Facebook teams up with Thai artist ‘Gongkan’ for some virtual Songkran fun
Apr 10. 2021
By The Nation (sponsored news)
With people being forced to stay home due to the latest wave of Covid infections, Facebook and Instagram have gone into collaboration with famous Thai artist Kantapon “Gongkan” Metheekul to offer #SongkranTogether array of AR effects, stickers and profile frames.
“Songkran is the festival of happiness, but due to the current situation, people cannot go out and have all that water-splashing fun. Therefore, I wanted everyone to be able to celebrate and send happiness virtually during the holiday. I designed the Facebook profile frame, AR filters and sticker pack with the sincere hope that everyone will be able to digitally share smiles and send happiness to family and friends,” Kantaporn said.
Here are some fun ways you can mark Songkran via Facebook and Instagram this year:
1. Show off your inner artist with the new #SongkranTogether feature
• Change your Facebook profile frame: Tap your profile picture, click on “update profile picture”, choose “add frame”, look for or type “Songkran by Gongkan” or “Gongkan” to change the frame.
• Add your preferred effect or sticker to your photo or video with the #SongkranTogether hashtag.
2. Join the at-home “Water Splash” fun on Instagram Reels with #SongkranTogether hashtag
• Launched in late March, Instagram’s newest short-form video feature #ReelsTH can be a fun, safe way to enjoy Songkran. Get creative with a simple 30-second clip or three-frame reel, where you are dry in the first shot and wet by the end. Get your friends and family to join you virtually by making their own #SongkranTogether moment. Don’t forget to add the #SongkranTogether and #ReelsTH hashtags and some of the popular songs people have been enjoying on Reels in Thailand.
3. Explore Facebook Watch see how others are celebrating with the #SongkranTogether hashtag
• Did you know that there are 37 million people in Thailand who come to Watch and enjoy video content on Facebook every month? Explore the fun and exclusively curated Songkran video content on Facebook Watch from Thai publishers and content creators such as Boriboon Family, Plaocooking and Tagple by following the hashtag #SongkranTogether.
NASA receives first weather reports from Perseverance rover on Mars at Jezero Crater
Apr 09. 2021NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter. MUST CREDIT: Photo by NASA
By The Washington Post · Matthew Cappucci
The NASA Perseverance rover reported this week on the weather from Mars’s Jezero Crater for the first time, providing data that will augment scientific understanding of the Martian atmosphere and inform future decisions about the rover’s mission.
The weather data will also help mission scientists decide when to launch Ingenuity, a drone-like helicopter that’s set to take flight as early as Sunday.
Perseverance, which was launched from Earth on July 30, arrived on Mars in mid-February and has been exploring the surface and collecting data.
Scientists say its weather will better shape what we know about radiative processes and the cycle of water in Mars’s atmosphere. There is not much of it, but water trapped beneath solid carbon-dioxide ice caps at the poles can be vaporized during the summertime and enter the atmosphere. Part of the plan with Perseverance is to unlock clues about what happens afterward.
Perseverance is in Mars’s Jezero Crater, a site NASA chose for the rover’s landing thanks to its wide expanses, free of obstacles, and the presence of a dried-up river delta from 3.5 billion years ago.
On April 3 and 4, the rover’s Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer, or MEDA, reported a high temperature of minus-7.6 degrees, and a low of minus-117.4 degrees. That rivals the coldest temperature measured on Earth – minus-128.6 degrees observed at the Vostok weather station in Antarctica on July 21, 1983.
The MEDA probes for temperature at four levels – the surface, 2.76 feet, 4.76 feet and 98.43 feet. While barely touching the surface of the lower atmosphere, the MEDA is expected to help offer insight into Mars’s radiation budget. In other words, scientists will learn how sunlight striking the surface is transformed into heat that enters and cycles through the atmosphere.
Perseverance is not the first spacecraft to send weather observations from the surface of Mars. Curiosity, which landed in 2011, suffered damage to one of its wind sensors. That meant that it could measure wind speed, but not wind direction. Because Perseverance can tell from which way the winds are blowing, scientists hope to use its observations in tandem with those of Curiosity and satellite measurements to learn about Mars’s general atmospheric circulation.
Arguably of greatest utility to scientists in the short term is the potential for Perseverance’s observations to inform mission-critical decisions, and ultimately when the famed Ingenuity helicopter will be tested. The helicopter was lodged in the underbelly of Perseverance, where it was stowed for the journey to Mars; on March 21, Perseverance shed the graphite debris shield that had protected Ingenuity during travel.
Ingenuity’s first flight is slated for no earlier than Sunday, a touch later than the original projection of Thursday.
Even if the helicopter is in full working order, flying on the Red Planet is no easy feat. The atmosphere, mostly made up of carbon dioxide, is barely 1% of Earth’s density. Helicopters on Earth cannot take off at high elevations because the air is too thin. Imagine that factor multiplied by 50 on Mars. NASA tested Ingenuity in vacuum chambers at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
That effect is acutely offset by Mars’s weaker gravity – about a third that of Earth. Still, working to construct a helicopter able to fly on Mars required years of engineering. Even the planet’s temperatures had to be taken into consideration; the extreme cold can “freeze and crack unprotected electrical components,” NASA wrote.
And before it can roam, NASA plans to conduct test flights to make sure everything is in working order. Just deploying the helicopter to its launchpad will take six days and four hours. During one of the final phases of deployment, Perseverance charged Ingenuity’s batteries before the cords were cut; then, the rover drove off, allowing sunlight to beam onto the helicopter’s solar panels to charge it.
During Ingenuity’s first test flight, its rotors will be spun at more than 2,500 revolutions per minute, and the helicopter will ascend through the thin atmosphere to just 10 feet. After hovering for up to 30 seconds, it will touchback down. NASA scientists will spend a few days gathering data and reviewing the flight’s performance before undertaking more complex endeavors in the future.
In the meantime, scientists will continue to await more detailed weather information from Perseverance and scope out an ideal airstrip for the helicopter. Ingenuity weighs only four pounds, its lightweight frame highly susceptible to even gentle winds.
Assuming an initial test flight does occur Sunday, NASA plans to host a live broadcast of the results early Monday.
Thai kids most interested in online video, audio content: Kaspersky data
Apr 08. 2021
By The Nation
Statistics gathered by Kaspersky Safe Kids show Thai children are most interested in software, audio and video than computer games, the global anti-virus firm said in a press release while announcing its report on children’s behaviour on the web over the past year amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Technology is what is saving us from a complete change in the way of life in a world of a raging pandemic. It keeps the educational process going, relieves the shortage of human communication and helps us to live life as fully as possible given the isolation and social distancing. In this situation, many adults and children, too, have come to realise that the computer is not just a means of entertainment but an important tool for education, communication and personal growth, Kaspersky noted.
In 2020, children in Thailand most visited websites with video and audio content (45.31%). In second place was internet communication media (26.06%), in which children visited web versions of WhatsApp and Telegram, Facebook, Instagram and other sites in this category. Third place went to e-commerce websites (11.35%). But interest in computer games turned out low, at 9.93%, the firm said.
Kaspersky’s statistics are based on anonymised data collected by its security network from users of Kaspersky Safe Kids, a software solution that protects children from unwanted content on the internet on both Windows and macOS platforms.
“The children of today started interacting with technology at an early age and do not know a world without the internet, computers or mobile devices,” said Yeo Siang Tiong, general manager for Southeast Asia at Kaspersky.
“With the onset of the pandemic, their exposure and intertwining of technology in their lives is now more so than ever – whether it is for learning or leisure. As they live in the age of the internet, it is our responsibility to ensure that we provide a safe space for them to learn and grow, and to protect them from exposure to negative content and vices that are rampant on the web,” he said.
While only a small portion, Kaspersky in 2020 still blocked some Thai kids’ attempts to visit websites related to dangerous content such as pornography (0.28%), hate and discrimination (0.05%), weapons (0.05%), internet gambling (0.04%) and drugs (0.01%).
“We will not be able to eradicate the existence of vices on the internet, such as pornography, gambling, content around hate and discrimination and even weapon or drug use, nor can we completely prevent children from being exposed to them as they continue to grow independent. However, aside from setting in place the appropriate cyber-safety measures for our children, we can also educate them to form a healthy understanding and recognition of these vices and guide them,” Yeo added.
Kaspersky offers some good tips to parents to ensure their children have a positive online experience:
• Spend more time communicating with your children about online safety measures. Tell your children what must not, under any circumstances, be published on the internet and why.
• Surf and learn together. See where they spend their time online and explore how to best keep them safe. Also spend time with them playing online games, so you can learn from each other.
• Explain that all the sensitive information can be shared only via messengers and only with people you know in real life.
• Learn more about your children’s interests.
Kaspersky said its Safe Kids feature can provide parents with regular reports on what makes their children’s day. The app analyses kids’ online search activity and manages screen time without encroaching on their personal space. For more information, visit: https://securelist.com/how-kids-coped-with-covid…/100450/.
Singapore warns public against crypto as world warms to Bitcoin
Apr 07. 2021Mining devices at the CryptoUniverse cryptocurrency mining farm in Nadvoitsy, Russia. MUST CREDIT: Bloomnerg photo by Andrey Rudakov
By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Joanna Ossinger
Singapore once again warned the public about the risks of trading cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, a market that while relatively small in the city-state has surged in significance over the past year.
“Cryptocurrencies can be highly volatile, as their value is typically not related to any economic fundamentals,” Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said in response to a parliamentary question on Monday. “They are hence highly risky as investment products, and certainly not suitable for retail investors.”
He said that cryptocurrency funds are not authorized for sale to retail investors. The MAS also has powers to impose additional measures on digital token service providers, under which exchanges offering the trading of cryptocurrencies are regulated, as needed, according to Tharman, who is also senior minister and coordinating minister for social policies.
Tharman’s comments come as the total market value of cryptocurrencies pushed past $2 trillion for the first time, doubling in about two months amid surging institutional demand. Bitcoin has been on a tear as investors dabble in crypto as a way to boost returns on cash in a world of near-zero interest rates, with the likes of Tesla Inc. saying last month it will accept its use as payment for cars.
Cryptocurrency trading in Singapore remains small compared to shares and bonds, with the combined peak daily trading volumes of Bitcoin, Ethereum and XRP accounting for 2% of the average daily trading volume of securities on the main stock exchange last year, Tharman said.
While the likes of Elon Musk, Mark Cuban and Paul Tudor Jones have endorsed cryptocurrencies, Tharman isn’t the only regulator to express caution about an industry where fraud is still a concern. A European Union watchdog recently warned of “significant” investor risks after Bitcoin’s gains, and Gary Gensler, the nominee to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, said in his confirmation hearing that ensuring the crypto market is free of fraud is a challenge for the agency.
Meanwhile, authorities in Singapore have stepped up efforts to combat money-laundering and terrorism financing risks associated with cryptocurrencies, Tharman said.
Among the measures it has taken, the MAS has increased surveillance of the crypto sector to identify suspicious networks and higher-risk activities that may need further scrutiny, Tharman said. MAS is also continuing to raise awareness on risks of investing in digital assets to help people avoid being cheated or “inadvertently used as mules,” he said.
“The crypto assets space is constantly evolving,” Tharman said. “MAS has been closely monitoring developments and will continue to adapt its rules as needed to ensure that regulation remains effective and commensurate with the risks posed. Investors, on their part, should exercise extreme caution when trading cryptocurrencies.”
Robotic lizards may play a role in the future of disaster surveillance, researchers imagine
Apr 07. 2021The X-4 robot was made to mimic lizard movements. MUST CREDIT: Clemente Biomechanics and Biorobotics Lab
By The Washington Post · Dalvin Brown
Researchers have created a robotic lizard that can scale vertical walls just like the actual animal.
While Boston Dynamics and other robotics firms have risen to prominence with agile, dog-like animatronics for disaster zones, scientists at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia focused their attention on a species of reptiles that can snake into places others can’t go.
Smaller, lighter-weight and simpler to build than machine versions of many other animals, lizards have perfected how to crawl vertically, making them an ideal base for future surveillance machines, Christofer Clemente said, the university’s team supervisor who has been developing robotic reptiles since 2017.
“A lizard is a really good place to start because they find one of the optimal climbing configurations. A lot of the time, nature has solved the problems for us,” Clemente said.
The team named their latest invention X-4 and published a scientific paper on their findings on Thursday.
Robots have been able to climb stairs and travel up hills for years, but sticking to and traveling up 90-degree surfaces presents a unique set of challenges. It requires the perfect amount of speed, stability, weight and efficiency, along with the ability to grip surfaces without getting stuck to them.
To figure out how the reptiles do this, the team captured two lizard species and filmed them walking. Geckos were recorded walking across a plastic vertical racetrack while Australian water dragons were filmed slithering across a specialized carpet.
The researchers used software to track the animals’ foot placement and how their bodies moved before constructing a clawed robot that mimics the same patterns.
One of their key findings was that lizards have an optimal range for dynamic stability, meaning their speed can affect how successful they are at climbing.
When they climbed too fast, more than 70 percent of their maximum speed, they increased their odds of falling to the ground, the team found. If they traveled slower than 40 percent of their top speed, they also had a 50 percent chance of slipping.
The findings informed how fast the robot would need to move to keep it on the wall.
The university researchers built an agile contraption about the size of an average climbing lizard. The machine is nine inches long, weighs under a half-pound, and has legs and feet designed to mimic the way climbing lizards move. It is built primarily from 3-D-printed parts, with joints at the spine so it can slither and joints at the shoulders so its feet can move backward and forward. The feet have pushpins for claws, allowing them to grip into surfaces and release with ease.
The researchers added a range finder and a Wi-Fi sensor so the robot can avoid obstructions. A passive tail helps keep the robot stable. During testing, the climbing robot was filmed on a 90-degree carpeted surface. When operating at a medium speed, it stayed on the wall.
These days, it blindly crawls up walls until it gets close to the ceiling, at which point it is programmed to stop, the researchers said. They hope to add a camera and enhanced autonomy next. It remains a prototype that they imagine could make for a good communications robot. Perhaps it could climb trees and telephone poles to extend the range of Wi-Fi networks. They also suspect that it would do well in search-and-rescue scenarios.
“In a disaster zone, you could send these robots in, and they can just crawl around the structure and look for survivors,” Clemente said. “If anyone has a mobile phone, they can connect to the robot and send out a ping of their location.”
YouTube says it’s getting better at taking down videos that break its rules. They still number in the millions.
Apr 07. 2021
By The Washington Post · Gerrit De Vynck
YouTube released data on Tuesday arguing that it is getting better at spotting and removing videos that break its rules against disinformation, hate speech and other banned content.
The Google-owned video service said 0.16% to 0.18% of all the video views on its platform during the fourth quarter of 2020 were on content that broke its rules. That’s down 70% from the same period in 2017, the year the company began tracking it.
But because of the immense scale of YouTube – more than 1 billion hours of video are watched on the site every day – that still amounts to potentially millions of views. The metric relies on a sample of videos the company says is broadly representative but doesn’t account for all the content posted to the platform.
The numbers underline a core issue facing YouTube and other social networks: how to keep their platforms open and growing while minimizing harmful content that might trigger harsher scrutiny from governments already keen to regulate them.
“My top priority, YouTube’s top priority, is living up to our responsibility as a global platform. And this is one of the most salient metrics in that bucket,” said Neal Mohan, YouTube’s chief product officer and a longtime Google executive known for increasing the company’s ad business.
In the past year, YouTube has come under fire for harboring misinformation about covid-19, facilitating the spread of baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged, and allowing white supremacists to post racist videos. YouTube is a major revenue driver for Google, bringing in more than $6.8 billion in the last quarter of 2020 alone.
The company says it has taken action, removing anti-vaccine content and coronavirus misinformation under its policy against medical misinformation, purging the site of videos related to the QAnon extremist ideology, and banning President Donald Trump’s account after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Trump’s account remains banned.
It wasn’t long ago that social networks such as Facebook and YouTube denied that they were even part of the problem. After Trump’s election in 2016, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg rejected the idea that his site had a notable impact on the result. For years, YouTube prioritized getting people to watch more videos above all else, and ignored warnings from employees that it was spreading dangerous misinformation by recommending it to new users, Bloomberg News reported in 2019.
In the years since, as scrutiny from lawmakers intensified and employees of YouTube, Facebook and other major social networks began questioning their own executives, the companies have taken a more active role in policing their platforms. Facebook and YouTube have both hired thousands of new moderators to review and take down posts. The companies have also invested more in artificial intelligence that scans each post and video, automatically blocking content that has already been categorized as breaking the rules.
At YouTube, AI takes down 94% of rule-breaking videos before anyone sees them, the company says.
Democratic lawmakers say the company still isn’t doing enough. They have floated numerous proposals to change a decades-old law known as Section 230 to make Internet companies more liable for hate speech posted on their platforms. Republicans want to change the law too, but with the stated goal of making it harder for social media companies to ban certain accounts. The unproven idea that Big Tech is biased against conservatives is popular with Republican voters.
Researchers who study extremism and online disinformation say there are still concrete steps that YouTube could take to further reduce disinformation. Companies could work together more closely to identify and take down rule-breaking content that pops up on multiple platforms, said Katie Paul, director of the Tech Transparency Project, a research group that has produced reports on how extremists use social media.
“That is an issue we haven’t seen the platforms work together to deal with yet,” Paul said.
Platforms could also be more aggressive in banning repeat offenders, even if they have huge audiences.
When YouTube and other social networks took down Trump’s accounts, false claims of election fraud fell overall, according to San Francisco-based analytics firm Zignal Labs. Just a handful of “repeat spreaders” – accounts that posted disinformation often and to large audiences – were responsible for much of the election-related disinformation posted to social media, according to a report from a group that included researchers from the University of Washington and Stanford University.
In the days after the Capitol riot, YouTube did ban one such repeat spreader – former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon. The YouTube page for Bannon’s “War Room” podcast was taken down after another Trump ally, Rudolph W. Giuliani, made false claims about election fraud on a video posted to the channel. Bannon had multiple strikes under YouTube’s moderation system.
“One of the things that I can say for sure is the removal of Steve Bannon’s ‘War Room’ has made a difference around the coronavirus talk, especially the talk around covid as a bioweapon,” said Joan Donovan, a disinformation and extremism researcher at Harvard University.
YouTube is invaluable to figures such as Bannon who are trying to reach the biggest audience they can, Donovan said. “They can still make a website and make those claims, but the cost of reaching people is exorbitant; it’s almost prohibitive to do it without YouTube,” she said.
YouTube’s Mohan said the company doesn’t target specific accounts, but rather evaluates each video separately. If an account repeatedly uploads videos that break the rules, it faces an escalating set of restrictions, including temporary bans and removal from the program that gives video makers a cut of advertising money. Three strikes within a 90-day period results in a permanent ban.
“We don’t discriminate based on who the speaker is; we really do focus on the content itself,” Mohan said. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, the rules don’t make an exception for major world leaders, he said.
Mohan also emphasized the work that the company has done in reducing the spread of what it calls “borderline” content – videos that don’t break specific rules but are close to doing so. Previous versions of YouTube’s algorithms may have boosted those videos because of how popular they were, but that has changed, the company says. It also promotes content from “authoritative” sources – such as mainstream news organizations and government agencies – when people search for hot-button topics such as covid-19.
“We don’t want YouTube to be a platform that can lead to real-world harm in an egregious way,” Mohan said. The company is constantly seeking input from researchers and civil rights leaders to decide how it should design and enforce its policies, he said. That process is global, too. In India, for example, the interpretation of anti-hate policies may be more focused on caste discrimination, whereas moderators in the United States and Europe will be more attuned to looked for white supremacy, Mohan said.
Most of the content on YouTube isn’t borderline and doesn’t break the rules, Mohan said. “We’re having this conversation around something like the violative view rate, which is 0.16% of the views on the platform. Well, what about the remaining 99.8% of the views that are there?”
Those billions of views represent people freely sharing and viewing content without traditional gatekeepers such as TV networks or news organizations, Mohan said. “Now they can share their ideas or creativity with the world and get to an audience that they probably wouldn’t have even imagined they could have gotten to.”
Still, even if the metric is accurate, that same openness and immense scale means content that could have real-world harm remains a reality on YouTube.
“You see the same kind of problems with moderating at scale on YouTube like you do on Facebook,” said Paul, the disinformation researcher. “The issue is there’s such a vast amount of content.”
79 per cent of people in Asia-Pacific trust robots more than humans to manage money
Apr 06. 2021
By THE NATION
There is growing confidence among consumers and business leaders that robots handle finance tasks better than people, according to a new study by Oracle.
The study of more than 2,500 consumers and business leaders across Asia-Pacific (Apac) – Australia, China, India, Japan, and Singapore – found that the Covid-19 pandemic has increased financial anxiety, sadness, and fear among people around the world and had changed who and what they trust to manage their finances.
In addition, people are rethinking the role and focus of corporate finance teams and personal financial advisrrs, according to the research.
Business leaders in Apac saw the highest increase in financial anxiety and stress among all Apac countries surveyed, increasing by 136 per cent – the highest increase comes in China (200 per cent), followed by Singapore (157 per cent)
Sadness among Apac business professionals grew by 91 per cent, with Singapore topping all Apac markets at 200 per cent
Apac consumer financial anxiety and stress and sadness have almost tripled, with a 118 per cent jump.
Some 92 per cent of Apac business leaders are worried about the impact of Covid-19 on their organisation, with the most common concerns being slow economic recovery or recession (57 per cent), budget cuts (43 per cent), and bankruptcy (26 per cent).
Some 89 per cent of consumers in Apac are experiencing financial fears, including job loss (38 per cent) – most feared among Singapore consumers at 53 per cent; losing savings (44 per cent) – most concern among Japanese consumers (53 per cent), and never getting out of debt (22 per cent), according to the study.
These concerns are keeping people up at night: 41 per cent of Apac consumers reported losing sleep due to their personal finances – with India reporting 59 per cent, followed by Singapore (53 per cent).
The financial uncertainty created by Covid-19 has changed who and what people trust to manage their finances, the study said.
To help navigate financial complexity, consumers and business leaders increasingly trust technology over people to help.
Some 79 per cent of Apac consumers and business leaders trust a robot more than a human to manage finances, with Australians (55 per cent) trusting robots the least among Apac countries
Some 84 per cent of business leaders in Apac trust a robot more than themselves to manage finances; 83 per cent trust robots over their own finance teams.
Around 89 per cent of Apac business leaders believe that robots can improve their work by conducting cost/benefit analysis (32 per cent), detecting fraud (27 per cent), and creating invoices (25 per cent).
Around 68 per cent of Apac consumers trust a robot more than themselves to manage finances; almost three-quarters (76 per cent) trust robots over personal financial advisers.
Some 80 per cent of consumers believe robots can help with managing finances. Consumers in Apac believe that robots can be helpful in detecting fraud (36 per cent), helping to reduce spending (23 per cent), but least in making stock market investments (19 per cent).
The role of finance teams and financial advisers will never be the same, according to the study.
To adapt to the growing influence and role of technology, corporate finance professionals and personal finance advisers must embrace change and develop new skills, the study said.
Some 60 per cent of Apac business leaders believe robots will replace corporate finance professionals in the next five years.
Some 86 per cent of business leaders in Singapore want help from robots for finance tasks, mostly in budgeting and forecasting (45 per cent), finance approvals (43 per cent), compliance and risk management (43 per cent), and reporting (37 per cent).
However, Apac business leaders prefer corporate finance professionals to focus on communicating with customers (41 per cent), negotiating discounts (34 per cent), and approving transactions (27 per cent).
Nearly half (48 per cent) of Apac consumers believe robots will replace personal financial advisers in the next five years, with more consumers in China (63 per cent) believing so.
Some 79 per cent of consumers want robots to help them manage their finances so they can free up time (38 per cent), reduce unnecessary spending (34 per cent), and increase on-time payments (27 per cent).
However, some consumers in Apac still trust personal financial advisers to provide guidance on major purchasing decisions, such as buying a house (37 per cent), buying a car (34 per cent) and planning a vacation (33 per cent).
Diabetics will soon have a powerful new weapon to fight their condition. The Metallurgy and Materials Science Research Institute at Chulalongkorn University is poised to launch a cutting-edge health innovation – a wristwatch that checks blood-sugar levels from sweat in real-time.
Chula researchers say the watch is accurate, not painful, and less expensive than imported equipment. It should be available on the market soon, they add.
“Medical reports indicate that the level of glucose in sweat is directly related to blood sugar,” said Dr Natnadda Rodthongkam, deputy director of the Metallurgy and Materials Science Research Institute.
So, we used this finding to innovate a device that helps tell the patient’s glucose level in real-time. This is very important to the daily life of diabetic patients who must regularly monitor and control their blood sugar levels.”
It also reduces the burden on healthcare workers and saves time and risk involved in regular trips to the hospital, Natnadda added.
Up to 5 million Thais suffer from diabetes, according to the Diabetes Association of Thailand. Diabetics experience muscle weakness, among other symptoms.
Currently, the standard method to determine blood-sugar level is by drawing blood from the fingertip, together with a lactate test. Patients need to fast for at least one hour before they can draw blood.
But the watch should change all that.
“Knowing their real-time blood sugar and lactate levels will help patients take care of themselves, adjust their behaviour, or seek immediate medical attention before [their condition] becomes dangerous.
We therefore devised a method that is faster, more accurate, and doesn’t need fasting or drawing blood,” said Prof Natnadda.
Developed by the Chula team in partnership with the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), the watch uses a special material that absorbs sweat and is sensitive to glucose and lactate enzymes.
“This special yarn transmits the data obtained to a test sheet inserted inside the smartwatch case to compare the measurement against a standard Calibration Curve.
If the blood glucose is low, the colour will be light, if high, the colour will be dark, while the lactate value will appear even darker in colour,” Natnadda explained.
Phone numbers, personal information for 533 million Facebook users exposed online, report says
Apr 04. 2021
By Hannah Knowles The Washington Post
Personal information on more than 500 million Facebook users – previously leaked and now made more widely available – was shared online Saturday, according to the news site Insider, worrying experts who said the compromised data could make people more vulnerable to fraud.
Insider said it reviewed a sample of the leaked phone numbers, birth dates, biographical details and more and found that some data matched known Facebook users’ records. The Washington Post has not independently verified the information. Facebook said the leak involved “old” data stemming from a problem resolved in 2019, but the news still sparked renewed scrutiny of a social media giant previously dogged by high-profile concerns about data privacy.
“Bad actors will certainly use the information for social engineering, scamming, hacking and marketing,” tweeted Alon Gal, the co-founder of an Israeli cybercrime intelligence company called Hudson Rock, who flagged the release of the Facebook data Saturday. Social engineering involves getting access to people’s confidential information by gaining their trust rather than overcoming technical barriers – for example, by impersonating a tech support person.
“I have yet to see Facebook acknowledging this absolute negligence of your data,” Gal tweeted. Gal said the compromised data also included Facebook IDs, full names, locations, some email addresses, relationship statuses and other details.
Facebook did not immediately respond to questions Saturday evening, but company spokeswoman Liz Bourgeois tweeted Saturday that the leak detailed by Insider involved “old data that was previously reported on in 2019.”
“We found and fixed this issue in August 2019,” Bourgeouis wrote.
Insider said a Facebook spokesperson told the news organization that the data was scraped through a now-fixed vulnerability.
The breach affected more than 533 million users spanning 106 countries, according to Insider, and includes more than 32 million records for users in the United States.
Gal told The Washington Post that the leaked database was previously sold for tens of thousands of dollars and then circulated, selling for lower prices until it finally was offered at no charge.
Early this year, Gal said, someone built a bot that gave people access to the database for a fee – a development that made the trove of data “much more worrisome,” Gal tweeted at the time. Motherboard reported in January on that peddling of access in a “low-level cybercriminal forum.”
On Saturday a user posted on a forum offering the data free.
The Post messaged the user on the app Telegram and did not immediately hear back.
Facebook – the world’s most popular social media site, with well over 2 billion users – has drawn rebukes before for its handling of people’s data. In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission fined the company $5 billion, alleging that it misled users about how third parties such as advertisers were accessing their personal information. Facebook did not have to admit guilt, but its settlement with the government included what was the largest privacy violation fine in American history.
The FTC began investigating after reports that Cambridge Analytica, a firm that worked with the campaign of former president Donald Trump, had improperly accessed names, “likes” and other information for millions of users without their knowledge.
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The Washington Post’s Tony Romm contributed to this report.
Vaccine passport apps are here. Without a common standard, tech challenges are myriad.
Apr 03. 2021
By The Washington Post · Rachel Lerman
SAN FRANCISCO – Coming soon to your smartphone: Digital codes that afford you access to airplanes, concert venues and even restaurants.
Vaccine passports are new apps that will carry pieces of your health information – most critically your coronavirus vaccination status. They may soon be required to travel internationally or even to enter some buildings.
But a growing list of tech companies, governments and open-source software groups are all attempting to tackle the problem, prompting some concerns about a lack of a standard approach that would make it possible to carry around just one pass. Plus, apps would need to pull and verify your vaccination records in an easy, safe and controlled format. And wide adoption would require the majority of countries, airlines and businesses to agree on one (or two or three) accepted standards.
It’s a technical headache that is becoming only more urgent as more people get vaccinated and businesses and borders begin to reopen.
Several different organizations developing apps and tapping into government databases acknowledge how critical a common standard is. Still, many different groups are all racing to create that standard, with some overlap.
“When you think about standards, we should have one, but we have at least five organizations coming up with standards,” said Eric Piscini, the team lead for IBM’s digital health pass. “We are working with all five and will be compatible with all five.”
The Biden administration is working with companies to develop a standard way of handling the passports – or certificates, credentials or health passes, as the industry would prefer they be called – The Washington Post reported this week.
– How do vaccine passport apps actually work?
The idea is that you will be able to carry a QR code on your phone, likely within a digital wallet app, that can be scanned by airlines or venues and give you the green light to enter. The code should contain only relevant information – in most cases, just a confirmation that you have been vaccinated with an approved vaccine within a valid time frame. It is scanned, and voilà, you are in.
State public health agencies have this information. So does the pharmacy or health system where you receive a vaccine. In order for you to get a vaccine passport on your phone, you have to first access that information, verify your identity and download it in some way. Then, the apps need to create a code that can tell others that you are vaccinated.
IBM, which debuted the Excelsior app with New York state this month, created a portal within an app that directs people to sign into a New York database. There, you enter your name, date of birth and vaccination date and receive a QR code to download. That stays in an app in your phone.
To verify the code, another app has to scan it upon entry.
The CommonPass app, a digital wallet created by the Commons Project, partnered with airport security clearance company CLEAR to speed up vaccination verification at airports.
“What the health pass apps do, including CommonPass app, is evaluate your underlying health information against some set of rules,” said JP Pollak, co-founder of the Commons Project.
For example, instead of exchanging actual data, the app would look for whether the record your app holds meets the standards of the specific entry requirements on the verifier’s side. Some will require more information – the Excelsior app displays your name, date of birth and the verification, so businesses will likely need to check it against an ID.
“The idea is that verifiers will have a relationship with the Commons Project and will trust that the Commons Project is sort of interpreting information against guidelines and being correct,” Pollack added.
– How is my data secured?
This is a huge concern for developers and users of the app – after all, we are dealing with personal health information here, data that people rightfully want protected. And tech companies have not always been the most responsible with people’s information, so developers also have to overcome a trust void.
Perhaps because of this, many developers of the apps and wallets are trying make your information accessible to as few people as possible.
IBM’s app with New York allows people to connect directly to a public health database and save their information onto their phones. IBM can’t see that information, Piscini said.
“Most of the time, when we work with these employers, they do not want to see the information,” Piscini said of verifiers. “What they do is check against blockchain, and say ‘green, you can go,’ and that’s all they want to do.”
IBM is using a blockchain, or a digital ledger that stores information at many different points rather than one central spot. The app creates a hash – or a copy represented only by a unique set of numbers and letters – to store on the blockchain. Verifiers then connect to the blockchain to be able to confirm QR codes.
CommonPass also says it does not store your personal health information but instead creates a verification pass that can be shared for entry. It briefly sends your information to a server, where the health credential is created, but never stores the information, Pollak said.
“The model that we arrived at is essentially that data only ever lives at the original source,” he said. “So at the place you were vaccinated and then on your device.”
– Will I need to have different passes to get into different places?
At the beginning, probably. This is one of the most significant challenges developers are facing – there are dozens of public health vaccination databases in the United States, not to mention hundreds of health systems, pharmacies and more. The most efficient way to create a broad vaccine passport would be to pull from data sources in a uniform way, and put them into a similar format on everyone’s phones.
But to do this, there needs to be a standard protocol. One organization working on this, the Vaccine Credential Initiative (VCI), includes more than 300 organizations including Microsoft, the Mayo Clinic, Cerner, Epic, the Commons Project and more. The organization is trying to get health organizations, including major electronic medical records companies, to adopt a standard known as smart health cards.
It’s a signed version of your health records, Pollak said, that could be downloaded and then shared with a health app or wallet of your choice. VCI said this week that its implementation guides for vaccine credentials will be widely available in May.
Another consortium, the Good Health Pass Collaborative, hopes to release specifications in June, said Brian Behlendorf, general manager of blockchain, health care and identity at the Linux Foundation, a large consortium of technology companies. The foundation’s public health arm is working with Good Health Pass to create the specifications.
Health credentials should belong to individuals, not companies, Behlendorf said.
“It should work like email, where you have control,” he said. “If you switch providers you should be able to take it. It’s still yours, it’s your sense of ownership of it.”
With no common standard, the U.S. could end up with a patchwork of apps that require you to log in and recreate vaccine verification codes at different businesses and entry points.
– What if I don’t want to use an app?
For people who don’t have a smartphone, don’t easily have access to the Internet or prefer not to use an app, passes will still be available in paper form. Several organizations working on creating digital passes are also making sure the QR codes can be printed out or obtained in person.
Paper vaccination cards have been issued by health organizations for travel and other uses for decades. Why do we need digital versions now?
Developers point to the increased digitization of everything in society – many people prefer using their phones over paper documents. But developers also say that digital passports will make verifying vaccination records faster and more secure. It’s harder to lose, and may be harder to create a fake copy of a digital record.
Gartner analyst Donna Medeiros pointed to the need for long lines of people, perhaps at airports, to carry similar passes so they can all be scanned using the same machine.
“It’s going to speed up our process to have health passports overall,” she said.
Jenny Wanger, director of programs at the Linux Foundation Public Health, compared the issue to showing a bouncer at a bar a driver’s license. All the bouncer needs to see is that you are over 21 years old, and your picture matches. But they also get to see your address, weight and other identifying information.
With a digital option, Wanger said, the idea is that people will get to pick and choose what they show each entity, depending on the entrance requirements.
But digital records can also be faked. Israel’s Green Pass, one of the world’s first digital coronavirus vaccination passes to launch, faced hurdles in February when cybersecurity experts pointed out the passes could be copied and a market for counterfeit passes popped up online, according to the Times of Israel. The government said it would secure the passes and issue updated versions.
Ryan Kalember, executive vice president of cybersecurity strategy at Proofpoint, says that while the application can “absolutely be made in a secure way” there will always be one weak point the hacker could exploit: the user. Without a central way to verify the phone user’s identity in real time, there’s always a chance that someone could have fraudulently obtained a vaccine pass through identity theft or other means.
He added that passes would be secure once they are in a digital wallet.
“If you’re looking to do the sort the bare minimum, which might be required for legal and liability purposes to get people into a sporting event, this is probably enough,” he said. “But is it going to be a foolproof system or a hacker-proof system or a system that is impossible to penetrate with forgeries? Absolutely not.”
– How widespread will these be?
It’s unclear how prevalent it will be to require a vaccine passport for entry, or how long-lasting the trend will become. But the initial interest from governments, airlines and even some private venues shows no sign of abating.
Travelers to some countries are already using vaccine passports, and Madison Square Garden said it will try out New York’s app.
Still, there was a lot of initial interest for tech to get involved in contact tracing at the beginning of the pandemic. Apple and Google created protocols for the practice, but it was only used in a patchwork manner in a few states.
“We had a big thing around contact tracing and I really like the system we built – but no one used it,” said Matt Green, a cryptography and security expert who is an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute. “I’m a little skeptical.”
That’s part of the reason many industry groups hope the federal government gets involved and issues guidelines for vaccine passports. They are also trying to tiptoe around the increasing politicization of vaccine passports.
“This technology is coming down the line no matter what, and there is a right way and a wrong way to do it and we want to make sure it’s done the right way,” Wanger said.