger signals as the leaves dried out.</p> <p>Next, they a created a plant-wearable device with the nickel electrodes and attached it to a living plant in a greenhouse. As the device shared data to a smartphone app and website, a simple, fast machine-learning technique successfully converted these data to the percentage of water content lost.</p> <p>The researchers say that monitoring water content on leaves can indirectly provide information on exposure to pests and toxic agents.</p> <p>Because the plant-wearable technology provides reliable data indoors, they now plan to test the devices in outdoor gardens and crops to determine when plants need to be watered, potentially saving resources, and increasing yields.</p> <figure class="wp-block-embed is-type-video is-provider-youtube wp-block-embed-youtube wp-embed-aspect-16-9 wp-has-aspect-ratio"> <div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <div class="entry-content-asset"> <div class="embed-wrapper"> <div class="inner"><iframe title="A new wearable technology — for plants (video)" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/i864_c0fvVg?feature=oembed" width="500" height="281" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></div> </div> </div> </div> </figure> <p><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --></p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=190363&amp;title=Wearable+technology+for+plants+can+help+us+tell+when+they%E2%80%99re+thirsty" width="1" height="1" data-spai-target="src" data-spai-orig="" data-spai-exclude="nocdn" /></p> <p><!-- End of tracking content syndication --></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/wearable-technology-for-plants/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/imma-perfetto" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Imma Perfetto</a>. Imma Perfetto is a science writer at Cosmos. She has a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Science Communication from the University of Adelaide.</em></p> <p><em>Image: </em><em>American Chemical Society (YouTube)</em></p> </div>

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Move over, Iron Chef, this metallic cook has just learned how to taste

<p>In an episode of <em>Futurama</em>, robot Bender wants to be a chef, but has to overcome the not inconsiderable hurdle of being incapable of taste. It was beautiful.</p> <p>Move over, Bender. A new robot has not only been programmed to taste, it has been trained to taste food at different stages of the cooking process to check for seasoning. Researchers from the University of Cambridge, UK, working with domestic appliances manufacturer Beko, hope the new robot will be useful in the development of automated food preparation.</p> <p>It’s a cliché of cooking that you must “taste as you go”. But tasting isn’t as simple as it may seem. There are different stages of the chewing process in which the release of saliva and digestive enzymes change our perception of flavour while chewing.</p> <p>The robot chef had already mastered the <a href="https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/a-good-egg-robot-chef-trained-to-make-omelettes" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">omelette</a> based on human tasters’ feedback. Now, results <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.3389/frobt.2022.886074" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">published</a> in the <em>Frontiers in Robotics & AI</em> journal show the robot tasting nine different variations of scrambled eggs and tomatoes at three different stages of the chewing process to produce a “taste map”.</p> <p>Using machine-learning algorithms and the “taste as you go” approach, the robot was able to quickly and accurately judge the saltiness of the simple scrambled egg dish. The new method was a significant improvement over other tasting tech based on only a single sample.</p> <p>Saltiness was measured by a conductance probe attached to the robot’s arm. They prepared the dish, varying the number of tomatoes and amount of salt. “Chewed” food was passed through a blender, then tested for saltiness again.</p> <figure class="wp-block-video"><video src="../wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Unchewed-sampling-short.mp4" controls="controls" width="300" height="150"></video><figcaption>This robot ‘chef’ is learning to be a better cook by ‘tasting’ the saltiness of a simple dish of eggs and tomatoes at different stages of the cooking process, imitating a similar process in humans. Credit: Bio-Inspired Robotics Laboratory, University of Cambridge.</figcaption></figure> <p>“Most home cooks will be familiar with the concept of tasting as you go – checking a dish throughout the cooking process to check whether the balance of flavours is right,” said lead author Grzegorz Sochacki from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering. “If robots are to be used for certain aspects of food preparation, it’s important that they are able to ‘taste’ what they’re cooking.”</p> <p>The new approach aims to mimic the continuous feedback provided to the human brain in the process of chewing, says Dr Arsen Abdulali, also from Cambridge’s Department of Engineering. “Current methods of electronic testing only take a single snapshot from a homogenised sample, so we wanted to replicate a more realistic process of chewing and tasting in a robotic system, which should result in a tastier end product.”</p> <p>“When a robot is learning how to cook, like any other cook, it needs indications of how well it did,” said Abdulali. “We want the robots to understand the concept of taste, which will make them better cooks. In our experiment, the robot can ‘see’ the difference in the food as it’s chewed, which improves its ability to taste.”</p> <p> “We believe that the development of robotic chefs will play a major role in busy households and assisted living homes in the future,” said senior Beko scientist Dr Muhammad W. Chugtai. “This result is a leap forward in robotic cooking, and by using machine and deep-learning algorithms, mastication will help robot chefs adjust taste for different dishes and users.” Next on the menu will be training robots to improve and expand the tasting abilities to oily or sweet food, for example. Sounds pretty sweet.</p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=190155&title=Move+over%2C+Iron+Chef%2C+this+metallic+cook+has+just+learned+how+to+taste" width="1" height="1" data-spai-target="src" data-spai-orig="" data-spai-exclude="nocdn" /></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/robot-machine-learning-taste/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/evrim-yazgin" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Evrim Yazgin</a>. Evrim Yazgin has a Bachelor of Science majoring in mathematical physics and a Master of Science in physics, both from the University of Melbourne.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p> </div>

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ACCC says consumers need more choices about what online marketplaces are doing with their data

<p>Consumers using online retail marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon “have little effective choice in the amount of data they share”, according to the <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/publications/serial-publications/digital-platform-services-inquiry-2020-2025/digital-platform-services-inquiry-march-2022-interim-report" target="_blank" rel="noopener">latest report</a> of the Australian Competition &amp; Consumer Commission (ACCC) Digital Platform Services Inquiry.</p> <p>Consumers may benefit from personalisation and recommendations in these marketplaces based on their data, but many are in the dark about how much personal information these companies collect and share for other purposes.</p> <p><a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/concerning-issues-for-consumers-and-sellers-on-online-marketplaces" target="_blank" rel="noopener">ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb</a> said:</p> <blockquote> <p>We believe consumers should be given more information about, and control over, how online marketplaces collect and use their data.</p> </blockquote> <p>The report reiterates the ACCC’s earlier calls for amendments to the Australian Consumer Law to address unfair data terms and practices. It also points out that the government is considering <a href="https://www.ag.gov.au/integrity/consultations/review-privacy-act-1988" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proposals for major changes to privacy law</a>.</p> <p>However, none of these proposals is likely to come into effect in the near future. In the meantime, we should also consider whether practices such as obtaining information about users from third-party data brokers are fully compliant with existing privacy law.</p> <p><strong>Why did the ACCC examine online marketplaces?</strong></p> <p>The ACCC examined competition and consumer issues associated with “general online retail marketplaces” as part of its <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/inquiries-ongoing/digital-platform-services-inquiry-2020-2025" target="_blank" rel="noopener">five-year Digital Platform Services Inquiry</a>.</p> <p>These marketplaces facilitate transactions between third-party sellers and consumers on a common platform. They do not include retailers that don’t operate marketplaces, such as Kmart, or platforms such as Gumtree that carry classified ads but don’t allow transactions.</p> <p>The ACCC report focuses on the four largest online marketplaces in Australia: Amazon Australia, Catch, eBay Australia and Kogan. In 2020–21, these four carried sales totalling $8.4 billion.</p> <figure class="align-center "><em><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/460716/original/file-20220502-18-4pvx0.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/460716/original/file-20220502-18-4pvx0.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=401&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/460716/original/file-20220502-18-4pvx0.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=401&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/460716/original/file-20220502-18-4pvx0.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=401&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/460716/original/file-20220502-18-4pvx0.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/460716/original/file-20220502-18-4pvx0.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/460716/original/file-20220502-18-4pvx0.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /></em><figcaption><em><span class="caption">Online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, Catch and Kogan facilitate transactions between third-party buyers and sellers.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/new-york-usa-november-1-2018-1219079038" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Shutterstock</a></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p>According to the report, eBay has the largest sales of these companies. Amazon Australia is the second-largest and the fastest-growing, with an 87% increase in sales over the past two years.</p> <p>The ACCC examined:</p> <ul> <li>the state of competition in the relevant markets</li> <li>issues facing sellers who depend on selling their products through these marketplaces</li> <li>consumer issues including concerns about personal information collection, use and sharing.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Consumers don’t want their data used for other purposes</strong></p> <p>The ACCC expressed concern that in online marketplaces, “the extent of data collection, use and disclosure … often does not align with consumer preferences”.</p> <p>The Commission pointed to surveys about <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Consumer%20Policy%20Research%20Centre%20%28CPRC%29%20%2818%20August%202021%29.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Australian consumer attitudes to privacy</a> which indicate:</p> <ul> <li>94% did not feel comfortable with how digital platforms including online marketplaces collect their personal information</li> <li>92% agreed that companies should only collect information they need for providing their product or service</li> <li>60% considered it very or somewhat unacceptable for their online behaviour to be monitored for targeted ads and offers.</li> </ul> <p>However, the four online marketplaces analysed:</p> <ul> <li>do not proactively present privacy terms to consumers “throughout the purchasing journey”</li> <li>may allow advertisers or other third parties to place tracking cookies on users’ devices</li> <li>do not clearly identify how consumers can opt out of cookies while still using the marketplace.</li> </ul> <p>Some of the marketplaces also obtain extra data about individuals from third-party data brokers or advertisers.</p> <p>The <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3432769" target="_blank" rel="noopener">harms from increased tracking and profiling</a> of consumers include decreased privacy; manipulation based on detailed profiling of traits and weaknesses; and discrimination or exclusion from opportunities.</p> <p><strong>Limited choices: you can’t just ‘walk out of a store’</strong></p> <p>Some might argue that consumers must not actually care that much about privacy if they keep using these companies, but the choice is not so simple.</p> <p>The ACCC notes the relevant privacy terms are often spread across multiple web pages and offered on a “take it or leave it” basis.</p> <p>The terms also use “bundled consents”. This means that agreeing to the company using your data to fill your order, for example, may be bundled together with agreeing for the company to use your data for its separate advertising business.</p> <p>Further, as my research has shown, there is <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3905693" target="_blank" rel="noopener">so little competition on privacy</a> between these marketplaces that consumers can’t just find a better offer. The ACCC agrees:</p> <blockquote> <p>While consumers in Australia can choose between a number of online marketplaces, the common approaches and practices of the major online marketplaces to data collection and use mean that consumers have little effective choice in the amount of data they share.</p> </blockquote> <p>Consumers also seem unable to require these companies to delete their data. The situation is quite different from conventional retail interactions where a consumer can select “unsubscribe” or walk out of a store.</p> <p><strong>Does our privacy law currently permit all these practices?</strong></p> <p>The ACCC has reiterated its earlier calls to amend the Australian Consumer Law to prohibit unfair practices and make unfair contract terms illegal. (At present unfair contract terms are just void, or unenforceable.)</p> <p>The report also points out that the government is considering proposals for major changes to privacy law, but <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-new-proposed-privacy-code-promises-tough-rules-and-10-million-penalties-for-tech-giants-170711" target="_blank" rel="noopener">these changes</a> are uncertain and may take more than a year to come into effect.</p> <p>In the meantime, we should look more closely at the practices of these marketplaces under current privacy law.</p> <p>For example, under the <a href="https://www.legislation.gov.au/Series/C2004A03712" target="_blank" rel="noopener">federal Privacy Act</a> the four marketplaces</p> <blockquote> <p>must collect personal information about an individual only from the individual unless … it is unreasonable or impracticable to do so.</p> </blockquote> <p>However, <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3905693" target="_blank" rel="noopener">some online marketplaces</a> say they collect information about individual consumers’ interests and demographics from “<a href="https://www.ebay.com.au/help/policies/member-behaviour-policies/user-privacy-notice-privacy-policy?id=4260&amp;mkevt=1&amp;mkcid=1&amp;mkrid=705-53470-19255-0&amp;campid=5338596835&amp;customid=&amp;toolid=10001#section4" target="_blank" rel="noopener">data providers</a>” and <a href="https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=202075050&amp;ref_=footer_iba" target="_blank" rel="noopener">other third parties</a>.</p> <p>We don’t know the full detail of what’s collected, but demographic information might include our age range, income, or family details.</p> <p>How is it “unreasonable or impracticable” to obtain information about our demographics and interests directly from us? Consumers could ask online marketplaces this question, and complain to the <a href="https://www.oaic.gov.au/privacy/privacy-complaints" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Office of the Australian Information Commissioner</a> if there is no reasonable answer.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/182134/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/katharine-kemp-402096" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Katharine Kemp</a>, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law &amp; Justice, UNSW, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414" target="_blank" rel="noopener">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/accc-says-consumers-need-more-choices-about-what-online-marketplaces-are-doing-with-their-data-182134" target="_blank" rel="noopener">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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Can your mobile phone get a virus?

<p>With nearly <a href="https://www.bankmycell.com/blog/how-many-phones-are-in-the-world" target="_blank" rel="noopener">84%</a> of the world’s population now owning a smartphone, and our dependence on them growing all the time, these devices have become an attractive avenue for scammers.</p> <p>Last year, cyber security company Kaspersky detected nearly <a href="https://securelist.com/mobile-malware-evolution-2021/105876/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">3.5 million</a> malicious attacks on mobile phone users. The spam messages we get on our phones via text message or email will often contain links to viruses, which are a type of malicious software (malware).</p> <p>There’s a decent chance that at some point you’ve installed <a href="https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=6138859" target="_blank" rel="noopener">malware</a> that infected your phone and worked (without you noticing) in the background. According to a global report commissioned by private company Zimperium, more than <a href="https://www.zimperium.com/global-mobile-threat-report/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">one-fifth</a> of mobile devices have encountered malware. And four in ten mobiles worldwide are <a href="https://blog.checkpoint.com/2020/08/06/achilles-small-chip-big-peril/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">vulnerable</a> to cyber attacks.</p> <p>But how do you know if your phone has been targeted? And what can you do?</p> <p><strong>How does a phone get infected?</strong></p> <p>Like personal computers, phones can be compromised by malware.</p> <p>For example, the Hummingbad virus infected <a href="https://www.wired.co.uk/article/hummingbad-malware-10-million-android-devices" target="_blank" rel="noopener">ten million</a> Android devices within a few months of its creation in 2016, and put as many as <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jul/06/what-is-hummingbad-malware-android-devices-checkpoint" target="_blank" rel="noopener">85 million</a> devices at risk.</p> <p>Typically, a phone virus works the same way as a computer virus: a malicious code infects your device, replicates itself and spreads to other devices by auto-messaging others in your contact list or auto-forwarding itself as an email.</p> <p>A virus can limit your phone’s functionality, send your personal information to hackers, send your contacts spam messages linking to malware, and even allow the virus’s operator to “spy” on you by capturing your screen and keyboard inputs, and tracking your geographical location.</p> <p>In Australia, Scamwatch received <a href="https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/news-alerts/missed-delivery-call-or-voicemail-flubot-scams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">16,000 reports</a> of the Flubot virus over just eight weeks in 2021. This <a href="https://suretyit.com.au/blog/what-is-the-flubot-virus/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">virus</a> sends text messages to Android and iPhone users with links to malware. Clicking on the links can lead to a malicious app being downloaded on your phone, giving scammers access to your personal information.</p> <p>Flubot scammers regularly change their <a href="https://www.bitdefender.com/blog/labs/new-flubot-and-teabot-global-malware-campaigns-discovered" target="_blank" rel="noopener">target countries</a>. According to cyber security firm Bitdefender, FluBot operators targeted Australia, Germany, Poland, Spain, Austria and other European countries between December 1 2021 and January 2 of this year.</p> <p><strong>Is either Apple or Android more secure?</strong></p> <p>While Apple devices are generally considered more secure than Android, and <a href="https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=6637558" target="_blank" rel="noopener">less prone</a> to virus attacks, iPhone users who “jailbreak” or modify their phone open themselves up to security vulnerabilities.</p> <p>Similarly, Android users who install apps from outside the Google Play store increase their risk of installing malware. It’s recommended all phone users stay on guard, as both Apple and Android are <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2021/03/16/iphone-12-pro-max-and-iphone-13-not-more-secure-than-google-and-samsung-android-warns-cyber-billionaire/?sh=596442d623f8" target="_blank" rel="noopener">vulnerable</a> to security risks.</p> <p>That said, phones are generally better protected against viruses than personal computers. This is because software is usually installed through authorised app stores that vet each app (although some malicious apps can occasionally slip through <a href="https://blog.pradeo.com/spyware-facestealer-google-play" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the cracks</a>).</p> <p>Also, in comparison to computers, phones are more secure as the apps are usually “<a href="https://source.android.com/security/app-sandbox" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sandboxed</a>” in their own isolated environment – unable to access or interfere with other apps. This reduces the risk of infection or cross contamination from malware. However, no device is entirely immune.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/459712/original/file-20220426-12-4550kz.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/459712/original/file-20220426-12-4550kz.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/459712/original/file-20220426-12-4550kz.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=338&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/459712/original/file-20220426-12-4550kz.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=338&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/459712/original/file-20220426-12-4550kz.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=338&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/459712/original/file-20220426-12-4550kz.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=424&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/459712/original/file-20220426-12-4550kz.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=424&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/459712/original/file-20220426-12-4550kz.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=424&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="A smartphone with a virus alert warning is held up by a hand in front of a dark background." /></a><figcaption><em><span class="caption">Apple devices are generally considered more secure against malware than Android devices, but they’re still at risk.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Pixabay/Pexels.com (edited)</span>, <a class="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">CC BY</a></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p><strong>Watch out for the signs</strong></p> <p>While it’s not always easy to tell whether your phone is infected, it will exhibit some abnormal behaviours if it is. Some signs to watch out for include:</p> <ul> <li> <p>poor performance, such as apps taking longer than usual to open, or crashing randomly</p> </li> <li> <p>excessive battery drain (due to the malware constantly working in the background)</p> </li> <li> <p>increased mobile data consumption</p> </li> <li> <p>unexplained billing charges (which may include increased data usage charges as a result of the malware chewing up your data)</p> </li> <li> <p>unusual pop-ups, and</p> </li> <li> <p>the device overheating unexpectedly.</p> </li> </ul> <p>If you do suspect a virus has infected your device, there are some steps you can take. First, to prevent further damage you’ll need to remove the malware. Here are some simple troubleshooting steps:</p> <ol> <li> <p>Use a reliable antivirus app to scan your phone for infections. Some reputable vendors offering paid and free protection services include <a href="https://apps.apple.com/us/app/avast-security-privacy/id1276551855" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Avast</a>, <a href="https://www.avg.com/en-au/antivirus-for-android#pc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">AVG</a>, <a href="https://www.bitdefender.com/solutions/mobile-security-android.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Bitdefender</a>, <a href="https://www.mcafee.com/en-us/antivirus/mobile.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">McAfee</a> or <a href="https://us.norton.com/products/mobile-security-for-android" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Norton</a>.</p> </li> <li> <p>Clear your phone’s storage and cache (in Android devices), or browsing history and website data (in Apple devices).</p> </li> <li> <p>Restart your iPhone, or restart your Android phone to <a href="https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/how-to-turn-safe-mode-on-and-off-in-android/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">go into safe mode</a> – which is a feature on Android that prevents third-party apps from operating for as long as it’s enabled.</p> </li> <li> <p>Delete any suspicious or unfamiliar apps from your downloaded apps list and, if you’re an Android user, turn safe mode off once the apps are deleted.</p> </li> </ol> <p>As a last resort, you can back up all your data and perform a factory reset on your phone. Resetting a phone to its original settings will eliminate any malware.</p> <p><strong>Protecting your phone from infection</strong></p> <p>Now you’ve fixed your phone, it’s important to safeguard it against future viruses and other security risks. The mobile security apps mentioned above will help with this. But you can also:</p> <ul> <li> <p>avoid clicking unusual pop-ups, or links in unusual text messages, social media posts or emails</p> </li> <li> <p>only install apps from authorised app stores, such as Google Play or Apple’s App Store</p> </li> <li> <p>avoid jailbreaking or modifying your phone</p> </li> <li> <p>check app permissions before installing, so you’re aware of what the app will access (rather than blindly trusting it)</p> </li> <li> <p>back up your data regularly, and</p> </li> <li> <p>keep your phone software updated to the latest version (which will have the latest security patches).</p> </li> </ul> <p>Continually monitor your phone for suspicious activity and trust your gut instincts. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/181720/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/nvIXGeB1WgE?wmode=transparent&amp;start=38" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><em>Google’s tips on how to spot malware.</em></figcaption></figure> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ritesh-chugh-162770" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Ritesh Chugh</a>, Associate Professor - Information and Communications Technology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/cquniversity-australia-2140" target="_blank" rel="noopener">CQUniversity Australia</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/can-your-mobile-phone-get-a-virus-yes-and-youll-have-to-look-carefully-to-see-the-signs-181720" target="_blank" rel="noopener">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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How does Spotify use your data? Even experts aren’t sure

<p dir="ltr">Spotify has revolutionised the music industry, and its ability to recommend music tailored to your personal taste has been a standout feature.</p> <p dir="ltr">But it isn’t the only app to provide this kind of personalised experience, with Artificial Intelligence being used to create your personalised newsfeeds on Facebook and Twitter, recommend purchases on Amazon, or even the order of search results on Google.</p> <p dir="ltr">To achieve this, these apps and websites use our data in their recommendation algorithms - but they are so secretive about these algorithms that we don’t fully know how they work.</p> <p dir="ltr">In a search for answers, a team of New Zealand legal and music experts <a href="https://www.scimex.org/newsfeed/tinder-and-spotifys-fine-print-arent-clear-about-how-they-use-our-data-for-recs" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pored over</a> several versions of the privacy policies and Terms of Use used by Spotify and Tinder to determine how our data is being used as new features have been rolled out.</p> <p dir="ltr">Their work, published in the <em><a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03036758.2022.2064517" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand</a></em>, found that Spotify’s privacy policy has nearly doubled since its launch in 2012, which reflects an increase in the amount of data the platform now collects.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>The algorithm hungers for data</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Originally, Spotify collected basic information such as the kinds of songs played, the playlists created, and the email address, age, gender, and location of a user, as well as their profile picture, and the pictures and names of their Facebook friends if their profile was linked.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the 2021 policy, Spotify collects voice data, users’ photos, and location data - and the team of experts have connected this expansion to the patents the company owns.</p> <p dir="ltr">That same year, “Spotify was granted a patent that allows the company to promote ‘personalised content’ based on the ‘personality traits’ it detects from voice data and background noise,” the authors wrote, suggesting the algorithm has changed to capture voice data.</p> <p dir="ltr">As for its Terms of Use, the authors found both Spotify and Tinder used ambiguous wording and vague language, despite expectations that it would be somewhat transparent because it is a legal agreement between the platform and its users.</p> <p dir="ltr">They noted that the opaque style of the Terms of Use made analysis more difficult.</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite this, they found that from 2015, Spotify’s recommendations were also influenced by “commercial considerations”, including third-party agreements Spotify had with other companies.</p> <p dir="ltr">The team of experts argue that this particular change “provides ample room for the company to legally highlight content to a specific user based on a commercial agreement”.</p> <p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, Spotify has also started offering artists the option to lower their royalty rate “in exchange for an increased number of recommendations”.</p> <p dir="ltr">Taken together, the authors argue that this means that the playlists made specifically for us could be influenced by factors outside of our control, “like commercial deals with artists and labels”.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Users deserve answers</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Though they made these findings, the authors note that some will still be speculative while companies stay tight-lipped about how their algorithms work.</p> <p dir="ltr">“When companies are uncooperative, and typical academic inquiry cannot be complete without breaching contractual agreements, we maintain that scholarly investigation can have a speculative character,” they wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This suggestion does not mean that a less academic rigour can be expected or granted about making assumptions on the basis of partial, observable data. Instead, we propose that it is the companies’ remit and burden to refute such assumptions and communicating the clarity of their systems.”</p> <p dir="ltr">With many of us using services like Spotify, Tinder, Google and Amazon on a daily basis, it’s up to these companies to become more transparent in how they use our information with the understanding that we deserve to know what happens to the data that makes us, us.</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-22451cbe-7fff-7512-7ed6-c621fbd456c7"></span></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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Why an edit button for Twitter is not as simple as it seems

<p>Most people who use Twitter have had the experience: you fire off a quick tweet, realise it contains a typo, then get annoyed you can’t click “edit” to fix it. Twitter users have been <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/90376786/a-brief-history-of-not-being-able-to-edit-your-tweets" target="_blank" rel="noopener">clamouring for an edit button for years</a>.</p> <p>Elon Musk, who has recently been buying up shares in the microblogging platform and has made a <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-04-15/elon-musk-offer-to-buy-twitter-worlds-richest-man/100994580" target="_blank" rel="noopener">US$48 billion offer</a> for the whole company, asked his 82 million followers if they wanted an edit button. His (deeply unscientific) poll attracted 4.4 million responses, with 73% in favour.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Do you want an edit button?</p> <p>— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) <a href="https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1511143607385874434?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 5, 2022</a></p></blockquote> <p>Other social media platforms let you edit posts after you’ve sent them. It seems like it would be a simple feature to add – so why doesn’t Twitter do it?</p> <p>Well, the time may at last have arrived. Independent of Musk’s poll, Twitter has confirmed that <a href="https://www.theverge.com/2022/4/5/23011327/twitter-edit-button-blue-test" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an edit button may be in the works</a>. Enterprising users have even dug out some hints of what it <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2022/04/18/twitters-in-development-edit-button-offers-hints-as-to-how-the-feature-could-work/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">might look like</a>.</p> <p><strong>So what’s the fuss about?</strong></p> <p>Why has Twitter been so opposed to an edit button? The answer might be that it isn’t as simple as it appears.</p> <p>The first thing to know about tweets is that, unlike posts on many other platforms, there is fundamentally no way for Twitter to pull them back after they are sent. The reason is that Twitter has what’s called an Application Programming Interface (or API) which allows third parties such as other apps or researchers to download tweets in real time.</p> <p>That’s what powers Twitter clients such as TweetDeck, TweetBot, Twitteriffic and Echofon, which together account for some <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2018/08/17/6-million-users-had-installed-third-party-twitter-clients/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">6 million users</a>.</p> <p>Once third parties have downloaded tweets, there’s no way for Twitter to get them back or edit them. It’s a bit like an email – once I’ve sent it and you’ve downloaded it, there’s no way for me to delete it from your machine.</p> <p>If a user <em>were</em> to edit a tweet, the most Twitter could do is send out a message saying “please edit this tweet” – but the third party could choose whether or not to actually do it. (This is currently what happens when tweets are “deleted”.)</p> <p><strong>Cats and dogs</strong></p> <p>More importantly, an edit button might have unintended consequences, and could be weaponised.</p> <p>Consider this. I, a cat lover, decide to tweet “I love cats!”</p> <p>Then you, being also a cat lover (because why wouldn’t you be), decide to quote my tweet, agreeing “I do too!” (Remember when Twitter used to be this innocent?)</p> <p>Now, what happens if I edit my original tweet to declare “I love dogs”? You are now misrepresented as a dog-lover, and when your cat-loving friends see this (which they will when I reply to your tweet, mentioning them all), they disown you.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/459030/original/file-20220421-70799-6mgarp.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/459030/original/file-20220421-70799-6mgarp.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/459030/original/file-20220421-70799-6mgarp.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=192&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/459030/original/file-20220421-70799-6mgarp.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=192&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/459030/original/file-20220421-70799-6mgarp.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=192&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/459030/original/file-20220421-70799-6mgarp.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=241&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/459030/original/file-20220421-70799-6mgarp.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=241&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/459030/original/file-20220421-70799-6mgarp.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=241&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" alt="A screenshot showing a tweet reading " /></a><figcaption><em><span class="caption">A Twitter edit button could be used to change statements after others have retweeted or endorsed them.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">The Conversation</span></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p>Yes, this is contrived, but it doesn’t take much imagination to see how the edit button might be used in this fashion, particularly by things such as bot armies. Will Twitter users be happy to trade this possibility for the convenience of fixing typos in their tweets?</p> <p><strong>‘Warts and all’: a bug or a feature?</strong></p> <p>Twitter has built its reputation on being the most “real-time” of the social media platforms – the place where <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/ngeo832" target="_blank" rel="noopener">earthquakes are reported quicker than by scientific instruments</a>. However, for many people the “warts and all” nature of Twitter postings is starting to look like a bug, rather than a feature.</p> <p>Will an edit button change Twitter’s unique brand? There may be ways to ameliorate this, such as only allowing edits within a short time of posting, but it is surely a consideration for the company.</p> <p>More generally, the design of media platforms shapes the type of discussion that occurs on them.</p> <p>The presence of the “like” and “retweet” buttons on Twitter encourage users to create content that will entice others to click these buttons, and make their content spread further. This, in turn, shapes the nature of conversation that occurs on the platform.</p> <p>Similarly, websites use algorithms and design to “<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2018.1476570" target="_blank" rel="noopener">nudge</a>” users in particular directions – such as to buy a product.</p> <p>There is a rich body of research into the ways discourse is shaped by the design of social media platforms, which establishes that every “affordance” a user is given affects the conversation that ends up taking place.</p> <p>This means that beyond the fundamental technological challenges, Twitter must think about the possible unintended consequences of seemingly simple changes – even to the level of a humble edit button. The medium shapes the message, and Twitter must think carefully about what sorts of messages they want their platform to shape.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/181623/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lewis-mitchell-266859" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Lewis Mitchell</a>, Professor of Data Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119" target="_blank" rel="noopener">University of Adelaide</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-an-edit-button-for-twitter-is-not-as-simple-as-it-seems-181623" target="_blank" rel="noopener">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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18 hidden voice memos features you never knew about

<p><strong>Make the most of your voice memo app</strong></p> <p>Your iPhone is packed with productivity tools, but you don’t have to download a dozen apps for your device to become a true time-saver. Apple’s voice memo app alone can add to your productivity, help you keep track of your appointments and reminders, and act as your personal assistant. Use Voice Memos to record conversations, meetings, lectures, and the great idea you had while driving or walking the dog. You can even record a phone call on your iPhone by using the Voice Memos app.</p> <p>The app is easy to locate – you’ll find it in your Utilities folder, though you can move it wherever you’d like, or ask Siri to open it for you. It’s easy to use. It’s available on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Apple computers. And best of all, it’s free. There’s no time limit for recordings (it’s dependent on the internal storage capacity of your device), so you can likely record that entire lecture without worry.</p> <p>Scroll down for tips that take you beyond voice memo recording and to all of the truly cool things you can do with a voice memo app.</p> <p><strong>Record a voice memo</strong></p> <p>There are a whole host of reasons you might make good use of a voice memo app. Maybe your boss loves to have walking meetings, but you’re not quite skilled at walking, note-taking… and not running into a tree. Maybe you’re meeting colleagues for a brainstorming dinner and want to keep track of everyone’s ideas. Or maybe you need a quick way to take down a brilliant idea – for a business, a birthday gift, you name it – during your commute.</p> <p>It’s incredibly easy to use your iPhone’s Voice Memos app. (Just be sure to ask the other person’s permission first!) Here’s how:</p> <p>Open the Voice Memos app.</p> <p>To start recording, tap the red record button.</p> <p>Boom! You’re recording your conversation.</p> <p><strong>Pause a recording</strong></p> <p>While you may often record straight through without breaks, there are times when you may want to pause a recording. For instance, during an important lunch meeting with colleagues, you really don’t need to keep track of your coworkers ordering coffee at the care. This iPhone trick will also be helpful during conversations with long pauses or when you’re put on hold. Here’s how to do it:</p> <p>While recording, tap or swipe up on the recording field at the bottom of your screen to bring it into full-screen view.</p> <p>Tap the pause symbol to temporarily stop recording.</p> <p>Tap Resume to continue.</p> <p><strong>Stop a recording</strong></p> <p>When you’re done recording your conversation, remember to actually stop the recording or you’ll be stuck with a really long voice memo that eats into your storage space. Here’s how to do it:</p> <ul> <li><strong>In partial-screen view</strong>: Hit the red square.</li> <li><strong>In full-screen view</strong>: Tap the pause button, then hit the word Done.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Delete a recording</strong></p> <p>Not every recording is worth saving. If you decide you don’t need yours, it’s easy to delete. Here’s how to do that:</p> <p>In your All Recordings list, find the voice memo you’d like to delete.</p> <p>Select the recording to expand the field.</p> <p>Tap the trash can.</p> <p><strong>Recover a recently deleted recording</strong></p> <p>If you delete the wrong file, don’t panic. Just as you can recover deleted photos, you can recover recently deleted recordings. Just follow the steps below.</p> <p>Navigate to the main Voice Memos screen.</p> <p>Tap Recently Deleted.</p> <p>Tap the recording you’d like to restore.</p> <p>Select Recover to restore your recording.</p> <p>To recover multiple deleted voice memos, select Edit in the upper-right corner. Tap all of the recordings you’d like to restore, then select Recover All from the lower left-hand corner.</p> <p>One thing to bear in mind: you only have about 30 days to recover deleted files.</p> <p><strong>Save a recording in the Voice Memos app</strong></p> <p>If you’re satisfied with your recording, you’ll want to save it. Thankfully, a voice memo on iPhone saves automatically. As soon as you stop a recording, it’ll save in the Voice Memos app and appear in your All Recordings list. Yep, it’s actually as simple as that.</p> <p><strong>Rename your recording</strong></p> <p>Be sure to give your file a new name so you’ll be able to find it easily in the future. Here’s how to do that:</p> <p>Tap the recording.</p> <p>Tap on the name.</p> <p>Type your new file name.</p> <p><strong>Save a recording to an iCloud folder</strong></p> <p>While Voice Memos automatically saves a recording, you may want to save it to iCloud for extra security – or so you can access it from any device. By following the steps below, you’ll ensure your voice memo remains in the app and in your chosen folder.</p> <p>Tap the recording you want to move.</p> <p>Look for a circle with three dots in it. Tap it.</p> <p>Select Save to Files from the list below.</p> <p>Tap the folder you’d like to add it to.</p> <p>To create a new iCloud folder, tap the folder icon in the top right corner.</p> <p><strong>Organise recordings in Voice Memos folders</strong></p> <p>If you use the voice memo app often, you may want to organise your recordings to make them easier to find, just as you would organise your apps for easier access. You can group them in folders, which you’ll find on the main Voice Memos screen.</p> <p>Here’s how to move a voice memo to a folder:</p> <p>Tap the recording you want to move.</p> <p>Tap the circle with three dots in it (to the right of the recording’s name).</p> <p>Select Move to Folder from the list below.</p> <p>Tap on the folder you want your recording to appear in.</p> <p>To create a new folder, tap the folder icon in the lower right-hand corner. Give the folder a name, then select Save. Select that folder to save your recording there.</p> <p><strong>Crop a recording</strong></p> <p>There are many reasons why you might want to crop your new file. Musicians often use the Voice Memos app and then crop out the bits they don’t want to share. One thing to keep in mind: While the crop icon looks the same as in Voice Memos as it does in other apps, the function is actually called Trim.</p> <p>Navigate to your All Recordings list.</p> <p>Tap the voice memo you want to crop.</p> <p>Tap the button to the right of your recording that looks like three small dots in a circle.</p> <p>Select the Edit Recording option.</p> <p>Tap the crop tool at the top right of the file.</p> <p>Drag the yellow trim handles until the section you want to keep is highlighted in yellow and the section you want to crop is in white.</p> <p>Be sure to check that you’re keeping the part you want. Tap the play button to listen.</p> <p>Click the Trim button to crop everything except the section highlighted in yellow.</p> <p>Tap save and then Done, and you’re good to go.</p> <p>You can also delete an entire portion of your recording. With the section selected (it’ll be yellow), tap the Delete button. Remember, Trim removes everything except the yellow segment, while Delete removes the yellow segment.</p> <p><strong>Replace sections of a recording</strong></p> <p>If you mumbled or coughed in the middle of an important voice memo, fear not! It’s really easy to record over the bits you don’t like.</p> <p>Go to your All Recordings list.</p> <p>Tap the recording you want to fix.</p> <p>Tap the button to the right of your recording that looks like three small dots in a circle.</p> <p>Select Edit Recording.</p> <p>Move your finger over the waveform (the lines that visually represent your recording) until you’re in the section of your recording you want to replace.</p> <p>Tap the red Replace button to start recording. The waveform will turn red while you record.</p> <p>Tap the pause button when you’re done.</p> <p>Check your recording by hitting the play button. If you’re satisfied, tap Done to save your changes.</p> <p>The great news: You can do this in as many places as you like to make sure you’re happy with the entire recording.</p> <p><strong>Speed up or slow down a recording</strong></p> <p>If a fast or slow talker is making your voice memo sound weird, or if you need to speed up or slow down a section of music, you can do that easily with the voice memo app.</p> <p>Navigate to your All Recordings list.</p> <p>Tap the audio file you want to speed up or slow down.</p> <p>You’ll see an icon in the bottom left corner that looks like a synthesizer, or three lines with buttons. Tap the icon.</p> <p>Under Playback Speed, move the horizontal slider to the left (toward the tortoise icon) to slow down the playback speed of your recording. Move it to the right (toward the hare) to speed up your recording.</p> <p>Tap the X at the top right of the box to close the screen.</p> <p>Press play on your recording to test the new speed.</p> <p>If you’re not happy with the way it sounds, return to the Playback Speed function and select the blue Reset option.</p> <p>When you’re happy with the recording, tap the X to close the screen again.</p> <p><strong>Automatically skip silences in a recording</strong></p> <p>Unlike in real life, it’s really easy to remove awkward silences from recordings in your Voice Memos app.</p> <p>Tap the audio file you want to edit.</p> <p>Tap the icon in the lower-left corner that looks like a synthesiser (three stacked lines, each with a knob).</p> <p>Toggle on the Skip Silence button.</p> <p>Tap the X icon.</p> <p>Tap the play button to listen to the recording and see if you like the way it sounds.</p> <p><strong>Enhance a recording</strong></p> <p>While writing this article, I was typing in the background. I also coughed quite a few times, which didn’t sound amazing on my recording. If you have street noises or other background sounds on your voice memo or just want to create a more professional recording, you can easily enhance it, just as I did.</p> <p>Tap the audio file you want to edit.</p> <p>Tap the icon in the lower-left corner that looks like a synthesiser (three stacked lines, each with a knob).</p> <p>Toggle on the Enhance Recording button.</p> <p>Tap the X icon.</p> <p>Tap the play button to listen to the recording and see if you like the way it sounds.</p> <p><strong>Duplicate a recording</strong></p> <p>Before you edit any recording, you probably should make a backup. That way, if you end up hating your edits, you always have a fresh copy of the original. It’s also helpful if you want to compare the original with the edits.</p> <p>Go to your All Recordings list.</p> <p>Tap the recording you want to duplicate.</p> <p>Tap the button to the right of your recording that looks like three small dots inside a circle.</p> <p>Select Duplicate from the list.</p> <p>The copy of your recording will appear directly below the original with the word “copy” added to the file name. Tap the file to change the file name.</p> <p><strong>Copy a recording</strong></p> <p>I like to keep copies of all my important files in several places. If a file becomes corrupted, I can head to my backup and work from there. Here’s how to copy a recording in your iPhone Voice Memos app.</p> <p>Go to your All Recordings list.</p> <p>Tap the recording you want to copy.</p> <p>Tap the button to the right of your recording that looks like three small dots in a circle.</p> <p>Select Copy from the list.</p> <p>From there, you can paste the voice memo into an email or text to send to yourself (or someone else) as a backup.</p> <p><strong>Share a recording</strong></p> <p>There are many reasons why you might want to share your recording. Maybe your colleagues want a copy of that daylong meeting you recorded or you’re sending your audio notes to someone for transcription. The Voice Memos app makes sharing your file super simple; just follow the steps below.</p> <p>Navigate to your All Recordings list.</p> <p>Tap the file you want to share.</p> <p>Tap the button to the right of your recording that looks like three small dots in a circle.</p> <p>Select Share from the options below.</p> <p>Select how you’d like to share this file, such as via email, text, or AirDrop.</p> <p><strong>Record a phone call</strong></p> <p>Maybe you’re speaking with a lawyer and want to catch every last detail. Or maybe you’re interviewing someone. Whatever your reason, it’s helpful to know how to record a phone conversation. Apple doesn’t make that easy – you can’t record a call in Voice Memos while you’re on your phone. But there’s a workaround: Use two devices.</p> <p>Open the Voice Memos app on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac computer.</p> <p>Start recording by tapping the red record button.</p> <p>Make your phone call from a different phone. Be sure to place the call on speaker so Voice Memos captures both sides of the conversation.</p> <p>When your call is over, hang up the phone and stop recording.</p> <p><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-cf7fa5ea-7fff-554b-232e-079b0ae53d8c">Written by Rachel Weingarten. This article first appeared in <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/true-stories-lifestyle/science-technology/18-hidden-voice-memos-features-you-never-knew-about" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader’s Digest</a>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, <a href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here’s our best subscription offer.</a></span></em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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Could your phone replace your RAT?

<p dir="ltr">A new smartphone app could replace Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) by detecting whether you have COVID-19 or not based on one telling symptom - the sound of your cough.</p> <p dir="ltr">ResApp, a digital health company based in Brisbane, <a href="https://www.resapphealth.com.au/resapp-announces-positive-results-for-a-new-novel-smartphone-based-covid-19-screening-test/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announced</a> in late March that its new screening test, which you take with your smartphone, had successfully detected the virus in 92 percent of people who were infected.</p> <p dir="ltr">The promising results come from the company’s pilot clinical trial of its machine learning technology, which analysed coughing sounds from 741 patients, including 446 who were confirmed to be infected with Covid using RATs.</p> <p dir="ltr">It was also found that the technology could correctly identify eighty percent of those who didn’t have the virus as being negative.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, the technology will still need to be tested in double-blind clinical trials and successfully pass through the process for regulatory approval before it hits the shelves, per <em><a href="https://7news.com.au/lifestyle/health-wellbeing/could-ai-replace-the-rat-covid-patients-are-coughing-into-their-smartphones-to-find-out-c-6235219" target="_blank" rel="noopener">7News</a></em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Dr Lucy Morgan, the Chair of the Lung Foundation Australia and a professor of respiratory medicine, told 7News the technology could be a promising alternative to RATs.</p> <p dir="ltr">“What’s so exciting about this pilot project, a relatively small project, is that this app has been able to predict that a cough is due to COVID-19 at a very, very high rate,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">But, Dr Morgan stressed that it still wouldn’t replace the technology currently used to diagnose COVID-19.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It’s not a diagnosis. It’s not a blood test, it’s not a PCR test, it’s not a RAT test. It’s coughing into your phone and predicting,” she explained.</p> <p dir="ltr">This isn’t the first time scientists have turned to our smartphones to diagnose Covid either.</p> <p dir="ltr">In January, a <a href="https://oversixty.com.au/entertainment/technology/what-if-your-phone-could-tell-you-if-you-had-covid" target="_blank" rel="noopener">team of US researchers</a> published a paper detailing how they developed an inexpensive testing kit. Using a similar method to PCR tests to make copies of DNA in a saliva sample, the test then uses your smartphone camera and an app to detect whether any DNA from the virus is present.</p> <p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have been training their own Artificial Intelligence (AI) using a database of over 5000 forced coughs. They <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34812418/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">found</a> that over 98 percent of Covid-positive samples were correctly identified by the AI, and that more than 94 percent of those without Covid were correctly identified as being Covid-negative (known as specificity). </p> <p dir="ltr">Their findings were even more promising with asymptomatic subjects, with 100 percent of Covid-positive subjects being correctly identified (known as sensitivity).</p> <p dir="ltr">In comparison, the trial of the new ResApp technology used significantly fewer subjects, but Dr Morgan said there was no reason the results could be replicated in a trial with a larger sample size.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, she noted that it’s unknown whether having underlying illnesses, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), could affect how sensitive the test actually is.</p> <p dir="ltr">“How do we know the cough for a person who has background lung disease is going to be as sensitively detected to have Covid as someone who was previously well and then develops a cough?” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though this and other questions are still unanswered, the numerous tests required before the technology can be approved are sure to resolve at least some.</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-89aac1cb-7fff-1d9a-0ef5-835ab6b0a2d4"></span></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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5 things to know about foundation models and the next generation of AI

<p>If you’ve seen photos of <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/06/technology/openai-images-dall-e.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a teapot shaped like an avocado</a> or read a well-written article that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/sep/08/robot-wrote-this-article-gpt-3" target="_blank" rel="noopener">veers off on slightly weird tangents</a>, you may have been exposed to a new trend in artificial intelligence (AI).</p> <p>Machine learning systems called <a href="https://openai.com/dall-e-2/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">DALL-E</a>, <a href="https://openai.com/blog/gpt-3-edit-insert/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">GPT</a> and <a href="https://ai.googleblog.com/2022/04/pathways-language-model-palm-scaling-to.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">PaLM</a> are making a splash with their incredible ability to generate creative work.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">DALL·E 2 is here! It can generate images from text, like "teddy bears working on new AI research on the moon in the 1980s".</p> <p>It's so fun, and sometimes beautiful.<a href="https://t.co/XZmh6WkMAS">https://t.co/XZmh6WkMAS</a> <a href="https://t.co/3zOu30IqCZ">pic.twitter.com/3zOu30IqCZ</a></p> <p>— Sam Altman (@sama) <a href="https://twitter.com/sama/status/1511715302265942024?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 6, 2022</a></p></blockquote> <p>These systems are known as “foundation models” and are not all hype and party tricks. So how does this new approach to AI work? And will it be the end of human creativity and the start of a deep-fake nightmare?</p> <p><strong>1. What are foundation models?</strong></p> <p><a href="https://arxiv.org/abs/2108.07258" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Foundation models</a> work by training a single huge system on large amounts of general data, then adapting the system to new problems. Earlier models tended to start from scratch for each new problem.</p> <p>DALL-E 2, for example, was trained to match pictures (such as a photo of a pet cat) with the caption (“Mr. Fuzzyboots the tabby cat is relaxing in the sun”) by scanning hundreds of millions of examples. Once trained, this model knows what cats (and other things) look like in pictures.</p> <p>But the model can also be used for many other interesting AI tasks, such as generating new images from a caption alone (“Show me a koala dunking a basketball”) or editing images based on written instructions (“Make it look like this monkey is paying taxes”).</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Our newest system DALL·E 2 can create realistic images and art from a description in natural language. See it here: <a href="https://t.co/Kmjko82YO5">https://t.co/Kmjko82YO5</a> <a href="https://t.co/QEh9kWUE8A">pic.twitter.com/QEh9kWUE8A</a></p> <p>— OpenAI (@OpenAI) <a href="https://twitter.com/OpenAI/status/1511707245536428034?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 6, 2022</a></p></blockquote> <p><strong>2. How do they work?</strong></p> <p>Foundation models run on “<a href="https://theconversation.com/what-is-a-neural-network-a-computer-scientist-explains-151897" target="_blank" rel="noopener">deep neural networks</a>”, which are loosely inspired by how the brain works. These involve sophisticated mathematics and a huge amount of computing power, but they boil down to a very sophisticated type of pattern matching.</p> <p>For example, by looking at millions of example images, a deep neural network can associate the word “cat” with patterns of pixels that often appear in images of cats – like soft, fuzzy, hairy blobs of texture. The more examples the model sees (the more data it is shown), and the bigger the model (the more “layers” or “depth” it has), the more complex these patterns and correlations can be.</p> <p>Foundation models are, in one sense, just an extension of the “deep learning” paradigm that has dominated AI research for the past decade. However, they exhibit un-programmed or “emergent” behaviours that can be both surprising and novel.</p> <p>For example, Google’s PaLM language model seems to be able to produce explanations for complicated metaphors and jokes. This goes beyond simply <a href="https://arxiv.org/abs/2204.02311" target="_blank" rel="noopener">imitating the types of data it was originally trained to process</a>.</p> <figure class="align-center "><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/457594/original/file-20220412-10836-vaj8rb.gif?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/457594/original/file-20220412-10836-vaj8rb.gif?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=333&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/457594/original/file-20220412-10836-vaj8rb.gif?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=333&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/457594/original/file-20220412-10836-vaj8rb.gif?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=333&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/457594/original/file-20220412-10836-vaj8rb.gif?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=418&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/457594/original/file-20220412-10836-vaj8rb.gif?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=418&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/457594/original/file-20220412-10836-vaj8rb.gif?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=418&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="A user interacting with the PaLM language model by typing questions. The AI system responds by typing back answers." /><figcaption><span class="caption">The PaLM language model can answer complicated questions.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://ai.googleblog.com/2022/04/pathways-language-model-palm-scaling-to.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google AI</a></span></figcaption></figure> <p><strong>3. Access is limited – for now</strong></p> <p>The sheer scale of these AI systems is difficult to think about. PaLM has <em>540 billion</em> parameters, meaning even if everyone on the planet memorised 50 numbers, we still wouldn’t have enough storage to reproduce the model.</p> <p>The models are so enormous that training them requires massive amounts of computational and other resources. One estimate put the cost of training OpenAI’s language model GPT-3 at <a href="https://lambdalabs.com/blog/gpt-3/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">around US$5 million</a>.</p> <p>As a result, only huge tech companies such as OpenAI, Google and Baidu can afford to build foundation models at the moment. These companies limit who can access the systems, which makes economic sense.</p> <p>Usage restrictions may give us some comfort these systems won’t be used for nefarious purposes (such as generating fake news or defamatory content) any time soon. But this also means independent researchers are unable to interrogate these systems and share the results in an open and accountable way. So we don’t yet know the full implications of their use.</p> <p><strong>4. What will these models mean for ‘creative’ industries?</strong></p> <p>More foundation models will be produced in coming years. Smaller models are already being published in <a href="https://openai.com/blog/gpt-2-1-5b-release/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">open-source forms</a>, tech companies are starting to <a href="https://openai.com/blog/openai-api/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">experiment with licensing and commercialising these tools</a> and AI researchers are working hard to make the technology more efficient and accessible.</p> <p>The remarkable creativity shown by models such as PaLM and DALL-E 2 demonstrates that creative professional jobs could be impacted by this technology sooner than initially expected.</p> <p>Traditional wisdom always said robots would displace “blue collar” jobs first. “White collar” work was meant to be relatively safe from automation – especially professional work that required creativity and training.</p> <p>Deep learning AI models already exhibit super-human accuracy in tasks like <a href="https://theconversation.com/ai-could-be-our-radiologists-of-the-future-amid-a-healthcare-staff-crisis-120631" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reviewing x-rays</a> and <a href="https://www.macularsociety.org/about/media/news/breakthrough-artificial-intelligence-ai-helps-detect-dry-amd/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">detecting the eye condition macular degeneration</a>. Foundation models may soon provide cheap, “good enough” creativity in fields such as advertising, copywriting, stock imagery or graphic design.</p> <p>The future of professional and creative work could look a little different than we expected.</p> <p><strong>5. What this means for legal evidence, news and media</strong></p> <p>Foundation models will inevitably <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-08-01/historic-decision-allows-ai-to-be-recognised-as-an-inventor/100339264" target="_blank" rel="noopener">affect the law</a> in areas such as intellectual property and evidence, because we won’t be able to assume <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/us-copyright-office-rules-ai-art-cant-be-copyrighted-180979808/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">creative content is the result of human activity</a>.</p> <p>We will also have to confront the challenge of disinformation and misinformation generated by these systems. We already face enormous problems with disinformation, as we are seeing in the <a href="https://theconversation.com/fake-viral-footage-is-spreading-alongside-the-real-horror-in-ukraine-here-are-5-ways-to-spot-it-177921" target="_blank" rel="noopener">unfolding Russian invasion of Ukraine</a> and the nascent problem of <a href="https://theconversation.com/3-2-billion-images-and-720-000-hours-of-video-are-shared-online-daily-can-you-sort-real-from-fake-148630" target="_blank" rel="noopener">deep fake</a> images and video, but foundation models are poised to super-charge these challenges.</p> <p><strong>Time to prepare</strong></p> <p>As researchers who <a href="https://www.admscentre.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">study the the effects of AI on society</a>, we think foundation models will bring about huge transformations. They are tightly controlled (for now), so we probably have a little time to understand their implications before they become a huge issue.</p> <p>The genie isn’t quite out of the bottle yet, but foundation models are a very big bottle – and inside there is a very clever genie.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/181150/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/aaron-j-snoswell-1331146" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Aaron J. Snoswell</a>, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Computational Law &amp; AI Accountability, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Queensland University of Technology</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dan-hunter-1336925" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Dan Hunter</a>, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Law, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Queensland University of Technology</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/robots-are-creating-images-and-telling-jokes-5-things-to-know-about-foundation-models-and-the-next-generation-of-ai-181150" target="_blank" rel="noopener">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: OpenAI</em></p>

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A driverless car pulled over by police goes ‘on the lam’

<p dir="ltr">Though autonomous cars might be the future, it seems that won’t become reality for some time after a video of a driverless car being pulled over by police before quickly driving off again went viral online.</p> <p dir="ltr">The video, posted to Twitter and Reddit, shows police officers from the San Francisco Police Department pulling over a self-driving car from the taxi company, Cruise.</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-4ea97201-7fff-4db7-2b1c-95b850d91fd3"></span></p> <p dir="ltr">Cruise has been operating the taxis in San Francisco since late 2021, with Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt enjoying the first driverless taxi ride, while the general public have only been able to hail them since early 2022.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Welcome to the future. Cop pulls over driverless car (because no lights?) Then Cruise goes on the lamb. (via <a href="https://t.co/mtmsIeOAUP">https://t.co/mtmsIeOAUP</a>) <a href="https://t.co/ecQ5xXuSnS">pic.twitter.com/ecQ5xXuSnS</a></p> <p>— Seth Weintraub (@llsethj) <a href="https://twitter.com/llsethj/status/1512960943805841410?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 10, 2022</a></p></blockquote> <p dir="ltr">In the clip, police put their lights on to signal to the car to pull over at a set of traffic lights. It stops just before the lights, and one of the officers walks to the driver side window and looks to see if anyone is inside.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Ain’t nobody in it,” someone can be heard calling to the police.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, as the officer walks back to his car the Cruise vehicle drives off, before stopping and turning on its hazard lights a short distance away.</p> <p dir="ltr">This time, three officers jump out of the car and stand around the vehicle until the video ends.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though it’s initially unclear why the Cruise car was pulled over in the first place, the comments reveal that the car didn’t have its headlights on while driving at night.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is claimed that Cruise employees were aware of the incident as it was happening and were the ones to instruct the car to move forward, according to <em><a href="https://www.dmarge.com/2022/04/driverless-car-police.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">DMarge</a></em>.</p> <p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-724fe448-7fff-6b72-4ccd-0c4000943848"></span></p> <p dir="ltr">Cruise later commented on the clip, confirming that one of the officers contacted Cruise personnel and that the company had a dedicated phone number for officers to call.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Chiming in with more details: our AV yielded to the police vehicle, then pulled over to the nearest safe location for the traffic stop, as intended. An officer contacted Cruise personnel and no citation was issued.</p> <p>— cruise (@Cruise) <a href="https://twitter.com/Cruise/status/1513181598140796936?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 10, 2022</a></p></blockquote> <p dir="ltr">Currently, Cruise offers its autonomous vehicle services between 11pm and 5am in certain parts of the city, when traffic is much calmer according to <em><a href="https://mashable.com/article/cruise-driverless-rides-san-francisco-public" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Mashable</a></em>. Those interested in taking a driverless ride can sign up to be on the <a href="https://www.getcruise.com/ridersignup" target="_blank" rel="noopener">waitlist</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-45e5a6fe-7fff-7edf-da4c-56f29660c088"></span></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Twitter</em></p>

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Guns, tanks and Twitter: how Russia and Ukraine are using social media as the war drags on

<p>Social media has become a primary source of information for news-hungry audiences around the world trying to make sense of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.</p> <p>At the same time, it’s being used by the governments of Russia and Ukraine to set the agenda for wider media reporting.</p> <p>Official Russian government accounts <a href="https://theconversation.com/russian-government-accounts-are-using-a-twitter-loophole-to-spread-disinformation-178001" target="_blank" rel="noopener">have been found</a> to be amplifying pro-Russia disinformation on Twitter. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government has taken to the platform to appeal to its two million followers for support.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Hard to find words... The killing of civilians in Bucha by Russian war criminals is appalling beyond any measure.</p> <p>Help us stop Russia. Demand your governments to act now:</p> <p>- Provide Ukraine with all weapons we need<br />- More tough sanctions on Russia <br />- Cut all trade ties with them <a href="https://t.co/pYLbMALQfp">pic.twitter.com/pYLbMALQfp</a></p> <p>— Ukraine / Україна (@Ukraine) <a href="https://twitter.com/Ukraine/status/1511106521345798153?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 4, 2022</a></p></blockquote> <p>Information warfare is no longer an additional arm of strategy, but a parallel component of <a href="https://press.armywarcollege.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2501&amp;context=parameters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">military campaigns</a>. The rise of social media has made it easier than ever before to see how states use mass communication as a weapon.</p> <p><strong>Putting social media in the mix</strong></p> <p>Mass communication began as political communication intended to <a href="https://gutenberg.ca/ebooks/innis-empire/innis-empire-00-h.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">establish and control empires</a>.</p> <p>Whether it was Darius the Great imposing his image on buildings and coins to help control the Persian Empire; Henry VIII’s inspired <a href="https://royalcentral.co.uk/interests/history/royal-portraiture-propaganda-painting-52781/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">use of portraiture</a>, or the well-documented use of <a href="https://www.routledge.com/Film--Radio-Propaganda-in-World-War-II/Short/p/book/9781032077116" target="_blank" rel="noopener">radio and film in World War II</a> – media technologies have long been used to spread political ideas.</p> <p>Social media has added another element to the mix, and brought immediacy to strategic political communication.</p> <p>In asymmetric conflicts (such as the one we’re seeing now in Ukraine), a successful social media account can be a useful weapon against an adversary with many guns and tanks.</p> <p>The local uprisings in the 2010 Arab Spring, especially in Egypt and Tunisia, were among the first campaigns where <a href="https://www.google.com.au/books/edition/War_in_140_Characters/s3mZDgAAQBAJ?hl=en&amp;gbpv=1&amp;dq=social+media+and+The+Arab+Spring+asymmetric+warfare&amp;pg=PT5&amp;printsec=frontcover" target="_blank" rel="noopener">social media played a pivotal role</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2595096" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Advocates of democracy</a> used Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to maintain networks of communication and openly criticised their governments for the world to see.</p> <p>It didn’t take long for governments to realise the power of social media. And they responded both by restricting access to social media as well as using it themselves.</p> <p>Social media <em>alone</em> may <a href="https://hcommons.org/deposits/item/hc:35365/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">not be capable of instigating</a> widespread change, but it can undoubtedly play a role.</p> <p><strong>Information warfare</strong></p> <p>Tension between Russia and Ukraine has a long history, and was <a href="https://www.ceeol.com/search/book-detail?id=661250" target="_blank" rel="noopener">highly charged on social media</a> well before the latest invasion.</p> <p>Pro-Russian accounts have circulated disinformation about Russia’s role in the Donetsk region since before 2014, <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0163443716686672?casa_token=XaOHM4qJ8W8AAAAA:ikaBQXH8mEVeQDgCiHs78F-RsBKNMzP02-Wk6TXzTbKfcxPENb46k3NQLMz1U9n5ZZ5zbnAcnXQ" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fuelling confusion</a> and destabilisation, and assisting Russia’s takeover. This was in fact a critical element of Russia’s “<a href="http://connections-qj.org/article/defining-concept-hybrid-warfare-based-analysis-russias-aggression-against-ukraine" target="_blank" rel="noopener">hybrid warfare</a>” approach.</p> <p>Russia’s strategic actions, and counter actions by Ukraine, have been studied widely by researchers. Unsurprisingly, the research has overwhelmingly found each side to be framing the conflict in <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1750635217702539" target="_blank" rel="noopener">very different, and divergent</a> ways.</p> <p>Research has also found social media can sustain, and even aggravate, the hostility between <a href="https://ccdcoe.org/uploads/2018/10/Ch12_CyberWarinPerspective_Lange_Svetoka.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Ukrainians and Russians online</a>.</p> <p>For example, after Malaysian Airline flight MH17 was shot down by Russia over Ukraine, an <a href="https://academic.oup.com/ia/article/94/5/975/5092080?login=true" target="_blank" rel="noopener">analysis of 950,000 Twitter posts</a> found a plethora of competing claims online, creating a struggle for truth which continues today.</p> <p>As early as 2014, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Philip Breedlove, <a href="https://www.stripes.com/news/saceur-allies-must-prepare-for-russia-hybrid-war-1.301464" target="_blank" rel="noopener">described</a> the Russian communication strategy in Ukraine as “the most amazing information warfare <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/blitzkrieg" target="_blank" rel="noopener">blitzkrieg</a> we have ever seen in the history of information warfare”.</p> <p>These efforts have escalated since Russia’s recent expansion of its invasion into Ukrainian territory. And with so much noise, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for users to make sense of the deluge of contradictory, emotive and (often) difficult-to-verify information.</p> <p>It’s even more difficult when the tone of posts changes quickly.</p> <p>The Ukraine government’s Twitter account is a study in contrasts of both content and tone. Set up in more peaceful times, the profile cheerily states: “Yes, this is the official Twitter account of Ukraine. Nice pics: #BeautifulUkraine Our music: #UkieBeats”.</p> <p>But the account now posts a range of content, images and video related to the war as part of its strategic communication campaign.</p> <p>This has included serious news updates, patriotic allusions to historic events and people, anti-Russian material and – prior to the recent reports of mass deaths – <a href="https://www.ceeol.com/search/chapter-detail?id=661124" target="_blank" rel="noopener">quite a lot of humour</a>.</p> <p><strong>Why use humour?</strong></p> <p>Humour has a long history of being used as an element of communication and <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/13691481211023958" target="_blank" rel="noopener">public diplomacy</a> – <a href="https://compass.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/soc4.12138?casa_token=ci0wS1giS6AAAAAA%3AkH20TMNG-ln9Q8wdqVsA2ML0NSX4iX3X7FCMkhAdOiBRvQ5LSe1DaEtMxAAQ9HQAgBWHgkHezMGs0Q" target="_blank" rel="noopener">even during wars</a>.</p> <p>For instance, <a href="https://www.berggruen.org/ideas/articles/to-defy-a-dictator-send-in-the-clowns/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">humour was used effectively</a> by the Serbian Otpor resistance movement in its campaign to overthrow dictator Slobodan Milošević at the turn of this century.</p> <p><a href="https://www.socialmediatoday.com/marketing/sarah-snow/2015-07-06/science-behind-what-content-goes-viral" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Humour is particularly effective</a> on social platforms because it produces <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1509/jmr.10.0353?casa_token=U5-C6j_iI7cAAAAA:p3Palq4Swuz34SC7eNukHO6Kb5OeB9TNgucv8magwnP9Q7iWtXx84ih83rZ8fKpbeHGVMH0HrdM" target="_blank" rel="noopener">virality</a>.</p> <p>And in the case of Ukraine’s defence, it displays defiance. After all, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (a former comedian) was famously thrust into the political spotlight thanks to a satirical television production. In it he played the role of a teacher whose secretly-filmed rant about corruption goes viral, leading the character to become President.</p> <p>Zelenskyy’s <a href="https://twitter.com/ZelenskyyUa" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Twitter account</a> is now the most immediate and reliable way for many Ukrainians to get crucial information on the invasion and negotiations between Zelenskyy and other leaders.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Talked to <a href="https://twitter.com/BorisJohnson?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BorisJohnson</a> again. The United Kingdom is our powerful ally. Discussed the defensive support for 🇺🇦, intensification of anti-Russian sanctions and post-war security guarantees. We look forward to the donors' conference for Ukraine.</p> <p>— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) <a href="https://twitter.com/ZelenskyyUa/status/1510336038199300101?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 2, 2022</a></p></blockquote> <p>The thousands of “shares” the posts receive are helping Ukraine’s communication campaign.</p> <p>Zelenskyy’s recent address to the Grammy Awards reinforces that he understands the necessity of remaining visible to the world at this critical point. His speech has produced much support on social media (as well as cries of “propaganda” from Russia’s supporters).</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy made a surprise video appearance at the music industry's star-studded Grammy Awards celebration in Las Vegas and appealed to viewers to support his country ‘in any way you can’ <a href="https://t.co/hwQYnEpLGx">https://t.co/hwQYnEpLGx</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GRAMMYs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GRAMMYs</a> <a href="https://t.co/dKTBCkfEB8">pic.twitter.com/dKTBCkfEB8</a></p> <p>— Reuters (@Reuters) <a href="https://twitter.com/Reuters/status/1510868519323410440?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 4, 2022</a></p></blockquote> <p>Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/KremlinRussia_E" target="_blank" rel="noopener">account</a> has been dormant since March 16.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/180131/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/collette-snowden-5543" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Collette Snowden</a>, Senior Lecturer, School of Communication, International Studies and Languages, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180" target="_blank" rel="noopener">University of South Australia</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/guns-tanks-and-twitter-how-russia-and-ukraine-are-using-social-media-as-the-war-drags-on-180131" target="_blank" rel="noopener">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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