NIST is crowdsourcing differential privacy techniques for public safety datasets

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is launching the Differential Privacy Temporal Map Challenge. It’s a set of contests, with cash prizes attached, that’s intended to crowdsource new ways of handling personally identifiable information (PII) in public safety datasets.

The problem is that although rich, detailed data is valuable for researchers and for building AI models — in this case, in the areas of emergency planning and epidemiology — it raises serious and potentially dangerous data privacy and rights issues. Even if datasets are kept under proverbial lock and key, malicious actors can, based on just a few data points, re-infer sensitive information about people.

The solution is to de-identify the data such that it remains useful without compromising individuals’ privacy. NIST already has a clear standard for what that means. In part, and simply put, it says that “De-identification removes identifying information from a dataset so that individual data cannot be linked with specific individuals.”

The purpose of the Challenge is to find better ways to do that with a technique called differential privacy. Differential privacy essentially introduces enough noise into datasets to ensure privacy. It’s widely used in products from companies like Google, Apple, and Nvidia, and lawmakers are leaning on it to inform data privacy policy.

Specifically, the Challenge focuses on temporal map data, which contains time and spatial information. The call for the NIST contest says, “Public safety agencies collect extensive data containing time, geographic, and potentially personally identifiable information.” For example, a 911 call would reveal a person’s name, age, gender, address, symptoms or situation, and more. “Temporal map data is of particular interest to the public safety community,” reads the call.

The Differential Privacy Temporal Map Challenge stands on the shoulders of similar previous NIST differential privacy Challenges — one centered on

Best mesh WiFi systems and why you definitely need one

Whether you’re a gamer, working from home, or just want a better connection, WiFi mesh is sure to improve your network. We’ve read the reviews and scoured the internet to bring you some of the best options out there to give you flawless internet connection throughout your living space.

All products featured here are independently selected by our editors and writers.If you buy something through links on our site, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.

Is there anything more frustrating than unreliable internet? If you’re someone who works from home, likes to scroll during your Netflix and Chill time, or simply has a lot of housemates all eating up the internet at the same time, then a WiFi mesh system is for you. Read on to discover what that is, why you need it, and which options will work best for your needs.

What is a WiFi mesh system?

Designed to blanket your entire home in uninterrupted connectivity, WiFi mesh is a wireless internet system comprising a main router as well as several nodes strategically placed throughout the household to reduce spotty service. 

The nodes help to cover areas the main router can’t reach, making it the ideal solution for large homes and properties, or areas that struggle with WiFi connectivity, ensuring that even the furthest rooms have flawless connection. Mesh keeps all the nodes within a single wireless network, with the same SSID and password, so you’ll be able to seamlessly walk from room to room without losing your service, rather than WiFi range extenders that need multiple network names and passwords.

Mesh is easily expandable, so you can even extend coverage out to the backyard, garage, and basement at any point. 

How to choose a mesh WiFi (or whole home WiFi) system

Pandemic Pushes Millions Of Shoppers Online In Latin America

Latin America’s e-commerce industry is booming as millions of shoppers across the region venture online during the pandemic, many for the first time, forcing traditional businesses to adapt to survive.

The sector has been one of the big winners of the coronavirus outbreak as fears of infection and lockdown measures keep people at home.

“Covid-19 has been an accelerator of trends, and in electronic commerce it has been very powerful,” said Oscar Silva, an expert in global strategies with the consultancy firm KPMG in Mexico.

“More than 10 million Latin Americans who had never bought online now do so regularly,” he told AFP.

The dominant regional force is not Amazon or eBay but Mercado Libre, which has a similar business model and is present in 18 countries.

Despite the economic turmoil unleashed by the pandemic, the Argentinian company doubled its sales in the second quarter of this year thanks to a 45 percent rise in the number of customers to 51.1 million.

Its market capitalization reached $55 billion, challenging Brazilian mining giant Vale for the title of Latin America’s most valuable company.

The tectonic shift in consumer habits is likely to endure, said Silva.

“People were afraid of fraud or that the product wouldn’t be what they expected. It’s very likely that a large percentage of these customers will stay after realizing how easy and efficient online commerce is,” he said.

David Geisen, head of Mercado Libre’s Mexican arm, said that “loyal users now buy in 12 days what they bought before in 17, frequent users in 24 days what they bought in 79, and sporadic users in 29 days what they bought in almost a year.”

At the start of the pandemic, top sellers included face masks, antibacterial gel, thermometers and oximeters, but demand gradually spread to other goods

Spellbreak Update 1.1 Fixes Bugs, Adds Anti-Cheat Measures, And Smooths Out Aiming Issues

Spellbreak, a free-to-play battle royale where every player has an elemental power to fight with, has received its first major update. The game, which launched on PC, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One on September 3, has updated to version 1.1, and has fixed numerous bugs and issues in the process.

Update 1.1 brings several fixes to Spellbreak across all platforms, as well as some system-specific changes for each different version of the game. It doesn’t add any major new features, but instead focuses on tweaking and improving what is already there.

“We wanted the focus of this one to be on stability and performance across all of our platforms,” the Spellbreak blog reads before detailing the patch notes.

The complete patch notes for Spellbreak Update 1.1 are below.

Gameplay

  • The Lighting Bolts spell’s recovery animation can now be interrupted by casting a sorcery.
  • Fix edge case where reviving or exiling someone could be canceled in order to get faster spell firing.
  • Fixed an issue that caused projectiles to sometimes not register damage even though they hit.

Aim Assist

  • Smoothed out difference in aim assist strength between different framerates.
    • This results in more consistent behavior for all players and eliminates advantages that came from very high framerate.
  • Fixed an exploit where aim assist could be much stronger than intended under certain combinations of distance to target and input sensitivity.
    • This meant it was possible for players under certain circumstances to make their spells incredibly easy to hit. This was mostly clearly seen with the Lightning Gauntlet on PC.
  • Adjusted aim assist values for various console platforms.
  • Aim assist now decreases over distance.
  • Default Look Deadzone setting on Switch is now 0%.
    • This is generally what you want, because deadzones are handled by the OS itself.

Miscellaneous

  • Enabled some extra anti-cheat mechanisms.

WeChat sets the record straight for its 690,000 Aussie users

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The Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media has been tasked with probing the risk posed to the nation’s democracy by foreign interference through social media.

Twitter, Google, Tiktok, and Facebook have previously made submissions to the inquiry, with the plan for representatives from each of the social media platforms to eventually face the committee.

TikTok was probed on Friday, using its time to clarify data protection rules, its plans to prevent distressing videos from being viewed on its platform, and how it wasn’t asked to provide assistance to a government investigation, among other things. Facebook was due to appear alongside TikTok, but blamed a scheduling issue for pulling out.

The latest submission [PDF] to the committee as part of its inquiry comes from the Middle Kingdom, by way of popular chat app WeChat.

WeChat is owned and operated by WeChat International Pte Ltd, an entity incorporated in Singapore. WeChat International is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tencent Holdings Limited, which is a global technology giant incorporated in the Cayman Islands and listed on the Main Board of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong.

Globally, WeChat boasts over 1.2 billion monthly active users. As at 21 September 2020, WeChat had approximately 690,000 daily active users in Australia.

US President Donald Trump in August claimed that apps developed in China are a threat to national security, making an executive order to ban WeChat alongside TikTok. Although that ban was later blocked by the US district court, WeChat has taken the opportunity in its submission to the Australian committee to explain how western users of the app are treated differently to those in mainland China.

Firstly, the specific app used is regional.

WeChat is operated by WeChat International, and is designed for users outside of mainland China. It said WeChat is