What’s new in tech
‘Do Not Track’ does not work
Your internet browser has a “Do Not Track” function that, if you turn it on, will ask sites you visit not to collect or share data about your browsing habits. There’s just one problem with this potentially useful function, said Kashmir Hill in Gizmodo.com: “It doesn’t do anything.” Almost none of the big consumer internet companies honor Do Not Track requests, including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, and, yes, the media sites—including Gizmodo—that write about privacy. Why? For one thing, while a telemarketer can be fined up to $16,000 for flouting a Do Not Call request, “there is no penalty for ignoring Do Not Track.” One expert says Do Not Track creates “the illusion of a voluntary self-regulatory process” in the tech industry; another, who spent four years developing the feature, calls it a “failed experiment” that should probably be retired.
Not yet pixel-perfect
Google’s Pixel 3 phone isn’t an iPhone killer, said Lauren Goode in Wired.com, but it does have “extensive software smarts.” That brainpower can be seen in its camera. In Photobooth mode the $799 phone will start taking selfies as soon as you smile. And despite having only one rear camera lens, the $799 Pixel 3 can “adjust the background depth” in photos, creating the soft-focus backgrounds of bigger cameras. The most impressive feature is a virtual assistant that can ask callers what they’re calling about, then transcribe the message and display it on your screen. Still, if your friends and family use Apple’s iMessage and iCloud photo sharing, switching to the Pixel 3 probably isn’t worth it.
A smarter approach to AI
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is spending $1 billion on a new college devoted to artificial intelligence, said Steve Lohr in The New York Times. It will have 50 new faculty members, whose research will cut across MIT’s traditional departments. Up until now, students have taken classes in programming or data science in addition to their major. In the new school, called the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, computer science and AI will be “baked into the curriculum.” The college will also focus on ethical issues around AI in areas from medicine to self-driving cars. “We really need to try to understand this technology,” says philanthropist and financier Schwarzman, who is donating $350 million to the school, “not just get hit by it.”