Google ‘stole my video’, says film-maker Philip Bloom

Image copyright Philip Bloom Image caption Footage filmed of tourists caught up in a snowstorm was among that used by Google Google has enraged a leading film-maker by using his footage in More »

I wish mum’s phone was never invented

Image copyright Jen Adams Beason Mobile phones are bad for us. We know because every day there is a news story telling us so, or at least it can feel like that. More »

Uber ends Arizona driverless car programme

Image copyright Reuters Image caption National Transportation Safety Board investigators have examined the vehicle involved in the crash Uber has pulled the plug on its self-driving car operation in Arizona two months More »

Trump barred from blocking Twitter users by judge

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Mr Trump – seen through a phone – speaks from the Oval Office at the White House US President Donald Trump may not “block” Twitter users More »

Tesla Autopilot: Name deceptive, claim groups

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Tesla cars come with assisted driving technology Two US consumer rights groups have urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Tesla over its marketing of “Autopilot” More »

The gamers you can pay to help you win at Fortnite

A growing number of successful Fortnite gamers are creating a micro-industry by offering their services as in-game bodyguards and coaches to new players. Charging up to £20 an hour they deliver coaching More »

Steam store school-shooting game ‘appalling’

Image copyright Steam A “school-shooting simulator” video game has been described as “appalling” by an anti-gun violence charity. According to its listing on the Steam video game store, the software lets players More »

Sony says PlayStation 4 is in ‘final phase’ of its life cycle

Image copyright SONY INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT Sony’s new CEO John Kodera has announced the PlayStation 4 era could be near an end. Speaking at a company conference, he said the console, released in More »

BMW cars found to contain more than a dozen flaws

Image copyright Keen Lab Image caption The hack attack tests were all carried out in controlled environments BMW’s car computer systems have been found to contain 14 separate flaws, according to a More »

FBI admits over-counting locked iPhones and other mobiles

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Apple has come under pressure to make encrypted iPhones accessible to the FBI The FBI has admitted overestimating the number of seized mobile phones its investigators are More »

Category Archives: Technology

Google ‘stole my video’, says film-maker Philip Bloom

Image copyright
Philip Bloom

Image caption

Footage filmed of tourists caught up in a snowstorm was among that used by Google

Google has enraged a leading film-maker by using his footage in a corporate video that later leaked online.

The technology company used material from more than half a dozen of Philip Bloom’s films to make a provocative presentation about ways it could exploit users’ data in the future.

Mr Bloom makes a living from selling rights to his footage, among other activities.

Google insisted that it took copyright law seriously.

It said that the “thought-experiment” video had been intended to be seen by only a handful of people.

It was made in 2016 by the head of design at X, Google’s research and development division.

Google added that the executive had now been reminded about its strict copyright rules.

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Sarah Seal

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Mr Bloom has worked with Star Wars creator George Lucas among other celebrities

However, despite being aware of Mr Bloom’s claim since last Friday, the technology company declined to say whether it now intended to make a payment.

“My footage is represented online by two major stock-footage companies. And I license it for all sorts of projects and uses, from commercials to broadcast to corporate films,” said Mr Bloom.

“A fair amount of my footage has been licensed for internal use only, so to hear Google not state that they will compensate me for its use is very surprising.

“Google via their YouTube platform are pretty strict when it comes to copyright breaches, so this is rather hypocritical of them and most certainly does not set a good example.

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Philip Bloom

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Footage filmed at Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway was also used in The Selfish Ledger

“They have used 73 seconds of my footage from seven different videos without permission and they know they are in the wrong… so therefore I expect to hear from them regarding compensation.”

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, reported a $12.6bn profit in its last financial year.

Slow-mo snow

The corporate video – titled the Selfish Ledger – had already provoked controversy after The Verge news site published a copy of it last week. The website described it as showing an “unsettling vision of Silicon Valley social engineering”.

This helped bring its existence to Mr Bloom’s attention.

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Getty Images

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The X laboratory is the division behind Google’s Loon balloon trials and helped create its self-drive cars

Mr Bloom – a former camera operator for the BBC, Sky and CNN – has a high profile on social media, where he offers film-making tips.

His YouTube channel has more than 168,000 subscribers and may have been the source for at least some of the copied footage, which included slow-motion video of a snowstorm in New York.

One US-based intellectual property expert said Google might find it hard to defend its behaviour, if the matter were to come to court.

“It just looks bad from a PR perspective for a big company that deals with copyrighted material every second of every day not to respect someone else’s rights,” said Jennifer Van Doren, from the law firm Morning Star.

“Even if the video was for internal use, the film-maker still has the right to stop its use or require payment to prevent it being copyright infringement.”

US law does allow a “fair use” defence to permit unlicensed use of video in some circumstances, but Ms Van Doren said it was typically limited to education, news reporting and criticism of the material itself.

Common problem

It is not unusual for the media industry to avoid copyright payments where they are due.

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Philip Bloom

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Footage Mr Bloom filmed to promote the charity Shelter UK was also used

Film editors, for example, commonly use soundtracks lifted from other films without permission until their own scores are ready, and these can sometimes be played to test audiences.

Mr Bloom has previously complained of his footage being “nicked all the time”, including one instance when an online reviewer had used his images in a title sequence used for multiple videos.

But Google has long faced accusations of failing to do enough to respect others’ intellectual property – whether it be scanning books, presenting others’ photos or “enabling piracy”.

And Mr Bloom has signalled he intends to chase the matter up in this instance.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionWATCH: Mr Bloom tested a variety of drones for the BBC in 2016

“This is a good opportunity for people to realise that you can’t just download someone’s content from [YouTube] without permission or licensing – even if you own the company like Google do,” he said.

I wish mum’s phone was never invented

Image copyright
Jen Adams Beason

Mobile phones are bad for us. We know because every day there is a news story telling us so, or at least it can feel like that.

But no-one ever actually puts their phone down after hearing these reports, right?

What if children told you exactly how your WhatsApping, Instagramming, emailing and news-reading makes them feel?

“I hate my mum’s phone and I wish she never had one,” is what one primary school child wrote in a class assignment.

American school teacher Jen Adams Beason posted the comment on Facebook, and revealed that four out of 21 of her students said they wished mobile phones had never been invented.

Ms Beason, who lives in Louisiana, also posted a picture of the second grade (ages seven to eight) pupil’s class work after she asked them to describe something they wish had never been created.

“I would say that I don’t like the phone,” one child wrote.

“I don’t like the phone because my parents are on their phone every day. A phone is sometimes a really bad habit.”

The student completed the work with a drawing of a mobile phone with a cross through it and a large sad face saying “I hate it”.

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The picture was posted last Friday and has been shared almost 170,000 times since, including by shocked parents who are stopping to think twice about their technology habits.

“Wow. Out of the mouths of babes! We are all guilty!” responded one user, Tracy Jenkins.

“Strong words for a second grader! Listen parents,” added Sylvia Burton.

Another wrote, “That is so sad and convicting. Great reminder for us all to put those phones down and engage with our kids more.”

Other teachers also joined the discussion to add their own experience of children’s reaction to their parents’ internet use.

“We had a class discussion about Facebook and every single one of the students said their parents spend more time on Facebook then they do talking to their child. It was very eye opening for me,” commented Abbey Fauntleroy.

Some parents offered their personal experience of trying to address the problem.

Beau Stermer wrote that he has seen his two-year-old son reacting negatively to his use of his mobile phone: “I’ve noticed if he and I are playing and my phone rings for something at work, he has nothing to do with me after I get off the phone.

“It kills me. I have made an agreement with myself that if I am playing with him everything else can wait.”

However, one mum pointed out that her teenagers were just as bad, often choosing their phone over family time.

A survey carried out in the US in 2017 reported that half of parents surveyed found that using technology disrupted interactions with their child three or more times a day, a phenomenon named “technoference”.

Uber ends Arizona driverless car programme

Image copyright
Reuters

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National Transportation Safety Board investigators have examined the vehicle involved in the crash

Uber has pulled the plug on its self-driving car operation in Arizona two months after a pedestrian was killed in an accident involving one of its cars.

However, the ride-hailing company said it hopes to resume self-driving tests in Pennsylvania this summer.

The firm said: “We’re committed to self-driving technology, and we look forward to returning to public roads in the near future.”

It said it wanted to focus tests on the states where its engineers work.

Uber, best known for its taxi app, began testing its first self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2016, gradually expanding to other places, including Arizona, San Francisco, California and Toronto.

It halted all those operations in March after the crash, which sparked debate about the readiness and safety of driverless car technology.

The firm is also conducting a “top-to-bottom safety review” of its self-driving programme, including software and training.

Uber hopes to resume tests this summer in Pittsburgh after federal officials conclude their investigation of the accident.

After that, it will look at other locations.

About 300 workers for the firm’s self-driving programme in Arizona will lose their jobs. The more than 500 employees of its traditional taxi service in Arizona are not affected.

Arizona’s governor, who had championed driverless cars, ordered the company to stay off the road amid an outcry over the accident.

Trump barred from blocking Twitter users by judge

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Getty Images

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Mr Trump – seen through a phone – speaks from the Oval Office at the White House

US President Donald Trump may not “block” Twitter users from viewing his online profile due to their political beliefs, a judge in New York has ruled.

District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan said that blocking access to his @realDonaldTrump account would be a violation of the right to free speech.

The lawsuit against Mr Trump and other White House officials stems from his decision to bar several online critics.

The White House has yet to comment on the judge’s ruling.

The case was brought by The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on behalf of seven Twitter users who had been blocked by Mr Trump for criticising him or mocking him online.

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@realDonaldTrump/Twitter

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Mr Trump’s Twitter account has steadily grown since taking over the US presidency

On Wednesday the judge agreed with their argument that the social media platform qualifies as a “designated public forum” granted to all US citizens.

“This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, ‘block’ a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the President of the United States,” the judge said in her opinion.

“The answer to both questions is no.”

The judge rejected argument by Mr Trump’s lawyers that the “First Amendment does not apply in this case and that the President’s personal First Amendment interests supersede those of plaintiffs”.

Mr Trump has over 52 million followers on Twitter, his preferred social media platform which he started in March 2009.

He often eschews the official US presidential Twitter account, @POTUS, as well as his own White House press office, to make official announcements.

One of the people that Mr Trump blocked, Holly O’Reilly, who uses the account @AynRandPaulRyan, was blocked last May after posting a GIF of Mr Trump meeting with Pope Francis.

The photo, which some said showed the Pope glaring at Mr Trump, was captioned: “This is pretty much how the whole world sees you.”

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Twitter

Shortly after being blocked, she told Time Magazine that “it’s like FDR took my radio away”, referring to Franklin Delano Roosevelt – the World War Two-era president who spoke directly to Americans with his so-called fireside chats.

Earlier in the trial, Judge Buchwald suggested the president, who was not in court, could simply mute the accounts he does not want to see.

People on Twitter are unable to see or respond to tweets from accounts that block them.

But if Mr Trump muted an account, he would not see that user’s tweets but the user could still see and respond to his.

Trump’s safe space

Analysis by Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter, San Francisco

When it comes to Twitter, the First Amendment grants the American people the right to speak about the President – but it doesn’t force him to listen.

While the court has ruled the blocking is unconstitutional, it said the ability to mute a person was not – and so the safe space nurtured by the president and his social media team will remain mostly intact. As I type this, he follows just 46 people, mostly family and Fox News presenters.

For many of those he blocked, it’s a become badge of honour – a #blockedbytrump topic sprung up as a way of celebrating being shut out by The Donald.

But Trump’s tweets are a major means by which the president communicates with his people. However history looks back at what is happening within his administration today, tweets will form a crucial part of that record.

And while some have argued that anyone blocked by Trump can see his tweets by just logging out, that doesn’t necessarily give the whole picture. One tweet sent on Wednesday does not appear in the feed for logged-out users, for example, as it is a “reply”.

Blocking also prevents people from replying to or quoting what was said.

The bigger impact here, however, is that this ruling applies to all public officials in the US.

And so it won’t just be Mr Trump thumbing through and unblocking those who he deems unsavoury.

Tesla Autopilot: Name deceptive, claim groups

Image copyright
Getty Images

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Tesla cars come with assisted driving technology

Two US consumer rights groups have urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Tesla over its marketing of “Autopilot” assisted-driving software.

In a letter sent on Wednesday, the groups called the Autopilot name “deceptive and misleading”.

A small number of drivers using the software have been involved in crashes.

Tesla says customer feedback shows “a very clear understanding of what Autopilot is, how to properly use it and what features it consists of”.

Tesla instructs drivers to keep both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road while driving using Autopilot.

Misleading

In the letter, The Center for Auto Safety and Consumer Watchdog say: “The marketing and advertising practices of Tesla, combined with Elon Musk’s public statements, have made it reasonable for Tesla owners to believe, and act on that belief, that a Tesla with Autopilot is an autonomous vehicle capable of ‘self-driving'”.

After a fatal crash in Florida, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the “driver’s inattention due to over-reliance on vehicle automation” was a probable cause.

The board found that the driver’s usage of the system “indicated an over-reliance on the automation and a lack of understanding of the system limitations”.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionBhavesh Patel was filmed by a passenger in another car

In Britain, a driver was banned from driving after putting his Tesla in Autopilot on the M1 and sitting in the passenger seat.

Bhavesh Patel told St Albans Crown Court that he was the “unlucky one who got caught”.

The gamers you can pay to help you win at Fortnite

A growing number of successful Fortnite gamers are creating a micro-industry by offering their services as in-game bodyguards and coaches to new players.

Charging up to £20 an hour they deliver coaching remotely and accompany their clients in the game, keeping them safe from attack and teaching them how to play.

The 12A rated game has been criticised for being too addictive and violent for young children and the NSPCC has warned voice and text chat systems in the popular Fortnite game are leaving children open to being contacted by strangers.

Video Journalist: Ben Moore

Steam store school-shooting game ‘appalling’

Image copyright
Steam

A “school-shooting simulator” video game has been described as “appalling” by an anti-gun violence charity.

According to its listing on the Steam video game store, the software lets players “slaughter as many civilians as possible” in a school environment.

Charity Infer Trust called on Valve – the company behind the Steam games store – to take the title down before it goes on sale, on 6 June.

Valve has not responded to the BBC’s request for comment.

The game has been posted on the Steam store by an independent developer previously accused of selling “asset-flipped” games.

Asset-flipping is taking third-party game engines and graphics and repackaging them for sale with minimal alteration or development.

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Steam

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The game lets players take the role of police officer or school shooter

The school-shooting game is described as “realistic” and “impressive”. And the developer has suggested it will include 3D models of children to shoot at.

However, the creator also says: “Please do not take any of this seriously.

“This is only meant to be the simulation and nothing else.”

A spokeswoman for Infer Trust said: “It’s in very bad taste. There have been 22 school shootings in the US since the beginning of this year.

“It is horrendous. Why would anybody think it’s a good idea to market something violent like that, and be completely insensitive to the deaths of so many children?

“We’re appalled that the game is being marketed.”

Many gamers have complained that Steam moderators have removed games featuring nudity, but have allowed a school-shooting simulator to remain on the store.

Sony says PlayStation 4 is in ‘final phase’ of its life cycle

Image copyright
SONY INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT

Sony’s new CEO John Kodera has announced the PlayStation 4 era could be near an end.

Speaking at a company conference, he said the console, released in 2013, was in the “final phase” of its life cycle.

Don’t expect the PS4 to stop production any time soon – but this could be a hint that a new, more powerful console is on the way.

Despite being hugely popular, there are signs of PS4 sales slowing down.

The announcement has hit some gamers hard.

The PS4 is now five years old – and has been a massive success for Sony. But given the pace of technological change, the announcement wasn’t as much as a shock for some.

More than 76 million PS4’s have been sold since it was released – but last year, sales were down from 20 million units to 19 million.

But while console sales are down – people are buying more games.

That’s one of the reasons Sony is thinking of releasing more games exclusively for PlayStation, including Last of Us: Part II and Spider-Man.

And for those holding out for a clue about a PS5 release date, there was this from Mr Kodera.

“We will use the next three years to prepare the next step, to crouch down so that we can jump higher in the future.”

This could possibly mean the new console that gamers are waiting for could be released after 2021.

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BMW cars found to contain more than a dozen flaws

Image copyright
Keen Lab

Image caption

The hack attack tests were all carried out in controlled environments

BMW’s car computer systems have been found to contain 14 separate flaws, according to a study by a Chinese cyber-security lab.

They could, in theory, let hackers take at least partial control of affected vehicles while in use.

The researchers identified ways to compromise the cars by plugging in infected USB sticks, as well via contactless means including Bluetooth and the vehicles’ own 3G/4G data links.

BMW is working on fixes.

Its customers have been advised to keep an eye out for software updates and other counter-measures from the German company over the coming months.

Remote attack

Keen Lab – a division of the Chinese technology giant Tencent – began its investigation in January 2017 and shared its findings with BMW just over a year later.

It said the vulnerabilities were found mostly within three different parts of the cars’ electronics:

  • the internet-connected infotainment systems – which provide sat-nav guidance, radio-station playback, car diagnostic information, and in some cases voice-recognition services
  • the telematics control unit – the electronics and software that allow a vehicle’s location to be tracked
  • the central gateway module – the information bridge that controls the flow of data between the vehicle’s various electrical components

The researchers are holding back their full findings until 2019, to give BMW more time to tackle the problems.

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Keen Lab

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Keen Lab says that it was able to simulate remote attacks on BMW cars

But they described one scenario in which a rouge mobile data transmitter could be used to exploit vulnerabilities in the infotainment and telematics parts.

“Technically speaking, it’s possible to launch the attack from hundreds of metres, even when the car is in the driving mode,” they wrote, adding that attackers could then create “backdoors” to inject diagnostic messages that could in turn affect the driver’s control.

Several models of BMW cars are said to be affected, including at least some of its i, X, 3, 5 and 7 Series designs.

BMW has verified all the reported vulnerabilities, and awarded Keen Lab with an “IT research” prize earlier this week for its work.

“We have been working closely with Tencent for months to understand and address any cyber-security issues,” said a spokesman for the car manufacturer.

“It has been a collaborative relationship and an important one as this kind of security has now become such an important topic for manufacturers.”

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Keen Lab

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Keen Lab says it tested four different types of BMW car during its tests

One independent expert said this approach was to be welcomed.

“Modern cars have an extraordinary amount of software running essential systems as well as infotainment systems,” said Prof Alan Woodward, from the University of Surrey.

“It’s not surprising that researchers are paying particular attention to such systems, nor that they find flaws.

“BMW is not the first nor will it be the last manufacturer to have such flaws in their cars.”

FBI admits over-counting locked iPhones and other mobiles

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Reuters

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Apple has come under pressure to make encrypted iPhones accessible to the FBI

The FBI has admitted overestimating the number of seized mobile phones its investigators are unable to access.

It has seized between 1,000 and 2,000 mobile phones that remain locked, as part of its crime investigations, not the 7,800 it had previously claimed.

It said a computer glitch had led some devices to be counted several times.

The intelligence agency had previously complained Apple and other manufacturers’ security measures were hampering its ability to investigate.

The news was first reported by the Washington Post.

Court cases

The most well-known case dates back to February 2016, when the FBI wanted to access the iPhone of one of the two San Bernardino shooters, who attacked a community centre in the Californian city.

Apple came under pressure from the FBI to make locked iPhones accessible to law enforcement agencies to prevent them “going dark”.

This is where agencies have a device in their possession but cannot access evidence despite being legally permitted to do so.

The case was later dropped when the FBI received the correct passcode from an unidentified source.

Despite the potential embarrassment, the FBI is expected to continue pressing technology companies to make their software more accessible.

“The FBI will continue pursuing a solution that ensures law enforcement can access evidence of criminal activity with appropriate legal authority,” it said in a statement.