<![CDATA[NECN - Tech News]]>Copyright 2018 https://www.necn.com/news/tech http://media.necn.com/designimages/clear.gif NECN https://www.necn.com en-usThu, 13 Dec 2018 16:26:43 -0500Thu, 13 Dec 2018 16:26:43 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Brightest Comet of 2018 to Pass Closest to Earth Next Week]]> Sun, 09 Dec 2018 15:17:10 -0500 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/181209-comet46p-wirtanen-al-1332_2dc5d4378d3c4b8d376dd9cd3a71279c.fit-2000w+%281%29.jpg

Stargazers have something extra to look forward to this holiday season: The brightest comet of 2018 will pass closest to Earth on Dec. 16.

The comet 46P/Wirtanen, which passes Earth every 5.4 years, was one of three comets discovered by Carl Wirtanen in 1948 at the Lick Observatory in California, NBC News reported. This orbit will be one of the closest comet orbits to Earth since the 1950s, according to Space.com. 

Comets are "loosely bound masses of ice, dust and rock." The central core of the structure is often only a few miles across. These cosmic phenoms usually have tails that are a result of the dust and gases that are spewed when comets heat up as they near the sun. Currently, NASA reports that there are 3,535 known comets. 

The comet 46P will likely not have a large observable tail because of its relatively small size, according to Space.com. It measures 0.68 miles in diameter, one-tenth the size of the popular Halley's Comet. Currently, 46P is a small blueish object in the night sky.

Photo Credit: Alex Cherney/NASA]]>
<![CDATA[NASA Lander Captures First 'Sounds' of Wind on Mars]]> Sat, 08 Dec 2018 01:28:54 -0500 https://media.necn.com/images/215*120/MarsSurface.jpg

Scientists have known for decades how the vast and barren landscapes of Mars look. Now, researchers are getting their first taste of what the Red Planet sounds like, NBC News reports.

NASA’s InSight lander, which touched down on Mars less than two weeks ago, has recorded vibrations — low-pitched, guttural rumblings — caused by wind blowing across the science instruments on the spacecraft’s deck.

“Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat,” Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a written statement.

Unaltered, these vibrations are barely audible, because they were recorded at a frequency of 50 hertz, at the low end of what the human ear can detect, according to Thomas Pike, the lead scientist for InSight’s Short Period Seismometer, one of two instruments that picked up the subtle movements.

Photo Credit: Time Life Pictures/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Lawmakers Demand Answers on Amazon's Facial Recognition Tech]]> Sun, 02 Dec 2018 02:25:04 -0500 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/amazGettyImages-1061810324.jpg

Eight Democratic lawmakers are demanding answers from Amazon regarding privacy concerns with the company's facial recognition software that has been used by some local police departments, NBC News reported

The lawmakers said in a letter Thursday that Amazon had “failed to provide sufficient answers” to questions about the program, called Rekognition, that they had previously presented to the online retail giant.

“We have serious concerns that this type of product has significant accuracy issues, places disproportionate burdens on communities of color, and could stifle Americans’ willingness to exercise their First Amendment rights in public,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter demands transparency regarding Rekognition’s accuracy, biases and built-in “protections.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Sandberg Asked Facebook to Probe Soros Following Criticism]]> Fri, 30 Nov 2018 01:45:35 -0500 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/sherylsandbergAP_18249039801768.jpg

Facebook on Thursday said it not only probed billionaire George Soros' motivations for criticizing the platform, but also any potential investments he might have in the social media juggernaut, NBC News reported

A Facebook spokesman said research on "potential motivations" for Soros' January tongue lashing of the platform was underway when Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg sent an email inquiring about Soros' possible position on Facebook stock.

The admission was a response to a New York Times story Thursday that Sandberg directed senior communications and policy executives to look into Soros' investments following a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland during which he called social media "nefarious."

Photo Credit: Jose Luis Magana/AP, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Zuckerberg Skips Facebook Grilling on 'Fake News' in UK]]> Tue, 27 Nov 2018 09:12:13 -0500 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Facebook-UK-Committee-Hearing.jpg

Lawmakers from around the world questioned a top Facebook executive over "fake news" on Tuesday at a hearing that CEO Mark Zuckerberg refused to attend, NBC News reported

Politicians and other top officials from nine countries were questioning Richard Allan, the company's vice president of policy solutions in London. Representatives from the U.K., Canada, Australia, Ireland, Argentina, Brazil, Singapore and Latvia invited Zuckerberg to give evidence, even by video link, but he declined. France and Belgium also attended the hearing.

The event was billed as the inaugural "Grand Committee on Disinformation.” Organizer Damian Collins, the British lawmaker who chairs a parliamentary committee investigating disinformation and the use of people's data, said he was "deeply disappointed by Zuckerberg's decision to ignore summons from so many nations."

The committee turned up the heat by seizing confidential Facebook documents from the developer of a now-defunct bikini photo-searching app.

Photo Credit: U.K. Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee]]>
<![CDATA[Activists Buy Facebook Ads Asking Employees to Leak]]> Thu, 22 Nov 2018 18:46:48 -0500 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/962171224-Mark-Zuckerberg.jpg

Freedom from Facebook, a coalition of organizations calling for stricter regulations on the tech giant, announced Tuesday that it has launched a Facebook ad buy to "offer Facebook employees who feel uncomfortable with recent events to voice their concerns."

Freedom from Facebook spokesperson Carli Kientzle told NBC News that they were able to target the ads using profile information from users who have Facebook listed as their employer. 

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Freedom from Facebook's recent ad buy.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had reportedly told employees at a company meeting Friday that he will fire anyone who leaks information to the media, according to The New York Times.

Photo Credit: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Twitter Bans Far-Right Activist After Tweet on Muslim Rep.]]> Thu, 22 Nov 2018 11:00:56 -0500 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/twitterlike213.jpg

Far-right activist Laura Loomer became the latest conservative figure to be kicked off Twitter when her account was shut down Wednesday, NBC News reported.

Loomer said she was told by the platform that her account violated its rules against hateful conduct after she sent a tweet criticizing Minnesota Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and her Muslim faith.

"I've been silenced in America," Loomer said in a video posted to YouTube in response to the Twitter ban. She had more than 260,000 followers on the social-media platform before her suspension. She also denied violating Twitter's rules.

In the tweet in question, Loomer called Omar "anti Jewish" and said she is a member of a religion in which "homosexuals are oppressed" and "women are abused" and "forced to wear the hijab." Omar is the first Somali refugee and among two of the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress.

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook, Instagram Were Down for Some Users Tuesday Morning]]> Tue, 20 Nov 2018 16:48:42 -0500 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/1014832932-Facebook-Instagram.jpg

Facebook wasn't working for some users Tuesday morning, the second big outage in about a week, and Instagram users were reporting issues as well. 

The outage appeared to hit around 8 a.m. ET. For some users, the Facebook page wouldn't load and other functionality wasn't working.

The website outage-tracking site Downdetector reported a spike in reports of problems with Facebook starting before 8 a.m. ET, and reports of outages continued through 10:30 a.m. Instagram users began reporting issues to the site around the same time. Facebook owns Instagram.

NBC has reached out to Facebook for comment. It tweeted, "We know some people are having trouble accessing the Facebook family of apps. We're working to resolve the issue as soon as possible."

Facebook's platform was healthy since Oct. 23 but has experienced "degraded performance" for several hours Tuesday, according to the site, which had been inaccessible for some users Tuesday morning.

Facebook also gave users problems on Monday, Nov. 12. around 1 p.m. ET. Users started to report that it was back online about 30 mintues later. A Facebook page that tracks the platform's status said it was healthy after having been inaccessible.

Facebook's ad manager platform was also down for several hours Tuesday and returned multiple errors for brands trying to place critical Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads. Media buyers told CNBC that the outage could affect Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales for their clients.

Photo Credit: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[Denial, Tension at Facebook as Sense of Crisis Builds]]> Mon, 19 Nov 2018 14:05:42 -0500 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/962171224-Mark-Zuckerberg.jpg

Mark Zuckerberg and his deputy, Sheryl Sandberg, believe Facebook's negative image comes from bungled public relations strategy and sensational media coverage, not structural or philosophical issues, six sources at the company told NBC News.

Facebook is facing challenges from consumer organizations, politicians and journalists. A recent New York Times report found it had a "delay, deny and deflect" strategy for dealing with problems related to Russia-based disinformation efforts, and Zuckerberg and Sandberg publicly blamed the company's communications team for a controversial PR move highlighted in the report.

Internally, members of the communications team feel they've been thrown under the bus, with one source calling the move "total arrogance."

A Facebook spokesperson told NBC News the leadership "takes full responsibility for the issues we're facing. ... No matter where people sit at Facebook, everyone wants to move forward — and that's our plan."

Photo Credit: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[Technology Lessening Shoplifting]]> Fri, 16 Nov 2018 21:14:32 -0500 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/turkey+screenshot+%281%29.jpg

Shoplift is a new technology that helps prevent shoplifting by sensing unscanned items from above.

<![CDATA[NBC Owned Stations Win Emmy for StormRanger Radar Truck]]> Thu, 15 Nov 2018 19:00:02 -0500 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/scott-meadows-stormranger.jpg

NBC’s Owned Television Stations division has won an Emmy for its mobile radar truck StormRanger, which the NBC and Telemundo owned station group developed to detect weather quicker and forecast with more accuracy than existing radars.

StormRanger's first truck was deployed in 2016 and there are now six vehicles tracking weather primarily in the NBC and Telemundo stations' markets of Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, the Bay Area and Los Angeles. The vehicles travel to nearby markets as well during severe weather events.

NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations said in a Thursday release the division received a 2018 Technology and Engineering Emmy Award for the new technology, which was developed over two years and improves local weather forecasting and reporting. Fixed with a Doppler radar, the vehicle can move right to a storm, scanning the system at a closer range and with more detail than a radar mounted high above the ground.

"We're able to take the radar to the storm instead of waiting for the storm to come to the radar," said Nate Johnson, director of weather operations for NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations.

Johnson added that this results in more up-to-date and higher resolution pictures for weather forecasting. StormRanger scans the weather every 15 to 20 seconds, Johnson said. That's compared to other radars that may scan the area every 90 seconds or, sometimes, every five minutes. This allows people in the storm's path to have more time to protect themselves, Johnson said.

StormRanger's high-resolution radar can better forecast snowfall measurements by detecting where in the atmosphere rain turns into snow. This can mean the difference between predicting an area will receive a few inches or more than a foot of snow.

The radar can also help people better understand when a tornado forms and what damage it causes by detecting debris in the air and types of precipitation. And it even detects small particles in the air during fire season, allowing fire departments and governments to better alert the public of a fire threat.

Johnson said StormRanger's ability to aid in the reporting of wildfires has been a "tremendous asset." The radar can detect where the fire's smoke is going and what the wind is doing inside the plume, helping meteorologists see if a fire whirl could form.

StormRanger helped meteorologists in Texas forecast storm cell movements several minutes before another existing radar. In Boston, the radar allowed NBC10 to report a detailed view of a winter storm’s morning icing for the rush-hour weather forecast. And meteorologists in Los Angeles used StormRanger to track the smoke plumes of a wildfire. 

Johnson said NBC will continue to perfect StormRanger's technology and "explore new ways to use it to help keep our viewers and users a step ahead of the weather."

NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations President Valari Staab said in a release that StormRanger's "exceptional technology" came into play "as more severe weather events and fires affect the communities we serve." She added that StormRanger is "vital to helping communities stay safe when severe weather threatens.”    

NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations includes 40 NBC and Telemundo stations in 28 markets in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. It will receive its award at the 70th Technology and Engineering Emmy Awards on April 7, 2019, in Las Vegas.

Teams from Accelerated Media Technologies and Enterprise Electronics Corporation also collaborated with NBC and Telemundo stations to design and build the trucks.

Photo Credit: Scott Meadows]]>
<![CDATA[Robots That Milk Cows]]> Tue, 13 Nov 2018 11:12:50 -0500 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/milking+cows.jpg

All over Wisconsin cow farmers are starting to use robots to milk the cows.

<![CDATA[Facebook Briefly Goes Down: 'Something Went Wrong']]> Mon, 12 Nov 2018 13:31:37 -0500 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/971974510-facebook-generic.jpg

Some Facebook users were reporting that the site was down for them on Monday.

For those experiencing the outage, opening a page on the social media site revealed an error message reading, "Sorry, something went wrong. We're working on it and we'll get it fixed as soon as we can."

Facebook appeared to go down just 1 p.m. ET. Users started to report that it was back online about 30 mintues later. A Facebook page that tracks the platform's status said it was healthy after having been inaccessible.

The website outage-tracking site Downdetector reported a spike in reports of problems with Facebook starting before 1 p.m. ET. A map showed the outages concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest of the United States.

NBC has reached out to Facebook for comment. The company hasn't issued any tweets.

Refresh this page for more on this breaking news story.

Photo Credit: Alexander Koerner/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[2016 vs. 2018: Hilarious Memes Reflect Voters' Attitudes]]> Tue, 06 Nov 2018 12:13:11 -0500 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Dicaprio+Theron.jpg

Angry, fired up and anxious. This is how some voters feel about voting in this year’s midterm elections. They took to Twitter, comparing how they cast their ballot in 2016 during the presidential election to how they’re doing it in 2018.

One post compared a shirtless Leonardo DiCaprio gleefully holding a water gun to the actor portraying fur trapper Hugh Glass in "The Revenant," trying to survive in the wilderness after he was mauled by a bear. 

Another post compared a little dog enjoying the breeze from an open car to a wolf baring its teeth and ready to pounce. 

The “Me Voting in 2016 vs. Met voting in 2018” memes began trending on Twitter a day before Americans were to vote in the first nationwide elections since Donald Trump became president. The tweets show renewed energy and commitment around the civic duty after two years of intensely partisan politics. 

A record 36 million people voted early in the 2018 midterm elections and it’s a trend that is expected to extend into Election Day. 

Take a look at some of the memes below:

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<![CDATA[Trolls Struggling to Share Disinformation, Secret Chats Show]]> Tue, 06 Nov 2018 08:39:26 -0500 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/527099783-Hacker-Silhouette.jpg

A far-right troll told others that he was immediately banned from Twitter for deliberately sharing the wrong election date, according to NBC News, which had a reporter mistakenly added to trolls' private chats online.

"Were they really banning people for saying [vote on] November 7? Lol, whoops," wrote the user, whose name was a racist joke about Native Americans.

Twitter has stepped up its efforts to counter misinformation efforts on the platform that were rampant in 2016, when politically motivated trolls and a Russian influence campaign thrived.

Automatic steps Twitter's taken to enforce troll activity are "the type of proactive behavior we need to see more of" from social media companies, said Nina Jankowicz, a disinformation researcher at the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute.

Photo Credit: Moment Editorial/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Understanding the Law That Protected Google Walk Outs]]> Fri, 02 Nov 2018 11:46:22 -0500 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-1056086262.jpg

Google employees may find safety in numbers after staging a worldwide walkout on Thursday — but they could be surprised to learn that it’s not the First Amendment that would protect them from corporate discipline.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents the government from abridging the freedom of speech, NBC News reported. Employees of private companies are often “at will,” which means they can be terminated for no cause. A person's free speech rights under the federal and state constitutions are not infringed unless there is state action. Still, this does not mean the Google employees are completely unprotected or that they can be fired for their walkout.

In passing the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA), Congress intended to protect private employees when they organize collectively for their mutual aid and protection in the workplace. The NLRA provides that “[e]mployees shall have the right to ... engage in ... concerted activities for the purpose of … mutual aid or protection.”

The law makes it an unfair labor practice for the employer to interfere with or restrain employees in the exercise of these guaranteed rights. Both union and non-union employees have a right to act for the purpose of "mutual aid or protection." This includes efforts to improve their conditions of employment, even if they use methods outside the immediate employee-employer relationship.

Photo Credit: Mason Trinca/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Google Employees to Protest How Company Handled Sexual Misconduct]]> Thu, 01 Nov 2018 01:06:32 -0500 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/google_protest_1031_4779248.JPG

Hundreds of Google employees from the main campus and the Google X lab in Mountain View are expected to walk out Thursday because they’re not happy with the way the company has handled sexual misconduct in the workplace.

The employees say it's a protest and a push for change.

"We’re here. We’re all here together," Google employee Amy Vernetti said. "We can fix this. We’re Google. If we can’t fix this, who can?"

The planned walkout comes after bombshell allegations published in The New York Times last week, accusing Google of protecting certain executives and paying them millions as an exit package after they were accused of sexual misconduct.

"We think there’s a layer of transparency that can go on while protecting privacy," Vernetti said.

In an email to employees after the Times article was published, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company has fired 48 people in the past two years for sexual misconduct.

But Meghna Virick, who has a background in human resources and is San Jose State’s associate dean of the School of Business, told NBC Bay Area it can be tricky to balance employee privacy and transparency.

"We have to protect the privacy not just of the victims but of other people who may be involved," Virick said. "And they have to do it out of respect."

Vernetti and her colleagues think the company can definitely do better.

"Our aspiration is that they will go above and beyond, be as transparent as they possibly can to protect us," she said.

In Pichai's message to employees, he said, "We are dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace."

The walkout is slated for Thursday morning and could involve other Google offices across the country.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>