First time accepted submitter Hallie Siegel writes Last December, an article named 'Playing Atari with Deep Reinforcement Learning' was uploaded to arXiv by employees of a small AI company called DeepMind. Two months later Google bought DeepMind for 500 million euros, and this article is almost the only thing we know about the company. A research team from the Computational Neuroscience Group at University of Tartu's Institute of Computer Science is trying to replicate DeepMind's work and describe its inner workings.
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wabrandsma sends this news from Tech In Asia: Privacy-oriented search engine DuckDuckGo is now blocked in China. On Sunday DuckDuckGo founder and CEO Gabriel Weinberg confirmed to Tech in Asia that the team has noticed the blockage in China on Twitter. DuckDuckGo had been working fine in mainland China since its inception, aside from the occasional 'connection reset' experienced when accessing many overseas websites from within the country. But now the search engine is totally blocked in China. ... [T]he GreatFire index of blocked sites suggest that DuckDuckGo got whacked on September 4. DuckDuckGo joins Google in being censored and blocked in the nation. Google, after years of being throttled by China's Great Firewall since the web giant turned off its mainland China servers in 2010, was finally blocked totally in June this year.
lpress writes Alibaba is this week's hot news — they have had a lengthy PR campaign (preceded by a documentary film) followed by a record-setting stock offering. After a day of trading Alibaba's market capitalization was comparable to that of established tech giants. But, there are cultural and structural differences between Alibaba and U.S. companies. Alibaba is tightly woven into a complex fabric of personal, corporate and government organization relationships. The same can be said of information technology companies in Singapore. Is owning a share of, say, Apple, conceptually the same as owning a share of Alibaba?
An anonymous reader writes The Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has made headlines lately in US financial news. At the closing of its Initial Public Offering (IPO) on Friday, it had raised $21.8 billion on the New York Stock Exchange, larger even than Visa's ($17.9 billion), Facebook's ($16 billion), and General Motors ($15.8 billion) IPOs. Some critics do say that Alibaba's share price will plummet from its current value of $93.60 in the same way that Facebook's and Twitter's plummeted dramatically after initial offerings. Before we speculate, however, we should take note of what Alibaba is exactly. Beyond the likes of Amazon and eBay, Alibaba apparently links average consumers directly to manufacturers, which is handy for an economy ripe for change. Approximately half of Alibaba's shares "were sold to 25 investment firms", and "most of the shares went to US investors."
ericgoldman writes Even though "googling" and "Google it" are now common phrases, a federal court ruled that the "Google" trademark is still a valid trademark instead of a generic term (unlike former trademarks such as escalator, aspirin or yo-yo). The court distinguished between consumers using Google as a verb (such as "google it"), which didn't automatically make the term generic, and consumers using Google to describe one player in the market, which 90%+ of consumers still do.
Advocatus Diaboli writes The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user data that the company believed was unconstitutional, according to court documents unsealed Thursday that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the NSA's controversial PRISM program. The documents, roughly 1,500 pages worth, outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the government's demands. The company's loss required Yahoo to become one of the first to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the National Security Agency extensive access to records of online communications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms.
An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this year, European Commission regulators finally agreed to a settlement in the organization's long-running antitrust investigation of Google's search and advertising business. Unfortunately for Google, it didn't stick. The EC said today they're reopening the investigation after a large number of "very negative" complaints about the settlement. "The key objection to the proposed settlement, which would have allowed rival services to buy spaces at the top of search results pages, was that it would not prevent Google from favoring its own services, and would divert money from the rivals to Google even if they received clickthroughs from the adverts — rather than the zero-cost solution if they were ranked highly in 'organic' search results, and Google was prevented from putting its own commercial services above those." The Commission is also looking into other parts of Google's business, including its influence over mobile devices through Android.
mpicpp writes with a snippet from Businessweek: Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is seeking to raise as much as $21.1 billion in its initial public offering, in what could be the largest sale of new stock in the U.S. ever. The Chinese company and shareholders including Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO:US) plan to sell 320.1 million American depositary shares for $60 to $66 apiece, according to a regulatory filing today (BABA:US). At the high end of that range, the offering would surpass Visa Inc.'s $19.7 billion IPO in March 2008 and give the company a market value of $162.7 billion. Alibaba's executives are now able to meet fund managers to build demand for the IPO and they plan to begin the roadshow in New York next week, people with knowledge of the matter have said. The Hangzhou-based company has garnered years of attention for its scale — with 279 million active buyers in the year through June — and its exposure to a growing Internet consumer base in China.
IonOtter (629215) writes Matt Haughey, founder of MetaFilter, has challenged a Cease & Desist letter from Sundance Vacations, a seller of time-shares with a reputation for aggressive sales tactics and suppression of criticism. Only this time, it seems that the plaintiff may have forged court documents ordering Mr. Haughey, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines to remove any and all mentions of the links and posts in question. Legal blog Popehat has picked this up as well, prompting Ken White to wryly note, "...Sundance Vacations is about to learn about the Streisand Effect." The story is gaining traction, and being picked up by Boing-Boing, as well as hitting the first page of search results on Google.
Rambo Tribble writes: In an apparent move to push those using older browsers to update, Google is reported to be serving outdated search pages to said browsers. The older pages lack features available on the newer versions, and this policy compounds with the limits announced in 2011 on Gmail support for older web clients. As a Google engineer put it, "We're continually making improvements to Search, so we can only provide limited support for some outdated browsers." The BBC offers a fairly comprehensive analysis.
onproton (3434437) writes The Intercept reported today on classified documents revealing that the NSA has built its own "Google-like" search engine to provide over 850 billion collected records directly to law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the DEA. Reporter Ryan Gallagher explains, "The documents provide the first definitive evidence that the NSA has for years made massive amounts of surveillance data directly accessible to domestic law enforcement agencies." The search engine, called ICREACH, allows analysts to search an array of databases, some of which contain metadata collected on innocent American citizens, for the purposes of "foreign intelligence." However, questions have been raised over its potential for abuse in what is known as "parallel construction," a process in which agencies use surveillance resources in domestic investigations, and then later cover it up by creating a different evidence trail to use in court.
As TechCrunch reports, Google will begin using website encryption, or HTTPS, as a ranking signal – a move which should prompt website developers who have dragged their heels on increased security measures, or who debated whether their website was “important” enough to require encryption, to make a change. Initially, HTTPS will only be a lightweight signal, affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, says Google. ... Over time, however, encryption’s effect on search ranking [may] strengthen, as the company places more importance on website security. ... While HTTPS and site encryption have been a best practice in the security community for years, the revelation that the NSA has been tapping the cables, so to speak, to mine user information directly has prompted many technology companies to consider increasing their own security measures, too. Yahoo, for example, also announced in November its plans to encrypt its data center traffic.
First time accepted submitter catparty (3600549) writes An examination of what we can know about Facebook's new machine learning News Feed algorithm. From the article: "Facebook's current News Feed algorithm might be smarter, but some of its core considerations don't stray too far from the groundwork laid by EdgeRank, though thanks to machine learning, Facebook's current algorithm has a better ear for 'signals from you.' Facebook confirmed to us that the new News Feed ranking algorithm does indeed take 100,000 weighted variables into account to determine what we see. These factors help Facebook display an average 300 posts culled from roughly 1,500 possible posts per day, per user."
An anonymous reader writes: In response to an inquiry from European data protection regulators, Google has detailed how they evaluate and act on requests to de-index search results. Google's procedures for responding to "right-to-be-forgotten" requests are explained in a lengthy document that was made publicly available. "Google of course claims its own economic interest does not come into play when making these rtbf judgements — beyond an 'abstract consideration' of a search engine needing to help people find the most relevant information for their query. ... Google also goes into lengthy detail to justify its decision to inform publishers when it has removed links to content on their sites — a decision which has resulted in media outlets writing new articles about delisted content, thereby resulting in the rtbf ruling causing the opposite effect to that intended (i.e. fresh publicity, not fair obscurity)."
tsu doh nimh (609154) writes KrebsOnSecurity looks at a popular service that helps crooked online marketers exhaust the Google AdWords budgets of their competitors.The service allows companies to attack competitors by raising their costs or exhausting their ad budgets early in the day. Advertised on YouTube and run by a guy boldly named "GoodGoogle," the service employs a combination of custom software and hands-on customer service, and promises clients the ability to block the appearance of competitors' ads. From the story: "The prices range from $100 to block between three to ten ad units for 24 hours to $80 for 15 to 30 ad units. For a flat fee of $1,000, small businesses can use GoodGoogle's software and service to sideline a handful of competitors' ads indefinitely."