Uber loses licence to operate in London, Google buys HTC talents for $1.1B & CCleaner distributes malware to 2.3M users — Issue #26


🌍 Around the web

Uber stripped of London licence due to lack of corporate responsibility

Just another bad week in Uber’s life.

US ride-hailing company to appeal after Transport for London says it is not a ‘fit and proper’ operator (…) TfL said it had rejected the company’s application to renew its licence because “Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility” in relation to reporting serious criminal offences, obtaining medical certificates and driver background checks. The licensing body also said it was concerned by Uber’s use of Greyball, software that can be used to block regulatory bodies from gaining full access to its app and undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties.

Google signs agreement with HTC, continuing our big bet on hardware

Looks like Google and HTC will work even closer on the flagship Pixel devices.

With this agreement, a team of HTC talent will join Google as part of the hardware organization. These future fellow Googlers are amazing folks we’ve already been working with closely on the Pixel smartphone line, and we’re excited to see what we can do together as one team. The deal also includes a non-exclusive license for HTC intellectual property.

Forget the duopoly, Apple’s anti-tracking moves rattle digital media

The online advertising game is getting harder and harder with adblockers already, Appel’s last move will definitely not help.

Julie Rezek, North American president at ad agency HackerAgency, said Apple’s restrictions on retargeting data could hurt conversions and reduce reach by making it harder for advertisers to find users who fit specific demographics. Two other ad buyers said Apple’s reduction of third-party tracking will make it harder for them to drive sales and that if their ad performance declines, publishers will ultimately suffer since their CPMs will drop due to a reduction in demand.

Snap blocks Al Jazeera in Saudi Arabia to “comply with local laws”

Censorship strikes again.

So, tl;dr, the law enshrines a regime of total state-control of media. Reporters Without Borders ranks Saudi Arabia as 168th in the World Press Freedom Index, noting in a summary of the country that: “Saudi Arabia has no independent media, the authorities tolerate neither political parties, unions, nor human rights groups, and the level of self-censorship is extremely high. The Internet is the only space where freely-reported information and views can circulate, albeit at great risk to its citizen journalists. ”

Facebook’s war on free will

Thought-provoking piece by The Guardian.

We shouldn’t accept Facebook’s self-conception as sincere, either. Facebook is a carefully managed top-down system, not a robust public square. It mimics some of the patterns of conversation, but that’s a surface trait.
In reality, Facebook is a tangle of rules and procedures for sorting information, rules devised by the corporation for the ultimate benefit of the corporation. Facebook is always surveilling users, always auditing them, using them as lab rats in its behavioural experiments. While it creates the impression that it offers choice, in truth Facebook paternalistically nudges users in the direction it deems best for them, which also happens to be the direction that gets them thoroughly addicted. It’s a phoniness that is most obvious in the compressed, historic career of Facebook’s mastermind.

🤖 Technology / AI / Blockchain

CCleaner Hacked to Distribute Malware; Over 2.3 Million Users Infected

That awkward moment the software supposed to defend you puts you at risk.

Security researchers from Cisco Talos discovered that the download servers used by Avast to let users download the application were compromised by some unknown hackers, who replaced the original version of the software with the malicious one and distributed it to millions of users for around a month.
This incident is yet another example of supply chain attack. Earlier this year, update servers of a Ukrainian company called MeDoc were also compromised in the same way to distribute the Petya ransomware, which wreaked havoc worldwide.

It also looks like the malware was designed to target to big technology firms.

According to a predefined list mentioned in the configuration of the C2 server, the attack was designed to find computers inside the networks of the major technology firms and deliver the secondary payload. The target companies included: Google, Microsoft, Cisco, Intel (…) In the database, researchers found a list of nearly 700,000 backdoored machines infected with the malicious version of CCleaner, i.e. the first-stage payload, and a list of at least 20 machines that were infected with the secondary payload to get a deeper foothold on those systems.

Expanding Facebook AI Research to Montreal

By Yann LeCun, Chief AI Scientist

After Google it’s Facebook’s turn to open a research lab in Montreal.

At Facebook, we think artificial intelligence can play a big role in helping bring the world closer together. With that in mind, we’ve been investing in AI research and engineering for many years — and today we’re excited to announce an expansion of those efforts with the opening of a new AI research lab in Montreal.
As part of Facebook AI Research (FAIR), this new team will join more than 100 scientists across Menlo Park, New York, and Paris in working to advance the field of artificial intelligence. The Montreal lab will house research scientists and engineers working on a wide range of ambitious AI research projects, but it will also have a special focus on reinforcement learning and dialog systems.

China orders Bitcoin exchanges in capital city to close

As expected, China’s crackdown on Bitcoin continues and intensifies.

All Bitcoin exchanges in Beijing and Shanghai have been ordered to submit plans for winding down their operations by 20 September (…) Chinese authorities decided to ban digital currencies as part of a plan for reducing the country’s financial risks.
A website set up by the Chinese central bank warned that cryptocurrencies are “increasingly used as a tool in criminal activities such as money laundering, drug trafficking, smuggling, and illegal fundraising”.

H A R V E S T

Such a brilliant project!

HARVEST is a work of critical engineering and computational climate art. It uses wind-energy to mine cryptocurrency, the earnings of which are used as a source of funding for climate-change research.
Taking the form of a 2m wind turbine with environmental sensors, weatherproof computer and 4G uplink, HARVEST ‘feeds’ from two primary symptoms of our changing climate: wind gusts and storms. It does this by transforming wind energy into the electricity required to meet the demanding task of mining cryptocurrency (here Zcash)(…) Rather than filling the digital wallet of the artist, all rewards earned by the HARVEST mining machine are paid out as donations to non-profit climate change research organisations such that they can better study this planetary-scale challenge.

⚙️ Development / Design / DIY projects

Announcing CoffeeScript 2

CoffeeScript 2 is out!

This new release of the CoffeeScript language and compiler aims to bring CoffeeScript into the modern JavaScript era, closing gaps in compatibility with JavaScript while preserving the clean syntax that is CoffeeScript’s hallmark.

Designing Websites for iPhone X

See how the new iPhone X impacts mobile websites design.

Out of the box, Safari displays your existing websites beautifully on the edge-to-edge display of the new iPhone X. Content is automatically inset within the display’s safe area so it is not obscured by the rounded corners, or the device’s sensor housing.

Astro Pi upgrades on the International Space Station

The Astro Pi units on the International Space Station are being upgraded with WiFi, larger SD card storage, and Earth-observation camera filters!

AR.js: Efficient Augmented Reality for the Web — 60fps on mobile!

Very impressive web-based (runs on any browser with WebGL and WebRTC, based on Three.js) Augmented Reality library!

React.js with WordPress as a Backend: WP REST API Example

Learn how to use Wordpress as a headless CMS with our friends from Snipcart!