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UV

Twitter, Sidewalk Labs, Google Hardware, More: Sunday ResearchBuzz, October 27, 2019

TWEAKS AND UPDATES

TechCrunch: Twitter Q3 misses big on revenues of $824M and EPS of $0.05 on the back of adtech glitches. “Twitter… reported its earnings for the quarter that ended September 30, and the numbers delivered a big surprise, falling on both sales and earnings per share. Revenues came in at $824 million, and EPS at $0.05. That represents sales up 9% year-over-year but far below what analysts had been expecting: (non-GAAP, diluted) EPS of 20 cents per share and revenues of $874.03 million (or higher, $883 million, depending on which group of analysts you’re following).”

BNN Bloomberg: Google parent is closer to a deal on Toronto’s Sidewalk Labs. “Sidewalk Labs LLC, the urban innovation unit of Alphabet Inc. and Waterfront Toronto, the public corporation in charge of the development, are finding common ground on a majority of contentious issues, according to people familiar with the discussions. The parties have been meeting ahead of an Oct. 31 deadline set by Waterfront to reach agreement on topics such as data privacy, land values and geographical boundaries, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private.”

CNET: Google is replacing Home devices bricked by firmware update. “Google has said it’ll replace any of its Home smart speakers that have stopped working after a firmware update, as reported earlier Thursday by 9to5Google. It comes after customers complained online about their Google Home devices being bricked following a recent automatic update, the report said.”

USEFUL STUFF

BoingBoing: Get 35 free audio books from Tor’s new horror imprint. “Renowned sci-fi and fantasy publisher Tor just launched a new book imprint called Nightfire, focusing on new horror fiction. And to celebrate, they’re giving away 35 free short horror stories as audiobooks. The list includes stories by Alyssa Wong, Chuck Wendig, China Miéville, Carmen Maria Machado, and more.”

AROUND THE SEARCH AND SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD

Motherboard: How Facebook Bought a Police Force. “The Bay Area has long been a sandbox for technology giants who are no longer merely occupying communities, but building and reshaping them. In Menlo Park, an affluent, mostly white city of 35,000, Facebook at one point paid workers not to live in lower-income neighborhoods near the company’s headquarters. And now, there’s a police unit that is funded by Facebook to patrol the area surrounding its campus. The bill comes in at over $2 million annually—big money in a small city.”

BBC: How a social network could save democracy from deadlock. “Whether it is the daily Brexit face-offs, the endless scandals on Capitol Hill or the yellow vests of France, the space for meaningful compromise has dramatically shrunk. Instead, it’s a time of digging in, fighting your corner, staying the course. No surrender. It signals a deeper malaise – as electorates become more polarised, democracies become more paralysed. Yet what if it doesn’t need to be this way? What if new ways can be found to break deadlocks and bring electorates back together?”

SECURITY & LEGAL

The Register: Time to check who left their database open and leaked 7.5m customer records: Hi there, Adobe Creative Cloud!. “Adobe has pulled offline a public-facing poorly secured Elasticsearch database containing information on 7.5 million Creative Cloud customers. The cloud-based silo was uncovered by infosec detective Bob Diachenko, who reported it to Adobe last week.”

Route Fifty: Ohio Establishes ‘Cyber Reserve’ to Combat Ransomware. “At least three local governments in Ohio and the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport have all been hit with ransomware attacks in the last year alone. The next time hackers go after a local government in Ohio, however, the state will have a new weapon to deploy: the Ohio Cyber Reserve.”

Techdirt: Whirlpool Left Appliance Data, User Emails Exposed Online. “Another day, another shining example of why connecting everything from your Barbie dolls to tea kettles to the internet was a bad idea. This week it’s Whirlpool that’s under fire after a researcher discovered that the company had failed to secure a database containing 28 million records collected from the company’s ‘smart’ appliances. The database contained user email addresses, model names and numbers, unique appliance identifiers, and data collected from routine analysis of the appliances’ condition, including how often the appliance is used, when its off or on, and whether it had any issues.”

RESEARCH & OPINION

Mongabay: Holding social media companies accountable for facilitating illegal wildlife trade (commentary). “Facebook, and other social media firms, mainly rely on algorithms and artificial intelligence to moderate harmful content. But investigations by the Alliance to Counter Crime Online (ACCO) show time and again how these algorithms actually connect traffickers faster than moderators can remove them. They suggest friends and recommend groups, putting illicit actors in touch with one another, continually expanding networks of users engaging in similar illegal activities.”

Phys .org: Researchers make neural networks successfully detect DNA damage caused by UV radiation. “Researchers at Tomsk Polytechnic University jointly with the University of Chemistry and Technology (Prague) conducted a series of experiments which proved that artificial neural networks can accurately identify DNA damage caused by UV radiation. In the future, this approach can be used in modern medical diagnostics. An article, dedicated to those studies, was published in the Biosensors and Bioelectronics journal.”

ZDNet: AI can now read the thoughts of paralysed patients as they imagine they are writing. “Handwriting is becoming a rare skill in the digital age. But researchers have now discovered a new application that could significantly improve the way tetraplegic people, who are often also unable to speak, communicate with the outside world.” Good morning, Internet…

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Human pigmentation mega-study

A great new study on the genetics of human (including African) pigmentation. I would love to see a future study that would reconstruct what ancestral modern humans looked like pigmentation-wise, as this trait is tightly correlated with sun exposure (and thus latitude), and may thus pinpoint a narrow latitudinal zone where ancestral modern humans may have lived.

From a related story:

The most dramatic discovery concerned a gene known as MFSD12. Two mutations that decrease expression of this gene were found in high frequencies in people with the darkest skin. These variants arose about a half-million years ago, suggesting that human ancestors before that time may have had moderately dark skin, rather than the deep black hue created today by these mutations.

Science 12 Oct 2017: eaan8433 DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8433

Loci associated with skin pigmentation identified in African populations

Nicholas G. Crawford et al.

Despite the wide range of skin pigmentation in humans, little is known about its genetic basis in global populations. Examining ethnically diverse African genomes, we identify variants in or near SLC24A5, MFSD12, DDB1, TMEM138, OCA2 and HERC2 that are significantly associated with skin pigmentation. Genetic evidence indicates that the light pigmentation variant at SLC24A5 was introduced into East Africa by gene flow from non-Africans. At all other loci, variants associated with dark pigmentation in Africans are identical by descent in southern Asian and Australo-Melanesian populations. Functional analyses indicate that MFSD12 encodes a lysosomal protein that affects melanogenesis in zebrafish and mice, and that mutations in melanocyte-specific regulatory regions near DDB1/TMEM138 correlate with expression of UV response genes under selection in Eurasians.

Link