Supreme Court limits US hacking law in landmark CFAA ruling

The Supreme Court has ruled that a police officer who searched a license plate database for an acquaintance in exchange for cash did not violate U.S. hacking laws.

The landmark ruling concludes a long-running case that clarifies the controversial Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or CFAA, by putting limits on what kind of conduct can be prosecuted.

The court ruled 6-3 in favor of Nathan Van Buren, a former Georgia police sergeant who brought the case. Van Buren was prosecuted on two counts, one for accepting a kickback for accessing the database as a serving police officer, and another for violating the CFAA. His first conviction was overturned, but the CFAA conviction was upheld — until today.

Although Van Buren was allowed to access the license plate database, the legal question became whether or not he had exceeded his authorized access.

In the ruling, the Supreme Court said that the CFAA “covers those who obtain information from particular areas in the computer — such as files, folders, or databases — to which their computer access does not extend,” and that while Van Vuren “plainly flouted” the police department’s rules for law enforcement purposes, he did not violate the CFAA, wrote Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who wrote the majority opinion.

The CFAA was signed into law in 1986 to prosecute hackers who gain “unauthorized” access to a computer or network. But courts have been split on what “unauthorized” means. Legal experts have argued that a broad reading of the law could criminalize violating a site’s terms of service, such as lying on a dating profile or sharing a password to a streaming service. The court said that the government’s interpretation of the law “would attach criminal penalties to a breathtaking amount of commonplace computer activity.”

Not all the justices agreed. “Without valid law enforcement purposes, he was forbidden to use the computer to obtain that information,” wrote Justice Thomas, who filed a dissenting opinion along with Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Civil liberties experts said Congress should act to amend the CFAA following the court’s ruling.

“This is an important and welcome decision that will help protect digital research and journalism that is urgently necessary. But more is needed,” said Alex Abdo, litigation director of the Knight First Amendment Institute. “Congress should amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to eliminate any remaining uncertainty about the scope of the statute. It should also create a safe harbor for researchers and journalists who are working to study disinformation and discrimination online. Major technology companies should not have a veto over research and journalism that are manifestly in the public interest.”

#california, #cfaa, #computer-fraud-and-abuse-act, #georgia, #hacking, #security, #supreme-court, #united-states, #university-of-california, #university-of-california-berkeley

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Alibaba is making its cloud OS compatible with multiple chip architectures

Alibaba’s cloud computing unit is making its Apsara operating system compatible with processors based on Arm, x86, RISC-V, among other architectures, the company announced at a conference on Friday.

Alibaba Cloud is one of the fastest-growing businesses for the Chinese e-commerce giant and the world’s fourth-largest public cloud service in the second half of 2020, according to market research firm IDC.

The global chip market has mostly been dominated by Intel’s x86 in personal computing and Arm for mobile devices. But RISC-V, an open-source chip architecture competitive with Arm’s technologies, is gaining popularity around the world, especially with Chinese developers. Started by academics at the University of California, Berkeley, RISC-V is open to all to use without licensing or patent fees and is generally not subject to America’s export controls.

The Trump Administration’s bans on Huawei and its rival ZTE over national security concerns have effectively severed ties between the Chinese telecom titans and American tech companies, including major semiconductor suppliers.

Arm was forced to decide its relationships with Huawei and said it could continue licensing to the Chinese firm as it’s of U.K. origin. But Huawei still struggles to find fabs that are both capable and allowed to actually manufacture the chips designed using the architecture.

The U.S. sanctions led to a burst in activity around RISC-V in China’s tech industry as developers prepare for future tech restrictions by the U.S., with Alibaba at the forefront of the movement. Alibaba Cloud, Huawei and ZTE are among the 13 premier members of RISC-V International, which means they get a seat on its Board of Directors and Technical Steering Community.

In 2019, the e-commerce company’s semiconductor division T-Head launched its first core processor Xuantie 910, which is based on RISC-V and used for cloud edge and IoT applications. Having its operating system work with multiple chip systems instead of one mainstream architecture could prepare Alibaba Cloud well for a future of chip independence in China.

“The IT ecosystem was traditionally defined by chips, but cloud computing fundamentally changed that,” Zhang Jianfeng, president of Alibaba Cloud’s Intelligence group, said at the event. “A cloud operating system can standardize the computing power of server chips, special-purpose chips and other hardware, so whether the chip is based on x86, Arm, RISC-V or a hardware accelerator, the cloud computing offerings for customers are standardized and of high-quality.”

Meanwhile, some argue that Chinese companies moving towards alternatives like RISC-V means more polarization of technology and standards, which is not ideal for global collaboration unless RISC-V becomes widely adopted in the rest of the world.

#alibaba, #alibaba-cloud, #asia, #china, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #computers, #computing, #huawei, #operating-system, #risc-v, #semiconductor, #university-of-california, #university-of-california-berkeley, #x86

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The Persistent Grip of Social Class on College Admissions

The SAT is falling out of favor, but factors like the essay have their own issues.

#admissions-standards, #colleges-and-universities, #income, #sat-college-admission-test, #tests-and-examinations, #university-of-california

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University of California Will No Longer Consider SAT and ACT Scores

The university system has reached a settlement with students to scrap even optional testing from admissions and scholarship decisions.

#act-examination, #admissions-standards, #california, #college-board, #colleges-and-universities, #sat-college-admission-test, #tests-and-examinations, #university-of-california

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San Francisco’s Top Art School Says Future Hinges on a Diego Rivera Mural

The University of California is aiding the San Francisco Art Institute, but S.F.A.I. officials say selling a $50 million Rivera could save the school. Former students are outraged.

#art, #boards-of-directors, #budgets-and-budgeting, #colleges-and-universities, #finances, #levy-pam-rorke, #murals, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #rivera-diego, #san-francisco-calif, #san-francisco-art-institute, #university-of-california

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New stimulus bill includes $35.2 billion for new energy initiatives

The new economic stimulus proposal that has been approved by Congress includes roughly $35.2 billion for energy initiatives, according to summary documents seen by TechCrunch.

“This is probably the biggest energy bill we’ve seen in a decade,” said policy analyst Dr. Leah Stokes, an Assistant Professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  

The spending is split between the Energy Act of 2020 and the Energy for the Environment Act, and both include new money for big technology initiatives.

“[The Energy Act of 2020] is a bipartisan, bicameral energy innovation package that authorizes over $35 billion in RD&D activities across DOE’s portfolio and strengthens or creates programs crucial to advancing new technologies into the market,” a summary document for the legislation reads.

Included in the spending package is over $4.1 billion for new technology initiatives.

The biggest winners are photovoltaics, new transportation technologies, and energy efficiency technologies.

There’s a $1.5 billion for new solar technologies including modules, concentrating solar technology, new photovoltaic technologies and initiatives to expand solar manufacturing and recycling technologies. And $2.6 billion set aside for transportation technologies. Finally, energy efficiency and weatherization programs are continuing to be supported through a $1.7 billion reauthorization of the Weatherization Assistance Program. 

Energy grid technologies get a $3.44 billion boost through $1.08 billion in support for short-term, long-term, seasonal and transportation energy storage technologies and $2.36 billion for smart utility and energy distribution technologies. 

Another $625 million is dedicated to new research, development and commercialization for both onshore and offshore wind technologies. While $850 million is being set aside for geothermal technology development and $933 million for marine energy and hydropower tech. finally, there’s $160 million earmarked for hydropower generator upgrades, and upgrades to existing federal infrastructure through $180 million earmarked to the Federal Energy Management Program. 

In an attempt to ensure that the money and innovation is used in the industries where decarbonization is the most technically challenging, there’s a $500 million pot for stakeholders in industries like iron, steel, aluminum, cement and chemicals as well as transportation businesses like shipping, avaiation, and long-distance transport that are looking to decarbonize.

By making these critical investments now, the Energy Act of 2020 will to help reduce our  nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, bring good paying jobs back to the United States, and allow us to export these technologies to growing markets abroad for years to come,” the summary report reads. 

If the next generation of technologies that already have broad commercial support is one area getting a boost, then another big pool of money is going to support the commercialization of technologies whose viability has yet to be demonstrated at commercial scale.

These include carbon capture utilization and storage technologies that are getting a $6.2 billion boost for roll out at industrial and energy sites. Congress is also approving a $447 milion research and development program for large-scale commercial carbon dioxide removal projects — with a $100 million carve out grant for direct air capture competition at facilities that capture at least 50,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Nuclear technologies are also getting their day in the sun thanks to $6.6 billion in funding for the modernization of existing nuclear power plants and the development of advanced reactors. And, the nascent fusion industry can add another $4.7 billion to their calculus for available capital thanks to a carve out for basic and applied research investments.

All of this spending also comes with money to ensure that emerging technologies aren’t left out. Theres a $2.9 billion allocation to ARPA-E, the energy advanced research arm of the government whose structure is similar to the DARPA program that was responsible for the development of the Internet. And, taking a page from the NASA playbook that commercialized a number of technologies, the Office of Technology Transitions, which promotes national lab partnerships, is being codified and supporting the kind of milestone-based projects that have been effectively used by the Air Force and the Department of Defense broadly.

To cap it off, the new energy bill includes a directive to the Department of the Interior to target the generation of 25 gigawatts of solar, wind, and geothermal production on public lands by 2025.

“My understanding of it is that they’re trying to look at what the federal government has done for solar and wind and see how we can do that for other technologies,” Stokes said. 

For her, what’s in other portions of the stimulus are equally important from a climate perspective. There’s a commitment to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, a huge contributor to global warming and climate change by 2035. Phasing out the use of these chemicals globally in refrigeration and other applications could reduce warming by half a degree centigrade (which is a big deal).

Stokes took issue with the duration of some of the tax credits, whose extensions were relatively short, and the absence of a tax credit for electric vehicles. “The tax credits for EVs are a consumer-facing benefit that are absolutely critical to adoption,” Stokes said. “That was a massive equalizer between EVs and combustion engine cars.”

For all of the good news for climate activists baked into this portion of the stimulus, Stokes warns that no one concerned about global climate change should break out the bubbly.

“This package is not going to solve the climate crisis full-stop,” Stokes said. “Next year if the republicans are in control there’s going to be a new chairman and he’s not going to be as generous… We have to learn to celebrate the wins and give credit but recognize what’s missing. Which is a lot.”

#air-force, #aluminum, #arpa-e, #articles, #california, #chairman, #chemicals, #congress, #department-of-defense, #energy, #energy-efficiency, #federal-government, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #iron, #solar-manufacturing, #steel, #tc, #united-states, #university-of-california

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How the U.C. Campuses Have Managed Covid-19

Thursday: The University of California’s new president, Dr. Michael Drake, discusses testing and sports.

#california, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #university-of-california

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The Supreme Court will hear its first big CFAA case

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday in a case that could lead to sweeping changes to America’s controversial computer hacking laws — and affecting how millions use their computers and access online services.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was signed into federal law in 1986 and predates the modern internet as we know it, but governs to this day what constitutes hacking — or “unauthorized” access to a computer or network. The controversial law was designed to prosecute hackers, but has been dubbed as the “worst law” in the technology law books by critics who say it’s outdated and vague language fails to protect good-faith hackers from finding and disclosing security vulnerabilities.

At the center of the case is Nathan Van Buren, a former police sergeant in Georgia. Van Buren used his access to a police license plate database to search for an acquaintance in exchange for cash. Van Buren was caught, and prosecuted on two counts: accepting a kickback for accessing the police database, and violating the CFAA. The first conviction was overturned, but the CFAA conviction was upheld.

Van Buren may have been allowed to access the database by way of his police work, but whether he exceeded his access remains the key legal question.

Orin Kerr, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said Van Buren vs. United States was an “ideal case” for the Supreme Court to take up. “The question couldn’t be presented more cleanly,” he argued in a blog post in April.

The Supreme Court will try to clarify the decades-old law by deciding what the law means by “unauthorized” access. But that’s not a simple answer in itself.

“The Supreme Court’s opinion in this case could decide whether millions of ordinary Americans are committing a federal crime whenever they engage in computer activities that, while common, don’t comport with an online service or employer’s terms of use,” said Riana Pfefferkorn, associate director of surveillance and cybersecurity at Stanford University’s law school. (Pfefferkorn’s colleague Jeff Fisher is representing Van Buren at the Supreme Court.)

How the Supreme Court will determine what “unauthorized” means is anybody’s guess. The court could define unauthorized access anywhere from violating a site’s terms of service to logging into a system that a person has no user account for.

Pfefferkorn said a broad reading of the CFAA could criminalize anything from lying on a dating profile, sharing the password to a streaming service, or using a work computer for personal use in violation of an employer’s policies.

But the Supreme Court’s eventual ruling could also have broad ramifications on good-faith hackers and security researchers, who purposefully break systems in order to make them more secure. Hackers and security researchers have for decades operated in a legal grey area because the law as written exposes their work to prosecution, even if the goal is to improve cybersecurity.

Tech companies have for years encouraged hackers to privately reach out with security bugs. In return, the companies fix their systems and pay the hackers for their work. Mozilla, Dropbox, and Tesla are among the few companies that have gone a step further by promising not to sue good-faith hackers under the CFAA. Not all companies welcome the scrutiny and bucked the trend by threatening to sue researchers over their findings, and in some cases actively launching legal action to prevent unflattering headlines.

Security researchers are no stranger to legal threats, but a decision by the Supreme Court that rules against Van Buren could have a chilling effect on their work, and drive vulnerability disclosure underground.

“If there are potential criminal (and civil) consequences for violating a computerized system’s usage policy, that would empower the owners of such systems to prohibit bona fide security research and to silence researchers from disclosing any vulnerabilities they find in those systems,” said Pfefferkorn. “Even inadvertently coloring outside the lines of a set of bug bounty rules could expose a researcher to liability.”

“The Court now has the chance to resolve the ambiguity over the law’s scope and make it safer for security researchers to do their badly-needed work by narrowly construing the CFAA,” said Pfefferkorn. “We can ill afford to scare off people who want to improve cybersecurity.”

The Supreme Court will likely rule on the case later this year, or early next.

Read more:

#america, #articles, #california, #computer-fraud-and-abuse-act, #computer-security, #computing, #georgia, #government, #hacker, #hacking, #information-technology, #internet-security, #lawsuit, #security, #supreme-court, #united-states, #university-of-california, #university-of-california-berkeley

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$73 Million Settlement Is Reached in Sex Abuse Suit Involving U.C.L.A. Gynecologist

More than 5,500 women were included in a class-action suit against Dr. James Heaps, who is still facing 20 felony counts of sexual assault. He has pleaded not guilty.

#colleges-and-universities, #compensation-for-damages-law, #gynecology-and-gynecologists, #heaps-james, #sexual-harassment, #suits-and-litigation-civil, #tyndall-george, #university-of-california, #university-of-california-los-angeles

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Days From Its Delayed Football Opener, Cal Is Stalled Again by the Virus

As the Pac-12 Conference prepared to begin its football season this weekend, later than any other major league, Cal had to cancel its game against Washington because a player’s positive test for coronavirus left the team without enough eligible athletes.

#coronavirus-reopenings, #football-college, #pacific-12-conference, #university-of-california, #university-of-california-berkeley

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Californians, Vote Yes on Prop 16

Banning any consideration of race, gender or ethnicity in public university admissions and public contracting was a mistake with big consequences.

#black-people, #california, #discrimination, #minorities, #race-and-ethnicity, #referendums, #university-of-california

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Genemod raises cash for its lab inventory management service used by research institutions around the US

Genemod, a software for laboratory inventory management used by institutions like the University of Washington School of Medicine; the University of California, Berkeley, and the National Institutes of Health; has raised $1.7 million from a clutch of top venture investors.

The small seed round came from Defy.vc, with additional commitments from Omicron, Unpopular Ventures, Underdog Labs and Canaan Partners.

With the capital, the company said it would develop a product management software to compliment its existing inventory management service.

These are small stepping stones on the way to paving a new road to pharmaceutical development based on collaborative data sharing technology, the company said.

It’s a road that companies like Owkin and Within3 have raised big dollars to pave already. They’re just two companies in the market that are building collaborative software for the pharmaceutical industries.

Genemod’s pitch is that it can increase productivity by giving researchers a better window into the tools they have and the tools they need to accelerate the process of experimentation without downtimes while waiting for supplies.

“While the life sciences industry is known for developing inventive solutions to some of the world’s biggest health problems, many scientists are working with manual, siloed and inefficient processes,” said Jacob Lee, the company’s chief executive.

Alongside the funding, Defy.vc will serve as a growth partner for Genemod, supporting the company as it works to roll out its product roadmap for the latter half of the year. Neil Sequeira, co-founder and managing director of Defy.vc, will join Genemod’s Board of Directors.

Founded in 2018, Genemod was part of the first cohort of Venture Out Startups, a pre-seed investment program designed to encourage entrepreneurs to start their own businesses.

#california, #canaan-partners, #defy, #neil-sequeira, #owkin, #partner, #tc, #university-of-california, #university-of-california-berkeley, #unpopular-ventures, #within3

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A New Test for SAT Takers: Covid-19

The coronavirus presents a daunting new test for SAT takers, including our reporter, whose Princeton Review guides haven’t been cracked in years.

#act-examination, #act-inc, #admissions-standards, #college-board, #colleges-and-universities, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #education-k-12, #sat-college-admission-test, #shutdowns-institutional, #sleepy-hollow-ny, #sleepy-hollow-high-school, #university-of-california

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Founded by an Impossible Foods, and Google data scientist, Climax Foods raises $7.5 million to tackle the cheesiest market

Oliver Zahn began his professional career studying the stars. The founder of Climax Foods, a startup that’s using data science to replace animal proteins with plant-based substitutes, spent years at the University of California at Berkeley with his eyes fixed firmly toward the heavens before taking up with Pat Brown and Impossible Foods as the company’s leading data scientist.

That experience focused Zahn on more terrestrial concerns and undoubtedly led the founder down the path to launching Climax Foods.

Now with $7.5 million in financing from investors including At One Ventures, founded by the GoogleX co-founder Tom Chi, along with Manta Ray Ventures, S2G Ventures, Valor Siren Ventures, Prelude Ventures, ARTIS Ventures, Index Ventures, Luminous Ventures, Canaccord Genuity Group, Carrot Capital and Global Founders Capital, Zahn is ready to take on the future of food.

The pitch to investors is similar to the one that Josh Tetrick made at Just Food (the company formerly known as Hampton Creek). It’s elegant in its simplicity — scan the natural world for proteins that have the same or better characteristics than those that are currently made by animals and make products with them.

By looking at what makes animal products so delicious, the company will find their plant-based analogs and start producing.

As with most things that depend on data science, the taxonomy is the key. So Climax Foods is building machine learning algorithms that will process and cross-reference molecular structures to find the best fit. It’s starting with cheese.

While, the replacing the humble wheel of cheese may not seem like a worthy adversary for an astrophysicist, companies have already raised hundreds of millions to defeat the big dairy industry.

“We are at a pivotal time where industrialization enabled explosive population growth and consumption of animal products. Today, more than 90% of all mammalian animals and more than 70% of all birds on the planet exist for the sole purpose of metabolizing plants and being turned into food,” said Zahn in a statement. “This industry is complex and wasteful, creating as much climate change as all modes of transportation combined, and using more than a third of the earth’s water and usable land. By speeding up food science innovation, Climax Foods is able to convert plants into equally craveable foods without the environmental impact.”

Joining Zahn on this quest to conquer the cheese industrial complex and its milk-made monstrousness are a few seasoned industry veterans including co-founder, Caroline Love, the company’s chief operating officer and former sales and operations executive from JUST foods, and Pavel Aronov, a Stanford-educated chemist who previously worked at the chemicals giant thermo-Fisher.

“Climax Foods is tackling the same opportunity to change the market and the food system, but they are doing it with an entirely novel technological approach. They are using data science to produce a new category of foods that will not merely compete with, but out-compete, animal products in terms of taste, nutritional density, and price,” said Sanjeev Krishnan, one of the largest investors in the plant protein space and Chief Investment Officer of S2G Ventures. “The machine intelligence approach Climax Foods is pioneering is critical for harnessing the vast number of ways raw ingredients and natural processes can be used to create the ultimate digital recipes.”

Krishnan would know. He’s an investor in Beyond Meat, the most successful public offering of a plant-based protein replacement company.

#beyond-meat, #california, #chemicals, #chief-operating-officer, #co-founder, #executive, #food, #food-and-drink, #founder, #global-founders-capital, #hampton-creek, #impossible-foods, #josh-tetrick, #just, #luminous-ventures, #manta-ray-ventures, #meat-substitutes, #prelude-ventures, #protein, #s2g-ventures, #stanford, #tc, #thermo-fisher, #university-of-california, #valor-siren-ventures

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A Detailed Look at the Downside of California’s Ban on Affirmative Action

Ending racial preferences in a state university system harmed Black and Hispanic students while doing little to lift whites and Asian-Americans, a study asserts.

#affirmative-action, #black-people, #california, #colleges-and-universities, #hispanic-americans, #referendums, #research, #university-of-california

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Remdesivir Tests for Covid Treatments Enter New Phase

A clinical trial showed that remdesivir helped hospitalized patients. Now researchers are asking whether when the drug is paired with another antiviral drug, patients will recover faster.

#chin-hong-peter, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #dexamethasone-drug, #gilead-sciences-inc, #immune-system, #interferon-beta-drugs, #national-institute-of-allergy-and-infectious-diseases, #placebos, #remdesivir-drug, #research, #tests-medical, #university-of-california, #your-feed-healthcare

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New Students Show Diversity of U.C.’s Freshman Class

Thursday: Meet more students in the historic incoming class at the University of California. Also: School reopening becomes more complicated.

#california, #university-of-california

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Meet Members of a Historic University of California Class

Wednesday: Latinos were the largest group of Californians admitted to the university’s freshman class. Also: A deeper look at the life of Representative Karen Bass.

#california, #university-of-california

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The United States Is Reopening Many of the Wrong Schools

When it is safe enough to return to school, young children would benefit the most. Yet financial pressures are pushing colleges to reopen most rapidly, an economist says.

#ann-arbor-mich, #berkeley-calif, #boston-mass, #budgets-and-budgeting, #california, #children-and-childhood, #colleges-and-universities, #community-colleges, #computers-and-the-internet, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-reopenings, #davidson-college, #e-learning, #education-k-12, #education-week, #harvard-university, #house-of-representatives, #los-angeles-calif, #miami-fla, #michigan, #philadelphia-pa, #private-and-sectarian-schools, #quarantines, #san-diego-calif, #san-francisco-calif, #senate, #states-us, #tuition, #united-states-economy, #university-of-california, #university-of-california-berkeley, #university-of-massachusetts, #university-of-michigan

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Gedmatch investigating after user DNA data made available to police

Gedmatch, the DNA analysis site that police used to catch the so-called Golden Gate Killer, was pulled briefly offline on Sunday while its parent company investigated how its users’ DNA profile data apparently became available to law enforcement searches.

The site, which lets users upload their DNA profile data to trace their family tree and ancestors, rose to overnight fame in 2018 after law enforcement used the site to match the DNA from a serial murder suspect against the site’s million-plus DNA profiles in the site’s database without first telling the company.

Gedmatch issued a privacy warning to its users and put in new controls to allow users to opt-in for their DNA to be included in police searches.

But users reported Sunday that those settings had changed without their permission, and that their DNA profiles were made available to law enforcement searches.

Users called it a “privacy breach.” But when reached, the company’s owner declined to say if the issue was caused by an error or a security breach, citing an ongoing investigation.

“We are aware of the issue regarding Gedmatch, where user permissions were not set correctly,” said Brett Williams, chief executive of Verogen, which acquired Gedmatch in 2019. “We have resolved that issue; however, as a precaution, we have taken the site down while we are investigating the actual cause of the error. Once we understand the cause, we will be issuing a more formal statement,” he said.

DNA profiling and analysis companies are increasingly popular with users trying to understand their cultural and ethnic backgrounds by discovering new and ancestral family members. But law enforcement are increasingly pushing for access to genetic databases to try to solve crimes from DNA left at crime scenes.

Williams would not say, when asked, if Verogen or Gedmatch have received any law enforcement requests for user data in the past day, or if either company has responded.

Gedmatch does not publish how frequently law enforcement seeks access to the company’s data. Its rivals, like 23andMe and Ancestry.com, have already published these so-called transparency reports. Earlier this year Ancestry.com revealed that it rejected an out-of-state police warrant, indicating that police continue are still using DNA profiling and analysis sites for information.

“The acknowledgement of an issue is a start, but if a ‘resolution’ means simply correcting the error, there are many questions that remain,” Elizabeth Joh, a professor of law at University of California, Davis School of Law, told TechCrunch.

“For instance, does Gedmatch know whether any law enforcement agencies accessed these improperly tagged users? Will they disclose any further details of the breach? And of course, this isn’t simply Gedmatch’s problem: a privacy breach in a genetic genealogy database underscores the woefully inadequate regulatory safeguards for the most sensitive of information, in a novel arena for civil liberties,” she said. “It’s a mess.”

#ancestry-com, #california, #dna, #gedmatch, #genetics, #health, #law-enforcement, #privacy, #security, #university-of-california

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Why Is the SAT Falling Out of Favor?

The University of California will no longer use SAT and ACT scores in admissions decisions. Critics say the tests put less wealthy students at a disadvantage.

#act-examination, #act-inc, #admissions-standards, #california, #college-board, #colleges-and-universities, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #education, #sat-college-admission-test, #university-of-california

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Go Ahead, California, Get Rid of the SAT

When it comes to college admissions, standardized tests penalize ambitious low-income students.

#act-examination, #act-inc, #admissions-standards, #california, #college-board, #colleges-and-universities, #grading-of-students, #sat-college-admission-test, #university-of-california

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Conversa pitches its modified chat-based tool to monitor employee health in the wake of COVID-19

Conversa Health, the automated chat technology for healthcare updates, is pitching a modified version of its service specifically to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.

The company’s personalized automated chat asks about employees’ potential exposure to the novel coronavirus and then asks about potential symptoms.

Once employees complete the survey they are either cleared to go into work and receive a digital badge that they’ve taken the check up, or are instructed to stay home and receive some information on how to take care of themselves and monitor their condition for changes.

“There is no real choice between reopening for business and keeping the spread of coronavirus in check—we must do both,” said Murray Brozinsky, Conversa’s chief executive, in a statement. “As businesses and schools anticipate getting back to work in their physical locations, it is absolutely vital that they create a healthy and safe environment for all returning employees, students and visitors.”

Healthcare organizations like Northwell Health, UCSF Health, UNC Health and Prisma Health are already using the company’s technology, according to a statement. At these institutions, Conversa has provided symptom checking and triage, check-ins with quarantined patients and delivering lab results to millions of patients, and screening hundreds of thousands of employees over the last month.

The screener was developed in conjunction with the University of California San Francisco Health.

“We needed to safely screen while minimizing delays for our employees, visitors, and others caring for patients,” said Aaron Neinstein, MD, Director of Clinical Informatics, UCSF Center for Digital Health Innovation, in a statement. “Conversa’s virtual care and communication solution was flexible and scalable to help us create a user-centered solution, while modernizing our processes for how we engage and care for our employees. It’s been working great for us and we’re extending use to our employees across the UCSF campus – I think employers across many other industries will find themselves wanting to use a tool like Conversa to help create a safe workplace and ensure they have healthy employees.”

#california, #coronavirus, #tc, #university-of-california

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Blood Pressure Drugs Don’t Increase Coronavirus Risk, Studies Find

People taking widely used medicines did not face higher rates of infection or more severe illness, new research indicates.

#blood-pressure, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #new-england-journal-of-medicine, #new-york-university, #quarantines, #university-of-california, #your-feed-healthcare

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Some Colleges Are Waiving SAT and ACT Requirements

With high school disrupted, a growing number of schools are waiving standardized testing requirements for 2021 applicants.

#act-examination, #act-inc, #amherst-college, #boston-university, #case-western-reserve-university, #college-board, #colleges-and-universities, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #davidson-college, #education-k-12, #epidemics, #haverford-college, #oregon-state-university, #sat-college-admission-test, #texas-christian-university, #trinity-university, #tufts-university, #tulane-university, #university-of-california, #university-of-oregon, #university-of-washington, #williams-college

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Aspen Neuroscience raises $70 million for its experimental Parkinson Disease treatment

Since 2012, Dr. Jeanne Loring, the founder of the eponymous Loring Lab at Scripps Research, has been thinking about how to use pluripotent stem cells as a potential treatment for Parkinson Disease.

Now, eight years later, Aspen Neuroscience, the company she founded to bring her research to market has raised $70 million in funding and is set to begin clinical trials.

Roughly 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson disease, which destroys parts of the brain responsible for motor function. The disease causes a debilitating loss of movement as a result of the degradation of a specific type of neuron in the brain responsible for the production of dopamine — a chemical that facilitates the brain’s control of mood and movement.

Aspen’s experimental treatment takes skin cells from patients who already have Parkinson’s disease and converts those cells into pluripotent stem cells using the technique that won Shinya Yamanaka and John Gurdon the Nobel Prize for medicine back in 2012.

It was Yamanaka’s discovery that in some ways served as a trigger for the work that Loring and Aspen’s chief executive officer Dr. Howard Federoff would be bringing to market eight years later.

Other cell replacement therapies for Parkinson’s had run into difficulties because patient’s bodies would reject the introduction of foreign neurons — in much the same way that organ transplants are sometimes unsuccessful because a host rejects the foreign tissue.

Aspen’s technology uses the host’s own tissue to develop the stem cells that will become the basis for treatment. A patient who carries a diagnosis of Parkinsons would be consented to give a biopsy and the tissue collected is then placed in a cell culture. The cells are then converted into pluripotent stem cells through the introduction of an inert viral RNA that recodes the cell structure.

Those pluripotent stem cells are then converted into neurons that are then transplanted into a patient to replace the ones that Parkinson’s disease has destroyed.

Federoff and Loring have known each other for years, and when the former vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of California, Irvine heard what Loring and her team was working on he stepped down to join her company as chief executive.

Federoff previously founded MedGenesis Therapeutix, another privately held company working on a treatment for Parkinsons. “Much of what we do for Parkinsons and the extant gene therapy is stabilizing the disease,” says Federoff. “Cells of fibroblasts help to dial the clock back.”

The key is the use of autologous cells — those collected from the same individual that will receive the transplant, says Federoff.

Aspen’s novel approach was compelling enough to win the support of longtime healthcare investors including OrbiMed, ARCH Venture Partners, Frazier Healthcare Partners, Domain Associates, Section 32, and former Y Combinator President, Sam Altman.

Following the new round, Aspen is significantly expanding its board of directors to include Faheem Hasnain, the founder of Gossamer Bio who’s taking the chairman role at Aspen; Tom Daniel a venture partner at ARCH Ventures, and Peter Thompson, a partner at OrbiMed.

Aspen’s first product is currently undergoing investigational new drug (IND)-enabling studies for the treatment of sporadic forms of Parkinson disease, the company said. Its second product uses gene correction and neuron therapy to try to treat genetic forms of Parkinson disease. 

According to the company, the financing will support the completion of all remaining investigational studies and FDA submission of the studies relating to the company’s lead product. In addition, the financing will support data collection from a Phase 1 clinical trial and the expansion into Phase 2 randomized studies.

#arch-venture-partners, #biology, #biotechnology, #founder, #parkinsons-disease, #sam-altman, #stem-cells, #tc, #university-of-california, #y-combinator

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Oura partners with UCSF to determine if its smart ring can help detect COVID-19 early

Startups continue to find new ways to contribute to ongoing efforts to fight the global spread of COVID-19 during the current global coronavirus pandemic, and personal health hardware-maker Oura is no exception. The smart ring startup is working with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) on a new study to see if its device can help detect early physiological signs that might indicate the onset of COVID-19.

This study will include two parts: Around 2,000 frontline healthcare professionals will get Oura rings to wear during the study. The rings track a user’s body temperature continuously, as well as their sleep patterns, heart rate and activity levels. Fever is a common and early symptom that could indicate COVID-19, and a continuously updated body temperature reading could detect fever very early. That’s not enough to confirm a case of COVID-19, of course, but the purpose of the study is to determine whether the range of readings Oura’s ring tracks might, taken together and with other signals, be useful in some kind of early detection effort.

There’s good reason why researches believe that Oura could be used in early detection: An Oura user in Finland claims the ring alerted him to the fact that he was ill before he was displaying any overt symptoms of the virus, prompting him to get tested (relatively easy in that country). Test results confirmed that while asymptomatic, he had indeed contracted COVID-19. As a result, UCSF researcher Dr. Ashley Mason hypothesizes that the Oura ring could anticipate COVID-19 onset by as many as two to three days before the onset of more obvious symptoms, like coughing.

Being able to detect the presence of the virus in an individual early is key to global containment efforts, but even more important when it comes to frontline healthcare workers. The earlier a frontline responder is diagnosed, the less chance that they expose their colleagues or others they’re working around in close quarters.

In addition to the Oura rings being provided to study participants, the plan is to expand it to include Oura’s general user population, meaning its more than 150,000 global users can opt in to participate and add to the overall pool of available information with their ring’s readings and daily symptom surveys. For existing Oura users, it’s a relatively low-lift way to contribute to the global effort to combat the pandemic — without even leaving the house.

#california, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #finland, #frontline, #gadgets, #hardware, #health, #oura, #science, #startups, #tc, #university-of-california

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Grand Princess Cruise Ship Awaits Coronavirus Results as California Braces

More than 3,500 people are aboard the ship, which will dock at a noncommercial port this weekend. “We will be testing everyone,” Vice President Mike Pence said.

#california, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #cruises, #newsom-gavin, #twitter, #university-of-california

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