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Welcome to the April 1, 2020 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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David Silver, recipient of the prize ACM Prize in Computing Awarded to AlphaGo Developer
April 1, 2020

ACM has named DeepMind research scientist David Silver to receive the 2019 ACM Prize in Computing for advances in computer game-playing. His most highly publicized accomplishment was leading the group that developed AlphaGo, an algorithm that beat the world Go champion. Silver designed the algorithm by integrating concepts from deep learning, reinforcement learning, traditional tree-search, and large-scale computing. Silver's team trained AlphaGo on expert human games, then applied reinforcement learning to enhance its performance. Silver later developed the AlphaZero algorithm that learned by playing games against itself, using only game rules, and demonstrated unprecedented generality of game-playing techniques. Infosys' Pravin Rao said, "The frameworks that Silver and his colleagues have developed will inform all areas of [artificial intelligence], as well as practical applications in business and industry for many years to come."

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Medical Professionals With Medical Equipment in Short Supply, 3D Printing Steps Up in Coronavirus Crisis
The Wall Street Journal
Sara Castellanos; Agam Shah
March 31, 2020

A shortage of medical equipment is spurring healthcare providers to turn to three-dimensional (3D) printing as a temporary solution during the coronavirus pandemic. For example, the Northwell Health hospital system is 3D-printing nasal swabs in New York, the epicenter of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Physicians at Northwell Health and the University of South Florida tested, designed, and fabricated the swabs from sterilized surgical-grade resin using printers from Formlabs. As the U.S. mobilization of domestic production gears up, health officials and 3D printing firms are sharing digital files which can be printed rapidly into potentially lifesaving equipment. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also published updated guidance for healthcare providers on 3D printing medical devices and personal protective equipment, including recommendations and precautions to follow when 3D-printing and testing equipment.

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Washington State Signs Facial Recognition Curbs Into Law; Critics Want Ban
Paresh Dave; Jeffrey Dastin
March 31, 2020

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed the first U.S. state law curbing law enforcement's use of facial recognition technology, but civil rights advocates are urging instead an outright ban, to ensure protection for marginalized groups. Under the law, government agencies must secure a warrant to run facial recognition scans, except in emergency situations. The software used also has to be independently tested for "accuracy and unfair performance differences" across skin tone, gender, age, and other traits; training and public disclosure on usage of facial recognition is mandated as well. The legislation was sponsored by Washington State Sen. Joe Nguyen, a senior program manager at Microsoft. Microsoft is opposed to a ban; company president Brad Smith said the statute creates civil liberty safeguards while preserving public safety benefits, as when governments use facial recognition to find missing people.

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Some Mobile Phone Apps May Contain Hidden Behaviors That Users Never See
Ohio State News
Laura Arenschield
March 31, 2020

Cybersecurity researchers at Ohio State University, New York University, and Germany's CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security have found that many mobile phone applications may allow others to access private data or block user-provided content through "backdoor secrets." The researchers assessed 150,000 apps and found that 8.5% contained backdoor secrets that accept certain types of content to activate behaviors unknown to regular users. Some also possessed built-in master passwords allowing parties to access the app and any private data within it, and some had secret access keys that could trigger hidden options, like bypassing payments. Others blocked content featuring specific keywords subject to censorship, cyberbullying, or discrimination. The researchers created the open source InputScope tool to help developers understand flaws in their apps.

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Generation of polarization entangled photon pairs at a wavelength of 2.1 micrometres Researchers Develop Photon Source for Tap-Proof Communication
Leibniz Universität Hannover
March 27, 2020

A 15-member research team from the U.K., Germany, and Japan has developed a new method for generating and detecting quantum-enabled photons at a wavelength of 2.1 micrometers, which could make the encryption of satellite-based communications more secure. Previously, such encryption mechanisms could only be implemented with entangled photons in the near-infrared range of 700 to 1,550 nanometers. The researchers produced entangled photon pairs at a wavelength of 2.1 micrometers by sending ultrashort light pulses from a laser into a nonlinear crystal made of lithium niobate. Michael Kues at Germany’s Leibniz University Hannover said photon pairs entangled at that wavelength would be significantly less influenced by background radiation from the sun.

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Court: Algorithmic Bias Research Doesn't Count as Hacking
Federal Computer Week
Derek B. Johnson
March 30, 2020

Northwestern University's Christopher Wilson and Alan Mislove successfully petitioned the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia to preemptively determine their study of algorithmic bias at hiring websites does not violate the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). In 2016, the researchers created fictitious user profiles and job opportunities for hiring websites to consider possible algorithmic discrimination against applicants based on race, gender, age, or other factors. They specified in each job listing or user profile that these were bogus accounts, but a lawsuit claimed this violated the websites’ terms of service, exposing the researchers to potential prosecution under CFAA. U.S. District Judge John Bates wrote in his opinion on the case, “The Court concludes that the CFAA does not criminalize mere terms-of-service violations on consumer websites and, thus, that plaintiffs' proposed research plans are not criminal under the CFAA."

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Brian J. Goode, a research scientist from Virginia Tech’s Fralin Life Sciences Institute Projecting the Outcomes of People's Lives with AI Isn't So Simple
Virginia Tech News
Egan Jimenez; Kendall Daniels
March 30, 2020

The results of a multi-institutional study using statistical and machine learning models to predict and quantify life outcomes for children, parents, and households in the U.S. suggest that sociologists and data scientists should be cautious when employing predictive modeling, particularly in the criminal justice system and social programs. The Fragile Families Challenge study found that even the best artificial intelligence predictive models had little accuracy when applying state-of-the-art modeling to a high-quality dataset. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University's Brian J. Goode said, " I think the Fragile Families Challenge shows that we need more research support in this area, particularly as machine learning has a greater impact on our everyday lives."

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Extreme High-Frequency Signals Enable Terabits-per-Second Data Links
AIP Publishing
March 31, 2020

Researchers at Brown University and broadband and Wi-Fi management product maker ASSIA enabled data transmission at terabits-per-second rates using high-frequency 200 GHz signals through copper wires. They employed experimental measurements and mathematical modeling to characterize the input and output signals in a waveguide, using a device with two wires running parallel within a sheath with a large diameter to facilitate increased mixing of waveguide modes. Brown's Daniel Mittleman said the group quantified the spatial energy distribution at the output of the waveguide by mapping its output port, pinpointing the energy's location. Said Mittleman, "It is exciting to show that a waveguide can support a data rate of 10 terabits per second, even if only over a short range. That’s well beyond what anybody has previously envisioned.”

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‘Smart’ Devices Help Reduce Adverse Outcomes of Common Heart Condition
University of Liverpool
March 30, 2020

Researchers at the University of Liverpool in the U.K. have found that mobile health (mHealth) devices can help screen for and detect atrial fibrillation (AF), a common heart condition causing an irregular, sometimes abnormally fast, heart rate. The researchers examined how mHealth technologies worked in conjunction with a specially developed mobile app to monitor a person's vital signs with great accuracy, 24 hours a day. The app charted the patient's biometrics, and gave healthcare professionals the ability to offer integrated care during the test. The team found that strokes, systemic thromboembolisms, deaths, and re-hospitalizations were significantly lower among patients in the mHealth study group (1.9%), compared to those undergoing usual care (6%).

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Study: Fake Russian Twitter Accounts Politicized Discourse About Vaccines
University at Buffalo News
Bert Gambini
March 31, 2020

Researchers at the University at Buffalo have found that activity from fraudulent Twitter accounts created by the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) between 2015 and 2017 may have contributed to politicizing Americans’ views on the nature and efficacy of vaccines. The researchers used a machine learning method to analyze nearly 3 million tweets from phony accounts, and found the Russian IRA had targeted Republicans and Democrats differently in order to intensify the political divide. Said the University At Buffalo’s Yotam Ophir, “The virus is not political, but when any health topic becomes a political matter at the expense of fact, the result is to base conclusions and make decisions, such as whether to social distance or not, on party loyalty, not science. That’s extremely dangerous.”

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Times Square stood nearly empty on March 22. Intriguing new data suggest that stay-at-home measures may be working Restrictions Are Slowing Coronavirus Infections, Data Suggest
The New York Times
Donald G. McNeil Jr.
March 30, 2020

Data from Internet-connected thermometer producer Kinsa Health suggests that mass business closures and social-distancing edicts imposed to fight the coronavirus pandemic are helping reduce the numbers of fevers recorded across the U.S. The company on March 22 created a national map of fever levels that could be used to see this decline, which later was bolstered by data from New York State and Washington State health departments. Kinsa's thermometers upload a user's temperature readings to a centralized database, enabling the company to track fevers across the country. More than 1 million Kinsa thermometers are in circulation, and have been recording up to 162,000 daily temperature readings since COVID-19 began propagating in the U.S. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo acknowledged that the restrictions “are burdensome. But they are effective, and they are necessary. The evidence suggests that they have slowed our hospitalizations, and that is everything.”

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FCC Tells U.S. Telcos to Implement Caller ID Authentication by June 30, 2021
Catalin Cimpanu
March 31, 2020

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced new rules requiring all U.S. telecommunication providers to implement the STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication standard in the Internet Protocol (IP) portions of their networks by June 30, 2021. The STIR/SHAKEN protocol is viewed as the best current defense against robocalls, employing cryptographic certificates to sign a caller's ID. The telco network signs calls where they originated, and the voice provider where the call connects verifies the calls through a remotely-hosted third-party certificate repository. The FCC said it “estimates that the benefits of eliminating the wasted time and nuisance caused by illegal scam robocalls will exceed $3 billion annually, and STIR/SHAKEN is an important part of realizing those cost savings."

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