posted 6 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Gwyneth Paltrow attends book signing at [email protected] on June 8, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (credit: Gety | Phillip Faraone) This week, Gwyneth Paltrow’s high-profile lifestyle and e-commerce site, Goop, gave birth to a beautiful gift to the Internet—and it wasn’t a moon-powered vagina egg that invigorates our mystical “life force.” No, it was a perfectly crafted reference guide for how to sell snake oil. It’s really quite impressive. In case you’re unfamiliar—or just need an empowering refresher—Goop is a site directed mostly toward affluent women that peddles pricy products and overuses the word “empower” while dabbling in many forms of pseudoscience and quackery—from homeopathy to magic crystals and garden-variety dietary-supplement nonsense. Despite all logic and much hope for humankind, Goop has proven successful. With a posh, new-age vibe and Paltrow’s celeb status, it raised $15 to $20 million in venture capital last year alone. This year, the Goop group teamed with Condé Nast to begin publishing a quarterly print magazine as well as digital content. (Condé Nast also owns Ars, by the way.) Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 6 days ago on ars technica
Fun was had flying the DJI Spark - only one minor crash. (video link) If you're flying a drone in a public place like a park, you're going to get some looks. While consumer drones are becoming more widely available and more popular, they're still novel to most consumers. Until recently, most drones were too big and conspicuous to comfortably take anywhere, not to mention the hundreds to thousands of dollars you'd have to spend to get one. But drone technology is improving fast, and DJI is rolling along with it. Its Mavic Pro drone was praised for its small size and reasonable price when it first came out at the end of 2016, and less than a year later, we now have the Spark. This $499 drone is incredibly small, doesn't break the bank, and has a bunch of exciting features designed for anyone to use. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 7 days ago on ars technica
It's a behind-the-scenes look at the next Star Wars flick, and everything is proceeding according to my plan that this movie will be ridiculously awesome. As soon as it was announced that Rian Johnson would be writing and directing The Last Jedi, I was sold on this flick. Johnson's previous movies include Looper and Brick, which are both incredible, action-packed indies. We've seen some glimpses of the movie in a teaser trailer, but we get a pretty concentrated dose in this behind-the-scenes vid that shows off some cool fight scenes (Rey with a light saber!) and a bunch of weird new creatures (WTF is that glassy-looking fox?). Also, it's always fun to hear John Boyega, who plays ex-Stormtrooper Finn, using his real-life British accent. We also see some great footage of Carrie Fisher (hard not to get a little choked up there). One of the themes of this video seems to be that Johnson's script is going to be a little shocking. Given that there's a chase scene in Looper that haunts my dreams to this day, I can absolutely believe that there will be a few unhinged moments in The Last Jedi. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 7 days ago on ars technica
It's the first teaser trailer for A Wrinkle in Time, and it looks appropriately creepy and insane. A lot of geeky, imaginative kids grew up with their faces jammed inside a copy of Madeleine L'Engle's book A Wrinkle in Time. It's the story of a family of science and math geniuses that gets tangled up in a physics experiment that has metaphysical implications. This new film adaptation has the perfect balance of creeping horror and gorgeous, Wizard of Oz-like wonderscapes. A Wrinkle in Time is the first book in a trilogy that is basically the forerunner to the His Dark Materials books by Philip Pullman. It's science fiction that takes seriously the idea that sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic. Our hero Meg's father has discovered how to use a five-dimensional tesseract to "fold time" and travel instantaneously across vast distances in space. When he goes missing, Meg is visited by three mysterious women who are basically aliens, witches, and scientists rolled into one. They tell Meg that only she can rescue her father, so she "tessers" across dimensions to find him, accompanied by her little brother Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin (both geniuses, of course). Along the way, they encounter terrifying and amazing alien worlds, and they eventually head toward a showdown on an authoritarian world run by a computer. We catch glimpses of this world in the trailer, where all the children are bouncing their balls in unison. It seems like some of the book's adventures will be preserved for the movie. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 7 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Solar panels, Ferrisburgh, Vermont, June 15, 2016. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images) On Friday evening, Bloomberg reported that it has seen an early draft of a study from the Department of Energy (DOE) concluding that renewable energy like wind and solar are not a threat to the reliability of the grid at present. The study was commissioned at the request of Energy Secretary Rick Perry. If this draft is an accurate reflection of what would be in the final study, the results would be surprising. Perry sent his staffers a memo back in April which never mentioned renewable energy by name but called out “certain policies” that have contributed to the “erosion of critical baseload resources,” like coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric power. The tone of the memo, which accused Obama-administration policies of destroying jobs and “[undercutting] the performance of the grid well into the future,” seemed to make the results of the baseload study a fait accompli, which would allow the DOE to set policies to support the coal industry. Bloomberg says that the July-dated draft contradicts insinuations that renewable energy is the cause of coal plant closures. Instead, the draft blames the low price of natural gas for a market that has been giving less love to coal over the past few years. “Costly environmental regulations and subsidized renewable generation have exacerbated baseload power plant retirements,” Bloomberg quotes from the draft. “However, those factors played minor roles compared to the long-standing drop in electricity demand relative to previous expectation and years of low electric prices driven by high natural gas availability.” Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 7 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / The cover of the book at the center of a legal dispute about animal rights, copyright, and an open Internet. (credit: Blurb) Going on two years now, an Indonesian macaque monkey named Naruto, represented by his self-appointed lawyers from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has been trying to claim ownership of the selfies he took of himself with a camera he swiped from a British nature photographer in the jungle of the Tangkoko reserve. This issue is no laughing matter, regardless of how bizarre it seems. Let's assume PETA is correct—that copyrights can be granted to animals. After all, US copyright law grants ownership of images to those who snapped them. So why can't that owner be a monkey? That's PETA's position—one that has been generally down-voted so far in court and across a broad swath of the Internet as being bananas. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 7 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Yamataï's board gets increasingly colorful as the game progresses. Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com—and let us know what you think. Days of Wonder—the board game publisher behind hits like Small World and Ticket to Ride—has released Yamataï, its "big game" of 2017. It's a veritable mashup of modern board game mechanics, everything from role selection to area control bonuses to turn order bidding, but the whole is greater than the sum of its brightly colored bits. In short, I love it. Yamataï springs from the fertile brains of designers Bruno Cathala and Marc Paquien, and it bears more than a few resembles to Cathala's earlier game, the mancala-driven Five Tribes. Just as in that game, here you'll need to deposit multicolored wooden bits along a connected path, earning resources until you can build structures or buy helpful bonus figures ("djinns" in Five Tribes, "specialists" here). Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 7 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Andrew Brookes, Getty Images) Two former staffers of a congresswoman were indicted Thursday on charges of posting nude pictures of the lawmaker and her husband on social media and of lying to investigators about it. Plaskett. (credit: Stacey Plaskett website) The indictments surround former aides to Stacey Plaskett, a Democrat and non-voting delegate to the House representing the Virgin Islands. The cyberstalking charges allege that Juan McCullum, Plaskett's general counsel, published nude images of the congresswoman and her husband on a fictitious Facebook account and elsewhere. He accessed the images, the authorities said, when he took Plaskett's iPhone to an Apple Store for repair. Another staffer, secretary Dorene Browne-Louis, 45, is accused of covering up last year's scandal. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 7 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Dave Barger) In many developing countries, the struggle for economic growth is set back by rampant corruption. According to figures in a new study of the issue, people in urban areas of Kenya typically pay bribes 16 times a month. That's a drain on the economy, and it adds a layer of complexity between citizens and essential government services. While a variety of policy approaches have attempted to limit corruption, it's difficult to track their effectiveness. Now, an international team of researchers has developed a game-theory approach to teasing out the factors that contribute to corruption. Their results show that under the wrong circumstances, a common method of limiting corruption—government transparency—can actually make matters worse. Cooperation vs. the freeloaders The foundation of this work is what's called a "public goods game," which measures people's willingness to cooperate. In this game, everyone starts with a pool of cash and is given the opportunity to contribute to a common, public pool. The resulting pool is then multiplied, and its contents are distributed evenly among the players. The group as a whole works out best if everyone cooperates, contributing the maximum amount to the pool. But individuals do best if they freeload: contribute nothing, then take their share of the public pool. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Caesar is on a revenge mission to destroy the Colonel. Will his animal instincts make him no better than those damn, dirty humans? (credit: 20th Century Fox) War for the Planet of the Apes is definitely the most fable-like movie in the rebooted Apes trilogy, with its starkly defined war of good apes against evil humans. But it's also the most character-driven story too. With War, it becomes clear that this trilogy has actually been the biography of one person, Caesar, who grew from humble origins as a lab animal to become one of Earth's greatest heroes. There is something cheesy yet stirringly genuine about the way War lionizes its main character, making him both noble and relatable. Partly this comes down to Andy Serkis, the world's first truly brilliant mocap actor, who fills Caesar's face with thoughtful, grim determination. But it's also about a simple design choice, which was to make the uplifted apes' eyes transform into human eyes. When the camera looks at Caesar, we can't help but see the face of a person, despite the fur and thick brow ridges. A fascinating character study This is particularly important in War, where the humans and apes finally switch roles. One of the signature details in the original original series is that many humans in the far future have lost the ability to speak. Flung nearly 2,000 years into the future, astronaut Charlton Heston finds wild humans living like apes once did. In War, we see how this situation came about. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, the Dealmaster is back with a big bag of deals for your weekend consideration. We're still in post-Amazon Prime Day mode, so here's the best of what is still live. There's a $399 Oculus Rift VR Bundle, $10 Amazon Credit on Gift Card Reloads, and 40 percent off Audible. Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs. Featured Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / International air travelers are processed by US Customs and Border Protection agents upon arrival to Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on December 10, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (credit: David McNew/Getty Images) In a new letter, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has answered some questions posed months ago by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) about the agency’s policies when it comes to searches of digital devices at the border. However, that letter appears to have raised even more questions. As Ars reported previously, there is a very broad exception to the Fourth Amendment at the border that allows officials to conduct warrantless searches. If your device is locked or encrypted and you refuse to assist agents’ attempts to open it, the device can be seized. The recently published letter from CBP reiterated what federal officials have said before: electronic border searches are extremely rare, and the government claims the legal authority to compel assistance to open a device (including forcing someone to hand over their password). But it also distinguishes between data held on the phone and data held in the cloud. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Juicero) According to a letter to employees sent today, Juicero CEO Jeff Dunn allegedly called for a “strategic shift” at the company that would involve cutting 25 percent of staff and dropping the price of the press to under $200. Juicero found itself in the Silicon Valley limelight in April, when Bloomberg reporters got ahold of one of the company’s high-end presses and found that they could, by hand, squeeze a considerable amount of juice out of the proprietary juice bags that are designed to work with the appliance. That left many to question what the juicer, which started at $700 and was later reduced to $400, was really doing. It couldn’t press any fruits or vegetables other than what came in the juice bags (which are delivered to customers’ doors for $5 to $7 a pouch). And if you buy into the idea that cold-pressed juice is somehow healthier for you than juice from a centrifugal blender (a claim for which there is very little evidence), then that purpose seemed to be thwarted as well—the produce in several bags seemed to already be in a pulp form. After much ridicule, Juicero CEO Jeff Dunn defended his company’s product, saying that the elaborately engineered machine delivered more consistent pouch presses and prevented users from accidentally pressing expired juice packs by reading a barcode on the pack’s label. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Server administrator kaiju hates user password reset requests. (credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment America (CC)) Back in May, Microsoft announced that Windows Server would be joining the Windows Insider Program. Late last night, the first preview release of Windows Server was published. The biggest areas of improvement in the new build are around virtualization and containers. The preview allows exposing more of the underlying hardware capabilities to virtual machines, with support for virtualized non-volatile memory and virtualized power/battery status. For both containers and virtual machines, networking capabilities have been enhanced to enable a wider range of virtual network capabilities with greater performance. The focus on containerization has also seen the Nano Server deployment of Windows Server change. Presently, Nano Server is still a full operating system, but with the Redstone 3 release of Windows later this year, that's going to change. It's going to be a strictly container-only deployment. Upgrading and maintaining Nano Server will be done through updating the container image. This has enabled Microsoft to strip down the Nano Server installation. It no longer requires, for example, the Windows servicing stack. Because it's upgraded simply by replacing the image, Nano Server no longer needs to use Windows Update itself. The result is a 70 percent reduction in the image's footprint. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaks during the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas on April 25, 2017. (credit: Getty Images | Ethan Miller ) One day after a large protest of his plan to gut net neutrality rules, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai was asked if the number of pro-net neutrality comments submitted to the FCC might cause a change in course. In response, Pai maintained his stance that the number of comments is not as important as the content of those comments. "As I said previously, the raw number is not as important as the substantive comments that are in the record," Pai said at a press conference following yesterday's monthly FCC meeting. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: flickr user: NH53) If humans, chimps, gorillas, and orangutans can all do something, but monkeys can’t, that tells a certain evolutionary story: it suggests that the ability emerged sometime after the apes split off from the monkeys on our evolutionary tree. But if a bird comes along with that ability, it throws the whole story off course. Corvids—a family of birds that includes ravens, jays, and crows—seem to delight in doing just that. Humans pretty obviously plan for the future, from packing a brown bag lunch to saving for retirement. Other apes also seem to be able to plan for the short-term future, at least up to one night. Monkeys don’t. But a paper in Science this week reports a small group of corvids succeeding at future-planning tasks. That points to a complex evolutionary story. Two cognitive scientists at Lund University in Sweden, Can Kabadayi and Mathias Osvath, conducted a series of experiments with five captive, hand-raised ravens. Obviously, that’s not a lot of ravens, and hand-raised ravens do not behave like wild ravens. But when it comes to figuring out the outer bounds of cognitive abilities for a species, those aren’t the most important problems to worry about. Testing more ravens, and wild ravens, comes later. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Just as there are no wires visible in this promotional shot, soon there will be no wires on a future Oculus standalone headset. Yesterday, a report from Bloomberg revealed that Oculus is planning to release a $200 wireless standalone VR headset. Today, we've got additional details on Oculus' overall VR hardware plans. Ars Technica has confirmed that Oculus is exploring multiple different options in a "spectrum" of standalone devices for the future. That includes continued investment in standalone headsets that have "six degree of freedom" full motion tracking akin to the Santa Cruz prototype shown at last year's Oculus Connect conference. Oculus will not release any hardware before the end of 2017, though. Oculus doesn't see its wireless standalone headset plans as a replacement for the existing Rift, however. Instead, the company sees PC-connected Rift headsets and mobile phone-powered holsters like Gear VR as completely separate categories that will operate parallel to any standalone VR hardware. Oculus hopes people who purchase the Rift today will still be able to enjoy it for years without regret. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
NASA A pair of Apollo-era NASA computers and hundreds of mysterious tape reels have been discovered in a deceased engineer’s basement in Pittsburgh, according to a NASA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Most of the tapes are unmarked, but the majority of the rest appear to be instrumentation reels for Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, NASA’s fly-by missions to Jupiter and Saturn. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Artist's impression of how busy this person will be once hired. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock) Ars Technica is seeking an experienced writer and reviewer to join our Reviews Team. The world of technology products is vast, and the ideal candidate will have a broad interest in technology goodies that stretches from flagship products to the lesser wonders that we nonetheless can’t live without. This position will work closely with our Senior Android Editor to make sure Ars stays on top of computing in all of its forms. Expertise in a major branch of technology is required (e.g., Apple or Microsoft technologies; Internet of Things; networking). Candidates must have 3 or more years of professional experience writing and reviewing products in technology. You should be comfortable in a fast-paced, often chaotic environment, driven by a desire to delight our readers. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Could this really be a keyboard and mouse for modern gaming? Well... (credit: Andrew Cunningham) Gaming on the Mac is terrible, right? That has been the consensus among gamers for a decade-plus—Ars even declared Mac gaming dead all the way back in 2007. But in reality, the situation has gotten better. And after Apple dedicated an unprecedented amount of attention to Mac gaming at WWDC 2017, things might be looking up for Mac gamers in the coming years. When Apple announced new Macs and a major update to its Mac graphics API at this year’s developer conference, there was an air of hope amongst Mac gamers and developers. Gaming on a Mac may look more appealing than ever thanks to the introduction and gradual improvement of Apple’s relatively new Metal graphics API and a better-than-ever-before install base. On top of that, discrete Mac graphics processors have just seen some of their biggest boosts in recent years, VR support is on the way, and external GPU enclosures promise previously impossible upgradeability. So gaming on the Mac is improving, but is it good or still terrible? Are we on track to parity with Windows? Speaking to game developers who specialize in the Mac about the state of Mac gaming in the wake of WWDC, Ars encountered plenty of optimism. Still, there’s plenty to be cautious about. Read 49 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Bosch provided flights to Frankfurt and three nights' accommodation for this trip to the Bosch Mobility Experience. Jonathan Gitlin BOXBERG, GERMANY—Diesel is a dirty word in the auto industry these days. The fuel was once viewed—particularly in Europe—as a potential savior, since diesel engines offer much better fuel economy and emit much less CO2 per mile than engines that run on gasoline. But that changed once Volkswagen Group was caught cheating its emissions tests, resulting in billions of dollars of fines and a loss of public trust. Automotive-component maker Bosch had a hand in the mess, too—it provided the code on the Engine Control Units in VW Group's offending diesels. The supplier ultimately paid out several hundred million dollars in settlement in the US, although it was not required to admit any wrongdoing. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. (credit: Z A Balti/Public domain) I was confused for a few moments today, after one of my colleagues asked me if I'd heard about "fontgate." "Fontgate?" I queried. "Pakistan either loves or hates Calibri," I was unhelpfully informed. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Hey remember this movie from the 1980s about rank-reversal aversion? (credit: Paramount Pictures) It's well known among economists that most people don't like income disparities, especially when they're on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. This is reflected in polls and scientific studies, but also just everyday common sense. Yet many of our societies suffer from a widening gap between the haves and have-nots. If we hate economic inequality so much, why do humans keep supporting institutions that concentrate wealth in a tiny percentage of the population? A new cross-cultural study led by economists working in China suggests one possible reason: people are not willing to redistribute wealth if they think it will upset the social hierarchy. Zhejiang University business school professor Zhou Xinyue and his colleagues conducted a simple experiment using a game that allows players to redistribute income between two people. They describe the results in Nature Human Behavior. Players were shown pictures of two people and told that one has randomly been given a large amount of money and the other a small amount. Then players were asked whether they would be willing to allow the money to be redistributed under two basic conditions: one, if the redistribution leaves the "rich" person still richer than the other; and two, if the redistribution reverses the roles and leaves the "rich" person poorer than the other. Zhou and colleagues did tests on subjects in China and continued their tests with Indian and Caucasian subjects via Mechanical Turk. They found that responses were surprisingly uniform: 76.87% of people were willing to redistribute money if the rich person remained slightly wealthier than the poor person, thus keeping "social ranking" intact. But only 44.8% of people were willing to redistribute the money if it meant reversing the fortunes of the "rich" and "poor" people. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / A bitcoin token stands in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. (credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images) AlphaBay, one of the largest Tor-hidden drug websites that sprung up in the wake of Silk Road, has been shuttered for good after a series of law enforcement raids and arrests. The site mysteriously went dark earlier this month. Some users on Reddit suspected an "exit scam," in which AlphaBay's founders had shuttered the site and absconded with piles of bitcoins. According to the Wall Street Journal, which reported the news on Thursday, police in the United States, Canada, and Thailand collaborated to arrest Alexandre Cazes, who allegedly was the head of the online operation. The Canadian citizen was arrested on July 5 in Thailand, the same day that two raids on residences in Quebec, Canada, were executed. On Wednesday, Cazes was found dead, hanged in his Thai jail cell. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Alfred Pasieka/Science Photo Library) Here at Ars, we often speak of facial-recognition technology as some Orwellian surveillance method that will one day be deployed by governments or other evil actors to chronicle our every move—perhaps for nefarious purposes. We reported Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security is pushing a plan that would require all Americans to submit to a facial-recognition scan when flying out of the country. Whether that's good or bad is open for debate. And add to that, the nation's spy agencies have asked the public to help make biometrics more accurate. While we're not at an Orwellian point in time yet with biometrics, facial-recognition technology is being used for good, no matter how scary the technology sounds. Consider that Nevada authorities have announced that biometrics was behind the arrest of a violent criminal who escaped from prison 25 years ago. It's another in a string of arrests in which biometrics essentially paved the way for a bad guy's capture. What led to the recent arrest of 64-year-old career criminal Robert Frederick Nelson of North Las Vegas, who committed a number of felonies after escaping from a Minnesota prison in 1992? He applied for a Nevada ID card, and the Silver State's facial recognition tech doomed him. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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